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Making her point

26 Aug

I picked up an ARC of Proud: My Fight for an Unlikely American Dream by Ibtihaj Muhammad. It was part of my effort to get books with covers featuring people who looked like my students. Although middle schoolers aren’t the target audience for this book, I think many of my students will enjoy reading it.


There are several reasons why I think it will work in a middle school classroom. First is Muhammad’s honesty in her descriptions of her struggles and self-doubts. Her strict upbringing and expectations of success mirror those of my students. The book is definitely more memoir than biography because she delves deeper in some parts than in others, in the same way that I encourage my writers to tell microstories that illustrate the point they are trying to make.

Of course, I love that this is the story of a women of color who has achieved success in sports. Her dedication and personal sacrifice exemplify the grit everyone needs to succeed in whatever they undertake.

Publisher’s Summary: Growing up in New Jersey as the only African American Muslim at school, Ibtihaj Muhammad always had to find her own way. When she discovered fencing, a sport traditionally reserved for the wealthy, she had to defy expectations and make a place for herself in a sport she grew to love.

From winning state championships to three-time All-America selections at Duke University, Ibtihaj was poised for success, but the fencing community wasn’t ready to welcome her with open arms just yet. As the only woman of color and the only religious minority on Team USA’s saber fencing squad, Ibtihaj had to chart her own path to success and Olympic glory.

Proud is a moving coming-of-age story from one of the nation’s most influential athletes and illustrates how she rose above it all.

A Young Reader’s Edition is also available.


Very often, the big difference in a young readers version of  a book is the simplification of language and the expurgation  of  scenes considered in appropriate for the audience. Ibtihaj Muhammad has lived a very disciplined life and I have no problem sharing my ARC of the “adult” version with my students. I think they will understand the struggles and successes of Ibtihaj Muhammad.


More than just a number

11 Dec

I get weepy around Christmas time. My twin sister likes to send me Hallmark ads to see if I’ll cry. t’s always the good kind of cry, and I try to get her back. So imagine how surprised I was to find myself more than a little teary-eyed at the end of a picture book about hockey!  The Highest Number in the World is written by Roy MacGregor and beautifully illustrated by Geneviève Després.


From the publisher: 9-year-old Gabe (Gabriella) Murray lives and breathes hockey. She’s the youngest player on her new team, she has a nifty move that her teammates call “the Gabe,” and she shares a lucky number with her hero, Hayley Wickenheiser: number 22. But when her coach hands out the team jerseys, Gabe is stuck with number 9. Crushed, Gabe wants to give up hockey altogether. How can she play without her lucky number? Gabe’s grandmother soon sets her straight, though–from her own connection to the number 9 in her hockey-playing days to all the greats she cheered for who wore it, she soon convinces Gabe that this new number might not be so bad after all.

 What starts off as a simple story about a disappointed little girl becomes a much more complex and meaningful tale once Grandma starts sharing her story. Talk about girl power and historical context.

As a kid hockey wasn’t even an option for me. Where I grew up, girls didn’t play, we watched.  Hockey heroes were big for us. I loved watching Guy Lafleur skate down the ice hair flying (these were the days before mandatory helmets). In 1979, Roch Carrier, published The Hockey Sweater, which you can watch as an excellent National Film Board of Canada short here. The Highest Number in the World, feels like an homage to  The Hockey Sweater and girls in sports all at once. I’m going to be sure my twin sister reads this one. I bet she cries, too.

Hockey Night in Canada

13 Feb

Growing up we watched Hickey Night in Canada. For a while, when we lived in Abitibi Canyon and had on one TV station, that might be the only thing to watch. Stories and images of hockey permeate my childhood memories.

There are a couple of really great hockey related books I’d like to share with you today, to celebrate the Canadian Women’s Hockey team victory over the US last night at the Sochi Olympics.

First, and foremost there is Roch Carrier’s The Hockey Sweater originally published in French as Le Chandail de Hockey.

