Kids Book Corner

  • Goose Girl
  • Mrs. Frisby and The Rats of NIMH
  • Peter and The Shadow Thieves
  • Peter and The Star Catchers
  • Simon Bloom, The Gravity Keeper
  • Stella Brite and The Dark Matter Myster
  • The Island of The Blue Dolphins
  • The Phantom Toll Booth
  • The School Library Journal
  • The Sisters Grimm
  • Tuck Everlasting


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Game Changer

Sometimes a book is going along just peachy until the author pulls a Crazy Ivan and makes what I call a Game Changer and that is just what happened with our book club reading for school:

*******************Book Reviews******************

This was one I did not read as a kid, but got the opportunity to read with my daughter and her second grade book group. The story is about Peter and the antics of his 3 year-old brother Fudge. Peter is the long suffering son who tries to be polite in awkward situations and comes to the rescue of his parents when they need Fudge to cooperate. I thought the book had several discussion worthy moments about growing up and some of the silly stuff kids do. Especially having to deal with doing group projects (which I always hated). The game changer for me was the completely callous ending. The book went from something that I liked okay to something I would not recommend. ** SPOILER ALERT:

Fudge swallows Peter's pet turtle and at no time did anyone see anything from Peter's perspective. I expected a moment that one of the grown ups, hospital staff, neighbors to step up and say something about the loss of your pet, but it is good that your brother will be okay. Instead nothing is said and they throw a puppy into the mix. I had this scene run through my head of a cheesy commercial (Peter's dad is an ad executive) that had a boy, his dad, and new puppy complete with an artificial smile and gleaming white teeth. It reminded me of a scene in the movie Better Off Dead when Lane says, "I'm real sorry your mom blew up Ricky." That kind of crazy sympathy would have worked for me.
I wasn't expecting deep literary meanings in this book, but a decent ending with a bit of compassion would have been better.
As an aside, I brought oreos for our snack because they used them to help get Fudge to cooperate for a commercial.

What an approachable book for lay people to understanding the intriguing nature of genetics. Richard Kowles has a writing style that doesn't overwhelm the reader with scientific language that might send one slinking off feeling that they could never understand the concepts within. Genetics makes up everything about us and around us. It influences what is inside us and what we express on the outside. Genetics determines how we function and influences how we act. The importance of enzymes in all of us. Explaining that there are more blood types out there than the A, B, O that we think about most frequently. Kowles explains that everyone has the same number of melanocytes, but the variation in skin color is due to the number and distribution of the pigment in the upper layers of skin (p 247). He also explains the Hayflick limit (p. 264), which is the fifty cell division limit. He dispels the eye color misconceptions of dominance saying that eye color is expressed from more than one pair of alleles (p. 289).

One of my favorite stories is one about the varied jobs taken on by bees in a hive. Due to Mendelian genetics there are bees who will uncap the wax, but not remove a dead bee, others refuse to touch the wax, but will remove the dead bee. Others that will do both jobs and ones that won't do either job (p. 187).
A favorite quote from the book, "It needs to be pointed out that many geneticists are convinced that race is nothing more than a social and cultural issue, and not a genetic concept. They believe that race has no biological meaning; that only one race exists, and we call it the "human" race." (p. 256)

He discusses the "discord between evolution and creationism" by saying, "Evolution is a scientific theory, and creationism is not. Evolution is not religion, and creationism is religion." (p.274) Basically, that creationism is not testable, but rather a matter of miracles and faith, whereas evolution has risen above a guess or hypothesis to a theory through rigorous tests and gathered data that can be peer reviewed.

His final chapter entreats the reader to become educated about issues in genetics. Critical decisions that effect society in regards to genetic research and applications could be far reaching. Excellent book.

This was an eye-opening opportunity to see how the brain is tricked, even when you think you are concentrating and aware. Two neuro scientist realized that they could learn from magicians who can control an audiences' attention through different forms of misdirection like pattering speech, touch, sound, and color. There is honor among scientists and magicians in each chapter because there is a section that clearly states a warning if you do not wish to know how certain magic tricks are performed. There are a few self tests to take (I fell for them all), so that adds a touch of fun to the text. I loved learning how our visual sense is interrupted by the brain. If you want to learn more about yourself and like the flair that magic brings, this book is right up your alley.

The title is strange, but is finally explained about 3/4 of the way through the book and it makes sense. In a small community college in Maine, Robert Klose teaches biology. What comes through in his writing is his genuine concern for his students to learn the material and how to present their findings in a succint manner. I loved the story of the 70 year-old student who loved learning and the other students looked to for assistance in the class. I also enjoyed how he decided to use cassette taped comments to his students to help them correct their papers because he felt that just writing red-marked comments in the margins would not get across his full meaning and encouragement to the struggling writers. Inevitably, in his class he has students who want to answer biological science questions with biblical verses. He answers their questions, but explains that they will fail the class if that is how they choose to continue answering the questions. Since many students in college have to take one science course for their degree program they often choose biology because it seems like the softball science. He does what he can to explain the situation and he comes across as a compassionate teacher. He always has to incorporate a bit of chemistry to explain some of the biological functions. He anthropomorphises the chemistry to have it make more sense to the non-scientists in his class. The strict scientists would be annoyed, but most every one else would find it a hoot. Professor Klose brings teaching, science, and story-telling together in a very humorous way.

***********************Harry Potter and Pippi***********

***************************WHEN I GROW UP**********

Eve informed me last week that when she grows up she wanted to be a scientist and one of the things she would do is explain how pianos work. That sounds cool to me.

Rachel wants to teach 4th grade because she says they are still enthusiastic learners and not so end to worrying about their hormones.

We aren't sure if Noah will be a purveyor of chicken nuggets, or still contemplating world domination. We don't have a basement, so we assume he will be doing this at his own place.

Read on my friends, read on.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Boys and Their Toys...

********************End of an Era**********

Noah and Michael have been working on Noah's last Pinewood Derby car:

****************************Cupcakes and Book Club************

Book Club time, again, for Eve's 2nd grade class. Here is a sample of the book mark I made for the kids to remind them of our meeting dates:

I used some fun graphics and alphabets from Lettering Delights .

Last week I took a box of Whole Grain Goldfish for a snack because in the book Peter goes to a birthday party where the kids get real goldfish as a present. I warned the kids to NEVER give pets as a gift at parties because the animal might be injured, or inadequately taken care of if the parent has no warning when the animal is taken home. This week I made cupcakes with homemade chocolate frosting because in the book Peter's little brother, "Fudge", celebrates his third birthday with a chocolate frosted cake with yellow roses. I decided what to make at 10:30am and had them baked and frosted by 11:45am. I put extra frosting in containers and grabbed my spatula, then off to school. When I got there I promptly banged the container into my steering wheel as I tried to exit the car. They all toppled over...not pretty. I also managed to drop my bag with the book and containers of frosting in a puddle next to my car. I grabbed the book and wiped it off, then the containers and through them in the bag. I opened the container and righted all the cupcakes. Luckily, the flavor doesn't change when the frosting is mushed. I guess the moral tale to tell is take a photo before you travel.

Michael said the frosting tastes exactly like his Granny Vone's. That is a compliment, people.

********************Piano Lessons**********

Eve and I just got back from piano lessons. Her teacher was pleased as punch that she decided to memorize all 3 pages of her recital piece. She has been trying really hard. We are pleased as punch too.

Later, gators.