Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Nonfiction Wednesday

I'm excited that Alyson Beecher, at Kid Lit Frenzy, is continuing her Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge for the third year in a row.
Water Can Be...
Read the archives of the #SharpSchu Book Club Twitter chat over Salas's books.
I loved A Leaf Can Be..., so I was excited when this new book came out.  It's so simple, yet so beautiful. Gorgeous illustrations accompany descriptions of water. Favorites: "Valley cloaker," "Rainbow jeweler," "Eagle flyway." Great information in the back.  I'll be sharing this book with my class as a mentor text for creative nonfiction.
Grandfather Gandhi
I read this from the library, but I'll be purchasing my own copy. I don't think my students know much about Gandhi.   Kids need to hear this story and think about its significance. Even though Gandhi is an historical figure, his message is timely: "Arun, we can all work to use our anger, instead of letting it use us." He taught his grandson that peace is not the absence of anger, it is the illumination of it. "It can turn darkness into light." Turk's illustrations are stunning - they capture the deep spirituality, power, and emotions that Gandhi embodied. I venture to say we'd all feel like Arun did in his presence - inadequate and restless; however, Gandhi speaks to all of us. We're human, and anger is a part of our existence. It's what we do with it that counts. Use it to correct what's wrong in the world instead of succumbing to its darkness.
What nonfiction have YOU read this week?

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Slice of Life - Jewelry Journey

I love participating in Slice of Life, started by Two Writing Teachers and writing a story, reflection, or musing at least once a week.

      My journey with jewelry began in high school.   I started to wear big, bold earrings, chunky necklaces, and clunky bracelets.  I can remember a classmate of mine sitting behind me in Algebra II flicking my dangly earrings.  I'm sure it would have gotten on my nerves had he not been really cute! ;-) 

     Of course, one of my most precious pieces of jewelry is my wedding ring.  Ed proposed to me in a most romantic way that only alumni or current students of Miami University would understand - under the Upham Arches.  We were married in 1989, and I remember how that marriage was sealed when he slipped the wedding band on next to the engagement ring.    In 2006, that ring set, which was beautiful and chosen by him and his father, broke.  He redesigned it for me, using the original diamonds, and said I could only have it if he gave it to me under the Upham Arches again - twist my arm! Unlike the first time, my girls were there!

    When I was a teacher in the 90s, I fell prey to the themed jumpers and had earrings to match (cows for my farm jumper, Santa Claus teddy bears for my Christmas jumper, ABCs for my school jumper - you get the picture).  There was also the jewelry-making phase.  I had multiple kits - the tiny pliers, beads, cords, earring backs, etc.   Here you go, Leigh Anne:
                                A Christmas jumper!  Unfortunately, I didn't have my Santa Clause earrings in, but I have on a handmade angel pin!
     Another phase I went through was with Brighton.  My girlfriends and I take a girls' trip every summer.  We started this tradition when I lived in Pittsburgh.  We'd go to Nemacolin Woodland Resort, and there was little shop there that carried Brighton.  We all loved it and started buying a piece every time we went.  We also asked for it on birthdays, Mother's Day, and Christmases!  We even won a picture contest one year with them because I sent a picture in of Karan and me wearing lots of it.  Brighton sent us a $200 gift certificate!
     My aunts and cousin were also jewelry fans.  My aunts always wore stylish, artsy necklaces.  My cousin, Erika, started a website called The Sparrow's Nest Studio in which her handmade jewelry's proceeds go to help combat human trafficking.  My friend, Karan, also makes jewelry.  She used to sell it on Etsy, but has concentrated on her pottery, so no longer does that.  We get the benefit of her artistic pieces, though, as gifts!
     The jewelry journey roommate from college, who is still one of my best friends, decided to sell Silpada several years ago, and I immediately jumped on the bandwagon.  I loved Silpada jewelry and had a lot of fun holding home parties and collecting many of their pieces.  I stopped having parties because of the extra time it took, but I still enjoy layering the jewelry I got and adding new pieces every once in a while.  Annie once invited me to a fused glass blowing workshop in Pittsburgh.  We had fun with that - we made a few of the more successful pieces into jewelry.  For her 40th birthday, her talented artist friends and fellow jewelry enthusiasts made her an amazing necklace of words we sent in that describe Annie.  It was beautiful!
     This brings me to my newest interest.  For Christmas, a sixth grade student gave me this bangle:

