Setting up the new classroom – A Slice of Life Story

1 Sep

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I went back to work officially yesterday, but I’ve been at work for the last two weeks.

last weeks I started the great unpacking of the 19 boxes that my school district moved for me. This was the first time I had ever let someone else move my school stuff. When I entered my room last week to start the unpacking process, my boxes were neatly stacked in the corner. I let out a huge sigh of relief.

The first step was arranging the tables and chairs in groups and deciding where my classroom meeting area should be. Once those were established I could decide where my desk would go. As I was setting up my desk area, the science teacher on my team came in and laughed, “Now we have 4 fridges and 5 microwaves on the team, but no one ever wants to use my fridge.”

Unpacking the boxes is still a work in progress. Last year, because I changed jobs so late, most of my books stayed in boxes. This year, I wanted to be better organized and I’ve been sorting through my books, grouping them and putting them in tubs. I can’t access a printer yet, so the labels for the tubs have yet to come.

When I started this process,  all six tables were covered. I have reduced the chaos to one table and there are still 4 work days before school starts.

I had a fitful sleep last night, school thoughts whirling in my head. I have a lot yet to learn about the things I will be teaching, but I am confident that my room will be ready on Tuesday when the kids show up.

Try, Try Again

31 Aug

If at first you don’t succeed

Try, try again.

Teachers start back to school today. Although I have already been in quite a bit, today if my first official day at my new school. It took me two tries to get to middle school, interviewing in the Spring of 2014 unsuccessfully, then again in Spring 2015, successfully.

Some books are like that, you pick them up, abandon them, then pick them up again later, only to love them. This happened many years ago with Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. 

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My sister sent it to me and told me how much she had loved it. I read the first chapter, questioned my sister;s judgement and set it aside. A few months later I picked it up again and it was like reading a different book. I was hooked.

I had this experience recently with Rain, Reign by Ann M. Martin.

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It was Rose’s voice that irritated me the first time. Rose is the autistic main character and narrator who has an obsession with homonyms. And that obsession made me put the book aside the first time I picked it up. I picked it up again this week, persevered and I am glad I did.

Publisher’s SummaryRose Howard has Asperger’s syndrome, and an obsession with homonyms (even her name is a homonym). She gave her dog Rain a name with two homonyms (Reign, Rein), which, according to Rose’s rules of homonyms, is very special. Rain was a lost dog Rose’s father brought home. Rose and Rain are practically inseparable. And they are often home alone, as Rose’s father spends most evenings at a bar, and doesn’t have much patience for his special-needs daughter.

Just as a storm hits town, Rain goes missing. Rose’s father shouldn’t have let Rain out. Now Rose has to find her dog, even if it means leaving her routines and safe places to search. Rose will find Rain, but so will Rain’s original owners.

What really made this book worth reading is seeing how Rose really steps outside her comfort zone after Rain disappears, to do the right thing, even though she knows it will make her very sad.

Facing my book fears

28 Aug

Have you ever been afraid to read the next novel by an author after you have discovered that the first one you read is your heart book?

I was given an ARC of Katherine Applegate’s soon to be published Crenshaw at the ALA conference.

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It has been sitting in a box waiting for me to get the courage to read it. You see, The One and Only Ivan  is a heart book. I may or may not have coined that term, but I stole it from the dog world, where a “heart dog” is that once in a lifetime – maybe twice if you’re truly blessed – soul mate dog. So, a heart book is the book that speaks to your soul.

It is a tough act to follow.

I got up the courage to read it yesterday and consumed it in one sitting, it was that good. Although Crenshaw might not make it to heart book status, it is definitely worth reading.

Publisher’s summary: In her first novel since winning the Newbery Medal, Katherine Applegate delivers an unforgettable and magical story about family, friendship, and resilience.

Jackson and his family have fallen on hard times. There’s no more money for rent. And not much for food, either. His parents, his little sister, and their dog may have to live in their minivan. Again.

Crenshaw is a cat. He’s large, he’s outspoken, and he’s imaginary. He has come back into Jackson’s life to help him. But is an imaginary friend enough to save this family from losing everything?

Beloved author Katherine Applegate proves in unexpected ways that friends matter, whether real or imaginary.

This is a beautiful book and I think Applegate truly captures the spirit of a fourth grader, and the way they think, in Jackson. If I were teaching 4th grade again, this might have become my new first read aloud.

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

27 Aug

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I’ve been thinking over what to say about Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead. Overall, I liked it.

Publisher’s summary: Bridge is an accident survivor who’s wondering why she’s still alive. Emily has new curves and an almost-boyfriend who wants a certain kind of picture. Tabitha sees through everybody’s games–or so she tells the world. The three girls are best friends with one rule: No fighting. Can it get them through seventh grade?
This year everything is different for Sherm Russo as he gets to know Bridge Barsamian. What does it mean to fall for a girl–as a friend?
On Valentine’s Day, an unnamed high school girl struggles with a betrayal. How long can she hide in plain sight?

Each memorable character navigates the challenges of love and change in this captivating novel.

The story has stuck with me since finishing it, which says something. I enjoyed the three intertwined stories. I even like d the second person narrative of the unnamed girl on Valentine’s Day, which seems to be the sticking point in the unfavorable reviews I read.

For me, the issue is Bridge’s voice, and I will admit that I listened to the audio version in the car, so maybe this exacerbated a minor issue. Bridge only speaks in short sentences. She questions, repeats what people said, and frequently has sentences of one or two words. It sort of annoyed me.  Did the author do this on purpose because Bridge had a brain injury from the accident?  Would I even have noticed this is I had read the book rather than listened to the audiobook?

