Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Frindle - Andrew Clements

Andrew Clements

Brian Selznick (Illustrator)
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
A Division of Simon and Schuster
ISBN 9780689818769

This book was a great little read. It came as a recommendation from another blog. I do not recall reading any books by Andrew Clements, and most of his books were written after 1995 when I started keeping track. But there was something familiar about the story. The writing is highly entertaining.

Nick Allen is a very intelligent boy, and he seems to have a knack for stirring up trouble even though he does not intend to be a troublemaker. This book focuses mostly around his fifth grade year. Without intending to he ends up in a battle with Mrs. Granger. This is a war that goes on from the first day of school until the end of the year. And it is a war or words, or more specifically a war about words. After giving a report, an extra assignment, on dictionaries Nick comes up with the plan to eliminate the word pen and replace it with Frindle.

The characters are well done. One can't help cheering for Nick and wishing against the Granger. And once words are set loose they cannot be taken back and that is what happens to Nick. By the time his parents become aware of the situation he cannot take the word back, it has a life of its own. The story gets more and more complicated, spreading from Nick's class to all grade 5's, to the whole school and soon the whole nation.

This was a wonderful book to read. I have put it to the top of the summer reading list for my oldest to read with her, and then to have her read to her younger siblings. It is the type of story that teaches a great lesson, has some fun but also looks at the seriousness of our actions and the consequences they can have. This book was so good I have already picked up a few others by Clements to read with the kids. I highly recommend this book.

Books by Andrew Clements:

Bird Adalbert
Noah and the Ark and the Animals
Santa's Secret Helper
Temple Cat
Mother Earth's Counting Book
Billy and the Bad Teacher
Who Owns the Cow
Bright Christmas: An Angel Remembers
(Adapter)Philipp's Birthday Book
Riff's BeBop Book
Real Monsters Go for the Mold
Things That Go EEK on Halloween
Real Monsters Stage Fright
Music Time, Any Time
Double Trouble in Walla Walla
Gromble's Haunted Halloween
Hey Dad, Could I Borrow Your Hammer
The Landry News
Look Who's in the Thanksgiving Play
The Mouse Family
The Janitor's Boy
Circus Family Dog
The Christmas Kitten
The School Story
Things Not Seen 
The Jacket 
A Week in the Woods
Slippers at Home
Naptime for Slippers
The Report Card
The Last Holiday Concert
Slippers at School
Slippers Loves to Run
A Million Is a Lot of Dots
Lunch Money
Things Hoped For
Room One: A Mystery or Two
No Talking
Things That Are
Lost and Found
Extra Credit
About Average
The Map Trap

Pets to the Rescue Series
Ringo Saves the Day!: A True Story, illustrated by Ellen Beier, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2001.
Brave Norman: A True Story, illustrated by Ellen Beier, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2001.
Tara and Tiree, Fearless Friends: A True Story, illustrated by Ellen Beier, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2002.
Delores and the Big Fire: A True Story, illustrated by Ellen Beier, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2002.

Jake Drake Series
Jake Drake Know-It-All
Jake Drake, Bully Buster
Jake Drake, Teacher's Pet
Jake Drake, Class Clown

Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School Series
We the Children
Fear Itself
The Whites of Their Eyes
In Harm's Way
We Hold These Truths

Reading program Books
Karen's Island
Three Wishes for Buster
Bill Picket: An American Original, Texas Style
Hurricane Andrew
Ham and Eggs for Jack
Life in the Desert
Desert Treasure
Inventors: Making Things Better, Steck-Vaughn
Milo's Great Invention

Monday, 20 June 2016

A Personal Mission Statement - Michal Stawicki - Your Road Map to Happiness

A Personal Mission Statement: 
Your Road Map to Happiness
Michal Stawicki
ISBN 9781508505969

I have read this book 4 times over the last year. My initial reaction was to state that "I would compare Michal to Robin Sharma, Stephen R. Covey, Dan Millman and John C. Maxwell. It is a mix of some incredible insight, great tips, practice advice and some good steps to get you there." The reason I read through it 4 times was to really work on the material and craft my own personal mission statement. A few years ago I had a co-worker ask me what I was my greatest achievements, he through I would say degrees, certifications, projects at work. I surprised him when I said, being a good husband, being a good father, brother friend. This book helped take some of those areas of life and more and focus them. It was a process, and took months for me to hone and craft it into something not vague, that was succinct and meaningful. And Michal provided guidance along the whole journey. 

