2017 Reading Challenge

READING CHALLENGE #11 "A book set in your hometown/region"

Dandelion Cottage by Carroll Watson Rankin


                                      (The real Dandelion Cottage in Marquette, Michigan)


The cottage, built in about 1880 and on the state historical register,  served as the inspiration for the children’s book "Dandelion Cottage" written in 1904 by Marquette author Carroll Watson Rankin.

It is the story of four little girls who pulled a bumper crop of dandelions from the lawn to earn the right to use the run-down cottage as a playhouse one summer and of their numerous adventures as they set up housekeeping.

When I was teaching, this book was very popular in my classroom.  Many a time, I was told by students and parents that finding the Dandelion Cottage was a wonderful outing after the book had been read.

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READING CHALLENGE #10  "A book published in the 20th century"

Sarah Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan


This is a small book, an hour or two's read at most but within its covers, Patricia MacLachlan creates a story of ordinary circumstances and turns them into a living, breathing event readers can feel. It depicts the simple life people lived while farming the frontier of America.  It is a poignant reminder of the hardships endured by families in that era. It touches on lives affected by death, by loss, by separation. It shows a young boy worried about new separation and how a grown woman deals with separation in her own way. MacLachlan is able to reveal the characters emotions without telling us HOW they are feeling but WHAT they are feeling. Told with the simplicity of a children's story, MacLachlan includes the grace and wisdom of the best adult novels.



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 READING CHALLENGE #9  "A book that became a film"

The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman





This is a wonderful story of Antonina Żabińska and her husband Jan who were zookeepers at the Warsaw Zoo during WWII.  There are two stories within the story.  One is the war going on around Poland and how it affects the people of Warsaw and all of Poland.  The second is the story of Jan and Antonina and how their efforts saved over 300 Jews in Warsaw from the Nazis.  This story is more on Antonina and her strength and courage.  I highly recommend this book.

I went to see the movie after reading the book and was very dissapointed.  The movie focused more on the personal relationships of her and her husband as well as her relationship with a colleague who becomes an enthusiastic ally of the nazis.


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READING CHALLENGE #8 "A book by someone who isn't a writer"

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch





I read this book on the recommendation of a friend.  I was not too enthusiastic about it as I was not interested in reading about the end of life ramblings of a college professor.  However, my friend has always steered me in the right direction on reading material so I gave it a go.  I was floored!  This was one of those books I could not put down until I was finished reading it.  It was unlike anything I had read in the past.  Yes, Randy Pausch was dying from pancreatic cancer when he gave the lecture and yes, it was filled with memories and stories from his past.  But it never came off as someone who was spending his last days just rerunning his life.  It took the form of a legacy to his children.   It included stories of his childhood, lessons he wanted his children to learn, and things he wanted his children to know about him. He repeatedly stressed that one should have fun in everything one does, and that one should live life to its fullest because one never knows when it might be taken.  There are so many lessons that we, the readers, can take from it.  However, the most meaningful point for me comes at the very end of his lecture, when he states: "It's not about how to achieve your dreams, it's about how to lead your life. If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself, the dreams will come to you.”


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READING CHALLENGE #7  "A book written by a female author"

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

This novel is about a woman who suffers early-onset Alzheimer's disease at the age of 50.  It is told from her point of view.  In the book, she not only struggles with the major changes in her life but also in how the lives of her husband and children must adapt to her diagnosis.

This book affected me so emotionally that I found myself crying through parts of it.  Not only because of the circumstances that the main character found herself in but also because of personal experience with my aunt and alzheimer's disease.  I remember my mother returning from visiting my aunt (her sister) in a nursing home and her tearful  telling of how her sister only remembered her as a young girl.  My aunt remembered nothing about my dad or about my sister and I.  She didn't even recognize her own daughter. My mother was so affected by this that she lived in fear up until the day she died that she would get the disease and forget us.

I read this book long before I saw the movie.  Both the book and movie wrung me out emotionally and although I have read the book again, I do not believe I would be able to watch the movie again.  There are those movies that affect you so much that seeing them once is all you can handle.

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READING CHALLENGE #6  "A book written by a male author"

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

 I picked this book up at an airport bookstore so I would have something to read during a 2 hour layover.  I didn't expect much, just something to pass the time.  Boy, was I wrong!  I became totally engrossed in the story.  I read it during the layover, the plane ride and whenever I had time during my vacation as well as the plane trip home.  I was totally captivated by the characters as well as the story of a disappearance and murder 40 years in the past.

I read this book before seeing the movie.  As usual, I liked the book much more than the movie.


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READING CHALLENGE #5  "A non-fiction book"

Miles From Nowhere by Barbara Savage

On May 14, 1978, Barb and Larry Savage left San Francisco on a bicycle journey that would take them across the United States and then around the world.  This journey of 23,000 miles took them through 25 countries and lasted 2 years.  Barb Savage's book documents their journey in a journal style.  It describes their encounters with people, animals and environments.  These encounters were sometimes dangerous, sometimes humorous but always rewarding in their own way.  Cycling enthusiasts will love this book as the Savages bicycled their way around the world and include a lot of facts and tips about this type of transportation.  For us armchair travelers, it is an absorbing and entertaining trip around the world.

