Reading Response ~ It’s Monday!!

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

Fifteen-year-old Christopher Boone is a math genius with a few behavioral problems. He lives with his father in England as his mother died a couple of years ago.  One day, Christopher discovers his neighbor’s dog dead with a garden fork sticking out of him.  As Christopher is standing there, the neighbor, Mrs. Shears, sees Christopher by the dog and calls the police.

Christopher is released from the police, and decides to investigate the mystery much to the chagrin of his father. As he investigates, he is severely hampered by the fact that he also has an autism spectrum disorder (which is never stated, but there are clues to this fact throughout the novel; example: every chapter number is a prime number, something that he is comfortable with). While investigating, he also keeps a journal of his investigation, which he uses to turn into a book at the end.

His investigation leads to many “secrets” that he uncovers (I’m purposely not giving those away!) and also helps the reader see the difficulty that having an autism spectrum can have on dealing with various people and situations. Being that the story is told in first-person, the reader is able to come to an understanding that autism spectrum disorder can create.

One of the main parts of this book that I really enjoyed was not only the fact that I think it did a pretty decent job of showing a person with autism spectrum disorder and the way they see and interpret the world, it also showed that they are also very capable as is the case with Christopher going to take the advanced math test that is given to very few students. Although I wouldn’t put this book at the top of my most favorite, I enjoyed reading it and liked the fact that it showed what it is like to have a social disability and how the world looks different to those afflicted with this and other disorders like it.

The only caution that I have with this book, is the fact that it does contain quiet a few “f-words”. They are used in the context of the story where you would expect a character saying it, but I do think that it would be a caution for younger students to read.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Powerful. Emotional. Love. Guilt. One of the most intriguing books I have ever read. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini is a story split into three separate parts. (**may contain spoilers**) In the first part, we are introduced to Amir, a Pashtun boy living a good life in Kabul, Afghanistan, along with his father, Baba, his fathers servant, Ali, and Ali’s son Hassan. Ali and Hassan are Hazara, considered the lower-class in Afghanistan. Amir’s father loves both boys, Amir and Hassan, but Amir never feels that he is good enough for his father. Amir and Hassan also spend their time kite flying, with Hassan being one of the best kite runners in all of Kabul. One day during a kite flying competition, Hassan runs to retrieve Amir’s kite and finds himself in an alley blocked by a sadistic bully named Assef. They had run-ins before, but at this point Hassan is trapped. Assaf severely harms Hassan, as Amir watches in the shadows. Amir’s guilt leads him to set Hassan up for stealing, which leads to Ali and Hassan leaving Baba’s house/employment much to the horror and sorrow of Baba.

Part two takes place five years later, when the Soviets intervene in Afghanistan. Baba and Amir have to flee Kabul to Pakistan and then finally arrive in California, where they begin a new life. The guilt of what Amir did to Hassan follows him closely, as we learn about the new lives of Amir and Baba in America. Baba eventually becomes ill and dies of cancer; Amir finds love and marries. Fifteen years after Amir’s wedding, he receives a call from his father’s best friend, Rahim Khan, in Pakistan who begs Amir to come back because he is dying and tells Amir, “There is a way to be good again”. Intrigued, Amir heads back to Pakistan.

The third part is all about the reason Rahim Khan called Amir back to his homeland. Amir learns that there is a way for him to partially right the wrong that he did as a child to the one person that would have given his life for him – Hassan. (I’m purposely leaving out a lot of information as not to spoil too much of this amazing book!)

I became so emotionally invested in this book that it was like loosing a loved one once I had finished. Hosseini has written characters that emotionally connect to the reader in a profound way. I think this is a book that high-schoolers through adults should read. It not only has the character development that is extremely engaging, but the historical context the old Afghanistan and the Afghanistan that the Taliban controlled is a powerful portrayal of destruction.



Reading Response ~ It’s Monday!!

Openly Straight

Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg

Labels. Jock, cheerleader, goth, prep, druggy…labels define us. Rafe is a normal teenage boy living in the beautiful town of Boulder, Colorado. He plays soccer, skis in the mountains, loves to write, is Jewish, oh, and he’s openly gay. Rafe has known the love and support of his family and liberal community ever since opening up about his sexuality. His mother even became the president of the local chapter of GSA (Gay School Alliance) and threw him his own “coming out” party. But even with all this support, Rafe feels as if there is something missing in his life. He never has to hide who he is, and he is accepted by all. He starts to wonder though, what it would be like if he wasn’t tied down with the label of “the gay kid”. What would it be like to have people only know him as “Rafe”? Would his life be different? In an attempt to leave the label behind, Rafe comes up with the plan to enroll into an all-boys boarding school in Massachusetts, much to the chagrin of his ultra-hip (hippy) parents and best friend Claire Olivia.

