Monday, March 29, 2010

Marc Aronson's Race; A History beyond Black and White

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.
 Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Here's my three teasers:

From Race; A History beyond Black and White by Marc Aronson:
"And to many Black Americans, saying that racism is fading or that race is no longer important is either silly or blind.  Anyone can see, whether in images of blacks driven out of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 or the troubling statistics of the persistent "achievement gap" in our schools, that the deep racial divisions in America remain real, and present.  Even as I write these words, racial thinking looms behind the latest headlines, whether they are debates over legal and illegal immigration or analyses of wars that seem to pit Muslims against Christians and Jews".  p. 4-5

I do not read very much nonfiction but this book has captured my attention and I would read more by this author.  I don't know if I will read the whole thing as it is 269 pages long but I'm going to keep going for now.  I love in the bio information I looked up it says that Dr. Aronson is a committed internationalist...wouldn't it be great if we all thought on those terms!

What's teasing you this week??

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Opposite of Me


With my Kleenex box next to  me and a little Vicks Vapor Rub doing its thing, I finished Pekkanen's first book.  Wow.
I am blown away by talent.  I follow Sarah through her newsletter, distributed neatly in my inbox and one day I clicked on it and she was drawing readers in, offering a chance to win something if we would only preorder her new book.  I was drawn in and even though I'm supposed to be on a book-buying hiatus, I preordered it.  I don't even know what it was she was giving away nor do I care because I liked her book and it was worth it. 

Usually I take a few days to ponder the book or I don't have time to write a review right away but this time since I'm still laying in bed, breathing in the Vicks, I thought I would share the book love spontaneously!  I'm going to be somewhat brief just because it is brand-new and I want you to read it fresh and if I tried to explain all the intricacies of the plot I may fall asleep due to symptoms of the common cold. 


Two sisters, twin sister to be exact, grow up with out ever having that deep connection so many other twins or even siblings feel toward each other.  Linsdey is the smart one, having done well through grad school, now works at a very high powered NY ad agency.   She's in line to take over as the new VP of Creative blah-blah big wig job. Meanwhile, Alex, the beautiful sister is modeling and about to get married in their hometown, Washington D.C.  Their paths are destined to cross and they do and it's fun to be there, peeking in.

My Thoughts:

The book is told through Lindsey's view point and I have to admit the first section I was worried-Lindsey's character made me all jumpy and I didn't enjoy the feeling but later I realized Sarah had done her writing job well by making me feel  part of Lindsey's hectic NY lifestyle.  I just wanted to slow down.   Little flecks of humor emerge between the twins verbally-sparring with each other but the real comedic wit comes from their parents.  Woo hoo-what wonderfully-funny parents (embarrasingly funny-yes) but heck what are other people's parents really for except to help us see our own parents more humorously! Through all the relationships in this book it has a lot to say about families and relationships and how we live our lives altogether, without seeing each other fully.

See great characters+ great plot=easy read and Sarah Pekkanen achieved this on her first time!  Of course, like Hollywood fame she didn't just whip this out I'm sure plus she has tons of other writing credits to her name.  According to the interview in the back of the book, she is already working on a new book and I'm so glad!!  Once it has a title I can put it on my to-read list.

Buy the book or ask your library to purchase a copy-it is worth it.
Julie P. at Booking Mama's review and another great one can be found here-S. Krishna's Books.
Watch the You Tube trailer-nice without giving it all away.
Highly Recommended-Adult Fiction
5/5 peaceful stars

Happy Reading!

A week past

Wow-a whole week and no blogging!  It has been an extremely crazy week and I am so happy to have reached Friday.  My computer was missing its power cord (or was it me that was missing it...) for a few days at the beginning of the week as I (mercilessly) left it in Indiana at my friend Barb's house.  She nicely  mailed it to me even though she is coming to town this weekend.  I got the cord on Wed afternoon and still couldn't even think about blogging.  I've also had a wicked cold which has had me crawling into bed soon after getting my peaceful girl to bed.
Just so you know the week wasn't a total loss here is a list of all the other things I did get accomplished in my absence:

1. I emailed author, Jeanette Hopkins,who is planning a visit.  This was long overdue as it was dumped in my lap by the early retiring TAG teacher.  I don't mind having the assignment but was a little behind in all the arrangements.

2. I worked steadily on report cards for two days only to find out they are not do today as I was once told but next week, which (ha, ha) puts me ahead for next week!  We are just required to do a number grade (1,2,3) but it still takes a huge brain process to call up each sweet face.

