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home : community : book reviews October 20, 2014

12/13/2012 7:45:00 AM
What to read: Children and adult book reviews

Gail Komarek has been a seasonal resident of the Northwoods since the 1970s. Currently she is the library media director for a kindergarten-fifth grade school in the suburbs of Chicago, and has in the past taught kindergarten and first grade. For more information, email Gail at gail.komarek@gmail.com.

“How Rocket Learned to Read,” by Tad Hills 

Copyright 2010. Schwartz and Wade. 

This is a delightful picture book about a dog, Rocket, and how he learned to read. His neighbor is a bird that won’t let Rocket rest until he learns to read. The bird provides lessons until he has to fly south for the winter. When the bird returns in the spring, Rocket proudly reads a book to the bird. 

This is a great book for beginner readers. Kindergarten children can relate to practicing lessons and the joy of being able to read to someone else. The story continues in “Rocket Writes a Story,” released in July 2012. Both books are available in Rocket’s Learning Box, which include a word tree poster. 

“Wonder,” by R. J. Palacio 

Copyright 2012. Knopf Books for Young Readers. 

This is R. J. Palacio’s first novel. The story is August (Auggie) Pullman’s journey through the school year, beginning in August and ending in June. 

He was born with two rare genetic disorders. His face is deformed and he has spent the first 10 years of his life having one surgery after another. Auggie’s facial deformity causes people to gasp, comment, and/or look away from him. He has been home-schooled until fifth grade. 

Auggie just wants to be seen as an ordinary kid. The students don’t want to sit by him or touch him. The “popular” kids shun him, and he is bullied by one boy, Julian, in particular. A few children befriend him. The story is told in chapters from the viewpoint of many people including Auggie, his high school sister Via, a classmate Jack, and his lunch table friend Summer. Halloween is one of Auggie’s favorite days, since he can wear a mask. 

This is a story about courage and kindness. It will leave you wanting to be kinder to everyone you meet. Recommended for fifth grade and up.

“The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains,” by Nicholas Carr 

Copyright 2010. W. W. Norton & Company. 

Nicholas Carr was a finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize, in the General Nonfiction category for The Shallows. I was privileged to hear him speak at the American Association for School Librarians conference in Minneapolis. 

If you are interested in brain research, Carr includes many studies and background information on how inventions have changed our lives. He documents how we receive information from the invention of the printing press to the computer. Carr is not encouraging the reader to stop using Google, but to be aware of how it is changing the way our brain works. He also points out that Google refines their searches based on the users search habits. 

“The Shallows” covers a range of topics from how our nerve endings fire (or misfire) when we are searching online, to how children learn to read. Most people switch from link to link, skim, have a shortened attention span, and have a hard time focusing in on one topic. We receive information in so many forms, Twitter, Facebook, RSS feeds, Blogs, and QR codes. Other studies link obesity to screen time (TV, computer, iPad, cell phones, gaming). 

This book will make you think about how the Internet has changed your life. Carr admits that he uses the Internet on a regular basis, however he encourages everyone to spend more time outdoors.  Recommended for adults, especially those working with children. 

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