Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Banned Book Week

We are in the middle of banned book week: September 27 to October 3. When I look at the banned book lists, there are books I don't care for, but I oppose book banning. It is only a step away from book burning and that should never happen.

Check out some of the lists.

2014 - 2015 Ten most banned books
This list contains The Giver by Lois Lowry and a The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, both books I love.

Banned and Challenged Classics
This list contains To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Call of the Wild by Jack London and many, many other books that I loved. Of course I didn't love The Call of the Wild until I was an adult. I had a tenth grade English teacher that I didn't respect, and he made us read it, so I didn't bother to pay attention to it in class. I wasn't always a good student.

Top ten lists by year
There are many, many great books on these lists. While some of the books are not ones I would want my preteen to read, they don't deserve to be banned.

People need to meet the right book at the right time, and if we ban them, no one can meet them. If our children do not become readers, books will not be read and ideas will not be exchanged.

Sherman Alexie, in his book Ten Little Indians, writes, "Corliss wondered what happens to a book that sits unread on a library shelf for thirty years. Can a book rightfully be called a book if it never gets read? If a tree falls in a forest and gets pulped to make paper for a book that never gets read, but there's nobody there to read it, does it make a sound?

'How many books never get checked out?' Corliss asked the librarian.
'Most of them,' she said."

Corliss had never once considered the fate of library books. She'd never wondered how many books go unread. She loved books. How could she not worry about the unread? She felt like a disorganized scholar, and inconsiderate lover, an abusive mother, and a cowardly soldier" (8).

I love how Sherman Alexie makes me think. Ten Little Indians is a short story collection that will make you think and question the world. He has a book on the banned book list. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian a book he wrote for young adults is on the list. My students enjoyed it.

Find a book on the banned book list that interests you and read it. Allow those books to make some noise. Let no tree be pulped in vain. :)

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Teen Tuesday: The Goose Girl and The Books of Bayern

Utah author, Shannon Hale writes books with strong female characters. Teen Tuesday will focus on her series: The Books of Bayern. 

The Goose Girl is the first book in this series. This book made me think about the power that lies within us. Which power would you like to have? The power to make the wind obey you, to talk to animals and have them do your bidding, or some other power?

From "Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree, spends the first years of her life under her aunt's guidance learning to communicate with animals. As she grows up Ani develops the skills of animal speech, but is never comfortable speaking with people, so when her silver-tongued lady-in-waiting leads a mutiny during Ani's journey to be married in a foreign land, Ani is helpless and cannot persuade anyone to assist her. 

Becoming a goose girl for the king, Ani eventually uses her own special, nearly magical powers to find her way to her true destiny. Shannon Hale has woven an incredible, original and magical tale of a girl who must find her own unusual talents before she can become queen of the people she has made her own."

I enjoyed the friendships in this book, and Hale continues these friendships in the second book: Enna Burning. Enna also has the gift of speech to command fire. Unfortunately, fire consumes, and Enna must find a way to control the fire without being destroyed by it. 

The saga continues with the Hale book I am currently reading: River Secrets. This one is based on Razo, the male friend of Ani and Enna. I'm predicting that his power will involved water because of the title. 

The fourth book is called Forest Born, and Razo's sister is the main character, so apparently the friendships will continue throughout the series.

Read the books in order, or you may be a bit lost lost because they build on each other. 

You can purchase each book separately or as a set. All of these books are rated high on

What would part of nature would you like to command? I think I'd like to command the wind. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Friday Favorites: The Wednesday Wars and Okay for Now

If you've read Gary D. Schmidt, you know that the man can write and write well. He paints vivid pictures in his writing. His characters are strong and well defined. His stories matter and make the reader a more caring person for having read what Schmidt writes.

A few years ago, I read The Wednesday Wars and it is still one of my all time favorite books. This book will make you laugh and cry. It took me longer than normal to read this book because I would stop, go back, and re-read pages in order to re-experience the scene again.

One example: This story is set during the Vietnam War. Holling and his teacher are discussing Shakespeare when the school's cook enters the room. Her husband is serving in Vietnam.

"And that was when Mrs. Bigio came into the classroom. Actually, she didn't quite come in. She opened the door and stood leaning against the doorway, one hand up to her mouth, the other trembling on the doorknob.

Mrs. Baker stood. 'Oh, Edna, did they find him?'

