Archive | October, 2014

Henri Matisse

22 Oct

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The Iridescence of Birds written by Patricia MacLachlan and marvelously illustrated by Hadley Hooper, is a book about Henri Matisse. It begins with this line

“If you were a boy named Henri Matisse who lived in a dreary town in northern France where the skies were gray/ And the days were cold/ And you wanted color and light and sun…”

then goes on to explain the things in young Henri’s life that might have influenced him. It is more speculative than factual biography, but would be a great way to get kids tinkling about what inspires artists and even writers. It end with this line

“Would it be a surprise that you became a fine painter who painted/ Light and Movement/ And the iridescence of birds?”

Fantastique, non? as a french reader might say. MacLachalan’s ponderings are beautifully enhanced by Hooper’s illustrations.

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What inspires you?

Read Aloud is My Superpower

21 Oct

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Read aloud is one of my favorite times of the school day. I’d forgotten that, not having had my own classroom for six years.  This year’s class is a handful. but they love read aloud too!  It is the one time there are no side conversations and my class LOVES to  have side conversations.

The first book I read to the this year was The Worm Whisperer  by Betty Hicks. I knew this class was special because they referred back to events and characters in it when we were talking about other things. One day, just before we left for a long weekend, I was talking to them about being sure not to forget their homework, which led to a discussion of having a regular homework time.We talked about how plans sometimes change on long weekends, so they should have their regular plan in place, but have a back up plan just in case. One student piped up and said “You shouldn’t be so rigid that you can;t break your own rules.”, or something to that effect. I asked where they learned that and they said, “From Ellis’ teacher in The Worm Whisperer.”  I was impressed.

We read Dear Mr. Henshaw next, which they loved, though they were a little hesitant to leave The Worm Whisperer  behind. A couple of kids have borrowed both of those books to reread them on their own.

Friday we started The Doll People by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin. I wanted a book with a strong female lead and was reminded of this one by the recent publication of the 4th book in the series. The boys were not impressed by the cover. Too girly. By the time I reached the family sing-along I had hooked them. The Doll Family was son gong from Greatest Hits of the Sixties. I think it was my own singing of  R-E-S-P-E-C-T, and particularly the “sock-it-to-me ” chorus that really grabbed their attention. Apparently they didn’t know the song, so I played it for them, doing some silly movements with my head and hands. Just as the song finished, the principal was doing a walk-through with the custodian and the fire marshall. We all had a good laugh at that.

I enjoy watching their faces move from skeptical as I begin a new book, to entranced when I’ve hooked them.  I think read aloud might be my superpower.

Courage

20 Oct

We are talking about Everyday Heroes in reading this days. The word courage has come up, as have many other characteristics. IN Courage for Beginners,  by Karen Harrington,

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twelve-year-old Mysti Murphy has a mom who has agoraphobia and a former best friend who has turned “hipster” and now treats her terribly. When her dad is hospitalized because of an accident she feels alone and as though she sis the on one keeping her family afloat. Then she meets Rama Khan, a 6th grader whose name sound like that of a Superhero,  at the “loser” lunch table. Mysti doesn’t like change, but with her friend Rama Khan by her side, she is able to face her fears and move on.

At first I was frustrated by Mysti’s acceptance of her ill-treatment by he reformer friend, Anibal. I wanted her to confront him, call him out for his bullying behavior. But that wouldn’t be true to her character. Almost 50 year lob me would do that, but I don;t think my 7th grade self would have done that either. Sometimes, it takes a while for a person to give up the hope that a friendship will go back to normal.

Everybody has fears they have to face. And it is courage that helps us do it.

What I’m reading now

17 Oct

I read more than one book at a time. I know a lot of people don’t, but I need something for whatever mood I’m in. And I always have an audiobook in the car and one on my laptop. Here’s what I’ll be reading, and I hope finishing, this weekend.

Have I mentioned lately how much I love Andrew Smith? Reading his 100 Sideways Miles is the perfect follow-up to Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future. 

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Goodreads Summary:Finn Easton sees the world through miles instead of minutes. It’s how he makes sense of the world, and how he tries to convince himself that he’s a real boy and not just a character in his father’s bestselling cult-classic book. Finn has two things going for him: his best friend, the possibly-insane-but-definitely-excellent Cade Hernandez, and Julia Bishop, the first girl he’s ever loved.

Then Julia moves away, and Finn is heartbroken. Feeling restless and trapped in the book, Finn embarks on a road trip with Cade to visit their college of choice in Oklahoma. When an unexpected accident happens and the boys become unlikely heroes, they take an eye-opening detour away from everything they thought they had planned—and learn how to write their own destiny.

100 Sideways Miles is definitely a YA book. I’m also reading The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer Holm, which is written for a middle grade audience.

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From the publisher:Eleven-year-old Ellie has never liked change. She misses fifth grade. She misses her old best friend. She even misses her dearly departed goldfish. Then one day a strange boy shows up. He’s bossy. He’s cranky. And weirdly enough . . . he looks a lot like Ellie’s grandfather, a scientist who’s always been slightly obsessed with immortality. Could this pimply boy really be Grandpa Melvin? Has he finally found the secret to eternal youth?

