Monday, October 21, 2013

Graphic Novels and Other Things

While it's been awhile since my last post, it's not to say that I haven't been reading.  Quite the opposite, actually.

I've enjoyed a few novels over the past few months (The False Prince and it's sequel, The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen).  Re-read older favorites (Harry Potter by JK Rowling, The Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins, and Wonder by RJ Palacio). And re-read Veronica Roth's Divergent and Insurgent in preparation for the last installment, Allegiant, coming out tomorrow (Yay!)

But most recently, I fell in love with Amulet, a graphic novel series by Kazu Kibuishi.  I'm addicted.  And so is my class.  

I don't know why this pic is so blurry.  Clearly, photography is not my thing.

Anyway... in case you didn't already know, I teach at a wonderful full-inclusion school, Hope Technology School.    I recently wrote an article entitled, "Say YES to Graphic Novels!" about using graphic novels in the classroom.  I hope you can visit our school blog -- there are many great resources for parents and teachers!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Watch. Connect. Read.: 2013 Children's Choice Book Awards

How could we NOT join in on this?

A few years ago, my class and Mrs. Lopez's 5th graders held something similar.  We called it the "Bookies".  Students nominated favorite books across a variety of genre, voted, and then we had our own little award ceremony.  There was excitement.  There was suspense.  There was cheering.  It was awesome seeing kids so motivated by books!

So when I came across Mr. Schu's blog post a few weeks ago about the 2013 Children's Choice Book Awards, I thought we have to get our class to do it.  Read more about it below.

Watch. Connect. Read.: 2013 Children's Choice Book Awards: I'm excited to announce that voting is open for the 6th annual Children's Choice Book Awards .  When does voting close? ...

Monday, March 11, 2013

It's Monday! Here's What I'm Reading...

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA! 
It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It's also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…who knows, you might discover that next “must read” book!

Read more:

I'm almost a little embarrassed to say that I have not done much reading in the past month.  I can thank the flu for leaving its mark on me and my family, derailing all my plans to plow through my reading list.  But if you've been following the few "It's Monday! What are you reading?" posts I've participated in, you'll find that I rarely read what I plan to read.  I usually follow whatever my inner reading spirit fancies at the moment.

Image from here
This weekend, I picked up a book that my daughter had read recently.  It was one of the first that ushered her into a love of reading -- something she did not develop until recently, and it was a source of anxiety for me.  In reading this book, I was pleasantly surprised  not only by the story, but to learn that the author was born in San Diego (I grew up there!), hails from Northern California (yay!), went to Cal (double yay!) and that her book was published by Chronicle Books --a Northern California publishing icon.  The book I'm referring to is Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows.

As much as I LOVE reading, my daughter -- as previously mentioned --  did not possess the same passion until she came across this series and Judy Blume's Fudge series.  I can thank both Ms. Blume and Ms. Barrows for starting my daughter on the road to staying up past her bedtime in order to read one more chapter. :)  And I and genuinely and wholeheartedly grateful.  My little reader is blossoming thanks to some very talented writers.

You can learn more about Ivy and Bean, and author Annie Barrows at

You can also learn about illustrator, Sophie Blackall at

On a side note, as a member of SCBWI (Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators), I had an opportunity to attend a meet and greet event at Chronicle Book.  I was hoping to go -- especially after reading Ivy and Bean, but sadly scheduling and health issues prevented it from happening.  Perhaps another time.

What do I plan on reading next?
I know not.  But here are some new titles on my ever growing list:

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Happy Monday, and Happy Reading!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Press Release: The Second Annual 90-Second Newbery...

I had to share this bit of VERY COOL news.  Author James Kennedy is encouraging filmmakers of all ages to create a 90-second movie based on a Newbery novel.
Watch. Connect. Read.: Press Release: The Second Annual 90-Second Newbery...: Mr. Colby Sharp and I are reading all the Newbery Medal winners, and author Mr. James Kennedy is encouraging young filmmakers to create mo...

