Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Non-fiction Picture Books - A Story By One Chief Justice

art by Sarah S. Brannen

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

            It feels good to share this book about the life of our Chief Justice Sonia Sotomayor this week and her inspiring life with books. 

        From her earliest memory, Sonia Sotomayor loved books and words. She remembers her abuelita reading poems about Puerto Rico, her island home. This autobiography shows numerous highlighted moments, like when she was diagnosed with childhood diabetes, she became brave through reading about superheroes. The illustrations are mixed media by Lulu Delacre and follow the text with various pages showing Sotomayor's loving connection to books. I especially enjoyed her sharing the excitement when encyclopedias arrived, the love of reading about Puerto Rico, and seeing her studying in the stacks at Princeton. Studying in a huge library's study rooms, sometimes called "stacks" or "carrels" is a favorite memory of mine, too. She talks of books as friends, appreciating the information they gave her to figure out the world and right from wrong.

 There is a timeline at the end and enjoyable photographs on the endpapers.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

It's 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.  

Thanks to Candlewick for the ARC!
       Somehow I knew that when this story began, I would get a bit teary once in a while. It’s true, I did. Meeting Louisiana Elefante as Raymie Clarke’s friend in the book Raymie Nighingale, I did wonder about her life of poverty. She lived with her grandmother and was often hungry and yet held a toughness that meant to me she had to have found those muscles out of need. She says she was the daughter of the famous Flying Elfantes, circus artists. Of the three Rancheros in that first book, the other being Beverly Tapinski, Louisiana held a resilience to be admired, but her youth made me sad that she had to have it.
       As this new story begins, I realize Louisiana is going to tell every single detail of her life at this time, two years after the adventures with Raymie and Beverly. Her granny wakes her up in the middle of the night to tell her that the day of reckoning has arrived and they have to leave home immediately, Louisiana isn’t overly worried. After all, Granny has had those ideas before.
       I cannot write more. The book shows thoughts that are so vulnerable, it makes me as a teacher wonder about my students. Who felt this lonely? Who could have stood up for themselves as Louisiana did? Where are the adults that are the helpers? 
       Kate DiCamillo found these words were written more than once as she leafed through her notebooks: 'I am going to write it all down so that you will know what happened to me’. DiCamillo said that she had written next to the sentence, ‘Louisiana?’ Now, she has let Louisiana tell that story and it is beautiful.

       Yes, it's simply wonderful as everyone has written, and it's the second book this week I've read where the story emphasizes the importance of books and libraries and librarians. I'm planning to share the other one Wednesday, the autobiography of Sonia Sotomayor. In this Dreamers, the story of Yuyi Morales' immigration to the U.S., she tells of her tough times, and with a new baby, until she discovers an amazing thing, a place where one can stay and read and borrow books for free and take them home. It's both her story of figuring out American everything, but especially the language. The beautiful part is that Yuyi puts those books that meant so much to her within the pages, the art with favorite books on a shelf. You will recognize many along with Yuyi's joyful illustrations. She adds a note, "My Story", at the back and a marvelous list titled "Books That Inspired Me (and Still Do)". 
            I know a little about coding and now I know some more and in a clever and fun way, per Josh Funk's book. I'm late to read it, but know that this would be a wonderful way to begin teaching beginning students, perhaps no matter the age, how to code, how.code.works! Everyone knows the steps of building a sandcastle. Now Josh Funk takes those steps and with a clever girl and her robot helper working in the midst of other kids, dogs and parents on the shore, shows how to code, this time, command a robot to build. Illustrations show a sunny day at the beach with those usual wonderful things, people sunbathing, a lifeguard, moms with babies, parents watching, a seagull or two and a crab. It's a beach, just a little different with a robot doing that sandcastle work. Fun book, even if you just want a great story.

       If you want a happy book about creating a story, get this book! With a thumbprint "writer" and a few other tools like a pencil and its shavings, a roll of tape and eraser, a background watercolor setting and some scribbles, a story emerges, just right for taking young writers on a journey to write their own wonderful stories. What a fun book!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

#Poetry Friday - Rolling Up Summer

            Erin Mauger at The Water's Edge hosts our poetry Friday this day before we welcome autumn. And it's time also to welcome Erin for her first hosting. Thanks for joining in, Erin.
One early walk convinces me that fall has arrived. Yes, I know, it's not really till tomorrow.  Here's one cherita story.

Today we roll up summer.

Nature chooses a new palette 
and a willow weeps its yellow coins.

