education pathways

Home » 2016 » September

Monthly Archives: September 2016

Nice Girls Endure–being different

Nice Girls Endure

by Chris Struyk-Bonn

nice-girls-endureChelsea’s memories of being whispered about, teased, taunted, and treated as “different” go back to third grade and the torment never let up.  We meet Chelsea in high school. Her weight problems have not changed and the negative ways people, especially other teenagers, treat her have only intensified.  She has no friends and has developed a fake exterior to help her survive.  After all, “nice girls endure.”

Chris Struyk-Bonn chose a first person narration of Chelsea’s story, Nice Girls Endure. It seems only appropriate that Chelsea should get to tell her own story, and the effect is very personal. We get to hear of the nightmare of being bullied because of being overweight and how it affects every aspect of her life.  This is a Young Adult book, but is so well-written that even as an adult I strongly empathize with Chelsea and was anxious to see her work through her problems.

The chapters are short and the pace is fast.  The characters are well-developed and provide Chelsea with opportunities to see various ways others deal with weight issues and bullying. In the end she makes her own decisions about her life and future.  Meanwhile the reader feels almost a part of the story. I was ready to take out a few unkind souls myself. My favorite character is one of Chelsea’s classmates, Melody. She knows how to be herself and knows how to be a friend.

This book is not just about being overweight.  It is about being different. It is not just about being bullied, it is also about bullying. I hope that anyone who reads Nice Girls Endure will come away with a greater awareness of and sensitivity to those who are different. Everyone has positive attributes and deserves an opportunity to let their talents shine.  There are many negative ways to deal with peers who are labeled “different,”  from outright physical and emotional attacks to more subtle teasing, smirking, and exclusion, to totally ignoring the person.  In this story, even teachers were guilty of the less overt responses, but their actions or ignoring the actions of others hurt just as much.

This was a quick book to read, but I recommend it for Young Adult and Adult readers. You will probably come away with more thoughtful and understanding attitudes towards those who don’t easily fit into society’s boxes.

Note: The book contains a sprinkling of mild swearing and an occurrence of sexual aggression and is therefore inappropriate for younger readers.

I would like to extend my thanks to and to Capstone Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.


Little Chickies/Los Pollitos–a great bilingual book for preschoolers

Little Chickies/Los Pollitos

by Susie Jaramillo

little-chickiesSusie Jaramillo is a bilingual mother and artist who grew up in Venezuela and in the United States. In working with her own young children, she found a need for bilingual books to share traditional Latin American nursery rhymes in Spanish with a translation into English which maintains the original meaning without sacrificing the beauty of language.  To this end she founded Canticos and has published the first book, Little Chickies/Los Pollitos. She has written and illustrated two more bilingual books which are available for preorder.

The art work in Little Chickies/Los Pollitos is very appealing. The simple storyline is that of a mother hen taking care of her babies. It is the kind of book children would love to read and sing over and over again.

One thing that makes Little Chickies/Los Pollitos valuable in working with preschoolers, in presenting an alternate language, is the accordion fold format.  You read the story all the way through in one language and then from the back you can go forward again reading in the other language with no disruption of the story or words that don’t match up with the voice.  Jaramillo added other features that make it special as well.  The rhymes are put to music so children can sing the book. They are interactive with spinning wheels and flaps that lift. An app can be purchased as an extension of the book.  There are free videos of it on Vimeo and more information is available at

I would like to extend my thanks to and to the publisher Encantos for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Other Einstein–Did Albert Have Help with his Theory of Relativity?

The Other Einstein

by Marie Benedict

the-other-einsteinFascinating! I found the story of The Other Einstein to be a very different and fascinating reading experience: this historical novel is like none other I have read.  The author, Marie Benedict, examines the facts that exist about Albert Einstein’s first wife, Maleva Marić, an outstanding physicist and mathematician in a time when women were rarely admitted to universities.  Some speculate that her contributions to Einstein’s Nobel Prize winning theory of relativity may have been significant.

