Monday, August 31, 2015

Things That Matter

          Slicing with the Two Writing Teachers community is a pleasure every week.  Thank you Stacey, Tara, Anna, Betsy, Dana, Kathleen, Beth, and Deb.

          When I taught, I did have students write to me before school, about their reading and writing habits and wishes, their dreams for the future (I taught middle school age students), what they'd been doing recently, and on. And I valued the information they gave. In the first days of school we wrote a lot, and one of the pieces that I feel held the most importance of "who" each student was is a writing topic I called "things that matter". I used different books each year. Remember, I always had students for the second year, and often for a third, so couldn't use the same resources each year. I used picture books often as mentor texts, and the following ones are inspiring in different ways. I hope you'll find and read them to discover your own unique ways to use them in order to inspire your writers to write from their hearts, "things that matter".  In my writing, I've written this prompt all through the years, and some words stay the same, but time also makes them change. It might be fun to have students write at the beginning and then at the end of the year to see if they have changed views. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

It's Monday - Books Loved

           On Mondays, I share books read for children and teens and link up with Jen at TeachMentorTexts and Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders.  Others link to share adult books with Sheila at Book Journeys who started the meme a long time ago
        Come visit, and tweet at #IMWAYR. Thanks to Jen, Kellee, and Ricki for hosting!

        I read so many picture books this past week, partly because I kept Imogene, and she loves being read to, so we read lots of new library books along with a few of her favorites that stay here. Look at last week's post if you missed the monster book I brought her from the beach bookstore. She loves it so much that she brought it along, and we read it three times throughout the day! Just saying'!

I finished a NetGalley new Dystopian novel, out in September. Here's the review:

             In The Scorpion Rules we discover a future world no one really wants, where an artificial intelligence called Talis has taken over. Yet, although we hear of “him?”, we truly don’t meet until the final fourth of the story. The premise is that Talis has achieved world peace by taking a hostage from every world leader - their heirs, known as "Children of Peace". When a government declares war, the child dies. These ‘hostage’ children are kept in small and isolated communities called “Preceptures”, studying the past and doing chores as others did years and years ago, like keeping bees and goats, raising their own food, etc. Some arrive at the age of five, as our main character, Greta, has, and she knows only this way of living, appears to believe wholly in the philosophy of Talis.
            She is Greta Gustafsen Stuart, Duchess of Halifax and Crown Princess of the Pan-Polar Confederation, appears disciplined and very smart. One soon realizes that while her intelligence might be real in the content areas, she has no idea that there are other ways to look at the world. The chance of self-knowledge comes with the addition to her group of Elián Palnik, the newest hostage. Greta sees him (and is not supposed to) enter her community in chains and a small piece of herself opens. She begins to have empathy for pain, and later, for other ideas of how the world could work.
             The consistent push of Erin Bow to keep the reader off guard with new insights into how different hostages in Greta’s group act, and react, along with the frightening ideas of constant surveillance, and where the only “overseer” showing to be a sympathetic character to Greta is an AI creates an interesting and frightening read. There are romantic interests, but not where one predicts, and the real heroes are not predictable either.
             The Scorpion Rules is a new approach to dystopian literature, keeping the action in one geographical place, and among just a few characters. The future of the world hinges in this singular place, an alarming thought. In ending, the over-arching power felt from that one Talis and the ending thoughts of Greta creates a hole of “I wonders” that won’t be filled until Erin Bow writes again.

And here are my favorite picture books read:

Miss Dorothy and Her Bookmobile - written by Gloria Houston and illustrated by Susan Condie Lamb
       I'm sure I read this years ago, but never reviewed it. This is not classified as an n-f story, but it closely follows the life story of Miss Dorothy Thomas, one of the author's heroes when she grew up. Miss Dorothy drove a green bookmobile in the beautiful countryside in a part of North Carolina, bringing books to those who didn't have the ability to get to a library. The words Houston uses in the story are poetic, and the illustrations realistic and gorgeous. Eventually a library was built in a small house that Miss Dorothy ran for years. This belongs to all those stories of people, often librarians who brought books to people living in remote areas. I grew up using a bookmobile for my reading, loving the librarian who soon began to discover what I liked and recommending/bringing me more and more wonderful books. Like the author, I won't forget this librarian in my life.

