Summer Book Challenge

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2014

Sometimes I think I’m crazy, but I’m doing the book a day summer reading challenge again. Please follow me on goodreads to learn what books have been added to my “already read” list.

2013

Please keep visiting my goodreads account to learn what books I have been able to pick up and finish throughout this year.

2012

I am attempting the summer “book a day” reading challenge again this summer.  However, I am not going to list all of my books here, but will instead be updating my goodreads account throughout the summer.

2011

July 1st: Four Pictures by Emily Carr, by Nicolas Debon
• This is a graphic novel describing four periods of famous Canadian painter Emily Carr’s life.  I appreciate Debon’s efforts to make these time periods more relatable and emotional to the reader.  However, perhaps because I have read Carr’s autobiography and have loved her paintings and writings since I was a teenager, I can’t help but think of how much he simplified these life events in order to create the cartoons.

July 2nd: The Warlock (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, #5), by Michael Scott
• This is the fifth in a series of six novels, with the sixth novel coming out in 2012.  Twins Sophie and Josh Newman are given a prophecy, and battle gods from several different mythologies in order to succeed or fail in achieving their destinies.  The plot can be convoluted at times, but the way Scott ends his chapters and books with suspense keeps dragging me back into the series.

July 3rd: My Story: Pyramid of Secrets: Nebka, Giza, Egypt 2517 BC, by Jim Eldridge
• I’m teaching Ancient Civilizations in Grade 7 Social Studies next year, and bought this book because I thought it might be a good cross-curricular novel.  While I found the plot to be fairly predictable, it did an admirable job of explaining how the pyramids were built and how the farmers created life out of the desert.  The story is narrated through the eyes of Nebka, a 12-year old farmer who goes to build Khafre’s pyramid during the Nile flooding.

July 4th: The Throne of Fire (The Kane Chronicles #2), by Rick Riordan
• I do find the mythology in this series difficult to follow at times, but I’ve decided that might be because it’s hard to tie together Egyptian mythology into one comprehensive story when the mythology itself is so fragmented.  However, Riordan continues to do a great job in creating interesting characters that I feel for.  He is quickly becoming my favourite author.

July 5th: Kitchen, by Banana Yoshimoto
• This book really appealed to me because of its sweet and upbeat nature in the face of the character’s adversities.  The characters in both of the stories in the novel face deaths of loved ones, but use these unfortunate circumstances to learn more about themselves.  I loved the metaphors in the stories, and felt a connection to the characters as they found peace in their own lives.

July 6th: Trailing Clouds of Glory, poems by William Wordsworth
• I forgot how much I liked reading Wordsworth’s poems.  There is more than enough detail for an in-depth analysis, but his poetry is also pleasurable if I just want to relax and experience nature through the eyes of this romantic poet.  The way he writes some of his poems in non-rhyming prose, which I believe was revolutionary at the time, adds to the simple charm.

July 7th: The Future of the Earth: An Introduction to Sustainable Development for Young Readers, by Yann Arthus-Bertrand
• This would be a good book to introduce into a middle school classroom.  The environmental concerns and issues are discussed with clear yet sophisticated language that would make sense to middle school students, and the ideas are supplemented by Arthus-Bertrand’s unique and intriguing photographs.  I especially liked how some solutions towards more sustainable living are introduced, so the reader does not feel completely hopeless after reading the book.

July 8th: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson
• Maybe it’s because I’ve been reading too many young adult novels, but I felt that this book dragged on a bit too much.  I did like the mystery of the disappearing heiress, but the subplot surrounding financial corruption and business was given too much time in the book, and it seemed to be there to only give more background into the main character, which wasn’t really necessary.  I felt like the entire story could have been told brilliantly without the approximately 200 pages dedicated to all the character’s motivations.  Overall, I’m thinking that I will stick to more young adult mysteries for the time being, where more often the plot is the primary focus of the writing.

July 9th: DK Eyewitness Books: Shakespeare, by Peter Chrisp
• I have always appreciated the Eyewitness series.  They provide pieces of information in short sections that can be easily read, and there are several pictures to illustrate the information.  The Shakespeare Eyewitness book continues in the same way, with the reader learning a great deal about the life of Shakespeare and the Elizabethan period.  I learned some facts that I had never known before, which also made the reading beneficial.