     I liked it so much, I looked up the website of the company that made it, Alex and Ani.  I had never heard of it before, and I was instantly hooked on the company's positive message. Charity is a big part of its mission.  The first video is the company's story, and the other two are about its charity missions.  I included Living Water International, specifically, because water charities are something I've been involved with lately.
     See why I'm becoming a fan of Alex and Ani jewelry?  When my family and I were in St. Kitts, I decided I wanted to buy another bangle and begin a collection.  I chose this sailboat one since it had to do with water, and we were visiting an island.  When I told my mom about it, she was intrigued, and looked it up.  She discovered its meaning.  It goes right along with my OLW this year:  JOURNEY!  I love it!  The jewelry journey continues...

A sailboat symbolizes peace in times of change. Representing courage through transitional times, sailboats also symbolize the breath of the Holy Spirit. Wear the sailboat to celebrate the adventurous spirit that keeps you moving.  
*I'm adding this as an after-thought:  I thought of another jewelry journey from the 80s!  I had a very preppy best friend in high school who I loved and still keep in touch with on Facebook.  She was the quintessential prep, and I tried to emulate her style.  Penny loafers, Keds, Izod, Laura Ashley, Sperry, Talbots,  and Ralph Lauren - you name it.  Argyle crew-necks, pink sweaters tied around the neck over a polo with pop up collars, the whole works. I LOVED her style.  She had an Add-a-Bead necklace - remember those?  Of course, I had to follow suit!

Monday, April 28, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

These are memes started by Teach Mentor Texts and Book Journey, and I'm excited to participate, along with many other bloggers, in reviewing books I read the previous week. I'll be reviewing picture books through adult books. 
Miss Maple's Seeds
I thought this book was charming. I loved pouring over the illustrations - they're beautiful and magical. Great book to use for building students' understanding of metaphor and theme.
Breathe: with audio recording
I loved the striking illustrations in this book about a baby Beluga's journey, and the message from his mother to enjoy life and all its wonders. I smiled all the way through it. It would make a great, calming bedtime book for a child.
Listen to an excerpt here.
I'm embarrassed to say I've never read Matilda. I don't how I had such a glaring reading gap, but now it's fixed! I made sure I got the audio narrated by Kate Winslet because it won the Odyssey this year. Oh my goodness - it is BRILLIANT! The story is, of course, hilarious and wonderful, and it's hard to improve upon Roald Dahl, but I can't recommend Winslet's interpretation enough. Her voices for The Trunchbull and the parents make you laugh aloud, and Matilda and Miss Honey's voices break your heart. Just wonderful. Don't miss this new audio!! New item on my bucket list? To see Matilda: the Musical on Broadway!!
I feel so blessed to have become friends with Margaret Simon through the Slice of Life community. She graciously sent me her beautiful young adult/middle grade novel, Blessen. Right away I fell in love with young Blessen, a girl who is trying to figure out her identity, resolve feelings of guilt, and find her way in the world. The sense of place is so strong that the setting becomes a character - the hot and steamy southern Louisiana, Margaret's own state. I was hooked immediately when I found out one of Blessen's dear friends was a chicken, Blue! Blessen experiences loss and discovery throughout the novel, all of which help her blossom and realize how strong love is, and its power over death. Blessen will stay with me for a long time. Thank you, Margaret!
The Summer of Letting Go
I LOVED The Pull of Gravity, so I was excited when all the buzz started about her new book.  It did not disappoint!  I was completely absorbed in this lyrical story about redemption, growing up, loss, and love. The premise and tone reminded me of a Jodi Picoult book - the mystery was compelling, and the characters captivating. Lots of exploration of family dynamics, spirituality, the complications of friendships, angst, guilt, and forgiveness. Very well done! I'm recommending it to my high school daughter!
The Selection (The Selection, #1)
I enjoyed listening to this dystopia meets "The Bachelor" story.  The narrator's voice fits America Singer perfectly.  I'll be continuing the series.
The Riverman
Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie
My family loves to read, too!  Here is what they are currently reading:
My husband, Ed:
My Father's Secret War: A Memoir
My daughter, Libby (21):
Thinking, Fast and Slow
My daughter, Katie (18):
The Longest Ride
My mom:
The Personal History of Rachel DuPree
My dad:
Journey to Utah
What are YOU reading this week?

