Archive | October, 2017

John & Hank All the Way Down

31 Oct

Lucy must have sensed how excited I was when I got home because she clearly knew I was going out again and refused to eat her dinner. That upset me, but not enough to keep me home. I was going out to see John & Hank Green!

As I pulled up to Portland’s Revolution Hall, I saw the bus. I didn’t know they were travelling by bus! It seemed to blend right into the neighborhood.

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I was early because I thought it started at 7, when in fact it started at 7:30. Fortunately, the doors opened at 6:30, so I didn’t have to wait long to find my seat, where there was swag.

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Inside the bag was a poster, a signed copy of Turtles All The Way Down, and a tour brochure. The brochure had letters – one to “people who are only here for their friend/      child/partner/sibling”, another to “the people who are here by themselves”, and a third to everyone.

One of the up sides of arriving an hour before the show is that I ran into a few librarians I knew and watch as the hall filled with excited fans of the brothers. Although John Green writes for young adults, I was not the only unaccompanied adult in the room. And there were not as many young people as I expected. There were plenty, don’t get me wrong, just more people closer to my age than I thought there would be.

Slowly, but surely, the hall filled. And then, the show began.

John came out first, alone and did a reading from Turtles All The Way Down,  which is the reason the whole tour was happening in the first place. After the reading, he spoke a little about his own experience with OCD and the importance of novels. Every novel, he said, is a way to live in another person;s consciousness, to see the world through other people’s eyes. I knew that already, but it is always good to be reminded that reading builds empathy.

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After that serious bit, Dr. Lawrence Turtleman came out. (It was really Hank in a turtle suit.) He gave a funny, sciencey talk about the Carl Linnaeus, how animals are classified, and how tuatara have boney protrusions instead of teeth, among other things.

This was followed by John answering questions about the book. One of the questions had to do with the conflict between writing expository and narrative text, which as a teacher of writing, piqued my interest. He spoke about how reading really good expository texts, like the essays of Joan Didion and the works of Toni Morrison, can help shape writers and teach them to write narratively in their expository text. Hey, That’s what I try to teach my students every day!

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A live version of their podcast followed with a Q & A that was simultaneously serious and hilarious. Hank sang some songs that had me watching the ASL interpreter as much as him because he sings fast, complicated songs with a lot of science thrown in.

John came out again and spoke about Amy Krouse Rosenthal. He told us of how she helped him during a difficult period and taught him that the soldiers of WWI sand “We’re here because we’re here” to the tune of Auld Lang Syne. And then he asked us to sing it. I got weepy.  A beautiful denouement.

 

There was an encore that involved another sing along and then we all went home, encouraged by the words “Don’t forget to be awesome!”

 

 

A lovely surprise

30 Oct

I picked up Midnight At the Electric expecting sci-fi.

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Although it is set, in part, in the future, the book is much more than that. It is about love, friendship, the power of women alone and together, and how love, determination, and hope can change a person’s fate.

Publisher’s Summary: New York Times bestselling author Jodi Lynn Anderson’s epic tale—told through three unforgettable points of view—is a masterful exploration of how love, determination, and hope can change a person’s fate.

Kansas, 2065: Adri has been handpicked to live on Mars. But weeks before launch, she discovers the journal of a girl who lived in her house more than a hundred years ago and is immediately drawn into the mystery surrounding her fate.

Oklahoma, 1934: Amid the fear and uncertainty of the Dust Bowl, Catherine’s family’s situation is growing dire. She must find the courage to sacrifice everything she loves in order to save the one person she loves most.

England, 1919: In the recovery following World War I, Lenore tries to come to terms with her grief for her brother, a fallen British soldier, and plans to sail to America. But can she make it that far?

While their stories span thousands of miles and multiple generations, Lenore, Catherine, and Adri’s fates are entwined in ways both heartbreaking and hopeful. In Jodi Lynn Anderson’s signature haunting, lyrical prose, human connections spark spellbindingly to life, and a bright light shines on the small but crucial moments that determine one’s fate.

So, if you haven’t picked it up because you don’t like sci-fi, give it a chance.

A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Treasure Hunt

29 Oct

Yesterday afternoon, the lobby of the Newmark Theater was buzzing with treasure hunters. Scurvy Sam’s 4-Story Treasure Hunt was the pre-show activity for the Oregon Children’s Theatre‘s production of

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I went because one of my students plays Tall Boy in the production, which is excellent.

