Archive | November, 2018

This week’s book talks 11/26-30

30 Nov

This was our first five day week in almost a month!

Monday

The Dactyl Hill Squad  by Daniel José Older

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Tuesday

Strange Star  by Emma Carroll

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Wednesday

The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden by Karina Yan Glaser

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Thursday

The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty

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Friday

Unpunished Murder: Massacre at Colfax and the Quest for Justice  by Lawrence Goldstone

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Resilient Nora

29 Nov

Sometimes it takes a while to get to know – and like – a character. I liked Nora right away. She is the eponymous protagonist of Everlasting Nora by Marie Miranda Cruz.

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Publisher’s Summary: After a family tragedy results in the loss of both father and home, 12-year-old Nora lives with her mother in Manila’s North Cemetery, which is the largest shantytown of its kind in the Philippines today.

When her mother disappears mysteriously one day, Nora is left alone.

With help from her best friend Jojo and the support of his kindhearted grandmother, Nora embarks on a journey riddled with danger in order to find her mom. Along the way she also rediscovers the compassion of the human spirit, the resilience of her community, and everlasting hope in the most unexpected places.

This engaging novel will give readers a glimpse into what life is like for impoverished children and how resilient they are. Before reading the book, I hadn’t heard about the people who live in Manilla’s cemeteries. This book opened a whole new understanding of poverty I hadn’t had before. Even though the story has a happy ending, it is a realistic ending. I won’t spoil it and tell you exactly what happens. I will tell you that, at the end, Nora is happy and still living in the cemetery.

Another great book to give as a holiday gift for a young reader in your life.

A tale of two Chrises

27 Nov

A holiday jingle played in my heart as I left school yesterday, on my way to  one of my favorite holiday rituals: mailing my Christmas parcels. I pressed the button on my key fob, heard the beeps, opened the door and tossed in my school bag. I heard the keys jingle as I sat and  closed the door.  I stretched my leg to press the brake before pressing the button that  keylessly starts my new car.

I knew the universe was on my side because there was no line-up of parent pickups holding me back. I exited the parking lot and was on my way swiftly. Although I used to enjoy the ritual of mailing from the main post office downtown, I had discovered a USPS outlet in the route home from school and pulled into the parking lot. I found an ideal, drive through, parking space and got out. I reached into my right pocket to retrieve my keys to lock the car, but they weren’t there.

A slight panic arose in me. Even though I always keep my keys in my right coat pocket, I patted all my pockets – left, right, coat, pants. The keys weren’t there. Feeling slightly more panicky, I remembered the jingle of keys I had heard as I sat in the car. I searched under the driver’s seat, the passenger seat. No luck.

Could I have dropped them in the school parking lot? I wondered. I tried calling my teaching partner. No answer, so I left a message. I tried calling the principal. No answer. I  sat in the front seat and scrolled through my contacts. I called our student supervisor, Kris. He answered! He was also my first call using the car’s hands free computer. Kindly, he went outside to look as I drove back to school. As he looked, he asked a good question, “Your car started?”.

As I drive back to school, I pondered his question. Can a keyless car start if the fob isn’t in the car? By the time I reached school, I was convinced the keys had to be inside.

I parked in an open spot –  not my usual one for fear of flattening the fob. I threw open all the doors and pulled everything out of the front seat. The secretary was just leaving and I asked if keys had been turned in. Of course, none had. A 7th grade Humanities teacher in my hall came out (another Chris) asked what I was doing and offered me the flashlight from his car. As he was getting it I knelt on the driver’s seat and peered into the narrow gap between the seat and the center console. A thin flash of silver caught my eye. I stuck my hand in, wiggled my fingers until I clamped two around the item, and pulled out my keys! I held them up triumphantly as Chris arrived with his flashlight.

Feeling relived I chatted with Chris and the secretary for a bit. We made disparaging remarks about newfangled technology before getting into our cars and setting off on our merry ways. I returned to the post office and, finally, got those packages mailed.

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Strangers in a strange land

26 Nov

I didn’t do a Thanksgiving post. I am fortunate to have many things for which I am thankful and the Thanksgiving Break was one of them. I feel refreshed and ready for the next month of school.

Over the five-day break from school, I read a couple of books. One that really moved me, and reminded me of how fortunate I am, was Nowhere Boy by Katherine Marsh.

