Monday, March 31, 2008

Poems in your In-box

Tomorrow starts National Poetry Month, and you know what that means! Lots of yummy poems! Below is the information on signing up for two different Poem-a-Day emails. Last year I found there were quite a few I didn't like at all, but also a lot of great ones.

Visit this site at to sign up for the Knopf Poem-a-Day email.

And go here for the Poem-a-Day. I love their graphic, a daily pill organizer.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

It's Saturday

I have to go to the dentist today, which isn't likely to be much fun, but here's the Saturday Review of Books, which is likely to be lots of fun!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Poetry Friday

It's Friday again - already! We had conferences today, which made for a rather prosaic time - but here's today's Poetry Friday roundup anyway.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Carnival Time

Apparently some people are still on Spring Break. A hearty phooey to those people was my first reaction, but then I tried to concentrate on feeling happy for them. Nah, my emotions are still in the phooey range.

This is not helped by the fact that we only got three hours of electricity last night and that my house is overrun by ants AND mice in spite of my conviction that these two creatures are not supposed to coexist. We are having very Spring Breaky weather, though, so that's something.

Here's this week's Education Carnival, the Teachers Gone Wild Spring Break Edition. I'm hoping reading it will make me feel a bit more charitable.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Reading Update

This weekend I finished books #10 and #11.

Black Baby, White Hands: A View from the Crib is the story of an African-American boy adopted into a white family. (Or "White family" as he would write it; he always capitalizes "Black" and "White.") I borrowed this from the bookshelf of a friend who works setting up adoptions and taking care of children who are waiting for their paperwork to go through so that they can join their new families. Almost all of those adoptions are trans-racial, and certainly this would be a good book for those new families to read while they are waiting. Jaiya John doesn't say that his experience is universal for trans-racially adopted children, but his experience is one that people adopting children of a different race would do well to consider. He is honest to the point of painfulness, and he is clear that his journey did cause pain to his adoptive parents. We get to see the process he went through to come to self-acceptance, and in the process we learn some ways that parents can work on making things easier for their adopted children. You may be offended by some of John's observations about race in America, but go with it; you'll learn a lot by reading this book.

Carpe Diem is Autumn Cornwell's first novel, and it's a lot of fun. I read it as a potential read-aloud for my eighth graders, but I'm not going to use it for that - we just read a "girl book" and this is definitely a "girl book." However, I think lots of my eighth graders will enjoy reading it on their own. Vassar Spore is an over-achiever who's never traveled, and she spends this book traveling in South-East Asia and learning to LIM - Live In the Moment. She has a bit of a toilet fixation, and we learn a great deal about the options in South-East Asia for taking care of one's toilet needs. Cornwell grew up as a missionary kid, and that background explains where she got many of her ideas!

Home from the Beach

We had a much-needed family getaway to the beach this past weekend. Today was a holiday, so we didn't leave for home until this morning after breakfast. The weather was perfect - not too hot, and not so cold that I could barely get in the water, like it was at Christmas.

We found a group of missionaries having a retreat at our hotel, so we joined them to celebrate Easter morning. The chocolate eggs on our table at breakfast were nice, but the songs of the resurrection were even better!

We got our replacement electricity counter on Thursday, so we're back on the grid and very happy about it. When they left, the electric company workmen bid us farewell "until next time." We hope there won't be a next time, but realistically, there probably will.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Poetry Friday, Good Friday

George Herbert seems the perfect choice for Good Friday. In this poem, he tells us the effect that Christ's death had, for Christians, on thoughts of our own death.

by George Herbert

Death, thou wast once an uncouth hideous thing,
Nothing but bones,
The sad effect of sadder groans:
Thy mouth was open, but thou couldst not sing.

For we considered thee as at some six
Or ten years hence,
After the loss of life and sense,
Flesh being turned to dust, and bones to sticks.

We looked on this side of thee, shooting short;
Where we did find
The shells of fledge souls left behind,
Dry dust, which sheds no tears, but may extort.

But since our Savior’s death did put some blood
Into thy face,
Thou art grown fair and full of grace,
Much in request, much sought for as a good.

For we do now behold thee gay and glad,
As at Doomsday;
When souls shall wear their new array,
And all thy bones with beauty shall be clad.

Therefore we can go die as sleep, and trust
Half that we have
Unto an honest faithful grave;
Making our pillows either down, or dust.

Here's some information about George Herbert.

Click on the button below to get to today's Poetry Friday roundup.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Education Carnival is Back!

I'm sticking with the headlines with the exclamation marks!

Actually, the Education Carnival didn't go anywhere - I have just been too busy to visit for the last few weeks. But this week is the Spring Break edition, so I thought I'd check it out.


I just love dramatic headlines like that, don't you?

On Tuesday morning at 3:30 AM, my youngest child suddenly began screaming and rushed into our bedroom, complaining loudly that it was dark. I guess he had had a nightmare, but after I had settled him down I went into the bathroom and noticed that the water was just trickling out instead of coming out with force, as it should have been at that hour because the power should have been on. Then I looked in the kitchen, where the indicator light is to show that city power is on, and sure enough, it was dark. At first I thought maybe the power had gone off, but no, the streetlights were still glowing and it looked as though all the neighbors had electricity.

I restrained myself enough not to call the electrician until later in the morning (though he has told us to call him any time of the day or night "like a doctor" - this guy does so much work for us that his kids recognize my voice on the phone, and he called us on Christmas Day to wish us a Merry Christmas). He came in the early afternoon and noticed immediately what the problem was. During the night someone had come and stolen our electricity counter and a length of our wire! This counter was one we had had for about a month, since the old one burned up at the beginning of February. (You may be surprised to hear it, but I spare you many of our electrical adventures.)

