Archive | October, 2014

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.

Fall, germs and things we cannot see

13 Oct

Yesterday, driving home, I had a beautiful view of fresh snow atop Mount Hood. The rain has returned to Oregon and Fall is upon us. This is made a daily reality by the number of kids out sick. Last week, one of my girls made it in on Monday, but looked awful. She had enough of a fever on her second visit to the office that they sent her home and she stayed there the rest of the week. I hope she’s back today.

The change of weather and the return of illness leads to the class reminder about germs and hand washing. A nice way to illustrated the point might be to share this book with kids:

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Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes is written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Emily Sutton. The text is simple enough to engage young readers without dumbing it down for kids who are a little older. Davies’ text manages to convey the size and number of microbes in and around us in relatable ways, by comparisons and contrasts. Sutton’s illustrations are magnificent! This book would be a good introduction to microbes.

We don’t see fossil fuels, either, but we are also surrounded by them.

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 Buried Sunlight: How Fossil Fuels Have Changed the Earth is the fourth book by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm to explore the sun’s relationship to life on Earth. Narrated in the first person by the Sun, the book  explores the earth’s ancient stores of fossil fuels and the effect of intense and rapid consumption of these in recent human history. The narrative non-fiction text is enhanced by the detailed pictures. From the opening illustration where the sun introduces the topic

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through to the end, the illustrations are vibrantly eye-catching and full of details. Another excellent resource to introduce kids to ideas in science.

Never Lost for Words

10 Oct

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Three brilliant people came together to crete this marvelous book: Jen Bryant, Melissa Sweet and Peter Roget. Bryant and Sweet have come together again to create The Right Word,  a beautiful biography of Roget, the man behind Roget’s Thesaurus. 

Peter Roget created his first book of word lists at age 8.

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Like William Carlos Williams,the subject of Bryant & Sweet’s A River of Words,  Roget became a doctor and did his word work in his spare time. Sweet’s illustrations capture Roget’s obsession with synonyms.

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Bryant’s prose let’s us see into the mind of someone obsessed with words.  “Words, Peter learned, were powerful things. And when he put them into long, neat rows, he felt as if the world itself clicked into order.” She creates a picture of a sensitive man and makes us aware that Roget wasn’t merely a reclusive scholar. He wanted  his thesaurus to have a democratizing effect: “I want everyone to be able to use my word book, not just doctors, politicians, and lawyers, but cobblers, fishmongers, and factory workers.”

Whether you read this for business (job, work, vocation, livelihood, métier) or pleasure (amusement, enjoyment, thrill, bliss) you will not be disappointed.

Layers

9 Oct

Three recent books have me thinking about how authors peel back the layers of a story.

In The Fever by Megan Abbott, a mysterious epidemic is ravaging the teenage girls of a small town high school.

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The premise sounds a lot lie Contagion,  which I reviewed a few weeks ago. In this story, however, we have three people narrating the story: Deenie, a high school girl whose friends have been affected; Eli, her brother and high school hockey star; and their dad, Tom, who teaches at their high school. Each character peels back the layers of the story from their own perspective, revealing details about the community in which they live.

The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin is a written as a collection if oral interviews tracing the events that lead to the untimely death of an up and coming artist.

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The story is told by family members, boyfriends, teachers, friends and competitors, and magazine photos and newspaper clippings, with occasional insets of her art. The portraits they paint conflict and don’t always create a sympathetic portrait. No one comes out of this well. Each narrator has their own stake in the myth and marketing of Addison Stone and reveals as much about themselves as they do about Addison Stone.

The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf  by Ambelin Kwaymullina has one narrator, but plays around with layers of memory.

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Unlike the two previous realistic novels, this is a YA dystopian novel. We meet Ashala in prison where she is forced to endure “the machine” a tool that will extract memories and secrets from her mind, revealing a plot against the order. Or so Chief Administrator Neville Rose, a man who is intent on destroying Ashala’s Tribe, believes. I almost gave this book up, thinking it was what it appeared to be on the surface, but once Ashala’s interrogation began, I realized this book was not just another  YA dystopian novel. We get to go places in Ashala’s memory Neville Rose cannot and it is really worth going there.

