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Posted by on Jan 2, 2018 in Adult Reads, Books I love | 0 comments

the handmaid’s warning.

the handmaid’s warning.

It’s no secret that I am a reader. The obsessive kind really. Reading created a haven for me growing up, away from feeling like a misfit, far from really crappy days, light years beamed from anything I wanted away from when I couldn’t go anywhere else.

It’s also no secret that friends hate going to the bookstore with me. That’s two sides of annoyance: a) I wander even when I know exactly what I’m looking for and b) I feel the need to ceremoniously visit books I’ve already read as if looking through a photo album of past trips.

And I’ll add that I don’t like reading what everyone else has just because everyone talks about it. Catchy plots written just to get attention and poorly written novels get entirely too much spotlight. Especially when some winner decides to turn the so called book into a *cringe* movie.

So when I tell you I rolled my eyes when The Handmaids Tale series caught fire, it’s truth. Bait and click. Click and bait. I’m cautious. I don’t trust easily anymore.

But I finally caved and got the book. Less than twenty four hours and my mind is blown. However good the series might be, and I’m sure it’s fine, I promise you the book is better. The series provides actors to experience it for you. The book you’re forced to experience it yourself.

That’s an argument for another day. This novel is a warning. A promise. A prophecy of sorts. As a staunch believer in women’s rights being human rights, because I was raised to believe in equality, I can see the haunting parallels.

This isn’t a great read. It’s a must read. I’ve read a lot of words and dystopian novels but I’ve never been left so unsettled by anything as I was this tale.

Hopefully, the chaos will calm and this will merely stay a tale. I have my doubts and I have my hope. In my hope, our children do better than we have. In my doubts, all I hear is the noise of precariously terrible listeners only wanting to hear their own noise.

But I digress. Everyone should read this. We must demand better. Not better for some and worse for most. Better for all.

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Posted by on Nov 4, 2017 in Everyday Life, Read Alouds, Young Adult Reads | 0 comments

Sinus Saturday Musings

Breathe in.

Breath out.

Breathe in.

Blow nose.

This seems to be the rhythm my body has composed over the past few weeks.

Don’t get me wrong; I love fall, but fall certainly doesn’t love me.

Actually, here in East Tennessee, the seasons are a mafia of allergies and pollen and don’t take too kindly to anyone.

My doctor parathentically referred to this area as the Allergy Armpit of America.

Certainly explains a lot.

I will tell you one thing: don’t ever try to self diagnose yourself on WebMD. Because no matter the symptoms, no matter the congestion or pain or numbness or faintness you feel, the prognosis is death. Honestly save yourself the trouble and prescribe yourself DayQuil. That stuff is strong enough to put an elephant on its hind end so certainly it can at least keep death at bay long enough to figure out how to breathe.

My fourth graders aren’t any help in the matter either. Poor things. They sound like a sinus orchestra. I’ve hollered WASH YOUR HANDS enough to tattoo it legally to my vocal chords and hounded them to keep their hands out of their mouths. But still. Germs are sneaky little weasels. Somehow they manage to infect even the cleanest attempts at clean.

Anyway, in the midst of Hurricane Allergy, the teacher in me keeps trudging ahead full force and the Allison in me just sits slumped over waiting for some relief. Once the two finally meet back up perhaps I can start to breathe again. Then I can at least feel like I own functioning lungs.

Well, that was my attitude until I woke up and I thought I woke up under water. No. I was still in bed and I was still snuggled up with my dachshunds and my alarm was still going off. I knew what it was. Four ear surgeries as a kid and you know what it is. Double ear infection. I caved, and went to the doc in a box to find some relief. One infection flushed right out, while the other seemed to harbor some kind of vendetta against me and has declared mutiny. They sent me home with pills large enough to choke an ox and drops to hopefully help the deeper infection resolve on its own. If not, more doctors.

My favorite.

Okay, I’m sorry for my attitude, it’s just that weather doesn’t meet the height requirements for the roller coaster it’s on and frankly it’s not fair to anyone. Including me.

So yesterday, my class finished one of my all time favorite read alouds. And you know why it’s my favorite? Because the story lifts off the page and into the air, and becomes its own self. Seriously. It does. I mentioned the book, Okay for Now, in another post, I believe. It’s about a kid named Doug living in upstate New York during the Vietnam War, which is brother is off fighting in and his father is home making his life a living hell. Doug, his brother, and his mother are all caught in the middle of walking on eggshells and trying to figure out their place in the new town they landed in after Doug’s father lost his job in Long Island.

The plot twists when Doug enters the Marysville Free Public Library for the first time, aggravates the tar out of Mrs. Merriam, but befriends Audobon’s Birds of America book. And begins to draw them. Slowly, the story of the Arctic Tern, the Black Backed Gull, the Great Esquimaux Curlew, and even the stupid Large Billed Puffins begin to entwine with Doug’s story. Through art, through birds, through newfound friendships, Doug realizes he’s not a chump and the world is his oyster.

I can’t give away any more than that except to tell you this: there are so many moments in this story that are so hard to read out loud but must be read out loud to be validated and reading the end of that book, no matter how many years or how many times I read it, will always touch the deepest part of me and will always bring my voice to its knees.

My kids clapped at the final words of this story, but yet they were sad they didn’t get to follow Doug on any more adventures.

It’s not worth reading unless there should be a sequel and there isn’t and all that you really can do is read the original book again. True story.

Some of my habits I keep year after year and others I change as often as necessary. Some say that’s being a professional but I just call it knowing what works and what doesn’t. I will keep Doug’s story alive for as long as I am teaching. The kids need to know Doug.