Rafe is accepted into the boarding school with open arms. He joins the soccer team, where for the first time he is accepted into the “jock” club. He finds that his roommate is a “goth” and his roommate’s best friend is gay. He also becomes best friends with one of the most gorgeous boys on campus, Ben, and starts to fall in love. All this while hiding who he really is. What follows is a hilarious and soul-searching account of whether you can actually leave your label and past behind. Or is it even a good idea to try?

This witty book will appeal to straight and gay kids alike as they ride through the emotional roller-coaster that is Rafe’s life. It shows what it is like to be different, to want to fit in, and to finally learn that, just maybe, the best thing in life is to love yourself.



Reading Response ~ It’s Monday!!


Watched by Marina Budhos

What would it be liked to be watched? Everything you do, everything you say, everywhere you go…always watched? This is the topic that is explored in the novel Watched by Marina Budhos. Naeem, a Bangladeshi teenager living in a South Asian neighborhood in the Bronx, is a high school senior. His father and step-mother own a little shop in the neighborhood, but Naeem dreams of wanting more. He’s a good kid, but he begins to let his grades slip and is in jeapordy of not being able to graduate. Also, he has begun to hang out with an older friend, Ibrahim. One day as the two are in the mall, Ibrahim slips stolen shirts into Naeem’s bag. Naeem gets caught with the stolen property, and instead of being arrested, two NY cops offer him a deal…work undercover to infiltrate various Muslim groups that they are watching and search for anyone who may seem to be becoming radical. Naeem takes the deal; one to get out of being arrested and two they offer to pay him. He feels this will help his family out and help him to be able to take summer courses in order to graduate. As Naeem delves deeper and deeper into the surveillance, he starts to loose track of himself…is he a hero for what he’s doing or is he a villian? What happens when the surveillance turns towards the people you care about?

Watched was inspired by actual surveillance practices. It’s a timely book in a world where people are judged by their culture. What would it be like to be under surveillance at all times? I really enjoyed this book. Not only does it look at the issue of being under constant surveillance for who you are, but it also explores the issues of family, communities, and countries. I think this is a wonderful book that would bring about many discussions about the injustices of being monitored just because of the place you or your family originated from. Also, what loyalties to you have to your family, friends, and community. This book would appeal to many readers and it is definitely one I will get to have in my classroom library as I think it will be one the students would remember for a very long time to come.

Reading Response ~ It’s Monday!!


Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

Brian Selznick weaves two fascinating stories: one told in prose and the other told in pictures; into a singularly beautiful story in Wonderstruck. Ben Wilson lives in Gunflint Lake, Minnesota in 1977; Rose Kincaid lives in Hoboken, New Jersey during 1927. Ben currently lives with his aunt, uncle, and cousins as his mother was killed in an automobile accident; he dreams of meeting his father whom he has never known. Rose lives with her father dreaming of meeting a beautiful actress, Lillian Mayhew, in New York, where she is able to see the skyline from her bedroom window. Ben finds a mysterious clue as to who his father is; Rose reads a headline from a paper while making a scrapbook of the actress; both of these incidences lead the characters to go on a quest to find what they are missing. They both also have one more thing in common, both are deaf.

I was very intrigued to read this book as I remembered many of my students in elementary read The Invention of Hugo Cabret. It was such a huge hit with the students, and I have not had a chance to read it as of yet. I was a little skeptical when I bought this book though, as I have discovered that graphic novels are not my forte. But I must say, this book was excellent! Ben’s story is told in prose and Rose’s story is told through illustrations. The illustrations are elegantly done; Selznick beautifully weaves each story together masterfully. As it is told in both formats, it is a very quick read (which was one of the reasons a lot of my elementary students loved Hugo), but it is also extremely mesmerizing. I would recommend this book to many readers, from upper elementary to high schoolers and beyond. Even though I believe his audience is more geared towards middle schoolers, I can see older students enjoying this beautiful story also.

Movie Trailer 

On Real Reading and the Kids We Teach

We need to consider all reading as valuable. Thank you for this insight, Pernille Ripp.

Pernille Ripp

I asked our oldest daughter, Theadora, how many books she thought she had read this year.  Crestfallen and quiet she answered four.  Four?  I asked, confused.   How can you only have read four?  She reads all of the time, never without a book, always asking to read just one more page before the lights are turned off.