One For The IPad

slide11It's DigiLit Sunday--digital ideas hosted by Margaret Simon on her blog Reflections On The Teche. Link up here.

         This is a quick post, sharing one app that I'm fond of. I know many of you have IPads, or you have them for students at school. This app, Drawing Desk, has been fun to use. It has a drawing and a doodle component. It is free, but you can pay a little more for a deluxe drawing pack. One can save the drawings, send to twitter or Facebook, or e-mail them and save them in IPhoto. Here's one drawing I did this morning, a shell from our recent vacation to Captiva Island. I don't know if you're trying to draw on the IPads, but it is a new kind of skill that I've been practicing. 

The downside to this is that you can't add text, except by writing. You would have to upload the photo to another app, like Skitch, to add text.  Here's an example:

The wonderful thing about Skitch is that you can access all the files from Evernote.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Celebrating Imagination

              I celebrate each Saturday with Ruth Ayres at Discover Play Build - Week number 97! There are many others who celebrate, too. Come join us!          Tweet at #CelebrateLu

         The week filled up with those nice things one savors, good connections, good meetings, good times with friends. But today I celebrate the amazing power of imagination. You know how much I love my grandchildren, also think they're very cute, just as you all think of your own children, family, including dogs. It was National Dog Day on Thursday, did you notice? The wonderful pictures on FB made me wish for a dog again.
          In watching the grand-girls yesterday, I had the chance to contemplate the power of play, am celebrating only one thing today, the power of imagination. There have been a number of articles recently about the importance of play, that too much is being taken away and replaced by worksheets/seatwork, in pre-school too!  I kept Imogene yesterday, and she played. We read, we went to the park and met a worm on the way, imagined what it might be like to live in the grass, all alone. What did it eat? Where did it go at night? At the park, Imi started some game in which she paused, said a nonsense rhyme, a shout, then ran up and down the play space again. I'm not sure what she was doing, but she was smiling all the time. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Summer Swap Finale

          Sylvia Vardell, who, with Janet Wong, created those fabulous Anthologies filled with poetry, for all of us, not only teachers and students, is our host today on Poetry Friday. Visit all the poetry treats at her blog, Poetry for Children

          Tabatha Yeatts' idea of swapping poetry has given me the chance to know, then write for numerous people through these recent years. It is a pleasure to do this, trying to find a way to touch someone long distance with words only for them. And it is a wonderful thing to receive one too. Here is my final slow mail surprise, from Joy Acey, one of the few swappers I've had the "joy" to meet, and spend a week with! I spent my first week in a poetry workshop led by David Harrison a few years ago, and Joy was in that group, a veteran that took us all under her wing, spreading love and golf balls with special words all around the grounds. I do hope I'll have the pleasure again sometime. But now I get to share my last swap poem, from Joy. We live far apart, Tucson and Denver, but we do share one thing, beautiful mountains. And Joy knows that, wrote and painted from that connection.
           I love the way the painting changes as she shows those changes in her words, a metaphor for life perhaps? When one has a 'view', Joy has shown us those numerous faces that can be seen. 
Click to enlarge. The background is mine, to take the photo.

Today - Visiting!

         I'm happily visiting Today's Little Ditty today, with Michelle Heidenrich Barnes, taking on Penny Klosterman's challenge. Do you want to know how the story goes: There was an old dragon who swallowed.  .  .?  Come visit! Thanks, Michelle and Penny.

         From Penny's wonderful book, just out on August 4th!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Non-Fiction Pic Books - Learning

Time to share on Wednesdays with Alyson Beecher's Non-Fiction Picture Book Challenge at her blog, Kidlit Frenzy.   
        Thanks Alyson!   Tweet - #NFPB15

            It's been a few weeks since I posted. I've been on vacation and shared a few books that I found and read at the beach last Monday. Here are some new n-f picture books recently read, many of which I've discovered through you who post here with Alyson. What wonderful books they are. I always appreciate what I discover through others' posts.

