Thursday, July 4, 2013

What Every Principal Needs to Know About Special Education

     This book is a guide for principals and school administrators about special education.  The book explains the laws that govern special education, step-by-step directions on building a strong special education program, and tips for school administrators.  
     The book is easy to read and provides difficult information in a clear and concise way.  The charts and graphs clarify the text.  The layout of the text synthesizes the information and can be used for quick checks later when you need the information again.  
     I really liked this book and recommend it for anyone who knows or works with children with special needs, not just principals.   


     Robert Langdon wakes up in a hospital in Florence with no memory, a head wound, and a killer coming down the hall.  Sienna, one of the doctors, helps him escape and vows to help him find out the truth. Robert discovers a cylinder with a biohazard sign in his jacket.  Inside is a map of of Botticelli's Map of Hell.  The map leads them through Dante's beloved Italy on a journey through Hell.  Robert must discover the connection between Dante's Inferno and the map before he is captured and the plague is released.  Human survival hangs in the balance.
     This book was pretty good.  I liked learning about Dante, and I also liked the premise of the story.  The characters traded sides so many times, it was almost like a spoof of a crime novel.  I was impressed with Zobrist, though.  His unique way of changing humans is brilliant and also terrifying to think how terrorists could use the technology to kill everyone.  Inferno also made me think about some difficult realities like overpopulation and the end of the world.  It is not Dan Brown's best book, but it is a good book.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Secret of the Fortune Wookie

     After getting suspended, Dwight is going to a new school where everyone thinks he is "special."  His mom has put Origami Yoda in a glass frame on his wall so Dwight can't use him anymore.  The kids at McQuarrie Middle School are desperate to get Origami Yoda back, but realize they also miss Dwight.  Fortune Wookie offers good advice, but Tommy, Kellen, and Harvey are determined to show Dwight how amazing he really is.
     I loved this book!  I especially loved that Fortune Wookie was only able to growl like a wookie, so Han Foldo would appear on Sara's hand to translate Han Solo's quotes from the movie.  Fortune Wookie gave awesome advice from the Star Wars movies that also fit well with the kids' situations, even though it didn't seem like it at first glance.
     I also loved the moral of the story that everyone is "special," but we lose our specialness when we try to be what everyone else wants us to be.  The kids who used to bully Dwight and think he was too weird, now see that he brought excitement and fun to their school.  Dwight tries to fit in with the new kids at his new school because it is "easier," but Tommy shows him how important it is to be yourself, even when it's harder.
     This book is an easy read with lots of illustrations, easy words, and humor.  It is great for reluctant readers, especially kids who like Star Wars.  Although you can read the book without having read the other books in the series first, some parts will be difficult to understand.  You will also miss much of the humor if you do not have background knowledge on Star Wars.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Darth Paper Strikes Back

     In the sequel to The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, Harvey creates Darth Paper to duel Origami Yoda.  The dark side of the force is too strong for Origami Yoda and Dwight gets kicked out of school.  The kids are lost without Yoda's wisdom and begin a case file to convince the school board that Dwight and Origami Yoda have helped them.  Harvey tricks Tommy into giving him the file so he can make a strong case for keeping Dwight out of school.  Things look hopeless know that Darth Paper has arrived.  Is there any chance Darth Paper has a good side under his helmet?
     I loved this book.  The Star Wars puns were original and funny.  The pictures the kids drew in the case file are cute, especially the Star Wars' characters.  The characters are realistic and act like middle schoolers desperate to figure out their lives and willing to believe any advice - even from Origami puppets.  There is a good moral to the story, but it isn't heavy handed.  It's a quick read with lots of pictures, so it is a good choice for reluctant readers.  It is also a good choice for boys.  

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Forgotten Garden

     A little girl stands alone on a dock with a suitcase and a book of fairy tales.  The dockmaster and his wife adopt her and raise her as their own.  On the eve of her twenty-first birthday, the man she thought was her father tells her the true story of her arrival.  The secret devastates Nell.  She spends the rest of her life trying to unravel the secret of her childhood and the authoress who haunts her memories.  The secrets lead to Cliff Cottage, but she gives up the search to raise her granddaughter Cassandra.
     When Nell dies, Cassandra is shocked to find out about Nell's past and even more surprised to learn about her inheritance of Cliff Cottage.  She travels to England to unravel the secrets and dark mysteries of her family that stretch through three countries and a century of time.
     This is a beautiful story that reads like a fairy tale.  It is one of my favorite books.  The writing was exquisite.  The world came alive in every location and every time period.  The characters were well developed, interesting, and believable.  I loved the way the decisions, mistakes, and tragedies of each generation impacted the next generation so profoundly.  It made the tragedies more heartbreaking and the grace in the face of evil even more beautiful.  This book changed me and made me a better person.
     This book has limited action and tells the story from many perspectives and time periods, so it may be frustrating for some readers.