Mrs. Bigio nodded.

'And is he . . .'

Mrs. Bigio opened her mouth, but the only sounds that come out were the sounds of sadness. I can't tell you what they sounded like. But you know them when you hear them.

Mrs. Baker sprinted out from behind her desk and gathered Mrs. Bigio in her arms. She helped Mrs. Bigio to her own chair, where she slumped down like someone who had nothing left in her.

'Mr. Hoodhood, you may go home now,' Mrs. Baker said.

I did.

But I will never forget those sounds" (71).

Schmidt will make you cry, but he will also make you laugh, out loud. I was a kid during this time period, and I remember watching the war coverage on the news, so this story reminds me of being a child during this very tumultuous time period. Schmidt touches on gender role stereotypes, prejudices, childhood fears and successes, and class rats (literally - real rats). This won a well deserved Newberry Honor award.

Schmidt wrote a companion novel about one of the characters from The Wednesday Wars, but each book stands on its own. Okay for Now tells Doug Swieteck's story from a new town because his family has moved. The year is 1968 and his oldest brother is returning from fighting in Vietnam. His father is abusive and his other brother is in trouble with the law. 

While chaos and trouble are in charge at home, Doug finds solace through art, the library, and friendship. My students who read these books enjoyed them. Schmidt knows his craft well. 

Quick update on the NICU book project

Cayli, (my daughter-in-law) the owner of Nightchayde: a fashion blog, brought over sixteen books for the NICU last night. That means three more babies will receive a package of books and hopefully gain a lifelong appreciation of literature.

Thank you, Cayli and Brandon. This project means so much to me. I wish I could give books to every child in the world. One of my ESL students said last year, "In America there are so many books. There aren't many books in my old village. It was hard." He loved reading and asked questions about anything that confused him. He wanted to clarify everything. He was determined to read, read well, and win at life. I wish every child could grasp that desire to learn. Knowledge is power.

If you'd like to help give books to the world, click here for information on how to help our project.

Have you read to your inner child today?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Throwback Thursday - Incident at Hawk's Hill

Years ago, I read Incident at Hawk's Hill and loved it, but as the years went by, I forgot the title of this book. I remembered the story, but I couldn't for the life of me remember the title or author. I would have loved to have my boys read this when they were young.

Two years ago, I found this at a yard sale and when I read the back, I knew I'd found the right book. I was pretty excited. Allan W. Eckert's novel published in 1971 is a Newberry Honor book. This is a fictionalized account based on a true story of a little boy who loved animals and seems to talk to them. He doesn't say much to humans, but he can mimic any animal. One day while wandering after animals, he gets scared by a man, and runs. He is lost, and after days and weeks, his family believes him dead.

But, Ben is alive. He has found the den of a female badger who takes him in after her own cubs die. Eckert paints a vivid picture of Ben's experiences. If you love adventure books set in 1870, you will love this book. This book shows how important connections are - connections to humans and to animals.

In 1998, Eckert wrote a sequel to the story called, Return to Hawk's Hill. Although he wrote this 25 years after writing Incident at Hawk's Hill, it flows seamlessly. I love how both of these stories promote understanding and love of differences in people and between people. The only bad race is a bad human or animal.

These books are great to read aloud to a class or to your child - even if that child is you.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Suicide Prevention Month: Sylvia Plath and Faith Owen

September is Suicide Prevention Month. Depression is generally the cause of suicide. If you are depressed, please get help. Talk to a health care professional, a friend, a family member, the suicide prevention hotline: 1-800-273-8255.

I have lost people I love to suicide. I have been on the ledge that leads to suicide in my own life. Depression lies. Life can and does get better, and I am thankful to still be here enjoying my grandchildren, the sunshine, and all that life brings.

I have the work of two authors to share with you today.

The first is Sylvia Plath who lived from 1932 to 1963. She took her life at the age of thirty. Her novel The Bell Jar was published 1963 only a month before she ended her life. This fictional story is semi-autobiographical and tells the story of a young woman dealing with debilitating depression. In Sylvia's time, treatment for depression was still in the dark ages. Treatment for depression and mental illnesses has improved. We still have a long way to go for society to accept these illness and to stop telling those of us who suffer with them to "Snap out of it" or "Just appreciate what you have" or "Be happy."

