Archive | September, 2014

El Deafo

17 Sep

Here is one of the best graphic novels I’ve read this year.


El Deafo by Cece Bell is the author/illustrator’s memoir of growing up deaf. El Deafo is the superhero character she creates because of the superpowers she gets when she wears her Phonic Ear. She can hear her teacher through walls and even when she is in the bathroom!


She manages to show how hard it is to be profoundly deaf without being maudlin. She deftly demonstrates  post-hearing aid dialogue the way it sounded to her, instead of writing what people actually said,  illustrating the difficulties she faced understanding the conversations around her. I found myself reading those parts out loud to try to figure it out, experiencing a bit of what Bell’s life was like.

Although the main character is female, I think this book would appeal to readers of both genders.

Chance Meetings: A Slice of Life Story

16 Sep


Walking back to class from a meeting, I ran into two of my students who were on their way back from the resource room. The girl had done a karate kick just before stepping out. She looked a little embarrassed, but I didn’t say anything. She is not a native English speaker and has a communication disorder, but told me that although she doesn’t take karate lessons, she really likes to do karate kicks. It is probably the longest conversation she and I have ever had and I’ve known her since she arrived about 3 or 4 years ago.

The boy is a more serious fellow. Even in kindergarten, I knew him to be a thinker. We walked on a moment or two more in silence then he said to me “I used to think school was not interesting, but you make learning fun.” Whoa! I thanked him and floated back to class on a cloud.

Just a random little moment in my day, but I probably learned more on that short walk than I did the whole rest of the day.

Happy International Dot Day

15 Sep


Today is International Dot Day, a day to connect, collaborate, create and celebrate all that creativity inspires and invites. If you have a chance read The Dot  by Peter Reynolds, and share it with someone if you can. Even the ordinary can be extraordinary.

With that in mind, I wanted to share Families Around the World  by Margriet Ruurs.


Based on real people who Ruurs met, Families Around the World   shares what life is like for families  including Chinese immigrants in Canada, a Texas ranch family, a Mayan village family in Mexico, several European families, and a kibbutz family in Israel. Families in Saudi Arabia, Kenya (a Maasai village), Pakistan, South Korea and Mongolia.

Each family’s story fills a tw0-page spread and introduces us to the food, language, custom and tradition of each. There is a biracial family and a family with a single dad. I thin the biggest downfall of the book is that the entire continent of Africa is represented by one family. That said, this is a good introduction to global ideas and might send young readers off in search of more information.

This could be nice way for kids to do a little writing about their own families and create a class book.

Random book thoughts

14 Sep

From a rather bumpy start, due to my last-minute decision to change jobs,  the school year seems to be developing its rhythm. I have unpacked two of the boxes I shoved in my classroom closet. I almost wept the other day, the first day I asked my students to read with a partner. It sounded so beautiful and I forgot how much  love that sound. Although I am still tired, I am not as tired and I’m going to bed able to read or knit before I do so.

I have a stack of books I’m working through.

In the car, I am listening to  The Goldfinch  by Donna Tartt. I am not loving it. I find the protagonist whiney. There are 24 or 26 discs and I am not sure I will keep going on this one. It has received a lot of press, but everyone I know who’s read it didn’t really like it.


At school, as I unpacked to two  boxes I mentioned above, I found my copy of Falling in Love With Close Reading, which I’ve mentioned before. I was about halfway through when it got misplaced in the big switcheroo. Now I can finish it. I still plan to do a boo group with it at school, but I need to finish it first.


At home, I’m reading the YA novel The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski.


According to Wikipedia,

 the winner’s curse says that in such an auction, the winner will tend to overpay. The winner may overpay or be “cursed” in one of two ways: 1) the winning bid exceeds the value of the auctioned asset such that the winner is worse off in absolute terms; or 2) the value of the asset is less than the bidder anticipated, so the bidder may still have a net gain but will be worse off than anticipated.

Rutkoski took this idea and has turned it into a compelling read. The main character, Kestrel, is the daughter of a general of a conquering army. One day at a slave auction, she buys a slave, more out of a desire to stir the pot during the auction, than because she needs him. I’m only about a quarter through, but I am seriously engaged. The slave, Arin, is more than he seems and I can tell that trouble is brewing and a revolt of some sort is in the  offing. Just where Kestrel will end up is yet to be determined. I have a few predictions, but I’m not ready to share.

Finally, I’m listening to The Queen of the Tearling  by Erika Johansen, while I knit.


I didn’t realize until looking for this image, that the rights to the movie have already been sold and Emma Watson is an executive producer and plans to star in the movie as the Red Queen. Frequently compared the A Game of Thrones, The Queen of the Tearling  is the story of Kelsea, the heir to the Tearling throne, who has been hidden away since she was an infant. She is summoned to reclaim her throne on her 19th birthday, setting in motion a whole series of events that involve a certain amount of gore. It’s a little derivative, but pretty good to listen to while I am otherwise occupied. It is meant to be a trilogy and we shall see if I persevere through all three books.

