chutzpah cat

some observations

I completed my self-quarantine today, 2 weeks after flying home from a visit with the great-granddaughter. As far as I know, I remain uninfected by the corona virus. And I am struck by how things remain the same despite the obvious scary news. Two examples:

1. As she has done for several years, Nurse Girl calls someone each night as she is driving home after her shift. She did the same as College Girl when she would have to walk back to her dorm from a late night flute practice (yes, Nurse Girl transferred from music to nursing her junior year). She calls me, BH, or one of my sisters. This pas week, she traded shifts with one of her colleagues who is pregnant and, so, is working in the cover-19 unit right now. Her drive home is anywhere from 30-45. That gives us plenty of time to catch up on everything. She wants to talk about life outside of the hospital. We chat about finding toilet paper and other essentials. We worry about the people we see congregated with the social distancing instructions. She asks me how I am doing. I ask her how she is faring. Is she getting enough sleep? Food? When she reaches her driveway, she chirps, "Well, I'm home. Bye." I love this. This is College Girl and Flute Girl and Nurse Girl all rolled into one.

2. I forward my office phone to my cell phone so I end not to miss calls. This last week, I received two phone calls from students. Both were students worried about deadlines since their being home also meant additional stress. I counseled both the same way I would have done in any other semester. I reassured them that I would accept their work when I was completed and to please keep me apprised of their situation along the way. This is really no variation from past semesters. I do take a hard line about hitting deadlines, but I do have exceptions.

And, this afternoon Karin Perry and I did our annual TLA book presentation using Zoom. Gosh, it was great to be with Karin and Talking books again! The more things change, the more they remain the same.
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bush cat

Self-Quarantine marches forward

I am now in the 11th day of self-quarantine. I suspect that there are many more days ahead as BH and I try our best NOT to become a statistic. While many of my family and friends mark on being bored and needing to get out, I pick up a handful of picture books or grab a YA title from the shorter stacks or read with my ears. No chance of boredom here. I have had the chance to attend some great PD with Kylene Beers' "Office Hours", Monday-Fridey at 3 ET and 2 CT. I even take time on Wednesdays for 30 minutes to talk about teaching in the time of online. I suspect that book talks will become a part of these sessions shortly.

Speaking of book talks, Karin Perry and I have been asked to record our TLA presentation on new, good books which was cancelled when the conference was cancelled. If we can arrange things, maybe we will record and publish the presentation we envision for the USM Children's Book Festival.

BTW, I love woking from home. Nothing like comfy clothes, snacks, water bottles collecting condensation, background noise to distract me,and comfy chair for napping.

For those of you still struggling with unfamiliar learning platforms, stubborn software, and apps that can make things more complicated, relax. We are all on a steep learning curve for the next few months. But our students will survive, will learn, will prosper. Why? Because they see us doing the same chillness they face in this new and different world. Show students your human side: your frustrations and triumphs.

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reading ladders

a week in quarantine=many books read

As I said in the first post this week: when it is quiet here, it is time to read. While I have not quite cleared the stacks back in my work room, I am making a nice dent. AND i filled yet another bag/box with books to float on to new readers. I hope when all this is over or at least more calm, folks will come and get the boxes and bags for their classes. Heaven knows when that may be at this point, but they wait patiently as books will do.


I have seen some comment on social media that they have set a daily schedule for their extended break. Not me. Other than having a leisurely cup of coffee while reading email and social media posts, my day is up to me. I might sleep in; I may be up before dawn. I might get caught up in a project and forget to eat breakfast. I might have a lovely breakfast that calls for a nap. And so it goes; each day is a bit different. And during this self-quarantine time, I am enjoying the lack of routine. Back to reading. I have stacks upon stacks upon avalanching stacks--picture books all the way to YA. Two more boxes arrived in the last few days, and I know there are others crowding my office. The boxes give me something else to do: open and sort and stack.