The book traces Maleva’s journey from Serbia to the Polytechnic campus in Zürich where, as a woman, she must struggle to be recognized as a serious and capable student.  To that end she tries to maintain a collegial relationship with fellow student Albert Einstein who has more romantic inclinations. The author is able to weave a convincing tale of how this dedicated female student deviated from her professional goals as a result of various circumstances, including the death of their daughter born out of wedlock, Maleva’s physical health, her lack of acceptance (because of a physical disability, her intelligence, and her ethnicity) by many in society including Albert’s family, and the self-centered behaviors of Albert Einstein himself.  Maleva struggles to be everything Einstein wants–totally devoted to his needs, the perfect housewife and mother, and a scientific collaborator.  She finds the task impossible, especially in the face of Einstein’s professional and personal betrayals of her.

The Other Einstein ends with an epilogue which gives Maleva a chance to reflect upon her life and gives the reader a few details about her life after she and Einstein are divorced.  The author adds an interesting and helpful section on her own motivations in writing the book, her research, and the extent of fictionalization. She includes sources for readers who want to pursue the story further, including original correspondence discovered in the 1980’s. She follows with a Reading Group Guide of questions that could be the catalyst for excellent discussions.  The book ends with an author interview which provides more background information on the writing of The Other Einstein.

Although there are a lot of references to various specific theories of physics, a physics background is definitely not necessary for full enjoyment of this book.  As a personal opinion, I think women would tend to relate better to Maleva’s difficulties and struggles than men. This book enthusiastically receives my highest recommendation.

This book is scheduled for publication on October 18, 2016.

I would like to extend my thanks to and to Sourcebooks for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Top 12 Global Teacher Blogger Discussion: September 2016

Why should the arts still be important in education?


paint-brushesHow can we maximize the value of art and music in education and how can it be blended with more traditional subjects (math, science, history, etc.)?

I teach at a community college, and a professor there created an art therapy club for professors, adjunct, and staff. Nine people attended the first session where they colored with pens and painted with watercolors. Future sessions will consist of making jewelry, drawing, and using mixed media—all as therapy to help adults relieve a stressful week. This is brilliant; however, our primary and secondary children are going to school during a time when the arts are slowly being eliminated from their curriculum. I find this dichotomy painfully ridiculous.

Instead of answering the question this month, I’m going to ask a few of my own:

If schools embraced this idea of art therapy, would we have as many children and teens suffering from stress and…

View original post 199 more words

Teenage Kindness–what a great idea

This may not be a typical education post, but ask any teacher how anxiety and isolation affect student learning.

SHERMAN OAKS, Calif. (CNN) – A California teen is sharing her high-tech way to handle lunch-room anxiety. Natalie Hampton, 16, struggled to make friends back in middle school. The hardest part of the day? Lunch time. “I ate along pretty much every day for the two years that I was there. And I have personally…

via California teen launches app to help others make friends at lunch — KRQE News 13

Escaping the Nazis on the Kindertransport–introduction to the Holocaust for younger students

Escaping the Nazis on the Kindertransport

by Emma Carlson Berne

escaping-the-nazisMany books have been written for middle school students about the Jews in Nazi Germany. In Escaping the Nazis on the Kindertransport, Emma Carlson Berne shares a piece of their story with children aged 8-12.  As a teacher I could certainly see this book also being used as a resource for older students who are reading below grade level as it has an interest level appropriate to them as well.

The physical book is designed with the look and feel of an aging family picture album.  There are seven chapters that focus on individual children who were part of the 10,000 children rescued from Nazi controlled areas and relocated to the United Kingdom prior to the beginning of World War II.  Their story is told in the third person but from the child’s perspective.

The first chapter begins with a poem “The Leather Suitcase” written by Tom Berman who was saved as a 5 year old child by a Kindertransport.  Some background is given as it describes what it must have been like for such a young boy to be separated from his parents for a long trip to an unfamiliar country with a different language, not knowing if he would ever see them again. This chapter captures the reader’s interest immediately.

The next chapter, “From Kristallnacht to Kindertransport,”  gives more historical details about the increasing persecution of the Jews and their limited options for survival.  Then the book returns to the stories of individual children, ending with a chapter that briefly recounts what happened to each child after the Kindertransport.  It might be specifics of their time living with another family, further emigration, or an ultimate career, depending on their circumstances and the source documents available.  There is also general statistical information about the 10,000 children of the Kindertransport.

