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This blog is about teaching, my life’s work; literature, especially that created for children; history, especially as it is taught to and learned by children; Africa, especially Sierra Leone where I was a Peace Corps Volunteer; and other sundry topics as they come to my attention.
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1. Christopher Paul Curtis’s The Madman of Piney Woods

I was on the 2008 Newbery Committee that honored Christopher Paul Curtis’s Elijah of Buxton so I was both eager and nervous to read its companion, The Madman of Piney Woods.  Eager because I so admired the first book, and nervous because you just never know.  Happily, I was delighted with the book and those at the Horn Book  Magazine where I reviewed it agreed with me, starring it. I concluded my review (which you can read here) thus: “Woven throughout this profoundly moving yet also at times very funny novel are themes of family, friendship, community, compassion, and, fittingly, the power of words.”

 


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2. Disney’s Aladdin on Stage and Screen

While Disney is not my preferred choice for a Broadway show,  the enthusiastic New York Times review and what I saw on the Tonys, peaked my interest in seeing  the Broadway production of Aladdin, the Musical. And so yesterday, as a reward for completing a big writing project before school starts, I  went to see it and was not disappointed; it was loads of fun.  And now rereading the Times review, I’m not surprised to see that the director was also responsible for The Book of Mormon musical. Both have an old-fashioned feel and are loving appreciations of the musical theater genre with production numbers that are reminders of old favorites, while being entertaining all by themselves.

And then there is James Monroe Iglehart who rightly won a Tony for his terrific performance as Genie. At first his performance reminded me somewhat painfully of Robin William’s creation of the character in the movie, but eventually Inglehart’s terrific singing and dancing made the role all his own.  To honor both men here are their performances of the showstopper, “Friend Like Me” and then one more recent video of Inglehart  and the Broadway cast leading a tribute to Williams.


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3. Barry Jonsberg’s The Categorical Universe of Candice Phee

Barry Jonsberg’s The Categorical Universe of Candice Pheean Australian import, is one fabulous book.  I’d had the ARC for quite a while, but it took Betsy Bird’s rave review to finally get me to read it and I’m so glad I did. Twelve-year-old Candice is one of those delightful singular narrators — she is definitely different, but not in a way that can be nicely and conveniently categorized.  Classmates term her SN for special needs, but there is no sense that she is being provided any special support at all. She tells her story clearly, without discomfort, with thought, and with delightful humor. Her family is struggling emotionally for many good reasons, but Candice is keeping going even as her parents are barely able to do so. Candice knows herself, she knows she is different, and is completely comfortable with that. Occasionally there is a tinge of Pollyanna in her, say when she is paired for a school project with the classmate who seems to hate her most. Candice both knows Jen detests her and thinks that they will be great friends because of the project. Does the latter prevail? Sort of and sort of not. Read the book to see.

Jonsberg’s writing is a dream. He has structured the book as a school assignment Candice is given — to write an abecedarian  autobiography — one paragraph for each letter. Our girl takes it and runs with it, letting us know at the beginning that she is tossing the one paragraph rule, giving each letter a full chapter instead.  She loves the dictionary and Dickens and it shows. Hers (or rather Jonsberg’s) ability to write a scene is just delightful. I dare you not to be moved by those with her parents. Or intrigued by those with Douglas Benson from Another Dimension. Then there are those passages where Candice ruminates, say about trying to get her fish to become an atheist. Or about the death of her baby sister. Or about her Rich Uncle Brian. I’m a teacher so I have to say I adored Candice’s, Miss Bamford.  She just appreciates Candice and I appreciate her, pirate attire and all. (Read the book to see what that is all about.)

So go find and read this book — it is terrific.

Coda: The SLJ reviewer wrote,  “This is a strong readalike for Counting by 7s (Dial, 2013) and Out of My Mind(S. & S., 2010.”  I have to say this makes me very uncomfortable as it suggests there is a category of books of different, so identified because of unusual personality or severe physical differences. The girls in each of these books are each such distinctive individuals, their situations are not the same, and the writing is not the same.  The idea that young readers would read all three for the same reason disturbs me — it suggests they are looking for books about kids who are not them, who are fascinated by their differences. Sure they will admire these three girls, but why throw them together this way?

