Bethany's Readers' Advisory

The place to go for readers' advisory on books for children, teens, and adults

I Wish My Teacher Knew by Kyle Schwartz August 18, 2016

Filed under: adult non-fiction,Uncategorized — Bethany @ 8:31 pm

book cover1Ms. Schwartz, a third grade teacher from Colorado, asked her students to fill in the blank. I wish my teacher knew ____. The answers, and therefore her understanding of her students, transformed her life as a teacher. After sharing her experiences on social media, teachers all over the world tried the exercise with astounding results. Some students’ answers are shared throughout the book as well as insights from teachers. Most of the book, however, is focused on how to create a community within the classroom and school and how to best help students who are struggling with personal challenges such as poverty, hunger, grief, and more.

As someone who wanted to be a teacher since she was 5, I read about this book in an article and couldn’t wait to read it. It was very interesting and really emphasized the important role teachers play in students’ lives. I felt that old pang of regret for changing my career path and never being a teacher. Teachers have a HARD job. I think many people fail to appreciate what an emotional bond teachers form with their students and how teachers care about students as people beyond (just?!) teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic.

I wish the book would have had more of the students’ responses to the question. There was one per chapter, but I got the impression that the book would be filled with them, Post Secret-style. I also felt that sometimes the author was really touting all the great things she has done for her students. (Don’t get me wrong- She seems like a wonderful teacher.) Sometimes it gave me that panicked feeling that the world is a horrible place and there is little I can do to help. However, it also gave concrete suggestions for helping children feel included and safe. This book is definitely worth reading, especially if you are a teacher or work with children.

3 out of 5 stars


On a Dollar a Day by Christopher Greenslate and Kerri Leonard December 10, 2015

Filed under: adult non-fiction,Uncategorized — Bethany @ 5:38 pm

On a Dollar a DayThis nonfiction book stemmed from a project taken on by two high school teachers in California. The high prices of groceries made them wonder what it would be like to live on just $1 a day. After a carefully planned trip to the grocery store, the two lived on $1 worth of food apiece for one month. The results were two tired, hungry, and cranky teachers. Later, they decided to try living on a little over $4 each day, a number they reached based on the allotments for families using SNAP assistance (formerly known as food stamps). The final section of the book consisted of their reflections on the project and their conclusions about the state of the American diet when restricted by income.

I will preface my review by saying that I lead a pretty frugal lifestyle and fancy myself a decent cook. This book did its job to spur a discussion in my household. It also taught me about the history of food stamps and made me realize how others think much differently about money and food than I do. My criticisms of this book revolved around the fact that they seemed snobby and uncreative when it came to food. They complained incessantly about eating oatmeal for breakfast every morning but didn’t try to make it taste better. In the second part of the book, they followed some suggested recipes that are available to SNAP recipients and complained about how awful the food was and the lack of nutritional value. They were vegans and bought meat substitutes to make the casseroles even though this surely hurt their budget. Why not just leave out the meat or substitute it with beans or lentils? I’m sure they could have made meals that were less expensive and more to their liking while still illustrating their points. The scene in the book that really blew my mind was when she forgot her water bottle at home and was so thirsty that she had to spend money to buy a can of pop from the vending machine. Even the most poverty-stricken schools (which was definitely not the situation here) have water fountains. When they finished their project, they claimed to be more conscious of their spending and had whittled down their monthly grocery budget to a little over $400. This amount seems absurdly high.

While this book was interesting and thought-provoking, it could have been better. A listing of their menus for the two months and a breakdown of their costs by item and by meal would have added value. Tighter editing would have been beneficial as well.

I guess I should do my own project and write my own book.

2 out of 5 stars


Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan August 14, 2013

Filed under: adult memoir,adult non-fiction — Bethany @ 9:50 am
Tags: , ,

Dad Is FatJim Gaffigan, comedian famous for his Hot Pockets routine, has written a book about being a father. He and his wife have five young children in a two-bedroom New York City apartment. He talks about the different aspects of raising children, especially in a big city.

This book had its laugh-out-loud moments, but overall it wasn’t as funny as I’d hoped. It also had some sentimental parts about how special it is to have children. Maybe I would have enjoyed it more if I had kids of my own.

3 out of 5 stars


The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks December 21, 2012

Filed under: adult non-fiction,Uncategorized — Bethany @ 12:49 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksYou’ve probably never heard of Henrietta Lacks, but she might very well be the reason you’re alive today.  In the early 1950’s, she was admitted to the colored ward at Johns Hopkins with a cancerous tumor.  Doctors took some of the cells from her body for research.  Those cells never died.  Henrietta’s cells, known as HeLa to scientists, still exist today and have been used to develop everything from a polio vaccine to in vitro fertilization to gene mapping.

Neither Henrietta nor her family knew that her cells were taken or used by scientists all over the world.  Many years later author Rebecca Skloot became intrigued with the story and contacted the family to find their perspectives.  She discovered how little they knew about their mother, her cells, and the impact on their lives.  Ms. Skloot spent a decade writing the untold story of Henrietta Lacks and her family, especially her daughter Deborah.

