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!)

 

 

Slice of Life Tuesday: Analyzing Books for Awards Season

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Slice of Life Small LogoI love awards season! The Golden Globes hooked me on Sunday and reeled me into the bedroom so I could watch and not bother the other family members. I love the gowns, the tuxes, the speeches — all of it. I have a passion for awards. I now want to see all the movies and TV shows, and hear all the music that won those awards. It’s only natural, I think, to want to continue participating in the “buzz” that surrounds awards.

This is the same feeling I have when I read books that are considered for awards. I read list after list, recommendation after recommendation, to find the books that I consider noteworthy. I share books with my classes. I read books aloud, I talk about books, I show my students how books affect my life. That “buzz” is the passion that led me to take some time in class to teach a Mock Caldecott unit this year.  Wow! What an experience!

My students are actively engaged, in learning! Yes, we are meeting the standards. I can prove it: 6.RL.2.1 (Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what a text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text); 6.RN.2.3 (Analyze in detail how a key individual, event, or idea is introduced, illustrated, and elaborated in a text); 6.RL.2.2 (Determine how a theme or central idea is conveyed through particular details…) Wow! Our experiences matter! caldecott_2017_classtop6

We narrowed the list to six books and we are voting this week. We took the criteria from the ALA/ALSC Caldecott Medal Terms and Criteria. We made lists. We ranked each point: 4 means “absolutely meets criteria”, 3 means “yes, meets criteria”, 2 means “maybe meets criteria”, and 1 means “nope.” (It’s interesting to see the similarities and differences in the two sections/classes, too.)

We will decide a winner on Thursday. Then we will watch on January 23rd as we find out if the real voters for the Caldecott Medal and Honors books will issue the same awards that we did. It’s going to be great! Just like learning should be.

 

Slice of Life Tuesday: Who’s Having More Fun?

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I just opened the front door and found two boxes on the freezing cold front porch. I stepped outside for a few seconds to carry the unexpected, unexpectedly large boxes inside. The boxes were not heavy, but awkward, and I had to turn them both at an angle to get them in the door. Ok…I didn’t have to turn them 45 degrees or anything; the cardboard containers were not that large, about the size of vinyls or big picture books…OOH! It came!

The first box was my daughter’s new vinyl (I called them records when I was young — times have changed). She’s into music right now. But I — I got the book! I was so excited to receive my granddaughter’s birthday gift early — I Don’t Want To Be a Frog by Dev Petty! I wasn’t ready for it; I don’t need it until July, but I ordered it, and it’s here! “Why did you order it so early?” you ask? Here’s the truth: I love picture books, even more than my granddaughter, more than my kids, more than my students!

Last week, I packed my bag for school, carrying Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, Blackout, Blizzard, Snow Day, and Once Upon an Alphabet. My sixth graders buzzed around the room when they saw me unload. “Are you going to read new picture books today?”

“Of course!” I exclaimed. I love to share my new picture books with my “grown-up” sixth graders. They gather in the meeting area, never quietly, always giggling, and I share my new finds. Even though these are the “little kid” books, we read them. We’ve been talking about award-winners in literature, so this was well worth the instructional minutes. (Motivating students to read is always worth the instructional minutes.)

One of my students inquired, “You get really excited about this stuff, don’t you?” Yep. True story.

Who’s Having More Fun?

I’d have to say, “Me!”

 

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