 


4 Comments on Barry Jonsberg’s The Categorical Universe of Candice Phee, last added: 8/27/2014
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4. Learning About Africa: Coping with Ebola in Kenema

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While Ebola seems to be off the  New York Times front page, the articles are still there.  “If They Survive in the Ebola Ward, They Work On” features some heroic people in and around Kenema, an area I knew when I lived in Sierra Leone. (For a different sort of context, this is center Mende country where the Amistad captives of Africa is My Home were from.)


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5. Jennifer L. Holm’s The Fourteenth Goldfish

Who doesn’t enjoy a well-drawn curmudgeon? Children’s books are rife with them. From dour Eeyore moping about the Hundred Acre Wood to the irritable Mary Poppins, they come in all shapes and species. Proudly singular, such cantankerous characters are invariably exasperating, endearing and entertaining all at the same time. And now along comes Jennifer L. Holm with a doozy. Best known for her works of historical fiction, three of which have won Newbery Honors (“Our Only May Amelia,” “Penny From Heaven,” “Turtle in Paradise”), and the graphic novel series “Babymouse,” Holm uses a surprising twist to bring us a particularly memorable grouch in her latest, “The Fourteenth Goldfish.”

That’s the beginning of my very enthusiastic review of The Fourteenth Goldfish in this weekend’s New York Times Book Review.  Read the rest of it here.


1 Comments on Jennifer L. Holm’s The Fourteenth Goldfish, last added: 8/23/2014
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6. BBC Television Series of Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

I was a huge fan of Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell and have been keeping an eye out on the progress of the forthcoming BBC seven-episode series.  I found this article about the filming with some images, one of which is below. There’s also  a facebook page featuring more images and stuff from the series filming.  Evidently the filming is done and they are into post-production.

Bertie Carvel plays Jonathan Strange and Eddie Marsan plays Mr. Norrell.

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7. Coming Soon: Katherine Coville’s The Cottage in the Woods

I love fairy tale reworkings. At the same time their popularity of late has resulted in a lot of mediocre ones and so when I come across one I’m both excited and wary. Is it going to be a goofy-movie-Shrek-imitating-like thing or more in the vein of Michael Buckley’s Fairy Tale DetectivesChristopher Healy’s Hero’s Guides, or Adam Gidwitz’s Grimm series?  And if YA dark is it going to be lame bodice-ripper or something with heft, like Tom McNeal’s Far Far Away? And so seeing a  description of Katherine Coville’s debut novel The Cottage in the Woods on Edelweiss,  I requested it on a whim and began reading it with very low expectations.  And so what a lovely surprise when it turned out to be completely engrossing, a book I read steadily until I was done. In other words, reader, I liked it very much.

The story is a unique melding of a Regency Romance/Victorian Gothic set within a fairy tale world. Our heroine and narrator is Ursula Brown, a very proper young bear who has come to the Cottage in the Woods, the wealthy Vaughn family’s estate near Bremen Town, as their young boy’s governess. The three Vaughn bears live an elegant and refined life and Ursula slips into it without much difficulty, tolerating Mr. Vaughn’s stern admonitions, appreciating Mrs. Vaughn’s kind gestures, and falling very much in love with her sweet young charge, Teddy.  But life in the area is not easy. The Enchanted — those animals who talk, dress, and act as humans do — are struggling with envy, prejudice, racial hostility, and out-and-out vigilantism from some of their human neighbors.

The publisher indicates that this is a reworking of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” It is indeed, but I don’t wish to give away just how. I will say that I found it an enormously clever rethinking of that particular story, very much in keeping with the literary tradition Coville is working in, that of the Victorian novel.  I’ve been reading and listening to a lot of them these days and so I was very impressed with how well Coville used those tropes in her story. Ursula is very introspective, the various Enchanteds in her world are as proper and polite as anyone in an Austen, Bronte, Eliot, or Trollope novel. There is plenty of drama here, but not the swashbuckling sort of some of the other fairy tale workings. And while somber on occasion it isn’t as dark as some of the YA ones around.

