Have you ever been a class mom? These women(or men) serve as the teacher’s right hand person and handle a lot of the grunt work. My mom was a class mom multiple times for both myself and my younger siblings. I remember her organizing parties, meeting with teachers, volunteering in my classrooms, and organizing events for me all throughout school. She was always busy and I thought she pulled everything together effortlessly. When I was looking for a new book to read and saw Class Mom by Laurie Gelman in the catalog, I decided to give it a try because I was feeling nostalgic about all the work that my mom put in to my classrooms when I was younger.
Class Mom by Laurie Gelman is a hilarious romp into the life of Jen Dixon. Jen is married to Ron, who she continuously refers to as her ‘first husband’ much to his annoyance. Jen and Ron have an adorable five-year-old son named Max who is just starting kindergarten. Jen is not new to the school system as she has two older daughters, by two different men, who are now in college. Jen had a lively youth following bands around the country and the world. Her two daughters were born as a result of her carefree younger days. Jen raised her two daughters with some help from her parents and when she met Ron, her life seemed to fall together pretty perfectly.
Now that Max is starting kindergarten, Jen finds herself being prodded into becoming class mom for Max’s class. Nina, the PTA president and Jen’s best friend, keeps telling Jen that the new parents have a lot to learn from Jen’s expertise and experience. Jen thinks that’s all baloney and it’s just because she’s older than the other parents that Nina is asking her to be class mom. Regardless of those factors, Jen soon finds herself as the class mom to Ms. Ward’s new class of kindergarteners!
Jen’s tenure as class mom is full of hilarity, snarkiness, offensive, and uproariously funny emails and interactions. She holds nothing back in her emails to the other class parents and is sure to note specific response times to her requests. Jen is responsible for assigning conference times, finding field-trip volunteers, and doing whatever the teacher Ms. Ward wants her to do. She soon finds herself as the middle-man between Ms. Ward and the other class parents. The interactions between Jen and everyone at Max’s school are ripe with hilarity from Max’s supersexy kindergarten teacher who has a very odd way of running her classroom, an old flame of Jen’s popping up as one of the parents of another student, a mother whose son is severely allergic to almost everything, and two moms who Jen can never seem to tell apart! Outside of Jen’s interactions at Max’s school, Jen herself is struggling to get in shape to do a mud run to make up for last year’s disastrous attempt, trying to figure out what’s going on with her two older daughters, and working to keep her relationship solid with her husband. This book was very entertaining. Definitely recommended.
The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty is a diving read into the secrets that we all have within ourselves and between our families and friends. Cecelia Fitzpatrick stumbles upon a letter written by her husband that is only to be opened after his death. Concerned about what the letter is about, Cecelia wrestles with whether to open it or not, coming to the decision that her husband, whom she has been married to for 15 years and has three daughters with, must have just forgotten to give it to her. His reaction to her admittance that she found the letter makes Cecelia doubt her decision and causes a great chasm to open up between her and her husband, as well as between her and the people she comes into contact with on a daily basis.
Tess O’Leary lives with her husband and young son. Tess started a business out of her home with her husband and her best friend as her business partners. Everything is going along perfectly until her husband and her best friend sit her down to tell her they’ve fallen in love. Shattered, Tess packs up her son and heads to her childhood home, which just so happens to be the same town that Cecelia lives in. Tess must deal with her feelings towards her husband and best friend, her entertaining relationship with her mother, her son’s confusion, and her lingering feelings about returning to her childhood home and the people she grew up with.
Rachel Crowley works at the local school as a secretary. She comes into contact with the parents, children, and teachers on a daily basis, something that drives her crazy because she believes that one of the teachers at the school killed her daughter twenty years ago. With her daughter and now her husband dead, Rachel looks forwards to the days that her toddler grandson comes over to visit. That joy is soon snatched from her when her son and his wife announce that they are moving to New York. Her grandson will be gone too. Rachel doesn’t know what to do.
The letter that Cecelia finds has the power to destroy so many lives, but also the ability to answer so many questions. Secrets run amok in this book and the characters involved struggle with their inner demons on a daily basis. Seeing the interplay between people and how each secret connected really hooked me into the book and had me wanting more.
