Thursday, August 25, 2011

Schooled In The End

In the end Cap goes back to living at Garland with Rain. Cap is driving on the dirt roads on Garland property when he gets pulled over by the police. Cap tried to tell him that it is Garland’s property, but the police officer tells Cap that it now belongs to Skyline Realty and Development. Cap did not understand. When Cap is waiting for Rain at the police station a shiny new Mercedes car pulls up. A blonde lady talking on her cell phone got out. She reached back in and got a cane. It was Rain’s cane! Rain came in and talked to Cap about how she sold Garland because eventually she would die and Cap would have to live on his own. If Cap had very little experience, like he does now, he would have a very hard time. Rain had bought a condo. For now he is going to stay at the Donnelly’s house until the condo is ready, and will be attending Claverage Middle School again.

The ending of the book schooled was good. It was a very happy ending but it was not realistic. If someone had created and lived at a place like Garland for so long would they really just give up all of their beliefs that easily? Rain really did not like how the world revolves around money and has felt that way for so long. Why would she give up her life at Garland so quickly?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Jeremy Fink: A box of rocks?

Would you ever expect a box of rocks to be special? In Jeremy Fink's life, the box was an amazing mystery to be solved before he turned 13. Each rock represented a different experience from Jeremy's Dad's life. For example, Rock # 8 was "from the cemetery at my father's funeral, 23." I believe Jeremy changed a lot from the beginning of the story. Jeremy was afraid of almost everything. His friend, Lizzy, was not afraid of anything! On a bus trip into the city, they had to lie about going to the flea market all by themselves. He was so scared that he would get in big trouble. At the end of the story, Jeremy was more confident because he did community service and performed in a talent show all by himself. Jeremy said, "Never in a million years did I think I could have hula-hooped in a grass skirt in a talent show. I wonder what else I could do that I never thought I could." Once, I had to perform Irish dancing in front of over 200 people at my Mom's school for International Night. I was nervous because I had not danced in a year. All the eyes were staring at me! But once I started, it wasn't so bad. I did a pretty good job, and everyone clapped and cheered. So I know how Jeremy felt. Does anyone else ever feel nervous performing in front of a crowd like Jeremy and I did?

"I Love Lubar's One-Liners" Mrs. G. said straightly.

Upon concluding David Lubar's Sleeping Freshman Never Lie, I find myself so touched by the themes of friendship, maturation, and change that the author has addressed. At first, I found the main character Scott to be a regular teenager, cloaked in sarcasm to protect himself from the the harshness of high school and  the world in general.  As I read, I realized how the narrator's language sounded much like some adults I've met.  As people progress from childhood through adolescence to adulthood, I am reminded of the coping devices we all acquire to get us through the process.

I also appreciated how the author unveiled the faulty inferences that Scott had made about people he hardly knew.  As Scott befriended Wesley, Lee, and Mouth, he learned more about the type of person he wanted to be. Sometimes that's how we know ourselves relation to others.

On page 92, Scott judges that "flux sux" in his advice to his unborn sibling. But by the end of the book, he admits that "flux rox."  A shift in attitude makes all the difference in how change is experienced.  Not to say that change doesn't sometimes bring disappointment, but Lubar wants to remind us how change gives us the opportunity to grow.

That said, I can't wait for a new school year to start.  I know that most of the world celebrates New Year's on January 1, but my year has always turned over in September. Looking forward to seeing everyone soon!

Mrs. Grannemann

Schooled Chapter 21

Poor nonathletic Capricorn Anderson,now popularand famous 8th grade president, finds himself at the bottom of a 20 man dog pile of football players because he is wearing the other teams uniform. The best tackle on the , Daryl, hit him first. Cap is so hurt, he cannot even get up himself and is helped off the field. The football team hears the coach yell while they're all thinking about Cap in the nurses office, especially the tackle, Darryl. The teachers find out that Hugh put Cap in the uniform and he gets the principals full wrath. Darryl seeks out Zach quickly after realizing that Zach and Hugh planned this. After arguing, the fists come out. Cap shows up and whimpers, "violence is not the answer", but no one heard him. Cap jumped in the middle of the fight only to be knocked out in one punch by the only one who cares about him now, Darryl. An ambulance shows up. The nurse escorts Cap to it. Darryl bursts out of the office and yells to Cap "I'm sorry! It was an accident, both times!" but it was too late. Cap was gone.
There are 10 more chapters in Schooled by Gordan Korman and many more lessons to be learned. I learned not to judge a person by their looks, get to know them first. I also learned not to be a bystander in a bad situation, my action can start a chain reaction to switch the situation around. If you want to know what happens next, I suggest reading this wonderful book. Will Sophie pass her drivers test? Will Rain walk again? Will Cap ever return to Claverage Middle School? To find out, take my advise and read the book.

Schooled Chapters 16-20

Sadly, after only a few days, Mr. Donnelly left without a goodbye. Sophie was crushed. She wouldn't receive her birthday bracelet. Cap realizing that she would never get the bracelet buys the same one with the schools money for the dance and engraves, "ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE". Most of all though, Sophie has no one to show her how to drive. Mrs. Donnelly doesn't get home until later and Cap cannot legally drive so Cap kind of ignores the situation. As Cap is watching a TV show, Trigonometry and Tears, Cap learns that sometimes, things just fall into place. He likes this theory and begins using it in his own life. This is one reason he is ignoring the Halloween dance. As Cap's acquaintances buy materials for the dance, Mr. Kasigi, a committee volunteer, gets mad at Cap for not consulting the school budget. Later, Mrs Donnelly calls Mr. Kasigi 4 times and leaves 4 messages before he actually returns a call. She calls for a check-up on Cap. She learns a lot about what's going on at Claverage such as the tie-dyeing clinic, Cap's Tai Chi classes, and finally starting the Halloween dance. Sophie thinks she finally received her birthday bracelet. Cap's bracelet came in the mail. Sophie was overjoyed to read "ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE", and it changes her feelings about life as well. Sophie becomes nice.... Well, nicer than before when she would want to kill Cap. Sophie and Cap watch Trigonometry and Tears together and not one harsh statement is said as opposed to the usual Sophie and Cap argument over a TV show.

Nice things can come up in the blink of an eye. Opening a present, hitting a home run, scoring a touch down... These are all great surprises that sometimes change your way of thinking about life or a person. Have you had something great happen to you?
Oddly, at the next Tai Chi meeting, Hugh Winkleman, Cap closest acquaintance, is tripped by most likely, a jock. Now that Cap is "popular", Hugh is next on the "to be bullied list". This is a huge step in the right direction for Cap as a student at this school,but what about Hugh? Also, Naomi, the girl who directed Cap to the hospital, was a soon to be a target. Her crush on her best friend's boyfriend got out, and her popularity status went down. Therefore, she started making moves on Cap, trying to up her popularity again. She also told Cap about the school participating in the March of Caring and donations being needed. Cap pulled out a checkbook which held all the money for the dance and wrote a check for $1,000.00 and gave it to Naomi. Everybody in the room went nuts over the fact that the check is real and how generous Cap is. Cap and Hugh ran to the bathroom and hid because the commotion was too much for them. Cap had not meant to, but he insulted Hugh by saying he couldn't believe the feeling of having so many people like him while Hugh hasn't had one second of popularity in his life. Hugh was through with Cap. Naomi, on the other hand, was just getting started and burst into the men's bathroom, hugged Cap while planting a kiss on his lips and left. While leaving, she said "To be continued".