There are so many clever fairy tale/nursery rhyme touches that also allude to the Victorian novel tradtion. For instance, Teddy’s nurse is an illiterate tippling badger who is quite jealous of our heroine and an amusing contrast to the cozy cute ones of Potter and others. Best of all is the Goldilock’s plot thread — it is a brilliant rethinking of the story within a classic Victorian Gothic setting.  And I love the representation of the doctor who comes to examine her at one point with his Freud-like Viennese accent.

So keep an eye out for this one. I can’t wait to see what others make of it.


2 Comments on Coming Soon: Katherine Coville’s The Cottage in the Woods, last added: 8/18/2014
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8. Learning About Africa: The Realness of Ebola in Sierra Leone

This blog is a platform I normally reserve for the important issue of fashion in Sierra Leone, but this week, I’m struggling to find a fashion angle. Unless you’ve been living on mars, you will know that West Africa is suffering the worst ever outbreak of the world’s most deadly disease – Ebola. I traveled to Kenema district last week for an assignment to write about the outbreak. I live in Freetown and before leaving, the epidemic hadn’t really kicked off here. ‘EBOLA!’ (said with a loud voice and chuckle) was something that was happening in villages, places that didn’t affect the urban folk of Sierra Leone’s capital. I knew Kenema was a district suffering huge case numbers, but nothing prepared me for what I saw and heard in one of Sierra Leone’s most brutally affected areas.

From Human Tales of Ebola.

And here is a  New York Times video from one of the villages most affected.


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9. Learning About Africa: Ebola

Yet again Africa is in the news as the other, as a place of horror and misery.  So just a few reminders:

Ebola is not throughout Africa. You don’t need to worry when coming into contact with someone from the continent or someone who has been there recently. Africa is a big continent and Ebola is not everywhere.  In fact…

Ebola is currently in three West African countries:  Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. But…

Ebola is not an air-borne illness. You will not contract it by being in the same plane or auditorium or building as someone who has it or has come from one of the countries where it is prevalent. In fact…

you would need to be directly exposed to fluids from someone with the illness to be exposed. And that means that it is in the affected areas, in direct contact with those who have the illness, that you would be most at risk.  And that is just not true for those of us living in the United States. So stop worrying about getting it here. Instead worry…

that those in the affected areas do not have the basic health care we in the United States take for granted. And so while there is indeed not a cure for Ebola,…

with the sort of hospital care we in the US take for granted, treating the disease in early states, many who are dying would be saved.  But…

in the affected areas that sort of care is rare.

To learn more please read:

Stop Worrying About Ebola (And Start Worrying About What it Means)

As WHO Warns Ebola Death Toll is Underestimated, How Should Global Community Handle Dire Crisis?

 


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10. In the Classroom: Authors and Kids

I just saw something from author/teacher Andrew Smith about how he answered a letter from a kid asking him to explain his book to him. Smith replied that the book stood on its own and that that the kid should trust himself to figure it out for himself. Here’s what I wrote in response (slightly edited for clarity and such).

Thank you, teacher Andrew Smith. And I hope somehow you can keep teaching as there aren’t too many high-visibility authors like you who can also speak from the POV of a currently practicing teacher. I’m one for much younger kids (private school 4th grade) and I think some of what happens at these younger grades can create the sort of older readers such as the one who wrote you.

First of all, I think there can be a tendency to broaden our already over-fixated celebrity culture to authors. Teachers are often eager for kids to know that books are written, that authors go through the same trials that they do when writing. But by doing that they can sometimes make the focus be on the creator more than on the thing created.

Secondly, I think teachers at the younger grades such as mine can be so worried about kids’ “getting it” (comprehending on a basic level) that they can be rigid about the “correct” interpretation and aren’t always as open to varied ones as would be preferable.

Thirdly,  not all teachers have had positive experiences themselves in being honored for their own interpretation of a book and so if  they don’t truly believe themselves in this approach (having found it challenging for one reason or another themselves when they were students) it is hard for them to trust the wide range of what kids say. No doubt many kids who write these sorts of letters to authors are just lazy, but some may be legitimately terrified of being wrong for good reason.

Then, there are those teachers that encourage kids to write authors. I do get that this is to encourage the kids to be inspired, etc. But it also relates to our current focus on celebrities in general and the ease of online fan culture these days (as evidenced by Michael’s post). In my experience (admittedly with high end learners, by and large) the most intense readers tend to care very little about the author, it is the book that matters to them. Those that are curious about the author tend to be those who are passionate writers themselves.