The Blues

12 Sep

I finally finished my Back to School Socks and the temperature is on the rise again. Here they are.

IMG_1737 IMG_1738

I am excited for the temperature to drop for many reasons, including the opportunity to wear these.

I came across a lovely little book recently, Bluebird by Lindsey Yankey. It is actually a large book, 12″ x 9″, but tells a sweet story in a gentle way, and the artwork is excellent.


In poetic language, Yankey tells the story of a little bird, who fears he cannot fly because his friend, Wind, is not there. He sets off on a mission to find Wind. As the little bluebird searches for his friend, we get to see where he lives. There are beautiful details ion both words and pictures. Everywhere the little bluebird goes, things are still; flags droop, kites rest, clothes hang straight down on lines. The little bluebird eventually finds his friend, who was really there all along, but also learns a little bit about himself, too. A beautiful story about the little bird in each of us.



10 Sep

My adventure with Laryngitis continues. What better book to share today than The River by Alessandro Sanna.


This  beautiful , mostly wordless, graphic novel  takes us on a journey along the banks of Italy’s Po River. It is divided into four sections, telling four stories, one for each season, and begins with Autumn. I so prefer the word Autumn to the more mundane Fall.

The River explores our physical. emotional and spiritual connection to place. It is simply beautiful.

Unknown-1  Unknown-2


The Laryngitis Haiku series

9 Sep


Maybe a slice of

Lemon will help me with

My laryngitis

Pay close attention

                                                                                 Class, I cannot speak and you

                                                                                 Listen better this way

I forgot my whistle

So I’m shouting in a whisper

Calling the end of recess


                                                                              Our read aloud book is

                                                                             The Worm Whisperer.

Back to School Night

Will be a whole new experience

With no voice

                                                                              It doesn’t hurt

                                                                              No really, I feel fine

                                                                              I just can’t talk

Silent warning

My hand on your shoulder

Actions, not words


Popularity and Good Manners

8 Sep

Fiona had acupuncture on Saturday. This involves 15 minutes of needle application. It looks like a game of Twister with the vet tech & I humoring Fiona and feeding her treats and the vet reaching around to stick the needles where she wants them. Then, Fiona has to lay still for 20 minutes. And I am right there with her. It is quiet in the room and I can hear the conversations of the vets and techs on the other side of the door. The clinic is small. My vet was telling about her daughter’s first week at middle school. It wasn’t awful, but she hasn’t found her place yet. and belonging is so important.

Before leaving to go to the vet, I started reading Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen.


It is Maya’s memoir of her eighth grade year in Brownsville Texas, which sounds like a terrible place to live. She was not popular. She came across a 1950’s guide to popularity by Betty Cornell and decided to follow her advice on an attempt to climb the social ladder. This book is the rests of her social experiment.

Witty and heartbreakingly honest, the strength of this book is Maya’s voice. She tells us the good the bad, the ugly and the successful. Each month, Maya tackles a different area that Betty Cornell wrote about:

September: figure

October: hair

December: skin

You get the idea. Throughout the month we see Maya tackle each topic head on and see where she succeeds and where there is still room for growth.

I have recommended this book to my twin sister and I think any female adult who has made it through middle and high school, as well as any girl going through middle and high school, will enjoy this book. You will laugh and shed some tears. The road to popularity s not always pretty.

If you don’t fit into those two categories, you can still get some good advice here


George Washington’s Rules to Live By: A Good Manners Guide from the Father of Our Country by K. M. Kostyal tackles an older guide: George Washington’s Rules of Civility. Hand-copied when Washington was 16, the Rule lay out maxims for living a good life. Now, K. M. Kostyal has translated the to the modern day and added humorous illustrations that allow kids today to learn about manners and history simultaneously.

Both books make interesting reading.

No More Language Arts and Crafts

7 Sep

A worthwhile read before I develop any new bad habits.

Donalyn Miller

I’ll admit that I hold my children’s teachers to a higher than reasonable standard. Would you want my kid in your English class? As a parent, I could be a burr in your saddle. I get that.

I’m not a harassing parent, I promise. Most of my children’s teachers have no idea who I am, other than Celeste and Sarah’s mom. That’s how it should be.

On the other hand, my children’s teachers don’t know who Penny Kittle is. They don’t know who Kristin Ziemke is. They don’t know who Kelly Gallagher is.

Heck, my children’s teachers don’t know who Nancie Atwell and Lucy Calkins are. It doesn’t matter if they’ve read my books about teaching reading, but it does matter when my children’s teachers haven’t read a book or article about teaching reading in 20 years.

A line divides parents who know a lot about reading and their children’s…

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More Ways to Write About Reading

6 Sep

I’ve been thinking about doing readers’ notebooks with my 4th graders this year. Here is a blog post from TWO WRITING TEACHERS I found really helpful.

Randy Ribay

YA author, teacher, nerd

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Gail Carriger

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Kate Messner

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Home of Tundra Books, Puffin Canada, Penguin Teen Canada, and Friends

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