Another Day as Emily is a new work in free verse by Eileen Spinelli. I fell in love with Spinelli's work when I read Where I Live and The Dancing PancAnother Day as Emily is a new work in free verse by Eileen Spinelli. I fell in love with Spinelli's work when I read Where I Live and The Dancing Pancake and I was excited to see a new book by this author on the shelf at the library. I was not disappointed.
Another Day as Emily is told from Suzy's point of view. Suzy is 11 years old. Her younger brother makes a 911 call when he finds their next door neighbor collapsed on the floor and is proclaimed a local hero--complete with a homemade cape and his name in the newspaper. At first Suzy joins her parents and neighborhood in their "Isn't he sweet and SO smart" attitude toward her brother. She quickly loses her enthusiasm and tolerance for his new popularity.
To Suzy, the attention focused on her brother starts to feel like an ABSENCE of attention for her. When one of his new "hero" antics causes Suzy to miss out on the birthday trip she and her father have planned AND she loses out on another special event with her best friend Suzy feels crushed by her disappointments and abandoned by her parents in favor of her "hero" brother. When the unfairness of her life overwhelms her Suzy decides to exchange her life for that of Emily Dickinson's (to whose life and works she has been introduced through a Summer Program at the Library). Referring to her own research Suzy compiles a list of the things Emily was most likely to do...and NOT do. Baseball, one of Suzy's passions, was not of interest to Emily Dickinson; she communicated only through written letters; she cleaned and baked; she would sometimes lower a basket of homemade gingerbread for the neighbor children. On occasion she DID visit her sister-in-law next door, but otherwise remained hidden in her home wearing mostly white dresses.
Suzy makes a sincere attempt to imitate Dickinson's life...to the point where her parents don't think THEY can take it anymore. In the process Suzy (predictably) discovers the people, the love, the friendships in her own life which persist even when it feels like they do not.
Another Day as Emily is an easy read whose greatest appeal will be to young girls from about 8-12 yrs of age. As emotions and life circumstance start to play larger roles in our lives we naturally look to those around us for clues on how to handle those situations. Suzy finds that in her neighbor, her parents and her best friend and readers can find it in Suzy herself. ...more
I was disappointed in Dogku. I am a huge dog lover and after reading the astonishingly BRILLIANT Won Ton, the story of a cat told entirely through haiI was disappointed in Dogku. I am a huge dog lover and after reading the astonishingly BRILLIANT Won Ton, the story of a cat told entirely through haiku I was thrilled to find what could perhaps be a counterpart when reading poetry to young people.
Tim Bowers' illustrations in Dogku are terrific. They remind me quite a lot of those by David Shannon in the delightful Good Boy, Fergus with their blurred edges, heavily secondary color palette and the variety of adorable characterizations of the title dog.
Clements' text, unfortunately, does not love up to the illustrations or my expectations. It is uninspired and uninspiring for the reader....more
T4 is the sometimes touching, sometimes horrifying story of Paula.
I was born
In a little house
On a street
With tall poplar trees.
I could see
T4 is the sometimes touching, sometimes horrifying story of Paula.
I was born
In a little house
On a street
With tall poplar trees.
I could see
In the distance.
That was my home.
But my country,
Was not my home.
And the Nazi Party
People like me.
Paula's mother was exposed to rubella (German measles) when she was pregnant with Paula, which resulted in Paula being born almost deaf. Although she does not remember it, her mother told Paula she was still able to hear some sounds as an infant and toddler, because she clapped when her mother spoke, loved birdsongs and the cuckoo clock. After an extremely high fever at the age of sixteen months however, Paula was left completely deaf.
Paula is often frustrated by her inability to access a common language with her family and neighbors. She develops her own complicated system of hand signals and gestures within their small community which allows her to communicate more effectively.
It would seem
That my life was good.
But something terrible
Was about to happen.
Paula is thirteen years old in 1939. Hitler has led Germany into World War II and he has instituted his plans for a "master race" through Action T4 which called for the elimination of any person who did fit into his definition whether that be race, color, mental or physical disability.
The Nazis believed that certain people
Were superior to other people.
They wanted the human race
To become an "Aryan" race.
They wanted to get rid of people
Who they thought
Polluted the gene pool.
This is called eugenics,
Or "racial hygiene."
And they decided
Were "useless eaters"
Who were "unfit to live."
Fearful that the Nazis will discover her, Paula's parents give her into the custody of Father Josef, a family friend and Catholic priest who will find a safe place to hide her. Paula is moved several times to different locations, hiding from the Nazis, always fearful of being discovered.
In 1941 when the Germans were preoccupied with fighting with the Russian Army, T4 was repealed, but the killings did not stop. It wasn't until the American soldiers occupied Germany that it was safe for Paula to return to her home.
T4 became something people
Weren't willing to talk about
Paula married, had two children and lived near her parents until they died of old age. She and her husband, also a refugee of T4
...were glad we
Had survived the worst, but we also felt guilty.
That feeling--that we had escaped when others equally
Important had died--would never subside.
LeZotte's choice to tell Paula's story in free verse has the effect of shining the brightest light on both the bold horror into which the German people were thrown and the refusal of many to divest themselves of their compassion and humanity. LeZotte's final reminder to the reader following Paula's story is to remember. It is only by remembering the crimes and cruelty of the Nazi regime that we ensure it never happens again.
T4 is a quick read as a resource for classroom units or as a read-aloud at home which can springboard important discussions on tolerance and acceptance of differences.
NOTE: The only heads-up I would offer to adults planning to use this is that LeZotte does, at one point in Paula's journey of hiding, have her reflecting on the physical changes in her body. Because there is only a single mention, the topic doesn't have any import on any other part of the story and is--in my opinion--superfluous. It is only a couple of lines, and are easily skipped in a read-aloud in a classroom, but it is there--in case you have a young reader using it as an independent reading choice and want to discuss this with him or her. ...more
I saw Joan Bauer's new book Almost Home after having read her current Lovelace nominee Close to Famous and I snatched it off the library shelf!
AlmostI saw Joan Bauer's new book Almost Home after having read her current Lovelace nominee Close to Famous and I snatched it off the library shelf!
Almost Home follows Sugar Mae Cole, a 12-year-old sixth grader in Missouri. Sugar and her mother Reba are struggling to make ends meet. Reba has been laid off from her full time job and is cleaning houses, but it's not enough. Then Sugar finds out that there house is at risk of foreclosure due to Reba having taken a second mortgage in order to give money to Sugar's gambling-addict father.
Sugar is an amazingly talented writer and has a 6th Grade teacher who recognizes it and proceeds to nurture her talents and consistently remind her of her gifts and strengths. Sugar is able to write poetry that speaks from her deepest fears, joys and dreams. This vulnerability is why her written work has such depth and resonance.
When Sugar and Reba do lose their home Sugar is too humiliated to let anyone at school know what's going on. When they have to move into a homeless shelter that is too far away for her to continue at the same school Sugar is devastated. As their time in the shelter stretches on Sugar notices the difference between those who give up and those who try to hold tight to some kind of dream, or hope:
The thing people don't know, until they've been there themselves, is how tiring it is to be homeless. It's always heavy on you, like wearing a winter coat in summer. It makes you look down when you walk. You've got to work hard at looking up.
Reba decides to move them to Chicago where she believes she has a better chance of getting a job. There their lives take a tragic turn in an unexpected direction.
Sugar's resolve, her courage and her tender heart make her one of the most engaging, loveable and likeable heroines I have ever encountered.
Almost Home is brimming with love, heartache, courage, fear and the very palpable struggle that is the human condition. Joan Bauer says the first time she heard Sugar's voice in her head it was part of one of Sugar's poems:
I'm in front of you, but you don't see me.
With those words, she had me. I had to write her story, and I realized that sometimes home, a real home, is a thing you have to search for with all your heart. This girls's got a heart big enough to carry her through.
And that is truly why Almost Home is worth the read! ...more
Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie is the story of Eleanor. Eleanor is 8 years old and it is the summer before 3rd Grade. At the center of the story is EleLike Pickle Juice on a Cookie is the story of Eleanor. Eleanor is 8 years old and it is the summer before 3rd Grade. At the center of the story is Eleanor learning her long-time babysitter/nanny (Bibi) is moving from Brooklyn to Florida to take care of her own ailing father. Bibi is the only babysitter Eleanor has ever had. The thought of Bibi not being with her is equivalent in her mind to the death of a loved one. The title comes from a delightful scene just after Bibi departs in which Eleanor's mother is trying to cheer her up:
Then she [mother] said,
"Should we have something special for breakfast?