My class has read the following Newbery winning books:
Holes by Louis Sachar
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert O'Brien

On our list of books to read:
The Tale of Despereaux by Kate Di Camillo
Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary

I'm thinking of doing this either with my class, or with a group of students from our school -- since our school is so small, I think it would help to combine our forces. There are so many creative students here at our school, and so many different learning styles.  I think this would be a very motivating activity.

Hmm....Things to think about.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

RTW: Best book I've read in January

It's time for YA Highway's RTW!  Read about this "blog carnival" here.  This week's topic:  What's the best book you read in January?

Given that I only read one *gasp* book in January, this week's topic is easy.  Luckily, I really liked it -- but it's not a new release at all.  It's been out for a couple years now (I'm behind the times, I know).  The Maze Runner by James Dashner was awesome.  I not only read it in January, I think I read it in one weekend.  Think Jason Bourne meets The Matrix inside a labyrinth (with a little Flowers for Algernon thrown in).

The Maze Runner cover.pngHere's the book description from Amazon:
When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade—a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls.

Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they’ve closed tight. And every thirty days a new boy has been delivered in the lift.

Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up—the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers. 

Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind.

I'd tell you more, but I don't want to spoil it for you.  If you haven't done so already, read it!

As for some of my students and my own children, here are some of the books they have read in January, and their comments...

Student 1
Diary of Wimpy Kid #7:  The Third Wheel
"It's the best ever!"

Student 2
Gregor the Overlander and the Prophecy of Bane
"It's totally epic.  It's better than The Chronicles of Narnia."  (I'm still tying to understand the use of the word 'epic' in this manner -- I know it's the trend to use it this way, but it still feels grammatically wrong to me.  I must be getting old.)

Student 3
"I love graphic novels!  Can I take this home and keep it?"  (Uh, no.)

Student 4
The Sisters Grimm:  The Everafter War
"I really like this series.  Do you think they will make it into a movie?"  (I think there was some talk about it, but they had some problems during the pre-production part of things.  Not sure what's happening now, but I think it would be cool if it ever did make to a movie!)

Offspring #1
"Just one book?  Well, I really like Superfudge and Ivy and Bean." 

Offspring #2
"I liked the new book Daddy gave me, Mercy Wapson to the Rescue"  (It's actually Mercy Watson, with a 't' but he was so adamant about it, I didn't want to argue.)

Happy reading everyone!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Road Trip Wednesday: Memorable Road Trips

It's YA Highway's Road Trip Wednesday!  Read more about this is all about here.

This week's topic is:  What's the most dramatic road trip you've ever been on?

Well, given that I pretty much grew up on road trips every summer, and the fact that drama seems to just follow me wherever I go, I don't think I have slim pickins' on this one.  Question is, which one to choose?

My first road trip was when I was 2 years old.  We moved from Jacksonville, Florida to Whidbey Island, Washington by car.  I was told it was a 5 day trip, but I have no memory of it.

There are also road trip stories which  include projectile-vomitting toddlers, changing diapers while parked uphill in the middle of The Grapevine in Southern California, and sitting for 2 hours in completely stopped traffic on Pacheco Pass with a screaming 5 month-old.   But I think I'll spare you all those details.
Southbound I-5, approaching the Grapevine near Fort Tejon,

Pacheco Pass -- Eastbound 152, just past Casa de Fruta
So I'm harking back to the BC days.  The before children days.  The time when my husband and I could throw our clothes and toiletries in a bag, jump in the car, and start the 8 hour drive down to southern California right after having worked a full work week.  If we left the San Francisco Bay Area at 5:00 pm, made at most 2 stops, we could make it down to San Diego by about midnight or 1 am.  No problem -- we were relatively young, and had NO KIDS.  Since both of us had families in Southern California, it was a trip we had made about 3-4 more times a year for many many years.

