Monday, February 27, 2023

It's Monday - Books to Find!


    Visit Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts to see what they and others have been reading! Your TBR lists will grow! 

        As another review says: Meet Odder, the Queen of Play. Based on the true story of a Monterey Bay Aquarium program that pairs orphaned otter pups with surrogate mothers, Katherine Applegate tells the story in free verse of a feisty, curious, and ever-moving sea otter. There is fun when Odder plays with his friend Kairi, sadness when one day his mother doesn't return from looking for food, and there is terror when Odder and Kairi are attacked by a hungry great white shark.
         It's interesting to read of Odder's rescue to see how the people there teach otter pups in order to return them to the wild, and then those aquarium scientists figure out that they can teach rescued adults who can no longer be returned to the wild to raise other rescued pups. Applegate includes many true things in this fictional tale, for us to learn more about otters and how humans can help and to learn the need to protect otters along with other endangered species in the world. There's lots of back matter with information for further learning. In addition, there are sketches by Charles Santoso scattered throughout the book. 
       Amazing fact from one page: Otters have 
                                                     "the warmest fur on earth–
                                                     up to a million hairs per square inch.
                                                     But it's the air bubbles
                                                     otters add that keep them
                                                     perfectly, impossibly
                                                     warm and dry."

      I enjoyed this book and liked hearing about the importance of otters, a keystone species. Young readers who love animals will find it both informative and adventurous. 
      I want to add that I kayaked with students on one trip to California and had the pleasure of observing otters in their habitat. We studied other sea creatures at the aquarium, too.  
         I am reminded of this Dickinson quote when I read about a young girl's marvelous adventure with a book: "There is no frigate like a book to take us lands away." It is newly out and a marvelous picture book by Kate Messner and Grace Lin, with gorgeous and imaginative illustrations by Grace Lin as she adjusts the palette depending on the place. This young girl, weary of winter cold, says, "I wish I were someplace that wasn't so frozen and gray!" A book nearby flopped open; the invitation from those colorful birds (on the cover) to a place "alive with colors" was discovered as she begins reading. The girl stepped right in! Stepping into a book brings adventures to many places and this book by Lin and Messner differs only in that it is both an adventure and an example of what books really do! I was lucky to get the book from my library just as it came out. It'll be a special one to read with young readers and discuss their adventures, too! 

       In this follow-up to All Because You Matter, Tami Charles writes the story as a celebration of Black people's impact throughout history, highlighting people like Dr. King and Marian Anderson, foods, and places. Bryan Collier's beautiful illustrations creatively embed the history they want to emphasize while also celebrating a young girl's possibilities as she travels throughout. "You are brilliant, extraordinary, far-beyond-ordinary, the very best of who we are." He uses row houses as a timeline of the lives lived and celebrated. It's a glorious and poetic telling with some explanation at the back and notes from both Charles and Collier.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Poetry Friday - Winter Visits

         Poetry Friday is with Tabatha HERE at The Opposite of Indifference.  She's offering some things that aren't pleasant but also finding ways to fight back, to resist. And that is in finding joy. Be sure to take a look. It feels important! Thanks, Tabatha, for hosting! 

          Our weather people shared that nearly all our winter storms happen on Wednesdays. Yes, we had another one this past Wednesday, less snow here than the mountains and many others had, but as I write Thursday morning, it's minus one degree. I'm sitting at the desk where I can look out to my backyard and the outer green space, the bird feeder closer in. There were visitors!


Sunny Winter Visitor


What a strange and silly crow

to make yourself at home like that

without a chance to grab a snack.

Perhaps you’re perched to have a word

with me, with other smaller birds

to let them know, however cold,

you’ll caw and caw to make them bold.

Then they will know that seeds are near,

their tiny flutters welcome here.


Linda Baie © 

Monday, February 20, 2023

Monday Reading - A Great Week for Reading


    Visit Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts to see what they and others have been reading! Your TBR lists will grow! 

     I could tell you the plot; praise the characters, good-hearted and cruel; show some of the magical pieces that touch crows and books, ogres and dragons, orphans and one blind dog, but I just want to write, "Read this book!" Kelly Barnhill has created an amazing story that gives big hugs, makes one shiver, then cry. I also want to write that she wrote the beginnings of this during the early rumors of a mysterious disease "rampaging in countries far, far away." There are glimmers within some pages of that time for all of us. Here is part of one paragraph from the book that speaks of the mayor as the townspeople were mourning big fires in their town: "How they needed him then! How they depended on him. He told them then that he, alone, would fix it, and what a thrill it was–a deep and profound thrill–to see in the shine of their faces and the glaze of their eyes that they utterly believed him." Then, a little later: They were all just so easy to convince." It was a National Book Award finalist. I highly recommend it.