Some chocolate chip pancakes?"
"No," I said.
"With powdered sugar?"
"No," I said.
"Cinnamon toast with extra cinnamon?"
"No," I said.
"How about pickle juice on a cookie?" she said.
"Would you like pickle juice on a cookie?"
And then I had to smile.
Because that was just ridiculous.
Eleanor's first life journey through grief to a place of acceptance where she can embrace the new and joyful things that will flourish in her life is a magnificent guide for her readers. Written in concise and colorful free verse Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie will appeal to readers in grades 1-4.
Although somewhat more grounded and less madcap than Sara Pennypacker's Clementine and Barbara Parks' Junie B Jones series, young readers will equally identify with and enjoy Eleanor's frank assessments of her life. This is a great read-aloud or independent reading choice--particularly for the end of 2nd Grade or the beginning of 3rd Grade.
If you enjoy Eleanor's story as much as I did, then don't miss Like Bug Juice on a Burger. This adventure features Eleanor going off to summer sleepaway camp and is as thoroughly enjoyable as the first! ...more
Written in free verse, The Lightning Dreamer is the story of Tula, a young girl growing up in Cuba in the mid-1800's. Her full name was Gertrude GomezWritten in free verse, The Lightning Dreamer is the story of Tula, a young girl growing up in Cuba in the mid-1800's. Her full name was Gertrude Gomez de Avellaneda and we meet her in 1827 at age 13. Margarita Engle writes from Tula's perspective, revealing her love of books and words. Tula's father encouraged her love of stories; her mother and her mother's new husband do not. Tula must hide what books she is able to get her hands on. She uses her younger brother Manuel to help disguise her books as his.
Tula paints a vivid picture of her frustration in the societal constructs in which she lives. She is aware that slavery exists all around her because she can see the slaves of others walking by her home every day. Their housekeeper, Caridad, began with their family as a slave but was freed by Tula's father. Caridad has continued on as a servant in Tula's household. Tula is able to confide in Caridad when she cannot in her mother.
Sent to the convent to teach her better behavior, the nuns provide Tula access to their HUGE library--which is NOT censored as are the ones controlled by the government and by the male population. It is here that Tula begins to realize that words can be MORE than the escape for which she uses them--making up stories of monsters and heroes in exciting and fanciful adventures.
In a dusty corner
of the convent library,
I discover the banned books
of Jose Maria Heredia, a rebel-poet--
and abolitionist and independista
who was forced into exile.
With her mother planning to auction her off to the highest (wealthiest) marriage bidder when she turns fourteen, Tula is miserable, trapped inside a hopeless situation in which she has no power...no voice. At the convent, she begins to write and direct plays with the orphan children who live there. She says:
I continue to dream up my own
set of rules--for life, for poetry,
for the orphan theater.
In my plays, all are equal.
Each orphan receives
a speaking role,
because every child
has a voice that must be heard,
even if adults only listen
while children are perched
on a stiff, wooden stage,
chirping like new-hatched birds
that have not yet learned
how to sing.
As she searches to find her own voice--to speak up to her mother and convince her that she does not want to marry anyone except for love (as her mother did originally)--Tula discovers another aspect to life that devastates her kind and loving heart when she observes a mother leaving her baby on the doorstep of the convent orphanage:
I seize the baby and hold him close.
He falls silent, breathing against me.
When I gaze down at his black eyes
and warm cinnamon-hued skin,
I can hear a story unfolding...
The mother looked Spanish.
The father must be African.
This child was abandoned
he is brown.
For a time Tula is without words--unable to conceive of any that will either express her thoughts and feelings or any that will make a difference. She doubts her own voice.
The way in which she re-discovers her voice and begins to use it powerfully is an astounding, compelling and exciting story. Margarita Engle's free verse makes this both an easy and exquisite read-aloud or independent read. The brief biographical information on Tula and on Heredia--as well as short excerpts from their poetry at the end of the book are a brilliant addition to feed the reader's curiosity and newfound respect and awe for a main character whose strength vibrates throughout the pages. ...more
LOVED the text: rhythm, humor and flow. The illustrations are colorful and sprawling over every page in perfect complement to the text. I will be usinLOVED the text: rhythm, humor and flow. The illustrations are colorful and sprawling over every page in perfect complement to the text. I will be using this to teach language, springboard into theatre scenes with older students and to share love of language & reading!...more
This is a great collection of some of Jack Prelutsky's work. Kids looking for dinosaur poems in addition to his other imaginary animals will LOVE thisThis is a great collection of some of Jack Prelutsky's work. Kids looking for dinosaur poems in addition to his other imaginary animals will LOVE this book.
Brandon Dorman's illustrations are unbelieveably rich and truly take Prelutsky's poetry to another level. This is a great resource at home or in the classroom!...more
I am soooo in love with this book! The poems are a riot--and occasionally brilliant in language and structure.
So many of the poems in this collectionI am soooo in love with this book! The poems are a riot--and occasionally brilliant in language and structure.
So many of the poems in this collection are a perfect synthesis of language, intent and humor. I often use tongue twisters in warm-ups and as verbal exercises in my theater classes (my favorites are from Gilbert & Sullivan and Dr. Seuss) and I will be adding several of Agee's works from this book beginning this fall.
"Orangutan Tongs," itself is a feast for the lips,the tongue,the jaw and the palate. I can't wait to share these with my own children for fun and with my students for experience in projection, enunciation and power of language.
Try saying "Peggy Babcock" or "Mixed bisuits" three times fast. Go on, I DARE you!
My favorite marries meaning and the magical sound of language:
ROTTEN WRITING Reading writing When it's written really rotten Can cause your eyes and intellect to strain. When it's written really rotten, Writing's really rotten reading. Yes, reading rotten written writing really is a pain.
If you love the sound of language and the linguistic gymnastics of poetic tongue twisters give this one a try and you won't be sorry!...more
Love this book! If you’ve read Arith-me-tickle this is the perfect next step by the same author. Delightful poems based on classic poetry which have wLove this book! If you’ve read Arith-me-tickle this is the perfect next step by the same author. Delightful poems based on classic poetry which have wrapped themselves around math puzzles to be solved. (If you haven’t read Arith-me-tickle I highly recommend it!)
The featured poets include Edgar Allan Poe, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Ogden Nash, Langston Hughes, Shel Silverstein, William Carlos Williams and many others.
The math puzzles in this one involve slightly more complicated operations to solve.
They range from Ogden Nash’s Buggy Rugs inspired by Nash’s “The Termite”:
Some termite burrowed under rugs
And found three hundred thirteen bugs.
If eighty-two plus fifteen snore,
How many termites chew the floor?
to Walt Whitman’s Web-Covered Shoe,inspired by Whitman’s “A Noiseless Patient Spider” which begins:
A noiseless, patient spider–
I counted her filaments, first one, then two, then dozens,
Counted one hundred and forty, unreeling out of her until
A wind gust blew sixty percent of them off
To New Jersey. That left…oh, who can say how many
Trembling strands remained?
(This one continues on to add a bully spider and new arch bridges to increase the original arachnid’s creation.)
There are many more delights and, likeArith-me-tickle, the difficulty level of the puzzles vary so that they are accessible to all levels. Children (and adults) who enjoy numbers, math and math puzzles will giggle and stir those problem-solving, silly, poetry-loving juices!
This is a great way to help kids keep up their skills during the summer and a terrific resource to have in a classroom for students who would like a fun extra challenge that they can work on independently or in small groups. I would also use it as a read-aloud/solve-aloud together to introduce specific math concepts or operations in a classroom.
I really enjoy J. Patrick Lewis' work and our whole family LOVED ARITHMETICKLE. We actually sat down with it (me, my husband, my 9-year-old and my 8-yI really enjoy J. Patrick Lewis' work and our whole family LOVED ARITHMETICKLE. We actually sat down with it (me, my husband, my 9-year-old and my 8-year-old) and read the poems and figured out the math problems within the poems together.
My husband and 9-year-old son love math and numbers, my 8-year-old daughter and I not so much, but we ALL enjoyed working the math riddles.
They are similar to the activities in the Dynamath series often used in 3rd and 4th grades as a fun and challenging supplement to math curriculums.
The poetry itself is delightful and there is a terrific mix of difficulty level for the math aspects of the poems. This would be a fantastic addition to a home or classroom library. As evidenced by myself and my daughter, this book appeals to all readers--not merely those who are passionate about math!...more