Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Non-Fiction Teaches

              Thanks to Alyson Beecher's Non-Fiction Picture Book Challenge at Kidlit Frenzy, those who link up share fabulous non-fiction picture books. I am grateful for all that I've learned through reading non-fiction picture books. 

      Need book ideas? Check out the following wonderful books!

       In the midst of reading all the poetry for Cybils Awards, I managed to finish this wonderful non-fiction story of the main characters who surprised everyone in their secret plans to kill Hitler.  This will be a great introduction to the way Hitler increased his power, slowly creating more laws against those he deemed not worthy of the Aryan standard, which he created as well. The focus is on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a son of a prominent German family who felt left out when his brothers and sisters found their own respected passions and careers. He had no idea what was meant for him. He was thoughtful, quiet, and lonely. But then he found that his faith invited his questioning and he became a pastor. And eventually, he became a pacifist, working hard against the war that he saw about to happen.  
        Bonhoeffer worked hard, even against his own superiors, to end Hitler's hate-filled agenda, but was denied again and again. At the end, he turned to the only answer he and his secret cohorts believed would work. Hitler must be assassinated! The intrigue and introduction year by year of the atrocities, the deniers, and the supporter is fascinating. Dietrich is a religious figure whose writings are still read and respected today, something I didn't know. This is another part of the story of Hitler and those who fought against him that will add to students' and others' knowledge. Great book!
        FYI-There are additional pages of back matter: a timeline, endnotes, and additional resources!

         I also want to share a few books I received thanks to the generosity of Candlewick Press. These seem destined to be marvelous gifts for just the right person!

Monday, November 28, 2016

A Couple of Nice Days

       I'm slicing with the Two Writing Teachers community today. It's always a pleasure to read what everyone writes about their lives.
        For those who celebrated, hoping your family was fun, and your feast a feast, no matter what you served.
        I am still sad and worried about the election result, am reading and doing what I think I can to keep things I believe are important for all Americans.  I've signed petitions, sent messages, donated to certain groups. There is so much to take in, and much to be sure I'm aware of. 

       And, I continue to live my life, work at the bookstore, have lovely times with family, including the grand-girls. Ingrid spent two days last week with me and I helped her shop for family members. She was given a certain amount of money and had to plan well to be able to afford gifts for each person. I shopped too and had Ingrid help me choose some of my gifts also. We had an early treat at Starbucks, and late lunch, then went home to spend the rest of the afternoon and evening wrapping. It was a joy of a day. The next day we woke to light snow, stayed home and I helped Ingrid write some poetry and create some turkey place cards for our Thanksgiving. Among all the other things I do to create a good life, I will always put the grandchildren first. FYI, after these two days, Ingrid and I picked up Imogene from school and spent the rest of the day playing and going out for dinner. And, one evening last week I had a good phone call from Carter. It was a nice 'grandchild' week!

At the store Anthropologie

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Some Favorite 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. I'm still reading for the Cybils poetry, round one. I didn't post last week, but today will share some books of those I read that I enjoyed very much.  They're about surviving, wishing a better life, kindness, empathy and celebrating, all important things to us, right?

           A local drug gang threatens a 12-year-old boy and his 15-year-old cousin who are forced to flee their Guatemalan village and seek refuge in the United States. The Alphas murder his cousin Miguel for refusing to join, and Jaime Rivera receives an ultimatum: join the Alphas or else suffer the same fate. Ángela, Miguel’s older sister, also falls prey to the violent gang’s demands. There are horrors on this journey, and the first one to me is the fact that they must leave home, the only place and people they know. Diaz has kept some of the terrible scenes less vivid, perhaps for the middle grades, but imagining this journey taken by young kids is hard to do. 
            I liked that the story, told in third person, involves other kids met along the way, their stories and heartbreak, and mostly their kindnesses even while surviving. There are a few others at some "safe" houses, like a Padre in a broken-down church, a woman far into the desert who chooses to help, but most of the time there is hunger and thirst, and terror. Jaime's story is also deepened by his talent as an artist. His sketchbook, the valued possession, takes his thoughts back to family, to Miguel whom he feels is watching over them, and to making a little money in order to survive. Angela takes the role of mother or leader until she is injured, and then Jaime must take charge. Their changes through the trip mirror thoughts of children at first, but sadly one soon realizes they are growing up in order to survive and cross that border. An author's note about her own immigrant background, a glossary, and further resources add to the importance of this story.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Poems Comfort

             This final Poetry Friday of November is hosted by Carol Wilcox at Carol's Corner, not far from where I live! Thanks, Carol!

        I hope those of you who celebrated Thanksgiving found many ways to be thankful, most of all for family and friends, but at least second best is pie.

        My granddaughter, Ingrid, seven and a second grader, spent the early part of the week with me, including Monday night. Her school takes this week for a fall break. At bedtime, we looked for a few books that seemed good for our search for things to be grateful for, things to celebrate. One favorite I wanted to share with Ingrid is Joyce Sidman's What The Heart Knows: Chants,Charms & Blessings, published in 2013. I knew Ingrid was now old enough to appreciate the thoughtfulness of some of Joyce's poems, and while I skipped past some, we read others that meant good conversations about kindness and happiness and being brave. Afterward, I read the others and was renewed again by Joyce's wonderful words. Here are a few lines with the poem titles I hope will count as a "Chant, Charm or Blessing" for you.

       Starting Now

It is time for us to wake:
we who stumble through the day
with our gripes and complaints,

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Still There Are Celebrations

  Celebrating with Ruth Ayres at Discover Play Build.  and linking with others who share their celebrations, too. I am grateful to Ruth for helping us celebrate together!  

