Thursday, January 29, 2009

Bird, Lake, Moon by Kevin Henkes

Twelve-year-old Mitch was recently informed by his parents that they are getting divorced. Spencer is visiting the lake for the first time with his family since his brother drowned there when Spencer was two. Both boys have complicated internal struggles and their friendship develops slowly.

The pace of the book is slow compared to lots of my students' favorite series, but there is lots of mystery and tension and the two main characters work through problems that I'm sure are overwhelming and scary and huge to children.

Of course the timing for me reading this book was rather serendipitous. From my current perspective I appreciated how the story dealt with the very real and legitimate issues that these boys face, and although many of these issues are related to the adults in their lives, the adults' problems are not the focus but are also not over simplified. The parents aren't portrayed as anything but real humans with complicated lives of their own. Yeh, I guess I'm oversensitive to these issues, but still appreciated the care Henkes took with his story and characters. Yes, divorce is really hard on kids, but they can get through those initial weeks and months and be okay.

What I predict kids will like: real kids dealing with very real problems.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Lagoon, by Easter Simbe

We were at my Nana's house. We were watching a movie. My aunts were watching the movie too. Then they saw a newspaper that had Lagoon on it. They thought it might be fun to go there, but my mom said, "No, I do not like that place." Then she said, "I don't care if you want to go but I'm not going. Lisa can take you guys." Lisa is my aunty.

The next day came by. It was the day I saw scary rides and good food. I had goose bumps! We went on the roller coaster. We only had time for that one ride. After, we went home. No, just playing. We went on many rides but I don't want to list them. No, Okay I changed my mind. I went on the roller coaster, the Pheonix, the swings, and the animal ride. It was so fun. I loved Lagoon. The End. Written By: Easter Simbe

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Life on the Donkey Ranch

My three daughters and I have crash landed for a while at my parents' house, which is lovingly referred to as "The Donkey Ranch". Heber and Brigham are two miniature jack-asses which help fill my parents' empty nest and enhance the fantasy that they are living on a rural farm. Our family moved into this house when I was 13 and even though lots has changed, there are still lots of things that are still the same. One of my most effective strategies for getting through some of the hard emotional stuff I've been processing has been through humor. Here are some of the best things about living on The Donkey Ranch:

  • home cookin: i've been showing mom how to find recipes online, she's been teaching me all the important skills i refused to learn as a willful teenager. together we're keeping everyone very well fed.
  • the commute: okay, fine, it mostly sucks, but that 50 extra minutes each day of time together with my girls is very good bonding time. (when they're awake enough to talk)
  • missing pieces: there is no better place for me to scavenge for some of those missing pieces of my shattered identity than here, where i can dig around in my roots and sit quietly listening for the voices of some of my most helpful ghosts. a bit schizo? yeh, i know, but still helpful.
  • sunsets: when the sun dips into the Great Salt Lake you can see it from here and it paints the sky a warm mixture of peach, purple, and pink. softly brilliant.
  • marble counters, wood floors, one real and one gas fireplace, and a convection oven: lots of luxuries here that are just fun to relish.
  • Nana and Grandpa Jim: i'm wise enough these days to know deep down in my bones that nobody is around forever and the way my dad teases and the way my mom nurtures are memories i want my girls and me to have burned into us forever.
  • my monk cell: what i call my youngest brother's room that i'm sleeping in. unfinished and freezing, just down the hall from my girls but quite private. i'm actually loving it. it's a perfect place to meditate, pray, and dig.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

lucky joyful birthday find

honestly, i'm a fairly simple gal. don't need much more than this to make my whole day:

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Prayer Candles and Gratitude Stones

In the garden that I am imagining it is late spring. A warm breeze is rustling the new green leaves of several huge trees and I am kneeling on the ground, laying down some stones and lighting some candles.

Gratitude Stones: a built-in substitute in the form of my student teacher, a supportive boss, a safe harbor basement home to stay in, an abundance of faith, a car that's in good condition and all paid off, a nice bed, healthy children, Reverend Robin, clean water, my own physical health, supportive friends and family, a secure good job that I also happen to love, clarity about who I am and what I have to do, a class of students I can be away from for a couple days without too many worries, Easter's humor, Clara's strength, Harriet's innocence, my parents' graciousness and love, a gym I adore, and the whole tangled web of experiences that have brought me to exactly where I'm at.

Prayer Candles: grant me patience, understanding, and hope; give my loved ones strength, peace, and health, and keep us all tucked securely under your wings of redeeming love.

Yes, it's true. What doesn't kill us can make us stronger---stronger and wiser and more gentle. Stronger and more patient and more kind. Stronger and more faithful and more closely attuned to god's whispers. Stronger and more pliant and more full of forgiveness and hope.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli

Lou, the sixteen-year-old narrator of this book is a typical teen boy. He's a bit shy and introverted but gets along okay socially. The entire student body of Mica High School is turned upside down when a new student who has named herself Stargirl shows up on the first day of school. This odd, formerly home-schooled girl plays the ukulele, wears long pioneer dresses, and she seems to not care a single whit what other people think of her or of her whacky style and personality.

Lou is smitten and the two gradually develop a romantic relationship. The rest of the students at Mica start out bewildered of Stargirl, they soon develop a fair weather form of admiration and raise her up to super-star popularity. But quite suddenly the rest of the students turn on her for some of the same qualities they so admired, her non-comformity and passionate compassion.

Lou's dilema in all of this is captured by a single question: "Whose affection do you value more, hers or others?" This isn't an easy struggle for Lou. He isn't as able ignore the cold stares of his classmates and he begs Stargirl to change, to become more normal.

There were several things I liked about this book. High school group dyanamics were represented very realistically and all those new and dizzying feelings of first love were also captured through Lou's descriptions and narration. My only criticism was that Stargirl's character was a bit over-the-top. Overdone. But for middle schoolers working through identity issues, I'm sure she is a perfect hero.