#IMWAYR June 27, 2016

The clock is ticking. Three days left with children. One admin day including my last year end breakfast. Then I'm off to the mountains for a week or so before coming back and completing inventory. 

One more #IMWAYR before summer. One more #IMWAYR before retirement. I am so very much looking forward to having lots of time to read all of your posts at my leisure. Thanks to all of you, especially our hosts, Jen at Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers, for all the reading inspiration.

I always remember that June is a hard month, but it isn't until I am in the thick of it that I remember just how exhausting it is. In an ordinary month of the year, one bad night's sleep is doable, but these days, it nearly kills me. My brain already has the consistency of swiss cheese. My short term memory is shot, and my long term one isn't functioning well either. I can't carry a thought from one room to another.

At the end of the day I collapse into my chair in front of the TV and knit until it's time for bed. Mostly, if it were not for audiobooks and nonfiction picture books, my reading life would be a disaster. Actually, I'm impressed that I managed to get in the reading that I did. Just don't ask me about my house ok?

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

3.5 stars

I'm not quite sure about this book. Lawson is screamingly funny. Yet there is a manic quality to some of this that exhausted me. She is also profoundly serious. It is that combination that kept me reading. It worked perfectly for me because I listened to it in smaller chunks as I travelled back and forth to work or ran errands. I'm not sure I could have managed it for a longer period of time. But then, in my present vacant brain state, I'm not sure I could have sustained anything for much longer.

The Boy Who Knew Everything by Victoria Forester

4 stars
It took me a while to finish this book. I learned from Forester's The Girl Who Could Fly that no matter what was going on, this book was going to be worth the read, and it most certainly was. It picks up where the first book ended. Piper, Conrad and the rest of the children with special abilities are ensconced at the McCloud's farm. Eventually they set off on their own except for Piper and Conrad.
At first it is a slow thoughtful read that focused considerably on Conrad's fractured relationship with his father, who just happens to be President of the United States. 
Eventually it filled with action and plenty of plot twists and turns.
Something evil is afoot as disaster after disaster strikes. Conrad's father seems to be in the middle of it. The crew of special children reunite and Conrad trains them to work together to save the world.  Not only do they have to go on numerous rescue missions, they need to find out who and what is behind the trouble before it is too late. In the process, Piper and Conrad end up in Xanthia, a land that is supposed to be a safe place for individuals with special abilities.

The thing is, is it?

3 stars
The Sasquatch Escape by Suzanne Selfors & Dan Santat (Illustrations)

This is a good solid story filled with hilarity, adventure and magical creatures. It's the first in the series starring Ben Silverstein, Pearl Petal, and a veterinarian who advertises herself as a worm doctor, but in reality, treats creators from the imaginary, magical world. I listened to this, but will find a hard copy to look at the illustrations. Younger readers will love this series I think.

Sounds of the Wild: Bugs by Maurice Pledger

5 stars
I have not read this book cover to cover. It was probably a ridiculous purchase for a four-year-old girl. But that four year old girl is crazy about bugs and dinosaurs. When I discovered it in the store I had to get it for her birthday. The illustrations are gorgeous. They are loaded with detail. As each page is turned, the images pop out of the page and are accompanied by the sounds the animals make in that environment. On the following page is a smaller image wherein each creature is numbered. The text on this page pairs up the bug with its name and information about it. This isn't a book I would get for our library, but as a gift, even for a four year old, it turned out to be perfect. She loved it!

A Beetle Is Shy by Dianna Hutts Aston, Sylvia Long (Illustrations)

4.5 stars
This book is beautiful. The images are absolutely stunning. It flows together across the pages in a larger type pattern poem that becomes the title for each page. For example, A Beetle is Kaleidoscopic shows the colours of beetles in all their glory as well as a brief explanation. This would be a book I would pair up with one that shows photographs since as beautiful as these illustrated images are, they can't compare with the true iridescence of actual images of real beetles.

4 stars
The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield

I finally found time to read this book! This exquisitely illustrated story of a bear who finds fame and fortune reminds us what is most important in our lives. Sure there is stuff about perseverance and all that, but there are many very talented people out there who don't get this kind of recognition. Really, the bear was lucky the girl and her father saw him. Ultimately, what is important is our relationships with others. 

I started reading Feathered by Deborah Kerbel but then realized All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor has to be returned to the public library by Thursday, so I will abandon Feathered till I get that one done. I'm searching for a just right audiobook to listen to. I've got Bird by Bird by Anne Lamont, but I think I need something more frivolous, so A Hundred Horses by Sarah Lean will be what I start.

Up Next
I have no idea - it's June for heaven's sake!

