Porkenstein by Kathryn Lasky

“Dr. Smart Pig was a famous inventor, but he didn’t have any friends…”

This is a Halloween book that can be enjoyed all year long. Most kids are fascinated with The Three Little Pigs and The Big Bad Wolf. So if you’ve read The Three Little Pigs a million times and need a bit of a change, then this is the book for you. You’ll be happy to have a little variety in your life, and your young reader will be happy to still be hearing about the Big Bad Wolf.

The story begins with Dr. Pig who feels alone ever since the Big Bad Wolf ate his two brothers. Then he realizes, he’s a famous inventor, so he can invent a friend. He sprints to his lab where he mixes up concoction after concoction. Kids will love the illustrations of his results–a pig fish, a pig bat. He just can’t quite seem to get it right until finally, he thinks he’s picked all the ingredients and out comes the biggest pig you’ve ever seen. And he’s hungry. News of the giant pig spreads fast (I loved the illustration of the paparazzi snapping photos outside their house window) and the Big Bad Wolf catches a glimpse of the pig on TV. Thinking the pig would be a tasty meal, he heads off to Dr. Pig’s house for a feast. In classic Big Bad Wolf style, he disguises himself in a Halloween costume and rings the bell to trick or treat. The giant pig answers the door and after they size each other up, it’s the Big Bad Wolf who gets swallowed up by the pig. Nothing like a little payback!

This is a mad-scientist story that stresses the importance of friendship– sure to bring laughs.

Additional Information:

Author: Kathryn Lasky

Illustrator: David Jarvis

Reading level: Ages 4-8

Hardcover: 40 pages

Publisher: Blue Sky Press (September 1, 2002)

ISBN-10: 059062380X

ISBN-13: 978-0590623803

Children’s Math Book Review – The Number Devil by Hans M Enzensberger

The Number Devil by Hans M. Enzensberger is an attractive and imaginative book for children that teaches math wonderfully and redefines the concept of “showing your work.” In fact, throughout the bulk of the book, children are led by Robert and his devilish guide–into some of the most beautiful sites of mathematical discovery.

Robert has a lot of common sense and gradually over the course of the book he becomes more and more “ready” for his encounters with his crazy mentor: The Number Devil. The design of the book is appealing to the eye, contains excellent illustrations, and the clear and colorful lines and fonts attract students all the more to a greater attraction to the positive world of mathematics.

“How Children Can See Math in Different Perspectives,” would be an excellent alternate title for the book. For example, looking at math today as a teacher, a big majority of students see math as impossible to accomplish.

After reading The Number Devil, I can conclude that the book gives the average math student options in how to look at a problem in many ways. rather than in one way. The author makes it quite clear that Robert hates math: “And besides, I hate everything that has to do with numbers” (Enzensberger 11).

Many people can relate to Robert and how he learns to enjoy math. Thus, by reading this book, a student can gain hope that math is not just learning one concept, but also by learning multiple ways to solve a mathematical problem.

The first mathematical concept recognized in the book was prima donnas. This idea reminds students of the concept of prime numbers. The recollection of prime numbers from students can be difficult. The way that The Number Devil explains this concept is by painting a picture that includes the numbers from two to fifty. The process of elimination includes deleting the odd numbers by way of seeing the prime numbers.

By giving a student a picture of what needs to be done, you have successfully led him through steps that need to take place, rather than rote memorization or doing it in their “head.”

A second mathematical concept explained in The Number Devil is Bonacci Numbers. These are not just your everyday ordinary numbers. They are special numbers that are everlasting. These numbers are irrational numbers too, in that they divide certain numbers by their neighbor, and the result is a pile of numbers that do not stop. For example: one, two, three, five, eight, thirteen, twenty one, and thirty four are a prime example of how the added number added to the second number equals the third number.

A third mathematical concept in The Number Devil is the idea to simplify a number by multiplying it by itself. For example, ten times ten equals a hundred. In this situation The Number Devil shows that this can be so with the number twenty. Twenty to the fifth power is twenty thousand. This explanation can be illustrated by hopping the zero eight times to the left.

A fourth mathematical concept illustrated in The Number Devil explains irrational numbers. He says that these “unreasonable” numbers refuse to play by the “rules.” By way of encouragement he recalls the “hopping” numbers-two, four, eight, sixteen, thirty two, etc.–and he explains the problem of hopping “backwards” which he calls “taking the rutabaga” square root.

This leads to the square root of two, which the number devil says is unreasonable. He then gives a rare and gorgeous geometric proof about why the diagonal of the unit square has length of square root of two. On the diagonal the number devil draws another square, which he illustrates four triangles, two of which can form the unit square. Then the larger square has twice the area of the unit square, which makes the problem make sense to the student!