There are study resources at the end of the book.  The “Timeline” integrates important historical dates of the war with major events related to the Kindertransport and the seven children whose rescues are detailed in the book.  The “Glossary,” of course, defines unfamiliar terms such as “haftarah” and “pogrom” which are used in the book.  Next is a page which explains The Kindertransport Association (KTA), whose president was a consultant for the book.  The KTA is comprised of the rescued Kinders, as they call themselves, and their descendants. “Read More” lists three more books on the topic for young readers. There is a page of discussion questions to evoke higher level thinking and several pages devoted to bibliography, source notes, and an index.

Escaping the Nazis on the Kindertransport is a valuable teaching resource, drawing from original sources. The length of the chapters is appropriate for this age level as well as for typical time periods in the school day. It could be used for independent reading or group study, but because of the difficult nature of the subject matter and the age of the intended reader, I definitely suggest adult support. The author handles the ugly reality of Nazi Germany with restraint without hiding the brutal truths of beatings, interments, and death.  Being drawn into their stories will be troubling for some youngsters, especially those for whom this is their introduction to Holocaust studies.

I highly recommend Escaping the Nazis on the Kindertransport as an integrative teaching tool combining reading with social studies, especially history and geography. It abounds with possibilities for discussions to stretch young thinkers to make make new connections and offers opportunities for deep enrichment of vocabulary. Even as an adult, I found the book well written, interesting, and a source of new learning.

This book is scheduled for publication on February 1, 2017.

I would like to extend my thanks to and to Capstone Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Story of a Secret Heart–don’t waste your time!

Story of a Secret Heart

by Cassi Ellen

story-of-a-secret-heartI have never written a truly negative review because I appreciate the hard work and time authors put into their writing and because I think it is really important to be kind. In addition, I only read books I think will be good and of interest to me. In the case of Story of a Secret Heart by Cassi Ellen, I was offered a free download and the summary sounded interesting: how a young woman survives heartbreak in a country far from home.

This memoir is supposed to be based on a true story. I soon found myself wondering how much of it is true–all but the names of the people in the book, 50%, 1%?  I began to hope, desperately almost, that most of it is fiction. Cassi is supposedly a “small town girl” from the U.K. and on multiple occasions uses that mind set as the reason she wanders (usually jumps) into dangerous behaviors and relationships.  She went to University and works (when she hasn’t called in sick) in a hospital.  How can someone with that background drink day and night as a response to happiness, sadness, boredom, lack of confidence? How can she engage in promiscuous sex with multiple partners? How can she have relationships with known drug dealers who surround themselves with prostitutes?

There are other head-scratching conflicts in Story of a Secret Heart. One of Cassi’s boyfriends, Ben, is obsessively jealous and displays an outrageous temper if anyone flirts with her. Then one evening he encourages her to have sex with an unknown–and she does! On another occasion he texts a friend of his who thinks she is lovely and sets up a date for them, telling the man he has to give her $1000 to get herself beautiful for the date! This from a man who is jealous of flirting?

Three-fourths of the way through this book, I started doing a little researching on Cassi Ellen and this story.  The only thing I came up with online is a great web of promotional posts giving the book away on varying sites. No personal information on the author.  Reviews on Amazon were very good and just a little less so on Goodreads. I don’t know if I am breaking a blogger/reviewer code by giving a bad review, but I am floored at the positive reviews. I did understand the two reviewers who said it was like watching a train or car wreck: you knew it was going to happen, but you could’t make yourself look away.  As I read, I kept telling Drama Queen Cassi in my head to STOP what she is doing–the drinking until she passes out, waking up in strange beds, going on drug deliveries–and start making good choices.  She claims to have gained, through this process, self-confidence in the presence of the “beautiful people,” but the “respect” she gets is not because of anything she does, what she looks like or who she is.  It is because she is with a very rich drug dealer and his associates living a dangerous lifestyle.

