IMWAYR: The Creativity Project

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My plan was to start tomorrow, but I opened The Creativity Project by Colby Sharp tonight after a longer-than-expected drive home from the NCTE annual conference, and fell in love immediately with the structure of this amazing text. I’m sure I’ll read this one quickly again, and later slow down and really ponder the wonder of this amazing project. Colby Sharp is the co-founder of the Nerdy Book Club, so by nature, he is a reader and writer. He asked several authors to supply creative writing prompts for each other, then sent packages to authors with the prompts, asking each to share their writing/creating process. He wanted to share (with his elementary school students) how writers come up with ideas and “observe the way that creativity works.”

Mr. Sharp wrote in the introduction, “A few weeks later, the pieces started coming in, and HOLY SMOKES! I was completely blown away.” As I flipped through the pages tonight myself, perusing the structure of the book, I, too, was in awe of the prompts themselves and the projects that were submitted. For example, author Peter Brown submitted this prompt: “Create something that includes a tree looking out-of-place.” Illustrator Lauren Castillo answered with a drawing of a city scene, and there’s a tree there, looking quite out-of-place.

I can’t wait to read this book deeply and maybe even try something myself. Thank you, Mr. Sharp, for challenging all of us — experts and amateurs —  to create!

(The Creativity Project, by Colby Sharp, and published by Little, Brown and Company, will be out in April, 2018.)

 

 

IMWAYR: Revisiting Smoky Night by Eve Bunting

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Several weeks ago, I was upset that the news carried stories about devastation from hurricanes, but not the wildfires in Montana. This week fires have destroyed beautiful parts of California, and people are left with nothing. Today for my “It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?” self-assignment, I revisited Smoky Night, by Eve Bunting. It seemed appropriate. 

Smoky Night surrounds Daniel, his Mama, and his cat on the night of a fire that displaced tenants of an apartment building. It’s a scary night, a sad night, and yet a night of meeting and taking care of one’s neighbors when there is need. People were rioting in the streets, stealing from Morton’s Appliances, and throwing items from Fashion Shoes. It’s chaos, and yet Eve Bunting allows the reader to feel hopeful as firefighters arrive, as the neighbors met at the church hall, which transformed to a shelter, and as the tenants became friends.

Another reason I read Smoky Night again was to recapture the magic of picture books, especially Caldecott Award winners from the past. This book won a Caldecott Medal in 1995, and it is just as timely today. Viewing the matches at the opening, to the splotches of paint, to the bubble wrap on page 4, to the leather shoe bottoms, to the fabric cut to look like flames, to…well, just look! It’s fascinating the art that went into this work of art.

If you find the time, read Smoky Night for yourself — for the first or fortieth time. You won’t be disappointed.

(Image courtesy of http://www.goodreads.com. My copy’s cover is worn out!)

 

 

IMWAYR: Swing It, Sunny!

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October weather is beautiful! I love the autumn season, especially when it’s this nice outside — perfect for reading Swing It, Sunny! by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm out on the front porch. This is the sequel to Sunny Side Up (2015), and it’s just as fun, although Sunny Lewin may not think so.

“Summer’s over, and it’s time for Sunny Lewin to enter the strange and unfriendly hallways of…middle school.” Yes, middle school, where I am stationed each day. Middle school IS a strange place; it’s no different for our main character.

Sunny is accompanied by other characters from the first installment, which makes this book easy to read. I feel like I know these people from the past, and I do! Revisiting characters to read more about their lives makes me root for Sunny even more. “She is NOT going to let all the confusion get her down.” I like the message, and I’m happy to help Sunny stay “sunny-side up!”

 

IMWAYR: An Unlikely (Perfect) Pair

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I read two books today that have been on my list recently: Where Oliver Fits, by Cale Atkinson, and Nothing Rhymes With Orange, by Adam Rex. While I didn’t mean for it to happen, I recommend these two as a pair for reading aloud to children. 

Where Oliver Fits is the story of a puzzle piece trying to find his perfect place. He is blue, orange, and round, and everywhere he looks, it seems that he will not be able to fit in. Oliver thought that he should change. Maybe he should be more red, more square, or more fancy. He changed until “he was nowhere to be seen.” The reader wonders (and discovers) that maybe Oliver will find the perfect fit — some day, some way.

