Archive | November, 2013

Good Old Dogs

30 Nov

I’m off to the Good Old Dog Photo Exhibition by Pauline Zonneveld.


Here’s how she explains the project on her website:

Good Old Dog Project – celebrating the spirit of dogs in their golden years.

Old dogs have a charm and beauty all their own.

It’s the beauty of a life well lived as your companion, friend, playmate and soul mate. Over the years, your stories have entwined and now your bond deserves to be documented in a beautiful portrait.

Dedicated to dogs that are near the end of their lives due to old age or illness, the Good Old Dog Project seeks to capture your senior dog’s special beauty and the lifetime of friendship, comfort, love and sacrifice you have shared. In a photo session that is joyful and playful, we will work together to create a portrait that show off your companion’s unique beauty. Every accommodation is made so that your pet will feel relaxed and comfortable. We can meet at my studio or if you prefer a meaningful location of your choice.

Having had 3 senior dogs and working in rescue, I have come to love and respect senior dogs and the people who care for them. When I do home visits, people always say they want a young dog so they can have more time together. I understand that. I really love the people who change their minds and take someone a little older who will be grateful for a happy end.

So, if you have some time today, between noon and 4, stop by the exhibition. It is located on the east side at

305 SE 3rd Avenue – 4th floor.

All dog lovers are welcome.

Sure Signs of Crazy

29 Nov


Like me, Sarah was born a fraternal twin. My mom used to bathe my twin sister and I in the kitchen sink. Sarah’s mother tried to drown her in their kitchen sink when she was two. She succeeded with her brother.

In  Sure Signs of Crazy by Karen Harrington, we spend the summer between 6th and 7th grade with Sarah. Her 6th grade teacher has challenged his pupils to write a real letter during the summer. Sarah takes this idea nd runs with it. She writes letters to Atticus Finch, talks to her Plant, develops her love of words and generally  monitors herself to decide if she will go crazy like her mom.

Harrington succeeds in creating a genuine likable and believable character in Sarah. I felt the book started off a little on the slow side, but my perseverance was rewarded with a wonderful coming of age novel. This one is sure to be on one of the end of the year “best” lists.


27 Nov


Thanksgivukkah is a pop-culture portmanteau neologism given to the convergence of the American holiday of Thanksgiving and the first day of the of  Hanukkah on Thursday, November 28, 2013″. That’s the Wikipedia definition. I had to include it because I loved seeing ” portmanteau neologism ” in a sentence.

There is an abundance of holiday books out now. Here are two that encompass the ideals of Thanksgivukkah.


From the dust jacket: Old Bubba Brayna can’t see or hear very well. When a bear arrives at her door, lured by the smells of her latkes, she thinks it’s the rabbi. They light the menorah, play the dreidel game and eat the latkes. Before he leaves, Bubba Brayna gives the bear the scarf she knit for the rabbi. And then the rabbi shows up! Author Eric Kimmel and illustrator Mike Wohnoutka serve up a great Thanksgivukkah story.

Less traditional is Hanukkah in Alaska by Barbara Brown and illustrated by Stacy Schuett.


From the dust jacket: Hanukkah in Alaska is unlike anywhere else.Snow piles up over the windows. Daylight is only five hours long. And one girl finds a moose camped out in her backyard, right near her favorite blue swing. She tries everything to lure it away: apples, carrots, even cookies. But it just keeps eating more tree! It’s not until the last night of Hanukkah that a familiar holiday tradition provides the perfect—and surprising—solution.

Have a safe & happy day, however you spend it.

U-G-L-Y this dog’s got an alibi

26 Nov

I’m a sucker for a dog book. Good, bad. I’ll give it a try. I especially like sad  dog stories with a happy ending like you’d see in a Hallmark movie. What a delight it was to pick up Spike: Ugliest Dog in the Universe by Debra Frasier.


First let me show you the way cool art. Who knew you you do so much with old blue jeans!!!! Here are a few samples of what Frasier can do.




Having worked on dog rescue for many years, I know there really are people cruel and irresponsible enough to leave their pet tied up and drive off. In fact, before I lived where I do now, I had neighbors who left their dog in the garage. The neighbors on the other side and I broke into the garage to make sure the dog was OK, gave it food and water, etc. Then we closed the door and called the police. The officer who showed up clearly knew we had broken the door and didn’t say a word about it. He was a dog lover, too. But I digress.

Spike gets left behind by an irresponsible person, but is lucky enough to be found by someone who loves him, a boy named Joe. Spike worries about being sent to the pound because Joe’s family doesn’t have a lot of extra money. Spike tries to be clean and quiet. he even asks a cat for advice. There is a happy ending, but Spike doesn’t know that til the very end. Written in Spike’s voice, this book is perfect for any animal lover.

One more thing:

So far this year, we’ve worked on persuasive and personal narratives in writing with the 4th graders. The bak of this book has a nice, kid friendly article entitled  “How I Draw Dogs”. It would be a great intro to the expository writing unit coming soon to a 4th grade class near me.

The Art of Teaching Writing

25 Nov

Most of my job this year is teaching writing. It is one of my favorite things to teach so I’m always happy to find new resources. When those resources are both funny and helpful, it feels like my birthday.

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Little Red Writing by Joan Holub and marvelously illustrated by Melissa Sweet, is for a younger audience. Loosely based on “Little Red Riding Hood,” Red Pencil gets lost in the adjective forest, adds too much conjunction glue, and faces the drama of adverbs. When she follows a tail to the principal’s office she discovers something horrible has happened to Principal Granny and she must draw upon her courage to help everyone in the school.