Drifting leaves fill up the spruce branches,
decorating that needs no human hand.
And all pods break­– an early prep for spring.

Linda Baie © All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Non-Fiction Picture Book Wednesday-Celebrating a Woman

art by Sarah S. Brannen

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

         How could anyone not like books by Andrea Davis Pinkney & Brian Pinkney? Here is one from a few years ago, seems appropriate because not only is it about freedom for slaves, but about the rights of women
         She escaped from slavery but did not stop remembering others and fighting for their freedom, too. 
         Imagine, Belle was a big girl, grew to six feet with size twelve shoes as quite a young girl. Because of her strength and ability to do hard work she was sold away from her family at the age of nine. She worked hard, really hard, was promised freedom if she worked even harder, but when she did and when she went to her owner to ask for her freedom, he said no. She ran away and fortune smiled because a Quaker family hid her, then paid her fee when the owner found her. They freed her!
        Her name was Belle and she changed her name to Sojourner Truth, started traveling to work for better lives for all her people, to tell the truth. She knew many Quaker abolitionists and one of them, Olive Gilbert, wrote Sojourner's story about being a slave, published in 1850, The Narrative of Sojourner Truth: A Northern Slave. Sojourner never learned to read or write but memorized the entire Bible during this time spent with Gilbert. She must have been so, so intelligent. In her life, she met Abraham Lincoln, who signed her book, and she lectured to standing-only crowds. She fought for women's rights, too. One quote from her struck me as one to remember: "As she traveled, she learned even more about the meaning of freedom. She found that freedom is not a place. Freedom is the fire that burns inside." A highlight of the book gives the words, with step-stomps, of her famous "Ain't I A Woman" speech at a women's rights' rally. 

         It is a wonderful book to introduce this powerful example of a former slave who fought for others and became famous and respected even in the turbulent years she lived. Illustrations are earth-toned with loose inky brushstrokes. There is added information and a couple of photographs of Sojourner Truth in the backmatter. 
         There is much to discover if one wants to know more. Here is the Library of Congress website about this important woman in our history.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Monday Reading Recap

          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.  

Ninth "Must-Read" book

           Amina, a quiet but talented Pakistani-American Muslim girl holds a dilemma that others will recognize, perhaps in their own homes. She has never been comfortable in the spotlight and struggles to stay true to her cultural traditions. She loves hanging out with her friend, Soojin, but this year in middle school, even that friendship is changing. I enjoyed the honest showing of a young girl's thoughts, about her family, including an older brother with his own growing-up problems; about her religion, and the new ideas brought from an uncle visiting from Pakistan; and about her changing friendships. Hena Khan's writing alternates chapters between Amina's school days and her family struggles, a clever way to show those parts of a young girl's life, and ending with both coming together in a satisfying way.

              Thanks to Candlewick, I received a copy of this second (adventure?) in the life of the little red chicken and his Papa, again clever in the approach to the story with boisterous illustrations and laugh-out-loud conversation between the two. The little red chicken has homework and needs help. He must find and identify the "elephant of surprise" in three books. His teacher says every good story has that "elephant" or is it "element"? It's that thing that makes one say "Whoa! I didn't know that was going to happen." Papa not only continues to find a few surprises as he reads the stories, like Rapunzel and The Little Mermaid, but the little red chicken does, too. This can't be missed as a read aloud!

Friday, September 14, 2018

Poetry Friday - Still Summering

             Amy Ludwig VanDerwater at The Poem Farm hosts our Poetry Friday today. Thanks for hosting, Amy! Hoping your sniffles disappear soon!

          Our weather is back hot again after that brief cooldown that made me so ready to welcome autumn. However, I did write one other summer poem, this time for Karen Edmisten in the poem swap. Because it's in the nineties again, I thought it would be my last mention of summer, hoping it will bring luck for dipping temperatures now that I've said goodbye!

                  Today I am thinking of these September days that bring the terrible storms of hurricane season. I know a few have had to evacuate and hope that the dark predictions will be less than predicted.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

NFPB Wednesday - Homes Like No Other

art by Sarah S. Brannen

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

           I paired these two books because each one tells of the building of homes. Clearly, we can't exactly get into the minds of the animals whose homes Steve Jenkins shares, but each animal, including Frank Lloyd Wright, had something important in mind, survival. If you think the design of Falling Waters isn't about survival, you need to read this book, to hear of the intense planning and preparation to create something that would fill the human need for being surrounded by nature, by beauty. 