The Mermaid Chair

     Jessie Sullivan had an idyllic childhood on Egret Island until her father died.  As soon as she could, Jessie left the island.  When Jessie's mom deliberately cuts off her finger, Jessie leaves her husband Hugh and returns to the island.  While caring for her mother, Jessie falls in love with Brother Thomas who is months away from taking his final vows.  Their affair destroys her marriage and tears brother Thomas' faith in the life he has chosen.
     While on the island, Jessie rediscovers the mermaid chair that she loved as a child.  The legend of the mermaid who becomes a saint has always resonated with Jessie.  She doesn't know that the chair is intricately linked to her father's death and her mother's self mutilation.  Jessie needs to find the truth that will set her, and her mother, free.
     I liked this book, but it wasn't one of my favorites.  The affair with Brother Thomas was difficult for me to understand, and made me look at biases I was not aware of having.  Brother Thomas was an interesting character and I liked his thoughts about God and religion.
     The legend of the mermaid chair was beautiful.  It was an interesting way to bring the past and present together in the story.    

Between Sisters

     Meghann Dontess learned long ago that love can break you in ways you never recover.  Her sister Claire learned long ago that a sister's love is one of the most powerful, even when it's gone.  Meghann and Claire try to build a new relationship from the ruins of their childhood, but they can't seem to find their way.
     When Meghann is nearly killed, she is forced to reassess her life and her beliefs about love.  Claire just found her happily ever after just in time for her own tragic ending.  She needs her sister more than ever.  Will Meghann be able to make up for the mistakes she made in the past and be the sister Claire needs?
     You have to suspend your disbelief a lot in this book as coincidences are a major part of the plot.  The writing is average.  However, some of the characters are well developed and make the book worth reading.   I loved her other book, The Winter Garden, but I don't think this book is as good.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Out of my Mind

     Melody is eleven-years-old and never been able to speak until now.  Her Cerebral Palsy has kept her  body in a wheel chair and her words locked inside her mind.  After years of feeling alienated and alone, she gets a special computer that speaks for her.  She hopes it will be enough to be normal like the other kids in her class, but she finds out that life isn't always fair.
     This book is not one of my favorites.  The author plays with the reader's emotions and forces reactions.  The characters are black and white and overly good or overly bad.  They are not shades of gray like real people.
     Many pages of the book are spent on lists of questions and multiple choice answers which gets monotonous.  Although the reading level is pretty easy, mature readers will like the book more than other readers because of the way the book is written and the emotional reactions to bullying.  Since there is not much action and lots of the book takes place in Melody's head, it is not a good choice for reluctant readers. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Bridge to Never Land

   Aidan and Sarah Cooper find a strange clue that leads them to England in search of Stardust.  Ombra has been waiting for a century for Stardust so he can take over the world.  He uses ravens to attack people, steal their shadows, and control their minds.
     The kids head to America to find a legendary Starcatcher to help them keep the Stardust from Ombra.  When they find out about a possible Einstein-Rosen Bridge hiding Never Land,  they race to Disney World's Peter Pan's Flight in hopes they can get to Neverland before Ombra catches them.  
     Although the books starts slowly, it quickly becomes action packed.  There are a lot of coincidences to get everyone to Never Land, but kids won't mind.  Some parts may be too scary for young kids.  There are references to the other books in the Starcatchers series, but you can still enjoy the book if you haven't read any of the other books in the series.  The author explains the references to you.  It's a fun book for kids that like fantasy, Disney, or Peter Pan.          

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Happy Birthday Bad Kitty

     It is bad kitty's birthday.  He doesn't want to go to the party or spend time with the other cats coming to his party.  On top of all that, his presents are all disappointments and he hates his cake.  Luckily his birthday is saved when his mom comes to visit.
     This is a fun book for kids who are just learning to read chapter books.  There are lots of pictures to support new readers.  The words are easy to read and the structure is predictable.  There are only a few words on each page, but several chapters make it seem like you are reading a longer book at 176 pages.  Bad Kitty will make kids laugh with his bad antics.  There is also information on cats to help students learn while they read.  The only thing I didn't like was that the author's asides were distracting.  This is a quick read and fun for ages 6-9.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Nine Lessons

