Spring at Inly….

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Anyone who works at a school – or has children in school – knows what spring means: it’s busy. The calendar shows lots of fun days ahead, but we are buckling our seat belts!

Here’s a look at this past week:

We are preparing for a May visit by Peter Reynolds, the author and illustrator of many beloved children’s picture books, including The Dot, and more recently, The Word Collector and Say Something!  Inspired by The Word Collector, one of our third grade students initiated a project to collect words. We have two stations set up in the Lower Elementary corridor with dictionaries, a thesaurus, and paper and pencils, and the kids are collecting words to decorate the hallway. Our head of school helps them display their favorites:

The third graders continue to focus their work on using their voices to “say something!”  As I posted a few weeks ago, the kids began by learning about the Caldecott Medal and looking at different illustration styles. They also looked at  books that were considered for last year’s award and made their own selections.

Next, we read Say Something! and talked about the project they will share with the author during his upcoming visit. The kids are designing posters saying something to their families, their school, and their country. We talked about the power of one voice by reading this book:

This past Friday, they began drafting their messages. We heard ideas like: I wish we had more pets. I wish my school served pizza every day.  I wish math was easier. It will be interesting to see what they say to their country!

The middle school is engaged in very different work. They are “saying something” about the Holocaust. After reading about and studying WWII and the Holocaust, their culminating project was to design memorials for the hundreds of thousands of people who died in concentration camps. Their projects are thoughtful and moving.

This one was especially interesting to me. It was a response to this student’s reading of Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. Her “artist’s statement” reads in part: “While deciding how to focus this memorial, Milkweed and Number the Stars came to mind. Both books focus on the children and families affected by the Holocaust….In Number the Stars, the two best friends were separated and one had to leave her life behind….I remembered the necklace and how powerful a symbol it was. This led me to the ideas of having small objects.”

This student’s project focuses on Hitler’s persecution of gay people. “What I decided was a 10 ft by 10 ft fenced-in area with six people in different positions inside of it,” she wrote. “My idea is for the memorial to be made out of stained glass and colored with rainbow stripes, to signify the modern LGBTQIA and pride movements and also have the pink triangle attached them to signify the method used to identify homosexuals at that time.”  She calls her memorial “The Outed.”

And this one is a stairway. The student describes it like this: “The memorial will symbolize the idea of giving up hope. As the Holocaust went on, it became harder for the Jews to keep fighting for their lives. The memorial that I designed is a set of stairs that would gradually become steeper and more uneven, making them harder to climb. As you climb further up, you would get more tired. The stairs are make out of gray granite that is sanded, but not polished. It is stone because the events that happened in the Holocaust are set in stone.”  (side note: that’s my Starbucks cup behind her memorial!)

The best part of working in a school library is connecting a child with the right book. Every time I hear a student at the book return box say “I loved it,” it reminds me how lucky I am to do this work. This week was especially nice: two post-it notes in the return pile:

Finally, the picture at the top of this post. It has nothing to do with Inly. I saw this panel of medallions by Josiah Wedgwood at the Yale Center for British Art a few weeks ago and thought it was beautiful.  Happy Reading…





Holiday Giving – Part 11

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Book Club Members: This Is Your Turn!  Last night was the monthly meeting of the Inly Parent Book Club, and so I turned this post over to them.  I asked them to name the best book they read during the past year – not necessarily something that was published in 2010, but a book they loved.  It was a voice vote, and I jotted down the titles on paper plates because they were the nearest writing surface at hand. Here are the titles my friends recommend you check out in 2011:

The Rebellion of Jane Clarke by Sally Gunning (“Gunning had chosen a turbulent and fascinating period in American history…that suggests interesting philosophical arguments….Jane Clarke [is] a sensitive heroine, insightful enough to tussle with these difficulties.” Washington Post Book World)

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri (“The gulf that separates expatriate Bengali parents from their American-raised children—and that separates the children from India—remains Lahiri’s subject for this follow-up to Interpreter of Maladies and The Namesake. In this set of eight stories, the results are again stunning.” Starred Review, Publishers Weekly)

