Friday, June 29, 2012

June Chalk-A-Bration!

         Over at the Teaching Young Writers blog, Betsy and her husband Shawn, who blogs at Beyond Innisfree have shown that there is much out there I haven't experienced (well, today is number three), and one of those things is to write a poem on the sidewalk, or patio, etc., anywhere you feel is a great place to show off your words. Betsy has named this Chalk-a-bration, which began in April during poetry month.  Please visit Betsy's blog to share the link for your own chalk story.  Thanks for hosting Betsy!

         We wrote about summer much of the month of May, waiting, waiting for school to be completed, so we could welcome the season of doing less, getting some R&R, reading the books we wanted, writing the words we wanted.  It was a lovely time of anticipation!  Now that summer is here, some of that has occurred, but here in Colorado, one thing more--fire!  Hence my poem, that began as celebration, but ended still another way.  

                                                  It's a little faded, so here is the text!

Summer comes-
blanket heat.
We smile and relax,
with shorts and halter tops.
We grow flowers
and jump into sprinklers.
Bodies shiver.
But the heat also brings
fire that we relish in
snow time,
not the hot and dry kind-
We want the crackle
only in the fireplace.
Not in the neighborhoods.
Our bodies shiver.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Poetry Friday-Gotta Book Flapping!

       Today’s Poetry Friday is hosted by the Marjorie at Paper Tigers.  Thanks Marjorie!

              I don’t remember when I began reading Greg Pincus’ funny poems on his blog, Gotta Book, but I do know when I started, I didn’t stop.  Every day, Greg starts my day with a blessing, a big laugh.  It is said that laughter is the best medicine, and if that is so true, it is also so true that Greg dispenses promising prescriptions to heal all that ails!

              I love to read poetry, and I work hard with the words to write it, yet I know that my brain is simply not wired the same way as Greg’s.  I wish I could think “fowl” when the words “foul ball” come into my mind.  Instead, I think "baseball", and immediately turn to a problem a child had with batting.  Greg thinks chickens in his poem titled The Fowl Ball, which ends with We laughed and played, a happy group…/And danced until we flew the coop. 
              When I read Mother Goose rhymes to children, we laugh at the sing-song rhymes, but I never think that I could pretend I had anything to do with all the tragedy lying within those rhymes.  Greg has done just that with the sad, sad poem titled Uncle Goose.  He laments in the second verse:  Georgie Porgie kissed the girls,/But I’m the one who dared him./Jack and Jill both tumbled down/’Cause I’m the one who scared ‘em. 
           Greg also looks at things differently in his imagination, which sometimes ends with a little bit of sad, like in the poem, The Biking Blues.   This child wanted to go out riding, and says:  Instead, I’m stuck at home because my bike said,/”I’m two tired.”  Even when not the usual big joke, there is the play on words that shows Greg’s funny bone.  I find he wants us readers to look at things from different angles, to understand the importance of being silly, celebrating the little things, and laughing as much as possible.  In the poem Mixed Up, it opens with My fingers sit where you have toes./My elbow’s where you have your nose.  In
Bubble Wrap, Greg writes: Pop!  Pop!  Pop!  Pop!  Snap!  Snap!   Snap!/We just got some bubble wrap!  A final belly laugh happens when one reads Belly Button Blues, with I got no innie, got no outie./Every day it makes me pouty. 

           The wonderful thing about all this is that in April, Greg published an e-book titled The Late Bird that includes all the poems he had previously published on his blog (fifty of them!) plus four brand new ones!  I purchased it immediately and it is now on my IPad and IPhone, where I can access the poems any chance I find.  And it is a treat to read a few at a time, or all in one gulp, which I did the first couple of days.  For example, in the waiting room at a doctor’s office, I now sit quietly waiting for some appointment and bring up Greg’s e-book, relax, and laugh!

           Greg’s bio at the end of the e-book shows he's a very busy guy.  He is a poet, novelist, screenwriter, and blogger.  You can find him sharing children’s poetry (both his own and from special guests) plus children’s literature related goodies at the link above or at, where he talks social media.  The 14 Fibs of Gregory K.  is coming soon from Arthur A. Levine Books.

