Monday, January 30, 2017

It's Monday!... and I'm on an Island!

It's Monday What are You Reading?  Thank you to Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers for hosting.

It is the middle of winter and so I unintentionally let my reading take me away to two islands this week.  It turned out that the two books could make for an entire post in contrasts.  I learned about Scar Island on social media and I quickly requested it from the library without much thought.  When I looked at the cover and saw that the book was written by Dan Gemeinhart author of The Honest Truth and Some Kind of Courage, it quickly rose to the top of my TBR pile.  While Scar Island is different from his first two books I couldn't put it down. I think middle grade readers will recognize the inner struggles that these characters face as the characters do their time, for varying degrees of crimes, in a very dark, damp and unhealthy and unstable atmosphere. 

I was so thankful when I was handed an ARC of Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder.  The contrast in settings was welcomed as I closed Scar Island and opened Orphan Island - an island that the characters describe as a place where nothing goes wrong.  Again, even though these two books are completely different, Orphan Island too brings the reader to inner conflicts of the characters.  The book has me thinking about parenting, teaching, childhood, struggles and unknowns as we grow up.  I had some of the same feelings about the writing as when I read Bigger Than a Breadbox also by Laurel Snyder.  She has such a gift for writing blend of fantasy with reality - for me the lines blur as I read and it didn't matter that there was some fantasy.   The story is that good and I was totally taken into the life of the children on Orphan Island. 

Well, it's back to winter - I'm off both islands and onto other titles on my TBR stack!

Monday, November 28, 2016

It's Monday What are You Reading? Learning about Authors We Love

It's Monday What are You Reading?  Thank you to Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers for hosting.
My recent reading and my reflection from #NCTE16 has confirmed my passion for authors.  
Did I need this reminder of how important books and authors are to me?  I didn’t think so, since I share my passion for books, for story each day with children, with colleagues, with friends and family some who suffer through my enthusiasm and others who will add my finds to their pile of TBR and I will add their recommendations to my stack.  In our teaching we are always trying to connect students to authors and illustrators.  The following two books make learning about two remarkable writers of children's books an extraordinary journey.

I was about half way through A Poem for Peter by Andrea Davis Pinkney when the tears started streaming.  Why?  I had no idea how deeply I love the work of Ezra Jack Keats and how much it meant to me growing up.  I didn’t realize that A Snowy Day was published in 1962 – I just knew it was woven in the fabric of my being – woven so deeply and rooted in memories both childhood and in sharing with students as an adult.  It was on my shelf as a child.  My mother bought it for me.  She read it to me.  It is a perfect picture book – simple, beautiful heartwarming by being blanketing in snow.  I never questioned before why this book doesn’t make you feel cold, with all that snow – now more than 50 years later, I finally know why – because it is warm and loving and heartfelt, little did I know revolutionary as well.  I didn’t think about the brown of the “brown-sugar boy” as Andrea Davis Pinkney writes, I just saw him as Peter.  The same Peter who taught me to make snow angels. Yet Peter and his creator turn out to be angels for so many as we think about mirrors and windows.  I took this for granted.  I am almost ashamed to say, when I read about Peter and his friends to children, I wasn’t thinking about windows or mirrors.  I was simply sharing the magic of the words and illustrations of Ezra Jack Keats. 

When I finished Some Writer! I sat and hugged the book.  I knew I had to own it.  Melissa Sweet brings E.B. White to us in such a gorgeous format and clarity of words. You want to learn more about the life of E.B. White and you turn each page with eagerness and receive a visual gift as well.

Two greats have been brought to the fore for us. Both of these writers were asked to write for children.  Thank goodness for those who encouraged them and served as mentors to them.  The world is a better place because of these writers.   The world is a better place because of writers.  Thank you to Andrea Davis Pinkney and Melissa Sweet for their exquisite gift in bringing the story behind these stories to each of us, for giving us a better understanding of two writers we have loved for a very long time. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

After NerdCamp...

After Nerdy...

The magic that happens at NerdCamp  in Parma, MI  is almost indescribable, which is ironic considering that while there you are completely surrounded by readers and writers who spread the literacy enthusiasm with full energy and generosity. There is a spirit of sharing, thinking together, laughing.  There are also those moments of tearing up as speakers hit your heartstrings and it doesn't matter who is sitting next to you but you glance at one another and just know that you both feel that deep commitment and love and compassion and determination for kids, for humanity. 

Another beauty of NerdCamp is that the experience sticks with you, so today I'm reflecting on the After Nerdy and here is what I witnessed  and what I feel so far:

I witnessed a newly graduated teacher ready to start her career writing in her notebook on the four-hour drive home.

I witnessed a "car PD"  we debriefed each session we attended and the highlights and our thinking moving forward.  

I feel reaffirmed.

I feel the power of friendships renewed and strengthened and friendships newly made. 

I feel thankful...

Thankful that my career is one that I love and that I am surrounded by all of you.