3. I had a book club meeting on Monday evening.  Speaking of Monday night, here's how it went down: I left work right at 4:00 so I could run home and charge my dead phone, grabbed a bottle of wine from my very small stash-I was going to need it later.  I picked Japhy up from school for her gymnastics class, arranged with another mom/friend to bring Japhy home, watched her tumble and stretch for 30  minutes (and while my phone was charging, (thanks to the gym for having available outlets) then left to go to book club.  Our book this week was The Help, which I love but read quite awhile ago. My book club read it on my suggestion so I felt the need to be there even though I missed my first second series of yoga!   I fell in bed right after book club ended!  The treats were delicious and the conversation was deep. 

4. Tuesday was my husband's birthday yet we had a 4:00 funeral to attend and then my husband's drama youth group met so he did not get home to celebrate until 8:30.

5. Wednesday my mom (mostly) with me picking up the slack (me scrubbing potatoes) after I arrived home from school.  We made my husband a lovely birthday dinner.  She made him a pie for desert and he (needing some much needed quiet time)asked to eat dinner while watching a movie.  My mother agreed but I could tell in her heart she was disappointed.  It was an odd choice of my husband's but it was his birthday celebration.
5.  Thursday was pretty similar to Monday's schedule but involved two long appointments with teenage angst son.  Luckily my mom was still  in town to help so my husband and I both could attend  appts. with young son.  We ate dinner on the fly at Jimmy Johns between appts. 

6. I created and uploaded to our server file three lesson plans for my ongoing project with other librarians in my district. 

7.  I received three boxes of brand new beautiful books from Titlewave, which I compare to going to the grocery store: 3 boxes of books=$2,000+.  I am so excited to inventory them and get them out on the shelves.  Because of all other things occuring at work I had to hold myself back from opening them earlier in the week and just immersing myself in the happiness new books bring to me.  Today's the day though so picture me, in my very brand new back room, luxuriating with new books all around me as I read.

8.  I also worked with my principal to fix a huge crisis-I was denied a personal day to attend the Dalai Lama's speech on education at my alma mater.  I've wanted my whole life to hear him speak and I have the tickets so I was crushed and mystefied as to why I was denied.  We worked some things out but I'm not going to go into detail just yet. 

9.  In the midst of all this craziness I've been reading The Opposite of Me by Sarah Pekkanen, which I preordered from Powell's. Yes, I know I wasn't supposed to buy any new books until I read all the books from my shelves but life is full of exceptions.  The last two days I've been reading in spare moments because I'm so interested in this story.  I also have to write reviews for Just Listen by Sarah Dessen and Operation Yes by Sarah Lewis Holmes.

10. I am so happy the weekend is here (almost) never mind that I have guests coming for the weekend.  I plan to make it a stress-free weekend-after I scour my house. 
p.s. my mom gave me a head start-she cleaned my microwave, refrigerator and my oven.  Thanks mom!!

Hope your week has been peaceful!
Happy reading-

Link to local article about our school yoga project.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Wildwood Dancing

Juliet Marillier

If you do judge a book by its cover...this one would live up to it.  The cover shows us so much of what you will find inside.  If you look closely you can see the frog, Gogu resting on Jena's shoulder.
Inside the front cover lies a simple blurb: 

Five adventurous sisters...
Four dark creatures...
Three magical gifts...
Two forbidden lovers...
One enchanted frog...

Cross the threshold into the
Wildwood, and enter a land of magic, daring, betrayal...
and true love.

I already love fairy tales and this is tale is brilliantly written and inspired by The Twelve Dancing Princess, but mixed into the pot is a baba yaga /witch of the forest, an enchanted frog and a little bit of Sleeping Beauty thrown in. 

Let me share two quotes:

I suppose the secret was not completely ours; Gogu knew.  But even if frogs could talk, Gogu would never have told.  Ever since I'd found him long ago, crouched all by himself in the forest, dazed and hurt, I had known I could trust him more than anyone else in the world.        ( p. 1)

It made no difference that we had done this over and over.  The sense of thrilling strangeness had never gone away.  Every Full Moon, our bodies tingled with the magic of it.  The lamp shone on the blank wall.  One by one, we stretched out our hands, and the lantern light threw the silhouettes onto the stones.  One by One, we spoke our names in a breathless whisper:
"Stela."                                                                                                                     ( p. 9)

Can't you just hear the whisper of their voices as they cross over into the Wildwood for a night of dancing among the creatures of the forest.  Find this book at your local library and fall in love with the adventurous tale of Jena, her sisters and her friendly frog.  I now want to read Juliet Marillier's follow-up book, Cybele's Secret.  If I trust the cover-it looks just about as good as the first!
***2010 Reading from my Local Library Project***
5/5 peaceful stars
Highly recommended for middle grade/YA/adult readers

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Reading on vacation

I had a lovely Spring Break.  I finished Wildwood Dancing before we left for Chicago (review to come), I read Just Listen by Sarah Dessen on the trip and on the ride home yesterday I got half way through Operation Yes by Sara Lewis Holmes.  It isn't a massive amount but I did also enjoy my children, see my step-daughter in a play (She Loves Me) at Northside College Prep and visit with one of my oldest friends, Barbara and her lovely family.  Barbara gave me back Jitterbug Perfume, which I had lent her and now I think I might need to go back and reread it as she said she needed a dictionary to read it...

