Archive | January, 2015

14, 15, 16

30 Jan

Sunday is February 1st, 2015 and Fiona will turn 14.


 There were some points last year when I worried she wouldn’t make it to this auspicious day. I worry a little, too, because both Clara and Louie died when they were 14. Fiona has a tumorous lump on her back that is now bleeding. Fortunately, she just had bloodwork  done and it came back good. Dr. Davies, our vet, has given the green light for the surgery that will remove it. I’ve scheduled that for President’s Day.


Sunday, February 1st is also my first official day as a member of  ALA’s 2016 William C. Morris YA Debut Award committee. I’ve read a few debut novels and the committee has had some initial e-mails back & forth, but today it all becomes official. I’ve already booked my flight & hotel for the ALA Annual meeting in San Francisco, where I will meet the committee members for the first time and we’ll really dig into the job. But, for now, I am simply reading. Unfortunately, I cannot write about any of them, not until Feb 1, 2016 when my term ends. I am keeping careful track, so, when the time comes, I can share things I think you will like.



29 Jan


As a kid I loved Encyclopedia Brown. As I got older I moved on to more sophisticated mysteries like Nancy Drew, then Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot.

File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents  takes place within the larger Lemony Snicket series of All The Wrong Questions. Daniel Handler keeps to the noir tone of the current series in this collection of 13 different mysteries that the reader has to try to figure out based on the short story they’ve read and then flip to the back to read the answer. It’s like edgy Encyclopedia Brown.

This is a quick read and just the thing when you are not sure what you want to read next.


28 Jan

Rather than doing a countdown until Monday, the day the ALA Youth Media Awards are announced, perhaps you’ve noticed, I’ve been counting up.

Wild Rover No More is the twelfth and final novel in the Jacky Faber series by L. A. Meyer.


It is full of the same Jacky Faber wit and adventure. I am only half way through the audiobook, but I am enjoying it as I have enjoyed all the others. This is bittersweet though, because this will truly be the last book. L.A. Meyer passed away just before the book came out, from complications from Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Publisher’s Weekly wrote a wonderful obituary, that you can read here.

What I have to mention is the fabulous job Katherine Kellgren has done narrating the series. She has won awards for a few of the Jacky books and I have sought out other audiobooks by her. She opens this audiobook with a tribute to L. A. Meyer.

So, in a fighting tribute to Jacky Faber, who loved Boston, here are the Dropkick Murphys. I think Jacky would like their attitude.


27 Jan


For my 4th graders, turning 10 is huge. Double digits, you know.

For Alex Douglas, the protaganist in Eleven, by Tom Rogers, turning eleven means he is responsible enough to get a dog. Or so he hopes. Alex’s 11th  birthday doesn’t start off the way he expects and when you realize that Alex turns 11 on September 11, 2001, you know the day is not going to end the way he expects, either.

From the Publisher: Alex Douglas always wanted to be a hero. But nothing heroic ever happened to Alex. Nothing, that is, until his eleventh birthday. When Alex rescues a stray dog as a birthday gift to himself, he doesn’t think his life can get much better. Radar, his new dog, pretty much feels the same way. But this day has bigger things in store for both of them.

This is a story about bullies and heroes. About tragedy and hope. About enemies with two legs and friends with four, and pesky little sisters and cranky old men, and an unexpected lesson in kindness delivered with a slice of pizza.

I felt the author did an extraordinary job of presenting the human side of what happened on 9/11. The book is honest in depicting the violence of what happened without being overtly gory or sensationalist. The focus was put on the thoughts and feelings of the survivors, their will to help one another, and their longing to get home and embrace their families.

This is the best book you’ve never heard of. It is not a perfect novel, few are, but this one is really worth reading.


26 Jan


Hervé Tullet is simply brilliant. So are his books and the colors he uses.In 10 Times 10, Tullet counts to 10 in 10 wildly eccentric ways. Entries include a single hand that ends up, progressively, with 10 fingers; a face with three noses, four eyes and five mouths. All in all, this is a fun way to explore numbers with young readers.


Here’s another group of 10. 10 Little Monsters Visit Oregon, written by Rick Walton and illustrated by Jess Smart Smiley, explores some of the most unusual and interesting things about Oregon and what it has to offer.  Humorous poems  are paired with factual text about each Oregon location. Although the text is fun, the illustrations didn’t really work for me. This would be an additional purchase for a classroom studying Oregon. Better books on the topic would be Larry Gets Lost In Portland  by Michael Mullin and John Skewes (for younger readers)


or  B is for Beaver  by Marie and Roland Smith, for older readers.


Happy Burns Day!

24 Jan

Robert Burns, also known as Robbie Burns, the Ploughman Poet and the Bard of Ayrshire, was born on January 25, 1759.


One didn’t grow up a Gillespie without becoming familiar with him. Fortunately, we didn’t grow up eating the traditional Burns Night meal, haggis (sheep offal and oatmeal cooked in the sheep’s stomach).