People do nice things all the time. It makes us feel good. There are so many examples in the real world such as buying someone just what they wanted or in Cap's position, donating to a cause. Have you ever done something really nice? If so, what?
Zach Powers, the coolest kid in school, becomes jealous of Cap because he took over his place as best known in school. Cap took over this position by donating thousands of dollars to several charities. As coolest kid in school, Cap took Zach's chair at the lunch table. Zach angrily turned away and collided with, now, the biggest dork in school, Hugh Winkleman. Instead of hitting Hugh as usual, Zach looked at his face which had the same expression as Zach's, my friend(s) doesn't want me any more. So Zach and Hugh sat down together to talk. What started as a talk became a confession about how Zach set Cap up to be the 8th grade president. After the talk, Hugh and Zach make a plan to set up Cap at the upcoming pep rally. Then, out of the corner of their eyes, the two of them see Naomi wipe Cap's face for him. Hugh mumbled, "To be continued."
Jealousy is an emotion in which you feel upset that something did not go the way you had hoped. Right now Hugh and Zach are jealous of Cap's sudden popularity and they do not know how to handle that emotion. They take it to the extreme and Cap gets hurt. People are always jealous of others. Sometimes bad things happen when you get jealous of someone, you might do something you would normally not do. What is a situation in which you have been jealous?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Wrap It all Up

It's Jeremy's birthday! This was the chapter that answered all of my questions. Did it answer all of yours? When Lizzy gave Jeremy her present I couldn't believe that she surprised him with the last key, I didn't expect that at all. I really thought that there was no other way for them to find the last key. Did you think that at the end of the book Jeremy would get all of the keys? I also didn't expect there to be rocks in the box, but eventually I understood it. Jeremy's dad wanted Jeremy to understand that when good things and good moments happen, recognize them. The meaning of life is..."Life's not about how many breaths you take, but how many moments that take your breath away". Well, I love happy endings and it looks like this boy got one.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

This One's For You, Procrastinators!

If you are reading this blog on August 18 and you have not started your summer reading yet, then you might be a procrastinator! (A procrastinator is someone who puts off doing something.) Here is some advice for you!

I think we have all procrastinated at some point in our lives. Yes, even your teachers are probably guilty of waiting until the last minute to do something important. Why do we procrastinate? I guess we all have our own reasons, but I know that I sometimes procrastinate for the following reasons:
  1. I don't think I will be good at the task that I am supposed to be doing, so I would rather avoid it and hope it disappears!
  2. I don't think I will enjoy the task very much.
Do any of these reasons sound familiar? Yes? No? Maybe? Do you need to think about it for 20 minutes? Don't! That's procrastinating!

It doesn't really matter why you have waited until the last minute to start reading. What you need to do now is develop a plan of action!

  1. Step One: Choose a book! This sounds simple, but it is not. Believe me, I make a living out of matching people to books, and it's not always pretty. Look at the books that I have recommended. Does anything interest you? Still haven't found a book that you like? Ask a good friend or a librarian for a suggestion. Then beg your parents to take you to the bookstore or public library as soon as possible.
  2. Read the first 50 pages. Yes, I said 50 pages. (Some experts actually recommend reading the first 100 pages, but we have limited time here...) You should take no more than 2 or 3 days to read the first 50 pages. You can't read the first 10 pages and complain, "Nothing is happening. I'm bored." Listen, nothing happens in the first 10 pages of most books. The author has to introduce you to the characters and the setting and the problem in the story. (Remember learning about the exposition last year? Yep, that's what I'm talking about here.)
  3. If you don't like the first 50 pages, choose another book! You read that correctly. I am a media specialist telling you not to finish a book. Sounds crazy, right? The truth is that there are plenty of great books out there, but it might take a while to find the type of books that are right for you. Since you don't have a lot of time left, you will need to commit to a book eventually, but reading is always easier and more enjoyable when you have chosen the right book.
  4. Gain some momentum with your book. Would you ever take 20 days to watch a 2 hour movie? (Well, if you have a toddler at home....) I'm guessing that you wouldn't do that. I'm not suggesting that you read the entire book in one day, although that can be great fun.! What I'm suggesting is that you read a few chapters per day every day IN A ROW until you finish. It really makes reading easier. You won't forget what you are reading about, and you will be drawn into the story.
These are my tips for all of you procrastinators. I have to go now, because I have some important tasks of my own that I am avoiding!

-Mrs. Kleinknecht

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Jeremy Fink: A Great Ending

When I figured out what was in Jeremy's 13th birthday box, I wasn't that surprised. What else would be in the box instead of his father's memorable items (his collection of rocks that he found on his way through life) and a special letter for Jeremy? The letter was important. The most important person in Jeremy's life gave his advice about how to live his life. I think that it was a fantastic idea for Jeremy's dad to have started the rock collection. Each rock showed an amazing moment. Jeremy started his own "special rock collection," too. The first was: "Rock #1: From the day I realized that love is stronger than death and that people you barely know can amaze you, 13."
I think it was great that many people cared and helped Jeremy's dad make up a huge plan for Jeremy so that he could find the keys to his dad's box. The journey to find the keys was just as important as really finding them. How would you feel if you were Jeremy and you first realized that all these people wanted to help you to find those very important keys?

Summer Reading - A Reflection

As summer comes to a close, I just wanted to comment on reading in general.  I have always loved reading. I discovered the power of a good book when I was very young.  I remember my mother and grandmother reading or reciting fairy tales to me as a little girl.  I loved the images and pictures that would come to my mind or that were on the pages of the book.  I also remember my father constantly reading at night before bed. This was a habit I also got into.  Now, as an adult, my dad and I swap books, which are mainly non-fiction (we both love books on the Old West!) I really love sharing my thoughts on reading with my dad.  Although he lives over an hour away, it's something that helps keep us connected.

When I entered elementary school, we got to read every day.  The entire school began their day reading for 20 minutes and I loved it. I really loved books by Beverly Cleary, Alfred Hitchcock, Judy Blume, and my all time favorite, Laura Ingalls Wilder.  My friends and I would share great books and that is something that continued into my adulthood. Different friends, but it's the same thing.  We were doing informal book clubs before Oprah! 

Reading is an amazing and powerful thing.  It can take you away, make you think, and bring out emotions you might have thought you never had.  It can be inspiring and can awaken you to new ideas and thoughts. It can also be a great way to meet people and be exposed to new things.  Believe me, I could go on and on.

My goal and hope for all of you reading this, and for my future students, is to discover how powerful a book can be and also, how wonderful it is.  Our online conversations were great and I enjoyed hearing other people's thoughts and comments.  I hope you NEVER lose the joy of reading and keep it up throughout your lives!  See you in September!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Schooled: Chapters 12-21

To think ordinary Capricorn Anderson was arrested! All he was doing was driving Mr. Rodrigo to the hospital in a bus, there's nothing wrong with that; WRONG! This makes me think of when Sal in Walk Two Moons drives to find her mom, but then the police officer brings her back to the hospital. Sophie was so excited when her dad gave her a bracelet that he had to take back to get engraved, but what happens when her Dad leaves! Finally Cap is starting to make friends beside from Hugh Winkleman, and I really think Naomi Erlander has changed for good. Wait, scratch that thought, Cap has made tons of friends just because of a tie-dyeing "party." What I don't get is how Mr. Kasigi expects Cap to have Student Funds money. So when Mr. Kasigi and Cap open up a bank account for it how does Mr. Kasigi expect Cap to use the money wisely? Of course Cap uses it for expensive things for the Halloween dance and gives thousands of money to school spare change charity buckets. And because of one of Cap's "charitable" donations Cap is now popular and Naomi's finally falling for Cap. Now Zach Powers thinks it's the end of the world and Cap is ruining "his" year. YEAH RIGHT! Zach's last resort is to team up with Hugh to get rid of of Cap. Right before the pep rally Hugh brought Cap into the locker to dress him up as a football player, except for Rhinecliff the opposing team! What do you think you will happen next?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Last Week-and-a-Half in the World of HBWReads

Our summer reading project has really taken on a life of its own over the last few weeks or so.  We are now the focus of some fairly robust national attention for the work you are all doing.

Last Tuesday, as I indicated in an earlier post, I was asked to speak about the work you are all doing at an event called the 140edu Conference.  This conference, modeled after a series called the 140Conference, was aimed at discussing how we are using social media (blogging, facebook, twitter, etc.) to promote real learning and authentic experiences for students in K-12 and college.  Each speaker was given ten minutes to talk about the work they are involved in and how they are using social media with students.

From there, our site got major attention.  The presentation was viewed by the over four-hundred and fifty audience members, plus an online audience that at times topped fifteen-thousand viewers!  Needless to say, there were a lot of eyes on your writing that day and the days that followed.

