Month: April 2021

The Fourteenth Goldfish

After reading The Terrible Two Get Worse, the second in the series by authors Jory John and Mac Barnett with their signature witty and whimsical illustrations, I offered The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm to the class. In the front row: “What, no pictures?” After reading period, the same student exclaimed, “It’s so descriptive!” True. Holm’s story captivated my class with a well-traveled tale of an elder person in a much younger body. In this novel, 11 year-old Ellie lives with her mom, a drama teacher. Ellie’s parents are divorced, but remain friendly. The dad is an actor, traveling in the Midwest with a production of Les Miserables for much of the book. Soon, Ellie’s maternal grandfather moves in after an arrest. Melvin Sagarsky is a scientist who’s discovered a way to turn back time; he’s a grumpy and opinionated 76 year-old man residing in a 13 year-old body—HIS body. Melvin has two PhDs and is hoping for a Nobel for his discovery of the serum he’s dubbed T.melvinus. Melvin attends middle school with Ellie. His go-to outfit consists of polyester pants, practical shoes, and button down shirt. He gets detention and naps at the Halloween dance. There’s more than a sprinkling of science throughout the book, including Melvin educating Ellie about Marie Curie, Jonas Salk, Louis Pasteur, and Robert Oppenheimer. Ellie takes it all in. She navigates middle school with nervousness and self-doubt because a longstanding friendship has morphed into something less predictable. She rides the waves of…

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Braces & Burlington with Mom

I covered the last two class periods of the day for my friend and colleague a couple of weeks ago. She needed to take her teen daughter to the orthodontist, a little over an hour from campus. I asked her daughter if that meant a trip to the leggings store while they were out. She said it did, nodding her head vigorously. It reminded me of the times my mom and I would take monthly trips to the orthodontist when I was in eighth grade. We’d visit Dr. Trottier in Burlington, Vermont, ninety minutes away from our home on the other side of Lake Champlain. Those days were special and wonderful. I had Mom to myself. I enjoyed those day-long trips for a fifteen minute appointment, checking out Church Street, consignment shops, bookstores, record stores, and the malls afterwards. And definitely lunch out.  I am the oldest of four, with twin siblings in the middle; my youngest sister six years my junior. My parents were always renovating our farmhouse, the lone home on a long, rural road three miles from town. They did piecemeal construction projects. How did they swing it? They worked on the place when they could—summers mostly and vacations, weekends. Four of us, three dogs, several goats, a horse, dinner, firewood, snow removal, landscaping, vegetable gardens, teaching, groceries, dentists, doctors, sports, homework help, the bank. Add in the guests, church, and volunteering. Seriously, how?!! No wonder my mom wanted a day nearly to herself. I’m guessing the…

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New Kid

I was so excited to take a deep dive into middle grade literature as I prepared for my new teaching role at NCS. Jerry Craft’s graphic novel, New Kid, won both the Newbery Medal and the Coretta Scott King award in 2020. After giving it a quick read, I then went back through, spending more time with Jordan Banks as he navigates seventh grade in a new private school. There are stark differences between his neighborhood and the one where his new school is located. Within the first few pages, author/artist Craft spells it out while the parents review the school’s website: there’s not much diversity and there’s a long list of courses and curriculum offerings that simply aren’t available at the local public school.  Jordan really wants to go to art school, but acquiesces and heads off to Riverdale Academy Day School or RAD. He learns all about legacy families and its impact on his friend Liam, the divisive term Oreo shows up in a large panel, and there’s no shortage of microaggressions, bullying, prejudice, and code-switching in this story. While this book is for young people, there are plenty of important messages for adults, too.  There’s so much to enjoy and engage with in this original and complex book.  I loved the build up to puppet-wearing Alexandra’s reveal and how Jordan provided her with such kindness. That panel and dialogue was a special part of the book for me, capturing the awkwardness of young kids while also showcasing…

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Letter to the Letter O

One of the better writing prompts Adirondack Center for Writing released during the pandemic was “write a letter to your favorite letter”; my mother-in-law responded with a sweet and funny ode to the letter E. I incorporated the prompt into a writing project for class, using Eleanor’s essay about E as a guide. I also wrote my own letter to O and shared it with the sixth graders in the early fall: Oh, “O”! I’ve loved you for so long. I appreciate how we can insert a heart in your place and it works, especially for the word L♥VE. The fact that you team up with another O to make so many cool words, like COOL and poop or goop and then there’s the different sounding team for book, look, and took. Cows wouldn’t sound like cows without you, the spring prankster would fall flat, and an autumn month makes you say “Boo.” Even if you’re on your own, you make new sounds: plop, slop, drop. Since we’ve already talked about the bathroom, you know they go to the loo in London, too. I see you everywhere, of course. You’re a circle, a sphere, a spot, a ring. I often find you in the clouds or lounging on a tray in the doughnut shop. You’re the leftovers from an insect’s lunch on a leaf. Sometimes you’re in the steam on a mirror, a mark on the table left by a glass or a mug, a loop in the sap line,…

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Chirp

People who climb all 46 High Peaks – mountains over 4,000 feet –  in the Adirondacks are called 46ers. While we do a fair amount of hiking at North Country School, we also do a ton of reading. NCS’s reading incentive program was developed to encourage students and staff to become Literary 46ers. While I know there’s some controversy about extrinsic rewards for reading, the Title Trek Program truly builds a community of readers (and writers). To become a Literary 46er, participants must read a wide variety of books and complete a Title Trek for each one. The Trek must include both a summary and reflection. Yes, sort of a glorified book report; however, I’ve witnessed other creative ways to complete the process – detailed sketches presented during a lunch council, video book trailers or skits, mixed media artwork, and so on. I started Title Trekking, logging 11 titles, before setting the goal aside for a decade. Once I became an ELA teacher, I revisited the program with full force; I completed my final 35 Treks in December 2020. I shared the audiobook version of Chirp with students this fall and once I published the following review, I used it in class to show them how to write a book review/Title Trek.  Middle Grade Book, Chirp, is a #MeToo Movement Book for the Younger Crowd Chirp, the latest work by North Country author Kate Messner, is a children’s chapter book that explores the topic of sexual harassment in an age-appropriate…

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