Hope on MLK Day

16 Jan 28446327

The snow that started falling Tuesday is still here. Four homeless people have died from exposure and last night, over 700 people took advantage of Multnomah County warming centers.

Weather forecasters have promised that today is the day we go above zero and the melting begins. I hope I get to go back to work tomorrow.

Today, I am reading Saving Red by Sonya Sones.


Publisher’s Summary:  Right before winter break, fourteen-year-old Molly Rosenberg reluctantly volunteers to participate in Santa Monica’s annual homeless count, just to get her school’s community service requirement out of the way. But when she ends up meeting Red, a spirited homeless girl only a few years older than she is, Molly makes it her mission to reunite her with her family in time for Christmas. This turns out to be extremely difficult—because Red refuses to talk about her past. There are things Molly won’t talk about either. Like the awful thing that happened last winter. She may never be ready to talk about that. Not to Red, or to Cristo, the soulful boy she meets while riding the Ferris wheel one afternoon.

When Molly realizes that the friends who Red keeps mentioning are nothing more than voices inside Red’s head, she becomes even more concerned about her well-being. How will Molly keep her safe until she can figure out a way to get Red home? In Sonya Sones’s latest novel, two girls, with much more in common than they realize, give each other a new perspective on the meaning of family, friendship, and forgiveness.

This is a novel in verse so I expect to finish it today. If it seems age appropriate, I might even book talk it tomorrow.

Teens in crisis

13 Jan

Another day off due to snow. Yes, the downside is that we will have to make them up in June. The upside is that I am well-rested. I have read a lot,  finished a knitting project, and my grading is complete and up to date.  Go me!

In one of the essays I graded, a reflective letter to an author for the Library of Congress’ Letters About Literature contest, a girl reflected on child abuse.

Ever since I was young, I have never presumed that child abuse was a real thing, that happened in day-to-day life. I always knew of the concept, and that some kids got slapped, or spanked, or smacked, but I never believed that anything as serious as what Carley experiences goes on.

She was writing about Linda Mullaly Hunt’s  One For the Murphys. 


Those are the words of a 12-year-old, but it gets to the heart of the matter. Family violence is a secret hidden by its victims.

A. S. King delves into this in her latest novel, Still Life With Tornado.


Publisher’s Summary:Sixteen-year-old Sarah can’t draw. This is a problem, because as long as she can remember, she has “done the art.” She thinks she’s having an existential crisis. And she might be right; she does keep running into past and future versions of herself as she wanders the urban ruins of Philadelphia. Or maybe she’s finally waking up to the tornado that is her family, the tornado that six years ago sent her once-beloved older brother flying across the country for a reason she can’t quite recall. After decades of staying together “for the kids” and building a family on a foundation of lies and domestic violence, Sarah’s parents have reached the end. Now Sarah must come to grips with years spent sleepwalking in the ruins of their toxic marriage. As Sarah herself often observes, nothing about her pain is remotely original—and yet it still hurts.

I am an unabashed A. S. King fan, and I think this one is brilliant.

2017 Oregon Book Award finalists

12 Jan

The 2017 Oregon Book Award finalists were announced this week.


The Oregon Book Award winners will be announced at the 30th annual Oregon Book Awards ceremony on Monday, April 24 at the Gerding Theater at the Armory. You can read the complete list of finalists here. The Children’s & YA Lit finalists are listed below.

Judge: Mac Barnett



Kate Berube of Portland, Hannah and Sugar (Abrams Books for Young Readers)






Cathy Camper of Portland, Lowriders to the Center of the Earth (Chronicle Books)







Deborah Hopkinson of West Linn, Steamboat School (Disney * Hyperion)







Kathleen Lane of Portland, The Best Worst Thing (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)








Cynthia Rylant of Portland, The Otter (Beach Lane Books)







Judge: Malinda Lo



Deborah Hopkinson of West Linn, Courage & Defiance: Stories of Spies, Saboteurs, and Survivors in World War II Denmark (Scholastic)




Amber J. Keyser of Bend, The Way Back from Broken (Carolrhoda LAB)








David Levine of Portland, Arabella of Mars (Tor)






Eliot Treichel of Eugene, A Series of Small Maneuvers (Ooligan Press)

Another snowy day

11 Jan

I started kindergarten in 1969. I have few memories about it, but this I have are very clear. One of those memories is encountering Ezra Jack Keats’ The Snowy Day.


The book spoke to introverted little me, who loved making snow angels.

So, here I am, almost 50 years later, sitting at home after a huge snowfall in Portland, enjoying our 6th snow day of the school year. And I read Andrea Davis Pinkney’s  A Poem for Peter,  which tells the  Ezra Jack Keats biography, focusing on how he created The Snowy Day.


It is a beautiful, poetic tribute to a man and a book. And the perfect thing to read on this snowy day. Pinkney’s poetry fits Portland today:

But when it snowed,

oh, when it snowed!

Nature’s glittery hand

painted the world’s walls a brighter shade.

She connects snow to equality.

Snow made opportunity and equality

seem right around the corner.

Snow doesn’t know who’s needy or dirty

or greedy or nice.

Snow doesn’t choose where to fall.

Snow doesn’t pick a wealthy man’s doorstep

over a poor lady’s stoop.

That’s Snow’s magic.

Snow is magical and it is especially so for children. I hope kids of all ages  in Portland get out and enjoy the snow today. Play, throw snowballs, make snow angels.

But be a snow angel in another way, if you can. Four homeless people have died of exposure in Portland in the last 10 days. Think about them, too. Act if you can. Donate if you can’t act. But do something to help the homeless feel that the snow brings Magic to them, too.