             If you haven’t already, go find The Late Bird on Amazon and as Greg writes in the title of his latest post, Keep That Bird Flapping!

              Thank you Greg, for allowing me to review your wonderful poems.  They delight me every day!

And-please check yesterday’s post if you have time.  It’s about an important book newly out, and a giveaway!  The publisher is promising to send a free copy to the winner chosen randomly from the commenters. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Book To Discover & A Giveaway!

          As a middle school teacher, I was always searching for books that touched the lives of all of my students.   Now as a Literacy Coach, I do the same thing, but have just broadened the age groups of where I look.  Finding a connection to oneself in books can help a student of any age through tough times.  There are books about serious topics for young students as well as older ones, books about loss through divorce or death or moving, books about conflict, and books about making friends. 
       Even within a strong community, adolescents often feel as if they are the only ones experiencing the lives they lead.  But books can show them they are not alone, that there is at least one author who is writing about differences, about cultures, family conflicts and loss, and peer relationships, including love. That author writes from the heart to a reader's heart.
       I recently read a new anthology for older middle-schoolers and high-school-aged adolescents.  Sarah Moon as editor is offering a lifeline to young adults who are questioning their sexuality, feeling so alone, most often teased and bullied, wondering where to turn for answers.  That lifeline is The Letter Q, Queer Writers’ Notes To Their Younger Selves
         The publisher, Arthur A. Levine books, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc.  is willing to send one copy of this book to a winner selected by July 5th from those commenting to this post. If you have a special story to tell of someone who has been helped by a particular book, please share in the comments. 
         In an opening letter, Levine says, Not every book I publish has the potential to save someone’s life.  But this one does.  As much as things have changed for LGBT kids since the time when I was growing up, the world can still be a lonely, frightening, threatening place for them. One has only to read the news to know that LGBT teens are among the most vulnerable to suicide.  They need to know that it gets better in the future.  Sarah Moon, editor, shares that despite being called names and having her house egged, she was lucky enough to be surrounded by people who had already been through what she was experiencing and lived to tell the tale.  They told her stories and wrote her letters, which she says she carried with her to school to give her strength.  When things became tougher as she got older, she began to fight back, earning her only more days in the principal’s office, or mornings when one particular kid would follow her around all morning calling her a dyke.  When she struggled with facing the rest of the day, she would take out a letter.  One said:  This is the life of an activist in a small town.  It is not permanent but it is difficult.  I swear to you, you will not be sixteen forever.  
          Sarah thinks it wouldn’t be fair to be the only teenager to carry around letters that support, so she spoke with James Lecesne, founder of The Trevor Project, an organization dedicated to preventing LGBTQ teen suicide, available 24 hours a day.  They began asking those writers they knew, who in turn asked their friends.  And the book began to come together, letters coming in showing the experiences, the threats, the sometimes surprising support of these writers’ early lives.  When I read, I was struck by the clear message of love that was communicated again and again, to be strong, to like who you are, to follow your own feelings and ideas, which are great despite what others tell you. 
         In the end, sixty-four award-winning writers and illustrators sent messages of love and support to their younger selves.  They spoke of challenges and how proud they were to see how beautifully they were handled.  They talked of sticking with the friends that emerge and saying goodbye to those who aren’t accepting, the parents who love and those who took a while, but who did come through to embrace the child they knew needed their love more than ever. And these writers wrote of hope, the clinging to the future times when life would be infinitely better, exciting and challenging, filled with love and friends and life-long partners.  Some of the illustrators drew graphic stories with the same message of future happy lives.

