Fun and cute but also insightful and issue conscious. Van Wagenen may be fifteen, but she's no gimmick. She can out-write authors twice her age and thFun and cute but also insightful and issue conscious. Van Wagenen may be fifteen, but she's no gimmick. She can out-write authors twice her age and then some.
Admit it: you wish you had a more reliable way to double check commonly misspelled words than a Google search. Do you know the difference between affeAdmit it: you wish you had a more reliable way to double check commonly misspelled words than a Google search. Do you know the difference between affect and effect? Have you ever wondered whether a hunter lies in wait or lays in wait?
If you answered yes to these questions -- or answered yes for your offspring -- Sue Sommer has written the guide you need. During her first week as a high school English teacher, Sommer began compiling a list of tricky spelling and grammar issues for her students. Over the next 13 years, her list first grew into a guide and then into a legend as students, parents, and even their friends requested the original incarnation, made by photocopier. Word of mouth reached a publisher at a school function, and Sommer’s fantastic teaching tool is now available to the world.
Straightforward and accessible, The Bugaboo Review offers a list of common grammar and spelling errors without the condescension many of us associate with learning the nuances of writing. The guide divides into three main sections. The first portion collects the most common errors from the rest of the book and makes them easy to find in a pinch. The main body is an extensive alphabetical list of confusing spellings and grammar errors, including those homophones the spell check on your word processing software isn’t catching. Rounded out with an –ei and –ie spelling reference list, the so-called Bug-Rev is both a great classroom tool and home reference guide.
Summary: A look at the events surrounding and leading up to the Selma freedom march, told partly from the perspective of teenagers who were involved.
VSummary: A look at the events surrounding and leading up to the Selma freedom march, told partly from the perspective of teenagers who were involved.
Verdict: A must for the middle school American history classroom.
Yay!: Finding people who were teen participants in the marches and telling their stories here is an inspired idea. The narrow focus (not trying to tell the entire story of the civil rights movement in a slim book) allows for greater detail about the events covered. Mood-setting elements like the march song lyrics personalize the story and contrast with the frank descriptions of the tension and violence the marchers faced.
Nay!: This book is supposed to focus on the teens involved in the marches, but it often skews away from their perspectives to provide drier historical detail. Also, the book could have included more direct quotes from interviews rather than the author's summations, which were a bit overemotional and clumsy at times. With material like this, the facts can create emotion on their own.
Verdict: A great supplement if the local school system is still teaching that eurocentric "noble savage" curriculum.
Yay!: If you've only heard the usual textbook story of Colombus and the Spanish conquistadors arriving in the Americas to find an unspoiled, barely populated wilderness, you should take a look at the findings described in this book. Most of the finds are far from recent, but history is slow to be revised in addition to being written by the victors. Mann debunks the concept of the Americas as unsettled wilderness inhabited by primitive peoples.
Nay!: If you like reading about this topic or watching documentaries on it, skip this read. You won't learn much new information, and the writing style is dull.
Quick question: WHY do we still celebrate Columbus Day?...more
Summary: A non-fiction explanation with plentiful illustrations of the causes of World War I and the story of the famous Christmas truce, in which manSummary: A non-fiction explanation with plentiful illustrations of the causes of World War I and the story of the famous Christmas truce, in which many companies of British and German soldiers agreed to stop fighting for Christmas Day.
Verdict: Touching and informative.
Yay!: Provides a more thorough look at an event that is often just a footnote in the narrative of this war. For instance, I thought I knew all about the Christmas truce, but I had no idea that it was actually insubordination. I also didn't know that it was more popular with the Germans than the Allies, since the Germans are usually made out to be the villains of both world wars, even though the first one was pretty foolish on everyone's part. The photographs of soldiers from both sides exchanging presents and hanging out are a terrific addition.
Nay!: The explanation of how World War I happened seemed to drag on too long before getting to the actual topic of the book. Also, the book winds up with a philosophical musing on whether, had a treaty not been signed, the war would have ended on its own with a massive walkout by all involved armies. The thought is nice, but idealistic and silly. Even discounting crazy people (yeah, you, Hitler, way to ruin the tiny mustache for the rest of the world), as long as we are a competitive species on a planet with limited resources, we are going to have war. Sorry, Star Trek....more
Yay!: A great entry in the category of non-fiction that reads like fiction, Swanson's reconstruction of events is a page-turner. Unlike many YA adaptations of adult non-fiction, the book never feels like something was left out or thinned down too much. The plot switches between the hunted assassin and the dying president, holding onto the connection between the two storylines, and also details other assassination attempts usually left out of the history books. Rather than focusing on the dry facts, the author tries to inject emotion by imagining how the participants must have felt, with some degree of success.
Nay!: Sometimes the book goes over the top with the dramatics and the lionization of Lincoln. Yes, assassinating a president is a bad idea. Got it!...more
Summary: An illustrated guide to the elements by an author who thoroughly knows (and tries to collect) the entire periodic table.
Verdict: True love!
YaSummary: An illustrated guide to the elements by an author who thoroughly knows (and tries to collect) the entire periodic table.
Verdict: True love!
Yay!: The photographs are visually striking, earning this book my nomination for Best Coffee Table Book of EVER. The elements are shown in pure form when possible and in usable form when not, the images sliced away from their original backgrounds and placed on stark black for emphasis. Beyond the photographs, the writing is not your typical dry science diatribe. Gray has a fun, direct, sometimes bitingly sarcastic tone, chatting to the reader about each element's habits, uses (or lack thereof), the time one of his samples got confiscated by the FBI, and the politics of the scientific community.
Nay!: More elements need to be invented so the author can write an expanded edition. Get on that, scientists!...more