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This is a great story, but can be hard to find. It was turned into a short film by the National Film Board

As a kid I loved watching the Montreal Canadiens. It was the days before helmets and I loved watching my two  Guy Lafleur’s hair as he skated towards the net on a breakaway. I remember listening to Paul Henderson’s winning goal in the 1972 Canada Russia hockey series.

The NFB has a number of other short films about hockey that you can view HERE.

On a funny note, I remember being in the New Hamburg library in the late 70’s 80’s, looking at the rounders. There was a title that frequently intrigued me: Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack by M.E Kerr.


I assumed it was about hockey and never checked it out. Years later, I realized it was about heroine, not slap shots. I still laugh at my folly. I was a rather naive child. It turns out that Dinky Hocker doesn’t shoot smack, but she sure could tell you a lot about kids who do. Just like I don’t write books, but like to think I can tell you about authors who do.

The Oregon Basset Hound Games Are Coming!

12 Jul

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The Oregon Basset Hound Games will be held next Sunday (July 21st)  in Legion Park in Woodburn, Oregon. need less to say, I’ve been busy with basset hound stuff this week.

Last Sunday we had our last meeting before the Games.

Yesterday, I took Daisy for her booster shots & we signed her adoption papers.

All week I’ve been working on our last minute decision to get new t-shirts. A volunteer created the design above. I tracked down someone who could make them before Sunday. I told the committee & the t-shirt lady we will have decision by noon today.

Tonight, I’m transporting a bonded pair (Daisy & Molly) from their current foster (who is going on vacation) to another foster home.

Take a look at your calendar. If you are free next Sunday, come & join us. The event is free for spectators. Only bassets who want to participate in events have to pay ( a mere $10 for all events). It s a fun day and I promise you will laugh. The events include a puppy dash, marathon napping, limbo,best howler and many more. There is also an amazing raffle. I knit a sweater for the raffle every year. here are a couple of little pics of this year’s sweater ( size ladies’ medium):

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I hope to see you in Woodburn next Sunday. Registration opens at 8:30 & the Games begin about 10:30.

The Mighty Lalouche: A Mighty Fine Book

5 Jun



You must read  The Mighty Lalouche, written by Matthew Olshan and illustrated by Sophie Blackall.

Laloche is a postman with nimble hands, fast legs and strong arms. He lives in Paris with his beloved finch, Geneviève. When he loses his  job to modern technology, he is desperate to find a job that will keep Geneviève in the manner to which she has become accustomed. Then one day he sees a sign asking 3 very important questions:




And thus, Lalouche becomes a sparring partner at a boxing club, even though he is small and rather bony. The mayhem he cause is the wring is sensational as is the message about doing what you love.

The illustrations are knockouts! Sophie Blackall has completely captured  France during the Third Republic.  The details as he adds are exquisite. You can see how she did it at her blog:  Sophie Blackall.




Hoop Genius…he’s Canadian!

13 May

One of my favorite This American Life  episodes is entitled Who’s Canadian. It makes me laugh, because I am an expat Canadian and it is true that we love to play the game in which we point put people and things that are Canadian.

At first, I was a bit miffed that the text of Hoop Genius: How a Desperate Teacher and a Rowdy Gym Class Invented Basketball by John Coy, failed to mention James Naismith’s status as a Canadian.Yes, it is hard to believe the iconic American game was, in fact, invented by a Canadian.


As I read, though, it became less important because there are so many reasons to praise the book. The endpapers are photographs of Naismith’s original 13 rules of basketball. The simple text clearly explains the dilemma, and how Naismith used trial and error and personal experience to find a game his rowdy boys could play and enjoy. It also highlights the beginnings of basketball for women in 1892. The illustrations by Joe Morse literally move the story along.  Each page truly captures the style of the period. His portrayals of each team sport Naismith tried are especially effective because the alternate orientation, giving the book the  feel  of a sporting event. Indoor football moves left to right. Indoor soccer moves right to left, and the two sides face each other in lacrosse. I loved this and I don’t even like sports!

The author’s note at the end (finally) gives Canada it’s due as Naismith’s birthplace. It also gives some more details about his background. A good book for sports fans.  And Canadians.

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