We have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. We need insurance companies to treat mental illness as a real illness and provide better coverage for it.

Sylvia Plath wrote a collection of poems during the months before she took her life in a collection called: Ariel. The reader can feel her despair in this collection. This is not an uplifting collection of poetry, but it is well written and deep.

The next author I want to tell you about is one who is very dear to me. She is my own sweet niece:, Faith Owen. She started writing her poetry as a young teen, and self published a book of poems in 2013 called Finding Faith. Her poems tell the story of childhood, of dealing with depression and the fight to not let it take over her life, and how it is a continual struggle for many.  In her poems, you see hope, faith, despair, and healing. The poems were written from 2009 to 2013.

In her poem "Weird", she writes:
"I am the kind of blue that people run from
thunder cloud angry grey
not the summer sky
sleep under the clouds
I love you
but the scarred electricity
the stinging painful rain
the kind of blue that makes one head for cover" (22). She is a wordsmith.

In her poem "Friendship" she details how we outgrow friendships, and I love the end of this poem:
"I didn't grow as fast
And when our friendship was stale
Like an old piece of bread
To you
It was fresh as peach
To me
We grew at different speeds
But now I realize
We grew out of each other
And our friendship
is too small
To fit us anymore" (25 - 26).

In her acknowledgement section she writes:
"For those who are hurting, sad, or grieving, you can do it. Life's a mess but there's a reason to it. There are people willing to help if you only look for them. I have faith in you. Here's an important thing to think about, poetry is like a mirror not a brick wall. When you read it, you should see yourself in it. I hope you do that with my poetry. It has the scent of my story in it, but there's no reason why you shouldn't find colors of your own within my words" (100).

She shares more of her poetry on her blog at: Faith's blog

She is wise beyond her years. It took tenacity for her to fight the dragon of depression and come out the other side, a winner, an author.  Her story continues, and she will fight the dragon from time to time. I hope she knows that she is loved and that her many gifts including her gift of words is appreciated.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Update on NICU Book Project

The books have been delivered to the NICU. This is my daughter, Angie and her co-worker, Susan. The parents of NICU babies have been delighted to get books for their babies and are surprised that they get five books. Some have said, "So we just pick one from the bag?"

No, we are offering a meal, not just a dinner roll. We could feed a big group of people if we gave each one a roll, but they wouldn't be satisfied. They would still be hungry and need vegetables, protein, and of course dessert.

I hope that by giving each baby five books, their literary palate will be awakened and they will seek out books, learning, and knowledge for the rest of their lives.

Angie has received emails from her coworkers saying that this is a much needed project. All of this does my heart good. I feel like the lives of our little ones matter and that they are blessing the lives of others.

And this happened: Angie's son's pre-school teacher donated these to our cause:

There are Spanish books in here, Laura Numeroff books, and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. Thanks, Janelle, you made me cry.

Many people at the hospital have asked how they can help. Here are three options.

1. You can give new books to Angie.

2. You can order books for your own children from an online Usborne book party and the proceeds will go to purchase books for the NICU. I received 225.00 in free books for the NICU a few months ago by doing this. Usborne is really good to their hostesses, and they have great board books for babies. Click on the link: Usborne book sale to benefit NICU The books you order will be shipped directly to your home. You can then give them to your children, grandchildren, nieces, or nephews.

3. We have set up a baby registry at with many books listed for the NICU babies. Some of these books only cost 2.50. Many of these are classics that all children should have. Click on this link if you'd like to help provide books for the NICU: Catherine Crosby Building Lifelong Readers Book Registry. If you order books for us, they will be shipped directly to me, and I will send them to the NICU.

4. You can also promote literacy in your own corner of the world. Read to a child even if that child is you.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Friday Favorite - Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde was born in Ireland in 1854. Although he only lived for forty-six years and didn't write very much the last few years of his life, his writing is amazing, and he always makes me think.

He is well known for his play: The Importance of Being Earnest, which shows how foolish we are when we put too much weight into what society values. This play will make you laugh and think. The dialogue is incredibly witty.

It was made into a movie. Because it is a play, it is meant to be watched as such, and the movie is good. 

Oscar Wilde also wrote The Picture of Dorian Gray. This story makes the reader question, "What if the deeds we did reflected in our image?" This book is chilling and as always, Wilde's wit is seen in the dialogue. 

