Monday, July 15, 2019

Monday Reading - Where Books Are Found

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

       There are many ways to find books to read. Here are a few. One I've left out today, but am also grateful for is recommended books loaned by friends.

from the library

        I adore every book by Kevin Henkes and was happy when I learned about his new chapter book, and even happier that I was able to get it from my wonderful library!
        Amelia, just beginning the adolescent thoughts of "BORING", a seventh-grader dear to my heart because I taught middle-schoolers for a long time, know they're shaky about growing up, mostly wishing that life would be exciting all the time. This girl whose story spans only a week, her spring break, a week where she is sure that she's the only one staying home. Her widowed, quiet professor father does not like to travel, thus the dream of Florida flies right out the window. Poor Amelia, a theme she doesn't like much, but Henkes repeats, perhaps seriously, but sometimes reflecting the feelings of a twelve-year-old. This is repeated in kind sympathy by the neighbor Mrs. O'Brien, a woman who cares for Amelia while her father works. In fact, she cares for them both with love and support.
        Amelia also misses her best friend Natalie in France, feeling quite adrift, but the feeling doesn't stay. She creates ceramic animals, this time rabbits, in a nearby studio and there meets Casey, visiting while his parents are on a retreat to save their marriage. Casey is trying to convince them to stick together, but it isn't going well and Amelia understands. Her mother died when she was two and her father, while she knows he cares, is gone a lot and distant, too. When a game begins with Casey, the two have fun creating stories about those who pass by a window. Amelia's thoughts explode when Casey sees a woman and imagines she could be Amelia's mother because of similarities. How Amelia responds, internally and outwardly makes much of the tale, showing her growth and yearning for something, anything to happen. The title echoes the emotions shown in the Emily Dickinson poem from which it came.
        It's a quiet book, certainly one showing Amelia yearning and wondering about life as she imagines it could (should?) be. I especially loved that this "tween" still used a beloved stuffed lamb, Dr. Cotton, to talk to: "She went on to tell him about Casey and Lindy, the remembered moments making their way into the catalog of her life."

           Kwame Alexander's poem about reading is lovely: "Next, dig your thumb at the bottom of each juicy section/and Pop the words out". Melissa Sweet's illustrations illuminate: see that toaster 'popping words'. Both make for slow reading, just the way to read poetry and to savor art. You have to get the book itself. I won't try to describe this special celebration of reading further. Might be a marvelous one for the first days of school? Early on, look for a quote by Nikki Grimes.

from winning a book

         Of course, "Home is a Window" and oh, Chris Sasaki shows joyous glimpses through a young girl's windows, accompanying Stephanie Parsley Ledyard's text. This young girl shares all that she knows about her home, "a table with something good and the people gathered there", "one more hide-and-seek before bath," and "what feels the same each day." Soon, however, readers realize that this is a goodbye and a move to "new". In the journey, she tells "Home is the shirt that smells like your old room." The story shows that no matter the change, everything about home will go with you and offers comfort to those who have worries about leaving the home they know. 

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Poetry Friday - Celebrating

                This week, Poetry Friday is hosted by Jone MacCulloch at her blog, DeoWriter.  Be sure to visit to see what Tabatha  at The Opposite of Indifference sent her for the Poetry Swap. You may want to stay a while!
        This past Monday, I shared I Am Someone Else, Poems About Pretending, created with poems by many poets you know by Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrated by Chris Hsu. It's another recent book of poetry you will love.           
         Celebrating anything gives a lovely feeling, but celebrating winning the Women's World Cup has to be extraordinary, right? What an exciting time on Sunday morning (US time) and since then, too. In the midst of this celebration, I'd like to add one more, celebrating Elizabeth Steinglass' poetry book, recently out, Soccerverse

         My grandchildren have not chosen to be soccer players and have chosen other sports. However, I've spent many hours at soccer practice and games watching my son learn, then improve in the game, celebrating his first goal, watching the team itself get better and better. I enjoyed the poems Liz has written about things I remember during those years as a 'soccer mom'!

         I cannot share the whole book, but I want to. It's no surprise that it begins with "The Ball", a marvel we know is not always available to kids in need around the world, though coveted in its ability for "trapping, tapping, and spinning. Perfect for kicking, bending, and winning." as Liz writes. She manages to bring the field to life in "Instructions For The Field"  which ends with a nice reminder to "catch us when we fall". Other poems include topics like shin guards talking, one of its use and one left behind takes us to memorable goals in our minds, as "A shark,/slipping/through/ the sea,/until/she smells/opportunity." Poems fill up the book with SOCCER and I've filled this ball with a few favorite lines! 