Walking on thin ice

10 Jan

Yet another ice storm. Sigh.

Yet another day off school. Don’t get me wrong, I like a “snow day” as much as the next teacher, but we’ve had so many lately things feel disjointed. The educational flow has been interrupted.

Ice presents particular difficulties that snow does not. Taking Lucy out for a potty break suddenly becomes treacherous. One of my condominium neighbors diligently shovels the sidewalk and  spreads de-icer, but Lucy sometimes likes to venture into uncleared territory. During the last two storms, I just went outside with my cane. There was enough snow under the ice that I could get a firm foothold. But this weekend’s storm was different: more ice than snow. As I looked at the glassy surface out my back door, I worried.


Sometime last week, though, I’d read a knitting blog post in which the knitter talked about her two-towel strategy for walking on ice.

  1. Lay a towel
  2. Step on it.
  3. Lay another towel in the direction you want to go.
  4. Step on the second towel.
  5. Pick up the first towel.
  6. Repeat.

What did I have to lose? So, I tried it.


Although progress was slow, it worked.

After coming in, I wondered how to speed up the process and walk more efficiently. Could I tie tea towels to my feet and walk? I gave it a try.


With tea towels on my feet, I could walk faster, but ice accumulated on the soles of my feet.

Neither option is perfect, but they certainly gave me the opportunity to learn a little something as I worked through the engineering design process. And I am now wondering if I could adapt this to icy conditions…





Wintery weekend reads

9 Jan img_2274


Another wintery weekend in Oregon. The snow starred falling around 11 Saturday morning and eventually turned to ice with freezing rain falling Saturday. I wasn’t as creatively productive as the Unipiper, who shoveled while he played.

Even so, I had my own accomplishments.

I’ve been listening to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in the car. Knowing bad weather was on the way, I brought the box in with me Friday afternoon and finished listening to it while i worked on my knitting.


The book is quite a bit different from the movie. Some subplots and details have been left out handsome were radically altered for the movie. I feel bad for Cho, who got rough treatment in the movie. She comes out much better in the book, where she does not give up Dumbledore’s Army under the influence of Veritaserum.

I finished two books: Morris Award Finalist Rani Patel in Full Effect by Sonia Patel.


Publisher’s Summary:When Rani’s father leaves her mother for another woman, Rani shaves her head in mourning. The visibility of her act of rebellion propels her onto the stage as a hip-hop performer and into a romantic relationship with a man who is much older. The whirlwind romance, coming on the heels of her father’s abandonment, make her begin to understand how her father’s sexual abuse wounded her in deeper ways than she, or her mother, have ever been able to acknowledge.

Meanwhile, she seeks solace in making lyrics and performing as well as in her boyfriend’s arms. Rani’s friends warn her about him but she fails to listen, feeling as though she finally has something and somebody that makes her feel good about herself—not recognizing that her own talent in hip-hop makes her feel secure, smart, and confident in ways her boyfriend does not. Indeed, as the relationship continues, Rani discovers her boyfriend’s drug use and falls victim to his abuse. Losing herself just as she finds herself, Rani discovers her need to speak out against those who would silence her—no matter the personal danger it leads her into.

This was the last Morris finalist I had to read.

Then, I finished one of the YALSA Nonfiction finalists,  This Land is Our Land: A History of American Immigration  by Linda Barrett Osborne.Unknown-1.jpeg

Publisher’s Summary: American attitudes toward immigrants are paradoxical. On the one hand, we see our country as a haven for the poor and oppressed; anyone, no matter his or her background, can find freedom here and achieve the “American Dream.” On the other hand, depending on prevailing economic conditions, fluctuating feelings about race and ethnicity, and fear of foreign political and labor agitation, we set boundaries and restrictions on who may come to this country and whether they may stay as citizens. This book explores the way government policy and popular responses to immigrant groups evolved throughout U.S. history, particularly between 1800 and 1965. The book concludes with a summary of events up to contemporary times, as immigration again becomes a hot-button issue. Includes an author’s note, bibliography, and index.

When I finished that I finally picked up Legh Bardugo’s Crooked Kingdom,  which I got a while ago.


Even though it has been a while since I finished Six of Crows, I found myself quickly immersed in the world of the Dregs. I’m not very far in, but I am enjoying it.

Two book talks and a field trip

8 Jan

I only managed two book talks this week. It was a four-day week because of Monday’s observance of the New Year.

On Tuesday I book-talked The Glass Sentence by S. E. Grove.


I chose this as my first book-talk of the new year because of its ideas about time and  The Great Disruption, which we experienced with Snowmageddon.

On Wednesday, I book-talked Arabella of Mars by Davide Levine.


There were no book talks Thursday or Friday because each day half of our 6th graders went on a field trip to Mercy Corps.  Their international headquarters is in Portland and their mission, to

Alleviate sufferingpoverty and oppression by helping people build secureproductive and just communities

ties in nicely with our model UN unit, the book clubs we just finished, and our writing unit on teen activism.

We met in the Action Center, which you can drop in and visit Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.


The lobby has displays and information about the work they do around the world.

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The kids learned about Mercy Corps and then were taken into a discussion where they had to think about how they use electricity and how certain aspects of life would be different without electricity. Then, they were actively engaged in trying to accomplish a series of tasks ( collect water & firewood, cook, go to school, etc) . Each group was assigned a country and, based on this, their tasks were easier or harder.  Friday’s “Haiti” group moaned loudly about how unfair the process was because other groups had advantages they didn’t. They were actively engaged and got the point of the simulation!

Teaching Thinking

It's what our world needs now.


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A blog about children's & YA lit, with some basset news thrown in

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