Sunday, May 21, 2017

Monday - Holding On To One's Values

              Visit Jen at Teach MentorTexts and Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders to discover books you'll love!        tweet #IMWAYR

         Although different, these first three books, all connected to conflicts, in war, in revolution, and in civil rights. People who strive to do the right thing at personal cost are heroes. And those who use creativity to achieve their goals are to be applauded. Each book shows parts of that, and each happens to be non-fiction this week.

      Thanks to Candlewick for the Arc of this book. We know Janeczko from his wonderful poetry anthologies, but do you know that he's also written books about codes (Top Secret) and spies (The Dark Game) as well as professional books for teachers? His name is an important one to know.                              This book is fascinating and detailed, although I did wish there were a few more personal stories given. For anyone who is beginning to be interesting in deception in war, this book will spark interest and further research. It offers ancient background deception examples, but quickly moves and focuses on United States history, from the Civil War all the way to the Gulf Wars. The complexity of planning the huge operations like D-Day are amazing to learn about. I liked that there were maps and photos included which aided the explanations. It is also interesting that artists and people who had previously been employed by the movie industry played important roles in creating important deceptions. 

     A memoir about the years between the age of 12 to 14, Ji Li Jiang tells her story of the suffering of her family during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, a time when they were considered "black families" because her grandfather was a landlord. He had long passed, but the connection was there, one that she could not overcome no matter how good a student. The only way would be to denounce her family, and she did not. In the afterword, Ji Li Jiang writes: "Without a sound legal system, a small group or even a single person can take control of an entire country." She admits that Mao Zedong brainwashed them all, and as a young girl, learned to love him and his words. For anyone who is beginning to study China or revolutions, this should be in the list of books to read. 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Celebrating A Few Nice Things

Tweet @ #CelebrateLu

         Celebrating with Ruth Ayres and others at Discover Play Build.  

            I haven't posted for several weeks, busy times, even though I know teachers are even busier at this time of year. If you teach, I hope you all have wonderful school year endings!
            I've done some traveling and had fun with friends, enjoyed the granddaughters' weekly visits, and loved spring flowers blooming so fast that each time I look, some new ones have appeared. I've been writing, poetry and prose and am excited about a new idea for a picture book that I'm working on. 
            I only saw them for a quick breakfast at a local favorite restaurant, but Nathan, Barb & Carter flew in Thursday morning to travel to the mountains for a friend's daughter's high school graduation. Yes, amazingly, it was snowing, but I loved our short visit, and after some delays, they made it to their destination!
They sent this pic from the mountains,
all bundled up!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Poetry Friday, Spring Spin

      Thanks to Kiesha Shepard at Whispers From The Ridge for hosting our poetry Friday this week. She's sharing a gift from a friend of an older book that sounds lovely, Jean Hersey's The Shape of A Year. It's good to read others' words of their observations, and Kiesha shares some of those from Hersey.

       A favorite book from Bob Raczka & Nancy Doniger caught my eye as I was dusting this week. There's nothing nicer than discovering a book I hadn't read in a while as I do that boring task of dusting! I thought I would try one of these "poems squeezed from a single word". I didn't follow exactly. Raczka sprinkles the letters down the page first and rarely rhymes. I used only letters from the word but did rhyme in my story. It was messy, fun and sometimes hard to keep track of the words. I found that as I wrote, even more words appeared to add to the list. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Non-Fiction Picture Books - Loving Nature

       Visit Alyson Beecher on Wednesdays for Non-Fiction Picture books at Kidlit Frenzy.  From Alyson and others, you will discover wonderful non-fiction books!

    “Time in nature is not leisure time; it's an essential investment in our children's health (and also, by the way, in our own).” 
― Richard LouvLast Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder

     It's so important to me that we all learn to love our earth, and that we share that love with our children, those we raise and those we teach. 
      Here are two books about two men who love the earth and show how wonderful it can be.

