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Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for Tuesdays Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for Tuesdays Slice of Life Challenge.

Last week I wrote a Slice of Life post about the injustice of reading levels and my dear student Emily. Cynthia Lord, author of A Handful of Stars, saw my post and commented that she wanted to send Emily a signed copy of her book. I was overjoyed, but I kept it a secret. The package arrived Friday with a few added trinkets Cynthia sent straight from her desk. She sent a small rock bearing the words “A little extra brave.” Cynthia wrote to me that she carried this rock around as she worked on the book. So personal. So special. She also added a little star hanging on a string to symbolize “star friends” like the characters in her book. Another personal touch.

I brought the care package with me to school on Monday. Emily is an early arriver. She was walking down the hall when I got there, so I took her aside to share the package with her. To say she was thrilled is almost an understatement. She just kept repeating, “I feel so special.”

I wasn’t quite sure how to share this with the class. I didn’t want any of them to feel jealous or left out. I talked to Emily about it. I told her my concerns and asked her to decide if she wanted to share or keep this to herself.

When her art teacher arrived, Emily took the package with her to show her. When she went to library, she took the book with her to show the librarian. Then we had read aloud time. Emily whispered to me that she wanted to share it with the class. I started off by explaining that Emily lost her mother last year. Then I explained how the character in A Handful of Stars also lost her mother. After I told the students about my blog post and tweet out to Cynthia Lord, Emily showed her prizes. No one spoke. No one was jealous or bitter. They were respectful and happy for Emily.

These gifts cannot replace such a huge loss, but I believe that Emily’s heart is full. She has a rock to carry with her every day that will give her strength and bravery and will always remind her that authors are heroes and that one day, she may be a hero, too.

A gift of love and bravery

A gift of love and bravery

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Cynthia’s Garden

Poetry Friday round-up with Linda at Teacher Dance

Poetry Friday round-up with Linda at Teacher Dance

Rose of Sharon photo by Cynthia Lord

Rose of Sharon photo by Cynthia Lord

I love being able to connect with authors through Twitter and Facebook. I met Cynthia Lord at NCTE last year, and she has graciously allowed me to be her friend on Facebook. The photos of her home in Maine place me there, much like her middle-grade books do. I was involved with the Summer Poem Swap this summer. I wrote this poem for a poet who lives in Maine. My visit to Maine became a walk through Cynthia’s garden.

Cynthia’s Garden

When the haze sweeps in,
I stop by Cynthia’s garden
to see the pink rose of Sharon
surprise with a bridal white.

Cynthia asks me in for tea,
a warm taste of sweet honey-orange spice.
On the center table,
sweet pea, Queen Anne’s lace, elderberry.

On the mantle, a photograph
of last winter’s snow, thick and unshoveled.
We look and sigh, knowing
this moment of surprise sweetness
is fleeting.

Her kitchen window looks out on the bay.
Colorful sails rise like kites
above crystal blue. We talk
about bunnies and blueberries
and boys who love to sleep
outside under the stars.

When the haze sweeps in,
I tell Cynthia goodbye
and hold her heart
like a poem I want to hear
again.

–Margaret Simon

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