Review: Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg

betterofffriendsFor Macallan and Levi, it was friends at first sight. Everyone says guys and girls can’t be just friends, but these two are. They hang out after school, share tons of inside jokes, their families are super close, and Levi even starts dating one of Macallan’s friends. They are platonic and happy that way.

Eventually they realize they’re best friends — which wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t keep getting in each other’s way. Guys won’t ask Macallan out because they think she’s with Levi, and Levi spends too much time joking around with Macallan, and maybe not enough time with his date. They can’t help but wonder . . . are they more than friends or are they better off without making it even more complicated?

From romantic comedy superstar Elizabeth Eulberg comes a fresh, fun examination of a question for the ages: Can guys and girls ever really be just friends? Or are they always one fight away from not speaking again — and one kiss away from true love?

-synopsis via Goodreads

You guys, I have a confession: I am a HUGE Elizabeth Eulberg fangirl.  A few years ago, I requested Take a Bow from the library on a whim.  Well, I blew through it in a matter of hours and have since read everything else she’s written.  Without fail, I love, love, LOVE everything she writes.  So this is not exactly an impartial review.

While I don’t think anything will ever compare to the love I have for Take a Bow, Better Off Friends was a great book.  I loved meeting Levi and Macallan as awkward middle schoolers, and watching their personalities develop over the course of several years.  I think Eulberg has an incredible talent for creating rich, three-dimensional characters, and for crafting believable, authentic relationships, particularly boy-girl friendships.

I thought the story moved very fluidly, despite the large chunk of time it covered; I felt like I had enough information to really see their friendship unfold, without any large gaps missing or tiny details that made the story lag.  Despite the commentary from present-day Levi and Macallan at the end of each chapter, I wasn’t confused at all; the plot flowed in a logical manner.  I also really enjoyed the alternating viewpoints, because I liked being able to see things from both characters’ perspectives.

While I definitely loved Levi and Macallan’s friendship, I think my favorite relationship may have been between Macallan and Levi’s mother.  One of my pet peeves in YA is that parents are either really bad or not present at all, and I think Eulberg did a great job of creating positive parental figures, and not only that, but someone who could serve as a surrogate mother for Macallan during a time when she really needed someone.

As much as I’ve raved about the book, there were times when Levi drove me CRAZY.  When he complained about Macallan manipulating him into spending time with her, or went on about how important and great it was for him to have the guys and a team and a girlfriend, I just wanted to smack him.  I’m sure Macallan made mistakes also, but for some reason, the way Levi treated her at these moments really bothered me.  While this behavior seems typical of teenagers, I just felt like with him, it went on for too long with no growth.

Really, though, that’s my only objection, and it’s a small one.  I truly loved Better Off Friends.  The writing is smart and funny, the characters are loveable, and I devoured it in one sitting.  I’d recommend it to anyone who’s ever had a crush on their best friend, as well as fans of Sarah Dessen, Jennifer E. Smith, and other queens of YA romance.

Copy received from Scholastic via NetGalley.  Better Off Friends will be published on February 25, 2014.

Review: Bright Before Sunrise by Tiffany Schmidt

brightbeforeWhen Jonah is forced to move from Hamilton to Cross Pointe for the second half of his senior year, “miserable” doesn’t even begin to cover it. He feels like the doggy-bag from his mother’s first marriage and everything else about her new life—with a new husband, new home and a new baby—is an upgrade. The people at Cross Pointe High School are pretentious and privileged—and worst of all is Brighton Waterford, the embodiment of all things superficial and popular. Jonah’s girlfriend, Carly, is his last tie to what feels real… until she breaks up with him.

For Brighton, every day is a gauntlet of demands and expectations. Since her father died, she’s relied on one coping method: smile big and pretend to be fine. It may have kept her family together, but she has no clue how to handle how she’s really feeling. Today is the anniversary of his death and cracks are beginning to show. The last thing she needs is the new kid telling her how much he dislikes her for no reason she can understand. She’s determined to change his mind, and when they’re stuck together for the night, she finally gets her chance.