        It’s an inspiring story by Jacqueline Briggs Martin (Snowflake Bentley, Farmer Will Allen and The Growing Table, among others) of a man named Mike who moves to some land and discovers that where he wanted to restore a corn field back to a prairie, he was told there had been a creek. Through years of work, he searched and found it, and Brook Creek is born again. Gorgeous scratchboard and painted illustrations by Claudia McGehee show the journey, the ripples and new life returning to the creek restored. First came the big machines that dug and dug until the trickle began to fill the stream bed. Grasses were planted and in a few years, more rocks were placed. Insects returned to leave their eggs, birds returned to nest, and finally, a few fish called ‘sculpin’ swam into the creek. The book explains that these fish indicate clean water, the same kind of water where brook trout survive. The journey continued when Mike and his friends added small “finger-sized” fish, trout! The language is poetic, like this: “Perhaps Brook Creek laughed, too--tickled by trout.”

        Along some pages lie small-print explanations of certain actions, like how the sculpin ended up in this new Brook Creek. They are helpful to the story and subtly placed within the illustrations.  There is also author’s and illustrator’s notes and a small piece about the Mike in the story.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Some Days Hold The Unexpected!

   Join us on Tuesdays with the Two Writing Teachers and others who post. 
      I could write about my credit card being compromised which meant I've had to wait for a new card, verify it, then communicate with all those companies that are on auto pay.
      I could share that I've been arguing with a certain insurance company to which I've paid on autopay through my bank for many years. Although my bank cleared TWO payments, one of which I do not owe, this company says I did not. They will only process through slow-mail. . .
       Really, both are not terrible things, and I'm grateful that the unlawful use of my card was caught immediately, but both take time and not time that's very fun, either. I am reminded of the Robert Burns' line from To A Mouse
                               "The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men/Gang aft agley"

Instead, I choose to share a couple of good things:
         A new book that I have for the granddaughters. Have you heard of this one: Strong Is The New Pretty by Kate T. Parker? I'm not reviewing, just sharing the title, and saying it's good. 

I think they'll like the book!
       The bookstore that I share about has lots of books, but it also has lots of geraniums, cared for by our manager. They thrive and bloom all seasons, and along with the books, give much pleasure. I was at the store a few hours today, and cleaned a few dead leaves and dropped blooms, enjoying my bit of inside gardening. Here's one photo.  

         Focusing on those nice things helps a bunch when things travel a different path than expected, right?

Sunday, May 14, 2017

It's Monday - More Books To Love

              Visit Jen at Teach MentorTexts and Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders to discover books you'll love!        tweet #IMWAYR

         I had the chance to read Berlin Boxing Club from a few years ago. It is partly inspired by the true story of boxer Max Schmeling's experiences up to and following Kristallnacht. I enjoyed this book very much that details the story of a boy who must take the responsibility of his family far too young during the beginning of the Nazi era. Karl Stern doesn’t look Jewish, but eventually, his school peers discover his secret. Their bullying is his first challenge.

Karl’s father has early and strong ties from his time in World War I, and one is Max Schmeling, the famous boxer, who in an odd deal promises to give Karl boxing lessons. The changes that occur to Karl through the people met and the challenges faced are the beginning of the events that follow. There is much to like about the story and the writing, and I especially enjoyed the relationship between Karl and his younger sister. The author manages to infuse love growing deeper between the family members as their circumstances grow more perilous. When one reads this, one can see the beginnings of Nazi suppression, a chilling realization of what will come. Here is one quote: “The Nazis had broken our windows and torn apart our furniture, but they had not destroyed our selves.”
      The book includes an author's note and sources page detailing the factual inspirations behind the novel.

This is a book for all to learn how challenging it is when moving to a new country. It’s a wordless picture book that shows beautifully the feeling of chaos in this experience along with loneliness, boredom, fear, and a bit of happiness. Illustrations are similar to a graphic novel, but less arranged with so much detail. You literally can "see" this upset child begin to calm. She has brought one small seed along to America, and through the loss of that seed flung out her window, makes herself go out into the world and explore and search for the girl she has seen take the seed. There is a summary of the story by Patti Kim at the back, telling of her own personal experience moving from Korea at age four.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

One Spring Fling & Question

       Tara Smith at A Teaching Life hosts our poetry Friday this week, with love in the air at her school. Thanks, Tara! 

               Spring, even early, makes me want to substitute its name for June in that old song from Carousel, "June (Spring) is bustin' out all over/All over the meadow and the hill!"  I often share how much we need rain, even to the extent of celebrating snow in April. But this week we are having rain! And the plants and trees have rarely looked greener. Flowers are 'bustin' out all over." 

