Thursday, August 30, 2018

Poetry Friday - Back to School

          Robyn Hood Black at Life on The Deckle Edge hosts our Poetry Friday today. She's "weaving" together our PF links starting with her spider poem that has appeared in the Highlights Hello and a fun picture of someone's sweet child reading it. Also, Robyn has another celebration by sharing bit more from Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong's newest publication, GREAT MORNING! Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud. Thanks for hosting, Robyn and for the wonderful poetry sharing!

        I spent yesterday after school, helping Ingrid finish a school getting-to-know-you project. Usually, she spends Friday with me and those afternoons are relaxing, finding fun at the end of the week. This time, because she's off to the mountains this weekend, she came on Wednesday and had homework, a BIG assignment due Thursday before the holiday weekend. As she worked and as I answered a few questions, I wondered how the days were going, already busy with school and the stress, but fun, of learning - new subjects, new teacher, new classmates. In between assignment talk, we did remember summer, too, and I had time to write this, for Ingrid and Imogene, for Carter in his senior year, for all those back to school. It's for teachers, too, but they probably have their own to-do list.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

NFPB Wednesday - Across Time to Us

art by Sarah S. Brannen

         Visit Alyson Beecher on Wednesdays for Non-Fiction Picture Books at Kidlit Frenzy.  From her and others, you will discover and want to celebrate terrific nonfiction picture books!  

              Thanks to Candlewick Press for this marvelous advanced copy! When preparing for an exploration of space, I believe it will be a superb jumping-off point for studying our universe and outer space!

               It's impossible to ignore a book by Newbery Honor winner Marion Dane Bauer and Caldecott Honor winner Ekua Holmes which offers a story of our beginnings, from that spark from nothing through a BANG! To us! Marion Dane Bauer's use of verbs makes the story live, from "a cloud of gas" that "unfolded, unfurled, zigged, zagged". Then "stars caught fire. . .but still no planets. . . then no oceans, no mountains, no hippopotami." In brief poetic text, from nothing to many somethings, she arrives at another speck that "floated, invisible as dreams, special as Love." 
             Vivid celebrations of this journey burst with color in Ekua Holmes' marbled illustrations. Perhaps the emotion that sits with the words of this story make me imagine things within Holmes' art (is that a giraffe?). On other pages, the blending of molecules emerging can be seen within the swirling color, like galloping horses and dinosaur skeletons or an amorphous human shape.  This blending of science and art is quite a marvelous celebration of our evolution, made from "the stuff of stars".

Sunday, August 26, 2018

It's Monday! New, New Titles!

          Visit Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders to see what they've been reading, along with everyone else who link up.  

       I'm grateful to Candlewick Press for these advanced copies shared today. The Dollar Kids was out just a couple of weeks ago, and the picture books are out early September!

       This story feels so good when one reads it, even during the dark times, but especially in the good times. Lowen Grover, a twelve-year-old who loves to draw comics, and loves to do it alone. Sadly, getting a younger neighbor kid, Abe, out of his hair for a while leads to a terrible shooting of Abe and other kids at the local quick mart. Lowen stops drawing, stumbles across an old mill town that’s giving away homes for a dollar, thus begins Lowen’s idea for an escape from his terrible guilty memories and an opportunity for his entire family to have a new start. 
       This risky journey involves Lowen’s parents and older sister and brother, plus several other families we see trying hard to make entirely new lives work. There’s a lot of learning here through observation of each character, many of whom have their own secret wishes. Even the townspeople who have stuck to the old mill town in its own struggles and who don’t know what to think of these newcomers are filled with varied shades of hopes and needs. Jennifer Richard Jacobson manages to write a story that centers on one boy, but includes the richness of family and community so well that I hated seeing the book come to an end. Ryan Andrews has added special knowledge of Lowen’s comic creations with his own comic illustrations throughout the story. 

        This was a surprise when I opened it, a different look in a picture book, enticing young readers to step inside. It's a chapter book and a graphic picture book in nine parts, a tale of a young dog learning how to be a friend. For younger readers, Rosie wakes up with her master who suggests a walk. In that walk, while gazing at clouds, Rosie feels a bit lonely, but when that same master takes her to a dog park, being lonely doesn't seem like such a bad thing. When she sees so many dogs, all of whom are new to her, she feels a little bit afraid. What happens next shows a few lessons for friendships, the "to do" and the "not to do". In wonderful, realistic illustrations, Harry Bliss tells the tale of Rosie, who is a good dog but doesn't KNOW everything there is to know about friends. In a few words, Kate DiCamillo manages to give us another new book that will bring smiles along with the learning.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Poetry Friday - Lasts

       Margaret Simon at Reflections on The Teche hosts our Poetry Friday as we say goodbye to August Fridays. She's sharing a swap, too, and responding with a "zine". Don't know what that is? Margaret explains and it's probably something you'll want to try! Happy Friday!