              Here are a few words that show some of the important messages:

from Tony Valenzuela: Toto, you’re going to feel a lot of pressure from kids (and adults) to be normal.  But you’ll never feel normal when by “normal” you know that people mean “like everybody else”.
from Doug WrightYes, the indignities you suffer at the hands of bigots can make you bitter.  But they can also strengthen your ability to empathize with the oppressed, and in doing so, enlarge the capacity of your heart.
    Live comfortably – and gratefully – in your own skin.

from Jacqueline Woodson:  Mandy? (an early wish for a different name) I want to tell you.  It gets better.  There is a whole world of women like you out here.  They are amazing!  They are mothers and doctors and lawyers and writers and actors and electricians and builders and thinkers and doers.  They are funny and thoughtful and caring….
        But right now, I want you to just take one step—away from Madison Street.  Off the block, around the corner, onto the L train, into Manhattan—just go somewhere!  And look into the faces of other people.  The world is big—and there is so much love in it.  I promise you—you will find it.  It is already, as I write this, moving toward you.

from Howard CruseMarshal that healthy skepticism you’ve been cultivating and ask: “Where’s the evidence behind all that disapproval?”  Does what the “experts” are selling square with what you’ve experienced in your own life?  Does it square with common sense?

from Diane DiMassaLook how much you have already survived.  You are coping!  I know at your age everything feels like forever.  But the gears will mesh, you’ll get some traction, and you’ll go.  You will!  There is so much waiting there.
         You are awaited.  So keep going!

          The additional authors and illustrators include Michael Cunningham, Amy Bloom, Terrence McNally, Gregory Maguire, David Levithan, and Armistead Maupin and others with strong and loving messages.  This anthology is not only for those students who are  questioning their sexual identity, but for all adolescents who are learning about the world and the people in it in addition to those adults who work with children.  All of us need to learn how it is to walk in another's shoes, and then another, and another.   

        Finally, I think adolescents would appreciate conversation about the following quote from Calvin & Hobbes:  
      “Calvin: The more you know, the harder it is to take decisive action.
      Once you are informed, you start seeing complexities and shades of gray. You realize nothing is as clear as it first appears. Ultimately, knowledge is paralyzing.
      Being a man of action, I cannot afford to take that risk.

       Hobbes: You're ignorant, but at least you act on it.”


   To learn more about this book, check out the trailer below and the hashtag #TheLetterQ on Twitter.  The trailer is lovely and loving.  You'll need to watch to see what I mean.  

Monday, June 25, 2012

Best Practice Applies To All Ages

Come join the Tuesday Slice of Life, Hosted Weekly by Stacey and Ruth at their blog, Two Writing Teachers.  Enjoy everyone’s posts as they offer a small slice of their lives.

        Usually, every other Saturday to Sunday, I get the pleasure of a visit from my Granddaughter Ingrid, whom you’ve read about in other posts.  She was three in April.

        Ingrid and I do lots of things when she visits and I’ve written about some of them, and lately, because of all the reading aloud, looking at books together, being in pre-school all year, Ingrid has become interested in writing.  She can recognize all of her letters, and write some of them, mostly those with straight lines.  Her father teaches her lots of songs that are real, and they listen to music together, things like The Sound of Music. Her mother makes up little rhyming songs for her about everything. I have added more books to Ingrid’s experience, but mostly I think my addition to her literacy is that we’ve looked at things and noticed details about them.  

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Good Words Mean Good Reads!


        It's Monday! What are you Reading? is another meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys, a variety of reviews to find even more books for your TBR list. 

          For all the #TeachersWrite Summer Camp writers!  If there's a book you really want to read but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.  ~Toni Morrison

Ivy + Bean, #1 by Annie Burrows

I heard someone mention this series and as I'm trying to learn more about books that appeal to the primary kids, heard that this series was one of the popular ones, found it on audio at the library. It's the story of two delightful young girls, adventuring into all kinds of silliness, like making spells, one of which seems to work well on Bean's older sister Nancy. At the beginning of the book, Bean resisted making friends with her new across-the-street neighbor, but ends up learning that Ivy adds much to Bean's ideas to have fun. I'm sure I'll check out a few more.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Playing In The Garden

Amy L-V is hosting Poetry Friday today out on the farm.  Be sure to be ready for lots of fun in the out of doors.  Check out all the guests' posts, and thank you Amy for having us.

