The Little Paris Bookshop – A Review

*I was provided a copy of this book free of charge in return for my honest review. The following opinions are my own*

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George has a great summary on the back and an eye catching cover. However, I would not be perfectly honest if I didn’t tell you that this entire set – up, and the story between the covers, has be coming away with some very large mixed feelings.

On one hand, the summary is well written. On the other hand, the beautiful cover has a very minimal connection to the actual story line…yes it is partially set in Paris. However, there is so much more that could have been done to bring out the feel of the story through the cover art. I give the cover and summary combination 4 out of 5 dragons.

Now let’s move on to the story. I wish that I could tell you it immediately began to pull me in and i couldn’t put it down. That just isn’t the case. I’ve had the book for almost two months and I didn’t get through the first 3 chapters for a month and a half, the beginning just felt that sloow  to me.

There are several sections in the book whose inclusions baffle me. They don’t seem to add much, if anything, to the plot arc, the actions are so minuscule or non-existent that the story gains nothing but does get confusing for a bit. For example, the main character is called by several old nicknames during the story…3 or 4 of which are not explained and not used again. There is no background or additional information that allows us useful insight into the main character, just random, seemingly unimportant names tossed in to the story.

The main male characters are given a lot of background, some beautiful idiosyncrasies, and amazing backgrounds so that you want to know them better; however, Ms. George has written these great characters who feel like they should be friends of ours but are written almost flatly. The most well written and emotionally charged sections of the book are written from the perspective of the ‘missing’ main character, the woman who Jean Perdu (main character #1) loved, lost, and lost it over.

To this point, it may seem as though I don’t like the book but this is where the major mixed feelings start to rear their heads. A major action happens that sucked me back into the book and fulfilled a promise from the book summary. I got a little excited and kept reading…and reading…and reading. For a book that isn’t really that long (around 400 pages) it felt like I was slogging through hundreds of pages. Just when I would be ready to give up, a fun, exciting, and amazing little tidbit would happen and I would be sucked back in. It wasn’t until the final few chapters that I really got pulled into the story and felt that Ms. George was hitting her stride with it.

As an author, I understand the  use of these elements and actions that both moved and stalled the story. But has a reader who had been promised certain things, I was concerned with parts of the story and found myself wishing there had been a bit more consistent movement to the story

Overall I give this book 3/5 dragons. I enjoyed a lot of it, but felt the story was inconsistent and fell flat in a few places.

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Teacher Review: Next Lesson

*I was asked to give my honest review of NextLesson in return for a small payment and membership*

There is often a struggle for teachers to find a balance in their lessons. Not just to keep the students behaving and listening…but really to keep them engaged and learning. This struggle seems to get more difficult each year and is especially evident in upper elementary and middle school students, who have grown into themselves and their social stigmas enough to start worrying more about what their friends are doing or thinking, than what the teacher is!

A site that can help you find these types of lesson is NextLesson.org. They have interesting, engaging, and multi-directional lessons that are sure to please administrations, teachers, and students. I have spent the last few days excitedly searching through lessons for various subjects and age groups, finding dozens that I would have either used as is or found a way to adapt to the correct age group if I was teaching this year. However, I am not in my own classroom (so far) so I decided to review a lesson that grabbed my attention as soon as I saw it on the site.

The NextLesson set of plans I chose to review for this post is geared toward sixth graders and should immediately grab the attention of your students, engaging their minds and actively helping them to learn in a way that makes it fun and inviting for them.

Entitled “Build a Time Machine”  with the driving question/subtitle “How Can We Learn From People in the Past?”  this lesson begins with your own choice of activity that will peak student interest in the subject of time, specifically points of time. Look at the science book, look at the history book, and let them know where in time you’ll be studying (traveling). then discuss the driving question. Sound odd? You betcha…but guess what’s next? A video introducing the idea of time travel and, specifically, building their own time machine.

That’s Right!

Students will build their own desktop time machines from repurposed, recycled materials found around their homes or towns. No purchasing materials, and no having other people (like your family!) bringing them to you. This project is scheduled to take 5 weeks, corresponding to ‘time traveling’ in class while learning world history and while discovering the possibilities of making time travel work using science.

During this month of lessons, NextLesson provides you with ideas, suggestions, and print outs so that students (AND TEACHERS!) have what they need at their fingertips. With ideas like a ‘Tweet Board’ on which students write ‘tweets’ to brag about their projects, a ready to use ‘how it works’ page for students to explain the science behind their machine, and a group video or essay giving advice to the next generation of time travelers (And giving the teacher student reflections) this set of lesson aids is sure to get your gears whirring!

*warning: Geek Moment Approaching* So, warm up your Tardis, grab your Sonic Screwdrivers, and come on! The Ancients are waiting…

Rump Review

Rump:

The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin

Written by: Liesl Shurtliff

Printed by Scholastic Inc. 2014

Age Range: Middle Grades (8-13 years old)

 

Book Review by:

 Elizabeth S. Tyree

(www.alaynabellesmom.wordpress.com

www.facebook.com/TyreeTomes

www.amazon.com/author/elizabethtyree )

 

In Liesl Shurtliff’s Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin the audience is introduced to Rump, a 12 year old boy living in a world where your name is your destiny…and he’s named after the rear end of a cow.

