Archive for July 14th, 2014

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Join It’s Monday: What are you Reading? at Teach Mentor Texts and Book Journey.

touch bluerules

After reading Cynthia Lord’s latest book Half a Chance, I decided it was time to catch up on Cynthia Lord books. I’ve found a new favorite author. Each one draws me in with a teen girl struggling to understand life and to fit into it in her own unique way. I heard much buzz about Rules. Rules was a Newbery Honor Book and a winner of the Schneider Family Book Award, which I learned this week goes to books that treat the theme of disability with respect and empathy. Within the framework of rules that Catherine has for her autistic brother, Cynthia Lord creates a touching story about a normal girl who builds a friendship with a disabled boy while waiting for her brother at speech therapy. I found myself gaining strength of confidence along with Catherine. So how does she face her normal friends and admit that her “date” to the dance cannot talk or walk? This story is empowering and real. I will add it to my book bin along with Wonder and Out of my Mind.

I’m not quite finished with Touch Blue, but I am again drawn in by Cynthia Lord’s ability to build a realistic teen character who is learning about the world. Touch Blue is framed with superstitions such as “Touch blue and your wish will come true.” Tess and her family live on an island off the coast of Maine. An older foster boy, Aaron, comes to live with them. I haven’t come to like Aaron too much; although, I understand that he has a tough exterior due to his rough life experiences. But Tess is trying so hard to build him up. She even finagles a way for him to play his trumpet at the Fourth of July picnic. In both of Cynthia Lord’s books, there is a bully. This is realistic to the times. There are bullies everywhere and our students have to deal with them. Maybe she’ll write one soon from the bully’s point of view.

In addition to reading middle grade novels this summer, I am reading poetry (always). My friend Diane Moore has come out with another collection. Departures is a departure from her usual poetry. This book is deeply personal. The kind that becomes universal. We all have those quirky relatives like Aunt Sarah Nell who always wore her stocking seams straight. We have all experienced the loss of a loved one. Diane has experienced many losses in her lifetime. Her poems express a deep longing to keep her heritage alive through her writing. I asked Diane permission to post one of her poems here. I have selected her poem Inspiration because it is a tribute to a teacher. Diane blogs at A Word’s Worth.

Being brought up to fear authority
I was not surprised
when my fingers
trembled on the keys,
fell between them,
ten thumbs wide
in one finger space
when M. L. Shaw stood
behind my desk
watching me,
the mistress of un-coordination.

Each smudged carbon copy
was the belt on my back,
my left hand never knew
what the right hand was doing,
I was be-handed by an ancient Royal.
How could I ever become a writer
with such uncertain script?

I never cut class.
She never rebuked me.

She held no ruler to my knuckles
but her raven-colored hair
with the precise side part,
matching sweater and skirt outfits,
the way she applied lipstick
with the little finger of her left hand
to make that prim cromson mouth,
placed limits on my ambition.

She breathed exactness.

And then came exaltation
the day I read that
the titans of modern lit
typed with one finger,
committed strikeovers,
and never made carbon copies
of their work.

She sent me into the world
keyed into an uncertain vocation,
but before she died,
inscribed a fat collection
of Shakespeare’s plays
in her flowing, exacting hand:
“I hope you’ll always think kindly of me.”
And my skills gained a pace,
my hands reached a standard,
the classroom was eclipsed.

I clocked out
at 80 words per minute.
–Diane Moore, all rights reserved

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