Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A Book To Help Us Understand

        Visit Alyson Beecher on Wednesdays for Non-Fiction Picture Books at Kidlit Frenzy.  From Alyson and others, you will discover terrific nonfiction picture books!

         Tomorrow is the International Day of Peace. Many are invited to share something on social media or a blog post about your wishes for peace. Here is a post that gives the history of this day. Look to the right and click on the dove to find one invitation.

        It's an appropriate time to share Stormy Seas: Stories of young boat refugees by Mary Beth LeatherDale, illustrated by Eleanor Shakespeare. There are people all over our world who need to flee their homes to find safety. Eleanor has filled the pages with starkly created  pages of paintings, parts of photographs, maps, graphic images that tell a tale of heartbreak and hope, courage and despair as Mary Beth tells the stories of five refugees, this time those who can be called "boat people." At the time of their flights, they were children, sometimes with family but often alone. Each one spoke of starving, going without water. Each spoke of being terrified of drowning, but expressed in different ways that there was no going back, they would rather die. 
      In these situations, the descriptions of the journeys and then the life in the migrant or detainment camps are starkly told. Most sold everything, used all savings in order to escape terrible dangers only to face others . Sadly, their hopes and sacrifices continued to be hard, even when they survived the horrific boat rides. They also experienced discrimination upon arrival, during the time they were finally allowed to become part of the new countries, struggled and struggled for years. 
     The book is organized around those five journeys with a table of contents, a timeline of escapes by boat since World War II, resources, cedits and acknowledgments. The individual parts give an intro about the person, a part in his or her own words, and a "What Happened To" section. Within that text, there are illustrated maps, small bits of other information like a personal timeline. 

      Here are a few lines from the book that are used as large quotes on certain pages: 

"People are whispering that they are going to SEND us BACK to Germany."
"I have to fight to survive."
"One minute, it feels like we are on top of a mountain and the next it's like we're crashing down the cliff."
"Our destiny, our future depends on this piece of wood."

       It is suitable for older readers from fifth grade up to begin a research journey to learn about the past and to understand what is happening today.  If studying the plight of refugees, this may be used as a read aloud, part by part, perhaps sharing fictional books also that can be read as accompaniments. There are some parallels in these stories with Alan Gratz' book, Refugee.  Here is one list of twenty other books for children about refugees.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Monday Reading Fun

It's Monday - Reading Recap

              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 from their own reading lives and support this meme, too.
          Those affected by the hurricanes and forest fires are still on my mind. Don't forget to help where you can.
                                I'm taking next week off, will be flying to see my son and family this weekend into Monday.  Less reading but good visiting!
                                                 tweet #IMWAYR

I shared Amy Ludwig VanDerwater's new poetry book, Read! Read! Read!, on Friday HERE! It's a wonderful book for the school year's beginning or for any time you want to celebrate reading! 

         Thanks to Candlewick Press, I was able to enjoy this wonderful new fairy tale retelling! There is little changed in the tales, and they are recognizable, but just enough to entice new readings of old favorites like “Snow White” and “Hansel and Gretel”. Emily Jenkins has managed to link them all within the setting of an icy cold, wintry forest. She writes that some say “vengeful sprites and witches with cold hearts along with others with hot ovens and wicked appetites live there,” and you’ll need to read these stories to discover if you recognize some old friends, or perhaps enemies!  I imagine a fabulous read aloud happening with this new book where there will be “holding-one’s-breath” times and a “just one more” time. Emily Jenkins shares her desire to write these tales from a history of loving, collecting and studying fairy tales in an author’s note.  I enjoyed my own reading very much.