Michal starts, as always by teaching from his own experience. He states "I share with you what my personal mission statement creation process looked like. In that example, I show you which points I consider vital in the creation of a mission statement in general." He also draws often from the late Jim Rohn. Stawicki leaping off from Rohn declares: "Jim Rohn said that the natural order of things is to chisel your character first and the success comes from your character. To chisel your inner self, you first need to know yourself. I think a personal mission statement is the best road map to build your character and consequently your success, however you define it. 
A personal mission statement is your philosophy, your creed. "It focuses on what you want to be (character) and what you want to do (contributions and achievements), and on the values or principles upon which being and doing are based." It is supposed to allow you to state your own constitution based on your deepest values, so you can lead life premised on them." And that is where our journey begins, with finding our purpose: "A personal mission statement is about your life's purpose. This purpose determines the quality and quantity of your life. Literally."

Speaking about that purpose Michal quotes Victor Frankal and expands upon Frankal's though: "Victor Frankl was convinced that every human being has his/ her unique life's purpose. Maybe you even agree with that statement. But it's not enough to know it exists. To have the vague feeling of your mission. What you need is a concrete purpose. You need to know by heart the exact words which will guide you through everyday decisions. Thus, you need a personal mission statement." Unfortunately many in life get stuck believe they have a purpose but never put in the time and effort to really figure out what it is.

Michal like us a just a regular Joe, a guy who has learned by trial and error and his had some great successes. He says "Most of us are just common folks who struggle with our fears, doubts, anxieties, past. We don't dream of being a hero, rescuing the world. We dream about a few sources of income to be able to support our families and look to the future with hope. To heal our relationships. To break up our addictions. To reduce the pile of our problems." And the purpose of a personal mission statement is to help narrow that list down and to really go to work on it. 

Michal wonders "Maybe in following your personal mission statement, you will grow beyond your wildest dreams.", or maybe we will just be happier, more content and more focused. Either way it is a win if we find ourselves living with renewed passion and purpose. But he is adamant in warning us that "Your personal mission statement is not a certificate of accomplishment to be put into the drawer. It is supposed to be your lens, starting point, the source of focus. Use it." And some of the ways he encourages us to use it are:

a) Read it every day. Or even better - read it several times a day.
b) Meditate upon it. It's the same story as with reading - make it a ritual and compose it into your schedule.
c) Listen to it. Record your personal mission statement and listen to it any time and any place you want
d) Visualize it. This is especially important if you included some future aspirations or desired changes in the mission statement.
e) Create a vision board. Find pictures and photos corresponding with your mission statement. Stick them to the board.
f) Make a mind movie. Its function is similar to a vision board - a mind movie is meant to fire up your imagination.

So go for it get the book, but in the work and let's see the places you will go. 

Books by Michal Stawicki:
The Art of Persistence: Stop Quitting, Ignore Shiny Objects and Climb Your Way to Success
A Personal Mission Statement: Your Road Map to Happiness
Trickle Down Mindset: The Missing Element In Your Personal Success

Slicing the Hype
99 Perseverance Success Stories: Encouragement for Success in Every Walk of Life

Six Simple Steps to Success
Simplify Your Pursuit of Success - Book 1
Know Yourself Like Your Success Depends on It - Book 2
Bulletproof Health and Fitness: Your Secret to High Achievement - Book 3
Making Business Connections That Count - Book 4

How to Change Your Life in 10 Minutes a Day Series:
The Fitness Expert Next Door - Book 1
Learn to Read with Great Speed! Only 10 minutes a day! - Book 2
Release Your Kid's Dormant Genius In Just 10 Minutes a Day: Parenting Your Smart Underachiever With Consistency and Love - Book 3
Master Your Time In 10 Minutes a Day: Time Management Tips for Anyone Struggling With Work-Life Balance  - Book 4
From Shy to Hi: Tame Social Anxiety, Meet New People, and Build Self-Confidence  - Book 5

Author Profile and Interview with Michal Stawicki

Friday, 17 June 2016

Great Quotes to Inspire Great Teachers - Noah benShea

Great Quotes to Inspire Great Teachers
Noah benShea
Skyhorse Publishing
ISBN 9781629146898
eISBN 9781629149691

I must admit I have been a huge fan of Noah benShea's writing since encountering the book Jacob the Baker at a retreat at a street mission in Toronto many year ago. This book is very different than the Jacob series, and yet like everything I have read by Noah is full of wisdom, wisdom that will help you live a better life and be a better person. The difference is as a formal teacher and principal and someone with a lifelong focus on education this book is geared to teachers.

