A Summer Reading List for 2013

summer readingHi Folks,

I have two items today:  my summer book reading list and a fun book-related event coming up soon.

First, the latter– The Ann Arbor Book Festival Crawl will take place on Thursday, June 20th, in the evening. This is a fun opportunity to cruise around to different book-related spaces, shop for books, and hear authors. The Crawl stops at Nicola’s Books at the Westgate Mall at 8 p.m. For more information, check The Observer or contact Nicola’s Books.

Secondly, here is the long awaited summer book list. I think it has something for everyone. Enjoy, and let me know about your favorite summer read:

  • Touching Spirit Bear, Ben Mikaelsen

A 15-year-old, juvenile delinquent boy is banished to an Alaskan Island where he must face the legendary Spirit Bear. This novel features many Native American beliefs and carries a strong message about dealing with anger.   Middle School but good for anyone.

  • The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, Tim Angleberger

If you liked Diary of A Wimpy Kid, you will probably like this novel. Older Elementary.

  • Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made, Stephan Pastis

Again, if you liked Diary of A Wimpy Kid, you will probably like this novel. Older Elementary

  • The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, Kate DiCamilo. Older Elementary.
  • Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25, by Richard Paul Evans

This is an exciting sci-fi action thriller. Give it a try!

  • Z For Zachariah, Robert C. Obrien

This is a futuristic, post-apocalyptic novel told through the eyes of a teenage girl. I highly recommend this novel. Young Adult

  • Forensic Science, DK Eyewitness Books

This one is for one student in particular. You know who you are.

Middle School to Young Adult

  • The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins

This is another post-apocalyptic novel. It is action-packed and suspenseful. Young Adult

  • The Summer Prince, Alaya Dawn Johnson

“In the futuristic Brazilian metropolis Palmares Tres, artist June Costa joins the bold new Summer King, Enki, to stage explosive, dramatic projects that the city will never forget. The pair adds fuel to a growing rebellion against the government’s strict limits on new tech, and June falls deeply, unfortunately in love with Enki. Because like all Summer Kings before him, Enki is destined to die.”  Young Adult, NPR list.

  • Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell

“Eleanor and Park meet on the school bus — she’s a defiantly weird poor girl (a redhead, no less!) from a broken family, he’s a solidly middle-class son of a veteran and his Korean wife (no here). They bond over X-Men comics and punk mix tapes…”  Young Adult, NPR List

  • Drama, Raina Telgemeier

“Drama is a lovely, gentle meditation on life, love and drama, both personal and theatrical, that will worm its way into the heart of any theater geek (or former theater geek). Seventh-grader Callie loves Broadway musicals with a passion, but she can’t sing — so she devotes herself to running tech…”    Middle School to High School, NPR List

  • The Universe versus Alex Woods, Gavan Extance

“Teenage British science nerd Alex (his mother calls him Lex, and yes, he is bald) was hit by a meteorite as a kid; it punched through the bathroom ceiling and whacked him in the head, leaving him with severe epilepsy.” Middle School to High School NPR List

  • Divergent, Veronica Roth

Didn’t get enough of the Hunger Games? Try this trilogy out. The final episode is expected in October.

  • The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

Magic and the search for meaning….this is magical realism at it’s best. Middle School to Adult.

  • Out of My Mind, Sharon Draper

This is the survival story of a girl with a severe handicap. Young Adult.

  • Lawn Boy, Gary Paulsen

“One day I was 12 years old and broke. Then Grandma gave me Grandpa’s old riding lawnmower. I set out to mow some lawns. More people wanted me to mow their lawns. And more and more. . . . One client was Arnold the stockbroker, who offered to teach me about “the beauty of capitalism. Supply and Demand. Diversify labor. Distribute the wealth.” “Wealth?” I said. “It’s groovy…”   Older Elementary through Middle School.

Books Your Mom Or Dad Might Have Read When They Were Younger

  • Johnny Tremain, Esther Forbes

This is an American Revolution novel revolving around a teenager in Boston. It’s a classic.  Middle School to High School

  • My Antonia, Willa Cather

“My Ántonia, first published 1918, is considered one of the greatest novels by American writer Willa Cather. It is the final book of her “prairie trilogy” of novels, the companion volumes being O Pioneers! and The Song of the Lark.”  Wikipedia

  • The Pearl, John Steinbeck

“The Pearl is a novella by American author John Steinbeck, published in 1947. It is the story of a pearl diver, Kino, and explores man’s nature as well as greed and evil.”  Wikipedia

  • Brave New World, Aldous Huxley

“Brave New World is a novel written in 1931 by Aldous Huxley and published in 1932. Set in London of AD 2540, the novel anticipates developments in reproductive technology, sleep-learning, psychological …” Wikipedia

Student Evaluation of An Online Reading Service

Here is a brief review of the online service, Bookshare.com. One of my high school students wrote this after getting an account with Bookshare, a company which provides online texts for any text with an ISBN number, free, for students with documented reading challenges.

You do have to apply for the account and provide documentation of your disability.  Here is the review.

There are a couple of good things and bad things about Bookshare that i have noticed through using it. Pros: Free books and it can help to assist or speed up your reading speed. Cons: You have to pay $20 for the version on an Iphone and it doesn’t even go full screen on the iphone 5. It also has a horrible voice that speaks to you for the audio part of the program.
Basically the only reason to get Bookshare is for the free books and some help with speeding up your reading speed over time if used correctly. This program can be somewhat useful for reading at a faster speed but i would not use the program if that is the sole purpose.

Write back to ask questions or give me your comments.


Camping Skills Essay: How To Make A Fire

by Josh Aronow  (April 11, 2013)

What would you do if you were all out of matches and you wanted to make a fire? If you were living more than 186 years ago, then you would have needed to make fire without matches, because matches hadn’t been invented yet. Even today people find it difficult to start a fire without matches. Making fire is a good skill to have when you are surviving in the wilderness.


