Saturday, February 28, 2009

Inside Nan: Godspell

I've seen Godspell on stage a dozen times. Each performance amazes -- some have been sweet and intimate (Off-Broadway many years ago)others weakened by casts less talented. Last night I attended one at a small local college. It was a stunning performance -- strong exuberant talent, consistent energy, nuanced dialogue and interplay. The set -- oceanside for Spring Break -- was perfect, supporting and enhancing the play. The effects spactacular. The band -- superb. Soldout house. The play is fluid in interpretation -- that is, the political humor and asides are flavored by the current times -- there were references to Oprah, the Stimulus Package, Donald Trump. The song that concludes "let's have some wine..." was revised to "I'm feeling fine..." I had some wonderings before I went about what this particular commnunity might do with the options that Godspell offers. I expected some. But then the ending was completely changed from any performance I had ever seen! I was dumbstruck by the change and I am still reeling. Am I naive? Can you just fundementally change the ending? People who never saw the play before have no idea what was done. Comments? Think of strong important stories in our lives -- can someone just turn the ending upside down to suit some agenda? Can we manipulate someone's work this way? I did some searching this morning and found this brief essay about layers and subtext in Godspell. It helped sort some of my thoughts.

Friday, February 27, 2009

All God's Critters

All God's Critters by Bill Staines, Kadir Nelson (Illustrator)
Celebrates how all the animals in the world make their own music in their own way, some singing low, some singing higher.

Boxcar Children Book 1 (The Boxcar Children Graphic Novels)

Boxcar Children Book 1 (The Boxcar Children Graphic Novels) created by Gertrude Chandler-Warner, adapted by Shannon Eric Denton, illustrated by Mike Dubisch
Henry, Jessie, Violet and Benny Alden are brothers and sisters -- and they're orphans. The only way they can stay together is to make it on their own. One night, during a storm, the children find an old red boxcar that keeps them warm and safe. They decide to make it their home.

Inside Nan: Skulls by Noah Scalin

Skulls by Noah Scalin
From the Introduction, page 7: "on June 4th, 2007 I cut a skull out of orange paper and posted it online with the note, I'm making a skull image every day for a year."

I inter-library loaned this book - it came to me from Washington County Library System. I had a tangle of thoughts going on that were sorting themselves into an "Inside Nan". This isn't the post yet that I am working on, that one involves an editorial by Garrison Keillor and some obituaries. This post is about ideas for Summer Reading Programs and all the hoopla that goes with it. In late January comes the catalog with the product -- I guess that came this year about the same time there was a flurry in the blogs about books and "product" and that was a seed for this post. And I came across the Skull book. The theme is something like "Be Creative @ Your Library" -- OK this theme thing usually sends me off on some rant as well but for now I'm thinking about the idea of the discipline of creating something everyday for everyday of summer. Well, not me. Readers at the library. Readers who want to play Summer Reading Program. I'm not done with this yet, it is swirling. It's about programmed product I think and conformity and that resistance I have to "the way it has always been done"... I have to go get a haircut, back later...

12 Brown Boys

12 Brown Boys by Omar Tyree
Short stories that focus on the lives of Black pre-teen boys. Tyree has assembled a wide range of characters that reflect the diversity of experiences of Black boys - characters that are funny, serious, edgy, street-wise, studious, and all unforgettable. " -- cover.

Change Has Come: An Artist Celebrates Our American Spirit

Change Has Come: An Artist Celebrates Our American Spirit by Kadir Nelson (Illustrator)
The black and white images throughout are personal reflections, uniquely felt and rendered by award winning artist Kadir Nelson. They are accompanied by the uplifting words of Barack Obama and commemorate the movement and the moment that have changed our history.

