Today is the last day of class before the end of NaNoWriMo, and my students are very studiously working on their drafts, so I figured now is as good a time as any to update.
1. First, let me just say that watching my creative writing students write during NaNo has been such a delight. They come in and get right to it. Headphones on, laptops or notebooks open, and away they go. I have put a prompt up on the board every day (some requested it), but I have no idea if they’re using them–I just know that they’re intensely focused on writing. It is a joy to behold.
1. A lot has been going on this week. I asked some friends how they were and what was happening, and then I listed two things for myself and thought of a bunch more. But then I remembered I have a blog.
I just realized I am guilty of a thing that I hate that other people do: not putting Goodreads links (or Amazon or wherever) for books I’m currently reading. I will no longer make that mistake.
Hello! This has been a whirlwind week. First, I have to say I am officially OFFICIALLY on vacation now. I know I said I was on vacation last week (and I was), but I had to wrap up some search committee work, which meant I had to go to work twice. TWICE. That does not count as vacation, especially since I had to (a) set my alarm and (b) go to work and do work. Interviews! Work.
Anyway, it’s over now, and I have three months with no teaching or search committees ahead of me.
A funny thing keeps happening to me. I cannot for the life of me remember what I am planning to do in my classes in the fall. I always remember three of the four assignments I have planned. And it’s only ever three. Usually it’s the same three, but this time it’s a different three. My plan is to put the missing assignment in my phone as soon as I remember.
Not because it was hard, but because (a) my daughter kept talking to me and (b) I kept getting distracted by The Oscars. And Twitter and Facebook. Also, I was trying to figure out which leggings to buy. Anyway.
Okay, I had to look at my calendar to see what I actually did this past week. Is that sad? It feels sad. I guess it’s a good thing I’m doing the Slice of Life challenge next month, huh? Anyway, that’s where I am. So yes, this past week I:
went to a Hamilton trivia night (my team lost)
went to the dentist
went to a search committee meeting for the church’s new minister
attended a plagiarism hearing as a witness
visited an astronomy class as part of the pilot Teaching Squares program at my school (and learned quite a bit!)
attended a student conduct hearing as a member of the conduct board
went to see a student production of The Drowsy Chaperone, which was super fun (I love a good farce and a good meta-narrative)
dropped in to a party I wasn’t invited to to visit a friend who was only in town for one night
went to the Women’s March celebration and activist fair held by the local chapter of the march
And that doesn’t even count my regularly scheduled activities (work, gym, etc.).
Traveling to the march this past weekend put me behind on everything. Sigh.
First things first, though: I didn’t make it to the actual march because on the way there, about two hours outside of DC, I got sick and knew I wouldn’t be able to handle the walking or the crowds.
However, I still had a positive experience because of all the awesome women in my life, most notably my friend Monique who was willing to brave traffic, etc. to pick me up from RFK at 7:30 a.m. when I told her what was going on and also a woman named Crystal on our bus who supplied me with Dramamine and anti-nausea meds when I got motion sickness on the bus ride home (before I knew her name, even!).
And, yes, that means I got sick on the way there AND the way back.
Anyway, the best sign I saw this weekend was black text on a white background that said, “NOPE.”
As part of my passion project, I’ve recently finished (and loved) two of Walter Dean Myers’ early picture books: Where Does the Day Go? (illustrated by Leo Carty) and Fly, Jimmy, Fly! (illustrated by Moneta Barnett).
Where Does the Day Go? is delightful. A group of kids are in the park with one of the children’s father, and they have a pretty serious conversation about what happens to the day when it turns into night. Each kid has a theory, but each theory leaves the group with questions. So they take turns telling their theories and trying to answer the questions.
This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is Top Ten Books in [x] Genre. I realize that the picture book isn’t a genre (it’s a format), but I don’t care. That’s what I’m doing anyway.
1. Jimmy’s Boa Bounces Backby Trinka Hakes Noble, illustrated by Steven Kellogg – This story is so wacky. I love it. My first grade teacher gave it to me because I was her favorite.
2. Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale by John Steptoe – This story is delightful, and I love the daughters’ names. In fact, the illustrations are so badass, the book has been used to teach perspective in photography classes.
3. I Like Myself! by Karen Beaumont, illustrated by David Catrow – “I like myself, I’m glad I’m me. There’s no one else I’d rather be.”
4. The Great Big Elephant and the Very Small Elephant by Barbara Seuling – You know, it makes so much sense that friendship stories are my favorite. ❤
5. Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel – Another friendship book! Naturally. My favorite bit is when Toad helps Frog with his depression.
6. The Monster at the End of This Bookby Jon Stone, illustrated by Michael J. Smollin – Spoiler alert: it’s Grover.
Ah, here we go. Children’s literature is kind of my jam. I’ve always, always read it and when I figured out I could study it in college and grad school, well.
So, basically, I love children’s literature is what I’m saying. My favorite thing about children’s literature is that most of it lacks the pretentiousness of adult literature. That doesn’t mean it can’t be serious or deal with serious issues, but just that, usually, I’m getting a good story without that air of trying too hard.
I have so much to say about this topic, but I’m going to try to keep it simple. Please keep in mind that these lists are by no means comprehensive. My daughter is 14, so I’m going to draw on what she used to read for the bulk of this list, except for the YA. Also, I want to apologize in advance to any books I may have unintentionally left out.
Picture Books My Daughter Loved
Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe
I Like Myself by Karen Beaumont
Don’t Forget to Come Back! by Robie H. Harris
But No Elephants by Jerry Smath
The Magic School Bus series by Joanna Cole
Question: I asked her about her favorite books, and we cannot remember the name of this picture book series that starred animals that all lived in the same neighborhood, and their names started with the letter of their species (e.g., Alan the Alligator, Ziggy the Zebra, etc.) (Of course, we can’t remember any of the characters’ names, sigh.) We remember two storylines clearly: one was about this dirty cat who wanted to throw a party so her friends came and cleaned up for her. Another was about the zebra or alligator whose bathroom tub overflowed. Then there was one about an animal who was trying to build a shed or something. Does anyone have ANY idea what I’m talking about? We read the entire series A-Z, and now I can’t remember them! Ugh.
Picture Books I Loved as a Child that I Shared with My Daughter
Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel
The Snowy Day by Jack Ezra Keats
The Great Big Elephant and the Very Small Elephant by Barbara Seuling
Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel
Danny and the Dinosaur by Syd Hoff
Chapter/Middle Grade Books My Daughter Loved
Junie B. Jones series by Barbara Park
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
The Wedding Planner’s Daughter series by Coleen Murtagh Paratore
Eleven (and the rest of the books about Winnie) by Lauren Myracle
Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio (illustrated by LeUyen Pham) is about a girl who decides to run for class president because she notices that there have only been men presidents. Each kid then represents a state and its electoral college, so Grace and her opponent campaign to win electoral votes.
Yes, this story teaches about the electoral college in a fun way. Yes, the racial and gender implications of Grace (a little black girl) running against an athletic, white boy are present.
But you know what I loved most about this story? Grace is ADORABLE. Not only is she adorable, but she has natural hair. And not only is her hair natural, but she has locs!
Reading about Grace made me so happy. She is so awesome. And like a little Leslie Knope, honestly. A little brown Leslie Knope with locs.
So, yes, the illustrations are stellar, and I am forever grateful to DiPucchio and Pham for introducing such a smart, vibrant, and beautiful little girl as the main character of this book.