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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.

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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.

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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: https://www.childrensbookbank.org/.

 

One week down, one week to go

29 Dec

One week of vacation is over. I have one week to go. The first was full of Christmas and ice that saw me stuck at home for a few days.

I am doing a massive reread and note-taking of the Sibert award nominees that we will discuss in Denver in February, when we will make our final decision. You can watch that live HERE, on February 12, 2018 – 8:00 AM MT.

Although I have been busy with Sibert reading, I have become obsessed with the Great British Baking Show and  managed a few other books. I was iced in for a few days, after all.

I finished Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

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Publisher’s Summary: August 1914. England is at war. As Evie Elliott watches her brother, Will, and his best friend, Thomas Harding, depart for the front, she believes—as everyone does—that it will be over by Christmas, when the trio plan to celebrate the holiday among the romantic cafes of Paris.

But as history tells us, it all happened so differently…

Evie and Thomas experience a very different war. Frustrated by life as a privileged young lady, Evie longs to play a greater part in the conflict—but how?—and as Thomas struggles with the unimaginable realities of war he also faces personal battles back home where War Office regulations on press reporting cause trouble at his father’s newspaper business. Through their letters, Evie and Thomas share their greatest hopes and fears—and grow ever fonder from afar. Can love flourish amid the horror of the First World War, or will fate intervene?

Christmas 1968. With failing health, Thomas returns to Paris—a cherished packet of letters in hand—determined to lay to rest the ghosts of his past. But one final letter is waiting for him…

I had a good laugh at It’s Shoe Time by Bryan Collier.

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Publisher’s Summary: 

Today is the day.
It’s time choose.
Which shoes will be right?
Which shoes will be left?!
It’s Shoe Time!

This hilarious beginning-reader by multi award-winning artist Bryan Collier turns the closet on its heel and redefines what it means to be a pair.

 

 

 

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut is written by Derrick Barnes and illustrated by Gordon C. James.

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Publisher’s Summary: The barbershop is where the magic happens. Boys go in as lumps of clay and, with princely robes draped around their shoulders, a dab of cool shaving cream on their foreheads, and a slow, steady cut, they become royalty. That crisp yet subtle line makes boys sharper, more visible, more aware of every great thing that could happen to them when they look good: lesser grades turn into As; girls take notice; even a mother’s hug gets a little tighter. Everyone notices.

A fresh cut

makes boys fly.

And, for young adults, I highly recommend A Short History of the Girl Next Door  by Jared Reck.

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Publisher’s Summary: Matt Wainwright is constantly sabotaged by the overdramatic movie director in his head. He can’t tell his best friend, Tabby, how he really feels about her, he implodes on the JV basketball team, and the only place he feels normal is in Mr. Ellis’s English class, discussing the greatest fart scenes in literature and writing poems about pissed-off candy-cane lumberjacks.

If this were a movie, everything would work out perfectly. Tabby would discover that Matt’s madly in love with her, be overcome with emotion, and would fall into his arms. Maybe in the rain.

But that’s not how it works. Matt watches Tabby get swept away by senior basketball star and all-around great guy Liam Branson. Losing Tabby to Branson is bad enough, but screwing up and losing her as a friend is even worse.

After a tragic accident, Matt finds himself left on the sidelines, on the verge of spiraling out of control and losing everything that matters to him. From debut author Jared Reck comes a fiercely funny and heart-wrenching novel about love, longing, and what happens when life as you know it changes in an instant.

What have you been reading that you’d recommend?

 

 

 

 

 

Jólabókaflóð 2017

26 Dec

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I hope you had a lovely Jólabókaflóð.  I certainly did. Here is a list of the books I received:

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Maud: A Novel Inspired by the Life of L. M. Montgomery by Melanie J. Fishbane

Publisher’s Summary: Fourteen-year-old Lucy Maud Montgomery — Maud to her friends — has a dream: to go to college and become a writer, just like her idol, Louisa May Alcott. But living with her grandparents on Prince Edward Island, she worries that this dream will never come true. Her grandfather has strong opinions about a woman’s place in the world, and they do not include spending good money on college. Luckily, she has a teacher to believe in her, and good friends to support her, including Nate, the Baptist minister’s stepson and the smartest boy in the class. If only he weren’t a Baptist; her Presbyterian grandparents would never approve. Then again, Maud isn’t sure she wants to settle down with a boy — her dreams of being a writer are much more important.

But life changes for Maud when she goes out West to live with her father and his new wife and daughter. Her new home offers her another chance at love, as well as attending school, but tensions increase as Maud discovers her stepmother’s plans for her, which threaten Maud’s future — and her happiness forever.