     August Witte never wanted to have children.  When, after seven years of marriage, his wife becomes pregnant, August reacts badly.  He tells his wife to give it up for adoption, and when she slaps him, he storms off to his father's house and accuses him of being a horrible father.  August's dad offers to trade his journal entries about his wife's death and August's childhood for a monthly golf lesson with August for the nine months of pregnancy.  August hates golf and resents its importance in his dad's life, but agrees to find out more about his mom.  Each month's golf lesson teaches August a new aspect of life and golf.
      I liked the beginning of the book and the idea of writing journal entries on the back of golf score cards.  I also liked the journal entries about little August facing his mom's death.  Some of the golf "lessons" were a bit forced, but the idea was interesting.  The only part I didn't like was the end.  The end became so unbelievably coincidental, it was almost hilarious.  It was meant to have a feel good ending, but took away from the rest of the book.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Journal of Best Practices

     David Finch's marriage is in trouble until he is diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome.   Since social cues are so hard for him to notice, he begins journaling notes to remind him how to become a better husband.  Each chapter is a specific area, like, "Laundry: Better to fold and put away than to take only what you want from the dryer."  The result is The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man's Quest to be a Better Husband.
     David tells his story with humor, honesty, and a bit of swearing.  I would have enjoyed it better if it hadn't hit so close to home.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Every Day a Friday

     I am not the same religion as Joel Osteen, but I love his smile and his positive attitude.  There are some things I disagree with him on religiously, but watching him on TV soothes me.  This is his first book I have read.
     I like this book a lot because of the positive affirmations.  One of my favorites is that God wasn't having a bad day when he created you.  This is a positive and uplifting book no matter what religion you follow.

Monday, February 18, 2013

11-22-63 by Stephen King

     Jake Epping travels into the past to stop President Kennedy's assassination, but arrives five years too early.  While waiting for time to catch up, Jake changes people's lives and realizes the past harmonizes with the future.  When tragedy strikes, Jake must decide if one person's happiness is worth the happiness of millions of others whose lives hang in the balance of his decision.
     I had a love-hate relationship with this book.  There were parts where I could see why my brother said it might be his favorite Stephen King book, rivaling Lisey's Story.  Then there were the long sections of life in the sixties with oppression and all of the "isms" of the times.  It was suffocating to read and felt much too long at 864 pages.  However, the love story between Jake and Sadie is one of the most realistic love stories I have read.
     I liked the big ideas in the book.  What would you be willing to change if you know how life already turns out?  What are you willing to change if you don't already know the outcome?  What are you willing to sacrifice for the world? What is not worth sacrificing at any cost?    

Thursday, January 24, 2013


     Everyone kept talking about the ideas in Outliers.  I loved Blink, so I was excited to try another Malcolm Gladwell book, but I didn't really like Outliers very much.
     The ideas are interesting, but are difficult to do anything about them.  For example, without living in China and appreciating the Rice Paddy lifestyle, it is hard to change the format of schools in America - unless you are able to start your own charter school.  If your child is born in the summer, the only option you have to put your child ahead in school is to delay them for a year.  This isn't very helpful advice for parents who have no choice but start their kids in kindergarten at 5; it just gives them guilt about the harm they have inflicted on their child.
     I did like the sections on 10,000 hours of practice being the magic number of hours required to be truly great at something.  In our modern culture, we like to think that we can find shortcuts and easy access to wealth and fame.  This section shows how important the hours of practice behind the scenes really are.
     I also liked the point Malcolm Gladwell made about how individuals do not self create, they have an array of help and support behind the scenes that allowed them to become great.  It reinforces the idea that we are all rely on one another.  By helping one another, all of us can achieve success.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Time Keeper

     Time has always been my enemy.
     As a child time seemed to take forever...holidays to come back around...being old enough to do everything I ever wanted...
     As an adult, there never seems to be enough time to accomplish everything that remains undone each day.  Now the years speed by and I can't believe how quickly time slips by.  As the people I love leave for the last unknown, I cry for one more moment with them.  When they were here, the time was lost running on ice, trying to finish everything that needed to be done.  
     This book changed me.

50 Things You Can Do Today to Manage Fibromyalgia

If you suffer from Fibromyalgia, or know someone who does, this book offers 50 things that may bring you relief.  This book is especially helpful if you are newly diagnosed.  If you have been living with this disease for a while, like I have, it serves as a good reminder of things that help.  
     The book starts with a chapter about Fibromyalgia.  The remaining chapters focus on different aspects of the illness and how to help manage these areas of your life.  It looks at pacing yourself, stress reduction, sleep, diet, and exercise.  It also goes over medications that help and homeopathic treatments that have helped some people.
     This is a quick book that can be read as an overview and then as a reference book when you have a specific question or face a flare-up.