We got home yesterday after picking up the dog at the kennel (which was not the doggie retreat it advertised and unpacked the car from out four day trip.  You would have thought we had the kitchen sink in the station wagon.  There is something about driving that makes our family pack anything we think we might need in that four day period.  I love pulling out the bag of activities my daughter took along but never bothered to use. I love that we carted along Elizabeth, her AG doll, who spent the entire vacation in the car.  I made some comment to peaceful girl about Elizabeth not having a very exciting road trip-never leaving the station wagon-her retort is "She's a doll, mom!"  Mmmhmmm...a doll who needs her own wardrobe, bedroom set and accessories, interesting! 

I think I'm excited about Health Care Reform passing although I'm not sure.  Yes, I do want health care reform but truthfully, I wish I could have written the bill myself.  It would have said something like this ..."If you do not have quality, affordable health care for you and your family then you may purchase health care from the US government public option.  Public Option just gives us a good alternative to the rip-off  insurance companies out there who keep upping the price of insurance with no extra benefits involved.  I would have thrown in something about small businesses using the public option as well because they need to be competitive in today's market."  It would have been about a paragraph long instead of the 100 page long document I researched online.  Part A, Part B, Part much filler. 

In other current news I have been listening to The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova, which is 17 discs long.  I love the story and am anxious to get back to listening to it on my drive back and forth to work.  I've had to renew it 3 times from the library (an ipod would help) so that both my husband and I can finish it. 

How is your first day of Spring?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
~Grab your current read
~Open to a random page
~Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
~Be careful not to give away to much-you don't want to spoil the book for others.
~Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Here is my teasers:

The danced. All by themselves, beyond the farthest fringe of the crowd, they circled and swayed, met and parted, turned and passed.  Even when the steps of their dance drew them apart, their heads turned to look, and look, and look, as if they would drown in each other's eyes.  p. 75    ~Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier
I love this book.  It is has a connection to The Twelve Dancing Princesses and is very well-written.  I'm on chapter six and have to get back to reading...
ta ta for now.

What's your teaser for the day?

Peaceful Reading~

Picture Books

Peaceful Girl and I have read 5 fantastic picture books recently. 
Our rundown in no particular order:

1.  Front Porch Tales & North Country Whoppers (2007) by Tomie DePaola:  This is a homegrown book just waiting to be read aloud.  The language is fun and sleepy little girl was begging for more as we  made our way through the 10 little folk tales and tall tales.  Her favorite was "Big Gertie and Love at First Sight" which begins:  If ya are ever in Weston, Vermont, and ya drive north through the village on Route 100, you'll come to the Greendale Road on yer left.  The beginnin' part is paved, but as soon as ya git to the unpaved part, you'll be drivin' into the Green Mountain National Forest. 
Once you there you meet the lumberjacks and their cook, Big Gertie, who is "BIG and TALL and BIG-BONED and is a distant cousin of the Bunyon family.  Big Gertie is a good cook but overworked and the lumberjacks find a great way to help her.  Fabulous pictures add to the tales as well.

2. A Young Dancer; The Life of an Ailey Dancer(2009) by Valerie Gladstone, photographs by Jose Ivey:  This book followers a beautiful young dancer, Iman Bright, an Ailey student.  Iman balances dance with school work and violin lessons.  Easy-to-read so young readers will love discovering all it takes to be a well-rounded dancer.  The photos are often full page spreads, giving the feel of being right there with Iman.  Alvin Ailey Dance site.

3. Budgie and Boo (2009)by David McPhail:  I love David McPhail's The Teddy Bear and always enjoy using it as a read aloud at the library.  Kids really relate to this very compassionate tale.  This new one has two fantastic characters, Budgie is a bear and Boo is a bunny.  They both love to garden; Boo grows vegetables and Budgie grows flowers.  This one's message is simple; isn't it wonderful to have a special friend! 

4. Imogene's Last Stand (2009) by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter:  This is the cutest elementary historical fiction book with a very high-spirited heroine.  Imogene has always loved  history and works hard to clean up the Liddleville Historical Society so others can come and visit.  Instead, the mayor decides to raze the historical house and Imogene fights back.  Full of spunk, Imogene teaches the whole town a lesson is what's really important. 

