Archive | April, 2019

Guest blogging at The Hub today

15 Apr

I am guest blogging at The Hub today. You can read my article about graphic adaptations of classics by clicking HERE. While you are there, check out the other interesting things people are writing about books and libraries for teens.

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This week’s book talks 4/8-12

12 Apr

Monday

Be Prepared  by Vera Brosgol

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Tuesday

Wire and Nerves by Marissa Meyer

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Thursday

Legend: The Graphic Novel by Marie Lu

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Friday

Birdie  by Eileen Spinelli

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What if…

10 Apr

As a teacher, I generally don’t answer “what if” questions – they can really sidetrack what we are working on in class. As a reader, I love that authors tackle all sorts of “what if” questions.

In Internment, Samira Ahmed explores the question, “What if fear and hatred of ‘the other’ is allowed to fester and grow?”

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Publisher’s Summary: Rebellions are built on hope.

Set in a horrifying near-future United States, seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens.
With the help of newly made friends also trapped within the internment camp, her boyfriend on the outside, and an unexpected alliance, Layla begins a journey to fight for freedom, leading a revolution against the internment camp’s Director and his guards.
Heart-racing and emotional, Internment challenges readers to fight complicit silence that exists in our society today.
I was a little ticked at Layla’s recklessness in the opening scene, but it certainly sets her up as a character who would progress from small acts of personal rebellion to larger, more public, acts of resistance. Ahmed does a great job showing the fear that keeps detainees compliant and the mounting consequences for won’t comply. She also demonstrates how easily “good people” start to turn a blind eye, but how the strong voice of opponents of oppression can make a difference.

SBAC Math

9 Apr

Even though I was administering the ELA test, yesterday’s first session of state testing was all about Math for me.

Six sets of headphones. Until a student pulled one set out of the bag and the headphone jack fell off. 6-1=5. Five sets of headphones.

I teach at a more affluent school than I used to. At my old elementary school, we tested in a lab and each computer had its own headset. We wiped them down between tests.

My current school – a middle school – most kids have earbuds and everyone has a Chromebook, so we test in our rooms and kids are supposed to bring their own earbuds. Of course they didn’t. They’re middle schoolers and it was a Monday! Hence, my SBAC Math test.

Five sets of headphones + 8 students with hands up needing to borrow a pair = lots of juggling and wiping of earbuds for me.

I hope they all remember their headphones the rest of the week.

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Bunnies, hearts and grief

8 Apr

As a middle school teacher, I sometimes forget how young my students are. I spend so much time with them everyday, that their age falls away, until they say or do something that makes me say, “Oh yeah, they’re twelve.”. Those middle years, with one foot in the teen world and on foot in the world of young children – can be hard to capture. Kevin Henkes does a wonderful job in Sweeping Up the Heart.

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Publisher’s Summary: Amelia Albright dreams about going to Florida for spring break like everyone else in her class, but her father—a cranky and stubborn English professor—has decided Florida is too much adventure.

Now Amelia is stuck at home with him and her babysitter, the beloved Mrs. O’Brien. The week ahead promises to be boring, until Amelia meets Casey at her neighborhood art studio. Amelia has never been friends with a boy before, and the experience is both fraught and thrilling. When Casey claims to see the spirit of Amelia’s mother (who died ten years before), the pair embarks on an altogether different journey in their attempt to find her.

Using crisp, lyrical, literary writing and moments of humor and truth, award-winning author Kevin Henkes deftly captures how it feels to be almost thirteen.

This is a slow quiet book, named for an Emily Dickinson poem, and a little melancholy in places. It tackles complex themes with beautifully simple language that will touch your heart.

At the beginning, it is made very clear, that the book is set during Spring Break in 1999. I was expecting that to have some significance beyond worries of the Millennium Bug, but it didn’t. I suspect the year only served to orient readers to a world without cell phones. There are points where Amelia feels younger than twelve, but then I think about my students. They are an inconsistent lot. I think fourth or fifth grade readers are probably the target audience, as young people generally like to read about characters who are a bit older.  Overall, a lovely book that addresses issues around grief, change, and communication.

An evening with Jacqueline Woodson

5 Apr

It’s a busy week, after the relaxing pace of Spring Break. It’s all good stuff and has me wondering why everything gets packed into one week and isn’t spread out over the whole month. The Universe can be a weird place sometimes.

Last night, wasn’t weird, it was wonderful. I hear Jacqueline Woodson speak as part of the Portland Arts and Lectures series, where authors talk about their work.

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Early on she told said, ” I know I’m not supposed to re, but that’s okay because most of my books are memorized.” She started reciting “show Way and had us from that moment on.

She went on to talk about the many ways we take in narrative and told her own story, listening to the stories her family told. Her family worried she’d write about them and she learned that  how she portrayed people mattered.

In telling the story of writing Brown Girl Dreaming,  Woodson said, “if you have old people in your life talk to them, get their stories”. Those of us who have lost our parents, grandparents, and others of that generation really understand why she says that.

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What I found most fascinating was her explanation of how Brown Girl Dreaming  came to be the book it is.  She said it was falling apart – that all books fall apart at some point but you have to do the work to keep it going and move on. In conversation with a friend about the problem she was having, the friend remarked, ” The South was on fire when you were born.” and that was the spark the brought it all together for her. That doesn’t mean it was easy from that point on. There were 33 rewrites, a fact I will happily tell my students.

She gave some good pieces of advice to aspiring writers.

  • Know that you have a story and the right to tell it.
  • Decide why you want to write.
  • Show your writing to people you trust.
  • Be prepared to re-write a lot!

 

This week’s book talks 4/1-4

4 Apr

It’s National Poetry Month, so this week I book talked novels in verse.

Monday

Lion Island: Cuba’s Warrior of Words  by Margarita Engle

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Tuesday

Audacity by Melanie Crowder

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Wednesday

Like Water on Stone by Dana Walrath

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Thursday

Brown Girl Dreaming  by Jacqueline Woodson

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I am going to hear Jacqueline Woodson speak at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall tonight. I’ll tell you about it tomorrow.

 

 

 

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