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READING CHALLENGE #4  "A book published in the last year"

A Mother's Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold
Published February 15, 2016

The Columbine tragedy has affected all of us in so many ways.  As human beings, we found it hard to believe that such a monstrous act could have been committed in, what we thought, was a peaceful learning environment.  As parents, we found that our faith in the school where we dropped our children off every day secure in the knowledge that they were safe for at least 6 hours was shaken to the core.  As educators, we were faced with the realization that our profession not only encompassed teaching knowledge but also in protecting our students at all costs.

As a teacher, this was brought home to me when I attended, along with other teachers in my school, an inservice on what to do if there is an "active" shooter in the school.  We started out by listening to an audio tape of a student calling 911 from where she was hiding in the Columbine school library.  If that was not heartbreaking enough, we also knew she did not get out of that library alive.  We performed a number of scenarios with the police on how to barricade the classroom, where to hide the students and what to do if the "active shooter" got into the classroom.  Basically, we were taught how to protect our students at all costs even to the point of  taking a life and/or giving our lives for them.  This was traumatic for me.

However, in the wake of all this, I never thought of the other side of this tragedy..the parents and families of the shooters.  Did they realize there was a problem?  Did they try to find their child help or did they just dismiss it as a phase they would grow out of?

Reading Sue Klebold's book gave me insight into what this mother went thru before, during and after Columbine.  Although there are parts of the story that are difficult to read, I found myself respecting Sue for her courage, truthfulness and finally, her strive to make something good come out of this tragedy.

excerpt from A MOTHER'S RECKONING:

"A day does not pass that I do not feel a sense of overwhelming guilt--both for the myriad of ways I failed Dylan and for the destruction that he left in his wake. . . I think often of watching [fourth-grade] Dylan do origami. . . I loved to make a cup of tea and sit quietly beside him, watching his hands moving as quickly as hummingbirds, delighted to see Dylan turn a square of paper into a frog or a bear or a lobster. I'd always marvel at how something as straightforward as a piece of paper can be completely transformed with only a few creases, to become suddenly replete with new significance. Then I'd marvel at the finished form, the complex folds hidden and unknowable to me. In many ways, that experience mirrors the one I would have after Columbine. I would have to turn what I thought I knew about myself, my son, and my family inside out and around, watching as a boy became a monster, and then a boy again."

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READING CHALLENGE #3  "A book published over 100 years ago"

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen published 1811
I read this book back in the 90s after seeing the movie.  As usually happens when I read a book either before or after seeing the movie based on it, I find the book so much better.  The original story goes into more detail about each of thee characters and why they do the things they do.  Before reading the book, I was not sure as to why Jane Austen entitled it "Sense and Sensibility".  Yes, the Dashwood sisters were the opposite of one another in how they lived their lives but that would be the "sense" part of the title.  I was confused as to the "sensibility" side of the title.  Reading it for this challenge and being older now, I think I have figured out what Jane Austen was trying to tell the reader.  We need to find that perfect balance between sense and sensibility in our lives.  Sense being good judgement and seeing all sides of a circumstance before making a decision.  Sensibility is the emotional side, leading with our heart.  Attaining the balance of both these sides is what humans should strive for to attain ultimate happiness.

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READING CHALLENGE #2  "A book from your childhood"

Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene

I first started reading Nancy Drew books when I was 10 years old.  My mom, sister and I were visiting relatives in Pennsylvania and I went exploring in my great aunt's attic.  There, I found 3 Nancy Drew books.  My great aunt gave them to me and I immediately started reading them.  That treasure hunt began a wonderful friendship with Nancy Drew that has lasted to this day.  Books were given to me as gifts, I earned money to buy my own and my neighbor girlfriend, Judy, traded books with me all the time.  We would sit and talk for hours about what we read...our favorite parts, our favorite characters and what kind of mysteries she could solve next.  Looking back, Nancy was a pretty good role model.   She was independent, smart, loyal, respectful of her father, self-reliant, courageous, adventurous and she liked to help people.  To this day, I still have the original 3 books that I found in my great aunt's attic as well as many more.  On those days when I am feeling nostalgic for my youth, I pull one or two out and cuddle on the sofa under a warm quilt and read about my friend Nancy who with her best friends Bess and George and her boyfriend, Ned solve mysteries that the police and her father the lawyer never could.

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READING CHALLENGE #1     "A book read in school"

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl


I read this book when I was a junior in high school.  Anne's words just pulled me into her world.  Parts of it made me laugh, made me cry, made me angry and the entire diary filled me with a sense of hope that there can be strength and courage in the most terrifying of circumstances.  This was a book difficult to put down.  This was one of the books that started me on my lifelong habit of carrying a book with me at all times.  It is an awesome story to start my reading challenge with.
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I love books and I love to read!  This is probably my most favorite past time and would give up all others in order to do it all the time.  I am not into digital books.  I much prefer to look through stacks and stacks of books, read their spines and get excited when a title jumps out at me.  I love to hold a book in my hand, opening the cover and enjoying the feeling of the pages in my hand as I turn them slowly.  Books are a great love to me.  My dream home would look like Barnes and Nobles.  They have it all...soft comfy couches, clean bathrooms, good food and coffee, music and of course, books!  Heaven!

So to satisfy my love of reading and include a goal for the coming year, I am getting in on a reading challenge.  26 books//one book every two weeks for the year of 2017.  I found this reading challenge online and I got excited.

Some of the books I chose are ones I have read in the past and enjoy reading again and again.  Others are brand new selections.

If you are a lover of books and reading, please join me and share your selections.








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