Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Slice of Life - Graphic Memoirs Inspired by Slices of Life and Graphic Artists/Writers

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 students participated in the March Classroom Challenge.  It was such a rewarding experience for both my students and me.  That's not saying it wasn't difficult at times.  I know many of my students struggled, especially for writing ideas (which helped me know that I need to support them more with that next year), but it grew them as writers, gave them more confidence, and showed me their strengths and weaknesses.  Starting in April, I began a FAMILY/HOME literacy contract that featured text sets and a read aloud (The Crossover) around that theme topic, and a writing project on memoir.  I wanted to concentrate on the various memoir formats that are out there, so texts sets an included:
How I Discovered Poetry
Brown Girl Dreaming
Waiting to Waltz
Knock Knock: My Dad's Dream for Me
El Deafo
The Dumbest Idea Ever!
The Boy on the Wooden Box
Twelve Kinds of Ice
Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board
The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain
The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life
Year of the Jungle
     We talked a lot about how memoir is different from autobiography or personal narrative.  A memoir is usually a group of memories around a certain topic or time period as opposed to an account of birth through current time, and a memoir has the extra component of a reflective quality.  How does that memory(ies) help make the author who he/she is?  This is the hardest part for young writers!  The Slice of Life Challenge helped tremendously with this.  We tried writing more specific slices that focused on one memory instead of a whole account of the day or a vacation, and we wrote about more meaningful topics and not just a list of what happened that day or weekend.
     After reading, writing Slices, and talking about the qualities of memoir, students wrote their own.  They were given the freedom to write in any format they chose: poetry, graphic memoir, narrative, or multi-format.  Students chose a good smattering of formats.  At least one student tried each one. I want to share with you some graphic memoirs.  My students LOVE graphic novels, so it was no surprise that they loved the graphic memoirs.  A few wanted to try that out. All girls.   I love that Raina Telgemeier and Cece Bell are role models for this generation.  I don't think there is any discrepancy now between girls and boys and the love of the graphic novel/memoir.  If there were any stereotypes in the past (I only remember boys reading comics), there aren't now!
Sorry about the color quality - my printer ran out of some color, and I can't figure out which one.  The real copies are much prettier!!  I included a typed copy of each story since it's hard to read.

ME, TOO by Jaidyn

On the trip to Tennessee...
"Momma, my tooth hurts."
"You'll be fine.  We're almost there."
"Yook at my tooth!"
"Jaidyn can twist her tooth!"
"Ewww!  Please make her pull it out!"
"Don't worry.  We are here!"
Inside my Nana and Papa's house...
"My toof!  My toof!"
"Ohh!  Your tooth!  Let me take a look at it."
"Which one is it?"
"It's right...oh no!  It's not there anymore!  Where did it go?"
"It's all gone!  He already took it out!"
"Are you sure he took out the right one?"
"I am positive."
Late that day, after my daily shower...
"Are you all clean?"
"Did you dry off your hair?"
"Yes!  Well, maybe..."
"HERSHEY KISSES!  My favorite!"
A few minutes later...
A week had passed, and we left Nana and Papa's house for Ohio.  About a few months later, we arrived in Tennessee again.
August 16th, 2010...
Dear Papa,
I miss you so much!  Please come back!  I love you more than the world!  Love Jaidyn
"Why did he have to go, Momma? "
"I don't know sweetie."
"Buy Papa wouldn't want you to grieve over him, right?"
"Always remember sitting on his lap, and him feeding you your favorite candy."
"I will."
"You are a beautiful little girl."
"You know, when I was around Papa, I felt loved.  I'm glad that we kept his spirit alive and that love has not gone away."
"Do you miss papa?
"Every day."
"Me too.  Me too."
Every time I read this, tears pop into my eyes.  My favorite thing about this memoir are the panels with tears running down her and her mom's smiling faces.  Smiling through tears.  Beautiful.

THE PIPE by Paige

"Your room is a mess!  Clean it up now!"
"But Mom!
Hey! My old memory book.  How did it get in here?
X-Ray: Paige's leg is fractured.
I remember that!
(I love how she used this structure - she borrowed it from The Matchbox Diary.)

It all happened at my grandparents' house in the yard!

"Do you kids want to play a game?"

"Yes, yes, yes!"


"Paige, take the medium sized rake.  Ryan take the little one, and I'll take the big one."



"Ok! We're going to race with our rakes to the end of the yard!  The rakes will be behind us. Who ever gets to the end of the yard wins!  On your mark, get set, GO!"