    One can think it's the beginning of the end, the end of summer sun and sweat, iced tea and outside play. Our September arriving in one week can bring temps in the nineties or someone wanting to be picked up because it's snowing. It's time to celebrate all the "lasts", including my "last" Summer Swap! First, thanks to Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference, our super planner for our swaps!

     Opening this final swap package, and from Michelle Kogan, I know I'm in for a treat. Not only is Michelle a poet, but also an artist. Inside is a poem to frame, a poem with a postcard note, a bookmark, and a handmade journal. Thank you, Michelle, for the beauty to enjoy seeing, the beauty to love reading, and the extra fun filling up my own pages via your inspiration. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

NFPB Wed. - Documented or Undocumented - A welcome?

art by Sarah S. Brannen

         Visit Alyson Beecher on Wednesdays for Non-Fiction Picture Books at Kidlit Frenzy.  From her and others, you will discover and want to celebrate terrific nonfiction picture books!  
         It seems fitting to pair these two books, one a promise, and the other, a story of one immigrant's life that represents others in the U.S. today, and in the past as well. 

          Some books need to be read. One should not depend on the review. I’ve waited a long time to read this because of many holds at the library.  Eggers' voice is so strong, I imagine him reading this aloud to us all. He cries to us: "Pay attention". He says to know the history if we don't already know it, then he points to a little-talked-about feature, "her right foot". It's lifted; she's on the go! Just as immigrants are, coming into a country for safety and opportunity. Harris’ ink-and–construction-paper collages show the history Eggers shares, but what I enjoyed most was his showing arrivals and their descendants, who are all united in their very diversity of age, sex, dress, and skin color. 
        I've visited the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, wish we had paid more notice to that "right foot"!

         Duncan Tonatiuh pays tribute again, like Pancho Rabbit and The Coyote, in a great story to immigrants, this story of those workers, documented and undocumented who perform the jobs in the U.S. that others may not want--construction, gardening, restaurant work, cleaning. This time, the story centers on a fictional character, Juan, who works at a restaurant. He has stolen across the border as a young teen, led by a coyote, is caught, but tries again and makes it. He must make money, finds work in a restaurant. 

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Monday - Books Loved

          Visit Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders to see what they've been reading, along with everyone else who link up.  

         I read many wonderful books, yet it has been a while that one book brought me to tears. Perhaps it's because the children, two boys, then another boy and a girl are all middle-school age kids, the same ages that I taught. All the years I taught, I grew to know how capable they were, how much they could do. More than once, I felt they were not given the chance to do great things. In this story of 14-year-old Ahmed who's stuck in a city that doesn't want him and Max, a 13-year-old American boy who's also stuck because of his parents' move to Brussels, Katherine Walsh shows them using their smarts, defying odds to solve terrifying challenges.

            Adding to the story is the book's ending conversation with Walsh, telling how a story of the house in which she ended up residing in her own move to Brussels began the kernel of this story. Bringing the hiding of a Jewish boy into Max's own story of finding the courage to do what he knew was right blended the perils of the Holocaust into our own twenty-first-century perils, those refugees from Syria and other countries who just want a chance to live safely with their loved ones. Adding in a couple of Max's classmates who also understand loss and help with Ahmed's desperate needs shows that when given choices, young people are capable of extraordinary deeds.
        Written in alternate chapters, Max and Ahmed tell the story, day by tense day. Ahmed, hiding in Max's basement, shows his kind nature despite his tragic history of first losing his grandfather, mother and sisters in a bombing of their building, then his father as they journeyed by boat to the shores of Europe. Walsh's writing touched me many times. Here is Ahmed thinking of his losses: "Perhaps death was just another border, a line his body couldn't cross but that his heart kept slipping over." Max, moving from friends in the U.S., now stuck in a school where he doesn't even know the language, receiving bullying words he also can't understand, discovers Ahmed, and the decision-making of 'what to do' begins. When he learns that Ahmed has not been to school in three years, he understands that "He has always taken school for granted. Now he realized that even being able to hate it was a luxury." It is a story that will offer this question to every reader, "what would you do?"