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Celebration Saturday

Discover. Play. Build.

 I'm so happy that Ruth Ayres started a Celebrate Link-Up on her blog!!!  I will be joining the celebration every Saturday!!
So much to celebrate!  I haven't blogged much lately, and I've missed it.  If I stay away from Twitter and the blog community for too long, I start to feel a little sad.  That's something to celebrate - feeling connected to this amazing community!
It was wonderful celebrating Easter!  We have this beautiful display of The Last Supper at our church that a few of our members made, and it gives me chills when they put it up during Lent.

I teach a Spiritual Gifts class at my church in which participants discover the gifts the Holy Spirit graced them with, and two of the gifts are gloriously displayed here - Craftsmanship and Creative Communications!  I celebrate when people use their spiritual gifts to glorify God!
On Easter weekend, we went to The Villages in Florida where my parents-in-law live.  If you've never heard of The Villages, you're missing out!  We call it Disney World for seniors. :-)  There are themed town squares, over a thousand clubs, tons of pools, golf courses, bocce ball, tennis, and shuffleboard courts, speeding biking seniors in full spandex, walkers, runners, shops, and I could go on and on.  My in-laws LOVE it there!  WE love it there! It's worth watching this video:
One of the most entertaining features is that everyone owns golf carts and drives them, not only to golf, but to grocery stores, friends' houses, the pool, etc.  Some of them are souped-up!  We had fun looking around a golf cart shop. 
                                               Libby and Katie picked out their sister carts!
 We tried to convince Ed's sister and brother-in-law to buy one since they
recently bought a house in The Villages, but to no avail.

We attended lovely Easter services my in-laws' Lutheran church on Sunday.   Despite the clouds and rainy weather, we had a great weekend.

2.  We had our book club on Tuesday.  We had missed two months, so we were definitely ready to meet!  I've met with this book club of five for several years now.  We meet once a month at various restaurants and have read LOTS of books together!  We were very proud to have read this year's Pulitzer Prize winner, Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch, not too long ago.  When we get together, we talk about our chosen book, of course, but we also talk about our families, jobs, travels, hobbies, and pets.  One of our book club members, Cheryl, always entertains us with her chicken, alpaca, duck, and dog stories.  I'm grateful for that group!

3.  We had a spirit week at school this past week to gear up for testing.  Thursday was "Beach Day."  I HAD to celebrate one of my students.  Need I say more?

4.  Another student had her own celebration when she brought in a reply letter from Jennifer Nielsen!!  Gabby LOVED the Ascendance Trilogy and wanted me to mail a letter she had written for Jennifer.  It didn't take her very long to get a fantastic reply.  Want more to celebrate?  A movie is being made of The False Prince, and she's coming out with another series in the fall!  Woo-hoo!
5.  Margaret Simon sent me her beautiful middle grade/young adult novel, Blessen, and I fell in love with the sweet protagonist she created.  Margaret and I got to know each other through our blogs and participating in the Slice of Life meme at Two Writing Teachers.  I celebrate that friendship and how much Margaret inspires me!
I'm so happy it's a beautiful day since it's Katie's senior prom day!  Off to read YOUR celebrations!  Have a great weekend!