Jonah hates her at 3p.m., but how will he feel at 3 a.m.?

One night can change how you see the world. One night can change how you see yourself.

-synopsis via Goodreads

Well, on the surface, this book seems like it would be a winner: boy meets girl, boy hates girl, boy and girl spend 12 hours together, judgment and anger and hilarity and romance ensue, boy and girl have a bright future together.

And there were definitely elements that I really liked.  I think both Brighton and Jonah suffer from issues that are typical of the teenage experience-Brighton feels pressure to be nice to everyone and liked by everyone, and basically do it all, while Jonah moves to a new school and feels like he really doesn’t fit in anywhere.  I think readers will really be able to relate to both Brighton and Jonah.

I also have to say that I was definitely able to get wrapped up in the plot-the story moved along quickly, and I enjoyed the interactions between many of the characters.  I loved Jonah’s relationship with Carly’s siblings, and Brighton’s conversation with Jonah’s Hamilton friends at the pizza place.  I thought Jonah’s tenderness with his baby sister and, eventually, with Brighton, showed us a softer side of him.

I guess my main issue with this book is that Jonah and Brighton went from dislike to infatuation in such an abrupt manner.  I really think that over time, they would have been able to see past their differences, get to know one another better, and gradually become more than friends.  But to me, it seemed like Jonah went from abject hatred to love with hardly any transition time-that part of the story seemed a little unrealistic to me, especially considering he had JUST ended another relationship.

While this wasn’t my favorite book ever, it was an easy, light read with a fun romantic element and a few heartwarming moments.  I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who loves to get swept up in a whirlwind romance, or who loves to root for a happy ending.

Copy received from Bloomsbury via NetGalley.  Bright Before Sunrise will be published on February 18, 2014.

The Theory of Multiple Intelligences and Education

So, as previously discussed, the theory of Multiple Intelligences, proposed by Howard Gardner in the 1980s, suggests that rather than intelligence being one single ability, there are different types, or modalities, of intelligence.  People can be smart in different ways, whether they have strong verbal intelligence, musical intelligence, interpersonal intelligence, or any of the other types of intelligence proposed by Gardner (currently, there are nine).  But how can this theory be applied to education?

While everyone has some level of intelligence in each of the different categories, students are certainly stronger in some areas, and teachers have taken this knowledge and used it to both individualize and pluralize their instruction. [1]  Teachers can use their knowledge of their students, and how they best learn, to create more individualized instruction, or, at the very least, come up with a number of different choice for students when it comes to completing assignments or projects.  Additionally, teachers can teach a topic in a number of different ways, such as showing a video, teaching students a song, having students create a model, and having students take notes; this pluralization allows a larger number of students to grasp the concept being taught. [2]

It is important, though, before diving into individualized instruction and using strategies that correspond to certain intelligences, to give students the opportunity to explore a variety of experiences in order for them to figure out their preferences. [3] This could be done by creating learning centers and having students participate in each of them; in addition to allowing them to explore how they learn best, it also allows for reinforcement of a skill or concept in multiple ways.

The theory of Multiple Intelligences helps teachers diversity instruction, but it also helps students understand themselves and others, develop study skills that work for them, and validates their natural talents.  It definitely has value when applied to education, including the library.  Stay tuned for more on that.

References

1. Gardner, H. (2013). Frequently asked questions-Multiple intelligences and related educational topics. Retrieved from http://multipleintelligencesoasis.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/faq.pdf

2. Christodoulou, J.A. (2009). Applying multiple intelligences: How it matters for schools today, 25 years after its introduction by Howard Gardner. The School Administrator, 66(2). Retrieved from https://www.aasa.org/schooladministratorarticle.aspx?id=3448

3. Scholastic. (2014). Adapting instruction to multiple intelligences. Retrieved from http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/adapting-instruction-multiple-intelligences

Mnemonics

Mnemonics are interesting devices that help us to remember things.  Whether in the form of a song or rhyme, acronym, or visualization, mnemonics can be very beneficial tools when learning and memorizing important information.  These are particularly great for students-when I was teaching, I used to use songs to help students remember how to find perimeter and area in math, or learn a list of all helping verbs in English.