Best Bad Luck I Ever Had

Best Bad Luck I Ever Had by Kristin Levine
In Moundville, Alabama, in 1917, twelve-year-old Dit hopes the new postmaster will have a son his age, but instead he meets Emma, who is black, and their friendship challenges accepted ways of thinking and leads them to save the life of a condemned man.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Harry Houdini for Kids: His Life and Adventures with 21 Magic Tricks and Illusions

Harry Houdini for Kids: His Life and Adventures with 21 Magic Tricks and Illusions by Laurie Carlson
Illusionist, escape artist, movie star, aviator, and spy—Harry Houdini was all these and an international celebrity and the world’s most famous magician. This biography looks at all the facets of Houdini’s amazing life and includes 21 magic tricks and illusions for a hands-on learning experience.

I Heard God Talking to Me: William Edmondson and His Stone Carvings

The illiterate child of freed slaves, William Edmondson (1874–1951) experienced religious visions from the age of 13 or 14. At 57 he began carving limestone; he became, in 1937, the first African-American to have a solo show at New York's Museum of Modern Art. Four of Spires' poems are taken verbatim from interviews with the artist, but elsewhere the poet mimics Edmondson's homespun language to remarkable effect, and creates narrative voices for Edmondson's sculpted characters, photos of which are shown facing the poems. Here are Edmondson's own words about stonecutting:
"I was out in the driveway with some old pieces of stone when I heard a voice telling me to pick up my tools and start to work on a tombstone. I looked up in the sky and right there in the noon daylight He hung a tombstone out for me to make...I knowed it was God telling me what to do. God was telling me to cut figures. First He told me to make tombstones. Then He told me to cut the figures. He gave me them two things..."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Counter Clockwise

Counter Clockwise by Jason Cockcroft
With the aid of Bartleby, an enormous Tower of London guard known as a Beefeater, Nathan travels through time to stop his father from changing the past. Read Karen's thoughts about this book over at Literate Lives.
"There was no longer a window, and there was barely a wall. There was only the bright night sky facing him through a hole in the plaster and the brick: a clot of silver stars that shone from a man-sized smash in the side of the apartment-a Henry Cobbe-shaped hole..."--page 37

I, Lorelei

I, Lorelei by Yeardley Smith
In letters to her recently deceased cat Mud, eleven-year-old Lorelei chronicles the ups and downs of her sixth-grade year, during which her parents separate, she gets a part in the school play, and she becomes friends with the cutest boy in her grade. Read the first chapter here.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Switch

The Switch by Anthony Horowitz
When wealthy, spoiled, thirteen-year-old Tad Spencer wishes he were someone else, he awakens as Bob Snarby, the uncouth, impoverished son of carnival workers, and as he is drawn into a life of crime he begins to discover truths about himself and his family.

Sisters of the Sword 2: Chasing the Secret

Sisters of the Sword 2: Chasing the Secret by Maya Snow
When, after intercepting a secret message from their mother, their evil Uncle Hidehira uncovers their samurai disguise, Kimi and Hana again must flee for their lives and, with the help of a fellow student, undertake a perilous journey to find their mother and brother before they are captured by Hidehira's samurai.

Secret Keeper

Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins
In 1974 when her father leaves New Delhi, India, to seek a job in New York, Ashi, a tomboy at the advanced age of sixteen, feels thwarted in the home of her extended family in Calcutta where she, her mother, and sister must stay, and when her father dies before he can send for them, they must remain with their relatives and observe the old-fashioned traditions that Ashi hates.

3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows

3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows by Ann Brashares
Ama, Jo, and Polly, three close friends from Bethesda, Maryland, spend the summer before ninth grade learning about themselves, their families, and the changing nature of their friendship.

Trading Faces

Trading Faces by Julia DeVillers, Jennifer Roy
When seventh-grade twins Payton and Emma switch places, they shake up the social hierarchy at their new middle school.

The Seven Keys of Balabad

The Seven Keys of Balabad by Paul Haven, Mark Zug (Illustrator)
Unlike his news-reporter father and art-historian mother who find living in the ancient, war-torn country of Balabad endlessly interesting, twelve-year-old Oliver, homesick for New York City, feels very much out of his element until he gets caught up in a centuries-old mystery involving stolen artifacts and buried treasure.

Words to My Life's Song

Words to My Life's Song by Ashley Bryan, Bill McGuinness (Photographer)

Peace, Locomotion

Peace, Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson
Through letters to his little sister, who is living in a different foster home, sixth-grader Lonnie, also known as "Locomotion," keeps a record of their lives while they are apart, describing his own foster family, including his foster brother who returns home after losing a leg in the Iraq War. Read a wonderful introduction to and interview with Jacqueline Woodson at the Brown Bookshelf. This is part of their presentation of 28 of the best and brightest youth literature creators February 1 - 28.

"Dear Lili, When Jenkins leans on me to get out of that wheelchair and onto those crutches, it's like there's a giant on my shoulders. And sometimes it feels like I'm gonna fall right down under all the weight. But I don't, Lili. I stay standing. I stay standing. Peace, Lili. Locomotion" -page 132

Eleanor, Quiet No More The Life of Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor, Quiet No More The Life of Eleanor Roosevelt by Doreen Rappaport, Gary Kelley (Illustrator)
A quiet, lonely girl, Eleanor Roosevelt was born to a world of privilege, but not one of love. Eleanor found solace in books and in the life of her lively and independent mind. Her intellectual gifts and compassionate heart won her the admiration of many friends--and the love of her future husband, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. While other young women of her class were spending time at dances and parties, Eleanor devoted her energies to teaching children in New York City's poorest neighborhoods. Later, she became the most socially and politically active--and controversial--First Lady that America had ever seen. Ambassador, activist, and champion of civil rights, Eleanor Roosevelt changed the soul of America forever.

"Very early I knew there were men and women and children who suffered."

"What one has to do usually can be done."

"You must do the things you cannot do."

"Do what you feel in your heart to be right -- for you'll be criticized anyway."

"Do something everyday that scares you."

Scaredy Kat (Suddenly Supernatural Series #2)

Scaredy Kat (Suddenly Supernatural Series #2) by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel
Thirteen-year-old Kat, still not comfortable in her role as a medium, and her friend Jac, undergoing a serious crisis about the role of music in her life, try to find a way to help the unhappy spirit of a young boy in the abandoned house next door. The child in the photo is the author, age 6, reading Alice in Wonderland. Kimmel has written many books for young people, visit her website here.

Sensible Hare and the Case of Carrots

Sensible Hare and the Case of Carrots by Daren King, David Roberts (Illustrator)
When Mazy Rabbit arrives at the Hare Detective Agency, she asks Sensible Hare to find her missing suitcase of carrots.

Books of Umber: Happenstance Found

A boy awakens, blindfolded, with no memory of even his name, but soon meets Lord Umber, an adventurer and inventor, who calls him Happenstance and tells him that he has a very important destiny--and a powerful enemy.

The Lightning Key (The Wednesday Tales Series, #3)

The Lightning Key (The Wednesday Tales Series, #3) by Jon Berkeley, Brandon Dorman (Illustrator)
Orphaned, twelve-year-old Miles Wednesday discovers some surprising things about his past when he sets out with his angel companion Little and the blind explorer Baltinglass on a quest to recover the powerful tiger's egg stolen by the evil Cortado.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Inside Nan: Just Show Up

Long story (not for my public place here) going on and deep in the night, last night, awake and in turmoil, I escaped into my Google Reader and read the feeds. This video presentation by Elizabeth Gilbert, posted by Longstockings, and TED (Ideas worth spreading) was the teacher I was awake for...For me it was 20 minutes of instruction and inspiration. And peace. And hope. I post it to encourage you, you probably know if you have the interest or the need to take the time.

Earlier in the day I read this post in James Preller's blog about revision. He used the phrase "messing with the second pass" to discuss ("stages of doubt and second-guessing") revision. He was talking about the writing and editing process of his new book Bystander (Fall, 2009). The post content was a clear window into his world but his words were about more than his work as I read them yesterday. He was embracing and celebrating the changes, the revision, the stages, the process, the journey...OK, at one point he wonders if "this is all too self-obsessed". I wanted to comment as soon as I read it but didn't -- I guess I had too much to say.
About how I suffer under process - the turmoil of it - the recognition of the need for change that spurs the turning away from what was toward what is next and necessary and right and good and knowing that it is never done but always another revision, another stage... Elizabeth Gilbert's illuminated talk focuses on visits of genius and creativity and the fragile vessels we are -- her point -- just show up for it, keep showing up.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Project Sweet Life

Project Sweet Life by Brent Hartinger
When their fathers insist that they get summer jobs, three fifteen-year-old friends in Tacoma, Washington, dedicate their summer vacation to fooling their parents into thinking that they are working, which proves to be even harder than having real jobs would have been.

