A place for everyone

11 May

I was never the coolest kid. Maybe that’s why I like the quirky kids in class. Maybe they are just really interesting. Like the kids in Erin Entrada Kelly’s Hello, Universe.

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Publisher’s Summary: In one day, four lives weave together in unexpected ways. Virgil Salinas is shy and kindhearted and feels out of place in his crazy-about-sports family. Valencia Somerset, who is deaf, is smart, brave, and secretly lonely, and she loves everything about nature. Kaori Tanaka is a self-proclaimed psychic, whose little sister, Gen, is always following her around. And Chet Bullens wishes the weird kids would just stop being so different so that he can concentrate on basketball. They aren’t friends, at least not until Chet pulls a prank that traps Virgil and his pet guinea pig at the bottom of a well. This disaster leads Kaori, Gen, and Valencia on an epic quest to find the missing Virgil. Sometimes four can do what one cannot. Through luck, smarts, bravery, and a little help from the universe, a rescue is performed, a bully is put in his place, and friendship blooms. The acclaimed author of Blackbird Fly and The Land of Forgotten Girls writes with an authentic, humorous, and irresistible tween voice that will appeal to fans of Thanhha Lai and Rita Williams-Garcia.

I like the voices of these kids – they ring true. You can tell when an author really gets how kids think, and Erin Entrada Kelly really gets it. This is a lovely story of friendship that celebrates the differences in all of us.

Life’s little ironies

9 May

I placed my groceries on the conveyor belt and sighed. After a long day at work, I was almost home.

The cashier finished checking the people in front of me, but, as I pushed forward she said, “Give me a minute. I have a mess to clean.”

I looked to where she went, under the end of the conveyor, where you stashes the basket you carry by hand. The basket that had been stowed there was oozing eggs. The cashier made three trips to and fro, getting more paper towels and spray cleaner. She grumbled a little about people who don’t mention problems and leave messes for other people to clean and I commiserated.

I didn’t have many items, and I was checked out quickly, with two paper bags in the shopping cart. Portland is plastic bag free. I parked the cart and carried my bags to my car, looking back to make sure I hadn’t left anything behind. Nope. I was good to go.

When I got home, I quickly tossed the frozen berries into the freezer and the yogurt into the fridge, then took Lucy for our afternoon constitutional. I would unpack the rest of the groceries when we got home.

I fed Lucy when we got home, then started unpacking the rest. It went a little faster that I expected, then poured myself a glass of mineral water. It had reached 72ºF in Portland!

I don;t know what caused the niggle in my brain. But something called me back to the fridge. Hey, where were my lemons?  I pulled out my receipt and sure enough they were on there, but they weren’t in my fridge. Weird. I looked over the receipt once more. Holy cow!  Two other items on the receipt were missing: celery and carrots.

The grand total was just over five dollars worth of veggies, but the pain in my life was huge. I was in no mood to run back to the store (though I did check the car, just in case.) So, I took the only action I could – I sent an email using the comments form on the store’s website. A feeble effort, but I let them know that it wasn’t the value of the items, it was the value of my time that was the bigger loss.

In the aftermath, I thought about the fact that, driving home, I’d been thinking over the fact that I didn’t really have a good Slice of Life story.  Ha! I thought, too, about the cashier, who had complained about people not doing the right thing. Ha! Ha! Life sure is full of irony, isn’t it.

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No time like the present

8 May

I like the idea of time travel, but the practicalities are difficult: the money, the clothes, the language… So, I prefer my time travel in books and on screens. I am much braver that way.

Matthew Loux has published the first book in a new graphic series, The Time Museum.

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Publisher’s Summary: From dinosaurs to the burning of the Library of Alexandra—this thrilling, visually dazzling new series from Matthew Loux is posed to conquer the 21st century.

The internship program at the Time Museum is a little unusual. For one thing, kids as young as twelve get to apply for these prestigious summer jobs. And as for the applicant pool . . . well, these kids come from all over history.

When Delia finds herself working at the Time Museum, the last thing she expects is to be sent on time-traveling adventures with an unlikely gang of kids from across the eons. From a cave-boy to a girl from the distant future, Delia’s team represents nearly all of human history! They’re going to need all their skills for the challenge they’ve got in store . . . defending the Time Museum itself.

This was a fun, action-packed graphic novel. Though not my dream summer vacation, it would make a great summer read.  When I finally add it to my classroom library, I bet it won’t spend much time on the shelf.

 

Revenge, thy name is Hag-seed

7 May

I make no secret of the fact that I am a fan of Margaret Atwood. But I will admit to not loving everything she has written.

I did, however, love Hag-seed, and have recommended it to several people.

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Publisher’s Summary: William Shakespeare’s The Tempest retold as Hag-Seed

This week’s booktalks 5/1-5

5 May

Another funny week where I was away from kids for 2 days, so I only booktalked three books.

MONDAY

I had a hard time getting going Monday morning, but booktalking William Wenton and the Impossible Puzzle  was easy.

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Publisher’s Summary: Blackthorn Key meets The Da Vinci Code in this award-winning novel about a puzzle-solving genius who is forced to use his skills to face a danger that has been lurking in the background for years.

Twelve-year-old William Wenton is a puzzle-solving genius. He lives with his family in a quiet Norwegian town. They used to live in England, but eight years ago his family suddenly packed up, moved away, and even changed their last name! Neither of his parents will offer an explanation or tell William why he has to keep his talent for solving codes and puzzles a secret. But then a special exhibit comes to the local museum: the Impossible Puzzle. The experts say it is unsolvable, but William’s sure that he can crack it if he gets a chance.

