Traffic Cop

3 May

Growing up, we had a piano, but lived in a town with no piano teacher. My dad bought us some books and lately I’ve been thinking about one of the songs from that red John Thompson’s First Grade Book.

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The simple song goes like this:

Traffic Go, Traffic Stop!
All must heed the Traffic Cop!
When I’m grown, I shall be
Just as fine a cop as he!

It goes through my head everyday as I do the duty I signed up for this month at school. My job is to move cars along as parents drop their students off in the morning. It is, perhaps, the most fun duty I have ever had.

I love waving the cars along, especially the ones that want to drop their children right at the front door, holding up the giant queue behind them. I really want a set of the red signal cones that they use at the airport to guide the planes taxiing in and out of the gates.  I love urging the BMWs, and especially the Jaguar, to “Move along!” I feel so powerful.  I feel sad for the kids who get out of cars that smell like cigarettes and wonder, did my clothes reek of smoke as a kid?

What I especially like are the snippets of conversation I hear as kids get dropped off.

“Love you!”

“Why are you mad at me?”

“Don’t forget…bus this afternoon.”

It gives just a little more insight into the lives of the kids at my school and a nice reminder of just how young they are.

 

A Year in Poems

2 May

There are many seasonal poetry books, but When Green Becomes Tomatoes written by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Julie Morstad is well worth your while.

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It opens in Spring, on March 20 to be precise, “balancing gently/ on the tip of spring”.  This

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opening poem sets the tone for a book of poems that is introspective and wondering in a way that children can be. The book also has poems that are whimsically funny.

The book closes with Winter.

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The final poem is also set on March 20 at the end of Winter, “balancing gently/ on the tip of spring”. The language of these poems, combined with Morstad’s illustrations, makes this a must read. And it might even become the inspiration for tiny writers to begin writing their own collection of seasonal poems.

Celebrating

1 May

My stomach was knot most of Friday mooring as I awaited the announcement of the ALSC elections. I was one of ten people on the ballot for the 2018 Robert F Sibert Informational Book Award, but only five of us would be elected. When the e-mail arrived, I took a deep breath before opening it.

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Dear Adrienne,

Congratulations upon your election to the 2018 (Robert F.) Sibert Award Selection Committee!

A copy of the election results will be posted at the end of business today. Your term of appointment will begin with the adjournment of the ALA 2016 Annual Conference in Orlando, FL and ends with the adjournment of the 2018 Annual Conference in New Orleans, LA. You will be receiving a letter from the ALSC office with your official paperwork.  Again, congratulations!

Thank you,

Courtney

I squealed quietly (I was at work, after all) and went next door to tell my teaching partner my good news.

For now, I just get to bask in the celebratory glow that is enveloping me. My term doesn’t officially begin until July 1st. My job will be to read as many informational (non-fiction) books with a 2017 publication date. It means I will have to go to conferences in Atlanta in January 2017, Chicago in June 2017, Denver in February 2018 and New Orleans  in June 2018.

 

Fiction/Nonfiction Pairing: The Great War

29 Apr

I’ve had the First World War on my mind since before the 100th anniversary of its start, almost two years ago. Quite a bit was done and written in the months just before August 2014, and there have been trickles since. This week, I’ve become enamored of a delightful pair of books that look at the Great War through a literary lens.

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The Great War: Stories Inspired by Items from the First World War is a collection of modern stories, written by an amazing array of  contemporary YA authors (David Almond, Michael Morpurgo, John Boyne, AL Kennedy, Marcus Sedgewick, Adele Geras,Tracy Chevalier, Frank Cottrell Boyce, Sheena Wilkinson, Ursula Dubrovsky, Timothee de Fombelle) and illustrated by Jim Kay.

Publisher’s Summary:A toy soldier. A butter dish. A compass. Mundane objects, perhaps, but to the remarkable authors in this collection, artifacts such as these have inspired stories that go to the heart of the human experience of World War I. Each author was invited to choose an object that had a connection to the war—a writing kit for David Almond, a helmet for Michael Morpurgo—and use it as the inspiration for an original short story. What results is an extraordinary collection, illustrated throughout by award-winning Jim Kay and featuring photographs of the objects with accounts of their history and the authors’ reasons for selecting them. This unique anthology provides young readers with a personal window into the Great War and the people affected by it, and serves as an invaluable resource for families and teachers alike.

In a powerful collection, eleven internationally acclaimed writers draw on personal objects to bring the First World War to life for readers young and old.
That collection of short stories would pair nicely with this collection of biographies of 12 men and three women, who participated in the First World War, and who later gained fame in other ways.
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In the Fields and Trenches:The Famous and the Forgotten on the Battlefields of World War I is written by Kerrie Logan Hollihan and published by the Chicago Review Press.
Publisher’s Summary: When it started, many thought the Great War would be a great adventure. Yet, as those who saw it up close learned, it was anything but. In the Fields and the Trenches traces the stories of eighteen young idealists swept into the brutal conflict, many of whom would go on to become well-known 20th-century figures in film, science, politics, literature, and business. Writer J. R. R. Tolkien was a signals officer with the British Expeditionary Force and fought at the Battle of the Somme. Scientist Irène Curie helped her mother, Marie, run twenty X-ray units for French field hospitals. Actor Buster Keaton left Hollywood after being drafted into the army’s 40th Infantry Division. And all four of Theodore Roosevelt’s sons—Kermit, Archibald, Quentin, and Theodore III—and his daughter Ethel served in Europe, though one did not return.In the Fields and the Trenches chronicles the lives of heroes, cowards, comics, and villains—some famous, some not—who participated in this life-changing event. Extensive original material, from letters sent from the front to personal journals, brings these men and women back to life. And though their stories are a century old, they convey modern, universal themes of love, death, power, greed, courage, hate, fear, family, friendship, and sacrifice.
Together, these two books give readers a glimpse into the impact of The Great war on ordinary lives.

