Monday, November 30, 2015

A Little Thing - Means A Lot

      I'm slicing with the Two Writing Teachers community today. It's always good to read what everyone shares.  Thank you Stacey, Tara, Anna, Betsy, Dana, Kathleen, Beth, and Deb

         One part of my life that continues is keeping my husband close in my heart, remembering all those fun things that made our marriage so good. When one has a personal loss, the big things missing are important, but it's the little things that return again and again that bring sadness back. My husband and I had started quite a few little traditions through our long marriage of 48 years, and one of them was to greet "firsts" every single time with celebration, sometimes a hug, sometimes going out to enjoy a meal, sometimes just to see who would give the greeting first: first of the month, first day of summer or another season, first dandelion, first day without a coat, serious and silly, special to us.  I miss that a lot, and still speak the greetings to him, just miss the fun of greetings back. 
         So today, I wish you all Happy First of December, whatever joy it may bring to you, first winter's full moon walk, a child's first holiday, first rabbit print in the snow, first day of vacation!

photo credit: via photopin (license)

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Monday Reading - Great Books

          Visit Jen at Teach MentorTexts and Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders to see what they've been reading, along with everyone else who link up.  Others join Sheila to share adult books at Book Journeysnow hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date..

This Side of Wild - Gary Paulsen
I've taught middle school for a long time, and often used Gary Paulsen's introductions to his books as mentor texts. Just find "The Winter Room" and its introduction ("Tuning") so beautifully sharing that books cannot have smells, or sound, or light, since these must be supplied by the reader in response to the author's words. They are wonderful examples of drawing the reader in immediately; with passion for whatever the topic is he's going to tell us about. This book, the intro and the final words, is no different. I always feel as if I'm sitting down with Paulsen, having an intimate conversation, him telling stories, me adding my own thoughts. Where else could one hear about a dog named Gretchen with whom he had many conversations, who guided him into wonders of the world he would never have seen? It is an easy book to read, and one that might make you wonder a little more about that squirrel that keeps looking in your window. It might make a good read aloud for a class who'd made observing the outdoors an important part of their days.

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and The Churchill Gang - Phillip M. Hoose
         More and more I am enjoying these non-fiction books that have shared so much detailed history that I didn’t hear in my own education, and this is one that is inspirational and alarming. Because I taught middle-school-aged students, just the age of these boys when Denmark surrendered without a fight to Germany, I read it from the viewpoint of our own lives, wondering how our children at age thirteen and up would react in such a situation? These boys, Knud Pedersen, his brother Jans, and other friends were enraged when their country allowed the Germans to take over without a fight. The king of Denmark and the government thought it would save lives if they simply surrendered, unlike the neighboring country of Norway who fought on despite the casualties.  Sadly they lost more than lives: their freedom and the right to speak their ideas. When the enemy takes over the streets, the shopping, the transportation and restricts movement, etc., lives change. This time, some Danes collaborated and were happy to have the increased business from the Nazis. Others did not, but suffered shortages and strict rules when they didn’t cooperate. The boys, getting together at the Pedersen’s home, secretly, formed the club and began doing what they could without being able to drive, with only bicycles for transportation. And they began, in broad daylight, on their bicycles (Who is alarmed about young boys on bicycles?). There is much to tell of this long journey, and you’ll need to read the book to enjoy it all. Luckily, Hoose was able to take advantage of a failed attempt to tell the story earlier, and found Knud Pedersen still ready to be interviewed, with amazing primary sources ready too.  I liked every bit of the war events, but also loved hearing what happened later in life to all these courageous boys.

The Nest - Kenneth Oppel and Jon Klassen
               This might be one of the most alarming fables I’ve read that is meant for the middle grades. Oppel takes a lot of pages, scary pages, to show that being perfect is not a life’s goal, although many strive toward it for themselves and their children. There are a few different parts that keeps one guessing who to fear. Is it the strange ‘wasp/fairy’ or the man who drives the streets as a knife sharpener?  Steve, the oldest child, tells this story of his family in crisis because their new baby is not thriving, and doctors don’t know why. Taking on the worries, but not telling he is, Steve begins the dreams, which at first aren’t bad, but soothing. Oppel’s way of writing kept me interested early because I imagined that the boy’s dreams that included talking to a wasp, and the consequent turn of who the wasp was indicated the boy needed help. Scenes of a little sister who receives real phone calls on her toy phone, and the parents becoming increasingly worried about the baby, leaving Steve to solve his own problems added tension to this already tense story. When the story emerged as more and more realistic, I wondered about the long ago fables when fairies stole babies, sometimes for fun, but often to teach a lesson. I know this doesn’t appear realistic, but the theme of a dark message in literature to be careful what one wishes for is clearly shown by Oppel. For a mature reader, billed for middle grades, and enhanced by Jon Klassen’s eerie illustrations.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Celebrating - Each Little Thing

              Many celebrate each Saturday or Sunday with Ruth Ayres at Discover Play Build and the rest of the wonderful community that celebrates together.  

