Sunday, June 26, 2016

BOOK SCAVENGER- Jennifer Chambliss Bertman

Between classes and grandmothering, I'm not getting very much reading done this summer (unless you count VEGETABLES IN UNDERWEAR, my granddaughter's current favorite book, which I have read at least 47 times in the past five days). This week I finally finished Jennifer Chambliss Bertman's BOOK SCAVENGER, one of my first novels of the summer.

A quick plot summary (I have to finish before my granddaughter gets up for the day): Emily's parent have a goal- they want to live in all fifty states. Consequently, the family moves about once a year, making it hard for Emily to make many close face-to-face friends. She is a reader, who participates in an online game called the BOOK SCAVENGER. The premise of the game is that participants hide books, leave clues on an online site, and other readers try to find the books. Participants get points for hiding books and also for finding books. The goal, similar to many other video games is to move through levels named after famous mystery writers, e.g. Edgar Allan Poe.

When the book opens, Emily and her family are moving to San Francisco, home of Garrison Griswold, the creator of the BOOK SCAVENGER. Griswold has just announced a new game/contest, his biggest ever, and Emily is looking forward to participating. Before the contest can start, Griswold is seriously injured in an attack in a BART station, and winds up in the hospital. It looks like the game may never start, until Emily and her new friend, James, find the first clue, then must outwit Griswold's attackers to solve the contest.

This book is fun on a lot of levels. All of the clues are based on different types of secret codes, so the reader is exposed to lots of different kinds of codes. (I'm drawn back to a summer when I was in third or fourth grade and spent hours creating secret messages, based on a 75 cent Scholastic book of codes, which I loved). I think kids who liked the LEMONCELLO LIBRARY series will love this book. There's also a really nice making friends/solving problems with friends/keeping friends element woven in.

And one more cool thing, there is an actual BOOK SCAVENGER game readers can play.

The BOOK SCAVENGER is a series, with the second book scheduled to come out next Spring.

Thursday, June 16, 2016


Welcome to Poetry Friday!   

When I went looking for comfort this week, I stumbled across J. Patrick Lewis and George Ella Lyon's book, VOICES FROM THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON. The book, a collection of voices, real and imagined,  from the March on Washington, in July, 1963 resonated with me. 

FOR ALL, 1963

If you contend the noblest end
of all is human rights, amend
the laws: The beauty of the sun
is that it shines on everyone.

J. Patrick Lewis and George Ella Lyon

Mama said,
"The one 
who stands out
is the one 
who dies."

Daddy said,
"Might as well 
try on
a noose 
for size."

My brother said,
of your future!
to your place."

My sister said,
I'll go 
with you,

J. Patrick Lewis and George Ella Lyon

I am not the you of you
And you are not the me of me
But we're here in solidarity--
Brothers, sisters: one   (one  one  one)
Brothers, sisters: One.

We live in different colored skin,
Kin to different colored kin
But it's one march we're marching in
For freedom to be won   (won  won  won)
Brothers, sisters: One.

One country gave us birth.
One birthright gives us worth.
We must stand equal on the earth
For justice to be done (done  done)
For freedom to be won   (won  won  won)
Brothers, sisters: One.

J. Patrick Lewis and George Ella Lyon

Aki Kimura, 46
San Jose, California

I'm neither black nor white but it's my March
too. My March because in Los Angeles
in the spring of 1942, I walked out of
an art class, out of my life, and onto
a bus, bound for internment
camp with all my family.
threat was how
they saw us:
about half
the number
who fill this
mile-long Mall.
Listen. Our country
takes very wrong turns
and counts on you and me
to set it right. In most countries
citizens can't do that, but here it's 
our job-- to steer toward justice together. 

J. Patrick Lewis and George Ella Lyon

This week, may we all steer toward justice together.

Leave your links in the comments and I will round them up the  old-fashioned way. I have comment moderation, so don't worry if you don't see your comment right away.  I'll do an early morning roundup, but then I have a class, so I probably won't get back until later on tomorrow night.