          Twenty-two poems in thirteen forms delight in images, further enhanced by Edson Ik√™'s innovative illustrations, each one focusing on the poem's topic both realistically and creatively. Every player, boy or girl, knows the feeling that Liz shows in this poem's beginning: "I got too mad./I tried too hard." Edson's art of an angry bull on a pointing finger is perfect for the poem "Apology" ending with "I crossed the line./I got a card." I liked this for its brevity and remember well seeing the anger, then often the embarrassment, of getting carded. Every poem will touch soccer players' hearts. They will KNOW what Liz has written about. It's a terrific addition to poetry for kids.

          Liz writes a note at the back explaining each of the poem forms she used and adds the key to which poem is in which form. Thanks, Liz, for a beautiful book.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Non-Fiction Picture Books Re-tell The News

Visit Alyson Beecher on Wednesdays for Non-Fiction Picture Books at Kidlit Frenzy.  Thanks to her hosting and sharing and those who add their posts, you can discover and celebrate terrific nonfiction picture books!  I always learn from these books, am happy that they are more and more available today for children, for everyone!

            I watched with the world, fascinated during this time of high emotions wondering what would happen with twelve boys and their soccer (football) coach missing inside a cave in Thailand, blocked by flooding during the monsoon. A map on the inside covers shows the perilous journey for rescue.
            Susan Hood bases her story on the reporting of Pathana Sornhiran and together, with clear writing becoming more and more tense as the truth of the team's peril becomes real. She has centered the story on one boy, Titan, one of the youngest on the team. Dow Phumiruk fills the pages with gorgeous double-page spreads, many in darkness, showing the cave's vastness along with the boys' worry and the rescuers' movements. As you may remember, they were off on a lark to explore this cave after practice. There was a sign warning not to enter during the time of the monsoon which began in July. It was June 23rd. Unknowingly, heavy rain began while they were in the cave and when they returned to the entrance, they could not get out. 
           The text uses a countdown from the beginning, counting out the days. For ten days they went without food, drinking from drips from the stalactites. They were very hungry, spent time meditating led by their coach who had been trained as a monk. Imagine ten days on a ledge in the dark! At the same time we read of their plight, we also learn of the divers' challenge in their search. It was cold and they had no idea where the group could be. Among many, here is one page showing that moment when two divers appeared; they had found the team!

            You may know how the story ends, with part tragedy, but also many triumphs. The story takes us step by step, day by day until the boys' are safe in the hospital, not even able to see their families until checked for physical problems. They are saved and the world celebrated! 
            Susan Hood adds extra information in the backmatter, including more about the rescue, fascinating facts, how the Wild Boars got their name, a timeline, an interview with two British divers and source notes. The final page shows a special drawing of Saman Kunan, the diver who died during the rescue with the boys surrounding it. I'm glad that this story was told for those who want to know about it or to know more. 


Monday, July 8, 2019

It's Monday! Books For Everyone

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

          Thanks to Charlesbridge for the following books, out in recent months.! 

            Here is a marvelous and heart-rending debut by Karol Silverstein, the story of Ricky (Erica, Roo or Ricky Raccoon), newly struggling from a chronic illness and newly starting a 'junior high' as a ninth-grader after a move because of her parent's divorce, thus all new kids. According to Ricky, she is definitely CURSED! 
             It's hard for me, an older adult, to understand that every movement can be excruciating for a young teen and perhaps even harder for classmates to 'get it'. That's what makes this story so important to have in the classroom. With juvenile arthritis, Ricky's in constant pain, has to move to her father's "batch-pad" to avoid stairs at her mother's home. She's tired of too many unkind looks at her new school and, sad and frustrated, she cuts school for six straight weeks! Yes, she's found out and now must make up the work or end up in this horrible school another year. Slowly one friendship happens with a boy also teased, named Oliver, one who wears a Captain America hoodie and clips a small teddy bear to his backpack. Why he does is one thing Ricky needs to discover and until then, she ignores him, too, but slowly warms to his quirky and upbeat attitude. One other punishment that turns out to be a blessing is a demand from her strict speech teacher that she spend three after-school sessions a week with him if she is serious about passing his class. 
         Silverstein brings Ricky's real world to the reader with sympathy, showing the times that are so hard one can understand when this teen erupts into cursing, wanting only to huddle under the covers. However, she also allows Ricky to see in time that she's in charge of her life, not the disease. I enjoyed Ricky telling her story very much!

