I love learning about people and their real-life stories. I especially love the lesser-known stories of historical time periods. Today we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. and we also remember other great names in Civil Rights history. Did you know that some famous Civil Rights activists were children? Today’s IMWAYR title should be shared widely. I share here to remind myself and others that children CAN and DO make a difference in our lives and in our communities.
The Youngest Marcher: The story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, by Cynthia Levinson will stay with me for a long time. I know the stories of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s marches and speeches, and they have inspired me in the past. Last year when I read The MARCH Trilogy, I learned so much more from Representative John Lewis’ firsthand accounts and experiences. Now I am reminded (through a picture book — see, picture books teach all ages) that there were children arrested in May of 1963, one being Audrey Faye Hendricks, who was nine years old at the time. I thought, “NINE? They arrested 9-year-olds?” Yes, yes, they did, and by doing so, they filled the jails in Birmingham, Alabama. Amazing. Frightful. Inspiring.
I missed this book when it released in 2017, but I am so glad I have remedied that. I recommend that you buy this book and keep it — read it when you need a good story about children being brave and changing the world.
If you ever hear someone say picture books are just for kids, don’t listen! Read these picture books. You’ll be glad you opened your heart.
Wolf in the Snow, by Matthew Cordell. (Feiwel and Friends, 2017)
Matthew Cordell doesn’t need words to convey the message of empathy, love, and kindness in this Caldecott nominee for 2018. I felt so much — for the humans and the wolves — in this story about being lost in the snow. A small child waves goodbye to her school friends, and begins her walk home. A pack of wolves also sets out around the same time, with a little one struggling to keep up in the blowing snow. Both the small girl and the small wolf become lost as the pages turn white. What happened next pulled at my “mom” heartstrings.This is a MUST READ book for all ages.
Love, by Matt de la Peña. Illustrated by Loren Long. (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2018)
I read The Wolf, the Duck, & the Mouse by Mac Barnett. Mr. Barnett is always so clever with his storytelling skills, and he got me giggling again. “Early one morning, a mouse met a wolf, and he was quickly gobbled up.” End of story, right? Not quite.
See, there’s already a duck that has made a home in the wolf’s belly. The mouse and the duck made such a ruckus inside the wolf that the wolf got a stomach ache. A hunter then hears the wolf, and sets up to shoot. I can’t give the story away, but I promise you’ll be amused. The ending is also a surprise. Genius.
A twisted tale about predators and prey with a load a laughs. You’ll never think of hunting the same way again. (Good thing.) By the way, the illustrations with familiar bright eyed-animals created by Jon Klassen make The Wolf, the Duck, & the Mouse another Barnett/Klassen classic. A good book for a long winter’s night.
My plan was to start tomorrow, but I opened The Creativity Project by Colby Sharp tonight after a longer-than-expected drive home from the NCTE annual conference, and fell in love immediately with the structure of this amazing text. I’m sure I’ll read this one quickly again, and later slow down and really ponder the wonder of this amazing project. Colby Sharp is the co-founder of the Nerdy Book Club, so by nature, he is a reader and writer. He asked several authors to supply creative writing prompts for each other, then sent packages to authors with the prompts, asking each to share their writing/creating process. He wanted to share (with his elementary school students) how writers come up with ideas and “observe the way that creativity works.”
Mr. Sharp wrote in the introduction, “A few weeks later, the pieces started coming in, and HOLY SMOKES! I was completely blown away.” As I flipped through the pages tonight myself, perusing the structure of the book, I, too, was in awe of the prompts themselves and the projects that were submitted. For example, author Peter Brown submitted this prompt: “Create something that includes a tree looking out-of-place.” Illustrator Lauren Castillo answered with a drawing of a city scene, and there’s a tree there, looking quite out-of-place.
I can’t wait to read this book deeply and maybe even try something myself. Thank you, Mr. Sharp, for challenging all of us — experts and amateurs — to create!
October weather is beautiful! I love the autumn season, especially when it’s this nice outside — perfect for reading Swing It, Sunny! by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm out on the front porch. This is the sequel to Sunny Side Up (2015), and it’s just as fun, although Sunny Lewin may not think so.