Based on that presentation, a magazine called School Library Journal, a publication for school media specialists, contacted me and asked to know more about the idea and the work you are all doing to promote reading during the summer.  After explaining the process to them, they decided to feature the idea during their Fall Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C. which will be attended by school and library leaders from around the country.

Additionally, during the 140edu Conference, I was contacted by a woman named Tonya Hall, a radio host from Colorado Springs, CO.  She describes her show like this:

The Tonya Hall Show offers captivating interviews from industry movers and shakers that have mastered the power of Social Media. It's the only one of its kind on the radio! 

She was so intrigued by the work you are all doing that she asked me to appear on her show yesterday to talk more in depth about the project and everyone involved.  I spent a good part of the time on air talking about how to access the writing on the site and the work that you have all been doing.  We even had a few callers ask the address of the site so they could check it out!

Editor's Note: I forgot to mention that the site has been mentioned at the Donorschoose blog, a site aimed at helping teachers and others find donors for much-needed classroom supplies.  

We are all so happy with the writing you are all creating, and you should know that the world is noticing and learning from you.  Keep up the great writing over the next few weeks!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Schooled Chapters 24-25

In chapter 24, the students find out that the Halloween Dance is canceled because Cap is no longer a student at C Average Middle School. The students start to wonder where he is. Naomi finds out from a teacher that she should not ask Mr. Kasigi about Cap. Mr. Kasigi gets emotional when Cap's name is mentioned. Also a notice is posted that says:
Due to unfortunate circumstances, the Halloween Dance has been called off.

By then no one wanted to say it but what they where thinking is what if he is dead. Naomi and Lena decide to get to the bottom of it. They find out that he stayed at the Donnelly's, and go there to find him. When they get there Mrs. Donnelly tells them that he isn't there anymore. Naomi finally said out loud, "What if he is dead?"

In chapter 25, Zach explains that he doesn't believe any of the rumors about Cap. He also is angry that his year at was ruined, and that his name is no longer important to anyone. Then he realized that the only way to be known again was to pretend to believe the rumors about Cap. And that is what he did. He made a flyer about a tribute to Cap in the parking lot, and to not tell or show any teachers.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Jeremy Fink: The Ending

I just finished the book. Wow. The last two chapters were very good and interesting. The author answered all of my questions about the keys, what was inside the box, Lizzy's card, and what was up with Mr. Oswald.
When Jeremy read the letter that was inside the "meaning of life" box, I felt sad for him. I kept thinking that Jeremy's dad should have been able to explain the meaning of life in person, not in a letter. Even though it wasn't fair for Jeremy, it still meant a lot that his dad wrote the letter to help him understand his version of things.
I was impressed that Jeremy's dad got Mr. Oswald , the locksmith, and his mom to help him. He worked hard to plan everything to show Jeremy that there is more than one meaning of life.
If my dad or mom did all of that for me, I would feel very proud of them, and I would feel good about myself. I hope I can do that one day for my kids. Once I figure out the meaning of life, I would like to be able to help them (in person). Would you do that for your kids?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Dialogue with Myself

There have been some fantastic entries about Schooled by Gordan Korman (shout out to Mrs. Fusaro and others) and I was anxious to read this “buzz book.” I wasn’t disappointed! Often as I read a good book, I wonder if other people reading the same pages are “hearing” what I’m hearing, thinking what I’m thinking, interpreting a character’s behavior in the same way that I just interpreted the behavior. I would guess not. The dialogue that we create with ourselves as we read is as individual as we are. In this writing I will include some of my personal dialogue.

Initially, Schooled was just a funny, fast-paced novel told through the eyes of its many interesting characters. Who wouldn’t enjoy meeting a teenager who has been raised in a hippie commune, knowing no one but his sixty-year-old grandmother? Seeing our world through his eyes provided for a lot of smiles and quiet laughter as I read those beginning chapters. The miscommunication that stems from a literal interpretation of our figurative language was quite entertaining. This book was fun.

And then the messages behind the story surfaced. It was most definitely a great lesson on bullying and bad behavior, but Gordan Korman also got me thinking about other aspects of our society. My internal dialogue began to speak. For example, I am thinking of Sophie’s father. Although he wasn’t a main character in the book, his existence had its purpose. He surely loved his daughter, yet he was lacking. His irresponsible, selfish behavior was a constant heartache and disappointment for his daughter. This got me thinking: We often say that adults are our role-models, but we just may be more successful in finding role-models within our youth population. Adults can disappoint just as easily as children, and because we expect more from them, perhaps the disappointment is more pronounced. I wish the media could do a better job of highlighted the youth who are such great role models.

Additionally, particular excerpts within the book also spurred an internal dialogue. (Cap Anderson, p 89) “I was amazed that people seemed less interested in Mr. Rodrigo’s recovery than the details of how he got to the emergency room.” This got me thinking: Isn’t that the sad truth? Too many times we are drawn to the sensation behind the story. Are we giving enough thought to the real people who are involved? Are we sensitive to their pain?

And I loved Cap’s reflections when his crush Sophie was trying to come to terms with her father’s failings: “Life certainly gets more complicated when you know more than one person. I could only imagine what it would be like when I knew eleven hundred.” (p 102) This got me thinking: As much as we may want to shelter our loved ones from the pain that sometimes accompanies life, true happiness comes from our willingness to be vulnerable. Although people can disappoint, they are also the source of our real pleasures. You know the old saying, “No man is an island…” (John Donne, 1624) Cap was beginning to grow.

All in all, this book had everything it needed to be a great story. The characters totally entertained as they evolved and grew. Because it was told through the point of view of each character, it was both enlightening and fast-paced. And finally, it caused the reader to relate, reflect, and smile. Thank you, Gordan Korman, and thank you, Capricorn Anderson!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Schooled Chapters 13-15

-A nice surprise happens to Sophie in chapter 13. Her father (Mrs. Donelly's ex-husband) returns. He had been gone for several months. Sophie, relied on him to teach her to drive since she has a permit. When he left the only one who could remotely teach Sophie to drive was Cap. He took her out once and got away with it. Mrs. Donelly was out so Cap was able to take her car and give Sophie advise. When Mr. Donelly returned, the first thing he did was take Sophie for a drive. Taking Sophie to drive wasn't the only nice thing he did for her. He got her an engraved silver necklace for her birthday (which was 7 months ago).

A surprise occurs to any person on earth daily. I remember it was a nice surprise to me when I had mentioned I would like a laptop, but it wasn't on my Christmas list and my aunt bought me one for Christmas. Has something nice happened to you?

-Then in chapter 14, Cap finally starts planning the Halloween dance. He does not want too, but he knows he has to complete the job. While watching one of Sophie's favorite shows, the cast has a school dance, he likes some of their ideas. Also another school in town had a dance, so Cap took the ideas from them and started planning. Cap goes all out buying the best money can buy. He figures if he has to do it, it better be good.

People delay planning events in the real world all the time. I know I forget and get a late start on events. This can lead to some stressful situations. Is it better to get the job done fast and not good or wait and think about it and do an amazing job?

-In chapter 15, Cap hits a breakthrough with the students at school. Hugh Winkleman, Cap's main friend at school asked him to hang out. Cap declined. Therefor, Hugh asks if they can go to the store where Cap bought his tie-dyed shirt. Hugh was surprised when Cap said he tie-dyed it himself. Cap then offered to teach Hugh how. This was cool! Before school, they snuck into the art room to tie-dye. Suddenly, the art teacher came in and caught them. Luckily she realized they were tie-dying and fell in love with Cap, instead of getting him in trouble. Word got around that Cap knew how to do this and BINGO! Cap had students voluntarily speak to him.

Breakthroughs occur all the time, they could be little like Cap's or something huge. I remember when my dog finally started listening to me. It felt great that he trusted me enough to listen. Were you ever in a situation where something little changed the whole outcome?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Beyond the Buzz Books

I love to read, and I love to share my favorite books with others. (If this statement describes you, consider a career as a media specialist or teacher!) So, if you loved the buzz books, check out the recommendations that I have for you today! All of these books should be available at the public library or bookstore. Of course, we have all of these great titles at HBW!

