Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Fall Reading List 2018


Going Wild by Lisa McMann (2016): Charlie's whole life changes when she has to move from Chicago to the suburbs of Arizona.  As she struggles to make friends Charlie discovers a bracelet among their moving boxes.  Her life begins to change in very dramatic ways when she wears the bracelet.  This is an exciting new series that will appeal to readers of Spirit Animals.

11/22/63 by Stephen King (2011): This book is 849 pages and it took me almost a month to finish it. I loved it. I also watched the mini-series and loved that as well. Jake Epping finds a ripple in time and tries to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy. I fell in love with the characters especially Sadie.


The Maze Runner by James Dashner (2009): Thomas wakes up in the middle of the glade, surrounded by young men all just trying to survive in a world they know nothing about. Every day they run the maze trying to figure out what and where they are trying to keep one step ahead of the predator.

Hideout by Watt Key (2017): Sam is struggling with his life after surviving a bullying attack at school. His father gives him a boat that he's supposed to use for fishing except he ends up exploring the small rivers around the Gulf Shores and finds a young boy living in an old shack. Sam helps Davey but once he does he their lives become too entangled.

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes (2018): Oh this is a powerful story like Jason Reynolds' Long Way Down. Jerome, a 12-yr-old boy, is shot and killed by a Chicago police officer who sees his play gun as a threat. He spends the rest of the book learning to heal and help the 12 yr old daughter of the police officer. Beautifully told through Jerome's voice and Emmett Till as well.

Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson (2018): Woodson is one of my writing heroes and this book tackles current topics of deportation and racial profiling.  Told through the eyes of 5 young teens, all struggling with something in their lives they are given the gift of time to talk as a group at school to learn from each other.  Another amazing story by Woodson.

Friends for life by Andrew Norriss (2015): I ordered this for school because it sounded like a charming little English story of a young man befriending a ghost. It is a charming story with a lot of depth about friendship and being unique.  The young ghost, though, is Jessica, who commits suicide after her mother and grandmother die. I removed it from our shelves and know this book will find great readers at the high school level. Even though suicide is on the rise I don't want to be the one who introduces it to my elementary students. I did love the story and the brave cast of characters.

What are you reading? This week has been chilly giving me lots of time to read.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Celebrating Day of the Dead

Last night I attended a vigil at our local Jewish Synagogue and it was packed, standing room only. Several honored people spoke from the Jewish community and other local religious leaders. It was a beautiful service yet it would have been better to not have to gather at all. Why do we live in the greatest nation only to have so many persecuted people and crimes against our very humanity? How do people become so filled with hate? Our Jewish, Muslim, LGBTQ+, women, people of color all need our support as they (we) are under attack.

Today we honor the dead and for me specifically, I'm thinking of not only my family members that have passed but all the senseless murders from gun violence and victims who've died because of hate like Matthew Shepherd. That's a LOT of candles to light.  From Columbine High School in 1999 to the most recent in South Carolina two days ago we've had too many school shootings and nothing is being done. School shootings-people are killing and traumatizing our youth-it's really unfathomable, beyond belief. I sat there years ago and watched the news roll out the day Columbine happened and I surely thought this was an isolated horrific incident. Little did I realize it would be an epidemic.

The Washington Post is working to compile data on school shootings and it notes that 219,000 students have experienced violence because of a shooting while in school. The database is work taking a look at-it will make you understand why this is such an important issue. And now it seems places of worship may be the new racist trend. 

Most shootings involve a weapon brought from home or purchased by another family member.  I don't like guns.  I am fine with hunters having guns because it's different; I get that and I'm a vegetarian. I grew up in a family where hunting was an acceptable Saturday afternoon activity. Hunting rifles are generally not used for violent acts against humans.  I like the idea of a gun buyback like Australia enacted or much stricter regulations like Japan has in place. We have a backward group of people represented by the NRA that we will never convince that guns do kill people and if we had less of them on the street we would have less violence.  And assault-style weapons shouldn't be available at all. And before a police officer (in training) is issued a weapon they should have a serious diversity and peaceful negotiation training to pass before being gifted the license to carry a weapon that kills. We cannot support our very own "militia" to kill our citizens. 

I'm on a high soapbox right now and it's Halloween but The Day of the Dead has me thinking about all those who've died because hatred runs rampant and the haters have access to weapons. We need radical change to make these issues a thing of the past. Vote for sensible candidates who think the 2nd Amendment is for hunting and military personnel. Not militias in Oregon or Idaho but people who truly are defending our country in foreign lands. And we need police officers to be tried and convicted. I get that its a stressful job and it shouldn't be used as an excuse.

