Canine humor

24 May

I own a ridiculous number of basset hound t-shirts, almost a dozen, and they are all pretty funny.

Dave Coverly’s collection of cartoons, Dogs Are People, Too,  is also very funny.


It contain photos and brief tributes to the cartoonist’s own canine companions, but it features hilarious cartoons that show dogs doing what they do best. I also saw myself in several of the cartoons. The age range given is “10-13, adult”.

The end of the school year is busy and stressful. This laugh out loud collection was a great light-hearted read and I laughed out loud at some of the cartoons, even getting a bit of stink eye from Lucy when I woke her up. She doesn’t enjoy being woken up.

I was a big fan of the Herman cartoon strip, drawn by Jim Unger, from the mid 70’s to the early 90’s. Dave Coverly’s humor reminds me a lot of Unger’s. If you enjoy that sort of humor too, you will certainly enjoy Coverly’s book.

You can’t rush creativity

21 May

You can’t rush creativity, but sometimes, teachers have to help our charges get their creativity to meet a deadline. Our inventions have to be built today, so we can spend next week working on poster boards. That’s what I’m telling the kids. The Science Expo is June 2nd. If they stick to that deadline, we’ll be ready 2 days early. Most will make it. Some will need this two buffer days.

P. Zonka is also a creative genius who cannot be rushed.


She is the heroine of P. Zonka Lays an Egg by Julie Paschkis. All the chickens on the farm are regular reliable egg-layers.


Except for P. Zonka. All the other chickens have theories as to why this is so. She wanders too much. She’s a dreamer. Although she’s never laid an egg, P. Zonka knows she’d be good at it. When she explains why the other chickens say, “I don’t get it.” But P. Zonka remains undaunted, and when she finally lays her egg, after some encouragement from the other chickens, it is spectacular.


Julie Paschkis’ illustrations are beautiful and evoke the pysanka (Ukranian Easter eggs) that inspired this story.

I hope the kids I’ve been nagging, doubting and theorizing about produce an invention as spectacular as P. Zonka’s.

You can’t rush creativity, but you can certainly encourage it.

Wednesday, Thursday, Friday!

19 May


We are part of a fresh fruit & vegetable program (FFVP for short) on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Last week,  our lunch lady sent the staff an e-mail letting us know that she would be at a different school Tuesday, due to a shortage of lunch ladies in the district. Because of this, the FFVP would be on Wednesday, thursday and Friday instead. One of  the class job is “Snack Helper”. Snack helpers go to the cafeteria to pick up the snack, then serve it to their peers. It is one of the kids’ favorite jobs.

Knowing this, I put a note on the board Tuesday morning:

No Snack today

W, Th, F instead

When the kids came in, the were in a tizzy. Someone called put “OMG look what Miss G. out on the board.” What I clearly saw as Wednesday, Thursday, Friday,  they kids saw as WTF, the short form of “What the @#$%”.

I was shocked that they would see that, but couldn’t help laughing. I fixed the board and told my colleagues that from now on, if they hear me say “Wednesday, Thursday, Friday”, I mean WTF.

Detective Duos

18 May

First there was Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

Then, we had Mike Stone (Karl Malden) and Steve Keller (Michael Douglas) in The Streets of San Francisco. If you mashed up Stone & Keller with Frog & Toad, you’d have  Detective Gordon and Buffy, the heroes of  Detective Gordon: The First Case written by Ulf Nilsson and illustrated by Gitte Spee


Detective Gordon is an aging detective, fond of cakes, and prone to falling asleep. Buffy is his new assistant, eager and anxious to get out the pistol. They are working together to solve the mystery of the nuts that are disappearing all over the forest. Detective Gordon, though getting older, has learned important lessons.

I was a little concerned at first with the pistol that was locked in the cabinet. Buffy keeps asking if they are going to use it. Detective Gordon keeps telling her “no”. Finally, he explains,

“To take the pistol one must be very wise and very careful. It’s dangerous.”

Buffy jumped up and down angrily. The thieves were disappearing between the trees. But she badly wanted to have the pistol.

She would have it.

“But you are very wise and very careful, chief.”

Detective Gordon held up his finger. He had something very important to say.

“The one who is really wise and very careful doesn’t take it with him!” said the detective. “It’s dangerous.”

Far, far away, they could hear the thieves laughing. But Buffy wouldn’t give up.

“Why is it in the glass cabinet then? Why don;t you throw it away?”

“In case someone finds it and hurts themselves. It is safest locked up in the police station.”

The entire book is full of philosophical conversations like that. But what makes me really love the book is the stamp.

Screen Shot 2015-05-17 at 6.21.05 PM

Every paper the detective duo write on requires an official stamp. The stamp they use has a crown in the center, through Detective Gordon doesn’t really know why “but it seemed powerful and no one had questioned it”. It makes a satisfying KLA-DUNK sound and that is good enough.

This is a charming  book for readers just venturing into chapter books.


17 May


Donalyn Miller has a wonderful post today about books entitled All Who Wander. In it she talks about how books took her places as a kid, moving and her TBR piles. TBR stands for to-be-read.  She is moving and has 12 BOXES of TBRs!

I am going to confess my dirty little TBR secret. I abuse the Multnomah County Library rather shamelessly. I have two library cards: a regular one and a teacher card. The teacher card is like a ticket to heaven. On a regular card you check things out for 3 weeks and can have 15 holds.  On a teacher card you can check things out for 6 weeks and have 40 holds. My holds are always maxed, which is no sin. My dirty secret is this: I check things out and they sit on my shelf for 6 weeks and then I renew them until I cannot renew them any more. or until I finally get around to reading them.

I feel a little guilty about this. I know somewhere in the stacks of a  Multnomah County Library branch, someone might stumble upon a book that should be off my TBR shelf and on to the library’s shelves. Yes, I am keeping someone from discover the treasure I am hoarding. But I can’t help myself.

Ranganathan’s  laws of library science state that

  1. Books are for use.
  2. Every reader his [or her] book.
  3. Every book its reader.
  4. Save the time of the reader.
  5. The library is a growing organism.

By cultivating and maintaining my TBR pile, I am violating the first three of the laws. But I don’t feel guilty enough to stop. And besides. summer is coming. There are only 4 weeks of school left and once that is here, I plan on devouring all the books I can.




14 May

Yesterday, while walking the dogs, a Northern Flicker hopped across the sidewalk less than a meter in front of the girls. The girls, attentively sniffing the grass, barely noticed, but I marveled.


I marveled, too, reading  Fire Birds:  Valuing Natural Wildfires and Burned Forests by Sneed B. Collard.


The photographs captured my attention first, as I saw this book sitting on the shelf of my local public library. Full page photos of fire scenes contrast with close-ups of the birds who help rebuild the forest after the fire.

The opening chapter, “Inferno!”, quickly drew me in. Written in the present tense, it describes a forest fire from the initial strike of lightning to the vast wasteland left behind. It suggests that the forest might not be quite as devastated as it seems. The chapters that follow explain how birds use burn areas. We learn that more than fifteen kinds of birds prefer to nest in burned forests. Here they can find an abundance of food and places for shelter, often in the absence of predators.

 Fire Birds explores the complex  life of a forest after a fire. It contains many features of non-fiction that can be used as models with students including a powerful introduction, a table of contents, index, glossary, text boxes featuring different birds, and interesting headings.

It’s finally here!

13 May

There aren’t a lot of good books about knitting. Oh, there are fantastic pattern and history books, but the quality of novels on a knitting theme is, at best, mediocre.

I have been anxiously awaiting this book, which I first heard  about last year,  Boys Don’t Knit (in Public)  Bu T.S. Easton.


Goodreads Summary:Ben Fletcher must get to grips with his more ‘feminine’ side following an unfortunate incident with a lollipop lady and a stolen bottle of Martini Rosso from Waitrose. All a big misunderstanding of course.

To avoid the Young Offenders unit, Ben is ordered to give something back to the community and develop his sense of social alignment. Take up a hobby and keep on the straight and narrow. The hot teacher he likes runs a knitting group so Ben, reluctantly at first, gets ‘stuck in’. Not easy when your dad is a sports fan and thinks Jeremy Clarkson is God. To his surprise, Ben finds that he likes knitting and that he has a mean competitive streak. If he can just keep it all a secret from his mates…and notice that the girl of his dreams, girl-next-door Megan Hooper has a bit of a thing for him…

The book was first published in the UK, where the cover was much brighter


The library finally got a copy and I am planning on spending much of my weekend deep within its pages.


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