The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu (This first novel, by an Ethiopian-American, sings of the immigrant experience, an old American story that people renew every generation, but it sings in an existential key…His straightforward language and his low-key voice combine to make a compelling narrative, one that loops back in time yet seems to move forward with an even pace.” — Alan Cheuse, Dallas Morning News)

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai (“Maybe it’s in her genes: the daughter of Indian novelist Anita Desai, Kiran Desai skips past the sophomore doldrums with this assured second novel. The same characteristics that made her first book, Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard, notable are here in spades: an “utterly fresh” (Boston Globe) narrative voice, jaw-dropping descriptive passages, and a mélange of vibrant, sympathetic characters…” Bookmarks magazine)

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (““Díaz finds a miraculous balance. He cuts his barnburning comic-book plots (escape, ruin, redemption) with honest, messy realism, and his narrator speaks in a dazzling hash of Spanish, English, slang, literary flourishes, and pure virginal dorkiness.” Sam Anderson, New York Magazine_

City of Thieves by David Benioff  (“City of Thieves is a coming-of-age story brilliantly amplified by its worn-torn backdrop. Benioff’s finest achievement in City of Thieves has been to banish all possible pretensions from his novel, which never wears its research on its sleeve, and to deliver a rough-and-tumble tale that clenches humor, savagery, and pathos squarely together on the same page.” Washington Post)

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (“Setterfield has crafted an homage to the romantic heroines of du Maurier, Collins and the Brontes … enchanting Goth for the 21st century.” Kirkus)

I’m going to add one more. I read The Irresistable Henry House by Lisa Grunwald this past summer, and remember thinking what a good choice it would be for book groups.  Before reading Grunwald’s novel, I had no idea that during the mid-part of the 20th century, college students could sometimes have the ultimate hands-on practice for being a parent by raising a child as a part of home economics class.  Harry, the child raised by young women at the fictional Wilton College, is at the center of this compelling and thought provoking novel about what it means to be a mother and how our ideas about raising children have changed so dramatically since 1950.

Three for Thursday

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It’s school picture day at Inly.  The rain has moved the photographer inside so the library has temporarily been transformed into a studio.  The good part is that every student is visiting the library, and I’m witnessing all kinds of interesting exchanges between the photographer and  her subjects.  Lots of stuffed animals being called into service to entertain young children, older girls are helping each other with their hair and complementing their friends on their new clothes.  The photographer is asking each student what they plan to be for Halloween, so I’m definitely taking notes on which monster and princess books to have ready for that celebration.  The little girl currently having her picture taken is planning to be a peacock – that is one costume I’m looking forward to seeing!

Understandably, the books I’m thinking about are all about taking pictures…

Pictures From Our Vacation by Lynne Rae Perkins (A very cool picture book for kids over six…a story about a family’s road trip and what cameras can’t capture.)

Penguins by Liz Pichon (This book is really funny. A group of penguins in a zoo find a camera left behind by a young visitor and decide to use it.  When a zoo employee returns the camera to the girl the next day, she is treated to all of the pictures the penguins took of each other!)

Flotsam by David Wiesner (Like everything by David Wiesner, this is a really inventive and magical book. A boy goes to the beach searching for treasure that has washed ashore. One of the things he finds is a camera that has been underwater.)

Trenton Lee Stewart Visits Inly

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BenedictTrenton Lee Stewart, the author of the very successful Mysterious Benedict Society series, visited our school today.  He is as nice as I hoped he would be.

I don’t know about you, but there is nothing more disappointing than meeting an author of a book you love and after meeting him or her, you wish you had skipped the event.  The book is probably ruined for you.

But not so with Mr. Stewart.  He gave an engaging presentation, was kind to every student, and patient with the questions he’s probably heard a zillion times before.   I read and loved part one of the series, but plan on starting the second installment tonight.