"Yay!  I'm winning!"

"You guys can do it!"

"NO! I'm losing!"

"I'm almost there!"



"OW! My leg!"

"Let me see!"

"I think it's broken!"

Scott is my dad.

"I'll be right over!"

"Scott, please come over right away!  I think Paige's leg is hurt really bad!"

10 minutes later...

"Let me see."

"Daddy, it really hurts!"

"You'll be fine.  Let's get your brother and go home."

"But Daddy, I need to go to the doctor!"

The next morning...


"What's wrong?"

"It's my leg!  I can't wait - it hurts so bad!"

"Ok, we're going to the doctor!"

"Here we are."

"I will get you with the doctor right away.  Please take a seat."

"Ok.  Thank you."

"We are ready to take you now."

"Please lie down on the table."

"Please hold still while the machine takes a picture of your leg."

5 minutes later...

"We have the results of the x-ray.  Paige's leg is fractured.  That means you cracked your bones."

"Will she be ok?"

"She will be fine.  Just try not to put any pressure on it for awhile."

On the car ride home...

"Paige, I'm so sorry for not believing you on your leg."

"It's ok, Dad, I love you."

"I love you too!"

At my grandparents house

"Stupid pipe!"


"Be careful!"

"Let me help you stand."

"What happened to the pipe?"

"I cut it out of the ground so nobody, including you, gets hurt again."

"I love you, Grandpa!"

"Hey Paige, do you want to get something for lunch?"


"I was just reading about the time I broke my leg."

"I am still very sorry that I didn't take you to the doctor right away."

"Actually, you made me a much braver person in life.  I love you so much and thank you for always being there for me."

"I love you too!"

I love how Paige told a lot of the story through facial expressions!



 My parents say I was a happy kid.
Maybe it came slow...
Or it might have just poured in, all at once.
Now I'm doing all I can to get out of this miserable state.
Gymnastics, school/homework/friends - My worry list
5th grade...
2 gifted classes...4 teachers...Lots of homework!
I know I don't have much homework, but it's hard with 17hours of gymnastics a week!  I wish I could be free...
But then I feel guilty...sigh...
What was I supposed to do?  I was STUCK!
My mom had some ideas...
"_______, I'm taking you to the therapist on Thursday!"
That Thursday...
"Hello, _______, call me Linda!"
But then it got better.
"What would happen if you NEVER did this?"
"Nothing, I guess."
The therapist helped, but I'm still at battle.
Now I'm taking a 3 week break from gymnastics.  Just to see how I like it.
But the universe found its way of getting me ANYWAY.
My friends were mean...
"She kicked me out of my own seat, just so she could sit next to ____________!  I had to sit on the floor!"
I had never felt so alone.
I'm not going to name the people who were mean, though.  School was going down also.
SS Text 83%  Science test 90%  Ugh...
Should I quit gymnastics?  I'm doing horrible in school!  I need to calm down!
Then something happened that changed my life.
I agree we should call her DARCY.
We got a PUPPY!
She waited for me to get home.  She CHANGED my life!
When I'm nervous, I go to our puppy.  She helps me calm down.
My sisters were a big help.  When I was down, they asked me to come play.  SISTERS.  I really loved them even though we sometimes fought.
Crafts make me happy.  I want to live my life more...moment by moment, and I just want to have FUN.
I want to feel less alone.  I want to be original.
I want to explore.  To be on adventures.
Deep inside I know I truly can do it.  I can stay strong.  I can't wait to take my place on the Earth.
I am improving.  I'm doin' good!
I am ___________ and  there is ONE THING I KNOW FOR SURE.
So powerful and honest. 
I enjoyed seeing how these authors/illustrators used what they learned from the mentor graphic memoirs and incorporated those techniques in their own writing and illustrations.  Each one has a reflective quality, so they got the concept that memoir is supposed to help make sense of the world and themselves.  I loved the energy, emotion, and expression in each one.  Thank you, Raina, Cece, and Jimmy, for giving us wonderful examples of quality graphic memoirs so my students could learn from you!



