Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Wrapped - #MustReadIn 2015

The last time I checked in with the group who have "Must-Read" lists was the beginning of September, this post. By then I had read about a third of the books on my list, which is below.

Thanks to Carrie Gelson at There's A Book for That for keeping us all going and checking in with each other. Go to her blog to see all the others linking up.

Books in blue are read! 10 of 21

Navigating Early - Claire Vanderpool
Seraphina - Rachel Hartman
The True Blue Scouts of Sugarman Swamp - Kathi Appelt
Grasshopper Jungle - Andrew Smith
The Shadow Throne - Jennifer Nielsen
Half A Chance - Cynthia Lord
Blue Lily, Lily Blue - Maggie Stiefvater
Where Things Come Back - John Corey Whaley
Love, Amalia - Alma Flor Ada
The Great Trouble - Deborah Hopkinson
The Red Pencil - Andrea Davis Pinkney
Winger - Andrew Smith
Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets - Evan Roskos
March - Lewis, Aydin, Powell
How I Discovered Poetry - Marilyn Nelson
All The Answers - Kate Messner
for adults
Dog Songs - Mary Oliver - still need to review 
Quiet - Susan Cain
All The Light We Cannot See - Anthony Doerr

for professional development

Nonfiction Notebooks - Aimee Buckner
What We See When We Read - Peter Mendelsund

       Here, at the end of the year, I haven't finished eleven, and I doubt that I will. Some I might transfer to the 2016 list, but some I may give up, at least for now. I'm too interested in some books newly out, or about to be published in early 2016. It's nice to have a list to check on once in a while. You can read more about how this started in the list above.  

Since September:
The Shadow Throne - Jennifer Nielsen
       I wish I hadn’t put this off so long because I had forgotten some of the parts in previous books that the story referred to, but I enjoyed reacquainting myself with the major relationships, the key players who are either so loving and likeable or are downright despicable. Once again, with Neilsen’s writing being never dull, I can’t share much of the story or will give it away. This time, Jaron’s fight for his country creates tension among all his followers, Mathias, Roden, the pirates including Erich, and Mott. He is in the fight of his life for Carthya against the evil King Vargan who has woven a web of lies in order to bring other countries in to fight with him in order to overcome Carthya. Regent Harlowe is there, true to form in his loyal quest to protect this boy king, and the intrigue of the romance now involves two: Amarinda, Jaron’s betrothed princess and Imogen. Neilsen has managed to complete the puzzle of the
ending by placing the final pieces exactly where they fit. Loved it.

Winger - Andrew Smith
Ah, Ryan Dean West, how I loved seeing you figure out life during this strange fourteen-year-old year as a junior in a private boarding school. With a voice that moves from the typical 'me, me, me" to one that begins to understand the need to think of others, too, this story shows the challenges of a high schooler, and the inner thought that must happen to grow into some kind of good human being. Andrew Smith gives Ryan Dean the talent of drawing comics as he moves through the new year in "O" hall, a dorm for troublemakers, and they are in the book! Ryan Dean is there in a room with a bully, and luck (bad or good?) has it that his first nights include an after hours, not-allowed poker game with alcohol. This typical year of boys trying to outdo each other, worrying about sexuality and love with girls and boys, and not trying very hard to follow the rules seems more real than many adults might want to know. I ached for this young man, and in the end, cried a little, hoping that the world might turn a little nicer than depicted. I'm sorry I put reading this book off so long. It is wonderful.

      If you see any books that I haven't read that you believe is a "must-read", please let me know!
Happy Reading in 2016!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Words for Beginnings

        You can write a slice for the Two Writing Teachers community today. Join us here at the end of 2015. It's always good to read what everyone shares.  Thank you Stacey, Tara, Anna, Betsy, Dana, Kathleen, Beth, and Deb. 

          I hope everyone has had a nice holiday, whatever you celebrate, or are still celebrating, and that it hasn't been too upset by the weather. I had a wonderful Christmas, my son and family are still here, we'll continue to be with my daughter and family when we can, and they are enjoying spending time with good friends, and skiing too. 
         A huge part of my life is literature, both old and new, and another part is old stuff, little things, furniture, art, and vintage greetings. I have old Christmas cards and books, and greetings given a long time ago on Valentine's Day. I enjoy looking at the beautiful art and reading the more formal language. Here is the cover and one page of a little book I found last summer at a used bookstore (not where I'm volunteering) in Denver. And the front and the back of an old postcard. 
          This "after Christmas" week is the time I begin preparing to welcome the new year, as Rainer Maria Rilke says so beautifully, "full of things that have never been."