Ick! Yuck! Eew! Our Gross American History - written and illustrated by Lois Miner Huey
       You may or may not remember my love for Sarah Albee's Poop Happened: A History of The World From The Bottom Up. Perhaps it was a little too detailed for younger elementary students, but I enjoyed Albee's historical perspective so much. Here is another book with an approach that has fewer details, but oh so interesting. If you've wondered just how gross things were a few hundred years ago here in the US, this book offers a view of what happens with poop, insects, dirt, smells and diseases--EW! Mosquitoes, bedbugs and lice, oh my. They were prolific, disease ridden, and people were quite helpless at getting rid of them. Instead, sometimes they just covered them up, with those fancy wigs one sees in portraits, and sometimes they put poison on the bed linens. That killed the bugs, but also seeped into people's skin! I learned quite a bit from this reading. For example, rooms for powdering one's hair were small and isolated, to keep the powder contained, hence today's term for a small entry bathroom, the "Powder Room". Huey includes lots of pictures with good captions, and covers quite a bit of content. Perhaps it would be good for third grade and up. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Loose Ends That Won't Be Tightened

          Slicing with the Two Writing Teachers community is a pleasure every week.  Thanks to Stacey, Tara, Anna, Betsy, Dana, Kathleen, Beth, and Deb.

           I hope everyone is having a great start to their school years. Whether in staff week now, or already starting with students, it is a special time of the year. My granddaughter Imogene started the four year old class today at her school, and Ingrid starts her first grade year on Wednesday. As I've written before, I am not back, but I will be beginning to work with a new assistant at my school who is in another school's alternative licensing program. I have done this before, and it's rather fun to keep busy in education just a little bit, yet keep most of the time not working. I'm looking forward to meeting this young teacher-to-be.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

It's Monday-All Kinds of Reading

           On Mondays, I share books read for children and teens and link up with Jen at TeachMentorTexts and Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders.  Others link to share adult books with Sheila at Book Journeys who started the meme a long time ago
        Come visit, and tweet at #IMWAYR. Thanks to Jen, Kellee, and Ricki for hosting!

Behind The Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope In A Mumbai Undercity - written by Katherine Boo
          This book won the National Book Award for 2012, among others, and meets the criteria for the award challenge at Gathering Books.  Click on the badge on the right for more information.
           I really wish I could just give link after link of the glowing reviews of this book, long on my list of books to read, and I finally did take time to read slowly, savor the beauty that Katherine Boo shared of these people in circumstances hard to imagine. And I find it hard to see how they did/do survive. While there may be better circumstances here in the U.S., there are equally terrible places for children who are trapped in them with few ways to change. Boo follows several families, especially the children of those families, the way they start work early, at seven sometimes, the way they learn to scavenge and steal, then sell the goods for what seems like nothing, but to them, IS something. They live and survive in cobbled-together shacks in a slum named Annawadi, in sight, but fenced off, from the wealthy and beautiful Mumbai airport and its hotels. It is humbling to read this, trying not to judge my own life and others, wondering if I do enough to help. There is such need here and in other countries.  Here are some words that made me pause, among many others: “In America and in Europe, it was said, people know what is going to happen when they turn on the water tap or flick the light switch. In India, a land of few safe assumptions, chronic uncertainty was said to have helped produce a nation of quick-witted, creative problem-solvers.”
           Among the poor, there was no doubt that instability fostered ingenuity, but over time the lack of a link between effort and result could become debilitating. “We try so many things,” as one Annawadi girl put it, ‘but the world doesn’t move in our favor.’”

Celebrating Family Time

              I celebrate each Saturday with Ruth Ayres at Discover Play Build - Week number 96! There are many others who celebrate, too. Come join us!          Tweet at #CelebrateLu

        This time I'm also sharing with Margaret Simon for Digilit Sunday at Reflections On The Teche.