The Number Devil shows many number concepts that will be more appealing to young minds. For example, math students learn math easier by using objects they can manipulate–like sticks, building blocks, cubes, or play money. Using these visual objects can enhance student learning by helping them learn basic number operations like the ordinary numbers two, three, and four, and hopping numbers 2-2, 3-2, 4-2, and 5-2.

I would teach a class of elementary students their hopping numbers much like the number devil did, by using visual and tactile objects. A lesson on hopping numbers would be as follows. I would use three numbers per day. I would line up the object discussed, such as building blocks. I would say one times one square equals one–modeling this for them visually. Then I would hold up two blocks and show them two times two equals four with four blocks.

Whatever number I was covering would correlate with the number of blocks or sticks utilized. For the students that didn’t understand, I would pair up with someone who does understand, and instead of making them work with groups of three or four, I would allow them to start with groups of two or thereabouts. This will enable the student to learn and not feel left out or emotionally distressed by not understanding.

Another concept that is of utmost importance to our students from The Number Devil is multiplication. Introducing multiplication to students is of vital importance. Multiplication is something that can be totally misunderstood if it is not explained properly the first time. I would use bold as well as multi-colored numbers for the answers.

A variety of colors in multiplication are vital because the students can visually see that four times four (red) equals (green) sixteen (purple). A variety of colors can be utilized to explain the products and factors involved. In this case the factors of four times four equal the product of sixteen.

The use of colors will enhance the definitions for students by enabling them to remember them more accurately. I would also allow them to use colors on their papers if it helps in their memorization of facts, terms, and problem solving. I have a colleague at another school district that used to teach third grade and is now a vice principal. He taught for fifteen years and has had great success using a variety of colors in multiplication.

In conclusion, The Number Devil, by H. M. Enzensberger, is a book that I would have my students read. I found it appropriate for all levels of math students. Math should never be taught in just one way, but with a variety of methods. This book amplifies and explains how to problem solve in an exciting way and gives examples for students that they can identify with in their everyday world.

I would recommend the book for all teachers and especially teacher mentors because I believe that math is a subject that requires thinking beyond the problem and this book makes math fun, exciting, and a collaborative adventure for all students.

Book Review – Rufus Finds A Home

Rufus Finds a Home

By: Theodore Jerome Cohen

Publisher: TJC Press

Publication Date: January 2017

ISBN: 978-1542691697

Rufus is a beautiful golden retriever who lives with Charlie, a wonderful, caring man. Charlie loves his dog but the man is getting older and can no longer care for Rufus. What will happen to this special dog?

Rufus is full of energy and wants to play. He loves to chase sticks, go for long walks, and explore his surroundings. While Charlie would love to run around with his dog, the man has grown old and tired – he can’t play fetch with his dog now. The two sit by a tree on a beautiful fall day, as Charlie worries about his dog. Soon Charlie will be moving to his daughter’s house, and Rufus won’t be able to follow his owner to the new home. Charlie remembers many of the fun times the two shared, but his thoughts keep returning to his dog’s future. What will become of Rufus?

While the two friends sit quietly by the tree, a young boy comes up to Charlie. He asks the man about his dog – what’s his name, can he do any tricks – and Charlie’s face lights up. There’s nothing he loves better than talking about Rufus. Charlie tells Jimmy about the tricks Rufus can do, how the dog went to doggie school and was a star pupil, and how Rufus helps around the house. Jimmy is quickly joined by his sister Heather, and their mother, and all three are intrigued by the beautiful golden retriever.

As Charlie talks about his dog, Heather notices that he is quite sad.

“Then why are you sad?” asked the boy’s sister, Heather,

“A fine dog like Rufus should bring joy forever.”

“I know,” said the man, wiping tears from his eyes,

“but old age has taken my youth by surprise.”

It’s obvious that Jimmy and his family are loving people who adore Rufus. Will they be able to give the dog a new home?

While I’ve read and reviewed many dog stories that deal with rescues and finding homes for abandoned dogs, this is the first one that deals with a very difficult, but rarely discussed, topic of what happens when an elderly person is no longer able to care for their pet. Having to part with a beloved pet is hard for anybody, but for an elderly person who may have already lost a spouse, or other loved one, the event can be particularly stressful. Told in rhyme, with lovely photographs of Rufus that fit perfectly with each page’s action, the story is easy to follow and heartwarming too. Rufus Finds a Home is a book that children will love to read, while it also educates them about how/why dogs sometimes need new homes.

Quill says: A difficult subject, tackled with sensitivity, makes Rufus Finds a Home a wonderful story and one children will enjoy and want to read over and over.