Some Early Posters:
  • Laura Shovan's debut novel in verse, THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY, came out in April, but this week she is featuring another brand new novel, THE LAST BOY AT ST. EDITH'S and a very silly gnome poem!
  • Brenda Harsham has a gorgeous floral photograph (I wish I was more of a botanist or gardener) and an original poem, "The Color of Teachers."
  • The very lucky Sally Murphy lives close enough that she can walk to where the Australiand Estuary meets the Indian Ocean to see dolphins! She has photographs, a video of surfing dolphins AND an original poem! 
  • Kathryn Appel introduced me to a whole new form of found poetry, Zentangle Poetry. She encourages people to check out another Zentangle poet, Miriam Paternoster. Definitely worth your time to watch her three minute video. 
  • Diane Mayr treats us to fairy poems by William Shakespeare at both Kurious Kitty and Random Noodling. There's a beautiful choral rendition of "Sing and Dance It Trippingly" at Random Noodling. 
  • Linda Baie is participating in the summer poem swap, hosted by Tabatha Yeatts. This week she received a very special poetry gift from Carol Varsalona. 
This Morning's Offerings…
  • Jama Rattigan invites us to a birthday party! She's celebrating Paul McCartney's 74th with songs, videos, and a recipe for a yummy cake that sounds absolutely scrumptious!
  • Matt Esenwine has come across many treasures, including four writing journals and an aqua blue typewriter, while helping his parents clear out his childhood home. Last week he shared "Ode to Toads," from his elementary years, this week it's "Ode to a Poem I'm Writing Because I Couldn't Think of Anything Else to Write About."
  • Gathering Books is continuing their theme, "Universal Republic of Childhood," with two poems from CHILDREN OF LONG AGO, by Lessie Jones Little (Eloise Greenfield's mother). Fats also includes two black and white photographs from Niki Boon's series on contemporary childhood without technology.  
  • At Books 4 Learning, you'll find a review for DANIEL FINDS A POEM, a new picture book that will be lovely for helping young children get started writing poetry. I read that book last week at Tattered Cover and considered using "finding poems" as the basis for today's Poetry Friday, before last weekend's events unfolded.
  • Earlier this week, Holly Thompson attended a poetry reading at Temple University Japan. Poet Chika Nagawa's work were mentors for Holly's "Loaded June," a delicate and haunting original poem that made me cry.
  • Holly Mordhorst is attempting to "leave dwarf orchard" and taste the tiniest bits of summer with images of watermelon boats, banana hammocks, broccoli trees, and "fireflies dragging the hush of evening up from the damp grass."
  • Tabatha Yeatts is celebrating Father's Day with Suzanne Rancourt's poem, "Whose Mouth Do I Speak With?" Don't miss the Vincent Carrella quote at the top of her post, such big truth in just a few words. 
  • We are sending lots of love, prayers, and good thoughts to Irene Latham, who recently lost her father.  Irene brings us the poetry of a fellow Alabaman, Tina Mozelle Braziel, and a giveaway of Tina's newly published chapbook. 
  • Laura Purdie Salas brings us a poem from Laura Shovan's THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY. I have definitely got to read this book and then pass it on to our new fifth grade teacher. EMERSON ELEMENTARY sounds like a perfect beginning of the year read aloud!
  • Poetry goddess and photographer extraordinaire, Mary Lee Hahn, has written a new poem, "by the lake at dusk." Does anyone besides me ever wonder how Mary Lee says so much with so few words?
  • I know some of you are not even out of school yet, but over at Enjoy and Embrace Learning, Mandy is already thinking about going back! She offers a terrific resource, Jane Yolen's WHAT TO DO WITH A BOX along with The Box Project, which she uses to teach children to collaborate. 