I’d read the book years ago to second graders and wondered exactly how they would pull off the multiple scene locations. Brilliantly, as it turns out. The set design was simple and versatile as the ship unfolded and got turned into a variety of locales where Judy and Stink were looking for clues.

The play ran an hour which was perfect. I loved seeing my student on stage, but the entire cast was great. All the kids were extremely talented and Scurvy Sam kept the adults laughing.

 

The little boy siting next two me was almost as much fun as the play itself. He really got into it, laughing and squealing at all the right parts.

If you have a young person, I highly recommend taking them to see this production. Heck, subscribe to the whole season. If this production is any indication, they will all be excellent.

This week’s book talks 10/23-10/25

25 Oct

It is parent teacher conference time. Only three days of school means only three booktalks. They all cam from the “Mystery and Adventure” section of my classroom library.

Monday…..I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest.

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Tuesday… Mission Mumbai by Mahtab Narsimhan

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Wednesday…Raising Rufus  by David Fulk

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The Pile

24 Oct

My teaching partner and I sit down towards the end of each month and plan out the next. We are amazing. Most of the time.

Sometimes, we make mistakes. Not in the planning or execution of the units or lessons. It is more an issue of timing the turning in of assignments.

Hence, the pile.

I don’t know how we didn’t see t when we first planned October, but somehow we had a final draft due in writing and a project due in reading. With a TCRWP trainer coming for two days,  we had the kids turn in an in-class assignment, and the pile grew.

Our first autumn storm rolled through this weekend. It was the perfect Saturday for cocoa on the sofa. Taking advantage of the bad weather, I got it all graded this weekend and entered their scores in my paper grade book and the electronic one. Yesterday, I returned the pile and felt free.

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My Canadian Week

23 Oct

I had a sad moment last week. I was sitting in a conference room with seven other 6th grade teachers and I realized I was the only one who knew, and cared, that Gord Downie, lead singer of the Canadian band The Tragically Hip, had died.

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I don’t feel foreign very often, but I did that day. I felt a little alone in that room.

Later in the week, while reading That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E. K. Johnston, I felt like I had insider information.

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Much of the story is set in Muskoka, where my sister has lived for almost 30 years. I laughed out loud at parts that American readers will not see as funny. I felt smugly superior, even though I was home alone. You don’t need a Canadian background to find the book witty and engaging. You simply get to enjoy it at an even deeper level, if you are.

Publisher’s Summary: Victoria-Margaret is the crown princess of the empire, a direct descendent of Victoria I, the queen who changed the course of history. The imperial tradition of genetically arranged matchmaking will soon guide Margaret into a politically advantageous marriage. But before she does her duty, she’ll have one summer of freedom and privacy in a far corner of empire. Posing as a commoner in Toronto, she meets Helena Marcus, daughter of one of the empire’s greatest placement geneticists, and August Callaghan, the heir to a powerful shipping firm currently besieged by American pirates. In a summer of high-society debutante balls, politically charged tea parties, and romantic country dances, Margaret, Helena, and August discover they share an extraordinary bond and maybe a one-in-a-million chance to have what they want and to change the world in the process.

Set in a near-future world where the British Empire was preserved not by the cost of blood and theft but by the effort of repatriation and promises kept, That Inevitable Victorian Thing is a surprising, romantic, and thought-provoking story of love, duty, and the small moments that can change people and the world.

 

This week’s Book talks 10/16-20

20 Oct

I had two days of training this week, co only did booktalks three days. I still managed to get in five books, though.

On the heels of listening to Jason Reynolds, I booktalked Ghost and Patina on Monday.

 

 

For no particular reason, except that I love it, I booktalked Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming on Wednesday.

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Finally, simply because I haven’t booktalked a graphic novel in a while, I shared Gene Luen Yang’s  Boxers & Saints.

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The Great Pumpkin

17 Oct

An after school meeting saw me pulling into the grocery store a little before 7 pm last night. I grumbled at myself for putting off this errand: buying thank you cards that my after school club needed to write at our meeting the next day. The skies were a picturesque blend of pink and black and there was a slight breeze that promised another crisp fall night.

I walked towards the entrance to the grocery store which was lined with pumpkins. I paid them little heed, distracted by the little boy hopping in front of me.

