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