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Romeo And/Or Juliet: A Chooseable Path Adventure by Ryan North

Publisher’s Summary: Romeo loves Juliet. Or Rosaline. And Juliet loves Romeo. Or Viola. Or Orlando. It’s Shakespeare as you’ve never played him before.

Merry Christmas

24 Dec

Yesterday, I laughed out loud listening to an NPR episode in which people tell scary stories they were told about kids who tried to catch a peek of Santa.

I laughed, too, reading The Day Santa Stopped Believing in Harold written by Maureen Fergus and illustrated by Cale Atkinson.

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Publisher’s Summary: Santa has a problem. This kid? Harold? Santa doesn’t think he’s real. He WANTS to believe in Harold–after all, Harold is one of the most magical parts of Christmas. Getting Harold’s letters, eating the cookies he leaves out, feeding his carrots to the reindeer… what would Christmas be without that? But Santa’s just not sure. Some of his friends are telling him they think Harold’s not real. And the Harold that sat on his knee last Christmas looked AWFULLY different. Santa comes up with a plan to find out once and for all if Harold really exists… with hilarious consequences.

This was a fun twist on that time in a child’s life when they start questioning Santa’s existence. Maybe it will help prolong childhood a little longer.

I think I’ll go watch Miracle on 34th Street.

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas.

 

Hello, Dolly!

20 Dec

This week, I book talked books with dolls. This gave me a chance to talk about my favorite Christmas book on Monday.

Monday: The Christmas Doll by Elvira Woodruff

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Tuesday: The Dollmaker of Krakow by R. M. Romero

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Wednesday – our last day, so I mentioned three:

The Friendship Doll by Kirby Larson

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Doll Bones by Holly Black

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Took by Mary Downing Hahn

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Like A Hallmark Christmas Movie

30 Dec

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This would have been a great read before Christmas, snuggled up under a blanket with a cup of cocoa on the table beside me. It is a Christmas romance, a little light, set in a Christmas tree lot.

Publisher’s Summary: Sierra’s family runs a Christmas tree farm in Oregon—it’s a bucolic setting for a girl to grow up in, except that every year, they pack up and move to California to set up their Christmas tree lot for the season. So Sierra lives two lives: her life in Oregon and her life at Christmas. And leaving one always means missing the other.

Until this particular Christmas, when Sierra meets Caleb, and one life eclipses the other.

By reputation, Caleb is not your perfect guy: years ago, he made an enormous mistake and has been paying for it ever since. But Sierra sees beyond Caleb’s past and becomes determined to help him find forgiveness and, maybe, redemption. As disapproval, misconceptions, and suspicions swirl around them, Caleb and Sierra discover the one thing that transcends all else: true love.

It was an ok book, but it  got me thinking about a couple of Hallmark holiday movies. The first one, from 2005, also involves a romance that springs from a Christmas tree lot.

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IMDB Summary: Christy Byrne, a Christmas tree farmer, whose wife died four years ago, goes to New York with his children and meets Catherine O’Meara, whose husband died three years ago. Though their paths cross frequently, Catherine and Christy remain emotionally isolated until a compelling crisis draws them together and allows them to rediscover the faith, hope, and love of the Christmas season.

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Catherine O’Meara is portrayed by Anne Heche plays who has quite a history in Hallmark holiday movies.

This year she stars in Looks Like Christmas.

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IMDB Summary: Two single parents battle for control of the Christmas holiday at the middle school their children attend and learn a lesson about the meaning of Christmas.

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Two years ago, we saw her in One Christmas Eve. 

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IMDB Summary:A series of mishaps threaten a recently divorced mom’s attempts to make her two kids’ first Christmas “without dad” perfect.

My Jólabókaflóð

26 Dec

You’ve probably seen one of these memes over the last few days or weeks.

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I am at an age and stage in my life when the getting and giving of books is the most fun part of Christmas. On the day after Christmas, Boxing Day, I like to share what I gave and what I got.

My twin sister learned to knit socks this year, so I gave her one of my favorite sock knitting books,  Knitting Vintage Socks by Nancy Bush. The introductory chapters give good information about sock construction which are followed by beautiful patterns based on older patterns.

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Throughout the year, I sent my sister some of the books I’d received for the Morris Committee. I am not allowed to sell them and so I sent her the some of the best that didn’t get nominated. I also did a bog book giveaway at work, reducing my stash from six boxes to two, that I will donate to a local library. I saved one of them for my sister for Christmas, Skyscraping by Cordelia Jensen.