If you liked Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix, read the following:
  • The Shadow Children Series by Margaret Peterson Haddix: Find out what happens to Luke and the other shadow children.
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: This is the first book in a great trilogy, coming soon to theaters near you. Like Among the Hidden, it's dystopian fiction. (A dystopia is an imaginary place where life is extremely bad.) Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen becomes a contender in the annual Hunger Games, a grave competition hosted by the Capitol where young boys and girls are pitted against one another in a televised fight to the death. I recommend this book for older or mature readers.
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry: Given his lifetime assignment at the Ceremony of Twelve, Jonas becomes the receiver of memories shared by only one other in his community and discovers the terrible truth about the society in which he lives. This books is a Newbery winner, perfect for older/mature readers.
If you liked Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass, read the following:

  • So B. It by Sarah Weeks: After spending her life with her mentally disabled mother and agoraphobic neighbor, twelve-year-old Heidi sets out from Reno, Nevada, to New York to find out who she is. I love this tearjerker!
  • Notes From the Midnight Driver by Jorden Sonnenblick: After being assigned to perform community service at a nursing home, sixteen-year-old Alex befriends a cantankerous old man who has some lessons to impart about jazz guitar playing, love, and forgiveness. I love this author, who worked with Mrs. Fusaro! I recommend this book for older readers.
  • Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata: Chronicles the close friendship between two Japanese-American sisters growing up in rural Georgia during the late 1950s and early 1960s, and the despair when one sister becomes terminally ill. This Newbery award-winning book is one of my favorites.
If you liked Schooled by Gordon Korman, read the following:
  • Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli: Stargirl, a teen who animates quiet Mica High with her colorful personality, suddenly finds herself shunned for her refusal to conform. This book has been extremely popular for 10 years. Check it out!
  • The Misfits by James Howe: Four students who do not fit in at their small-town middle school decide to create a third party for the student council elections to represent all students who have ever been called names. This book inspired National No-Name Calling Week. It's a thought-provoking read!
If you liked Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie by David Lubar, read the following:

  • Nothing But The Truth by Avi: A ninth-grader's suspension for humming "The Star-Spangled Banner" during homeroom becomes a national news story, and leads to him and his teacher both leaving the school. This is a great book that will lead to lots of discussion!
  • Bullyville by Francine Prose: After the death of his estranged father in the World Trade Center on September 11th, thirteen-year-old Bart, still struggling with feelings of guilt, sorrow and loss, wins a scholarship to the local preparatory school and encounters a vicious bully whose cruelty compounds the aftermath of the tragedy.
    I recommend this book for older/mature readers.
Please note: All summaries of books appear in italics because they are from I have read and enjoyed all of these books, and I hope you do, too! - Mrs. Kleinknecht

Monday, August 1, 2011

Fortune Fakers, Flotsam and Jetsam, and everything inbetween

Chapters 15-17 were some of my favorites. In Chapter 15 Jeremy is going to his aunt's art show in Atlantic City. When they went to the boardwalk were Jeremy's dad was, I really thought that they would find the real fortune teller, but instead Lizzy and Jeremy found her granddaughter . The granddaughter tells them how her grandmother was kicked off of the boardwalk because she was scaring people when she told all of the men that they would die at age 40. I was so shocked when she said that her grandmother was basically a fake that I wanted to reach into the book and give that woman a piece of my mind. Did you feel the same way?Jeremy and Lizzy were also very angry and stormed away from her. In Chapter 16, they have their last day with Mr. Oswald. He lets Jeremy and Lizzy take something of his to keep. Jeremy picked out an old suitcase that had lots of people's flotsam and jetsam in it. I was really excited when they found three of the keys in it, but also disappointed that there wasn't a fourth. In Chapter 17, Lizzy becomes a "woman". They go to Jeremy's grandma's B&B which I know must have one last glimmer of hope for Jeremy at finding the keys to his father's box. Do you think that he will find the fourth key in time, and if he does will he be disappointed with what's inside?

The Meaning of Life- Finally!

I'm always amazed by an author's ability to include a tapestry of stories and details in a book and somehow tie them together beautifully at the end. When an author does it so flawlessly like Wendy Mass, I appreciate the art of writing even more. The second half of Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of life had so much depth and emotion. I was worried I might be disappointed in what Jeremy's father believed the meaning of life was much like the doubts Jeremy had. However, it was displayed in the last chapter so beautifully and true that I had to compose myself while reading it. Each and every event in Jeremy's life had some kind of meaning and connection to the lesson his father had for him the whole time.

As I was reading this book, friends and family members were wondering what the book was about. When I explained the plot (without any spoilers of course), I found myself telling a brief story about the persistent yet hilarious quest of a young boy in search of the answer to the meaning of life. What a way to tell a coming of age story that connects to so many facets of our lives.

One of the strongest connections I made to the story was the way Jeremy was somewhat forced into doing grown-up things such as riding the subway and the bus alone and even eating foods other than peanut butter sandwiches. There was a time in my life where I was too shy to order my own food at a restaurant! Finally, when my parents refused to do it for me one day and I did it myself, I realized it was something that really wasn't the end of the world. I know it sounds juvenile, but I think we go through these things throughout our entire lives- not just our middle school years. I took my first plane ride by myself at 22 years old and honestly thought at one point that I was going to mess it up so badly and end up in a foreign country. After my flight was delayed, cancelled, and rescheduled for 3 am, I realized the worst really did happened and I lived through it. Like Jeremy, I learned that my own strength and the help of the supportive people in my life can get me through anything no matter how trivial it may be.

I wonder which part of the book you were able to connect to in the strongest way? What did you reflect on in your own life after reading this book?

Schooled - Some good lessons!

Capricorn Anderson is quite an interesting character. He was raised by his grandmother, Rain, in a hippie commune where there is no value of money and where getting arrested for something you believe in is basically acceptable.  If you have not started your summer reading, you might want to check this book out, especially if you have ever felt out of place. I think we have all felt out of place at one time or another, especially if you have moved to a new school or were in a class or club where you did not know other people.  It won't change as an adult. When you go to college or start a new job, you will meet all new people and need to know how to deal with them.  We are all shaped by our environment and our parents.  Once we begin going to school, other influences are added to the mix and now, our actions are based on what we have been taught by our parents along with what we learn from our teachers, coaches, friends and others.  Some of us are even heavily influenced by celebrities and how they dress and act. 

Cap is one of the strongest characters I have met in a book.  Most people going into middle school like to blend in and will tend to dress, talk, and even think like the masses.  Cap does none of that.  His upbringing is completely different than the other kids to the point that he does not even realize when he is being harassed and bullied.  But he does not care.  He thinks that all of the other kids are different, but does not judge them.  He continues to do what he knows to be right, no matter what the consequences. 

Several characters go through changes in the book and realize that what they are doing to Cap is WRONG.  Some feel badly enough that they stop their cruel actions.  One girl, however, continues to go along with the pranks because the boy she likes wants to continue to torture Cap.  She knows it's wrong and starts to feel badly for Cap, but her feelings for Zach (her love interest) prevail.  Even Cap's friend, Hugh Winkleman, allows Cap to get humiliated to protect himself.  This made me stop and ask a few questions - Why do people think that being cruel to someone is okay?  Why do people make fun of those who are different?  Why do we not appreciate differences in others?  And most importantly, why don't people do the right thing?  Is it okay to see your friend being teased just so you don't get teased?  It's a tough world we live in and there's a lot of pressure to look and dress a certain way, but trust me, it all comes down to ACTING a certain way that really proves what kind of person you are.

I hope each of you reading this does not change for someone else, unless it is for the better.  You are old enough to know what is right or wrong.   If you see a kid in the lunch room this year who is sitting by him/herself or a new student looking around to see where s/he needs to go, reach out to that person. So what if they don't dress like everyone or like different things? That's what makes a person interesting!  Give them a hand and most importantly, give them a chance.  Always do the right thing and you will be at peace with yourself and others.

Til next time,
Mrs. Fusaro

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Schooled Chapters 11 and 12

Chapters 11 and 12 are important chapters. These two chapters involve much commotion. If you don't belive me, see for yourself.