July 10th: Earth from Above for Young Readers, by Yann Arthus-Bertrand
• Another book by Arthus-Bertrand, Earth from Above gave some background information about how this photographer chooses his landscapes and all the challenges he goes through to take his pictures.  The explanations of the pictures themselves also discuss changing geography and the environment, and could be a supplementary resource to any earth science lesson.

July 11th: Ever, by Gail Carson Levine
• Loving Levine’s book Fairest was the reason I bought this book, and it does not disappoint.  The setting of the story is ancient Mesopotamia, where Olus, the god of the winds, falls in love with Kezi, a spirited carpet maker.  However, both have to prove to others and themselves that they are worthy to have a happy ending.  I like how the story moves back and forth between the two characters’ perspectives, so the reader can see the development of their thoughts and emotions.

July 12th: Shattered, by Eric Walters
• This is a good novel to introduce in an upper intermediate classroom.  Ian must volunteer in a soup kitchen in order to receive credits to pass Social Studies.  Through this, he meets several unique and courageous people, including “Sarge”, a homeless person who previously served in the armed forces and whose last tour of duty was as a peacekeeper in Rwanda.  The themes throughout this book are serious, but the ending of the story provides hope for change in how we treat others.

July 13th: White Jade Tiger, by Julie Lawson
• I liked reading this novel because of its connection to British Columbia history.  After the death of her mother, Jasmine is not happy with staying in Victoria while her father goes to China for work.  However, while on a field trip to Chinatown, she discovers that while passing through a doorway in Fan Tan Alley she can travel back to the 1880’s.  Befriending Keung, a boy working on the railroad while looking for his lost father, Jasmine learns about the lives of the Chinese working in Canada at the turn of the century and about her own Canadian heritage.  While I thought the historical perspective was a little one sided, I did like the careful research that went into the story.

July 14th: North by Night, Katherine Ayres
• This novel was written as journal entries.  While this style of writing usually can’t keep my attention, I did like the main character in the story.  Lucy’s family is part of the Underground Railroad in Ohio, and they work together to help slaves escape to Canada.  She is eager to start an adventure of her own, and when she is asked to help Aurelia Mercer secretly care for nine slaves she jumps at the chance.  However, through her talks with the unconventional Ms. Mercer and the slave Cass, Lucy learns that maybe the life she had always planned for herself isn’t necessarily the one she wants.

July 15th: Broken Song, by Kathryn Lasky
• This book is a genuinely emotional look at the persecution of Jews in Russian in 1897.  After witnessing a terrible act of violence on his family, Reuven Bloom escapes his village with his baby sister Rachel.  He makes difficult life decisions that guide his journey to Poland and then onto America.  I did get confused at the end of the story, where the impression is that Reuven was directly related to the author.  However, in the historical note it is mentioned that Reuven and Rachel are fictional characters.  I am glad that this confusion did not really interfere with the themes of the story.

July 16th: Meet the Group of Seven, by David Wistow
• This book explores the careers of the Group of Seven, who are Canadian painters who revolutionized how people viewed the northern Canadian landscape.  As with the Eyewitness books, I appreciate how this book gives facts in small paragraphs and provides plenty of illustrations.  I also appreciated how the book gave lessons in appreciating and interpreting art along with explaining the Groups of Seven’s biographies.  Overall, I enjoyed gathering information about these important people in Canada’s cultural history.

July 17th: Lucy Maud and the Cavendish Cat, by Lynn Manuel
• This children’s book tells part of L.M.. Montgomery’s history from the perspective of Daffy, her grey cat.  I liked how most of the story, including some of the phrases used and the speaker’s tone, was actually taken from Montgomery’s journals.  This is a great introduction to L.M.. Montgomery’s biography, as well as to her inspiration behind the setting of Anne of Green Gables.

July 18th: Grim Hill: Forest of Secrets, by Linda DeMeulemeester
• Linda DeMeulemeester has written another intriguing book about Cat and Sookie Peters.  After escaping from a kidnapper with a secret agenda, Cat, her friends, and her sister Sookie find themselves lost in the mysterious Headless Valley, and Cat must decide if she can get her friends out safely or if she should use Sookie’s mysterious power, even if it could mean losing her sister to the Otherworld.  Admittedly, I had a little bit more difficulty getting into this particular story.  I felt that the reason the characters were in the valley, namely the kidnappers, was a little contrived.  However, I was still drawn into the story through Cat’s difficult decision of using her wits or letting Sookie help through her magic.  This was also the first time the story ended with a cliffhanger, which was a very good strategy being I am now anxiously awaiting the sixth book in the series.

