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Reference

International Baccalaureate. Making the PYP happen. Cardiff, Wales: Peterson
     House, 2007. Print. This publication provides the transdisciplinary
     curriculum framework for the programme and practical guidelines for
     implementing the programme in schools. An in-depth guide to student
     learning, classroom practice and effective assessment. This rebranded
     version includes changes to the subject annexes, which have been updated in
     line with the new PYP scope and sequences. 

 

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Rebecca Reads

GHE parent volunteer Rebecca McMahon reads and reviews library books. Check these titles out the next time you're in the library!

Cover Art
Wonder - R. J. Palacio
ISBN: 0375869026
Publication Date: 2012-02-14
“Wonder” is targeted for ages 9-12 but I think it is a great read for any age. This book falls under children's literature, not even YA, but it was just so good, I have to share! I read this book in a day and half and cried for about a day and a half when I was done.

"Wonder" tells the story of August, a ten year old boy with severe facial deformities who is about to enter middle school, and a mainstream school, for the first time. The author does not come right out and describe what August looks like, but gives each character a chance to tell and I am left thinking he looks like the guy from the movie Mask, only more disfigured. Maybe even the third brother from "The Goonies". Anyway, you soon forget to imagine what he looks like because you are caught up in what he and the others are thinking. Auggie has not had an easy life and he is used to people staring at him, he expects the worst from people and he often gets it. He is slow to expect goodness or kindness but his happiness when he does experience it jumps at you from the page. While most of the kids at school are horrible to Auggie, or indifferent, he does make friends with some amazing kids and has good experiences along with the bad.

This book changes between the characters and often revisits a scene in order for each character to tell what he/she was thinking and tell it from their point of view. I love when a book switches voices, I just cannot read it fast enough. We hear from Auggie, from his sister Via and from an assortment of their friends. We do not hear the story told from an adult character, but the kids do an amazing job of describing their interactions with the adults and they leave you knowing what the adults are feeling or thinking. For example, Via describes seeing her mother standing outside Auggie's door in the middle of the night "her hand on the doorknob, her forehead leaning on the door. She wasn't going in his room or stepping out; just standing right outside the door, as if she was listening to the sound of his breathing as he slept". (Palacio, 99) I knew instantly that it was a mother calming her own fears by listening to the peaceful breathing of her child at night, convincing herself that he is okay, she is okay, that everything will be okay.

I like that the characters in this book, Auggie included, are not perfect. They are flawed, they are selfish, they are so very human. Auggie is not given a free pass because of his deformities; the author portrays him as selfish, as bitter and even using his disability at times to influence a situation. His sister and his friends are not always noble. They all wish that Auggie could just be normal or that they didn't feel like they needed to protect him, that they could just be cool with the other kids. The parents disagree, the parents admit to lying and the parents yell at their kids or miss opportunities to help or listen. It is how very genuine and honest these characters are that really gets you.

When I finished the book and finished crying, I picked it right back up again to read with my kids. This did not go over well because as my 9 year old said "we can read on our own" and it is killing the 11 year old with how long it takes to read when reading out loud. And while they could read it themselves, this book presents so many teaching opportunities and so many things to discuss on how to treat people. It also facilitates conversations about what the characters in the book are learning and how that connects to what they are learning themselves in school. Last night the 11 year old explained inherited traits to the 9 year old, she amazed me! I watched their faces as I read how no one will sit near Auggie on the first day and how he describes what it was like to walk into a crowded lunch room. They were mad, they were sad for Auggie, they said they would sit with them. I hope that they would. I can't wait to see their reaction at the end of the book and I can't read fast enough to get them there.

Read this book because it is a good story. Read it because it is so well-written it is hard to find fault with it. The only one I could come up with is that it was easy for me to see what would happen next, but really, I am a 39 year old woman reading a book meant for a 9 year old - I should be able to cue in on the foreshadowing. Read this because it makes you think about how you treated and still treat other people. Read it with your kids because they are out there treating or being treated in ways that will break your heart. Read it because someone will make a movie out of it and ruin it and you can say "I liked the book better". Read it because it will grab you by the heart and take a long time to let you go.