Late Afternoon Roundup…
  • It seems somehow ironic that I read Violet Nesdoly's original poem, "A little screed against project" today when I was sitting at a school district technology conference. The presenter had planned to start with a TED talk and couldn't get the sound to work on her computer!
  • Steven Withrow wrote today's original poem, "Close Combat," after reading that the fisher is one of the porcupine's only enemies. Be sure to listen to Steve read his poem aloud.
  • I  can't get Little Willow's blog to accept my comment, but if I could, I would tell her how much I love the line, "Nothing was greater there than the quality of robust love," in Walt Whitman's, "I Dreamed a Dream." A great companion to "Love is More Thicker Than Forget."
  • Kelsey Empfield is a new teacher, and it's hard, hard work. She captures that roller coaster of emotions beautifully in an original poem, "I Cried and Laughed." This post is the first in a series; we will look forward to reading more Kelsey!
  • This morning we were treated to Sally's poem and photographs about seeing dolphins on her morning walk, tonight I'm reading Catherine's poem, "A Bale of Turtles," along with a photograph of turtles by her house. Am I the only one who didn't know a group of turtles was a bale?
  • This seems like a good time to share Dori's post about Lane Smith's new book, THERE IS A TRIBE OF KIDS, because it also focuses on groups of things. Dori shares lots of extra goodies about the book at the end of her post. 
  • Margaret posted an original poem, "What Nature Knows," at Reflections on the Teche. It reminds me of Wendell Barry's "The Peace of Wild Things." And I learned another new word, mbuntu
  • Karen Edmisten's offering, "Some Glad Morning," by Joyce Sutphen is another lovely poem that makes me think of "The Peace of Wild Things." There is just something about poetry when the world is hard…
  • At Keep Your Feet, Amelia shared some Shakespeare from "As You Like It." I was surprised how much our eighth graders loved this play!
  • Tara has written a special "Where We're From," goodbye poem to her students. It made me cry! How blessed those kids are to have shared a year with our friend from New York! She also includes several "Where I'm From" poems by her students. 
  • At "A Word Edgewise," Linda Mitchell is also saying goodbye to her students, with an original reverso poem. Can't even tell you how much I admire people who can still write the last day of school, let alone write with a form. 
  • Donna Smith's brother had a really scary experience with a pit bull this week. This experience was the basis of Donna's original poem, "Dogs."
  • Joy apologizes for posting later, but reminds us that it's still early at her home in Hawaii! She has an original poem, "Logan Reads," that I could see our kindies and first graders personalizing when they come back in August.
  • Another late poster, Mollie Hogan, has a beautiful poem, "Bottle It Up," that makes me think of Denver in January or February! Perfect!
  • Ramona was sorting through her stacks of poems and found an Amy Ludwig Vanderwater poem that would be perfect for opening Poetry Friday. Listen to the first few lines: Let someone light/ the poem fire./Let all friends/gather here/passing poems/soul to soul/in voices/ bright and clear. Ramona says she wants to memorize this one. I do too!
  • Carol Varsalona is just back from a three day Ambassadors' retreat for Wonderopolis. She has an original poem, enhanced by one of her ever creative presentations. 
  • And finally, Sylvia Vardell blesses us with a lovely bibliography of summer poetry books. Can't wait to dig in!
Happy poeming! Here's to a peaceful week! 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016


So this girl?
Sweet E.
Veidy pronounced like Katie.
My grandbaby!
The one I didn't know I had until she was a year old.
In January, I went to Phoenix to meet her.
In March, I went back for part of my Spring Break.
And now she's coming here.
Next Tuesday night!
For three weeks.
And I'm so excited to see her.

I'm looking forward to walks to a close by splash pad.
The children's area at the Botanic Gardens.
The Zoo.
Time at the park.
Visits to a different park that my boys used to call the Train Park
because the Kiwanis Club has a little train that makes loops
through a model farm.
Reading book after book after book to my sweet girl.