July 19th: My Story: Battle of Britain: Harry Woods, England 1939-1941, by Chris Priestley
• This book looks at the experiences of a British fighter pilot during the Battle of Britain in World War II.  The book was written in a journal format, and I think it did an admirable job of explaining the events during this significant time in Britain’s history.  The types of planes and their mechanics, the feelings of pilots as they are engaged in air battles, and the emotions of the public during the Dunkirk evacuation and the Blitz are examined.  Overall, this was a good piece of historical fiction for students who are interested in studying World War II.

July 20th: Never Work Harder than Your Students & Other Principles of Great Teaching, by Robyn R. Jackson
• Author Robyn Jackson claims that by remembering seven principles teachers can dramatically change their practice for the better.  Key concepts include making sure the evaluation, and not the lessons, become the main focus, and creating policies in the classroom that give students more responsibility but still providing supports.  If someone wants to find quick and easy strategies to improve the classroom environment, this is not the right book for them.  Jackson’s seven principles require a lot of set-up and reflection on behalf of the teacher, but she also provides great examples of her principles in practice and planning sheets for achieving these principles in the classroom.  This makes the hard work seem doable, and I know I will be trying to follow the planning pages as I set up my curriculum for the coming year.

July 21st: Ida B … and Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster, and (Possibly) Save the World, by Katherine Hannigan
• Ida B seemingly has the perfect life, being homeschooled and having free reign of her parents’ apple orchard.  However, when there is a family crisis, Ida B must return to school and deal with her parents selling off part of the farm.  The plot is something that I have seen in other chapter books, but the character of Ida B herself is what makes this book worth reading.  Ida B is a spirited and intelligent character, and her growth throughout the book leads to a satisfying ending.

July 22nd: Conspiracy 365: Book Two: February, by Gabrielle Lord
• This is the second book in a series of twelve.  After the death of his father, Callum Ormond is told that his dad was murdered, and that if he doesn’t hide out for the next 365 days he will experience the same fate.  This information results in a series of traumatic events, where Cal is kidnapped and cheats death several times.  Maybe it is because I didn’t read the first book before I picked up the second in the series, but I had difficulty getting into the simplistic plot.  I suppose, however, that because of all the action in the story it would be a good book suggestion for reluctant or struggling readers.

July 23rd: A Single Shard, by Linda Sue Park
• Tree-Ear, an orphan boy living in twelfth-century Korea, is fascinated with pottery.  When he gets an opportunity to work with Min, a master potter, he learns not only the delicate process in making pottery but how to cope as he embarks on a life-changing journey to help his master.  This book is a slower read, as great attention to detail is provided.  However, the story succeeds in giving the reader a good examination of the central character, his motivations, and his decision making.  Overall, this is a good read.

July 24th: Teaching and Learning Outside the Box: Inspiring Imagination Across the Curriculum, by Kieran Egan et. al.
• Many people state that there must be imagination in learning and education, but this book strives to actually break down how we can make that happen.  Each chapter is written by a different author, as they all attempt to define what imagination is and how it can be used in the classroom.  This is abstract academic reading, and teachers will not find many specific and easy strategies for how to implement imagination education in the classroom.  However, this book does provide a basis for some serious thought about how imagination is more than just a general way of allowing children to “explore their creativity”, and how we could potentially use these more complicated definitions to activate student learning.

July 25th: Parvana’s Journey, by Deborah Ellis
• This book is the sequel to The Breadwinner.  After the death of her father, Parvana continues in her quest to locate her mother and siblings by traveling through war-torn Afghanistan.  Along the way she meets other children who need her assistance, and they work to have their basic needs met without putting themselves in harm’s way.  This novel very clearly explains the trauma that occurs to people, and especially children, when their country is at war.  I respect Parvana’s pragmatic attitude as she deals with all these problems, while at the same time lamenting the fact that she has to face these issues in the first place.  Overall, this is a great novel for middle school students to read.