Finally, I just have to voice a personal grip — the generalizing about teachers and students that I often see. We teachers are not all the same nor are our students. A bad experience with one shouldn’t tar all. (PS In addition to being a teacher, I’m a blogger and reviewer and last year became a published author myself of a book for kids so I’ve been on many sides of this situation.)

 

 


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11. In Switzerland with Dog: So Far

My family started visiting Hasliberg in the Swiss Alps when I was still in high school. We rented a friend’s summer house the first year, but after that we always stayed at the Hotel Gletscherblick, a small family-run establishment that was around a century old at that point. My parents continued to go for the rest of their lives, my sister has gone regularly, first with my father (after my mother’s death) and then with her family. After my first year in Sierra Leone we all met there — what a change it was for me after Africa!  I subsequently went a couple of times on my own to write, lastly in August 2001 (where I hung out with the coolest 105 year old woman).  Of late, I’ve been craving a return with my dog.  This year I finally managed it.

gletscherblick 1975

(This is our entry in the guestbook when we came in 1975.)

Lucy was a trooper as she traveled by taxi (from our home to JFK), plane (was an angel on the flight), train (two of them), and bus to get to the hotel.  And as I’d been led to believe, Switzerland is incredibly dog-friendly.  Lucy has been able to walk about just about everywhere — even in the airport terminal! The hotel has been lovely — she is welcome in the restaurant and they brought towels for her after our first wet wander.  Sure, she’s been a little nervous with so many changes to her usual routine, but every day she is more acclimated to it.

For me it has been excellent. My purpose in coming here for two weeks was to write without the distractions of home.  The hotel room is perfect — unchanged since my last visit. There’s a spacious desk, a wall of windows looking out on the mountains (and that glacier), reliable wifi (so far, at least), and is quiet. I’ve been writing every morning and going out on hikes every afternoon.  I wanted solitude and got it — that is, solitude with dog. As others of you no doubt know, an animal companion can be just what is needed in these situations — live company that doesn’t talk and so doesn’t distract. (By the way, I lived in Germany as a child, all of my family is German, and so I speak the language comfortably.  In fact, I recently got my German citizenship though not in time to get an EU passport for this trip.)

I’m not sure how many posts I will do because this isn’t an exotic destination. My family moved a lot when I was a child. We vacationed all over; this was the one place we returned to repeatedly and so it means a lot to me. I also think it is a great place for anyone who wants a true Swiss Alps hotel — simple, but comfortable — and an excellent retreat for writing. I highly recommend it.

And so, to end, here are a few shots of our travels so far:

At home getting ready. First cable car. On Victorian funicular to the Reichenbach Falls The Reichenbach Falls (Conan Doyle really wanted Holmes dead!) Dead, dead, dead. At the Reichenbach Falls Cool Swiss chickens that intrigued Lucy. At Zwingi (above the falls). Nessie, Lucy's fearsome Swiss Foe Lucy makes a friend. Lucy-Heidi And also in the mountains. Pooped after a day of hiking.

 

 


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12. Alice in Paris (with Madeleine and others)

Just came across this remarkable movie featuring Ludwig Bemelman’s Madeleine as well as others from James Thurber, Crocket Johnson, and Eve Titus.


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13. Coretta Scott King Book Awards

Over at the Nerdy Book Club today I’ve got a post highlighting this year’s Coretta Scott King award winners with the hope that it will help more learn about this important award.


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14. José Manuel Mateo and Javier Martínez Pedro’s Migrant

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The recent attention being paid to the many young undocumented immigrants coming across our country’s southern border brings to mind the remarkable book, Migrant by  José Manuel Mateo’s and illustrated by Javier Martínez Pedro. This story of one young boy’s difficult migration from Mexico to the United States is one spectacular book. Beginning in a rural village, readers learn why the young boy’s mother makes the difficult decision to leave. Their father has already left and, when he stops sending money and she cannot find work locally, she decides to leave with her two children, the narrator and his sister. The rest of the story is of their hard and frightening journey as they make way to Los Angeles. What really makes the book stand-out is that the poignant words are illustrated by one huge piece of art. Inspired by the codices the early people of Mexico and Central America, the intricate black and white art is viewed in an accordion format, something you fold it out as you read the story of the family’s journey. You can get a sense of this and the art itself at Jules’ featured post about it here.  Highly, highly recommended.