Rump is trying to find his destiny and, along the way, discovers family secrets, friendship, and the real power of names.

At the beginning of the story Rump is a small-for-his-age twelve year old that is the *ahem* butt of the town’s joke. Liesl Shurtliff has created a world in which nothing has a unique name, except for the people inhabiting it. Rump lives in The Village on The Mountain, wherein no animals have names and no town in THE KINGDOM has a real name, known only as Yonder, The King’s City, etc.

On the Mountain, villagers dig for gold to trade with the Kingdom for their rations. Pixies, who love gold, become excited around veins of gold, but haven’t been active lately…that is, until Rump turns 12 and they become agitated every time they’re anywhere around him.

Cue zany antics and the search for his true name! With the help of his only friend, Red, her grandmother, and his family, Rump searches for his real name, learns his special gift, and begins the journey that will lead him to becoming a well-known and sometimes villainized fairy tale character.

I give this book 5 out of 5 dragons for the awesome cover art. The whimsical depiction of a dark wood, a castle, pixies, and two young people on the cover caught my eye before the title did!

As for the story, I give it 4 out of 5 dragons. I enjoy a good twist on the classics probably more than a lot of people I know, but this had little to do with the old story I always enjoyed. In fact, I rather like the character of Rumpelstiltskin and this supremely likable character, whom the audience will identify and empathize with, threw me for a loop!

Over all, though, I enjoyed this book immensely and look forward to reading other works by Liesl Shurtliff. (I’m getting ready to go get Jack now!)

 

 

Presenting: Highland Park

Today I am going to post for you a very special book review…it is not for any book that I have received (yet), it is not for a friend of a friend who happens to be an author, and it is not for Tyree Tomes (though we did edit and publish it). This review is for my students. My 80 awesome fifth graders who worked hard, pushed through, and wrote.

That’s right, we are finished! As of today Highland Park Presents is available in both paperback and Kindle edition.

I wish I could tell you that this is the best compilation of short stories that you could ever possibly read. As their teacher I want to brag on my students and let you know that they worked SO HARD for this. If you could see the excitement on their faces today as I showed them the amazon.com pages for their book…well I have no words to explain it. I will, hopefully, remember those moments forever.

However, they are still fifth graders with a lot to learn about writing. Every student is on a different level and some of them are in a different world…but they have done their best and overcome a lot of self doubt to get this put together.

I hope that you will take a few minutes to click the link and see what their had work brought about. Any royalties received from the sale of these books will go to our school PTO for our grade level, so if you like what you see please go ahead and order a copy. We tried to keep the price as low as possible! Whether or not you get one, please share this with your friends. I want the kids to see that people in other counties, states, and countries have the chance to read their words.

The kids also want to send a special shout out and thanks to Dr. Wilson Jay Tyree, my father and Tyree Tomes partner, for his part in the final edits of the book. We couldn’t have done it without you Daddy!

May you all have a blessed and wonderful day!

Creativity is just Intelligence having fun ~ Albert Einstein

Parenting New Year’s Resolution

Ok, so I’m a few weeks early. But Courtney DeFeo’s new book In This House We Will Giggle: Making Virtues, Love, and Laughter a Daily Part of Your Family Life has me anxious to get started.

DeFeo has offered up a book on parenting that is not only applicable AND virtuous (which are occasionally difficult traits to find now a-days) but is also GODLY. She has come up with advice, anecdotes, memory verses, and activities for each of 12 virtues, and then outlined a month’s worth of focus for each.

Since my daughter is only two, some of the activities may have to be put on the back burner for a bit but I am very excited to see how this wonderful book can help me teach her to be a Godly and virtuous girl. The advice and anecdotes are already helping me to see that I’m not only mom in the world who does the hurry up offense every day (among other things).

If you are a parent/grandparent or even aunt/uncle I would highly suggest giving this a few moments of your time. Throughout the entirety of the book the one thing that has struck the biggest chord with me is that she cares about her readers and their families. This is not a self help book designed to make the author a little richer, but a family life book designed to make the reader’s life a lot richer.

There were a few areas that came off a little bleeding heart preachy to me, though that could just be coming from a woman who teaches hyper fifth graders all day! But overall I truly enjoyed the read and am excited to implement some of the ideas provided.

I give Courtney DeFeo’s In This House We Will Giggle 4.5 out of 5 dragons!

*I was provided with a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review

Beyond IQ – The Review

*Full Disclosure* I received an e-copy of this book in exchange for an HONEST review.

Book: Beyond IQ: Scientific Tools for Training Problem Solving, Intuition, Emotional Intelligence, Creativity and More

Author: Garth Sundem

Review:

My initial reaction to this book was a lot of mixed feelings. As someone who has been labeled as highly intelligent (read…smarty pants) my entire life, I didn’t want to be told that other, non IQ related, parts of my brain could be more ‘real world’ specific. But the more I looked at the book, the more entranced I became.