On the ride to school, the class throws an absolute party on the bus. The bus driver, Mr. Rodrigo keeps his eyes on the road afraid of witnessing something he should not. While the jocks ambush Cap, Mr. Rodrigo has what seems to be a heart attack. He becomes unconscious and falls in the isle. Cap jumps into the driver seat and asks for directions to the hospital. A girl named Naomi gives him directions to the hospital. Naomi is actually in the group of jocks but is the nicest one in the group. The police chase Cap to the hospital where Cap is arrested for underage driving. Cap is released but has one last chance to show the cops he is a good kid. For those of you that do not know the police have seen Cap drive underage before and were not happy about it. Rain is very proud of Cap. She also informs Cap that she is getting stronger and should be on her feet and in Garland in a few weeks. The next morning, Cap does his Tai Chi to calm himself before going to the Halloween Dance meeting. Cap needs to attend this meeting because the jocks set him up and elected him class president. While doing Tai Chi, Naomi shows up and practices along with him. Cap is shocked at this. At the meeting Cap answers honestly, admitting that not one part of the dance is set up yet.

But can you blame him? I cannot blame Cap for not setting up the dance yet. He has a lot on his plate right now, plus this is not something he wants to be involved in. When you are not interested in something it is hard to be excited about it. Were you ever in a situation like this? Honestly, I have forgotten to do many things my parents have asked me because it is not a high priority to me, even though it is to them. What about you? Have you forgotten to do something vital in your life?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Finding the Meaning of Life Early

Jeremy Fink and Lizzy Muldoun are working in "community service" after "vandalizing" Harold Folgard's law office. They were in the office looking for the keys to Jeremy's dad's box. As their punishment, Lizzy and Jeremy have to work for a man named Mr. Oswald. He is a wealthy pawn broker who is moving to Florida. Their job is to help deliver items that people gave to Mr. Oswald's grandfather, Ozzy, (the original pawn broker) for money. The people were only kids when they pawned their things. For Jeremy, the job is more than delivering items to random people. It is also about hearing the sad stories behind the possessions. To me, the stories all are parts of the meaning of life. For example, a lady named Mrs. Billingsly gave Ozzy a Winnie the Pooh book that she loved and shared with her best friend, for money to buy a dress. The dress was for a ball to welcome women to society, and a man who eventually became Mrs. Billingsly's husband saw her in it. So, she learned a lesson, because she lost a friend forever, but she did get a husband.

If I was in that situation, I would get a wife first and reunite with my friend later. What would you do?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The HBWReads Blog is Being Featured at the #140edu Conference

On Tuesday, August 2nd, I have the privilege of speaking at #140edu: Exploring the State of Education NOW Conference at the 92nd Street Y, NY, NY.  My topic: The Buzz Books.  

A while back, I was asked by the conference founder, Jeff Pulver, to participate in this conference, and if so, what did I have in mind to talk about.  Immediately, I thought of the Buzz Books and the HBWReads blog.  Reading, to me, has been a difference-maker in my life, taking me from a place of shadows and ignorance, to one of luminosity and understanding.  

Scholars have recently been examining the state of reading today among the general population of children in grades 5-12, and the statistics coming out of their work paint an awful picture.  There are extreme ramifications upon our society if we raise a generation of non-readers.  So, we as a school, looked at what we thought of reading in general, and more specifically of summer reading.  We looked at reading phenomena like the Harry Potter books, the Twilight Series, and more recently, the Hunger Games trilogy.
We saw something there that caught our eye.  

Reading is a social endeavor, and it's done best when we can talk about books with people we have an interest in.  When we read a book that is outstanding, the first thing we want to do is to run and tell someone who matters to us all about it and recommend it to them.  We wanted to capture that somehow.  

When I get on stage on Monday, I'm going to talk about that idea, but I am also going to talk about the work that has been done by all of the students and teachers at the site so far this summer.  Looking back at the statistics I shared the other day, we have had wild success in terms of readers and traffic through our site.  We have had conversations around books that would not have otherwise occurred.  We are making reading viral, and helping to spread it through not only our community here in Verona, but also in other parts of the county and world.  Don't underestimate the power of your thinking.  

The conference will be live on the web, and as soon as the information is posted as to how to tune in, I'll pass it along here.  (Here is the Ustream address if you are interested in catching the conference.  I go on roughly at 11:45am)

Keep up the great work!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Getting Ready to be "Schooled"

I'm looking forward to Gordon Korman's booked entitled Schooled. I've only read No More Dead Dogs and enjoyed that, so I'm expecting to be pleased. I understand that this story is about a boy named Capricorn (Cap for short) who has been home schooled by his grandmother until an accident forces him into a typical classroom. Reading about different types of lifestyles has always intrigued me, and here's what I'm thinking:

We only have one life to live, right? So we start off living it the way our parents set it up for us. If that works for us, we duplicate it to some extent. I loved my life growing up in small-town NJ, and although I may have ventured away for college, I happily created a very similar life for my own family. But what if? What if I were raised completely differently? How would my thoughts and views on things have changed? How much does my environment affect the way I think, act, and feel? I may still look like me, but naturally I'd feel differently about many things. It wouldn't make me wrong, just different! Consequently, I look forward to Cap showing me a whole new perspective. It will be refreshing to see how his experiences have shaped him, and this leads me to something else I'm thinking:

The world NEEDS people who are all different! We understand that on some level, and yet much of the world's problems stem from the fact that we can't accept people who think differently than us. So, Cap, prove to me what I already suspect. Different is refreshing, different is entertaining, and different is more than just OK; it's necessary. Our lives are short and we can't experience everything. That's why reading is so great; it allows me the chance to encounter these different people, different places, and different experiences.

I leave you with this question: Have you recently enjoyed a character in a book who was totally different than yourself? If so, I suspect you grew without even realizing it! I, for one, am looking forward to being "schooled!"

Mrs. K. Smith

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Some Statistical Updates

Good afternoon and Happy Summer to everyone!

I wanted to take this opportunity (it's my turn to post today) to give you all some updates on who is reading our writing and just how far and wide we are reaching with our summer reading reflections.  However, before I do that, it goes without saying that the writing, both by the teachers and by the students, has been terrific so far, and it shows your commitment to this project. 

Reading has always connected us to people, be they our friends or neighbors, schoolmates or parents, we have always used reading as a means to share information, ideas, breaking news, and our thoughts on the world around us.  Through this blog, we've been doing what we've always done, only now we are making our thoughts available to a much larger audience. 

So, on with the statistics..

Above you can see the six most popular posts we have had since the writing officially began on June 17th.  If you don't see one of your posts up there, give it time, some of these have been around for over a month!

We have had visitors from ten different countries since we began, with over eight-thousand of them from the United States.  Looking at this, I'd love to challenge you all to double this by the end of the summer, and to see how many different countries we can reach!  
Lastly, these are our total pageviews for the last month and for all time.  A pageview counts as any time a web browser (like Internet Explorer or Firefox) loads a web page.  These number are astounding!  Your writing is being read by so many people far and wide.  

Wonderful job!

Here are my challenges to you for the rest of the summer:
  • Increase the number of readers on our page to include people from more than the ten countries we have already.
  • Keep connecting the stories to your own lives.  Our posts with the most reaction seem to be those where the writer makes a connection between the book and their own experiences.  
  • Spread the word among your friends.  The more people we have talking about our books, the better!!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Jeremy Fink: Desperate for Dad

Jeremy's new friends, Samantha and Rick, wanted to help him find the missing keys to the "meaning of life" box. So, they invited Jeremy and Lizzy to their apartment to use their Ouija board to try to talk to Jeremy's dad. Unfortunately, the seance didn't work.
Jeremy would be amazed if he could contact his dead father. He spends a lot of time thinking about ways to do it. For example, he is interested in outer space and time travel. Earlier in the book, he thought that if he could use time travel, he could go back to that day when his dad died and change it. Then, he used a Ouija board to communicate with his father, even though he wasn't sure it would work.
It seems like Jeremy will do anything to try to be with his dad. I can't blame him for trying. Would you do the same thing? Do you believe in time travel and Ouija boards?