Sunday, April 20, 2014

If Not For Franki

     Mary Lee Hahn is hosting a fantastic link-up to celebrate Franki Sibberson's 50th birthday (first of all, HOW can she be 50?!  She makes 50 the new 35!)  What a great idea, Mary Lee, and after reading other tributes to her, you realize what a force she is in the field of literacy education.  

     I first attended a Franki workshop at a Lakota Literacy or Dublin Literacy conference many years ago.  I had read Still Learning to Read and Beyond Leveled Books, and I was excited to meet the author of these great books.  Attending a workshop led by Franki is a tornado of information.  She has so many ideas and so much knowledge.  The word that comes to mind when Franki is involved is THINKING. It's her mantra.  I was mesmerized by her energy.  That conference was the first I ever heard of Goodreads and Mr. Schu.  It was a pivotal point in my career and reading life.  I stopped her at one point in the conference to nervously ask her to sign my book.  I felt like I was asking a rock star for her autograph.  She was so friendly and graciously stopped to indulge me.

     Fast forward several years.  I had been on Twitter for a while (because of Franki) and participated in some chats in which Franki contributed.  She had responded to me a couple times - ME - I was so excited.  At a Dublin Literacy Conference, I conjured up the nerve to walk up to her and introduce myself.  She smiled broadly, exclaimed, "Holly!" and gave me hug.  WHAT?!  Franki Sibberson knew my name and hugged me?!  Unbelievable.  I felt like I had entered hallowed territory.  It was so exciting.  Since then, I've asked her for advice over writing a book, contributing to Choice Literacy, writing proposals for presentations, and asked teaching questions.  She ALWAYS responds with grace, wisdom, and encouragement.

     At the NCTE Annual Convention in November, I felt like the luckiest person in the world.  I was seated next to Donalyn Miller and across from Franki Sibberson and Jen Vincent at a Choice Literacy dinner.  How did that happen?!  We laughed and laughed at that table.  That's what is so wonderful about Franki.  She's so respected and valued in the eduation world, but she is so funny and so real at the same time.  I felt like I had hit the jackpot that night.

     So thank you, Franki, for your gracious spirit and encouraging heart, your wisdom and knowledge, and your honesty and humor.  If not for you, I know I wouldn't be as passionate about teaching.  You've changed the course of my career, and I will always be thankful for that.  I hope I have many opportunities to get to know you better.  Happy birthday!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Slice of Life - "We Become What We Pay Attention To" - Sue Monk Kidd

I love participating in Slice of Life, started by Two Writing Teachers and writing a story, reflection, or musing at least once a week.
I think I'm finally ready to move on from writing mini memoirs.  The March SOLSC took me that direction, and I really enjoyed looking back on my childhood.  I may revisit that genre now and then, though. 
Over spring break, I read The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd and loved it.  I read the Kindle version since it was part of Oprah's Book Club 2.0.  When I got home, I ordered the hard copy because it's one I want on my bookshelf to lend out and reread.
The Invention of Wings
On Sunday, I watched "Super Soul Sunday" on OWN to see Oprah's interview with Sue Monk Kidd, and one part of the show struck me.  Oprah and Sue started talking about prayer and what it means to pray, and then Sue said, "We become what we pay attention to." 

