Sunday, September 18, 2016

Monday Reading Recap


           Every Monday, it's a pleasure to link up with a group that reviews books they want to share with others. Come discover new books!

          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.   
Tweet #IMWAYR

          I didn't post last week, was at a Highlights Poetry Workshop, a wonderful experience. I've read since then and before, but the time away was filled with poetry from everyone there, and from various books. But, I have finished some wonderful chapter books and a couple of picture books, all good!
         I am happy to share this older poetry book and biography. I loved Issa’s story, one of love-for haiku, and one of sorrow--much loss and rejection. With haiku on every page, accompanied by the original language and gorgeous illustrations, it is a biography that entertains the reader as well as teaches the writer.


           It’s a myth with basic facts about the evolution of wolves evolving into dogs as friends of men. Hudson Talbott has created a fiction story to tell the tale, about an "outcast" young boy and young wolf who eventually find that it is to the advantage of both that they survive together. And soon, there are more like this pair. Some facts are included in the story showing changes of dogs through many years, but I believe it would be a mistake to present this as truth. At least more research is needed, and some sources are given in an author's note. The author writes that this is a "myth of origin", and like other tales that have been created, he too has created one. The illustrations are lively and interesting.


Not just for teachers. This is a stark look into lives we all need to understand.
         Nadia Lopez began to have a vision, and with experiences in other schools, taking what she thought worked, and rejecting what did not, started Mott Hall Bridges Academy, a middle school that began with only a few sixth graders, but grew to one with about 200 sixth, seventh and eighth graders from the neighborhood of Brownsville. The statistics are staggering. She tells that this “school to prison pipeline” begins early, in pre-school! From the U.S. Education Department’s Civil Rights Data Collection comes the statistic that black students who represent 18 percent of the population made up 48 percent of the students who were suspended more than once. Nadia Lopez wanted to change the trajectory of that pipeline. The story told is inspiring and amazing in the work that Ms. Lopez is doing, along with the teachers, other administration and volunteers that have been counted on be there for the kids, always, never letting up.

         I made notes from a few places that give a partial overview of the beliefs held in order to take these “scholars” (the name given to students in the school) on the road to brilliance-hence the title.  They want the children to stay children, to feel safe in order to learn. They work toward the goal for the students to learn that they can do anything they set their goals for. They have the right to choose--activities, the way to learn, and to learn how they learn. They are taken out into the world to see what they don’t realize is “out there”. For example, many of the children have never seen the Brooklyn Bridge, so an annual visit there is planned. One strong concept is that students are always told the truth. That too might seem simple, yet so many of these children are lied to and do not trust adult words, although they do trust that they are failures, because that is most of what has happened to them. In this school, no one gives up on anyone.
          Nadia Lopez shared that only a very few did not succeed eventually, through hard work, and always having at least one supporting adult. Another underlying philosophy is when there are questions from visitors or staff, the answer is to “ask the students”,  and to “listen”. Educators know that often there is more to a story than is told, but Ms. Lopez persists until she does discover the reasons underlying the behaviors. She does not give up, on teachers and on students!  I am retired now, but this made me want to be back into the classroom again, taking to heart all that I learned, or had affirmed, from this book.  Thanks to Net Galley for the ability to read this book, out just at the end of August.


          A long review, but I wanted to show how complex this book was, how much Nancy Bo Flood included in her story.
          Nancy Bo-Flood shows well the importance of ceremony in the Navajo world, and begins the story with the tribe saying goodbye to a fallen warrior, a young mother who was killed in action. She lets Tess, a half-white, half Navajo young woman tell her story of the way things are with her as a “mixed-up” young adolescent. She is a runner, doesn’t want to attend this first ceremony, but she does. We learn then that there is more turmoil in Tess, not knowing exactly where she belongs, who she is. This is certainly a common worry in many kids, and Tess is no different. The great thing about this story is that it tells about a Native American, connecting the same feelings with others growing up.

         Tess attends a white school near the reservation, feeling invisible unless called a “squaw”, but those kids on the reservation also have names for her: “a red apple, red on the outside, white on the inside, and rotten to the core.” She doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere. And now her older sister Gaby, whom she thought would be in college in that same town where her school is, has had an accident with Blue her beloved horse while barrel-racing and loses her scholarship. The family struggles about the money, and Gaby joins the army. Tess is devastated, has a tough time saying goodbye, and ignores the special protection ceremony.  But she does promise to take care of Blue for Gaby.
          Gaby has left, school is out, and the turmoil continues as she decides to accompany her grandmother to the summer sheep camp. A trip to town shows Tess’s grandmother, Shimá, the Navaho name for grandmother. She is a wise elder who not only cares for the sheep and other animals, but a respected weaver, and a learner. She surprises Tess as she pulls her toward the new coffee shop in town, to send an e-mail message to Gaby. More and more, Tess learns about her grandmother, with wise words and big surprises.  (There is a longer name for grandmother shown in the glossary, a wonderful help with the sprinkling of Navajo words throughout the text.)
           The description of the journey to the sheep camp is scary;  I’ve traveled some trails like that when hiking in my own mountains. Tess’s words guide us down the scrambling rocks and narrow paths, leading Blue, a strong stallion, and following the sheep and her grandmother with two mares. They finally arrive at the bottom, the camp’s Hogan, where her grandmother grew up. With the description, it’s beautiful to imagine living in this remote area, but bit-by-bit, I also see it’s a lot of work. With fire lit, and a meal eaten, Tess is a little bored, notices that there are books there, and pulls out a poetry collection by Emily Dickinson.  Here begins the real learning, with Dickinson’s words, the experiences riding Blue and a tragedy that was not meant to happen. I don’t want to spoil the rest of the book. The descriptions bring images of this place vividly. Despite rain and wind, I felt such calmness from imagining being there, greeting the sun, caring for the animals, and reading together in the Hogan at night. “We stayed in the middle of the dry riverbed. The top layer of sand spread out smooth--like a page in a book full of stories but no words. Footprints big and small crisscrossed the wash. Tiny tiptoe tracks made by stinkbugs, zigzag trails of lizards, and even a few slithering curves, probably the meandering tracks of a bull snake.”
          It’s a story of relationships near and far, and even with a few e-mails, the sisters’ love for each other shows through. There are things unexpected, and wisdom in the telling. I enjoyed this book very much.