         I hope you who are on Facebook with me will not tire of my ocean vacation pictures. I traveled home yesterday, glad to be here, will savor these past two weeks for a long while! It's a time to celebrate when we can all pull away from our busy lives to be together, loving the ocean, the favorite restaurants, Ingrid seeing her first manatee, Carter's birthday gift parasailing, nature's gifts everywhere, and those sunsets. I created this slideshow on Picasa, a favorite of mine for collages, this time a little movie, and then uploaded to YouTube. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Poetry Friday - Slowly By The Sea

           Catherine at Reading To The Core hosts today on Poetry Friday. Be sure to visit to find many links to others sharing their gifts of poetry this week.
         Thanks to Penny Parker Klostermann's invitation to participate in her series, “A Great Nephew and a Great Aunt”, I had the pleasure of working with my granddaughter, Ingrid, writing and drawing. We’re visiting Penny this Poetry Friday! You can read about our time here!

       I am spending a second week on Captiva Island, reading, writing and just being. My family spent this last week together, and it was a wonderful time, but this week it’s just me. I am not returning to school for the first time in many years, and this week is staff week.
        But I am not there. I hope to have a great year: different and new, exciting and quiet, scary and fun.  Today, I’m sharing some new words about the ocean. I’m fortunate to be able to experience this mesmerizing sea a bit closer than usual, and I’ve written three haiku to mirror one day this week. Next month I know it will change again, and next season, too. But this is what I’ve noticed one specific daytime, among so many other wonders!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A Slicing Vacation

          Slicing with the Two Writing Teachers community is a pleasure every week.  Thanks to ALL the writing teachers!

          I've been messing about with words in my head all morning, wondering if I could possibly write about my "slicing" vacation without it seeming like one of those "come over to view the slides of our awesome trip" invitations. Then I read Cathy Mere's post today at Merely Day by Day, and her advice was great. I started!  
         This is the third year my family has traveled to Captiva Island, same house, by the beach, with a pool, heavenly. I am in love with this place, and also love what the tradition of it encompasses: exciting ocean creatures seen and discovered, wonderful new experiences in and out of the water, and eating at favorite restaurants. I gave Carter a para-sailing time for his birthday. He turns fourteen on Friday. Ingrid's swimming abilities after spending hours each day in the ocean or the pool increased tenfold (obviously practice does mean perfecting). And Imogene's swimming became stronger too, and she was able to swim in the ocean without feeling overwhelmed. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Reading On Vacation

           On Mondays, it's time to link up to share books I've read that are for children and teens with Jen at TeachMentorTexts and Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders.  Others link to share adult books with Sheila at Book Journeys who started the meme a long time ago
        Come visit, and tweet at #IMWAYR. Thanks to Jen, Kellee, and Ricki for hosting!

          I'm lucky enough to still be on vacation, but all the family is gone. Now it's time to catch up on reading and writing before I return home. I hope all of you are enjoying your school starts, with only staff so far, or with students!

         Here are some books I read before I left, and a few I read just today, hanging out at the local library! 
       This first book is another one that I've read from my #MustReadIn2015 list! The list is on the 'pages' at the top.

The Red Pencil - a verse novel written by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Shane W. Evans
            I'm sorry I put this off so long. It is never easy to read about a war, and the victims of it, still in it. Reading the story in the strong voice of a young girl was harder to me, but it will reach other children in its honesty, but without too much detail of the horrors that people are living through still today. Young Amira Bright loses nearly everything, her father, her home, her beloved sheep. And then she must live in the squalid conditions of a refugee camp. Poorly fed and housed, somehow there is sparkle in the tiniest of things: an orange Fanta, such a taste; the letter A, learning in secret; a tiny hedgehog moving through the camp. One of the sweetest lines is early in the book, when Amira's sister is born, and is crippled. Her father says: "This baby will keep us all strong. That is the way of a child who comes with so much specialness. We will stretch to meet her." One thread, also from the father, is a game that he teaches Amira. They play "What else is possible?" The only rule is that the answer to this can only be good. I hope you can see that this "mindset" is a beautiful example of a growth mindset. It helps Amira keep going. It's a rich story, sad to imagine, good for older children to read about the harsh realities happening today in war, not just in the past. Shane W. Evans illustrates throughout as if he is Amira. The drawings are poignant.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