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Publisher’s Summary: Fourteen-year-old Ahmed is stuck in a city that wants nothing to do with him. Newly arrived in Brussels, Belgium, Ahmed fled a life of uncertainty and suffering in Aleppo, Syria, only to lose his father on the perilous journey to the shores of Europe. Now Ahmed’s struggling to get by on his own, but with no one left to trust and nowhere to go, he’s starting to lose hope.

Then he meets Max, a thirteen-year-old American boy from Washington, D.C. Lonely and homesick, Max is struggling at his new school and just can’t seem to do anything right. But with one startling discovery, Max and Ahmed’s lives collide and a friendship begins to grow. Together, Max and Ahmed will defy the odds, learning from each other what it means to be brave and how hope can change your destiny.

If I didn’t already have a read aloud with a female protagonist lined up, I’d choose this for my next read aloud. It really speaks to the idea that individuals can’t necessarily change the world, but we can change the world for one person. It goes back, too, to the idea I shared a the beginning of summer, that we are saved by saving others.

Max is pretty miserable in Brussels, but, once he befriends Ahmed, his life turns around. He has found a purpose and, in doing so, has found a place in his strange new world. If you are looking for a great gift book for the holidays for a reader in grades 4-7, consider Nowhere Boy. But read it before you give it, so that you, and the recipient can have a marvelous book discussion.

 

This week’s booktalks 11/19-20

21 Nov

I didn’t let a very short week hamper me. I decided to do a fiction-nonfiction pairing on each of the two days of school we had this week.

Monday

Blacklisted: Hollywood, the Cold War, and The First Amendment by Larry Dane Brimner  & The Apothecary by Maile Meloy

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Tuesday

Bomb: The Race To Build – And Steal – the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin & Fallout by Todd Strasser

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Thanksgiving in the air

20 Nov

The sun shone brightly as I waved the cars forward. Yesterday was my first day of duty for the year and it felt glorious.

Walking into school that morning I could feel it in the air. The last few weeks, I’d been grumpy. Heck, almost every teacher had been grumpy. Yesterday felt different because we had a two-day week ahead of us and Thanksgiving was coming.

And so, I stood out front, waving cars forward, a smile on my face. I was wearing a hat I’d knit as a Christmas present for my mom a few years ago. It was the only article of clothing I took from her house, but I felt close to her wearing it, and happy because of the bright colors.

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Some people waved back as I rotated my hand, guiding them forward. Maybe they could feel it in the air, too. The few people I had to speak to for minor infractions of the “active drop off” rule seemed remorseful. I even shared a silent chuckle with a few as we watched a clown car performance – a small car that spilled out several students, their backpacks, and rather large instrument cases. There were a  few eye rolls, and some impatient people, but I really can’t remember them. Yesterday, it was all about the good and I am thankful for that.

The Hollywood Ten

19 Nov

George Santayana wrote “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. It is often misquoted and misattributed. In this age of fake news and extreme political opinions, Larry Dane Brimner’s Blacklisted!: Hollywood, The Cold War, and The First Amendment should almost be required reading.

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Publisher’s Summary: World War II is over, but tensions between communist Soviet Union and the U.S. are at an all-time high. In America, communist threats are seen everywhere and a committee is formed in the nation’s capital to investigate those threats. Larry Dane Brimner follows the story of nineteen men—all from the film industry—who are summoned to appear before the House of Representatives Committee on Un-American Activities. All nineteen believe that the committee’s investigations into their political views and personal associations are a violation of their First Amendment rights. When the first ten of these men refuse to give the committee the simple answers it wants, they are cited for contempt of Congress and blacklisted. Brimner brings the story of the trial and its consequences to life, giving readers an in-depth look at what it’s like to fight for the most basic of our Constitutional rights. The book includes an author’s note, a bibliography, source notes, and an index, as well as archival photographs, documents, cartoons, images, and quotations from the accused and their accusers.

Since his audience has probably never hear of the hearings held by the House Committee on UN-American Activities, Brimner takes the time to build the historical background necessary to understand why we should care. In his author’s note he states, “America and Americans need to be ever watchful that the Constitution’s guarantees are never sacrificed again out of fear, hysteria, prejudice, or political passion.”  Indeed.

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