Archive | May, 2015

Semper ubi sub ubi

31 May

I took a year of Latin in high school. I would have taken a second year, but not enough people signed up. Mr. Glaessner, was my grade 9 french teacher as well as my  Latin teacher. He was a German, born in Czechoslovakia, and spoke several languages. On Fridays, we learned latin phrases and proverbs. Many were deep and meaningful (per ardua ad astra – through hardship to the stars) some were just for fun, like the title of this post. Translated it means “always where under where” but we knew it was a wise admonition: always wear underwear.

Yes, I am writing a post about underwear. There are two reasons for it really. we’ve had underwear on the brain in class lately because of our read aloud, Pip Bartlett’s Guide to magical Creatures by Jackson Pearce and Maggie Stiefvater.

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On friday we read a chapter in which Fuzzles infest underwear drawers of the good citizens of Cloverton. The kids laughed a lot and I love those read aloud days when you know you really have them. Reading this chapter was one of those days.

I also just read Polar Bear”s Underwear by Tupera Tupera.Polar Bear has lost his underwear and is on a mission to find them. With his friend, Mouse, he encounters several pairs, which are not his. Each of these pairs is first seen through a cutout.

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On the next page, we discover the true owner of the underwear.

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It is a bizarre book, but it works. I won’t tell you where Mouse & Polar Bear finally find Polar Bear’s missing underwear, but rest assured, they do.

Semper ubi sub ubi.

Girls save the world….again

29 May

I have two really great sequels to rave about today. They both have exclamation points in the title and both feature girls who save the world. Isn’t it always thus!

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Dragons Beware!  is a sequel to Giants Beware, both written by Jorge Aguirre and  illustrated by Rafael Rosado.

Goodreads Summary: Scrappy Claudette sets out once again with her pal Marie and her little brother Gaston to right wrongs and fight evil. And this time, it’s personal. Claudette is out to get the dragon who ate her father’s legs…and his legendary sword. But as usual, nothing is as simple as it seems, and Claudette is going to need Marie and Gaston’s help more than ever.

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Smek For President! is a sequel to The True Meaning of Smekday  by Adam Rex.

Goodreads summary:After Tip and J.Lo banished the Gorg from Earth in a scheme involving the cloning of many, many cats, the pair is notorious-but not for their heroics. Instead, human Dan Landry has taken credit for conquering the Gorg, and the Boov blame J.Lo for ruining their colonization of the planet. Determined to clear his name, J.Lo and Tip pack into Slushious, a Chevy that J.Lo has engineered into a fairly operational spaceship, and head to New Boovworld, the aliens’ new home on one of Saturn’s moons.

But their welcome isn’t quite as warm as Tip and J.Lo would have liked. J.Lo is dubbed Public Enemy Number One, and Captain Smek knows that capturing the alien is the only way he’ll stand a chance in the Boovs’ first-ever presidential election.

With the help of a friendly flying billboard named Bill, a journey through various garbage chutes, a bit of time travel, and a slew of hilarious Boovish accents, Tip and J.Lo must fight to set the record straight-and return home in once piece.

The first book came out in 2007, so it took me a few pages to get back into the Boov groove, but before long, I remembered why I liked the first book so much. They are just so funny and you can’t help liking the endearing Boovish way of speaking.

Day vs. Night

28 May

I have never been a night person. Oh, I managed to fake it for a few years in high school and college, but I have long given up any desire to try to be anything other than a morning person.

Daylight Starlight Wildlife by Wendell Minor, is a lovely picture book that compares and contrasts diurnal and nocturnal animals.

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Goodreads Summary: In amazingly lifelike, luminous paintings, Wendell Minor, one of America’s finest wildlife and landscape painters, reveals the variety of animals that surround us when we are awake and when we are sleeping.

Minor’s vivid introduction to diurnal (daytime) and nocturnal (nighttime) creatures invites readers to experience the movements, sounds, colors, and textures of nature. By day a red-tailed hawk soars through sky, and by night a barn owl silently swoops through it. In the daylight a family of fluffy cottontail rabbits hops into a field to forage for food, and under starlight a family of pink-nosed opossums does the same. As day turns to night and night to day, amazing critters large and small come and go. Children will enjoy comparing and contrasting the roaming habits of the wonderful wildlife that surrounds us.

here is a sample page.

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This is a great book for read aloud to a class as well as a book to quietly read alone. Facts at the end of the book give quick info about all the different animals mentioned in the book.

Simple Beauty

27 May

I was almost brought to tears by the beauty of Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson and Sydney Smith.

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It is a deceptively simple story, told without words. A little girl is out walking with her dad along city sidewalks. She picks all the flowers she sees as she goes.

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But it is what she does with the flowers that makes this book so powerful. She delivers them to those who need them: a homeless man, a dog, her baby brother, a dead bird.

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As you can see, the book is mostly black and white, but bright spots of color share the beauty of this little person. Her actions are pure of heart. She isn’t doing this for praise or attention. And that is what makes Sidewalk Flowers  so moving.

Worse than the kids

26 May

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We had a workday on Friday. There were no kids in the building, but there was a buzz in the air. It was the teachers, buzzing like high schoolers talking about who was going to prom with whom. We were all waiting for the announcement of where each of us would be teaching. Some people had been invited to appointments in the office. Those who hadn’t been knew where they were going to be for the 2015-16 school year.

It was funny listening to all of us. Trying to come up with the possible scenarios. Our enrollment projections were down so we had to move from a school with two 3-person team and three 4-person teams, to a school with 4 3-person teams and only 1 4-person team. There were a lot of sentences that began “Well, she could move….” or “what if …”. It was all ridiculous really,, but we couldn’t help ourselves. Some scenarios were simple, others were complicated manoeuvres involving several teachers.