We become what we pay attention to.  What does that mean for me in my life?  What do I pay attention to?  Do I put feet to my prayers?  Am I fully present?  How does that translate to my walk with God,  my writing and reading, my teaching, my time with my family and friends?  For this slice, I'm going to think about teaching.
Testing at my school is right around the corner, and I know we have to pay attention to that.  But when I think back over the last couple years, some of the best of my entire teaching career, I know I've been paying attention to things much bigger than what the state thinks of my students (and me).  I've been paying attention to what my students want to read, write, and talk about. I've been paying attention to how they talk to each other about books and life.  I've been paying attention to what they want to hear read aloud, what authors have to say to them, and their stories.  Because of the social media, blogging, and conference communities I belong to, I've been paying attention to positive and passionate educators, ones who read and write along with their students, think innovatively, and who love what they do.  Through the same avenues, I've been  paying attention to authors and illustrators who enrich our lives and encourage us to tell our stories. I've been paying attention to how to solve problems instead of make them.  I've been paying attention to how I can contribute to the field of education and what I can learn from others.  I've been paying attention to celebrations.  I've been paying attention to what I want to become.
What have you been paying attention to?  There are so many things that vie for our attention.  It is so tempting to complain, to become complacent, to feel defeated.  To worry.  To be afraid.  To doubt.  I venture to say we all lose focus sometimes and pay attention to those negative things, but we don't want to become these things.  Let's pay attention to what matters and become who we want to be.

Monday, April 14, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

These are memes started by Teach Mentor Texts and Book Journey, and I'm excited to participate, along with many other bloggers, in reviewing books I read the previous week. I'll be reviewing picture books through adult books. 

Sparky! by Jenny Offill and Chris Appelhans
Aw, I LOVED this book! I was laughing the whole way through and then loved the sweet ending. The illustrations are hilarious and have a Jon Klassen quality (I wrote this before listening to Appelhans's podcast - see link above) in which he talks about Klassen). Love the thick pages and sepia tones. And I love Sparky. I now want a pet sloth. Pair this up with A Little Book of Sloth.
Firefly July and Other Very Short Poems
Melissa Sweet never disappoints. This beautifully illustrated book of poems compiled by Paul Janeczko and arranged around the seasons is a must have for the classroom library! Some of my favorite poems like "The Red Wheelbarrow" and "Fog" are given new life. It's amazing that Janeczko is the anthologist of almost fifty collections and Stewart has illustrated almost 100 books. What a team!
Aviary Wonders Inc. Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual
This a strange but intriguing book that makes an environmental point about what might happen if we allow birds to go extinct. The illustrations manage to be beautiful and disturbing at the same time. I look forward to more by this new picture book author/illustrator.
Moxie and the Art of Rule Breaking: A 14 Day Mystery
art, audio-book, grandparents, intermediate-kids-book, mystery, young-adult-book

I listened to this entertaining mystery, and I loved the narrator's Boston accent. The spunky main character had me rooting for her the whole time, and I thought Dionne's characterization of Grumps was excellent. The way Moxie treated her grandfather's Alzheimer's was touching, and I enjoyed hers and Ollie's friendship. The real life art heist is intriguing - be sure to listen to/read the author's note at the end. This reminded me of Balliett's Chasing Vermeer and Messner's Silver Jaguar Society mysteries.  I'm reading aloud to one of my 6th grade classes.
Grasshopper Jungle


This one was tough for me to decide how to rate/review. I completely understand and appreciate the brilliance of this writer, the raw and honest way he writes, and the ground-breaking storytelling, but it was not my cup of tea. It was gross and disturbing, and I had a hard time liking any of the characters.  I debated abandoning it, but I had to find out how it ended (I guess that tells you that it IS compelling). Many Nerdy Book Club folks wrote excellent reviews, and I respect their love of this book.  I don't want to take anything away from Andrew Smith's talent. He has a ton of fans, and I know there are teens out there who would love this book, but it was not for me.
The Selection (The Selection, #1)
The Summer of Letting Go
Come back later today to see Spin Cams of what my classes are reading!  I forgot to take them on Friday.
My family loves to read, too!
 Libby (21 yrs. old)

Thinking, Fast and Slow

Katie (18) is in the middle of a "Grey's Anatomy" marathon - season 7. ;-)


The Art of Hearing Heartbeats


Death Rides a Chestnut Mare (Danny Duggin, #1)

My husband, Ed

Kill Shot (Mitch Rapp, #2)

What are YOU reading this week?