Since we're starting a holiday period, the likelihood of anyone coming out to do anything about this problem is even lower than usual - and it's usually pretty low anyway. But I called. I explained the problem to a very nice gentleman, and he asked a bunch of questions and took all my information, told me that we'd have to buy a bunch of cable because, of course, the electric company doesn't have any electrical cable, and then gave me another number to call where to this day nobody answers the phone.

So back to the electrician, who assures us that he could hook us up to the power without the counter, and we may end up going that route but we are hesitant to because we are likely to get in trouble with the electric company. Which, if you remember, is probably not going to do anything before Tuesday at the earliest, since everyone's already gearing up for the Easter break and Easter Monday is a holiday.

The generator that we bought new in the fall has been recalled and we are waiting (patiently) for a replacement, but last night my husband took the battery out of the car and got the generator running (of course the car doesn't run, but that's another problem for another time). So we were able to get a couple of hours of charge for our batteries and we had fans all night.

Today the electrician is moving the wiring inside the gate, and when the electric company provides us with a new counter, there will be a place all ready for it. Since this isn't in the street the way the other one was, we hope it won't get stolen again. Meanwhile we are also hoping not to spend our whole Easter break in the dark.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


This was in today's Writer's Almanac. It's a quote from Nigerian novelist Ben Okri: "Literature doesn't have a country. Shakespeare is an African writer.... The characters of Turgenev are ghetto dwellers. Dickens' characters are Nigerians. ...Literature may come from a specific place but it always lives in its own unique kingdom."

Saturday Review of Books

Here's today's edition.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Wednesday Wars

Today we finished The Wednesday Wars here at home. Last week I started reading it to my seventh graders. It says a lot about this book that all of us at home - a preschooler, a middle grade kid, and two adults - loved it, and that my students are hooked after just one chapter.

My seventh graders want a book to grab them immediately - there aren't many second chances with them. If they don't like the first few pages, they just won't pay very close attention for the rest of the book. They like non-stop action and they like the book to be funny, too. The occasional gross-out humor doesn't hurt a bit. This book delivers on all counts.

Holling Hoodhood is attending Camillo Junior High in 1967. The Vietnam War is in full swing. His sister listens to the Monkees and wants to be a flower child. His dad is a successful architect and expects Holling to follow in his footsteps. Life at school is difficult, particularly Wednesdays, because half of Holling's class attends the Catholic church in town and the other half attends Temple Beth-El, and on Wednesday afternoons the Catholic kids go to Catechism class and the Jewish kids go to Hebrew school, leaving the lone Presbyterian - Holling - to hang out with the teacher, who was thinking she'd have Wednesday afternoons off.

There's a lot going on in this book. The sixties and the Vietnam War, baseball, even Shakespeare. It all works together into a wonderfully satisfying story that, if our experience is anything to go by, can be appreciated by people of all ages. It's hilarious but it brought me to tears a few times, too. I will be looking for more by this author, Gary D. Schmidt, who deservedly won a Newbery Honor for The Wednesday Wars.

This was book #9 for the year. (Only nine and it's already March!)

Saturday, March 08, 2008

A Story from Kenya

On International Women's Day, read the story of Mercy Moses in Kenya.

Reading Update

Book #6 was Book of a Thousand Days, by Shannon Hale. I read her book Princess Academy aloud last year to my seventh graders and although lots of the boys were put off by the title, everyone ended up enjoying it, especially the last third of the book. Now I'm reading Book of a Thousand Days to my eighth graders (the same group that listened to Princess Academy last year) and it seems that many of them are finding it a bit slow. I expect them to perk up their interest in the last third when the action heats up. I enjoyed this one for many reasons, not least of which was the focus on sound and smell imagery. Dashti is very sensitive to senses other than the visual because of the time spent locked up in the tower in near-darkness, but also because her culture focuses on smell. Their greeting includes breathing in the scent of the other person.

Book #7 was The Steps, by Rachel Cohn, a loaner from one of my students. Cohn is good on the mixed feelings that Annabel has towards her divorced parents and "the steps" in her father's new family. The Australian setting makes a nice change, too, from other books of this type.

Book #8 was The Uncommon Reader: A Novella, by Alan Bennett. What fun! The premise is that the Queen of England discovers reading, not just reading that she must do for her job, but reading for pleasure - with unexpected consequences.

Here's the Queen at the beginning of the book: "Once I start a book I finish it. That was the way one was brought up. Books, bread and butter, mashed potato - one finishes what's on one's plate. That's always been my philosophy."

Here's what happens when she decides to read in the palace library. "But though it was called the library and was indeed lined with books, a book was seldom if ever read there. Ultimatums were delivered there, lines drawn, prayer books compiled and marriages decided upon, but should one want to curl up with a book the library was not the place. It was not easy even to lay hands on something to read, as on the open shelves, so-called, the books were sequestered behind locked and gilded grilles. Many of them were priceless, which was another discouragement."

I marked lots of other great quotes but I'll stop there - but this book is absolutely delicious and you should read it!

Right now I'm reading Black Baby, White Hands, Mini-Lessons for Literature Circles, and (still) Kids Are Worth It. I'm also reading The Wednesday Wars aloud to my children and the whole family is loving it. I haven't started a new grown-up novel yet but maybe today if I can get through all the other stuff I have to do...I got a pile of projects yesterday I have to grade, my planning for next week must be done, lots of the regular grading, and some other have-to reading I promised to get done this weekend...

Here's today's Saturday Review of Books.

Thursday, March 06, 2008