Archive | January, 2014

YALSA Morris/Nonfiction Challenge Check-in #5

18 Jan

I have finished!  This week I read my last two books for the YALSA Morris/Nonfiction Challenge. First, I read


The title worried me.When I first picked up  Sex and Violence  by Carrie Mesrobian, I was worried it would full of sex and violence.But it is really all about the aftermath. Funny and heartbreaking, the story tells the story of Evan’s recovery after a beating, which he received for being with a girl. I found him hard to like at first, but,as he recovers, you understand him and see him grow. As does his father.

Today, I finished Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross, which is set in Belle Epoque Paris.


I saved this one for the end because the setting was very attractive to me.Interesting, since the book is about beauty. What it is, what it isn’t and the power that comes with having, or not having it.
Both books have flawed protagonists. But none of us are perfect either, are we?

Running on Empty

17 Jan

It’s been quite a week. I’ve had something on in the evening every night but Tuesday. Tonight i have tickets to a concert I am excited to hear, but half wish I could stay home because I’m tired.  Do you remember the Jackson Browne song Running on Empty? 

I’ve pasted the lyrics below, but it sort of sums up my week.

I’ve been madly trying to finish the last book for the YALSA Morris/Nonfiction challenge, but can;t even find the time to read. SIGH. Thanks goodness a long weekend is ahead.

Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels
Looking back at the years gone by like so many summer fields
In sixty-five I was seventeen and running up one-o-one
I don’t know where I’m running now, I’m just running on

Running on, running on empty
Running on, running blind
Running on, running into the sun
But I’m running behind

Gotta do what you can just to keep your love alive
Trying not to confuse it with what you do to survive
In sixty-nine I was twenty-one and I called the road my own
I don’t know when that road turned onto the road I’m on

Running on, running on empty
Running on, running blind
Running on, running into the sun
But I’m running behind

Everyone I know, everywhere I go
People need some reason to believe
I don’t know about anyone but me
If it takes all night, that’ll be all right
If I can get you to smile before I leave

Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels
I don’t know how to tell you all just how crazy this life feels
I look around for the friends that I used to turn to, to pull me through
Looking into their eyes I see them running too

Running on, running on empty
Running on, running blind
Running on, running into the sun
But I’m running behind

Honey, you really tempt me
You know the way you look so kind
I’d love to stick around
But I’m running behind

Running on
You know I don’t even know what I’m hoping to find
Running behind
Running into the sun but I’m running behind

Read more: Jackson Browne – Running On Empty Lyrics | MetroLyrics


16 Jan

Today is Lucy’s 4th GOTCHA DAY. Four years ago today, she came to live with me.


My dog, Louie, died December 7th, 2009, very suddenly as I was getting dressed for school.

Louie-Just_being Louie

His passing hit me very hard and I had no intention of getting anther one too soon. But, that was not to be. Fiona seemed to be having a hard time as an only dog. And then there was that e-mail from Oregon Basset Hound Rescue, letting people know that the post-Christmas dog dump had begun and they needed adopters. Did you know that lots of dogs get given up AFTER the holidays? OBHR has 6 new dogs this month.

So I got in touch and said that I wanted someone young. My first basset, Clara, had passed away in May 2008. If I got a new dog, I didn’t want to lose it too soon, or have it pass away shortly before or after Fiona. So, I went to meet Lucy. We arranged to have her move in on President’s Day weekend 2010. I had a class in the morning, but would get her in the afternoon. It was perfect because there was no school Monday, so we’d have a little extra time to get to know each other.

I went to my principal and let her know that I was getting a new dog and she told me I should take Tuesday off too. And so I did. Although we had some rough patches at the beginning and had to see a behaviorist, Lucy is a wonderful addition to the family. Even if she is a bed hog.


The Power of One

15 Jan

Yesterday, our student supervisor read Kathryn Otoshi’s One 


aloud at an assembly, to get the kids thinking about the power one person can have if they tand up to a bully.

Sometimes, bad behavior is less intentional than the overt bullying in One.  Just take a look at Trudy Ludwig’s new book  The Invisible Boy.


