Monday, January 20, 2014

Martin's Big Words

Martin Luther King Jr., A Bundle of Books

These are a few of my favorite books about Martin Luther King Jr.Something else I often look for on books for multicultural learning is the Corretta Scott King Award. You can find a list of those books here.

Martin's Big Words

by Doreen Rappaport

 This book highlights the major quotes and pieces of Dr. King's speeches. The accompanying illustrations are striking. The pages are full of Dr. King's famous quotes, while the story follows along.

There is a youtube version of this book here.

I Have A Dream
by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

This book is an illustrated version of Dr. King's most famous 
speech. The words stick with you as they are accompanied by gorgeous, color-filled illustrations.

This short clip is a great highlight of his speech.

My Brother Martin
by Christine King Faris

This is a great book for launching into point of view and voice of the speaker. Although the length and text were a bit advanced for first grade, they enjoyed it! It is told through the eyes of Dr. King's sister and involves many childhood stories.

Happy Birthday Martin Luther King
by Jean Marzollo

I found this to be my students' favorite book of the week. It was the easiest and most straightforward for them to understand. I also liked how it described Dr. King's background and the circumstances of the Civil Rights Movement.

A Picture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr.
by David A. Adler

This book is a great set-up for a timeline of MLK's life. A great resource not only for learning about Martin Luther King, Jr., but many other famous leaders as well. There is a great online version here.

For older readers, I still LOVE picture books for older students. Below is a great free resource through an awesome website: 

There is a more advanced chapter book on the website We Give Books called Free At Last!

And finally, I cannot watch this clip without getting chills down my spine. He is so powerful. To understand his sacrifice to work to end injustice, and his selflessness for the cause, is the most important lesson for all of us.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Bill Bryson and New Hampshire Nostalgia

I'm A Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After Twenty Years Away
by Bill Bryson

This book is fantastic. With chapters such as The War on Drugs, Snoopers at Work, Your Tax form Explained, In Praise of Diners, and How to Rent a Car, you know you're going to have fun reading this. And the best part is, you can put it down and pick it up as you choose because each chapter is independent of the next. it is full of interesting facts.

If you're from New England, you've got an exceptionally good read ahead of you because Bill Bryson moved from England to New Hampshire. If there ever was a book built to boost New Englanders pride, this is it. Part of Bryson's intention is to point out the oddities and mysteries of New England and America in general.

 But I've got to be honest: it all makes perfect sense to me...

A Day at the Seaside:

"I've got an idea. Let's drive for three hours to the ocean, take off most of our clothes, and sit on the sand for the whole day."

"We'll get sand in our hair. We'll get sand in our shoes. We'll get sand in our sandwiches and then in our mouths. We'll get sunburned and windburned. When we get tired of sitting, we can have a dip in water so cold it actually hurts. At the end of the day, we'll set off at the same time as thirty-seven thousand other people and get in such a traffic jam that we won't get home till midnight"

And they're off Kennebunkport, Maine.

Having myself been to the English seaside, I can understand Bryson's hesitation for the beach:
New Englanders driving home from the beach on a typical summer weekend.
July in New Hampshire
On our way to the beach in England. Doesn't everyone travel this way? No?
Middle of July at the English Seaside. This is as far as we got. My arms are extremely tense due to the freezing of my toes.
Clearly, the English seaside and the New England seacoast are quite a different experience.

Fall in New England

And then there's fall. When I ventured home from Arkansas the last week of September 2013 for Fall Break, I met some Arkansans on my flight.

Arkansas to New Hampshire? I couldn't believe it. There are several routes from the Bill and Hillary Clinton Airport to Manchester or Logan. You can fly through Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas.

Check a map, all of these are extremely counter productive to actually getting back to New England.

Then there's through Baltimore. This one makes sense. On a lucky September day, this was the route I managed to book. I thought I was literally the only one on that layover in Baltimore. But no, two dusted-gray heads popped up several rows in front of me. I was accompanied by an older couple who hailed from Arkansas. In true Southern fashion (I've given up trying to read during a flight to or from a southern state, your neighbor is always so friendly. I think it's making me a nicer person.) we began an in-depth discussion of where we were from, family, what we were doing...

And what were they doing? They were going Leaf Peeping.