So today hug your children a little tighter as they share their chocolate with you, and think about the 11 Jewish elders who lost their lives this week, think of the students from Columbine to Parkland and all those in-between. We want change. We need to stand up for each other, we need to have each other's backs. We need to choose peace.


Saturday, October 27, 2018

Cleo Wade

This week I was privileged to sit in the same room with Cleo Wade, poet extraordinaire and self-care guru. The room in the Graduate Hotel, downtown Iowa City, had a coffee shop vibe with lamps lit for soft lighting and lovely decor. The walls were "wallpapered" with real pencils so you felt like you were in a room meant for writing or writers. Our chairs faced a small stage with two easy chairs and a lamp and this is where Cleo eventually came out to chat with us. While we were waiting we could (and did) have a glass of wine and some homemade Iowa popcorn prepared and shared by Iowa native Kate Greer, one of Cleo's friends-the upcoming Cheerie Lane Popcorn. It was mixed with real rosemary buds and tasted delicious.

At about 6:30 Cleo arrived on the platform and talked about life to us. She was soft-spoken, natural, and calm which caused the audience to lean in just a little. She is all about peace, love, and joy and how we can all bring that into our daily lives. In order to share these feelings out to your community, you need to feel them about yourself. She preaches an unusual idea of self-care; it's about what feels right for you. It's not about what you should be doing but what is right for you. Netflix, a warm bath, and red wine might be what you need on a Saturday night instead of a night out with friends or another spinning class.  Learn to pick well at any given moment for yourself.

Here is her BIG Three:

Therapeutic Ritual-This is a little gift to yourself.  Always should feel authentic. We need to learn to console ourselves to be our best selves.
Dedicated Safe Spaces-Places you go to replenish your soul. It might be outside, it might be the movies, it might be your own home. Make sure to visit often.
Relationship Boundaries-Choose your people wisely. Steer clear of toxic relationships. The people you surround yourself should build you up and inspire you.
While these aren't exactly brand new ideas Cleo has a way of saying them to us and her 446k insta followers that make us feel ready to love ourselves a little bit more forever.

She is also an activist and encouraged everyone to vote and get involved right now. Through her Rock the Vote/Gucci's Chime for Change website, she's made it very easy for people to connect and get voting information.

Her stop in Iowa City is one of many on her Courageous Love tour which is more than just a book for Heart Talk; Poetic Wisdom for a better life. She was purposeful in making it a free event with stops in all college towns. While her focus does seem to be on younger souls this audience was a very mixed age range and many of us waited in line to speak with her-she chatted, hugged, laughed, took photos, and signed our books with a constant smile. The night was inspiring and I would love to be in her presence again. And thank you to my friend Rita for your willingness to take off on this adventure with me. Thank you to my sister-in-law Stephanie for sending me the info about Cleo's tour.

Other places to find more Cleo:

Instagram: @cleowade
Cleo Wade
On Oprah
New York Times
Mind Body Green article and another

Sunday, October 21, 2018

It's the perfect weather for reading

I'm a summer kind of girl but I love much about spring and fall as well. I always hope for a bit of Indian Summer to hold me over so I'm a bit sad that we've jumped head first into winter-like weather. First, it rained a lot (way too much for fall) and the fall leaves are suffering (and the farmers). It's been very windy this weekend. Our rivers and lakes have flooded across bike paths and over roads which pushes people from their homes.

The only silver lining is staying inside and reading.  I finished The Maze Runner, which has been on my to-read list for years.  I really enjoyed it and am very curious about the next one in the series. James Dashner created a unique and weird dystopian world and I'm invested to know more about the maze and how it all came into being.  I want to watch the movie and I brought the second book home from school.  It's waiting, taunting me, but I have other books to read first.

One of my best readers at school showed me the book Hideout by Watt Key and told me he wanted me to read it when he finished. Last week he gave it to me and I promised to read it within the month. I actually skipped reading my book club book, Pachinko, to read Hideout. In my life, one thing leads to another all the time and now I want to read all of Watt Key's books. This one tells the story of Sam and how he finds a young boy, Davey while motoring his small boat around the bayou. Davey is living in a rundown shack and waiting for his dad and brother to join him. Sam agrees to help him fix up the shack and bring him supplies because it all seems like a great adventure until things become real. Sam discovers more than he needs to know about Davey's family and who they really are and once in it is difficult to get back out. I'll be happy to hand this book back to my student and help him find more of Key's books.

