Monday, June 13, 2016

Wish - #IMWAYR - 6/13/16

A huge thanks to Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers for hosting us for the kid lit and YA version of #IMWAYR!!

I read a book this past week that made such an impression on me I want to devote my entire #IMWAYR post today to the upcoming book, Wish, by Barbara O'Connor (due out August 30, 2016 from Farrar Straus Giroux)

Wish is the story of Charlie, a girl that is thrust into situations she didn't want - her dad is in jail and her mom won't take care of her. It becomes so bad that social workers become involved and take Charlie from her home in Raleigh to the small town of Colby, North Carolina, in the Blue Ridge Mountains to live with her aunt and uncle.

The storyline captivates, but for me what Barbara O'Connor does in this book with characters, setting, language, and insight into humanity are the real reasons this book is such a delight.

When Charlie gets to Colby to live with her aunt and uncle what she sees are "... the sorry sights of Colby. A gas station. A trailer park. A laundromat." And at her neighbor's house what she noticed  - "Next to the front door was a ratty-looking couch covered with a bedspread. Wilted yellowing plants and dried-up flowers planted in coffee cans lined the edges of the porch." Charlie considers all the people in Colby beneath her, nothing more than hillbillies. Sights like these just support her thinking.

As Charlie's time in Colby continues, she comes to see these same things in a different light. The subtle language shifts about the environments and settings through Charlie's eyes is truly masterful. It reminds me a little of the saying about not judging someone until you've walked a mile in their shoes. Charlie began the judging game early on, and had a hard time letting go of being judgmental because letting go might make her see Raleigh and her "home" life more clearly. But when she does let go of that judgment, her eyes see her surroundings differently.

The simplicity of the book tugged at my heart as well, bringing back so many fond childhood memories, and not one having to do with being glued to a screen of some sort. Designing fort plans, gathering materials for the fort, riding bikes everywhere, working crossword puzzles, playing games, selling things from the end of the driveway, learning to crochet, going fishing. The list goes on and on, but this book really celebrates those small moments of childhood pleasure. In that way, Wish reminds me a bit of The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis, and why I love that book so much. The simplicity of life is celebrated.

And then, there is the title of the book. Wish is an apt name as Charlie makes it her job each and every day to make a wish (and the same one each time). It reminded me again of my childhood, and how we got to make our wishes - seeing a white horse, getting the long part of a chicken wishbone, first star of the night. I wasn't as persistent as Charlie with my wishes, but I did love having the opportunity to make a wish. I would love to know how Barbara O'Connor came up with all the different ways Charlie got to make her wishes. I tried to tally the different ways, and had to give up because counting was getting in the way of the story. But I do know she's listed at least 30 (at my last count before giving up) different ways of wishing. What a delightful thread to weave throughout the story!

I could go on and on about the language I love in this book, but I am going to focus on just three things that really stuck with me - one phrase and two words. When Charlie first meets her neighbor, Howard, at school, she noticed he had an "up down" walk. That phrase comes back multiple times in the story. Two such simple words, but put together, quite descriptive. One of the other words I enjoyed was "Scrappy", her dad's nickname because he gets in so many fights, landing him in jail eventually. It's a great word for an unfortunate circumstance. And then there is the word "pineapple." Charlie is a bit of a hothead also, so Howard tries to convince her to say "pineapple" when she gets upset instead of lashing out physically or with other inappropriate/unkind words. I chuckled at how many times Charlie tried to make "pineapple" work for her, not always with the greatest of success.

And we can't forget Wishbone, the name of the dog that also connects with the title. Without giving too much of the story away, I will say that as humans, we all need someone to love us unconditionally. That is what Charlie gets when Wishbone becomes part of her life. With that said, it brought me great delight when Charlie realized that unconditional love can also come in many different packages.

As I reflect on some of the horrific things that have happened this past weekend, I find that reading Wish came at a good time for me. I think about how Charlie stereotyped the people of Colby, North Carolina, as hillbillies until she got to know them personally, spending a great deal of time with them. How time and effort can shift a perspective. How I wish more people could take the time and effort to understand those "different" from them.

But mostly, I love the simplicity of this book. While I'm sure it wasn't at all simple to write, reading it was like dangling my feet in a cool mountain stream or sitting on my screened porch - effortless and delightful.

Monday, May 16, 2016

#IMWAYR - May 16, 2016

A huge thanks to Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers for hosting us for the kidlit version of #IMWAYR!!

With a huge apology to my favorite independent bookstores, recently, my favorite place to look at books for a first read is the public library. The new book shelves for chapter book fiction, picture book fiction, and nonfiction are some of my first stops when walking in the door, and they are always brimming with titles I want to read.

Two of my favorite children's books in the last few weeks are incredibly different in the audience they would have, but I loved them both.

Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban is a wonderful story that has Japanese internment camps as its historical backdrop. It's the story of Manami, a ten year old girl, and her family. Like Japanese families in many places, Manami and her family are uprooted from their beloved home on Bainbridge Island and sent to an internment camp during WWII in an arid desert area of California. 

When Manami tries to sneak her dog into the camp with her and fails, she becomes "mute". This is a story of the strength of human nature, and it will tug at your heartstrings. 

