Archive | June, 2013

Breaking up is hard to do

30 Jun

I’m currently reading one break up  book  ( Going Vintage by Lindsay Leavitt )


and  listening to  another in the car ( An Abundance of Katherines by John Green).

In  Going Vintage, sixteen-year-old Mallory learns that her boyfriend is cheating on her with his cyber “wife”. As she looks through some of her grandmother’s things, she decides life was simpler in the past. She rebels against technology by following her grandmother’s list of goals from 1962, with help from her younger sister, Ginnie.

In  An Abundance of Katherines, recent high school graduate and former child prodigy, Colin has been dumped for the nineteenth time by a girl named Katherine. He sets off on a road trip with his hirsute and Lebanese  best friend,  to try to find some new direction in life while also trying to create a mathematical formula to explain his relationships.

Both are funny and poignant. Both make me think about what I was like as a teen. Both are worth reading.

Summer Beach Reads #1: Lite fare for the thinking girl

28 Jun

OK, so I haven’t gone to the beach yet and probably won’t, although I’m rather likely to sit under a shady tree in Laurelhurst Park with a book. In summer I long for lighter fare; a ripping good yarn that is a fast & fun read. Here’s the first qualifier I’ve read.


If I were a teen, I think I’d want to drop out of school & become a thief after reading  Heist Society  by Ally Carter. Kat Bishop is trying to leave the family business (theft) but gets drawn back in when her father is framed for an art theft he didn’t commit. Exotic locations, art, history, wealth, a little romance and very likable characters make this a wonderful summer read. Lite fare for the thinking girl. I have the second book in the series on hold at the library and can’t wait to get it.


27 Jun

One of the great things about teaching is that you can change jobs and reinvent yourself.  I began my career as a French teacher. Along the way I’ve taught both French and Spanish immersion, 3rd & 4th grade, 6th & 7th grade Humanities, ESL and I’ve been the school librarian. The Holy Roman Emperor, Charlemagne , is reputed to have said that to speak another Language is to Possess another soul. I know, having learned French, Danish and Spanish, that learning each added another dimension. I’ve been Adrienne and Adriana. I become Miss Gillespie as I get ready for school. 

My mom left home at 15, escaping Timmins to avoid the life she saw unfolding for her if she stayed.

Ben Franklin also left home in his teens, fleeing Boston for Philadelphia, to escape the life he saw unfolding in his father’s soap and candle making shop. In Becoming Ben Franklin: How a Candle-Maker’s Son Helped Light the Flame of Liberty, Russell Freedman lets us into the many ways Ben Franklin reinvented himself.


This is a very readable biography, in the well-researched style we have come to expect from Freedman. The text is supported by a wealth of reproductions of pictures from the period and by  Franklin’s own writings. A time line, bibliography and end notes, picture credits and index are found at the end of this excellent book.

Bicultural Negotiation

26 Jun

I spent three years teaching in Medellin Colombia, where I became an excellent Spanish speakers. My Spanish is still good, but not as good as it used to be. Although our school is majority Hispanic, I speak English most of the day. I’m speaking more Spanish these days because I’m coordinating our ESL summer school and talking with a lot of parents. So I’m dusting off my language and culture skills and working in English & Spanish. I’m also learning to negotiate the world of administration. It is a completely different planet than being a teacher.

This got me thinking about Allen Say’s new picture book  The Favorite Daughter.


It relates a time when his biracial daughter, a blonde girl of Asian descent, was struggling with identity. I like the gentle way he encourages her and helps her deal with teasing and the fact that she is a little from her classmates. As always, Say’s illustrations are wonderful and capture his daughter’s emotions along with the surroundings they visit.

So, my Spanish skills are getting better and I’m learning to be an administrator (I’ve learned enough to know I don’t want to do this as a career). I’m hopeful that my summer school experience will end as happily as The Favorite Daughter.

Sleuthing with Emily Dickinson

25 Jun

I have never really read Emily Dickinson. She wasn’t much part of the syllabus in my Canadian education. I knew of her for sure and have come across her poetry and references to her as an adult. So, it seems both strange and exciting  that two books for middle grade readers feature Emily Dickinson and her poetry.

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Destiny, Rewritten by Kathryn Fitzmaurice is the tale of Emily Elizabeth, named after Emily Dickinson. From before her birth her mother, an Emily Dickinson scholar, predicted her daughter would be a great poet. She recorded details about Emily in a volume of her collected works, annotating poems with events in Emily’s life.  Emily, on the other hand, is obsessed with Danielle Steele and wants to be a romance writer, not a poet. When the Emily Dickinson volume is accidentally sent to a resale shop, Emily is on the trail, trying to track it down.