5. Fancy Nancy; Poet Extraordinaire! (2010)by Jane O'Connor and Robin Preiss Glasser: Peaceful Girl has told me a few times that she is "beyond" Fancy Nancy and has moved on to other reading materials.  Hmmm, that is until her grandmother brought her this one!  See little girl loves poetry, thanks to her amazing 1st grade teacher.  This one brought out all the stops as the other Nancy books do with all that wonderful word play focused on creating poetry.  I think come April I might have to create my own Palace of Poetry in our library!  Fancy Nancy has her own website-click here!

All 5 picture books rate
 5/5 peaceful stars
Highly Recommended-Elementary

Monday, March 15, 2010

Manly Man Award

Jana from Milk and Cookies; comfort reading and Adventures in the Library bestowed upon me a manly award.
I'm supposed to answer some questions about the manly side of myself. Here goes:
Tell a couple of things about yourself, the name of your favorite guy book, your favorite sports moment, favorite MANLY MAN movie, favorite manly music, and your Favorite Food With No Nutritional Value.

1. I never liked pink or glittery things, until I had a girl and she is a glittery, pink and purple kinda girl. Now its a bonding choice.
Along life's journey I've had quite a few male best friends, truly great guys, even though my husband claims technically young men and women are not really able to be best friends.  I think he is implying something about my guy friends but I choose to ignore his innuendo.

2. My favorite GUY book is probably The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier.

3. My favorite sports moment is way back in time when the Twins won the World Series and I was right there, waving a Homer Hanky.

4 Manly Movie: Troy--Brad Pitt is manly to me. Lots of sword play!

5. Manly Music: Nirvana, Guns n Roses.

6. Manly food:  Cheetos, movie popcorn and potato chips, on occasion.

I'm passing this Manly Man Award to:

Jim at TeacherNinja
Julie at Turning the Pages
Mr. H. at SMS Guys Read

To those of you I passed this along to you can pass along if you' d like, or just accept and post your answers on your blogs! Thanks so much for the award guys!!

Thanks for playing along!

An Unfinished Angel

Sharon Creech

Synopsis:  In the ancient stone tower of the Casa Rosa, in a tiny village high in the Swiss Alps, life for one angel has been the same, well, for as long as she (or he?) can remember.  Until Zola arrives, a determined American girl who wears three different skirts all at once.  For neighbors who have been longtime enemies, children who have been lost, and villagers who have been sleepily living their lives: hold on.  Zola and the angel are about to collide.  Figs start flying, dogs start arfing, and the whole village begins to WAKE UP.  Zola is a girl with a mission.  And our angel has been without one- till now. (from jacket flap) 

My thoughts:  It took about a chapter to let yourself get into the mind of the angel as she is the narrator and talks in an unusual speech pattern but the tale is wonderful.  Through Zola, the angel learns of a band of children, all living in an abandoned shack.  Zola's constant refrain of "you have to do something" is one to be reiterated over and over in our own lives.  Slowly the village wakes up long enough to see the common good.  Like Anything but Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin this book would make a great read-aloud for elementary students to show empathy.  How can we each help the world, whether in our own neighborhood or on a larger scale to DO SOMETHING!  Creech demonstrates how, within each one of us, lives an unfinished angel that bears listening to.

A quote:
"Angel!" Zola says.  "We've got to get busy!"
"What? What are you talking about?"
"Are we telling anyone about the children? And then what? What if someone takes them away to an orphanage? That's where they were, Paolo says. A bad orphanage.  But not in this country.  And then they lived in ditches.  Ditches! What's the plan?
"Plan?" She is expecting me to have a plan?
"What's next?"
"Angel! Are you having a hearing problem?"
And she goes on, "When should..." and "What time will..." and myself is woozy sleepy and I want to go lie down  in the pasture of the goats.  p. 86
The angel and Zola are enduring characters and I easily related to both sides (what is the plan?) and the pastoral setting of the Swiss Alps are lovely.  I could easily list quote after quote because once you get adjusted to angel-speak:

First, I tell you that I am in peace with the birdies and the froggies and the toads and the kittens and the puppies and the lizards, all of those creatures, just like I am in peace with the mountains and the trees and the flowers, but let's not get too mushy.  I tell you that so you know that I am not like the peoples who hate everything and complain all day short or long.  Those peoples are sad.  p. 39
You can't help but love this exquisitely crafted tale of getting out of our own comfort zone!
5/5 peaceful stars
Highly Recommended for all living beasts

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Ooh-La-La-Spring Break

Okay, this is where I would like to be spending Spring Break.  It looks relaxing.  I would have a book in my hand, of course.  Instead we are heading into Chicago-still exciting-but not a pool with real palm trees!  I have a stack of books in front of me to review so I guess I should start there.