So, the little things that keep me living happy:

Wednesday, before the snowstorm and cold moved in, tree trimmers came and worked fast to trim my huge old cottonwood. They did a wonderful job. I'm always grateful for those who are expert in things I cannot do, who help me "fix" things.

        Also Wednesday was Grandpeople's Day. For the first time I got to be a "Grand-person" and visit Ingrid in her classroom. Here she is getting ready to show me her learning portfolio, and a picture of one of her unit projects.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Poetry Friday - Gratitude

Carol Wilcox hosts Poetry Friday at her blog, Carol's Corner. I'm grateful for all those who share their love of poetry on this day.

          Being grateful for people, for their deeds, for the life I have is something to contemplate especially in this week of our Thanksgiving. A list would be long if I named specific things. It would be even longer if I thought of the goodness in all my life. At  Today's Little Ditty, Michelle H. Barnes invites guest poets to share insights into their writerly lives, and then offer challenges, sometimes in theme, sometimes in form, or both. This month, Rebecca M. Davis, a senior editor for Boyds Mills Press and for WordSong, asked everyone to write about kindness, a specific act or moment. If you go to Michelle's post, you can read the varying ways different poets chose to respond. I chose to write of a part of my life that was very tough, yet made easier by people new to me at that time, although we became close through a common goal, caregiving. Thanks to Michelle for offering the inspiration, becoming words that felt good to say in gratitude.


         Here was a prescription of hugs.
         My husband, in a closed place,
         with dementia,
         among others the same.
         They all missed loved ones,
         yet didn’t know what they missed.
         They wandered, always searching.
         The staff touched,
         along with the meds, spilled trays, angry words.
         I was there every day.
         They gave me hugs, too.
          It’s not a desk job -
          changing beds,
          giving baths.
          singing songs, talking,
          walking to the garden,
          walking down the hall, walking up the hall -
          no step-count, but I bet it was more than ten thousand.
          Those smiles, the soft words,
          meant I could go home to sleep
          till the next day.

           Linda Baie © All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Terrific Non-Fiction Picture Books

New Non-Fiction Plus Sibert Contenders

         Thanks to Alyson Beecher's Non-Fiction Picture Book Challenge at her blog, Kidlit Frenzy.   
         Come read to discover everyone's recent non-fiction picture books.
       Tweet - #NFPB15

        I have a giveaway of a Christmas book here. Come check it out!

             Reviewing some books new to me, yet some have been well reviewed by others. And I'm again listing some previous books read that are contenders for the Sibert award. Here is Alyson's post that explains the criteria. 

Brick by Brick - Charles R. Smith Jr. and Floyd Cooper
           The story of the construction of the first White House unfolds with Floyd Cooper's beautiful paintings of the working men, mostly slaves, who built it. At first, free men worked, but it was soon found that more were needed, so slave owners were asked to send their slaves. Sadly, even in the backbreaking work, the slaves earned nothing because the wages were paid to the owners. One good thing happened, however. As the slaves built alongside craftsmen, they learned the skills, which eventually, as 'skilled hands' earned them money. That money was saved to buy their freedom. Charles Smith's poetic text mirrors the day by day activity, relentless, on and on. "Nameless, faceless/daughters and sons/build brick by brick/until each day is done."  Finally the house was built, far out into the country although we now know it as central to the city Sadly, the beautiful building was burned during the War of 1812, but now rebuilt, as the author says, stands as a reminder of the contribution made by slaves who worked toward freedom "brick by brick".

Monday, November 23, 2015

Learning About Teaching - Always

I'm slicing with the Two Writing Teachers community today, and it's always good to read what everyone shares.  Thank you Stacey, Tara, Anna, Betsy, Dana, Kathleen, Beth, and Deb.