This is a fascinating true story of science, bioethics, the horrifying experiments done on African Americans by doctors in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, and the resulting contributions to science.  It is both a human interest story and a lesson in the ethics of medicine.

5 out of 5 stars


I Suck at Girls by Justin Halpern September 16, 2012

The story begins as Justin confides to his dad that he’s going to propose to his girlfriend.  In subsequent chapters, we flash back to Justin’s various encounters with girls, from his second grade crush to his disastrous senior prom to his future fiance.  There are many awkward moments, disappointments, and rejections along the way.  And of course the advice and wisdom of his father.  “Son, you’re a little on the jittery side.  It’s okay.  Don’t beat yourself up about it.  It don’t mean you don’t have a pair of balls, it just means you’re more choosy when you use them.  That’s not always a bad thing.”

Much like his first book, Sh*t My Dad Says, this book was funny.  Really funny.  I was laughing so hard there were tears running down my face at one point.  My favorite part was his trip to Europe during college and after a couple of drunken nights at a club he is given this diagnosis by a Spanish doctor, “Some people, they are very good at alcohol, and they go to many discos, and it is okay.  Some people, they are very bad at alcohol, and it is not good for them discos, and they are good at sitting.  You are good at sit down.”  Keeping in mind it’s heavy on the swearing, you should read this book if you’re ready to laugh.

5 out of 5 stars


Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard July 19, 2012

Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President:  President James A. Garfield is not as well known as Abraham Lincoln or John F. Kennedy, but the story of his assassination is just as dramatic.  Discover how Garfield became president, the madman Charles Guiteau who shot him, and the doctors who unwittingly took Garfield’s life.  This  is a tale of politics, history, human strength and character, invention, genius, and ignorance.

This was a long but fascinating story of James A. Garfield.  I knew very little of this president, but he had an interesting life and an excruciating death.  His peril effected several important inventions from which we continue to benefit.  The book was well-written, both informative and entertaining.  I would highly recommend the audiobook; the reader, Paul Michael, did an amazing job bringing the drama and suspense to life.

5 out of 5 stars


Put ‘Em Up! by Sherri Brooks Vinton June 22, 2012

Filed under: adult non-fiction — Bethany @ 10:05 pm
Tags: ,

This cookbook is billed as “a comprehensive home preserving guide for the creative cook from drying to freezing to canning and pickling.”  It contains step-by-step directions for different methods of preservation as well as recipes.  It caters to the beginner, filled with reassurances about the safety and ease of home preservation.

The author’s anecdotes add a personal touch to this comprehensive, easy-to-understand cookbook.  I’m inspired to try canning!


AWOL on the Appalachian Trail by David Miller June 12, 2012

Filed under: adult adventure,adult non-fiction — Bethany @ 10:56 am
Tags: , , ,

In 2003, David Miller (trail name AWOL) left his unsatisfying job as a software engineer to hike the Appalachian Trail.  His wife and three daughters at home, he hiked alone the 2,172 miles from Georgia to Maine.  Part journal, part travel guide, Miller’s story tells of the pain, the joy, and the friendship he encounters along the way.

After reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed and A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, I was ready to learn more about the reality of hiking the Appalachian Trail.  The day-to-day accounts of the distance he traveled, the shelters he slept in, the equipment he used, and the towns he visited gave a realistic look at what it is like to thru-hike this trail.  I would recommend this book to anyone who is considering a long-distance hike or would like to read a well-written account of AWOL’s experiences on the AT.

5 out of 5 stars


A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson May 24, 2012

Filed under: adult non-fiction — Bethany @ 5:47 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Shortly after moving to New Hampshire with his family, Bill Bryson discovered a trail.  Upon further investigation, he realized it was the infamous Appalachian Trail which stretches from Georgia to Maine.  After some research and many visits to his local outdoor supplier, Bryson is prepared to hike the 2,100 mile trail.  His sometimes surly, out-of-shape friend Stephen Katz decides to join him.  The two set out on a hike that is much more than either of them were prepared for.  Along the way, they meet wild animals, fellow hikers (some more normal than others), and some frightening small towns.  The story of Bryson and Katz on the trail is interspersed with well-researched information about the National Park Service and the history of the AT.

After finishing Cheryl Strayed’s book about the Pacific Crest Trail, I wanted to know more about the Appalachian Trail.  Bryson’s book was just the thing.  It was interesting, funny, and honest.  Whether you are an avid hiker, a couch potato, or something in between, I would recommend this book.

4.5 out of 5 stars


Things Every Woman Should Have and Should Know By the Time She’s 30 by Pamela Redmond Satran and the Editors of Glamour

Fifteen years ago, Glamour magazine published a list of 30 things a woman should have and know by the time she’s 30.  The list was so popular, it went viral before going viral was even a thing.  This book expands upon the list by including stories, observations, and comments on each item on the list by celebrities, authors, and other well-known women.

Since I just turned 30 myself, I decided to see how I fared with the items on the list.  Some were meaningful, some were kind of silly.  None were really inspirational to me.  I especially had a hard time relating to the stories by celebrities such as Taylor Swift- she’s not even close to 30.  I can see why people enjoyed the list, but this book just wasn’t my thing.

2 out of 5 stars


%d bloggers like this: