Monday, February 28, 2011

Out of My Mind By S. Draper

From my Literary Journal in my Children's Literature Class

Draper, S. (2010). Out of my mind. New York, NY. Athenum Books for Young Readers. 295 pp (Grade Level: 5th-8th)

            Melody loves words, and uses them all the time in her head, but her Cerebral Palsy prevents her from saying any of them. People on the most part treat her as if she has no intelligence whatsoever, until she gets a Medi-Talker that allows her to type words and phrases and communicate with people. And even though she has overcome the speaking challenge, and teachers and classmates are beginning to realize how smart she is, there are still plenty of challenges left to overcome.
            Out of My Mind is a well written, thoroughly thought out novel. Draper weaves a tale for her readers not only about an intelligent girl whose potential is hidden, but about judging people, about loving people, and about how the small and large things we do make a difference. This is an important read for late elementary and middle school students because it challenges how they think, and encourages them to change. Another way it could be used in the classroom is to ask the students the WizKid questions before and after they have read to see how well they were paying attention, and (especially if they are in 5th grade like Melody is) to show them how smart these WizKid students are. Students could also write autobiographies. This book will open lots of discussion on many topics, necessary discussion about how human beings should be treated. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Savvy by I. Law

From my Literary Journal in my Children's Lit class:
Law, I. (2008). Savvy. New York, NY:  Penguin. 342pp. (Grades 3-8).

            "Mibs' special 13th birthday is just around the corner- the day when everyone in her family gets their savvy- their special 'know-how'. Her father gets in a bad accident just before the big day and is taken to a big hospital. Mibs really wants to be there with him, she is convinced she can help, so her and some friends sneak onto a pink school bus that is headed for the town the hospital is in. Only, they end up taking a few detours and, to make things worse, Mibs' savvy comes and she doesn't know how to deal with it.
            Savvy is told with a matter-of-fact tone, and it seems as if Mibs is telling the readers all sorts of things from her heart. She is very honest, even with her hopes and fears. The character development was done craftily, helping the readers hold the characters dear. For older students, this would be an opportunity to have them discuss characterization, what they like and dislike about different characters in the story, and what they would think or talk about if they met the characters. I have had the privilege of interviewing this author, and have several short essays or thought blurbs I wrote, and I believe these are resources I ought to take advantage of in my classroom."

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


here is a poem sort of thing:

sitting here in silence waiting for class to begin.
Meetings in a corner room, loud suggestions being made.
Student on her laptop typing, typing away.
Professors stride down the hallway from one place to another.
 There are enough noises to scare away silence,
but still too few to merit anything but
whispered conversations.

and another:

Cold dreary day.
snowflakes falling in giant soft clumps.
minding their own business
muffling noises nearby.

A day worthy of 'sound of music' replays in my mind,
A day worthy of tea, and hot chocolate,
A day worthy of hats and mittens.
A day worthy of
A good book,
A good chat,
and a good nap.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tuesday by D. Weisner

From my Literary Journal in my Children's Literature class:
Wiesner, D. (1991). Tuesday. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company. 29 pp. (Grade Level: K- 2).
            "Around eight o'clock at night, on Tuesday, the frogs in the pond begin rising, on their lily pads, into the air. For the next eight hours they fly through the town and even into houses who having sleeping occupants. In the end, the lily pads fall, and the frogs find their way back to the pond, but no one in the town, the next morning, can figure out where all the lily pads came from. The last pages show what happens next Tuesday- pigs fly.        
            Although I do not necessarily get the point of the book, I can understand why it got the Caldecott award. The pictures are intriguing, and done in cool colors (greens, purples and mostly blues) to indicate night-time. The setting is at night, on Tuesday, at various times. The inside cover says that this is a real story, and it really happened somewhere in the USA. This would be an interesting way to begin a topic, with 'older' students, on research, how to verify facts, and the importance of using facts. "

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Giver by L. Lowry

From my Literary Journal in my Children's Literature Class
Lowry, L. (1993). The giver. New York, NY: Laurel Leaf Books. 179pp. (Grade Level: 5-8).

