Archive | April, 2018

Listening to voices

30 Apr

Today is the last day of National Poetry Month. I’ve been doing NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) with the students in my elective class, and we will keep going a while longer, since I only get to see them every other day.

I don’t often just sit and read a poetry collection – I am more likely to read a novel in verse – but I have been reading Naomi Shihab Nye’s Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners at school during independent reading time. The collection has given me hope and inspiration.

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Publisher’s Summary:Acclaimed and award-winning poet, teacher, and National Book Award finalist Naomi Shihab Nye’s uncommon and unforgettable voice offers readers peace, humor, inspiration, and solace. This volume of almost one hundred original poems is a stunning and engaging tribute to the diverse voices past and present that comfort us, compel us, lead us, and give us hope.

Voices in the Air is a collection of almost one hundred original poems written by the award-winning poet Naomi Shihab Nye in honor of the artists, writers, poets, historical figures, ordinary people, and diverse luminaries from past and present who have inspired her. Full of words of encouragement, solace, and hope, this collection offers a message of peace and empathy.

Voices in the Air celebrates the inspirational people who strengthen and motivate us to create, to open our hearts, and to live rewarding and graceful lives. With short informational bios about the influential figures behind each poem, and a transcendent introduction by the poet, this is a collection to cherish, read again and again, and share with others

Backmatter includes biographies of all the people mentioned in her poems.

This week’s book talks 4/23-27

27 Apr

Monday

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Tuesday

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Wednesday

 

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Thursday  & Friday

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Hooray for Baby Monkey!!!

26 Apr

At book club on Monday night, we couldn’t say enough good things about Baby Monkey, Private Eye by Brian Selznick and David Serlin.

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Publisher’s Summary:

Who is Baby Monkey?

He is a baby.

He is a monkey.

He has a job.

He is Baby Monkey, Private Eye!

Lost jewels?

Missing pizza?

Stolen spaceship?

Baby Monkey can help…

if he can put on his pants!

Baby Monkey’s adventures come to life in an exciting blend of picture book, beginning reader, and graphic novel. With pithy text and over 120 black and white drawings accented with red, it is ideal for sharing aloud and for emerging readers.

Hooray for Baby Monkey!

OK, the whole pants thing is just too cute, and just saying the word “pants” made all the book clubbers gush.

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Here is the lowdown.  The book is divided into five chapters, each a case that Baby Monkey has to solve. Each case follows the same pattern, making it an exciting and easy to read beginning chapter book.

The authors have included a hilarious bibliography and index, sure to keep adults just as intrigued.

And, just because it is too good not to include, here are the creators, talking about Baby Monkey:

 

Solar power

24 Apr

The sudden shift from April showers (and downpours) to warm weather over the weekend saw many neighbors out planting flowers.

I was there too, planting in the small the courtyard of my condominium. I first planted the accent flowers in the window box style planter I had set on my stoop.  Then, I intended to plant cilantro and basil seeds in separate pots, but as I emptied the potting soil bags, I realized I was going to be  a little short. I could fill one completely or one half way, or I could do both about three-quarters full.

As I weighed my options, my neighbor in #4 came into the courtyard carrying in a very dead houseplant. By the end of our observations about the weather,  and a discussion as to whether one could dispose of a dead plant in the compost bin, I had a brilliant idea.

“If  there is any soil left once you’ve discarded that plant, I’d be willing to take it off you hands,” I offered, seeing a potential win-win here. She agreed and a few minutes later she was at the foot of the steps leading to the sidewalk, calling my name.

“Actually,” she said, “You could do me a bigger favor.” She went on to tell me she had recently been diagnosed with cancer and had just had surgery. All had gone well and they caught it early and she’d be starting radiation (or was it chemo) next week. However, she wasn’t allowed to lift. If I helped her shift the big bag of potting soil in her garage, I could take what I needed to fill my containers. A bit shocked at the news, I quickly agreed.

Before too long, we both had potted our plants. I know I was feeling energized by the warmth of the sun on my skin as I worked. My dog, was also enjoying a little sunbath beside me. And my neighbor, she, too seemed to be benefitting from the summery weather we were having. I hoped that it gave her extra power to keep fighting the good fight as she enters into the next phase of her treatment and recovery.slice-of-life_individual

Another series ended

23 Apr

This weekend, I finished Purple Hearts, the third and final book in Michael Grant’s Front Lines series.

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What a fabulous ending! Not only did we get to follow our characters from the Normandy invasion to their end of the war, Grant also includes a fast forward ending that includes their obituaries so we know what they did with their lives as a whole.  We can imagine all the parts in between. It is really the best of both worlds for readers.

Publisher’s Summary: New York Times bestselling author Michael Grant unleashes the gritty and powerful conclusion to the Front Line series and evokes the brutal truth of World War II: War is hell. An epic tale of historical reimagining, perfect for fans of Code Name Verity and Salt to the Sea.

Courage, sacrifice, and fear have led Rio, Frangie, and Rainy through front-line battles in North Africa and Sicily, and their missions are not over. These soldiers and thousands of Allies must fight their deadliest battle yet—for their country and their lives—as they descend into the freezing water and onto the treacherous sands of Omaha Beach. It is June 6, 1944. D-Day has arrived.

No longer naive recruits, these soldier girls are now Silver Star recipients and battle-hardened. Others look to them for guidance and confidence, but this is a war that will leave sixty million dead. Flesh will turn to charcoal. Piles will be made of torn limbs. The women must find a way to lead while holding on to their own last shreds of belief in humanity.

This week’s book talks 4/16-20

20 Apr

I got to go hear Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher Monday, so I didn’t do a book talk. I did however, receive a copy of their newest book, 180 Days.