Among the Hidden

I just finished reading Among the Hidden while on vacation here in Omaha, visiting family and friends.  Mrs. Fusaro's post addressed many of the major ideas that the book raises, so I will attempt another entry point for discussion.

This book made me think about families and farming.  I was especially interested in the relationships between Luke and his mother and father. I thought it was difficult to watch the Garner family trying to survive after the government had made so many restrictions on how they could make a living. This was a stress on the family, especially when Luke's mother had to start another job.  In addition, Luke's father is constantly obsessing about the farm, and neither parent has much time left for Luke.  I couldn't even believe that Luke was no longer allowed to sit at the table for meals!  I know that Luke's brothers, Matthew and Mark, will probably continue in their father's footsteps as farmers, but what can Luke do for a living when he gets older if he remains hidden? I realize that he's only twelve, but he has to have dreams to nurture!

I always laugh when I tell someone in New Jersey that I'm from Nebraska and they ask if I grew up on a farm. The first and last farmers in my family were my great-grandparents. Modern farms out here are big business; corn and soy as far as the eye can see. Obviously, as I blog here from Nebraska during the heat wave, the news includes reports about the crops. If corn prices go up, it means higher food prices for everyone.  This reminds me of the futuristic world of Among the Hidden.  Isn't it wonderful that good literature can connect to you wherever you are?

Among the Hidden is one of the best books I've read in a long time! It was a real page turner.  I plan to read the entire series. Until next time,
Mrs. Grannemann

Thursday, July 21, 2011

HBW Reads: Schooled

Schooled by Gordon Kormon-Chapters 1-11

"When we lock things away," he said with conviction, "we're really imprisoning ourselves."
This is exactly how Capricorn Anderson feels, imprisoned inside of C Average Middle School knowing no one and nothing, and being locked away from Garland Farm,his family, and his home.

Cap is a very interesting guy. Everyoneone else at C Average Middle School agrees which is why they have nominated him as eighth grade president, the laughing stock of the school. Cap is perfect for president, but as time passes, some of the eighth graders have realized that Cap is too good for the job.

Cap has changed from a laughing stock to the eighth grade president hero. This is because of Cap trying to adapt in the real world. Although he meditates in front of his locker everyday, he will step up and accept a challenge such as driving a school bus and risk being arrested. It is up to Cap do whatever it takes to be the best eighth grade president C Average Middle School ever had.

10 Best and Worst Things About High School

In the spirit of Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie by David Lubar, I decided to write my blog entry as a top-ten list since the main character, Scott, writes many lists for his sibling-to-be in the story. After rereading this book, I spent some time reflecting on my life in high school, and I realized that a lot of the best things about that time period are also the worst things. Here's my list of the top ten things that are the best AND worst things about life in high school:

10. Choosing which college to attend
9. Parents
8. Figuring out who your real friends are
7. Prom
6. All school dances for that matter
5. Your first love
4. Learning to drive
3. Your first job
2. Realizing that you really are growing up
1. Finding out who you are

How can these things be both good and bad, you ask? Let's see;

#10- Choosing a college- It's an important decision. What will you study? Where will you live? What friends will you meet? Which college will accept you? What will the admissions boards of the colleges think when they examine the supposed summary of who you are: the SAT scores, grades, and application that can never truly sum up the person you are and the promise you hold? It's an important decision, and it's stressful, and it consumed me much of junior year. In the end, you will go where you go, and you will like it or not like it, or maybe a little bit of both, but either way, you and your parents will make a big decision about your future. Maybe you won't even go to college. Whatever happens, you will be alright. Figuring that out is the really cool part of the whole process.

#9 Parents- You love your parents, of course, but they also drive you nuts! I, for one, longed for more independence when I was in high school. But my mom was not too impressed with me when I lost my car keys twice in less than a month. Yeah, that actually happened. But what would we do without our parents?

#8 Friends- Figuring out who my real friends were was a painful process for me. Maybe some of you have gone through this in middle school. It's taken me over 30 years to realize that I have to be my own best friend. I have to enjoy my own company. Also, when you find a true friend who loves you as you are, someone who can make you laugh but watch you cry.... it's truly a blessing.

#7 Prom- Finding a dress, finding a date, finding a new date when things didn't work out with the first dare... Oy. What an ordeal the whole thing was! But guess what? I married my prom date, and it's been working out very well!

#6 School dances- Fun, but also a big hassle.

#5 First love- Think of all of your relationships as a mirror of who you really are. Sometimes, you will like what you see. Sometimes, you won't. But if you take a good, hard look at yourself, you can start to change the face in the mirror.

#4 Learning to drive- Nothing is cooler than cruising in your car with your friends when you are a teenager. Nothing. Learning how to drive? I am still working on that!

#3 First job- My first job was working at a day care. It was not easy. Sometimes I loved it; sometimes it was stinky, literally. But your first job is an important step in your life. You'll find out a lot about yourself.

#2 Growing up- Growing up means that you have responsibilities, which can be a drag. It also means that you can be your own person. You can make your own decisions, answer your own questions, and solve your own problems. It feels good.

#1 Finding out who you are- I made this one number one because it's the most important in my mind. It's not easy, but it's crucial to your happiness. I think finding out who you really are is an ongoing process, but it begins in middle school and high school. Hopefully, you will like the person you discover. Chances are, if you like that person, most other people will too.

Well, I hope you enjoyed my post. I know that it's rather long, so thanks for reading until the end. What would you add to my list? Do you agree or disagree with any of the items that I have chosen to include?

For more insight into the life of one witty and wise teenager, read Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie by David Lubar. I recommend it to students entering 7th and 8th grades. Happy reading!

-Mrs. Kleinknecht

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Nothing's Fair in Fifth Grade

When I read this book I learned that one shouldn't judge somebody by their appearance. Jennifer decided she didn't like the new girl, until she began feeling sorry for her. She felt sorry when she found the new girl, Elsie, crying in the girl's room. She found out that she was a very good friend and that her social life was difficult.

Now, I don't want to give the whole book away, but has anyone else ever felt like Elsie?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

What IS the Meaning of Life?

Do you ever wonder why you are here on earth? What your purpose is? What kind of mark will you make on others?  Is your purpose right now to simply annoy your little brother or sister?  To be a star soccer or baseball player?  To be another Bill Gates?  To be the pride and joy of your family? 
This is an age old question that Jeremy and his friend (not girlfriend), Lizzy, set out to find out in Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life. I know several people have already written about the story events and adventures that Lizzy and Jeremy go on to find the "keys" to unlock what life is all about, so I will not repeat any of that.  However, there are a few things, I must comment on about the novel. 

First, Wendy Mass does a wonderful job of pulling the reader in, creating interesting characters and showing how both main characters change from the beginning to the end.  There is adventure, humor, and lots of connections to be made throughout the story.  The ending is fabulous, and I agree with Mrs. Smith - you might want to get a tissue handy once you get to page 269.

One of the most profound things in the book (and there were a couple of them) that hit me was the folktale about the wolf on page 271. That is something that both kids AND adults should read.  We all have wolves fighting in our heads. It's kind of like the angel and devil on your shoulder concept.  But the overall point is that we DO have power over our actions.  It's the qualities we feed that set our path for life.  It reminds me of a line from "A Muppet Movie" when that famous green frog, Kermit, sang, "Life's like a movie, write your own ending; keep believing, keep pretending."  We can all write our own endings and hopefully along the way, we will be wise enough to realize what really matters in life.  The key or the "rocks,:  as Jeremy finds out, are what really matters. The sooner people realize that, the more they will enjoy life and its truly important moments.  Have you started your rock collection?

Mrs. Fusaro

Sunday, July 17, 2011

My Connections to Sleeping Freshman Never Lie

I have three young kids aged six, four, and ten months.  And since I cannot remember what if feels like to be that young, I always wonder what the two older ones were thinking while they were waiting for their younger siblings to arrive. 

