Archive | April, 2018

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.

This week’s book talks 4/9-12

13 Apr

We are half way through semester two, which means no kids today as teachers update grades and send out progress reports. I joked with my students that they shouldn’t really be worried that we were sending progress reports home on Friday the 13th. Bwahahaha!

Here are the books I booktalked this week.

MONDAY

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The Night Diary
by Veena Hiranandani

TUESDAY

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Fault Lines in the Constitution
by Cynthia Levinson and Sanford Levinson

 

WEDNESDAY

Unknown

The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B
by Teresa Toten

 

THURSDAY

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Shoe Dog: Young Readers Edition
by Phil Knight

X

12 Apr

We are almost half way through National Poetry Month and I haven’t said much about poetry this month. It’s time to change that.

If you haven’t read The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo you should.

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Publisher’s Summary: Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about.

With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself. So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out. But she still can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

 

From the cover – where we see the words in on and around Xiomara – to the story itself, I was hooked. As we follow Xiomara’s journey as a poet, we encounter issues about how we raise girls, religion, traditional parenting styles, and body image. There are some mature themes here around those topics, but they are all handled honestly. Xiomara wrestles with things all girls wrestle with.

A novel in verse, by a poet, about a poet, it is definitely worth reading. Or, better yet, listen to the audiobook, read by the author, who is amazing. Not all authors can pull of their own audiobook, but Acevedo is a performing poet and knows the heart of her book!

If you’d like to see a sample of Acevedo at work, check out this performance of her poem “Hair”.

Tales of a traveling trophy

10 Apr

I couldn’t give it away.

The OBOB trophy perched atop the school’s trophy cabinet for 11 months. I was told I needed to bring it to the regional meet and someone there would be responsible for getting it to the State Tournament for Oregon Battle of the Books. Worried, I’d forget it, I took the trophy a few days early, wrapped it in a blanket, and put it in the trunk of my car. I spent the next few days in fear of being rear-ended, but looking forward to passing the responsibility to someone else.

I didn’t get to.

After we won the regional OBOB tournament, I was told I would be the one responsible for getting it to the State OBOB tournament. I wrapped it in the blanket once more and returned it to the trunk of my car. It only stayed there until the next school day, when I took it out and put it on a table in my classroom. It sat there until a few days before the State OBOB tournament, when, once again, I wrapped it in a blanket,  put it in the trunk of my car, and spent the next few days in fear of being rear-ended.

Thursday evening, I received this email:

Screen Shot 2018-04-06 at 8.02.18 AMA short e-mail conversation followed.

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Finally, tournament day rolled around. We did well, but didn’t win, so I didn’t have to put the trophy back in my trunk. Someone else  gets to experience the joy of displaying it for a year, and the responsibility of transporting it next year.

A great graphic novelization

9 Apr

download

Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, based on her personal experience of being raped when she was a teenager, first appeared in 1999.

It won  the 1999 National Book Award and the 2000 Printz Award, among many others. It has also been challenged in a number of schools around the country because of the difficult subject matter.

 

 

download-1Now, almost twenty years later, the original story has been  reproduced as a graphic novel, illustrated by Emily Carroll.

The use of grayscale for the illustrations is the right choice for this book, given Melinda’s state of mind through most of the book. In this age where women are speaking up about their experiences of sexual assault, a new audience will have a chance to encounter this powerful story in a new way and learn the importance of having a voice and speaking up.

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