I started reading Jewell Parker Rhodes new book Ghost Boy, which tells the story of young Jerome as he navigates the world after being shot by a police officer in Chicago. It's a sad beautifully-told tale and I want students at my school to read it even though it is about a difficult topic. While it is sad the real message is; it's up to us to make real change. In my recent Social Justice class we discussed the importance of elementary students being aware of the real world around them. This book not only deals with death and grief but poverty, bullying, and the historical context of young black men as targets starting with Emmett Till.  I've read all of Rhodes' other titles starting with Ninth Ward (Hurricane Katrina) and Towers Falling (911).  She does an amazing job of bringing these tough topics to elementary students through her well-written books.

I just started Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson, which I received as a gift when I went to hear Woodson speak at the Englert Theatre. She was amazing to listen to and I would love to have lunch with her. I'm only two chapters in so I'll give you the back blurb for this one:

Six kids. One school year. A room to talk...
Once there were six of us.
We circled around each other, and listened.
Or maybe what matters most is that we were heard. 

I hope you are giving yourself plenty of time to read this fall.  I have to head outside to breathe the crisp air and get my bones moving often as well. Our new dog Ruby loves to romp in the leaves and run freely in the green space across the street. It is a joy to watch her play outside which helps to balance how I feel about her chewing habits.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Beautiful October...

Greetings! I've had this blog post milling about in my head since October 1st and I just didn't take the time to get it down in this format. It seems that is a tough leap to make for me some months.  The ideas are there yet they stay swirling around in my head. I'm making a promise to myself to do better; my goal for the month.

This month I took a class entitled It takes a Family from the Safe Schools Academy. The coursework was great and doable and part of one assignment was video chronicling an LGBT celebration at a Quaker school in New York. What a different world we would live in if every school could celebrate diversity this way. There are other classes I want to take from this group including one, On Wednesdays we wear pink: understanding the politics of girl world. Each class is only one graduate credit yet the interesting social justice issues are more relevant than many other grad credits. Each class I take leads me to something else, some other big moment in my constant life-long learner journey.

This video by Courtney Ferrell popped up while watching the Quaker school celebration.  I want to pass it along because it is just how I feel about empowering young woman. We all need to "Girl Up" ourselves so we can pass that deep love on to others in our families and community. But we can't just "Girl Up"; we also have to Man Up because we cannot leave our young men behind allowing them to think they can make disrespectful decisions just because they are young, drunk, or just didn't know better. It's up to us to teach them to be an important connection in our community. We need to hold hands with other women to create change for ourselves. We also need to connect with men in a deeper way as well so we can be our allies.  What an amazing world we could live in if women and men learned to work together for the greater good-like real solutions for climate change instead of the male-dominated world we now try to exist in.  And it's important to always have some mad money tucked in our bra just in case...

No disservice to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford at all because what she did was very brave but the girls of today need to speak up right away. Tell someone. This situation would look very different if Ford had shared this story with one adult or mentor. So women of today speak out to one adult, your roommate, someone at school so the facts are there. In this instance, the current administration wasn't looking for a real solution but if one woman did have it on record of Kavanaugh's behaviour his career would have looked very different.

This morning I shared the video with Groovy Girl and her response was "I know all that and it isn't easy"-I agree but you have to keep trying.  Here's another Courtney Ferrell TedTalk to keep you motivated and energized. I like how she empowers one person from the audience by bringing them into her space on stage. Have some kind of creative day today!

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Small thoughts

It's cold and rainy here and I miss summer already. I am taking another class which I thought would be easy to fit in but there is more to it and the homework takes a lot of deep thinking. Just like my summer classes though it will push me to be a better teacher.

It is taking me forever to finish Stephen King's 11/23/62 time-alternating look at Lee Harvey Oswald and the Kennedy assassination. I feel like I've been reading it for months now, really just August and September.  Luckily I found a DVD at the public library of the series which helped me when it came time to discuss at book club but I was committed to still finishing the book.  The series with James Franco was very good and I highly recommend it as I do the book-if you don't want to read an 849-page book though feel free to check out the series. It does stream on Hulu as well.

I have a lot of elementary fiction I need to get back to though as my students are serious readers and are constantly recommending books to me. I have stacks of new books from Follett that I want to bring home and read so I need to finish and move on.

