Sunday, February 26, 2017

New & Older Books - All Great!

            Visit Jen at Teach MentorTexts and Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders to see what they've been reading, along with everyone else who link up.  
NowIntoThe Woods, Tana French, for my book group.
Soon: that new book Last Day On Mars, thanks to Kellee.

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          I took a long time reading this book, one by James Herriot I'd never read. I've read all the others a long time ago but needed something sweet and gentle from the past to offer some respite from today's news. This fit my wishes beautifully, stories by Herriot about his early days as a vet and the days of courtship with his future wife, Helen. If you need a bit of a pick me up, this is one that will help.
  It’s amazing that this book has arrived this year. Did they know how much the story is needed? Be careful what you wish for is one message, but the other shows the courage of one, standing for all and speaking up, regardless of the outcome, the punishment. There is that town of La Paz and happy people were so noisy, singing and gadding about talking and laughing. They could hardly think or sleep. They wanted peace and quiet. So they voted out their mayor and voted in someone who promised “peace and quiet”. Law by law was passed, until “Even the teapots were afraid to whistle.” But then, a saucy gallito (a rooster) came to town and roosts in a mango tree. He wakes up singing “Kee-kee-ree-KEE!”  Unfortunately, that tree is right under the window of Don Pepe (the mayor), who yelled that it was against the law to sing. That merry gallito said he would sing anyway, that it was a silly law. And he did, even after that mango tree was cut down! Eugene Yelchin’s illustrations brighten the pages with color and broad emotion and action. I adored the expressions on people and animals. You might guess how this story will go, but you must read till almost the end where it says: “But a song is louder than one noisy little rooster and stronger than one bully of a mayor,” said the gallito. “And it will never die -- so long as there is someone to sing it.”
       May Alcott (Borrowed Names), Maria Merian, Mary Anning, Maria Mitchell (Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science) Laura Ingalls Wilder,  Madame C.j. Walker, Marie Curie &Their Daughters (Borrowed Names)

         The books above are not all of Jeannine Atkin's stories of women. But they are my favorites, at least they were until I read her most recent telling titled Stone Mirrors about Edmonia Lewis, well known (in the art world?) sculptor from the 19th century. Jeannine's ability to soak the character into us immediately satisfies, and we read on. This story is backed by research, the beginning shows Edmonia, a young woman of color, as a student at Oberlin College that had first begun a program of accepting students of color considered worthy of being educated. There are touches of goodness in those early pages, a chance encounter in the woods with one of the white male students, a supportive roommate, and hints of Edmonia’s love of art. The tension is immediate in these lines describing the true atmosphere of lines drawn at the school between “the good and the better-be-grateful”.  Sadly, Edmonia’s “friendship” with two white girls on another floor where she lives becomes her undoing. She thinks of them as friends, but really she’s doing their hair, helping with dressing, “serving them”. One evening, visiting, they ask her to give them tea that’s been brewed. She does and is later accused of poisoning them after they become ill.

        There is a trial, and it is thrown out for lack of evidence, but she is not declared innocent and must leave. And there, though tragic, the story really begins, with a sad departure on the train to a connection she was given. She must do chores at Mrs. Child’s home, but she has a room and meals, and Mrs. Child is kind with her demeanor and her advice. And, she helps Edmonia with connections. “Stones live often in the story, showing feelings, offering images, connecting the story to the path Edmonia follows. After a while Mrs. Child urges Edmonia to leave the house, to discover something she might want to do with her life. She says: ‘No one can tell what may happen.’ Edmonia thinks, “’I know’” Memory traps and snares words spoken over teacups, and warns/about the future she means to keep small,/like a stone in her hands.” It takes weeks for her to find work, to find a place of safety and she does with an artist who guides her into her passion, sculpture. One time her voice is tentative, but strong, too: “Can she trust her own two palms/and ten fingers, even through mistakes?” Jeannine weaves the racism, the struggle, and the triumph through this amazing story, as she has done with her others about inspiring women who do not quit. 
          I would hope others will be sure that this book is read by their children and/or students. It’s a story meant to be applauded.

It's hard to resist a fox on a beautiful cover with words inside like "Trickle dribble" "gurgle burble" "babble bubble" on more glorious pages with swirls of water. It really is a water song with some bits of science on an added page explaining some of the concepts included. A fox is hurrying through woods to find shelter, and encounters many small creatures in and out of the water, needing water, sheltering from the water. The expressions on all including one little snail are marvelous. Beautiful book out this year!

           Another book from 2017!  The inside of the cover shows a library card, signed "Bunny, Bear, Porcupine, and Raccoon". How can this be? It's just that Bunny loves to read so, so much. He learned by listening to the librarian reading to children outside in summer time. But then colder weather came, and he had no more books. Bunny searched and searched for a way in, and discovered the bookdrop! And the rest of the story shows dear Bunny gorging on books, hauling them home until a knock on the door, and there was Porcupine asking "Where have you been?" When Bunny replies "reading", the secret is out! What a lovely book about the love of reading, sharing with friends, and figuring out the right thing to do. It's a cute story where one gets to suspend belief and enjoy every part.


Thursday, February 23, 2017

Poetry Friday - Points of View

            Karen at Karen Edmisten hosts our Poetry Friday this week. And it seems that her weather has been a seesaw as ours has been here in Colorado.  We've had short sleeve weather for a few weeks now, except colder at night. And today it snowed. Now Karen is posting a poem about a Snow Day!  Thanks, Karen!

              There are five more days left in February, five more poems to write to help Laura Shovan celebrate her birthday month. You can find all about it, here, if you don't already know about it. It is a wonderful group to write with and be inspired by. The addition of reading articles that further inspire is, well, an inspired idea. You're amazing, Laura. You've made each February the month that helps us glide into spring yearnings beautifully.   

             Today I'm sharing another favorite poem from this February challenge. If you ever try this, it can be surprising what comes from a topic and those ten words.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Non-Fiction Stories - People & Food!

              To link up with Alyson Beecher's Non-Fiction Picture Book Challenge at Kidlit Frenzy means lots of learning comes along through reading and discovering amazing and creative picture books written about real people and things. Check everyone's posts to find new books that will delight and inform.    

           Here are two stories about beautiful people, once again that few of us have heard about! And one n-f poetry book, one you will want to have when studying healthy eating, and when writing poetry!

        Another story new that is finally told, this time about a baby named Harriet Angeline Powers born to slavery, spending her baby days lying on a quilt while her mama worked in the cotton fields. The narrative tells her story while on each page there is further explanation in a brief paragraph. Can you imagine such a life taking care of a baby while working hard up and down those rows? Harriet grew up learning about textiles by watching slave women spin, dye and weave so they could make textiles for the plantation.
         When she grew older, Harriet helped stuff cotton filling into the quilts. The work was all done at night; days were for work in the fields. Harriet was freed after the Civil War. She married and she and her husband bought some land outside Atlanta. They were poor, and Harriet made extra money sewing. One year there was announced a cotton fair and Harriet decided to enter a quilt in the craft exhibit. She worked hours on that quilt, a “story quilt” which told Bible stories heard as a child. Eventually, through need, she sold it for five dollars to a  Miss Smith. Fortunately, Miss Smith took notes from Harriet about the stories set in each part of the quilt. That quilt is now hanging in the National Museum of American History. A second quilt hangs in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Harriet is described as one whose “artistic vision was vast”, her style compared to the impressionists. She was never rich and lived most of her life in poverty. The inside covers show parts of these famous, gorgeous quilts.

         But now we will remember Harriet Angeline Powers and her artistic gifts.
There is further information at the back, along with the one photo of Harriet ever taken, and the stories told in the quilts.

Monday, February 20, 2017

More Extras

       I'm slicing with the Two Writing Teachers community. It's always a pleasure to read what everyone writes about their lives.
        Last week I wrote about "looking for extras", those sly peeks into our lives that often go unnoticed. And I wrote about rabbits! This past week I fell in love with a poem shared by Irene Latham in her Poetry Friday post last week. In it, she shared an older anthology of poems and stories from Mexico gathered by Naomi Shihab Nye. And this one poem, "Night In The Kitchen" means "extras" to me, something I would never have noticed.  You'll have to travel to Irene's post to see the whole poem because I don't have permission to share, but the line that struck me speechless is about peas coming out of a pod, "quick green shadows".  I take many pictures of shadows, love the way so many things catch my eye when casting their shadows. And now I will look for those neglected, like those from peas.

Today, my youngest granddaughter spent a few hours with me while her mother and older sister went to a movie. We spent much of the time at my nearby park. And shadows came into my life again. There is a part of the park where concerts occur, and a large round platform in the middle for speakers and singers. Imogene immediately popped up there and began dancing, and said, "Look, I'm dancing with my shadow." 

It is those extras that bring smiles every day, isn't it?  Even those of peas!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Monday Books Recap

  Visit Jen at Teach MentorTexts and Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders to see what they've been reading, along with everyone else who link up.  
        Still: I'm nearly finished with my James Herriot book, savoring  the final pages. It's peaceful and full of good stories.  Next:  the new verse novel by Jeannine Atkins, Stone Mirrors
And: IntoThe Woods, Tana French, for my book group.
Plus: that new book Last Day On Mars, because Kellee keeps saying how good it is.
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       I think that I must celebrate illustrations in these books today. Each book is unique and joyful because of them.

           A family prepares to march. We see them rising early to dress for the day. They attend church to pray, they make signs with others, they, with many others like those who arrive in buses, begin to march. Step by step to make it to their dream. Full-color bold illustrations show the excitement of this important day. My favorite is a double-page spread of the leaders, with the crowd behind them carrying signs. If you want to introduce this special day to young children, this is the book to read.

        I am excited that Ciara Gavin has a new story about Bear and the ducks, “Bear Likes Jam.”  This time, bear struggles to have balance in his diet. According to the rules of Mama Duck, vegetables come “before” jam. You’ll love seeing how a cute trick made it happen, and Bear got to eat a jar or two of jam again. Endearing scenes created by Ciara return just as they did in her two previous books, “Room for Bear” and “Bear Is Not Tired”. I do love these books!