The dust is settling today. I’m not sure when this news gets conveyed to parents; later rather than sooner, I hope.

Summer School

25 May

This week I handed out  summer school flyers. Summer school is completely optional, of course, though highly recommended for those receiving the “invitations”. There were definite groans. In his debut novel, Return to Augie Hobble, 

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Lane Smith introduces us to the eponymous character who failed his creative arts class and must redo his final project. His dad runs a seedy amusement park and Augie’s summer assignment there is collecting garbage. Augie’s summer is does not look promising. Smith takes this unpromising summer and shakes it up by adding a plan to run away, bullying, werewolves, missing pets, robbery, visions and government agents. With so many weird and wonderful things happening, the thread of the story could get lost, but Smith ties up loose threads and leads readers to a satisfying ending. This would make a great end of the year read aloud or a great book for upper elementary/lower middle school kids to read as they kick off summer vacation.

Canine humor

24 May

I own a ridiculous number of basset hound t-shirts, almost a dozen, and they are all pretty funny.

Dave Coverly’s collection of cartoons, Dogs Are People, Too,  is also very funny.

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It contain photos and brief tributes to the cartoonist’s own canine companions, but it features hilarious cartoons that show dogs doing what they do best. I also saw myself in several of the cartoons. The age range given is “10-13, adult”.

The end of the school year is busy and stressful. This laugh out loud collection was a great light-hearted read and I laughed out loud at some of the cartoons, even getting a bit of stink eye from Lucy when I woke her up. She doesn’t enjoy being woken up.

I was a big fan of the Herman cartoon strip, drawn by Jim Unger, from the mid 70’s to the early 90’s. Dave Coverly’s humor reminds me a lot of Unger’s. If you enjoy that sort of humor too, you will certainly enjoy Coverly’s book.

You can’t rush creativity

21 May

You can’t rush creativity, but sometimes, teachers have to help our charges get their creativity to meet a deadline. Our inventions have to be built today, so we can spend next week working on poster boards. That’s what I’m telling the kids. The Science Expo is June 2nd. If they stick to that deadline, we’ll be ready 2 days early. Most will make it. Some will need this two buffer days.

P. Zonka is also a creative genius who cannot be rushed.

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She is the heroine of P. Zonka Lays an Egg by Julie Paschkis. All the chickens on the farm are regular reliable egg-layers.

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Except for P. Zonka. All the other chickens have theories as to why this is so. She wanders too much. She’s a dreamer. Although she’s never laid an egg, P. Zonka knows she’d be good at it. When she explains why the other chickens say, “I don’t get it.” But P. Zonka remains undaunted, and when she finally lays her egg, after some encouragement from the other chickens, it is spectacular.

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Julie Paschkis’ illustrations are beautiful and evoke the pysanka (Ukranian Easter eggs) that inspired this story.

I hope the kids I’ve been nagging, doubting and theorizing about produce an invention as spectacular as P. Zonka’s.

You can’t rush creativity, but you can certainly encourage it.

Wednesday, Thursday, Friday!

19 May

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We are part of a fresh fruit & vegetable program (FFVP for short) on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Last week,  our lunch lady sent the staff an e-mail letting us know that she would be at a different school Tuesday, due to a shortage of lunch ladies in the district. Because of this, the FFVP would be on Wednesday, thursday and Friday instead. One of  the class job is “Snack Helper”. Snack helpers go to the cafeteria to pick up the snack, then serve it to their peers. It is one of the kids’ favorite jobs.

Knowing this, I put a note on the board Tuesday morning:

No Snack today

W, Th, F instead

When the kids came in, the were in a tizzy. Someone called put “OMG look what Miss G. out on the board.” What I clearly saw as Wednesday, Thursday, Friday,  they kids saw as WTF, the short form of “What the @#$%”.

I was shocked that they would see that, but couldn’t help laughing. I fixed the board and told my colleagues that from now on, if they hear me say “Wednesday, Thursday, Friday”, I mean WTF.

Detective Duos

18 May

First there was Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

Then, we had Mike Stone (Karl Malden) and Steve Keller (Michael Douglas) in The Streets of San Francisco. If you mashed up Stone & Keller with Frog & Toad, you’d have  Detective Gordon and Buffy, the heroes of  Detective Gordon: The First Case written by Ulf Nilsson and illustrated by Gitte Spee

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Detective Gordon is an aging detective, fond of cakes, and prone to falling asleep. Buffy is his new assistant, eager and anxious to get out the pistol. They are working together to solve the mystery of the nuts that are disappearing all over the forest. Detective Gordon, though getting older, has learned important lessons.

I was a little concerned at first with the pistol that was locked in the cabinet. Buffy keeps asking if they are going to use it. Detective Gordon keeps telling her “no”. Finally, he explains,

“To take the pistol one must be very wise and very careful. It’s dangerous.”

Buffy jumped up and down angrily. The thieves were disappearing between the trees. But she badly wanted to have the pistol.

She would have it.

“But you are very wise and very careful, chief.”

Detective Gordon held up his finger. He had something very important to say.

“The one who is really wise and very careful doesn’t take it with him!” said the detective. “It’s dangerous.”

Far, far away, they could hear the thieves laughing. But Buffy wouldn’t give up.

“Why is it in the glass cabinet then? Why don;t you throw it away?”

“In case someone finds it and hurts themselves. It is safest locked up in the police station.”

The entire book is full of philosophical conversations like that. But what makes me really love the book is the stamp.

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Every paper the detective duo write on requires an official stamp. The stamp they use has a crown in the center, through Detective Gordon doesn’t really know why “but it seemed powerful and no one had questioned it”. It makes a satisfying KLA-DUNK sound and that is good enough.

This is a charming  book for readers just venturing into chapter books.

Randy Ribay

YA author, teacher, nerd

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