I have listened to and read almost all of Liane Moriarty’s books, leaving me with a little disappointed that I don’t have very many left! She is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. This is due to the fact that her stories are so relatable. The narrator(I’ve listened to all of her books through OverDrive) has a fantastic accent and has a really animated delivery as well. This book is wonderfully crafted and I greatly enjoyed it.
This book is also available in the following formats:
Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler is a modern retelling of the classic Shakespeare play, The Taming of the Shrew. Initially I picked this book to listen to through OverDrive for two reasons: the cover looked interesting and it was available for checkout. I’m glad I checked this out. This was very quick to listen to, the characters are all excellently developed, and the narrator hooked me in.
In this retelling, Kate Battista lives with her father, Dr. Louis Battista, and her younger teenage sister, Bunny. Kate works as a nursery school assistant, takes care of the family house, and has watched her younger sister ever since their mother’s early death. Dr. Battista, a research scientist studying autoimmune disorders, is eccentric to sat the least. His compulsiveness shines through in his work and the way he wants Kate to run the house. Everyone’s laundry is done on a different day of the week, Bunny has to follow her father’s behavior rules 100%, and meal prep is down to a specific science. Kate follows her father’s computer-generated grocery list and makes the family’s “meat mash” at the beginning of the week, a less-than-appetizing-sounding food concoction that contains all necessary nutrients that they then eat for the rest of the week.
Dr. Battista has gone through a number of different lab assistants, the current one, Pyotr Shcherbakov, being his favorite. Pyotr is apparently a star scientist from Russia that Dr. Battista, who is equally famous in Russia, was lucky to get. Unfortunately for everyone, Pyotr’s three-year work visa is about to expire, meaning he will be deported back to Russia unless he marries an American girl. Dr. Battista has the perfect girl in mind for Pyotr: his oldest daughter, Kate, who has never turned down any of his crazy schemes before. This retelling of Shakespeare’s classic veers from the powerful emotions in the original, but is a delightful and positive retelling that leaves readers wondering what will happen between Kate, Pyotr, and her father? Will his research be successful? Will Kate and Pyotr get married? Will the meat mash ever change? Tyler’s quirkiness adds a new level to this classic Shakespeare, something that will have readers clamoring for more.
This book is also available in the following formats:
There are many other clever adaptations of The Taming of the Shrew, some of them you may not realize. Check out this list of my favorite adaptations (and call the library for more suggestions!).
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven handles difficult topics for teens, from emotional problems and mental illness to death and suicide, but in such a way that everything is written eloquently and seriously, showing the consequences of all actions, no matter how big or small. Niven’s characters are beautifully written. The story really captures the heartbreaking yearning for everything to end up alright by showcasing a compelling search for hope when all seems lost.
All the Bright Places is told from the points of view of two high school students, Theodore Finch and Violet Markey. Theodore and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at their school. Finch is fascinated with death, chronicling ways to kill himself. Something good stops him from hurting himself every time. Violet has a countdown until graduation, when she can finally leave Indiana and start a new life away from the aftermath of her older sister’s death.
That first meeting is the start of a very unlikely relationship between the freak, outcast boy, Finch, and the popular, yet damaged girl, Violet. This book weaves an exhilarating and charming, yet simultaneously heartbreaking, love story between the two that immediately draws you in. When Violet and Finch then pair up on a class project to discover the natural wonders of their state, they learn more about each other than they initially thought. Death-fascinated Finch and future-focused Violet find hope and help by working with each other. Their lives will be forever changed.
This book is also available as an audiobook. If you use RiverShare OverDrive, our e-book and audiobook service, you can check out All the Bright Places as an e-book, as well as an audiobook.
Alpha Docs: The Making of a Cardiologist follows Dan Muñoz through his training to become a cardiologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital. This medical nonfiction highlights Muñoz’s first year of his fellowship at Johns Hopkins, a year where he does a rotation through all of the fields of cardiology: preventive care, nuclear medicine, echocardiography, intensive care, heart failure and transplantation, and electrophysiology. He takes the time to explain the workings of each different cardiology field and tries to decide which area he will end up in after his fellowship is over.
