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Très drôle

18 Sep

The rain has finally returned to the Pacific Northwest. The smell of smoke in the air has been replaced by the scent of damp earth and I imagine those fighting fires are celebrating. Those of us who prefer cooler, wetter weather are celebrating, too. It is as though we have crossed a line: life before the rain, life after the rain.

And that gets me thinking about My Pictures After the Storm by Eric Veillé.

More witty than funny, this picture book proves that a picture is worth a thousand words.

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The book, which has a cover that is reminiscent of a board book, is simply a collection of before and after pictures, all of which have a

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We have Back to School Night tonight. The picture of me after BTSN will be more about exhaustion than humor.

 

 

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This week’s booktalks 9/11-15

15 Sep

 

Monday, September 11

Nine, Ten by Nora Raleigh Baskin

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Tuesday, September 12

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher

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Wednesday, September 13

I meant to talk about Booked, but when I learned most kids hadn’t read Kwame Alexander’s Crossover, I booktalked both.

 

Thursday, September  14

Lucy and Andy Neanderthal by Jeffrey Brown

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Friday, September 15

Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle, provided a little humor for the end of the week.

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A Little Luck

29 Aug

 See a penny pick it up.

All the day you’ll have good luck.

I don’t really believe that old superstition.

And yet, whenever I see a penny on the ground, I pick it up and recite the rhyme. It is just what I do.

I don’t really believe picking up pennies will bring me luck.

And yet, last week, while taking Lucy for a walk, I found a penny and picked it up. A littler further on, I found another penny and a dime. I picked those up, too. If a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, what is 12¢ worth, I wondered.Did I now have 12 times the luck I’d left the house with?

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Going back

28 Aug

I go back to school today. It is a good thing, though I had really bad Sunday Night-itis last night.

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In The Pearl Thief, author Elizabeth Wein goes back in time to tell a story about Julie, the main character from Code Name Verity, before she was Verity.

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I am always nervous to read a new book about a character I love, and doubly so when it is about a character in a book I adored. And I adored Julie and Code Name Verity.

I shouldn’t have worried. Wein knows Julie well and gives us some insights into the girl who will become Verity.

From the author’s website: Not quite sixteen-year-old Julie Beaufort-Stuart is returning to her family’s Perthshire ancestral home in Scotland for one last summer. It is not an idyllic return to childhood. Her grandfather’s death has forced the sale of the house and estate and this will be a summer of goodbyes. Not least to the McEwen family – Highland Travellers who have been part of the landscape for as long as anyone can remember – loved by the family, loathed by the authorities. Tensions are already high when a respected London archivist goes missing, presumed murdered. Suspicion quickly falls on the McEwens, but Julie knows not one of them would do such a thing and is determined to prove everyone wrong. And then she notices the family’s treasure trove of pearls is missing.

This beautiful and evocative novel is the story of the irrepressible and unforgettable Julie, set in the year before the Second World War and the events of Code Name Verity. It is also a powerful portrayal of a community under pressure and one girl’s determination for justice.

As always, Wein firmly sets her novel in its place. I read, I felt as though I was in Scotland, with Julie and even got out my atlas of the UK to figure out where it was all taking place. She gives us some details in back, along with some great info on Travellers and Scottish pearls. But is Julie’s voice that gives the book its power. It was good to get to hear it again.

 

Big Mothers

21 Aug

No, not the eclipse. I will write about that tomorrow.

Today is a tale of two books, each with a character named Big Mother, each written by a Canadian woman.

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The Big Mother of Madeleine Thien’s Do Not Say We Have Nothing is a singer in pre-revolutionary China is truly named Big Mother Knife. Not a main character, she is the mother and grandmother of two of the main characters, Sparrow and Ai Ming, Sparrow’s daughter.

Publisher’s Summary: Madeleine Thien’s new novel is breathtaking in scope and ambition even as it is hauntingly intimate. With the ease and skill of a master storyteller, Thien takes us inside an extended family in China, showing us the lives of two successive generations–those who lived through Mao’s Cultural Revolution in the mid-twentieth century; and the children of the survivors, who became the students protesting in Tiananmen Square in 1989, in one of the most important political moments of the past century. With exquisite writing sharpened by a surprising vein of wit and sly humour, Thien has crafted unforgettable characters who are by turns flinty and headstrong, dreamy and tender, foolish and wise.
At the centre of this epic tale, as capacious and mysterious as life itself, are enigmatic Sparrow, a genius composer who wishes desperately to create music yet can find truth only in silence; his mother and aunt, Big Mother Knife and Swirl, survivors with captivating singing voices and an unbreakable bond; Sparrow’s ethereal cousin Zhuli, daughter of Swirl and storyteller Wen the Dreamer, who as a child witnesses the denunciation of her parents and as a young woman becomes the target of denunciations herself; and headstrong, talented Kai, best friend of Sparrow and Zhuli, and a determinedly successful musician who is a virtuoso at masking his true self until the day he can hide no longer. Here, too, is Kai’s daughter, the ever-questioning mathematician Marie, who pieces together the tale of her fractured family in present-day Vancouver, seeking a fragile meaning in the layers of their collective story.
With maturity and sophistication, humour and beauty, a huge heart and impressive understanding, Thien has crafted a novel that is at once beautifully intimate and grandly political, rooted in the details of daily life inside China, yet transcendent in its universality.