I would never recommend this book to anyone for any reason, and I’m sorry I spent time reading it. I hope it is mostly fiction and I suspect it is. I assume Cassi Ellen is a pseudonym, and that is certainly the author’s right.

Disregarding numerous typographical errors, I do have two positive things to say about the book. One is that the quotations at the end of each chapter are well chosen to accompany the text.  The other relates to one possible use of this book. If you are going through a rough time, feeling mistreated and lonely, you can look at Cassi and see a vivid picture of a variety of inappropriate responses to the hard times in life and choose a better path.

National Library, Vienna, Austria

Oh Happy Day–love this gorgeous library!

Faithful–a tale of overcoming the past


by Alice Hoffman

faithfulRecently I have read a number of cozy mysteries and commented on the sacrifice of character development to the attentions of a multi-threaded plot. As a reviewer I need to evaluate a book based on genre expectations. Just as I don’t expect an apple to taste like an orange, I should not expect a cozy mystery to have the same characteristics as a book in the wider class of “novel.”

Faithful by Alice Hoffman is a novel categorized by Simon & Schuster, its publisher, as Women’s Fiction. While I agree that women tend to be more interested than men in following stories of regeneration of damaged individuals, I think many men would appreciate this book as well. It centers on Shelby who is driving when an accident occurs that puts her best friend into a coma. To summarize this story into that one sentence makes the book sound trite, and it is anything but trite. With excellent character development, the novel draws the reader into Shelby’s world of pain and confusion as she struggles to survive a past she can not change.

It is important to participate in Shelby’s pain and the ups and downs of her journey as close to first hand as possible. Therefore, I provide no specifics that would interfere with the relationship of the reader to Shelby. The number of other characters in the book is limited as Shelby holds others at arm’s length, but they are interesting and sufficiently developed according to the part they play in Shelby’s story. Hoffman’s descriptive powers are good–both of physical setting and emotional climate. Her sensitive and realistic treatment of difficult events and her plot development make Faithful a novel worth reading and recommending. It is due for publication on November 1, 2016.

I would like to extend my thanks to and to Simon & Schuster for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Lethal Lifestyles–so many characters!

Lethal Lifestyles

by LynDee Walker

lethal-lifestylesI read and really enjoyed Cover Shot, the fifth cozy in the Headlines in High Heels Mystery Series.  Therefore, I looked forward to reading Lethal Lifestyles, the sixth book in the series by LynDee Walker, which is scheduled to be published on September 27, 2016.

I have one problem with Walker’s latest book, and it is a difficulty that sneaks up on many cozy mystery writers. There are so many minor characters, either possible suspects or helpful sidekicks to the sleuth, that few are well-developed enough to be memorable.  For once, I was very glad to be reading an e-book so I could search quickly for the introduction of the various characters and thus identify their roles.  At first I thought the fault was mine.  Late in the book, however, a character named Chad contributes an important clue via a text message to his wife.  In searching the name, I confirmed that Nichelle, our crime reporter in high heels, had in fact contacted him earlier in the book, but the reader is given no information about his relationship to Nichelle’s good friend, Jenn.  This was probably the most egregious example.

While this overabundance of characters is a problem in Lethal Lifestyles, it is also indicative of what makes this book a really good cozy mystery–an intricate plot with lots of puzzle pieces to keep the reader interested.  The story centers around the wedding of two of Nichelle’s co-reporters.  Nichelle, as maid of honor, is acting as a wedding planner for the couple and wants the wedding to be perfect.  Unfortunately, a man is found dead at the site of the rehearsal dinner, and the groom is implicated.  Nichelle has one week to clear the groom’s name by finding the murderer.  Clues that are reasonable go off in all directions.  The author brings it all together with a very surprising ending.

I do recommend Lethal Lifestyles if you enjoy cozies.  In addition to great mystery elements, you will find humor and romance.  The only mystery remaining to me is how Nichelle manages to do all that sleuthing in an assortment of stilettos and one good pair of wedges.  It makes my feet hurt just to think about it.

I would like to extend my thanks to and to Henery Press for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

%d bloggers like this: