Sunday, December 17, 2017

Monday Reading Sneaked In!

              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 their own reading lives and support this meme, too.

        Here are more holiday books that I've enjoyed, and a few others. Wishing everyone a Merry holiday wherever you are, whatever your celebrations.

         I'm not sure why I delay reading Kate Messner's books because I always love them. This return to Gianna and Zig and their lives, though a stand-alone novel, is a poignant story of Zig's yearning to reunite with his dad. It is fun to read about the friendship of Zig, Gianna, and Ruby, out garage-sale shopping one day and a woman gives Zig a box full of her late husband's electronics "junk'. Zig loves fixing things, is soon termed "Circuit Man" when he discovers a GPS unit which only needs a little fixing. Then, he and the girls are off geo-caching, soon so meaningful to Zig because he believes caches left by someone called "Senior Searcher" is his father! Through this adventure, Kate Messner expands Zig's story through showing his mother working hard to finish her nursing degree, working at a diner to pay the bills when Zig discovers the money made doesn't stretch far enough and they end up in a homeless shelter. They first spend a few terrible days at the mother's sister who's fighting her own challenges in an abusive husband. Zig's search continues with a few scary moments, and the resolution is both heart-breaking and satisfying. In Kate's hands, each character who even appears briefly, is shown to have a more complex life than one might see on the outside. She manages to show us we all need to find the deeper story. I am reminded of the quote: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." It's a great book.

          Hoot & Peep stories to me are pure poetry. This time, it’s Peep’s first winter and she has all kinds of questions for her older brother, Hoot. She asks about snow and when “she” will get here, which of course Hoot has to explain that snow is not a “she”, but “a frozen thing that falls from the sky”.  Then, Peep’s questions fly fast, like “Does it scrrinkly scrattle like falling leaves?” Hoot doesn’t answer much because he really can’t remember, but he knows a good place to wait, so they do. Hoot’s sweetest thing is his patience with the questions and that he ties a bright green scarf around Peep’s neck to keep her warm. That small mouse companion who travels right along listening is a fun addition as Hoot and Peep settle in to wait, for SNOW! Lita Judge’s illustrations with Hoot and Peep’s adventure, especially bring smiles when that SNOW arrives. It’s such a happy book!

       I remember reading this to my middle-grade students during Hanukkah and having parents come in to talk about the tradition of making latkes during this celebration. I don’t know many Hannukah books but this is a favorite.  This is a tale of the Jewish village of Ostropol in Eastern Europe where supernatural occurences especially haunts by goblins are the norm, and in this situation, the goblins have stolen Hanukkah from the village. Even the rabbi is fearful of countering these goblins and the villagers are resigned each year to life without a celebration. Fortunately, Hershel appears and agrees to spend the entire eight nights and days of Chanukah in the old shul atop the hill in order to defeat the goblins and bring about a miracle. The illustrations seem to leap from the page in alarm over the goblins. As the pages turn, they get darker, with each goblin feeling even more frightening and powerful. Hershel is a wise 'hero' who must use all his wits to win, defeating evil and light over darkness. 

       I wrote a special post that included this poem by e.e. cummings for Poetry Friday last Friday. It has special meaning for me, and I hope you'll at least read the poem on my post, a lovely one about Christmas trees. In this board book, the poem is at the front, but Chris Raschka tells his own "little tree" tale, and adds the expected, wonderful illustrations.
            There is something magical when we think of the animals talking sweetly to the baby Jesus, being given the ability to speak on that night of his birth. Lee Bennett Hopkins has gathered poets to write in the voice of animals who might have been there that night, and each poem is both unique and wonderful. Horse, by X.J. Kennedy says: “Yet at this crib I am so stirred/that, staring, I can say no word.” For a most beautiful story, this is a lovely re-telling. The illustrations are directly related to each poem. Beautiful, full-page spreads enhance each offering.
            I can't wait to read this story to my youngest granddaughter who's taken ballet lessons for several years and loves dancing. Perhaps next year we can go to see The Nutcracker as this young woman is doing with her grandmother? She arrives home with the cold and rain/snow outside, does not want to go out again. It's cold and she has to dress up, too. Once there, the magic of the music and the dance mesmerizes. And a boy sitting next to the girl , while starting off a bit frosty with each other, soon warm to the show, too, and they both find common ground, the love of this story. Elly Mackay's illustrations need no words to tell her story, just beautiful motion in the dance, and gorgeous expressions in the people.

         Enter the world that’s different from ours in the U.S. and discover the beautiful traditions of Santa all over the earth, from the first entry, Christmas Island (Kiritimati)  to Indonesia, countries in Asia and Europe, Africa and South America, ending in Hawaii. Many details lie colorfully on the gorgeous pages as the author tells of each tradition. For example, in Hawaii, children find Santa’s footprints in the sand “where he hopped off the surfboard pulled by a dolphin.” His name is “Kanakaloka” comes through the windows left open and enjoys “sweet, chewy pineapple-macadamia bars”, the treat they leave for him.
         Recipes are added at the back along with an author’s note with an invitation to visit the website to discover even more traditions and to add one’s own:

Still Reading - Badenheim1939, and nearly done, and I'm reading The War I Finally Won by Kimberley Brubaker Bradley very fast! Next, I think I'll choose a Christmas book, like The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily! 

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Celebrating Some Fine Moments

     Celebrating with Ruth Ayres and others today.  It's a good thing to celebrate the pieces of our lives.

      Celebrating writing and art and snow!
      Many of you know I'm writing a haiku a day, Mary Lee Hahn's #haikuforhealing challenge started last year in December and now perhaps a tradition. It is one I love. It's that quiet contemplation in the early morning that is so good for waking up. Here's a recent favorite, really a 'haiga' because it's written to an image.

        I shopped in a favorite shopping district last Monday. It happens to be on the street where my husband ran his store, so I've walked this street many times. It holds good memories. My favorite shop is The Artisan Center, not all local, but with all original pieces by artists. The shop and the area are filled with beautiful and whimsical art, one of which is this lion, whose bold, royal look pleases me a lot. 
       Though I do like warm weather, we've gone two months without moisture, so waking to this "coverlet" of snow one morning felt like a big gift. We were in the fifties again today, cold tomorrow, then warm, etc. They say that winter is coming, on Thursday to be exact, and we might have more snow! Happy Holidays to everyone. May your days be bright and if possible, all your gardens be white.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

This Time of Year - Thinking of Trees

      Diane Mayr at Random Noodling hosts us on this Poetry Friday close to Christmas and in the midst of Chanukah. Happy Holidays to all who celebrate! I met Diane at NCTE years ago, but had the pleasure of spending lots more time with her at Highlights this past October!

       I've been writing in one way each day because I've taken the challenge by Mary Lee Hahn to write haiku for the hashtag #haikuforhealing that she began last December after the Presidential election. Some days I've written to a photo, thus a haiga instead. This week I may have broken a rule or more because my response was to three pictures, the three stages of decorating my Christmas tree. 
click to enlarge
enough? more?
 Linda Baie ©All Rights

           My memories around Christmas tree decorating differ. They are funny, adventurous, even old from my childhood. It is one tradition I still keep, but without my husband, somewhat bittersweet. I remember the time we scrapped our tree because we drove into the garage (HABIT) forgetting the tree (now trimmed) was on top! I remember wiring a tall tree to the wall because our cat took one look and leaped. There went the tree! I remember going through every ornament and creating a box of "their" ornaments for each of my grown children. 
          And, I remember going in a big flatbed truck into the country with a grandfather and many others to find the best tree to put up for the town where we gathered for a celebration as Santa arrived. The tree was always a large cedar and I was thrilled to go into the woods to search. However, watching the tree come down was a sad time, because the tree would no longer be there to grow. I don't remember if we read other poems too, but that is when my grandfather introduced me to this poem by e.e. cummings. This grandfather went to a local college after high school, one of those small ones where he took further studies. I don't think he graduated, just stopped to help run the family farm. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Bios To Celebrate

    Visit Alyson Beecher on Wednesdays for Non-Fiction Picture Books at Kidlit Frenzy.  From Alyson and others, you will discover terrific nonfiction picture books!
    Three stories that are good to know! from - “Picture books place a human face to historical, political, environmental, and cultural events.” (from Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classrooms by Marcie Colleen, 2013)

         I've waited a long time for this from my library. Lots of holds means it is much loved. Now I finally get to read and love it, too! "McKinley Morganfield was never good at doing what he was told" begins this fabulous story. In poetic soundbites, Michael Mahin tells the story of the famous Muddy Waters, born in rural Mississippi, his mother left too soon, grandmother raised. His early music was at church, but he also loved the blues, and though his Grandma Della did not ("You can't eat the blues for breakfast."), Muddy found a half-smashed kerosene can, a wheezy accordion and a tired piece of wire. He just had to make music to feel good! Finally, working in the fields in the day and playing at night wasn't enough. He took off for Chicago! A most poignant goodbye is a double-page spread showing this goodbye.

         Muddy kept on, tried to please those who wanted him to play that "regular" blues, but kept returning to the sound of the Mississippi Delta, "the sound Muddy heard in his heart." Muddy has influenced musicians like Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, Stevie Ray Vaughn, the Rolling Stones and countless others according to the Author's Note at the back. "He called up the sticky heat of a summer night, the power of love, and the need for connection in a world that was so good at pulling people apart." It was poetry, like these words by Michael Mahin. Evan Turk's illustrations swirl through the pages like Muddy's music, colorful, graceful, and heartfelt. Mahin has added a brief bibliography and "further listening" at the end.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Monday - Some Favorites

              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 their own reading lives and support this meme, too.

       Today, I'm sharing one wonderful n-f book  thanks to Candlewick Press and a few other great picture books!

                Thanks to Candlewick Press for my copy of this book. My first thought after finishing this book refers to the author's note. In it, Sally Walker writes: "History and research are all about making connections. Each time a person discovers the Sultana's story--even though it may be many years after the disaster--a connection is established between that person and the people who were on the boat." To learn about the victims and those who helped in the rescue (sometimes the same people) means here in the 21st Century we readers are offering a thought and sympathy to those who experienced this tragedy. We will remember!
                Sally Walker clearly did extensive research into this disaster of 1865, nearly the end of the Civil War. I learned a lot about the prisons of that time, the terrible conditions (though in the past I have read Andersonville) and at this time the release, what was termed "paroling", of soldiers. She explained the way that steamboats were constructed to be faster and due to new ideas of boilers, but less understanding of how they worked, this steamboat Sultana was doomed. There also were those greedy men in charge who wanted to board as many soldiers as possible, overloading the boat, because they were paid by the government for the numbers carried. Although this did not cause the explosions, it did mean that many, many more were killed because of cramped conditions. 
                Numerous people were followed in the story, from prison to survival or death, in the journey--finally--home from the long years of war an imprisonment. And when Sally found more of the stories of these men, wives and children, she also shared that information. Yes, there were also passengers on board in cabins, families and couples heading north. 
                The book is extensive in the story, written in chapters with pictures and/or maps of the topic or the times. I suspect it would be best for 8th grade and up. It's written in chapters with extensive back matter: author's note, source notes, bibliography, and image credits. I enjoyed it thoroughly, and it made me wonder who will do the research and write the stories of this year's hurricanes or fires, this year's tragedies? 

         Many of you know this story by Mac Barnett, and now I do, too, thanks to Candlewick Press. How can I describe it except to say that the mouse is swallowed by the wolf where it meets someone. That someone generously welcomes the mouse, and the rest of the story is one you'll have to read yourself. Like Sam and Dave Dig A Hole, there are mysteries to solve and when read aloud, those listening often say "Wha..?" In this book too, it happens, but I think it's a more satisfying ending; at least I hope that's what those words mean! Jon Klassen's sketches are always great to show the story. I loved the book!