The particular trip I am thinking of happened in February of 2000.  My brother in-law and his wife had driven  from their home in Fresno down to San Diego to visit their two children who were in college.  Because it was also his 50th birthday, his wife had secretly asked the rest of the family (none of whom lived in San Diego) to come down for a surprise birthday dinner at a Hawaiian-fusion restaurant.  Of course, the whole family agreed.

So after work on a rainy Friday in February, we set out on a trip that we had made so many times before.  We gassed up the car, grabbed a couple of In-N-Out burgers to go, popped in the newly released audiobook version of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (read by Jim Dale, who is amazing, by the way), and off to San Diego we went.

It was raining pretty hard, and we expected that.  However, as we made our way out of the Bay Area, south towards Gilroy (home of the garlic festival), it started raining harder and harder.  Traffic was terrible.  By the time we were in Pacheco Pass, it was about 8 pm, and raining so hard, the drops were coming at our windshield horizontally. We found ourselves ducking as bullets of rain shot towards us.  Every now and then,  gusts of wind would shake our little Honda Civic.  We told ourselves, hopefully it will get better by the time we get to the central valley.

We were wrong.

We got onto I-5 -- the main artery through California, and for the next 5 hours, it rained.  Hard.  The whole time.  At one point, we turned Jim and Harry off, because it was so stressful just driving.  We wondered how it was possible for it to rain that hard for that long.  Wouldn't the whole state be flooded by now?

sideways rain
It looked like this.  Found this on Pinterest here.
Sometime past 1 am, we found ourselves in Irvine, CA -- halfway between LA and San Diego, about 2 more hours to go to our destination.  Having taken turns driving, we were beyond exhausted.   Howard, my husband, decided we needed to pullover into a parking lot and just sleep in the car.  Well, he slept; I didn't.  It was raining just as hard as it had been when we left the Bay Area.  I spent most of the time worried that we would fall victim to some crazy ax-murderer.  Crazy random thought, I know.  But that's where my thoughts go when I'm exhausted at 2 am.  It didn't matter that he parked us in a 24 hour gas station so that there was someone nearby.  And it didn't help that the wind howled, and drops of rain falling from trees crashed on our roof every 2 seconds.

Found this image here
We eventually made it to my parents house in San Diego.  After getting sleeping for most of the day, we recounted our journey to my parents.  We learned that the storm that started in the Bay Area the night before had travelled south with 70-80 mph winds, the same speed that most of California drives on I-5 in the central valley.  In my mind, I visualized a satellite image of California, a giant storm cloud travelling down the state, with our little car right underneath it.  Kind of like the rain cloud that followed Eeyore wherever he went.  That's basically what we'd done.  The state was not in danger of flooding.  It was not raining throughout the entire state for 10 hours, it just rained on us as we drove down!  

Anyway, we made it to the birthday party.  We sat with our family at the restaurant, hiding behind menus as the waiter led Howard's brother to the table.  He stood right next to us and didn't even register it was us until Howard yelled, "Surprise!"  We laughed when he jumped back almost bumping the waiter, surprised to see his family before him.  It was worth it.

So there you have it:  our most traumatic, I mean, dramatic road trip.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

YA Highway Road Trip Wednesday

It's time for YA Highway's Road Trip Wednesday!
This Week's Topic is: Good for a laugh: who is your favorite comedian or funny book and/or movie?

I don't know if I have one favorite comedian as much as many -- Lucille Ball, Dick Van Dyke, Robin Williams, Jim Carey, Adam Sandler, Tim Allen, Ellen Degeneres, and Will Farrell...the list can go on and on.

As far as favorite funny a child, it was Judy Blume's Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Shel Silverstein's Where the Sidewalk Ends.  As an adult, my mom and I enjoyed reading anything by Erma Bombeck.  And as a teacher, I've added Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar, as well as books by Andrew Clements to the list.