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15. Peter Pan Live

I’m very curious about the December 4th NBC live production of Peter Pan (with the just-announced Christopher Walken as Captain Hook).  I grew up with the yearly Mary Martin version (first broadcast in 1960) and, as a result, know the songs inside and out. I wonder, will they have Peter played by a woman as is usually the case with this particular version of Barrie’s story? And then there is that very problematic Tiger Lily American Indian story line. How are they going to make that acceptable for audiences today?

If you want a taste of the 1960 Tiger Lily, here she is as played by the very blonde Sondra Lee:

 

 


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16. Putting the Stop on the Middle Grade Novel’s Increasing Girth

Travis Jonker has a manifesto: All Middle Grade Novels Should Be 192 Pages. No Exceptions.  I like it. A lot. But still do have an exception.  Here’s my comment on his post:

Yes!!! I am with you on this with a caveat (see below). I have always tried to keep my read-alouds (to my 4th grade class) to as close to 200 pages as possible, but it has become harder and harder to stick to that what with many terrific mg books being way more than that. (One of my favorites from last year — Kathi Appelt’s True Blue Scouts — is 352 pages. On the other hand, Jennifer Holm’s forthcoming The Fourteenth Goldfish, which I read aloud to my class last year, is a just right 208 pages.) My reasoning is that I feel that if some of my listeners aren’t 100% into the book (and I can’t believe all of them are rapt no matter how great a reader I am and how great many of us think the book is — they have their own tastes after all), they aren’t stuck with it too too long. And I also think it applies so much to newly independent readers who can lose steam.

That said, I think there is a place for books like Andy Griffith’s 26 Story Treehouse (352 pages) and Stephen Patis’s Timothy Failure (304 pages), books that are light, easy reading for kids who may not gravitate to the arguably more literary titles along the lines of those you mention. They love the longer length of these sorts of books. Makes them feel they are there with those reading so many of the other  longer popular titles (e.g. Percy Jackson or Harry Potter).


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17. Putting a Stop on the Middle Grade Novel’s Increasing Girth

Travis Jonker has a manifesto: All Middle Grade Novels Should Be 192 Pages. No Exceptions.  I like it. A lot. But still do have an exception.  Here’s my comment on his post:

Yes!!! I am with you on this with a caveat (see below). I have always tried to keep my read-alouds (to my 4th grade class) to as close to 200 pages as possible, but it has become harder and harder to stick to that what with many terrific mg books being way more than that. (One of my favorites from last year — Kathi Appelt’s True Blue Scouts — is 352 pages. On the other hand, Jennifer Holm’s forthcoming The Fourteenth Goldfish, which I read aloud to my class last year, is a just right 208 pages.) My reasoning is that I feel that if some of my listeners aren’t 100% into the book (and I can’t believe all of them are rapt no matter how great a reader I am and how great many of us think the book is — they have their own tastes after all), they aren’t stuck with it too too long. And I also think it applies so much to newly independent readers who can lose steam.

That said, I think there is a place for books like Andy Griffith’s 26 Story Treehouse (352 pages) and Stephen Patis’s Timothy Failure (304 pages), books that are light, easy reading for kids who may not gravitate to the arguably more literary titles along the lines of those you mention. They love the longer length of these sorts of books. Makes them feel they are there with those reading so many of the other  longer popular titles (e.g. Percy Jackson or Harry Potter).


4 Comments on Putting a Stop on the Middle Grade Novel’s Increasing Girth, last added: 7/16/2014
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18. My Life as an Illustrator (culminating in Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland)

I started out wanting to be a children’s book illustrator. As a child I was celebrated for my art work, starting in high school I began creating my own illustrations for some of my favorite books and stories, and in college I was an art major, focusing on printmaking. At that time the most scathing criticism was that your work looked  “illustrationy.” And so I did beautiful minimalist engravings and etchings in class and did my illustrations at home, careful to not let anyone in my printmaking world know about them, especially not the instructors — renowned artists themselves — whom I admired tremendously.