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The Big Mother of Claire Cameron’s The Last Neanderthal is the matriarch of a failing Neanderthal clan, and the mother of the main character, Girl.

Publisher’s Summary: Forty thousand years in the past, the last family of Neanderthals roams the earth. After a crushingly hard winter, their numbers are low, but Girl, the oldest daughter, is just coming of age and her family is determined to travel to the annual meeting place and find her a mate.

But the unforgiving landscape takes its toll, and Girl is left alone to care for Runt, a foundling of unknown origin. As Girl and Runt face the coming winter storms, Girl realizes she has one final chance to save her people, even if it means sacrificing part of herself.

In the modern day, archaeologist Rosamund Gale works well into her pregnancy, racing to excavate newly found Neanderthal artifacts before her baby comes. Linked across the ages by the shared experience of early motherhood, both stories examine the often taboo corners of women’s lives.

Haunting, suspenseful, and profoundly moving, THE LAST NEANDERTHAL asks us to reconsider all we think we know about what it means to be human.

These were probably the two best adult books I read this summer.

 

Kickstarting

15 Aug

Along with about 60 colleagues and I gathered yesterday to spend the day with TCRWP’s  Mary Ehrenworth. We’ve been fortunate in my school district over the last few years to have Mary come a few times. We have also been fortunate enough to have TCRWP trainers come to our schools for days at a time. I have loved every minute of it. And yet, when the email came a few days ago saying shed be talking about grammar, I can’t lie – my heart sank.

I should have known better.

Here are a few of the many things I learned.

  1. Kids master grammar. Then comes slippage. With exposure to the various ways people write on social media, students unlearn spelling and grammar rules. Mary said that 3rd graders have better skills in some areas than 8th graders, who have greater exposure to social media. We need to teach them to code switch and expose them to a high volume of accurate language.
  2. We can teach grammar in meaning full ways
    • Demonstration – a ten minute mini-lesson, once they have a draft they are invested in
    • Inquiry centers – 20-25 minutes once during a unit, once they have a draft they are invested in, so they can apply the skill to their draft RIGHT NOW!
  3. Extravaganza & Interludes – a way to study tricky grammar in which kids make tools for other units

We spent some time working together to create some Inquiry centers. My teaching partner and I made centers that focused on narrative paragraphs and writing dialogue. We thought the dialogue center would be helpful for that small group of student who wrote ONLY DIALOGUE in their narrative.

After this work, we broke for lunch. Mary packs a lot into a morning.

In the afternoon we looked at teaching verb tense by looking at the movement of time. Mary taught some mini-lessons and we learned ways to have kids create timelines  for fiction and non-fiction, through read-alouds and shared reading.

Needless to say, even though I am sad that summer vacation is almost over,  I am now excited to get back to school and apply what I learned.

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Madly reading through the last weeks of summer

14 Aug

I’ve had this pile of books sitting around. Maybe I have more than one pile.

Here are two truths about my book piles:

  1. They are not stagnant. Books come and books go.
  2. They are shrinking.

I’ve been blitzing through my piles, trying to get as many books read before I have to go back to school.

While at ALA, I got arcs of two graphic novels, aimed at two different demographics, but both are the first in a series.

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The Sand Warrior is geared to a middle school audience and my arc will end up in my classroom library,

Publisher’s Summary: The Five Worlds are on the brink of extinction unless five ancient and mysterious beacons are lit. When war erupts, three unlikely heroes will discover there’s more to themselves—and more to their worlds—than meets the eye. . . .

• The clumsiest student at the Sand Dancer Academy, Oona Lee is a fighter with a destiny bigger than she could ever imagine.

• A boy from the poorest slums, An Tzu has a surprising gift and a knack for getting out of sticky situations.

• Star athlete Jax Amboy is beloved by an entire galaxy, but what good is that when he has no real friends?

When these three kids are forced to team up on an epic quest, it will take not one, not two, but 5 WORLDS to contain all the magic and adventure!

 

As with most of his books, Scott Westerfeld’s The Spill Zone is geared to an older audience. There is some language and activity in the book that will keep me from putting it in my 6th grade classroom library, but I can imagine teens connecting with the main characters.

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Publisher’s Summary: Three years ago an event destroyed the small city of Poughkeepsie, forever changing reality within its borders. Uncanny manifestations and lethal dangers now await anyone who enters the Spill Zone.

The Spill claimed Addison’s parents and scarred her little sister, Lexa, who hasn’t spoken since. Addison provides for her sister by photographing the Zone’s twisted attractions on illicit midnight rides. Art collectors pay top dollar for these bizarre images, but getting close enough for the perfect shot can mean death—or worse.

When an eccentric collector makes a million-dollar offer, Addison breaks her own hard-learned rules of survival and ventures farther than she has ever dared. Within the Spill Zone, Hell awaits—and it seems to be calling Addison’s name.

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