Brian is very quiet, and clearly smart, and brilliant at drawing. Unfortunately, he’s also invisible. No one goes out of their way to be mean to him. They don;t include him because they just don’t notice him. When a new boy arrives in his class, Brian is kind-hearted and finds his own way to make a friend and gain the acceptance of the other students. In the beginning pages, Brian is a black and white sketch.


It is the power of the one new boy, who sees Brian and what he has to offer as a friend, and helps him move from invisible, to full color.

Move over Harry, there’s a new potter in town

14 Jan

and his name is George E. Ohr.  He is the subject of The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr Eccentric Genius by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan. I like that his middle initial and last name say Eeyore’s name.


Now I was never much of an artist, but I always loved when art class got around to the pottery unit. I loved the way my hands had to get right into the clay in order to create something. Maybe that’s why I like knitting so much; I get direct contact with the medium and the message.

George Ohr was a boy who didn’t fit in with his family and so jumped at the chance to work for a friend in a pottery business. As soon as he began working with clay, George knew he had found an outlet for his creativity. The book is filled with period photographs of the man, his times, the unique pottery he created. The pottery itself is lovely, original, and in many cases, covered in stunningly lovely glazes.


The man himself is quite intriguing too since his artwork brought him little attention during his lifetime. His appearance, behavior, and self promotion attracted more attention than his art.

Unknown-2     images

He didn’t sell many pots while he was alive, but that didn’t stop him from pursuing his love. After his death, his work lay hidden away. When they were finally “discovered” in the 1970’s, they sold for thousands of dollars.

The book offers back matter on the Ohr- O’Keefe Museum, which houses many of Ohr’s pots and a page entitled “How to Look at  a Pot” which I found rather interesting. There is a page on how to make a pot, and a bibliography, too.

This is a quirky book about art for art’s sake and loving what you do.

Prehistoric Fantasy

13 Jan

Sometimes, strange and surprising things are buried in your own backyard! This is the Tualatin Mastodon.


It lives in the Tualatin Library, just south of Portland. You can read a little bit about it here.


In the 2013 wordless book Fossil, by Bill Thomson,  a boy and his dog are taking a walk and discover that strange and surprising things are buried in their own backyard. When a stone the boy picks up breaks open to reveal a fossil from a prehistoric plant, the boy gathers as many stones as he can find and begins breaking them apart. What he finds is that each fossil carries with it a little magic too. The gorgeous and detailed illustrations are sure to trigger the readers’s imagination.




And the story you create, can change with each reading. A great book for lovers of fossils and dinosaurs.

YALSA Morris/Nonfiction Challenge Check-in #4

11 Jan

Last summer, I listened to  Neal Bascomb’s  Hunting Eichmann: How a Band of Survivors and  a Young Spy Agency Chased Down the World’s Most Notorious Nazi. I was a little leery when I first saw that a YA version had been published under the title The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi.


I was prepared to be disappointed because I have serious doubts about reformatted books as a matter of principle. I always, skeptically, imagine it is a marketing ploy and a money grab. I can be a bit of a cynic at times.

I was pleasantly surprised that the book, definitely a scaled back version of the original, is still excellent. It is eminently readable and maintains the energy and tension of the original. Having read Bascomb’s 2009 book, I had some background knowledge that helped me as I read this book. For readers coming to The Nazi Hunters first, the details that were “left out” of this version do not detract. really, it is a matter of the amount of detail in each book. I think adults would enjoy this work of narrative nonfiction, especially if reading nonfiction is not part of their regular practice.

In reading  The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi,  I have read all of the nonfiction books. All are excellent and I think I will keep my decision about which should win the award until I’ve finished the Morris nominees, too. In my last post before the announcement f the winners, I  declare my thoughts about which books deserve to win both awards.

I also finished Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn this week.


Strange is a good word to have in the title. It took me a few chapters to get a real sense of this book and I questioned its presence on the list of Morris nominees. Real clarity doesn’t even come until the very end, at which point you want to say “WOW!”. Having said that, I won;t go into a lot of plot details because it would ruin the impact of the ending. Let me just say that the mind is a strange place. While reading this I had flashbacks to my time in Denmark where I convinced myself that I was  a jinx. I am quite serious. I loved the first host daily I lived with and didn’t want to move to my second home. Just before I did so, the second family’s daughter fainted at work, suffered a brain hemorrhage and died. Just after I moved in, my host dad was shot in a hunting accident and nearly died. Somehow my brain convinced me that it was all my fault.