Wilde wrote The Happy Prince and Other Stories for his young sons. This collection of fairy tales is well thought out. As always, Wilde makes the reader think: '"I never said I knew him,' answered the Rocket. 'I dare say that if I knew him I should not be his friend at all. It is a very dangerous thing to know one's friends'" (48).  

"They did not understand a single word of what he was saying, but that made no matter, for they put their heads on one side, and looked wise, which is quite as good as understanding a thing, and very much easier" (Wilde 105).

"'How well you talk!' said the Miller's Wife, pouring herself out a large glass of warm ale; 'really I feel quite drowsy. It is just like being in church'" (Wilde 26).

Although he wrote these stories for his young boys, adults will get the wit and humor that will go over the heads of children. 

He has several other writings, all worth reading. What is your favorite Wilde?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Throwback Thursday - Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree

About once a month or so, my neighbor and I go book shopping and to lunch. We visit several secondhand shops and go through their books looking for treasure. Last month during our expedition, she suggested I start this book blog. Because I love talking about books, I decided I liked her idea and Building Lifelong Readers was born. Yesterday during our excursion, I found a book that delighted me when I was a child.

Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree published in 1963 and written and illustrated by Robert Barry is a fun Christmas tree story told in rhyme, which makes it even more fun to read. The story begins with a great tree being cut and delivered to Mr. Willowby's house, but the tree is too tall, so the top is cut off and given to someone else. This happens a few times in the story until what is left is small enough to fit into a spool of thread and becomes the Christmas tree for a mouse family.

I found an original copy that looks like just as I remembered, colored in white, black, and shades of green.

The reprint of this book has added color; red, yellow, brown, and blue, which makes it even more fun. 

If you collect Christmas books, this is a fun book to share with children. The children can predict who will get the top of the tree each time it is cut smaller, and the ending is sweet. 

My neighbor wraps her Christmas collection in wrapping paper; they open and read a book a day as an advent calendar. 

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Do you have a favorite Christmas storybook?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Using Pictures Books in a Middle School Classroom

The books I want to share with you today are books I've used in my Creative Writing classroom. Picture books are not just for little kids. Many pictures books are written with older students in mind. I'll be sharing some of those at a later time.

In my Creative Writing class, I like to start with Kobi Yamada's What Do You Do with an Idea?. The illustrator of this amazing book is Mae Besom, and her artwork is top notch. Reading this aloud to 8th and 9th grade students helps build their confidence in their own ideas and helps them be brave enough to share their ideas with others. 

The idea gets larger, more colorful, and soon colors the entire story, and eventually changes the world. This book appeals to the imagination and shows students that if you don't nurture you idea, it can't grow. 

I read A Tale of Two Beasts by Fiona Robertson to my class to show them how important point of view is to a story and how a different point of view changes the story. This story is told from the little girl's point of view, and then from the beast's point of view. After reading this one to them, I pass out picture books of all kinds, have them read one, and then choose a different character or something in the book and tell the story from that person or thing's point of view. My students have fun with this activity and come up with some amazing stories. 

The next day for their starter, I give them a starter prompt and allow them to write. Then they have to choose a different person or thing from their own story and write a new point of view. Some of these stories ended up being their favorites and made it into our class anthology. 

People of all ages love storybooks, so don't be afraid to use them with older students. Do you use picture books in your classroom? Which ones are your favorites?

***Update on our NICU book project. I've had people ask how they can help get books into the hands of newborns. You are welcome to send them to me. Message me, and I'll send you an address. One of the easiest ways you can help is to purchase books from This Link. This will take you to the Usborne page for a book party that I am holding (make sure it says eshow: Catherine Crosby). You get to buy books for your own children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, or yourself. The books will be delivered right to your house, and a percentage of the sales go to buy books for the hospital. So if you are going to buy books anyway, this is a great way to help the new babies and be a force in our movement to increase literacy. In addition, you get books too. I had friends over in the spring for an Usborne book party and received over $200.00 of free books for the hospital. Usborne has a generous hostess program, and I love the touch and feel board books I get for the hospital. Plus they have Spanish books for our babies who need them. Thank you to everyone who has offered to help. Every five books means we touch one more family with the literacy bug. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Teen Tuesday - Dark Life and Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie

I have several books to share with you today. All were written for teens, but they are  different genres.