        In the midst of the furor over the election, there were good moments, too. I am not "moving on", but will continue to read and watch and fight against those who are trying to change the good in our country. You can look at the recent actions that tell so much of how this new presidency will be. And you can support organizations that will fight for people and freedoms in jeopardy.  I celebrate that I am free to do this.

On a building downtown.        I celebrate the small things this week and watch carefully over the big things. 

"Poetry presents the thing
in order to convey the feeling.
It should be precise about the thing
and reticent about the feeling, for
as soon as the mind connects with the thing
the feeling shows in the words;
this is how poetry enters deeply into
        W'ei T'ai - 11th century poet

       More wonderful times with the grand-girls: Imogene wore her bunny ears all day and into the evening and I took Ingrid to Starbucks before her conference with her teacher and her mom. I'm excited to have two of my poems in this just published book. And, it snowed! It was a heavy, wet snow and I'm sure all of nature is celebrating with me. 

      I'm taking a break from blogging next week. There are too many things to do before the holiday. Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Poetry Friday - goodbye autumn

Our Poetry Friday host today is Brenda Harsham at Friendly Fairy Tales. Thanks Brenda!

       If you'd like to read about a wonderful celebration, visit Michelle H. Barnes at Today's Little Ditty! What a lovely surprise on this day! 

"Autumn carries more gold in its pocket than all the other seasons." Jim Bishop

        We've had a beauty of an autumn this year. Long, long have been the warm days where we can sit outside, have no need of a jacket while raking leaves. It's November 17th and we had the first freeze and a few inches of snow. The record date for latest first snow is November 21st. The average lies in October. We will miss this time, the scuffling through the leaves, last blooms, last butterflies. I don't have a fireplace anymore so I cannot celebrate a first fire, but I can enjoy the soup I made in anticipation of this COLD day. My geraniums, bottom picture, are covered with snow.
         It's supposed to return to the fifties or sixties this weekend! We may have to wait a little longer for a goodbye to these "prosaic days". 

         I searched for a poem that might speak to a goodbye to the season, and chose this one by Emily Dickinson.

Besides the Autumn Poets Sing (131)
Besides the Autumn poets sing, 
A few prosaic days 
A little this side of the snow 
And that side of the Haze - 
A few incisive mornings -         
A few Ascetic eves - 
Gone - Mr Bryant’s “Golden Rod” - 
And Mr Thomson’s “sheaves.” 
Still, is the bustle in the brook - 
Sealed are the spicy valves -         
Mesmeric fingers softly touch 
The eyes of many Elves - 
Perhaps a squirrel may remain - 
My sentiments to share -
Grant me, Oh Lord, a sunny mind -        
Thy windy will to bear!
       Emily Dickinson

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Non-Fiction Wednesday-Learning for Today's World

   Thanks to Alyson Beecher's Non-Fiction Picture Book Challenge at Kidlit Frenzy, those who link up share fabulous non-fiction picture books. I am grateful for all that I've learned through reading non-fiction picture books. 

I'm also visiting Michelle Heidenrich Barnes today at Today's Little Ditty with a poem about growing up!

        This is a most appropriate time to share this book, to study it and to learn some ideas that might help us all learn to understand others with different backgrounds. Cynthia Levinson has gathered information over a period of years of kids from a number of ethnic, economic and cultural backgrounds who show the world how to exist peacefully and treat each other with kindness and respect in and out of the circus world. Her research follows the lives of nine children. It is an inspiration to learn about the capabilities of everyone if they enter into challenges with openness. 
         Lots of pictures and extra information in sidebars only adds to the inviting nature of this story. There is extensive backmatter, including lovely biographies of the performers now grown up! One performer is quoted thus: "They taught me circus skills but they were teaching me other things too. About life." 
         The book explores social circuses and some of the performers in them. It gives indications of their background and motivation for participating in these and the impact this has had on the way they live their lives. The main story follows the St Louis Arches Circus Harmony in America and the Galilee Circus in Israel. There is information about the history and development, how the idea for exchange visits started and the tremendous accomplishments through the years. They learned how to overcome personal and cultural differences to work together as part of the circus show, developing skills, talent and relationships regardless of background. 
          I especially admired the grit shown by everyone in this book, the main adults who were dedicated to keeping this program going, the children who worked so hard and remained willing to work with strangers with varying points of view, and those "extra" helpers found in nearly all the lives, helping with the circus itself and with individuals. 


Monday, November 14, 2016

Slicing and Worrying

       I'm slicing with the Two Writing Teachers community today. It's always a pleasure to read what everyone writes about their lives.

        Best wishes to all of you who are going to NCTE this week! I hope to follow some of the tweets!

Trying to laugh a little, too!

THIS, THIS IS WHAT I WROTE IN MY INTRO LAST WEEK: Yes, I'm happy. It's been a long and rocky road to this day, and I will be celebrating when it's over. I want to move on to help our country do better!

I AM NOT CELEBRATING! I am very concerned, and Donald Trump's decisions since last Wednesday continue to confirm my concern. This is my slice of life, worrying about what's already happening, worrying about people who say "give him a break", worrying about my friends and family who are frightened. Feel free to ignore my slice if you feel uncomfortable, but my intent is to make people uncomfortable. Attention should be paid. I'm doing what I can to be aware of decisions made that I believe are wrong for our people and our country.

Early, early in this election process I posted the following

"The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country." -Hermann Göring, Nazi military leader (12 Jan 1893-1946)

Later I found this quote that helped me feel firm about my beliefs:

Whitman’s advice on living a vibrant and rewarding life: “Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others… re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul…”

 And I posted this:

   “I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.
"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

        You may have other words that comfort. And I do have hope, like E.B. White: 

Hang onto your hat.
Hang on to your hope.
And wind the clock,
for tomorrow is another day.”

photo credit: Howdy, I'm H. Michael Karshis If you were looking for a sign this is it. via photopin (license)