LovingReading #PB10for10

Thanks to Cathy Mere and Mandy Robek who host the Annual Picture Book 10 for 10 Event! To read everyone's posts, be sure to follow the hashtag #PB10for10 on twitter too! 

        Has everyone begun with, "there are so many"? And we all have attempted different ways to choose. This time, I'm sharing books about the love of reading all over the world, in places one might never imagine. I hope you discover at least one new one!

Bookspeak - poems by Laura Purdie Salas and Josee Bisaillon 
           When I taught in the classroom we loved conversations about books and reading. We discussed what books give us, what they do for us, those we like and why, those we dislike and why. Students not only discussed these topics as a class group, but they wrote to me in letter journals about their books and delights or struggles. They brought books that I just had to read and they loaned books to each other. The more formal writing was about books, too: poetry, reviews, and personal stories about their earliest memories or special times with books and parents, grandparents or aunts and uncles. I have a few books with published works about books too, but Laurie Purdie Salas’ book filled with wonderful poems about all kinds of book topics is a must have to start conversations about reading.

Please Bury Me In The Library - poems by J. Patrick Lewis and Kyle M. Stone

          This is another delightful book, filled with words and illustrations that will make any book lover shout “hurrah”. There are whimsical poems like “Summer Reading At The Beach”, serious ones, like the “Three Haiku”, and one of my favorites, the title poem: “Please bury me in the library/in the clean well-lighted stacks/Of novels, history, poetry,/Right next to the paperbacks.” I love books about books, and this one is a terrific addition to a collection.

Razia’s Ray of Hope, One Girl's Dream of an Education -Elizabeth Suneby and Suana Verelst
         Based on the stories of many girls around the world, this one highlights a young girl from Afghanistan whose village is building a school for girls. She already knows how to read a little because she listens to two of her brothers when they do homework. But it’s time for registration and the family has a meeting to discuss whether she might attend. There are some objections, but the final say is a “no” from her older brother. In a brief, and telling moment, he finally relents. I don’t want to give away the reason, but it has to do with reading! The pictures highlight the young girl, showing the background of different situations.
Ruth and The Green Book -Calvin Alexander Ramsey and Floyd Cooper
           This is the story of the challenges of travel for African-Americans in the times after World War II. Jim Crow laws had been passed that were supported by the state governments, which meant that many businesses could still choose to serve only white people. A young girl, Ruth, and her family are traveling to see her grandmother in Alabama. They live in Chicago, and have just bought their first car. They struggle with finding places to buy food, even to stay the night, but fortunately they know they will be welcomed at Esso stations, and there they discover the Green Book, a book that lists all kinds of services where African-Americans are welcomed. Sometimes it’s just someone’s home! This would make a good introduction to Jim Crow laws and the challenges faced before the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, the year the final Green book was published. There is a additional information about these times, and the book’s beginning. The illustrations are bold and beautiful portraits of the family and their travels. 

A Library Book for Bear - Bonny Becker and Kady MacDonald Denton
           It’s another bear book, and a funny story about Bear’s trip to the library with Mouse. Bear thinks he has all the books he will ever need, especially about pickles. At the library, he continues to reject the books Mouse offers, like one about outer space. He even finds another about pickles, but it’s about dancing pickles, and is rejected with a huff! At the same time, story hour is happening around the corner, and Bear hears the words, “So the Very Brave Bear began to inch his way toward the treasure chest…” And the rest you’ll need to read the book to discover. It’s a delight, and I know it will have kids wanting what’s next. The illustrations are lovely, showing such emotion in Bear and in the library. Much is also included about being quiet in the library, which Bear struggles with.

