Sunday, July 29, 2012

POEM - Prayer in My Boot - Naomi Shihab Nye

It is pouring outside, and I'm sitting in one of my favorites spots - on the outskirts of the inside of the Wilmot Library.  A large picture window is to my right.  It's really quiet, one of the quietest places I know, it's super dark outside (especially for Tucson) because of the major clouds, it's a Sunday afternoon with all sorts of possibilities in front of me....including the fact that I don't have to go to work tomorrow.  As a treat for myself, I went to the 810's to pull down some adult poetry to read.  I grabbed Billy Collins' 180 More (2005) and came upon a Naomi Shihab Nye poem within the first few pages.  Read it thrice.  Had to share.  She is such a magical writer to me.  Really special.

Prayer in my Boot

For the wind no one expected

For the boy who does not know the answer

For the graceful handle I found in a field
attached to nothing
pray it is universally applicable

For our tracks which disappear
the moment we leave them

For the face peering through the cafe window
as we sip our soup

For cheerful American classrooms sparkling
with crisp colored alphabets
happy cat posters
the cage of the guinea pig
the dog with division flying out of his tail
and the classrooms of our cousins
on the other side of the earth
how solemn they are
how gray or green or plain
how there is nothing dangling
nothing striped or polka-dotted or cheery
no self-portraits or visions of cupids
and in these rooms the students raise their hands
and learn the stories of the world

For library books in alphabetical order
and family businesses that failed
and the house with the boarded windows
and the gap in the middle of a sentence
and the envelope we keep mailing ourselves

For every hopeful morning given and given
and every future rough edge
and every afternoon
turning over in its sleep

By Naomi Shihab Nye

Here's a bit of Naomi reading a poem that were her son's words when he was a little guy.....

Sunday Shorts

Too Much Happiness - Alice Munro
2009, Random House Audio
10 unabridged cds/ total listening 11.5 hours
read by Kimberly Farr and Arthur Morey
303 pages

I’ve never been one for short stories, but even though these stories are depressing and dark, they are mesmerizing and I seem to be hooked on them.  The reader (since I’m listening to the audio edition) might add to that- she reads really smoothly.  Haven't listened to any with the male reader yet.  The following synopses probably contain spoilers.  I want to remember the stories myself, so I've chosen to include them.  

1-“Dimensions”  Dori, still in her teens, married an orderly that took care of her dying mother.  He was much older, and quite controlling.  They had three kids in rapid succession, but he was crazy. One evening he became upset with her…..and killed the children.  The story takes place two years later, and follows Dori as she goes to visit Lloyd in prison, something she can’t stop herself from doing. When he tells her that he sees the children in heaven – and happy – it looks like her life will add a tiny hue of grayness to the black that it has become. Or at least that’s the take I get on it.

2-“Fiction” Joyce and her carpenter husband, John, separate after many married years when he falls for his much-younger apprentice.  Years later, Joyce meets up with the interloper’s daughter who had also been one of her music students.  She has become an author, writing a short story about their relationship as teacher and student – which bring up the question –does everyone  remember the past in the same way? 

3 – “Wenlock Edge” Told in the first person, a girl leaves home to go to college, where she has a roommate named Nina.  Nina has an arrangement with elderly Mr. Purvis.  When the narrator, at Nina’s urging, goes for dinner with him one night, she discovers she is to be completely naked. She complies.  There is nothing sexual that happens, but when she returns to her apartment she discovers Nina has disappeared.  She has gone to live with Ernie Botts, a character that the narrator had gone to dinner with a few times at the beginning of the story….

4- “Deep-Holes” Sally and Alex raise three children, but the focus of this story is the eldest, whose life changes after he falls into a chasm and breaks both legs.  He is nine at the time.  Extremely intelligent, but never receiving any positives from his father, he drops out of college, and then disappears completely.  Years later a brief meeting with his mother leaves her unsettled.  It left me unsettled – in a good, thoughtful way. 

I Call My Grandma Nana – Ashley Wolff

Illustrated by the author
2009, Tricycle Press
24 pages
HC $15.99
Rating:  Well, I have to say I love it!