                                              Wondering About Violets

Beginnings mystify
especially in spring.
How can this tiny seed keep
the secrets of 
I’m comforted to know
that it will never
a rose,
but is this comforting
for the violet?
Linda Baie ©All Rights Reserved

photo credit: Mabacam Sweet Violets via photopin (license)</a>

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Literary Giants - New Picture Books

Visit Alyson Beecher on Wednesdays for Non-Fiction Picture books at Kidlit Frenzy.  From Alyson and others, you will discover wonderful non-fiction books!

        It's a pleasure today to share new picture book biographies of two favorite and important men in literature.
         Anyone who loves reading Newbery award-winning books for children will love this book, and it even includes parts of the stories that he created and first published. As the book says to children readers, be glad you didn't live in 1726 because people thought children only needed books that taught them "preachy poems and fables." John Newbery thought otherwise, and you can discover how he changed children's literature in this book. It's such a happy story, and the colorful, black-outlined illustrations by Nancy Carpenter are filled with the happiest of children, those of Newbery's time and in the final page, today's.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Slice of Others' Lives, Including Trees

       Join us on Tuesdays with the Two Writing Teachers and others who post. 

       I realize that the end of the school year looms for all of you who are educators. You may have only a few weeks remaining, or more, but May means endings. I thought I'd share one thing I did sometimes at the end along with other "goodbye" rituals. I asked my students to show what new ideas/perspectives they thought important to know, at least they had begun to understand by this end of the year. They could use words but must present the "answer"  in some contrast and visually.  I do not have photos of student work, but do have a photo that demonstrates the challenge I gave often and know many of you also give to your students: "consider the other point of view". Live in someone else's shoes for a while, as that familiar quote says. My students and I encountered this tree on a trip a long time ago, and we spent an evening arguing about the importance of trees, of habitat; but on the other hand, those who need to make a living, to care for their families. We must consider "whose ox is gored?" when decisions are made. This tree was such an inspiring look at a LIVING thing that seemed to be giving its message in near-human form. Do you have particular activities to share that invite students to learn of other perspectives besides their own?
Do you see the face?

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Monday Reading

              Visit Jen at Teach MentorTexts and Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders to discover books you'll love!        tweet #IMWAYR

      I took a break last week but didn't stop reading!  Here are a few books I would recommend!

          There's something so good in this sweet story about a young boy learning about life with those around him who help in loving ways, his mother and his teacher especially, and toward the end, one classmate. Change for this boy called Bat is hard, yet managed in the most subtle of ways by Elana Arnold. His mother is a veterinarian who has brought home an abandoned baby skunk that needs care until time to be released in the wild. Bat falls in love, and cannot figure out why he isn't going to be able to keep it forever. Slowly, we recognize that this is a singular young boy who's a little quirky about his likes and dislikes, but his changes along with others' acceptance along the way make it a wonderful read.

This arrives May 2nd, and it was exciting to read Elizabeth Wein's new, and wonderful, historical fiction book. I've shared Code Name Verity, Rose Under Fire, and Black Dove, White Raven to many others. This is a prequel to "the" Julia Beaufort-Stuart's story in Code Name Verity. When I first realized it, this coming-of-age story became a bit sad because I know what her future holds. This time, coming home for summer break and to finish packing up the family's mansion that has been given over to a boys' school, Julie wakes up in the hospital, wondering what in the world this summer will bring. It's certainly not going to be what was expected. And things become even more mixed up as the days move on in this pre-war story. Readers will be fascinated to learn of the social conflicts between Scottish Travellers and the landed gentry and the Scottish River pearls which form the real mystery confounded (like always?) by stereotyping and greed. The pleasure of knowing more about Julie's life was so satisfying, and to learn her growing up thoughts and courage to act was no surprise. Each character, like those in other's of Wein's stories, also show many layers, some very surprising. I loved every bit, and am sorry to see it end. Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

It's May! And Poetry Friday

                 Jama Rattigan at Jama's Alphabet Soup hosts this first Poetry Friday in May! According to Jama and Mary Oliver, "all ingredients are here, which is gratitude". Time to be ready for spring!

I’ll Tell You Something Beautiful

The sight, in flight, of a bluebird sky,
the conk-la-ree of red-wing shriek,
firelight on a zero day,
tangy lemon drops.
Remember too,
jasmine spice.
Linda Baie ©All Rights Reserved