          I have read The Memory of Things by Gae Polisher, and look forward to Jewel Parker Rhodes' Towers Falling, too. All three authors have told heartfelt stories of this terrible day in different ways, just as each of us have varying stories to tell of our own.
           The tension swirls two days before 9/11 as Nora Raleigh Baskin introduces us to four kids across the country, living their early adolescent lives with their own individual turmoil. They are Sergio, Naheed, Will and Aimee. Alternating among the stories, we begin to see how these four represent the thousands impacted by that terrible day. I tried to think what I was doing in the two days “before”, probably a normal Sunday prepping for the days ahead, and on Monday, beginning the week with the class. I really don’t know. Then Tuesday, and like others, I remember exactly where and what happened all that day and “after”.  Students today in middle school were not yet born. This book will show them history through a poignant story of how the world changed after that day. Baskin told it beautifully, but it was a difficult book to read. Students who read it would benefit from conversation and support, further research. It might be even better supporting the group through a read aloud.


Now reading: The Light Fantastic by Sarah Combs

24 comments:

  1. I really liked Soldier Sister, Fly Home when I read it, but I'm a fan of Nancy's anyway. I have Nine, Ten on my TBR pile, but as a New Yorker, 9/11 books are still hard for me to read. I like From Wolf to Woof when I read it, and will have to find Cool Melons, which is new to me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I imagine reading these recent 9/11 books are hard for you and those who are New Yorkers. It was well done. Glad you liked Soldier Sister, Fly Home too. It's a first book for me about soldiers leaving and saying goodbye. Thanks, Alex.

      Delete
  2. I am very eager to read this book by Nadia Lopez! I'm also looking forward to Nine, Ten, though it sounds like a tough read. Thank you for sharing--and glad you enjoyed your Highlights workshop!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I imagine you will love the Lopez book, Elisabeth. Although I'm reading fewer "education" books, I couldn't put this down. It was inspirational and heart breaking all at the same time. Hope you enjoy Nine, Ten as well, a different look, and done well. Thanks.

      Delete
  3. I mentioned Nine, Ten and Towers Falling in my celebrate post last week. I liked both books. I loved using Cool Melons - Turn to Frogs in the classroom since it tied in with both ancient history of China and haiku. Looking forward to hearing more about the poetry workshop.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I saw that you shared them, Ramona. It'll be a while before I get to Towers Falling, but do want to read it. Thanks for telling about your use of Cool Melons. I bought this one, really love it!

      Delete
  4. I really enjoyed all three 9/11 books you mentioned, but I especially loved the ending of Nine, Ten.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, so good! It is also good that different authors are approaching this part of our history with new looks, some views to consider in them. Thanks, Beth.

      Delete
  5. Having worked with families with young children, I completely agree with Ms. Lopez - kids need the best start in life as early as possible, and some children, without the help and guidance of supportive teachers and mentors, seem to have the whole word stacked against them right from the very beginning. So inspiring to discover passionate, committed teachers like this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree, Jane, it is a wonderful story!

      Delete
  6. The Bridge to Brilliance sounds very inspiring. How lucky for those students to have such a great principal who is dedicated to helping them succeed!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I enjoyed it very much, Lisa. I hope you'll find it and love it, too!

      Delete
  7. I had read about Nadia Lopez's work with great admiration, Linda, and want to read this book - such an inspiring person. Nine, Ten was so moving - I love the message at the book's end - something worth keeping in mind today.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, both books have something for us all to know and remember. I wonder how many will read them? Thanks, Tara.

      Delete
  8. I would love to hear more about your Highlights trip! I've heard some great things about it. Would love to get there sometime.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is magical to go there, Michele. I hope you do get to have a retreat there some day!

      Delete
  9. I'm sharing Nine, Ten with my students now. I think that many of them are enjoying it and doing a good job keeping track of the different character and story lines. Hope you like it, too! Have a great week!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's good to hear about someone sharing with students, Jana. I have read it, just not Towers Falling. And I thought it was very well done. Thanks!

      Delete
  10. The Bridge to Brilliance sounds like such an important and powerful read. I'm conflicted about reading Soldier Sister, Fly Home, ever since reading Debbie Reece's post about it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't know Reece's post, and do know that she can point out things that I would miss. I enjoyed the story and think that it included many points of family life that were good. Thanks for sharing about Debbie's post, Cheriee.

      Delete
  11. I enjoyed Nine, Ten. I really want to get Towers Falling after hearing the Nerdy Book Cast with the Polisner, Rhodes, and Baskin this past weekend.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Me, too, Crystal, it's on my list. Thanks!

      Delete
  12. Hi there dearest Linda, I don't think any of these titles are familiar to me - thanks so much for such lovely detailed reviews - the Bridge to Brilliance in particular caught my eye.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope you find The Bridge to Brilliance and then I wonder what you'll think of it, Myra. It was illuminating and inspiring, too. Thanks!

      Delete

Having a conversation is a good thing!