From college I went right to Sierra Leone as a Peace Corps Volunteer. There I taught for a year and then worked as an illustrator for NGOs, creating various educational materials. My biggest project was to create illustrations for a multi-media presentation on bridge and road repair. I learned how to deal with cement, how to fix a hanging bridge, and so much more. I did posters on scabies, on breast feeding, on malaria prevention.  And at home I worked on illustrations for Kipling’s “The Elephant’s Child”, inspired by the gorgeous flora and fauna all around me.

When I returned to the US I considered an MFA in printmaking, but the lack of personal encouragement from my former instructors decided me — I’d stop feeling guilty about my illustration work and focus on that. And so I put together a portfolio and made the rounds (while also working full time as a teacher — I wasn’t brave enough to go free-lance full-time and, besides, I loved teaching).  I taught the legendary editor Janet Schulman’s daughter and she kindly looked at my portfolio, but we both agreed my work was too austere for her books. At Harpers  they held on to my portfolio for a while, but then suggested I do some things to make my art a little too cute for my taste. There were a couple of agents too, but nothing came of it.

Perhaps because of greater recognition for my teaching, work in early educational computing, and critical writing, I lost interest in illustrating. My final work is from 1998 when I had the idea of creating an edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland that would be visually annotated for children.  That is, it would have loads of small Richard-Scarry-like-drawings that would help young readers understand the text, even the more antiquated passages.  And then Roxanne Feldman (aka fairrosa) whom I’d met online came to my school.  A savvy web designer, when I asked her if we could put a few of the kids’ drawings of Alice online she said “sure” and ended up putting the whole book online –  the first two and a half chapters illustrated by me and the rest by my 4th grade students. Sadly, a couple of years ago the school reorganized their servers and it is no longer online.

It is rare these days that anyone sees my work (or even knows about it) other than my “Elephant’s Child” illustrations as they are framed and sit over my couch right next to Robert Byrd’s original cover art for Africa is My Home.  Then last night  thinking about my current book project which involves making Alice accessible to young readers today, I remembered those Alice illustrations of mine.  And while I have no wish to continue that project (my focus is on writing now), I thought it might be fun to put them back online for others to see. Perhaps I will, at some point, put up some of my other old illustrations — I did some for Tolkien, L’Engle, and a whole bunch of folk and fairy tales. Meanwhile, if you want to see my efforts at Alice please go here.

 

 


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19. In the Classroom: Parents and Teachers and Children and Homework

I have never been much for homework. Nothing I’ve read indicates it does anything to improve student learning for the 4th graders I teach.  I do require that my students read a minimum of 30 minutes a night, but I try to keep their accountability for that as simple as possible so that the reading doesn’t become a chore.  We also give them a small amount of math to reinforce what they did in school, a bit of word study, and that is pretty much it. What I hope they do away from school is whatever they wish — read more, Legos, soccer, fantasy play (which, I’ve noticed, every year seems to be more vestigial for this age group), video games (they aren’t all bad:), drawing, or just hanging out.

When I do give homework I’m pretty fanatic about the kids doing it on their own. That is, no adults should be involved. I’m not a fan of arty projects where some parents get so involved that the projects look professional while others look exactly like what you would expect a non-dexterous kid’s to look like. And some parents, in my experience, find it impossible not to get involved in a piece of writing. Some kids end up leaning on them for this while others hate it.  The bottom line for me is that any work done at home should be the kid’s 100%. Where the parent CAN help in is encouraging them to do it, find a good/quiet place for it, and otherwise help develop their child’s independence and good study habits.

I was provoked to write this after reading Judith Newman’s New York Times piece,  “But I Want to Do Your Homework: Helping Kids With Homework.”  While what she writes isn’t new, she does it in a wry self-deprecating way. With helicoptering parents finding it hard as hell to stay back, I think there can’t be too many articles like these supporting them in doing so.


