Thinking about Ottawa

24 Oct

My sister shared this video with me today and it made me cry. I thought I’d share it with you, too.

That’s all I have to say today.

Some more on WWI

23 Oct

I am still reading  The War That Ended Peace,  but that is not the only book related to World War I I’ve read recently. Two newish picture books feature different aspects of “the war to end all wars”.

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Harlem Hellfighters tells the story of black Americans from New York who picked up brass instruments—under the leadership of famed bandleader and lieutenant James Reese Europe—to take the musical sound of Harlem into the heart of war. J. Patrick Lewis’ poems are generally short snapshots and are complimented by Gary Kelley’s sepia toned illustrations. Some background knowledge of the war would be helpful, though not necessary. Includes an introduction, bibliography and artist’s notes.

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Shooting at the Stars: the Christmas Truce of 1914, by John Hendrix, is a fictionalized account of the eponymous event. I do so love using the word eponymous. In a letter home to his mother, he describes how, despite fierce fighting earlier from both sides, Allied and German soldiers ceased firing and came together on the battlefield to celebrate the holiday.This is a compassionate book with lovely illustrations. Includes an author’s note, glossary, bibliography and index.

Henri Matisse

22 Oct

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The Iridescence of Birds written by Patricia MacLachlan and marvelously illustrated by Hadley Hooper, is a book about Henri Matisse. It begins with this line

“If you were a boy named Henri Matisse who lived in a dreary town in northern France where the skies were gray/ And the days were cold/ And you wanted color and light and sun…”

then goes on to explain the things in young Henri’s life that might have influenced him. It is more speculative than factual biography, but would be a great way to get kids tinkling about what inspires artists and even writers. It end with this line

“Would it be a surprise that you became a fine painter who painted/ Light and Movement/ And the iridescence of birds?”

Fantastique, non? as a french reader might say. MacLachalan’s ponderings are beautifully enhanced by Hooper’s illustrations.

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What inspires you?

Read Aloud is My Superpower

21 Oct

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Read aloud is one of my favorite times of the school day. I’d forgotten that, not having had my own classroom for six years.  This year’s class is a handful. but they love read aloud too!  It is the one time there are no side conversations and my class LOVES to  have side conversations.

The first book I read to the this year was The Worm Whisperer  by Betty Hicks. I knew this class was special because they referred back to events and characters in it when we were talking about other things. One day, just before we left for a long weekend, I was talking to them about being sure not to forget their homework, which led to a discussion of having a regular homework time.We talked about how plans sometimes change on long weekends, so they should have their regular plan in place, but have a back up plan just in case. One student piped up and said “You shouldn’t be so rigid that you can;t break your own rules.”, or something to that effect. I asked where they learned that and they said, “From Ellis’ teacher in The Worm Whisperer.”  I was impressed.

We read Dear Mr. Henshaw next, which they loved, though they were a little hesitant to leave The Worm Whisperer  behind. A couple of kids have borrowed both of those books to reread them on their own.

Friday we started The Doll People by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin. I wanted a book with a strong female lead and was reminded of this one by the recent publication of the 4th book in the series. The boys were not impressed by the cover. Too girly. By the time I reached the family sing-along I had hooked them. The Doll Family was son gong from Greatest Hits of the Sixties. I think it was my own singing of  R-E-S-P-E-C-T, and particularly the “sock-it-to-me ” chorus that really grabbed their attention. Apparently they didn’t know the song, so I played it for them, doing some silly movements with my head and hands. Just as the song finished, the principal was doing a walk-through with the custodian and the fire marshall. We all had a good laugh at that.

I enjoy watching their faces move from skeptical as I begin a new book, to entranced when I’ve hooked them.  I think read aloud might be my superpower.

Courage

20 Oct

We are talking about Everyday Heroes in reading this days. The word courage has come up, as have many other characteristics. IN Courage for Beginners,  by Karen Harrington,

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twelve-year-old Mysti Murphy has a mom who has agoraphobia and a former best friend who has turned “hipster” and now treats her terribly. When her dad is hospitalized because of an accident she feels alone and as though she sis the on one keeping her family afloat. Then she meets Rama Khan, a 6th grader whose name sound like that of a Superhero,  at the “loser” lunch table. Mysti doesn’t like change, but with her friend Rama Khan by her side, she is able to face her fears and move on.