Endpapers:  front, brown “bag” paper, with a large name tag that says underneath:  I call my Grandma ________________ and everyone can see/ that I love spending time with her/ and she loves being with me.
Back cover:  a list of grandmother names from around the world (again, on the brownish paper bag-looking background)

First line/s:
“My grandmother from China
Is visiting today.
Class, please welcome Nai-Nai,”
Said Miss Alexandra May.

The story, in lovely rhyme and rhythm, goes on to have each of many kids introduce their grandmothers and tell what they call them:

“Abuelita is my Grandma.
She’s teaching me to sew.
The doll we’re making
    Looks like me---
Blue dress, black braid,
     White bow!”


“My Mamie likes the hummingbirds.
I always look for jays.
I carry her binoculars
On our bird-watching days.”
                (I love this one, my kids called their paternal grandmother, my mother-in-law, Mamie…)

In all, fourteen children tell about their grandmother in a four-lined quatrain.  What a great model for a writing lesson!

This is the second Ashley Wolff book I’ve read in as many days.  It’s time to check her out a little more thoroughly.  I know I’ve read her books before, but it’s time to really examine her retinue!  Ashley Wolff lives in San Francisco, California.

42. The Book Whisperer - Donalyn Miller

Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child
2009, Jossey-Bass (Wiley)
Paper $24.95
228 pages
Excellent, reiterating my own philosophy about teaching reading, with a few hints and ideas that I might try.
NonFiction - Education/Teaching

"Reading changes your life.  Reading unlocks worlds unknown or forgotten, taking the travelers around the world and through tie.  Reading helps you escape the confines of school and pursue your own education.  Through characters -- the saints and sinners, real or imagined -- reading shows you how to be a better human being."

Here are some of the hints, information, and ideas I plan to use in my own classroom this year:
.....introduce authors through read-alouds, particularly from short story anthologies.  Tripping Over the Lunch Lady, edited by Nancy Mercado, is recommended.  Books that she recommends for the 4th - 6th grade arena include: Each Little Bird That Sings (Wiles), S. O. S. Files (Byars), The Word Eater (Amato), Guts (Paulsen),  A Tarantula Ate My Purse (George), and Knots in My Yoyo String (Spinelli).

She sets a 40-book requirement at the beginning of the year, and gives the kids a list of required genres.  I plan to tweak this, but this is what she's been having her kids think about:

Poetry Anthologies - 5
Traditional Literature - 5
Historical Fiction - 2
Fantasy - 4
Science Fiction - 2
Mystery - 2
Informational - 4
Biography/Autobiography/Memoir - 2
Chapter Book - CHOICE - 9
(If a book is over 350 pages, she lets them count the book as 2)

I like the way she uses CONVERSE instead of CONFERENCE:  "I converse about their progress toward reading goals and give them individual support."

She has completely abandoned book reports, and even oral booktalks. Instead, as good alternatives, she suggests BOOK COMMERCIALS (short, impromptu ads) or BOOK REVIEWS (after examining professional book reviews, book blurbs, and teasers). She uses reading response entries that students write in their Reader's Notebooks as well.  These are in the form of letters to her, and she responds to them in kind.

Sections to include in a Reader's Notebook:
Tally lists
Reading lists
Books-to-read list
Response entries
(I would add book reviews)

She suggests that the teacher keep their own similar notebook, and new one for each year, that includes the same sorts of information.  Instead of the Response entries part, that is where she keeps her Conference Notes.

Some suggested Book Review Criteria:
Quotes from the book.
Quotes from famous writers and reviews.
Cliffhanger questions.
Personal reactions and opinions.
Awards the book or author have won.
Recommended reading age
Other books by the author
Comparison with other books.

There were some questions on her Reading Surveys that I plan to add to mine, including:
Do you have a library card?
Do you borrow books from the library?
How many books of your own do you have at home?
How did  you get them?

