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Monday, March 23, 2015

Recently...

It's been a busy few weeks! Spring Break came and went, and then last week I was off campus for most of the week so that I could become a Certified Google Educator. The training involved quick sessions about different aspects of Google for Education, and then FIVE tests that were 90 minutes long each. I passed them all, thank goodness, so now I have that feather in my cap!

I've still been reading, too. I tackled a nonfiction book for spring break, The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion and the Fall of Imperial Russia, by Candace Fleming. The book told the story of Nicholas and Alexandra, the last royal Russian family. Along the way, it also included stories from regular Russian citizens and their experiences. This is definitely a case of a nonfiction book that reads like fiction. The author did a really good job of showing both sides of the story - that of the royal family and that of the Russian citizens. The royal family was extremely isolated from the people, but the Russian revolution did not give the Russian people the freedom they wanted or deserved. Even though I knew how the story would end, it was still suspenseful getting there.

Next I read a book for my ladies book club. We get together once a month to discuss a book we've all agreed to read. This month's selection was The Rent Collector by Camron Wright. It was a story of a family that lives in Cambodia, in a garbage dump. As unpleasant as living in a garbage dump sounds, Sang Ly, and her husband Ki, and their son Nisay have a roof over their heads and are able to scrape together a meager living by searching for recyclables in the dump. The baby Nisay, is sick though, and needs medicine. And even though the family lives in a garbage dump, they still have to pay rent to the Rent Collector, an unpleasant, overweight, and seemingly heartless woman who preys upon her poor tenants. Our protagonist, Sang Ly, begins an unconventional friendship with the Rent Collector. We discover her past and how it will affect Sang Ly's future.

Hidden by Helen Frost was recommended to me by students! Wren is a small girl who is kidnapped when her mother's car is stolen at a gas station. She hides during the terrifying ordeal in her captor's garage. Her captor also has a daughter the same age, Darra. Darra figures out that Wren is hiding in the garage and tries to help... Years later, the two girls meet face to fact at summer camp, and face the hard parts of their pasts. This book is written in verse, which makes it a quick and intense read. Be sure to read the author's note if you pick up this one!

Finally this weekend I picked up and devoured Prisoner B-3087. Based on the true story of Yanek Gruener, this story of survival is a gritty reminder to be thankful for what you have. Yanek is shuffled between 10 different concentration camps during his imprisonment at the hands of the Nazis. They take everything from him except for his memories. At many points the only thing that kept me reading this book was knowing that Yanek survived in order to tell his story.

What have you been reading lately?

--Mrs. Cox
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Monday, March 2, 2015

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library

Grabenstein, Chris. 2013. ESCAPE FROM MR. LEMONCELLO'S LIBRARY. New York: Random House.

The town of Alexandriaville has been without a library for 12 years. Eccentric game creator Luigi Lemoncello has helped design and build a magical whimsical library for the citizens. 

In honor of the library's grand opening, Mr. Lemoncello has arranged an essay contest. 12 lucky students will get a tour of the library and get to sleepover before anyone else has the chance to visit. Our main character, Kyle, quickly writes his, and he and his best friend Akimi are among the 12 chosen for the special treat.

After the overnight stay, Mr. Lemoncello has an enticing offer. If the 12 students wish, they can stay and try to find a secret exit from the library. Whoever finds it first will receive many prizes!

Mr. Lemoncello's Library is unlike any other. There are holograms and holographic statues everywhere. There's a special lift that will rise up to take you to the books on the highest shelves. There's a special dome that can show information, or look like the sky inside the library. There's a separate room for each of the 10 sections of the Dewey Decimal system.

The library really is very cool, and some of the puzzles and tasks the students have to complete are very cool. It's the sort of place any book lover would want to visit! The characters in this story are not very developed. Kyle is just average, and rather forgettable. Mr. Luigi Lemoncello was definitely inspired by Willy Wonka; the library is like his famous candy factory.

This was a quick, easy read. I enjoyed it, although it wasn't the most powerful or memorable book I've read this year. 3 stars.
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