SOL The Retirement Speech I Never Expected To Give

I planned on not posting this week since I am seriously suffering from June teacher brain syndrome. However, I went to my union's retirement dinner this evening. I had fabulous food in a spectacular setting with interesting people. During the meal I was still working on what to say after dinner as I thought I had to give a speech. It turned out that I didn't need to give a speech. In fact, hardly anyone gave a speech, but since mine was already written...

I have changed the names below to protect the innocent and the not so innocent.

Here is my speech. 

Janey Petronoshkivitz (I can never say her name correctly) came to see me after school today to let me know that that when another teacher, Carrie Brownstone, retired, she gave Janey hell that she wasn't warned to have a speech prepared.

So of course I panicked, raced home and started scribbling.

I've come up with a list of things I'm looking forward to when I retire.

I'm looking forward to figuring out what I might be when I grow up. Although given that I've reached the ripe old age of 63, maybe I won't bother with it.

I'm looking forward to August first and realizing that my summer is not half over. In fact I'm thinking I'll wake up on that morning and shout out to the universe, "Fuck you August First!"

I'm looking forward to it not mattering what time I go to bed and it not mattering what time I get up.

I'm looking forward to not shopping for clothes that feel like pajamas because I get to wear real ones all day long if that's what I want to do.

I'm looking forward to reading as much as I like, and especially, finding out what's good in adult fiction. Recommendations are welcome

I'm looking forward to finding out what the house looks like when it's clean. Although if I get enough book recommendations, I may never find out.

I'm really looking forward to not having to wonder when that one teacher will send a student down to get that book that they need right now, never mind that I've got 50 kids in the library that I'm working with at that very moment.

I'm looking forward to spending a lot of time far from the madding crowd in high mountain country, camping. Honestly, if I never hear, Cheriee, Cheriee, Cheriee, ever again, I will consider myself blessed.

I look forward to celebrating our success in the court case come November.

I'm looking forward to getting lots of rest so that come next year, I can, hopefully, work with many of you to send the BC Liberals packing next May!

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting SOL, and for all the particpants who support each other's scribbling. 

#IMWAYR June 20, 2016

Participating in #IMWAYR is one of those weekly rituals that I am more than happy to be a part of. If you are interested in kidlit then you should hang out with everyone for a bit. Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers host this event and provide a way for us stay connected.

Never mind April, June is the cruelest month. In spite of, or perhaps because of the June teacher syndrome (drop dead exhausted and nearly witless) I have managed to get some reading in!


Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty

4 stars
This was delightfully creepy and beautiful at the same time. Serafina lives with her father, Pa, in the basement of the Biltmore Estate. No one knows that they live there. At night Serafina roams the house catching rats. Then one night, she sees a man in a black cloak capture a young girl and make her disappear. When she tells Pa, he refuses to believe her. As more children go missing, Serafina befriends Braeden Vanderbilt, the nephew of the house's owner. When the man in the black cloak seems to want Braeden, the two of them must come up with a plan to figure out who the man in the cloak is, destroy him, and save the children. 
Beatty has created memorable characters. He has placed them in settings that are both idyllic and terrifying. This is especially true for the forest where Serafina is forced to enter, in spite of Pa's warning.

I'll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan

4 stars
I read this book because Sloan's Counting by 7's was one of my favourite books the year I read it. I'll be there has the same way of connecting different characters and the same transformational aspect happens, although not so obviously. This is a love story, a story of poverty, and a story of making a difference. Emily Bell and Sam Border meet at church. There is an immediate connection, but they have a long way to go before it can be realized. Part of what I loved most about this book is how loving and caring Emily's parents are. 

5 stars

The Memory of Things by Gae Polisner

I got this from Netgalley and am working on a longer review. I found it to be intense, emotional reading at the beginning when, following the initial attack of the twin towers, Kyle Donohue worries about his family, his friends, and the girl he has rescued. I can't tell you more without ruining the story for you. 

4 stars

Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea by Ben Clanton

I got this from Netgalley. I liked it so much that I have added two copies to my shopping cart. (I'm not sure what I am going to do with this cart, since I am not going to be at the school next year!) This is a sweet book that includes friendships between diverse characters as well as some facts about jellyfish and narwhals. I know our younger readers will love it. 


3 stars
Do Not Bring Your Dragon to the Library by Julie Gassman & Andy Elkerton (Illustrations)

This is another netgalley title that I liked well enough. The images are bright and bold, but the rhyming scheme didn't do it for me. I did appreciate the many diverse characters that make their way into the book. 


Blues Journey by Walter Dean Myers & Christopher Myers

4 stars
Christopher Myers illustrations, painted in shades of blues and browns with hints of white and black, are what really make this book spectacular. Each of his paintings is accompanied by a blues verse written by Walter Dean Myers. Combined, they reflect the multiplicity of emotions and situations the blues embody. I especially appreciated the beginning section where Walter Dean Myers provides an explanation and history of the blues as a musical multicultural phenomena. At the end there is both a timeline that shows how blues became mainstream and a glossary of terms that helped me understand blues lyrics more thoroughly. This is a book I would love to get for our library. 

