Saturday, March 31, 2012

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Much has been said and written about Wonder by R. J. Palacio during its short existence on bookstore and library shelves. Even before its February release, one could see and hear the buzz grow on Twitter and the Internet as advanced reader copies found their way to teachers and librarians. At first I was hesitant to buy into the hype since kids don't generally care about hype.

Finally I decided to find out what all hubbub was about and got my own copy. After reading it in one sitting, I knew. Wonder is one of those books that stays with you long after finishing. After reading it once I changed my lesson plans to make it our class's next read aloud book. I immediately started rereading. And I started writing.

I'm not going to write a full synopsis here. That's readily available elsewhere. But it doesn't matter. You don't need one. Wonder is a book you should read. Wonder is a book you should share. Wonder is a book you should discuss. Parents, children, teachers, students, everyone.

As I planned our class read aloud, I wanted to help students see and hear what the main character, August, shared with readers. Most sections of the book are introduced by song lyrics, and songs play a role on several key scenes. Auggie also uses numerous Star Wars references, and face it, you don't know who Mon Mothma or Lobot are off the top of your head either, just like I didn't. So I created a visual guide for Wonder to share with my class and posted it on my class blog.

These resources are what I started writing as I prepared for our read aloud. Here are links to each section.

Wonder - Part One: August

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Family Recipe & Its Miraculous Effects

All delicious, but none miraculous.
This column appeared yesterday in the local newspaper. If anyone is interested, the recipe is available, but it will cost you the same as the Colonel's chicken recipe or Coca-Cola's secret recipe. And I don't know where the bakers in the family keep it hidden, so no guarantees.

There is a homemade bread recipe handed down from generation to generation on my wife’s side of the family that works miracles.

Now I personally have not experienced the miraculous due to this mysterious mixture of wondrous ingredients, but three generations of women in the family swear by it. The ingredients include wheat flour, All-Bran, raisins, and flax.

Mix, bake, cool, slice. Eat. 

Then wait. And not very long from what I’m told.

The family calls it Go Bread.

My daughter is mortified that people would even consider talking about the physical need for Go Bread, let alone openly sharing stories around the table, say, while enjoying dessert. That there are people in the world – in her family! – that find Go Bread a healthy, enjoyable, and sometimes necessary part of their balanced breakfast, well it’s too much for her teenage brain to handle. Someone mentions Go Bread, and she’s off to her bedroom, texting. Probably telling her friends about her sick family.

The boy just thinks it’s funny. There are certain topics that cause ten-year-old boys to commence giggling. Some include smells. Others include noises. Most include the bathroom. Go Bread, or the miraculous effects due to its consumption, touches on all three. If Grandma says, “You know, I gave the recipe for Go Bread to your Aunt Mildred,” the ladies around the table, all concerned, ask how she’s feeling.

The boy? Hysterics.

Me? I always remain a silent observer in these conversations, content to listen but not qualified to participate. And even though I have never enjoyed this delectable delight, I understand the consequences of consumption. More importantly, I understand the consequences of overconsumption.

My nephew, a toddler, lacks an adult’s knowledge and experience. As a result, he tends to understand fewer things, yet what he does know he comprehends with greater intensity. Some related concepts of which he has a thorough grasp include: Hungry. Food. Eat. Yum. More.

And Grandma. He understands Grandma too.

So when the lad got hungry at his grandparents’ house, he went straight to Grandma who cut him a healthy slice of a healthy snack. Go Bread. Which he ate. And enjoyed.

And demanded, “More!”

Which he got.

(Now, despite my best journalistic efforts, the story here gets a bit murky. How much Go Bread did he eat? Was it a complete loaf to start? Did anyone else share the Go Bread? There are numerous opinions, but from what I can gather, the youngster ate anywhere from “a slice or two” to “the whole stupid loaf,” depending on the source.)

They say Go Bread performs the miraculous. What it did to my nephew, however, defies the laws of physics. Four changed diapers. Four sets of new clothes. Four baths. All in one morning.

And his mother, a member of the third generation to swear by Go Bread, now swears AT Go Bread.

Monday, March 5, 2012

More on Hope Was Here at the Nerdy Book Club

About a year and a half ago I published a series of posts about my class's experience reading Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer and how some additional research on the students' part let to an interesting discovery. It also led us to an email correspondence with the author herself. 

Yesterday the Nerdy Book Club blog published a shorter version of the same story. Thanks to everyone from the Nerdy Book Club who visited Help Readers Love Reading after seeing my post on the blog. And if you frequently visit this site but haven't visited the Nerdy Book Club yet, here's your chance. Go see what the nerdy (and by "nerdy" I mean "totally cool") readers are up to.

(Here's a link to the first post from the original series of posts on this site.)