Saturday, May 23, 2020

Backcourt Battle (Rich Wallace)

Now that we are no longer at school, reading with my students, especially my struggling readers is a struggle. I've adapted by having a "Morning Warm up" activity each day where I ask them a simple questions or two or have them write something. I always ask the question, "What are you reading today?". I vary the questions:

What are you reading?
What page are you on?
What last happened in your book?
When do you think you'll finish this book?
What do you plan to read next?

I ask those questions because my training has told me that those are the things people who love to read know....they read every day, they can tell you what's happening in their book and they have a rough idea of how long it'll be before they're finished and what they're going to move on to next. 

I had a student who would tell me each and every day that he didn't like to read and didn't have a book and wasn't planning to read a book. After a few weeks of that, I told him that was no longer okay and that I expected him to read (you can do that when you teach 8 year olds....I don't recommend it for older kids LOL). I asked him to pick a book from Epic, a platform that we all have access to while schools are shut down. He picked this book. Each day we each read a chapter independently and would talk about it on Google Meet the next day. The first day he couldn't really tell me anything that happened in the first chapter and my attempt at a conversation went nowhere. We re-read the first chapter together and it was interesting the see the concepts he didn't understand about basketball. He likes to play basketball in the courtyard at recess - but that doesn't mean he knows about shot clocks and 3 point lines and more. We discussed some of those things. After that, he started to take it a little more seriously and we had some good discussions each day! 

This story has a good character lesson and is fun because you get to pick the ending. We had a good debate about which would be the best ending. I think a book like this would also be a good way to talk to students about revising that authors do with their stories. 

Goodreads says:

After the starting point guard sprains his ankle during a game, Jamere steps in until his rival teammate returns for the championship. But with both boys expecting to start in the final game, their coach asks Jamere to decide who will play. The ending is Up2U.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

The Gown (Jennifer Robson)

I'll be forever grateful to my friend, Karen Johnson, for introducing me to the author Jennifer Robson. Jennifer Robson is Karen's sister in law's sister and we got to speak with her for a book club meeting when we read one of her other books. It was so wonderful to hear her passion for history and all that went into creating the story. I also got to go listen to Jennifer Robson at Wordfest when she spoke about The Gown. (Here is an interview with her in Calgary). That was really a fun night! The person who interviews Jennifer Robson wore her wedding gown and many people in the audience were dressed in proper England tea-party type dresses. If only I thought of those kinds of things ahead of time! 

I can't remember the story exactly or if this is a real sample from the Queen's gown, but they passed this around at the event for everyone to see:

When she was doing her research, Jennifer Robson met a woman named Betty who really did work on the dress and was a big source of inspiration for the book. She talks about her at the back of the book as well.

Some of her other books that I've read are: Moonlight Over Paris, Somewhere in France, and After the War is Over. I also own Goodnight From London and I don't think I've read that one. Time to do that! Actually, reading The Gown has made me want to go back and re-read all of Robson's books.

This book is a special blend of family history research, historical fiction, mystery and romance. I was raised by a mom who sews, who was raised by a mom who sewed and so I have a bit of a passion for that as well. This book made me want to learn to do beadwork, for sure! As far as the royal family goes, I thought it was appropriate that Jennifer Robson should have a character who kind of looked at everyone's love for the princess with a bit of disdain at first. She does seem to come around though and mostly have good to say about princess Elizabeth. I woke up in the middle of the night to watch Diana and Charles' wedding and also loved the stories around Kate and William's wedding...and I love Harry and Meghan too despite all the bad press they get. All in all, I guess I'm a bit of a royal family fan. 

I thought this book was well written and came together nicely in the end.I love historical fiction and this book does not disappoint. We're going to discuss this book for my book club in June and I'm quite looking forward to it!