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The Watsons Go to Birmingham 1963 - Christopher Paul Curtis
ISBN: 0385321759
Publication Date: 1995-09-01
What will get you picked on quicker than being smart? Being smart and having a lazy eye. Meet Kenny Watson; age 10, middle child and the main voice of “The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963”. Kenny is a good kid who does well in school, helps take care of his younger sister and loves his family. However, Flint, MI is not an easy place to grow up. Kenny is a favorite target of the bullies at school who mock him about his eye and call him Poindexter. The teasing doesn’t stop when he gets home because Kenny is also the favorite target of his mean older brother, By. This book is largely told around Kenny’s walking us through what happened and it can take some time for him to tell it. He is nothing, if not thorough. When Kenny’s brother By becomes more trouble than his parents can handle, Mom and Dad Watson decide he needs to go and stay with family in Alabama. The whole family is going to take him there and the trip becomes an adventure made by the Dad’s purchase of an Ultra-Glide record player and Mom’s notebook which carefully breaks down where they can stop, who eats a peanut butter sandwich on the first day and tuna on the next. Just as the Michigan Watsons are acclimating to the Birmingham heat, a terrible act of violence makes them rethink their plans to leave By there for the summer. Kenny and his family reel from the aftershocks and the book takes on a somber and then healing tone.
This is a good book for trying to explain the desegregated South to young children as it is told by a naïve and sheltered child himself. I found it to be insightful and funny and geared towards older elementary readers. (The language can get a bit salty). Kenny Watson is an underdog kind of kid who doesn’t rise to amazing feats; he simply endures what comes at him and keeps on going, which is a great lesson in itself.

Cover Art
The One and Only Ivan - Katherine Applegate; Patricia Castelao (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780061992254
Publication Date: 2012-01-17
“One and Only Ivan”
By Katherine Applegate


If you have a child who struggles to read chapter books, “The One and Only Ivan” is for you! The chapters in this book are frequently just one or two pages and each page is broken into segments which make reading easy for a reader who gets overwhelmed with long chapters and endless pages. This is also a great read for a child who has a heart for animals as he/she will easily fall into the mind of Ivan and race hurriedly through the chapters to see what happens next.

“The One and Only Ivan” tells the story of Ivan, a silverback gorilla at who lives at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. Ivan has it pretty easy in his domain: he has a good friend in Stella, the elephant next store, and in Bob, a stray dog who keeps him informed of the happenings at the Mall and sleeps on his belly at night. Ivan is an artist, he loves to draw and Mack, his human, sells his drawings at the gift shop. Ivan thinks his life is pretty complete with his yogurt raisins and TV until Ruby, a baby elephant, is brought in to perk up sales at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Arcade. Ivan is forced to reconcile what he has led himself to believe with the actual truth and slowly surmises that maybe his domain is really more of a cage. Ruby is newly arrived from Africa and as she tells of her capture, she forces Ivan to remember his own, as well as what it means to be a silverback gorilla. (I will warn you that there is a sentence or two that is pretty hard to read – even as an adult.) Ivan embarks on a mission to save Ruby and his devotion and purpose will engage every reader.

Katherine Applegate does a beautiful job of lending a voice to all of the animals in this story. We are easily caught up in them as Ivan first describes them and then as they begin to speak. Bob the dog lends humor and wit to the story and Stella a gentle, patient wisdom. Ruby comes in as vivacious and inquisitive as a kindergartner and you can easily see why all the animals are taken with her and understand why Ivan is driven to help her.
We read this book out loud and both my 9 year old and 11 year old enjoyed it. The 9 year old wanted to keep it to read for himself when we were done, that is how much he liked it! I found this book to be an excellent catalyst for discussion about how animals are treated, why they are treated this way and what we can do to help them. Elephants do not stand on balls and perform tricks in the wild and it is a compassionate author who forces us to look at what is normal in our society and think twice.

