Sunday, November 30, 2014

Children with Tough Lives

Thanks to Sheila at Book Journeys It's Monday! What are you Reading? was started. For many kinds of books, check out Sheila's blog posts and links!

             Later, Jen of Teach Mentor Texts and Ricki and Kellee at Unleashing Readers started another group with a children's focus.  Visit all the links for reading ideas!

Tweet at #IMWAYR

              Not as much time to read, plus I've been putting together a group of short stories for students, too, so fewer books this week, but they're good!  These books meet the challenge given by Latin@sIn KitLit. See the button on the right!

Libertad - written by Anna Fullerton 
           Someone recommended this book a few weeks ago and I got it, and finally read it. It is another verse novel, pairing well with Caminar by Skila Brown, which I also enjoyed. This time, the author starts the journey of the main character, Libertad, and his younger brother, Julio, living with their mother in a shack right by the Guatemala City garbage dump where they sift through the trash to find things to sell. Through happenstance, Libertad finds a marimba, which he repairs, and practices playing. This reminds him of his father, a musician, who has gone to America. They have one slip of paper with his phone number, but really no way to call, and of course, no money anyway to make a call. Through a tragic accident, their Mami is killed and they begin an even longer journey to the US, to find their father. The back matter speaks of so many children alone, fending for themselves, being attacked or burglarized for even the few coins they earn at the dump. And this too happens to the boys, although there are good moments and kindnesses from some people along the way, too. The story of those good things, and then the scarier moments, sometimes seems unrealistic to me, but I will rely on the author's note about her research in this serious plight of children in South America. It is not as frightening a story as others, and perhaps would be a good read aloud for middle grade students, to introduce them to another story of children in need. The poetry is clear prose, arranged for effect, often poignant, and sometimes startling in the content. For example, "Shoes": Julio sits on a bench/and swings his feet so the cool air/flows through the holes/our journey/has made in the soles/of his shoes." To include rhyme, and even a positive comment during this miles-long walk the boys are doing seems beautifully done to me.

Celebrating Each Moment

       As my daughter-in-law said, why does the time go so fast!  Thanks to Ruth Ayres at Discover, Play, Build  I'm sharing my week of good times.

            At my school we don't take the Wednesday before Thanksgiving off, but have a half day of celebration, named "Grandpeople's Day". Although some students are absent, on their way to family celebrations far away on this holiday, others have their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and close neighbors come to visit, take a tour of the school, attend an assembly of different classes sharing, and finally visit classrooms. For this visit, I've already had students complete what is called the "Thanksgiving Visitor", where they choose any three people, past or present, to invite to their table. The guests this year ranged from Michelangelo, a grandmother never known, an unknown soldier who died in the Civil War, and on. The guests are always as diverse as the students. We gather in a group to share, and after student sharing, invite the visitors to tell us who they might invite, and why. It's a contemplative exercise, inviting our visitors into the classroom again for this brief time, always satisfying. I celebrate the students who were thoughtful, and the visitors willing to add their own ideas.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Slicing and Caring

Time for the weekly Slice of Life at the Two Writing Teachers blog.  Tweet at #SOL14  

       Thanks Stacey, Tara, Dana, Beth, Anna and Betsy!

        Much of my life consists of caring, caring for family, for my students and colleagues, and for myself. I care also about my country, and about the earth. I do what I can every day to make a difference for someone or something. I spent the later part of Monday evening watching CNN, wondering if they should be sharing so much about Ferguson, Missouri, and the terrible conflict that community is enduring. It feels invasive, yet perhaps we should know so we can respond as human beings who want better for everyone. 
        My community is worried, a little, about coyotes in the neighborhood. They are concerned that the leaves are collected in a timely manner. I'm not sure what to do. Both things, actually, are important. Yet, there seems to be something more important I'm missing, because tragedy continues.    

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Reading More-Good Times

Thanks to Sheila at Book Journeys It's Monday! What are you Reading? was started. For many kinds of books, check out Sheila's blog posts and links!
             Then, Jen of Teach Mentor Texts and Ricki and Kellee at Unleashing Readers started another group with a children's focus.  Reading everyone's posts of the children's literature is terrific!

