More book love #SOL17

solI’m leading a year-long children’s literature book study with elementary teachers. We’ve been alternating between chapter books and picture books, focusing on books that feature either diverse characters or that were written by diverse authors and illustrators.

It’s been fun, yet challenging, to make the best book choice each month. This year at WSRA, my March book pick fell right into my lap.

I went to see Kwame Alexander, poet and writer of Crossover and Booked. I had no idea that his first book was a picture book. Even better, he was about to release a stunning nonfiction book about endangered animals. Hurrah for Animal Ark! 

The book is centered around the stunning photographs by Joel Sartore, who has been photographing endangered animals for a special project called The Photo Ark. Just as beautiful are Kwame Alexander’s words- haiku- as pleasing to the ear as the photos are to the eyes.

Take a listen for yourself as Kwame Alexander recites the center pages– powerful words that urge us to take responsibility and take action.

I’m so excited to share this book with my team next week. You should check it out, too!

Animal Ark

More book love #SOL17

New Shoes

solWhat is it about new shoes? I definitely had a “shoe thing” when I was younger. Then came the kids, and my affinity for shoes and fashion turned to an affinity for baby hats and kids’ fashion. Mostly.

A few months ago, I stumbled upon the most delightful pair at a second hand shop. I entered the shop with my daughter, and immediately my eyes found them. What were the chances that they’d be my size exactly? What were the chances that the heel height would be just right~ not too high? What were the chances that the beautiful rose-colored leather would match with so many things in my wardrobe.

Needless to say, they are now mine, and every time I wear them I hear “I love your shoes!” all. day. long. Seriously, last week two custodians simultaneously complimented them. It made me laugh!

Yesterday, my son Luke took himself shopping for new shoes for his gym class that started today. It was strange sending my baby with my credit card and a spending limit to shop for himself. He even went to a Nike Outlet in order to save money. He found the shoes in record time, and came home with a big smile on his face.

This kid has been pushing some limits lately, flexing his independence muscles. I could tell that he was proud of this successful shopping trip. And I definitely recognized that I have new shoes glow on his face.

At the end of the day, Luke fell sound asleep on the couch. He may be 17, but in that moment, I smiled, seeing his inner 4-year-old, curled up on his mom’s couch. With his new shoes on.

New Shoes

Book Magic

I’m reading The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill, Newbery Award winner.

This book is delicious.Image result

First, there are these characters with whom it didn’t take long at all to fall in love: Xan, a lovely, wise witch, Luna, an innocent and curious girl, Glerk, a gentle giant of a swamp monster, and Fyrian, a naive, yet lovable dragon. And then there’s Antain, an elder in training, who questions the status quo and follows his heart.

And then there’s the writing. Kelly Barnhill has imagined and built a magical world. Just listen to the description-

“At the center of the forest was a small swamp- bubbly, sulfury, and noxious, fed and warmed by an underground, restlessly sleeping volcano and covered with a slick of slime whose color ranged from poison green to lightning blue to blood red, depending on the time of the year.”

And then there is the poetry, beautiful lines shared by the wise Glerk-

“Patience has now wing…
Patience does not run
Nor blow, nor skitter, nor falter.
Patience is the swell of the ocean;

Patience is the sigh of the mountain;
Patience is the shirr of the Bog;
Patience is the chorus of stars,
Infinitely singing.”

My book study group is reading this book together. I’m so grateful
for the story, the beautiful language, and the knowing that I’ll be able to talk about it with colleagues soon. I do wish I could sit down with Ms. Barnhill to talk about her writing! I hope you’ll pick it up as well!sol

Book Magic


It’s been one of those aimless Saturdays:sol

Lazy awakening
Homegrown breakfast
School board phone call
Writing Project correspondence
Goat hoof trimming
Clean kitchen
Wine with lunch while still in pajamas
Chatting with Chloe
Yoga with dogs
Bath with Moroccan salts
Book- delicious and witchy
Noodles with husband, youngest and pal
Wolverine- too violent for me
Martini and John Denver documentary- much more my style
More dog playtime
The promise of returning soon to the same comfy bed

Sometimes I find these kinds of days unfulfilling and frustrating. But today I feel accomplished. I nurtured my inner self, my relationships, took steps toward completing unhappy tasks, stood my ground, shared tender moments with my pets and found entertainment in books, big screen and spirits.

