Monday, June 27, 2016

It's Monday! What are you reading?

My children and I left the house today at 9a, to escape the heat.

Not what central Texans normally do on a sweltering day in June, but with the air conditioning installation team on their way to our house, we felt it best to find cooler venues and let husband/ dad deal with the proceedings.

After breakfast at IHOP and a quick shopping trip to WallyWorld (a.k.a. WalMart), we went to our favorite library to relax and read.

My favorite thing to read at the library?


Let's face it--I have the Mount Everest of to-read piles at home.  More than a dozen from my school library, several self-purchases, and at least two professional books are stacked in various corners, hindering my husband's attempts to tidy up our shared spaces.

I used to subscribe to magazines, too, until they began to pile up.  Out of desperation and frugality, I let the subscriptions expire, and promised myself regular trips to the library to read those enticing articles on crafts with Mason jars, how to lose weight without feeling hungry, celebrity weddings, and cupcake recipes.

But the school year zings by without so much as a visit to our favorite book depository, too busy with work and activities and the reading that accompanies work and activities.

Summer, then, is our library time.  My time to indulge in some magazine mind candy.  The books are waiting for me at home, hopefully in an ambient temperature that rivals our central Texas winters.

Monday, June 20, 2016

It's Monday! What are you reading?

I extricated myself from the library at 2:30 pm last Thursday; let summer break really begin!  Not quite ready to dive into my professional reading, I whittled a few books from my kidlit pile this past week.

Poems in the Attic by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon is a picture book of paired poems.  A young girl finds a box of poems in her grandmother's attic, and discovers they were written by her mother during her travels as a military BRAT.  The girl decides to write a poem to capture her thoughts about her mother's experiences and how they compare to her own.  The daughter's poems are free verse, while the mother's poems are written in the Japanese tanka style of five lines, with the syllable pattern 5-7-5-7-7.  (I caught myself checking on my fingers as I read each one!)  I'm a military BRAT, too, so the mom's experiences resonated with me.  I am looking forward to displaying this book in November alongside other books about military service for Veterans' Day.  I also think it would be a fun exercise to get parents to write a poem for their students to mirror, perhaps for Mother's Day.

The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch, written by Chris Barton and illustrated by Don Tate (local favorites here in Austin, Texas!), is a nonfiction biography.  John R. Lynch was born to an Irish overseer and slave mother, and lived in slavery until the Emancipation Proclamation, leaving the plantation as a teenager to work as a free man.  Ten years later, he would become a state representative for Mississippi.  This picture book gives insight to the struggles black people faced during the Reconstruction, and raises the question of why it took 100 years after the Civil War for the Civil Rights Act to happen.  The illustrations, though quaint, are serious; one spread depicts black men about to be whipped and hung by white men.  The author's and illustrator's notes can be shared to further convey the importance of Lynch's story and the reasons it should be told.

Last, but not least, I finished Kate Messner's The Seventh Wish.  Charlie is a middle-school girl, little sister to college-freshman Abby, friend to Dasha and Drew, and competitive Irish dancer.  While ice-fishing with Drew and his grandmother, she finds a talking fish who grants her a wish in exchange for its life.  Charlie is doubtful at first, but when her first wish comes true, she begins to seek out the fish to solve problems her friends and family are facing.  The results seem promising at first, but don't work out the way she intended.  During the course of the story, we discover that Abby is battling an addiction to heroin, sending Charlie's world into a tailspin.  Her seventh--and final--wish is made without fish in hand; it's the "Serenity Prayer", recited by addicts and their families in AA meetings.

I don't want to spoil the ending, but do want readers to know that the story is not neatly wrapped up at the finish, echoing the ongoing daily struggle and impact of addiction.  The Seventh Wish is a thoughtful story to start a conversation about drug use and its dangers.  Kate Messner's author note is an emotional and informative segue to that discussion.

It's Monday!  What are you reading this summer?

Monday, June 13, 2016

It's Monday! What are you reading?

My summer break officially started last Friday! I'll be heading into the library today anyway, because my office and the library shelves are nowhere near August-ready.

I am diving into my summer reading pile.  This weekend, I read a Bluebonnet nominee, A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord.  Our district will be hosting Ralph Fletcher this coming year, so I brought a few of his books home as well, and read A Writing Kind of Day:  Poems for Young Poets.  

I was worried about A Handful of Stars; there's a saying that if the dog is on the cover of a book, it's probably going to die.  Thankfully, there is no doggy demise in this story!  Lily is the owner of Lucky, a labrador who is going blind.  She wants to provide him with the surgery to cure his blindness, and is saving money by painting Mason bee houses and selling them in her grandparent's general store.  During the blueberry harvest season, she meets Salma, a migrant worker who saves Lucky from running away through the blueberry fields by enticing him with her lunch.  Lily and Salma become good friends who support each other's efforts--Lily's campaign to save Lucky's sight, and Salma's dreams of a life beyond the fields of produce.

A Handful of Stars covers so many topics: motherless daughters, parenting by grandparents, love of pets, cross-cultural friendship, changing relationships with childhood friends as puberty sets in, the life of migrant workers, prejudice, generosity, the value of art.  I learned about Mason bees and blueberries.  I will remember to be thankful for the workers who harvest the food I eat!

The poems in A Writing Kind of Day are written from a child's perspective.  Everything is fair game for a poem--the weather, siblings, teachers, the squished squirrel in the road.  These are not frivolous, fun poems, though.  I heard the pangs of first love, the struggle to pen a writer's truth, the joy of finding poems in everyday details, the timelessness of poetry, the realization that a parent can be the most important connection in life.  I would pair this book with Shel Silverstein's poetry and discuss the feelings that are provoked by the very different styles.

So what's up next?  I received my pre-order of The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner, and two professional books--DIY Literacy:  Teaching Tools for Differentiation, Rigor, and Independence by Kate Roberts and Maggie Beattie Roberts; and Launch: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student by John Spencer and A.J. Juliani.  I've also got the Bluebonnet Nominee list to work my way through; four down, sixteen to go!

It's Monday!  What are you reading?

Monday, June 6, 2016

It's Monday! What are you reading?


It's almost summer break for this librarian--four more (official) workdays to wrap up the school year!  

I've started reading books from our Texas Bluebonnet Award Nominees list.  I'll read them all this summer, as well as some professional books and others that have been on my to-read pile for awhile.  Here's my summer reading goal:

I knocked a few off the pile this weekend--  Hamster Princess:  Harriet the Invincible by Ursula Vernon--a wonderfully wacky fractured "Sleeping Beauty" fairy tale (I'm going to pair it with Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch).

I also finished Lowriders in Space by Cathy Camper, illustrated by Raul the Third.  It brought me back to my El Paso days; my children were teasing me about slipping into an accent while I repeated the Spanish phrases. 

Mesmerized:  How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled All of France by Maria Rockliff, illustrated by Iacopo Bruno, is an interesting snippet of history abroad during our Revolutionary War.

I also recently read Steal Like an Artist:  Ten Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon.  Though written for would-be career artists, it is applicable to anyone who is seeking a way to better their work skills in any profession; one only has to find models to emulate.  I was excited to find out afterwards that he will be a keynote speaker at this year's iPadPalooza conference here in Austin!

It's Monday!  What's on your summer reading list?