Thursday, January 5, 2012

Good Books 2012-1

For the new year, I want to keep better track of the books I read. More often than I would have guessed, I find myself looking for what I wrote about a particular book, and for months now I haven't been keeping a record.

So I'm going to try something new. Instead of writing a big list every month or two, I'll post every week or so and just mention the books I've read in that time. I'm hoping this will feel more manageable to me and I won't put it off so long.


On Being Sarah by Elizabeth Helfman, 1993, 173 pages, ages 10 and up.

This is a short, easily read book that has a great message. It's about Sarah, who has cerebral palsy and can't speak or walk. The book is written from Sarah's point of view and is very effective at showing her frustrations and feelings. It reminded me of Follow My Leader in the way it gives the reader a glimpse of what life is like for someone with a disability.

The Outcasts by John Flanagan, 2011, 434 pages, ages 12 and up.

I'm a fan of the Ranger's Apprentice series, and this is the first book of a spinoff series, "Brotherband Chronicles," by the same author. It's set in the same world and time period, but introduces a new group of characters: young Skandians (like the Vikings) who are in training and competition to become sea warriors. The main character, Hal, has an inventive turn of mind and a talent for leadership, and when he's grouped with the other misfits for training, he's determined that they won't just be the joke of the competition. I was hoping for the same quality of writing and excitement this author is known for, and I was not disappointed. The book ends with a wrenching cliffhanger -- also something this author is known for, but this is worse than his others! -- and I'll definitely look forward to reading the sequel.

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli, 1990, 184 pages, ages 12 and up.

I'd heard of this book -- it won the Newbery Medal -- but I'd never read it. I had no idea it was about huge issues like racism and acceptance, homelessness and families. Jeffrey Magee is a runaway who finds his way to Two Mills, where the whites and blacks live on opposite sides of town and don't mix. Jeffrey's mixture of naivete and fearlessness shakes things up. It's a book worth reading and thinking about, both the sad and the funny parts.

The End of Molasses Classes: Getting Our Kids Unstuck by Ron Clark, 2011, 323 pages, ages 16 and up.

Ron Clark is an innovative teacher who started his own school in Florida. This book is a list of strategies and ideas for improving education, each of them illustrated with stories from the author's experience. I can't say I agree with every one of his ideas, but there are certainly many helpful and exciting concepts here. The author deeply cares about students, and I like his viewpoint that every student is not just worth teaching, but is worth our best teaching.


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