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Taking action

1 Nov

The first of November has me thinking about putting flannel sheets on the bed. It’s been getting colder and I’ve been thinking about it for a while, but now I feel I can take action.

You know who else took action? Pete Seibert. He’s the subject of this biography in verse, Ski Solder by Louise Borden.

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Publisher’s Summary: Ever since he first strapped on his mother’s wooden skis when he was seven, Pete Seibert always loved to ski. At eighteen, Seibert enlisted in the U.S. Army and joined the 10th Mountain Division, soldiers who fought on skis. In the mountains of Italy, Seibert encountered the mental and physical horrors of war. When he was severely wounded and sent home to recover, Seibert worried that he might never ski again. But with perseverance and the help of other 10th Mountain ski soldiers, he took to the slopes and fulfilled his boyhood dream— founding a ski resort in Vail, Colorado. The book is a dramatic recounting of a World War II experience and includes archival photos, as well as commentary on the legacy of the 10th Mountain Division, and a detailed list of sources.

It is a quick read, but sheds light on a little known slice of history.

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Celebrating the signs of Autumn

18 Sep

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All the leaves are green
except for those on the tree
that stands sentinel
at the top of the street.
Its yellowing leaves
are the harbingers of Autumn.

There are other signs.
They appear most mornings,
announcing the change of seasons:
slippered feet on cold floors,
car lights turned on
for my dark drive to work,
jackets, worn to work, but
casually carried home
on warm afternoons.

Back to school
comes long before
Fall really begins
and I long to wear
tights and sweaters
and to feel the chill disappear
as I pull on my hat and gloves.

 

Listening to voices

30 Apr

Today is the last day of National Poetry Month. I’ve been doing NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) with the students in my elective class, and we will keep going a while longer, since I only get to see them every other day.

I don’t often just sit and read a poetry collection – I am more likely to read a novel in verse – but I have been reading Naomi Shihab Nye’s Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners at school during independent reading time. The collection has given me hope and inspiration.

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Publisher’s Summary:Acclaimed and award-winning poet, teacher, and National Book Award finalist Naomi Shihab Nye’s uncommon and unforgettable voice offers readers peace, humor, inspiration, and solace. This volume of almost one hundred original poems is a stunning and engaging tribute to the diverse voices past and present that comfort us, compel us, lead us, and give us hope.

Voices in the Air is a collection of almost one hundred original poems written by the award-winning poet Naomi Shihab Nye in honor of the artists, writers, poets, historical figures, ordinary people, and diverse luminaries from past and present who have inspired her. Full of words of encouragement, solace, and hope, this collection offers a message of peace and empathy.

Voices in the Air celebrates the inspirational people who strengthen and motivate us to create, to open our hearts, and to live rewarding and graceful lives. With short informational bios about the influential figures behind each poem, and a transcendent introduction by the poet, this is a collection to cherish, read again and again, and share with others

Backmatter includes biographies of all the people mentioned in her poems.

Mary’s Monster – A biography in verse

18 Apr

There are all different kinds of monsters. Some are real some are imagined. In Mary’s Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein, Lita Judge tells the story of Mary Shelley’s monsters (personal, familial and societal) and how they led her to write Frankenstein.

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Publisher’s Summary: Pairing free verse with over three hundred pages of black-and-white watercolor illustrations, Mary’s Monster is a unique and stunning biography of Mary Shelley, the pregnant teenage runaway who became one of the greatest authors of all time.

Legend is correct that Mary Shelley began penning Frankenstein in answer to a dare to write a ghost story. What most people don’t know, however, is that the seeds of her novel had been planted long before that night. By age nineteen, she had been disowned by her family, was living in scandal with a married man, and had lost her baby daughter just days after her birth. Mary poured her grief, pain, and passion into the powerful book still revered two hundred years later, and in Mary’s Monster, author/illustrator Lita Judge has poured her own passion into a gorgeous book that pays tribute to the life of this incredible author.

I knew a bit about this story before picking up Mary’s Monster,  but Lita Judge does a marvelous job setting Mary Shelley’s story in its historical context. And Judge’s black and white illustrations beautifully evoke the darkness and difficulties Mary faced.

The book is definitely intended for an older audience and most listings say Gr 7 & up, or ages 13-17. Although many 6th graders don’t read dark poetic biographies, I have one girl in my first period class who I think will love this book.

Frankenstein  was published 200 years ago, in 1818. You can read and/or listen to an interesting CBC commentary on the book  here.

Grand Slam

16 Apr

I wish I could be in kid in Mr. Ward’s poetry class. He is a teacher in Nikki Grimes’  Between the Lines, known for his open-mic poetry readings and boys vs. girls poetry slam.

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Publisher’s Summary: Darrian dreams of writing for the New York Times. To hone his skills and learn more about the power of words, he enrolls in Mr. Ward’s class, known for its open-mic poetry readings and boys vs. girls poetry slam. Everyone in class has something important to say, and in sharing their poetry, they learn that they all face challenges and have a story to tell—whether it’s about health problems, aging out of foster care, being bullied for religious beliefs, or having to take on too much responsibility because of an addicted parent. As Darrian and his classmates get to know one another through poetry, they bond over the shared experiences and truth that emerge from their writing, despite their private struggles and outward differences.

The novel in verse is narrated in multiple voices that alternate with Darrian’s. There are some tough issues in the book  but nothing, that would keep it out of my 6th grade classroom. It is definitely written for kids as there is a feel good ending and lots of hope for this group of high school kids.

X

12 Apr

We are almost half way through National Poetry Month and I haven’t said much about poetry this month. It’s time to change that.

If you haven’t read The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo you should.

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Publisher’s Summary: Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about.

With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself. So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out. But she still can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

 

From the cover – where we see the words in on and around Xiomara – to the story itself, I was hooked. As we follow Xiomara’s journey as a poet, we encounter issues about how we raise girls, religion, traditional parenting styles, and body image. There are some mature themes here around those topics, but they are all handled honestly. Xiomara wrestles with things all girls wrestle with.

A novel in verse, by a poet, about a poet, it is definitely worth reading. Or, better yet, listen to the audiobook, read by the author, who is amazing. Not all authors can pull of their own audiobook, but Acevedo is a performing poet and knows the heart of her book!

If you’d like to see a sample of Acevedo at work, check out this performance of her poem “Hair”.

The second day is the hardest

3 Apr

The first day back
You are energized –
New month
New start
New unit
New stories about
Spring Break exploits.
There is a joy,
An excitement
In the air.

The second day is harder
You are tired
From the day before
From starting a new unit
From the kids’ renewed energy
And their old behaviors –
You didn’t miss those!
There is a fatigue,
Exhaustion,
In the air.

From the third day,
It gets better.
Established routines
Favorite units
Taught to fresh faces
Still a lot to do,
But sliding towards summer
There is an energy
A hope,
In the air.

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