Archive | August, 2016

A Evening With Malala

31 Aug


I spent last evening with 4800 other people listening to Malala Yousafzai speak. She is only 19, but she is such a poised young woman.

We teach Malala and use clips of her speeches as part of our  Model UN and teen activism units, so I’d seen her speak before. Never in person though. What stood out to me, besides the important message she shares, was her sense of humor. None of  the other clips I’ve seen really showed her self-deprecating humor. Tonight, we got a glimpse of the woman behind the message.

Even though she is the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize, she didn’t win the position of head girl at her school in Birmingham.

Even though she was speaking to all of us, had met heads of state and addressed the United Nations, she was nervous about her upcoming interview as part of her application to Oxford University.

This year, as we begin our Model UN unit and talk about teen activists, I feel I will have a little something more to bring.

Scavenger Hunt – A Slice of life Story

30 Aug


We lost the new guy in the Bethany Village Shopping Center.

We were nearing the end of our first day scavenger hunt and there we were, team Brought to you by the letter F, wandering in the hot parking lot shouting “Erik”. But he never answered.

As we trudged back to school, we wondered what the consequences would be for a team who lost the new guy. It couldn’t be pretty. Entering the school, we thrilled at the air conditioning we felt as we made out way towards the office. We could see the principal standing at the intersection directing traffic. Right behind her was Erik!

No, it hadn’t been a planned part of the activity to remind us as teachers to be mindful of the kids we leave behind.  We had come up with this brilliant idea on the way back to school. After each of the activities we’s done before the scavenger hunt, we’d had to do a bot of reflection. And this is what we reflected on during the long walk home.

In the end, we lost Erik for a simpler reason. he’d seen someone he knew and popped into a restaurant was we were heading to the small Bethany library. Somehow, we just never reconnected, even though the two were only a few doors apart. We were ships passing in the night.


It was a great first day back for teachers, even if we lost the new guy.

The Power of Story

29 Aug

ARGH. I have to go to work today and I am close to finishing All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor.


I LOVE this book.

Here’s the summary:

Eleven-year-old Perry was born and raised by his mom at the Blue River Co-ed Correctional Facility in tiny Surprise, Nebraska. His mom is a resident on Cell Block C, and so far Warden Daugherty has made it possible for them to be together. That is, until a new district attorney discovers the truth—and Perry is removed from the facility and forced into a foster home.

When Perry moves to the “outside” world, he feels trapped. Desperate to be reunited with his mom, Perry goes on a quest for answers about her past crime. As he gets closer to the truth, he will discover that love makes people resilient no matter where they come from . . . but can he find a way to tell everyone what home truly means?

All book summaries leave out significant details. Sometimes that’s to keep surprise elements a surprise. Sometimes it is to lure a reader in.

What this summary doesn’t tell you is that Perry’s teacher assigns an assignment in which he has to write about how his family came to Surprise. Instead, considering the inmates his family, he embarks on an interview project of many inmates. As you read the stories, each inmate is humanized. I have to say, at this point in the story I really dislike the DA, Thomas VanLeer, and I hope I get to learn his story. He needs some humanizing.

The End of Summer Tally

28 Aug

Teachers in my district go back to work tomorrow. I’ve essentially been back for most of the last two weeks, but tomorrow is the real deal. It makes today bittersweet. It has been a productive summer.

I rehomed 1 dog.

I knit 1 pair of socks and 4 shawls.

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And, I read or listened to 44 books. Here is the list.