Favorite funny movie?  The one that almost ALWAYS comes to mind is The Princess Bride.  I think Rob Reiner is a genius, and there are SO MANY memorable lines!
I got this image from here
  • Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya.  You killed my father, prepare to die.
  • He's only mostly dead.
  • Inconceivable!
  • As you wish.
Yes, this list can go on and on, too.

Thanks for the Road Trip, YA Highway!  I think it's time I go dig up this DVD and make plans to watch it this week!

Monday, January 21, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

My Classroom Read Aloud
Last week, we were reading Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins.  We finished that, and the kids LOVED it.  It has been my tradition in class to only read aloud the first book of a series -- I do this with the specific intent of hooking them into reading the rest of the series.  As I only have one set of The Underland Chronicles, we had quite the little "argument" over who got to read book 2, The Prophecy of Bane.  I have heard that several kids ordered it through Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and several have checked it out of their local libraries.

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. we read Martin's Big Words:  The Life of Dr. martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Bryan Collier today.  Probably one of the best children's books about Dr. King I have seen -- it was just right for my class, and served as a springboard for discussions about civil rights, peaceful promotion of change, and believing in something so much that you were willing to die for it.  Some pretty deep stuff for 9 and 10 year-olds.

We began our new read aloud last week:  The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan.  The kids love the tongue-in-cheek style, and we had kids say, "Hey, I have dyslexia!" and another say, "Hey, my brain gets distracted like that sometimes too!"  We even had one child say, "I don't have dyslexia, but I do have autism!"  I've said it before, and I'll say it again -- what's not to love about a character who has dyslexia and ADHD?  So many of my students feel empowered just knowing that a main character in a book -- and a cool one at that -- is just like them.

What am I reading?
So I finished James Dashner's The Maze Runner last week.  Wow!!  I am currently reading the 2nd book in that series entitled, The Scorch Trials.   Just when I thought I had everything figured out, Dashner throws even more twists and turns into the plot.  I plan on reading the 3rd book when I'm done, and THEN I'll start on Candy Gourlay's Tall Story.

I love the idea of asking my students what they are reading.  I think I'll try that for next week!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Turkish Delight Anyone?

So last Wednesday's YA Highway Road Trip got me thinking.  The topic was about opening your "Fantasy Bookstore", what would it look like, what would you sell.  Of course, I would sell children's books of all genres; picture books to young adult.  Several people posted about including a cafe in their Fantasy Bookstore -- which I totally would do that too.  One person said she'd sell cupcakes in her children's bookstore -- which I think kids and parents would DEVOUR!

Not sure if other people suggested this in their posts, but  my husband and I then started discussing the idea of a cafe in our children's bookstore that served foods that were featured in or inspired by children's novels.  We decided that having an entire menu to create, serve, and maintain everyday would be too complicated, and it would take away from our focus on books and children's literacy.  So we came up with the idea to feature ONE ITEM every day (or once a week?), print out a calendar, and use it as an incentive to have people come in and visit the bookstore.

With that concept in mind, we came up with these foods inspired by children's novels...

  • Turkish Delight -- from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
  • Green Eggs and Ham -- from Green Eggs and Ham (of course)
  • Haystacks (confection made from fried chow mein noodles, butterscotch chips and peanut butter) -- from How to Eat Fried Worms
  • Butterbeer -- Harry Potter
  • Pumpkin Pasties -- Harry Potter
  • Oatmeal (Gruel)-- Oliver Twist
  • Lamb Stew with Dried Plums -- Hunger Games
  • Dauntless Chocolate Cake, Candor Ice Cream, Erudite Fizzy Drinks -- Divergent series
  • Cloudy with a Chance of Spaghetti and Meatballs -- Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
  • Stone Soup -- Stone Soup
  • Pancakes, Cookies, Muffins -- If You Give A Mouse A...
Now let me be CLEAR.  We do NOT have any plans whatsoever of actually doing this.  But it was fun to imagine! :)

Any other ideas to add to this list?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

YA Highway Road Trip Wednesday

I'm in my early 40's, and I'm a huge YA fiction fan.  Maybe I'm reliving my young adulthood, I don't know. Anyway, I follow this site called "YA Highway" -- so much fun.  Every Wednesday, they have this thing called "Road Trip Wednesday".  Here's their description...

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

We'd love for you to participate! Just answer the prompt on your own blog and leave a link - or, if you prefer, you can include your answer in the comments.

So here I am, adding my two-cents' worth to the YA Blog Carnival:

This week's topic:
 Imagine you get to open your own bookstore. What would it look like? What kinds of books would you sell?

My bookstore would be relatively small -- kind of like the bookstore in the movie, Notting Hill.  The entrance would look like this:

Isn't that cool?  Found it on Pinterest here..

I would sell children's picture books, early chapter, chapter, middle grade, and of course...ya fiction.  Fiction and non-fiction.  A different section for each type of book, with decor that would appeal to each age group.  Lots of pillows, cushions, comfy chairs to sit.  I'd host story times for all age groups, and open-mic times where kids of all ages could share their writing.

As far as what to call this non-existent bookstore, I know not.  If I wanted something ultra-cheesy, I'd go with Books-R-Us, or Barns and Nobles.  But I don't.  Since I'm lacking in the name-idea department, please feel free to name my bookstore if you'd like...

Monday, January 14, 2013

It's Monday! What are you reading?

So I ran across this post on Teach Mentor Texts.  Every Monday, they post -- and encourage others to post  -- books they've read in the past week, and what they plan on reading.

I don't know if we will finish this week, but here is ours anyway...

In our 4th grade class, we read aloud to the students everyday.  We are currently reading aloud Gregor The Overlander by Suzanne Collins (you probably recognize her by her other series The Hunger Games).  
Think:  Chronicles of Narnia meets Alice in Wonderland in the City of Ember with a boy-in-a-prophecy twist.  Lots of intense action, suspense, and a very engrossing plot.  So much fun to experience this book with the kids.

I, personally, am currently reading The Maze Runner by James Dashner.  It took me a couple of chapters to really get into it.  Now that I am into it -- I am totally hooked.  Think:  Jason Bourne meets Ender Wiggin (from Ender's Game) with a spin on Flowers for Algernon.  I highly recommend it.

After this, I want to read Louisiana Sky by Kimberly Willis Holt.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Wonderful Characters: Books with Characters Who Have Special Needs

As a teacher of both typical children (however you want to define them) and children with special needs, I used to find myself hard-pressed to find books that show students with special needs as a main character.  I have found few that show these children with any amount of complexity.  Recently, however, the number of books which prominently feature children with special needs is growing.  Here are a few that many of my students have connected with...

Wonder by RJ Palacio
When I read this book last year, it quickly became one of my favorites.  August is a boy who has cranio-facial abnormalities.  He has also had multiple surgeries every year since he was born.  This book, told from the point of view of several characters, chronicles August's experience as he transitions from homeschooling to a small private school.  Anyone who listens/reads this book learns how to get the perspective of a child with special needs.

Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco
This book tells the story of students who are in a "special class".  While they learn to deal with the teasing and emotions that come with being "different", they learn that they can do AMAZING things.

Like all of Patricia Polacco's tales, this story is autobiographical -- very inspiring.  If I had to choose one book to inspire my own students (and their parents), this one would be it.

Thank You, Mr. Faulker by Patricia Polacco
This is Ms. Polacco's tale of learning how to read, and the teacher who cared enough to give the extra time and help she needed.

You can read more about Patricia Polacco here...

Rules by Cynthia Lord
Cynthia Lord was a teacher (points in my book already!) and has a child with autism (read here).  This was her debut novel about a girl who has a brother with autism, and how she helps him understand his world through listing rules.  A must read!