Creativity, emotions, even that odd thing called ‘intuition’ can be TRAINED and USED to improve real world success. Once I really payed attention, I decided this could work. Mr. Sundem breaks down the areas of the brain (or areas of thinking), explains aspects of each area in question, and then provides a few exercises to train your brain for that particular area of thinking.

The exercises are fun and interesting brain workout while the reading sections intrigue me. I plan on going back to read this selection again soon! I give Beyond IQ 4 out of 5 dragons!

Middle School is WorseThan Meatloaf: A Year Told Through Stuff

Middle School is Worse Than Meatloaf: A Year Told Through Stuff

Written By: Jennifer L. Holm and Elicia Castaldi

I purchased Middle School is Worse than Meatloaf on a whim at our school’s first book fair this year. I suppose I was just excited to be back in the classroom and wanting to find a few things that could beef up my class library. Meatloaf seemed to fit the bill…and then I read it. This book takes the concept of ‘show, don’t tell’ to a whole new level!

A Year Told Through Stuff is amazingly insightful and I feel as though I really got to understand the core of the main character, Ginny. By seeing notes written between Ginny and her family, friends, and teachers; as well as mini-journal type entries I feel more emotionally connected to the story.

I also feel as though students who dislike reading will be able to build ‘word stamina’ enjoyably since this is laid out to look like a brightly made scrapbook, as opposed to the ‘normal’ look of a novel.

On the whole, I loved this set up almost as much as the story! I give this book 5 out of 5 dragons.

Raising Cubby By John Elder Robison

Raising Cubby: A Father and Son’s Adventures with Asperger’s, Trains, Tractors, and High Explosives.
Written By: John Elder Robison

*I received a free copy of this book from BloggingForBooks in return for an honest review

John Elder Robison has written a beautifully worded tome that takes people through his life as a father with Aspergers…raising a son with the same.

A little back story on Aspergers, for those who don’t know much about it:

The dictionary defines Aspergers Syndrome as – noun, Psychiatry.
1.
a developmental disorder characterized by severely impaired social skills, repetitive behaviors, and often, a narrow set of interests, but not involving delayed development of linguistic and cognitive abilities: now considered one of the autism spectrum disorders.

Social Skills – things that most people take for granted like speaking to friends, meeting new people, or even walking through school – these ‘normal’ and often overlooked skills are difficult to learn and understand when you are a member of this ‘elite group.’ (Think – Bazinga! You sat in my spot!)

Change is difficult, minor issues become obsessions (poodle hair feels strange so I can’t pet my dog!), and many parts of your day must be repetitive to keep you comfortable.

Think about that for a few seconds

3

2

1

Now, imagine having all of that and raising a child; a child who is also diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome. This book allows you to take whatever shallow pseudo-understanding a person not suffering from being on the spectrum might have, and kick it up a notch (even those of us who have had a lot of interaction with the Spectrum aren’t going to ever truly understand it, each case is different and trying in its own right!).

I’m not going to launch a litany of reasons for you to read this book, there are too many to list in my self-imposed 500 words or less box. I’m just going to give you two more:

1) This book is ACTION PACKED (explosions, court cases, car wrecks, etc)

and

2) If you were a completely, socially anxious person with trouble expressing yourself to the outside world and you wrote a book that is now available to that outside world…would you want people to pass it by? I wouldn’t…and I don’t think you should either!

I give this book 4.5 out of 5 Dragons.  Thank you Mr. Robison for sharing this story with the world!

*As a side note, as doctors begin to understand more about the Autism Spectrum, changes are being made to the way people are being diagnosed, and handled, and teachers are able to learn more about how to teach those particular students.

Mary Pope Osborne

Having been out of the loop for a hot minute, I had never really taken the time to read a Magic Treehouse book. Happily, I have now rectified that situation! Mary Pope Osborne is a wonderful author, bringing fact and fiction together seamlessly in a way that enthrall so students and adults alike. Combined with the wonderful talents of the nonfiction Fact Tracker authors, Natalie Pope Bryce and Will Osborne, Mary has created a series that spans age groups and sub-genres to help students embrace reading and learning in a super fun way!

I give the series 5 out of 5 dragons. Huzzah Mrs. Osborne, huzzah!

Rainbow of Gold

 

 

Brian Bendis captures the heart and imagination of comic lovers and budding writers/artists with his revealing memories and almost self-depricating humor. Sprinkled throughout the book are helpful how-to moments, interesting business notes, and even the acknowledgement that the work is difficult and poor…something a lot of ‘big name’ artists wouldn’t admit. Each nugget of golden insight comes with an array of his artwork, so that the rainbow of comic colors becomes the gold that we look for at the end.

I will be using this text in my 5th grade writing course to show students that hard work and a love of the art can get you further than anything else. Who knows…this text may be the catapult someone needs to become the next great comic book artist, writer, or main stream author.

I give Brian Bendis’ book Words for Pictures 5 out of 5 Dragons!