Friday, November 27, 2015

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Book cover Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Over Thanksgiving break, Mrs. Edwards got busy reading this graphic novel and forgot all about feeding me one day.  It must’ve been a really good book indeed.  She mentioned that she has never read a graphic novel prior to this, and she very thoroughly enjoyed it.  I checked it out and was pleasantly surprised by the ease and creativity with this novel.  I enjoyed the illustrations as they seemed to tell the story even without some of the text.  I wish I could draw like that, but alas I have found that ‘water-based’ paint means something different…

In Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, the story is similar to the Princess Bride and Tim Burton’s Big Fish.  The story begins with a grandfather regaling his grandson Jacob with tales from his own childhood.  Similar to those stories in Big Fish the stories are of fantastical things and people with extraordinary abilities.  Jacob assumes that his grandfather is exaggerating everything for entertainment purposes.  As he gets older, however, Jacob questions the validity of the stories, so his grandfather stops talking about it.  But, when Jacob is 15, his world is turned upside down when his grandfather is murdered by a ‘monster.’

Jacob thought he saw the ‘monster’ the night his grandfather died, but his description was so ridiculous that he was sent to see a psychiatrist.  It was during his psychiatric sessions that began finding clues to mysterious things his grandfather had told him, and was encouraged by his psychiatrist to seek answers at the island his grandfather stayed for so many years.  It is here that Jacob discovers much more than he was ever prepared for.  

This is an outstanding book for classes when discussing exaggeration.  The artistic renditions add so much depth to the storyline, that I could see a great collaboration happening between English and art teachers to create a book or story for classes.

Works Cited

“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.” (2011). JPEG file.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children: Director’s Cut. (2011, June 7). Retrieved from <>.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Day They Came to Arrest the Book by Nat Hentoff

the day they.jpg

A typical middle or high school book to read is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, but when the history teacher at George Mason High School assigns the book to her class, the unexpected happens.  In this realistic fiction story, a high school and community experience the rift caused when several students become very vocal about the topics presented in the book.  The students then turn to their parents with complaints of the book being racist, sexist, and immoral.  Once the parents confront the principal, who is notorious for censoring books, he goes straight to the library and demands the offensive text be removed.  The community and the school quickly become divided on whether or not the book should be banned listing a cacophony of reasons.

Barney Roth, a reporter for the school paper, intends to expose the story for what it is and force people to consider the 1st Amendment and people’s viewpoint of what is or isn’t offensive.  The school librarian intends to stand up for the rights of the students because she feels they should have the freedom to read what they want.  In this thought-provoking story, we must always keep at the forefront the freedoms of our readers.  

I find it interesting that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is still being banned and challenged in America.  When the book first came out, it was banned because it showcased the friendship between a white boy and escaped slave.  Now, it is banned largely due to the derogatory language, poor grammar (spoken by Huck and Jim), and overall coarseness.  Many of the supporters of the novel view it as a masterful work that promotes free-thinking.

Work Cited

Lauren and Marcy the day they came to arrest the book. (2011, Sep 14). Retrieved from <>.

Perles, Karen. (2015). Should Huckleberry Finn be banned? bright hub education. Retrieved from <>.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by JK Rowling

Some days I wonder what it would be like to fly or walk then I think, “If only I knew someone with some magical abilities who could make it happen for me…”  Mrs. Edwards has mentioned that she knows some really good wizard books and the spells could work, except I’m a fish and don’t have a wand (or any way to hold it).  Apparently, these books are pretty controversial, and even banned or censored in some libraries.  After doing a little research, I learned that some parents believe the books allegedly promote witchcraft and the occult, as well as having a propensity for violence and promoting poor family values.  I just thought they were fictional books about a boy who discovers he’s a wizard.

The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling is number 7 on the ALA’s list of the “100 most frequently challenged books of 1990-2000” and number 1 from 2000-2009.  The large dilemma with these books is a great many people felt that they were/are propagating witchcraft and Satanism.  But when readers get into these stories they quickly realize that, aside from the characters being witches and wizards, the characters face many of the same emotional and interpersonal conflicts as any teen may face.

Harry Potter is a turning-eleven-year-old boy who lives, literally, under the stairs in a coat closet at his aunt and uncle’s house.  His parents suffered a horrible death when he was just a baby, and he was mysteriously thrust with the only living relatives he had, the Dursleys.  His aunt, uncle, and cousin, who were the only family he had ever known, treated him like a nuisance, and were completely despicable to him.  On the days preceding his eleventh birthday, strange and inexplicable things start happening to and around him.  Letters begin arriving addressed to him, and his uncle becomes unusually cruel about it.  From here, Harry is thrust into the world of magic and Hogwarts, the School for Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Aside from the people who stick to their firm belief that this is a negative book for kids, it is actually a very powerful read for so many.  It has carries the themes of bullying, orphans, being an outsider, coming of age, and friendship.  There are so many areas where we can have teachable moments and ‘what-if’ situations.  This is a fantastic series for kids of any age!