After the Train

After the Train by Gloria Whelan
Ten years after the end of the Second World War, the town of Rolfen, West Germany, looks just as peaceful and beautiful as ever, until young Peter Liebig discovers a secret about his past that leads him to question everything, including the town's calm facade and his own sense of comfort and belonging. Herr Schafer, a professor in East Germany, now a bricklayer in West Germany, works for Peter's father. Here are thoughts Herr Schafer shares with Peter.

"There are some Jews, Peter, who believe that in every generation there are only thirty-six righteous people in the whole world and no one knows who they are. Without those thirty-six the world could not exist. For myself, I think there are many more..."-pg 76

"...Being Jewish is not a game like checkers with a set of rules. Any Jew, or any Christian for that matter, will tell you we find out a little more about ourselves every day. What we were yesterday we are not today and will not be tomorrow. Don't be in such a hurry, Peter. Let each day teach you something, even if it comes from a mistake. Sometimes mistakes are the biggest lessons of all..."-pg 113

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Inside Nan: The Old Saw...Be The Change

Ah, the old saw. Mahatma Gandhi said: "Be the change you want to see in the world." Read to other people's kids. They are everywhere. Always take a book in your pack. Have a couple of picture books with you at the metro bus stop, the dentist or doctor office, the laundromat. Anywhere you might wait, others are waiting too. There will always an opportunity to campaign to encourage others (parents, teachers, librarians) to do something but here's the old saw again: "Be the change you want to see in the world..." Go to the local thrift shop and collect a stash of picture books, after you've read them to someone, be prepared to give them away. Is this too scary, too weird? Call your local school and tell them you want to volunteer to read to a child.

The True Adventures of Charley Darwin

The True Adventures of Charley Darwin by Carolyn Meyer
In nineteenth-century England, young Charles Darwin rejects the more traditional careers of physician and clergyman, choosing instead to embark on a dangerous five-year journey by ship to explore the natural world.


Scat by Carl Hiaasen
Nick and his friend Marta decide to investigate when a mysterious fire starts near a Florida wildlife preserve and an unpopular teacher goes missing. David Pogue, book reviewer for the New York Times writes "What’s truly amazing is how much mileage Hiaasen gets here from mining the same narrow niche. Every novel is an eco-­mystery set in Florida. Every plot features a greedy businessman (with a dumb-as-bricks henchman) bent on getting rich at the expense of Florida wildlife. Each plot is energized by improbable and hilarious action sequences." Read the rest of the review from the NYT Sunday Book Review.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Monkey with a Tool Belt and the Noisy Problem

Monkey with a Tool Belt and the Noisy Problem by Chris Monroe
When Chico the monkey wakes up to a loud clatter, he puts on his tool belt and searches his tree house to find what is making the noise, only to discover Clark the elephant stuck in the laundry chute.

46 Science Fair Projects for the Evil Genius

46 Science Fair Projects for the Evil Genius by Bob Bonnet, Dan Keen
This addition to the popular Evil Genius series brings creative new projects to middle and high school students and hobbyists everywhere. Written by two veteran science teachers the collection features challenging projects, each of which begins with a hypothesis, includes a list of necessary parts and tools, and follows standard Science Fair requirements, allowing you to create and customize your own unique projects. See additional titles in the Evil Genius Series here.

From Russia with Lunch: A Chet Gecko Mystery

From Russia with Lunch: A Chet Gecko Mystery by Bruce Hale
Detectives Chet Gecko and his partner Natalie Attired try to solve the mystery of why Emerson Hicky Elementary school students have suddenly started acting strangely. Bruce Hale has a pretty nifty website - you can read an excerpt from Chapter 1 and learn all about Chet.