Winning a Caldecott Honor

         Michaela Goade, a member of the Tlingit people, writes of the connections we have with nature. This story centers on picking berries "on an island at the edge of a wide, wild sea". She begins with a memory of time with her grandmother and all the ways they sing their thanks as the berries sing to them - eight kinds of berries are mentioned, and different songs are sung. "We take care of the land." Grandma says. "As the land takes care of us," the young girl Michaela replies. GunalchĂ©esh is found throughout - giving thanks. With dream-like illustrations showing the blessings of nature and a wonderful two-page note from Michaela, it's a book to love and to learn from. She won the Caldecott Medal last year for We Are Water Protectors.

It's the Caldecott winner!

         On a hot, hot day in the city, an older woman and her dog wend their way along the streets with lots of people (and dogs) and lots of heat! Doug Salati's illustrations fill the pages with details, buildings, storefronts, and a dog getting sadder and hotter by the block. In brief lyrical text, the story shows it all, until, until, this "hot dog" refuses to move one more step. His loving owner knows just what to do, hops a taxi, then the subway, to the beach! It's a sweet book that will be a great read-aloud, leaving those listening and looking to wonder what in the world, the dog's world, that is, will happen next? 

Thanks to Candlewick Press for this copy!

      This book by science writer Cara Giaimo is encyclopedic in its presentation with lots of backmatter including source notes, notes for further exploration, a bibliography, and an index. There are the usual, though deeper explanations, of dogs, what they can do, and exactly how their noses work. Also included are the unusual, like ferrets, certain fish species, and a chapter from part of the title, "Dynamite Dolphins". Cartoons, photographs, and highlighted boxes of information fill the inviting pages plus there are activities connected to each topic. I imagine weeks of study beginning with the book's topics, and hopefully, the studies will give students or those taking on their own individual work opportunities to be out in nature observing, too. Ethical questions are examined including the use of animals, especially in dangerous situations. 

Thanks to Candlewick Press for this copy!

       I have seen news of Tammy Duckworth in recent years but knew very little about her growing up, her time in Southeast Asia because her father worked for the UN. After being fired, he moved his family to Hawaii and they struggled financially. Christina Soontornvat tells how sometimes Tammy was the only family member making money, by selling flowers on the street. She knew she wanted to do good in the world, just didn't know how, until she joined ROTC during her college years. Her story of the battles she later fought as a pilot during the Iraqi war, and the battles she fought when she lost both her legs, wondering what was going to happen. It's an inspiring story told with Dow Phumiruk's beautiful illustrations all through Tammy's years, as a Congresswoman fighting for what she knew was for people's good. There is a timeline and a list of her areas of service at the back. There is a timeline and a list of her areas of service at the back. It can be a special book in a collection of biographies that inspire today, right now. Senator Duckworth continues to work for the people's good.

       I wish this was a fairy tale yet know it is not. Little Jay and his friends are happy growing up, wishing it would go faster! They play and laugh and like all kids, have so much fun. And yet, through the book, Alicia D. Williams gives a hint of what's coming in her story. Grandpa tells the kids not to hang out too long in groups of four or more. He says "But some folks might think you're the next troublemaker." The kids are shown by illustrator Briana Mukodiri Uchendu (her picture book debut) in a store perhaps like a 7-11, with a security person watching with a frown. There are other scenes like this, illustrated in shadows with more frowning faces. As Jay grows, it's time for other warnings; he's old enough to drive, and have "The Talk". A double-page spread in darkness shows more than one scene, including a young boy being patted down by a police officer. The sadness appears like the background, always there, never gone, but family expressions show the love that surrounds Jay and reassures him he's done nothing wrong. It's not an easy book and I'd love to see many white people reading it, knowing this is the life led by children of color. We all know the examples, we all see the news every day. Don't miss this book and share it widely!

What's Next? I have a copy of a non-fiction book titled Writing The Land: Foodways and Social Justice, essays about our land, how we think about it, use it, etc. It's edited by Lis McLoughlin.
        And, I have some middle-grade books that I hope to get to, so many! 

Happy Reading!