Ruby’s Wish - Shirin Kim Bridges and Sophie Blackall
        This came highly recommended by a Goodreads friends, and I managed to get the DVD of Shirin Yim Bridges reading it.  It was great to “listen” to this true story about her grandmother, Ruby. Set in 19th Century China, Bridges tells the story of one large family in China where Ruby’s grandfather, the head of the household, brought in a teacher because he had so many grandchildren.  There is also a small intro that tells of the many Chinese men who left for the gold rush and never returned, but this man did. He also allowed the girls to come to school, but the expectation was that girls only stayed for a while, and then were married. They did not go for further education. Ruby stayed, and she also did the extra work girls were required to do, like learning to cook, clean and sew. One day, she wrote a poem concerning the unfair ways girls were treated in the household. Grandfather summoned her, and the rest you’ll have to discover.  The beauty of China is shown in the artful illustrations.

Tomas and The Library Lady - Pat Mora and Raul Colon
         It’s not easy to keep connections when you have to move two times a year to follow crops, as the family in this story does. They’re in Texas in the winter, Iowa in the summer. The story is based on the true experiences of Tomás Rivera, who became a university professor, a writer and an education leader in his life. The Univ. of CA at Riverside library is now named after him. Tomás loved stories, and loved listening to his grandpa tell them. One day his grandpa told him to go to the library to read more stories so that he could come home and tell different stories to the family. Tomás did, and found a kind librarian who fed him books and books and more books. It’s another wonderful story about a librarian who makes a difference in someone’s life, showing Tomas often getting lost in the stories. These particular pages are made even more wonderful with Colón’s beautiful woodcut illustrations of this reader’s imagination as he reads. It’s a very sweet story.

Biblioburro: A True Story From Columbia - Jeannette Winter
           Living in a remote area of Colombia, Luis Soriana spent a lot of time reading, so much that his wife began to worry about the amount of room his book collection was using. They didn’t have a large home. So Luis got the idea to begin traveling to even more remote areas to give the books to those without. He used two burros to carry as many as possible, beginning with a collection of 70 in 2000. When the book was published, Jeannette Winter writes that this collection has grown to over 4,800 books, mostly through donations. She quotes Soriana: People around here love stories. I’m trying to keep that spirit alive in my own way.” It’s an inspiration to hear what one person with a good idea can do, and Jeannette Winter tells the story in her own special way, with a few good words, and beautifully illustrated pages.

That Book Woman - Heather Henson and David Small
         It's the story of the packhorse librarians who brought books to those who lived in remote places in the Appalachian Mountains. It's a touching story of appreciation and of the power of books.

A Story for Bear - Dennis Haseley and Jim LaMarche
         Until I read this book I didn't know that bears loved them too. It's about the love of books but also a whimsical story of a woman who reads books to a bear when she stays in her home in the woods. When she leaves for the winter, she leaves the books behind for bear. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Poetry Friday-More Poetry Gifts

       Lucky for me, the Summer Swap continues. Started by our host today, Tabatha, it is now fun to get the mail. No longer is it only junk, but continuing lovely surprises. I've received mail from Diane Mayr, shared here, and from Donna Smith, written about here. I'm going to take a break in the next weeks, going to be with family on the beach again, so this time I'm sharing two I received this past week. It's a pleasure to share these, too. Visit Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference for more poetry sharing.

       Recently, I discovered a definition of poetry new to me, but one that especially applies to Jone and Buffy today. "The poet doesn't invent. He listens." ~Jean Cocteau    

       Be sure to click on each picture to enlarge for easier reading.

      From Jone MacCulloch, in the throes of moving and family vacations.  I'm grateful that she managed a wonderful poem and on a postcard. I love and collect postcards, enjoyed writing with Laura Shovan a few years ago for her postcard poetry challenge.


       And from Buffy Silverman, another poem from nature, this time with Buffy's own photos of caterpillars. She wrote that they've grown even bigger since the photo was taken.

Thanks Jone and Buffy for filling my week with poetry!