           I love Sergio Ruzzier’s illustrations and this time he teams with Katie Kesterman who’s written a series of poem/stories of a robin and her babies. It’s pleasing to see, and quite wonderful to read the rhymes that show nest to flight. Dad’s included with his defensive words: “Back away, ‘Cause Mom and I are here to stay!” and Mom’s right there building her home: “It’s guaranteed a perfect fit/So all she has to do is sit.” Ruzzier fills the pages with daytime action and expressions, sure to be helpful and fun when kids study the robin’s habits and timeline of home to nest to babies. It’s terrific!

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Poetry Friday - Swap With Bird Song

favorite pic - Captiva Island
           Christie Wyman at Wondering and Wandering has become an ornithophile, hosts this Poetry Friday in this special week of palindromes. She's invited us to join her in celebrating birds with a bird-related poem, has shared two new ones and an entire wonderful padlet of other bird-related poems she's written, too. It feels as if the whole natural world, including birds, is in the midst of busy right now, readying for autumn. Thanks, Christie! 

         I received another poetry swap last week and love the serendipity of its message. Rebecca Herzog at Sloth Reads sent me a lovely hand-sewn piece with poem inserted, perfect for this community, most especially for this gathering of ornithophiles!  Thank you, Rebecca!

         The following video is from a trip my granddaughter Ingrid and I made to a nearby lake. I do not have the variety of birdsong from my own front porch, but early morning brings the robins' cheer cheer, the crows' caw, and the chickadee's dee, dee, dee!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

A NF Book for Children - Learning About Poverty

art by Sarah S. Brannen
         Visit Alyson Beecher on Wednesdays for Non-Fiction Picture Books at Kidlit Frenzy.  From her and others, you will discover and want to celebrate terrific nonfiction picture books!  
       It’s not easy to explain poverty to young children and to further explain that it can mean homelessness, but it is a complex issue, so also means those with little income, needing to choose to use their limited funds to buy food, or go to a doctor, or pay the utility bills. Dr. Jillian Roberts writes in her author’s note that she read this quote, discovered who said it and contacted him. The quote by Jaime Casap, “Don’t ask kids what they want to be when they grow up; ask them what problem they want to solve,” started their collaboration to inspire children to help solve a most important problem in our world--homelessness. She says the result is this book. 

       Following a group of three children who ask questions, each page offers the question and gives brief but clear answers. One helpful addition found on each page is one specific added explanation, like this page which gives more information about mental illness. The brief illustrations by Jane Heinrichs of the children looking for answers and sometimes showing concern to those answers offer a personal connection for children reading this. Here is one example of the way the double spreads of the pages look. And the resource page showing all three that were the questioners in this book.

left side

right side

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Monday Books Shared

          Visit Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders to see what they've been reading, along with everyone else's wonderful posts of books they share. My TBR list grows every Monday!

         It's a challenge to review a book of poetry when every poem is a delight. This recently published, and delightful, book offers a creative and new way to teach about those pesky things called "punctuation marks". Lee Bennett Hopkins has given me that challenge in his new collection that includes a poem about every.single.mark. Poems are written by Lee and others you will recognize: Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Charles Ghigna, Allan Wolf, Julie Larios, Alice Schertle, J. Patrick Lewis, Michele Krueger, Jane Yolen, Prince Redcloud, Joan Bransfield Graham, and Betsy Franco. Think of this opening by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, "A Punctuation Tale" that starts the excitement of best learning how these (sometimes mysteries) help communicate exactly what one wants to share when writing: 

"Soon once again
you said away
to the island of End of Day,
where sky is a scribble
of lights and darks–

                   "good night"

cuddled/in quotation marks."  Wait till you read ALL of this poem.

         Serge Bloch's whimsical illustrations add to the learning with cartoon-like interpretations of each poem. In J. Patrick Lewis' poem "Stubby The Hyphen", Bloch shows several animals' bodies connected with, yes a hyphen.
         Lee Bennett Hopkins ends this delightful poetry with one final poem, "Lines Written for You To Think About". In it, he gives several challenges that include different punctuation marks. 
         For every classroom, for help with punctuation lessons, for celebrating "after" the lessons and showing how poems can include information, this is the book!