Dorothea's Eyes: Dorothea Lange Photographs the Truth by Barb Rosenstock & Gerard DuBois (Illustrations)

4 stars
Barb Rosenstock is fast becoming my favorite nonfiction fiction picture book writer. I loved reading this biography of Dorothea Lange. I knew that she was a photographer but that was all. Rosenstock's writing is poetic and powerful. Dubois' illustrations are reminiscent of old photographs. I appreciate how much more there is than just the stunning text and images. At the end of the book there is a collection of famous photographs, an after note, a bibliography and suggestions for if you want to read more. Finally there is a timeline that gives a perspective of Lange's life.

The Kid from Diamond Street: The Extraordinary Story of Baseball Legend Edith Houghton by Audrey Vernick & Steven Salerno (Illustrations)

4 stars
Edith Houghton was an amazing character. A girl born with a ball in her hand. A girl who played professional baseball at the age of 10 in the beginning of the 1920s. A girl who traveled all the way to Japan to play baseball when she was still a young teenager. I enjoyed reading this book and learning about her, but it merely scratches the surface of the history of women in baseball. It is a good start, but I want to know more! I want to know more about who supported her and challenges she had. I want to know more about the rest of the members of The Bobbies. I want to know more about other teams. I want to know more!


I'm listening to Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson. I cleaned out my bedroom enough to find my copy of The Boy Who Knew Everything by Victoria Forester, and am happily reading it. 


I have a couple of library books, Feathered by Deborah Kerbel and All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor, that I should probably get to if I can find time to read with my eyes. I'm not sure what my next audiobook will be. I have a few NetGalley titles, but I have till August 5 before they disappear.  I must get working on my #MustRead in 2016 list so I'm ready when Carrie Gelson announces it's time for an update. I've finished 22/36 and have one on the go now. 

SOL: Celebrating Student Authors

Much thanks to all the participants in SOL who inspire and encourage my own writing. Special appreciation to Two Writing teachers who host this weekly event. 

The best thing about being a teacher, is how much we learn from our students. This past year I've been working with six and seven year old student writers. Last week I managed to get their published stories posted. (It's a long story about how I couldn't upload their books to our school website, but that is another tale for another time) You can access the page with all their stories here. It has an introduction that tells a bit about how their books came together.

At the end of the week they read these stories to the rest of their classes. 

Their books are filled with beautiful phrases and lines. They created interesting compelling characters. There is humour, horror, adventure, compassion and the integration of classroom learning. Some are simple stories well told. Others have complicated plot twists and turns. Friendship, in its many iterations, is a repeated theme.

When we started, many of these darlings struggled just to get words onto paper. Reading them afterwards was nearly impossible. Watching them read their stories out loud to their peers now is a confirmation of how important our work is. They have all come a very long way. 

Here are a few excerpts. Clicking on the link will take you to the book saved as a google doc.

And Abigail was the youngest. She was 17 but still liked superheroes.
A Special Princess by Ellaina

Michael went to a peaceful lake. He got on his hands and knees and drank some water. Then the last small mind control feeling just exhaled out of his heart.
The Fist by Auden

But then his dream ended because he woke up, Harry was desperate to follow his dream. His parents had told him to always follow his dreams so Harry wanted to go back to sleep and finish his dream.
The Magic Feather by Kafira

They had lots of fun hopping around on the moon because there wasn't much gravity. They collected all kinds of moon rocks.
Space Men by Liam

Suddenly Amberley saw something in the distance. It was a troupe of monkeys. No longer was she in the rain forest. She was on an island. Right there in front of her with the other monkeys, was the monkey king.
The Lost Cat by Amber

Bob and Rex became best friends. Sometime they get mad and have fights. Sometimes they cry. But they always say sorry, and they are always best friends.
The Snowman by Julian

One day she unrolled her blinds and a huge boom of light came in. The witch was amazed so she went outside and found a little girl was running by. She said, "Hi, come into my house"

When Bertha got back home she went right to her room in a flash. She took off her bathrobe, put the squirrel on the table and got back to work. She got a sharp knife from the kitchen and cut the squirrel in half. Then the blood started pouring off onto the carpet. It stained so bright that it looked like raspberries. It made her feel weird and queasy.

Once upon a time there there lived a dragon. He wanted to break the castle. He whacked the castle with his tail and cracked the tower and it fell down. He took a deep breath and whooshed fire out of his mouth. The Castle burned down. Most of the people escaped and ran to the village. 

Some time in the next two weeks I will get together with the authors to celebrate their work with cake. I am so very proud of all of them.