Cover Art
Out of My Mind - Sharon M. Draper
ISBN: 9781416971702
Publication Date: 2010-03-09
“I am surrounded by thousands of words. Maybe even millions.” She explains that “words have always swirled around me like snowflakes – each one delicate and different, each one melting untouched in my hands”. (pg 2) Melody is 11 years old and has never spoken a word in her life. In later chapters, we learn that Melody has cerebral palsy and that she is has had severe physical limitations since she was a baby. She has no use of her legs, very limited use of her arms and hands and cannot talk although she is incredibly bright and understands all of what happens around her.
Melody attends a mainstream public school and is a classroom with special needs children. She describes each child and their need as well as what it is like every day in the special needs classroom. She describes her good teachers and the bad ones and explains how much more happens in her brain than she can let out. Her parents and babysitter, Mrs. V., had come up with a way for Melody to point to words on her wheelchair tray to help express herself, but she is often frustrated and is very limited in what she can convey.
In 5th grade, Melody's school starts incorporating the special needs kids into the mainstream classes. Melody is so excited to be a part of the classes and kids she has only seen from a distance. However, Melody is quick to find out that inclusion classes don’t necessarily mean inclusive. Some of the kids are nice to Melody, despite her wheelchair, or her arms that act out on their own, or the fact that she squeals when she gets really excited. Most of the kids are mean, some of them outright mean, and even the teachers seems clueless on how to treat her. Melody is thrilled to be a part of the classes and wants so badly to just be a normal kid and have a friend and a crush and be a part of the group. After she watches a show on Stephen Hawkings and how he communicates, she convinces her parents to get her a computer like his and her world opens up. She is still slower than the kids in her class to respond, but Melody finally has her voice! One of the first thing she has the computer say is “I love you” to her parents. That choked this parent right up!
Melody is strong, she is likeable and she is resilient. The author gives her an amazing voice and provides clarity and insight into the mind of a child with limitations. Melody tells it how it is. For example, pink wheelchairs. “…there is nothing cute about a pink wheelchair. Pink doesn’t change a thing.” (pg 3) Melody’s parents and Mrs. V. are so normal and so very human, the reader is able to comprehend and understand them well based on Melody’s observations. When Melody’s mother goes to school and tells the teacher “I dare anything for my daughter...and for the rest of these children!” (pg 57) it was all I could do not to stand up and clap!
“Out of My Mind” gives us clear insight into the mind of a child with limited physical circumstances but exceptional intelligence. This is a great book for parents and children alike as it will challenge us all to reconsider what we label so quickly, almost dismissively, as special needs and perhaps force us all to consider the person first rather than their need.

Cover Art
Freaky Fast Frankie Joe - Lutricia Clifton
ISBN: 0823423670
Publication Date: 2012-03-01
Frankie Joe Huckaby just can’t catch a break. First his mom is arrested and he has to leave his home in Laredo, TX and move to Clearview, IL with a Dad he only knows from birthday and Christmas cards. When he gets to Clearview, he finds a stepmother and four half-brothers waiting for him. Frankie Joe is used to doing things on his own and his step-brothers are afraid he will mess up their system, especially the oldest step brother, Matt. Frankie Joe is also used to having little supervision and his Dad and stepmom’s insistence on chores and responsibility make him bristle. He spent more time in the desert searching for space rocks last year than he did at school and when he shows up for school his first day at the Clearview School, he is in bad shape. He is held back to the 5th grade and has trouble keeping up with the work. He is soon labeled as an oddball and the kids tease him for being so slow. Frankie Joe has a hard time relating to the kids at school and his half-brothers at home. He determines that Clearview is not for him and starts planning on how he is going to escape. Frankie Joe quickly realizes he will need money if he is going to get out of Clearview and he starts “Frankie Joe’s Freaky Fast Delivery Service” using his bike and his strong legs to pedal pizza out to farmers and cosmetics to moms stuck at home with small kids. Frankie Joe also develops relationships with the people he delivers to and strikes up a friendship with an older lady, Elise Peachcott who fills him in on his mother and father and their relationship. Frankie Joe makes a friend with the “other oddball” at school, Mandy, and she shows up again and again to encourage Frankie Joe and encourage others to use his delivery service or see that he is not so odd. Frankie Joe is so determined to get out of Clearview and get back to Texas and his mom that he doesn’t see the impact he is having on his family or his friends in Clearview. Frankie Joe is dealt a staggering blow towards the end of the book that just knocks him off of his feet, but after awhile he is able to bounce back and even appreciate all that Clearview has to offer.

Frankie Joe is a likeable character. He is enterprising, believable and encouraging. Even though things are bad, he keeps on going. He delivers hope and friendship and he perseveres despite being the oddball. I did find that the adults in the book are very transparent and not well developed as characters. For example, we never get to see what Frankie Joe’s dad really feels about him other than the responsibility Frankie Joe details. You leave this book with the sense that no matter what, Frankie Joe can handle life and handle it well. Great read for any kid who thinks they can’t get out of a bad situation or as an example of perseverance and tenacity.

 

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