Tweet at #IMWAYR

The Boys in the Boat, Nine Americans and their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Olympics by Daniel James Brown.  
         This certainly would be of interest to older readers, but is also an adult non-fiction book. I finally figured out why I've been so in love with this book. It's because it's about the generation of people to which my father, lost in World War II, and my stepfather and uncles belonged. I lived with this generation! The group that went to serve, no matter the cost. And that is how this team rowed, to win, no matter the cost. And there was more, what is called the 'swing', when the rowers are so synchronized, they move as one, paddle in the same way, with the same strength. Daniel James Brown writes a dense and rich story, following one of the rowers of this winning 1936 Olympic team, but as he professes, including parts of the lives of the others, including their biggest rival, the teams from California. The early years before the college competition, the details of shell building, the boys’ relationships, the wins, and the later years are all included.  And the parallel events that publicly or privately were occurring in Nazi Germany are also included. In 1936, Hitler was already planning his 'final solution', and the time during this Olympics was used to put good a 'face' on in order to stop the talk and rumors throughout the world. As soon as the event was over, he again began his persecution. Each part of this story interacts with the other, forming a whole that, without one, would be incomplete. There is extensive footnoting and a bibliography, a good final remarks page from the writer.  I loved each part; perhaps why I took a few weeks to finish, slowing down to keep the ending from arriving.

Amber Brown Is Not A Crayon – Paula Danziger   illustrations by Tony Ross
              For the cute picture on the cover, and the title, I picked up this book at our library. Amber is a third grader who’s quite content being messy, in the room with teacher Mr. Cohen, and her best friend Justin. She tells the story of how Mr. Cohen takes them all on a trip to China, and it sounds like a lot of fun. They have passports and line up their chairs like on an airplane, then take off! That part is happy fun, but sadly, it isn’t the whole book. The rest deals with Justin finding out he’s moving away and Amber goes through different emotions about the loss. It really is a good story, and I know young students will love it as a read aloud, to talk about losing a friend, and what might have to happen in order to feel at least a little better. The illustrations are cute sketches throughout the story.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Nice Things, Nice Week

                The week has flown, filled with good moments. Thanks to Ruth Ayres at Discover, Play, Build  we share our celebrations with each other.

        A few more days until Thanksgiving, a few more days till family, and a few days of rest before back in that swift time before the holidays, such a joyful time, but busier than most of the year. This week celebrating different moments:
  • Students who sit and talk of their goals for work with passion and enthusiasm. It's a gift to me to be able to have those conversations.
  • A Friday trip where an hour into the mountains, the bus started smoking, and I made it to a stopping place, a helpful colleague came to the rescue--with another bus--and we were able to carry on with the trip. Flexibility was key, but what a day!  
  • Shopping for dinner with my granddaughter and trying hard not to laugh as she carefully examined a few frozen packages to see what she might like. (Pictures mean a lot to those who cannot yet read, and Stauffer's won the day.)
  • Spending a few hours shopping with my daughter  last Sunday. We are both so busy that a few hours is a treasure.
  • Looking forward to this coming Thanksgiving with all the family. My son, daughter-in-law and grandson will be here!
Happy Thanksgiving with friends and family, wherever you are, whatever you enjoy on your table.

          From John Fitzgerald Kennedy: "As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Poetic Search for A Special Class

          Today’s Poetry Friday as hosted by Becky Shillington of Tapestry of Words.

       I've recently been asked to take over a classroom at my school, and as I've written before, I'm much, much busier than I was two weeks ago. Serendipitously, I'm in the same classroom that I was when we first moved to this building, and have the same age students, a mixed group of 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. It's a terrific class and I've loved my time so far. With any class, getting to know the students is key, and finding ways to broaden their outlook in literature is a special pleasure for me. I've shared several poems already, have favorites, and we'll be doing more creative writing soon. Starting with only a few weeks before Thanksgiving, then a few weeks until the longer winter break is also a challenge. What to do, what to do in this brief time? 
       Here's a poem I'll share with students soon, and thought you'd enjoy it also. It's one our head of school shared during the staff days before school. It's a good look at telling a story, at inviting everyone into the group, and it's a way for us to respond to a poem that I hope will touch the students in a variety of ways. I'm looking forward to what the students will share about it.

My Mother's Uncle Had A Horse

The best time of a delay relatives' Sunday
was to walk with him to the stable
and watch him feed the quiet animal,
to give it sugar from my own hand
and jump back away
from the big warm tongue, 
to smell the hay and manure, to see
the white horse in the next stall,
with tail and frame like yellow silk.