In spite of my “issue” with t he book, I do recommend it. This is the sort of book perfect for kids who are still to young for YA, but too old for a lot of the chapter books that are out there.

 

Another chapter in the book I’ll never write: A Slice of Life Story

25 Aug

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We have a menace on our street. Someone is not picking up after their dog…a lot. Pretty much every bit of grassy parking strip is tainted.

We have a regular route we walk. Out the back door to the sidewalk, across the street, then a quick jaunt to the corner and around the block. If Fiona is feeling really energetic we do two blocks. Go team basset!

I always look down and around to be sure there isn’t anything for the girls to get into. But now, as I turn back onto our street, it is awful. And I am not the only one who has noticed. The neighbor across the way thinks she knows who it is. But no one has actually seen the person.

The best reaction is this:

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This neighbor is fed up with this mystery person leaving a mess on her parking strip. I love her positive message, though you can tell she is really angry. I hope her strategy s successful.

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It is a little hard to read, but here is what it says:

Dear person leaving dog poop,

Instead of putting your dog’s poop in the street, could you please pick it up with these baggies? Let’s all work together to have a clean and pleasant  neighborhood.

Yup, another chapter for My Life in Dog Poop, that book I’ll never write.

The book to which my meandering thoughts took me

24 Aug

Yesterday, when I should have been thinking loftier thoughts, my mind took a little trip to Hallowe’en. (I still like to spell it with an apostrophe even though that seems to be going the way of the dodo.) I got thinking about Hallowe’en because, now that I am back at middle school, we dress up for Hallowe’en. And so the eternal dilemma: What will I wear? And can I knit it?

I started thinking about things I could knit as part, or all, of  a Hallowe’en costume. I could where a brain hat with a lab coat.

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And there is quite an array of Viking options. No weapons at school, obviously.

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I will keep thinking on this, but if I am gong to knit for Halloween, I will probably have to get started soon.

Have you ever noticed that when you are thinking about something it seems to pop up everywhere? Well, I went to the library a little bit after my Hallowe’en excursion, and found this little gem:

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Publisher’s Summary: Princess Decomposia is overworked and underappreciated.

This princess of the underworld has plenty of her own work to do but always seems to find herself doing her layabout father’s job, as well. The king doesn’t feel quite well, you see. Ever. So the princess is left scurrying through the halls, dodging her mummy, werewolf, and ghost subjects, always running behind and always buried under a ton of paperwork. Oh, and her father just fired the chef, so now she has to hire a new cook as well.

Luckily for Princess Decomposia, she makes a good hire in Count Spatula, the vampire chef with a sweet tooth. He’s a charming go-getter of a blood-sucker, and pretty soon the two young ghouls become friends. And then…more than friends? Maybe eventually, but first Princess Decomposia has to sort out her life. And with Count Spatula at her side, you can be sure she’ll succeed.

Andi Watson (Glister,Gum Girl) brings his signature gothy-cute sensibility to this very sweet and mildly spooky tale of friendship, family, and management training for the undead.

It is delightful graphic novel. the art is simple black and white, bit this actually adds to the ambiance. The writing is smart and funny. This is an excellent book for kids aged 8 & up.

 

Smokey detour

23 Aug

Yesterday the sky was eerie, due to wildfire smoke that was blown down the Columbia River Gorge and into Portland. It truly transformed the city. It also got me thinking about books with smoke on the cover, in pictures or words.

Although it is not smoke from a wildfire, the cover of Looking for Alaska by John Green is quite striking. This is my absolute favorite John Green novel. I loved TFIOS, but this one is even better!

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Publisher’s Summary: Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter is done with his safe life at home. His whole life has been one big non-event, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave “the Great Perhaps” even more (Francois Rabelais, poet). He heads off to the sometimes crazy and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young. She is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart. Then. . . .

After. Nothing is ever the same.

Local author Laini Taylor captured my attention a few years ago with The Daughter of Smoke and Bone.

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Publisher’s summary: Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”, she speaks many languages – not all of them human – and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

Ellen Hopkins followed up her novel in verse Burned, with a sequel entitled Smoke. 

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Burned: Seventeen-year-old Pattyn, the eldest daughter in a large Mormon family, is sent to her aunt’s Nevada ranch for the summer, where she temporarily escapes her alcoholic, abusive father and finds love and acceptance, only to lose everything when she returns home.

Smoke: After the death of her abusive father and loss of her beloved Ethan and their unborn child, Pattyn runs away, desperately seeking peace, as her younger sister, a sophomore in high school, also tries to put the pieces of her life back together.

Another great novel with a sequel comes from E. K  Johnston.

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The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim: In an alternate world where industrialization has caused many species of carbon-eating dragons to thrive, Owen, a slayer being trained by his famous father and aunt, and Siobahn, his bard, face a dragon infestation near their small town in Canada.

Prairie Fire: Every dragon slayer owes the Oil Watch a period of service, and young Owen was no exception. What made him different was that he did not enlist alone; his two closest friends stood with him shoulder to shoulder. Steeled by success and hope, the three were confident in their plan. But the arc of history is long and hardened by dragon fire… and try as they might, Owen and his friends could not twist it to their will. At least, not all the way…

The air in Portland smells a little less smokey this morning and the air should be clear sometime tomorrow. Fortunately, even after the smoke has cleared, we’ll still have these great books.

 

The Styling Librarian

In my opinion, books are the best accessory.

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