I'm in shock that tomorrow the calendar turns to October, that it is already cold here, and that I have a pumpkin decorating my table. My mindset is still back in the hot days of August. At least we have baseball for a few more weeks. And we have the Cubs!

I've watched bits and pieces of the Kavanaugh hearings and am disgusted that he is still very much considered to be a great candidate for our most important court of the land. What a joke. Although when we consider that Trump is not too far from Kavanaugh's privileged and ridiculous behavior than it all makes some sort of reverse universe sense. If women have any pull in the universe this man will be done and we won't hear any more from him. Watching the hearings should give us all pause in that we are being led by many old white men set in their chauvinistic ways. We need more women, more young people, more people of varying shades of color.  Pasty old men need to go.  Lindsey Graham and Chuck Grassley-be gone.
And what if in time we can time-travel back to change all of this ala Stephen King-what and how would we change it?

That's my rant for the weekend. Drink more tea, take care of yourself as the weather changes.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

School is in full swing and I'm spinning just a bit...

We have a new schedule this year and it makes my head spin just a little. We went from a 6-day cycle to a 4-day cycle. This means classes of students rotate into the library (or art, P.E. & music) every 4 days.  Because they are rotating quicker my days are filled with 7 classes almost every day, leaving very little prep time or time to work on library projects like processing new books.  The elementary school where I work has the most students in the district and to create balance I have two other librarians with smaller populations who come to my school for equity purposes; one teaches a solo class of kindergartners, the other teaches two afternoons of k, 1st, and 2nd grades, which does give me time to work independently sometimes.

Seeing students more frequently gives me the opportunity to explore new avenues with them. I've gone back to reading chapter books aloud. I'm reading The Map Trap by Andrew Clements to 3rd grade, Wish by Barbara O'Connor to 4th grade, Liberty by Kirby Larson to 5th grade, and Horizon by Scott Westerfeld to 6th grade.  We have book discussions and still have time to do a short lesson on a skill plus check out books. I'm enjoying my time with students and implementing some of the ideas from my summer classes- a lot of which involves bringing more JOY to their day.

The great downfall is that we've built a fantastic set of readers at my school.  They use the library when they finish a book, not waiting until their next library time, to find their next great read. I love that kids are pumped about reading. My first few days of school were filled with writing down recommendations from students of books they'd read over the summer and want to have here.  You say "what's the downfall in all that?" Well, it has two sides; I spend a good portion of my day helping students find books and checking them out in our system because I've raised readers! - usually, this is during times when I'm supposed to be planning or eating lunch so my day gets all mixed up and I miss those days when I'd only have 3-4 classes with breaks in between to get work done. I feel a little more rushed at certain parts of the day and more laid back while students in our library space. It's an adjustment and I'm adjusting.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Summer Reading List 2018

I managed to do quite a bit of reading this summer and as we just turned the calendar page from August to September I'd love to share what I read.


1. A spool of blue thread by Anne Tyler - okay
2. Tangerine by Christine Mangan -interesting locale, predictable story
3. Real Friends by Shannon Hale - beautiful and brilliant graphic novel
4. The self-driven child: the science and sense of giving your kids more control by William Stixrud - excellent advice, easy to read
5. Secrets of Bearhaven by K.E. Rocha - odd, kids may like it
6. Heart Talk by Cleo Wade - loved it and I'm going to her workshop
7. The adventures of a girl called Bicycle by Christina Uss - cool adventure
8. Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova - loved it!


9. The honest truth by Dan Gemeinhart - loved it as much as I loved Some kind of courage by Gemeinhart
10. The tea girl of hummingbird lane by Lisa See - really interesting story
11. The Formative Five by Thomas Hoerr -school work yet interesting
12. The mysterious moonstone by Eric Luper -surprisingly good for a beginning chapter book, plus a shout out to libraries!
13. Everything, everything by Nicola Yoon - Interesting story, a major surprise, and a strong female character
14. Creative Schools by Ken Robinson -school work and I learned a lot
15. Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm - great, emotional story


16. All Rise for the honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Conner -loved it
17. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng - excellent story
18. Escape from Aleppo by N.H. Senzai - wonderful story to help anyone understand the conflict in Syria
19. The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson - quirky mystery with a look at the past
20. Horizon by Scott Westerfield - twisted sci-fi and I'm now reading it to 6th-grade students

20 books in one summer is great even with all the homework I did. Hopefully, you might find something here that will appeal to your own reading tastes.