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TUESDAY

It was non-fiction booktalk week and I started with this ARC about the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic.

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WEDNESDAY

I shared a memoir by one of the kings of the basketball court, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

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THURSDAY

Today was about a different kind of royalty: Queen Victoria.

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FRIDAY

Today’s book, though well-written, tells a terribly tragic tale.

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A break from poetry for zombies

19 Apr

Faithful readers know I don’t do scary. Normally, I wouldn’t read a book about zombies. But the cover of Justina Ireland’s Dread Nation was just too enticing.

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A work of alternate history, the book is set in a world where slavery has been abolished Despite that,  Native Americans and African-Americans aren’t treated much better than before the war and the rise of the zombies.

Ireland’s word-building is great. I was totally immersed in this new America. I was especially grateful that the book wasn’t scary and  descriptions of the killing of zombies weren’t graphic or gross. They were treated rather matter-of-factly, which was just right given the tone of Jane’s narration.

The story bogged down a bit in the middle when we were transported out of Maryland and into Summerland, Kansas, but I kept going because I really liked Jane. A few mature topics, like prostitution, are mentioned obliquely, but I feel very comfortable putting this one in my classroom library.

Publisher’s Summary:Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania—derailing the War Between the States and changing the nation forever.

In this new America, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Education Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead.

But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.

But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose.

But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies.

And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.

When I first picked it up, I thought it was a stand alone. Although the ending is satisfactory, as I approached it, I realized this was the  first book in a series because no way were all the loose ends going to be tied up. So, I will have await the second book to find out if Jane will ever get to see her mother again.

Mary’s Monster – A biography in verse

18 Apr

There are all different kinds of monsters. Some are real some are imagined. In Mary’s Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein, Lita Judge tells the story of Mary Shelley’s monsters (personal, familial and societal) and how they led her to write Frankenstein.

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Publisher’s Summary: Pairing free verse with over three hundred pages of black-and-white watercolor illustrations, Mary’s Monster is a unique and stunning biography of Mary Shelley, the pregnant teenage runaway who became one of the greatest authors of all time.

Legend is correct that Mary Shelley began penning Frankenstein in answer to a dare to write a ghost story. What most people don’t know, however, is that the seeds of her novel had been planted long before that night. By age nineteen, she had been disowned by her family, was living in scandal with a married man, and had lost her baby daughter just days after her birth. Mary poured her grief, pain, and passion into the powerful book still revered two hundred years later, and in Mary’s Monster, author/illustrator Lita Judge has poured her own passion into a gorgeous book that pays tribute to the life of this incredible author.

I knew a bit about this story before picking up Mary’s Monster,  but Lita Judge does a marvelous job setting Mary Shelley’s story in its historical context. And Judge’s black and white illustrations beautifully evoke the darkness and difficulties Mary faced.

The book is definitely intended for an older audience and most listings say Gr 7 & up, or ages 13-17. Although many 6th graders don’t read dark poetic biographies, I have one girl in my first period class who I think will love this book.

Frankenstein  was published 200 years ago, in 1818. You can read and/or listen to an interesting CBC commentary on the book  here.

Call of Duty

17 Apr

It was just another April duty morning. I was wearing my raincoat, but it wasn’t raining. the traffic was flowing well and the parents didn’t really need me to direct traffic yet. I was able to smile at the middle schoolers and their parents as they drove past me. I even waved to a dog.

The car with the dog pulled ahead to an acceptable point and, in almost clown car fashion,  three rather tall boys got out. Must be 8th graders, I thought as I watched one of the boys go to the trunk where, once tit was popped, he pulled out a poster board, Yup, 8th graders, I thought as I congratulated myself for my Sherlockian perceptiveness. Eight grade Family History Night was almost here.

Mom had barely pulled the car out when she realized the trunk was still open. She quickly jumped out, leaving the door open. That’s when the real drama began.

Somehow, Mom missed the fact that the little dog, a tricolor Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, had jumped out behind her. I called, but she didn’t hear me. So I ran. The dog was in the traffic lane. Fortunately, the scared little dog ran up onto the sidewalk, Mom still oblivious. By the time I arrived, she was back in the car, sans dog, who cowered beside a small tree.

Although I spoke to the dog gently it was clearly sacred. And although I moved slowly to save it skittered away under mom’s car. I yelled and caught her eye just as I heard her release the parking brake. I was able to grabbed the dog gently and pick it up to show Mom, who was horrified to realize she’d not only lost her dog, but almost run it over. She got out of the car once more and ran around to take the trembling dog into her arms. They got into the car together and drove off. And I went back to directing traffic.

Grand Slam

16 Apr

I wish I could be in kid in Mr. Ward’s poetry class. He is a teacher in Nikki Grimes’  Between the Lines, known for his open-mic poetry readings and boys vs. girls poetry slam.

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Publisher’s Summary: Darrian dreams of writing for the New York Times. To hone his skills and learn more about the power of words, he enrolls in Mr. Ward’s class, known for its open-mic poetry readings and boys vs. girls poetry slam. Everyone in class has something important to say, and in sharing their poetry, they learn that they all face challenges and have a story to tell—whether it’s about health problems, aging out of foster care, being bullied for religious beliefs, or having to take on too much responsibility because of an addicted parent. As Darrian and his classmates get to know one another through poetry, they bond over the shared experiences and truth that emerge from their writing, despite their private struggles and outward differences.

The novel in verse is narrated in multiple voices that alternate with Darrian’s. There are some tough issues in the book  but nothing, that would keep it out of my 6th grade classroom. It is definitely written for kids as there is a feel good ending and lots of hope for this group of high school kids.

Randy Ribay

YA author, teacher, nerd

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