Saturday, April 18, 2015


Discover. Play. Build.

Ruth Ayres has a link-up on Saturdays where people link to posts that are celebrations about their week. I love this reminder to celebrate every week.

This week has had plenty of ups and downs. The construction work at school this week was noisier than it had been for a while. This led to headaches and a general desire to get out of the building as soon as possible at the end of the day. To combat this stress, several of us took walks together during our lunch breaks. Fortunately, the weather was gorgeous this week. We finally really have spring. Many staff members also met after school on Friday in a teacher's backyard for conversation and snacks. It was a fantastic way to relax.

Another bright spot was that my third and fourth grade students are creating papel picado for Día de los niños using the designs in the resource guide. The fifth grade students will be trying some of the designs from Carmen Lomas Garzas book Making Magic Windows. We'll use one of the flower patterns and one with lizards.

Today I was able to go to Zumba class again. It was not fabulous for my back, but it was still a lot of fun. My husband and I were also able to go on a great hike to look out over Lake Winona and the Mississippi in the distance. It was a beautiful day and I always enjoy getting up to the top of the bluffs to see the water.

Last Saturday my exchange student and I made it to the powwow in Madison. It was cool to see the variety of dancing. We also had a wonderful walk by the lake and some yummy root beer floats. Strangely enough we got to see the engineering students creating the world's largest Rice Krispies Treat too. We stopped and visited with my son and he directed us to the world record breakers.

Though I was feeling behind on blogging Thursday, I did catch my breath and have made lists and plans. Things seem more achievable now.

There was much to celebrate and the celebrations outweigh the difficulties by a ton. Have a wonderful week!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Catching My Breath

It's late Thursday night. Tuesday was the day meant for Slice of Life writing. Didn't happen. Wednesday was the day meant for blogging about a nonfiction picture book. Didn't happen. Today, a review could have happened, but didn't. A nap was taken instead. Dinner was made. Email was read and many responses were written, but still no post.

Do any of you bloggers have weeks like this? I had many intentions, but little action. I opened up my bullet journal tonight for the first time in a while and got back to writing my lists. This may get me back on track. If you have suggestions on how to keep up and stay motivated, let me know. In the meantime, I'll stop worrying about the yesterdays,

focus on my One Little Word,

and keep moving forward so I don't get all grumpy

like this guy.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

It's Monday! What are you reading?

It's Monday! What are you reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. Jen Vincent over at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee Moye from Unleashing Readers decided to put a children's and YA spin on it and they invite anyone with an interest to join in. You can participate by creating your post then visit one of their sites to add your site. Finally, visit at least three participant blogs and comment to spread the love.

If you want to know more about what I am reading, visit me at my Goodreads shelf. Images via Goodreads unless otherwise noted.

The Past Week: 

I read and reviewed Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask by Anton Treuer. It's a great book, especially for educators, and it provides quality information about American Indians.

Another adult nonfiction title that I read was What It Is by Lynda Barry. The last book I read by her was about creating visual art and this one was about writing. It had some fantastic prompts and included pieces of writing that appeared to be memoir. They made for good mentor pieces.

I also read and reviewed Photos Framed: A Fresh Look at the World's Most Memorable Photographs, Mysterious Patterns: Finding Fractals in Nature, and Making Magic Windows: Creating Papel Picado/Cut-Paper Art with Carmen Lomas Garza. They were all excellent nonfiction books. As I typed that I realized that most of my reading this week was nonfiction. Hmmm.

And here are some of the fiction books that I read. Mama and Papa Have a Store was so interesting to me because I had heard of Chinese immigrants to Spanish speaking countries only in the past year. That is a part of history that I didn't know much about. In this memoir picture book we see a family from Asia that is making a new life in Guatemala City. Snapshots from the Wedding really reminded me of Carmen Lomas Garza's Family Pictures. They are fun little slices of life. My Name is Gabito was a nice picture book biography of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. 

The Coming Week:

I was also still listening to Octavian Nothing (still a struggle) and reading The Fishermen which is so much more than I expected. I don't quite understand why Octavian Nothing is considered young adult especially when I am reading both of these at the same time. The main character of The Fishermen is only nine and the book is definitely for adults so it can't be simply that Octavian is a young person. Octavian seems to narrate in a very adult style so I am puzzled really especially when I find it so difficult to stay interested and the language is so formal. 

I started the graphic novel Strange Fruit Vol 1: Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History today too. I just picked up Crazy Horse's Girlfriend yesterday and am excited to start that soon. I'll probably read a few picture books along the way also.

Reading Challenge Update
Goodreads - 125/520
#MustRead2015 - 15/53

Saturday, April 11, 2015


Discover. Play. Build.

Ruth Ayres has a link-up on Saturdays where people link to posts that are celebrations about their week. I love this reminder to celebrate every week.

I don't have much time to write this morning. I need to run to the store, the post office, and the library before we drive a few hours to Madison to go to a powwow. It should be a lot of fun. I'll also have a short visit with my son there too. This is an impulse trip since I didn't know about the powwow until Thursday evening, but impulsive things have been good this week.

On Wed. night I went to craft night and while there found out that Many Moccasins was going to be performing at the local university that night. All of a sudden my plans changed. Their group performs many traditional dances, but also includes some more modern forms and music. The strong drum beat throughout many of the songs pulsed in the air and through our bodies. The energy and beauty of the dances really made it a night to remember.

Another celebration is that my cold and migraine have faded. I had to leave school one day this week because I was feeling so horrible. I am celebrating effective medication and the ability to take time off of work without fear of penalty or loss of pay.

Another celebration is that we were able to purchase a TumbleBook Library subscription and many students were able to enjoy some very fun reading this week using that library of ebooks.

While I was home feeling crummy, I was able to listen to a book on CD and experiment with papel picado. I enjoyed following the designs that Carmen Lomas Garza shared in her book Making Magic Windows.

The best part of the week was having my son home for Easter and sharing a wonderful meal together on Sunday. Those times are precious and we are thankful to have time with each other.

I hope you have a week filled with many big and small celebrations.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Review: Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask

Title: Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask
Author: Anton Treuer
Publisher: Borealis Books
Pages: 190
Review Copy: Library
Availability: On shelves now

Summary: “I had a profoundly well-educated Princetonian ask me, ‘Where is your tomahawk?’ I had a beautiful woman approach me in the college gymnasium and exclaim, ‘You have the most beautiful red skin.’ I took a friend to see Dances with Wolves and was told, ‘Your people have a beautiful culture.’ . . . I made many lifelong friends at college, and they supported but also challenged me with questions like, ‘Why should Indians have reservations?’ ”

What have you always wanted to know about Indians? Do you think you should already know the answers—or suspect that your questions may be offensive? In matter-of-fact responses to over 120 questions, both thoughtful and outrageous, modern and historical, Ojibwe scholar and cultural preservationist Anton Treuer gives a frank, funny, and sometimes personal tour of what’s up with Indians, anyway.

• What is the real story of Thanksgiving?
• Why are tribal languages important?
• What do you think of that incident where people died in a sweat lodge?

White/Indian relations are often characterized by guilt and anger. Everything You Wanted to Know about Indians But Were Afraid to Ask cuts through the emotion and builds a foundation for true understanding and positive action.

Review: Many non-Native people have ideas about what it means to be Indian. They may or may not ask the questions that bounce around in their heads. They may not even know which questions they would ask if given a chance. In this book, Anton Treuer shares his answers to many questions and "offers a critical first step to comfortably dispel erroneous imaginings and develop deeper understandings."

This is a good beginning place for learning about Indians. It isn't meant to be exhaustive, but attempts to provide answers to common questions in a way that is easy to understand. He took very complex issues and explained them simply and with diplomacy.

As he delved into the history, he noted, "We cannot afford to sugarcoat the dark chapters of our history, as we have for decades upon decades." He brings some of the dark moments out into the light - not for purposes of making people feel guilty - but to see that these moments aren't repeated and to work towards healing.

Along with history, Treuer focuses on terminology, religion, culture & identity, powwow, tribal languages, politics, economics, education, and the future. He covers many topics, but they are in small bite size pieces for the most part. The book isn't necessarily meant to be read cover to cover in one sitting.

There were several things that stood out to me as an educator in Wisconsin. The first big revelation was The Great Seal of the Territory of Wisconsin (you can see it here). The Latin caption on the seal says "Civilization Succeeds Barbarism" and there is an Indian facing west towards a steamship. This would likely be one of the Ho-Chunk who were forcibly moved to Nebraska. I have seen the state seal, but hadn't ever looked at the territory seal. This would definitely be something to look at critically with students when discussing the history of Wisconsin and the perception of settlers in the 1800s. It would also create space for discussion of the Ho-Chunk perspective.

The explanations surrounding sovereignty were also helpful, but another thing that really stood out was the questions and answers around tribal language. He noted that tribal languages "are defining features of nationhood." He also noted that tribal languages should be important to all U.S. citizens. He states, "the survival of tribal languages and cultures is a litmus test for the morality of our nation and its ability to provide for the needs of all of its citizens."