              I love Tony Johnston's books and this is one that warms the heart. In few words on a page, he offers us readers a story of a young boy who discovers a shivering dog with scars hiding under the shrub on his lawn. Using patience and growing love, the boy gains its trust until, well, see that cover! He begins with a frisbee of water, later adding a piece of sandwich, finally telling his mom who helps him. They buy regular dog food, but the mom insists that the boy makes "Found" signs in case the owner is looking. I met Jonathan Nelson at a book-signing with him and Nancy Bo Flood and we spoke of his next book coming, this one!  Jonathan's simple pictures depict the emotions beautifully, on faces and in body language, even on the dog peeking from the bush. 

       For younger readers, an introduction to the history of women and athletics, those who broke barriers that may surprise children, like women are not supposed to ride bicycles or wear pants when horse-back riding. It is fun to learn some early history like women were not allowed in the ancient Olympic Games, but they defied the rules and ran footraces in private festivals for Hera, queen of the gods. It covers some history of the equal rights movement that challenged educational, athletic, and financial discrimination with federal funds, leading at last to the Title IX law mandating equal treatment. Further examples of equality continued to occur, like the challenge to allow girls to play Little League baseball. Unfortunately, it does not include recent conflicts still occurring within the athletic world for women. Rebecca Gibbon's illustrations fill the pages with all kinds of girls doing what they love, from bloomers expected in the early women's basketball games to the final wonderful double-page spread celebrating "amazing girls" in all kinds of activities, with today's expected clothing. There is a timeline that offers more information for further research. One fun thing is that it adds a few quotations from the athletes in their special moments.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Poetry Friday - Looking Long

                Poetry Friday this first Friday of July is hosted by Tricia Stohr-Hunt at her blog, The Miss Rumphius Effect. Today, she shares a triolet, inspired by her grandmother's stories of experiences in the Great Depression and World War II. Thanks, Tricia! Hope everyone enjoyed their Independence Day celebrations.

           When I taught, my students and I spent many hours outside with field journals, recording what they observed, questioning, doing further research, sketching. I used the following poem by John Moffitt often, hoping it would inspire each to settle in a quiet space and "look long".  

To Look At Anything

To look at any thing,
If you would know that thing,
You must look at it long:
To look at this green and say,
“I have seen spring in these
Woods,” will not do – you must
Be the thing you see:
You must be the dark snakes of
Stems and ferny plumes of leaves,
You must enter in
To the small silences between
The leaves,
You must take your time
And touch the very peace
They issue from.
~ John Moffitt ~

         Many of you know I spent the past two weeks at the beach, first enjoying the house by the shore myself, then with my family in the second week. I wrote many things, some simply to capture the moments, but one poem came through my own 'looking long' and appreciating more than I had in the past. Perhaps it is the political climate today that also inspired, but my thoughts during this 'looking long' made new connections this year.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

NF Picture Books Celebrate Unknown Heroes

Visit Alyson Beecher on Wednesdays for Non-Fiction Picture Books at Kidlit Frenzy.  Thanks to her hosting and sharing and those who add their posts, you can discover and celebrate terrific nonfiction picture books!  I always learn from these books, am happy that they are more and more available today for children, for everyone!

     Time to celebrate two little-known heroes on this Independence Day eve.

     Tomorrow is America's 243rd Independence Day. It was grand to see that this historical expedition celebrated the nation's twenty-eighth during their journey.

        In their debut picture book, Hasan Davis and Alleanna Harris let this 'unsung hero' tell his story of this perilous journey, including encounters with Native peoples under the leadership of Captain William Clark, on orders from President Thomas Jefferson. They were commanded to communicate that those peoples were now under the law of the nation of the United States. In the midst of the story of the hardships and challenges, York is rather a mystery to the Natives, sometimes thought to be their spirit brother. They had never seen a black man and Clark used York as an entry to the native communities.
       The story shared that York was the only man who set out with Lewis and Clark on their journey of exploration who did not volunteer. As William Clark’s enslaved manservant and the only nonwhite member, he didn’t have the choice. There is little known of York, but Davis writes in a kind of travelogue of the expedition from Louisville in 1803 to the Oregon coast in 1806. You will recognize some parts of the story like Sacagawea joining the group and the land and weather challenges. York's feelings on the journey include his pride in being given a vote to choose the site of the first winter camp, but also his noticing that his name is not celebrated as a hero at the end by Captain Clark, his owner. That York worked so hard yet never freed and able to return to his family is included in the story and in the final author's note. There is some conflict as to the true end of his life.
         Alleanna Harris' illustrations remind of the older style paintings of that time, and offer hints of York's part in the expedition: he worked so hard but is shown to be on the edges of the groups, in the shadows. There is much told that can be discussed with a student group in studying early American history as this expedition was part of the beginning of Western Expansion.