July 26th: Mud City, by Deborah Ellis
• Shauzia hates living in the refugee camp in Pakistan, and chooses to run away from the camp so she can earn money and eventually get to France.  However, living on the streets and dealing with the people is not all what she envisioned, and she eventually returns to the camp to learn a few more life lessons.  I had more difficulty relating to Shauzia’s personality, as she is more brash and willful.  However, I do feel that the novel did a nice job of explaining the trials and hardships that these children experience in the camps and on the streets.  I am looking forward to eventually reading The Breadwinner so I can complete this trilogy.

July 27th: An Imaginative Approach to Teaching, by Kieran Egan
• Often I hear people say that we need to foster the imagination in children, but their ideas of how to do this usually result in the general “let children explore the world around them through play and come to their own conclusions, which we will then tell them are right or wrong”.  The reason I appreciate Egan’s book is that he breaks down how children of different ages use cognitive tools to view the world around them and enhance their imagination, and how these tools can be used to create thoughtful classroom learning.  Egan starts each chapter with an up-front look at the tools children at each age use to discover the world around them.  He then explains these tools using examples and anecdotes, and provides lengthy examples of how these tools can be incorporated into lessons and units.  The result is a thought-provoking look at how teachers can engage students beyond the “hook” at the beginning of the lesson, and I enjoyed Egan’s straight-forward, comprehensive, and realistic look at how we can bring imagination into the classroom in a meaningful way.

July 28th: Looking for X, by Deborah Ellis
• Khyber is an eleven-year old girl living with her single mother and two autistic brothers in a poor Toronto neighbourhood.  Khyber enjoys her family, and can mostly deal with the other people in her life who are rude to her.  She cultivates friendships with unlikely people, including “X”, a homeless woman in the area.  However, soon her secure world seems to be falling apart, and Khyber believes that locating X will be the only way to solve her problem and bring her family back together.  The plot is kind of simplistic, but the driving force in this novel is the raw emotion that the reader experiences.  I genuinely felt for Khyber as she had to deal with her struggles, and found myself wishing that something nasty would happen to her enemies.  Even though the subject matter of this book would be for middle school students, the independent reading level is approximately Grade four, so I think this would also be a great book for some struggling readers.

July 29th: Eggs, by Jerry Spinelli
• David’s life is turned upside-down when his mother dies in a tragic accident.  Primrose has an absent father, and an unstable mother.  David and Primrose form an unlikely friendship, and learn how to deal with both each other and their circumstances.  I enjoyed the plot of other Spinelli books better, such as Stargirl and Loser.  However, I completely enjoyed all the creative and unique metaphors in the book, and how they were used to describe setting and character emotions.  I also appreciate how this book, like most of Spinelli’s novels, has simpler vocabulary for lower readers yet contains plots that appeal to upper intermediate students.  His books therefore can be a good choice for struggling readers.

July 30th: Birdland, by Tracy Mack
• Jed has been given a class project to complete over winter vacation where he creates an artistic representation of his neighbourhood.  He and his family are also dealing with the sudden loss of his older brother.  Video camera in hand, Jed films images of his New York City community, and gets introduced to a homeless girl who he feels might hold a clue to rediscovering his brother.  The emotions of the story drew me in throughout the entire book.  I felt there were no simplistic main characters, as each person seemed to be exploring some type of pain or discovery of life.  As well, the poetry of the older brother that was interwoven into the narrative, and the dialogue in Jed’s film at the end of the book, ties the novel together and gives a true sense of New York City to someone who has never been there.  Overall, a satisfying read for middle school students.

July 31st: The Breadwinner, by Deborah Ellis
• In this first book from The Breadwinner trilogy, Parvana works with her father to bring in money for her family until her western-educated father is thrown in jail.  Parvana then must pretend to be a boy so she can continue to earn money for her mother, sisters, and brother.  The book very clearly showed the extreme struggles of children in Afghanistan, and I was sincerely moved as I read about what Kabul was like before all of the bombings.  I think reading the two sequels first changed my perspective for this book, as I knew what would eventually happen to some of the characters and I could therefore not connect with them because I knew that they would meet with tragedy later in the trilogy.  However, I certainly recommend this book for a student-accessible look at the tragedy in Afghanistan.