3 Comments on In the Classroom: Parents and Teachers and Children and Homework, last added: 6/23/2014
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20. Africa is My Home: Meet the Author at Teaching Books

I’ve long known of the fantastic resource Teachingbook,net, a subscription service full of original material about young people’s books and their creators. And now I’m so excited to be there too along with Africa is My Home!  Go here to listen to me introduce the book, provide some information about how it came into being, and read some of it. And if you are really curious you can also go here to listen to me say my name and tell a little story about it.


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21. Lou Bunin’s Alice in Wonderland

Lou Bunin did a fabulous stop motion Alice in Wonderland film in 1949.  I’ve heard so much about it, but seeing it in total seems to be elusive. (Evidently Disney had a hand in this, wanting his version to be the movie version.) The clip below gives you a taste of why we Carrollians are so eager to get our hands on it. ( This young woman found a French subtitled version — scroll down to see it— that, she indicates, is not complete.)


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22. Fun and Loathing in Las Vegas (with apologies to Hunter S. Thompson)

We were somewhere around a fake white naked statue (or maybe it was a faux Roman mural or an ersatz Egyptian barge) on the edge of Caesars when the lack of sleep began to take hold. I remember saying something like “I feel a bit light-headed; maybe you should take another look at your phone…it must be just past that guy in the diaper or the lightly clad girl dancing in a cage over there…” And suddenly we were outside and there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge white wet sheets, all swooping and screeching “Do It” and diving around  the taxi, which was going about a hundred inches an hour what with the Celine Dion concert getting underway.  And a voice was screaming: “Holy Jesus! What are these goddamn people?”

Then it was quiet again.  My colleague had taken her sensible sweater off and was pouring green tea from her flask down her gullet. “What the hell are you yelling about?” she muttered, staring up at the sun with her eyes closed and covered with pink publisher swag sunglasses.  “Never mind,” I said and grabbed my Iphone to do a quick Instagram before aiming us toward the not-the-Eiffel-tower Tower.  No point mentioning the sad women selling bottles of cold water, I thought. The poor thing will see them soon enough.

It was almost five, and we still had more than a hundred casinos to go.  They would be tough casinos.  Very soon, I knew, we would both be completely twisted. But then there was no going back and no time to rest. We would have to tough it out. The 2014 ALA Annual Convention Exhibits were already open and, for good or ill,  we had  to get there to get to grab as many ARCs as our rolling carts could hold.


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23. Walter Dean Myers R.I.P.

I think my life is special. In a way it seems odd that I spend all of my time doing only what I love, which is writing or thinking about writing. If everyone had, at least for part of their lives, the opportunity to live the way I do, I think the world would be a better place.

I believe that everyone is intelligent. I believe that everyone can be creative. I like just about everyone I meet. For me, life has been good and it’s up to me to appreciate it. I hope that the next book, story or poem that I write will be worthy of the time the reader spends with it. If it is then my life is successful. If it’s not, then I’ll try again.

The above is from Walter Dean Myers’s website.

The world is a lesser place without this remarkable, brilliant, caring, and —yes— very special man who did seem to like everyone he met.  He touched so many through his books, his public appearances, his personal contacts, and so much more than most individuals can do. I think of him as a mentor as I’m sure countless others do too whether they met him in person or through his books and writing. I will treasure all of those always.

His life was successful. A million times over.

My sincere condolences to his family and friends.

walter dean myers


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24. Walter Dean Myers: There’s Work to Be Done

 

I believe in families, in the strength of families, and that the strength of a people can be determined by the strength of the families within that people. In December of 2015 the black family will have been established legally in the United States for 150 years. It was December, 1865, that the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery became part of the United States Constitution.

What I proposed to my family was an exhibit, to run in the fall of 2015 outlining the trials and triumphs of the American black family in documents….

Slave documents would constitute the first part of the exhibit, with the second part being a celebration of what marriage has meant to us over the years. It would be great if I could get Obama to declare November 1015 A Celebration of Black Families month. Anyone have his personal cell?….

It takes time to mount an exhibit…. It’s a great challenge but I love it. There’s work to be done.

Excerpts from “150 Years of the Black Family,” a May 2014 post on Walter Dean Myer’s blog.


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25. Reading Rainbow, The Doors, and Jimmy Fallon

This is awesome (and from 2012 — how did I miss it?). Via Elizabeth Law.


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