Saturday, June 16, 2018

Review: The New Ocean: The Fate of Life in a Changing Sea

The New Ocean: The Fate of Life in a Changing Sea The New Ocean: The Fate of Life in a Changing Sea by Bryn Barnard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thought at first that this book had an unfortunate layout. There are LOTS of words on the pages, and the pages are large. The pictures are good, but I was afraid that the text would overwhelm them. To my surprise, the text was quite readable and interesting. The choices of living things to discuss were good: some are flourishing because of pollution, warming, and acidification, while others are suffering. The book gives a good perspective on change, in that it may throw off a delicate balance in different ways for different animals/plants.

Enjoyable and valuable, though saddening in many ways. We are such poor stewards of our Earth.

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Review: Save Me a Seat

Save Me a Seat Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

On literary merit alone, this book would not deserve 4 stars. The writing is fine, but it is friendly-style writing, not compelling, good writing. What does deserve the 4 stars is that the authors get the kids pretty much right. Yes, the bully is a bit over the top stereotype, but I have met so many bullies like that, it doesn't feel unreal to me.

There is one review (not this one) which details some excellent teaching points. If you are considering using this book as a read-aloud, you should check out that review.

I enjoyed reading the book: another one to add a bit of diversity and different points of view.

P.S. There is a clever and appealing set of added material at the end of the book. First, there are two glossaries, one from Ravi's perspective and one from Joe's. Then, there are two different recipe's, one for Ravi's mother's Indian cookies and the other for Joe's mom's apple crisp.

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Friday, June 15, 2018

Review: Save Me a Seat

Save Me a Seat Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

On literary merit alone, this book would not deserve 4 stars. The writing is fine, but it is friendly-style writing, not compelling, good writing. What does deserve the 4 stars is that the authors get the kids pretty much right. Yes, the bully is a bit over the top stereotype, but I have met so many bullies like that, it doesn't feel unreal to me.

There is one review (not this one) which details some excellent teaching points. If you are considering using this book as a read-aloud, you should check out that review.

I enjoyed reading the book: another one to add a bit of diversity and different points of view.

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Thursday, June 14, 2018

Review: The Frog Scientist

The Frog Scientist The Frog Scientist by Pamela S. Turner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was written for a slightly older audience than I expected and thus the level of difficulty of the text and the descriptions were more advanced than I expected. So, I have tagged it as good for students a bit older than middle grades elementary. The book is semi-biographical and semi-scientific. The biographical parts capture the human interest side of science, the scientific parts elucidate some of the intricacies of scientific research. On the whole, it is well-balanced. I appreciate the little box at the end explaining that the real scientific research was a bit more complicated than the text could cover. There is also a glossary and a bibliography. And the photos throughout are also excellent.

I was interested in this book, because one of my book clubs read The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History and it begins with an extensive discussion of the problems with frogs dying out. This book doesn't mention the larger problem of many more species beyond just the many endangered frog species, but it is an interesting accompaniment, even if the audiences for the books are different.

Finally, it should be mentioned that this book includes quite a few people who are not white Caucasians. This would make an excellent choice for people who are looking to make their book selections more inclusive.

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Saturday, June 9, 2018

Review: Here's to You, Rachel Robinson

Here's to You, Rachel Robinson Here's to You, Rachel Robinson by Judy Blume
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is actually a re-read, as I am sure I read this when I was young, too.

I was a bit surprised that this book frustrated me a bit. I felt like Rachel's problems were only touched on - even glossed over. How was she supposed to relax? Why did the family seem to be so on edge with the brother? I guess I didn't perceive her brother's actions as so completely over the top, but rather as a very bright (yes, probably gifted) boy who has discovered that the world often hides the truth from itself and he needs to confront that. In the end, the parents did do what they needed to do and the hiring of the tutor worked, but I would like to have seen more whole family resolution, too.

Since I am interested in gifted kids, I was also interested in the gifted angle for both Rachel and her brother. Rachel is the typical good-girl gifted female. She does everything right and people just seem to never see when she is foundering. Charles, on the other hand, is the quintessential bad-boy gifted kid. Rebelling, clowning around, sarcastic, refusing to take work seriously unless it is work that he has chosen. People don't see his needs either. They see him as a behavior problem. Their sister Jessica is never seen really beyond her acne and her helpfulness.

I liked this book better as a kid.

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Review: Home of the Brave

Home of the Brave Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am not a huge fan of free verse novels, but it did seem to work for this book. With the exception of the rather abrupt ending, I enjoyed this book. It is interesting to see the familiar through unfamiliar eyes and it brings to mind my own year as a foreign student in Germany - many things seem like missteps. I would like to have seen a bit more, but I suppose the story is really about family and not about being a stranger in a new land.

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Thursday, June 7, 2018

Review: Just as Long as We're Together

Just as Long as We're Together Just as Long as We're Together by Judy Blume
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am sure I read this many, many years ago, when it was a lot newer. Surprisingly, it hasn't aged all that badly. It reminds me a lot of teaching middle school - all of the painful friend/not friend, lonely, teasing/showing romantic interest, young teen issues.

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