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Dyslexia?  It's due to the fact your brain is hard-wired for Ancient Greek.  Impulsivity?  That's your battle field reflexes.  Now THAT is cool.  What a fun way to explain dyslexia and ADHD.  So often kids with LD and ADHD are the "problem" children in the classroom.  Teachers see them that way, their classmates see them that way.  I love that this book helps them NOT see them that way.  Got dyslexia and ADHD?  You're a demi-god!  Awesome.

Books that I've not read, but have been recommended to me...

Hank Zipser: Niagra Falls or Does It?  by Henry Winkler
 This one came highly recommended to me by a mother whose son has ADHD.  They totally identify with Hank.  And what's not to love about a book written by the Fonz?

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine
A girl with Asperger's Syndrome dealing with the loss of a sibling who helped provide her with order and stability.  Sounds so deep.  I haven't read this book, but have heard amazing things about it.  It's on my nightstand, though, waiting for me to read it.  Please chime in and let me know what you think.

Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin

  Another book I have not read yet.  The main character is has autism, and I hope to read this one very soon.

Do you have any recommendations?  I'm looking for books I can read to my class -- or recommend to my 4th grade students.  Please chime in!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

My Evolution as a Bookworm

There is an event in my life as a mother that happens on occasion.  It is known as "Organizing the Kids' Bookshelf."  I don't know why I do it.  It's actually not that bad.  The real problem is that there isn't enough room on their bookshelf for their books.  Right now, it looks like this.

They have many more books contained in baskets around their room, and even more in their beds.

At six and nine years-old, they are at that funny stage where one is still into the picture books, and the other is delving into chapter books.  They are also still attached to their favorite books we read when they were babies -- which I think they get from me.  Which brings me to the topic of this post...

I happen to have a lot of vivid memories of my childhood -- as early as when I was 2-3 years old, living in the small Navy town of Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island in Washington.  As I sort through my memories, many of them are related to books.

And as I sorted through my children's books, I found MY favorite books among them.  Yes, I am so fond of my books that I still have them.  These books have been in my possession since the early 1970s.

My favorites as a pre-schooler were these:

I especially LOVED The Ear Book, and wanted my dad to make popcorn just because of it.

We moved to San Diego just before I started Kindergarten, and my favorites then became these:

I loved it when my dad read How Fletcher was Hatched and Miss Suzy and especially Eighteen Cousins (because I was the youngest of 34 grandchildren on my mom's side and 26 grandchildren on my dad's side -- but that's a different post altogether).  The Pied Piper was completely intriguing to me -- albeit a little creepy.  And I lived vicariously through Splish Splash because my mother NEVER let me do that.

When I got old enough to read more complicated stuff on my own, one of my favorites was this birthday present, given to me when I turned 7:

 My love for reading the dictionary started when I was about 7 years-old.  My husband and co-workers still find me engrossed in reading the dictionary or an atlas or random articles on Wikipedia.  Yes, I openly admit that I am a book nerd. 

I recently read a post on a blog by Mr. Schu that made me think.  I always encourage my students and own children to read.  We talk about the kinds of books they enjoy, and I make recommendations based on that.  I have never really reflected on the books I enjoyed reading in elementary school.   I had a mix of popular favorites and some relatively obscure titles:
  • picture books about this horse named Blaze -- I grew up in a horse town outside of San Diego, horse trails around our homes and school
  • anything by Judy Blume -- especially Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing (the first book to make me cry, believe it or not) Superfudge, Blubber, and Starring Sally J. Freeman as Herself.  I credit Judy Blume as being the one to fuel my love for reading.
  • anything by Madeleine L'Engle -- A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, and A Swiftly Tilting Planet
  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Patterson
  • Mandy by Julie Edwards (aka Julie Andrews -- the Julie Andrews)
  • A Little Princess and The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett
  • Beat the Turtle Drum by Constance Greene
  • The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
  • From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
  • The Story of Helen Keller  (this is probably how I got in to deaf education)
  • Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
  • A Cricket in Times Square
  • Charlotte's Web
  • Anne of Green Gables
  • The Witch of Blackbird Pond
  • The White Mountains (Tripods series) -- THIS was intense, I think this was probably the first book that hurtled me into the YA genre.  Anyone else remember this series?
And there were these, which were not necessarily my favorites, just noteworthy enough because of all the books I read, I remembered these for some reason:
  • Champions Don't Cry
  • My Robot Buddy by Alfred Slote
  • The Lancelot Closes at Five (knock-off on From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler)
  • The Little House series (I tried to like these...but found them very boring.  I blame the TV series)
I could probably add more titles to both lists if I thought long enough, but these were the ones that came to mind when I thought of it.

