A Magical Place

25 May

Recently, tired and ready for summer break, a student asked me the point of learning, school and the whole pursuit of academics. I answered his question the best that I could.

In Elise Primavera’s Ms. Rapscott’s Girls, the eponymous students at Great Rapscott School for the Daughters of Busy Parents often wonder the point of her lessons in Getting Lost on Purpose.

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Publisher’s Summary:  Fans of Mary Poppins will love this whimsical tale of a boarding school for children of very busy parents, where an extraordinary headmistress teaches them life lessons about courage, adventure, friendship . . . and the importance of birthday cake.

This is a quirky story is an excellent book for 2nd & 3rd graders ready for chapter books, Delightful and ridiculous, it might be too sweet for adults, but it is just right for girls with a sense of whimsy.

Reflecting on my OLW

23 May

My One Little Word for 2017 is

stretch

Have I stretched myself? At first glance, I think not. I feel as though I’ve just been rolling along. But with deeper reflection, I can say I have:

  • I’ve pressed myself as a teacher of writing, trying new moves
  • I’ve tried out some new organizational strategies to be sure I conference with everyone
  • I finally joined a book group
  • I am trying to keep a writer’s notebook (still a work in progress)

There are a few other smaller ways I’ve stretched myself, but these are the most significant. The is still more than half a year to go. I can keep working on these and, maybe even stretch myself in other ways I haven’t thought of yet.

My OLW hasn’t made me a new person – that wasn’t my goal. But I feel like I have stretched enough to grow.

I hab a liddle toad

22 May

I woke up Friday morning in Hood River with a sore throat, the kind you get from post nasal drip. I was a little congested all weekend and felt worst Sunday morning, though I had a bad sleep last night.I medicated myself with decongestants and Emergen-C.

Little Louie, the main character of  Bob, Not Bob,  by Liz Garton Scanlon and Avery Vernick also has a cold, but he needs his Mom’s help. Unfortunately every time he calls her, his dog, Bob comes running.

bobnotbob

This is a great book to read aloud, with the voice of someone with a really bad cold. This could just be a silly book, but it is also a heartwarming read.

 

This week’s booktalks 5/15 – 5/18

18 May

Only one five day week until the end of the school year!!!

Here are the four books I booktalked this week:

MONDAY

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Author’s Website Summary: Mia Chen is on what her mother calls a Grand Adventure. She’s not sure what to make of this family trip to China, and didn’t want to leave her friends for the summer, but she’s excited about the prospect of exploring with her Aunt Lin, the only adult who truly understands her.

Then Aunt Lin disappears, right after her old nemesis, a man named Ying, comes to visit. Mia knows that years ago, when Aunt Lin and Ying were sent to the Fuzhou countryside to work as laborers, the two searched for an ancient treasure together–one that still hasn’t been found. She’s suspicious that their shared history might be linked to Aunt Lin’s disappearance.

When Mia discovers an old map filled with riddles in Aunt Lin’s room, she quickly pieces together her mission: find the treasure, find her aunt. Now, Mia, along with her big brother, Jake, must solve the clues to rescue the person she knows best in the world—and maybe unearth a treasure greater than her wildest dreams.

TUESDAY

Planet Jupiter revised cover B

Author’s Website Summary: Jupiter and her family have spent their lives on the road, moving from town to town in a trusty old van, making do, and earning their living busking for tourists. But when their van breaks down, Jupiter’s mother rents an actual house in Portland for the summer so that Jupiter’s annoying cousin Edom, recently adopted from Ethiopia, can stay with them. Luckily, Edom doesn’t want to be in Portland any more than Jupiter wants her there, and the two hatch a plan to send Edom back to her mother. In the process, Jupiter learns that community — and family — aren’t always what you expect them to be.

 

WEDNESDAY

Nightdivided_XLG

Author’s Website Summary: With the rise of the Berlin Wall, twelve-year-old Gerta finds her family divided overnight. She, her mother, and her brother Fritz live on the eastern side, controlled by the Soviets. Her father and middle brother, who had gone west in search of work, cannot return home. Gerta knows it is dangerous to watch the wall, to think forbidden thoughts of freedom, yet she can’t help herself. She sees the East German soldiers with their guns trained on their own citizens; she, her family, her neighbors and friends are prisoners in their own city.


But one day, while on her way to school, Gerta spots her father on a viewing platform on the western side, pantomiming a peculiar dance. Then, when she receives a mysterious drawing, Gerta puts two and two together and concludes that her father wants Gerta and Fritz to tunnel beneath the wall, out of East Berlin. However, if they are caught, the consequences will be deadly. No one can be trusted. Will Gerta and her family find their way to freedom?

THURSDAY

Author’s Website Summary: The_Unwanteds_book_coverEvery year in Quill, thirteen-year-olds are sorted into categories: the strong, intelligent Wanteds go to university, and the artistic Unwanteds are sent to their graves.

On the day of the Purge, identical twins Alex and Aaron Stowe await their fate. While Aaron is hopeful of becoming a Wanted, Alex knows his chances are slim. He’s been caught drawing with a stick in the dirt-and in the stark gray land of Quill, being creative is a death sentence.

But when Alex and the other Unwanteds face the Eliminators, they discover an eccentric magician named Mr. Today and his hidden world that exists to save the condemned children. Artimé is a colorful place of talking statues, uncommon creatures, and artistic magic, where creativity is considered a gift… and a weapon.

Not counting down

16 May

I’m not counting down to the end of the year yet.

Really.

There are six weeks of school left. It would be absurd to start counting down now.

But my brain can’t help it. It looks for patterns and makes connections. When my last morning traffic direction duty ended two weeks ago, my brain noted that I could check it  off my list of things that I finished for the year. And so it began.

Here, then, are the end of the year stats I have been thinking about lately, looking down from 10,000 feet.

Six weeks of school left

Only one five day week of school to go

Four more Mondays

Two more Fridays

One more staff meeting

Three more PLT meetings

Two SBAC tests

12 more Enrichment classes to teach

25 more days of school

slice-of-life_individual

Lovely Louies

15 May

My Louie loved everyone.

Louie-Just_being Louie

A cat once followed us home from the park. Fiona wanted to attack but Louie didn’t bat an eye. He was just that kind of guy. Needless to say, in the cat’s best interest, I did not invite it into the house.

Just like my Louie did, the eponymous Louie of Tony Fucile’s Poor Louie has a great life.

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Publisher’s Summary:Louie’s life is great! A walk on the leash every morning, ice cream on Sundays, snuggling in bed at night with Mom and Dad. Even the playdates with Mom’s friends — despite their little crawling creatures who pull Louie’s ears — aren’t all that bad. But then things get weird: cold food on the floor, no room in the bed, and lots of new stuff coming into the house in pairs — two small beds, two little sweaters, two seats in the stroller. Does that bode double trouble ahead, or could there be a happier surprise in store for Louie? With perfect visual pacing, Tony Fucile takes a familiar story and gives it a comic spin.

The expressive cartoon artwork takes and comic look at how childless people (like me) anthropomorphize their dogs , and at the the arrival of a new sibling.  This would be a great book to share with children about to be displaced by a new baby, or a childless couple who’s pet is about to be relegated to the floor, just like Poor Louie.

Fortunately, the ending provides an excellent solution to Poor Louie’s dilemma.

Jane Kurtz’s Planet Jupiter Blog Tour

13 May

The sign on the Music Millennium store near my house says it all:

Music_Millennium_store_and_-Keep_Portland_Weird-_sign_(2015)

Jane Kurtz’s new book, Planet Jupiter,  celebrates Portland’s weirdness while telling a beautiful middle grade story of family and belonging.

Planet Jupiter revised cover B

Author’s Summary: Jupiter and her family have spent their lives on the road, moving from town to town in a trusty old van, making do, and earning their living busking for tourists. But when their van breaks down, Jupiter’s mother rents an actual house in Portland for the summer so that Jupiter’s annoying cousin Edom, recently adopted from Ethiopia, can stay with them. Luckily, Edom doesn’t want to be in Portland any more than Jupiter wants her there, and the two hatch a plan to send Edom back to her mother. In the process, Jupiter learns that community — and family — aren’t always what you expect them to be.

Clearly, Kurtz’s depiction of Portland is one of the things I love. She captures the farmer’s market culture and all of the quirkiness of this city I call home. But there are other things that make this an excellent middle grade read.

The fact that Jupiter and her brother, Orion, are named after celestial bodies might seem contrived, but it is very Portland – I have neighbors who named their children after various species of trees! But Kurtz uses the names effectively and weaves celestial metaphors throughout her writing. This is the sort of thing I love pointing out to my students!

Jupiter’s fear of change and her desire to help Edom leave are like a snapshot of how Americans feel about refugees and immigrants generally. Fear of the other, fear of change are overcome when we have the opportunity to get to know people.

showing lily

 

Jane Kurtz is celebrating the release of her new book, Planet Jupiter, with an event May 16, 2017, at 7pm at Annie Bloom’s Books in Portland. Honoring the theme of music and busking in the book, she will be joined by special musical guests Colette and Madelaine Parry.

I hope to see you there!

 

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