Sunday, February 18, 2018

Such A Lot of Great Books!

        Visit Jen at Teach MentorTexts and Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders to discover books you'll love!  Thanks to Jen, Kellee, and Ricki who share so much with us by taking time to support this meme!

    What a week last week! Wow! ALA Midwinter and Cybils Awards. Hope you had a favorite or favorites receive some honors!  

        This is one of the Cybils' finalists, and an amazing story re-told in verse. For those who teach and share the classic myths with older students, here is a book that will excite. David Elliott brings the tragedy of  “The Minotaur” into today’s vernacular, well known by students, young and older teen. When needed, there is strong language, meaning-filled sarcasm, and strong feelings of both love and grief. All the players show up, and Elliott has given each a particular voice and writes the same poem form for each as well.  Key storyteller is the top person, Poseidon, who quickly manages to ignite the story in a fury. With a bored affect, he sends desire to Queen Pasiphae for the mighty beast, laughs behind her back at the trick he has done.  He says: “So, yeah--I gave the queen a thing. For the white bull’s thang. Be glad that I did! If I hadn’t? No story. You know the drill. No guts. No glory.”
            Humans were given brains to make their own choices, Poseidon merely started it all and shows interest but no thought of intervention. He allows strong emotions from desire to love, revenge to grief, can mirror today’s lives if the reader only makes the connections.       
          All the familiar names are there, Queen Pasiphae, King Minos, their daughters Phaedra and Ariadne, Theseus and The Minotaur, doomed Asterion! And each character has a unique voice, along with writing the poems in forms also unique to each voice. From Pasifphae about Minos:  “IgNOrant self/aNOinted fool/he thinks he kNOws/me but NO one/kNOws the hard tight/kNOt of my heart.” As you see, there is use of different kinds of rhyming, bolded words within poems and darkened pages when words come from the Labyrinth. Elliot has brought this old myth to teens in the 21st century for lively interest.

           Finally, it was my turn to have this wonderful book from the library, now wondering why I just didn’t purchase it?  Oliver Jeffers wrote and illustrated a book about life on earth for his son when he was two months old. I imagine this might be one he’s memorized by now, or perhaps he’s moved on to “more”. The book is full of the basic stuff, lovingly told and shown so you want to examine, and eventually, ask questions about all that space stuff, like the funny name of the planet Neptune; or ask about the people who dress differently, like that boy with a man in gold helmets. Perhaps you’ll want to know about the animal who’s “not” supposed to be on the page with all the others, or wish you could travel on that very large ship? That’s the wonderful book Jeffers has created. I haven’t shared it with my granddaughters, know they will love each page and wonder what’s next.

         First published in Italy a few years ago and in the U.S. last year, from Marianna Ruiz Johnson who lives in Buenos Aires, with the flavor of that other picture book, Windows, it’s a wordless book created in cut paper collage. There are stories to discover on every page of the ordinary night lives of grown-ups while the child is sleeping. If one looks again, there is also some extraordinary figures, perhaps dreams entering the story? It’s very fun to look and look at each page.

          I found this at my indie bookstore and fell in love with this book for younger readers. William is such a kind boy and no matter who arrives, he figures out how to make it work. As you can see from the cover, one by one, animals need a snuggly place on this cold, snowy night. The rhyming text is perfect. Here’s part from the first page: He drinks his cocoa, climbs in bed./He fluffs the pillow beneath his head,/then burrows down for a nice long nap. . ./but wakes to the sound of a tap, tap, tap.” Those sounds on the pages are set apart in handwriting. The illustrations add to the words with full pages of shivering animals, then so, so content when snuggling in the bed. If you’ve ever read the old story, The Mitten, this is another cumulative tale and it’s terrific!

        Out walking in the snow, bear and wolf meet and have a walk together. After coming to a pond, pushing away snow so they can see the fish beneath, they enjoy each other’s company and part ways. Bear goes off to finish his winter’s nap and wolf leaves to join his pack for their long search for caribou. The illustrations are pleasant, seem to exude friendliness as these two find ways to enjoy each other. I love the page where, when looking at the pond through the ice, Salmieri creates a view from the pond itself, showing Bear and Wolf peeking in. The ending shows a reunion, the two meet again for a beautiful spring walk. I enjoyed reading it, a book about being friends with someone different.
              It’s all about geometry, of friendship! Circle and square have a satisfactory, “equal” relationship; “Circle liked to bounce into action.” And “Circle admired square for all his good points.” Marcie Colleen’s imaginative analysis in picturing shapes will bring lots of laughs and perhaps a mathematical and personal answer to what happens when another “friendshape” arrives and puts a ‘wedge’ between circle and square. That pesky triangle knows all the answers, how to find info about the pyramids and how to fly a kite. Circle and Square clung to this new friendship until that “pull” ended in disaster. How it’s solved can only be a brainy solution, a sum of many parts! Bob Shea’s art manages to infuse much emotion into his simple and colorful drawings of these geometrical figures. They are one-dimensional no more!

            Based on the life of Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman to go into space, a book about making dreams happen. No matter the hurdles, Mae stuck to what her parents told her often, “If you can dream it, if you believe it and work hard for it, anything is possible.” She did dream and believe and work hard, even hearing that her teacher told her that she should become a nurse instead. According to an added author’s note, Dr. Mae Jemison entered Stanford at the age of sixteen, earning a degree in chemical engineering. Wow! She then went on to become a medical doctor, eventually following her dream and applied to NASA’s astronaut program. On Sept. 12th, 1992, her dream came true as she traveled to space on the shuttle, Endeavor. Wow, again! What a great story to share with kids, to keep their dreams and work hard, not to give up!

Still Reading: The Blue Window by Adina Rishe Gewirtz. I'm enjoying it very much, but it is nearly 600 pages, and complex. It's out in early April!
        The Tender Bar, by J.R. Moehringer. I've wanted to read more, and will!

Next: I'm not sure. I'd like to re-read A Wrinkle In Time because the movie is coming out! 

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Finding Celebrations

      Celebrating today with Ruth Ayres and others who share. 

           More than other weeks, this is a week to find things to celebrate. And so I look, and do find them, and know that I mostly celebrate my daily hours that are full of good things. When we fill ourselves up with goodness, we gain the strength to fight for the right things for everyone. 
          Imogene was ill this week, so spent the day with me on Monday. We filled the time with quiet - reading picture books, watching the Lionguard that has special stories of helping and protecting, playing with an old marble run that continues to be a favorite toy. 
          On Tuesday, I picked Ingrid up from school and we made it to our go-to ice cream shop--salted caramel is the choice!
          Wednesday I worked at the bookstore for a while, visited with a wonderful volunteer who gives hours entering books to sell on Amazon. And I gathered books that we no longer need to take to a refugee center in great need of books! Like the bookstore, this center is run entirely by volunteers, the building owned by a doctor who has set up a non-profit with a food pantry, a clothing room, a doctor, a dentist, a teen room, English classes, a nursery. It is amazing to see all that is happening at this center and our bookstore is happy to help with much-wanted books.
           Thursday, back at the bookstore. It's my day, and also the day we go through donations, giving thanks for those who think of us when they have books to give.
           Friday, a quick snow and ice storm Thursday night made streets very icy, and I slid right through an intersection on the drive to the dentist. I was lucky. The other drivers saw that I was not going to be able to stop, and waited to enter the street. Whew! 
           I had a great phone visit with my grandson, on the way with his parents to visit another university. It's so hard to believe he's looking at colleges. But he is, and I hope he finds just the right one for him!
           And, walking to the mailbox (we have a bank of locked boxes in our neighborhood) I had the joy of seeing my favorite crows flying around. Here's a pic of one on the wing!

           Today, I'm off to the bookstore again to meet a possible new volunteer, hoping to fill one needed opening! It's warm again, and I know I will discover other celebrations. And I will write more letters to my representatives to let them know I want them to listen to their constituents and do what is right for America! 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Poetry Friday - Deciding How We Care

           Jone MacCullough at Check It Out hosts our PoetryFriday this week. I imagine she'll be sharing the Cybils Poetry winner and perhaps others who were honored, too. You can find them all here. Thanks for hosting, Jone! 

            As I searched for some poetry to share today, for comfort in a time of terrible loss, I found a poem from a book written in 2004 by Edward Brunner, Cold War Poetry. I only read a few pages, admit I am not an expert on the entire book's premise and full content. Yet this particular part touched me. He writes: Yet poets in the 1950s in fact did write poems that set out to do precisely that which Lowell deemed to be the quintessential response to the bomb--to be a shield for their child. That is, poets in surprising numbers wrote pieces in which their primary role was not to speak in the voice of the professional or the sober analyst or the civic-minded intellectual but in the voice of the parent or the parent-surrogate whose very poem was being extended as an offering to a child as if it could be an act of sheltering. In none of these poems is the Bomb ever mentioned directly. But the extent to which a poem must include a direct reference to the Bomb in order to evoke its presence is always a problematic feature of poems about the Bomb. Consider Hyam Plutzik's six-line poem. . .which accomplishes its task nicely without mentioning the Bomb.

