Black Iron Mercy

Black Iron Mercy

by Eric Schlehlein

Book Review Contributed byBlack Iron Mercy.jpg: Jim Nelson, Waukesha North Social Studies

This is a very readable tale of one man, Arlis Jenkins, and perhaps the entire country, coming to terms with 19th-century America and the U.S. Civil War.

Schlehlein set his story in rural Wisconsin, a feature that should resonate with anyone familiar with the Dairy State.   It is the tale of the Iron Brigade, one of the most famous units in the northern army. The “Black Hats” suffered a very high casualty rate during the war but were famous for standing “like iron” in numerous battles including Antietam and Gettysburg.

Arlis’ tale is told in a series of flashbacks beginning with Violet, his first love, and culminating in an automobile trip to re-visit Gettysburg decades after the battle. Through each of the vignettes that make up the novel Arlis comes to terms with tragedy, love, courage, God, and, by implication, many of the issues the U.S. has faced as we “come of age. ”

The historical research is meticulous, the locales well-chosen, and the story well-told. A good read, even for those who are not history nerds.




For One More Day

By Mitch Albom

Review by Janet YunkerFor One More Day.jpg

This book is an easy read – at about a 4th grade level. It is about a man, Chick Benetto, who basically gives up on life and decides to commit suicide. I can’t say much more without ruining the book, but he gets to spend time with his dead mother.  I am having my students read this in class and they became hooked before the end of the 1st chapter.  The book focuses on missed opportunities, those times when you could have – should have – but didn’t.  Since everyone probably has regrets of one sort or another, it really hits home.

The Definitive Book of Body Language

by Allan Pease and Barbara Pease

Review Contributed by Laura Gembolis262731-_uy450_ss450_

This book lost me when it said: women are better at reading body language because they have children. The book states that since our cave dwelling days women have spent more time reading nonverbal babies and toddlers. So that skill was then passed down in our genes? The authors make no attempt to explain why their claim is true.

And I found it too big a claim to accept without anything to back it up.

One out of five stars.

Animal Rescue

Book Review Contributed by Janet Yunker
I ordered Animal Rescue through Townsend Press to start the year off with my students. It has a collection of TRUE short stories that are all about animals that have rescued humans. Most of them are unlikely heroes, i.e. a pig rescues a woman who is having a heart attack, two elk save a boy from freezing to death in the forest. Each story is short enough that you can read it in one or two sessions and they’re are all up lifting. My students were especially interested in a story about dolphins from a therapy center in Florida that helped children with autism and other disabilities. There are short videos on Youtube that complement the pig story and the dolphin one. Major networks got a hold of the news and did nice video clips to summarize them.
If you want a heartwarming book for your class that doesn’t take up a lot of time, this one is a good choice.

Teaching Students to Read Like Detectives

Blog Post Contributed by David Dybdahl
Teaching Students to Read Like Detectives is a good literacy review book for any teacher, especially those who teach reading and writing.  It reviews a lot of basic literary concepts such as genre, setting, dialogue, literary devices, etc. and explains why eac51xnti8pdilh one is important to the reader.  The book covers literacy strategies for narrative texts (Thinking aloud, book clubs and lit circles, dialectical journals, and socratic seminars) and expository texts (Thinking aloud, text impressions, reciprocal teaching).
This book also does a great job of discussing the importance of having the students interact with the text.  It reminds us that each reader brings a unique background to class, and their own experiences make meaning of the text.  Students bring different backgrounds and viewpoints than that of their teacher, and teachers should not guide students toward the “right” answer.  Comprehension begins with making connections.  While this book did not introduce many new concepts or strategies, it was still a good read as a review.  This would be a good book for college students going into education.

The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963

Contributed by David Dybdahl500a31dc-9884-4da8-a4bf-5423402b88c9

I liked how this was written in a sincere and relatable way from the point of view of Kenneth Watson, a little African American boy living with his family in Flint, Michigan. He tells about his small adventures at home, including bullies and unlikely friends at school. But after his older brother Byron gets in too much trouble, the Watsons decide to take a family vacation down to Birmingham to visit Grandma Sands and leave Byron with her for the summer. In 1963, the midst of the Civil Rights movement, they experience an event that is shocking and traumatic for all of them, especially Kenny.

A Man Called Ove

18774964Contributed by: Dr. Jenny Wienke

A Man Called Ove is a fiction novel about a man whose wife passed away.  Since his wife passed, he feels he has nothing to live for anymore, so he decides he will commit suicide.  However, every time he tries to commit suicide something stops him.

This book has so many twists and turns.  It will leave you crying, smiling, and laughing throughout.  I give it a 5 out of 5.  It is a must read.

Out of the Easy

By: Miss Luckow

I’m kind of going on a Ruta Septeys binge. I discovered her a few weeks ago and read Salt to the Sea and I just finished her first novel, Out of the Easy. This historical fiction novel takes place in New Orleans in the 1950s.

outoftheeasyJosie is a young woman who grew up with a prostitute mother who she couldn’t trust and who she couldn’t love. All she wanted was to escape her life to make something of herself. Right as she’s about to make a change for the better, she and her family get wrapped up in a murder that rips them even further apart.

Although this book wasn’t pure literary genius, I really enjoyed it. Septeys’ writing is easily accessible and sucks you right in. I became invested in every single character and cared for them all in different ways. I would highly recommend this book to anyone that enjoys historical fiction and good characters.

4/5 stars


Bone Gap

By: Miss Luckow 

Winner of the 2016 Printz Award, I had really high hopes for this book. Bone Gap is a small corn town in the middle-of-nowhere Illinois, where everyone knows what you’re doing, even if you don’t.

bonegapFinn and Sean’s mother left a few years ago, leaving them to fend for themselves, but when the mysterious immigrant Roza appears beaten in their barn, they’re not alone anymore. That is, until Roza disappears.

This book weaves together magical realism and mystery in a very charming way. The writing was absolutely beautiful and the imagery was captivating.

That being said, I found it quite hard to connect with any of the characters, making me less invested in their fates. Also, I was underwhelmed by the ending and was left with more questions than answers.

3.5/5 stars

Salt to the Sea

By: Miss Luckow

“Salt to the Sea” by Ruta Sepetys has been getting a lot of buzz and good reviews lately, so I wanted to check it out (literally).  I’m happy to report that it deserves all the hype.

“Salt to the Sea” is a historical fiction set in WWII. It’s told from multiple perspectives following the storylines of a German art curator, a young Polish refugee, a Lebanese refugee and a young German soldier. All of their lives and secrets become entwined as they fight for survival.

I loved this story first and foremost for the characters. Each perspective was unique and saltprovided different voices to each character, making you almost instantly care about their fate. The relationships between the characters were heartwarming, at times frustrating, and ultimately truly human.

Sepetys’ writing was gorgeous–it was what first got me sucked into the book. Its organization, consistency and imagery were outstanding.

I had some qualms with the book, the main one being the fact that these characters’ secrets were quite predictable and didn’t have the huge shock factor that I think Sepetys was hoping for. The ending was also incredibly rushed and felt incomplete.

However, the most important part of this book was the historical event that it brought to light. I don’t want to expand on what this historical event was, because I think it’s better to go into the story not knowing. This book taught me about something that I didn’t even know had happened, which is beyond crazy to me. It’s a clearly well-researched book that I think everyone should try to read.

4/5 stars