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Mother’s Day, Muffins, and Murder–a cozy teachers will love

Mother’s Day, Muffins, and Murder

by Sara Rosett

Mother's DayMother’s Day, Muffins, and Murder is a thematic shoe-in for me, and it surpassed my expectations. The setting is Georgia, but the author grew up in and currently lives in Texas. The action occurs at an elementary school which is the unlikely scene of a murder. Except for the murder and mayhem, this could have been the elementary school I taught at for a few years in Leander, Texas. The details are perfect for a middle class school where parent participation is high, students wear an assigned color T-shirt for field day, and the Teacher Appreciation Week is five days of food, small gifts, and recognition for hard-working, appreciated teachers.

The main character is Ellie Avery, an Air Force wife, mother of two children, part-time organizing consultant, and very active volunteer at her children’s neighborhood school. The amiable Ellie finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation. She tries not to actively involve herself, but others look to her for help because of previous associations with a murder. Later, someone takes the threat to her doorstep, potentially endangering Ellie and her children.

This mystery is a fun, “don’t put me down” kind of read. The plot has twists and turns that keep the reader engaged and wanting more. The characters are interesting and there is a subplot concerning a competing organizer in town which enhances the appeal. If you like cozy mysteries, you will love Mother’s Day, Muffins, and Murder.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes:  1. #10 in the Ellie Avery Mystery Series, also called the Mom Zone Series. I enjoyed it as a standalone.

2. The book also includes “Organizing Tips for PTA Moms” placed at the end of some chapters so as not to be intrusive into the storyline. They are practical and are approved by this former teacher who also volunteered with my school’s Parent/Teacher Organization.

Publication:  March 28, 2017–Kensington Books

Memorable Lines: 

“Yes, that is my favorite way to relax, supervising twenty-two eight-year-olds hyped up on sugar at eight in the morning.”

I wished the rest of the school year could be more like the end of the year. The end of the year–when the standardized tests were over–was when the kids got to do all the fun stuff, instead of studying for the standardized tests. Why couldn’t the kids do more hands-on activities like this throughout the year?

We rush through our days so quickly and have so many little rituals that we do, day in and day out, but then a moment like that last day of school comes along. It’s a milestone that makes a definite break in the continuum and emphasizes that one phase is ending and another beginning.

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How can New Mexico help its students?

_absolutely_free_photos_original_photos_happy-kid-in-class-5184x3456_29015Education in New Mexico has gone from bad to worse. Teachers and, more importantly, students are suffering from bad decisions made at the state level by the Governor and her Secretary of Education, a non educator, cheered on by administrators at the school district level who fear retaliation if they stand up to the system. Teachers, in turn, fear from certain retribution (i.e. loss of job through inexplicably bad evaluations or being blackballed), if they hold their ground. The sweet children just do what they are told and suffer through overtesting and curriculum taught in a lockstep, one size fits all manner, while administrators claim that the “data driven instruction” will help students achieve higher levels. No, but it certainly wipes out individual initiative, creativity, and a love of learning. Oh, but the students do become better test takers!

Senator Tom Udall asked for my support for early childhood education on Facebook. Below is my response:
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Malala: Activist for Girls’ Education

Malala: Activist for Girls’ Education

by Raphaële Friermalala

illustrated by Aurélia Fronty

The youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize earned this award and world-wide acclaim through her activism in support of girls’ rights to education. Starting at age eleven, she began a courageous public battle against the Taliban and their destruction of girls’ schools in Pakistan. Malala: Activist for Girls’ Education, depicts Malala’s background and family support, her bravery in the face of Taliban violence, and her continuing efforts to bring light on rights’ issues for girls and women in particular, but  including all downtrodden people.

The artwork is an essential part of this book, providing colorful symbolic images.  At the end of the book there is a helpful timeline of events in Malala’s life as well as photographs of her.  There is an added useful feature for parents and teachers who want to extend the study with information on Pakistan, education in Pakistan and the world, and Malala’s religion and inspiration.  There are also brief discussions of other peacemakers: Gandhi, Mandela, and King.  This section includes quotes from Malala as well as a listing of other sources of information about Malala including links to various important speeches she has made.

Teachers will find Malala: Activist for Girls’ Education a valuable teaching resource. It empowers both children and women to stand up for what is right and summarizes the religious and historical context in a way that is understandable and appropriate for children.  This book could be used as an integral tool in many curricular units as well as to provoke thoughtful discussion by itself.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Younger Readers, Biography

Notes:  recommended for ages 6-9

10 inches X 10 inches

48 pages

originally published in French

Publication:   Charlesbridge Publishing–February 7, 2017

Memorable Lines:

One child, one teacher, one pen, and one book can change the world.

“Dear sisters and brothers, we realize the importance of light when we see darkness. We realize the importance of our voice when we are silenced. In the same way, when we were in Swat, the north of Pakistan, we realized the importance of pens and books when we saw the guns.”–Malala

“The extremists are afraid of books and pens. With guns you can kill terrorists; with education you can kill terrorism.”–Malala

Admission of Guilt–a teacher tries to make things better for his students, but…

Admission of Guilt

by T. V. LoCicero

admission-of-guiltAdmission of Guilt by T.V. LoCicero is a page turning thriller set in a rapidly declining Detroit.  There is no easing into this story. The author immediately sets up his reader with sympathetic characters and then hits those characters and the reader with the reality of inner city life–poverty, children selling drugs, devastating budget cuts to education, gang warfare, and mafia control of the drug trade. Characters include an out of work teacher, a social worker, a P.I. and members of the country club set.