It would be wonderful to pair Paper Wishes with a book like Baseball Saved Us.

The Last Boy at St. Edith's by Lee Gjertsen Malone has an entirely different feel to it.

St. Edith's is an all-girls' private school that tried to increase enrollment by expanding their student population to include boys. However, for multiple reasons, over the past few years, the boys have been dropping out of St. Edith's like flies. Every boy hoped he would not be the last boy left on his own, but that wasn't going to be the case for Jeremy Miner.  He has become the "last man standing", and he is now on a campaign to get himself kicked out of the school.

On the flap, it says this book is about "fitting in, standing out, and finding the place where you belong." I couldn't have said it better. One of the threads of this book I enjoyed the most is noticing the natural friendships that can occur with boys and girls before the hormones get in the way.

I hope you have a great week of reading!

Monday, May 2, 2016

#IMWAYR - May 2, 2016

A huge thanks to Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers for hosting us for the kidlit version of #IMWAYR!!


I was recently listening to a podcast Penny Kittle did with Donalyn Miller. I love to hear Donalyn talk about books she loves, so when Penny asked in this podcast what Donalyn has read and would recommend, she immediately shared about Dumplin', a book by Julie Murphy.

Donalyn shared many reasons to read this book in the podcast - Texas beauty pageants, friendship, can the big girl get the cute guy, tiaras, quirky characters, just to name a few. She was spot on. It was a delightful romp - at times funny, at times poignant, at times infuriating. But at the center of it all was Willowdean, known as Dumplin' to her mom, a former beauty pageant winner.

I took a personal day this past Thursday, so knowing that I could sleep in a bit more than usual, I went to the library to pick up the copy of Dumplin' I had reserved Wednesday night, I began it after dinner, and I didn't put it down until about 1:30 AM when I finished it. What a lovely evening that was!

Audacity Jones to the Rescue

I love Kirby Larson's writing, and her fascination with embedding history in what she writes. The period she focuses on in this book is when President Taft lived in the White House.

I like the character of Audacity because she is spunky, willing to take on challenges, and has a never give up attitude, which must be difficult at times because she is an orphan.

Part of this reminded me of a female version of The False Prince - an orphan taken to help a bad person trick others for their own personal gain. And like Sage in The False Prince, once the plot is discovered, Audacity does her best (with the help of some friends) to rectify the situation.

This was a fun, fast-paced read, and the last line leads me to believe there will be more fun from Audacity in the future!

Have a Look, Says Book

This fun picture book written by Richard Jackson and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes is a playful look at how a read aloud time with a dad and his daughter leads into a journey inside a book. Great describing adjectives accompany each sentence.

What a fun way to play with words and adjectives as the dad/daughter pair make their way through the book. A wonderful opportunity to enrich vocabulary with children and appeal to their tactile sense.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Cousins, Friends, A Marathon - #Celebrate 5/1/16

It is the weekend, and even though most people post their celebrations on Saturday, I'd like to post mine today. Thanks so much to Ruth for hosting all of these celebrations and giving us a forum.


I read recently that cousins are some of your very first friends. I'm not sure if that is exactly true, but I do know that from an early age, my cousins were a huge part of my life. My mom came from a family of eleven brothers and sisters, most living within an easy 45 minute car drive from our house. I have incredibly fond memories of much time traveling to and from cousins' houses for family visits, or to have overnight stays. As fun as those early memories are, it is even more sweet when those cousin relationships continue to grow into deeper friendships as we are now adults.

I'm sad to say that, with the deaths of both of my parents in the last 18 months, and all the grieving and issues that needed to be dealt with, I have only seen these special people at my mom's calling hours, her funeral, and then again, last July, at my father's calling hours.

I am celebrating that the drought of not seeing them has come to an end. A group of those adult cousins gathered at a Mexican restaurant this past Friday. There was laughter, oh yes, there was lots of laughter. There were hugs given multiple times, but definitely as we gathered in the beginning, and then again, as we left. There was talking, sometimes multiple conversations at one time. There was a lot of catching up to do; it was difficult to know which topic to tackle next. There were tears as we shared about health, children, worry about parents, loss, and much more.

But, most importantly, there was love. And that love is both a gift and a celebration.


I took a personal day this past Thursday, and spent the day with my friend from college. We began at the newly renovated art museum in our city, did lunch, and then browsed in the North Market, a space filled with a bounty of specialty foods.

At the museum, we made it to each and every exhibit, making time to discuss works of art that spoke to each of us, and allowing ourselves to be awestruck by the genius of the various artists. The exhibit of the featured artist, Melvin Edwards, is an area we spent a lot of time, reading about each of his pieces, and then bringing our life experiences to each piece to help us understand. I was amazed at his use of welding iron materials, chains, and barbed wire to make statements.

We had a delicious lunch at the new museum cafe, and then strolled the courtyard to discover even more wonderful pieces of art.

The North Market found us sampling, tasting, and buying many things. No plans for dinner that night?? -- no worries! We had it covered with our samples of this and that!