However, when he does, everything begins to go wrong. Suddenly William is whisked off to a strange school filled with robots and kids whose skills are almost as good as his own. But what’s really going on? And what’s the secret involving William’s grandfather? And is there anyone he can trust?

TUESDAY

I don;t often read sports books, and I don’t have many in my classroom collection (only one tub) but Rooting for Rafael Rosales is a good one and shows how a kid might not be able to change the world, but they can make a difference in one person’s life.

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Publisher’s Summary: Rafael has dreams. Every chance he gets he plays in the street games trying to build his skills, get noticed by scouts, and—someday—play Major League Baseball. Maya has worries. The bees are dying all over the world, and the company her father works for is responsible, making products that harm the environment. Follow Rafael and Maya in a story that shifts back and forth in time and place, from Rafael’s neighborhood in the Dominican Republic to present-day Minnesota, where Maya and her sister are following Rafael’s first year in the minor leagues. In their own ways, Maya and Rafael search for hope, face difficult choices, and learn a secret—the same secret—that forever changes how they see the world.

FRIDAY

This was a kooky weather week that started off in the normal, low 60’s F, jumped to the 80’s Wednesday and Thursday and is back to slightly lower than normal mid 50’s today. It needed a book that was funny and fantasy at the same time. The Apprentice Witch  seemed to fit the bill.

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Publisher’s Summary: Arianwyn has fluffed her witch’s evaluation test.

Awarded the dull bronze disc and continuing as an apprentice – to the glee of her arch-rival, mean girl Gimma – she’s sent to protect the remote, dreary town of Lull.

But her new life is far from boring. Turns out Gimma is the pompous mayor’s favourite niece – and worse, she opens a magical rift in the nearby Great Wood. As Arianwyn struggles with her spells, a mysterious darkness begins to haunt her – and it’s soon clear there’s much more than her pride at stake …

A really good book day

3 May

Not one but two author visits yesterday…along with some author spotting.

It all started with Victoria Jamieson’s visit to my school.

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I managed to sign up the day the email went out and was able to bring my whole class. She spoke a lot about how she wrote her graphic novel, Roller Girl,  which I can’t keep on the shelves of my classroom library. At the end of her presentation, she gave us some drawing tips and took questions.IMG_0663

The girl beside me looked like she wanted to ask something but didn’t know what to ask, so I whispered, “Ask what she is working on now.” She did and her face glowed when Victoria said, “Great question!” and proceeded to show us the galley of her newest graphic novel, full of sticky notes marking the corrections she has to make.

I went through the rest of my day, thinking about how I can now draw more expressive faces and happy in the knowledge that, that evening, I was going to see A. S. King.

Her visit was courtesy of Multnomah County Library and took place in the lovely Taborspace, not too far from my home.

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She started off by reading from Still Life With Tornado, then went on to make us laugh, cry and laugh some more. She is always a treat to see in person. I got a signed copy of Me and Marvin Gardens  for my personal library. My classroom already has a copy and it doesn’t stay on my shelves much either. She has another middle grade novel coming out in 2019, and I am excited about that, though sad I will have to wait.

The audience was small, but cozy, scattered as we were at cafe tables or in cozy arm chairs. The funny thing was, there were local authors in the audience. I recognized Laini Taylor (Strange the Dreamer and the Daughter of Smoke and Bone Series) the moment she walked in by her highly recognizable pink hair. Cathy Camper (Lowriders series), one of the MCL librarians responsible for the event, was there. Rosanne Parry (Heart of a Shepherd, Turn of the Tide)  came too. Her middle grade novel, Turn of the Tide, is one of next year’s OBOB books for the 6-8 division.

All in all, it was a really great book day.

 

Oops, I did it again

2 May

It should have been a simple process.

When I came to the page in my checkbook reminding me it was time to reorder new ones, I simply got online, went to my banking site and clicked the reorder button.

When asked for a shipping address, I was about to type in my home address, but I got to thinking. Since the last order in 2014, there had been a few package thefts in the neighborhood. I decided I would simply have the package delivered to school, where it would either be delivered directly to the office, or to our locked box near the school’s entrance. A much safer option than having them left on my stoop.

Within 24-hours, I had an email announcing my success.

Within a week, I had a letter from my bank asking me to call them about the order.

I called, curious as to what the issue might be, and spoke with a very nice young man, who dug deep and found my order. He asked me to verify my address. Check. He asked me to verify my shipping address. And here was the problem. The shipping address didn’t match. Weird.

My brain erupted in a fury of synapse firing. What had I entered for address? And then it hit me. My “new” school where I have been for almost 2 years, is on a street whose name begins with an L. So was my old school. So, I gave him a new address: my “new” school number with my “old” school street. BINGO!

I’ve made this mistake before, but had always caught it. This time, apparently, I missed it. The young man was now able to fix my order. As he worked we chatted about middle school. He told me I wouldn’t have enjoyed having him in my class. He also told me he was a veteran and had just been accepted into a university program to finish a degree he had started a while ago. It was a lovely conversation. In a matter of minutes, my problem was solved and we said good-bye. I wished him luck and success as he started down his new path.  With any luck, I will have my new checks in a week and a never make that mistake again.

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