  1. Half Lost by Sally Green
  2. Somewhere Among by Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu
  3.  Flawed by Cecilia Ahern
  4. Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whalen
  5. Saving Montgomery Sole by Mariko Tamaki
  6. The Girl in the Blue Coat  by Monica Hesse
  7. Whisper to Me  by Nick Lake
  8. Save Me a Seat  by Sarah Weeks and its Naradarajan
  9. Ruined by Amy Tintera
  10. Some Kind of Courage by Dan Gemeinhart
  11. Sea Change  by Frank Viva
  12. An Armadillo in New York by Julie Kraulis
  13. The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner
  14. Some Kind of Happiness  by Claire Legrand
  15. Wishing Day  Laura Myracle
  16. Us  by David Nicholls
  17. Compass South  by Hope Larson
  18. Summerlost by Ally Condie
  19. Princeless by Jeremy Whitley
  20. The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hamma
  21. Prudence by Gail Carriger
  22. A Hero of France by Alan Furst
  23. The Crown’s Game  by Evelyn Skye
  24. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling
  25. Outrun the Moon by Stacy Lee
  26. In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse by Joseph Marshall III
  27. Imperium by Robert Harris
  28. Faith  by Jody Houser
  29. Gena/Finn  by Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson
  30. Rocks Fall Everyone Dies by Lindsey Ribar
  31. Grumpy Pants by Claire Messer
  32. The Boy at the Top of the Mountain by John Boyne
  33. Far From Fair by Elana K. Arnold
  34. The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson
  35. Every Single Second by Tricia Springstubb
  36. Arabella of Mars by David D. Levine
  37. Paper Girls vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan
  38. The Year of Lear by James Shapiro
  39. Julia Vanishes  by Catherine Egan
  40. Plumdog  by Emma Chichester Clark
  41. Love is My Favorite Thing by Emma Chichester Clark
  42. Changeless by Gail Carriger
  43. Lucky Strikes  by Louis Bayard
  44. I’ll Be There  by Holly Goldberg Sloan

I’m currently knitting convertible gloves. I’ve finished one, but won’t get the second finished before tomorrow. I’m currently reading All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor.


I won’t finish it before tomorrow, either.




26 Aug

I recently discovered Emma Chichester Clark’s Plumdog Blog. It amazes me how she captures such little slices in the life of her dog, Plum.She started the blog in 2012 and last year, some of her best blogposts were collected into Plumdog, published in 2014.


Beginning in January, the book moves chronologically through Plums year, with each page covering one day. Some are funny, some poignant, just like her blog. Plum is quite a poet and philosopher.


Every bordered page has a marvelous illustration with a small amount of text.

Her picture book, Love is My Favorite Thing,  came out the following year, though I prefer the British cover where things are spelled correctly!

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This one is definitely written with younger readers in mind, but maintains Plum’s voice. Plum loves many things, but occasionally makes some poor choices. Thank goodness for unconditional love! It looks as though a few more Plumdog picture books are coming out later this year and early next year.

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I will certainly keep an eye out for them and hope you pick up some books about this wonderful dog and her Emma.



24 Aug

Last night I had the strangest dream. As often is the case with dreams, many details are fuzzy, but I remember the big ideas. I was stung by a bee on my lip on a family trip with my parents ( I seemed to be teenaged). My lip swelled, I needed medication, but I was about to get on a bus to go somewhere without my family.

Where do these things come from?

Regardless of the origin or details, when I woke up I thought about books in which insect stings play a significant role.

First, there is A Taste of Blackberries by Doris Buchanan Smith. A short classic, it tells the story of a friendship that is interrupted when one of the boys dies from a bee sting.


An allergy to stinging insects runs through the four books of Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle series. The first book opens with a prediction of  Gansey’s death. We learn later of his allergy to wasps, which weaves itself through the four books


In Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything the main character, Madeline, is allergic to nearly everything and must live inside a carefully sealed environment.


Serious allergies are no joking matter. We had a boy with a severe peanut allergy last year and we needed to take precautions at every celebration. There are nut free tables in school cafeterias. I recall visiting a school several ago that had songs posted all over the halls, reminding staff and students that the school was citrus free due to a severe allergy.

This leads me to one of my favorite movies of  1976.


We certainly took it seriously as we swooned over John Travolta, but, looking at it 40 years later, it seems awfully melodramatic.

Where has all the pumpkin gone? 

23 Aug


Lucy was a little under the weather. She seemed fine, eating, drinking and playing normally, but last Thursday there was a good deal of blood in a place there shouldn’t be. Once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, and the third time is a sign of a real problem.  I got her to the vet Friday and was prescribed metronidazole for a bacterial infection in her intestinal tract.

To help calm her digestive system, I cooked chicken and rice for her and went out to get canned pumpkin to add to the mix. All dog owners know the benefits of pumpkin in their dog’s diet. It firms up what needs firming up and loosens that which is a little too firm.

