It’s Monday and here’s what I’m reading: January 28th., 2013

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading is hosted by Jen and Kelee At Teach Mentor Texts

 Nonfiction Monday is hosted by Laura Salas at laurasalas
I’m still on the hunt for nonfiction titles for my classroom, and it seems that this particular genre is booming at the moment – so many new titles to discover every time I visit our local library!  This week I picked up The Skull in the Rock: How A Scientist, A Boy, And Google Earth Opened a New Window On Human Origins by Lee R. Berger and Mark Aronson.   
I know that anything Mark Aronson writes is something I need to immediately check out for my kids, and I am glad that I did.  The Skull in the Rock begins with 9 year old Matthew Berger uttering words he knew his father would love to hear: “Dad, I’ve found a fossil.”  Matthew’s dad is Professor Lee Berger, a scientist whose life’s work was tracing the remains of our human ancestors, and at that very moment father and son were fossil hunting in an area rich with important fossils: South Africa’s “Cradle of Humankind.”  So begins the fascinating story of Professor Berger’s long career of discovering fossils and helping to trace our human ancestors’ evolution. This discovery, named  Australopithicus Sediba, was an entirely new species of human – another piece of the evolutionary puzzle. Aronson describes the excavation and examination of these fossils, which is part art form and part technological wizardry. 
Most remarkably, Berger and his son had arrived at this particular spot in a most unusual way.  Sure that he was missing areas in the Cradle of Earth among which to further search for fossils, Berger had turned to Google Earth as a means to examine terrain more closely.  To his amazement, he discovered features he had not noticed  in all the years he had been searching in this area – there were more than 600 undiscovered caves rich with possible fossil sites! And, as Matthew discovered, all they had to do was go out and discover them.
My students will love this book – from that awesome cover and title to the well written and illustrated story itself.  Science is so interesting, especially when presented this way.
I also read Smile by Raina Telgemeir, a book some of my students seem to really love.  
 Told in comic-book format, Smile is the story of the author’s middle school journey through orthodontia, crushes, and various other forms of teenage angst and turmoil.   Needless to say, I lost interest in the story fairly quickly, but my sixth graders (girls, all of them) loved the quick pace and the sense of humor – even though they readily admitted that there was little character development or any of the other juicy stuff we’ve been focusing on in our reading workshop classes.  This is a great book for them to pick up and enjoy as a quick read.
I had read so much about what a great book Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life was, that I just had to go out and get a copy of my own.  Fabulous decision. 
From A to Z, the author lists the details of her life.  The jacket flap invites us to :”Start anywhere—preferably at the beginning—and see how one young woman’s alphabetized existence can open up and define the world in new and unexpected ways.” So I did, and I found it to be a hilarious, touching, wise and thoroughly comforting experience.  Penny Kittle had discussed how she had used this book as a mentor text for her high school writing workshops, and I think this would work just as well with my sixth graders – with some modifications.  Rosenthal has a website to lose yourself in, where I found this awesome interactive video (to which I lost even more I-should-be-grading-not-viewing-this) time:


14 thoughts on “It’s Monday and here’s what I’m reading: January 28th., 2013

  1. Tara,Thanks for the reviews as I haven't read any of these books. I especially like the nonfiction Monday idea and the Skull book looks like a good one.

  2. My copy of Smile is all but falling apart, and the students are all waiting for Drama. I was surprised, too, but as with Hugo Cabret, if there are enough pictures, they will apparently read anything! There's no other explanation.

  3. I haven't heard of any of these books except Smile (which I have attempted and failed to get through twice…) and the Encyclopedia website looks addictive to me. We could be home early this afternoon with ice on its way so I may have some unexpected time! Thanks!

  4. Don't you just love Raina Telgemeier. I read Drama a while ago and it was great, as is Smile. Wasn't too crazy about The Skull in the Rock, but kids will like it.

  5. The Skull book looks awesome–thanks for sharing. I love AKR's books, but this video was not me. Couldn't read the red text half the time–either too small, blended in with background, or disappeared too fast. But I'll look for the book nonetheless:>)

  6. I love AKR's books. I used this one as a literature circle choice this year. During and after reading the different memoirs, students wrote their own memoir pieces–like Kittle describes. Students loved the design of the Encyclopedia. I bet my ninth graders would find a lot of joy in Smile.

  7. Hi Tara, I love how the nonfiction book also interweaves a father-son story in it, how lovely! Will have to check that out. I know what you mean about books that seem to be enjoyed a great deal by tweeners yet just doesn't work that well for adults like us. There is a disconnect there somewhere, obviously. Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life sounds positively awesome – I hope we have it in our libraries here.

  8. The skull book does look terrific, Tara. I am planning a non-fiction book talk in a few weeks so I'll see if I can locate it. I have the Rosenthal book, but just haven't started it. Now I must! Thank you-always happy to hear what you have to recommend!

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