Scott Hudson, newly a ninth-grader and the main character in David Lubar's Sleeping Freshman Never Lie, gave me some insight into what goes on in the mind of a child waiting to meet their next sibling.  Only, Scott provides this valuable information through the eyes of a much older child.  Upon finding out that his mother is expecting, and upon going through the trials of being a freshman, Scott does what any self-respecting big brother would do: he creates a survival guide for his younger sibling through his journal entries. 

Now, my oldest reads and writes, of course, but he wasn't ready for this type of undertaking when he was waiting for his sister and brother to be born.  However, I do think it might be a great summer project.  We could even create the guide through short video diary entries like they do in "Good Luck, Charlie!"

That's an idea I'd love to see move forward in my house this summer!  I'll be sure to keep you posted on the progress. 

What about all of you--is there something you feel like you could create a "survival guide" for? 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Schooled: So Far

So far in Schooled I'm up to chapter 12. Schooled is about a boy named Capricorn Anderson who lives with his grandmother Rain in their "hippie" community, Garland. After Rain falls out of a tree and has to go to hospital, Cap is forced to move in with a former Garland hippie, Mrs. Donnelly and her judging daughter, Sophie who is totally embarrassed by Cap.

When Cap starts school it is almost time for Student Council Election. Zach Powers, the most popular guy in school, is planning on nominating Hugh Winkleman, a kid who gets wedgies everyday, but then once Capricorn comes and Zach sees how weird and different he is he nominates him, and Cap gets elected for Student Council president. Cap doesn't even know anything about government!

Once Cap gets elected the "popular" kids start harassing him. They make a fake girl fall in love with him, put impossible suggestions in the suggestion box, and give him directions to fake meetings. Then when the bus driver, Mr. Rodrigo has a heart attack while driving, Cap takes over to bring him to the hospital, when something tragic happens. And just when him and Sophie were just starting to get along!

Now I won't tell you anymore because you can read it yourself. So far I'm thinking that Naomi Erlanger is going to change the most since she seems like she feels bad for Capricorn. I don't think it's fair for Cap to get harassed just because he is new, different, and doesn't know anything.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Schooled Capters 1-10

Schooled is an entertaining book about Capricorn(Cap) Anderson, a home schooled boy from a community by the name of Garland Farm. The only residents are him and his hippie grandmother who he calls Rain. Rain was picking plums in a tree when she fell and broke her hip. Cap picks her up, put her in a car, and drives her to the hospital. Along the way, a police officer stops them and arrests Cap because he should not be driving. Meanwhile, Rain is brought to a hospital and is told she needs 8 weeks of rehab. Rain becomes furious when she is told that she needs 8 weeks of rehab and that Cap will need to live with a guardian until she is back on her feet, but Cap remains calm and accepts the fact that he will live with a guidance counselor from a public middle school, Mrs. Donelly and her high-strung, sixteen-year-old daughter, Sophie(who hates him). Cap begins attending Claverage Middle School, A.K.A C Average Middle School. Cap is very afraid because the only person he has had contact with is Rain. Have you ever been in a new situation like this? What did you do? Cap does not handle being the new kid in school, he just go through his daily routine without totally understanding what was happening during the school day. The closest Cap gets to having a friend is Hugh. Hugh, though, is not in the popular crowd and this makes Cap's life even worse. Cap cannot catch a break, Sophie dumps a bucket of water on his head because she does not understand his tai chi, to Zach Powers, a jock, sneaking disgusting objects into his locker just because he feels he can. In the real world, people can be very judgemental. People judge one another based on skin color, personal habits, popularity and even if you are physically in shape or not. It's a sad thought, but it is true. Just because someone does things a little differently does not mean they should be ignored or bullied. Have you ever been judged. Let me hear your thoughts.

The Second Half of Jeremy Fink

The first several chapters of Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life were enjoyable because I was getting to know the characters, and Wendy Mass was great at making these characters interesting and real. However, it was the second half of the book that I LOVED! I know it's a Young Adult novel, but the messages that permeated the final chapters were ones that would benefit people of all ages.
Without giving away the entire plot (I need to be very careful here), these are some the messages the I took away from the book as I read: Choices, good or bad, will shape your life. Even a person who has left your life may still be thinking about you. Living simply and without too many "things" will make your life more peaceful. Life is full of potential. (I loved the apple seed quote and you just may find it hanging in my classroom this September.) Truly important things are worth struggling for. Challenge yourself by doing something you find difficult and you'll grow in self-confidence and self-esteem. And finally, although there are so many more, growing up doesn't always mean growing apart. My question to you is this: Which of the many lessons found in this book do you think is most important? Today, for me, it's the message about living simply. I say "today" because next month it might be about friendship or potential. I think the answer changes depending on our struggles at the time.
Finally, although I loved all the reminders about what's important, I didn't get choked-up or teary-eyed until page 285. Because I don't want to spoil the ending (which I thought was AMAZING), I will just tell you that it was Jeremy's Rock #1. You'll know what I mean when you read it. That part really hit me and I had to put the book down to grip my emotions. I've lived a lot of years (no, I'm not telling you how many) but his Rock #1 was hands-down the most important thing to always remember. I'm curious. Was there a particular point in this book that hit you hard? If so, what was it?
In summary, this book ROCKS! Wendy Mass is an awesome storyteller, and I am trying to get someone in my family to read it now so that I don't need to wait until September to talk about it. Blog me!
Mrs. K. Smith

Monday, July 11, 2011

Jeremy Fink

The adventures of Jeremy and Lizzy are quite humorous! Lizzy's carefully laid out plans have provided suspense and comedy so far. Poor Jeremy must be completely shaken up! As I'm reading this story, I'm wondering about Jeremy's mom. She's been behind the scenes for most of the book so far. Will she play a part in helping Jeremy open the box? Afterall, she knew about it and probably knew her husband pretty well.

Also, I've just been introduced to Jeremy and Lizzy's new twin neighbors. Their personalities are far too interesting to not be included in the book in some way. I'm looking forward to seeing how they play their parts.

It seems as though Jeremy's struggle will continue with plenty of laughs, trials, and mishaps!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Escape! The Story of The Great Houdini

Houdini was a man of many names. The King of Cards, he was called as his circus name. The King of Handcuffs, his magician name. Harry Houdini is his real name, or is it? Ehrich Weiss was his real name. Harry was the changing and rearranging of the letters in Ehrich. Houdini was simply the adding of the letter "I" to the end of his idol's last name, Houdin. Houdini also said he was born Appleton, Wisconsin. He was actually born in Budapest, Hungary. As you can see Harry or shall I say Ehrich not only loved magic tricks, but he also enjoyed actual tricks.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Chapters 9-11: The Book, Oswald Oswald, The Lamp

I just love the rising action in chapters nine through eleven.  As they say...the plot thickens.

In chapter nine, Jeremy and Lizzy's task for the day is to return the book to Mrs. Billingsly. This is their first task, and they don't know what the purpose is so they read the contents of the letter to learn more.  It turns out that Ozzy Oswald would pawn items for teenagers back in the day, and now Jeremy and Lizzy are asked to return the items to their owners.  The book brings back memories for Mrs. Billingsly but Jeremy learns an important fact of life. Mrs. Billingsly could not have known the outcome of her actions...pawning the book to buy a dress.  Yet choices are part of everyday life and who knows how they affect others down the road. And yet, we manage to live with all of them. Good or bad, they make us who we are.

In chapter ten, Jeremy and Lizzy learn more about the identity of Oswald Oswald, the grandfather who started the pawn business.  I particularly like the way he would make the teenagers type their reasons on the typewriter to discourage all but the most determined children.

In chapter eleven, Jeremy and Lizzy return a lamp (a Tiffany, no less) to its original owner.  Mr. Rudolph ends up being an eccentric guy who had pawned his mothers lamp to buy a watch, which was incredibly useful to him. He made a million dollars in the stock market, gave most of it away and now leads a simple life.  It turns out that Mr. Rudolph practices meditation and has given a lot of thought to the meaning of life. He quotes a wise man's adage "We can count how many seeds are in the apple, but not how many apples are in the seed."