I went to my neighborhood grocery store and searched the aisles for canned pumpkin. The shelf where it should have been, at the bottom of the baking aisle near the pie fillings, was empty. Dang. I thought I’d might check the baby food aisle. No luck there either. In the end I bought a sweet potato.

When I checked out the cashier asked, “Did you find everything all right?”

I usually just say yes to this question, but this time I mentioned the missing pumpkin. “You’re the second person to say that today,” was her reply.

Sunday, I was in a different neighborhood and decided to pop into the Safeway to see if they had any pumpkin. Not one can. What the heck is going on with pumpkin?

Finally, yesterday, I popped into New Seasons, a local chain similar to Whole Foods. SUCCESS! They had two brands of canned pumpkin. I bought two 20 oz.  tins, just in case this was all the pumpkin left in Portland.

Lucy seems to be making progress. She has four more days worth of medication and each day seems to be a little better than the one before. Things are looking up and I am content knowing I have pumpkin in my cupboard, in anticipation of the next digestive disaster.

What is seen and unseen

22 Aug

I picked up Julia Vanishes by Catherine Egan, based off a recommendation from The Book Smugglers.


It sat on my shelf for a while before I picked it up to read it and so, forgot what it was about.  For some reason I expected a contemporary mystery. It is nothing of the sort. It is set in an alternative Europe that feels a bit late 19th century. And it is full of magic. Once my head wrapped around this idea I found myself firmly engaged in the story.

Publisher’s Summary:Julia has the unusual ability to be . . . unseen. Not invisible, exactly. Just beyond most people’s senses.

The Tragically Hip

20 Aug


Many Canadians will tune away from the Olympics today to watch The Tragically Hip’ last concert live. I’ve already bookmarked the CBC’s live stream site on YouTube.


All of Canada mourned when the band announced in May that lead-singer Gordon Downie had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. They released their last album in June and the CBC decided to live cast the final concert from their hometown in Kingston, so the nation could say goodbye.

It is not surprising to me how Canada is rallying around the band, and doing it in a way that, I think could never happen un the USA. Because it is not about whether you like The Hip or not. It’s about rallying around an idea of what it is to be Canadian. When the CBC asked fans to answer the question“What does the Tragically Hip mean to you?” in 3 or 4 words, they got answers like “Canada’s heart and soul” and “Great poets of our time”.

I was never a rabid Hip fan, but I concur with the two sentiments above. They appeared just after I’d finished university and had started teaching, but I had cassettes of  “Up to Here” and “Road Apples”  that I played frequently. And they were two  of the cassettes I took with me when I went to teach in Colombia.

I called my 85-year-old mother this morning and, half-jokingly asked if she’d be watching. She said she would. So, this afternoon, I will join millions of people, in Canada and across the world to watch this

If you don’t know The Tragically Hip, you can get the check out Rolling Stone’s  article about what they consider their 10 essential songs.


Saving Montgomery Sole

18 Aug

Some words just feel good in your mouth, like my favorite word, bungalow. 

Some book titles have the same effect, rolling around in your mouth with a rhythm that captures your attention. So it was when I first heard the title, Saving Montgomery Sole. 


I knew I had to read it.

It wasn’t just the title that grabbed my attention. It was also the author: Mariko Tamaki, co-creator of the bestselling Printz Honor and Caldecott Honor Book This One Summer.

And I wasn’t disappointed.

At a time when so many people are so angry and so judgmental about others, this book provides a beautiful example of how to navigate a world that isn’t as black and white as it feels.

Publisher’s Summary: Montgomery Sole is a square peg in a small town, forced to go to a school full of jocks and girls who don’t even know what irony is. It would all be impossible if it weren’t for her best friends, Thomas and Naoki. The three are also the only members of Jefferson High’s Mystery Club, dedicated to exploring the weird and unexplained, from ESP and astrology to super powers and mysterious objects.

Then there’s the Eye of Know, the possibly powerful crystal amulet Monty bought online. Will it help her predict the future or fight back against the ignorant jerks who make fun of Thomas for being gay or Monty for having lesbian moms? Maybe the Eye is here just in time, because the newest resident of their small town is scarier than mothmen, poltergeists, or, you know, gym.

Thoughtful, funny, and painfully honest, Montgomery Sole is someone you’ll want to laugh and cry with over a big cup of frozen yogurt with extra toppings.


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