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Poetry Friday - Snowy Imagining

 Poetry Friday is with Molly Hogan HERE at Nix The Comfort Zone.  Molly's sharing a beautiful poem to praise the beauty of trees in winter. Mine connects trees in another way. What fun to discover that. Thanks, Molly, for hosting! 

             It's another holiday weekend coming. Do you have plans?

This comes from Laura Shovan's birthday month poetry challenge. The prompt was "a gathering". It was bitter cold Wednesday and I sat quite a lot looking out one of my windows, at the snowy cold and birds feeding often throughout the day. No, I didn't write about birds gathering, or people memories either. I also had a view of a corner of my lawn, and the green space outside of it. Imagination took over.

(You can see the younger group behind the big tree from back in 2013. Then, there they are today in 2023!)

Monday, February 13, 2023

It's Monday - Book Love


    Visit Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts to see what they and others have been reading! Your TBR lists will grow! 

       This is a fictional story of those slaves who escaped and made homes in swampland, based on some truths, though little is really known of the details. Not new to me is the terrifying cruelty, but the love and help given so others may live is an inspiration. Escape to freedom feels like the underlying theme, hence the title. I know people don't give kids enough credit for being the smart, thoughtful, brave, and kind people they can be. In the wilderness of the swampland, Homer and little sister Ada take off for freedom and find a homeland like nothing they had dreamed of: families ready to take them in, new friends ready to guide and help them, and a kind of peace they've never known. Amina Luqman-Dawson's book fills readers with characters one is thrilled to meet who are varied in experience and temperament, too, and with such courage, readers will want to applaud. It's a plot that makes you race on to find out what will happen next, to care so much for the character's safety and welfare. I imagine you know that Amina Luqman-Dawson won the Newbery Medal this year for this, her debut novel. It is marvelous!

         Featuring the newest special book by Anne Wynter (Everybody in The Red Brick Building with Oge Mora) and Daniel Miyares (Big and Small and In-Between with Ryan Higgins), the story is told mostly in verse, showing little Nell growing up with all the family, and with a pecan tree. Told in a truly special style, Anne Wynter goes back to the beginning, as in "Before a grip on a branch/and a fall to the ground. . . Nell picks up a seed." Throughout the illustrations of the story/memory, Daniel Miyares gives a peek at all the things that happen throughout the years as the tree grows and grows–big enough to climb far up to the very top, to gather nuts for a tasty pie, and for families to feast in the shade. 
         Though I never had a pecan tree in my yard, I do have wonderful memories of picking with my father in a large pecan grove near their home. Both Miyares and Wynter share their own memories in their notes at the back.

     In one of his older books, Daniel Miyares creates a new and wonderful look at Langston Hughes' words in a contrasting look at Black lives, how it was and how it can be. Showing these children wishing first, then flying free as birds feels very good indeed! He writes about his reaction to the poem in a special personal note, too. This can be a good conversation about images in poetry and their impact when reading, or in writing. It's one to keep in your poetry collection.

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Poetry Friday - A Teaching Memory

              Poetry Friday is with Carol Varsalona HERE at Beyond Literacy Link.  She's sharing the fabulous winter-warming postcards she's received in our postcard exchange started by Jone McCulloch. Thanks, Carol, for hosting! 

            Happy Valentine's Day to everyone! ❤️

           I am participating in another tradition, too. It's February, Laura Shovan's birthday month celebration where a group of poets share prompts every day and write to them. It's the 11th year and I've written with everyone every year. It's a challenge, to find new ideas, to take time to read as many poems as one can during the day, and offer at least a brief comment. But it is always a surprise to see what thoughts emerge, and what poems I write. And, it's always a joy to read others' poems, too. The theme this year is "story", and one of the days since February first, the prompt centered on textiles telling stories. Here's what I wrote:

         I taught middle-school gifted children in an independent school & every class traveled overnight in the fall & the spring, day trips, too. One of my last classes spent time in New Mexico with Pueblo Indians, one of the days weaving all day with a small group of weavers. When we returned home, we started a class weaving, working on it for weeks, each one adding something that recorded an event or something special just to that one student. I can't remember what they all mean but know that we loved when someone added to it & then, during the last week of school, we tied it off!

Weaving Our Class


The warp shapes our year

While the weft comes slowly

Piece by learning piece

each child adds a part

sometimes from the brain

often from the heart

Mix the colors

Add the trinkets

A story mixture,

Re-mixing us

Into a whole.


Linda Baie ©

           Wishing you all a time for gathering pieces of your days to weave together in your own lives. 