Nobody knows what the future holds.  But you have to face life with a sense of adventure! I have always liked the saying, when life gives you lemons...make lemonade. Think of the times when something turned out different from what you expected.  Was it a good surprise? If not, did you learn something?

This was a great book.  Until my next blog entry...
Mrs. Grannemann
P.S.  Chapter 9 made me want to reread The Tao of Pooh.  If you've never read's fun.

Jeremy Fink: The Flea Market

In chapter 4, Jeremy and Lizzy try to find the four keys at a huge flea market in New York City. I thought they would find at least one of the keys, because there were so many vendors who had boxes of old keys to sell. I felt nervous when they finally found a key that fit into a hole. Would it be the right key? Bad news. The key would not turn in the lock. Lizzy did not give up. She said, "That brings us to the next item on my chart. The one I hoped we wouldn't have to get to." What will happen next? What do you think Plan F is?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Jeremy Fink - Chapters 3-5

I have just finished chapters four and five and I am not surprised that Jeremy and Lizzy didn't find anything at the flea market because I didn't think that Harold gave the keys away. I did think that in chapter three, the man at Larry's Locks and Clocks might be able to make the keys, but it was so complicated that he wasn't able to do it. Their plan to go in to Harold's office just might work, but I don't know if they will find all of the keys. Do you think they can find the keys in Harold's office?

Among the Hidden - Who is hiding and why?

Among the Hidden...when I first saw this title, several questions came to mind. Who is being hidden and why? Are the people involved voluntarily hiding or were they forced into it?  Why would people be hiding?  I thought of many possible reasons why people hide and I kept coming back to one thing - FEAR.  Sure enough, Luke is being hidden by his family due to fear that the government will find out that he exists and take him away or worse...get rid of him and punish his whole family.  This seems to be a futuristic world where the population needs to be controlled.  The families cannot have more than two children or they are jeopardizing the entire society, according to the government.  Sound crazy? It's not. There are many governments across the globe today who exercise their own forms of population control and many people do defy the government and have more children than they are allotted.

Anyway, throughout the story, many questions kept arising while I was reading. What was it like for Luke to not be able to go outside?  (I thought this as I was sitting on my patio enjoying a beautiful summer day.)  What was it like to not have a friend to play with? to talk with?  to confide in? to goof around with?  All of these things set the stage for me, and it was easy to sympathize with him.  I also wondered something that is from my history background.  How much of what a government tells us is really true?  In this story, Luke's parents believe everything that the government says.  However, Jen's family is way more lenient.  Can the government really track them?  Does our own government track us?  What happens when people stand up to their government?  Well, that one can be answered by looking into history.  There are a lot of parallels with this story and our society today.

This was a great novel and I think you will really enjoy it. It is suspenseful and has several twists and turns. I like books that are not predictable and this one surely is not! The great thing is, if you really enjoy this, there are several more, as it is the first of many in a series.

I hope this was helpful and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did!!
Happy Reading!! 
Mrs. Fusaro :)

Jeremy Fink: Chapters 1-3

After reading chapters 1-3 of Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life, I think it is a very well-written, suspenseful story. I also like all of the dialogue. I especially like how Lizzy (Jeremy's best friend) and Jeremy plan out how they will search for the four keys to open his dad's special box. Jeremy's dad died five years ago. Before he died, he made the unique box to give to Jeremy on his 13th birthday. Inside the box is the "meaning of life." If I was Jeremy, I would look for a person who could pick locks. I think it would be almost impossible to find four keys that fit the key holes hidden all around New York City.
I would get butterflies in my stomach and feel sad if I got a special box for my birthday from my dad who died five years ago. How would you feel?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

What Was Your Favorite Part?

What was your favorite part of the buzz book you are reading? SPOILER ALERT!!! Here are my favorites!

Among the Hidden:

I love the choice that Luke makes at the end. I was sad about what happened to Jen, but I don't think that Luke would have been so brave if events had unfolded differently.

Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life:

I love the hula hoop scene. Talk about true friendship! Of course, I love the letter at the end. It makes me cry every time I read it.


My favorite part is when Cap drives the bus
! I know it's unrealistic, but a totally fun and necessary part of the plot. That's when everyone changes their minds about Cap. I also love what he has engraved on the bracelet.

Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie:

I have so many favorites here:

1) I cheered for Scott when he visits Mouth in the hospital. You never know how much you mean to someone.

2)I was surprised when Scott's brother reveals his problem with reading. It made me wonder if any of my students ever suffered in silence like that.

3) I loved just about everything about Lee's character. I was so happy when Scott finally has an epiphany about her.

4) All of the Tom Swifties!

-Mrs. Kleinknecht

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life

Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life is a about a kid(jeremy of course) and his best friend lizzy. Jeremy gets a package from his dead father. It's a box with four key holes. Engraved on the lid are the words "the meaning of life". The problem is, a old friend of his father's lost the keys. There are instuctions to open the box on his 13th birthday. Lizzy and Jeremy set off to find the keys, and almost get arrested in the process. It's agreat book everyone will enjoy!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

How to Blog

Hello everybody! I had this problem so I am willing to give you advice on how to blog. Blogging is over thought A LOT! It is actually quite simple. Here are 3 very easy steps to blogging.

1. Summarize!

Whether it is 8 chapters or a whole book, find the main ideas and string them together in the order that they occurred.

2. Relate it to the World

(I suggest this right after your summarizing) Now that you've hopefully read at least a part of the book and you know ideas from the book, think what you would do if this happened to you or a close friend or family member. This is a HUGE eye catcher!

Finally #3. Question the Reader

An easy way to get people to reply to your post is to ask questions! Get their brains working and ask for answers from opinions to what do you think will happen next.

Order means nothing, but this is how I look at it. If you follow this order though, your blogging life will be easier.

Thank you for your time. Did this help you?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Among the Hidden

I hope everyone’s vacation is off to a great start and you’re all excited about HBW Reads. I’m just a few chapters into Among the Hidden, but I am enjoying it a great deal. The first thing that I want to write about is “magical words”. This is just a term I use for a sentence, phrase, or paragraph that stands out to me. As a reader when I come across one, it makes me put the book down for a moment and think about where the author may be heading or if these words were the initial inspiration for the book. As a writer, when I come up with something like this it tends to take over my life. I need to find something to write on - it could be a napkin, paper bag, or anything that is nearby. I’ve even left myself voice mail so I wouldn’t forget (this is before iphones and texting!). Anyway, Chapter 2 had a magical sentence for me: “Somehow, Luke never got as old as Matthew and Mark.” This sentence made me think about all of the different directions the book could go in, as well as how it has meaning in my own life. It’s the kind of sentence that would make a great opening to a story. It’s like a literary seed.

I also want to comment on how it’s not clear to me at this point when this story is taking place. At times I feel like it takes place in the past; this is mainly due to the characters' dialogue and the way the author describes the setting. However, because of the theme (population control) and the way the government is referred to, I also think it may be the future. I like not knowing- it adds a little extra mystery.

Finally, my last comment is about population control. Many of you may know that population control has been used by a few countries to combat famine. Until starting this book, I never thought about how it was enforced and the lives of children who were born into “filled families”. I did a little research on population control and found it to be fascinating. I love it when a book makes me curious about a topic. Do some of your own research!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Jeremy Fink

I just started reading Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life, and I must say this is my kind of book! I love the "quirkiness" of Jeremy, his best friend Lizzie, and his surroundings (a chair covered in bottle caps?) Although I'm still in the beginning, I can already tell that Jeremy's life never has a dull moment! When I first read that Jeremy lost his father at age 8, I couldn't help but think of him as quite a resilient kid. I can only imagine how he will hold up after facing the mystery before him. As I find myself relating to Jeremy in a lot of ways, I'm not so sure if I'd be as strong as he shows himself to be so far.

As for Jeremy and Lizzie's friendship, this is a perfect example of how opposites attract! They certainly balance each other, and I love the way Wendy Mass describes their interactions- hilarious!

I'm certainly looking forward to the rest of the book. I'm wondering how on Earth he will open the box, the obstacles he'll have to face, if he'll be able to do it before his 13th birthday, and of course what his father's idea of the meaning of life is. I can't wait to check back with more thoughts...