..."Zhis machine vill automate all ze vork in ze library. Storytime, book selection, checkout - everything." Bitty Chu's hand shot up. "But what about our librarian, Cool Beans?' she asked. "What will he do?" Principal Zero cleared his throat. "He will be, ah, leaving us..." - page 3.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Inside Nan: Volunteer Tuesday

Today Travis and I worked on the vocabulary lists that the reading specialist put in the reading folder. There were four pages of words, today we did the first page of 68 words. Travis could read only eight of them. He read "peanut" for "pennant" and "college" for "cottage". He knew the words "promise" and "police" and "justice". We read the words and talked about the meaning and used it in a sentence. Here are a few examples in Travis's words: OFFICE - where police work, BAGGAGE - when you are at a restaurant and you leave they put your food in a baggage, SAVAGE - when you are really hungry, HOSTILE - where army people work, PRESTIGE - when you press papers down, FESTIVE - when you fasten a belt, COTTAGE - where people pick cotton, CONSTANT - when people bug you. When I explained the definition of MALICE to Travis, a desire to harm others or see others suffer, he said, "I have that." We talked a bit about anger and hurt and his feeling that the world isn't fair. How his auntie died in her 20s of some disease and his uncle was killed in a car crash and how he has anger about how life is. Our time was up right about then. He reminded me that his golden birthday is coming pretty soon, he will be 12 on May 12. The bell rang and he headed to his next class.

Monday, February 9, 2009

One False Note (The 39 Clues Series #2)

One False Note (The 39 Clues Series #2) by Gordon Korman
A million dollars, or a clue? Police report a break-in at an elite hotel, and the suspects sound suspiciously like Amy and Dan. There's a car and speedboat chase and an angry mob! When there's a Clue on the line, anything can happen. READ THE BOOKS, COLLECT THE CARDS, PLAY THE GAME, WIN THE PRIZES The Chase begins in Book 1, the race is on to find the 39 Clues...A book with fine print on the back cover -- "No Purchase Necessary. Many will Enter but Few Will Win."

Operation Redwood

Operation Redwood by S. Terrell French
In Northern California, Julian Carter-Li and his friends, old and new, fight to save a grove of Redwoods from an investment company that plans to cut them down. Operation Redwood has its own website with information for teachers, games and resource links. "...These trees are so old. They're older than the dinosaurs. When all the continents in the world were still smushed together, there were redwood trees, or something like them...the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs - the redwoods were fine..."

Sunday, February 8, 2009

What Darwin Saw : The Journey That Changed the World

What Darwin Saw : The Journey That Changed the World by Rosalyn Schanzer, Charles Darwin The young Darwin noticed everything, and proved himself an avid and detailed chronicler of daily events on the Beagle and onshore. Young readers travel alongside Darwin and read his lively and awestruck words about the wonders of the world.We follow Darwin’s voyage, looking over his shoulder as he explores new lands, asks questions about the natural world, and draws groundbreaking conclusions. We walk in his footsteps, collecting animals and fossils, experiencing earthquakes and volcanoes, and meeting people of many cultures and languages. We examine his opinions on life in all its forms. We consider the thoughts of this remarkable scientist, who poured his observations and research into his expansive theories about life on Earth.

Looking for Lincoln: The Making of an American Icon

Looking for Lincoln: The Making of an American Icon by Peter W. Kunhardt, Philip B. Kunhardt III, Peter W. Kunhardt Jr., David Herbert Donald (Foreword by), Doris Kearns Goodwin (Introduction)
Told through the voices of those who knew the man—Northerners and Southerners, blacks and whites, neighbors and family members, adversaries and colleagues—and through stories carefully selected from long-forgotten newspapers, magazines, and family scrapbooks, Looking for Lincoln charts the dramatic epilogue to Lincoln’s extraordinary life when, in a process fraught with jealousy, greed, and the struggle for power, the scope of his historical significance was taking shape. Looking for Lincoln is the companion volume to a PBS special.