          A father, Mark Gonzales, writes a new picture book inspired by his daughter of the joys of a multi-cultural heritage. “Yo Soy Muslim” is “I Am Muslim” in Spanish. The stunning illustrations by Mehrdokht Amini bring both cultures into their creation, filling the pages with dream work, the girl climbing a tree so that her “smile will touch the sky.” He adds an homage to the girl’s abuela, tells of those who question where she is from and offers an answer. A favorite part is when she flies with swans and is a “child of crescent moons. . . an ancestor in training.” For every child or adult who wants to celebrate her or his heritage, this book will make a heart beat faster.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Ordinary Gifts

     Celebrating with Ruth Ayres and others today. Come visit to see how wonderful it is to celebrate all the delights of the week! 
       Among all the other books I'm reading, I'm re-reading Amy Krouse Rosenthal's Encyclopedia of An Ordinary Life, again loving her entries of the every day, and connecting this time to our celebrations each week. In her words, in the A's: AS - As self-conscious as rearranging what's on your coffee table before guests arrive--putting Art Forum and Milan Kundera's latest novel on top of People magazine and The Berenstine Bears' Potty Book. I used some of her work with my students when the book came out and was so loved, giving them a chance to have a fresh and positive look at their "ordinary" lives. It was a joy then, and today, too.

A few pieces from my ordinary week:
            I had the pleasure of having brunch last Sunday with a former colleague who's also no longer teaching. She was the "book buddy" I referred to often, and we met at a restaurant right at my favorite Indie bookstore, The Tattered Cover. It was like a spark to renew our talks, still about teaching, of course, about how it works NOT teaching, and about books. We won't stop reading and sharing!

             Many of you don't actually "see" me, so I'm sharing that I'm letting my hair grow. And I'm also telling that it's not easy. I have waves in some parts, and curls where they curl in different ways. I'm not too interested in this, but when a curl goes wrong in my bangs, I'm reminded that my grandfather used to say this rhyme to me: "There was a little girl who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead. . ." I guess some things never change. 

            I have a confession to make. I do procrastinate, and most of the time, it's because I have a house repair. It's not easy being the only one to make decisions, so when I have some workman out to do "something", I have a tough time deciding if it's okay. For about ten days, I've heard a drip sound in one of the toilets. Yes, I knew it was not good to hear. And yes, I finally called and had a person out last Monday. He's here today to fix what's wrong because a part had to be picked up from the warehouse. So, it's okay. I did it. But I still don't like the doing.

            You know that Ingrid and Imogene form a big part of my life. This week I only saw Ingrid for a bit because her class had a campout trip, but Imi and I spent Tuesday afternoon at McDonald's. A nearby one has a new play space. I've been to quite a few amusement parks through the years, and although they're  larger and maybe fancier, I see the same joy in the kids playing here at McDonald's as in other places. There's something enticing to kids about climbing into tunnels, zipping down slides, and screaming!

            I hosted my book club Thursday evening. We love talking books, and talking "us". This time there were only five of us. I celebrate their life enthusiasm for doing things. One is waiting patiently for the adoption process to finalize, then she and her husband will have their first child! Another, my friend I wrote about above, is starting a new life without teaching. Right now, she and her husband are in NYC visiting their son, and seeing a play performed that was written by one of our former students! Another friend who already has a successful restaurant is stepping away from it to begin a new adventure in food trucks! It's always a joy to see these strong and courageous women.

            I worked at the bookstore Thursday, my usual shift, and met wonderful people who wanted to find books just for their own needs. One woman is in town because her husband is in the hospital. For her, easy reads to fill the time in the hospital room. Two teens came in on their 'off hours' to browse. One, an artist, bought an art book and the other bought a chocolate cookbook. They were already making plans for cooking that night!

My ordinary week is one I'm celebrating. And I did make a place for the needs of those after both the hurricanes. Those I know are all right, although one still needs power back, but others will continue to need help and we mustn't forget them. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Poetry Friday - This Time

          Michelle Barnes hosts Poetry Friday at Today's Little Ditty with "Five for Friday" and a plea for peace! All the special ideas are explained there! Enjoy her post and others with the riches of poetry!