         I have spent two years trying to start a crop of hollyhocks and finally they seem to be doing well, except the recent terrible heat we've been having is not helping them look top notch.  The first year, they only grew about a foot, and last year, there were just a few stalks.  Now there are about twelve! I was watering the patch today and looking at some of the blooms, remembering one of my grandmother's gardens, where she let me play and imagine with her multitude of flowers whenever I wanted.   Today I played again, with the flowers and with words.

A Book Discovery from the Past

I am participating in the Award Challenge hosted by the blog, Gathering Books.  Be sure to connect with this blog as often as possible.  It is filled with posts about books and authors you will want to know. 

I just finished listening to this amazing book that I somehow missed a few years ago.  It is Waiting For Normal by Leslie Connor.  Here is a young eleven, then twelve year old whose stepfather and mother recently divorced.  Because the mother left her at age nine to care for the two younger sisters, the stepfather has gained custody of them, while leaving Addie behind to cope with her mother.  Sound complicated?  It is.  And sometimes these are the circumstances that children must face, or worse.  They, like the main character Addie, are looking for normal!

At the beginning of the book, Addie and her mother, whom she calls Mommers, move into an old trailer in a remote spot near a mini-mart type of store.  This appears to be all the ex-stepfather can afford as he still is paying some money to the ex-wife.  The mother is furious, but Addie is shown to be a person who looks at the bright side.  She loves the private ‘bedroom’ she has above the living area, with curtains! There were times I wondered how she manages in the face of her difficult circumstances.  Throughout the story, Addie’s mother leaves her alone for days at a time.   Luckily Addie befriends the curious group across the road that runs the mini-mart and gains support from them while continuing her own resilient ways. 

It’s a long book that includes numerous twists and turns (a term Addie uses for her own family’s life) that make one ache with despair for this early adolescent.  

Her life includes:

-A change to a new school
-Cooking toast dinners, with enthusiasm
-A grumpy grandfather who has washed his hands of his daughter, Addie’s mother, and unable to be much help
-A wonderful character who owns the mini-mart named Sula, who takes the role of offering the kindness that Addie needs so desperately
-A loving ex-stepfather whose hands are tied by the courts, trying to help Addie as much as he is able
-Two sweet little sisters who add some happiness to Addie’s life
-A weaving in and out of Addie’s challenges in school and the additional gift she has of listening to music and being able to re-create it in her flute playing, all because of dyslexia.
-A couple of school friends who are supportive as much as they can be
-A hamster named Piccolo that adds the warmth of companionship Addie needs

When I listened to the book, it was frustrating to hear Addie grow herself, hearing her thoughts of despair and hope, aching myself for this young child to have something go right for once in her young life.  I began to think of all the other characters I’ve met just this year who’ve endured their challenges, needing help from adults and peers in their lives, and sometimes not getting that help for a long while. Sometimes these children hide their needs very well, to protect loved ones and the often-tenuous hold they have on their lives.  It is a challenge for teachers and others who work with children to watch carefully for signs of need, and take action as vigorously as possible.   In the recent books, I think of Augie in Wonder, Marlee in The Lions of Little Rock, Fern in See You At Harry’s, Hazel and Augustus in The Fault In Our Stars, and Conor in A Monster Calls.   And now I will be reminded of Addie in Waiting for Normal.  Thanks to marvelous writers, these poignant characters serve to remind us of the real characters in our lives, perhaps classrooms, which need our advocacy. 

More than once, I sat parked, listening to yet another chapter before leaving my car.  A woman named Angela Rogers narrated the book with such talent, I continued to ‘hear’ the voices each time I arrived at my destination and had to turn the cd off.  If you can listen to the audio version of the book, do so.

In 2009, the book was named one of School Library Journal's Best Books, an ALA Notable Children's Book, and ALA Top Ten Books for Young Adults, is on Texas Lone Star Reading List, and won the 2009 Connecticut Book Award.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Reflecting On The Reflecting

Come join the Tuesday Slice of Life, Hosted Weekly by Stacey and Ruth at their blog, Two Writing Teachers.  The Slices of Life are just terrific to read.  