Monday, June 29, 2015

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.
Stick and Stone
Clever word play in this simple book about Stick and Stone becoming friends. Even Pinecone learns a thing or two about friendship.
The answers to the question Ms. Montebello asks her students in the art museum, "Why do you think this is in the museum?" remind me of  Mem Fox's Winifrid Gordon McDonald Partridge and the answers to the question, "What is a memory?"  This book explores the definition of art and what qualifies as art.  The young boy in the story is sure he has the perfect masterpiece!
The War that Saved My Life
I like what she says about her setting decision - would be great to show kids so you can talk about how setting influences the plot. 
I listened to this wonderful WWII story about Ada, a young girl born with a club foot that was never fixed, an abusive mother, and a playful younger brother, Jamie. She is held a prisoner in the flat because her mother is ashamed of her disability. It is torture for her when Jamie leaves her to play with friends outside. She endures terrible abuse at the hands of her mother such as being locked in a roach-infested cabinet all night when her mother feels Ada's done something wrong. When London is in danger of being bombed, children are evacuated from the city (like the children at the beginning of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe). Ada's mother plans on sending Jamie into the countryside, but not Ada; therefore, Ada takes matters into her own hands and escapes with Jamie. They are taken in by Susan, a recluse who doesn't want them, but is forced to by the woman in charge of the evacuees when no one else wants the bedraggled children. What ensues is a journey of the heart - Ada must deal with emotions that overwhelm her - doubt, anger, sorrow, etc., as she learns to love and be loved. Susan has her own demons to face, and together they work through many emotions.  It isn't often that you are met with perfect endings, but this one has one. Loved it and can't wait to book talk it to my fifth graders in the fall! Perfect JOURNEY or FEAR book for my literacy contracts.
Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer
This book made me chuckle all the way through - it's so entertaining! Told in multiple formats and genres, Sofie's story about inheriting chickens with superpowers will be a favorite in my classroom. Henrietta's expressions throughout the story cracked me up - she is one cranky chicken! I appreciated the multicultural aspect of the book - it's understated, but there, and will help kids think about how stereotypes, while sometimes unintentional, are damaging.
The Hunted (The Living #2) Mark of the Thief (Mark of the Thief, #1)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Spiritual Journey Thursday - Your story, God's story

     I look forward to Thursdays when I can publish thoughts on my spiritual journey and hear the thoughts of others on a weekly theme topic.  It has become a space for an encouraging and fortifying community to come together.  We welcome anyone who would like to join us!
This week's theme topic is YOUR STORY, GOD'S STORY.
     I chose this theme this week because I'm co-leading an upcoming online class through our church, Lebanon Presbyterian, with a friend, Nina, on the book, Epic: The Story God is Telling.  I'm really excited about it because it's the first time the Adult Education Committee on which I serve will be trying a virtual class.  We thought summer would be a great opportunity for one since a lot of people have a hard time committing to our summer classes due to travel plans.  If anyone in the Spiritual Journey community would like to join us, you are welcome!  I've started a separate blog for it, which will "go live" this Sunday; all you need is the book, which is on Amazon for $2.99!  Watch for the link to the class blog on my Facebook page and Twitter.
     I've written about Epic before on SJT here.  In that blog post, I focused on the theme topic, the ADVENTURE OF STORY because it was Libby's OLW.   It was part of my March Slice of Life Challenge about What I Know for Sure.  In that blog post and on Goodreads, I included my favorite passage from John Eldredge's book, which is all about God's narrative, and our part in it:
"Jack will come to rescue Rose. William Wallace will rise up to rescue Scotland. Luke Skywalker will rescue the princess and then the free peoples of the universe. Nemo's father rescues him. Nathaniel rescues beautiful Cora - not just once, but twice. Neo breaks the power of the Matrix and sets a captive world free. Aslan comes to rescue Narnia. I could name a thousand more. Why does every great story have a rescue? Because yours does." 
     We certainly do need a rescuer.  We are flawed, broken, and desperate for a Savior.  I can't imagine life without one.  One of the things I love about getting older is the confidence that comes with knowing I am part of a bigger story.  I'm not saying I never worry or get anxious and upset about things, but I am definitely aware that all things work out for good, and there is an Author who is writing a great masterpiece.  I have a part in it.  Countless times I've looked back on my life after something "went wrong," seeing that it eventually turned out right.  I'm enjoying watching my daughters realize the same thing.  To know that life isn't just random, chaotic, or careless makes it so much more joyful. 
     Because of the church class, I'm going to be taking a break from Spiritual Journey Thursdays on this blog for a while.  I'll be back here in August, so watch for it and store up your spiritual stories!  In the meantime, I know you're all in good hands with the Master Storyteller.
Facebook post by Ann Voskamp - read her blog post, Stay in the Story

Monday, June 22, 2015

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.
I haven't posted in a month, so I'm catching up!!  I would normally read a lot more in a month, but my life has been CRAZY busy lately!