            Jonas lives in a town that is very well organized and efficient. Once a child turns 12, like Jonas does in the book, they are assigned a job in the town. Jonas is assigned the task of receiving the memories of the world, a daunting task no one has successfully been given in many, many years. Things take a striking turn when Jonas learns about some of the town's secrets, and he along with the Giver, decide to take matters into their own hands to try and change the people and make the town a better place.
            I understand why The Giver received a Newbery medal. It is very well written, and takes the reader in for an interesting ride. It is interesting to read memories that Jonas is given for the first time, both the good and the bad, and it would be even more interesting to have students write memories in this way. A discussion topic to use in class would be about how the city is run, and organized, and if students think this is positive or negative and why, and if they would like to live in a place like this. Another thing to talk about would be the lack of color in their world, and what consequences they could think of that would go along with that, and how different life would be. And then there is the ending. I felt that the Lowry left her readers waiting, and that the ending was anticlimactic and not satisfactory. In my classroom, I would have students write their own ending, a sort of epilogue, to what happened to Jonas and his little friend, as well as to all the people back in his home town." 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Too Many Books, C. Bauer

From my Literary Journal for my Children's Literature class:
Bauer, C. Ill. Patterson, D. (1984). Too many books. New York, NY. Frederick Warn Inc. 32 pp.             (Grade Level K-2)

          "  Little MaryLou loves books, always borrowing them from the library and even getting them as gifts. Her collection gets slightly out of hand, soon, and books are stored not only on shelves but also in the tub, refrigerator, and stacked everywhere throughout the house. In the end, MaryLou decides the best thing she can do with her books is to share them, and she leaves s small stack of them everywhere she goes, and really leaves a literary impact on her city. But she doesn't notice, because she is too busy reading.
             The short picture book story of MaryLou is a great book for young children. The illustrations are colorful, and fun to look at. I remember borrowing this from the library week after week, even before I could read it to myself. Aside from the positive connotation portrayed of reading that could encourage young students to read expansively, Too Many Books also shows the importance of sharing, and this could be useful in a K-3 classroom. The short book is also repetitive, which is a great for students who are learning to read, or who have yet to learn. The plot is simple, and easy to follow and even predict. The young girl reads all the time, she collects many books, she has too many books, and she shares her books with others. "

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Les Mis

Last night my dad and I watched the last half or so of Les Miserables. It was beautiful. I have no idea which 'version' it was, but I loved it. Most of the time I was not quite sure what was going on, but the music and lyrics were wonderful. I proceeded to buy two of the songs on iTunes: Bring Him Home, and Empty Chairs at Empty Tables (the links are to the versions I found on YouTube, the same version I watched. These are not the iTunes versions) . I can't wait for an opportunity to see the whole thing, even to see it live. And to read it, someday.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

talk, talk, talk

I ordered two books through the interlibrary loan program our campus library has, both about conversations. I've recently wanted to know how to better hold conversations with people. A strange desire, maybe, but interesting.
The books I got were not quite what I was expecting. Very old, bindings falling apart... I took a video of them for you, but I can't find my cord to load it onto my computer, so you'll have to use your imagination ;)

The one in the box was published in 1891, and the binding is falling apart. I've never read a book so cautiously.  It is called 'Conversation', and written by J. P. Mahaffy. I love the dedication, which reads 'to my silent friends'. It was a very tiresome read; boring, long, and dry. I read the main points, but none really seemed helpful.

The second one was much more interesting. It is called 'The Art of Conversation: Twelve Golden Rules', by Josephine Turck Baker and published in 1907. This one was, ingeniously, written as a conversation between He and She. They discuss conversations, and a few other topics, coming up with twelve rules. The most helpful of these, in my opinion, are: 1. avoid unnecessary details, 2. do not ask question two until question one has been answered; and do not ask too any questions nor too few, 3. do not interrupt while another is speaking, 5. do not do all the talking, give your listener a chance, and 9. make your speech in harmony with your surroundings.
I would actually recommend this last book if you have an hour, its fun to read, and interesting.

How do you deal with those akward silences? How do you keep a conversation going? Do you have any stories (funny or otherwise) to share? What is the oldest book you've gotten from the library? Any interesting stores about that?