But I have to tell you I'm a little worried.
My house is in its usual end of year state of disrepair.
Piles everywhere. Floors that need mopped. Bathrooms that need scrubbed.
My son has lots of advice.
He says our dog needs a bath.
And I had better plan on getting that done
before his daughter comes to stay.
But is not willing to help much.
Oh, and have I mentioned that
my school district is adopting
several new curriculula
for the fall, so there is lots of summer PD
between now and next Tuesday,
when Veidy and her mom arrive.
I have exactly 1.5 days off from classes.

And then there are the logistics.
I've lined up some baby paraphernalia.
High chair.
Toddler car seat.
And we definitely have plenty of books.
I wonder where the baby will sleep.
In my room or in my son's.
What she likes to eat.
What kind of lotion and shampoo and toothpaste I need to buy.

And we don't have the other stuff.
A bike.
Fat crayons for little hands.
A wading pool.

I'm worried about the bigger stuff.
Whether my son will really step up
and act like a dad.
Whether our very fragile relationship
which seems to erupt into huge arguments
several times a week
can stand this one more bit of stress.
How my other son
will react to his niece.
How my son's father
who doesn't seem to want to help
with the hard stuff
or paying for anything
but wants lots of rights
will fit into the picture.

I'm so excited to have my sweet girl come to visit.
I know it's going to love having her around.
But at the same time
there's a whole lot to do
and a whole lot to worry about
Before next Tuesday.

Saturday, June 11, 2016


I am finally getting around to reading all of the books I have wanted to read for the last year. My goal for the summer, among others, is to add some new middle school titles to my repertoire. Since I pretty much flat out love anything Gary Schmidt writes, I decided to start with his newest book, ORBITING JUPITER. The story is told by Jackson, a sixth grader, who lives with his parents on a dairy farm in Maine. The family decides to take in a foster child, and Joseph, an eighth grader, who has had a rough, rough childhood, comes to live with him. Joseph has taken drugs, attacked a teacher, and gotten a girl pregnant. His one goal in life is to see his child, a baby girl named Jupiter.

There is a lot to love about this story. Maybe it's because of my boys, but the character of Joseph, a kid who has been abused by his father and then mistreated by the foster care system, really resonates for me. I love the kindness and grace offered by some of the adult characters- Jackson's mom and dad, and a few of the teachers.  I love the coming of age aspect--how Schmidt portrays Jackson, a good kid who keeps getting dragged into trouble caring for/defending his foster brother.

This scene captures the essence of the book for me. The family has just been to Christmas Eve services at the church. Joseph listens intently to the Christmas story, then afterwards, asks the pastor how much of the story is really true.
"I think it all has to be true or none of it," Reverend Ballou said.
"The angels?" said Joseph. "Really?"
"Why would you not believe it?" he said.
"Because bad things happen," said Joseph. "If there were angels, then bad things wouldn't happen."
"Maybe angels aren't always meant to stop bad things."
"So what good are they?"
"To be with us when bad things happened.
Joseph looked at him. "Then where the hell were they?" he said.
I thought Reverend Ballou was going to start bawling.
And that was the end of our Christmas service at New First Congregational (Orbiting Jupiter, p. 69).
This is a sad, sad book, but I think it's a book kids are going to love. I think it's a book a lot of kids need.  I can't wait to share it with our middle school kids in August. It will definitely be one of my first book talks.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016


Last week was our final week of school. On Tuesday night, we had our parent/community committee dinner. I'm the chair of that committee, so of course, I had to go. On Wednesday, I stayed for the art and music show. Thursday night was eighth grade graduation. I helped serve cake at the reception. And on Friday, the kids came for half a day. We waved goodbye, had a farewell luncheon to honor people who were leaving and then everyone drifted back to their rooms, to do that final bit of clean up.

Everyone that is, except my friend Kathy and me. Kathy and I have decided that there are at least four kinds of teachers in the world.