That doesn’t really capture the voice and wonderful manner in which Jennifer Holm resents scientific information. In spite of the publisher’s description, you should read this.

My other two reads are adult reads. That makes them sound naughty, but they are not, except that they both represent terrible things that happened as the 19th century turned into the 20th.

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I’ve been listening to An Officer and a Spy  by Robert Harris in the car and have 3 discs to go. It is a fictionalized account of the Dreyfus Affair from the point of view of Georges Picquart, who uncovered evidence to exonerate Dreyfuss and was persecuted by the French Military who tried to cover up their wrongdoings on the case. This has been an excellent book so far.

Finally, I’m reading the book about the origins of WWI that I got this summer while I was in Canada.

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The War That Ended Peace by Margaret MacMillan, runs almost 800 pages. I’m only on page 107, but this is a highly readable account of the years leading up to WW1.

Building and rebuilding

16 Oct

My school is slated to be demolished and rebuilt. This won’t happen for a few years because we are second on the list. In the meantime, my 4th grade team is using this as a writing opportunity. The kids have done some research about school facilities and are now on team building T-charts of pros and cons for the features they think should be included in the new building. They will present their arguments in teams and then all 4th graders will select a few ideas and write a persuasive letter to our principal to convince her to include the features they’ve chosen. Last year, we did a similar project with a different topic and tho kids were very impressed because the principal read and commented on each of their letters. That feedback was very meaningful to them.

For kids who are interested in building and contraction we have  The Story of Buildings, written by Patrick Dillon and illustrated by Stephen Biesty.

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The book takes a chronological look at buildings from pyramids to the Sydney Opera House. In the opening chapter Dillon describes how houses are, and have been, built. Subsequent chapters focus on particular buildings and their construction. There are lots of cool foldouts for those not ready to tackle the substantial text.

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For kids, or adults, interested in architecture, this book is worth picking up.

 

Glorious Glory O’Brien

15 Oct

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I drove directly to a bookstore yesterday to pick my copy of A. S. King’s Glory O’Brien’s History of the World, which was finally out. I’d been counting down the days. several times throughout the day I checked online to see if my favorite independent bookseller had  it, and was dismayed to see that they only had it in a warehouse. Shock and disappointment. So, I went to a chain bookstore,which is sort of on my way home, because when I checked on-line it said they had it in stock & on the shelves.  When I got there it wasn’t. Teen-aged me would have been to shy to ask, but almost 50-year-old me had no qualms about asking for help. Sure enough it was on the shelves, but in the “O’s” for “O’Brien” and not int he “K’s” for “King”.  If you look at the cover you can see how someone could make that error, but really, if they thought about it for a moment longer they’d have figured out that Glory O’Brien is not the author.

I made it halfway through last night. I could have finished it, but I need my beauty rest in order to teach well.  So far, I ma not disappointed. On the eve of her high school graduation, Glory O’Brien develops the ability to look at a person and see their history (going back many generations) and their future (going forward several generations). The future she sees is a disturbing one in which second American Civil War occurs and half the country takes away a woman’s right to work.  She is also trying to discover details about her mother, who committed suicide when Glory was 4.  I can’t wait to get home tonight and finish it and I will stay up as late as I have to in order to do so. I never exactly know where an A. S. King novel will take me, but I know Glory is going to have to do something with the information she’s been given.

 

 

 

It’s my own darned fault: A Slice of Life Story

14 Oct

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I only had two rows to go to finish the shrug I was knitting. I was knitting in bed with Fiona, my elderly basset hound, while her sister slept on the bed on the living room floor.

I only had two rows to go to, so when Fiona got up for a potty break, I asked her to wait until I got to the end of the row I was working on. She didn’t listen and meandered towards the door. I knew I should stop there and go with her, but I was close to the end of the row. What could happen? There hadn’t been a fight in years. So, I kept knitting.

And that’s when it happened. The snarl of a dog fight. Fiona had clearly gotten too close to Lucy, who hates to be woken up. I threw aside the knitting and kept from the bed. No elegant landing however, because I tripped or got tangled in blankets and fell on the floor. I could see that Lucy had Fiona pinned and was making a lot of noise, but no teeth were involved.

I crawled over, pulled Lucy off and put her in timeout. Then, went to Fiona to make sure she was fine. She was, of course. There was no blood and she seemed less worried than I felt. With Lucy in timeout, I took Fiona out for the potty break that started the whole incident, and then the dogs went back to sleep and I, finally, finished those two darned rows.

I awoke in the middle of the night because my back hurt. I tried to get comfortable and wondered if I had done a little something to it during the leap, landing or rescue. The next morning, it was a little tough to stand straight, but as back issues go, it wasn’t too bad and within a few days I was almost back to normal, though I was still being careful.

If I had just stopped when Fiona got up, none of this would have happened. Hindsight is 20/20.

Randy Ribay

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