Alpha Docs walks readers through complicated procedures, but in layman’s terms, so that they are easily understandable. Throughout this book, Muñoz talks about how this fellowship is allowing him to search, learn, and discover more about his place in medicine. I really enjoyed his breakdown of each profession and how within each rotation, the cardiologists do very different things, but that there is an overarching goal for all: to keep learning and training and practicing medicine to provide better healthcare for patients. This book really showed the different stages that certain doctors go through while trying to find their niche in the world, while also providing an in-depth look into such a highly sought after fellowship at Johns Hopkins.
Warning: this book is not for the faint of stomach. Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner by Judy Melinek, M.D., and T.J. Mitchell goes into detail about the many years of training and hundreds of autopsies that Melinek went through to become a forensic pathologist trained in death investigation. Melinek began as a surgical resident, but during her fellowship, she came to the realization that surgery was not for her. As a result, she switched to forensic pathology, a subject she had always enjoyed in medical school, taking a residency position at UCLA. She and her husband bounced between LA and New York where she eventually took on a year long fellowship commitment at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
Background out of the way, I found this book to be a fascinating read. It is slightly gory, I’m not going to lie, as Melinek goes into sometimes graphic detail about the autopsies that she has performed and how they helped shape her as a forensic pathologist. The science that she presents throughout the book as well as the reasons for her becoming a forensic pathologist allow readers to see just why she is able to look at even the most decomposed bodies and the bodies of children in order to do her job. As she repeats throughout the book, it is all about the training. Her training added not necessarily a level of detachment to her work, but instead a level of understanding and skill that allowed her to treat every new case as an opportunity to learn something new about the human body.
Melinek was also working at the OCME when the planes struck on September 11th, so reading her input as her office was tasked with identifying the thousands of victims in the initial eight months after the tragedy was jarring, but at the same time, I was awed at the behind-the-scenes look that readers were granted regarding the rescue and recovery effort, as well as the volunteer and first responders’ stories. This book shines a light on all of the hard work and training that goes in to figuring out the mysteries of our deaths.
If the above description interested you or if you are looking for something similar, check out the books below. Click on the covers for more information and to be directed right to our catalog.
Mary Roach has written several medical nonfiction books, as well as Atul Gawande.
On a day-to-day basis, emergency room doctors see a staggering amount of patients. This can become daunting especially when you work the night shift and have a growing family that relies on you during the day. The training and schooling involved in order to become a doctor is somewhat designed to introduce interested candidates to the stressors and rigor of being a doctor, but even armed with that knowledge and experience, the first few shifts and even months until you fall into the swing of things can seem daunting.
Paul Austin, a former firefighter with more than twenty years of experience working in emergencies, has crafted together Something for the Pain: Compassion and Burn-out in the ER. This book, Austin’s memoir, provides an account of what it is really like to struggle through years of medical school, decide your specialty, and then commit to that area. Austin details for readers some of the challenges that emergency room doctors go through on a day-to-day basis. No matter how difficult his day is, he acknowledges that working in a busy emergency room has allowed him to grow and become a better doctor and person.
The endless line of patients and the daily labors of working in an emergency room threatened to tear him apart and destroy his family, but Austin worked hard to find himself again through therapy and looking for moments of clarity, sanity, and compassion throughout the hospital corridors.
It’s August. It’s BACK-TO-SCHOOL time! Perhaps you’ve been busy shopping for new clothes for the kids or trying to cross items off those very specific school supply lists. While you’re out and about, stop by the library and check out some of these titles:
Schools of Fish: Welcome Back to the Reason You Became an Educator by Philip Strand, John Christensen and Andy Halper. This fun, attractively arranged book can help any teacher, new or experienced, approach the school year with enthusiasm.
Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Home Schooling by Brad Miser. Not everyone opts for the traditional school setting. If you’re interested in teaching the kids yourself at home, this book can get you started on the right track.
What Your 1st Grader Needs to Know by E.D. Hirsch, Jr. There is a whole series of these books, known as the Core Knowledge series, covering first through sixth grade. Though written in the 90’s, these books, based upon the cultural literacy concept, have not gone out of style. They make a good, quick review for parents. Who knows, the adults might just learn something new! 372.19 Wha
Freedom Writers. If you prefer watching versus reading, try this inspirational DVD featuring Hilary Swank, based upon a true story of a teacher and her 150 students “who used writing to change themselves and the world around them.”
And don’t forget to check the Davenport Community Schools’ website for information on current events, academic calendars and the latest news about your school.