Works Cited

Harry Potter and the sorcerer’s stone. JPEG file.

Harry Potter and the sorcerer’s stone book trailer. (2012, Nov 1). Retrieved from <>.

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton


Fun Betta Fact of the Day:  We, as a species, are pretty territorial.  We like our space, don’t play well with other males, but are generally pretty cool with the ladies (although, will cannibalize our eggs if possible).  I found it interesting that Mrs. Edwards read this ‘classic’ book all about territorial groups of kids growing up in the 60’s.  The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton is about some kid named Ponyboy, which I thought would sound much tougher if it was something like Sharkboy… but that’s a different movie.  She seems to think I can learn something about the value of life and how not to fight or something… I’m just a little fish swimming in a bowl, so I don’t really understand all that.

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton was written in 1967 about very poignant issues that still plague our society.  Some may feel a disconnect at first as we learn about the protagonist, a 14 year old teen named Ponyboy, and his gang of Greasers, but Ponyboy and his friends are, in so many ways, just like the teens of today: struggling with being poor, having broken families or no adult in their lives, trying to take care of themselves the best way they can.  The Greasers (so called because of the amount of hair grease) are from the poor side of town.  Most of them come from broken or dysfunctional homes with little or no parental guidance, but they are loyal to each other and their territory.  The Socs (Socials) are from the wealthy part of town.  They are viewed as ‘privileged,’ drive hot cars, and act like they are entitled to do whatever they want including frequent bullying of the Greasers.

There is a constant battle between Greasers and Socs about who is allowed in certain areas of town or stores, as well as the constant harassment of one another’s gangs.  One day at a drive-in movie, Ponyboy, Johnny, and Dallas meet some Soc girls and end up walking them home.  Ponyboy shares the story of Johnny’s incident with some Socs with one of the girls named Cherry.  Later that night after Ponyboy has a fight with his older brother, he and Johnny find themselves in a violent and fatal fight with some Socs which puts the boys on the run.  During their hide-out, Ponyboy and Johnny become heroes helping a group of kids out of a burning church, but not without being seriously hurt themselves.  What will happen to Ponyboy and Johnny?

The Outsiders is an outstanding book with very powerful themes that so many students can benefit from reading.  I could easily see this book being used in conjunction with a tolerance or anti-bullying unit or with an At-Risk group of students.  Because of the connection with broken or dysfunctional homes, many of our students will be able to identify with the emotional pain the characters feel.  I can also connect the gang aspect with many of the gang and territorial issues we have in our county as well to draw students into the discussion of why and how lives matter.  

The Outsiders. (n.d.). JPEG file.

The Outsiders. (2015, Nov.6). Retrieved from <>.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World by Sy Montgomery


Mrs. Edwards has chosen Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World by Sy Montgomery as one of her Battle of the Books books for this year’s competition.  I personally think that any book with a title that long should not be used for Battle of the Books, but she seems to think it’s a pretty amazing story.  So, I read this story, because it seemed inspirational and, you know, about an animal lover and all that, but it had this crazy twist!  I’m not going to begrudge people for their fondness for meat-based protein or anything, shoot I eat my fair share of bugs, but this Dr. Grandin is very concerned with the stress placed upon the animals that you people eat.  Her concern for the treatment of animals is quite admirable, but I’m just happy to be a fish (and a small one at that) that I don’t have to worry about being someone’s sushi meal.  

In the amazing biography Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World by Sy Montgomery we learn the story of Dr. Temple Grandin.  Dr. Grandin was only three years old when her parents realized there was something a little different about their daughter.  We learn of Dr. Grandin’s struggles growing up with Autism, way before doctors and scientists had a name for this condition.  She struggled at a young age with noises, controlling anxiety, and finding clothes that didn’t itch her sensitive skin.  It wasn’t until she visited her family’s ranch, that she realized she could find peace.

Dr. Grandin grew up with farming in her life.  At an early age, she understood where food, including meat, came from.  One day, as she wandered around the animals, she understood why they made certain noises.  Sheep bleats, chicken clucks, and cow moos made sense to her like the cries of a baby may make sense to it’s mother.  As she grew older, she focused research on making livestock more comfortable during their final moments.  Through her studies, she helped develop humane, safe ways for large livestock ranches to slaughter and process their animals.  Having the animals calm and comfortable actually keeps more people safe and lessens open-wound injuries, which could negate use of the meat, to the animals.  Dr. Grandin found many of her tools and techniques not only comforting to the animals, but helpful in her own anxieties as well.  This is an amazing story of a woman who loved animals so much, that she wants them to be comfortable, literally, their entire lives.  

This is an amazing story and I love that I was able to find a trailer about Sy Montgomery the author and Dr. Grandin’s good friend.  Living here in the valley, I think this is an incredible and informative book for our high school FFA students to read.  Much of the livestock and poultry farms we have in our area have been impacted by Dr. Grandin’s inventions and guidance.  She makes very good points that if we are to continue to use animals as a food source, then it is only fair since they are dying to feed us, that we offer them some compassion to how they die.  On a side note, I was also very fortunate to have a Skype session with Dr. Grandin several months ago about being chosen for our Battle of the Books; it was a truly inspirational visit.

Sy Montgomery talks about Temple Grandin. (2012, June 11). Retrieved from <>.

“Temple Grandin: How the girl who loved cows embraced autism and changed the world.”, 2012. JPEG file.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Mrs. Edwards chose this awesome book last year as one of her Battle of the Books picks.  Not only does she promote reading in classes, but also makes sure her BoB teams have amazing selections.  I have enjoyed listening to the conversation between the Library Ladies and some of the BoB students about the author’s choice to write a new series in the midst of finishing this one… they are dying for the next book to come out!

This fantasy-adventure series by Sarah J. Maas is titled Throne of Glass.  In Throne of Glass, we are thrust into a medieval-like world where we meet the beautiful Celaena.  Celaena, although breathtaking, is deadly... an assassin… a mercenary.  And is known and feared by everyone.  She lives in a land where magic has been forbidden and purged by the King; it’s existence so far removed that it’s now only known in tales and myth.  

Celaena has been imprisoned in the salt mines of Endovier, a prison known only for it’s death toll.  Until one day Chaol, Captain of the King’s Guard and best friend to Prince Dorian, comes for her.  She is offered a deal to gain her freedom by becoming the King’s Champion Assassin.  The biggest problem is: Celaena works for NO ONE… and despises the king.  Celaena finds herself at the palace, thrust into a violent tournament of champions with mercenaries from far and wide.  She proves herself, but not without stumbling across a deep-hidden mystery within the depths of the palace and finding friendship and love in the most unexpected of places.  Throne of Glass will keep you on the edge of your seat, hungry for the next book.

I love searching YouTube for book trailers.  Sometimes I find trailers that are so much like movies that I wonder if a movie hasn’t been done for the books.  Most of the trailers are done by students, so the quality is reflective of that.  This trailer is one of the more professional ones I’ve found; done by Bloomsbury Publishing.  I think this trailer is very effective in it’s simplistic text, clean images, and powerful music.  Students connect to things better with music involved, and it will be more impactful with the right songs.  This trailer sets up well to the intrigue and adventure of the story. I see this beek potentially being used by English teachers when looking at plot structure, characterization, sub-plots, and flashbacks. It is crafted masterfully with an ending that will leave the reader hungry for more.

Works Cited
Throne of Glass by Sarah J.Maas. (2012, July 26) . Retrieved from <>.
“Throne of Glass.” Wikia, 2013. JPEG file.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

I know I’m only a year old and a fish to boot, but I have heard the expression “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.”  From a fish perspective, this could not be a more uninviting cover, I mean white background with simple black lettering, and a pair of shoes.  I don’t even have feet and especially don’t dream of running.  My dreams primarily consist of large fingers chasing me around my bowl or swimming in the ocean with sharks.  The Library Ladies got this book in the library not too long ago, and I think Mrs. Edwards promoted it as a California Young Reader Medal (CYRM) book at one point.  When she talks about it now, she often brings up the plain cover and even admits to judging books by the cover herself!!  But apparently after she read it, she really ‘connected’ with the story… whatever that means.  This is what she says about The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen.
Jessica is a junior in high school, and if someone asks her who she is, she will respond with, “I am a runner.”  Jessica isn’t just a runner though, she’s the best, and although she is only a junior, she has already captured the attention of several colleges.  On the way home from a huge meet at her school’s big rival, the bus is involved in a terrible accident.  A vehicle slammed into the side of the bus right where Jessica and one of her best friends was sitting.  Jessica woke up several days later to discover that she was missing a leg!  The accident not only left her an amputee, but she also found out that one of her teammates had been killed.
Jessica went into a shell; she didn’t want to talk to anyone and struggled to catch up in her classes.  She was even seated in ‘preferential’ places in her classes (the back of the room).  It was here that she gets to know Rosa, a girl in her math class who has cerebral palsy.  As Rosa and Jessica become friends, Jessica begins to realize that life isn’t all about running for her, and for some people it means something so much more.  Check out this incredible story of perseverance and friendship today!

This is a fantastic story to connect with any student who has something so important that it is part of their identity like sports, a hobby, playing music, creating art, or any number of things.  Students can connect because this story is so powerfully possible.  In addition to the empathy they may feel for the character at losing what defined her, students can also begin to have a greater understanding of the mental strain that people who face sudden amputations may have.  The author Wendelin Van Draanen also brings into the story cerebral palsy, which is a condition that very few students understand.  This trailer is one of the more powerful ones I have found; again, the music and connection to the book while providing just enough of a teaser for readers is well done.  
Works Cited
Book Trailer: The Running Dream. (2012, October 4). Retrieved from

“The Running Dream.”, 2012. JPEG file.