Archive | December, 2020

Jólabókaflóð 2020

26 Dec

The 2020 Jólabókaflóð began, as always on December 23, when my twin sister and I celebrated our birthday. I gave her two knitting books that seemed apropos in a year in which we could not travel: the 2020 Shetland Wool Week Annual and the Shetland Wool Adventures Journal.

I received Tim Cook’s The Fight for History

and The Woman Before Wallis by Bryn Turnbull

For Christmas I gave

Daughters of Yalta by Catherine Grace Katz

My Wife Said You May Want to Marry Me by Jason Rosenthal

and Rage by Bob Woodward

I received Polar Vortex by Shani Mootoo and Petra by Shaena Lambert

Tub Time

22 Dec

Richard jumped into the tub just as the local classical radio station’s Winter Wonderland Sing-Along began. That’s perfect, I thought. It will help pass the ten minutes Richard has to stay in the tub to let the medicated shampoo work its magic.

The program opened with a professional musician running listeners through some vocal warm-ups. As I buzzed my lips and fa-la-la-ed my way up the scale, Richard cocked his head at my silliness. I broke into a round of Deck the Halls, along with the radio. Richard cocked his head the other way.

And I began to wonder, could Richard howl?

To a basset owner, there is no sound more beautiful than the baying of a hound. Of my five bassets, only Louie, my only male until Richard, could howl. I once amazed musical friends with a clip of him howling, in time, to the Hallelujah chorus. He was one-of-a-kind.

As the radio moved from Deck the Halls to Lo How A Rose E’er Blooming and O Holy Night. My French-Canadian mother, who was no singer, always called that last one, Minuit Chrétien. We’d run for cover when she sang it, but it might just be the perfect song to see if Richard could howl.

I sang along.

He looked at me.

I decided he needed more intervention and dropped the words.

I howled.

He looked at me in silence.

Then I heard a low rumble from his chest. Richard moaned, and before long we were howling together. In the bathroom. A Covid Christmas carol.

Wishing you all the happiest of HOWLIDAYS!

Stories are Light

15 Dec

“Do you guys do the Wednesday Advisory PowerPoint?” a colleague asked at a recent 6th grade Humanities teacher meeting.

An awkward silence followed.

The PowerPoints are created by our counselors. We meet with out homerooms daily for Advisory. On Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, we meet for 20 minutes and the presentations are interactive: announcements, games, study skills strategies, community building. On Wednesdays, we meet for 30 minutes. The PowerPoints feel like lectures. I feel like Charlie Brown’s teacher.

AS the awkward silence stretched, someone chimed in with a “Yes, but”, and we all felt we could confess.

The thing is, the info is good and helpful – teaching kids about mindfulness, growth mindset, and mental health issues. Sticking to the script is dull, though. So I chimed in with my confession.

“I do them, but I punctuate them with personal stories,” I confessed.

A former colleague used to call me Rise, after a character in one of her favorite TV shows, the Golden Girls. Rose had a story for everything, and, apparently, so did I. When she first started calling me this, I was embarrassed. Sometimes, I checked myself and held my story back. But, then I remembered the words of Gregory the Jailer in The Tale of Despereaux, “Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark. Begin at the beginning. Tell Gregory a story. Make some light.”. I embraced my penchant for storytelling.

It is serving me well as I present the PowerPoints. By telling my stories, I hope I am bringing some light to my students.

2021 Nonfiction Award Finalists

3 Dec

After months of reading, and a long meeting after Thanksgiving, the committee I have chaired for the last year has selected the five finalist for the  2021 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults.

All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team, written by Christina Soontornvat and published by Candlewick Press. 9781536209457.

  • On June 23, 2018, twelve young soccer players and their coach became trapped by flood waters in a northern Thailand cave. Clear maps, diagrams, photography and first hand interviews capture every detail of the rescue of all thirteen, an effort made by hundreds of volunteers. Their rescue seemed impossible but, as Christina Soontornvat shows in this page-turning book, miracles sometimes happen. 

The Cat I Never Named: A True Story of Love, War, and Survival, written by Amra Sabic-El-Rayess with Laura L. Sullivan and published by Bloomsbury YA. 9781547604531.

  • In 1992 Amra’s life is forever changed when Serbian troops seize her hometown of Bihać, Bosnia. Her family and other Muslims face hate, violence, and unimaginable horrors of war.  A enlightening memoir of a Muslim teen trying to survive through the Bosnian genocide and the stray cat that protected her family throughout all her ordeals.

How We Got To the Moon: The People, Technology, and Daring Feats of Science Behind Humanity’s Greatest Adventure, written and illustrated by John Rocco and published by Crown Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House. 9780525647416.

  • This extensively researched and illustrated account demonstrates the magnitude of ingenuity and creativity involved in the years’ long effort to reach the moon. John Rocco’s exquisite illustrations and diagrams pair perfectly with his clear text to illuminate “the grit, determination, and hard work to achieve the goal – also the problem-solving, the organization, the science, and the sheer cleverness of it all.” 

The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh, written by Candace Fleming and published by Schwartz and Wade, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House. 9780525646549.

  • Charles Lindberg is one of the most complicated icons in American history. Celebrated aviator, dogged scientist, heartbroken father, Nazi sympathizer, unapologetic eugenicist, Candance Fleming shows all the facets of a deeply flawed American hero.  In a well-researched, engaging narrative, Fleming brings Lindberg to life, warts and all.

You Call This Democracy?: How to Fix Our Democracy and Deliver Power to the People, written by Elizabeth Rusch and published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, a division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 9780358387428.

  • From gerrymandering and the electoral college to voter suppression and unequal representation, Elizbeth Rusch breaks down some of the most important problems facing our country’s representative democracy. This nonpartisan guide to civic engagement offers ample suggestions for how teens can become involved in political reform.

The winner will be announced virtually at the Youth Media Awards on January 25, 2021 during the American Library Association’s virtual Midwinter Meeting.

Race to the finish

1 Dec

For the last year, I have been the chair of the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults. This award is a little different from most of ALA’s Youth Media Awards who’s winners will be announced on Monday, January 25, 2021. For the last month, the entire committee has been reading madly because we had to turn in a list of five finalists today, December 1st.

I turned in the names of our five finalists yesterday, along with an annotation for each book. I heard back almost right away and was asked for a quote for the press release. Fortunately, the email contained an example from a previous press release. I had to come up with a big picture look at five very different titles.

Later yesterday afternoon, I was teaching a reading lesson and asking students to do some big picture thinking about their reading. I was surprised how what I was asking them to do resembled the work that I had done just that morning, so I told them about it. It was a real-life application of what we were doing in class.

The press release announcing our finalists will come out late this week or early next week. When it does, I will happily talk about each of the books with my students. I also promised them that I would share the big picture thinking I had to do for the press release.

Randy Ribay

YA author, teacher, nerd

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