Monday, October 15, 2012

What I've Been Reading

Tomorrow my school launches its 100 Days of Reading program.  From October 16 to January 23, students will be encouraged to read for pleasure 15-30 minutes each day, keeping and turning in reading calendars and logs which make them eligible to win prizes.  The "big prizes" this year will go to those students who win a Jeopardy style quiz show based on ten books selected by the Language Arts teachers and me.  Our decision to choose books that fit into five categories related to school subjects made the book selection a bit challenging, and I reviewed several books and read several more before making my recommendations. 

One book I read that didn't end up on the list was Do the Math: Secrets, Lies, and Algebra by Wendy Lichtman.  This is a short, very readable book about Tess, who loves math and applies math concepts to figuring out the Middle School world.  For example, Richard has more status at school than Tess, so Tess defines their relationship as R>T.  In the course of the story Tess witnesses someone cheating on a test, tries to solve a mystery, and loses and regains a friend.  The application of mathematical definitions and concepts to these trials was clever, and the story and fun to read. 

Another book I read did make the list; Harlem Summer by Walter Dean Myers.  Set in Harlem in the 1920's, it tells the story of 16-year old Mark, who takes a job as an errand boy in the office of the NAACP's Crisis Magazine, where he meets Langston Hughes, W.E.B. DuBois, and other "New Negroes."  An aspiring jazz saxophone player, Mark gets around the clubs and nightlife of the Harlem Renaissance, meeting Fats Walker, the famous jazz player, who gets him a side job delivering bootleg whisky which lands him in trouble with the gangster Dutch Schultz.  It's an interesting and funny story, which I think our students will enjoy.

I also read Wonder by R. J. Palacio, which tells of a 5th grade boy named August, who was born with a massively deformed face.  The rejection he suffers from children and adults because of this deformity is wrenching to read, but ultimately the story is one of courage and hope.  The folks at Teach Mentor Texts are hosting their weekly meme for bloggers who are reading children's and Young Adults books, and I'm happy to be a part of it this week.  One of the contributors, a blogger at A Little Bit of Everything  included short reviews in the form of "Vokis," virtual avitars through which her students speak students about Wonder, an interesting way of having students review a book. 

Here's the books that we did choose for the game show contest:

Social Studies/Geography
5th/6th grade:
Long Walk to Water: A Novel: Based on a True Story by Linda Sue Park
Crossing the Wire by Will Hobbs

7th/8th grade:
Escape from Warsaw 1939 by Julian Padowicz
Fever, 1793 by Laurie Anderson

5th/6th grade: Toothpaste Millionaire by Jean Merrill
7th/8th grade:20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne 
All grades: Frog Scientist by Pamela Turner

All grades:  
Freeze Frame; A Photographic History of the Winter Olympics by Sue Macy
Peak by Roland Smith

Arts (music, art, drama)
5th/6th grades:  Masterpiece by Elise Broach
7th/8th grades: Our Town by Thornton Wilder
Both grades: Harlem Summer by Walter Dean Myers

Religion, myth, psychology
5th/6th grade: 
Anything but Typical by Nora Baskin
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (Barbara Robinson 

7th/8th grade:
Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Green
The Wave by Todd Strasser

And last but not least, for Story Time today I read one of my favorites, Winnie the Witch by Valerie Thomas and illustrated by Korky Paul.  Always such fun!

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