On May 30th, Ruth Ayres, at the Two Writing Teachers blog, posted an end of the year reflection post.  Here are her words that spoke to me in her intro to that post:

So I’m going to complete just a handful of statements, with the purpose of growing in my understanding and practice.
1.  I learned…
2.  I was stretched by….
3.  I am excited about…
4.  I’m beginning to realize…

I wrote a response quickly, in the comments, but these prompt beginnings have been in my mind since then.  Now that I’ve been finished with school for a week, I thought it was a good idea for me to return to my rather hasty answer, and reflect a bit more on the year. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Great Books This Week!


        It's Monday! What are you Reading? is another meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys, a variety of reviews to find even more books for your TBR list. 

                 I had a great week reading and writing, but didn't finish as many chapter books as I thought I would.  Still, it was a fun week & I found some wonderful books at the library.  

      A quote for you this week:  Wear the old coat and buy the new book.  Austin Phelps

picture books

Apple Pie 4th of July--I was lucky enough a few weeks ago to win a copy of this book by Janet S. Wong and illustrated by Margaret Chodos-Irvine.  I taught a short story group about looking through the lens of immigrant's eyes this past spring, and would have loved to have added this to the stories I read with the students.  It is a wonderful story of the conflict people (children) have trying to please those in the new country, while keeping their birth country close to their hearts.  More than one child thinks his or her parents have got it wrong in most things, whether from another culture or not, but Janet's story shows there is another layer when one's parents are from another culture.  It's a terrific book that will encourage discussions about differences.  The illustrations are bold, bright graphic designs, kind of like the fireworks on Independence Day.  

Turtle In July by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney.  Recently received as a gift for a poem I wrote for another blog, I already love this anthology by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney.  It is full of delightful and jumpy descriptions of different creatures throughout the seasons.  For example, there's 'January Deer', 'March Bear,, and "april is a dog's dream,' where is found a dog who says "we're going to the park/to chase and charge and chew'.  The illustrations are gorgeous watercolors surrounding the words.  I hope you can find a copy.

chapter books

Jesse by Gary Soto  I love the books by Gary Soto; chapter books, poetry and short stories are all about the lives of Mexican-Americans, but transfer into universal stories about all of us. They are about challenges, risk-taking and hope. They show real lives of teens mostly with their own hopes and dreams but finding it tough to transcend the poverty gap.
       This book, Jesse, tells of 17 year old Jesse, a Mexican-American boy coming of age during the turmoil of the Vietnam War. I loved Jesse's optimism and his dedication to honesty. I listened to the audio book read by Robert Rameriz, who was marvelous. Despite Jesse's poverty and family difficulties, he aspires to get an education and become an artist. I especially enjoyed Soto's descriptions (one is 'teeth like Chiclets) and his expert use of dialog. He definitely gets teen speak. This is Soto's first YA novel.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Read Between The Lines

Poetry Friday today is hosted today by a poetry wordsmith extraordinaire, Mary Lee Hahn at  A Year of Reading.  Thanks, Mary Lee.  Everyone, please visit to check out the wonderful words shared.

               It's Father's Day this Sunday.  I wrote a poem for my husband, to thank him for the wonderful father he has been, and now grandfather.  

With our youngest grandchild-Imogene.

Read Between The Lines
               – To my husband, a good father

Rocking, walking, out of sight,
whispers lulling in the night.
Once in a time, telling sweet stories;
faces opened like morning glories.

Masked adventures, crevasse jumping,
swinging high and legs a pumping.
Slicing in the peaches, cranking for ice cream,
licking on the paddles, creating little dreams.

Driving to practices, soccer, stage, LaCrosse.
No griping, groaning - never made a fuss.
Dried the tears, allayed the fears, still the hugging way,
kept the shadows back forever, at least for another day.

Wish I could see all this again, memories continue sharp.
My husband makes the best of dads-filling up my heart.