I have included this list, of my notes, so that I can have them in a permanent place where I will not lose them.  However, some of these may be helpful to others who already use Ms. Miller's same theories in their own classroom.  I felt she says exactly how I feel about teaching reading, and will use her books to help establish my credibility if it ever comes into question!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

41. Shadow of Night - Deborah Harkness

#2 in All Soul's Trilogy
2012, Viking
for Adults
584 pgs.
HC $28.95
Genre:  Fantasy/Historical Fiction
Rating:  2.5 It was okay....

Setting:  for the most part, 1591 England, France, and Prague, with bits and pieces of contemporary America and parts of Europe
OSS:  Historian/researcher/reluctant witch Diana Bishop and her vampire lover Matthew deClermont Roydon time travel back to Elizabethan England, France, and Prague for two reasons - to help Diana learn how to deal with her until-now-hidden witch talents, and to look for a very old book, Ashmole 782, that could be the secret of vampire, daemon, and witch past and future.

Okay, so Diana and Matthew have traveled back to relive Matthew's life in 1591, where he is spy for Queen Elizabeth, and friends with Walter Raleigh and Christopher Marlowe.  Christoper Marlowe is his closest, friend and also a daemon creep.  They "adopt" two waifs, argue a lot, dabble in alchemy, look for the hidden book Ashmole 784, and try to find teachers for Diana, to help her learn to use her powers, without any of the witches they encounter trying to kill her.

This book was waaaay too long...about 200 pages too long.  It was divided into six parts (though the sixth part was so much shorter than the others, it was like an afterthought).  The only one I really relished was the second part, at Saint-Tours.  The rest was all so similar that I found it very tedious. Too many characters, and many from the first book, The Discovery of Witches, were talked about without any hints as to why we were supposed to remember them.  I read a lot of books, I finished The Discovery of Witches ages ago, and I truly couldn't remember the details that Deborah Harkness took for granted I'd remember.  I had to go to the bookstore and read the last 50 pages of the first book to remind myself what was going on before I could restart this second book.  My opinion?  Interesting....but tedious.  Will I read Book 3?  Probably.  Maybe.  Possibly. I rated this a 2 ("it was okay") on Goodreads- I'd probably rate it a 2.5 if there was a way to.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

POETRY - Silver Seeds – Paul Paolilli & Dan Brewer

Paintings by Steve Johnson & Lou Fancher
32 pgs.
2001, Penguin
HC $15.99
“Ages 5-9”

Endpapers:  Dark green
Title page: Cream, center 3 inches is a square of green with a hummingbird sippi9ng nectar from a purple, petunia-like flower.
Super acrostic poems -- Acrostic poems that REALLY make sense –finally, some great models for kids (and me!)

Down goes the moon
And up comes the sun,
Welcoming the
New day.

Sliding through the window,
Underneath the door,
Nudging us out to play.

Tiny hands
Reaching up from the
Earth, tickling an

Up and down;
Through the air
Ever so gently,
Roaming among the
Landing lightly on
Your shoulder.
                (I’m going to make a poster for this poem RIGHT NOW!!!)

Creamy scoops of ice cream
Under a
Dreamy blue

Okay, okay, I won’t put all of them.  But this is another poetry book that should be in EVERY classroom library, young or old!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

POETRY - Holiday Stew – Jenny Whitehead

A Kid’s Portion of Holiday and Seasonal Poems
Illustrated by the author
2007, Henry Holt & Co.
64 pgs.
HC $17.95
I love the poems and I love the illustrations, so I’m rating 5 stars!

Endpapers:  RED
Title Page:  Hand-lettered and illustrated with pictures similar to the rest of the book…funny and clever!
Illustrations: colorful, busy, everywhere, almost-journally, just the kind of illustrations of love and wish I could do…Drawn with black pen lines and colored with gouache.

The book is divided into four sections – by season, and just about every holiday you could ever imagine is covered.  Cleverly. And there are more than just “holiday” poems…there are birthday, breaking the turkey wishbone, spring cleaning, mother Earth, Arbor Day, friendship day…you get it!
If I Could Paint a Springtime Day

If I could paint a springtime day,
I’d dip my brush in rain,
And splatter pink the popcorn trees
That bloom along the lane.

I’d mix a shade of purple
Chilled from one last winter snow,
To decorate the crocuses;
Brave soldiers in a row.

And when the sun peeks out,
I’d catch some yellow in my hand,
And finger-paint forsythia
To wake the dreary land.

And then I’d borrow emerald green
From seedlings breaking through,
And paint a thousand blades of grass
To hold the summer’s dew.

Last, I’d tint the tulips
Gently waking in their bed,
And welcome home the robin ---
Painted breast, a splendid red.

April Fool’s Day 

A trick by a friend,
a prank by a brother
pales dearly compared
to one planned by your mother.

She’s plotted all year
while she scraped, scoured, and scrubbed
your grass stains, your grease stains,
your grimy-ringed tub.

She may try to set
your alarm clock ahead,
so you’re washed and dressed
while the world’s still in bed.

Or lovingly make
your ham sandwich for school
with paper, not cheese,
that reads “April Fools!”

But lucky for us
on this one single day,
a trick on your mother
is also okay.

So, no one will blame you---
it won’t be your fault.
The sugar-bowl sugar’s not sugar---
it’s SALT!

It’s Labor Day

A holiday for hard work?
Yes, grown-ups, you deserve it!
But thank you very kindly
For letting kids observe it.

Our school year’s just beginning,
All summer we’ve slept late.
The only job we worked at
Was playing three months straight!

So, to make it fair for  you,
We’ll work on Labor Day,
Our job?  To let you sleep in,
And then make sure you play!

Send Up Some Gratitude

In a time when we all want
A little more-more-more,
Stop and think-think-think
Of all you’re thankful for.
Your mom, your dad---
Can you think of any others?
It’s okay if you say
Your sisters or your brothers.
Good friends, good health,
Good luck, good food---
For the good in your life,
Send up some gratitude.
For a roof where you live,
For your dog, fish, or bird,
Make your thank-thank-thank-you
On Thanksgiving Day be heard!

Winter in the South (by a kid from the North)

How do you make a snowman
When there isn’t any snow?
How do you have a snowball fight
When it melts before you throw?
How do you make snow angels
With green grass on the ground?
You can’t You’re far too busy eating
Ice cream all year round!

Celebrating Chinese New Year

Red lai see for the children,
Red banners for the walls,
Happy red is everywhere
When Chinese New Year calls.

Gold oranges for giving,
Peach blossoms to bring luck,
White shark fins for special soup,
Pink sweet sauce for the duck.

Hot yellow lions dancing,
Warm yellow lantern light,
Pink-yellow-red-green dragons
Who snarl but never bite!

Brown sticky cake and dumplings,
One great big black bass fish,
A Gung Hay Fat Choy! greeting;
To all---our New Year wish!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Write On, Mercy! – Gretchen Woelfle

The Secret Life of Mercy Otis Warren
Illustrated by Alexandra Wallner
2012, Calkins Creek, Honesdale, PA
Rating:  5
For:  older kids, probably not preschool
40 pages
HC $16.95

Endpapers:  Orange
Title Page:  Mercy’s arm and hand, with quill and melting candle, writing on a stack of papers.
Setting:  Late 1700’s during the American Revolution, in Massachusetts
1st line/lines:  “From her parlor window in West Barnstable,  young Mercy Otis could watch the tide flow in and out of the Great Marsh on Cape Cod Bay.”
OSS:  Tells the life of Mercy Otis Warren, a woman who told the story of the Revolution in over 1,000 pages that took thirty years.  She would have been a politician if she had lived in contemporary times!

This was an exceptionally fine story about a really interesting person – of the female persuasion – in our history.  The writing is beautiful and sophisticated, the story well-researched and finely told.  A keeper.  Perfect for my 4th grade biography unit.

Includes Author’s Note, a painting of Mercy Otis Warren by John Singleton Copley (this REALLY makes her a real person for the kids), a 2-page timeline of her life and what was going on politically, an excellent bibliography, and a number of websites.  What a perfect model for a well researched book of history to share with kids! 

About the author:  Woelfe is a writer from LA who loves history, especially stories of little-known people in history.  She’s written Katie the Windmill Cat, All the World’s a Stage: A Novel in Five Acts, and Jeannette Rankin: Political Pioneer.

The illustrator, also a love of history, lives in Yucatan, Mexico.

Migrant – Maxine Trottier

Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
2011, Groundwood Books
32 pages
Rating:  4

Endpapers:  Flying Goose quilt, red/pink background
Title Page:  White with flying goose triangles flying…
Illustrations:  simple, watercolors or watercolor pencils?
Setting:  Contemporary America, places where migrant farm workers live and shop.
1st sentence/s:  “There are times when Anna feels like a bird.  It is the birds, after all, that fly north in the spring and south every fall, chasing the sun, following the warmth.”
OSS:  Anna and her large German-speaking Mennonite family live in Mexico, but travel north each year when it is time to labor on the farms.

The story uses a lot of “snazzy” figurative language…perhaps even a tiny, tiny bit too much.  Filled with metaphor, similes, and lovely descriptions, the story definitely does appeal to the senses and the imagination.

I will definitely use this book in my classroom when teaching figurative language, especially similes and metaphors.

“At night Anna is a kitten sharing a bed with her sisters, all of them under one blanket when the nights are cool.  A kitten is a good thing to be, a safe thing, curled there with your sisters by your side.”

When you look at the illustrations, you know that the characters are not Hispanic.  After the halfway point, you see the family lined up to go into a store, and you see the kerchiefs covering the female heads, the overalls, simple shirts, and hats covering the males heads. Then she mentions them speaking German, “….the good plain German rolling off their tongues as sweetly as sugar.”  But it’s not until the two-page afterward that you learn the particulars about the Mennonite workers that moved to Mexico in the 1920’s to become migrant workers, keeping their Canadian citizenship. 
Really interesting!  A great book to share when teaching about Mexico.  This was all totally new to me!

About the author:  a writer from Newfoundland, she wrote this story after meeting Mennonites from Mexico when she was visiting in Ontario.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sunday Shorts

Goodreads has a meme called Sunday Shorts - you read short stories (from anywhere --books, magazines, internet site, free Kindle downloads), then write a little about them.  Short stories have never been my forte, so I'm going to try to read a few, at least for the summer.....

So I've started with Ghosts of Chicago by John McNally, written in 2008. 

The first story is titled "Return Policy," and it was really offbeat and I liked it a lot.  After being married for 18 years, Mark Timber's wife has left him.  So he decides it's only right to return every single wedding gift they received.  There's an element of loneliness ... aloneness .... that really struck a chord with me.  Everyone treats grief and sadness differently, and the things Mark chooses to do come from a deep place in himself.  I'm looking forward to more!

Friday, July 13, 2012

40. The Poacher's Son - Paul Doiron

2010, Minotaur Books
HC $24.99 (TPPL)
324 pages
Adult Mystery
Rating:  4

Setting:  Contemporary Maine, in the woods between Skowhegan and the Canadian border
1st Sentence/s:  "When I was nine years old, my father took me deep into the Maine woods to see an old prisoner of war camp.  My mom had just announced she was leaving him, this time for good.  In a few weeks, she said, the two of us were chucking this sorry, redneck life and moving in with her sister down in Portland."
Mike Bowditch is a 24-year-old game warden in the state of Maine, working in the Skowhegan area.  He's a diligent worker, serious about his job, and a bit of a loner.  His girlfriend since college has left him, but he feels he's really forced her to....he's not living a life that she's comfortable with.  They still love each other, that's obvious.  Then, one evening, right out of the blue, the father that he's rarely seen but idolizes nonetheless leaves a message on his answering machine.  The next day Mike discovers that his father is on the run, accused of two murders (one being a police officer).  Mike can't believe it could possibly be true, and sets out to try to discover what really happened.  This puts his job, the job he loves, in dire jeopardy.
This is what I wrote on Goodreads: 
"I love anything that takes place in the state of Maine, where I can follow the geographical information. Doiron includes a lot of this, which I really enjoyed. And I love a good mystery. At first I was upset with some of the actions that the 24-year-old protagonist takes, but then I realized that the author was fleshing out a completely believable, REAL young man. Mike's love for the alcoholic, abusive father that he really didn't know is entirely believable, as is his on-and-off desire to be alone, unfettered by any relationship. I'll be really interested to see how this character evolves in the second book of the series. I look forward to reading it."