Don’t you mean real books, mom?

Real books? I said.  What are real books?  I mean all books, graphic novels included.

She lit up.  Fifty, Mom, maybe more, at least fifty though.

Fifty books for a child who didn’t think they would ever be a reader because reading was just too hard.

Fifty books for a child who has been in reading intervention for four years.

Fifty books for a child who wasn’t sure that she would ever get through a whole book on her own, at least not one with a lot…

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Reading Response ~ It’s Monday!!



This week I took a detour into Professional Development reading with the book 180 Days: Two Teachers and the Quest to Engage and Empower Adolescents by Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle. And if my pictures are any indication, you can see that I found this book full of wonderful insights and ideas that I will be trying in the upcoming school year.

Gallageher and Kittle spent a year mapping, planning, and teaching to better discover and share the decisions they make during a school year in regards to their teaching. I consider both teachers to be two of the best English teachers around, and I knew that I would find many useful things in their book and was not disappointed. The one topic that they discuss is how they get everything they need  done in a year; the simple answer is…they don’t. Which is why they make sure that they prioritize what they will be teaching, what will make the biggest impacts on the students and their learning.

IMG_2220They start the book by discussing their beliefs. One of the first quotes that I came across that really struck me was when they wrote, “A year of filling time is focused on lessons. A year of spending time is focused on students” (Gallagher and Kittle 3-4). They explain how they focus each year on the students that are coming into their classes; what THOSE students need. As they mention, too often English classrooms are not a place where students are actively engaged, and they should be. Another of their principle ideas is that they believe in grading less and assessing more. I think that a lot of times as teachers, we get stuck on the fact that we need to have grades, therefore the assessing portion gets thrown to the wayside. But students need to feel like they have a safe place to try new things, somewhere where they are not going to be judged on every thing they do, a place where they can make mistakes and by being allowed to make those mistakes can grow stronger in the process.

The book then goes into how they structured their year by establishing daily practice routines, how they mapped out their year of reading and writing instruction, and finally how to balance feedback and evaluation. Each of these chapters show the reader the decision-making process that took place during the year from the beginning of the planning, to the middle, and finally to the end. They not only discuss their successes during the planning and lessons, but they also discuss any failures that may have occurred. It was interesting to see how these two teachers adapted their planning schedules to meet their own schools’ schedules: Gallageher teaches in Anaheim, CA and has 53 minute periods daily while Kittle teaches in New Hampshire and her classes consist of 80 minutes every other day.

Two more pieces of this book that I found very interesting were the sections on their writing units and the fact that this book comes with video access for extended knowledge on all their concepts. I do wish, however, that they would have spent a little more time on discussing their independent reading and book club reading sections. I love the workshop ideas, but felt that these two sections were a little shy on depth. Overall, I really did enjoy this book and have gained many new ideas that I plan to incorporate into the following school year.

Gallagher, Kelly, and Penny Kittle. 180 Days: Two Teachers and the Quest to Engage and Empower Adolescents. Heinemann, 2018.





Reading Response ~ It’s Monday!!


The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten

What happens when you meet the girl of you dreams during one of your obsessive/compulsive support group meetings? You vow to save her until the end. Adam Spenser Ross has OCD. He spends his days counting and ordering things until he feels they are just right. He attends an OCD support group every week where he is the least “crazy” of them all. And then in walks Robyn Plummer. Recently released from a residential treatment center, she comes with her own set of problems. Now Adam must not only deal with his compulsions, he has made it his goal to help save Robyn.

His plans to make himself get better and to help Robyn and the rest of his OCD support group members is compounded by the fact that Adam’s mother, who is divorced from Adam’s father, is getting anonymous threatening letters. The type that you often see from kidnappers: letters that are formed from cut-out words from magazines. Can Adam help his mom, Robyn, and the rest of the support group before it completely undermines his own efforts to become better? You’ll have to wait and see when you read The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B.

The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B is a wonderful story that will capture you from the very first page. Teresa Toten does a superb job at handling the issues of mental issues and the compulsions people with OCD go through. The plot is very interesting, with a wonderful mixture of humor and mystery. You are met with a variety of interesting characters; from the support group members (who each get their own Superhero names), to Adam’s parents, Robyn, and Adam’s four-year old step-brother who is both endearing and has problems of his own. This is a wonderful book that lets you see into the world of OCD and I believe that this book would appeal to almost any age-group.

Book Trailer Link