“Summer’s over, and it’s time for Sunny Lewin to enter the strange and unfriendly hallways of…middle school.” Yes, middle school, where I am stationed each day. Middle school IS a strange place; it’s no different for our main character.
Sunny is accompanied by other characters from the first installment, which makes this book easy to read. I feel like I know these people from the past, and I do! Revisiting characters to read more about their lives makes me root for Sunny even more. “She is NOT going to let all the confusion get her down.” I like the message, and I’m happy to help Sunny stay “sunny-side up!”
Wishtree has been around for over 200 years, and in that time she has seen many changes in the lives of the animals and the humans who surround her. Every May Day (May 1st) people come from all around to tie pieces of cloth with written wishes on the tree. It’s a tradition that Wishtree enjoys, until one day, a young male comes and changes the tree’s life, and the lives of all who live nearby. Wishtree decides that maybe wishes should come true — she’s an optimist, you see; but the animals who live in her hollows disagree. With the help of her best friend, a crow named Bongo, and 2 school children, Wishtree provides more to the neighborhood than even she realized she could. This is a beautiful story of hope, friendship, and acceptance, told by a tree. And what a story it is!
Wishtree book cover picture by Goodreads.
Welcome to ReadingTeacherWrites.org. This is my professional site where I share information about literacy learning, my own research-based reflections, and lessons I’ve learned while teaching. Now that I am a school librarian, I will post much more on titles and authors for classrooms and schools.
You can also use this page to contact me regarding your reading and writing classroom needs. “Collaboration is key.” I would love to collaborate with you on your next literacy-based project or professional development event.
Lucy Calkins, the Founding Director of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, said, “Passion is powerful.” I am passionate about teaching and learning; I want to share my passion with you.
I am currently working on:
Solo is Kwame Alexander’s latest release (from Blink YA Books) and features Mary Rand Hess. These amazing authors expertly weave the story of Blade, a teen who would rather not be associated with his famous father, Rutherford Morrison, a washed-up rock star. Blade’s girlfriend, Chapel, is the light in his life of darkness, but her parents forbid her to see Blade amid continued family drama. Blade finds that his life is not as it seems – is it worse? The one connection that the family shares is music – much music. “But not even the songs that flow through Blade’s soul are enough when he’s faced with two unimaginable realities…”
The music that connects Blade, his father, and the other intriguing characters in the book are the web that Alexander and Hess create to lead the reader (and Blade) from Hollywood to West Africa in search of life’s answers. Tracks from Lenny Kravitz, Metallica, U2 ,Van Halen, Aretha Franklin, and more all bring memories to carry the reader (and Blade) into the future. The story is a true hero’s journey through music and time. (Suggestion: Get the audio version!)
What I loved most about Solo is that it is written in Kwame’s famous novel-in-verse style, and adding Mary’s poetic contributions made my heart sing. The book features nostalgic hits and original music by Randy Preston, Alexander’s talented musical friend. The twists, turns, and surprises throughout the book made this a quick read, yet I revisited pages again and again. I downloaded the music to listen to as I traveled with Blade through my third read! I highly recommend Solo for any teen trying to find him/herself in the world, anyone who loves music, or anyone who loves a fantastic story line. (That means “Go Get This Title Now!”) “When the heart gets lost, let the music find you.”
Today I opened Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters by Kylene Beers and Bob Probst, and my thinking has been disrupted! In all my years of teaching, I’ve never had it so good — I’m past the “trying to impress the administration” stage of my early years, and I am able to focus on the authentic purposes of teaching reading (to enjoy the stories, to think, to learn…) and forget about the nay-sayers and their agendas. In the introduction to this fabulous, eye-opening professional read, Bob confirms that “our students won’t learn to read these difficult texts by taking quizzes or preparing for them, or by collecting points and prizes…” (see below, page 9)
The nay-sayers don’t bother me anymore. I already know what page 9 states:
My thinking has been disrupted. Kylene and Bob hope that we teachers “jot notes…join us at workshops, or connect with us via social media.” Check. Check. Check. I love Kylene and Bob because they really do want us teachers to be successful, but they want our students to be successful even more. They are helping us, guiding us, and cheering us on! Thank you!
I hope that you are lucky enough to grab this book (as soon as possible!), read it, and have your thinking disrupted this summer. Happy Reading!