           With alternating chapters, the two main characters tell the story, adding layers from both genders around assault and consent, a conversation that would be good to happen for all adolescents. 
           The setting is the Fullbrook Academy, an elite prep school full of traditions that are not always safe. Jules Devereux is eager to have her senior year done so she can leave Fullbrook and its old-boy social codes behind. She is a stand-out, fights norms when she can, with a bit of help from a counselor, yet past years' behavior and ex-boyfriends and ex-best friends do not help. Jamie Baxter feels out of place. For instance, he's really never had to dress for dinner, but he's landed here with a hockey scholarship that will help him escape his past and fulfill the dreams of his parents and coaches. Two other classmates add to this mix of hurt - struggling and smart teens trying so hard to do the right thing, which is "not" the tradition. 
            Pressures to play by the rules, and NOT tell anything that may hurt the school remain rigid. The book shows these teens' thoughts and pain, and the yearning to have someone stand with them to fight back. I imagine every teen will recognize some things about their high school lives in this book, and wish they had the friendships that emerge. Or, I hope they recognize their friends they know they can count on. It's harsh but I enjoyed how Brendan Kiely (co-author with Jason Reynolds of All American Boys) wrote this serious story.

          In a wordless picture book, the reader must take much time to look, to choose what’s important, perhaps personally, perhaps considering what others might think. Kerascoët,   husband and wife illustrators, focus only on the children in this story of kindness, the actions of one “speaking louder than words” and the reaction of another who also must be considered. All kinds of children in bright colors, wearing backpacks and going to school, all kinds of children on the playground at recess, and one lone girl walking home who’s confronted by a bully. What happens next can be a discussion in itself. This may be wordless, but in “reading aloud” I imagine many will have words to share in a lively discussion. Sweet, sweet book for this school year beginning and for those who would wish to have it for a child at home.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

It's August - So #PB10for10 - Hurrah!

      It's PictureBook10for10 (#PB10for10) where many share ten picture books that are Must Haves! Cathy Mere of Reflect and Refine: Building a Learning Community and Mandy Robek of Enjoy and Embrace Learning host this wonderful tradition. You can find everyone's posts HERE!

This is a most fun day of the summer. Although I no longer teach, I'm now working at a used bookstore and among other duties, am in charge of our children's section. I also review books for various memes and on Goodreads. I want to keep up with the latest, yet also remember those books still of value for children, in and out of the classroom. My TBR list grows. Thanks, Cathy and Mandy, this is a tradition I look forward to every year!

Here are my previous posts for   2011     2012     2013     2014     2015    2016     2017

I've decided to choose one book from each of my previous lists, plus three more that I've loved this year, so far! (There are more than three, and more on the way!)

2011 - books I couldn't teach without

The Important Book – by Margaret Wise Brown, ill. by Leonard Weisgard – It’s pure poetry, or is it?  It’s also a book that can help students summarize, get to the core of ‘what’s important’.  I use this for both ideas.

2012 - a variety of books - old classics for younger children, newer ones for middle grade 

Frédérick written and illustrated by Leo Leonni – I cannot omit a book that’s about poetry and this is one of the best.  It tells the story of the little mouse Frederick who doesn’t seem to be doing any work to help his community survive a harsh winter, but he does, oh yes, he does that beautifully.

2013 - showing diversity 

Tia Isa Wants A Car – written by Meg Medina and illustrated by Claudio Munoz
               Meg Medina tells this story of people who don’t have a lot of money, but save for something important, like a car, and still send money back to family in their former country, to be respected for their sacrifice and discipline as they save.  A little sister tells the story about her older sister, Tia Isa, who wants a car so they all can go to the beach.  There are some sweet actions by the little sister in the book, doing what she can do to help. Some Spanish is included, but the country of origin is not told. The illustrations are watercolor, simple and realistic.

2014 - a variety and uses for various ages  

For use in writing workshop: Sometimes it's good to choose a topic, to show students that writing about a common topic can show the diversity of our opinions, and we learn so much about each other.  Bookspeak, Poems About Books is a great mentor text for celebrating point of view. Laura Purdie Salas shares her lovely poems in both different structures and different kinds of ways to look at writing. A favorite is her poem about the sadness of being the book's "middle" instead of being "first" or "last". 

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

NFPB Wednesday - Art Found & Created

art by Sarah S. Brannen

         Visit Alyson Beecher on Wednesdays for Non-Fiction Picture Books at Kidlit Frenzy.  From her and others, you will discover and want to celebrate terrific nonfiction picture books!  
           When I read this book, I was amazed and admiring, wondering about the perseverance and inspiration that could keep someone going so many years building a dream? And I remembered a similar story, though not so well known, here in Colorado, where a man has spent sixty years building a castle in the mountains. Here is the link to Bishop Castle!