          When I watch television, it's not often, but I am rather crazy about The Voice. I know that so much is scripted, and so much surrounds the contestants that much could be staged. But if it is, it still seems to be a great model for supporting students' writing in the classroom. Here's how I "see" it:

A Voice
  • Students actually do audition to see if they are 'good enough', don't they? and when the teacher smiles, says  'yes' and 'okay' or 'nice work' (in response to their writing), it's like admission into some circle, being included.
  • Practice helps, but I notice that there is support and praise for what the singers (writers) do well at the very beginning.
  • When some show talent in one area (fiction or non-fiction reporting), the advice I hear given is to stretch into other areas, perhaps a country singer moves into bluegrass (moving into poetry or memoir, or complex sentencing). And, they receive support, a few pointers for how-to or change, then allow the singer to take off alone (respecting that the writer knows something of his or her own style). It's time to stand back and let the singer (writer) do their thing!
  • After performing (finishing a written piece), even in the early stages, gentle critiques are offered (conferring), and the expectation, a boost to a feeling of growth, is that change will occur.
  • Also after performing, high praise is given, but specific to that performance (I like that, here is where the image works, etc.). I love seeing the performers beam and smile and beam some more (Writers will do that, too).
  • I also suspect that these performers have used many, many mentor songs that help them learn, and the professionals sometimes talk about someone else's way of singing a song. (Just as we hope that writers read, then read some more, and notice what's good, we also point out examples and/or explain how 'what's good' works).
       That's a quick application of what I'm learning from The Voice. I really really love seeing the faces of those performing (or writing) when they're getting their feedback. 
                               Enjoy a week of thanksgiving, wherever you are. photo credit: IMG_9567 via photopin (license)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

It's Monday!

And the winner of last week's giveaway, The Not Very Merry Pout Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen is. . .
                  Bridget Magee! Send me your address, Bridget and the book will be on its way.

          Visit Jen at TeachMentorTexts and Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders to see what they've been reading, along with everyone else who link up.  Others join Sheila to share adult books at Book Journeys

I went to our Denver Library book sale Thursday, and everyone should be proud of me. I took one bag, filled it, and left. Ha! They had a table where you could grab extra bags, great marketing. There are hundreds of books there, in every genre, for every age, and in Spanish, too. I saw books as recently published as last year. Wow. I bought a bunch for the granddaughters, and mostly poetry picture books for me.  But I did find Water Is Water, and Boats for Papa, too. 
One former colleague and I used to leave surprise books on each other's chairs in our classrooms sometimes, and now that I'm gone, we've missed each other's discoveries A LOT! So we began again, and the final two reviews today are books she found. They are terrific! 

Amazing Places - poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Chris Soentpiet and Christy Hale
          Fourteen poems by poets you love fill this book as the earlier Amazing Faces did, including love for our country from the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia to San Francisco’s Chinatown, Boston’s Fenway Park to the Watkins Museum of History (Langston Hughes childhood home-Lawrence, Kansas).  Considering the increasing division in beliefs recently and before the next election, I especially liked the poem by Alma Flor Ida, native Cuban, who wrote of her family’s visit to Chinatown. Many people are included in this book, as well as nature’s wonders, trees in the Grand Canyon and the mighty Mississippi. This would be a lovely mentor text when studying different cultures and geography, and writing poetry in reflection of favorite topics. The illustrations by Chris Soentpiet and Christy Hale are full color portraits, vibrant with life in the ‘amazing places’.

The Scorpio Races - Maggie Stiefvater
       This is a re-read so that two friends and I could meet to discuss it. It was the second time for us all, and we agreed even better the second time. If you like speculative fiction, YA and/or Maggie Stiefvater, this is a book you shouldn't miss. It is lovely. My full review is on Goodreads here.

Zach Delacruz: Me And My Big Mouth - written by Jeff Anderson
Being in middle school is tough, but being in middle school as a sixth grader is worse than tough, and Zach Delacruz is trying to stay under the radar as much as he can. Although he's small (so far), he still can't stay hidden, and his nickname is 'shrimp'. The group he would like to avoid include the bully and a couple of "cool" girls, and a few eighth graders. There's also a girl named Janie who receives oh too many remarks about her eating habits and her weight. Thank goodness, there is also a friend named Marquis.
Zach didn't mean to do it, he didn't want to be noticed, but the good in him finally stepped out to defend Janie. He told the bully to 'stop'. The rest of the story actually works well, with some help from a wise teacher who decided to put Zach and the bully together as leaders of a chocolate bar sale so the sixth graders could go to the school dance. It was a little farfetched the way it all worked out, but stranger things happen in middle school, and the group did learn to be a little kinder. Zach was also working hard to ignore that his parents had just divorced, and he had to change homes every week. There were a couple of emotional moments, but it did work out. The parents played small roles, but it was clear that Zach knew he was loved. I imagine that there might be more about this group as they grow up.