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Publisher Summary: Mira is just beginning her senior year of high school when she discovers her father with his male lover. Her world–and everything she thought she knew about her family–is shattered instantly. Unable to comprehend the lies, betrayal, and secrets that–unbeknownst to Mira–have come to define and keep intact her family’s existence, Mira distances herself from her sister and closest friends as a means of coping. But her father’s sexual orientation isn’t all he’s kept hidden. A shocking health scare brings to light his battle with HIV. As Mira struggles to make sense of the many fractures in her family’s fabric and redefine her wavering sense of self, she must find a way to reconnect with her dad–while there is still time.

Told in raw, exposed free verse, Skyscraping reminds us that there is no one way to be a family.

My brother-in-law has eclectic tastes that include an interest in the Dada movement and avant-garde art. So, I got him a collection of essays on modern art, Keeping an Eye Open: Essays on Art by Julian Barnes.

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Publisher’s Summary: As Julian Barnes notes: “Flaubert believed that it was impossible to explain one art form in terms of another, and that great paintings required no words of explanation. Braque thought the ideal state would be reached when we said nothing at all in front of a painting . . . But it is a rare picture that stuns, or argues, us into silence. And if one does, it is only a short time before we want to explain and understand the very silence into which we have been plunged.”

This is the exact dynamic that informs his new book. In his 1989 novel A History of the World in 10½ Chapters, Barnes had a chapter on Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa,and since then he has written about many great masters of nineteenth- and twentieth-century art, including Delacroix, Manet, Fantin-Latour, Cézanne, Degas, Redon, Bonnard, Vuillard, Vallotton, Braque, Magritte, Oldenburg, Lucian Freud and Howard Hodgkin. The seventeen essays gathered here help trace the arc from Romanticism to Realism and into Modernism; they are adroit, insightful and, above all, a true pleasure to read.

For my 17-year-old niece who reads everything, I got The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough.

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Publisher’s Summary: Flora and Henry were born a few blocks from each other, innocent of the forces that might keep a white boy and an African-American girl apart; years later they meet again and their mutual love of music sparks an even more powerful connection. But what Flora and Henry don’t know is that they are pawns in a game played by the eternal adversaries Love and Death, here brilliantly reimagined as two extremely sympathetic and fascinating characters. Can their hearts and their wills overcome not only their earthly circumstances, but forces that have battled throughout history? In the rainy Seattle of the 1920’s, romance blooms among the jazz clubs, the mansions of the wealthy, and the shanty towns of the poor. But what is more powerful: love? Or death?

On a side note, I wanted to share with you the banner from Brockenbrough’s webpage,

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For my birthday, I got Tim Wynne Jones’ newest novel,  The Emperor of Any Place.

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Publisher’s Summary:When Evan’s father dies suddenly, Evan finds a hand-bound yellow book on his desk—a book his dad had been reading when he passed away. The book is the diary of a Japanese soldier stranded on a small Pacific island in WWII. Why was his father reading it? What is in this account that Evan’s grandfather, whom Evan has never met before, fears so much that he will do anything to prevent its being seen? And what could this possibly mean for Evan? In a pulse-quickening mystery evoking the elusiveness of truth and the endurance of wars passed from father to son, this engrossing novel is a suspenseful, at times terrifying read from award-winning author Tim Wynne-Jones.

The last half of this year was a little hard because of the loss of my dad and Fiona. My sister, who lost our father and her mother-in-law within weeks of each other, walked into her local book shop and ran into a friend. When her friend heard about my sister’s losses, she recommended this book, They Left Us Everything:  A Memoir by Plum Johnson.

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Publisher’s Summary:After almost twenty years of caring for elderly parents—first for their senile father,  and then for their cantankerous ninety-three-year-old mother—author Plum Johnson  and her three younger brothers experience conflicted feelings of grief and relief when  their mother, the surviving parent, dies. Now they must empty and sell the beloved  family home, which hasn’t been de-cluttered in more than half a century. Twenty-three  rooms bulge with history, antiques, and oxygen tanks. Plum remembers her loving  but difficult parents who could not have been more different: the British father, a  handsome, disciplined patriarch who nonetheless could not control his opinionated,  extroverted Southern-belle wife who loved tennis and gin gimlets. The task consumes  her, becoming more rewarding than she ever imagined. Items from childhood trigger  memories of her eccentric family growing up in a small town on the shores of Lake  Ontario in the 1950s and 60s. But unearthing new facts about her parents helps her  reconcile those relationships with a more accepting perspective about who they were  and what they valued.

They Left Us Everything  is a funny, touching memoir about the importance of preserving  family history to make sense of the past and nurturing family bonds to safeguard the  future.

So, I will be holed up for the next few days (weeks?) reading these and the books I have to read for various commitments. I will probably ring in the 2016 with a book in my hand.

 

 

Randy Ribay

YA author, teacher, nerd

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