Before you start to make your fire you have to prepare and get your materials ready. The first material is flint. Flint is a metamorphic rock which can be used to start fires. Real flint was used by Native Americans, but the reason we don’t use flint today is that it is very difficult to use. Instead we use a block of magnesium, but we still call it a flint block.

We also use a sparking rod made out of ferrocerium, to help us create a spark. Another item you need is a knife. Use a knife for shaving scraps off the flint block. A third material is tinder. Tinder is a small bundle of sticks or plants that can be crumbled. It is usually fuzzy or hair-like. In some situations it would be good to dead and dry grass from the ground. The grass might be loose from animals pawing at it or trying to make nests.

In addition to tinder, kindling, which is made of the very smallest sticks, is another thing you need. Last of all, we need big sticks. Big sticks are the largest item that you will need, and those will be the last sticks that you add on to the fire. Don’t gather any of your materials from the ground, because whatever you pick up from the ground is probably wet.

Setting up the Fire

At first, you make a tee-pee out of kindling. You make the tee-pee with kindling. Secondly, you make a bundle of tinder into the shape of a birds nest. Then put other tinder inside the tee-pee. Add more sticks around the tinder so the tee-pee does not collapse. Make sure not to put too many sticks around the tinder so it doesn’t suffocate the fire. Shave a quarters worth of magnesium from the flint block, with a knife into the tinder bundle. Next, strike your sparking rod with a knife. Specifically, point the blade of the knife at a 90 degree angle to the sparking rod. Slide it across the rod. Direct the magnesium block towards the shavings at a 45 degree angle. Eventually, the magnesium shavings will catch on fire and so will the nest. When the nest is on fire pick it up a put it in the tepee, soon the tepee will catch on fire too. After you put the tinder inside the tepee keep adding more sticks and put in bigger sticks every time. Continue to blow on the fire to give it oxygen.
If you are ever stuck in the woods, now you will know how to make a fire. I hope you learned a lot about making fire, if you are ever stuck in the woods. If I were to have you remember two things about making fire it would be to never find sticks to put in the fire from the ground. The other, is when you are striking the sparking rod always point it to the foot.

Mad Libs Poetry Session This Saturday, May 18

What is a Mad Libs Poetry Session?

How about writing poetry with a host of professional poets currently on tour throughout the state? Here are the details:

Sat. May 18 | 11:30am – 1pm | Ann Arbor

“Mad Libs” Poetry Session

with the Made In Michigan Writers Series poets & 826Michigan

Ann Arbor District Library Downtown

343 S 5th Ave

·       Attendees will team up with their favorite authors to create a one-of-a-kind poem, incorporating random elements at certain points along the way.  Like a Mad Lib, but in reverse!

·       Great for groups of adults and families

·       Featuring poets Chris Dombrowski, Francine harris, M.L. Liebler, Jack Ridl, and Keith Taylor

In Praise of Visual Memory

child Head.Children Learn to think

We complain quite a bit about our ability to remember. With this in mind, it is astonishing to reflect on how powerful our memory really is. Let’s consider visual memory. In one recent study, people were shown 2,500 different images, then later asked to identify the original images when placed beside very similar images. For example, they may have seen an image of a backpack. then had to identify which of two similar backpacks they saw. The survey participants correctly picked out  88% of the original images. (Brady, Konkle, Alvarez, and Oliva (2008))

That is amazing.

We are amazing.

Have any questions about human memory? Let me know.


Winter Woody Plant Experiment

It is winter, but there is no snow. What is a kid to do? Well, you can go outside and learn a thing or two about woody plants.  Just around the yard you might find maple branches, green elm branches, Rose of Sharon branches, lilac bush branches, to name a few. On a typical branch you will find lots of knicks and bumps. Some of these are scars that formed when a leaf dropped off the twig. The scars that completely encircle the twig and are rough and bumpy are called terminal bud scale scars. The distance between two terminal bud scale scars equals one year’s growth for the plant. The longer the distance between two bud scars, the more growth occurred in that year.

Most woody plants in northern climates need a certain number of weeks of deep-chill time. If the weather is too warm over the winter, they may not be able to bloom in spring. If you take a cutting of one of the younger twigs on a plant, put it in a mason jar with water, then stick it on a south-facing window, you will be able to test-out whether it has had enough cold weather or not.

Try this  experiment with a few cuttings of different plants.  Do they all bloom? Do any of them bloom? How long does it take?

Write back to me and let me know.

For more information, take a look at the following website. It is easy to understand and very educational.  http://grandpacliff.com/Trees/Twigs.htm

Cool Science Project Using A Milk Jug and Water

According to Stephen Hawking, around 450 B.C. the Greek thinker  Empedocles made the first step towards the discovery of air.  Empedocles observed people using an odd ladle-like device. The device was round like a ball, but had holes in the bottom and a straw-like neck at the top. If the device was dunked in water, the ball portion would fill with water. More importantly, he noted that if the opening on the neck was clamped shut, then dunked in water, no water entered through the holes in the bottom of the device.

This was a fairly stunning observation. Empedocles guessed that there must be an invisible mass trapped in the device that prevented water from entering. This invisible mass was later to be identified as air.

To better understand this concept, you can try duplicating Empedocles experiment yourself. Take an empty gallon milk jug with the cap firmly in place. Cut a small hole near the top of the jug, make sure it is no bigger than the tip of your finger. Now cut or poke holes in the bottom of the jug.  Then, while firmly holding your thumb over the hole near the top of the jug, dunk the jug in a sink or bowl of water.  What happens?

Let me know how your experiment fares. Do you agree with Empedocles?