Monday, February 6, 2023

Monday Reading - More Books to Read and Savor


    Visit Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts to see what they and others have been reading! Your TBR lists will grow! I've included books terrific for #BlackHistoryMonth & one Christmas book I finally received from my library to remember for next year, plus Dusk, one I didn't know was for the holidays!

González tells the story of young girls following their grandmother to her special place and finding wonder in the rocks they discover from far into the earth, changes by water and fire, the messages from under the sea, and unique rocks that come from the sky. It is a spiritual book showing differing ways to find wonder in our nature with magical, dream-like illustrations of deepest colors by Adriana M. Garcia, of beautiful and thoughtful people examining their favorite finds. 
      I enjoyed more added at the end from the author about the journey to this book along with brief explanations about the four elements, sweat lodges, family healing practices with healing nature finds kept in medicine bags, and a note that some places prohibit the taking of rocks and plants from their natural places. Reading this in a place out in nature will make a special experience for all. It's a gorgeous book!

         Started during WWII in Iceland when so many things were hard to get during rationing, paper in Ireland was not hard to get, so publishers began releasing many books during the last months of the year. Thus began lots of book giving, and a tradition still happening today, The Christmas Book Flood, where people read about new books on their way, shop in bookstores, keep their treasures secret until, until, it's time for Christmas Eve, time for cocoa, and reading all night! There's a fun story from the writer, Emily Kilgore in her author's note about how she was given the pleasure of writing this story. Kitty Moss fills the pages with collage illustrations of what's happening all those days before and then the final excitement for books, books, books. Keep this for next year, then be ready for the flood! (I finally got this from my library - so many holds!)

          One can never "not" learn about nature by reading a new book by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page. Here is a book full of how animals use tools, not just apes and crows! They start with the only animal known to grab a stick and tap out a beat, used to attract a mate! It's the palm cockatoo. There are egg breakers, apes who use various things to floss (wonder if there's a dentist nearby?), various uses of stones to break things, and surprises from ocean creatures. Jenkins defines tool as “an object that an animal manipulates and uses to affect its environment, another animal, or itself.” Robin Page uses collage illustrations to show animals in small portraits along with larger animals illustrated in action all against a black background. One thing that amazed me was that the bird, the Black Kite, grabs sticks from a wildfire and carries it to start smaller fires in order to flush out animals it is hunting for food. There is much more to add to readers' interests in the backmatter, maybe jumpstarting an even longer research project. It's terrific!

           My great-grandfather and great-grandmother raised thirteen children (11 boys, 2 girls) in an old farmhouse in the early 20th century, thus I was thrilled to read about this new book by Sophie Blackall who told this story of another family years ago. She came upon a real farmhouse, falling down, full of left-behind memories of their lives including old books and papers, clothing, and a shell that Sophie herself has made a special part of this story. She bought the house and thus began her journey of examining what was there and in her imagination, how the family lived. Her artistic illustrations use pieces of her discoveries in them, like pictures and awards for their cows, pictures of the famous from the newspapers, and the discovered wall patterns. Readers, be sure to find this new picture book that feels like it stepped out of the past for Sophie Blackall and she turned around and created it for us readers. 
Sophie has written a long author's note at the back telling more!

Thursday, February 2, 2023

#PoetryFriday - Love My Mail

             Poetry Friday is with Laura Shovan HERE on her website.  Don't miss her introduction to Laura Purdie Salas' new book, Finding Family, which sounds like quite a lovely and poetic story about loons who are raising a duckling.

         Hooray! It's warming up here in Denver, last I looked there was the sun and 45 degrees. If you believe that's laughable and not so warm, a high of 6 happened last Monday.  Thanks, Laura Shovan for hosting!

          I'm warming up also with more marvelous postcards and happy notes from Jone's postcard extravaganza. Here's what I found in the mail this past week. Thanks, Gail A., Carol V., Margaret S., and Linda M. (Click to enlarge.)

Linda Mitchell sends wishes with the rabbit's good luck!

I love being outside, and scenes like this one from Gail Aldous

Sorry that the mail messed up Margaret's card,
but it remains the sweetest message. She has a new grandbaby!

I'm not ready for more snow. Our snowfall from weeks ago
still hasn't melted. Yet I love Carol's picture
and message that "life glistens". 

        I wrote it before and now write it again. The postcard wishes and beautiful words make a fantastic welcome to the new year. Thanks to everyone! 

a snow-crunching walk
for words of wishes in the mail –
cuddle-up reading

Linda Baie ©