Friday, December 30, 2016

Winter break

Hoo boy, did it feel like a long slog to get to winter break.  In their wisdom, our district decided our kids should go to school until December 22 and we should have December 23 as a teacher workday.  It's so much fun to have special holiday events, concerts, tree lightings, parties, but wow, the level of excitement and anticipation (which has been building since OCTOBER) was pretty intense.  I was relieved to see at a local retail outlet that we have Valentine's day to look forward to, so thank goodness we have something to keep the crazy level high.

But so now, we are back home after a wonderful visit with family and we have some time to relax and finish up projects and READ.  YAY!!!  I told the kids that my goal was to read a book a day all winter break, and frankly, I'm failing at that so far, but I'm hoping to catch up a bit now.  I did get to read a couple of brand new picture books on the plane and they are just terrific.  The first one is called "There, there" by Tim Beiser.  It's about a bear and a hare who are stuck in their den because it's raining.  The hare is not having his best day, he's quite unhappy about the rain and all the things he's missing because it's raining.  The bear, on the other hand, is having a fine time, making muffins and trying to comfort the hare.  However, the whining gets to be too much, so the bear takes the hare outside to give him a lesson on appreciating what they have.  It has a really nice message of optimism.  The pictures are very cute.  There's a nice rhyming structure and a very funny ending.  I think this one will be a big hit.

The second one is called "The Fog" by Kyo Maclear.  I really like Kyo's work, because even when she's writing books for little kids (or maybe especially when she's writing for little kids), the stories always feel really big, like there's a bigger message that she knows the kids are going to understand, even if it's not obvious.  "The Fog" is a book like that.  It's about a little yellow bird who lives in an icy land.  The bird notices things, including the people who come to visit.  One day, a warm fog moves in, and land changes.  People don't come to visit any more and the other birds don't mind, in fact, they barely seem to notice.  The bird finds a human friend and they try to find others who notice the fog too, and there are others, even though they might be far away or really different.  As the girl and the bird connect with others, the fog begins to lift and they begin to see things more clearly again.  The metaphorical message is lovely.  The text is spare and simple, but big.  The pictures are lovely and simple, but inviting.  I really liked this one a lot.  If you'd like to see more of Kyo's remarkable work, here's a link to her blog

The last one is actually a picture book, but it's really a graphic novel.  It's not my favorite format, frankly.  I find the pictures move too fast and I like creating the mental images in my head, but Stan Lee's series "The Zodiac Legacy" is so compelling, I'm willing to overlook the whole graphic novel distaste I hold.  In case you don't know, Stan Lee came up with this idea about a group of young people who have special powers based on the Chinese zodiac.  Each of the characters has a super power, like Roxanne who is a Rooster and can use her voice in some pretty amazing ways, or Liam, who is a Ram, and is invulnerable.  Of course there are some really great villains who also have Chinese zodiac super powers.  Mr. Lee wrote two books that my students LOVED but I always sort of assumed these would end up as graphic novels and so when one showed up in my Netgalley shelf, I was more than happy to read it.  This one is the second one in the graphic novel series (I missed one?!!  Gahhhh!!!) and it's called "The Zodiac Legacy 2 Power Lines".  It has the same characters from the text based book but it's really great to see how artists imagined them as well as get some visuals on how they might solve problems.  The story starts with the team on a high speed train from Paris to London and the train is out of control.  The team has a new addition, one of the bad guys has asked to join the team and although he's explained that he wants to work for good, not evil, the rest of the good guys are having a hard time trusting him.  So even though he's flying a helicopter right behind the train, they are reluctant to ask him for help.  These books are very fast paced, very exciting, and having a terrific blend of action and interpersonal drama.  The graphic novel is going to be a HUGE hit at my school.  Here's a link to the Disney webpage about the books.

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