In my life I have been blessed with a few amazing teachers, many good teachers and luckily very few who were poor educators. As I read through this book I took inspiration and recalled fondly many teachers from my past, from grade school all the way to university in my late 30's. I also thought of a few friends who are currently teachers and the great work they do.

The collection of quotes in this book are narrowed down to 26 categories. Noah draws from his own writings, and from numerous motivational, historical and religious sources. The Specific chapters are:

1. The Art of Teaching
2. Adversity
3. Behavior
4. Character
5. Children
6. Collaboration and Teamwork
7. Communication and Conflict
8. Community
9. Compassion
10. Criticism
11. Discipline
12. Diversity, Culture, and Language
13. Gifted and Talented
14. Gossip
15. Leadership
16. Math and Science
17. Personal and Professional Develop.
18. Reading and Writing
19. Responsibility
20. School Safety
21. Spirituality
22. Stress, Rest, and Well-being
23. Technology
24. Testing
25. Time and Resources Management
26. Women in Education
End Word

This book can be read through from beginning to end, or picked up and randomly sampled. Like his other books that I have read I know I will come back to this one again and read it often, as such I can highly recommend it. On my first reading through I did not mark up the book. On the second I highlighted 19 quotes. And I will share some of those with you as a taste of what the book offers.

"Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition."
-Jacques Barzun

"Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value."
-Albert Einstein

"One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers . . . with gratitude to those who touched our human feeling . . ."
-Carl Gustav Jung

"When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier."
-Roy Disney

"Actions don't speak louder than words. They shout."
-Noah benShea

"Although our inattention can contribute to our lack of total well-being, we also have the power to choose positive behaviors and responses. In that choice we change our every experience of life! Every thought, word, and behavior affects our greater health and well-being . . . physically, emotionally and spiritually."
-Greg Anderson (US basketball player)

"The essence of good behavior is thinking about what's also good for others."
-Noah benShea

"Character is less often something we grow into and more often where we grow from."
-Noah benShea

"Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny."
-Frank Outlaw

"Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one."
-Marcus Aurelius

"The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn."
-Alvin Toffler

"We teach what we like to learn and the reason many people go into teaching is vicariously to re-experience the primary joy experienced the first time they learned something they loved."
-Stephen Brookfield

"The word "no" carries a lot more meaning when spoken by a parent who also knows how to say "yes.""
-Joyce Maynard

"Two monologues do not make a dialogue."
-Jeff Daly

"I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve."
-Albert Schweitzer

"The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism."
-Norman Vincent Peale

"Seek freedom and become captive of your desires. Seek discipline and find your liberty."
-Frank Herbert

"All leadership begins with self-leadership."
-Noah benShea

"Prayer is a path where there is none."
-Noah benShea

As can be seen from this sampling there is some amazing stuff in this little volume. A few of the quotes I had encountered before but there were many that were new to me. Some are applicable to my role as a father, and some as an employee and some for just being and learning to be better at being. I highly recommend this book.

Books by Noah Ben Shea:

Jacob the Baker
Jacob's Journey
Jacob's Ladder

The Journey to Greatness and How to Get There
A Compass for Healing
A Compass for the Classroom
Great Quotes to Inspire Great Teachers
Great Jewish Quotes
Inspire, Enlighten & Motivate
The Word: Jewish Wisdom Through Time
What Every Principal Would Like To Say … And What To Say
A World Of Ways To Say I Do: Wedding Vows, Readings, Poems, and Customs from Different Traditions and Cultures
Remember This My Children
Dear Mom
Dear Mom 2nd Edition
Dear Dad
Deae Dad 2nd Edition
Dear Teacher
Dear Friend
Prayer for Your Newborn

Author Profile interview with Noah benShea.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Divine Mercy Image Explained - Father Michael E. Gaitley

Divine Mercy Image Explained:
Includes Enthronement Prayers
Michael E. Gaitley
Marian Press

ISBN 9781596142770

This was the second book by Father Gaitley that I have read this year. My introduction to his writing was his piece in the collection Beautiful Mercy, and I followed that up with his Divine Mercy Explained. From having read that book I was expecting lot from this book and it delivered in full. 