So, what is up next to read? I have several books almost completed. They have been my airplane books (remember those? airplanes, I mean, not books). I intend to finish those next. I might attack the floor full of picture books under my desk after that. Or perhaps there are some "have to read them now" books in the boxes. I do know I still have some professional things to read, too.

So let the quarantine continue. I still have a week left in my self-quadrantine. After that it is anybody's guess.
ctrl alt grr

Quarantine Day 4

My sister said she was going stir crazy after one day in quarantine. I suggested she read and offered a box of books she could disinfect. My fourth day was similar to the others. I woke, had coffee, checked email, had breakfast. I decided then that I would try to clear up some of the books littering my office.

I began with the closest picture books and tucked in for about 2 hours. I posted snippets to Facebook and added the titles to my March books read list. This is the way I hold myself accountable for reading as much as I can while I have the chance. As I said earlier this week, one of my goals during this quarantine season is READING.

As I read the books, I added them to the towering stacks of books that need to float on. I have 20 boxes and 5 bags so far. I am certain that once this quarantine is over, there will be educators who will want to take these off my hands. In the meantime, I will add carefully to these stacks.

Not every book I read, BTW, is a contender for a major award. Each one has, nonetheless, potential readers. That is the point of the blurbs about the books on Facebook. Some of these books will become part of presentations, but they all will get some notice, I hope, online.

So, it is back to reading now. If I can read another 10-20 books tonight, there might be some space on my desk for the ones on the floor right now.
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    lawn mowers battling outside the back doors
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Monday cat

How to break quarantine without dire results

It has only been 3 days since I last left the house. I have certainly gone longer than this before. I spent more than 2 weeks at a time during my chemo. I spent months between the hospital and rehab. I had no choice but to stay where I was then. So why am I having a challenge now? I suspect it has to do with me thinking, "Oh, I can run down to the _____ and get _____ done." I cannot do that as I have pledged to self-quarantine and because I know my presence at home might result in fewer cases of the virus.

But I did get a much needed break from isolation today with my Facebook Live session this afternoon. Dozens of people joined me to consider questions about approaches and resources to taking classes online. For 30 minutes, people asked questions. Others offered answers, too. This is the collaboration and collegiality that keeps me teaching year after year. I love the folks with whom I work. And this year, I am missing them due to conference cancellations. Today, though, I saw students, former and current; colleagues from professional organizations; and new friends i know only online.


Watching Kylene Beers with Donalyn Miller (yesterday) on their Facebook Live visas close to sitting down with them that I imagine we will get for several months. In the meantime, I will enjoy this break from my Cave of Solitude. Now I will break away with some reading...
reading ladders

Orders from Above

Many of you know that one of my granddaughters is a nurse. She calls daily to make sure we are carrying our her orders for us: do not go outside. And now: do not let anyone in. She finished our conversation this morning with a, "you have received my orders. Follow them." Tou have to know Nurse Girl to understand that this order is meant to keep her old grandparents safe. She did fuss all last week while we were in Tennessee visiting her older sister and family. I am more afraid of getting sick for her recriminations than I am of getting sick at all.

And speaking of orders from above, several members of my faculty are being ordered to take their classes online NOW. They dragged me kicking and screaming from FTF to online way back when we received those orders. And while I miss meeting my students in person, I think my online teaching has improved each semester, Thankfully, teachers new to the online platform are being offered workshops and webinars. But there is little time to get things online this semester. I hope that colleagues will hold hands and help them accomplish what they need to do this semester and then help them build courses from the ground up.

I worry even more for the K-12 educator being told to take courses online. I worry for those teachers and their learning curve. I worry just as much, if not more, for the students. I have seen loads of worksheets and coloring book pages being touted as online "instruction" Many have noted that these need to be curtailed, and instruction needs to be planned that take so much into consideration. (A side note that many parents who are attempting to "home school" are asserting that teachers need to be paid much more $$$).