I started reading gossip of the starlings by Nina de Gramont one morning at the breakfast table.  I was riveted...didn't want to go to school (rarely happens) and I continued to read long after my granola was gone.  I tucked it into my school bag and headed off for the day, hoping to read a few more chapters over lunch. 

 The story:

As soon as Catherine Morrow transfers in to Esther Percy School for Girls, Skye Butterfield
chooses her as her friend.  Even though Catherine is at Esther Percy to turn over a new, clean leaf, she allows Skye to take control.  Catherine has the connections and Skye has the typical  burning desire to try it all.  Skye's father is a famous senator and even though, she loves her father, she can't help but see all the hypocrisy surrounding their family life.  This mixture of feelings pulls Skye in all different directions and seems to steer her down the continual wrong path.  Catherine introduces her to coke but its Skye who needs to keep doing it and who discovers a variety of other drugs along the way.  She also gets several teachers in trouble and has an affair with her English teacher. 

My thoughts:

After the initial thrill of reading I was disappointed in the overall topic.  I got tired of Skye running the show.  I got tired of Catherine constantly accepting and excusing her friend's behaviour.    Catherine, in this same, drug-filled year, is attempting to place at the National Horse Show and hold on to her own friends and family.  There were parts of the book I enjoyed and while I see it as probably pretty accurate boarding school behaviour (any high school for that matter) I found it to be too over-the-top, which made me just want to shake Catherine-hello-can you just say NO, just once.  I enjoyed the relationship between John Paul and Catherine-good young romance but beyond that I found nothing to connect to in the story. 
Confessions of a bibliophile review

2.5/5 peaceful stars
YA Fiction

Friday, March 12, 2010

Fairy Tale Fridays

Tif talks books, for a few weeks now, has a new meme going, Fairy Tale Fridays and I've been a reader and  a commenter even but not a participant.  This week I'm inspired though for two reasons. 
1. I've started a major fairy tale unit with second grade students 2. I have a new version of Stone Soup I've wanted to explore. 

The Real Story of Stone Soup

First things I look at:  beautiful cover  and very interesting author/illustrator names.

Second:  Inside artwork and a fair amount of text.

Third: I read the story, savoring the wonderful way the pictures not only compliment the story but tell their own story as well.  You won't get the full, "real" story unless you investigate the fabulous illustrations. 

It begins:  "It all began when I hired those troublesome Chang brothers to help me on my fishing boat.  Nice boys, but lazy and, I'm sorry to say, somewhat stupid."  (okay, the word stupid used in reference to a person is a huge no-no in our house so red flag but luckily, by the end of the story, we know the Chang brothers are the opposite of stupid so it works for me.)

Uncle sleeps in the boat while the Chang brothers do the fishing and right about lunch time Uncle shakes himself awake.  They land on an island and without a soup pot proceed to make soup using rocks, unless you watch the pictures closely.  The pictures reveal the true method and shows their boss as the bumbling, complaining and lazy person he is.
(where you can listen to a young girl read the story as well!)
(where I found several other book titles to add to my wish list)

Now that I've explored it, and enjoyed it I have to wonder why there isn't an award sticker of any kind on the front of this is that good!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Anything but Typical

Nora Raleigh Baskin

This little book is not an easy, lyrically-written bit of prose, but in this case, that doesn't mean it isn't good. 
Jason Blake is an autistic 12-year-old living in a neurotypical world.  Through Jason's narration experiences are relayed, both past and present, giving a very real look at how difficult it is to be "different" in our world. 

This is a perfect quote to understand a day in Jason's life:
     School doesn't always go very well.  It is pretty much a matter of time before the first thing of the day will go wrong. 
     But today I've gotten far.  It is already third period.  Mrs. Hawthorne is absent and so we are going to the library instead of art class.  This is a good sign.  You'd think art class would be one of the easiest classes, but it's not.  I mean, it's not that it's hard like math, but it's hard like PE.  A lot of space and time that is not organized.
     Anything can go wrong in that kind of space.
     But  not in the library.  There are computers in the library.  And books. And computers. Keyboards and screens and desks that are built inside little compartments so you don't have to look at the person sitting next to you.  And they can't look at me.
     When we get into the library, somebody is already sitting in my seat, at my computer.  At the one I want.  Now I can't breathe.  I want to log on to my Storyboard website.  I was thinking about it all the way here.  I have already had to wait so long.  I don't know.  (p. 3-4)