“Come on,” his mom called, a smirk on her face. “There are even more inside.”

His little eyes grew wider and I smiled.

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Another finale

16 Oct

The third and final book in the Court of Fives  series, Buried Heart, has come, and gone, for me. Kate Elliott wrapped everything up nicely.

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Publisher’s Summary:

Choose between your parents.
Choose between your friends.
Choose between your lovers.
Choose who you are.
 
On the run from the murderous King Nikonos, Jessamy must find a way for her beloved Kalliarkos to take his rightful place on the throne. Only then can he end the oppression of the Commoners by their long time Patron overlords. But Kal’s rise to power is fraught with manipulation and shocking decisions that make Jes question everything they promised each other. As their relationship frays and Jes’s family and friends beg her for help, will she cast Kal and her Patron heritage aside? Will she finally join–even lead–the rebellion that had been burning among the Commoners for years?
This explosive finale of World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott’s Court of Five series forces Jessamy to confront an inescapable truth: with or without her, the revolution has begun.
 I really liked about this series because Jessamy is a strong female character. She grew from a disobedient, rebellious girl in the first book. She is able to look beyond herself and care for the concerns of her family and her people. Kate Elliott invents a new world and a new sport.
If you have someone looking for something a little different, look no further than this series.

His tongue to paper

15 Oct

Oh man!

Last night I got to hear Jason Reynolds speak.

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He was the closing speaker at the Oregon Association of School Libraries conference.

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Once, I was a member of OASL and even served on the conference committee. This time, I just showed up for the culminating event.

Though he said he wasn’t feeling well and he clearly sounded congested, Jason Reynolds spoke powerfully. He made us laugh and cry.

He is a storyteller and he told us his story. What he did right and, perhaps more significantly, what he did wrong.

He told us how Queen Latifah inspired him and how he learned to write poetry. At times. he spoke directly to the kids in the audience about writing past the people tells them they aren’t (good enough, white enough) or that are wrong with them (their accent, their clothes) and just be them,tell their own stories.

Because it was an encounter with Christopher Myers, author, illustrator and son of Walter Dean Myers, that helped Jason Reynolds. Meyers told him he needed to tell his own stories to put his tongue to paper.

On October 24th, Jason Reynolds’ newest book Long Way Down,  a novel in verse,  comes out. I already have a hold on a library copy.

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Publisher’s Summary: An ode to Put the Damn Guns Down, this is National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestseller Jason Reynolds’s fiercely stunning novel that takes place in sixty potent seconds—the time it takes a kid to decide whether or not he’s going to murder the guy who killed his brother.

A cannon. A strap.
A piece. A biscuit.
A burner. A heater.
A chopper. A gat.
A hammer
A tool
for RULE

Or, you can call it a gun. That’s what fifteen-year-old Will has shoved in the back waistband of his jeans. See, his brother Shawn was just murdered. And Will knows the rules. No crying. No snitching. Revenge. That’s where Will’s now heading, with that gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, the gun that was his brother’s gun. He gets on the elevator, seventh floor, stoked. He knows who he’s after. Or does he? As the elevator stops on the sixth floor, on comes Buck. Buck, Will finds out, is who gave Shawn the gun before Will took the gun. Buck tells Will to check that the gun is even loaded. And that’s when Will sees that one bullet is missing. And the only one who could have fired Shawn’s gun was Shawn. Huh. Will didn’t know that Shawn had ever actually USED his gun. Bigger huh. BUCK IS DEAD. But Buck’s in the elevator? Just as Will’s trying to think this through, the door to the next floor opens. A teenage girl gets on, waves away the smoke from Dead Buck’s cigarette. Will doesn’t know her, but she knew him. Knew. When they were eight. And stray bullets had cut through the playground, and Will had tried to cover her, but she was hit anyway, and so what she wants to know, on that fifth floor elevator stop, is, what if Will, Will with the gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, MISSES.

And so it goes, the whole long way down, as the elevator stops on each floor, and at each stop someone connected to his brother gets on to give Will a piece to a bigger story than the one he thinks he knows. A story that might never know an END…if WILL gets off that elevator.

Told in short, fierce staccato narrative verse, Long Way Down is a fast and furious, dazzlingly brilliant look at teenage gun violence, as could only be told by Jason Reynolds.

 

Randy Ribay

YA author, teacher, nerd

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