Goodreads says:

“Millions will welcome this joyous event as a flash of color on the long road we have to travel.”—Sir Winston Churchill on the news of Princess Elizabeth’s forthcoming wedding

London, 1947: Besieged by the harshest winter in living memory, burdened by onerous shortages and rationing, the people of postwar Britain are enduring lives of quiet desperation despite their nation’s recent victory. Among them are Ann Hughes and Miriam Dassin, embroiderers at the famed Mayfair fashion house of Norman Hartnell. Together they forge an unlikely friendship, but their nascent hopes for a brighter future are tested when they are chosen for a once-in-a-lifetime honor: taking part in the creation of Princess Elizabeth’s wedding gown.

Toronto, 2016: More than half a century later, Heather Mackenzie seeks to unravel the mystery of a set of embroidered flowers, a legacy from her late grandmother. How did her beloved Nan, a woman who never spoke of her old life in Britain, come to possess the priceless embroideries that so closely resemble the motifs on the stunning gown worn by Queen Elizabeth II at her wedding almost seventy years before? And what was her Nan’s connection to the celebrated textile artist and holocaust survivor Miriam Dassin?

With The Gown, Jennifer Robson takes us inside the workrooms where one of the most famous wedding gowns in history was created. Balancing behind-the-scenes details with a sweeping portrait of a society left reeling by the calamitous costs of victory, she introduces readers to three unforgettable heroines, their points of view alternating and intersecting throughout its pages, whose lives are woven together by the pain of survival, the bonds of friendship, and the redemptive power of love.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Power From On High (Caldwell)

The title of this book was a draw for me. The more I read the more 'meh' I felt about it. I don't feel obligated to finish books I don't like, and I did end up finishing it, so that says something. However, it wasn't any different than anything I have heard at a long and dull stake conference or sacrament meeting where people rehash a talk that has already been given by someone else.

Goodreads says:

When the Lord's church was organized in this dispensation, the Savior . . . gave Joseph Smith power from on high that he might fulfill the Lord's purposes and accomplish His marvelous work. Just as Joseph Smith needed power from heavenly sources, so also are we dependent upon that same power in order to fulfill the Lord's expectations of us, be accepted of Him, and be welcomed back into His presence. In the pages of this inspiring text, Elder C. Max Caldwell, emeritus member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, explains that we don't have the power to personally overcome and transcend our mortal limitations. However, the redeeming power of the Savior not only saves us from permanent physical disabilities through the resurrection, but also repairs internal spiritual damages incurred when we fail to follow the narrow path leading home. Elder Caldwell then points us toward principles and practices that will connect us to the Lord's power plant—simple guidelines that will give us the power to overcome temptation and keep our lives focused on the Savior and the saving principles of His gospel. Filled with scriptural affirmations, powerful examples, meaningful quotes from General Authorities, and the author's tender and insightful personal experiences, this is truly a book to be savored, treasured, and referenced often.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Trumpet of the Swan

I read Trumpet of the Swan years ago and loved it. I can't remember exactly when it was: university? when I was younger? I always have wanted to read it with my students and always encourage them to read it. However, I don't think I had re-read it until now. Now that I've re-read it, it may be one that I don't recommend. The father swan (cob) says weird things about having a son with a disability. They may be things that were more acceptable "back in the day" but now, it is kind of shocking. However, I do love Louis' stick-to-itness and problem solving. 

Goodreads says:

Like the rest of his family, Louis is a trumpeter swan. But unlike his four brothers and sisters, Louis can't trumpet joyfully. In fact, he can't even make a sound. And since he can't trumpet his love, the beautiful swan Serena pays absolutely no attention to him.

Louis tries everything he can think of to win Serena's affection—he even goes to school to learn to read and write. But nothing seems to work. Then his father steals him a real brass trumpet. Is a musical instrument the key to winning Louis his love?

Monday, April 27, 2020

Big Little Lies (Liane Moriarty)

This book kept me up way too late. Usually I don't like to read books about domestic violence and infidelity, but I loved this book. In some ways it seemed shallow and yet it seemed entirely realistic. The way everyone kept their secrets is what people really do. As a teacher who watches families who become friends through school, the banter between people in the story made me laugh. Each of the characters in this book represented people I know. It was very relatable. The story was well written and light-hearted while being very serious. I didn't figure out who died until way after most readers probably do. LOL

Goodreads says:

Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?).