Paul Doiron is the editor of DownEast magazine and a registered Maine Guide.

Monday, July 9, 2012

MOVIE: Moonrise Kingdom

Quirky.  Deadpan.  Funny.  In that order.
PG-13 (1:34)
Released 5/25/2012
Watched at El Con, hot Sunday afternoon 7/8/12, full house
RT Crit: 94 RT Audience:  92
Director:  Wes Anderson
Focus Features

Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, a small part with Harvey Keitel (!)

Setting:  a small island off the coast of New England circa 1965

Edward Norton is the leader of a small troop of "Khaki Scouts" who discovers one of his charges has run away. Sam has gone to meet Suzy, a fellow 12-year-old he had written to since the previous summer.  They are in love.  They take off together to camp on a remote part of the island.  However, a huge hurricane is brewing. The story goes back and forth from the island police chief (Bruce Willis) who has some sort of affair/relationship going with Suzy's mother (Frances McDormand), Suzy's home where her three brothers and father (Bill Murray) live their own weird lives, the Khaki scouts and their leader, all looking for the runaways.  The entire movie is tongue-in-cheek, deadpan, and very funny.  Odd and weird, yes, but different and a lot of fun.  Some of the audience even clapped at the end of the movie! (I didn't like it quite THAT much, myself...) It was a fun flick to see on a hot summer afternoon, and I love watching Bill Murray doing ANYTHING.... The Suzy and Sam actors were really great.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Twelve Days of Springtime - Deborah Lee Rose

A School Counting Book
illustrated by Carey Armstrong-Ellis
2009, Abrams Books for Young Readers
32 pages
Endpapers:  Lime/springtime green
Title Page:  Colorful, four of the students outside playing just after a rain shower

"On the first day of springtime, my teacher gave to me . .
. . . a garden to water carefully."

There are eight kids in the class, each with their own separate personalities.  Their outfits and activities change as each day passes.  The teacher's facial expressions are great - they always react to what the kids are doing.  We watch a couple of aquariums in the classroom change as the days pass, one with caterpillars, the others with tadpoles.  There's so much to see in each illustrations, Ella and I poured over each one.

At the back, the artist described how she created the illustrations, first sketching, then outlining in pen and ink, then painting with gouache and detailing with colored pencils.  Very cool book.

The Mangrove Tree - Susan L. Roth & Cindy Trumbore

Planting Trees to Feed Families
collages by Susan L. Roth
2011 Lee & Low Books, Inc.
32 pgs.
endpapers:  collage of Eritrean countryside/seaside
title page:  collage papers with one mangrove tree
illustrations:  collages of lovely textured papers with one big photo (of Dr. Gordon Sato)

"By the Red Sea,
in the African country of Eritrea,
lies a little village called Hargigo.
The children play in the dust
between houses made of cloth,
tin cans, and flattened iron.
The families used to be hungry.
Their animals were hungry too.
But then things began to change . . .
all because of a tree."

Scientist Dr. Gordon Sato planted mangrove trees on the shores of the Red Sea, because they survive in a very salty environment. He taught the women of the villages to fertilize and grow them.  Goats and sheep thrive on eating the leaves, so the animals flourished.  Dry mangrove tree branches make great fuel, there's more meat to cook and milk to drink, and the roots of the plants harbor sea creatures, so that fishermen are finding their hauls more plentiful.  What a wonderful collaboration!

"This is Gordon
Whose greatet wish

Is to help all the fishermen
Catching their fish,
To help all the children
With dusty feet,
To help all the shepherds
Who watch goats and sheep,
To help all the women
Who tend the seedlings ---
By planting trees,
Mangrove trees,
By the sea."

Plant a Mangrove Tree -- Feed a Family
The Manzanar Project
P. O. Box. 98
Gloucester, MA   01931

Love it!  Ella says, "I liked the book because it told how the mangrove tree could help families in Africa."