Late But Great Summer Reading Recommendations for Students 2014

swallowsSo, you are deep into summer now. Perhaps you’ve gone to camp, or gone on a family vacation. Perhaps you are playing summer ball, or biking, or checking out that new skateboard park in Ann Arbor. You always need some down-time, some alone time on a favorite couch with a cold lemonade at hand. Nothing makes down-time more fun than a good book.

Here are my late, great recommendations for August. If you read one, tell me how you liked it.

1. The Calder Game, by Blue Balliett. One of my elementary students highly recommended this action mystery. (3rd grade – 5th grade)

2. My Father’s Dragon, Ruth Stiles Gannett, 1948 Newbery Honors Book and ALA – an old classic children’s adventure and comedy. (4th and 5th graders)

3. Swallows and Amazons, by Arthur Ransome. Before Harry Potter, before hobbits, there was this story of childhood adventure and fantasy. It is a classic almost lost to our time. (4th -7th grade)

4. Al Capone Does My Laundry, by Gennifer Choldenko, This Newbery Honor winning novel is a fictional account from a kid’s perspective of living at Alcatraz – with its host of infamous criminals – during the 1930’s. (5th – 7th grade roughly)

5. The Talking Earth, by Jean Craighead George, a Seminole Indian girl in Florida learns how to fend for herself. This is the author of My Side of The Mountain and Julie of The Wolves. Jean Craighead George is the queen of wilderness survival novels. Check it out. (Middle to High School)

6. La Linea, by Ann Jaramillo, “Fifteen-year-old Miguel and his younger sister make a grueling trek through the desert to the border of Mexico and the United States so they can join their parents in California.” Very timely. (Younger Teens)

7. Walk Two Moons, by Sharon Creech, “ After her mother leaves home suddenly, thirteen-year-old Sal and her grandparents take a car trip retracing her mother’s route.” Check it out!(Younger Teens)

8. Mango-Shaped Space, by Wendy Mass. This is a pretty cool story about a 13 year-old girl with synesthesia. Synesthesia is a real condition in which sounds, numbers and words all have color. Great story! (Junior High and High School)

9. The Princess Bride by William Goldman, This is a classic fantasy adventure and romance story, great for teenagers. It is “swashbuckling” fun. (Middle School through High School)

10. The Martian, by Andy Weir. I just finished reading this very recent science fiction novel. I’d recommend this for older high school students. Here’s an excerpt from the cover,

All of the science is real,” says Weir, an easygoing “space nerd” whose hobbies include relativistic physics and orbital mechanics. “All of the technology exists today, although a lot of it is next generation.”

Weir, 41, wrote the book as a “what-if scenario,” imagining the worst that could happen on a manned mission to Mars.

That’s All! Enjoy August!

Stay Sharp with These Summer Games

man bites dogSpring is here and it is time to think about summer. Kids want to do something new and exciting outside the classroom. You probably want the same for them. However, you don’t want them to lose any of that valuable progress they made in school. Educational board games are one way to solve that problem.

Two good games for young writers are Man Bites Dog and You’ve Been Sentenced. In both games, players build phrases and sentences with word cards.

In Man Bites Dog, the cards are clippings from newspapers. Since you are creating imaginative headlines, the responses are not always standard sentences, but students enjoy the creative hilarity. In You’ve Been Sentenced, the cards are hexagon shaped and include five variations on a word or phrase.

I like this game because it is easier to build a range of sentences. References to movie stars, presidents and famous race-car drivers are included to spice things up. Find both games online through Amazon.

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.

Thanks,
Eric

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.

Material

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.