I finished post-planning on June 17 and this weekend marked the one-month mark of my summer. I have almost exactly one month to go before teachers have to report for pre-planning. I always have personal and professional goals for myself and my kids during the summer. I always want to read and write more and encourage my kids to practice those skills over the break as well. There are the ever-present professional goals of reading more, writing more, and growing professionally. Personally, I always try to focus on shedding some pounds.
I have read quite a bit in the last four weeks, so I feel like I’m keeping up with that goal well. I’ve kept my ear cocked to my PLN through Twitter and blogs that I read. My Nerdy Book Club friends put me to shame in the professional growth area: they all seem to be traveling the country attending PD conferences and NerdCamps galore. I have done some tinkering with my Ideas and Changes document that I keep throughout the school year thanks to the sharing they have done via Twitter and their blogs. And, to my own surprise, I have managed to shed a few pounds. I hardly ever manage to stick to my self-made promises to exercise regularly and eat better, but I’ve done well this summer. The only thing I haven’t managed to do is write more. Neither is it lost on me that in writing this, I am procrastinating yet again from “real” writing.
With almost exactly one month left, I am making another Nerdlution. I am committing to write 30 minutes a day. If I can continue to make sure I’m physically active for at least 30 minutes a day, surely I can take some time to write 30 minutes every day. I want to be more transparent with my students about my writing this coming school year. I want to show them my own writing and write with them on a consistent basis. I have done these things sporadically throughout my teaching career and to an instance, my students always respond better to those assignments I create with them or when i share my own struggles with a particular aspect of craft. It will help immeasurably to come to the table with a few works in progress. If I expect my students to consider themselves writers and take it seriously, I have to do the same.
LENGTH: 320 pages
SOURCE: purchased, Scholastic Book Fair
REVIEW: With Lloyd’s first novel, whimsy reigns. Ice cream that helps one remember, a network of do-gooders throughout the city, and a little girl who sees words floating around people that can help them find themselves. Lloyd also tackles some tough topics like broken families, abandonment, and the effects of transience on children, but does so within a definite structure of hope.
Felicity loves her mother and knows that her wandering heart is a product of suffering love’s loss. Felicity along with Aunt Cleo attempt to convince Mama that home is a feeling rather than a place. The characters, although not all strictly members of Felicity’s family, definitely comprise a loving community of support for Felicity, Frannie Jo, and Mama. In the end, Felicity’s is a story of coming home. It is Lloyd’s blend of small-town wholesomeness and big-city acceptance that makes Midnight Gulch the perfect place for the Pickles to call home.
BRIDGE: This would be a great book with which to teach folklore. The stories that frame the history of Midnight Gulch have all the elements of traditional folk tales. The most obvious bridge would be discussing vocabulary: specifically connotations. Felicity sees words floating above people and places and while the words themselves are related, the implications behind the words are much more powerful in the context of the story.
READERS and OTHER TITLES: Readers who need a little magic in their lives or want a story to warm the heart will enjoy Lloyd’s story. This title would also be a good text to use as a bit of light, but meaningful reading between heavier texts. This book reminds me of several other stories in which magical realism plays a major role: Savvy by Ingrid Law, Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech, or Ida B… by Katherine Hannigan.
PUBLISHER: Philomel; Penguin Audiobooks
LENGTH: 352 pages; 9 hrs, 51 min
SOURCE: purchased (audio)
SUMMARY: Click here to read from author Ruta Sepetys’s website.
REVIEW: This story, on the surface, seems quite different from Sepetys’s acclaimed Between Shades of Gray. Looking more closely, there are thematic similarities that resonate with readers regardless of setting or background of the characters. Josie Moraine, just like Lina, must rely on herself to “be the change she wants to see in the world”. Even though Josie is already out of school, the story is indeed a coming-of-age tale that also touches on social class, betrayal, homosexuality, and guilt.
With a detailed and unique cast of characters, Sepetys drops readers into the seedier side of New Orleans in the early 1950s. Josie’s mother is a prostitute who is self-centered and neglectful of Josie. Josie has a “created family” of supporters through the brothel and the surrounding community. With one decision to omit part of the truth surrounding one of her bookstore customer’s recent visits, Josie finds herself tangled in a web of deception that leads to her mother abandoning her to leave with an abusive boyfriend, Josie considering the life of a kept women which she swore she would never live because of her own mother, and having to choose between her dream of a college education or saving her mother’s life while dooming her own.
The intricacies of character and social class in this book are commendable. Cokie, Willie, and Jesse are unique and provide the perfect contrast to Charlotte and Charlotte’s world. The story itself seemed a bit burdensome in its development. Once Josie keeps the information about the watch to herself, it seemed to take quite a while to discover exactly how that decision would impact her plans to join Charlotte at college. The climax is predictable and Willie’s ultimate rescue of Josie seemed unavoidable. However, the decisions and experiences that Josie must work through ring true and young women on the cusp of independence will identify with Josie’s willingness to take risks as well as her reservations about venturing into new territory.