To All the Hero Moms: Veteran’s Day

Hero Mom

Nearly every mom I know is a self sacrificing hero. Obviously they aren’t perfect. But they willfully give of themselves over and over.


Each of them.

But when “Terra” looked down at her shoes and told me, “My mom’s going to Iraq.”

I didn’t have an adequate response. Her words blindsided me.

I wish I had this book to offer.  I didn’t then. But I’m ready for the next time.

Bryan Landgo offers a tribute (strikingly similar to Hero Dad) to thank the families of these heroes. Even if you don’t have military families in your community, this book acts as a reminder of those who sacrifice for their country and family.

And here’s my usual  disclaimer:

I’m not writing to condone or condemn U.S. foreign policy. I’ve been pleased with U.S. foreign policy and I’ve protested such matters. But those complicated topics are for a political blog that I’ll write when I get 9 more lives. This is about saying thank you to those that serve our country.


Five Indispensable Read Alouds for Boys

I’m not sure what I did to prompt the chromosome gods to unleash a class with twice as many boys than girls upon me. But it must have been epic!

These boisterous boys are fun! But what they really seem to prefer is action. (Who knew? It’s a major breakthrough in gender studies!)

Sarcasm aside, don’t shoot the messenger. I’m telling you what I’m observing in action. And don’t come at me with that, “But, you’re reinforcing gender stereotypes!” My last post should have made it amply clear that I’m not trying to box boys in. This is what I see. Not what pop-psychologists are telling me to see.

In honor of this group I’ve compiled the aforementioned:

Five Indispensable Read Alouds for Boys

Shark vs Train crop

It’s the classic struggle: The Dark Lord vs… well actually it’s two boys having a ridiculously funny toy battle… just as good!

This is Not My Hat

Jon Klassen might be the most groundbreaking picture book author in the mainstream. This is Not My Hat is about crime and punishment (and it’s much more concise than Dostoyevsky’s rendering).

Oh No!

“But there’s a GIRL on the cover!” Honestly, they don’t care: giant monsters, urban battlefields… these kids play Halo and Black Ops at home. Oh No! is speaking their language. It’s not about what their teacher likes. It’s about hooking them into literature.

That is NOT a Good Idea!

That is NOT a Good Idea looks like a predictable fair tale(ish) story. Nope! It’s riveting suspense and the perfect twist at the end.

Battle Bunny

Not only did the boys love Battle Bunny; it’s brilliant commentary on why boys disconnect from school literacy.


10 Reasons I Look Forward to Going Back to School

Look Forward to School

Copyright Leonora Enking – Creative Common Licence

10. New school supplies

9. The classroom is a platform to advocate for justice (even though my professors warned me not to use it that way)

8. Working with people that care about more than the number on their direct deposit statement

7. Picture Books (duh!)

6. I get paid to read to children

5. I get paid to listen to children read

4. The stack of pictures my students draw for me every day

3. The light in the eyes of a child when they burst out, “I can read!”

2. Parents who say, “Thank you!” (sometimes through their tears)

1. Notes from my students that say, “I luv u!”

A Tale of Two Piggies

Sidney & Norman

I don’t normally review books that involve God because (generally) they repulse me. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti-God, on the contrary. But, so many books that include God are models of awful prose and many of the remaining few have horrible (often trite) story-lines.

So, how did these porkers creep past security? It wasn’t simple, but it involves an important moral:

Norman is that self-righteous jerk that some churches seem to spawn… and Sidney is a guy who just can’t keep his life together. Both receive an invitation from God because he has something to tell them.

Holding true to their characters, Norman is confident that God wants to tell him how awesome he is… and Sidney is pretty sure he’s going to get run over by a train.

When they finally meet God, both pigs are in for a shock. Mr. Goody-two-shoes finds out that God loves him. But, he adds, “you’re not as good as you have lead yourself to believe. You’re prideful. You’re selfish. You look down on others, simply because things don’t come as easily for them.” So Norman leaves in tears. The truth hurts.

Sidney observes Norman’s stricken exodus and is really sure he’s doomed. BUT the message is simply this, “I love you. I love you. I love you.” Sidney leaves just as stunned as Norman.

This book is brilliant commentary on self-righteously annoying church people, without being hateful. That’s a tough tightrope to walk, but Phil Vischer pulls it off. It also sends a message that, despite church culture’s favoritism toward successful middle class types, God loves and welcomes all who will come.


Mo Willems Goes Somber

City Dog Country Frog

City Dog meets Country Frog in the spring, and their friendship grows across summer and fall. But in the winter, Country Frog is nowhere to be found. In the following spring Country Frog does not emerge either. City Dog is clearly distraught.

In the end City Dog meets a new friend.

Willems leaves frog’s fate purposefully ambiguous. This prompted a lively discussion in my class. Eventually most of my students decided that Country Frog died. So we talked about death again.

I felt bad about bringing up death again until I reflected on how much of our culture pretends (or hopes) they are not getting old. How the elderly are quietly ignored in nursing homes. How death is so rarely discussed in public (or anywhere).

Then I realized the conversation was overdue. I’m glad Willems branched out, even if it makes us uncomfortable.

Never Underestimate Little Old Ladies… at Thanksgiving

Thank you Sarah

If you don’t know Sarah Josepha Hale, you most likely don’t know that Thanksgiving is a national holiday because she lobbied for well over three decades to make it a reality. Sound like a boring read aloud? Think again!

This book takes us from the first feast to football. Then adds the historical context of the Civil War, debates over slavery, humor and Matt Faulkner‘s impressive illustrations to teach that you can indeed make a difference in the world: even if you are a marginalized, nonvoting, member of society… just like Sarah Josepha Hale.

Each Kindness… or the lack thereof

Each Kindness

With a title like “Each Kindness” and a cover illustration of young girl beside a quiet pond, I expected a heartwarming narrative on the power of kindness. Apparently Jacqueline Woodson had no interest in fulfilling my expectations.

Instead, I found a realistic account of a young girl that purposefully shuns the new kid in class. But, when it’s too late to repair the damage, she regrets it.

This book is break-the-mold refreshing on so many levels:

You expect a picture book with minority characters to be sanitized? Move along, no one’s covering up their moral warts here.
You want a clean ending wrapped in a happy bow? Check the Disney Channel.
You think sad stories have no place in elementary classrooms? Barny agrees. But kids know better from experience.

So why bother to read Each Kindness?

Because we all make mistakes.
Because it’s a valuable lesson born out of remorse.
Because we should forgive ourselves and move forward.