ABOVE AND BEYOND THE WRITING THE WRITING WORKSHOP by Shelley Harwayne (professional resource)

Shelley Harwayne work has always remained centred in the teaching of writing,, Her experiences in the past two decades learning from her grandchildren, volunteering in schools and as a consultant has provided her with the opportunity to re-examine and re-consider the writing workshop by helping teachers who are faced with new obstacles, mandates and scripted programs, thus sacrifice the original principles of writing workshop. The 24 chapters in this resource are  is filled with student samples,  and practical lessons and a wealth of recommended book lists including titles to enrich our teaching. Shelley invites teachers to take back their writing workshops, find time for professional conversations, try out new ideas with colleagues.”Shelley believes children who write what matter to them – their experiences, their beliefs, their observations – will find their lives enhanced. She seeks to raise activists who, by becoming more aware of the world and asking why things are the way they are, will be empowered to make it better. (“from the back cover).

FINDING A PLACE FOR EVERY STUDENT: Inclusive practices, Social Belonging, and Differentiated Instruction in Elementary Classrooms by Cheryll Duquette (professional resource)

A comprehensive guide that provides information and strategies  and case studies to work with students with such exceptionalities  as autism, mental health issues, learning disabilities, behaviour challenges, intellectual disabilities, Spectrum Disorder, giftedness . The organization of the book into three main themes: Inclusive Practices, Social Belonging and Differentiated Instruction, encourages   classroom teachers to consider programming where that every student grows, feels successful and finds a place in the classroom, in their world. 

FROG AND TOAD ARE DOING THEIR BEST: Bedtime Stories for Trying Times: A Parody by Jennie Egerdie; illus. Ellie Hajdu (stories /parody)

I bought this book to see how my Arnold Lobel’s beloved characters might fit into the here and now. As stated in the front matter ‘this parody has ot been prepared, approved, or authorized by the author of the Frog and Toad books or his heirs or representatives.”   Alas, a I did not find this book particularly amusing or satirical. Time means nothing” said Toad. “Time is just the thing that happens between snacks. “My new Year’s Resolution, ‘ said Toad as he flopped down in his seat, “is to get really muscular this year.” / “I smile because I need everyone to like me.”  An attempt is made to update the tales e.g., Fitbit, Bank Account, The Lottery,  Camping) but alas Jennie’s efforts and Hajdu’s feeble sketch illustrations didn’t work for me. For heart and punch, it’s back to Arnold Lobel I go.  Treasured children’s literature heroes, they are. 


THE BEST OF ME by David Sedaris (fiction/ nonfiction)

Any writing by David Sedaris gets a loud shout out from me. He is a favourite author and I’ve read all his books. The Best of Me is a collection of 40 autobiographical and fictional pieces that have appeared in his previous published collections. I have read all these stories previously but  it was a fantastic treat to revisit these titles and a curiosity to discover which of the selections Sedaris (and editors) could be considered ‘the best’ from such collections as Calypso, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, When You Are Engulfed in Flames, Dress your Family in Corduroy and Denim and Me Talk Pretty One Day. I would gladly re-read all these books and try and come up with a list of Larry favourites.  (I would hard time narrowing down ‘the best 18 stories in his most recent book Happy-Go-Lucky).  Sedaris always makes me laugh and always makes me wish that I could had the ability to write live like he does and write like he does.  The following words that appear on the back book cover of The Best of Me sort of capture the thrill of reading this oh-so-funny, oh so-wise genius: hilarious, elegant, glorious, poignant, jollity, deliciousness, honest, reflective, tender, scathing, sardonic, wry, moving outrageous, 

#I WISH MY TEACHER KNEW: How one question can change everything for our kids by Kyle Schwartz (professional resource)

One day, third grade teacher Kyle Schwartz asked her students to fill in the blank in this sentence: “I WISH MY TEACHER KNEW_____”. Some of the results were humorous, some heartbreaking. Many answers were moving, all were enlightening. The student answers opened Schwartz’s eyes to the need for educators to understand the unique realities their students face in order to create an open, safe, and supporting classroom environment. When the author shared her experiences online, teachers around the globe began sharing their own contributions to #IWishMyTeacherKnew. The book provides a look at systemic problems that affect students nationwide (e.g., poverty, mobility, trauma, relationships). Kyle Schwartz’s experiences as an educator provides her with significant insights and research into how we can reach and teach every student. Reading these stories from the classroom can help educators, family members and students consider how we can help students to tackle challenges have ourschools be places where they “can produce resilient, creative and passionate learners who will improve our world.” (p. 219)

MAKING LOVE WITH THE LAND by Joshua Whitehead (essays)

It’s interesting the books we choose to read. I came to read Joshua Whitehead’s wild and wonderful Jonny Appleseed (2018) when it won Canada Reads (and other awards. And so I was intrigued, after reading a strong review, to read the new publication by the Oji-Cree/nehiyas, Two=Spirit Indigiqueer celebrated author, a collection of essays which had mostly been previously published in earlier forms. Essays? Even Whitehead comments on this writing: “As for this new work of storying, the work of this book: Do I call it biographical, Autofiction? Autobiograpical? I lean towards the categorization … of “biostory”.  Joshua’s writing is astounding.  He has an extraordinary way to express his views about body and land and pain and writing and personal history.  Make no mistake, his writing is poetry.  Disclaimer; I was quite intimidated as I read through the ten essays, sometimes reading sentences two or three times. In the opening piece I read the following:“Sometimes I tell myself I’d slice a skyscraper in half and swallow it whole – vats of magnesium breaking down the highways in my gut that block the transmission of neurons that calm and hold me when I need this.” (Page 12). Usually, I’d give up but I decided to persevere and read each essay, I felt that I only got a fraction of Joshua Whitehead’s intellectualism.  Brilliant but not accessible. Not sure who I could recommend this book to. 