           Nek Chand's own journey began when he and his family and community had to leave their beloved village when "the Punjab split into two countries: Pakistan and India." In the story, Barb Rosenstock explains that Nek Chaud's village was in the Muslim country of Pakistan and his Hindu family no longer was welcome. They fled for forty-two days across the new border into India. Yet, the problem was to where! Villages had been leveled in order to build the city of Chandigarb, a "sharp-edged city of colorless concrete." He did not know where he belonged. But one day as he worked as a government road inspector, he discovered acres of jungle, a wilderness. Thus began his "illegal" living, building his own hut, hidden behind old oil drums. Because of his longing for his old village life, he began roaming the countryside, gathering old pieces of that life: "chipped sinks, cracked water pots, and broken glass bangles in red, blue, and green." He carried them all back and began his creations like "curving paths, carved niched walls, and strung pebble-covered wire to make transparent screens." He planted with discarded plants from the dump. He made skeletons from twisted bikes and rusty pipes. And he kept the secret for fifteen years. Claire A. Nivola's illustrations paint the beauty of the countryside and art that Nek Chand loved and honored.

          What happened after being discovered? People heard about this fabulous place and protested the government's plan to bulldoze it down. The People saved this secret kingdom! The story ends with a fabulous gatefold page spread of real photos of Nek Chand's work, an author's note, a bibliography and the information about the Nek Chand Foundation at the end. Here is the link to the Foundation. Mr. Chand died in 2015, but until that "he spent each day in the Rock Garden, meeting with visitors, creating new plans, and supervising the continued construction of his kingdom." What a wonderful story. 

Monday, August 6, 2018

Monday Books to Share

          Visit Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders to see what they've been reading, along with everyone else who link up.  

          If you love the #PB 10for10, it's this coming Friday, August 10th! It's the ninth year for it and you can find all the information about it here! Just imagine all the wonderful books that have been shared all these years!         
                       Thanks to Candlewick Press for the arc of this book!
        Many might think that sixth graders don't have challenges. After all, they're only in elementary school. In this historical middle-grade novel, set in Alabama with racial conflicts in the race for governor (Wallace's last term), young Lu Olivera has learned she loves to run and is good at it! In the prep for field day given by her pe teacher, Mrs. Underwood, Lu nearly wins and is only beat by Belinda, a black classmate. Thus the ending weeks of her sixth-grade year begin, and Lu isn't quite sure where she stands.
         A scene is set by Lila Weaver within classrooms, too. Lu sits in the middle, not exactly white because her parents are from Argentina, so while white kids sit on one side of the room and black kids on the other, Lu is smack in the middle. This year friendships change as some girls say they're leaving for the new private school, and Lu's earlier friends, Phyllis and Abigail, are pulling away to the tune of not-nice Missy. It is a mixed-up and new world for Lu, but with the running and support from her older sister who works for the man running against Wallace and her friend, Sam, whose family also supports that candidate, somehow it works. And it works finally when Lu realizes that true friends are "always" friends, no matter what color they are. Toward the end, Lu realizes she has two friends with "brains and gumption", advice given for friendships by her sister. She says to herself: "Sometimes shy people are pretty gutsy, deep down. Sometimes they're not, but then they put their minds to it and figure out how to grow gumption. Maybe that's starting to happen to me." 
          Lu tells her story, honest in sharing her worries and hurts, her mixed feelings when thinking about girl and boy stuff, and trying hard to do the right thing, but feeling shy often when she knows she should speak up. Red Grove, Alabama is a fictional town, but the story is inspired by the author's real experiences growing up in Alabama. It's a basic story and at times, I wanted more details, then realized that those basics are enough for a middle-grade story, will inspire further reading and research into this historical time period along with interesting conversations.

               Many families are pictured with happiness in this rhyming picture book with double-page spreads by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman. Cute rhymes and happy pictures show children, and families, in the story of what seems to be the first school day. The lines on the first double-page: “Pencils sharpened in their case./Bells are ringing, let’s make haste./School’s beginning, dreams to chase./All are welcome here.”  Each verse following includes more of the day, during several lessons, at recess and lunch.  I love the celebrating here: “Time for lunch--what a spread!/A dozen different kinds of bread.” There is a wonderful double, double-page at the end, appears to be an evening open house/pot luck.