           Steve Jenkins does his usual best in telling about animals in nature. This time, he shows the numerous variations of animal homes who need to be safe, to protect their family, and to hide from danger. Twenty animals are shown underground, above ground, using available materials to build homes, or using what's available for their homes. I knew of some, like beavers and hermit crabs and raccoons, but was shocked by others, like the tree kangaroo who stays high in trees, not building, finding the height itself to be a protection and comfort. And there is one more, the title home, that 'House in the Sky'. This describes the "common swift". It only stops to nest and that nest is built through materials they catch while flying. They are known to fly non-stop as long as ten months! Jenkins says they "eat, drink, and sleep on the wing." Robbin Gourley adds to the knowledge of these animals with her gorgeous illustrations, beautifully rendered realistically. There is additional information about each animal in the backmatter.

             Last week, Annette Pimental shared this book and her review made me want to find it at my library. I enjoyed it very much, have never had the pleasure of seeing Falling Water, but I do know about it and hope I can someday. Harshman and Smucker take readers through Wright's process of designing and building this famous home, also telling of his thought-to-be-over career in the 1930s. He hadn't designed anything new for twelve years! 
         It is a rather magical tale of Fallingwater’s progression. Inspired by the nature in the site owned by department store owner Edgar Kaufman, Wright designed and built “A house like no other,/ where sun can shine,/ where balconies fly,/ where falling water/ is heard from every room.” Pham’s illustrations, in a muted Japanese style that Wright preferred, tell the tale from opening the nearby quarry, the challenges of construction, the gift of jobs to so many during this hard time of the Depression, and to the final beauty. There is a vertical spread that shows the incredible height of this amazing home, set upon the rocks and the falls.  Author and illustrator notes at the end add additional details about the now-conserved public attraction.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Monday Reading - Books Full of Joy

          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.  

         From Random Choosing by Rafflecopter, here are the winners of  Last Monday's Giveaway, thanks to Candlewick Press, of two prize packs of a paperback of Zora & Me by Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon and the next adventure, Zora & Me - The Cursed Ground by T.R. Simon:

               Drum Roll Please-- Congratulations Lorraine Magee and Susan Hutchens! I'll be contacting you via email for your mailing information.

           Thanks to Candlewick Press for the ARC of these next two books. You will fall in love with Merci's beginning year in sixth grade; she's an honest storyteller. You will want to be part of her family, figuring out how to do life as it arrives, sometimes things that frighten, sometimes events that make you wish it was you. As Meg Medina uses the metaphor of gears, I will too. The low gears made me smile, the middle ones made me hurry to the next page, and the high gear made me cry. I loved this close family, seemed very real to me, and I loved the often added Spanish words slipped into the story. It seemed natural and just right, was easy for me to figure out the meaning within the context and I do know French, also helpful. Don't miss getting to know Merci Suarez, her family and her friends.

        Sunday was Grandparents' Day, and this is a book that would be wonderful to have on that day, but really any other autumn day. A young boy wakes with the wind rattling his windows, says he can't wait to go outside. Telling the story, he runs to tell his Grandpa all the things they could do and Grandpa thinks it's the perfect day to fly the kite. But first, they have to find it! In the search, other memories come up, like the picnic in a secret cave. Oh, what fun to remember while they looked. In between the search, there are double-page spreads of the goings-on outside. Usher's delightful windy autumn pages seem to whoosh off the page as he shows it covered with leaves blowing while one man struggles to sweep the leaves. Finally, the kite adventure happens, and what a magical one it turns into. Reading and seeing this magical time with Granddad makes a big smile, especially because I'm a grandmother and love my own adventures with my grandchildren.

             "Another room, by ourselves. How many rooms have we walked into since that day--even if they weren't real rooms and we didn't know that's what we were doing?"  Early in the story, an invitation for the six students, and it felt to me like one for me, the reader. It feels good to write their names, feels as if Jacqueline Woodson would want me to remember Haley, who tells the story, then Holly, Esteban, Ashton, Amari, and Tiago. And it makes me wonder what might happen if another six were placed in a room, no rules, just to talk. Haley somehow thinks it would be fine to record everyone, so has her uncle get her one, and the group agrees that capturing the words will be good. We soon learn about this wonderful teacher when Haley records early on: "Ms. Laverne," and reminds the group: "said every day we should ask ourselves, 'If the worst thing in the world happened, would I help protect someone else?'" There is much more about becoming a harbor for others, especially when one reads about one immigrant child saying about America: "It feels like this place wants to break my heart." Especially when these children are talking about what is the right thing to do. It's hard to imagine not reading this book aloud to a class, pairing it with The Day You Begin, shared below. Discovering what a Harmonic Convergence is is only one of the magical moments.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Poetry Friday - Answers to a Question

        Carol Varsalona at Beyond Literacy Link hosts our Poetry Friday today, filling us up with final summer memories, a preview of her next gallery, The Art of Summering. We've had cooler weather these recent days, so reading and seeing what has been gathered will make me rather nostalgic. Thanks, Carol!