The chapters in the book are as follows:
Author's Preface
The Grace of the Image
  • Tradition: Sacred Art
  • Tradition: Prophetic Witness
The Meaning of the Image
  • The Rays
  • Jesus, I Trust in You
  • The Gaze
  • A Truly Sacred Image
The Enthronement of the Image
  • An Invitation to Jesus, the Divine Mercy
  • How to Make the Invitation (Offering)
  • Divine Mercy Enthronement
Appendix One: A Meditation on the Image
Appendix Two: Articles on the Image
  • "The Power of the Image"
  • "Fr. Joseph's Dream Come True"
Appendix Three: Chaplet of Divine Mercy
Divine Mercy Resources

Father Gaitley does an amazing job of distilling the meaning of Divine Mercy image. He does so in a very accessible way. His research is extensive, her personal devotion comes through and will challenge the reader. There is a great section about meditating on the image, in our parish there is a very large version of the divine image. I love spending time praying before it, as do my three children. After reading this book I plan on getting high quality copies of the Divine Mercy image for their bedrooms. 

This book challenged my devotion, it helped open me to more grace in my life, and to be open to growing and extending more grace to others. 

This is an amazing read and to be honest you cannot beat the price. When you combine it with the message of Father Michael's other book Divine Mercy Explained they are excellent tools in your spiritual tool box. Give this book a try I am sure you will not be disappointed.

Books by Michael E. Gaitley:

33 Days to Morning Glory
33 Days to Merciful Love
40 Days to Mercy
Consoling the Heart of Jesus
Divine Mercy Explained
The Divine Mercy Image Explained
The One Thing Is Three
The Second Greatest Story Ever Told

Contributed to:
Beautiful Mercy
Divine Mercy for Moms

(Note: this books is part of a series: A Year of Reading Intention - Catholic Reading!)

Monday, 13 June 2016

Song of the Poison Dragon - Tracey West and Graham Howells - Dragon Masters #5

Song of the Poison Dragon
Dragon Masters #5
Tracey West (Author)
Graham Howells (Illustrator)

This series really has staying power. With my two youngest children there are few chapter books that we have read more than once, let alone whole series. This is the first series I recall we have read through twice and are eagerly awaiting the next instalment. The Dragon Masters is a great series that children and those who read to them will both enjoy.

One of the nice things about this series is that it is a true series. Each story builds upon the next. Now yes that are strong enough to be read on their own, but as a whole we get to watch the growth of the group as they come together as a team and learn to work together and support each other. In this latest offering the Dragon stone has chosen a new dragon master, Petra and her great uncle had also been a dragon master. She seems to know a lot about dragons and their abilities, but when it comes time for her to meet her Hydra and bond with it, something just seems off. 

Even though Petra seems like a know-it-all, she also seems afraid. She is far from home and knows that there are high expectations upon her. When King Roland plans on show casing the dragons especially the new Hydra and Petra to Queen Rose the day after Petra's arrival, things go bad quickly. Soon the King is poisoned and all the dragon masters are searching for a cure. Will they find something in their books, or will Petra and the Hydra make connecting in time to save the King?

My children love the illustrations by Graham Howells, the often go back to look at previous illustrations or sneak ahead to get a glimpse of what is coming next. Add to the excellent drawings wonderful stories and it makes for some great reading time.

These books are enjoyed by the whole family. The younger kids like having them read to them. My oldest enjoys listening or taking a turn reading to her siblings. And there is a great series of questions at the end of the book to help make sure children comprehend the story. Set at a grade 2 reading level in our house these are enjoyed from Kindergarten to grade 4. The kids love these books and therefore come with their seal of approval. 

Dragon Master Books:
Rise of the Earth Dragon
Saving the Sun Dragon
Secret of the Water Dragon
Power of the Fire Dragon
Song of the Poison Dragon

Flight of the Moon Dragon