His discomfort is palpable, his anxiety rising as the librarian tries to direct him to another computer, which does not work.  Eventually the young girl using the computer is talked into giving up the computer but only after she has made Jason feel horrible.  It continues:

     I feel off balance, like I am going to fall.  I need to shift my weight back and forth, back and forth, rock to stabilize myself.  I can feel my chance to use my computer getting further and further away from me.  There isn't even enough time left in the period.  I might not get to log on at all, even if this girl does get up.  A hundred little pieces threaten to come apart. (p. 8)
Lucky for Jason his parents are supportive and understanding and he has one friend, Aaron, who is nice to him at school.  I loved this book because it gave me true insight into what it is like for an autistic child to live in for one moment, one day, every day, weeks rolling into months and years and the answer is its not easy.  I put this on my last order for the year, switching out a Babymouse, to purchase this one instead because I believe it will make a great read aloud for 3-5 grade students to hear and open up to the idea that, while Jason is different, many of his feelings are ones they have as well.
Another great review here at Abby (the) Librarian. and another from Tina at Books are my thing.  Nora Baskin's site-click here.  I will definetely look for more from this author.

5/5 peaceful stars
Recommended for elementary / middle grade fiction

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Yoga Day

Tomorrow is the beginning of our big yoga project at my elementary school. On Monday nights I attend and attempt to do mindful yoga with a lovely woman, Mary and she has agreed to come to our school and teach 12 kids several yoga routines.  After the students have had a chance to practice they will be videotaped and each teacher, in a week or two, will have a DVD of mini yoga lessons to use in the classroom.  Fantastic, right!  I am so excited to see this project coming to an end, which is really the beginning, because this initial part has taken a lot of planning and arranging.  I have the camera ready. I purchased hair ties, extra workout pants for kids, and I've arranged for each student to receive a school t-shirt to wear for the event.  I will be so excited tomorrow afternoon when I know it has all worked out!

Other bookish news:

I am working hard to finish gossip of the starlings by Nina de Gramont.  I still have An Unfinished Angel by Sharon Creech  in my library bag as well as Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier.  I really appreciate authors with websites and/or blogs-I think it is almost essential at this stage of the game.  Thank you to all the authors that do-it makes finding good information about you so much easier. 


Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two  (sometimes 4 or more)“teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
Here is my teasers (paragraph)

"I found him with a  woman last year," Skye said.  She didn't look at me, but out the window.  "After the protest at Chanticleer, before they found me, I came here.  My dad was on the phone with the Devon headmaster, pretending to be surprised I was missing.  But really, he was the one who told me to go to that protest.  He promised that he would fix it somehow, that I wouldn't be expelled." p. 83
gossip of the starlings
by Nina de Gramont

Monday, March 8, 2010

Ruby Lu; Empress of Everything


     Peaceful Girl and I read this together and we love Ruby Lu.  If you haven't yet met Ruby Lu, think Ramona with an Asian-American background.  Ruby Lu; Brave and True is the first in the series and I really hope there will be more (ahemm,  Lenore Look, are you listening) because they are so much fun to read.  In this adventure several important events  occur.  Ruby Lu's cousin, Flying Duck emigrates from China and stays with Ruby Lu's family.  Everyone speaks Chinese now at home and Ruby Lu has to share her room.  Because Ruby Lu spends time helping her cousin in school, Ruby Lu falls behind and the two have to spend part of the summer in (dreaded) summer school!!  The two take an eye test together(Ruby Lu hopes to fail so she can get glasses) and because Flying Duck is deaf, Ruby Lu learns (and we do too) some sign language. Ruby Lu makes a list of things she wants to accomplish over the summer and crosses them off as she goes-as a fellow list maker I loved her little notes.
   This is one of those easy-to-read chapter books meant to bridge the gap between easy readers and more difficult chapter books. The Ivy and Bean series by Annie Barrows fits nicely into this category as does Jeremy Bean.  I think this is a fast growing market and I'm glad-we are having a great time reading them at home.  Peaceful Girl is reading another one to me, Mimmy and Sophie; all around the town by
Miriam Cohen. 
5/5 peaceful stars, highly recommended for elementary fiction
Mitali Perkins talks about Ruby Lu right here.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Movies and more

Last night in our continued attempt to watch Oscar nominated movies my husband and I started Nine with Daniel Day Lewis, Penelope Cruz, Sophia Loren, Nicole Kidman, Dame Judy Dench and many more.  The scenery is beautiful, the women are beautiful but the singing and the plot didn't grab us at all.  We ejected it from the player. 