           Last week Michelle Barnes interviewed Naomi Shihab Nye for the first Today's Little Ditty of the season, a most wonderful post full of Naomi's words and poetry. The challenge given was "Write a letter to yourself in which you ask some questions that you don't have to answer." Unfortunately, I did not return to the post to re-read those words until I went to post my poem. What I remembered was only something about 'questions'. 
        So, I began wondering about questions and how the time in one's life changes those asked, usually according to needs. I will try again, but this is what I wrote before I visited.

That Measuring Stick

Two - only answers, “No, no, no.”
At seven, “Why? I want to know.”
Thirteen, private, asks self, “Who?”
Eighteen, hungry, “Where shall I go?”

“What?” and “How?” feed grown-up years;
“Hurry, hurry. Answers, appear!”
Elders’ salt and pepper quest,  
“Bring them on.” No question feared.

Linda Baie © All Right Reserved 

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

#MustReadIn2018 Recap

Thanks to Carrie Gelson of There's A Book for That for hosting a #MustRead group at different parts the year for those who continue to create a list of lonely books on shelves or lists that we are excited about when bought or listed, then ignore, or find others that call more loudly.  See the above link to Carrie's blog to find her newest update and others, too.

Here are the books from my #MustReadIn2018, and those read so far. The last time, in April, I checked in I had completed FIVE of the thirty-four chosen. This time, yikes, I've read only three more, but they are wonderful!  

If you have any books you are convinced I need to read SOON, tell me in the comments!

Here's what I read from my list since April:

Scythe - Neal Shusterman - The beginning of this series, which I adored. If you like dystopian plots, please take a look

Long Way Down - Jason Reynolds -  Change of plans in an elevator? Who would ever think that this could be so powerful? It is!

Turtles All The Way Down - John Green - He always has the sweetest characters and shows the problems of our lives with sincerity and hope, ALWAYS.

Here's the full list - those in blue are read!

Thirty-Four Books -  

Books read will be changed to blue as we move through the year!

Me And Marvin Gardens - Amy Sarig King
Greetings from Witness Protection - Jake Burt
Posted - John Anderson
Tumble & Blue - Cassie Beasley 
Beyond The Bright Sea - Lauren Wolk
See You In The Cosmos - Jack Cheng
Amina’s Voice - Hena Khan
Hello Universe - Erin Kelly, Isabel Roxas
Flying Lessons & Other Stories - Ellen Oh
American Street - Ibi Zoboi
Scythe - Neal Shusterman
The Smell of Other People’s Houses - Bonnie Sue Hitchcock
Long Way Down - Jason Reynolds  
The Hate U Give -  Angie Thomas
Turtles All The Way Down - John Green
All The Crooked Saints - Maggie Stiefvater
Scar Island - Dan Gemeinhart
Playing By Heart - Carmela A. Martino
Solo & The Playbook - Kwame Alexander           
Lucky Broken Girl - Ruth Behar
Titanic, Voices from the Disaster - Deborah Hopkinson  
The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage - Philip Pullman
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter - Erika L. Sanchez
Dear Martin - Nic Stone


Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and The Carlisle Indian School Football Team - Steve Sheinkin

Bright Dead Things - poetry - Ada Limon
H Is for Hawk - Helen Macdonald

from past lists:

Countdown - Deborah Wiles
The Birchbark House - Louise Erdrich
I’ll Give You The Sun - Jandy Nelson

