I posted this review on my children’s issues blog, They’re All Our Children, but I thought I’d post it here too!

I just finished reading The Emergency Teacher, by Christina Asquith. and I think its a book that everyone who cares about children should read… especially people who are, or who aspire to be, teachers.
This autobiography is set in a rough neighborhood in Philadelphia, where a severe shortage of teachers has left entire classrooms of children to fend for themselves. The city has devised a plan to staff their schools as quickly as possible. They will allow anyone with any sort of degree to become a teacher, and the people can start teaching right away while taking night classes towards an actual teaching degree.
Christina is a twenty-five-year-old reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, who has often reported on the state of schools. When she hears about the opportunity, she decides this is her chance to actually get into a school and make a difference. And so Christina becomes an official sixth-grade teacher at one of the worst middle schools in the city.
But teaching turns out to be harder than Christina expected. Especially when she is given no books, no curriculum, and no other teaching supplies; when her roster is constantly changing as children drop out of school, move away, or get sent to her class by other teachers who don’t want them; when many of her sixth graders can barely read or write and many more don’t speak English; when out in the hallways, roving gangs of troubled children who still don’t have teachers rule the roost, terrorizing smaller kids, vandalizing property and setting fires; and when the new principal’s plan behind her “failure is not an option” motto is to encourage teachers to give kids passing grades no matter what.
The Emergency Teacher is a survival story. It is about the survival of a young, naive and inexperienced teacher, and the survival of a school full of children who society seems to have forgotten about.
Hopefully this book will not only open America’s eyes to the plights of children in inner city schools not only in Philadelphia, but all over the country!

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Here is a novel that has practically become a classic, and is being turned into a movie that apparently will come out next year. I have to admit, it is sort of a disturbing story, because it is told from the point of view of a child who is dead.

The main character, fourteen-year-old Susie, is lured into a secret “clubhouse” by a neighbor, who then rapes and murders her. From her place in Heaven, Susie watches her family and friends continue their lives, while they try to figure out what happened to her. At first, of course, her family holds onto hope that Susie is just lost, that she is alive somewhere, and that she will return safely to them. But of course Susie is not safe, and as her family comes to terms with it, Susie watches them fall apart.

The strangest thing I found about this book is the description of Heaven. When I think of Heaven, I think of it as a joyful place where a person is instantly reunited with his departed loved ones, begins to understand why everything in his life happened the way it did, and finds true joy. I imagine that, although people in Heaven spend time watching over those they left behind on Earth, the sense of time is different in Heaven, and so before long everyone is together.

But in this story, Heaven seems to be a sort of sad and lonely place. Each person’s Heaven is different, made up of the things that brought you happiness and peace during your life on Earth, and the only way two people meet is if their own two versions of Heaven intersect. Susie has a swing set in Heaven, she meets a few friends, and because she loves dogs she is surrounded by dogs of all shapes and sizes. But she is still sad in Heaven. She watches her family, and she misses them. To me the happiest moment in the story was when her own beloved dog passes away, and Susie wonders if he will remember her after all that time. Of course he does remember her, and nearly knocks her down in his joy to see her! Probably an insignificant scene to most readers, but for a dog lover like me, it brought tears streaming down my cheeks!

I won’t summarize the whole plot of this story, because I want you to read it for yourself and let me know what you think! Overall, I found The Lovely Bones to be a haunting, and sad, and beautiful story. I can’t wait to see the film version!

Want to be able to save up to 42% off the cover price of all sorts of books? Join Bookwise as a preferred customer, and you’ll be able to create your own personal library without spending tons of money!

juleswithnicki.jpg My mom claims that I learned to read when I was not even two years old. She says she taught me to read herself, during our long days together when she was a stay-at-home mom cooped up in our little apartment in Chicago. This may bery well be true… I don’t have any memory of ever not knowing how to read!

When I was in kindergarten, my mom had a talk with the school librarian and my teacher, so that when it was the day for my class to visit the school library, I would be taken over to the section with thick books like the Happy Hollisters and the Bobbsey Twins, while the other kids were still looking at the books for beginning readers.  When I was in first grade, I was sent to a second grade class for reading groups. By the time I was ten, I was reading the classics!

I still love to read, and when I was a kid I often dreamed of opening my own used bookstore. As I got older I decided I wanted to be a special education teacher instead, so I could pass along my passion for reading. I am now studying, as an adult student, to become a special ed teacher.

But I have also managed to start my own bookstore, after all!  Its a virtual bookstore, through Bookwise. I will be speaking more about Bookwise throughout this blog!

In this blog, I will report on all of the books I discover, including books by little-known authors! I will also present opportunities for other book lovers to get their hands on books for up to 42% off the cover price!

I look forward to a long and happy blog!

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