August 1st: Report to the Principal’s Office, by Jerry Spinelli
• In this book, four students start their first day at a newly built middle school, and connect with each other through amusing or disastrous circumstances.  I found the students’ characters themselves to be only mildly amusing, but I loved the descriptions of the principal, band teacher, and secretary in this book.  In particular, the principal who tries unorthodox methods to reach the students and is shocked by the results reminded me of the thought process many educators go through.  I would recommend this book to read, if only for the adult characters.

August 2nd: Blabber Mouth, by Morris Gleitzman
• Rowena Batts cannot speak, and she is about to start a new school.  Adding to her difficulties is her father, because while she knows he loves her she is constantly embarrassed by him, and is trying to figure out a way to let him know this without hurting his feelings.  Sometimes I was confused by the characters’ motivations, as they would sometimes complete actions that I felt didn’t match with their personalities.  However, this would be a humourous read for students who liked Gleitzman’s Toad Rage.

August 3rd: Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine
• In this re-telling of Cinderella, Ella has been given a “gift” by a foolish fairy, where she must obey any direct order she is given.  This leads her in a search for this fairy so the gift of obedience can be taken back and she can live a normal life.  I appreciated all of the thought that obviously went into this story.  Levine clearly explained how the gift of obedience worked, and every time I thought I found a discrepancy in the rules she logically explained it in the next few sentences.  I also made an emotional connection to Ella and Areida, and liked how Levine connected this story to Areida’s story in Fairest.  Overall, this book made me want to read more of Levine’s books.

August 4th: Web 2.0 How-To For Educators, by Gwen Solomon and Lynne Schrum
• This book provides a wealth of information on how to use technology in the classroom.  The first section of the book discusses why it is so important to use technology in lessons, and the remainder of the book looks at the variety of websites and Internet resources that can be used to teach lessons and shape classroom activities and units.  I appreciated that each chapter gave examples of how teachers used features such as voki, skype, and flikr in real classroom environments.  I did find it a little discouraging that a lot of the examples came from high school classrooms, and a few of the cool websites have age restrictions that would prevent my middle school students from using them.  However, there are still plenty of technology tools in this book that would inspire fun and useful lessons.

August 5th: Haunted Teachers: True Ghost Stories, by Allan Zullo
• This book gives a series of ghost stories from North America that revolve around schools and teachers.  Stories include “The Phantom Rider”, where a young schoolteacher who was killed during the Civil War is doomed to wander around the town asking whether her students are safe from Union soldiers.  The introduction says that the stories were “inspired, in part, by real-life cases”.  I am not sure how much of this is true, but the ghost stories are appropriately spooky for a middle school audience, and I enjoyed reading them.

August 6th: The Two Princesses of Bamarre, by Gail Carson Levine
• Meryl was always the brave sister who wanted to leave on an adventure as soon as possible, while Addie was the timid princess who simply loved her sister.  However, when Meryl is struck by the Grey Death and her life is threatened, it is Addie who must face ogres, spectres, and dragons to find the cure and save her sister.  Like with Levine’s other books, I like how she takes the basics of a traditional fairy tale and twists the plot so a strong female character plays an active role in the story’s conclusion.  I would recommend this book for middle school students as an alternative to the fairy tales that they are used to hearing.

August 7th: A Child in Prison Camp, by Shizuye Takashima
• This is a fictionalized account that is based on true events.  Shichan is only eleven when her brother and father are sent from Vancouver to the Japanese internment camps, and eventually her mother, sister, and herself are forced to the camps near New Denver, British Columbia.  Shichan works to adjust to this new world, and reveals the hardships, trials, and small joys that she experiences.  I liked how the book discusses the difficulties of the camps that I had not heard too much about, such as the in-fighting as Japanese-Canadians decide how to best support their families and whether to stay in Canada after World War II.  Overall, this account is a very helpful resource for understanding this event in Canadian history.

August 8th: Emily Carr: An Introduction to her Life and Art, by Anne Newlands
• In this book Emily Carr’s life is discussed using her pictures as a reference.  I appreciated how Anne Newlands used Emily’s paintings to illustrate and emphasize her life, and I liked how Emily’s art lessons and painting experiments influenced her art and showed a progression in her professional career.  This is a useful book for learning more about the life of this famous British Columbia artist.