Many of Burns’ poems were  intended to be sung, and many have been recorded, some very traditionally, some less so. Here is one of my favorites “A Man’s a Man For A That” performed by The Old Blind Dogs.

And here’s Dougie Maclean performing “Ye Banks and Braes O’ Bonnie Doon”. It is a lovely recording.

Growing up a Gillespie, we were also taught to stand at attention when we heard the bagpipes, so, please rise for this rendition of Burns’ most popular song”Auld Lang Syne”.

And, if you also feel called to raise a glass in honor of the Bard of Ayrshire, today or any day, go right ahead.


A funny week – the HAHA kind, mostly

23 Jan

Yesterday was a hard day, generally, in 4th grade. All 4 teachers seemed to have some spot of trouble to help kids with. On the other hand, there were also lots of funnies in my class this week I have to share a couple.

1. While he was practicing note-taking about Duke Ellington for our biography unit, V leaned over to me and said, “When we are older e, Z and C are gonna find each other and get an apartment. Then we will have a band.” I told him I hoped they’d track me down and invite me to their gig, a Duke Ellington vocal word. Then, I couldn’t help myself. He was so serious I added, “If I’m old and in a wheelchair, I’ll find someone to push me there.”

2. I’m reading The One & Only Ivan  aloud. The word amends came up because it says that zoos are where humans make amends. I was attempting to explain the meaning of amends when a little voice piped up with. “That’s probably why, at church, they end with Amen.”

3. Working on MLK timelines, a kid mispronounced Burmingham as Burningham….not funny haha, but apropos.

4. Today, a pair was having some trouble working together. One of them said “Who even voted D at our table?”. Well, I moved D to work with another student and had a heart to heart with the speaker. I told him I would have cried if I were D. The the speaker said, Well, D only wants to work. She doesn’t ever mess around.”. I replied, “That’s why I put her there.”.

5. Our OBOB  (Oregon Battle of the Books) battles started last week. I tell the kids they should always say something. Twice this week, kids made random guesses that were right. the best was to a 3rd grade team who were asked this question  about  The One & Only Ivan. They had no idea, but took my advice to heart and decided to say 45. Imagine the surprise on their faces when they heard that their answer was correct. We had a good laugh about that.

That got me thinking about Kid President’s Twenty Things We Should Say More Often

Any funnies in your week?



A Talent for Poeticals

22 Jan


“Leroy Ninker was a small man with a big dream.” He wanted to be a cowboy. Alas, he worked at a drive-in and all he could do was watch cowboy movies. He had the gear: hat, boots, lasso and tracking abilities. But he lacked a horse.

When he finally gets the gumption to look for a horse, it is love at first sight. Maybelline is old and eats a lot of grub. She gets lonesome quick and “is the kind of horse who enjoys the heck out of a compliment”. But love at first sight is a powerful thing and Leroy and Maybelline ride off together, after a few poetical compliments.

Thins go swimmingly, until a thunderstorm occurs and Leroy forgets the third rule: Maybelline gets lonesome quick. Leroy quickly turns on his cowboy tracking skills to find his beloved happily munching grass on Deckawoo Drive. Yippie-i-oh!

In a similar vein to the Mercy Watson  series,  Leroy Ninker Saddles Up is the first book in a new series by Kate DiCamillo. I am excited about this because I anticipate a whole farmyard worth of animals ending up on Deckawoo Drive, home of Mercy Watson, porcine wonder. DiCamillo has just the right touch on these early chapter books. They are funny, but touch on serious themes. If you loved Mercy, you will certainly love Leroy & Maybelline.

10 Math & Science Topic Choice Mentors + 10 Book Giveaways

21 Jan

Here are some great books and cool ways to use them in the classroom.

What was I thinking? A Slice of Life Story

20 Jan


I packed my bag Friday night  with all the things I’d need for the adoption event the next morning: blanket and water bowl for the dogs we’d have on hand, printouts of available dogs, the poster board, donation box, candy and bowl. I was set.

Saturday morning saw torrential downpours and it was OK to miss a day cozy at home because I knew Monday was a holiday. I had a late breakfast so I wouldn’t need to take a break for lunch. I had some snacks, just in case.

The rain was wicked as I drove to the PetSmart. This wasn’t our usual location for the adoption event. This time two stores were buddying up. It was easy to find although I surprised they didn’t have sign out or balloons. I figured it was due to the weather.

I walked in, surprised to see no tables set up, but I confidently walked up to the store associates and announced that I was there to represent Oregon Basset Hound Rescue. They looked perplexed. They were under the impression it was next month. Uh oh. The manager kindly called over to our regular store and they thought so too.

I retreated to the car and called our adoption coordinator. Apparently, I was a month early. I’m not sure how I made the mistake, since every e-mail I had about the event clearly said February in the subject line.

I’m leaving the bag packed so I can use it when I show up again…on the right day this time.

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