Almost as much as I need relief from my sinus pressure. But I digress.

Anyway, I’m not quite sure where I will go from here with my read alouds. I might read the prequel to Okay for Now, The Wednesday Wars. My class of fourth graders is a bit more mature than I’m used to for the most part, so they just might enjoy a little goofy take on Shakespeare. I’m not quite ready to leave Doug quite yet anyway.

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Posted by on Oct 23, 2017 in Books I love, Everyday Life, Young Adult Reads | 0 comments

Turtles All The Way Down

Turtles All The Way Down

Turtles All The Way Down by John Green

Turtles All The Way Down by John Green

If love consisted of paper, words, author, and characters, then John Green would easily be the knight in shining armor in any plot twist. He is mystical. Like a unicorn mystical. He just gets it. He understands it. He becomes it. He describes the stuff that everyone else leaves a void because it’s too hard to breathe life into saying.

Obviously, I’m a huge fan. For good reason. Take his latest book, Turtles All the Way Down. The main character, a high school student named Ava, suffers from severe anxiety. If it exists in the universe, she worries about it, but especially germs. Her eccentric best friend, Daisy, stumbles upon an adventure when she hears an announcement on the radio that the authorities are looking for a disappeared businessman that is wanted for fraud. He mysteriously disappeared the night before his mansion was raided. The reward for finding him? Try a hundred grand. Along the way of the crazy adventure the girls set out on, Aza finds her first love in Davis, the billionaire’s son, and the simplicity of their complex relationship ends up helping Aza to discover much more about herself than she ever bargained for.

The edge of the book though is the way Green dives into Aza’s anxiety soaked brain and digs around and goes into the corners that are uncomfortable and very hard to reconcile. Wrap that up with a beautiful lesson privilege, and you have a deep, raw, and inspiring story that will leave your head spinning. It does have some language including the f bomb, so I definitely would recommend this book for mature readers, but don’t let the language stop you. You’ll miss all the best parts if you do.

As I read this book myself, I found myself thinking about all of the middle school or high school students dealing with mental illness, feeling alone and misunderstood. While we may never completely understand nor be able to grasp mental illness, attempting understanding and willingly providing compassion rather than judgment is important.

And you know, I really should leave the comment section of articles alone to burn under their own fuel, but sometimes I go where I shouldn’t. Then I can’t hardly turn around without exploring a little of where I’ve ended up. So I ended up reading the comment section of a review of this book. And my heart shattered. For Aza. For people like Aza. That mentality is exactly why the mentally ill feel isolation is their only friend. Sad. And unnecessary.

So, I encourage you to read this book. As with all of John Green’s books, this book is bigger than just a cover and a couple hundred printed pages. It’s understanding. It’s compassion. It’s learning.

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Posted by on Oct 23, 2017 in Books I love, Everyday Life, Read Alouds, Young Adult Reads | 0 comments

Peak by Roland Smith

Peak by Roland Smith

Peak by Roland Smith

Peak by Roland Smith

Before we begin, I need to tell you something.

I’m not a hiker. I’m not an exercise enthusiast, although I probably should be. And I’m certainly nothing within the realms of a mountain climber. I leave all of these activities to those that are capable of putting one foot in front of the other and walking a straight line without falling.

But I do love a great story. Many years ago, an author came to my school to speak about his books, about authors, how many books they have to sell to actually make anything worth making, and about books that he himself loved. The very first book he recommended was Peak, by Roland Smith. Adventure. Mystery. Suspense. Danger. The struggle of why.

I was so charged from his enthusiasm that I immediately went to my computer and utilized my Amazon Prime account to get next day shipping on the novel. When it arrived, I made it my mission to do nothing else until I had conquered that book. I was not left disappointed.

Peak, the son of two mountain climbers, finds himself in a precarious situation living in NYC, with no real place to go climbing. So, he fabricates his own climbing venture in the form of the Woolworth Building. Unfortunately for Peak, he didn’t check the schedule of the building that evening, and therefore he didn’t see that there was a huge gala taking place for the mayor of NYC that night. Whoops. As it turns out, it was not his first offense, and nobody was happy. Peak was circling the drain, and fast-until, out of the blue, his estranged father, Josh, shows up. His father has concocted a plan to not only save Peak from his predicament, but to put him on the highest mountain in the world: Everest.

Nobody climbs Everest without hiccups, and Peak has plenty of them along the way, including a mysterious new friend, Sun-jo, a loud, ostentatious reporter named Holly, who is supposed to be documenting Peak’s story, and a retired Sherpa/monk, Zopa. As they climb, Peak begins to wonder all of his whys: why is he really doing this? Why does he want to climb Everest? Is his purpose really valid? And who exactly is Sun-jo? What are his motivations? What’s behind Josh’s reason for saving me from juvenile detention? Is he doing all of this for me or for himself?

I hate to give the entire book away, so I’ll leave my explanation at that.

As a read aloud, it doesn’t get better than Roland Smith’s carefully crafted, attention grabbing tale of Peak. My fourth graders stood and cheered when I read the last few pages of the story. I do believe they were both excited and disappointed that the story was finished.

There is a sequel to Peak, so to speak. It steals some of the same characters from the original novel, like the camera crew and Peak, but I didn’t find it nearly as captivating as I did Peak.

I challenge you to be like me: become a hiker, become a climber, become an outdoor enthusiast, but never leave your favorite, most comfortable reading spot while doing so. You will not regret it.

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