Hmmm...learning a lot about myself as a reader.  The things I enjoy reading today as an adult are not that far off from the things I enjoyed reading as a child.  I'm still a bookworm, or booknerd, or whatever you want to call it.

What were some of your childhood favorites?  Feel free to chime in!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

What happens to good intentions?

So that box of wonderful books I intended to read?  Didn't happen.  I could give you a gazillion reasons why.  But really, I got caught up in the holidays, and in researching writing (as in writing middle grade or YA lit.)

I have always wanted to be a teacher.  Always.  I played teacher when I was 8 years-old.  I made floor plans of my classroom.  I created classroom schedules.   I "taught" my stuffed animals.  I even made attendance sheets.  But...

I have a secret.

I also wanted to be a writer.  My closet was filled with boxes of spiral-bound notebooks containing all of my stories.  Most of them were fanfic stuff, written before I even knew what fanfic was all about.  As soon as I got into books (about 3rd grade), I got into writing, too.  I was so inspired by the stories I read, that I wanted the stories and characters to continue.  So I continued them.  Now, series books were not exactly abounding when I was young.  There were the Little House on the Praire books, The Boxcar Children, the Chronicles of Narnia, and the "Fudge" books by Judy Blume.  My favorite was Madeleine L'Engle's Time Trilogy.  But those were about it.  Regardless, books were my inspiration, so I wrote and wrote and wrote.

Years later as a young college student, I devised this plan to teach during the school year, and write during the summer.  Great plan, right?  For someone who had NEVER ACTUALLY TAUGHT  in a classroom.  But for someone who was always thinking on the practical side, this was a logical course of action.  I figured my chances of gainful employment were greater with teaching than with writing.  And given the knowledge I had back then, I was probably right.

It's been 21 years since I graduated from college.  I've been teaching since 1998, and have been teaching at my current school since 2001. It's a unique school -- awesome environment, incredible staff -- but a lot of hard work, and not a lot of summer break.   I am happily married, and have two amazing children.  But I still have this dream of writing.

A few things helped my dream re-surface:
  1. One of my students mentioned a girl's ability to fight as a quality worthy of marriage.  I blogged about it here.  It made me think about girl characters in books.
  2. I was an avid reader in elementary school.  Someone very close to me is not.  This person has amazing reading comprehension skills, but is still developing fluency and reading stamina.  Some books are too long for this person, even though this person is able read it.  Just something that made me go hmmm.
  3. I found out that the author of one of my current favorite reads, Divergent, is only 24 years-old.  Her name is Veronica Roth, and when I poked around her blog, I was totally inspired.  She had so many great tips!
  4. I started looking up other favorite authors, and was also inspired by Jessica Day George, author of Dragon Slippers.  This inspired me, too.  She is a mom!  Like me!  It also took her nine years and 187 rejections.  (That was totally frightening -- but inspiring nonetheless).
My husband and I talked, and he has always known this dream of mine.  Our first Christmas as a married couple, he gave me a blank journal, "To write your ideas for your book," he told me.  I still have that book, but it never really got filled.  I realized I need to make the time if I want this to happen.  However long it takes.  This Christmas, he gave me a software called Scrivener.  I love it.  I'm actually using it, playing around, hashing out ideas, characters.  Maybe it will become something.  Who knows?

But I'm not giving up my day job. :)