Student Book Glog: Only You Can Save Mankind by Terry Pratchett

I know Terry Pratchett’s name from the science fiction section of my local bookstore, but I don’t think I ever read his books. Or if I did, I forgot them. This student chose Only You Can Save Mankind primarily for the title (he told me) and I hope he got a few hints … just in case. This glog is part of a series of independent books that my students read recently.

Peace (in the survival),

Student Book Glog: Scat by Carl Hiaasen

After reading Flush as a class book, many students go on to read more of Carl Hiaasen’s collection of young adult books. More than a few have already read Hoot, so Scat (and now Chomp) are usually next on their list. This student not only devoured Scat (and did her poster on the book) but waited patiently for me to finish Chomp so she could read it as her friend was reading it, so they could have discussions together. I love that!

Peace (in the funny),

Book Review: Fake Mustache

How’s this for a concept?

A small-city novelty-store fake mustache (the Heidelberg Handlebar #7) that apparently grants it own hypnotic powers becomes part of a master plan (cue evil laughter soundtrack) for a teen to become president of the United States. Only his best friend (or is now it former best friend?) can stop the now-named Fake Mustacho. Be forewarned: hijinks abound. Fake Mustache by Tom Angleberger (he, of Origami Yoda fame) is a silly book that breezes along at a rapid pace as Larry Flem Jr. tries to stop his friend, Casper, from his diabolical scheme for power. Oh, yeah, and add in the sassy character of a former child television cowgirl named Jodie O’Rodeo and her horse, Soy Milk, and you have a rip-roaring adventure.

The book’s power is in its pace. The story really moves, and it would no doubt make for a good read-aloud. What is lacks is depth of character and plot, but maybe when you pick up a book with a title and cover like Fake Mustache, you’re not looking for some story about the human condition, or about learning some greater meaning about life, or whatever. Maybe when you pick up Fake Mustache, you’re looking for a bit of silliness for your day.

On that count, Fake Mustache delivers.

Peace (with a clean face … for now),

PS — an unofficial trailer that someone made:



Student Book Glog: Flipped by Wendelin van Draanen

The cover of Flipped is pretty cute, don’t you think? This is another one of those books that was never on my reading radar so I was curious about the project that my student did for her independent reading. This student is interested in social, relationship stories, and I suspect this falls into that category. You can see her project about Flipped here.

Peace (in the ecaeP),

Book Review: What Teachers Make

I suspect if you are reading this blog that you have come across one version or another of poet Taylor Mali’s now-famous poem, “What Teachers Make.” If not, here is the video of him performing it.

I share that performance because Mali, a former teacher himself, has put out a wonderfully inspiring collection of short essays that are built around the themes of the poem, and this book-sized love letter to the profession of teaching (the book is subtitled In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World) struck so many nerves with me (at turns, I was laughing; at others, I was tearing up) that you just have to add this to your collection, and then you just have to pass it along to a colleague.

I won’t go through all of my reactions to the book, mainly because I was doing that on Goodreads as I was reading, so it makes more sense just to share what I wrote there, here. I will say that Mali’s sense of humanity and passion for seeing the whole student — the critical thinker, the writer, the member of a community of the world and the classroom — underlies all of his pieces here. And he also mentions how he is still on his mission to inspire 1,000 people to become teachers (he may have hit his goal. He was close when the book was going to the publisher.) Even he acknowledges that the number itself is not all that meaningful. But raising the profile of teaching, and of teachers, in this day and age of political teacher-bashing is something he takes on with pride.

What Teachers Make: In Praise of the Greatest Job in the WorldWhat Teachers Make: In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World by Taylor Mali
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Years ago, I read the poem, watched the video (you should, too), and thought: you go, man! And that one poem turned me on to other Mali poems, which were also powerful and beautiful. So, I was excited to see that he was using that famous poem as the narrative structure of a series of essays about teachers. This book is a keeper. And when you are done … pass it on.

View all my reviews
what teachers make 2

I, for one, appreciate having this poet on my side. Thank you, Taylor.

Peace (in the profession),


Book Review: The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg

“Telling the truth don’t come easy to me, but I will try, even if old Truth ain’t nearly as useful as a fib sometimes.” — Homer P. Figg

I’m not sure why it took me so long to pick up The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick. I don’t mean, buy the book. I’ve had it for about a year. First it was at my house, where I hoped my son would pick it up (he liked Freak the Mighty, which Philbrick also wrote), and then it was on the shelf at school. And it seems like one of those books I would like: the cover was pretty interesting (done by David Shannon), the title is intriguing, and the plot teaser had me hooked.

Oh well. It took a while but it was worth the wait.

While I could not help shaking the echoes of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn from my head as I read the book (which is not a negative thing, by the way), the story of Homer Figg going off to save his older brother from his conscription in the Union Army of the Civil War, and all that happens to him on his way (with Quakers, runaway slaves, con men, medicine show men, spies and more), propels the book along at a solid pace. There’s rarely a boring passage to be found here, and even with all of the adventure (with a little hyperbole thrown in for good measure), we still come to care deeply for Homer Figg, who may lie a little here and there if the situation warrants it, but whose heart is always in the right place.

And it turns out, you learn quite a bit about the Civil War, too, as Homer’s story pushes up against the Battle of Gettysburg and more. It’s a lot to ask of a book to entertain and educate, and yet, Philbrick does that here, without any of the overt preaching that can often afflict too many historical novels for young readers. The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg is definitely worth a read.

Peace (in the adventure),


Student Book Glog: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

It will be no surprise to any teacher that the success of the Hunger Games movie put a lot of books by Suzanne Collins into hands of my students. This particular student had already devoured the trilogy before the movie and then was one of those souls who went to the midnight showing the of the movie. She re-read the series for her independent reading. Here, she focuses in on Catching Fire, the final installment of the Hunger Games series.

Peace (in the games),

Student Book Glog: I Survived the Titanic by Lauren Tarshis

We didn’t have too many students choosing non-fiction in our independent reading and I know this is something I am going to have to work on (ie, Common Core). I even wonder if I am setting it up in such a way to encourage more non-fiction. And, to be honest, I don’t have a ton of non-fiction books in my classroom (other than graphic novels, magazines, and shorter pieces). This student has been interested in the Titanic, particularly with all the hoopla over the anniversary. So, he read one of the I Survived series about the Titanic.

Peace (when we stay afloat),

Student Book Glog: Lone Wolf by Kathryn Lasky

Last year, I had a lot of students reading The Warriors series, and its offshoots, but not so much this year. It’s funny how those trends come and go. I do have a group of students who are devouring other animal/character novels, however. Here, this student read Lone Wolf and seemed to enjoy it. Me? I look at the cover and think only of Jack London.

Peace (in the wild),

Student Book Glog: Palace of Mirrors by Margaret Peterson Haddix

This book project is from one of my more avid readers — you know, the one who can’t get enough books in a week and the one where now I feel as if I am running out of books to put into her hands — and she and I often talk about the books she is reading. I like that she is a critical reader. She’s not afraid to tell it like it is. And her interests in various genres is far-ranging. Even so, I was surprised to see her reading Palace of Mirrors, since the whole “princess” genre does not seem like something she would be interested in. It turns out, it was the mystery of the plot that hooked her.

Peace (in the mirror),