 (If you don't know what leap peeping is, go read Eve Bunting's Peepers:)

Bryson says "For a few glorious days in October, New England  is unquestionably the loveliest place on earth". He goes on to teach us where those colors from, and why they are better than anywhere else in the country.
Rye, New Hampshire, courtesy of my mom
Rye, New Hampshire

But what on earth could Bryson have to say that would make me nostalgic for a winter in New England? Darn, he got me on this one too.

Fun in the Snow

"People  here actually get excited about winter. There is skiing and ice skating and sledding on the local golf course. One of our neighbors floods his backyard and turns it into a skating pond for the kids on our is all very cheery."
Standing in the middle of Lake Winnipesaukee, Meredith, New Hampshire with my mom. In the background is a pick up truck and an ice fishing shed...also in the middle of a lake.

I'm not a skier, but Bryson's got me. During my first two years teaching, the plow would pile the snow so high that children would slide down the "hill" during recess. The playground felt like an ice skating rink. These conditions in Arkansas cause a state shut-down for four days. or, until the temperature rises back above freezing to melt the icey streets. New Englanders find ways to make it through the winter and add a little joy in. And then it's March, that last blizzard're wondering if this will ever end. When can you see your toes in flip flops again? Something beautiful happens: spring arrives.

"Best of all, you know that winter is just one in an endless cycle of reliable, well-defined seasons. When the cold starts to get to you, there is the reassurance of knowing that a good, hot summer is just around the corner."

So hang tight my New England friends, and go get I'm a Stranger Here Myself, have a good laugh and put some logs in the woodstove. Are my parents the only ones still doing that?

If you'll excuse me I'm going to hop in the car and hit the dry cleaners drive through, the Bank drive-thru, swing through Starbucks, skip the liquor store drive thru, (did I forget to mention Bryson's chapter on Americans and their fascination with drive thru convenience?) and then head for a walk around the lake with the mild temps  in the 50-60's and sunny skies. I'll see y'all for summer vacation in June. (No, I'm not in college, I'm a teacher. I'm pretty sure I'll still be getting this question for the next ten years.)

This is only one of Bryson's many gems.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Where'd you go, Bernadette


"But he recognized me.

Manjula, I have no idea how. The only photograph of me floating around was one taken twenty years ago, right before the Huge Hideous Thing. I am beautiful, my face radiating with confidence, my smile bursting with the future of my choosing."

Where'd You Go Bernadette is a wild ride that will leave your head spinning and your fingers tired from putting together the puzzle pieces.

Bernadette is an artistic genius, creating eco-conscious housing creations before being green was cool.

Now, years later, she spends her time in the Airstream trailer in the backyard of the former Seattle reform school for wayward girls. Her husband, a TED-talking, Microsoft guru buries himself in his robotic projects.

Her thirteen year old daughter Bee is the only one still on Bernadette's side. And Bee has convinced her to take a family trip to Antarctica...

Bernadette employs her India-based assistant Manjula to assist her in the planning. But as the date of departure approaches Bernadette's world begins to unravel. Then Bernadette vanishes. Just like she did twenty years ago from LA.

There will be failed projects, unplanned pregnancies, spiritual awakenings, boat theft, Russian Mafia, FBI, psychologists, interventions, all intricately woven together through memos, letters, emails, and conversations collected by Bee.

Bee will be left to delicately piece together this humorous tale of a life gone awry.

But, will it lead Bee to her mother, or more importantly, does she want to be found?

This story is a perfect read for anyone suffering from winter wanderlust, or just looking for a wacky story to keep you on your toes.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A Year in Books

My favorite new(ish) author:

Sarah Jio
I got a bit caught up in southern-based stories, and Jio brought me overseas to a mysterious beach bungalow on Bora Bora during World War II in The Bungalow. Then I went to solve a murder mystery at a London Manor in The Last Camellia. Next I was off to an island in Washington state sifting through a velvet diary to uncover secrets of the past in the Violets of March. And lastly, to Seattle where a modern-day reporter uncovers a long ago kidnapping, while identical Blackberry Winter storms, decades apart, help unravel a mystery. Her books are full of mysteries and secrets, links to the past, and incredible settings.