A murder mystery is the subject of Nobody’s Secret  by Michaela MacColl. The sleuth is a young and pre-recluse Emily Dickinson. Teenaged Emily meets a young man who later turns up dead in her pond. She does not know his identity because, when they met, they did not tell each other their name, preferring to be Nobodies. It is Emily Dickinson alone who believes his death is not an accidental drowning and she pursues the truth, even when the adults around her tell her to stop. MacColl incorporates ideas from Dickinson’s poetry into her narrative, creating plausible inspirations for their origins.

My Happy Life

24 Jun

I survived the first day of summer school. I slept with my night guard last night, so I didn’t wake up with a sore jaw. There were a few first day glitches, but not too many. The buses were timely and breakfast & lunch happened. Having survived Day 1, I think I can take the next 18. Yup, there are only 19 teaching days in summer school.There will be some days that are better than others, but I will make it to July 25th and be a better person for it.

Getting through the first day got me thinking about a new book from Sweden: My Happy Life by Rose Lagerkrantz.


Dani’s life is very happy.Well, it was. Some things go wrong and she has a tough time. But, as you can surely guess, she comes out stronger at the end. This is a simple chapter book that tackles real life and demonstrates how kids can be resilient, bouncing back from adversity. The illustrations are sweet


and remind me a little of Marla Frazee’s work. This is a nice read for someone ready to move into easy chapter books.

2013 Hub Reading Challenge final check-in

22 Jun

reading challenge logo - finisher

The HUB reading Challenge ends today. I finished a few weeks ago, but kept going because there were books on the list I wanted to read. I loved some and had to force myself to finish others. I abandoned a few.  I hope that through my posts about it, you might join the 2014 HUB Reading Challenge. Or, you might just find a really great book to read.

I have a notebook where I record the books I read. This week, I added a new subtitle: Summer Reading. I hope your summer reading experience is as wonderful s I hope mine will be. I’ve posted the list of the books I read for the HUB Challenge below, in case you’d like to add some of them to your summer reading list.


1. Blumenthal, Karen – Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different

2. Green, John – The Fault in Our Stars (audio)

3. Hopkinson, Deborah – Titanic: Voices from the Disaster

4, Levinson, Cynthis – We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March

5. Levithan, David – Every Day

6. Saenz, Benjamin Alire – Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

7. Sheinkin, Steve – Bomb: The Race to Build – and Steal – the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon

8. Hoose, Phillip – Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great  Survivor B95

9. Mazer, Harry – Somebody, Please Tell Me Who I Am

10. Hicks, Faith Erin – Friends with Boys

11. Danforth, Emily M. – The Miseducation of Cameron Post

12. Murakami, Takashi – Stargazing Dog

13. Telgemeier, Rania – Drama

14. Pierce, Tamora – Alanna: The First Adventure

15. Paolini, Christopher – Inheritance (audiobook)

16. Pierce, Tamora – In the Hand of the Goddess

17. Pierce, Tamora – The Woman Who Rides Like a Man

18. Pierce, Tamora – Lioness Rampant

19. Lambert, Joseph – Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller

20. Hartman, Rachel – Seraphina

21. Fetter-Vorm, Jonathan  – Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb

22. Andrews, Jesse – Me & Earl & the Dying Girl

23. Bray, Libba – The Diviners (audiobook)

24. Long, Mark – The Silence of Our Friends

25. Wein, Elizabeth – Code name Verity (audiobook)

26. Backderf, Derf – My Friend Dahmer

27. Adams, S. J. – Sparks: the epic, completely true blue, (almost) holy quest of Debbie

28. Brenna, Beverley – The White Bicycle

29. Buzo, Laura – Love and Other Perishable Items

30. Brunt, Carol Rifka – Tell the Wolves I’m Home

31. Newman, Leslea – October Morning

32. Fama, Elizabeth – Monstrous Beauty (audio)

33. Semple, Maria – Where’d You Go Bernadette

34. Hassman, Tupelo – Girlchild

35. Baggott, Julianna – Pure

36. Crockett, S. D. – After the Snow

37. Sloan, Robin – Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore


Basset Crisis Averted :)

21 Jun

Wednesday evening I did a home visit for a family who hoped to adopt a basset. We had a nice visit and I told them that we had lots of seniors, so they might have to wait to get a basset in the 3-5 year age range.Famous last words.

Yesterday our adoption coordinator sent me an e-mail asking if I thought they’d be interested in a 6-year-old female, named Daisy. Her family was moving to Alaska on Tuesday& they had no one to take her. Dad was taking his son to the Portland airport that evening (mom was already in Alaska). The plan was for me to meet them & take Daisy. If Wednesday’s family was not interested in meeting her, I’d just take her straight to a foster home.


So, I sent an e-mail, with pictures and the prospective adoptive family said yes, they’d love to meet her.

Poor Daisy was very nervous at the airport. She is a small basset and kept her tail curled under most of the time there. She snuggled up to her dad as though she knew something was up. She sniffed me, but didn’t want to get too close. Once we’d done the relinquishment paperwork and I got her out side, she was very cooperative, though.

I drove her to meet the family, who were enamored almost immediately. She snuggled up to the mom and played with the kids, running through the big back yard. In a situation like this, I always tell people that they should feel no pressure. they can say no, they can say they’d like to think about it, or they can say yes we’ll keep her. I could see Daisy working her magic on each member of the family. Finally, when dad sat on the floor and Daisy crawled between his legs, snuggled her head against his tummy and put a paw on his thigh, they were all hooked. They said yes. We always give folks a couple of weeks before we sign any papers or ask for adoption fees, just to make sure everything is going to work well.

I had an e-mail from Daisy’s new Mom this morning saying that the kids & Daisy exhausted each other last night and they are still enamored. I’m picking her up this afternoon to take her to our vet for a microchip, nail trim and to check on a tummy rash.

Yesterday I was stressing because it was my last day to get ready before summer school begins Monday. This basset rescue emergency helped divert my attention. My stress disappeared. Daisy got a new home. Daisy’s old family could stop worrying. And her new family has a new member.  It was a win-win-win-win.

Some favorite basset books

19 Jun


Lucy turned 7 yesterday. She celebrated with a good book  (Larry Gets Lost in Seattle) and thought you might like to know some of her favorite books featuring basset hounds.

Picture Books

1. The Hound from the Pound by Jessica Swaim

2. The Puppy Who Wanted a Playmate  by Michale J. Pellowski

3. The Ladybug Girl  books by David Somar & Jacky Davis

4. The Charlie  books by Ree Drummond

5. Bella Basset Ballerina  by Laura Aimee Garn

6. Flash the Amazing Basset Hound Helps Santa  by Stephanie A. Sorensen

7. Nick the Basset Hound  by Nancy Shuler

8.  The Dog Who Had Kittens by Polly Robertus & Janet Stevens

For Older Kids

1. Surviving the Applewhites  by Stephanie S. Tolan

2. Froonga Planet by Bryan W. Fields

3.  Lunchbox and the Aliens by Bryan W. Fields

4. The  Smells Like Dog  series by Suzanne Selfors

5.  The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

6.  My New Best Friend (Woof!)  by Wendy Loggia

For Adults

1.  The Boy Who Never Grew Up  by Daniel Handler

2.  Anyone But You by Jennifer Crusie

3. The Elvis mysteries by Peggy Webb

There are more, to be sure. Feel free to add your favorite in the comments section.

Gone Fishing

18 Jun


Here’s  a fun summer read:  Gone Fishing: A Novel in Verse by Tamera Will Wissinger. It is a cute story, told in three voices, of a family fishing trip that doesn’t quite go as planned, but ends well. What I like about it is the variety of poetic forms and  “The Poet’s Tackle Box” in the back. It explains about rhythm and rhyme, has a glossary of poetic techniques and forms (each poem states the poetic form used). This is an excellent resource for teaching kids about poetry.And, after all, a family fishing trip is a great way to spend a summer day.

We were not really summer fishing people. Growing up just south of James Bay in Canada, we were ice fisherfolk. My dad would attach the caboose to the skidoo so my sister & I could ride in style. He’d drive us through the woods out to a lake where we’d drill some holes and wait patiently.

Scan 28

That’s my twin sister posing for the camera. I’m in my own world, scooping slush into a castle or singing a slush scooping song. There was probably a lot of waiting, but I don’t remember being bored. What I do remember is Dad making hot chocolate with snow, in  a nearby cabin. It had pine needles floating in it, giving it extra flavor. I’m pretty sure we must have brought fish home, but I don’t really remember any.

The one summer fishing experience I remember was the year Aunt Dorothy & Uncle Jim came up for a visit. Dad took Uncle Jim, my cousin Edward, my sister & I out fishing. My sister & I caught more fish than the boys and we were proud as Lucy is in Gone Fishing.

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