We replaced it with Julie and Julia and we loved it!!  It helped that we were making cinnamon twists in the kitchen while we were watching. And I'm a little embarressed it took me so long to watch this movie since it has cooking and blogging in it.   Meryl Streep (of course) is spot on as Julia Child, Stanley Tucci is great as her husband, Paul and we really liked Amy Adams role as Julie Powell. The two stories of Julia and Paul's life through their time in Paris as she discoveres cooking wraps around Julie's search for her own higher purpose, taking on this 365 day challenge to cook everything from Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  I applaud her courage and while I wouldn't want to cook many of those very meaty recipes, it was an inspiring process!  Lots of scenes stick out in my mind like the wedding conversation between Julia's parents and her and Paul about McCarthy and how Meryl carries the conversation out to the dance floor.  Of course, now I want to read the book.  There are not alot of movies I rewatch but I would this one, especially with my mom.  I grew up with her watching Julia and I know she tried many of the recipes long ago and I think I remember several meltdowns as Julie did, attempting to recreate what Julia did so easily. 

I also watched An Education this afternoon and thougth it was charming as well.  Carey Mulligan is very good as a high school student experiencing an adult relationship. 

I have my ballot ready, right next to my class of champagne!! 

I've already watched a little of the Red Carpet and I was happy to hear Jennifer Lopez discussing the movie Precious and how life-affirming its message is.

Will you be watching??

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Oscar Frenzy

My husband is a drama king.  While I've always enjoyed going to the movies, eating movie popcorn and watching the Oscars, he's raised the experience to a whole new level for me.  He likes to watch all the Oscar nominated movies before the Big Night.  I don't think we've ever completely accomplished this goal but its fun to try!

So here's my rundown so far:

 Lee Daniels-Director
based on the novel Push by Sapphire.

This one should win because it's gritty and good. The performances are fantastic from Mo'nique, as the abusive mother, to newcomer Gabourey Sidibe in the title role. Even the smaller roles shine with Mariah Carey, as a concerned social worker, and Lenny Kravitz is wonderful as a gentle male nurse.  All adults should see it, especially those working in education or any field closely related to education or if you're human.   Why, you ask, do I think this is the worthwhile movie of the year? I think the performances are that good and it shows a very real look at the struggles many of our children face at home.  I work in a small urban area and I see younger versions of Precious both male and female.  Precious is growing up in a very abusive home, with a mother constantly attacking her.  She finds salvation through a teacher.  It won't win the Oscar even though it should.  If you've hesitated seeing this movie please go-it is well-worth the price of admission. Click here for  IMDb info.  I haven't read the book yet but it is on my list. 

For Sister Rose's views on both Precious and The Blindside-click here.

The Blindside
 John Lee Hancock-Director
based on the book by Michael Lewis

I like this one also.  For me, it was about a family stepping outside the box to care about another human being.  Michael Oher(Quentin  Aaron) is homeless and forgotten.  A family friend gets him a place at a Christian high school based on the idea that Michael will eventually play football for them.  S.J. (Jae Head) befriends him even though there is a huge age and size difference.  Leigh Ann (Sandra Bullock) and Sean Tuohy (Tim McGraw) bring him home one day and slowly Michael becomes part of the family. Michael and S.J steal the show.  I think it dealt really well with racial issues of today. My favorite scene is where Collins, S.J.'s older sister, a cheerleader at the school, is studying with her friends in the library and gets up to join Michael at another table, separating herself from her friends negative views.  All it takes is getting up and moving but it is the simple fact of doing it that makes all the difference.  There are two good scenes with Leigh Ann lunching with her wealthy friends that demonstrate this personal upheaval as well. This movie, while feel-good, is not my idea of Oscar-worthy. I'm interested in reading this book as well just to see how Hollywood changed it. IMDb info-click here.

written and directed by James Cameron

In the first 20 minutes of this movie I almost walked out...but it's not like me to give up so I stayed and loved it.  It combines many themes but some are close to my heart.  It has an interesting cast; Sigourney Weaver plays Dr. Grace Augustine, an interesting choice with her leads in Alien; Giovanni Ribisi, love him-disliked his role as a money-hungry boss, Parker Selfridge; and Stephen Lang as the seriously over-the-top GI Joe Colonel, with bulging muscles and no neck.  I don't consider myself a techno-head but there were a lot of cool devices in this movie as they zoom to Pandora to fight/understand more about this alien race.  Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is placed on Dr. Augustine's team to find out more about the alien race.  The problem arises when The Colonel and Parker decide negotiation time is over, they want the magical rock under the special tree.  The visuals are incredibly beautiful and the story is pretty stunning-this will probably win because it is flashy Hollywood and good-I don't really want James Cameron to win again though.  I think he already has a bit of an inflated noggin-perhaps he could just win for original screenplay.  IMDb info-click here.   