       Considering I see my granddaughters, 10 and 8, running everywhere and participating in several sports, I am thrilled to see another story of a woman who loved to run and finally got her wish, to run the Boston Marathon. Unlike Bobbie Gibb, who heroically ran incognito first, Kathrine Switzer registered. The story shares that there was nothing on the registration form that asked for gender, but when she began to run, people mostly cheered her on, and when a few tried to pull her off the course, others stopped them. 

        Kathrine Switzer's story, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon as an officially registered runner, is told in this debut for both author and illustrator. She is shown to be racing past a tree in her backyard, marking the trunk with chalk to record her laps, until "1 mile!" She loves to run but other people stare and wonder if something is wrong because girls aren't supposed to exert themselves that much. She grows up always challenging herself, always fighting the belief that women are "too weak, too fragile," to compete. It's a story to appreciate and to celebrate. Rooney's mixed media, collage with paint, paper, and pencil illustrations capture Kathrine's story well in motion and in color. There is an author's note, a brief part about women and the Boston Marathon, plus a bibliography.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Monday Reads - So Good!

Visit Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts to see what they've been reading, along with everyone else who post their favorites. 
         I'm back from the beach, read so many wonderful books before I left and added a few Sunday.
         Wishing you all a great holiday week!

        I read this beautiful verse novel, a first for Jasmine Warga, all in one day before my trip, a story that would not let go. Young Jude, a seventh grader, has moved from her wonderful home in Syria with her mother to live with an uncle in America. Things are becoming more and more dangerous in their country and her parents believe this is a "best" decision. Baba, the father, stays behind because he doesn't want to leave his store. Issa, the older brother has become increasingly involved with the rebels, wanting the country to become safe as it used to be. It's hard to miss home, her father, and soon not even know if her brother is safe when contact is lost between them. He is near the worst of the fighting. In the goodbyes, he tells Jude to 'be brave', the underlying part of her growing up, facing challenges like a new school and learning English. 

       The writing is lovely, allowing Jude's words to share both the warm and sweet experiences along with the tough ones. She is honest and thoughtful, trying hard to find "home". Early in her home country before the move, bombings are happening near; people are fearful. Jude wants to tell them: "You don't have to worry about me./I am just a girl who likes movies." In her new American house when looking out the window, Jude makes a connection: "I wonder if it is exhausting/to be a tree./To lose something,/year after year,/only to trust that it will/someday grow back." And in what she calls her "mangled fractured English", she is trying to describe some favorite things she remembers about her brother, "hoping that he is safe". She continues on: "Hoping,/I'm starting to think,/might be the bravest thing a person can do."

        Jude, through Jasmine Warga's words, shares a few Arabic proverbs now and then. Here is one I want to remember when Jude was thinking of her ESL teacher, Mrs. Ravenswood: "She makes you feel/like a loaf of freshly baked bread."  Food plays some nice parts of the story, especially bread, often telling of Jude's mother toasting pita over the open flame of the stove. Thoughts and feelings coming from someone that many think of as 'different',  those from another culture, will make good connections for young readers.

         Be sure to find this some time to see if Jerry Spinelli has included one of your favorite traditions on Independence Day. There are many. This young boy has things to do from morning till evening, then the long wait, wait, for the fireworks! They celebrate with all kinds of people at their park, taking a wagon full of food, running the races, dancing to the band at the bandstand, and sing The Star Spangled Banner, all to celebrate. Larry Day shows this day filled with color and excitement, a nostalgic look at a holiday on which I hope everyone has a favorite memory, of activities, of food, of play!


 According to the jacket flap, this is the first book in a "Being In The Wild" series. At the beach with her parents, a young girl wanders into a nearby meadow following a butterfly. The implication is while she describes some beautiful encounters--listening to leaves rustling, a grasshopper jumps onto her arm, she seems a bit scared and lost. No worries, her mother finds her and they walk back to the beach. Sakai's illustrations feel like a dream, haze-filled with only the girl, the meadow, and the wind! It's lovely. 

         Daniel's back, this time after being wished a good day by his mother, he begins to wonder what a good day is to others as he walks to his grandmother's. He finds that Emma thinks a good day means a strong wind for kite flying. For the bus driver, a good day means pleases and thank-yous. There are others met and asked and the gathering makes a poem at the end, "Daniel's Good Day"! I imagine a class of students writing and illustrating their own 'good day', perhaps making a class poem? Micha Archer's words and pictures give a happy story, sure to please everyone, like Daniel Finds A Poem.