1) The first group of teachers puts away a few things a day the last week or ten days of school. By the time the last day comes, their rooms are stripped bare. They are usually the first to sign up for a checkout time, and the first to head out of the building for summer vacation. "Have a nice summer," they say, as they stick their heads into my door, then quickly back away.

2) The second group of teachers go on an all out blitz the second to last day of school. The last day at my school is usually taken up with the end of year awards ceremony (a subject I do not want to discuss) and class picnics/parties, so the teachers in this category finish their rooms the day before. When I go into those rooms on that second to last day, there is a flurry of activity; one group of children is going through the book baskets, another group is gleefully tearing down bulletin board paper, and one or two lucky kiddos have staple removers. By 2:00, their rooms are usually completely stripped. They, too, are early getter outters, who stick their heads in the door to say goodbye on their way out of the building at 2:45 or 3:00.

3) The "I'm never going to get done today" crew. On the last day of school, early in the morning, their rooms look pretty much like they would any other day of school. There are still charts on the walls, and books in the book boxes, and papers in the desks. "I am never going to get done on time," they wail, as they sip their early morning Starbucks. But somehow, miraculously, by the end of the day, all of that stuff is gone, boxed up, ready for August. Those teachers don't leave at 3:00. Sometimes it's 4:00. Or 5:00 or even 6:00. But they are out of there that last day of school, telling me about their evening plans, which generally include adult beverages and dinner that someone else cooks, usually served on a cool patio.

4) And then there's me. And Kathy. We are pretty much always some of the last people out of the building. Actually, I don't think I have ever once, in my 25+ years of teaching, made it out of the building on time. Usually, I stay a couple of days after everyone else leaves. I file papers that are dated January 4th. I put away books. I clean the piles on the top of my desk. I finished all of that Monday afternoon, because I have to be in leadership training the rest of the week. Kathy is teaching summer school, so she went back tonight to finish.

But wait. I'm actually not finished. Did I mentioned I am in charge of the book room too. And I haven't ever started that project. AARGH!

Just once in my career, I want to be one of the people who leaves at 3:00 that last day.

Friday, June 3, 2016


For the past couple of weeks, as I have watched sleepy children yawning their way through class, I have been thinking about the poem, "Bed in Summer" by Robert Louis Stevenson. I learned that poem when I was a very little girl, from the book, A CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES. That book, pictured above, is actually one of the first poetry books I ever owned, was given to me by my Grandma Wilcox, my dad's mom. I think it's where the language of poetry wormed its way into my soul. Here are a few of the poems I remember loving as a little girl.
(I apologize for the weird spacing. Blogspot is being really ugly this morning and I don't have time to redo the whole post).
"Bed in Summertime"
In winter I get up at night   
And dress by yellow candle-light.   
In summer, quite the other way,   
I have to go to bed by day.   
I have to go to bed and see          
The birds still hopping on the tree,   
Or hear the grown-up people’s feet   
Still going past me in the street.   
And does it not seem hard to you,   
When all the sky is clear and blue,   
And I should like so much to play,   
To have to go to bed by day?

The Swing
How do you like to go up in a swing,
   Up in the air so blue? 
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing 
   Ever a child can do! 
Up in the air and over the wall, 
   Till I can see so wide, 
Rivers and trees and cattle and all 
   Over the countryside— 
Till I look down on the garden green, 
   Down on the roof so brown— 
Up in the air I go flying again, 
   Up in the air and down!
Robert Louis Stevenson
"My Shadow"
I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.
He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;
And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.
The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow--
Not at all like proper children, which is always very slow;
For he sometimes shoots up taller like an india-rubber ball,
And he sometimes goes so little that there's none of him at all.
He hasn't got a notion of how children ought to play,
And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way
He stays so close behind me, he's a coward you can see;
I'd think shame to stick to nursie as that shadow sticks to me!
One morning very early, before the sun was up,
I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup;
But my lazy little shadow, like an arrant sleepy-head,
Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.
Jone McCullough has the Poetry Friday Roundup today at Check it Out.