Hatchet was one of those books that it seemed everyone had read except for me. This is obviously an exaggeration, but it is one that I felt like, as a
Hatchet was one of those books that it seemed everyone had read except for me. This is obviously an exaggeration, but it is one that I felt like, as an ELA teacher, I should have already read. Going into it I knew: 1) it wasn't my "type" of book, 2) despite that fact, I probably would love it. Both things are true. Hatchet is often cited as the quintessential survival book for middle grade kids. I really loved Paulsen's prose-- the descriptions of the environment, of what Brian did and thought as he worked to survive, and I also thoroughly enjoyed Brian's development as a character through his experience. I felt that the book moved along at a good pace, and it made me, as a reader, wonder about things that I'd like to learn more about. All of those qualities make it an excellent story.
I do want to point out that a group of my fourth graders who recently read the book were in love with it-- until the end. They were disappointed with how quickly everything ends and draws to a close. I thought about that as I read the ending, but truly-- in a situation of this nature-- that is what happens. Rescues don't happen gradually over a period of time, and once Brian is rescued, the book draws to a quick close. Paulsen could have shared more about what happened once Brian was back home, but that really would have detracted from the point of the book. This possibility is something I'll discuss with that group of students when I see them in August! :)
The Little Prince is a book that I had never read and felt that I should, so I did. This is obviously not a "kids'" book. Children who would pick this
The Little Prince is a book that I had never read and felt that I should, so I did. This is obviously not a "kids'" book. Children who would pick this up to read it would never understand it with all of its nuances, and I would even argue they wouldn't understand it on the most basic of levels. The vocabulary itself would inhibit many children from reading it. That being said, I see the book as a valuable piece of literature. It is full of allegory and symbolism that makes you think about important themes such as open-mindedness, relationships, and spirit. As is said in the book, "anything essential is invisible to the eyes." This is very similar to Helen Keller's quote, "The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart." I'm glad that I have now read this book, and appreciate its message.
Stone Fox is a short but compelling book about a ten year-old boy, Little Willy, who lives with his grandfather on a farm in Wyoming during the time oStone Fox is a short but compelling book about a ten year-old boy, Little Willy, who lives with his grandfather on a farm in Wyoming during the time of the "Old West". Willy's grandfather is ill, most likely because of the $500 in back taxes he owes the government. Little Willy determines that he can win the $500 prize in a dog sled race with his faithful dog and friend, Searchlight. What he isn't aware of is that he will be up against Stone Fox, an Indian displaced by the government, and his five Samoyeds. Stone Fox is legendary for never having lost a race. He wants the money to buy back the land the government took from him and his people. Who will end up triumphant? Who will achieve his dream?
(view spoiler)[ At another time in my life, I might give this book a better rating. It is a good book. I guess I'm just a bit in the frame of mind of Gordon Korman's character, Wallace, in the book No More Dead Dogs. While I know this story wouldn't have the same impact if the ending was changed, I'm just ready for a book with a happier ending. (hide spoiler)]...more
It's almost embarrassing to live and teach in Beaufort County, SC for as many years as I have and not have yet read Pat Conroy's memoir, The Water isIt's almost embarrassing to live and teach in Beaufort County, SC for as many years as I have and not have yet read Pat Conroy's memoir, The Water is Wide. I remedied that situation this summer. The book is Conroy's account of his experience teaching at the county's small school on Daufuskie Island in the late 1960s.
Daufuskie sits across the Calibogue Sound from Hilton Head, but in 1969 it may as well have been an ocean away given the difference in opportunity, wealth, culture, and many other aspects. Conroy spent a year teaching 18 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grade black students at the small school on the island. It took very little time for him to realize how much these students didn't know, how limited their experiences had been, and how unfairly their situation was compared with other students in the county schools. Conroy's teaching techniques were not conventional, and he wasn't afraid to voice his concerns and beliefs to students, parents, district administration, or the school board. Most importantly, Conroy found ways to connect with and know his kids, to teach them things they would never have learned otherwise, and to provide experiences that helped each of them to feel valued and important.
This is a powerful book. It has powerful lessons about education, teaching, and learning; about race relations, prejudice, and one man's fight to change these things. The book made me laugh out loud in some places, angry in some, and almost in tears at other places. I could see how Pat Conroy made a difference in the lives of his kids because he cared about them and found ways to give them so much of what they had never had. There were some things I wondered about, and hope to do some more research. The biggest question I had was why Conroy chose to name the island "Yamacraw" instead of using its actual name.
This is a book that teachers, residents of the Lowcountry, and anyone interested in a great human interest story would enjoy. ...more
Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift from the Sea, though written in 1955, still holds relevance and significance for readers today. This is because it addres
Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift from the Sea, though written in 1955, still holds relevance and significance for readers today. This is because it addresses many issues all people experience and can relate to. Lindbergh considers the different stages and roles a woman takes on throughout her life, and then delves into ways to make the most of each of these by comparing each as they actually are in "real life" to the way that she experiences them in "island life." Island life allowed Lindbergh to find space and time to focus on what was significant: to be involved in spiritual, intellectual, and physical endeavors. Lindbergh points out that often, the things that keep us so busy and even "out of focus" in life are important and deserve attention. She goes on to say, though, that we have to pick and choose what our focus will be-- it is physically impossible for us to "do it all".
I read this book this week during my family beach vacation, and that was a good choice. It made Lindbergh's references even more vivid and meaningful to me. I definitely found nuggets of inspiration and truth in Lindbergh's writing that I hope to carry back with me and be more mindful of in the future.
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler was my favorite book when I was in elementary school. I read it several times as a kid. I think C
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler was my favorite book when I was in elementary school. I read it several times as a kid. I think Claudia's basic story is every kid's story at some point. What kid doesn't have a time (or times) when he or she wants to run away from home, especially if there's some kind of adventure in it as a bonus?! The fact that Claudia planned her run-away so carefully, and got away with it, intrigued me. The fact that she ran away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC and lived there with her brother Jamie for several days without getting caught made her seem like a genius to me.
Reading the book now, as an adult, there are little things that bother me. Mostly, I'm bothered by the fact that little details in the book date it (and me!): things like pay telephones and the lack of a highly technological security system in a major art museum. Still, I can excuse most of it. When I read this with my students today, I have to remind them of the setting...; this is not contemporary fiction (sigh), but rather a story that happened almost 50 years ago. Even if it is a dated story, the excitement of running away from home, the details about how Jamie and Claudia manage to live from day to day, and the great art mystery that crops up --captivating Claudia and Jamie, but the reader, too-- all serve to make this a classic that I still consider one of my favorites!
Elie Wiesel's memoir is compelling and unforgettable. It never overstates the horror of the Holocaust... and for this reason it is even more powerfulElie Wiesel's memoir is compelling and unforgettable. It never overstates the horror of the Holocaust... and for this reason it is even more powerful and believable. An important book for all to read....more