Thankful to Colby Sharp @colbysharp and Alaina Sharp @sharpgalore for all of their incredible giving work to make this happen for so many.  To you and your entire team I feel gratitude. (I truly hope you are resting today!)  Knowing that after we left NerdCamp many students entered and basked in a magical literacy camp, just makes me beyond thankful.  Thank you to the entire original Nerd Team - for building communities of learners and bring us together through books and words.

Finally, I feel hopeful by all the advocates for children in our world.  I feel hopeful for the new teachers and those of us who have been fortunate to teach for many years and all of us in-between!  It is so important in our world that we have these strong communities for learning and thinking together.  Thank you to all at   for giving this spirit of hopefulness that our actions and the words we share make a difference.  

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

My Wish...

I just finished two books - both have the element of making a wish.  Both main characters are nicknamed Charlie.  While the storyline in both are not to be compared, the feeling of family strength, love and support as well as community and friendship, are in both.  

Wish By Barbara O'Connor

The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner
This book has recently sparked a censorship discussion. I am reminded that we never truly know what someone else is going through.  How could we deny this book that has been beautifully, thoughtfully, and carefully crafted from anyone?  

So many times, especially through the hardest times in my life including losing my mother to cancer or dealing with my father's Alzheimer's, it has been an outstanding middle grade book that has brought me comfort while through the tears of reading.  

My wish is for every reader to have the choice in his or her reading, the choice that brings that reader just what he or she needs at the right moment.  

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Thinking about community... Summer School here we come!

Summer school starts tomorrow.  If you  had asked me a week ago if I was excited to start summer school I would have giggled, meaning... is this question for real?  But then something magical happened and it is called planning for readers and writers. I started thinking about that group of 4th and 5th graders who would be walking in on Monday morning.  Those students would probably groan rather than giggle if you asked them if they were excited to be at school on the first Monday of summer break!  All the more reason for careful planning and community building!

Planning means books!  I started talking to friends about read aloud and book discussions.  I headed to the library on Saturday and that is where the magic happened.  In that library I found books that formed mini themes.  Books to help launch discussions.  Books to use for quick book talks.  Books filled with poetry and wordless books! Books jumped off the shelf and I was suddenly energized by the thought of sharing great books with a community of learners! 

Just thinking about being a part of a learning community has me really excited.  I have been a reading support teacher for a few years now, so the idea of a class of kids to identify with really means something special to me.  Recently a group of former students graduated from high school.  Reconnecting with them as they celebrate their accomplishments reminds me of the importance  of a learning community, building the ties to students that last in our hearts and minds.

Today I gathered with a group of teachers who I adore.  We met to talk about books.  An adult social/learning community.  Again, a community built around words.

Last night I gathered with friends and family for dinner and laughter, celebrating another year of living - my built-in, loving community for which I am unbelievably thankful. 

Community – we all need it, I crave it, and I am so grateful for the many different communities I am graced by each day. 

So, here’s to tomorrow when I enthusiastically meet my newest community that will enrich my summer and to the books that we will share!

Monday, June 23, 2014

It's Monday!

What a fabulous start to the week!  I just finished two incredible books.  The first book seems to be getting a lot of attention and there is good reason, for sure.  Absolutely Almost is such a memorable book and it will stay with me for a very long time.  I am already thinking about the students I can share this book with.  It would be absolutely engaging read aloud.  I would love to hear the conversations and reflections as children listen and read this book.  Linda Graff beautifully tells how kids and adults can feel inadequate and self-doubting and how our relationships can help us to see the world and ourselves differently.  Albie, the main character, is completely endearing.  

I loved how the author of West of the Moon, Margi Preus, craftily wove traditional stories into this story of two sisters trying to find their father in America.  The folk stories intertwined are magical and help the main character  find her way through difficult times, survival and a start to self awareness.

Two very different stories but so happy that I was invited into both books!


Sunday, April 20, 2014

If not for Franki!

What an honor to write about YOU Franki!

Oh, how exciting you make our lives!  Your high speed energy, your ability to get momentum going for almost anything, and your quick thinking enrich my life!

If not for you Franki, I would never have had the beginning I did in Dublin.  A district filled with young energized, innovative teachers - where you took a lead and encouraged so many of us.

If not for you Franki, I would not have had all these of years of learning and growing at the Dublin Literacy Conference.  What a gift you have given to all of us.  From being on the committee with you many, many years ago, to simply attending, the conference never disappoints.  

If not for you Franki and Mary Lee I would never have tried a blog.

If not for you Franki, inviting me to a tech gathering, I would never have tried Twitter and connected with so many incredible teachers.

If not for Franki, I may have never stayed connected to so many of our dear friends.  You have a beautiful and gifted way of bringing people together and helping us to stay connected.

If not for you, I wouldn't have tried running (Go Team Pumpkin!) or remembered the joy of yoga.

There is so much more that I love about you.  Franki, I love that we have discovered that little village in Italy that holds roots for both of us!  Love your family and have enjoyed every minute of us talking about our girls as they have grown over the years.  A conversation with you stays with me and inspires me. Simply thank you for all you do and for all you are to so many. Much love to you Frances!  (Or is it Francis?)