August 9th: The Wright 3, by Blue Balliett
• Calder and Petra, along with Calder’s old friend Tommy, are trying to save David Lloyd Wright’s The Robie House from demolition.  However, this attempt soon turns into a mystery as strange noises and lights are seen at the house.  Using Petra’s literary skills, Calder’s pentominoes, and Tommy’s uncanny ability to locate objects, the three children begin to find the solution to this mystery.  I enjoyed Baillett’s previous book Chasing Vermeer, and I feel that this book is a worthy sequel.  The unorthodox clues in the story force me to slow down and read so I don’t miss any important information.  There are also clues and symbols hidden in the pictures, which, for me, alternate between intriguing and frustrating as I try to find the symbols and figure out what they could mean.  Overall, this is a good book for any students who might enjoy intelligent mystery novels.

August 10th: Astronomy: Out of this World, by Basher (Illustrator) and Dan Green
• Cute, anime-style characters supplement all the information about astronomy that is given in this book.  The text explaining the planets and other celestial bodies provides interesting information, and I found myself learning much more than I had anticipated.  As well, it was neat to see how the illustrator of this book used the facts to create cartoon characters that represented the object being described.  I think books like this would be welcomed by those students who love absorbing new scientific information.

August 11th: Inkspell, by Cornelia Funke
• In this sequel to Inkheart, Meggie finally has her mother back, and she, Resa, and Mo are living with Eleanor and her books.  However, Meggie wants to see the storybook world of Inkheart for herself, and when Farid shows up without Dustfinger she uses this opportunity to read her and Farid into the story.  Soon after Meggie’s disappearance Basta and Mortola arrive at Eleanor’s home, and Mo and Resa become entangled in the fantasy world again.  While reading the book I sometimes wished that the characters’ feelings were given more explanation.  However, the plot is terrific, and the suspense regarding what will happen to Dustfinger and Mo keeps me going through the story.  I am looking forward to getting my hands on Inkdeath so I can finish the trilogy.

August 12th – 19th: A Pooh and Piglet Book Series, #1-8, by A.A. Milne
• This children’s series is essentially different chapters about Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne.  Winnie-the-Pooh’s adventures include when the Hundred Acre Wood was introduced to Tigger and when Piglet was rescued during the terrible flood.  Although this was written for children, A.A. Milne’s style of writing brings a smile to my face, and reminds me of why these characters are so timeless.  Reading A.A. Milne’s stories, even as an adult, is worthwhile.

August 20th: Winnie-the-Pooh on Success, by Roger E. Allen and Stephen D. Allen
• This book tries to teach the reader how to set goals, make plans, and achieve success through stories about Winnie-the-Pooh and the other characters from the Hundred Acre Wood.  Perhaps it was because I am a fan of Benjamin Bond’s well-crafted The Tao of Pooh and The Te of Piglet, but I had difficulty making a real connection with this book.  At times the new character explaining these concepts, called “The Stranger”, seemed to be stretching the stories in order to make a point and as a result any real connection that I might have had with the success strategies and the stories was lost.  I did like how the success strategies were presented through straightforward language and acronyms, but I feel like I could have got that information from another source without the Winnie-the-Pooh gimmick.

August 21st: George’s Marvellous Medicine, by Roald Dahl
• George’s grandmother treats him terribly, so one day he decides to substitute her medicine with his own concoction to help improve her behaviour.  The result is a very funny story about how not even matriarchs of the family should be mean to their grandchildren.  I liked how even though the story is for younger readers it gave me a couple of twists that I was not expecting.  As always, I appreciate Roald Dahl’s silly humour.

August 22nd: The Magic Finger, by Roald Dahl
• The Gregg family loves hunting, which angers a little girl so much that she uses her power, called the magic finger, to punish them by making the entire family become birds.  This story was a little bit more predictable for me, but obviously children would find it enjoyable.  The idea of being able to take revenge on those who you feel are wrong would be a powerful plot for children.  This book would be great for those students who are just getting into chapter books.

August 23rd: The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me, by Roald Dahl
• Billy meets a giraffe, a pelican (called “Pelly”), and a monkey, who run their own window washing business.  When the animals are asked to wash the windows of the wealthiest resident in the town, surprises await them, Billy, and the owner of the house.  I particularly enjoyed the songs in this story, which could possibly be used in a poetry unit.  Again, Roald Dahl’s humour in the most unexpected places made this book an enjoyable read.

August 24th: The Dragonslayer (Bone, #4), by Jeff Smith
•I had seen so many students reading this series that I thought I would give it a try, and this graphic novel did meet my expectations.  Although I was reading the fourth book in the series, I was able to understand the plot and pick out the characters’ personalities.  I genuinely felt sorry for Thorn, a girl who has a great destiny to fulfil that even she does not know the full extent of yet.  I also liked how there are certain twists to traditional fantasy characters, such as the idea that dragons are not the evil villains.  If given the opportunity, I would read more of this series.

August 25th: The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd
• Lily Owen only has one memory of her mother, and it is of the day her mother died.  When her black caregiver, Rosaleen, insults the three biggest racists in town, Lily decides to free Rosaleen from the police and run away from her abusive father.  She decides to go to Tiburon, South Carolina, in order to find out more about her mother’s past.  Certain descriptions in the book, such as August Boatwright’s beekeeping operation, did drag on and I found myself skimming these parts to get to the real plot.  However, I did like Lily’s character, and I appreciated the symbolism of the “Lady in Chains” and the idea of feminine power.  Overall, I think this book is a good summer read.

August 26th: Naomi’s Road, by Joy Kogawa
• As a five-year old, Naomi doesn’t exactly know why she needs to leave her old house and go live in the forest.  However, the experiences she does remember help the reader to understand the Japanese-Canadian internment experience through the eyes of a child.  Written by the same person who wrote Obasan, this book is an easily accessible look at this time in Canadian history, and it would be a good entry point for younger readers to examine historical fiction.

August 27th: The Myth of Ability, by John Meighton
• John Meighton explains that mathematical ability is not a genetic trait, and that with enough practice and teaching almost anyone can gain a great deal of mathematical skills.  I liked that a lot of this book was diagrams and lessons that explained the steps that students must take before they can understand concepts such as fractions, ratios, and problem solving.  This book also served as a reminder that Math is a process, and that students need to have a good foundation before they can be expected to solve more complicated problems.  I would recommend this book to teachers who are trying to create new Math lessons that will reach more students.

August 28th: Horrible Histories: The Awesome Egyptians, by Terry Deary and Peter Hepplewhite
• This book takes several interesting facts about the Egyptians and creates lists of information that would appeal to adolescents interested in this ancient civilization.  I sometimes found the information to be sensationalized for the purpose of its intended reading audience, but I also know that this is how the history series attracts its readers.  As well, I did learn interesting facts about Egypt that I can share while I am teaching my unit.

August 29th: Here’s to You, Rachel Robinson, by Judy Blume
• Many people would think that Rachel leads a great life because she is considered gifted and has loving parents and an understanding sister.  However, her tormenting older brother has just come back to live with them after being expelled from his private school, and she is constantly stressed about any tension in her life.  This novel was a great read because I think students can connect with the pressure to be perfect and the trouble with family.  I would recommend this book to any student who enjoys realistic fiction.

August 30th: Days of Toil and Tears: The Child Labour Diary of Flora Rutherford, by Sarah Ellis
• Flora Rutherford has been living in an orphanage after her parents died.  However, she receives a letter from her Aunt Janet, asking her to come live with her and work at the Alamonte textile mill.  Flora becomes a doffer girl, and writes about her life and experiences in Ontario.  This book, from the Dear Canada series, is written as a diary, and it examines the life of a working child in the late nineteenth century.  I did enjoy the research that must have gone into writing this book, and I appreciated that while the novel gave a lot of description there was still a plot and an explanation of the character’s motivations.  I think this novel would be another good example of historical fiction to introduce to students.

August 31st: Crispin: The Cross of Lead, by Avi
• After his mother’s death, the boy who has only been known as Asta’s son now finds out that he was baptized with the name Crispin.  He needs to flee his 14th century village after being accused of a crime that he did not commit, and finds help on the road from a wandering performer known as Bear.  Through his travels, Crispin learns the truth about who he really is, and he also learns to be assertive and an independent thinker.  I enjoyed learning about the middle ages through this novel.  I also felt for Crispin, as he is trying to figure out who he is and how he can survive once he is forced to leave his village.  I think this would be a good novel to read if someone is interested in historical fiction.

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