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.

New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.

Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Saints, Volume 2 No Unhallowed Hand

This one started slower for me than volume 1 did. It took me a while to get into. I have been reading both books in the series with my daughter. She abandoned me on this one.

 I thought the beginning was kind of boring - some members traveled here and some traveled there. Brigham Young went back and forth and back and forth. But as they got to Utah and started to settle, those stories became much more interesting. Much of this book was on the challenges the members of the church had because they practiced polygamy and there were laws against it. This resulted in leaders and many other people going into hiding. The whole polygamy story is still hard for me to read about and I found it hard to feel sorry for them - especially the men. Even when Allen and I would talk about some of these stories, the conversations were uncomfortable and short. How it all ended was fascinating too - kind of a story of relinquishing to the law. Is that how really inspiration? Or is it desperation?

All this makes me sound like I'm a real questioner of the church - which isn't the case. The polygamy story though is a hard one to swallow. I wouldn't recommend this book to people trying to learn about the church because that issue is so huge in this book. However, there are many other wonderful faith filled stories. I did love the fact that the stories of women were aplenty. I do look forward to the next book in the series.

Goodreads says:

Saints Volume 2: No Unhallowed Hand, 1846-1893, begins with thousands of Latter-day Saints fleeing mobs in Nauvoo, their gathering place for the previous seven years. Readers follow Brigham Young and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles west across prairie and plain, witnessing their trust that God has prepared a home for them beyond the towering peaks of the Rocky Mountains.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

The Invention of Wings (Sue Monk Kidd)

There is nothing I like better than a story of truly inspiring women. This is definitely one. The story is told from Sara Grimke's and Handful's point of view. Sarah, from early on, knew slavery was wrong, despite her family's practice of owning slaves. Handful is well named. She is a slave who suffers but doesn't lie down. Handful was not a real person. She is mostly made up by the author. Sarah Grimke, on the other hand, was a real person.

I loved this book and read it slowly so as to carefully soak up all the story into my heart. I hope I can be someone who stands up for those who need someone to speak up, rather than just accepting that that is the way things are.

"History is not just facts and events. History is also a pain in the heart and we repeat history until we are able to make another's pain in the heart our own." - Professor Julius Lester

One of the most striking moments in the story is when the slave owner comes across the quilt that Handful's mother has made. It tells the story of her life:

p. 336 - 337
"We looked back and forth to each other while little missus squinted from one square to the next like she was reading a book. Everything done to mauma - there it was. the one-legged punishment, the whippings, the branding, the hammering. mama's body laid on the quilt frame in pieces...."Who made this?"
"Mauma did. Charlotte."
"Well, it's gruesome!"
I never had wanted to scream as bad as I did right then. I said, "Those gruesome things happened to her."
A dark pink color poured into her cheeks. "For heaven's sakes then, you would think her whole life was nothing but violence and cruelty. I mean, it doesn't show what she did to warrant her punishments."
She looked at the quilt again, her eyes darting over the appliques. "We treated her well here, no one can dispute that. I can't speak for what happened to her when she ran away, she was out of our care then." Little missus was rubbing her hands now like she was cleaning them at the wash bowl.
The quilt had shamed hr. She walked to the door and took one look back at it, and I knew she'd never let it stay in the world. She'd send Hector to gt it the minute we were out of the room. He'd burn mauma's story to ash.
Standing there, waiting for little missus' steps to fade, I looked down at the quilt, at the slaves flying in the sky, and I hated being a slave worse than being dead. The hate I felt for it glittered so full of beauty I sank down on the floor before it.

That's the moment when Handful is ready to run away....and she does.

This is the second Sue Monk Kidd book I've read. I am thinking this summer might need to be a Sue Monk Kidd summer.

Goodreads says:

Writing at the height of her narrative and imaginative gifts, Sue Monk Kidd presents a masterpiece of hope, daring, the quest for freedom, and the desire to have a voice in the world—and it is now the newest Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 selection.

Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.

Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid. We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.

As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements.

Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in her search for something better.

This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at a devastating wound in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved.