Making Curriculum Pop

From USA Today 08/20/2009

I love the title of the last book - yes, let's have a PUNCTUATION CELEBRATION!!! :)

Four Good Reads For Back-to-Schoolers
by Bob Minzesheimer

Summer won't end officially until Sept. 22. But for students, three words -- back to school -- mark the beginning of the end. USA TODAY's Bob Minzesheimer recommends four books to help kids in pre-K to middle school make the transition.

My School in the Rain Forest: How Children Attend School Around the World

-- By Margriet Ruurs
-- Boyds Mills Press, $17.95, Ages 7 to 9

-- Margriet Ruurs reminds students: "You live in one small part of a very large world that you share with roughly two billion other children." And for them, there are all kinds of schools that often are not taken for granted. In Afghanistan, the arrival of desks was a big deal at a school where students -- 50 to a class -- had sat on the floor. In Cambodia, students rich enough to have a boat travel by water to a floating school. The book, grouped around 13 two-page reports, also is an illustrated geography lesson about a world where "children everywhere want to make friends, to learn, to read books and live in freedom."

The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Middle School

-- By David Borgenicht, Ben H. Winters and Robin Epstein
-- Illustrated by Chuck Gonzales
-- Chronicle, $10.99, ages 9 to 12

-- A survival series that began a decade ago explores the land of adolescent awkwardness. It's packed with bit-sized pieces of advice on everything from pimples and e-mail disasters to homework overload and teacher problems. It's practical and friendly, not preachy: "Sometimes being 'in the middle' gets a bad rap," it notes, but stresses the possibilities: "Middle school is like the next level up in a video game. You get a clean screen, new powers, and the chance to turn yourself into the person you've always wanted to be."

Sunday Chutney

-- Written and illustrated by Aaron Blabey
-- Front Street, $16.95, ages 3 and up

-- Sunday is a young girl with a great (if unexplained) name, a huge grin and a dad whose job takes the family all over the world. "Trouble is," she says, "I'm always starting at new schools. So I'm always the new kid. And everyone thinks the new kid is a bit weird." But globe-trotting Sunday knows how to overcome loneliness and make friends with girls. Boys, she confides, "smell, have germs and probably love me." Kids with a quirky sense of humor should appreciate this gentle reminder about what it's like to be the new kid in school.

Punctuation Celebration

-- By Elsa Knight Bruno
-- Illustrated by Jenny Whitehead
-- Henry Holt, $17.95, ages 4 to 9

-- Here's a poetic way to learn punctuation -- 14 rhyming poems, with illustrated examples of hyphens, colons and other acrobatic punctuation at work. It's playfully instructive: "A question mark is apropos/When there are things you want to know./You put it after words that ask./To answer is another's task." The author, a former kindergarten teacher, knows how to keep things simple: "Parentheses' two hands are gentle,/Enclosing words that aren't essential." She deals with the much abused apostrophe but doesn't explain the difference between it's (the contraction of it is) and its (the possessive), which remains a lesson for another day.

(c) USA TODAY, 2009

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