Throughout the book there are issues that could generate guilt or anger, but Treuer points out that these emotions aren't going to fix anything. Fortunately, he also includes a section about what people can do moving forward.

This is a great book for educators, but I would recommend it to anyone who has gathered knowledge of Indians primarily via history classes and the media.

An excerpt of the book may be found at Indian Country Today Media Network
An Interview with Anton Treuer on Minnesota Public Radio

-- Cover image and summary via Goodreads

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

What Do You See?

Today I'm sharing a few books that focus on seeing or making something to see. 

Some of my practice papel picado
by Carmen Lomas Garza

Goodreads summary: Author Carmen Lomas Garza is a pioneer in popularizing the traditional Mexican craft of papel picado in the United States and developing it into a sophisticated art form. This workbook shows children and their families how to create these beautiful papel picado designs and banners by simply folding and cutting tissue paper. Children will learn how to craft eight different traditional designs, including The Four Cardinal Points, a design reminiscent of the four points of a compass; Tiles, echoing the colorful hand-painted tiles that decorate many Mexican buildings; and The Fan, one of the artist's favorite designs, consisting of leaves, hummingbirds, and flowers.

My thoughts: Last year for El día de los niños/El día de los libros, my students and I made simple papel picado to help decorate the entrance of our school. When I was looking at the Pura Belpré winners later, I saw Magic Windows by Carmen Lomas Garza. That led me to what appears to be this companion book Making Magic Windows. She gives step-by-step instructions for creating wonderful papel picado with scissors or even with a craft knife. I don't know if I will go that far, but I may invite some of the older students to try this more complicated cutting this year rather than the more simple designs we used before. I had a fun time trying out some of her designs.

Review copy: Public library book

Photographs by Sarah C. Campbell and Richard P. Campbell

Goodreads summary: We see familiar shapes in nature all around us—this orange looks like a sphere, that icicle a cone, those cucumbers are almost cylinders. But trees, clouds, or broccoli—what shapes are they? In this photo-filled conceptual picture book, young readers will not only get an introduction to those amazing and naturally repeating patterns called fractals, but they’ll also learn about what makes fractals unique. Curious kids will leave with a sense of wonder about the intricacies of the natural world and the many shapes around us!

My thoughts: I was excited to get this book if for no other reason than explaining what "frozen fractals" are and why they may be "all around" as we learned in Disney's Frozen. The photographs in the book are gorgeous and make the subject easy to understand. The text is written on quite a simple level and could be used even with primary grades. I had thought it would be aimed only at upper grades, but am happily mistaken. I can see that it would be fun to start drawing fractals after reading this.

Review copy: Purchased

Photos Framed: A Fresh Look at the World's Most Memorable Photographs 
by Ruth Thomson

Goodreads summary: Photographs can be beautiful or harrowing, honest or manipulative, dramatic or comforting. Photos Framed explores twenty-seven of the most important and vivid photos taken over the medium’s history, from a formal portrait of Louis Daguerre taken in 1844 to a candid shot of a Cuban girl and her doll in 2011. Readers are invited to use their powers of observation to zoom in on photographic elements, blow up details of the subject matter, think about the big picture, and pan out on the photographer. Photos Framed will open viewers’ eyes to the art of photography and its power to tell a story.

My thoughts: Many of the photos in this book will be familiar to readers and so will catch their attention. It's great to have some back story to the photos and to learn a bit about the photographers that took them. In addition to providing information, the book also asks the reader to think about many questions as they look at the photos. The questions don't necessarily have a right or wrong answer and no answer is provided. The questions may lead to some fantastic thinking or discussion in a classroom. When I read the book I immediately thought about our 5th grade unit on photo essays. The book would help in their discussion of photography used for storytelling and persuasion. There are sections breaking the photos into portraits, nature, art, and documentary. I found the photographs and text to be fascinating and am eager to share it with our art teacher and the fifth grade unit also.

Review copy: Copy via publisher (Candlewick)

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Slice of Life

The Slice of Life Challenge was created by the people over at the blog Two Writing Teachers. The challenge is to write about some part of your day and share it each Tuesday then give feedback to at least three other bloggers.

Today I don't feel so very wonderful. I have a spring cold along with a few other aches and pains. My comfort drink is warm tea and my comfort food is cinnamon toast. My favorite chair, a book on CD and some tiny finches outside the window are also helping to make me feel a little better before I finally give in to the nap that is calling my name.