Book Reviews

Children’s Literature

Picture Book Recommendations

Title: Lifetime: The Amazing Numbers in Animal Lives

Author: Lola Schaefer and illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal

Title: Ada Lovelace: Poet of Science

Author: Diane Stanley and Illustrated by Jessie Hartland

Chapter Book Recommendations

Professional Book Reviews
Even on Your Worst Day You Can Be a Student's Best Hope

Lead your students to water, make them thirsty for knowledge, and they will drink. If your desire is to make a difference in a life, then this book is a “must read.” It starts with preparing your mind, body and heart, and nurturing right habits within yourself. Next, develop relationships by being open and accepting. Understanding your students and creating an environment of trust goes a long way towards closing gaps in what you see in a student and what they see in themselves. Help them make better choices for developing life habits, thereby improving their quality of life. Believe in them until they too believe.

The Four O’Clock Faculty: A Rogue Guide to Revolutionizing Professional Development

As campus leaders recognize an increased need to provide professional development for their faculty, The Four O’clock Faculty provides strategies for relevant PD. The author gives thoughtful and practical ideas that school leadership can put into practice at a variety of levels.  The author’s premise is too often leadership brings faculty to the required meeting in order to check a box when creating a meaningful experience should be the intended outcome. One of his most telling hints notes that if the information is one-way send it through an email. His point to this--reserve PD for actual learning or a school goal.  Czyz goes further encouraging teachers who are not getting PD at their school to initiate it for themselves. The chapter titled “Going ROGUE” is a template for teachers to create their own learning communities and support each other for school improvement. Each chapter has multiple strategies that can be adapted according to campus needs. This book would make an excellent read for a faculty book club discussion.

The Principal: Three Keys to Maximizing Impact

Thought leader and educational change expert Michael Fullan asks, “What should the principal do to maximize student achievement?” There are three keys that Fullan believes principals should focus on to maximize impact on student achievement:  The First Key: Leading Learning; The Second Key: Being a District and System Player; The Third Key: Becoming a Change Agent.

The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything

A book about talent, passion, and achievement. The element is the point at which natural talent meets personal passion. When people arrive at the element, they feel most themselves and most inspired and achieve at their highest levels. It also explores the components of this new paradigm: The diversity of intelligence, the power of imagination and creativity, and the importance of commitment to our own capabilities. With a dry sense of humor, Ken Robinson looks at the conditions that enable us to find ourselves in the element and those that stifle that possibility. He shows that age and occupation are no barrier, and that once we have found our path we can help others to do so as well.

Children's Literature

Picture Book Recommendations

Lifetime: The Amazing Numbers in Animal Lives

Don’t let the title fool you into thinking that this is just a number book. In the introduction Lola writes that this is a book that shows how many times one particular animal performs one behavior or grows one feature in its lifetime. The book does not contain a bibliography but Lola shows credibility by writing that she worked with experts to compute the most accurate approximations. The text is spare but rich in facts and the illustrations invite the reader to actually count things such as the 30 roosting holes a woodpecker will drill in its lifetime. The back matter should not be overlooked: additional facts about each living thing, an explanation of computing averages, and an amazing page of how Lola uses math and other clues to figure out answers to questions that haven’t ever been published.

Ada Lovelace: Poet of Science

The subtitle reveals that Ada Lovelace was the first computer programmer, even though she was daughter of Lord Byron. Over 200 years ago Ada combined her gifts of imagination and ability to connect ideas in original ways with her passion for science, math, and machines. It was her dream to someday do something meaningful with her mind—and did she ever fulfill that dream. The book tells the story of Ada’s childhood inventions, family life with her mother, and a life-changing mother-daughter trip to visit the factories of Europe. This was during the Industrial Revolution and Ada and her mother shared a fascination with machinery. On this trip Ada became intrigued with the mechanical loom and the possibilities she imagined for other technologies. At the age of 17 she met the great mathematician and inventor, Charles Babbage. The remainder of the book tells the story of one of the most remarkable friendships in the history of science. This friendship led to the development of computer programming—over 200 years ago. This is an amazing and compelling little-known story that your students will want to share with others.

Chapter Book Recommendations

Team Moon: How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon

I have never been dazzled by books about space but this one compelled me to begin reading and keep reading to the end of the book. It begins with The Dream . . . And the Challenge. While this could be a dry read it is hard to pass up introductory titles: Beyond Imagination, In the Beginning, Moving Forward, And Onward, and Upward. The writer engages readers with phrases such as mind-boggling, this defining moment, something so out-of-this-world big. There are short but punchy quotations throughout the book. Try this one for thinking about the magnitude of consequence for our first Apollo moonwalkers: “Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace. . . . .These brave men know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.” These ominous words were never spoken but were penned in top secret for President Nixon. The story of Apollo 11 is told through actual photographs, insets, astronaut quotes, and compelling narrative writing. In succinct chapters the eight challenges are described using technical information in a reader-friendly narrative. The back matter includes photographs and quotes from a number of the 400,000 people who not only put Apollo on the moon but brought it back to earth. There are source notes (the author interviewed 15 of the 400,000), chapter notes, additional sources consulted, numerous acknowledgements to experts, photo credits, an index, and a glossary.

I, Dred Scott: A Fictional Slave Narrative Based on the Life and Legal Precedent of Dred Scott

Sheila Moss has given a slave who never learned to read or write a voice that is compelling. In this fictional slave narrative readers get to know Dred Scott as a human being with fierce determination and tremendous courage. Readers begin to understand the complex issues of slavery and the legal system that perpetuated it. The introduction, written by a great-grandson of Dred Scot, assures readers that Moses uses fiction, based on facts, to give depth to the story of Dred Scott. It is the hope of the great-grandson that people all over the world will love the characters and agree that Dred Scott should not be defined by a court ruling that declared he was only one one-fourth of a man. Because the book is written to acquaint readers with a major character in the shaping of American history and the legal precedents set by his case, history is made accessible to preteen and adolescent readers.