The characters find themselves making life and death decisions with moral, economic, and personal ramifications, and the reader is confronted with the age-old question of “does the end justify the means?” I guarantee lots of twists and turns to the plot that you just won’t expect and a book you won’t want to put down.

Admission of Guilt is Book 2 in The detroit I’m dying Trilogy but can be read as a standalone.

I would like to extend my thanks to the author, T. V. LoCicero, for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery & Thriller

Notes:  Warning–the language is not anywhere close to squeaky clean; it is appropriate for the characters in their culture and to change it would produce a dissonance between the characters and their reality.

Publication:   Smashwords–2013

Memorable Lines:

Spring leaves, already withering, scratched and whispered in the few Dutch Elms still standing on this dark, working-class street.  Birds chirped and chattered on the pre-dawn breeze, and a worn-out Plymouth whined slowly to a stop in front of one of these decrepit wood-framed flats.  A smallish figure slipped out, ran to a big front porch, then darted back to the street.

McNamara’s Folly: the Use of Low-IQ Troops in the Vietnam War

by Hamilton Gregory

This is a fascinating presentation by Hamilton Gregory (author, public speaker, educator, and journalist) at a college book signing for a book he wrote about using low-IQ soldiers in war. He draws on his own experiences in the Vietnam War as well as extensive research. His goal is to give a voice to those who were not able to speak up for themselves and to their families whose warnings were not heeded. In the prologue he says:

“While I was in the Army (1967-1970), I got to know some of McNamara’s substandard soldiers, and I vowed that someday I would tell their stories and give the historical background. This book is the fulfillment of that vow.”

Rating: 5/5

Category: Military History

Notes: Hamilton Gregory is my brother. I am aware that current protocol for reviewers is that they should not review the works of relatives. I, however, do no advertising and I make no money from this blog. I am retired, and this blog is my personal space for reflection on education and on books. I feel strongly that this is an excellent book and tells a tale that needs to be shared. I do highly recommend that you read it. You don’t have to be interested in military history; you just have to care about people. For official reviews and recommendations, I suggest you visit Amazon.com where people who are experienced experts in the field and are more qualified than I am have posted reviews. From my non-military viewpoint, I am amazed at the way the author intertwines data with the stories he gathered to make a compelling argument that our country should never let this happen again.

mcnamaras-follyPublication:  Infinity Publishing–June 2015

Memorable Lines:  “Freddie’s death hit me hard.  I remembered how he was always sighing–an indication of the tremendous anxiety he experienced in Special Training.  I remembered how he lacked the mental quickness to qualify with the M-14 rifle. I felt enormous anger, which I still feel decades later.  He never should have been drafted.  He never should have been ‘administratively passed’ at Special Training.  He never should have been sent into combat.”

 

Overtesting…and the beat goes on!

What are our children learning from the current obsession with testing?

standardized-test-cartoon-pictureSource: Mike Keefe, The Denver Post, 2002

 

 

Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education?

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I have tried to stay away from anything that smacks of politics on social media during this election cycle. There is just so much negativity I can let into my life. I followed the issues. I voted. Now we are presented with an appointment that might unite the left and the right because parents, teachers, students, and many others are concerned about the state of education–the overtesting, Common Core State Standards, evaluations based on testing, and ridiculous administrative mandates.

I have done some research on Betsy DeVos and there is much I could say. Today I just want to focus on two things. First, her words. In a video I watched she made two very telling statements about initiatives she supports:

“[they] will empower educational entrepreneurs.”

“entrepreneurial spirit will prevail even in the industry of education.”

I find it troubling that she wants to empower an entrepreneurial spirit to prevail in education.  Big business is trying to take over education for their own profit and to dumb down the 99% so we are not educated enough to stand up for our constitutional rights. We need to get big business out of education.  The accumulating of wealth and warming a seat in the classroom do not qualify one to make educational decisions.

Even more troubling is the use of “industry” and “education” in the same sentence.  Our schools should not be industries; we should not make a profit off of them or produce worker bees for the powerful in our society. We are nurturing growing minds and bodies, and we should be creating opportunities for independent thinking–not that of the right or the left, independent. The goal of our efforts should be citizens with a moral and ethical compass who can find satisfying ways of supporting themselves and their families.

Second, her actions. These “education advocates” like DeVos are big money, big business people, and you can be sure that they have their own bottom line in sight with every decision. DeVos says she does not support Common Core. Just take a look at Jeb Bush’s pet project that she has been involved in for so many years as a board member and “education advocate”: ExcelinEd common core “toolkit.”

I retired after 34 years of teaching in the midst of this kind of nonsense, and I saw and experienced first hand the devastating effects it has on learning, creativity, and morale of students and teachers. Why would we continue down this same path, sacrificing our children, to line the pockets of the 1%?

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