Monday, May 2, 2011

April Book Report

The Politics of Breastfeeding: When Breasts are Bad for Business by Gabrielle Palmer

Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather by Mike Smith

First Son's First Grade Booklist

The Phone Book: The Curious History of the Book That Everyone Uses But No One Reads by Ammon Shea is a fun little book. The first half or two thirds is the best part, when he's really writing about the history instead of waxing poetic about how our attitude to the phone book is an indicator of all of society's deficits. He's a bit obnoxious about religion and politics, too, but luckily that doesn't appear too often in the book. For those that are wondering, Mr. Shea read the Congressional Record and no one has ever read the phone book in a filibuster.

The Early Admissions Game: Joining the Elite by Christopher Avery, Andrew Fairbanks and Richard Zeckhauser is a well-researched look at the early application programs at several elite colleges (Early Decision and Early Admission). They say it's written for parents as well as guidance counselors and college admission officers, but I think a great many parents would find it heavy reading. (Not me, but I know I have odd tastes in reading. Also, I just skimmed over most of the statistical stuff.) If you happen to be a parent of a young adult who is interested in attending one of those "elite" colleges, you can get much from this book by reading chapter 7 in which they provide ten guidelines to help high school students really think about what they want in a college, where they truly desire to attend and if applying early would be beneficial in their particular situation. (I'm well aware my oldest is only seven years old, but I have a fascination with the college experience, how people decide to attend and where to attend and what difference those decisions make in real life, not just careers.)

Smart Moves: Why Learning Is Not All In Your Head, Second Edition by Carla Hannaford, Ph.D. is a book that starts out pretty well but then got a little...let's say unorthodox. My background is biology, so a lot of what she described (nerve cells, axons, etc.) seemed accurate, but then she'd make conclusions that just didn't seem right to me. I was not impressed with the research articles that were linked in the end notes (nothing from highly respected medical or research journals, for example) and much of her "research" seemed to be anecdotal. Much of what she encourages in the early chapters makes sense to me as a home educator -- touching students to help them focus, allowing students to move more in the classroom, drinking plenty of water, and so on -- but once I reached the brain gym exercises and her assertion that ADHD, ADD and other behavioral problems are really just caused by stress and can be cured by the brain gym exercises, I decided to stop reading. It didn't seem like the rest of the book was worth my time. (You can read more about Brain Gym here and one of the strongest assertions against it here.) As a side note, the figures are terrible - hand drawn diagrams of the brain labelled in elaborate script which, while beautiful, is almost impossible to read.

The Night Crossing by Karen Ackerman is the tale of Clara, Marta and their parents as they attempt to escape from Nazi-occupied Austria over the mountains into Switzerland. Though neighbors are attacked and the girls are taunted, this book does not explicitly discuss the horrors of the concentrations camps. This book may be a less-terrifying way to introduce the sufferings of the Jews in World War II and I will consider it for First Son's reading lessons next year.

The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene du Bois is the tale of the fantastic voyage and adventures of Professor Sherman who had hoped for nothing but silence and solitude. It's definitely on the list for First Son, though we'll have to see if he's ready to read it next year. We might use it as a read-aloud.

1 comment:

  1. I remember reading "The Twenty-One Balloons." Good book!

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