Dark Life by Kat Falls has a great cover:

This book is fast paced, has an amazing villain, and good character development. This book has a fairly low Lexile of 690, and my students who read this book, loved it. It was our brown bag book at our school, and all the students enjoyed it (7th, 8th, and 9th grade). 

This book has combined genres: Science fiction, fantasy, adventure. From the back of the book: "Earthquakes shattered the continents, toppling entire regions into the rising water. Now, humans live packed into stack cities. The only ones with any space of their own are those who live on the ocean floor, the Dark Life."

Kat Falls story creates a new frontier under the ocean. What will happen to children born under the sea? Will they evolve with new talents? The only land left to farm is under the ocean. Ty is the main character and he works hard to try to get his own plot of land someday, but his homestead is attacked, and a girl from the topside joins him in his fight to save the only life he knows. 

I have won over many a reluctant reader with this book. That reluctant reader will then recommend this book to his/her friends. It was always checked out in my classroom. This book is a series of two. If you find one book a reluctant reader enjoys, it is even easier to get them to read the second book because they are familiar with the writing style, characters, setting, and plot. 

Kat Falls continues Ty and Gemma's story in Rip Tide where they face new dangers and villains. 

Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick is realistic fiction. This story is told from Steven's point of view. In the beginning of the story, his life is pretty normal. He plays the drums, has a crush on a girl, and has an annoying little brother, but then his brother gets really sick, and Steven's world changes. 

When a family member gets a life threatening illness, it touches the entire family. Sonnenblick shows how each family member reacts and how the community and visitors react. This story will make you laugh and cry. 

I rated this book 5 of 5 stars on Goodreads. My only complaint is that the dialogue is written in italics which was a little confusing. The Lexile of this book is 940, and all of my students who read it, loved it. 

Jordan Sonnenblick continues the story a few years later, but this time the story is told from Jeffrey's point of view (the child who was so sick in Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie) in After Ever After. Jeffrey deals with the aftermath of chemotherapy and the damage it caused to his body. He is now in middle school and Steven has rebelled and left the country. He has friends who also struggled with cancer and this plays a big part in his story. The Lexile on this book is 820, and students who read the first book, almost always read the second one. 

After Ever After reminds me of the novel Ways to Live Forever by Sally Nicholls. This book is great for low readers because the Lexile is 580, yet the story is geared toward middle school age students. The story is told in journal entries, lists, questions, and pictures, so it is easy to get through. This book is well written, tender, funny, and sad. They made a movie of it in 2010, but I haven't watched it. If you've watched it, let us know in the comments if it was a good as the book.

If you've read any of the books featured on today's blog, let us know what you thought of them in the comments. 

Thank you, Catherine

Monday, September 14, 2015

Building Lifelong Readers NICU Edition

A little over thirty-four years ago when I was a young mom with a one year old toddler, I lost a set of twins. I've thought of them often over the years, and wondered who they would have become had they been able to be born alive and well. Not long ago, my own sweet daughter who is a NICU nurse lost a baby to miscarriage as did my son and his sweet wife. I thought it would be nice to do something to honor our babies who were born far too soon to enjoy life outside the womb. They were alive, they were loved and wanted, we had hopes and dreams for them, and losing them hurt deeply.

Before becoming an English teacher, I thought about teaching math, but my love for literature of all kinds over-ruled the order I love in math. I was asked to become a reading teacher for middle school students, and went back to school to get a reading endorsement. Eighth grade is the last year our district teaches reading to under-performing students. All sorts of students made up my classes: students who had not been read to as children, students with learning disabilities, students who had been neglected or abused, and what surprised me was that some of my students told me they were born prematurely.

I found that students who had been read to, even if they were born prematurely or had learning disabilities, enjoyed reading and had an attention span enabling them to progress. They may have been behind, but they were not out of the game. They had a love of books, so "thank you" to the moms and dads who read to these babies.

My students who had not been read to, struggled to focus, to read, to even want to be in class. We read a lot in our reading class, and I was able to win some of these kids over, but generally, if you don't read to your children when they are little, you don't get to make that up in eighth grade.

