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They’re listening

10 Dec

Friday afternoon. I was tidying the classroom in that half-hearted way you do when you just want to get the heck out of Dodge. I had picked up a pencil or two, straightened some books on shelves, all the while keeping one eye on the windows, to see when the buses left so I could leave.

As I looked out, I noticed a sticky note stuck to the wall. What the…. I half thought, half muttered as I strode forward ready to rip it off the wall. I reached my hand towards it and stopped.

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It was a misquote of something from our class read aloud, Posted by John David Anderson,  but it touched my heart.

Not all the 6th teachers at my school do read aloud and I am certain almost no 7th and 8th grade teachers do it. But my 8th grade teacher, Mr. Ziegler, did and it is one of my favorite things to do.

Very few kids just sit and listen. Many draw, some read their own book. I  am very liberal when it comes to this because, in my heart, I hope that they are listening because I choose my read alouds carefully. I like to think that they give us a common language, a shared experience that we can apply to what we do in class, and in our lives.

I plucked that sticky note off the wall and brought it home and stuck it on my computer. I brought it back to school on Monday and stuck it on the wall behind my desk where I keep the pictures students draw for me. I still don’t know who wrote it, but I see you.

,

 

Home going

11 Jul

I have a trip planned for August. Until then, I am enjoying being an armchair traveler- visiting various times and places through literature. Recently, two books stuck me because, in both, the main character travels back to a country in which they’d been born in an effort to make sense of the world.

In Forward Me Back to You  by Mitali Perkins, tells the story of two characters, one who is recovering from an attack and another who was adopted and an infant and is struggling with what to do after high school.

 

Publisher’s Summary: Katina King is the reigning teen jujitsu champion of Northern California, but she’s having trouble fighting off the secrets in her past.

Robin Thornton was adopted from an orphanage in India and is reluctant to take on his future. If he can’t find his roots, how can he possibly plan ahead?

downloadRobin and Kat meet in the most unlikely of places—a summer service trip to Kolkata to work with survivors of human trafficking. As bonds build between the travelmates, Robin and Kat discover that justice and healing are tangled, like the pain of their pasts and the hope for their futures. You can’t rewind life; sometimes you just have to push play.

In turns heart wrenching, beautiful, and buoyant, Mitali Perkins’s Forward Me Back to You focuses its lens on the ripple effects of violence—across borders and generations—and how small acts of heroism can break the cycle.

 

I received an ARC of Randy Ribay’s Patron Saints of Nothing at ALAMW in Seattle and only just got around to reading it.

 

Halloween is in the air

22 Oct

My costume is ready and – spoiler alert –  I won’t be a ghost or a vampire. They are, however,  the topics of two fun (middle school aged) graphic novels I read this weekend.

In Sheets by Brenna Thummler, one of the main characters is a ghost. The other is a girl holding her grieving family together. This is a serious story of loneliness, grief and invisibility.

Marjorie Glatt feels like a ghost. A practical thirteen-year-old in charge of the family laundry business, her daily routine features unforgiving customers, unbearable P.E. classes and laundry…always, always laundry.

Wendell is a ghost. A boy who lost his life much too young, his daily routine features ineffective death therapy, a sheet-dependent identity, and a dangerous need to seek purpose in the forbidden human world.

Find out what happens when their worlds collide.

Fake Blood by Whitney Gardner, is sweet, funny, and chock full of Twilight  references.  It is about fandom and first crushes. All I have to say is, are you sure you teachers are what they say they are?

Publisher’s Summary: It’s the beginning of the new school year and AJ feels like everyone is changing but him. He hasn’t grown or had any exciting summer adventures like his best friends have. He even has the same crush he’s harbored for years. So AJ decides to take matters into his own hands. But how could a girl like Nia Winters ever like plain vanilla AJ when she only has eyes for vampires?

When AJ and Nia are paired up for a group project on Transylvania, it may be AJ’s chance to win over Nia’s affection by dressing up like the vamp of her dreams. And soon enough he’s got more of Nia’s attention than he bargained for when he learns she’s a slayer.

Now AJ has to worry about self-preservation while also trying to save everyone he cares about from a real-life threat lurking in the shadows of Spoons Middle School.

This week’s book talks 10/15-19

19 Oct

The Scholastic book fair happened during conferences. I bought two books and students donated two to the classroom library.

Monday

The Grand Escape by Neal Bascomb

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Tuesday

The Plot to Kill Hitler by Patricia McCormick

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Wednesday

The Faithful Spy by John Hendrix…I had an ARC of this one at home and decided to bring it in as a compare/contrast to Tuesday’s book.

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Thursday

Grenade By Alan Gratz

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Friday

The Fever Code by James Dashner…to break the red & black cover cycle.

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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.

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.

 

Randy Ribay

YA author, teacher, nerd

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