Sunday, December 27, 2015

It's Monday-End of Year 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 upSheila at Book Journeys began this sharing, and it's now hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date.
           Because this is the group where I first knew her and admired her passionate reviews, I want to share my sadness over the death of Debbie Alvarez, The Styling Librarian.  Even ill, she continued to read and share about the books she loved. I won't forget her, and loved reading about all the things she's accomplished in her too short life. She will continue to be an inspiration.

        I've tried to find and read more of the books that have been loved by others (and I've loved them, too). Here they are, plus one older one discovered at the library. 

The Firekeeper’s Son - Linda Sue Park and Julie Downing
         This book caught my eye because it was by Linda Sue Park. It's the time of year for traditions, and while this is a "needed, not a celebratory" one, tradition it is from the country of Korea. Lighting a fire on the highest peak is what Sang-hee's father does each night, proclaiming that all is well in his village by the sea. When the next mountain's fire keeper sees that fire, he lights his own, on succeeding mountains until the king sees the final fire and knows no enemy is coming to attack. Linda Sue Park has fictionalized the history by telling of a young boy who must go to his father's aid because his father fell on the way to making the fire. Full color pages make the story come to life in this story of responsibility and pride. Children might be interested in the extra back matter Park shares. She could not find the date for the beginning, but did write that the fires were still being lit in the late nineteenth century.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Celebrating The Way We Were

              I'm celebrating each Saturday or Sunday with Ruth Ayres at Discover Play Build. Come join in to share your own special celebrations.

               Today, the day after Christmas, everyone, even my out-of-towners, are off doing other things, so I'm celebrating as I think I've done for a long time, celebrating sweet or bittersweet milestones-memories. Ones we make from yesterday, and ones from the past. You know, like the time Santa really did come to deliver gifts, the Christmas we almost didn't make it because of an ice storm, or, sadly, the first Christmas without my grandmother.

This time, Christmas memories will be written like this:

Remember that Christmas when. . .

           We had a full moon and a white Christmas for the first time in many years?


       Carter got a new fancy camera and tripod, and Imogene decided that it was okay to have her picture taken when we acted silly?

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Non-Fiction-Connecting to Today

         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

Aaron and Alexander, The Most Famous Duel In American History - written and illustrated by Don Brown.

      It is interesting to read this book about Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton considering the past months of political fighting going in the US today. I knew little about the 
controversy between Burr and Hamilton, but Dan Brown has written the basic story from birth till Hamilton's tragic death, and shows the passing events through the years with his vibrant watercolor illustrations. Both were patriots and both added to our country's beginnings with positive acts.  However both seemed unable to compromise their feelings about each other, which ended in tragedy.  For students studying various aspects of the Revolutionary War, this may spark an interest in further research. Brown has added a page of additional information at the back.

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Slicing and Wondering

      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. 

      Congratulations for the honor of being chosen as the best group blog in the Edublogs awards. You would continue to do wonderful work no matter what, but it's always nice to be acknowledged for it. Terrific end of year accolade!

           It's time to ponder the year behind us, and look forward to 2016, too. I might write a post about 2015, another year of changes for me, but this time I am looking forward, and I wonder, sometimes seriously, outward and inward . . . 

       (As I re-read my post, I also wondered from a teacher's view: Isn't this isn't the way one wants our students to think, self-reflect and then answer with a plan? Further work will be needed; further research done, but the student takes the first step.)

When I wrote, I found I needed to reply with a second wonder. You'll see why!

I wonder how everyone will work to make change so that we no longer rise in the morning and hear of yet another tragedy because of guns or bombs?
(Do I have an organization that I trust and support to help do this?)

I wonder if people will try very hard to be kind to each other because of OR in spite of differences?
(Do I have an idea of how to reply kindly even when disagreeing?)

I wonder if we can finally, finally help everyone obtain health coverage?
(There are such worries when medical bills pile up and up. Do I know who might be good to contact to show my concern?)

Sunday, December 20, 2015

It's Monday - Discover 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 upSheila at Book Journeys began this sharing, and it's now hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date.
          I enjoyed my reading this week, had a great time reading with my granddaughters, mostly old favorite Christmas books.  I'm also trying to catch up on some picture books that have been well reviewed, and I still haven't read. Some of those are below, and are good for many occasions. 

Salt To The Sea - written by Ruth Sepetys
           From inspiration begun through her father’s cousin, Erika Demski, Ruth Sepetys has spent years researching in documents and museums, following leads for interviews that took her to three countries. Sepetys writes in her acknowledgements that Erika fled to the coast in the evacuation ordered by the Nazis, escaping from the Russians. She obtained a pass for the doomed Wilhelm Gustloff, but fortunately missed the voyage and sailed on another ship. The acknowledgements alone fascinate, that Depetys took such care in creating a fictional story in order to share this little known and terrible tragedy from the end of World War II. An estimated 9,000 lost their lives when the ship, Wilhelm Gustloff, was torpedoed by the Russians.
           Seven people are key in this ‘family’ that has been created. They begin as a smaller group, helping each other, on foot, with one horse and a cart, desperate to reach the coast, hiding in the forest, wary, dirty, exhausted. Two have not joined in yet, but will need the help of the larger group. One speaks from another place, a strange and dreamy tale until the connection among them all is finally made. Whether they choose it or not, the story is told as a family forms, touching, talking, supporting, defending. Sepetys creates the story by letting four of this group talk: Joana, Florian, Emilia and Albert. The story told by these four carry the story, allowing for interactions among all but Albert until nearly the end. Through their words, we also meet the kindness and wisdom of the Poet, an older shoemaker, and the wandering boy; a young child found wandering by the Poet, who has taken him in. The story alternates between the speakers, brief passages that reveal bits of the characters’ abilities and their past, adding some of the history of that terrible time when all of Germany was on the run. Each has secrets, enticing, sometimes predictable, but until the end, Sepetys keeps the reader wondering about the outcome. It’s a compelling story of both amazing endurance and terrible grief.
          This book will be published in early February. Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Teen for an advance copy.

Miracle on 133rd Street - written by Sonia Manzano and illustrated by Marjorie Priceman
           What a lovely story of different families who live in the same apartment house, but rarely see each other, each having unique personalities: one worried about the money spent on Christmas, another about burglaries, one wondering what gifts to buy for seven nephews. Young José tells the story, and begins with his mother, homesick for her beloved Puerto Rico, groaning about the smallness of the apartment, and the wonderful Christmas roast won’t fit in the oven. His Papi says they can take it to be cooked at the near pizza place, and so they do. The magic that happens, even José about to pluck the stars, and the gorgeous, colorful and happy illustrations makes one smile and smile. It turns out that the community celebrates together, and the apartment is not too small.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Celebrating - Sweetest Days

              Many celebrate each Saturday or Sunday with Ruth Ayres at Discover Play Build. Come join in to share your own special celebrations.

              I'm reminded of the Frank Sinatra song "It Was A Very Good Year", but this time, "It was a very good week!"  But it was packed. Seems like a long time since Monday, and I celebrated good times every day.
            Imogene visited Monday and Wednesday. Her school is already out for the holiday break! She didn't come Tuesday because I was supposed to meet with the teacher I work with at school, BUT it was a snowday, so all schools canceled, and I stayed home, walked to the library and loved the snow. Wednesday, Imi and I went walking! Pics of that are in the collage, plus favorite picture books, too. A new robot book from the library and an old book I still have. Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola is a wordless book, still wonderful for young kids! I worked my shift at the bookstore and discovered a new edition of The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey. I don't have it, but remember it from long ago. If you don't know it, look for it. It's a wonderful story, gorgeously illustrated. I also celebrate my sky pictures, one during the day and the other  of the sunrise just this morning.
           #HeiferGives, hashtag for sharing a selfie with an ugly Christmas sweater on FB or twitter or Instagram. Each one shared, a donation of $5.00 adds to the resources for more animals! You can do it until the end of the month! Please take time to post, worth it!

      What isn't pictured:  Decorating Christmas cookies with Ingrid and Imi. And, I've started taking Ingrid shopping for her parents and sister, Imogene, and we managed to find a time Thursday. It is delightful to do, and to see what she believes is the "best" gift ever. Then we go home and wrap. Each year she does more, cuts and tapes and ties the bows. It really isn't an easy thing to do, so I celebrate Ingrid's persistence in learning how to wrap 'just right'.

      And, my daughter and family are off to South Dakota to visit my son-in-law's family until Wednesday, so I get the pleasure of having George. I miss having a pet, so this is a special treat. He is a wonder of a cattle dog. 
      My weekend will fill with wrapping. I don't have to go anywhere but out for a walk. The snow is still on the ground, but it's supposed to be 60 degrees today. Celebrating all kinds of weather, especially when it happens at the right time.

                Happy Holidays to Everyone. May your days be merry and bright! (Guess I should also celebrate "songs". Lines seem to be seeping into my writing!)

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Poetry Friday - Snow and Memories

Poetry Friday, in the season, is with Diane Mayr at Random Noodling. For all of us who have been in  church Christmas pageants or even more challenging, watched our children in them, Diane's poem offers a chuckle from an expectation of seriousness. Thanks Diane, for the gift and for hosting! 

         We had a big snow this week, and of course I took pictures. It was cold, all schools had a snowday, people cursed the unplowed streets. And memories came from the beauty, too. 

snow fell
pressed white linen -
Linda Baie © All Rights Reserved

             Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday with family and friends, wherever you are, whatever the weather.  