“My belly is full of quantum physics, elements making love to one another – metal plate organs, earth meet water, and at the atomic level, I am a kind of biotech.” (Page 12)

“Is autobiography a treaty-making, if the treatise is the narrator as subject? Is the treatise of such treaty the desire to petrify and archive? What forms of colonial violence do I underpin when I mark myself with form and genre as glyph and brand?” (Page 77)

“I imagine that in that moment when dairy  meets my flora, I too will spew out life from all this pain, my excrement a type of exorcism, a universe posited in my esophagus, wretched me retching terra.” (Page 139)

MY POLICEMAN by Bethan Roberts (fiction)

I decided to rad this novel in advance of the movie release this fall. My Policeman, published in 2012 is by British author Bethan Roberts who has written an intriguing, captivating love story set in Bristol England.  It is the 1950’s and Marion is smitten and marries Tom, a policeman.  Patrick who works in the Brighton Museum would also say that Tom is ‘My Policeman’. The narrative switches from the 1957 to 1999 and is presented both as Marion’s confessional and as Patrick’s story of passion for the handsome policeman. Two lovers share one man in a time when lives were destroyed by intolerance. It was great to read a great love story. I look forward to seeing  the movie, starring Harry Styles (and perhaps weeping). 

PEOPLE LOVE DEAD JEWS: Reports from a Haunted Present by Dara Horn (essays)

Dara Horn is the author of five novels, but in this collection, she presents a series of essays related to Jewish culture both ancient and contemporary. When she realized that her writing assignments were always about dead Jews, not living ones.  The author presents extensive research drawn from her own religious studies, her family life, her travels, and interviews with others.  Some titles include ‘Frozen Jews’, ‘Executed Jews’, ‘Legends of Dead Jews’, ‘Fictional Dead Jews’, ‘Dead Jews of the Desert’ uncovering such subjects as the veneration of Anne Frank, family name changes at Ellis Island, Jewish history in Harbin China, the tragedy of Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue and Auschwitz, a well-received traveling exhibition. In ‘Commuting with Shylock’ Horn tries to explain the meaning of Shakespeare’s character to her wise, curious ten-year old son.  Each of the essays helps to illuminate and the complexity of modern-day antisemtism. Horn’s views may at times seem to be provocative but always informative, challenging our assumptions about Jewish people living and dead.

SHIFTING THE BALANCE: 6 ways to bring the Science of Reading into the Balanced Literacy Program by Jan Burkins and Kari Yates (professional resource)

This best-selling, informative, resource has exploded  the world of Reading Instruction and is an important book for confirming, stretching and challenging our assumptions about the teaching of reading in the early grade. Though there are always some tensions about approaches to teaching phonics and guiding learners into meaning-making, the two authors provide extensive research to help us literacy educators to re-evaluate – perhaps shift – their practice. The book is  divided into 6 chapters each illuminating thoughts about embracing and balance. The framework for each chapter is extremely helpful: Clearing Up Some Confusion/ Misunderstanding/ A Short Summary of the Science, Recommendations for Making the Shift and Questions for Reflection. The charts, coloured headings and lists are all helpful. I read this book page by page with pencil in hand and I have many underlined statements, passages with asterisks, question marks in the margin for me to consider. In the afterward, the authors admit that the topic is “enormous and controversial and complex” send in an invitation to readers about what educators will next do to teach the readers in front of them tomorrow  They invite you to pick one of the shifts and roll up your sleeves. It’s complex!

YOU CAN’T SAY THAT! compiled and edited by Leonard S. Marcus (professional resource)

Writers for young people talk about censorship, free expression, and the stories they have to tell (voices include Matt de la Pena, David Levithan, Katherine Paterson, Dav Pilkey, R.L. Stine, Angie Thomas. Leonard S. Marcus, one of the world’s leading voices about children’s books interviews the authors who each offer stories about having one or more of their books banned  banned, each frankly sharing their thoughts about the freedom of expression.  Censorship has for decades been a challenge on individual, and society an now more than ever where books are being removed in some states, particularly because of race as well as sexuality. You Can’t Say That! helps parents, educators, librarians, politicians and young people come to understand the impact of combatting First Amendment challenges. I found this to be a very inspiring read, prompting me to revisit several titles by the authors to consider what the ‘problems’ might be. (e.g. Bridge to Terabithia and The Great Gilly Hopkins (Katherine Paterson); Boy Meets Boy (David Levithan): The Hate U Give (Angie Thomas) and Heather has Two Mommies (Leslea Newman).different 9

“People disagree about what protecting the young means as it relates to books. In fact, one of the most basic changes in books for young readers over the past half century has been a rethinking of this questions, with most authors turning away from the goal of sheltering young people from a knowledge of the world’s dangers and toward the very different (not not less caring) goal of preparing the young to live in the world in which they find themselves by forthrightly providing them with critical information and understanding.” (Leonard S. Marcus, Introduction, p xviii)