Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Writer's Notebook by Ralph Fletcher (1996)

     For the last few hours I have been reading a book that I just got today, a book that I couldn't stop reading until I reached the last page. You may be thinking that I must be writing of a mind wrenching novel, but instead I was reading about writing.
     I met (in an abstract way) Ralph Fletcher last semester in my language arts class. The assigned textbook was a book by Fletcher titled What a Writer Needs. This is by far one of the best textbooks I have purchased during my college years. Recently, while substitute teaching in a second grade class I discovered another one of Ralph Fletcher's books leaning against the chalkboard, A Writer's Notebook. This book had quite a few bookmarks, so I proceeded to open to those pages. At first I seen little notes saying READ next to paragraphs. I was glad to see that this teacher was sharing Fletcher's wisdom with her students. Then I continued on to find the written words DO NOT READ..DIVORCE..and large X's covering paragraphs and even pages. I was very disappointed that this teacher was choosing not to share the whole point of the writer's notebook with her students, which I will now transition into.

     A Writer's Notebook is not a diary, or just like any other journal. The writer's notebook is a place to share everything, from snatches of conversation to article clippings that interest you. It is an outlet to share what you experience in your everyday living. Fletcher wrote "Many people drift through life. Your writer's notebook can work as an alarm clock to remind you to wake up and pay attention to what's happening in your world, both inside and out. There's nothing more important you can learn as a writer." As I read this book I began bookmarking pages as well. I assure you that I didn't find anything that I wanted to bookmark in order to never revisit it again.
     In this book Fletcher shared about a fifth grade teacher who wanted her students to keep a writer's notebook and then she decided that if she was going to ask her students to keep one that she should keep one too. She ended up writing many personal entries, one about divorce that she shared with her students. I thought this was so brave and courageous of her, and I thought of the student in her class that might connect with the feelings that the poem about divorce expressed and be inspired to write in his/her own writer's notebook about a similar event.
     A writer's notebook can also be used to write letters, some which will never be sent. In this book Fletcher shared a letter that a fourth grade boy wrote in his writer's notebook. This letter was to his father that had left, he wanted answers. He wrote "I'd send you this letter but I don't know where you are." Then at the end of the letter he wrote " P.S. Please write back."
     At the end of the book Fletcher shares some students writing about writing. A fourth grade student wrote "My writer's notebook is my heart, my mind, and my soul". How powerful is that? This student used her writer's notebook to come up with ideas for writing when she was without, and she also acknowledged that she may use a piece of her notebook for writing now or in ten years. That is the special thing about a writer's notebook, you never know when something you write down can be used later to possibly contribute to a polished piece.
     A Writer's Notebook has inspired me to write more. After reading it I have also gained confidence in my ability to help my students find the writer within them. This book is a great resource for students in the classroom but it can also be used to help anyone write about anything.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

When Sophie Gets Angry - Really, Really Angry... By Molly Bang (1999)

    Oh how I love this book! I came across it while in my children's literature class last year and I finally got my own copy in an effort to expand my children's book library with a variety of stories. This book is equipped with two awards. It is a Caldecott Honor Book (2000) and it also has the Charlotte Zolotown Award (2000) (which is awarded to one picture book every year from a committee at University of Wisconsin). This is a great book to share with children or adults alike to help them deal with issues of anger and can I just say that I don't think this is only a book that should be brought out when somebody is angry but it should definitely be read when at any given time. Children need to know about how to deal with their anger before it happens, while it's happening and after it has happened.
     Sophie is playing with her stuffed gorilla when her sister decides to snatch it out of Sophie's hands. Then her mother insists that it "is" her sister's turn now which takes Sophie over the edge. Warm colors start to fill the pages as Sophie's anger rises. "Sophie is a volcano, ready to explode-". Then Sophie decides to run outside, she runs until she cannot run any more. Sophie begins to cry, then she comes to the old beech tree and chooses to climb it. The colors on the pages become more cool, more relaxed, and less angry. She watches the water and the breeze blows her hair. "The wide world comforts her". Sophie returns home and "EVERYTHING'S BACK TOGETHER AGAIN". 
      My favorite aspect of this book is the illustrations. Not only the pictures but also the words are presented in such a powerful manner.  The colors come full circle and lead you through the cycle of anger that Sophie is experiencing. I think this book is so well thought out. For instance, when Sophie arrives home there is a welcome mat by the door because everyone is glad she's home, her father is reading a magazine titled seeds which connects to the story since nature is what cooled Sophie off, and her sister is working on a puzzle and at this point the story has been put together.
     This story reminds me a lot of The Red Tree by Shaun Tan which was read to my language arts class last semester. The Red Tree also uses powerful images to capture the emotions and feelings of a little girl. I don't want to share too much about this book because I hope to do a separate post on it once I obtain a copy, which unfortunately isn't as easy as going to the book store and picking one up.
     I commend Molly Bang for creating this masterpiece of a book. These types of issues need to be discussed and I think books are an incredible way to do so. I believe a book is full of discovery and there is an endless amount of places, people, feelings, and events to experience through the pages.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Miss Lina's Ballerinas by Grace Maccarone (2010)

     Before even reading this lovely book I knew I had to own it. As a child I was determined to be a ballerina, even though my mother never let me take a ballet class, there was always my imagination. I dressed in my pink nightgown and slippers and did pliés around the house and it seemed just as good at the time.Ballerina or not this is a great book that children will love and it has many classroom uses!
     Miss Lina's Ballerinas is about a group of eight charming girls that are in ballet together. "In pink head to toe, they practiced all day-plié, relevé, pirouette, and jeté". They danced all day, even at the market where they did their shopping. "In four lines of two, they danced without stopping." One day Miss Lina surprises the girls by introducing a new ballerina. All of the sudden their dancing was a mess, they didn't know what to do, they longer made four lines of two. Luckily, Miss Lina saved the day with her ability to divide! She told the girls "You will see how delightful it is to be three rows of three." Then suddenly, the girls agreed!
     This book is very reminiscent of Madeline which starts with "In an old house in Paris that was covered in vines lived twelve little girls in two straight lines. Miss Lina's Ballerinas instead begins with "In a cozy white house, in the town of Messina eight little girls studied dance with Miss Lina." I like when books have similar formats, I don't think it takes away from the author's talent or skill. I think it is more of an opportunity to show children how author's craft can be recreated in their own way.
     One of the many teaching opportunities within this book is the abundant use of rhymes. The nine darling young girls all have names that rhyme with ballerina: Christina, Edwina, Sabrina, Justina, Katrina, Bettina, Marina, Nina and Regina. All of the lines in the book rhyme too!
     This book also reminds me of another book I love, One Hundred Hungry Aunts in which the aunts continue to line themselves up into even groups in order to get to the food quicker. This is where the mathematics component comes in. Teachers can bring attention to the problem solving, regrouping and division that is apparent in the book. This is a great introduction to these concepts because this book uses the small numbers of eight and nine.
I am eager to seek out more books by Grace Maccarone, the author of Miss Lina's Ballerinas. I would also like to mention that Christine Davenier, the illustrator who lives is Paris, France (so jealous), did a fabulous job at capturing the actions and emotions in this story.