I love the thick pages and muted colors of this book about all types of homes. Gorgeous, sometimes whimsical (Atlantian homes, hollow tree homes, sea homes, and a Moonian home), illustrations accompany spare text. I could see this as being a great addition to my HOME/FAMILY unit and having kids not only describe and illustrate their own homes, but imagine someone's else's home, also. This book reminds me a little of Ted Kooser and Jon Klassen's House Held Up By Trees.

The power of the pen! Whether it be writing, art, or any other creative expression, this book encourages readers to make something and let their imagination soar. Beautiful pen and ink illustrations.
2015-book, animals, bookaday2015, family, humor, kindness, mock-caldecott-2016

What a winning combination - Philip C. Stead and Matthew Cordell!! Stead's sweet and humorous story about Sadie sending "mail" to Great-Aunt Josephine to keep her company is made even sweeter and funnier by Cordell's energetic, quirky illustrations. I love the endearing quality of Cordell's work - I'm a big fan! Embedded in this story are the values of kindness, kept promises, and dedication to family.
So cute! Deborah Freedman is able to capture expression, personality, and friendship so perfectly in her words and illustrations. This would be the perfect book to teach collaboration, creativity, cooperation, conflict and resolution, and character traits. Love it!

Yard Sale
Yard Sale by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Lauren Castillo
2015-book, bookaday2015, family, home, love, mock-caldecott-2016, moving, picture-book

This one really tugged at my heartstrings. Eve Bunting and Lauren Castillo capture a young girl's heartbreak at having to move and sell things that are important to her, but realizing it's family that really matters.
Wolfie the Bunny
Adorable. Hilarious. Sweet. Kids will LOVE this one.  Dot will especially make them laugh.
Last Stop on Market Street
"He wondered how his nana always found beautiful where he never even thought to look." This is a beautiful story of a grandmother teaching her grandson about beauty, social responsibility, and appreciating life. CJ's and his grandmother's differences in perspective throughout the book until the end reminded me of Lauren Castillo's Nana in the City. Loved the illustrations, also - the city's people are full of diversity. CJ's grandmother helps him learn to appreciate the differences. The spotted dog is adorable.
Mosquitoland by David Arnold
“When you were born, you cried while the world rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die, the world cries while you rejoice.” I listened to this one, and now I'd like to go back and read the print version. I loved Mim's acidic but lovable, humorous, and smart voice. This is a journey story, and the characters reminded me a lot of John Green's characters. Mim meets good, quirky characters along the way. I thought Arnold captured the complications of mental illness and medication well. I enjoyed this story, and I think teens will love it. I'm watching this one as a strong Printz contender.
  Bone Gap
I wanted to like this book so badly because of the Nerdy Book Club love, but instead, I thought it was creepy and disturbing. A creepy and disturbing book doesn't always turn me off, but this one left me feeling uneasy and icky and would hesitate to give it to a teen - at least, a young teen. With that being said, I recognize the excellent writing and thought the exploration of Finn's disability (to name it would be a spoiler) was fascinating. I also thought the story brought up interesting aspects of what beauty is and how people view anomalies. Furthermore, Roza and Petey are characters that make excellent book club discussions. When I read the acknowledgments, I had to chuckle at Franny Billingsley's "I want more magic" feedback. I think that's exactly what I wanted less of - I'm clearly in the minority though!

I was really looking forward to reading another book by Water for Elephants author, Sara Gruen. I LOVED Water for Elephants! I was a little disappointed by this one, though. There seemed to be many comparisons with The Great Gatsby (which was not the problem - I loved The Great Gatsby)- the inane wealthy lives, the threesome (I even thought of You, Me, and Dupree), the betrayals, etc. Lots of dysfunction and family feuds. Those can all be parts of a great story, but overall, it fell flat for me. There wasn't one character I liked or cheered on. I did like the idea of hunting for the Loch Ness Monster, but there wasn't a whole lot about that. It'll be interesting to talk about it at book club. I'll be interested to see what others have to say about it.
God's Story, Your Story: When His Becomes Yours
I read this book because I'll be co-teaching an upcoming online class at my church on John Eldredge's book, Epic: The Story God is Telling. They are excellent companion books, and both authors urge us to take a look at our own story within God's larger story. We are a part of His story, and He is a part of ours. It gives one a great sense of purpose and meaning. I was very touched by the ending of this one - Lucado's graduation analogy.

   The War that Saved My Life
Off to read what YOU read this week!