I love books, always have. From age birth to seven, I had two parents who loved books, so I had an early love of literature, but my father was incredibly abusive. My mother left him and returned to her family, but unfortunately, her family didn't value education, and were a restrictive religious cult. So from age seven until I left the cult  at age fifteen, books were my escape. Books allowed me to know what life was like outside in the real world - they showed me possibilities. Books gave me hope that my life could be better.

There is nothing I love more than to put the right book into a child's hands and help that child learn to navigate their own troubled waters. All of these experiences combined to create the project we chose to honor our angel babies. Because Angie works with babies born too soon in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit and we know the importance of introducing books as soon as possible into the lives of our children, we decided to give packages of books to the newborns in her unit.

Over the last year, I have gathered 150 new books for this project, which means we will only meet the needs of 30 babies, but I am still pleased with our efforts. I am currently gathering books again and will send more packets as we get them. We made packets for 21 English speaking families, and 9 Spanish speaking families. It is important for babies to be read to in their native language, so Spanish books are a must for these little ones.

I thought about giving only one, two, or three books to each baby, so that we could touch the lives of more babies, but how does one create a love of reading with only one book? I know that successes in my classroom came because I had over a thousand books in my classroom for students to choose from. Students would come back and borrow books from me even after they graduated from my class. What happens if the one book you give a baby isn't the one book it takes for that child to love books? What happens if the parents were not read to, and get so sick of the one book that they never read to their child again? Hopefully with five books, parents will also catch the reading bug and either visit their library or their local bookseller.

Books waiting for the approval of Angie's department, and of course they said, "Yes!"

Making packages:

I tied ribbons on the first few and decided it really wasn't necessary. Each package of five goes into a 2 gallon Ziplock bag with an insert listing the benefits of reading to the very young.  

 Some of the books in each package:

Ready to go.

To any of you who have lost a baby who was born too soon, know that you have my love. It is a painful experience, and often parents of these babies feel they can't grieve the way they need to. Gathering these books has been a healing experience for me because as I choose the books to purchase, I think of my babies and grandbabies who were lost, and they don't seem so distant anymore. They are remembered and this gives their sweet lives purpose. I hope as Angie gives these packages of books to the little ones she works with that she too will feel a sense of peace.

Find a child to read to today, even if that child is you.

Friday, September 11, 2015

September 12th: We Knew Everything Would Be All Right

No, today is not September 12th, it is September 11th, the day our country was attacked fourteen years ago. My son in seventh grade was not yet born. I remember the day vividly, watching the news wondering how on earth a pilot could have flown a plane into the World Trade Center, brushing my teeth and getting ready for work, when we (my husband and I) watched the second plane hit, and we knew. We knew our country was under attack.

I went to work at the college and everyone was in a fog. Classes were canceled, but staff stayed because students stayed. We were glued to the televisions in the library. Firemen from next door came over to watch the televisions, and they wept when the towers came down and buried their comrades in New York. We all wept together.

The skies remained eerily silent for a few days as all planes were grounded. We wondered when the next strike would hit. We were scared and vulnerable, but the American spirit stood strong, and in the days that followed in Kennett, Missouri, a group of first graders wrote a storybook about that day and what came after.

September 12: We Knew Everything Would Be All Right is the book they wrote and illustrated. It was published in 2002, so they got it published very quickly. It is now out of print, but you can find it on Amazon for $34.00 in paperback. Hardback copies are a lot more. I was lucky to find one at a book fair the spring after the attacks, so I only paid $3.99.

Youtube video of Michele Keltner, principal at DeSoto Trail Elementary School, reading September 12th. 

This little book is quite profound as these little first graders try to make sense of the senseless. They had a teacher who helped them sort it all out and be able to more forward. Although bad things happen, the sun does come out again, and the world keeps on turning.

A New Addition to Our Family

Last year on September 11th, our family received a brand new baby granddaughter, so now September 11th has happy thoughts associated with it. We will always remember where we were fourteen years ago when we realized just how vulnerable we are, but now we will also remember the first cries of our sweet Aria.

What do you remember about the attacks, and how did you find a way to stay positive in the aftermath?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Books Change Lives

When I was eight years old, I wanted to be just like my big sister Christy. She is smart, kind, and can do anything, so I read what she read. When she read Jane Eyre, of course I had to read it too. There were a lot of things in the book that went right over my head, but this book changed my life.