Life is delicious.


Eyes Opened

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hToday I observed a 7th grade class participating in a Socratic Discussion on the themes in their books centered on the Civil Rights Movement. They’re just learning the format, and more importantly, they are just dipping their toes into a piece of American history that they’ve been protected from thus far.

Their questions were so innocent.

Why did people treat black people this way?
Where did this start?
What were they afraid of?
Why are people so slow to change?
Why weren’t laws upheld?

Their ideas were so insightful and timely.

Education provided advantages.
People are afraid of what they don’t know… of those who are different.
Whites found ways to hold power over minorities.
Nobody wants to change.
Change can only happen when the dominant culture joins in with the disadvantaged.

At the end of the discussion, one student started an avalanche of questions about how their eyes were just opened.

Why haven’t we ever learned this before?
Why have we heard of only Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr, but not Claudette Colvin or Emmit Till?
Why didn’t Dr. King ever see his Dream come true?

Sigh. I don’t need to tell you what I’m thinking about these kids’ wonderings. I don’t even think they’re all that remarkable. I believe these wonderings should live in all Americans’ hearts and minds.

But they don’t. What I’m wondering is how even though these students’ eyes have been opened and maybe their hearts have been changed, many will close their eyes- sooner than later. A run in with a high school student sporting a racist t-shirt this week proved me correct.

My choice is to persist: We take a stand. We march onward. Together.


Eyes Opened

In like a lion…

solYesterday, I awoke to grey skies and cold rain. I spent two hours at one school and left to a sea of white. A beautiful sea of white.

The snow was unexpected- by me. It was double what was expected for those who tolerated the news the night before. As usual, I heard plenty of complaining.

I’m on my 4th winter of promising to myself not to complain about Wisconsin winters. Compared to giving up sugar, committing to exercise, and not opening wine mid-week, giving up complaining is easy as pie. Sigh.

So when the snow finally tapered off, my husband, 17 year-old and I ventured out to clean up the driveway. The snow was heavy, the snow blower wasn’t working properly, but under all those stars in the black sky, the world was beautiful.

We seized the moment. Our dogs frolicked, I celebrated the bonus workout, and our son began digging and building. I can’t explain the joy I felt at watching our youngest son- the last kid left at home- as he played in the snow.

For our Luke, it’s the most stressful week ever. The practice ACT, the ACT, the Work Keys (ACT), and today- FINALS! Thank goodness for that snow… for fresh air… for pets… for play.

There’s so much to be grateful for. When it comes to nature, I’ll never complain!

In like a lion…

Celebrating Books & Readers

solHow do your schools celebrate Read Across America week? I’ve worked in a few schools, and more often than not, the week is celebrated in ways that don’t focus on reading. Weird, right? It’s true, though. We make reading-related crafts, host dress-up days, eat green eggs and ham and have Dr. Seuss birthday cake.

Today, we did have a super reader dress-up day, but more importantly, we hosted our first ever school-wide book swap. Kudos to our reading committee to being open to trying something new, and even more gratitude to our reading specialists for organizing this event.

Starting a few weeks ago, students were invited to donate a book or two. The books were sorted, a schedule was created, and today we held the big event. Teachers brought their classes to our large group instruction area, where books were spread out across tables, inviting a new pair of hands and eyes.

Every child left with a new to you book.

I loved this day for plenty of reasons:

  1. JOY- kids were downright excited about shopping for and reading a new book!
  2. COMMUNITY- I heard kids saying, This is a great book for Alexa!  They helped one another choose books and after they’d chosen they clumped together, reading their books to one another with no direction to do so.
  3. SHARING- Books are meant to be shared. When students couldn’t decide, or wished they’d gotten a book that a friend chose, we simply encouraged them to read the book they had and then to swap with their friends when they were ready to do so.
  4.  GIVING- We celebrated the fact that so many had given a book for this event. I know we’ll have even more success next year. We have enough books left over that we’ll be able to get books into kids’ hands this summer.
  5. READING- Dressing up, making book marks and eating cake are all fun. But so is reading. We were all reminded about finding magic in a book today.
Celebrating Books & Readers