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Homecomings and goings

26 Jun

Yesterday, as I waited for news about my job for next year, I read Other Words For Home by Jasmine Warga.

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From the Author’s Website:

Jude never thought she’d be leaving her beloved older brother and father behind her, all the way across the ocean in Syria. But when things in her home town start becoming volatile, Jude and her mother are sent to live in Cincinnati with relatives.

At first, everything in America seems too fast and too loud. The American movies that Jude has always loved haven’t quite prepared her for starting school in the U.S. –and her new label of “Middle Eastern,” an identity she’s never known before. But this life also brings unexpected surprises—there are new friends, a whole new family, and a school musical that Jude might just try out for. Maybe America, too, is a place where Jude can be seen as she really is.

This lyrical, life-affirming story is about losing and finding home, and most importantly, finding yourself.

Quite frankly, it was the perfect thing to read as I found out that friends were being moved to other schools, while I got to stay with my team in a job I loved. Like Jude, my emotions were conflicted. I was relieved for myself, disheartened for friends. A school staff is like an extended family. You see some a lot, others rarely. You like some members more than others. And when you have to move on, you have to create a new home with strangers or very distant relatives.

Other Words For Home has a happy-ish ending. Jude realizes she can be at home in two places, but her family, though safe, is still separated. Middle grade readers get a great snapshot into the life of a recent immigrant and the realities of being a Muslim in America. The novel is written in free verse making it a quick read that gets to the heart of the matter.

In her afterward, Warg write that she wanted to show that children fleeing a war zone “want the same things all of us do—love, understanding, safety, a chance at happiness.” I think she succeeded.

This week’s book talks 6/10-14

14 Jun

I am so excited that today is the last day of the school, that I got up early and wound up some yarn so I can do celebratory cast on of my first socks of summer tonight.

This week, I talked about books I’ve taken out from the public library and plan to read this summer.

Monday

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Rising Water: The Story of the Thai Cave Rescue by Marc Aronson

Tuesday

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The Line Tender by Kate Allen

Wednesday

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Caterpillar Summer by Gillian McDunn

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Finding Orion  by John David Anderson

Rising to the Challenge

10 Jun

I read a lot, as you well know, and I can often predict how things will end. Sometimes, though, you see it coming and it still makes you cry.

This weekend, I read Planet Earth is Blue  by Nicole Panteleakos, and it was like a gut punch. I totally knew what was coming, but the reaction of the main character, Nova, was so well written that I wanted to crawl through the pages to give her a hug, even though she doesn’t like to be touched.

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Books can do a lot to teach kids to feel empathy for others. It was interesting to see what was going on in Nova’s mind, while people around her misunderstood everything she was about.  At 232 pages, Planet Earth is Blue,  isn’t a long book – it can easily be finished in an afternoon by a pool – but it kept me riveted.

 

This week’s book talks 5/20-24

24 May

Monday

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House Without Walls by Ching Yeung Russell

Tuesday

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The Other Half of Happy  by Rebecca Balcárcel

Wednesday

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Soaring Earth  by Margarita Engle

Thursday

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Riverland  by Fran Wilde

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A Place to Belong  by Cynthia Kadohata

20 May

Books set in summer seem to be finding their way to me. Thoughts about summer are certainly making their way to me, and my students. I was grateful for the return to rain after three weeks of summery weather – it helps keep students focused.

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The main character of Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s  Shouting At the Rain also appreciates a good storm.

Publisher’s Summary: Delsie loves tracking the weather–lately, though, it seems the squalls are in her own life. She’s always lived with her kindhearted Grammy, but now she’s looking at their life with new eyes and wishing she could have a “regular family.” Delsie observes other changes in the air, too–the most painful being a friend who’s outgrown her. Luckily, she has neighbors with strong shoulders to support her, and Ronan, a new friend who is caring and courageous but also troubled by the losses he’s endured. As Ronan and Delsie traipse around Cape Cod on their adventures, they both learn what it means to be angry versus sad, broken versus whole, and abandoned versus loved. And that, together, they can weather any storm.

As a teacher of 6th graders, I see this sort of relationship struggle frequently. Kids come into 6th middle school with friends from their neighborhood and elementary school. Middle school is a bigger pond. Some friendships endure. Some are abandoned. Some take a new shape. Watching my students negotiate this can be tough. Right now I am watching a good kid fall under the spell of someone with, shall we say, less of a work ethic. I have a feeling he will be all right, but I am am watching him and will intervene if I think I need to.

 

This week’s book talks 5/13-17

17 May

Monday

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Up For Air  by Laurie Morrison

Tuesday

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Extraordinary Birds  by Sandy Stark-McGinnis

Wednesday

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Over the Moon  by Natalie Lloyd

Thursday

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The Girl King  by Mimi Yu

Friday

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HurricanE Season  by Nicole Melleby

This week’s book talks 5/6-10

10 May

Monday

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The Absence of Sparrows by Kurt Kirchmeier

Tuesday

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The Great Jeff by Tony Abbott

Wednesday

No booktalk – I was marching for fully funded schools

Thursday

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Poison in the Colony  by Elisa Carbone

Friday

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Friendroid by M.M. Vaughan

 

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