Friday, April 22, 2011

On Earth Day: THE GIVER

One of Lois Lowry's classics has stubbornly positioned itself in the back of my mind for years. There are so many phrases and the mental images those phrases created that will come to mind at, seemingly, the most random of times. All day today - on Earth Day - I have been thinking of THE GIVER.

via Google Images

There are so many haunting moments from that book - when Jonas realizes exactly what weighs the Giver down so heavily, when he feels pain for the first time, and sees the brutal realities of life, when he realizes the atrocities his father mercilessly commits, and when he realizes the baby he has grown to love, Gabriel, will meet the same fate. But one seemingly subtle, but equally haunting moment has been on my mind the most today - when Jonas starts to see in color.

The beauty of the world around us is something that we definitely take for granted until we are given the opportunity to see it through the eyes of someone for whom it is all new - in this case, a very special 11 year old who previously had only seen in black and white. The first glimpse of color he sees - a glimmer of red from an apple - changes him forever.

Celebrate Earth Day today by appreciating the beauty all around, and maybe by doing something to keep it green.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Happy Poem in Your Pocket Day!

I LOVE National Poetry Month, yet this day is one that I knew nothing about until I joined Twitter and connected with my ever-brilliant group of librarians, teachers, and children's lit experts.

Poem In Your Pocket Day is a day where you, quite simply, carry a poem in your pocket all day. I think it would be fun to randomly pull the poem out and read it to people, say standing in grocery line or sitting in a waiting room! I also think since the poem is, in fact, in your pocket, it should be rather short.

That brings me to my Poem In Your Pocket Day offering, courtesy of one of my heroes, Dorothy Parker:

A Very Short Song

Once, when I was young and true,
Someone left me sad-
Broke my brittle heart in two;
And that is very bad.

Love is for unlucky folk,
Love is but a curse.
Once there was a heart I broke;
And that, I think, is worse.

A breath of fresh air and just the right size to fit into your pocket :-)

However, if you don't have your own favorite poem to put into your pocket, here are some great resources to help you find one:

image via Amazon

You can actually tear the pages of poetry from this book to store in your pocket! Perfect for those days when you just need a poem in your pocket.

image via Amazon

This is a great introductory book of poetry for those middle schoolers that really need something that is going to resonate and be relevant.

image via Google

And, as always, Teen Ink is a great place to get inspiration and get your teens published.

Enjoy Poem in Your Pocket Day, and the rest of National Poetry Month, by finding a new favorite poem today!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Horton Halfpott

First of all, how great is that name?
The upcoming release of Horton Halfpott: Or, the Fiendish Mystery of Smugwick Manor; Or, the Loosening of M'Lady Luggertuck's Corset by Tom Angleberger on May 1 is one of my most anticipated of the year!
If Tom's name sounds familiar that's probably because you read his successful debut, The Strange Case of Origami Yoda! After reading Origami Yoda, I would have definitely picked up his next book, simply because I loved his debut work so much. However, Horton Halfpott sounds wonderful in its own right.

The premise seems to be a parody of English mysteries, made extra silly for his middle grade audiences (and overgrown kids like me). To quote Amazon:

Tom Angleberger's latest, loopiest middle-grade novel begins when M'Lady Luggertuck loosens her corset (it's never been loosened before!), thereby setting off a chain of events in which all the strict rules of Smugwick Manor are abandoned. When, as a result of "the Loosening," the precious family heirloom, the Luggertuck Lump (quite literally a lump), goes missing, the Luggertucks look for someone to blame. Is it Horton Halfpott, the good-natured but lowly kitchen boy who can't tell a lie? Or one of the many colorful cast members in this silly romp of a mystery.

I am very much looking forward to meeting Horton on May 1!

In the meantime, take a look at the book's blog @

(Here's a little preview for my fellow map nerds!)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Beverly Cleary

Beverly Cleary is one of those universal names in children's literature - everyone knows and loves at least one of her books. Today, she turns 95, and I think she deserves as many birthday shout-outs as possible. Two of my favorite childrens lit experts are featuring her on their excellent blogs:

Anita Silvey @ her wonderful Children's Book-A-Day Almanac

John Schu @ Watch.Connect.Read. 
I even get a shout out here, so thanks for that, John!

And as most of you know, one of Cleary's most popular books, Beezus and Ramona, was recently made into a hit movie, starring Selena Gomez as Beezus.

So, a huge thank you to the birthday girl for all the wonderful stories and characters she has shared!  Happy Birthday, Beverly Cleary!

Monday, April 11, 2011

In Geek News....

YAY! I adore Harry Potter anything. The books are my all-time favorites, and it seems as though I've passed my obsession on to my oldest son. LEGO Harry Potter exists in various ways in our home - we have the DS and XBox 360 version of the game, several LEGO sets, a poster, and soon a book!

Big Questions and Lots of Coffee

     Sooo, it has been well over a month since I have posted. Almost two actually, and I'm not entirely happy about that. However, this blog kind of has to go to the back-burner when school gets crazy. And crazy it has been. But this semester, I am learning SO much about adolescence and adolescents. So much so that I feel like it's making me a better parent and most definitely a better educator.
     One thing my Adolescent Development class has been discussing repeatedly is how we can apply what we are learning to our own experiences. In other words, what could be impacting the autonomy and achievement of the adolescents in Eastern Kentucky? Personally, I find that the same answer keeps popping up repeatedly - poverty. If students aren't sure where they will sleep that night, if they will have food to eat, or who will be taking care of them, how can we expect them to "perform" well? If their parents are pill-addled and they are consistently exposed to that cultural underbelly and all of its instability, how can we expect them to focus on anything? Children are not made to compartmentalize, and they certainly don't owe the school system a good performance on state tests, particularly when we are failing them so spectacularly. The children in this region not only have to deal with poverty, but also with a culture that doesn't greatly value educational achievement, and negative stereotypes from people outside Eastern Kentucky. 
     I think the possibility of a stereotype threat for students in Eastern Kentucky is a very real one. Students rarely hear anything positive about the people of this region from anyone who lives outside of it. It seems that mainstream, outside knowledge of Appalachia consists of prescription drug abuse, coal mining, and inaccurate stereotypes of blissfully ignorant and/or feuding hill-folk. They are also told that their schools are not performing as they should, which leads them to the logical assumption that they aren’t performing as they should. Without realizing all of the external factors that are beyond their control, students have the potential to internalize all of this and assume that the stereotypes and negativity are true; that this is simply who and what they are. If they are continually told by society as a whole that they are ignorant because of where they live, and then told by their teachers, administrators, etc, that they aren’t performing  as they should in school, what are they expected to assume about themselves? So, if they assume they have no chance to rise above, then they may being to wonder why should they try.
   Then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy  - “...students’ beliefs about their abilities influence the academic activities they participate in (both in and out of school), which influences their achievement, which further shapes their beliefs (Simpkins, Davis- Keans, & Eccles, 2006).” (Steinburg 410)
   As an educator and a parent living in this region, it is imperative to realize that poverty seems to be the underpinning of all that is wrong here - the drug problems, the high drop-out rate, and the lack of educational achievement. The question is what do we do about it, right?  

That's a very big question for 8:30 on Monday morning, especially when I've only had one cup of coffee. 

Steinberg, Laurence D. Adolescence. Boston: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2008.