Sunday, February 7, 2016

22 days of book love

Boy meets Boy by David Levithan is a book I won on a blog giveaway years ago in the early days of this blog.  I didn't know who Levithan was but the book had an interesting premise.  The topsy turvy world that Levithan creates is one that reminds of the wild L.A. world of Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block.  They both are about worlds that don't exist (yet).

This short novel won my book love for Paul's story, the truth mixed in with so much good humor, and this quote:

"I've always known I was gay, but it wasn't confirmed until I was in kindergarten.
It was my teacher who said so.  It was right there on my kindergarten report card: Paul is definitely gay and has very good sense of self.
I saw it on her desk one day before naptime. And I have to admit: I might not have realized I was different if Mrs. Benchly hadn't pointed it out.  I mean, I was five years old.  I just assumed boys were attracted to other boys.  Why else would they spend all of their time together, playing on teams, and making fun of the girls? I assumed it was because we all liked each other.  I was still unclear how girls fit into the picture, but I thought I knew the boy thing A-OK...."

Which leads to this conversation with his teacher...

"Am I definitely gay?"
Mrs. Benchly looked me over and nodded.
"What's gay?" I asked.
"It's when a boy likes other boys," she explained.
I pointed over to the painting corner, where Greg Easton was wrestling on the ground with Ted Halpern.
"Is Greg gay?" I asked.
"No." Mrs. Benchly answered. "At least not yet."
Interesting. I found it all very interesting.
Mrs. Benchly explained a little more to me-the whole boys-liking girls thing. I can't say I understood.  Mrs. Benchly asked me if I'd noticed that marriages were mostly made up of men and women.  I had never really thought of marriages as things that involved liking. I had just assumed this man-woman arrangement was yet another adult quirk, like flossing.  Now Mrs. Benchly was telling me something much bigger.  Some sort of global conspiracy.
"But that's not how I feel," I protested.  My attention was a little distracted because Ted was now pulling up Greg Easton's shirt, and that was kind of cool. "How I feel is what's right...right?"
"For you, yes," Mrs. Benchly told me. "What you feel is absolutely right for you. Always remember that."

And that last line is golden.  Oh how I wish we truly had conversations with students like this. Although odd that Mrs. Benchly openly points out Paul's sexuality via his report card but his sense of self worth-yes! It's funny and filled with very real characters.

My copy has this lovely inscription:

Saturday, February 6, 2016

23 days of book love

Happy Saturday everyone.  Yoga was cancelled, while a huge disappointment, allowed me to sleep/lay in bed a little longer this morning and sometimes we just need that.

We also had to cancel a day trip to Minneapolis so Groovy Girl can get her groove back.  She slept in and is mostly feeling better. I spent most of the day mourning the loss of the trip but I found positive ways to fill my day. #cleaning #walking

Schooled by Gordon Korman is one of my favorite elementary chapter books for its celebration of independent and creative thinking-something we need more of across the board.  Capricorn Anderson is a young hippie living on a commune with his grandmother Rain.  He leads a happy life until Rail falls out of a tree while picking plums. For the first time Capricorn is sent to school while Rain recovers. School is a strange world to comprehend to a peaceful boy.

He takes it all in stride, spends time confused, experiences his first crush but all throughout he stays true to his positive ideals.  Cap is a great character created by Korman; perfect for teaching kids empathy for those different than us.  We all need that today.

Friday, February 5, 2016

24 and 25 days of book love together...

Groovy Girl was sick-light-headed and green-yesterday after school so I have to admit my focus was elsewhere. It wasn't until this morning that I remembered my goal to blog everyday in February.  Two together works for me.

1. My Brother Charlie by Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete is a book filled with love. Ryan's brother RJ has autism and this book is a tribute to the very real hurdles they've experienced as a family. Charlie doesn't like to be affectionate, is antisocial, and needs time on his own and he is also daring, smart, and kind. The illustrations by Shane W. Evans are beautiful: 

2. Fish in a tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt is another favorite this year. I can't keep it on the shelf here. 

Ally has everyone fooled and getting in trouble is a lot easier than admitting that she can't read. Her mom is busy waitressing at the local diner, her dad is serving his country oversees and her older brother loves working on engines. Ally doesn't want to bother anyone with her troubles until Mr Daniels becomes her teacher. Proving once again that teachers can be the best Ally begins to spill over with joy. Everybody IS smart in different ways and this book does a great job of illustrating that fact. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

26 days of book love

The Snow Child is a magical book about 1920's Alaska where Jack and Mabel decide to homestead. Life is lonely for Mabel while Jack works nonstop keeping their farm afloat. Wishing for a child to fulfill their life they build a little snow child in fun. And that's where the magic begins to happen. Magical realism mixed with their difficult Alaskan life is a perfect juxtaposition for an amazing story~perfect to sweep you away on a bitter cold day. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

27 days of book love

This is the perfect book to be snowed in with, the kind of book you could curl up on the sofa and read for the whole day. In front of a roaring fire. I love talking students into reading it-they always come back happy.  It's mysterious, adventurous, and built on friendship.  A trifecta.