At first I was frustrated by Mysti’s acceptance of her ill-treatment by he reformer friend, Anibal. I wanted her to confront him, call him out for his bullying behavior. But that wouldn’t be true to her character. Almost 50 year lob me would do that, but I don;t think my 7th grade self would have done that either. Sometimes, it takes a while for a person to give up the hope that a friendship will go back to normal.

Everybody has fears they have to face. And it is courage that helps us do it.

What I’m reading now

17 Oct

I read more than one book at a time. I know a lot of people don’t, but I need something for whatever mood I’m in. And I always have an audiobook in the car and one on my laptop. Here’s what I’ll be reading, and I hope finishing, this weekend.

Have I mentioned lately how much I love Andrew Smith? Reading his 100 Sideways Miles is the perfect follow-up to Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future. 

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Goodreads Summary:Finn Easton sees the world through miles instead of minutes. It’s how he makes sense of the world, and how he tries to convince himself that he’s a real boy and not just a character in his father’s bestselling cult-classic book. Finn has two things going for him: his best friend, the possibly-insane-but-definitely-excellent Cade Hernandez, and Julia Bishop, the first girl he’s ever loved.

Then Julia moves away, and Finn is heartbroken. Feeling restless and trapped in the book, Finn embarks on a road trip with Cade to visit their college of choice in Oklahoma. When an unexpected accident happens and the boys become unlikely heroes, they take an eye-opening detour away from everything they thought they had planned—and learn how to write their own destiny.

100 Sideways Miles is definitely a YA book. I’m also reading The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer Holm, which is written for a middle grade audience.

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From the publisher:Eleven-year-old Ellie has never liked change. She misses fifth grade. She misses her old best friend. She even misses her dearly departed goldfish. Then one day a strange boy shows up. He’s bossy. He’s cranky. And weirdly enough . . . he looks a lot like Ellie’s grandfather, a scientist who’s always been slightly obsessed with immortality. Could this pimply boy really be Grandpa Melvin? Has he finally found the secret to eternal youth?

That doesn’t really capture the voice and wonderful manner in which Jennifer Holm resents scientific information. In spite of the publisher’s description, you should read this.

My other two reads are adult reads. That makes them sound naughty, but they are not, except that they both represent terrible things that happened as the 19th century turned into the 20th.

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I’ve been listening to An Officer and a Spy  by Robert Harris in the car and have 3 discs to go. It is a fictionalized account of the Dreyfus Affair from the point of view of Georges Picquart, who uncovered evidence to exonerate Dreyfuss and was persecuted by the French Military who tried to cover up their wrongdoings on the case. This has been an excellent book so far.

Finally, I’m reading the book about the origins of WWI that I got this summer while I was in Canada.

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The War That Ended Peace by Margaret MacMillan, runs almost 800 pages. I’m only on page 107, but this is a highly readable account of the years leading up to WW1.

Building and rebuilding

16 Oct

My school is slated to be demolished and rebuilt. This won’t happen for a few years because we are second on the list. In the meantime, my 4th grade team is using this as a writing opportunity. The kids have done some research about school facilities and are now on team building T-charts of pros and cons for the features they think should be included in the new building. They will present their arguments in teams and then all 4th graders will select a few ideas and write a persuasive letter to our principal to convince her to include the features they’ve chosen. Last year, we did a similar project with a different topic and tho kids were very impressed because the principal read and commented on each of their letters. That feedback was very meaningful to them.

For kids who are interested in building and contraction we have  The Story of Buildings, written by Patrick Dillon and illustrated by Stephen Biesty.

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The book takes a chronological look at buildings from pyramids to the Sydney Opera House. In the opening chapter Dillon describes how houses are, and have been, built. Subsequent chapters focus on particular buildings and their construction. There are lots of cool foldouts for those not ready to tackle the substantial text.

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For kids, or adults, interested in architecture, this book is worth picking up.

 

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