Thrice Told Tale  by Catherine Lewis is more appropriate for  a YA audience. Using the nursery rhyme “Three Blind Mice” Lewis explains writing terms with clever examples.Each term is presented in 1-2 pages with the story of the ill-fated mice taking twists and turns to model the idea and a summary concluding the main idea at the bottom of each page. As cute as this idea is it is really not for a young audience. Some of the terms and examples are complex and two chapters ( “F_ _K” and “Sex”) clearly make it a resource for older writers. It is a wonderful book, though and I actually read it cover to cover because I enjoyed seeing what the author was able to do with “Three Blind Mice”.

The Rainbow Connection

24 Nov

I can be brought to tears by listening to Kermit the Frog sing The Rainbow Connection.  Do you remember it?

Why are there so many
Songs about rainbows
And what’s on the other side
Rainbows are visions
They’re only illusions
And rainbows have nothing to hide
So we’ve been told and some chose to
Believe it
But I know they’re wrong wait and see

Someday we’ll find it
The Rainbow Connection
The lovers, the dreamers and me

In the world of dog owners, when  dog passes away, we talk about them going to the Rainbow Bridge. I can’t even read that one anymore. I’m getting weepy just mentioning it.

Rainbow Rowell has had quite a year, with two fantastic books: Eleanor & Park  and Fangirl.

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I finished Fangirl this weekend and only just read Eleanor & Park before Fangirl. I’m not going to write much about Eleanor & Park   except to say that you really should read it.

I wasn’t sure about Fangirl when I started it. It was so different from E & P, but I connected. It is about twins who go away to the same college. One is out going and one a little more reserved, just like my twin sister and I, although we went to different universities. It is told from the point of view of Cath, the shyer twin.  And this is what I liked most about the book. I was the shy one in our twindom. I felt just like she did meeting my new roommate and figuring out how being a twin works as an adult. My sister didn’t have Wren’s drinking problem, our dad wasn’t bipolar and our mother was present, so there are lots of differences. But I understood Cath’s anxiety about new people.

Anyway, you should read Fangirl, too. But be prepared for something different.

You can learn a little more about Rainbow HERE.

Toilet: how it works

23 Nov


It’s the sort of book you just have to pick up. Having been a fan of David Macaulay’s books for a long time, I knew he’d get to the bottom of things. Sorry, If just begs for potty jokes.

In any case, this is a really interesting book. Macaulay explains, in forthright text, what goes into the toilet, what should NOT go into the toilet and what happens after the toilet is flushed. There is humor in the illustrations


and the text is simple but really explains how the whole water treatment system works. I only had a vague idea before reading this book and feel as though I learned something.

Crime, Punishment & Presidential History

22 Nov

Fifty years ago today, I was a year, a month and a day away from being born. Growing up, I was like the kids I teach. When people asked  “Where were you when you heard the news” I had nothing to say. My 4th graders weren’t born in 2001, so they can’t answer the 9-11 version of that question. No one is left to answer the Lincoln version either.

Fortunately there are two non-fiction books that can help us understand presidential history a little better.


The assassination of JFK was a pivotal moment in American history. In  The President Has Been Shot ,James L. Swanson does an excellent job of going through the background of the key players, expressing facts that really laid out the event from many perspectives. While maintaining historical accuracy, the story is woven together through the eyes of all involved. I found myself feeling Oswald’s tension, the secrets service’s hesitance, the President’s gentle joy, and most powerfully, Jackie’s heartbreak.The book has a lot of pictures to support the text, other supporting material at the back, source notes, a list for further reading and  an extensive bibliography that includes a list of conspiracy theory literature.

This is a well-researched book that I bet will appear on a non-fiction award list for 2013.

Although not about the assassination itself,  Lincoln’s Grave Robbers by Steve Sheinkin is another good read.


The book tells an odd bit of history.Yes, a group did try to steal Abraham;s Lincoln’s body. In telling this bizarre tale, Sheinkin sheds light on counterfeiting, the Secret Service and 19th century body snatching. It reads like a thriller and is hard to put down

Read this and you’ll feel better

21 Nov

It is a simple story. Cow meets car. Cow gets car. Cow loses car. You get the picture.


I mean that literally and figuratively because the text is minimal.



But what a great read aloud. I can just imagine the kids and I laughing belly laughs. Even though the text is, essentially one word, it’s all about your tone. It is a good book to teach kids about reading with expression and about the effective use of punctuation. Here’s the page that will make you crack up:


Bet the kids ask you to read that one again. It’s like reading the apple poem in  Love That Dog by Sharon Creech.

I wonder what directions David LaRochelle gave to tho illustrator, Mike Wohnoutka, that helped him create such vivid pictures.

Are you ready to rumble?

19 Nov

Remember how, when you were a kid, you thought The Flintstones was funny, then, when you were older and watched it again you saw there was a different level of humor? It takes some talent to pull that off. And guess what! Jon Scieszka and mac Barnett have pulled it off in their new book, illustrated by Matthew Myers


Yes, it is a picture book, but there is a story behind the story. Clearly, Grandma has given Alexander the book Birthday Bunny. Alexander went through and made some improvements.



It is too hilarious. As I read Alex’s story, I loved seeing what he changed. The “original” book art is reminiscent of kids books of my youth. Alex’s improvements include readers smudges and cross outs, along with the text so you can see how creative he is. Yes, it is violent, but this is the story a boy like Alex would love.

It got me thinking: I could go to Goodwill, pick up a bunch of old mediocre books, bring them in and have kids rewrite them and improve the illustrations. No violence, though, It’s a school assignment.

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