A Friday Surprise…on Wednesday

27 Apr

One of the arcs I picked up at ALA Midwinter in January was this

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My Name is Not Friday by Jon Walter, is the tale of a Samuel, born in freedom, but, by a twist of fate is kidnapped and sold into slavery, just as the Civil War is ending.

Goodreads Summary: ‘This boy has bought me. This white boy who don’t even look as old as I am. He owns me body and soul and my worth has been set at six hundred dollars.’

Samuel’s an educated boy. Been taught by a priest. He was never supposed to be a slave.
He’s a good boy too, thoughtful and kind. The type of boy who’d take the blame for something he didn’t do if it meant he saved his brother. So now they don’t call him Samuel. Not anymore. And the sound of guns is getting ever closer…

An extraordinary tale of endurance and hope, Jon Walter’s second novel is a beautiful and moving story about the power of belief and the strength of the human spirit, set against the terrifying backdrop of the American Civil War.

This is great read for middle grade kids for a number of reasons. First, it tackles slavery and, though it doesn’t show the worst aspects, it shows many horrible aspects of it. It shows the power of reading and the power of  faith without being preachy. I will say that the opening, which begins with a blind-folded Samuel being carried off to be sold into slavery, is a little confusing. Walter opens with a classic “start in the middle” strategy that might turn off a reader. Once they are in through, readers will find Samuel a reliable narrator and a good friend.

Impact

26 Apr

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I volunteered for the committee because it sounded like a bit of fun. All we had to do was read over the scholarship applications and decide how to divvy up the $5500.00. Piece of cake.

The five committee members met at a cafe. After getting our beverages,a few snacks, and engaging in some chit chat, we got to work, each pulling one of the 15 applications.

“Remember,” we were reminded by our chair,”The person for whom the scholarship is named was a very active volunteer. We are looking for kids who have not merely volunteered, but who can articulate how their volunteerism has impacted their lives.”

As I read through the first one, I was caught a little off guard. I was getting weepy. I looked around the table. All five of us were glassy-eyed. I think we all had the same realization at the same time. This might be a more meaningful task than we could ever have anticipated.The second application had a similar effect.

After each application had been read by two volunteers the conversations began. We shared the ones that touched us most deeply. These were kids who not only volunteered, but developed a passion for their volunteerism. Some wrote about how they were surprised by this. Some wrote about how they learned about themselves, or faced their fears. It was hard work deciding how to split the money, but we tried to give as many of these passionate teens something. I think, in many ways, reading the applications will have more impact on me than the $500 or $1000 they’ll receive will have on them.

 

 

 

Canada Reads 2016

25 Apr

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Every year since 2002, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation organizes Canada Reads, a ‘battle of the books” style competition to select a book everyone should read. This year’s winner is The Illegal by Lawrence Hill.

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Publisher’s Summary: Keita Ali is on the run.

Like every boy on the mountainous island of Zantoroland, running is all Keita’s ever wanted to do. In one of the poorest nations in the world, running means respect. Running means riches—until Keita is targeted for his father’s outspoken political views and discovers he must run for his family’s survival.

He signs on with notorious marathon agent Anton Hamm, but when Keita fails to place among the top finishers in his first race, he escapes into Freedom State—a wealthy island nation that has elected a government bent on deporting the refugees living within its borders in the community of AfricTown. Keita can stay safe only if he keeps moving and eludes Hamm and the officials who would deport him to his own country, where he would face almost certain death.

This is the new underground: a place where tens of thousands of people deemed to be “illegal” live below the radar of the police and government officials. As Keita surfaces from time to time to earn cash prizes by running local road races, he has to assess whether the people he meets are friends or enemies: John Falconer, a gifted student struggling to escape the limits of his AfricTown upbringing; Ivernia Beech, a spirited old woman at risk of being forced into an assisted living facility; Rocco Calder, a recreational marathoner and the immigration minister; Lula DiStefano, self-declared queen of AfricTown and madam of the community’s infamous brothel; and Viola Hill, a reporter who is investigating the lengths to which her government will go to stop illegal immigration.

Keita’s very existence in Freedom State is illegal. As he trains in secret, eluding capture, the stakes keep getting higher. Soon, he is running not only for his life, but for his sister’s life, too.

Fast moving and compelling, The Illegal casts a satirical eye on people who have turned their backs on undocumented refugees struggling to survive in a nation that does not want them. Hill’s depiction of life on the borderlands of society urges us to consider the plight of the unseen and the forgotten who live among us.

Set in 2018 in fictional countries, The Illegal is timely, but tells a story as old as time. The writing is fast paced, just like Keita’s running pace, and you can’t help but like him. Although he is the main character, the stories of several other characters help tell Keita’s story and add to to the complexity of the novel. A few things I expected to happen did, but there were a few surprises, too.

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