Nothing Rhymes With Orange is a long poem-in-progress. Of course, the reader already knows that nothing rhymes with orange. So how can Orange fit in to the poem? As Orange moves from page to page, trying to get out of the way, he realizes that he’s meant to be alone. But, alas! He is a fruit. Could that help matters?

After reading these titles back-to-back, I realized that neither book should be read alone. Read them together to find the deeper enjoyment (and meaning) of the texts. These two are an unlikely, perfect pair!

 

 

 

IMWAYR: As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds

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Jason Reynolds is one of my go-to authors for choice reading, with engaging and interesting characters, unique settings, and storylines that keep me thinking for months after I finish a story. As Brave As You is another hit on the list. 

In the opening scene, 2 brothers are scooping up dog poop and flinging it at trees in the woods behind Grandma and Grandpa’s house. What middle grade child wouldn’t want to keep reading? Genie and Ernie, Jr. are Brooklyn-raised brothers who are spending time in North Hill, Virginia for a month while Mom and Dad try to work out some issues. City boys in the country? Bound to be adventures. And there are many adventures — and family secrets —  to discover.

A young lady, Tess, catches Ernie’s eye as a neighbor and friend. She makes her own jewelry to sell at the flea market, she’s smart, and she’s funny. The more the plot moves forward, the more you see Ernie and Tess together. Country life isn’t all easy, though. Getting up early to do chores (choosing peas to pick at just the right moment), taking care of Samantha, the dog, and watching out for the family are tasks that sometimes overwhelm Genie, especially. Genie is curious and asks many questions (which he records in his notebook), which may or may not lead to each new adventure — and maybe even get him into some trouble.

My favorite part of this book so far is how the characters remind me so much of my own grandma and grandpa. Memories of childhood revisited: Grandma teaching the kids the right way to do chores, Grandpop eating a whole apple (core and all!), and playing outside with the dog. As the story moves, the reader moves, too, along the path of discovery of what it means to be brave.

I continue to read tonight, to find more answers with Genie, and to treasure my last few moments of summer with this family in Virginia. When you get a chance, pick up As Brave As You, and enjoy your own adventure with Genie and Ernie.

 

 

 

IMWAYR: Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

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I finally got a chance to read Wishtree by Katherine Applegate. I loved all of her past stories, and this new title did not disappoint. I highly recommend you gather a copy with your fall leaf collection (the book comes out on September 26), sit under a nice warm blanket — under a favorite tree — and read all night long.  I read this book in one sitting, and I think you will, too.

Wishtree has been around for over 200 years, and in that time she has seen many changes in the lives of the animals and the humans who surround her. Every May Day (May 1st) people come from all around to tie pieces of cloth with written wishes on the tree. It’s a tradition that Wishtree enjoys, until one day, a young male comes and changes the tree’s life, and the lives of all who live nearby. Wishtree decides that maybe wishes should come true — she’s an optimist, you see; but the animals who live in her hollows disagree. With the help of her best friend, a crow named Bongo, and 2 school children, Wishtree provides more to the neighborhood than even she realized she could. This is a beautiful story of hope, friendship, and acceptance, told by a tree. And what a story it is!

 

Add this title to your TBR list now, so you don’t forget. Enjoy your back-to-school reading!

Wishtree book cover picture by Goodreads.

IMWAYR: May I Please Read Blog Posts?

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I’m giggling silently because I remember the last conversation I had with a student (fall of 2016) about the sentence, “I don’t like to read.”

“I don’t like to read.”

“Sure you do!” I responded.

“Nope.”

I said, “You like to read Facebook posts from your friends, right?”

She giggled, as I am now.

I am reading blog posts today from my new personal writing adventure, “Teachers Write!” Hosted by Kate Messner, Jo Knowles, Jen Vincent, Gae Polisner, teachers can sign up on Kate’s blog (www.katemessner.com) and spend a few weeks writing with other teachers from all over the country. You can choose to participate in each day’s prompts, work on your own project and get feedback from experts, and read guest authors’ advice. It’s a great way to be more active in a safe, friendly writing community.

I’m trying it out. Back to reading, now!

 

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