          This is the time when teachers are excited about their new students, the time to start a year of learning, the time to discover students’ passions, about reading and writing.
         This is the time when teachers have writers notebooks ready, empty and waiting to be filled with words: personal words of happy and sad times, future hopes, observations of the world only children know. Teachers wish to know that world through student eyes, too.
          This is the time when stacks of books wait to be opened, stacks teachers have gathered like flowers all the summer for their students, ready to share the stories that have been written to excite, to inform, to settle in hearts. “I know that one. I read it this summer.” “Oh, I want to read that one. It sounds terrific.” “Make a list for this one. Everyone will want to sign up.” “Look at this cover; it’s about refugees.” “And this one; it’s all about reading. And it’s poetry!”

        This is the perfect time for Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s new book: Read! Read! Read!, charmingly illustrated by Ryan O'Rourke. From young to old, readers will connect to the poems as life links to their past, or links to the joy of reading that will be coming to them. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Long Ago and Today, Too

        Visit Alyson Beecher on Wednesdays for Non-Fiction Picture Books at Kidlit Frenzy.  From Alyson and others, you will discover terrific nonfiction picture books!

     It seems appropriate to share this today after Mother Nature has packed such a wallop to places in our world these past weeks. I have spent much time in my years as a teacher out in nature with my students. I was fortunate that my school held the philosophy that "outside" was learning, and the more hours the better. Students kept field journals, learned to identify so many animals and plants, made ongoing observations, etc. Now I think that some of this work is due to the long ago work of Anna Comstock, a person I'm sorry to admit I've never heard of.

Monday, September 11, 2017

One More Time and Tiny Slices

Join us on Tuesdays with the Two Writing Teachers and others who post. 
    The afternoon knows what the morning never expected. ~ old Swedish saying

          The last time I wrote on Tuesday was to take a moment to consider the help that was/will be needed for those who were devastated by Hurricane Harvey. Yes, just two weeks ago. Now, it's time for us to add our help to those in the path of Hurricane Irma. Oh, what a frightening weekend this past one was for many in her path! I am happy that those I know in the Caribbean and in Florida are okay. Some do not have power, but they have had little to no damage to their homes.
               I realize that others are not so fortunate. In that recent post, I spoke of my goal to find schools and libraries that needed help, and one friend from Houston has shared that her older children's high school and middle school are okay, but the younger daughter's elementary was destroyed, and it won't reopen in another site for two more weeks. I have and will continue to help them, and will see if those in Florida have a specific need, too. In the midst of these busy start-of-school days, Mother Nature has once again forced us to take notice, but in an un-gentle way! I am hoping that Captiva Island has not been hit too hard by Irma!
               And Monday I spent some time watching the ceremonies to remember those who died on 9/11. After sixteen years, I know that many of us remember and remember and remember with sorrow.

           I feel very busy, yet little has changed except I've had a few extra things to do, like manage to get an arborist and crew in to trim my old and needy cottonwood tree or call a plumber to fix a minor problem. I've also made a few regular doctor appointments, managed to get my hair cut and train some new volunteers (The bookstore schedule is nearly full!). I snatch every moment I can to read and write. I have a story and several poems I'm working on and excited about. And in my usual week, Ingrid and Imogene are regular visitors. Some days, it feels as if my life fills with the tiniest of sliced hours, but each part is sweet, just like my summer beach time and that key lime pie, of course!

    It's Monday - Reading Recap

                  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 from their own reading lives and support this meme, too.
              I am checking on Kellee on FB who lives in the Orlando area, and the last time she posted, they were waiting for the storm, bunking down in an inner hallway. Best wishes to Kellee and all those affected by Hurricane Irma.
                          tweet #IMWAYR

              I've read this wonderful book by Neil Gaiman more than once in the past, and each time with smiles and sighs, along with some holding-my-breath moments. This time, I had the joy of seeing more than one illustrator respond to Gaiman's beautiful words. The following artists collaborated in this graphic novel:  P. Craig Russell--Adaptor & IllustratorKevin NowlanTony Harris, Scott HamptonGalen ShowmanJill ThompsonStephen B. Scott Illustrator , David Lafuente--all Illustrators, and Andrea Plazzi (translator). The book is published in two volumes, or combined into one, the one I read. Each volume has different parts, stories within stories really. It's wonderful to see the different ghosts that I only imagined before, to see Bod growing up and to have a visual of the graveyard itself in its kind, then frightening, beauty. If you haven't read this story, I do recommend it, but also if you can, get the graphic novel! Like all Gaiman books, it's a treat!

           I read lots of great picture books again this past week. Here are some favorites:

             In gorgeous paintings that remind me of the expressionists, a cat’s owner dies and he is taken with her belongings to her birthplace, but everyone forgets he’s there. He decides he must travel to the place he’s always called home, the one where he could “feel the softness of the bluegrass that grew behind the stone house by the edge of the sea.” One can spot certain landmarks as he travels, like the Eiffel Tower. There are other things he remembers, and as we follow this poignant journey, it’s wonderful to see the happy ending.

    Thursday, September 7, 2017

    My Last Wonderful Swap

          Poetry Friday is hosted today by Matt Forrest Esendwine at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme who happens to be in the midst of book events at bookstores so he can share his new book, Flashlight Night, illustrated by Fred Koehler. It's not out for a little while, but I've already found it at my library! Thanks, Matt! Celebrate, celebrate!
         And, once again,  we must give support for those fleeing or who must endure the coming new Hurricane Erma. Also, I am saddened by the news of so many fires in the northwest. We in Denver are well aware of those disasters because the smoke has been hovering over the city for days. It's time to step up and help however we can. 

           When one takes time to talk with people, the discoveries can be enlightening and simply wonderful. I just spoke with a cashier with whom I visit often when grocery shopping and discovered today that her grandmother has written an autobiography about her work in Tibet. I know this cashier grew up in Hawaii and migrated to the mainland, but did not know of her rich heritage until this week. I tell you this because the summer swap created by Tabatha Yeatts pushes us to look more closely at those we are sending swaps to, and while reading their posts, examining the words and pictures shared, we learn a little more about them. 

    Wednesday, September 6, 2017


               Several years ago, Carrie Gelson of There's A Book for That and Maria Selke of Maria's Melange started us down the path of giving love to all the books that came before, the ones we have on shelves, but still haven't read! There is a small group of us who began sharing lists titled #MustReadIn2014.  My list is now #MustReadIn2017, a few from the previous lists. You can see #MustReadIn2016 above, too.
            Thanks for hosting, Carrie!  Find the latest group update HERE!

    Here are the books I've read, and am now starting the graphic novel of Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book. I've loved this story, love all Gaiman's work, so bought this a long time ago. And guess what? It's kept sinking to the bottom of the pile. This time, I will read it, number 14 on my list of 26. You can see the entire list above on the bar under the header.

              The best ones, the ones you should not miss: all of them! If you want to read more about each, check my Goodreads reviews. I placed them on the list because I read the many reviews by the people who share the books they read for the Monday Reading meme hosted by Kellee Moye, Ricki Ginsberg and Jen Vincent or Horn Book or on Goodreads, etc. And I already know that you love them, so I should, too! Thank you all!

    Biographies To Savor

            Visit Alyson Beecher on Wednesdays for Non-Fiction Picture Books at Kidlit Frenzy.  From Alyson and others, you will discover terrific nonfiction picture books!

             If ever we need the integrity and beliefs of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, that time has come. How fortunate I am to have read these two biographies of her recently. 

              Jonah Winter highlights the prejudice that Justice Ginsburg has faced all her life, sometimes even as a justice! Illustrations help highlight important events through her life that were unjust, yet this woman resisted and persisted when she could to clear away discriminatory practices, to ensure women's equal pay, to combat discrimination against African Americans, to fight for the right of gay couples to marry. There is a glossary and additional information in the back matter. For students just beginning research into the Supreme Court or of Justice Ginsburg's life, this is a great beginning text. 

              I've known of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg all my life and celebrated her victories and opinions, but this book offers so much more information. Her life full of dissenting for equal rights will both surprise and please children who first read this history, and hopefully will inspire them to discover more about the inequality that has been part of our history and is still happening today. There is added back matter that gives more information about Justice Ginsberg.
             There are so many stories of immigrants trying to get to America, and often they are about a flight to save lives, wanting to stay, but needing to go. Michelle Brisson tells Hedy's story with love, for Hedy is her mother! There is some sadness because Hedy had to say goodbye to a cousin, knowing that she will not survive. There is underlying tension caused by pieces that show Jews are being discriminated against, like Hedy's father, a jeweler, being named "the king of the Jewish diamond dealers." And there is the decision that has to be made for Hedy to travel alone after her parents and brother leave because of lack of a ticket. Other problems arise like the plans for the boat that was to take them to America was canceled because the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. They lost that money too. At the back, there are family photos showing Hedy young, then older with her family in America and a map of their long travels to escape. El primo Ramon's illustrations in muted grays and browns with a hint of color create the effect of a long-ago story. They're serious, but not alarming. This will be a good book to introduce the plight of those fleeing the Nazis. 

    Sunday, September 3, 2017

    A Fabulous Reading Week

                  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 from their own reading lives and support this meme, too.
                          tweet #IMWAYR

               I've read lots of picture books this week, will share a few favorites. I'm still reading Evicted, have started a book for a coming book club, and completed one arc I enjoyed.

          Thanks to Candlewick Press, I have had the pleasure of reading M. T. Anderson’s most recent story, a scathing commentary that’s wildly sci-fi but attacks the real ways of society today.  The VUVV have arrived on earth and many welcome it, believing that their advanced knowledge of technology will save everyone. And the teen artist, Adam, believes it, too. But most lose their jobs to this new tech, and with no money coming in, people on earth begin to live without things they used to think were always going to be there, like clean water and good food. The VUVV can make anything (think 3-d printers) but it costs a lot more, and slowly Adam begins to realize that he must do something to save himself and his family.
           Each chapter centers around a painting Adam does, and some is high-tech, holograms, etc., but as the chapters progress, Adam’s paintings reveal what is important to Adam. Despite the continuing gloom in the story, it does end with hope. The book will be a favorite of older teens who love Anderson’s witty comments on our own lives as they did with Feed.

              No matter which picture book below you choose, it seems that most are about people helping others, having fun, taking care to celebrate life and our world. Each one can be a celebration!

           I love the illustrations showing lots of feelings, and foremost, patience and love from the dad.  Jabari’s face when he is feeling the surprise and when he comes “up” with a splash makes one smile just like Jabari. For anyone who has a child with some fear, this is a book to have. For anyone with a class in which it’s a good goal to discuss doing scary things, this is the book to have.

    Saturday, September 2, 2017

    Celebrating Always

           Celebrating with Ruth Ayres and others today. Come visit to see how wonderful it is to celebrate all the delights of the week! 

          Congratulations on this wonderful coming book, Ruth!

          What a week of sadness in Texas! I've written about it more than once, trying to find some goodness in this weather tragedy and there are things to celebrate about those who have stepped forward, or have done the jobs they were meant to do but as heroes who possibly slept less than ever. They continue to help as do many everywhere.

          Except for the concern of those who have met such tragedy, I had a good week with visits and bookstore work, writing and reading. My usual good days! The grand-girls spent Friday with me because they had the day off from school. Most of the time was spent in performance! They created a few song and dance shows for me with new performance ribbons and an old plastic toy microphone I have. BTW, this mike was used often in my classroom, no matter the pretending, even my middle schoolers loved it! 
          My son called this am to firm up the plans for a ticket he was sending to come visit them later in the month! I am excited!