90 Miles to Havana - Enrique Flores-Galbis
Dash - Kirby Larson

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

NFPB Wednesday - Animal Survival

art by Sarah S. Brannen
         Visit Alyson Beecher on Wednesdays for Non-Fiction Picture Books at Kidlit Frenzy.  From her post and others, you will discover and want to celebrate terrific nonfiction picture books!  
           Looking at anything from a new perspective is a terrific idea. We don't always understand the "why" of how humans and other animals work so it's good to have books that offer examples from nature. Perhaps then we will begin to ask more questions that begin with "why" and also "who, what, when, where and how"! Anyone who reads Melissa Stewart's prose knows she will interest you in a variety of ways, this time with humor and questions for the reader. While showing the usual, popular animals like elephants and cheetahs, some we know about, Melissa moves into different territory this time to some less studied and their evolution for survival. Some use size to help them slip into tiny cracks when enemies arrive, like the Etruscan pygmy shrew and others like hoatzin bird or the zorilla mammal use repellent odors to keep enemies away. With the question/answer format written in tongue-in-cheek humor and connected to the text information, readers will want to shout the answers. For example, when asked "Should hoatzins and zorillas clean up their act?", turn the page and see the answer, "No way!" and the explanation that those odors make "hungry hunters lose their appetites."
        In the illustrations, Stephanie Laberis focuses on the animals in their habitat and action or inaction per their personal survival strategies. The art is flashy and realistic, making me wonder if this could be a mentor text for further research into other animals, for text and art. It's a great new book about animals that will add to anyone's knowledge about "Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers" and call for learning more.

Monday, September 3, 2018

It's Monday - It's a Giveaway

          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.  

           Thanks to Candlewick Press, I'm thrilled to offer a giveaway of two prize packs of a paperback of Zora & Me by Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon and the next adventure, Zora & Me - The Cursed Ground by T.R. Simon out next week!  Zora & Me is a new story to me although it came out in 2010 and received the John Steptoe New Talent Award. US & Canada only, no PO boxes!

             I have fallen in love with these stories, these characters. 

            Racial duplicity threatens an idyllic African American community in the turn-of-the-century South in a debut inspired by the early life of Zora Neale Hurston. a fascinating slice of history. Eatonville, Florida, was ‘the first incorporated all-black township in the United States.’ That was in 1887. It was also the place where the family of Zora Neale Hurston, one of America’s most esteemed writers, moved in 1894, and where she grew up from the age of three years.

           This early fictional story of the child, Zora Neale Hurston, can be enjoyed on several levels. First, the idea of children off on their own adventures through the marshes is something I would wish for every child. Second, to love that the idea of stories believed and imagined comes from a wonderful storyteller herself, Ms. Hurston. No matter whether she tells truth or stretches it, her friends stick by her and end up in a bit of trouble because of it, but they don't mind. The authors chose to let Zora’s best friend Carrie tell the story, of Zora’s created shape-shifting gator man who lives in the marshes, waiting to steal human souls. When a man recently met is found dead by the railroad tracks, serious, and grown-up, complications arise. This is a calm and comforting African-American town whose peace and security is in danger. Though a middle-grade novel, the story is complex, bringing family struggles in along with community heroes who know justice needs to be served. Not everyone, including Zora, understands just what that means until the ending. 
            Reviews share that this astonishing novel is the first project ever to be endorsed by the Zora Neale Hurston Trust that was not authored by Hurston herself.  If readers want to sit on the edge of their seats while reading, this is a book to read!
            Added at the back is more information about Ms. Hurston: a timeline, a brief biography, and an annotated bibliography.

        Now, a second adventure is coming September 11th, with Zora's family, the neighbors, the townspeople all here again, but the danger seems even more real. Carrie shares this story of a white man's challenge, a mystery that becomes connected as I read the chapters. Carrie's words alternate in chapters from Eatonville 1903 and a new place, Westin, in 1855, from where a young girl names Lucia tells another story. The children, Zora, Carrie, and Teddy, are all involved again, searching out new mysteries they did not know about their town and the people in it who were keeping them safe. Early in the story, Carrie says she didn't hold the scrapes they had against Zora, because "She made life in a town no bigger than a teacup feel like it held the whole world." 
      As the story unfolds, perhaps one can imagine it as connected to the whole world. Those with power try to take advantage of those who have little, yet also those who hold the goodness of human dignity above all else stand up to support despite the danger. Simon writes: "The men of Eatonville did not grow darker with the fading light; rather, they seemed to shine brighter in it." Later: "These men had fathered and made this town whole in spite of the hate of an entire nation." This time the tension is real, but the actions inspire.
       Yes, like the first book, this second story is complex and a fascinating fictional adventure that I imagine Zora Neale Hurston would have loved. 


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Now reading: One new from Candlewick, Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina. I dropped that one adult book, just could not get interested, and also started Birds Art Life by Kyo Maclear.