All three of these were really enjoyable reads and I highly recommend them.

 

Ben & Vicky

8 Oct

What do Queen Victoria and Benjamin Franklin have in Common? Besides the new pictures books that feature each of them, they both loved swimming!

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Queen Victoria’s Bathing Machine,  written by Gloria Whelan and illustrated by Nancy Carpenter, is written in verse and tells the true story of Queen Victoria’s real dilemma. She wanted to bathe in the sea, but decorum dictated that she mustn’t.  Prince Albert, ever the innovator, created a bathing machine, a small house that permitted the Queen to bathe in privacy. The real thing has been restored and can still be seen.

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While listening to the 7th Jacky Faber book, Rapture of the Deep, I came across mention of the paddles Ben Franklin invented to help. What a delight to discover Barb Rosenstock’s  Ben Franklin;s Big Splash which talks about Ben’s desire to become a better swimmer. To go faster he first created hand paddles, which were very effective. His feet paddles were less helpful. The playful illustrations, by S. D. Schindler, show a naked Ben swimming, with vital parts strategically covered by water.

Both books take readers through the design process and would be a fun introduction to ann engineering and design unit.

The Good Old Dog Project

5 Oct

Almost a year ago, the girls and I had our portraits done by Pauline Zonneveld. During Winter Break, when my sister and her family were visiting we had an appointment with Pauline to look over the photos and I chose the ones I wanted.

On Thursday, Pauline held an exhibition of senior dogs, the Good Old Dog Project.

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(That’s my Lucy in the ad.)

The exhibition runs all month in the lobby of Antoinette Hatfield Hall  (1111 SW Broadway Ave., Portland, OR 97205).

Thursday was the opening reception and I went because Fiona’s portrait was going to be part of the exhibit accompanied by a haiku that would reflect her personality. It was a gorgeous show. Naturally, I went straight to Fiona’s picture.

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That’s her in the center, flanked by two other beautiful seniors. I had hoped this was the photo Pauline was going to use because it shows her feisty side, and most people don’t get to see that. Here is the haiku about Fiona

Graceful but not broken

My ears are my pride and joy.

Eh, what’s that you say?

I got a little weepy looking at her photo and reading that haiku. Then, I took a look at all the other dogs and their haiku.

Here are some samples of Pauline’s work.

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 If you are in or around downtown Portland this month, take a short detour to the theater and admire theses beautiful photos and the senior dogs they celebrate.

Eggs over easy

3 Oct

What’s the chance two books would have EGG in the title? Excellent, apparently.

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Egg and Spoon by Gregory Maguire, is a romp through Tsarist Russia.

From the publisher: Elena Rudina lives in the impoverished Russian countryside. Her father has been dead for years. One of her brothers has been conscripted into the Tsar’s army, the other taken as a servant in the house of the local landowner. Her mother is dying, slowly, in their tiny cabin. And there is no food. But then a train arrives in the village, a train carrying untold wealth, a cornucopia of food, and a noble family destined to visit the Tsar in Saint Petersburg — a family that includes Ekaterina, a girl of Elena’s age. When the two girls’ lives collide, an adventure is set in motion, an escapade that includes mistaken identity, a monk locked in a tower, a prince traveling incognito, and — in a starring role only Gregory Maguire could have conjured — Baba Yaga, witch of Russian folklore, in her ambulatory house perched on chicken legs

Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald is an art mystery set in New York.

From the publisher: Only two people know about the masterpiece hidden in the Tenpenny home—and one of them is dead.

The other is Theodora Tenpenny. Theo is responsible for tending the family’s two-hundred-year-old town house, caring for a flock of unwieldy chickens, and supporting her fragile mother, all on her grandfather’s legacy of $463. So, when Theo discovers a painting in the house that looks like a priceless masterpiece, she should be happy about it. But Theo’s late grandfather was a security guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and if the painting is as valuable as she thinks it is, then her grandfather wasn’t who she thought he was.

With the help of some unusual new friends, Theo’s search for answers takes her all over Manhattan and introduces her to a side of the city—and her grandfather—that she never knew. To solve the mystery, she’ll have to abandon her hard-won self-reliance and build a community, one serendipitous friendship at a time.

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