I learned that no matter how bad of a beginning your life has, you have the power to create your own vision for your life when you grow up. I decided that when I grew up, there would be no drugs in my house. I decided that when I grew up, I would not be on welfare.

Jane Eyre was strong. She valued education and knowledge. She didn't allow a man to take over her life. She was plain but her goodness shined through. I identified with the fact that she starved at Lowood because I was starved as child, so I understand that pain. I also decided at age eight that my children would never go hungry. Hunger hurts and makes your body prone to all sorts of illness.

Charlotte Bronte wrote Jane Eyre in October of 1847. I read it in 1972, and it is the book that most changed my life. It gave me power when I was a helpless child to know that things would get better, and that someday, I would be in charge of my own life. Charlotte lived for less than 39 years and died before she could give birth to her first child, but she forever changed the life of this child, me, and I will always be grateful to her for putting her story down on paper.

I think it is important to meet the right book at the right time. Books mean something to us when we connect with them. What book have you connected with that changed your life? Have you read Jane Erye? If so, what did you think about it? Let 's discuss it in the comments below. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Books Written in Verse

I love books written as poetry because the writers choose the strongest words and create wonderful visual images. Plus, novels in verse can be read more quickly, which is often a draw for struggling readers. Remember to read this type of book as a novel, and not as a poem and it will flow better. Watch for periods and commas and let them be your guide instead of line breaks.

One of my favorite books written as poetry is Inside Out and Back Again, by Thanhha Lai. This novel is based on her life experience of living through the fall of Saigon and immigrating to Alabama when she was ten years old. This book is a Newberry Honor and a National Book Award Winner, both honors well deserved.

Here is my response to her wonderful book:

If a response can be patterned after
The book one is responding to,
Then for Inside out and Back Again,
it must be written as poetry.

Thanhha Lai takes sensory images
From her childhood in and escape from Saigon,
Images too large for a small girl
And packages them into bite size mouthfuls.

A missing father,
Papaya, fish sauce, shiny black hair, and hair like fire,
A crowded boat without enough food, water, or air,
The land of Alabama, kind cowboys without horses.
Opportunity and hatred dished up simultaneously.
Prejudice in all its American glory thrust in her face.

Was it your fault, Ha?
With your toe first on the floor at Tet?
Or stealing bits and pieces of deliciousness at the market?

Ha, I remember your war.
When it ended and the before.
Knowing Mom would cry at the
Evening news, lost friends,
A lost husband who didn’t partake
In your war, but followed a broken soldier
Into the hazy drug jungle.
Your father fought, now missing.
My father absent yet gracing us with
rage and mood swings,
Loud roars and louder fists.

‘Til Mom left and we found
A new land in Bountiful,
Handfuls of opportunity slapped from our grasp.
Surrounded by mountains and
Prejudice and hate for being different.

My fault?
Was I not good enough, quiet enough,
Lovely enough, or just enough?

A warm spring day.
Students called to gym
sit Indian style –
Now called crisscross for political correctness.

Warm, still air, stuffy from hundreds of children
Surrounds a little girl in a pink vinyl jumper – all the fashion,
Trapping sweat like a moment of silence,
Slightly awkward and uncomfortable.

3/29/73, the end of your war for me, but
For you, the fight raged two more years.
Stealing what it cannot give back.
No father for Ha. No father for me.
Hers a ghost, mine a demon.
The aftermath of war that never ends.

Other books you may enjoy if you like books written in verse:

Death Coming Up the Hill by Chis Crowe is a literary masterpiece. It is written in Haiku, one syllable for every American soldier who lost their life in 1968 in Vietnam, all 16,592 of them. In his book, a young man does not want to fight, but he must make some hard decisions as his family falls apart in the U.S.A. 

Newberry Author, Sharon Creech has three books written in verse that I'm aware of. My favorite is Heartbeat. This story will make you think about how you look at life and the difference perspective makes. 
She also wrote Love That Dog and Hate That Cat, which are great for younger readers. Love that Dog will make you cry. 

Newberry author, Karen Hesse has two books written in verse that I enjoyed. 
Out of the Dust, which won the Newberry Award is about a young girl during the horrible dust storms of the 1930s. This book will make you cry. 

She writes about racial tensions in Witness. The story is set in 1924 and the Klu Klux Klan has just moved into a small Vermont town. No one is safe. 

Do you have a favorite book written in verse? Please share in the comments.