Archive | December, 2019

Ol’ 55

31 Dec

I turned 55 last week. I am totally OK with it and I’ve been singing that Tom Waits/Eagles/Sara MacLachlan song  a lot. I mumble through most of the words, but always get the first line and chorus. In my head, I am perfect.

You know how, when you learn a new word, or come across a new idea, it suddenly seems to pop up everywhere? Fifty-five is like that.

Last week, I bookmarked my birthday by reading A Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly. It’s about a deaf girl who is obsessed with helping a whale, Blue 55, who sings at a frequency different from all other whales: 55 Hertz. Coincidence? Totally, but it is fun to think about it. The book is based on a real whale, Blue 52. If I’d read this book the year I turned 52, it might not have registered the same way.

Somewhere this week, I heard 55 referred to as “double nickels”. Apparently it means 55 mph, but what’s heard cannot be unheard and my brain made another weirdo connection. After my birthday, I read The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead. Okay, that might be stretching it, but my brain loves to play with words and see connections where none exist.

Wishing you all a very happy 2020.





Jólabókaflóð 2019

26 Dec


As always, my Jólabókaflo∂ started on my birthday, December 23rd. My sister knows that, when I go to Canada, I am always on the lookout for good Canadian books I can bring to my classroom. With that in mind, she gave me Fan the Fame  by Anna Priemaza. I gave her the Shetland Wool Week Annual 2019 which is the 10th anniversary edition that has photos of Shetland scenes as well as designs from the top Shetland designers.


For Christmas, I received two more Canadian books, From the Ashes  by Jesse Thistle and The Starlight Claim  by Tim Wynne-Jones.

Here are the ones I gave. They are all on my TBR pile – and on hold at the library: Audience of One: Donald Trump, television, and the Fracturing of America byJames Poniewozik, The Education of an Idealist by Samantha Powers, and The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

I hope you also had a lovely  Jólabókaflo∂. I’d love to hear what you gave and received.

My Life in Books 2019

24 Dec
I got this from Deb Nance at Readerbuzz.
Using only books that you have read this year, complete these sentences:
  1. In high school I was a—  One-Third Nerdand it was Operatic.
  2. People might be surprised by— How It Feels to Float.
  3. I will never be— Shouting at the Rain or The Lost Girl.
  4. My fantasy job is—   Queen of the Sea.
  5. At the end of a long day I need—  The Bridge Home.
  6. I hate—  The Sound of Things Falling.
  7. Wish I had—  Infinite Hope.
  8. My family reunions are—  A Place to Belong.
  9. At a party you’d find me with—  The Innocents and  away from the The Poison Eaters.
  10. I’ve never been to—  The Fountains of Silence nor Torpedoed.
  11. A happy day includes—  Stargazing and Best Friends.
  12. Mottos I live by:  Look Both Ways and Feed Your Mind.
  13. On my bucket list is —  The Ice at The End of the World
  14. In my next life, I want to have—This Golden Fleece.

Doing good, one book at a time

19 Dec

Earlier in the year, teachers were challenged to come up with a service project for their Lit Core + class. This is a class I see every other day that has rather vague criteria.

I grumbled a bit when the announcement was made. Because I see them for only 40 minutes every other day, it would be impossible to go anywhere to perform meaningful community service. I looked into all sorts of options. And then I found something right on my doorstep.


Here’s their Mission Statement

We believe children’s books have the power to make the world a better place: Books open minds to limitless possibilities, spark curiosity and strengthen bonds. CBB exists because, otherwise, most Portland children experiencing poverty would not have their own books.

Last year, CBB filled 10,099 children’s homes with community-donated books to keep and enjoy over and over again. We eliminate “booklessness” by mobilizing the community to give underserved children books that increase vocabulary and early reading skills, foster critical brain development and a love of reading, and support parent-child bonding.

This project seemed right up my alley – and their warehouse was a few minutes drive from my house. I could easily drop the books off on my way home.

I spoke to my students. I sent a letter home to parents. I told them that, as middle schoolers they probably had books in the house they’d outgrown. I told them that of there was a book they loved, their heart book, they should not donate it. I told students I hoped we could fill a box. And the response was immediate. Within 12 hours, a parent emailed me back, telling me how she had volunteered there recently and had been inspired. Books arrived in class the next day we met.

Yeah, I told students I hoped we could fill a box. They filled three.


Not every student in class brought a book. A few kids really brought in most of the books. But a lot of kids brought in one. I am now hoping we get asked to do a service project next Fall. I already know what we are going to do.

You can find out more about the work of the Children’s Book Bank, and how you can help, by visiting their website:


They’re listening

10 Dec

Friday afternoon. I was tidying the classroom in that half-hearted way you do when you just want to get the heck out of Dodge. I had picked up a pencil or two, straightened some books on shelves, all the while keeping one eye on the windows, to see when the buses left so I could leave.

As I looked out, I noticed a sticky note stuck to the wall. What the…. I half thought, half muttered as I strode forward ready to rip it off the wall. I reached my hand towards it and stopped.


It was a misquote of something from our class read aloud, Posted by John David Anderson,  but it touched my heart.

Not all the 6th teachers at my school do read aloud and I am certain almost no 7th and 8th grade teachers do it. But my 8th grade teacher, Mr. Ziegler, did and it is one of my favorite things to do.

Very few kids just sit and listen. Many draw, some read their own book. I  am very liberal when it comes to this because, in my heart, I hope that they are listening because I choose my read alouds carefully. I like to think that they give us a common language, a shared experience that we can apply to what we do in class, and in our lives.

I plucked that sticky note off the wall and brought it home and stuck it on my computer. I brought it back to school on Monday and stuck it on the wall behind my desk where I keep the pictures students draw for me. I still don’t know who wrote it, but I see you.



2020 YA Nonfiction Award Finalists

5 Dec

Next December, it will be my responsibility to get this list out, as I am chairing the 2021 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults. For now, here is this year’s list of five finalists.


  • Free Lunch,written by Rex Ogle and published by Norton Young Readers, an imprint of W.W. Norton & Company
  • The Great Nijinsky: God of Dance, written and illustrated by Lynn Curlee and published by Charlesbridge Teen
  • A Light in the DarknessJanusz Korczak, His Orphans, and the Holocaust, written by Albert Marrin and published by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House
  • A Thousand Sisters: The Heroic Airwomen of the Soviet Union in World War II, written by Elizabeth Wein and published by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
  • Torpedoed: The True Story of the World War II Sinking of “The Children’s Ship, written by Deborah Heiligman and published by Henry Holt, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group

I’ve read three of these five and have put the other two on hold.

2020 Morris finalists announced

4 Dec

My first foray into national book committees was the 2016 Morris Award, which honors a book published by a first-time author writing for teens and celebrating impressive new voices in young adult literature.

It is a little different from many awards because a slate of five finalists is published in December and the winner announce at the Youth Media Awards in January.

The 2020 Morris Award finalists have just been announced. They are:

  • “The Candle and the Flame” written by Nafiza Azad, published by Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic;
  • “The Field Guide to the North American Teenager” written by Ben Philippe, published by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers;
  • “Frankly in Love” written by David Yoon, published by P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers, a division of Penguin Random House;
  • “Genesis Begins Again” written by Alicia D. Williams, published by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing;
  • “There Will Come a Darkness” written by Katy Rose Pool, published by Henry Holt, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing

I’ve already read 3 of the 5. I just put the other two on hold at the library.

Congratulations to the finalists and to the committee who have chosen an excellent list.

A terrible horrible really great day

3 Dec

Monday started off well. It was December 2nd, so I got to open day two of my Advent calendar. That was the best pat about my morning.

Lucy, my basset hound, didn’t want to eat her breakfast. I tried topping it with all her favorite coercions, but she only managed about half.

Later,  on our way out  for her morning constitutional, she vomited in front of the back door.

While walking, I noticed a darkish patch on the cyst that had bled a little the day before. When we got in the house, I could see it was a fully blown cyst and cleaned it up. Having had bassets for over 20 years, I keep a good first aid kit for situations like this. It’s still a gross job.

We had a staff development day at school, so I didn’t bring a lunch. The previous week, our principal told us that we would get work time in the morning and they would do their half of the day after lunch. When I got to school and school. the schedule had changed. We were starting at 11 and would have  a 30 minute lunch from 12 to 12:30. Cursing, I graded some tests then did a quick run to the grocery store five minutes from school, where I got a mediocre salad. Half an hour after I returned, the schedule was changed and we would, indeed, start at 12:30 as originally planned. By the time I was walking to the cafeteria for the Admins’ PD, I was not in a great mood.

It’s funny how your mood can change quickly. The PD I had been dreading was not at all what I expected. We were going to paint! The Admins were treating us to a pop up paint class.


We each had an easel to work at and all the supplies we’d need. Then, a team of teachers walked us through each step of the painting, in which we recreated the iconic deer of the Portland sign. There was a lot of laughter, as I am sure you can imagine.

Until we had a beautiful, if not slightly wonky, finished product.


My day that started out poorly, ended wonderfully.

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