They can definitely be used in the library as well.  At my school, we no longer have a basic computer skills class for students, so I’ve noticed that a lot of kids come into the library without any basic typing or computer literacy skills.  Doing a project using a web 2.0 tool takes longer than you would expect because students aren’t that familiar with a keyboard and don’t have basic typing skills.

I noticed a few of the main things students were having problems with, and I came up with this mnemonic to help them remember a few basic typing skills.  This definitely isn’t comprehensive, but it does include a few basic things that would be important for word processing or typing for an online project.  So here is the HANDY mnemonic:

Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 1.00.17 PMI would go over these items before we began work on a project, and then have it hanging up as a reminder, as well as referring to it for review before other projects down the line.  Although I came up with it for third graders, I think it could be used with 4th and 5th grade students who need the reminder as well.

What mnemonics have you used with your students?  Is there anything in particular that has worked well?

January Reads

So I figured since I’m going to be blogging for one of my classes this semester, I might as well try to get back to blogging about other personal/library things as well.  This is my last semester in library school, so I’m sure you can expect some posts about that, as well as my favorite free time activity: reading!  I’m going to try to post about certain books I love, but at the very least I’m going to aim to get monthly reading roundups posted.  So, without further ado, here are the books I read in January:

1. The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #2) by Rick Riordan-So I started reading this series because my boyfriend and I watched both of the movies, and then he became interested in reading the books.  I decided to give them a try as well, even though I’m not a huge fan of mythology, but I ended up really liking them.  They’ve got a lot of action and were pretty quick reads.

2. The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau-Got this and the second in the series at BEA last year, and after I started reading, I hated that I’d put them off for so long.  A lot of people draw parallels between this and The Hunger Games series, but I enjoyed it despite the similarities, maybe even liked it a little more.

3. The Titan’s Curse (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #3) by Rick Riordan-I’m not sure I liked this one as much as the first two, but I did enjoy some of the new characters that showed up in this installment.

4. The Battle of the Labyrinth (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #4) by Rick Riordan-I think this might be my favorite book in the series.

5. The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #5) by Rick Riordan-Everything leading up to a big battle sort of reminded me a little too much of Harry Potter, but Goodreads tells me I gave it 4 stars, so I must have found some redeeming qualities.

6. Six Months Later by Natalie Richards-After all that Percy Jackson, I needed something a little more real.  At first I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this book about a girl who wakes up not remembering the last 6 months of her life, but it ended up being a solid read for me.

7. The Lost Hero (The Heroes of Olympus, #1) by Rick Riordan-At first I was hesitant to read this series-I loved the original characters so much, I didn’t want new ones.  But it turns out I didn’t hate them.

8. Just One Year by Gayle Forman-I liked this book more than I thought I would.  I would have preferred some more Willem and Allyson time, but I enjoyed Willem’s journey.

9. The Son of Neptune (The Heroes of Olympus, #2) by Rick Riordan-I had a feeling about this one after reading The Lost Hero, and I wasn’t really a fan of what happened…that being said, I’m already invested.  So let the series continue.

10. The Mark of Athena (The Heroes of Olympus, #3) by Rick Riordan-I definitely loved having more Annabeth time in this book.  I do like that this series has multiple narrators-I think it makes it more interesting.  But-HOLY CLIFFHANGER.  Thank goodness I had the next book ready and waiting.

11. Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau-2nd book in The Testing series.  I thought that some elements of the story were fairly predictable, in terms of how dystopian trilogies evolve, but I also think this series has something new to offer as well.  I really like the main character, I found it to be an enjoyable read, and I’m definitely looking forward to the conclusion.