Andrew Winston Winters, the main character of Charm & Strange, is struggling with his sanity. Over the course of one night, while stuck at a party deep in the New England woods, Andrew battles both the pain of his past and the isolation of his present. Slowly, we come to see is life, understand his struggle and see what the mind does to understand incomprehensible events.

if you start this book and get frustrated or confused, I highly encourage you to persevere.

Skippy, Flipper and the Dolphins of Shark Bay

10 Jan

I had two favorite animal shows when I was a kid. 


Skippy the Bush Kangaroo was set in Australia. The show’s star was Skippy, a wild female Eastern Grey Kangaroo. His sidekick was  Sonny Hammond, younger son of the Head Ranger of Waratah National Park. The stories revolved around events in the park, including its animals, the dangers arising from natural hazards, and the actions of visitors.

My other favorite was


Flipper was a bottle nose dolphin. His sidekicks were Sandy and Bud, the two sons of Porter Ricks, Chief Warden at fictional Coral Key Park and Marine Preserve in southern Florida.

Gosh they sound rather a like, don’t they. I got thinking about Skippy & Flipper because of Pamela S. Turner’s The Dolphins of Shark Bay.


It’s about dolphins in Australia. Sort of Skippy meets Flipper. I am being a little funny, but this is a seriously good book. It is part of the “Scientists in the Field Series” from Houghton Mifflin.

The book focuses on dolphins living in Shark Bay, Australia. These dolphins use sponges as tools to aid them in gathering fish to ear, and have been the focus of study by scientist Janet Mann and her research team. Scott Tuason’s colorful photographs enhance the text and draw readers into the book. Mann comes to know each of these bottlenose dolphins as individuals and as members of extended families, and she introduces readers to some of them. She has also worked with the Australian government to enact rules that better protect these dolphins from nearby commercial fishing interests and from over-enthusiastic eco-tourists.

A good addition to a library and recommend for animal lovers.

Nikola Tesla

9 Jan

The fourth grade is starting a biography unit. I culled through the biographies I have to share in the classroom biography museums we are going to set up in each class. I have enough kid & adult biographies to put a few in each museum. But I got excited because I came a cross a couple of biographies I picked up at the OASL Conference I attended in October. One of them was about this man, Nikola Tesla.


He was a Serbian-American inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, physicist, and futurist best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current electricity supply system. And local author, Elizabeth Rusch wrote a biography of him this year.


There are many reasons why I like Elizabeth Rusch’s books. They are readable, but not dumbed down. She assumes that the people reading her books are smart and want to learn. She also thinks about teachers and creates materials to support teaching.These are often in the back of her books and/or included on her website. She has a  FOR TEACHERS page on her website where she has materials to support the common core using her books. She always provides lots of backmatter in her books: bibliographies, other info she didn’t have room for in the text, scientific explanations. Her books never disappoint.

Orphans and Poor Children

8 Jan

Every year, I have the kids in my reading and/or writing group participate in the Library of Congress’Letters About Literature contest. The kids write letters to an author telling how a favorite book impacted their life. The letters are often poignant, but this year I had one that made me burst out laughing. The author, a girl, was writing to Elvira Woodruff to tell her how  The Christmas Doll changed her life. In the letter, the author tells Woodruff that use had long wanted to be a poor orphan, but The Christmas Doll cured her because their life was so difficult. The author reads a lot. Mostly books about poor orphans it seems. I read a lot about going to boarding school when I was in school and & wanted to go myself, so I totally understand her desire to be like the characters she reads about.

A few weeks after reading this letter a colleague asked me why there were so many books about orphans or that have a character who dies. She has a sensitive niece and they were trying to find a book that wouldn’t upset her too much.

I’m reading Rooftoppers  by Katherine Rundell right now. Orphans & poor children.


It is a very good read, but reminded me of a number of other books, especially a few written by Eva Ibbotson.

images  Unknown-1 Unknown-2 The Unknown-3

I just read The Great Trouble by Deborah Hopkinson  and  The Real Boy by Anne Ursu. Orphans & poor children are there, too.

Unknown-1  Unknown

So, I wonder, what are your favorite books with orphans and poor children?

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