Tag Archives: Books

Book Review: Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen

19 Jul

Water for Elephants


The one unfortunate thing about being an English teacher, is that I rarely have time to read for enjoyment 9 months out of the year. It sounds a bit hypocritical, doesn’t it? Part of my job is to get teenagers “into” reading (not the easiest task!) & yet I very rarely find myself enjoying a book in my spare time. Lesson planning, grading, & other “teacher tasks” take up a good portion of my days during the school year, but one of my hopes for the coming school year is that I can start modeling what I hope to see from my students – reading for enjoyment & an escape from the “everyday.” That’s why I always loved English & reading so much in the first place! 🙂

I had heard a lot about Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen, in the last few months; especially with the recent release of the movie. This book topped my list of “must reads” for this summer. I just finished it last week, & it was truly everything I expected it to be!

I was immediately intrigued by the book’s setting – 1920s United States, during Prohibition. I’ve always been fascinated by this time in history!

The main character, Jacob Jankowski, finds himself an “adult orphan,” if you will, just as he’s about to take his veterinary school final exams. Feeling lost after the death of both of his parents, Jacob finds a new “home” with the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth – he is taken aboard this traveling circus to serve as the show’s veterinarian.

Water for Elephants(source)

While working for the circus, Jacob is forced to interact with August, the lead animal trainer. Jacob does not agree with Augusts’ training tactics, but is forced to be nice to his face because of Augusts’ power & unpredictable temperament.

Another reason why Jacob does not like August is because he becomes infatuated with Augusts’ wife, Marlena, who also works for the circus.

Water for Elephants(source)

I don’t want to give away too many of the details of the novel, but there are quite a few surprises that keep the reader both interested in the plot & invested in the characters.

One of my favorite things about the novel is how Gruen switches narrators – from 23-year-old Jacob, to 93-year-old Jacob. I love when author’s incorporate techniques like that; it keeps the reader engaged & helps them to get a more complete picture of who the character really is.

I would definitely recommend this book if you’re still looking to add to your own summer reading list!

Have you read Water for Elephants? Have you seen the movie? What’s one quality you look for when choosing a book to read?

Next up for me is The Hunger Games… I’ve heard nothing but great things about it!


The Who & The What

25 Jun

I mentioned on my About Me page that I’m a high school English teacher. I figured some one you might be wondering a little more about my occupation, & if you’re not, well… tough cookies! 😉

My first year of teaching I taught American literature to 11th grade students. I worked at a small, Catholic high school, so I literally taught the entire 11th grade. I loved this job, but moved onto to a different high school after I completed my first year of teaching.

For the past two years I’ve been teaching 10th & 11th grade students. The 10th grade students study a survey of literature, & the 11th grade students focus on American literature. In addition to literature, we study grammar, vocabulary, & writing. For this upcoming school year, I plan to have the same schedule (as far as I know!) & I’ll also be picking up the yearbook class, which should definitely be an “adventure.”

I became an English teacher because that was always my favorite class when I was in school. Actually, I didn’t realize people didn’t enjoy English until I started student teaching! What?! Everyone doesn’t love to read & write?! Preposterous!  I’ve always enjoyed writing & would feel more comfortable writing an essay than completing a test.

I figured I’d share with you all a just a few of my favorite novels, some of which I’m lucky enough to teach!

The Great Gatsby Of Mice & Men 14499757

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  • The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Of Mice & Men, by John Steinbeck
  • They Cage the Animals at Night, by Jennings Michael Burch
  • The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath
  • The Help, by Kathryn Stockett
  • Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
  • If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, by Laura Numeroff 😉

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Three questions for tonight!

1) What was your favorite subject in school?

2) If you had to pick one favorite book, what would it be?

3) Are you currently reading anything? If so, what?

Here are my answers:

1) English… duh!

2) The Great Gatsby

3) Water for Elephants