The book that stuck with me the most:

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
This book reaches deep into your soul and tests your morality. You are left wondering what is right and what is wrong, and where that line can be drawn. If ever a book has made me cry for its beauty and its sadness, this is it.
Genre I've been enjoying:

Historical Fiction, often with a mix or link to a current day story

Favorite "summer" book:

A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams
I love a good summer escape! Add in the retro vibes of a classic beach town in Rhode Island and I was sold. New England, beach, love, broken hearts and broken friendships, and a real hurricane. It's enough drama to last the whole summer through.

Favorite "fresh start" book:
On Folly Beach [Book]

On Folly Beach by Karen White
Emmy has lost her soldier husband  to the war in Iraq and is now a young war widow. She moves to quiet Folly Beach on the South Carolina shore.  Folly Beach is the perfect setting: its quiet beauty and mysterious pier are paired nicely with its quirky residents, most knowingly bottle-tree making Lulu. Here she takes over a book store and begins to find mysterious letters, sandwiched in the pages of classic stories, tucked away in the corner, and begins unraveling a mystery that spans decades. This story connects the heartbreak of war and loss with the sense of hope and renewal in the human spirit, and the drive of curiosity that will uncover unexpected events...

Frighteningly gripping book:
Gone Girl: A Novel [Book]

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
I couldn't decide who I hated the most in this one. I couldn't decide who to blame. Or where on earth the last week of my life went once I picked it up. With every chapter the story twists and turns, testing your loyalty to its cast of damaged characters. I was enthralled and (somewhat) disgusted, but oh boy, I can't wait to see the movie.

Favorite Series:
Tradd Street
The House on Tradd Street by Karen White
Beautiful old houses, haunting historic Charleston setting....what could be better?
My Favorite Book for Children:

City Dog, Country Frog by Mo Willems
This is not exactly new to me this year. It was given to me when I left my first teaching job to move across the U.S.A., from the country to the city...(sentimental much?)
Country Frog is waiting for his friend. City Dog comes along. "You'll do" he says. And for each season of the year, these unlikely friends will hop and run through the beautiful, heartfelt pages. Simple, poetic prose. They are the sweetest of friends.

The Paris Wife: A Novel: Paula McLain
 Just finished: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

"I would gladly have climbed out of my skin and into his that night, because I believed that was what love meant. Hadn't I just felt us collapsing into one another, until there was no difference between us?

It would be the hardest lesson of my marriage, discovering the flaw in this thinking. I couldn't reach into every part of Ernest and he didn't want me to."

And there went my evenings until I had devoured this book. I was desperate to know how it all would end. An impossible feeling on page 59 of a 314 page book. But don't worry, I won't spoil it for you-I'll just make you nearly as desperate as I was to crawl and collapse into this book for a night or two.

This is no spoiler;if you know Hemingway, you know his Paris Wife was not his one and only. We already know the ending. You don't read it to find out what happened, but to understand why

Hadley Richardson is naïve and head-over-heels in love. The scribbled words on endless sheets of letter paper are what bring them together, and this same frantic passion that drives them together will eventually ruin them. She falls in love with his words and becomes consumed by his promises. He falls in love with her support and steadfast loyalty.

 The book follows them on their journey from meeting in Chicago at a small party (who wants to marry someone named Ernest Hemingway? What kind of name is that?-her friend exclaims). The book leads them to the stumbling down the uneven streets of Paris in a drunken stupor alongside the even more intoxicated and wild Fitzgerald. James Joyce walks the streets with his throngs of children in tow, and Gertrude Stein counsels Hemingway on his writing. As good as Hemingway might've been at making friends, his growing ego will cause him enemies. I felt excited as I recognized famous characters sprawled across the pages. I know them!

Hadley is the woman who doesn't quite fit, the one each man wants to have as his wife, but no longer his muse. Instead she'll watch as his writing takes over, and she becomes the character written out of the plot. But there is a quiet strength that Hadley possesses that will keep you turning the pages, and after breaking down your resolve, McLain will remind you that no love is ever lost.

“The first and final thing you have to do in this world is to last it and not be smashed by it.”
― Ernest Hemingway

Ironically, it will be Hadley who is able to do just that.

Currently Reading : Girl in the Blue Dress

Moving on to: Hemingway's Boat, A Farewell to Arms