Crazy Heart
Scott Cooper-Director
based on the book, Crazy Heart by Thomas Cobb

We saw this just the other night and really liked it.  Jeff Bridges plays the aging country singer, "Bad" Blake and Maggie Gyllenhal is a reporter for the local Santa Fe newspaper on a mission to interview him.  Chemistry occurs and love happens but in between there's a lot of drinking.  Colin Farell plays the young country star, Tommy Sweet, and Robert Duvall is lovely as Bad's best friend, Wayne.  The music is wonderful and Jeff Bridges disappears into this role. 
IMDb info-click here.

Up in the Air
Jason Reitman-Director

This one is an interesting look at the single life.  Ryan Bingham(George Clooney) thinks he has the perfect life traveling, working, completely free of any connections until he meets Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga).  It's the ultimate hook-up love affair until the Ryan's company grounds him and he's forced to look at life from a different angle.  Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick)is the young business associate he's forced to share the ropes with, and Jason Bateman plays Bingham's boss, Craig Gregory.  I liked this one as well.
IMDb page-click here.

The Hurt Locker
Kathyrn Bigelow-Director

War story-watched the first half and couldn't handle any more but very well done!! 
Should win but probably won't-too intense for Hollywood.  IMDb info here

Loved Up but don't know why it's in the Best Picture category.
District 9-yuck-why, why why?
Still to watch in the next day:  Julie and Julia, A Serious Man, Invictus and An Education.  I missed Fantastic Mr. Fox but I hope The Princess and the Frog or Up wins best animated.

Watching the Oscars is exciting and we often have a little family party, with dress-up clothes and kiddie cocktail champagne.  Many parts about this go against my natural, hippie-side: so much money spent as well as the inflated salaries of actors.  It's like going to the movies night of fantasy!

What about you?  Will you tune in to find out "and the Oscar goes to..."???

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Oh the places you'll go

We celebrated the great rhyming man today yesterday in great style.  About a week ago I talked my sweet husband into performing his  skit,  "The Sneetches" with three high school students and 12 fifth grade students at my school.  He, reluctantly (only because he has much that he juggles at his own job), agreed to take it on.  Monday night I brought him home a dryer box and he cut it and painted it to make the "wondrous contraption" for adding and removing stars.  If I haven't mentioned it before I love having a dramatic husband, who can act, direct and make his own scenery.  I bought 12 yellow t-shirts from a near by big box craft store-hey, they were 1/2 price-and we were in the skit-making business!  They performed the skit four times and my husband did a dramatic reading of Yertle  the Turtle, which is his all-time favorite because it is about government crushing the little guy.  Students talked about the skit all the rest of the day so I guess it was a hit.  I've already mentioned to my husband he might want to pencil us in for next year and tonight at dinner I hinted he might want to add to his Seuss repertoire!! 

Dr. Seuss has been a favorite of mine for years.  I have lovely memories of reading early readers such as One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish to my two little brothers.  My son (the 14 yo) always wanted to read Seuss during that first grade period when we expected him to read to us...little did we know at the time he picked Seuss because he had them memorized!!  He's still talented like that because today he was one of the teenagers working with the younger ones.  He played Sylvestre McMonkey McBean, the huckster. 

I'm so glad, glad, glad for 1. having a family I can count on, 2. crossing this celebration off my list for the week, 3. and because it went really well for all involved! 

Now I can move on to planning my next major school event-The Yoga Project!!  Next week a certified yoga teacher will come to our school and work with 12 students to make a yoga DVD for classroom use.  I have been working on this project for what seems like months (and its not exactly something you can throw together in a week-see top paragraph).  I have a little anxiety-hopefully it will go well!!

I miss Dr. Seuss-not that I ever met him-but I would love to see what he would be producing today.  Perhaps a look at pollution (did that -McGilligott's Pool), environment (hhmmm, did that, The Lorax), war (did that too-The Butter Battle Book),diversity (oh, did that too, Horton Hears a Who)-Wow, okay still I'm sure he would find new ways to entertain, persuade and inform! 

I hope you had a wonderful day celebrating in your own way and if you are new to Dr. Seuss I recommend almost all-there's a wocket in my pocket-we don't know what went wrong there-way too wonky for us!!
Click here and here for two great Seuss sites-I am now an expert at getting the gifts into the chimneys and the second site I used with 4th and 5th grade students-they had to read the whole article about Dr. Seuss and answer questions-it was good, fun and best of all, really made them think and process information!  Some of them garrrrrumfed about it but they got it done (it was only 4 questions-jeez!)
Leave a comment and let me know what you did for Dr. Seuss' birthday or what your favorite Seuss book/character is.

Happy Reading-