Monday, June 21, 2010

Ahh... Father's Day

Father's Day.  My card today read, "Being a father is not about being Superman.  It's about being there."  Signed by all the kids.  Graham, who arrived home late last night after a week in San Francisco with his girlfriend and is now back at work (and neglected to tell me he was arriving home a day later than originally planned... so I enjoyed two drives to the airport).  Jens, who signs everything "Your jolly good son, Jens!", who is on a week-long youth service project with his pals from church, working with inner-city children.  Anneke, signed in absentia by Lauryn, who is working at a summer camp this summer in the mountains (and learning that treating children with respect and smiles has its rewards) with her best high school friend and her best college friend.  And, Lauryn, who helped me celebrate the day at home (with smiles, stories, and song)... beautifully, I might add.
     After church, we drove to downtown Littleton and ate a great lunch on the patio of Merle's  (of course, Lauryn wanted to do The Melting Pot).  A little window shopping (and stopping in at a book store of course)!  Then it was out to my classroom to sift and sort and pack (yep, working even on Father's Day), two days left with children and it's off to a different classroom.  Then, dinner out (an eating fest today) at Qdoba (father's ate free).  And finally, home sweet home, for presents (clothes, I Love Lucy season four, and a great ring for my right hand) and a needed nap on the couch.  It was grand day and the many blessing of being a father abounded.
     Purchases?  Of course.  I found a great book called Whistling by Elizabeth Partridge (her latest book is called Marching for Freedom).  Whistling is a beautifully illustrated story (the illustrations are quilts) about a father and son camping and the father teaching his son to whistle.  Out-of-print, of course.  Poetic and beautiful!  A true Father's Day find. 
     And, if being a father doesn't give you something to whistle about... well, nothing will!  

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Caught My Eye

I was drawn to the cover of this book at a recent book fair.  There's something intriguing about its simplicity that made me do a double take.  And, then, I read the first page and I was hooked.  Out of My Mind is a beautifully written book.
     In the book the main character, Melody, draws us into her world... she can't talk, walk, or write.  Although she can't speak, she has a photographic memory and her brain works like a video camera.  Her doctors and teachers think she's incapable of learning, only because they don't know what's actually going on inside her head... until she finds her "voice" using a communication device and is transitioned into a regular education classroom.
     Sharon Draper says, "All great stories emerge from deep truths that rest within us.  But the real truth of a story often can be found in places that not even the author has dared to explore."  In Out of My Mind she creates a character who is powerful, intelligent, and intriguing and sometimes makes us forget that she struggles with a disability.  Without patronizing, Draper invites the reader to understand Melody and her cerebral palsy and from page one you're drawn into the story.  This is a good upper elementary read, dealing with some tough issues.  You can read more about the author on her website.  

Friday, June 18, 2010

Back on the Farm

I ran across Elisha Cooper's book, Farm, and fell in love with the illustrations.  There's something about farm life that intriques me (a small town boy at heart, perhaps). 
     The text in this book is simple and quiet and encompasses all the joys and experiences farm life has to offer in simple watercolor.  There's a poetic tone to the book and its simplicity lends itself to a quiet read.  I love the rooster's name, Breakfast.  And, although a simple read, it provides insight into life on the farm (although those of us who have spent any amount of time on a farm know that farm life is not simple, nor easy). 
     I have a basket of books in my classroom called, "Living the Country Life."  It's a fine collection of cowboy and farm books--poetry, picture books, nonfiction, etc.  There's even a Cowboy Sam or two in the box.  It's my personal testament to my family's history...
     Farm makes a perfect addition to my growing collection!

Sunday, June 6, 2010


I was shopping with my wife and daughter to purchase a book for an end of the year teacher gift (as we make that grand leap to middle school).  We've been at our elementary school for 18 years (we open-enrolled our oldest there when he was in Kindergarten) and it's sad for us to even think about leaving (but that's a blog entry for another day).  My daughter settled on Dream: A Tale of Wonder, Wisdom & Wishes by Susan V. Bosak for her fifth grade teacher.
     I, of course, couldn't leave the bookstore empty-handed and I left with Mina Javaherbin's book GoalI couldn't resist.  Somehow, even when I'm in the bookstore buying something for someone else, I have to leave with a treat for myself.  And, oh what a gem this book is... my wife made me sit down and read it (I think she wanted it just as badly as I did and so it made its way into our pile).  Check out her website Mina Javaherbin or blog.
     In her debut picture book, the author writes a wonderful story of soccer and its role in the life of a group of boys in a small South African township.  Jamal and his friends play soccer in the streets and win a "football" at school.  They use soccer as an outlet to forget the realities that surround them.  Their federation-sized ball is a prized possession and a group of bullies arrive on the scene to steal the ball.  Jamal's quick thinking and a bit of fancy footwork add a surprising twist to the outcome.  "The streets are not always safe..." is a reminder throughout the book, but the boys find solace in their sport.  The last page is amazing...
     "Left is clear, 
     Right is clear, 
     Down the alley, as far as we can see is clear.  
     The streets are not safe here.  
     But we have a plan.  
     When we play, 
     the sound 
     of our kicks 
     on the ball 
     is music.  

     When we play together, 
     we are unbeatable."

I am moving to 4th grade with many of my students next year.  I'm saving this book for the first few weeks of school... as we revisit the idea of "stamina and endurance."  I write about it in Conferring: The Keystone of Reader's Workshop.  I can't wait to begin the new school year.  This book is a perfect addition to my (our) collection!