Archive | April, 2018

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

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The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B
by Teresa Toten

 

THURSDAY

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Shoe Dog: Young Readers Edition
by Phil Knight

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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

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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.

This week’s book talks 4/2-6

6 Apr

Back to book talks with a full five-day week. Here are the five books I recommended to my students.

MONDAY

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Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire  by John August
TUESDAY

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The Journey of Little Charlie  by Christopher Paul Curtis

WEDNESDAY

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Stars Above by Marissa Meyer

THURSDAY

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Ice Wolves  by Amie Kaufman

 

FRIDAY

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How Dare the Sun Rise by Sandra Uwiringiyimana

The Never-Ending Present

5 Apr

One of the best things I didn’t get in Denver was a copy of this book, The Never-Ending Present: The Story of Gord Downie and the Tragically Hip by Michael Barclay.

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I was pleased to see that the publisher, ECW Press, a small publishing company out of Toronto, had a booth in the exhibit hall. I made my way over and had a nice conversation with Amy, who told me that she had no ARCs, but could send me one. Yeah!

I received the ARC a few weeks later. I came back with a pile of ARCs, finally finished made it to this one. It was worth the wait!

Publisher’s Summary: In the summer of 2016, more than a third of Canadians tuned in to watch what was likely the Tragically Hip’s final performance, broadcast from their hometown of Kingston, Ontario. Why? Because these five men were always more than just a band. They sold millions of records and defined a generation of Canadian rock music. But they were also a tabula rasa onto which fans could project their own ideas: of performance, of poetry, of history, of Canada itself.

In the first print biography of the Tragically Hip, Michael Barclay talks to dozens of the band’s peers and friends about not just the Hip’s music but about the opening bands, the American albatross, the band’s role in Canadian culture, and Gord Downie’s role in reconciliation with Indigenous people. When Downie announced he had terminal cancer and decided to take the Hip on the road one more time, the tour became another Terry Fox moment; this time, Canadians got to witness an embattled hero reach the finish line.

This is a book not just for fans of the band: it’s for anyone interested in how culture can spark national conversations.

When I first heard about the book, I expected it to be a straightforward band bio. On the page before the Prologue, however,  the author tells readers that the book is a documentary combining a chronological history of the band, thematic reflections on the band’s work and influence, a description of Gord Downie’s work that lead to The Secret Path, and a collection of impressions by friends and fans from The Hip’s early days through the final concert in Kingston. Barclay also tells readers that you can read chapters in isolation or out of order. Although I read the book sequentially, I can see that this is completely possible. It would be a great way to reread the book.

I have to admit that I read much of the book with my computer parked on YouTube, searching up bands and songs from the 80s and 90s. Many names were part of my youth and young adulthood, but I needed reminders of who they were or what songs were on that album. The first half of the book was a wonderful stroll down memory lane.  I am the same age as most of the band members so many of the bands they listened to were ones I heard. And many Canadian artists who began in the music industry at the same time as The Tragically Hip  were on the radio when I was in college and starting my career. For the most part, I loved this. Occasionally, it seemed like there was a lot of name dropping and info about the music business that only real music aficionados would appreciate, but it never lasted long. I could have skipped those chapters ( per the author’s forward) but found something new and interesting, even where I felt the book bogged down for me.

I don’t claim to be a huge fan of The Tragically Hip. I had two cassettes in the 90s (Up to Here and Road Apples) and brought both of them with me when I went to Colombia. Living on the west coast if the US for the last 20 years, I hadn’t paid them much more attention until the news of Downie’s terminal diagnosis became public along with the final tour dates. I watched the concert in Kingston and felt really connected to Canada and Canadian culture.

I found a couple of aspects of the book fascinating. First, although many people connect to the “Canada’s Band” mythos, Barclay brings in many voices that counter that narrative. I actually appreciate that. I grew up in small town Ontario and I know that this is not the experience of many, if not most, Canadians.

Secondly, this wasn’t just an uncritical homage to the band. Barclay, and the people he interviewed for the book (or for articles he’d published previously) are not mere band sycophants. Chapter 15 “A Heart-Warming Moment for Literature”  talks about Gord Downie as a poet. There are voices that argue that Downie is Canada’s greatest poet. There are voices that argue that Downie is no poet at all. It is this sort of discourse, which occurs throughout the book, that gets me so jazzed about the book.

If you are in the GTA, there is a book release party at the Horseshoe Tavern tonight (April 5th) and another in Lindsay on Saturday. Details can be found here.

 

 

The second day is the hardest

3 Apr

The first day back
You are energized –
New month
New start
New unit
New stories about
Spring Break exploits.
There is a joy,
An excitement
In the air.

The second day is harder
You are tired
From the day before
From starting a new unit
From the kids’ renewed energy
And their old behaviors –
You didn’t miss those!
There is a fatigue,
Exhaustion,
In the air.

From the third day,
It gets better.
Established routines
Favorite units
Taught to fresh faces
Still a lot to do,
But sliding towards summer
There is an energy
A hope,
In the air.

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Back to the books

2 Apr

The SOLSC Challenge is over, so now I am back to writing mostly about books – except on Tuesdays when I will post a weekly Slice of Life Story.

I read a number of books in March, but I will use today’s post to list the books I finished during Spring Break.

Picture Books

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The Great Dictionary Caper by Judy Sierra
illustrated by Eric Comstock

 

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Grace for Gus
written and illustrated by Harry Bliss

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On the Other Side of the Garden written by Jairo Buitrago
illustrated by Rafael Yockteng

 

Middle Grade Novels

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Arlo Finch in the Valley of  Fire by John August

 

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Ice Wolves by Amie Kaufman

 

Young Adult Novels

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Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

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Daughter of the Siren Queen by Tricia Levenseller

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