12. The House of Hades (The Heroes of Olympus, #4) by Rick Riordan-There’s a lot going on in this installment of the story.  I liked all the action, but there were also some moments that made you think.  And Small Bob may be my favorite character ever.  A little impatient for October and the last book in the series.

13. Taken by Erin Bowman-Another BEA book that I put off for a while, and then devoured all in one sitting once I finally opened it.  Dystopian, but still interesting-I’m looking forward to the next book in April.

14. Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg-Eulberg is an automatic read for me, and it’s no surprise that I enjoyed this one.  Not my all-time favorite, but cute and funny.  I really love how she crafts her characters.

15. The Giver by Lois Lowry-I read this for a class I then decided to drop, but it was my first time reading it, and it was ok.  There are horrors in every dystopian novel, but there were some things in this one that really put me off, and I didn’t like the ending at all.

16. Finding It by Cora Carmack-I was drawn to the backpacking through Europe aspect of this book, so I decided to try it even though “new adult” isn’t really my thing.  This was a pretty quick read, but it wasn’t my favorite, and reminded me a lot of that Mandy Moore movie Chasing Liberty.

17. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes-Oh boy.  I don’t know what to say about this.  I sobbed through about the last 50 pages of the book.  Like serious, ugly cry, wailing.  I have very mixed feelings about the storyline, but I can’t deny that Moyes writes beautifully, and I loved the interactions between Louisa and Will.

18. Bright Before Sunrise by Tiffany Schmidt-It takes a lot to make a 24 hour romance work most of the time, and in this case, the characters just went from hatred/indifference to infatuation/passion way too quickly for me, especially in the case of the male main character.  There were definitely redeeming moments, but I didn’t love it.

19. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart-I wanted to love this book so much.  Frankie Landau-Banks is one of my all-time favorite characters, and I had really high hopes.  But this one just wasn’t my favorite-the writing seemed overly formal, and the “big reveal” just made things really weird to me.

This is an uncharacteristic amount of reading for me-I had the first 5 days of the month off, plus a long weekend in there, and two days off from work due to the extreme cold.  I don’t anticipate to keep up this pace, since I will have school work and work work and paperwork and some other obligations that will take time away from reading, but still, it was a nice way to start off the new year.

Howard Gardner and Multiple Intelligences

So, I thought I’d bring this blog out of hibernation in order to write some things for a class I’m taking this semester on motivating 21st century learners.

One of the goals of the class is to learn about a number of important educational theorists and their impact on teaching and learning; one of these people is Howard Gardner.  Gardner, a professor at Harvard, has spent the last few decades working on a number of things in the field of education, including designing performance-based assessments, interdisciplinary education, and using multiple intelligences to create more personalized curriculum and instruction.[1]

The theory of multiple intelligences is probably what Gardner is most known for; this theory suggests that rather than intelligence being one single ability, there are different types, or modalities, of intelligence.  People have different intellectual strengths, and these play an important role in “how people represent things in their minds, and then how people use them in order to show what it is that they’ve understood.” [2]

When Gardner originally posited this theory, he said that there were seven different intelligences; as of now, people currently think there are nine, including visual-spatial, verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, naturalistic, and existential intelligences.  More detailed descriptions can be found here.

Why is this important to education?  Well, with our current emphasis on standardized testing, the intelligences being assessed are generally only verbal-linguistic and logical-mathematical.  Since kids learn differently, and there are, at minimum, 7 other ways for them to think about things and show what they’ve learned, both instruction and assessment need to evolve to meet the needs of all kids.  Teachers have been, and need to continue to, move away from lectures and memorization to more diverse teaching methods, to project-based learning and assessments that don’t just focus on language arts, math, and filling in multiple choice bubbles.  More on how this can be done next time.

References

1. Biography of Howard Gardner. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://howardgardner.com/biography/

2. Big thinkers: Howard Gardner on multiple intelligences. (1997). Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/multiple-intelligences-howard-gardner-video