I am holding a Facebook Live event tomorrow at 11 ET/10 CT to answer any questions I can. I am so happy to see others doing LIVE sessions with help for teachers and parents. Kylene Beers had Donalyn Miller with her today to talk about independent reading. Facebook Groups are being formed as well.

Orders may be issued, but educators do not require orders to help one another, We are there for one another, there to help in whatever way we can.
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reading ladders

Welcome to Quarantine

During Spring Break, BH and I flew to see our GREAT granddaughter. During the trip, I was informed by my university that I had to self-quarantine when I returned. Mind yu, this is not an additional 2 weeks of Spring Break, this is 2 weeks of working from home. Most of the members of the department are either telecommuting or doing a self-quarantine. What will I do with this got of quarantine?

1. Read. I have had little time to dive into any YA titles. I managed to read 2 during recent flights. I just need to be "confined" which flights tend to provide. So now I will have some confinement and in a comfortable chair to boot. I also have about 100 picture books waiting to be read so they can float on.

2. Write. I have one deadline coming up and time to get it drafted in the next couple of weeks.

3. Create. The summer semester will be here before we know it. I want to work on updating the syllabi for the 4 courses I will teach. Titles, authors, and reflections need to be reviewed to ensure: a) diversity; b) choice; c) representation of the field and its history.

After that, it is like Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Back to reading, writing, and creating. I suspect the 2 weeks will become 4, 8, and longer. While I miss seeing my friends and colleagues, I pledge to do everything in my power to make this time worthwhile.
reading ladders

Updates, new dates, more...

So, in the last post I noted that i had broken my shoulder. I had surgery in December (finally) and am now finishing up my physical therapy. I am back to weeding, shelving, and book talking. That meant that last week I was able to announce the undergrads attending Donuts with the Dean that around the corner from their gathering were some books to float on. I had been working hard to load up those shelves while making room for the new books. Students came by and took some books, grabbing the picture books first (more in a later post about why that is). However, a few minutes after the mass exit for classes, there was a quiet knock on my door. An undergrad asked if she could talk to me.

I must admit that I have missed working FTF with undergrads. At one time, I was the lead teacher for the undergrad lit classes. Those classes were eliminated when the state cut back the number of hours undergrads could have; I moved to grad classes, and grad classes moved online. So I was thrilled to havhicver have." What she was looking for, it turns out, is some reader's guidance. She wished to start reading, recognizing that it was essential for her as an educator to also be a reader.

We talked about starting with some short texts about topics of interest to her. I mentioned picture books, graphic novels, and novels in verse. She seemed hesitant, but then noticed two books on the book cart in my office that caught her attention. One was a picture book written by Lupita Nyong'o and the other was a slim novel in verse whose title escapes me for now. She took the 2 books with her, promising to return when she finished reading them to let me know how that went. I admit that I am anxious to hear her "reviews."

And so this week I will add to the books that need to float on. Who knows what lives these books might touch as they float on?
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reading ladders

best laid plans, again

A funny thing happened to my resolve to post to this blog from time to time. Well, not terribly funny, but if someone had taken a video using their phone, I think it might have gone viral. Basically, I face planted. In the process, I managed to break my shoulder (the right one, of course) making to nigh on to impossible to get upright. Despite the fact that I knew something was broken, I finally got up, got my Google presentation going and spoke for 90 minutes to librarians from the Windham district. Those not living in this area will probably not recognize this district. These librarians work in the prison system. I was there to share books and some ideas for helping prisoners find the joy of reading again or maybe for the first time.

After the presentation, m BH drove me to the ER where they did indeed find some breaking in the shoulder. I got a weird looking cast (it stuck up to get to the shoulder area. It took a month but I finally got to see the orthopedic surgeon. Surgery is scheduled for next week.

I am in a bit of a hurry to get syllabi done for the Spring 2020 semester (2020!) and to grade the remaining assignments for this semester.

