For the last Monday of the year, I have the following finds:
First, for professional reading, I read Penny Kittle’s new Book Love.
This is the reading companion to Kittle’s Write Beside Them, and both books outline Kittle’s philosophies and strategies for making reading and writing workshop meaningful experiences for our students. Filled with ideas for book talking, conferring, creating environments that foster discussion and growth for our students, both these books are must haves for teachers in the middle and upper grades. Kittle is, no surprise here, a wonderful writer – what she has to say is so wise, and yet she presents it all in such an engaging and humorous way. There is an on-going discussion group for Book Love on Facebook which I highly recommend as well – we’re five chapters in and I already feel as though I’ve learned so much.
I chanced upon Sandra Cisneros’ new book, Have You Seen Marie? at our local library and was enchanted.
In search of a way to find comfort after the death of her mother, Cisneros writes that she first learned of a story of a lost cat, which grew in her imagination into a story of searching for home, for community, for companionship:
I knew as I wrote this story that it was helping to bring me back to myself. It’s essential to create when the spirit is dying. It doesn’t matter what….Creating nourishes the spirit.
Here is Cisneros speaking of this experience:
Lyrical and lovely, this gentle story would make for a wonderful read-and talk in my classroom.
Somewhat in the same vein, I found Michael Foreman’s A Child’s Garden: A Story of Hope.
This is the story of a little boy who lives behind barbed wire, in a village that has been reduced to rubble. Soldiers stand guard on the other side, and there is little to hope for or celebrate in this bleak landscape. But the boy discovers a little green shoot by the fence, and he nurtures it into a canopy of loveliness and wonder. For a brief time, children from the other side flock to the fence, and it becomes a playground for the children…all the children.. But the soldiers decide that the children and the garden have become dangerous, so they destroy everything:
But beauty and the spirit of children are resilient and miraculous – the heartbroken boy discovers that shoots have survived on both sides of the fence, and the children come once more to nourish these back to life. The garden blooms once more. “Let the soldiers return, thought the boy. Roots are deep, and seeds spread…” This story made me cry – for the garden and the children could be any where in the world these days, there are so many places where, it seems, children and gardens are struggling to bloom. I just loved this book.
In search of a jazzy new book to launch our nonfiction study on Tuesday, I found A Black Hole is Not a Hole by Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano and Michael Carroll:
How awesome is it to pick up a science book and be invited in with this line: In outer space, mysterious entities called black holes seem up to no good. Of course, one wants to read on! The engaging text is informative and entertaining, and the many nonfiction visual clues (illustrations, diagrams, font styles and sizes, maps, and so on) are exactly what I’d hoped to find in a mentor text.
Finally, I used one of my holiday-gift-for-my-teacher cards to purchase a LOT of new books for my classroom, one of which is Freakling
, by Laura Krumwiede.
The first of the Psi Chronicles, this is the story of Taemon, who possesses (like everyone else in his walled city of Deliverance, the telekinetic power of psi. Taemon, however, has other gifts that give him great power and put him in great danger. I’ve just begun this story, but even six chapters in, I am hooked. I think this is because the premise of the story is so interesting, but also because the main character is so compelling. My students love dystopian novels (the Hunger Games effect, I think!), but I often have a hard time getting into these stories and wanting to read them for myself…not just so that I can talk about them with my kids. Freakling, I can tell, is definitely a book I want to read for myself!