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LOL

14 Aug

I love when kids laugh out loud during independent reading. It warms my heart to know that someone has connected so deeply with a book, and it puts a smile on my face.

Yesterday, during our TCRWP reading training, our afternoon session had teachers as students, watching the skills the TCRWP trainers were modeling for us. Following the mini-lesson, we were given time to read from a book we had chosen. The room was very quiet – everyone was reading or making notes about their book – until I laughed out loud.

The thing is, I was so surprised at my outburst that it made me laugh harder, then snort. In an effort to get myself under control, I put my forehead on the table. I was silent, but it took a few moments to still my shaking shoulders, I was laughing that hard.

The thing is, the paragraphs that got me laughing weren’t really that funny. They were some of Willow’s observations in chapter 4 of Holly Goldberg Sloan’s Counting by 7s. What made me react so strongly was that I recognized myself in her description because this is how I dress at home.

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Maybe you don’t see it as funny. You probably don’t dress this way, but when I am home, I wear a t-shirt and elastic waist shorts in the summer, and a t-shirt and elastic sweat pants in winter. I am not yet elderly, but Willow’s matter of fact description of my dress habits just struck me as funny at that particular moment, after lunch, in a reading workshop. I hope my laughter  during class warmed the heart of someone in that room and it put a smile on their face.

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Hey, Reader

6 Aug

I cry over books all the time. In fact, when I give a book talk, I tell the kids f it made me cry. It’s like a thumbs up signal. Very rarely do I cry over the back matter in a book, but I did for Jarrett J.  Krosoczka’s upcoming graphic memoir Hey, Kiddo.

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Publisher’s Summary: In kindergarten, Jarrett Krosoczka’s teacher asks him to draw his family, with a mommy and a daddy. But Jarrett’s family is much more complicated than that. His mom is an addict, in and out of rehab, and in and out of Jarrett’s life. His father is a mystery — Jarrett doesn’t know where to find him, or even what his name is. Jarrett lives with his grandparents — two very loud, very loving, very opinionated people who had thought they were through with raising children until Jarrett came along.
Jarrett goes through his childhood trying to make his non-normal life as normal as possible, finding a way to express himself through drawing even as so little is being said to him about what’s going on. Only as a teenager can Jarrett begin to piece together the truth of his family, reckoning with his mother and tracking down his father.
Hey, Kiddo is a profoundly important memoir about growing up in a family grappling with addiction, and finding the art that helps you survive.

The book is honest and powerful and made even more so by the images of real drawings and letters from the author and several family members that are integrated effectively into the book. The palette choice is muted earth tones, and the back matter explains the colors were chosen.  Let’s just say I wasn’t the only one with a hanky. And I shouldn’t be the only one who reads – and cries over – the back matter.

There is some strong language and issues around addiction, but I feel very confident about putting this in my classroom library.

The book doesn’t come out until October, but you hear Jarrett tell his story in this TED Talk from a few years ago.

 

 

We are saved by saving others

27 Jun

I left New Orleans Tuesday before dawn. The friendly cab driver and I chatted amiably despite my exhaustion. I checked my very heavy book-laden bag, made it through security quickly and sat at my gate, often with my eyes closed.

The man  who sat down across from me had a piece of tissue stuck to his bloody chin. An early morning shaving accident, I surmised. A little later, an airport attendant wheeled an elderly black lady to our area and settled her in a seat just down from the man with the bloody chin. The little old lady’s husband joined her and the attendant was trying to talk to them. I listened, my tired eyes often closed, and I realized the attendant was concerned because the elderly couple did not speak English, but Louisiana Creole.

I watched as the attendant went to speak with a gate attendant. I could see they were discussing the need for a French speaker, so I stood and went over to offer my help. I explained my French was rusty, but they were grateful nonetheless. It turned out my French was up for the task. They just wanted the couple to know the time and gate for their flight. Later, the woman caught my eye and I went over. She asked me something and I wasn’t completely clear on what it was. She asked again and I discerned she wanted to know where the nearest restroom was.

“Ah, le salle de bain?” I said, hopefully.

Her eyes lit up and she nodded. Then she added what sounded like, “Oui, dudu.”

I didn’t actually know where the nearest restroom was, but I explained where one was likely to be ( we were near the food court) and the signs to look for. She smiled and set off. My row was called so I didn’t see her come back.

I slept through the take-off for the flight to Dallas . I woke up for the snack and beverage and then promptly fell asleep again. When we landed, I had to take the Skylink train. As I awaited the train that would take me from Terminal C to terminal D, A woman approached me and asked, “Do you speak Spanish?”

She just needed an explanation about which train she should take. But I couldn’t help marvel that I helped out in two languages within a few hours.

On the flight to Portland, I read Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier.

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It is a beautiful story and I marked an idea that spoke to my heart: We are saved by saving others.

Publisher’s Summary: For nearly a century, Victorian London relied on “climbing boys”—orphans owned by chimney sweeps—to clean flues and protect homes from fire. The work was hard, thankless, and brutally dangerous. Eleven-year-old Nan Sparrow is quite possibly the best climber who ever lived—and a girl. With her wits and will, she’s managed to beat the deadly odds time and time again. But when Nan gets stuck in a deadly chimney fire, she fears her time has come. Instead, she wakes to find herself in an abandoned attic. And she is not alone. Huddled in the corner is a mysterious creature—a golem—made from ash and coal. This is the creature that saved her from the fire.

Sweep is the story of a girl and her monster. Together, these two outcasts carve out a life together—saving one another in the process. By one of today’s most powerful storytellers, Sweep is a heartrending adventure about the everlasting gifts of friendship and hope.

 

11 Jun

In 2002, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation began Canada Reads, Canada Reads, a literary program in which celebrities champion books that are  voted “off the bookshelf,” one each day, until one book is chosen as the title the whole country should read this year.

This year’s crop was, as always, amazing and I am working my way through the titles.

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This weekend I finished American War by Egyptian born Canadian author Omar El Akkad, who, like me, lives in Portland, OR.

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Publisher’s Summary: An audacious and powerful debut novel: a second American Civil War, a devastating plague, and one family caught deep in the middle—a story that asks what might happen if America were to turn its most devastating policies and deadly weapons upon itself.

Sarat Chestnut, born in Louisiana, is only six when the Second American Civil War breaks out in 2074. But even she knows that oil is outlawed, that Louisiana is half underwater, and that unmanned drones fill the sky. When her father is killed and her family is forced into Camp Patience for displaced persons, she begins to grow up shaped by her particular time and place. But not everyone at Camp Patience is who they claim to be. Eventually Sarat is befriended by a mysterious functionary, under whose influence she is turned into a deadly instrument of war. The decisions that she makes will have tremendous consequences not just for Sarat but for her family and her country, rippling through generations of strangers and kin alike.

This one isn’t for kids, but I was so riveted I couldn’t stop. The story builds in such a way that, before you realize it, you are so wrapped up in Sarat’s life that you feel as though you have always known her. The world El Akkad creates seems terrifyingly possible. That also kept me riveted as I ponder how we might get from here to there.

And it has a map. My students know I LOVE books with maps!

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American War wasn’t the Canada Reads winner, but it is definitely one adults should add to their summer reading list.

 

After the Book Club

5 Jun

I belong to an adult book club, made up of mostly librarians. I missed last night’s June meeting and the flurry that happens at the end. That’s where we decide which books we  will read for next month. Yes, I said books because we only read children’s and YA books. It is the best book club ever!

We usually choose about 10-12 books a month, a mix of picture books, longer fiction, non fiction and graphic novels. As we make each decision, phones are out and holds are placed at libraries.

Because I missed last night’s meeting, I didn’t see the list until I checked my email this morning. Before I began writing this post, my holds had been placed. All is well with the world.

Here is our July reading list(with links to my local library system):

Shorter Fiction:

Longer Fiction:

Nonfiction

Graphic Novel

Upcoming

 

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This week’s book talks 5/21 -25

25 May

Monday: Breakout by Kate Messner

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Tuesday:  Votes For Women!  by Winifred Conkling

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Wednesday: The Playbook by Kwame Alexander

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Thursday:  Loving vs. Virginia by Patricia Hruby Powell

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Friday:  Elon Musk & the Quest For A Fantastic Future  by Ashlee Vance

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My last read aloud?

21 May

Choosing a classroom read aloud is important and tricky. I am about to finish our current read aloud and have been thinking about which book I can read aloud to finish off the year. I found it in Breakout by Kate Messner.

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Publisher’s Summary: Nora Tucker is looking forward to summer vacation in Wolf Creek–two months of swimming, popsicles, and brushing up on her journalism skills for the school paper. But when two inmates break out of the town’s maximum security prison, everything changes. Doors are locked, helicopters fly over the woods, and police patrol the school grounds. Worst of all, everyone is on edge, and fear brings out the worst in some people Nora has known her whole life. Even if the inmates are caught, she worries that home might never feel the same.

Told in letters, poems, text messages, news stories, and comics–a series of documents Nora collects for the Wolf Creek Community Time Capsule Project–Breakout is a thrilling story that will leave readers thinking about who’s really welcome in the places we call home.

So, what makes this a great read aloud for the end of 6th grade?

  • a great mix of action and reflection that will appeal to readers who like those types of books
  • a variety of styles and voices that holds readers’ (and listeners’) attention
  • it tells the story of the end of a school year
  • authentic voices – I could visualize the protagonists right away
  • it touches on current issues without feeling preachy

The book comes out on June 5th, and Kate Messner is writing a series of posts about her experience writing the novel on her blog. It is well worth reading and I will probably share her posts with my students because it is interesting to see how she incorporated real life into a work of fiction.

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