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Non-Fiction - Enjoyed Again

         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'm lucky to have found these three books, two at the library, and one at the library sale! I couldn't believe it was there! The year is nearly gone, and it's a time for celebrating so many wonderful non-fiction picture books. I've enjoyed them all, and learned a lot!

Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine - written by Laurie Wallmark and illustrated by April Chu
          It’s an inspiring book for those interested in women’s restrictions in the past, the early beginnings of computing, and how people who work hard to solve problems when passionate about them. Ada Lovelace was a daughter of Lord Byron, but estranged from him early in life. Her mother loved mathematics, and supported Ada’s interest in pursuing learning math. Eventually, Ada was introduced to the well-known mathematician, Charles Babbage, becoming a life-long friend. His analytical machine was a wonder to her, but unfortunately he never built it. Ada worked to create a program that would solve difficult problems in mathematics, and designed an algorithm that was a plan. This was all on paper, but years later, computer scientists tested Ada’s software, and found it worked, with only one tiny error. So far ahead in her thinking, and despite the times in which she lived, it’s wonderful that Ada’s work is still available today.  There is detailed back matter adding to the story, and Chu’s illustrations fill each page of text with extended detail both of the historical times, and Ada’s excitement for mathematics.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Hopes for Always

      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

              Whatever faith you follow, there are hundreds of quotes that fit this time of year. Charles Dickens' words most touch me in the winter, here at Christmas time, but his words are universal in their meaning. Yesterday was the anniversary of the Sandy Hook tragedy. I continue to be alarmed that we are doing lockdowns with young children, and wonder what that does to them? Does it make them feel safe? Or does it make them more scared?  I hope that we can all work together in the coming months to make change so that these tragedies stop.
             If you don't know it, Patricia McLachlan and Steven Kellogg created a beautiful picture book in memorial to those who died that day. It is titled Snowflakes Fall. Kellogg lived in Sandy Hook and raised his children there.
       Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts.

                                                                            Charles Dickens

         If this is your final week before winter break, I hope it's started well, and fills up with good things all week long, until you are on vacation!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

It's Monday - Lovely Books This Week

         Visit Jen at Teach MentorTexts and Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders to see what they've been reading, along with everyone else who link upSheila at Book Journeys began this sharing, and it's now hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date..

The Turtle of Oman, a novel - Naomi Shihab Nye, illustrated by Betsy Peterschmidt

         I can see why others might speak of this story as a little slow. There is a build up to the end, but really no exciting crisis requiring action, except in the hearts of the boy, Aref and his grandfather, Sidi. Aref lives in Muscat, Oman, on the edge of the Arabian Peninsula and is moving to Michigan in the United States with his parents who will be spending the next three years studying for their doctorates. And Aref, about ten, has to leave his home, his room, his cat, Mish-Mish (meaning ‘apricot’), his school, his city. He doesn’t want to. The biggest thing of course that he will miss is his grandfather.
        The book shows the days before departure as Aref and Sidi spend time together on little adventures, like driving out into the desert to the Night of a Thousand Stars camp, and visiting the beach where sea turtles lay their eggs. Nye sets the tone of learning with Aref explaining that the goal in their family is to learn something new every day, and woven in between the other experiences, the book shows handwritten notes of what was learned that day, like about turtles, Martin Luther King, and possible birds to see on their camping trip. A second thread holding the story is that within each time together, Sidi finds one special rock, explaining why it will help him remember that time.  The culture is woven into the story also as Aref says his goodbyes to the traditions in his city, like the calls to prayer.
        It’s a nostalgic time of goodbye, with Aref resisting filling his “one” suitcase no matter how many times his mother asks, and with Sidi breaking down only once, on their final night together. The book might be challenging for young children to enjoy if they are looking for great adventure. Yet for some who have moved and had to say goodbye to a beloved home, this might be a good one. And it will also please adults who’ve had to say goodbye to a beloved grandchild who moved away, as I have.  Naomi Nye’s writing is pure poetry, no surprise. There is a wonderful passage about home that I will share a little part: “What makes a home, a home?” and “Or maybe it was how the beach air smelled--salty and sweet in whirls. You didn’t have to do anything to feel comfortable here. You just walked inside, took a long breath and thought--Yes. Sure. Here I am.”
Little Tree - written and illustrated by Loren Long
             Loren Long’s simple illustrations as the seasons move from summer to fall to winter, and on to spring, and Little Tree hangs on to his leaves. One can imagine some child hanging on to childhood, from young to older. I’d love to have read this to my middle school aged students, wondering if some would admit they would still love to hang on to their toys just a bit longer. Or for the younger children, imagining a tree not understanding that  trees might just want to keep those leaves, connecting to the feelings of some kind of loss. It’s a simple and beautiful story.