Rising to the Challenge

10 Jun

I read a lot, as you well know, and I can often predict how things will end. Sometimes, though, you see it coming and it still makes you cry.

This weekend, I read Planet Earth is Blue  by Nicole Panteleakos, and it was like a gut punch. I totally knew what was coming, but the reaction of the main character, Nova, was so well written that I wanted to crawl through the pages to give her a hug, even though she doesn’t like to be touched.

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Books can do a lot to teach kids to feel empathy for others. It was interesting to see what was going on in Nova’s mind, while people around her misunderstood everything she was about.  At 232 pages, Planet Earth is Blue,  isn’t a long book – it can easily be finished in an afternoon by a pool – but it kept me riveted.

 

Between a rock and a hard place

4 Jun

“I’m sorry, we don’t seem to have a record of that reservation,” the friendly hostess told me over the phone.

I’d suspected as much. It was Sunday – two days before I was going to Outdoor School for four days with my sixth graders – and I had expected an “It’s getting close” email reminder from Sniff Dog Hotel. They always come in the morning, two days before Lucy is going to stay. But now it was afternoon.

I had called under the guise of making an August reservation for a summer trip and casually asked about the reservation for today, June 4th. Maybe a naughty word crossed my lips when she told me there was no reservation.

I wanted to tell her what had happened. How the camp we’d originally been scheduled to attend had burned down. How I’d cancelled Lucy’s reservation for that date. How a union retreat in March had also been rescheduled and I had cancelled and rescheduled Lucy’s stay. In all the cancelling and rescheduling, I missed making this reservation.

Of course they had room for a last minute reservation…in the View Suite! Of course I booked it – I was between a rock and a hard place.

Here is a view of one of the rooms Lucy will occupy. That’s not her in either of the rooms, but you can see that her accommodations will probably be a little more luxurious than mine. It’s fancy, but I know they will take care of my baby while I am gone.

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Along the Silk Road

3 Jun

As an end of the year project, our 6th graders always write China folk tales. They need to incorporate some of details we learned in class about Ancient China and create a pop-up book. It is a fun project and many os their stories are set along the Silk Road, which is the last topic we cover in class.

Needless to say, I was thrilled to discover a YA fantasy novel, set along the Silk Road. I read it this weekend, just to be sure it was worth putting in my library. There is a smidge of romance and one kiss, but otherwise it is very chaste.

The Candle and the Flame, by Nafiza Azad, beautifully illustrates the cultural diffusion we talked about in class as people (and creatures) from many different places converge along the Silk Road.

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Publisher’s Summary:
Fatima lives in the city of Noor, a thriving stop along the Silk Road. There the music of myriad languages fills the air, and people of all faiths weave their lives together. However, the city bears scars of its recent past, when the chaotic tribe of Shayateen djinn slaughtered its entire population — except for Fatima and two other humans. Now ruled by a new maharajah, Noor is protected from the Shayateen by the Ifrit, djinn of order and reason, and by their commander, Zulfikar. But when one of the most potent of the Ifrit dies, Fatima is changed in ways she cannot fathom, ways that scare even those who love her. Oud in hand, Fatima is drawn into the intrigues of the maharajah and his sister, the affairs of Zulfikar and the djinn, and the dangers of a magical battlefield.

Nafiza Azad weaves an immersive tale of magic and the importance of names; fiercely independent women; and, perhaps most importantly, the work for harmony within a city of a thousand cultures and cadences.

Move over Buck Rogers, there’s a new girl in town

30 May

In case the title baffled you, Buck Rogers is a fictional character who first appeared in 1928. He lived in the the 20th century, but in most iterations of his story, he has an accident and is “preserved”, reviving in the 25th century. He began as a novella, then became a series of comic strips, movies serials, and radio & TV shows. He is early 20th century sci-fi, all ray guns and disintegrator beams.

But this is the 21st century and we need new heroes, weapons, and saviors of the galaxy. By Galaxy, I mean the Milky Way and by heroes, I mean Aurora, the eponymous hero of Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman.

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From the Author’s website: The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but his own boneheaded heroism sees him stuck with the dregs nobody else in the Academy would touch . . .

A cocky diplomat with a black belt in sarcasm
A sociopath scientist with a fondness for shooting her bunkmates
A smart-ass techwiz with the galaxy’s biggest chip on his shoulder
An alien warrior with anger management issues
A tomboy pilot who’s totally not into him, in case you were wondering

And Ty’s squad isn’t even his biggest problem–that’d be Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, the girl he’s just rescued from interdimensional space. Trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries, Auri is a girl out of time and out of her depth. But she could be the catalyst that starts a war millions of years in the making, and Tyler’s squad of losers, discipline-cases and misfits might just be the last hope for the entire galaxy.

NOBODY PANIC.

I listened to the audiobook and was enthralled from the beginning. As a fan of various sci-fi television series, most notably Star Trek, I recognized homage to some characters. Kaufman has created a new landscape and the characters feel fresh. The story is narrated by the six members of the squad and Aurora, each of home is voiced by a different narrator. This adds to the audiobook experience because it helps keep characters straight and you develop a different relationship with each in a different way that you might if you were reading the book. The book is set in space, but it is really all about the relationships – and the need to save the galaxy.

Even if sci-fi isn’t your thing, I encourage you to give Aurora Rising  a try.

Summer planning

28 May

The whoop from the room next door caught my attention and I walked over to see what had my teaching partner so excited.

“Have you seen the new calendar?” she asked practically dancing about the room. “We are back to a Labor Day start!”

Her joy was contagious, even though I knew the reason for the changed start time wasn’t. A few years ago, the school board decided they wanted to lengthen the school year and amended the calendar so we started before Labor Day this year. Budgeting issues this year promised teacher layoffs and people were worried. The change start date for the 2019-20 school year was a way to save some jobs and keep class sizes at current levels.

My first instinct, after checking the email and looking over the new calendar, was to message my sister to let her know I could now attend the Twist Fibre Festival with her. It takes place just outside Ottawa in mid-August.

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Since that first email, she and I have messaged and searched and video chatted, finalizing plans. This weekend we booked our trip, which also involves a week in Montréal.

We still have three weeks of school, and this trip comes near the end of summer, but I am excited because summer vacation is starting to seem real.

 

 

This week’s book talks 5/20-24

24 May

Monday

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House Without Walls by Ching Yeung Russell

Tuesday

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The Other Half of Happy  by Rebecca Balcárcel

Wednesday

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Soaring Earth  by Margarita Engle

Thursday

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Riverland  by Fran Wilde

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A Place to Belong  by Cynthia Kadohata

The thing about teaching Shakespeare

21 May

I forgot how much I laugh at the end of the year when we read A Midsummer Night’s Dream. 

At first the kids are nervous, thinking it is going to be hard. But then these things happen:

  • we write skits in Elizabethan English and two naughty boys perform “A Midsummer Night’s Endgame”
  • they start adding eth to almost everything and I hear words like “noeth” and “oofeth” in the locker room, and I can’t help but laugh
  • they laugh at words like “nosegay”, “bosom”, “virgin”
  • our tableaux aren’t true tableaux because Lysander and Hermia can’t stop their shoulders from shaking in mirth as he cups her face and looks longing into her eyes
  • the look of terror in Hermia’s eyes as she realizes she is about to say “O, hell” in class and the twinkle that lingers there afterwards

Next week we will write Shakespearean insults. I can hardly wait.

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