Totally loving my snow day today even though the amount of snow we got is not record breaking. I'm soon to head out to take some snow photos of Groovy Girl and her BF, BF's brother and little sister building snow people.

Monday, February 1, 2016

28 days of book love...

I adore this book. This young boy goes out one day to explore the smallish pond out front of his house and a whole new world opens up to him. Brilliant with beautiful illustrations. I can't wait to read it to students! 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Snow days coming our way...

Did you know that we are about to get hit with a major snowstorm here in the Midwest?  Yes.  Lots of snow, high winds, crazy kind of weather. We've had two smaller storms but no snow days.  We are due and I am ready.  Hot chocolate and pancakes, lots of reading here we GO.  Sadly we are not wusses though so it takes a major snow to cancel school.  I checked out a few snow books to get me in the mood.  Here are a few of my favorites from our public library.

Hooray for SNOW! by Kazuo Iwamura: Sweet squirrel family learns to play in the snow altogether.  Lovely illustrations.

Here comes Jack Frost by Kazuno Kohara: A young boy, feeling blue during winter, has a chance meeting with Jack Frost and makes a new friend to play with all winter long until Spring begins to sprout. Lovely woodcut illustrations.

Snowman's Story by Will Hillenbrand: Sweet wordless picture book with forest animals and a snowman with a treasured book sharing the love of reading. I love the Bear and Mole series by Hillenbrand also so no surprise that this one is a hit as well.

Peter and the Winter Sleepers by Rick de Haas: Peter lives in a lighthouse with his grandmother and his dog Leo.  During a particularly snowy week the lighthouse becomes a makeshift home for many forest animals! Peter and his grandmother welcome a freezing rabbit, an owl, birds, bats, a squirrel family, and finally one lone, cold fox.  The house is starting to smell, there are droppings everywhere but worse yet they think fox might have eaten Gull. My teacher brain says this book is great for empathy, grit, kindness, and problem-solving.

First Snow by Peter McCarty: I love Peter's work!  Pedro comes to visit his bunny cousins and snow arrives the very next day. Pedro doesn't like the cold so he's unhappy to see his first snow.  Poor Pedro complains as all the neighborhood bunnies frolic in the snow but, of course, he sleds down a big hill and loves it. No more complaining!  Lovely illustrations.

Cheers to a snow day.  Our traditions include hot chocolate and chocolate chip pancakes, Gilmore Girls, reading, and lots of cuddling under big blankets.  I'm ready like I said.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Best book club choices-2016

December and January were good reading months for my book club.  We read The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin and Norwegian by Night by Derek B. Miller.  Both books, while different styles, are very good.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry (2014) by Gabrielle Zevin:  This is a quirky story about A.J., a young man after his wife's death.  The couple built their life around owning an interesting bookstore on Alice Island, a fictional area near Boston.  A.J. drinks a lot after he closes the book store at night and one night while passed out a prized collection of poems by Edgar Allen Poe is stolen.

Soon after a baby Maya appears in his bookstore with a note attached and the mother cannot be located.  Until a proper family or a relative can be found A.J. agrees to foster the child only because he feels an obligation to the mother who trusted him, the owner of a bookstore because she felt that a bookstore was a good place for a baby to grow up. The rest of the story unfolds around Maya, the bookstore, an interesting police chief, a book representative from the mainland and A.J. of course.  This is an delightful tale that loves literature.  Each chapter opens with a short story suggestion such as Lamb to the slaughter by Roald Dahl, The diamond a big as the Ritz by F. Scott, and What feels like the World by Richard Bausch. Everyone at book club decided it would be great fun to reach out and read the short stories suggested by Fikry.  Witty and unique I would read this one again and I would give it for a gift.

Norwegian by Night by Derek B. Miller is a bit of a mystery adventure set in Norway. Sheldon Horowitz, an aging vet, moves across the ocean to live with his granddaughter and her husband after his wife dies. His granddaughter Rhea feels that her beloved grandfather is losing his mind and will be better off away from the memories of NYC.

One day home alone Sheldon hears arguing from an unknown man in the upstairs apartment and in another moment he opens the door to trouble. Fleeing to safety wherever that may be in a country he hardly knows with the young son of the upstairs neighbor Sheldon takes off on a wild adventure with his silent (and terrified) charge.  Sheldon is a funny character and keeps us thinking with his wit about racism, family, vengeance, war, and human nature.

If you need a good book to read to get you through another few weeks of winter-these are two excellent choices.