              It was a time of stress during this time of the Cold War, but as children, we felt sheltered, taken care of. I wonder if we can say the same of children today? Here is Hyam Plutzik's poem:

And in the 51st Year of that Century, while My
Brother Cried in the Trench, while My Enemy 
                     Glared from the Cave

This star is only an augury of the morning,

Gift-bearer of another day.

A wind has brought the musk of thirty fields,

Each like a coin of silver under that sky.

Precious, the soundless breathing of wife and children

In a house on a field lit by the morning star. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

People Who Made A Difference

art by Sarah S. Brannen
          Visit Alyson Beecher on Wednesdays for Non-Fiction Picture Books at Kidlit Frenzy.  From her and others, you will discover and want to celebrate terrific nonfiction picture books!
           I can't argue with the Sibert Award winners because I haven't read any, sad to admit, and have only heard of one. You can find all the winners here in case you missed them. Congratulations to all the winners!

Also, Cybil's Awards will be announced today. I had a wonderful time discussing the finalists in the poetry category. Congratulations to them, too. 

And, Happy Valentine's Day!

       This book infuses some of the challenges faced by African Americans, especially women, during and after World War II, focusing on four black women who were very smart in math and wanted to help their country in ways they were so capable of doing. It begins with the work on airplanes during the war and continues through beginning computer work through the forming of NASA and the trip to the moon.  In Shetterly and Conkling’s text, the reader is introduced to the reasons these figures were hidden through giving some details of U.S. history of segregation and the Civil Rights movement. Freeman’s illustrations are boldly colored, like the cover. It's great to see a picture book story made for younger readers from the original book. There is enough information given to satisfy parts of this history and to spark interest in discovering more. Added information at the end includes a timeline of pertinent events, short biographies of each woman, a glossary, and an author's note.

             As Andrew Carnegie gained power, he acquired a greedy reputation because of his fight against the workers at his steel mills. However, this book focuses on his story growing up in a poor family, finally giving up and migrating to American. There as a fourteen-year-old, Andrew had to work to help his family, began as a bobbin boy in a cotton mill, twelve hours a day, small breaks for lunch and dinner. Wow! Slowly, he moved into more important jobs, and through hard work, he became one of the richest men in America. His story is briefly told, with emphasis on his first opportunity to spend time reading from a rich man's library. He remembered that, and later, as a wealthy man, began to spend his millions building libraries, the first in his birthplace, that small village in Scotland. Illustrations done by Katty Maurey are made in muted tones of few colors, interesting to see. Andrew Larsen has added additional information about Carnegie's legacy. 

Sunday, February 11, 2018

It's Monday - Time to Share Great Books

        Visit Jen at Teach MentorTexts and Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders to discover books you'll love!  Thanks to Jen, Kellee, and Ricki who share so much with us by taking time to support this meme!

      It's exciting to write this knowing that the big, big moment is Monday morning here in Denver at 8am, the ALA Midwinter announcement of awards! Authors and Illustrators have already been called and are grinning like Cheshire cats about now as I'm writing this. I wonder who. . .?

        More than one book captured me this week. When you read what I share, you'll know what I mean.

If you'd like to read a HornBook recap of Angie Thomas speaking at the First Parish Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts, plus a few other links about her, go here. This book is one from my list of #MustReadIn2018.

          It's been a busy, busy week but staying up later than usual and reading a lot on Sunday helped me finish Angie Thomas' book, take several deep breaths and start over again. While I may take longer than a week for this re-read, I feel it's important to see if I missed anything. I was a bit confused with some relationships and went back to figure that out. I took time also to look up words. I am white after all and didn't know some of the words. I want to know! If I read this and was still a teacher, I know I would do this, so why not now for my grandchildren? 
         The main character of this story, Starr, is in high school and not in her neighborhood, a ghetto named Garden Heights. She and her brother, Seven, a senior, and younger brother, Sekani, all attend a nearly all-white private school 45 minutes away. Throughout the story, Starr shares often about the struggle to code-switch, to be careful not to let her home voice out when she's at school. She says she's good, but it's so hard.