So, if there are no posts for a while, it is because I will be typing one handed, left handed, too. Here is a list of what I managed to read one handed in October. Note: turning pages with one hand is a difficult and sometimes frustrating task.

OCTOBER BOOKS 2019

394. SMELL MY FOOT
395. EVERYONE’S AWAKE
396. DEAR BEAST
397. DOG AND RABBIT
398. HOW MANY?
399. A STONE SAT STILL
400. FLY FLIES.
401. THE SCARECROW
402. ONE FOX: A COUNTING BOOK THRILLER
403. TRUMAN
404. RED HOUSE BLUE HOUSE ITTY BITTY BROWN MOUSE
405. SNACK ATTACK
406. TWO BROTHERS ONE TAIL
407. ACROSS THE BAY
408. SENORITA MARIPOSA
409. HOW TO CODE
410. PENNY AND PENELOPE
411. AT THE HORIZON
412. MOTHER GOOSE OF PUDDING LANE
413. HAIR LOVE
414. ALIEN SUPERSTAR
415. THE FATE OF FAUSTO
416. SQUEAK
417. WE REALLY DO CARE
418. AT THE MOUNTAIN’S BASE
419. LIBERTY ARRIVES
420. GO FOF THE MOON
421. A TRAPEZOID IS NOT A DINOSAUR
422. I NEED TO WEE!
423. SUPERBUNS
424. PENNY AND HER SLED
425. A PIG, A FOX AMD SMELLY SOCKS
426. THE PERFECT SEAT
427. EVERYBODY NEEDS A BUDDY
reading ladders

Oddly Oz

Have you missed me? I regret leaving this journal empty for so long. Without going into TMI territory, let's just say that posting was not high on my list of priorities. I hope I will be a more faithful blogger, but I do know that daily blogging is probably not going to happen. But I am back for now.

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I have ben obsessed about The Wizard of Oz during my recovery. I watch it nightly; it generally lulls me to sleep right before the final scenes. I love the singing and the plot. I have loved this movie since I was a kid and went to see it in color on a neighbor's TV. I use references to the movie when I discuss fantasy in my lit classes because it is a perfect visual example of how fantasy begins with roots in reality, travels to and through the fantasy, and returns to reality at the end.

As a young viewer of The Wizard of Oz, I feared those flying monkeys. Often, I would turn away for that scene. As an adult, I fear something different: the tornado. What does this mean in terms of books and reading/ I do have a point here. Being afraid of something that is not real is pretty much a waste of time. We should concern ourselves with threats that are real and present. I speak, of course, about selection and censorship. It seems to me that lately there are preemptive strikes against some books. Take a look at the current list of frequently banned books from ALA: http://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/top10. Five of the top 10 (actually 11) are banned for references to LBGTQIA content. These, to me, are the flying monkeys. Some people are afraid of these books. They fear the content might corrupt readers, change readers. Like the flying monkeys, this is not reality at all. I often tell PD audiences that if we are what we read, my 20s would have been given over to finding those sulking (and hulky) men of gothic romance. My 30s reading would have resulted in me becoming some sort of otherworldly creature. My 50s would have been spent at Hogwarts, etc. Instead my reading over the last 60+ years has extended my vocabulary, taken me on flights of fantasy, chilled me to the bone in harsh reality, and made me laugh so much I chortled.

The real threats occur when we limit the choices our readers make. We tell them that graphic novels are not worth their reading; here are a few responses to those who believe GNs are for young readers only (and I would suggest sine adult GNs such as Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant? (https://tinyurl.com/y6bv3747; https://pernillesripp.com/). Who is to say that Captain Underpants and Dogman are books that are just fluff? My oldest granddaughter read those books as an adult because they made her laugh. There is something to be said for having some humor in our lives.

Censorship is the tornado: unpredictable, dangerous, and potentially deadly. It frightens me much more than the flying monkeys ever did.