But, as fun as the art experience and food browsing was, much like with my cousins, it was the time to be together that made this a spectacular day. And it is a huge celebration that, almost 43 years after we first met, we are the kind of friends who are family. Another gift in my life.

A Marathon

Our youngest daughter ran the Nashville marathon yesterday, and got a Personal Best Record for her time. She had worked and trained with diligence. And then yesterday, she had to overcome some obstacles along the way - a delay of the start for 40 minutes due to lightning in the area, rain (heavy at times), humidity, and hills. If you've ever been to Nashville, you know there are hills everywhere, and over a 26.2 mile course, she ran many of them.

So, I'm very proud of her, and this accomplishment. I am celebrating for her diligence, her perseverance, her strength, and her PR.

I look forward to this next week, and whatever celebration awaits!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Anniversary Memories and Word Study - #SOL 4/24/16

I love the concept of celebrating events from the week on Saturday (or usually for me, on Sunday). Focusing on the positives of our personal and professional lives is wonderful. Thanks to Ruth for each week hosting celebrations from us all. What a gift to have a place each week to celebrate! 

Personal celebration:

This past week, my husband and I celebrated our 31st anniversary. When I posted one of our wedding pictures on Facebook to commemorate the day, several of our cousins chimed in with memories of our wedding. One of the comments that made me smile came from my side of the family:

I remember that day well. Your wedding was the first ever Wallace cousins' party.

I love my cousins and I so distinctly remember where they were sitting, and how much fun they were having. A memory like that is so precious to me as I think about the huge family to which we belong - their parents and my mom came from a family of eleven brothers and sisters. As we've lost members of this family I cherish, that comment really resonated with me. The importance of family cannot be overstated.

But back to my husband - like most married couples, the road to getting to 31 years hasn't always been a smooth one. Laughter, tears, happiness, sorrow, celebrations, grief, anger, forgiveness, illness, good health - so many stops along this road. But I love the ability to look back at all those events, and know we are better people because of each one. I feel very fortunate to be continuing on life's journey with this man.

Professional celebration:

I was collaborating with a teacher on word study the past two weeks. We were fine-tuning his instruction about words, and getting it aligned with our district's word study parameters. We planned and co-taught a focus study on the Greek and Latin roots: dif-, dis-, and di-.

We had a lot of fun talking about words, observing them, and connecting to other words we might know because we knew these words. Due to state assessments, we only got to co-teach for 5 days; about half of the entire focus study. But one of the strategies we practiced while I was there, was the syllable strategy: sounding out a longer word, and spelling it by syllables. They loved knowing they could take a larger word and break it down into smaller, more manageable pieces.

On my last day in their classroom, I was presented with a card that they had designed, written, and signed. I'm putting the picture of two of the pages below to show just why I was so touched by their learning and thoughtfulness:

Have a wonderful week, and I hope there are celebrations waiting to happen for you this coming week!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Gifts - #Celebrate 4/17/16

Thanks also to Ruth for each week hosting celebrations from us all. What a gift to have a place each week to celebrate! 
And a huge congratulations to Ruth on publishing her first eBook, Jump In, Great Teaching Begins In the Pool!!!! For more information on how to get this eBook - it's FREE!! - check out Ruth's blog.

This week made me reflect on the concept that celebrations are really the flip side of something unpleasant or unhappy. Most of my celebrations this week focus on this idea of two sides of a coin:

Celebration #1 - Though a loved one just got very difficult medical news this week and was in the hospital through Thursday, on a beautiful, brilliantly sunny day here in Columbus, he was able to attend the Spring Game for his beloved Ohio State Buckeyes yesterday. I am so happy he got to have this wonderful day with his son and grandson.

Celebration #2 - This week began our state assessments, and third through fifth graders took the English and Language Arts component of the test - a two day assessment. Though the math and science/social studies components are still ahead of us in two weeks, I'm celebrating that now the ELA test is behind them, teachers are really thinking about things they want to refine in their classroom instruction, and different things they want to try on for size with me as their literacy coach.  The work we have planned together in the near future is so exciting, and I can't wait to learn and collaborate with all of these teachers!

Celebration #3 - Though I was groggy and exhausted all day Wednesday, on Tuesday night my husband and I went with friends to see Bruce Springsteen in concert. Man, oh man! Almost four hours of singing and dancing (me!) without any breaks. Bruce really knows how to tell a story with his music and words, as well as entertain. At one point, he even body surfed through the crowd! A fun, fun concert!

Celebration #4 - I woke up this morning and could barely move because of all my aches and pains, However, I reflect back to yesterday, and I have to celebrate. I started my day working with my trainer, and she really kicked my behind. Legs, arms, core -- all were pushed to the max yesterday. But at one point I said to Tami (my trainer) - This is killing me but I am so much stronger than I used to be so I'm calling it a 'win'. And then, after training, on a gorgeous Saturday, I did yard work which uses muscles that aren't frequently used. I'm truly celebrating the good fortune I have to be outside to work in our yard, and to be getting stronger each week as I work with my trainer.

Thinking about my celebrations brings to mind another analogy:
Is your glass half-empty or half-full?
I am fortunate that my glass tends to be half-full on most occasions.

I look forward to hearing about your celebrations this week!!