Celebrating Being Busy

              Many celebrate each Saturday or Sunday with Ruth Ayres at Discover Play Build and the rest of the wonderful community that celebrates together.  

Always celebrating sunsets!

A busy week all the way through Saturday. I am grateful for my friends and family. My writing group has connected again, and it was a delightful evening Tuesday. Although some were missing and will join in later, those there responded to each other's ideas and left inspired to keep going! I am doing PiBoIdMo and am filled up with ideas, so it was especially nice to share some and get feedback for them.

I started having Imogene for a special time on Wednesday. She is such a book lover already, and I am happy about that. We read and read, and ended at MacDonald's, her favorite place. 

On Thursday, I observed two lessons given by the young teacher with whom I'm working. It was a joyful time to see how he's growing as a teacher.

Breakfast very early with two former colleagues started my Friday. Incredible pancakes and talk made a good start to the day, which ended with Ingrid and our special time together. It started snowing late and we had quite a slippery time on the way to her home! We sang holiday songs and made up some of our own to make the time go fast. I was glad to get back home, cozy and inside! Wintry weather has certainly arrived.

I wrote a poem for Poetry Friday that meant a lot to me considering the political fray happening this week in response to the refugees. I celebrate that people are speaking up against such exclusion.

Two friends and I met yesterday at a coffee shop to discuss our 're-reading' of The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. We talked on and on, then about other favorite books, noting each other's recommendations. It was great to connect this way.

And now it's Sunday, time to gather my lists for the week, anticipate Thanksgiving, our day to show gratitude for the lives we have. I hope each one of you enjoy the day, and have a good, good week with your family and friends. For the first time I'll be on the 'other' side of Grand-People's Day at my school, visiting Ingrid as her "Grand-Person" instead of welcoming others as a teacher. Change is good!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Poetry Friday - Divided

Tricia Stohr-Hunt at The Miss Rumphius Effect hosts Poetry Friday todayThanks, Tricia!

        I am saddened by the events in Paris. I am both saddened and alarmed by the response from the United States this week. 
        I found a quote that touches some current politics. Do you know it? I did not. “The people can always be brought to the bidding of their leaders. All you have to do is tell them that they are in danger of being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.” Hermann Goering  
         So I've wondered all week, what can I do to make it different?  I'm reading more than usual of other points of view, more history, the background of leaders. I want to understand. And then it snowed. How does that connect? Trying to find a metaphor for differences, I sat listening, sometimes watching the snowstorm, and wrote the poem below, my feelings of what makes the world both wonderful and frightening, that windowsill.
Click to enlarge.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

New Non-Fiction Plus Sibert Contenders

         Thanks to Alyson Beecher's Non-Fiction Picture Book Challenge at her blog, Kidlit Frenzy.   
         Come read to discover everyone's recent non-fiction picture books.
       Tweet - #NFPB15

        I have a giveaway of a Christmas book here. Come check it out!

             I'm just reviewing two new books today, but also listing some previous books read that are contenders for the Sibert award. Here is Alyson's post that explains the criteria. 

Take a look if you can to the following books. Click on the title to see my reviews. These are my favorites of quite a long list. This time I focused on animals, and will share more next week!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

New Learning-All Good

           I'm slicing with the Two Writing Teachers community today, and it's always good to read what everyone shares.  Thank you Stacey, Tara, Anna, Betsy, Dana, Kathleen, Beth, and Deb.
           It snowed all night and is still snowing today and most schools have a snow day. That usually doesn't impact me anymore, but this morning I was supposed to be at school early to observe a lesson. I'm glad I don't have to go out except to knock the snow off the trees. I don't know if this storm will reach you, but winter is here in Colorado today!

             I have a giveaway of a Christmas book here, if you're interested in winning a book!
      My view out the window across the street shows a doggie parlor, a flower shop, a neighborhood market, with people sitting outside at the few tables, sunning and drinking coffee. People on this side of the street walk by (I imagine) on their way to the coffee shop (independent) down this side of the street from the bookstore. I am taking it in, wondering what in the world I'm doing here, alone, waiting for the computer to boot and show me the inventory application. I am in my next volunteer time and this time without someone to guide me! 
           I've unlocked the door, turned up the heat, the lights upstairs and down, and the tiny light is on in the cabinet of curiosities. No, sorry, the cabinet of very collectible books! Now time to check the money, lay out the paperwork ready to mark sales and double-check my notes. Time to turn the "closed" sign to "open" and pull out the sale cart to the sidewalk.