You can find the rest here

Wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving filled with good people and good pie!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Surprise in the Early Dark

This is the weekly Slice of Life at the Two Writing Teachers blog.  Tweet at #SOL14  

               Thanks Stacey, Tara, Dana, Beth, Anna and Betsy!  

Wishing everyone a marvelous time at NCTE!

                 One slice of my life each Monday evening or Tuesday morning is the time where I take the trash out. Every other week I also roll out the re-cycle cart. I realize this isn't the most exciting thing that anyone does, but I am grateful that I do have a reliable trash service. Some days, like last week's crazy cold, I think of the trash people and what a long, tough day working outside will be.  I've been rising earlier because of my new classroom job, so I took the trash barrel out this morning instead of doing it last night. Thus, I'm sharing that because of that change in my habits, I was greeted by more shivery air, but a gorgeous sky, and a clear sight of Orion's Belt. You may see this constellation more often, but I don't often go out into the dark early in the morning. Here's that word "mundane" I wrote about a few weeks ago. Trash: mundane, a weekly chore, challenging mostly in cold and snow. The gift: a sight to savor.
Click to enlarge.
photo credit: Cayusa via photopin cc

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Monday Reading

Sheila at Book Journeys started It's Monday! What are you Reading?, a meme where bloggers share recent books read.
             Then, Jen of Teach Mentor Texts and Ricki and Kellee at Unleashing Readers started one with a children's focus.  Reading everyone's posts of the books they're sharing is such a gift every week. I would never have discovered so many wonderful books without you all! 
                I just finished my Goodreads' goal for the year, 350 books!! I increased it a few months ago, but am still ahead with a month to go. However, since I'm busy with my new classroom, perhaps it's a good thing. My reading has really slowed, sad to say. I have two books to share today.

Thanks Jen, Ricki and Kellee for hosting us.

Tweet at #IMWAYR

You Can't Ride A Bicycle To The Moon - written by Harriet Ziefert with pictures by Amanda Haley
                Filled from back to front about the space program, beginning with all about the moon, this is a terrific non-fiction book that is so friendly and fun. Harriet Ziefert shares the factual information and history in clear explanations, and she adds in cute and fitting poems that fit the content along the way. Here's a taste: "Moon Rover, Moon Rover,/Won't you come over/And take me someplace cool to play?"   The pictures by Amanda Haley enhance the story with comic-type illustrations. For those kids who love space, this is a great book. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Celebration Saturday

Celebrating A Great Week

            The month of November is a time of thanksgiving for us here in the U.S. Come join Ruth Ayres at Discover, Play, Build to share your celebrations.

             Last week I shared a post at the Teaching Authors blogsite where they are beginning their annual tradition of inviting others to write Thankus.  I continue to be grateful for my colleagues, and especially this first full week of being with this new class. Here is my "Thanku" to them:


my hugging colleagues
let me know I’m not alone
good to know they’re here
Linda Baie ©All Rights Reserved

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Poetry - Change

                Visit Keri and the Poetry Friday Roundup at Keri Recommends. 

            On Tuesday, the weather people were right. A cold front/storm was coming. By the time school was over, the temperature had dropped 50 degrees. It rose to 65 and was 15 when I drove home. Wednesday the high was 5. We've had a wonderful autumn, but winter has introduced itself with flamboyance! No leafy poem today, a comment on the week.

this autumn day

the sun cartwheels through morning
there’s laughter at the park

cold slips in after lunch

no lingering on the sidewalk
no one at the park bench
cold means a lonely outside
Linda Baie © All Rights Reserved

           Wishing you cozy days, in and outside!

photo credit: Dolor Ipsum via photopin cc

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Non-fiction-Always beautiful!

           Thanks to Alyson Beecher, we discover favorite non-fiction picture books every Wednesday when others link up on her blog, KidLit Frenzy

         I have two lovely books to share today. Hope you're discovering good ones, too.
Feathers: Not Just for Flying - written by Melissa Stewart and Illustrated by Sarah Brennan
            This is a perfect book for those studying about birds, those who use journals in the field, and many who write poetry with a non-fiction theme. It's an incredibly wonderful book that gives interesting information about feathers via similes. The illustrations are not only beautiful, but helpful. It's like a field journal, but also a scrapbook. I just loaned this to a class studying birds this year. They will love it!