Dear Beverly Cleary

POZ Beverly Cleary Covers

Happy hundredth birthday to legendary children’s book author Beverly Cleary! (Who I always assumed was BFFs with Judy Blume because they were both close to each other on my alphabetically-arranged bookshelf)

Beverly Cleary was one of my top five absolute favorite authors growing up. At one point, I’m pretty sure my mom had found a copy of every single book for me (used, garage sales, etc). (Have I mentioned we’re both completionists?) (this is going to be an excessively lengthy post, ‪#‎sorrynotsorry‬)

I first learned about sibling dynamics from Beezus and Ramona. BTW, I always saw Ramona as a leeeetle bit of a brat. Girl, did you really just squeeze a whole tube of toothpaste into the sink? Why are you so hung up on what the cursive Q looks like? Can you puhhhlease get your ish together at your favorite teacher’s wedding? Did you seriously think you could find the end of the rainbow? What are oxfords and why are you wearing ugly old fashioned outfits? (I didn’t know at the time that books often change their front cover without altering the inside art).

Anyway, I get it now, Ms. Cleary. I was Beezus with a healthy dash of Ramona, and I need to be compassionate and patient and loving in a fiercely non-condescending way with the Ramonas of the world.

I carry Ms. Cleary’s stories around inside of me. When I turn on a lamp, I’ll sometimes catch myself muttering about the Dawnzer, which gives off “lee light.” When I think about elementary school theater productions (which I’m realizing in writing this is far more often than is perhaps healthy), I remember the yellow-bordered cover of Ramona and Her Father. When I open a piece of Dubble Bubble gum, I shake my fist at Henry and his stupid schemes.

I discovered my love of the epistoliary novel through Muggie Maggie and Dear Mr. Henshaw. I realized I hated dog books when I followed up my reading with Strider. I scratched my itch for animal-centric books with the magnificent Ralph S. Mouse.

Speaking of which, one of the main reasons I still get star-struck at being friends with @Paul O Zelinsky is frankly not because of all his stunningly illustrated picture books, but because he illustrated a number of Clearly’s books, including The Mouse and the Motorcycle.

Before Poppy (Avi) and the Redwall crew (Brian Jacques), there was Ralph S. Mouse. In 2nd grade I was obsessed with Stuart Little and had not yet discovered Jacques’ work, so I’m sure my parents were at least a little pleased that by discovering Ralph (in a pink-bordered mass market paperback copy from my Troll book order) I finally had more variety in the books I stowed away in my backpack. (I read Charlotte’s Web probably a half dozen times in 1st grade. It was excessive.)

When we were last in Portland, Toby and I happened upon Quimby Street and a nearby apartment building called the Ramona, and I wept tears of delight. Similarly tear-inducing was receiving this month’s copy of the Horn Book, which is a blockbuster issue dedicated to Ms. Cleary’s work.

Beverly Cleary is one of the most remarkable authors I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. She was my constant companion on long car rides (although I didn’t understand why she wrote using a few long chapters rather than shorter chapters like I found in The Baby-Sitters’ Club books). As an adult, I’m impressed that she created a world and characters who are still so relevant despite all the changes since her work was first published.

I felt a little scummy when I discovered she was approaching her 100th birthday, because I assumed she had left this world many moons ago. Maybe today is the time for me to write her a thank you note. But first, I’m going to reread Dear Mr. Henshaw for inspiration.

((obvi not my copy, but I wanted you to see Paul’s handwriting))

(Originally published as a Facebook post.)

It’s Monday! What are you reading?


Trying to get back on track with writing. I’ve been making excuses and getting sucked into my depression, but here we go.

Currently Reading:

The Music of Dolphins, Karen Hesse

I’m reading this with some of my students. I think I’ve finally figured out how to make small group instruction work during my literacy block. It involves using a rubric where I take notes during group meetings, so I can then input all my anecdotal notes into my gradebook. That’s been my biggest challenge — getting my classroom evidence to be reflected in my students’ grades. My students also have a shared Google Doc where they can ask each others questions and seek clarification.

Chomp, Carl Hiassen

I was originally planning on having this as our last read aloud of the year because it’s on next year’s Battle of the Books list, but after reading the first hundred pages, I decided to make a different pick. Actually, my students made the pick and they chose:

The Twenty-One Balloons, William Pene du Bois

I love this book, and we attempted to read it aloud last year, but we ran out of time before the year ended. Hopefully we’ll be successful this year.

The Bible

I’m 45% of the way through the Bible. I had always thought of Luke as just being the gospel with the Christmas story, but I’m really enjoying JC’s parables in this translation.

Here we go!

Thirstday 07/11/13

It’s tiiiiiiiiime!

thirstdayProps as ever to David Etkin for hosting this fine meme.

Salutations from Maui! My beverages haven’t been terribly tropical, but they have been tasty.



I didn’t really care for this book, but I do like the tea.

And yes. There’s a Starbucks cup even out here. I just got the newest mug from the You Are Here series.

I attempted to take a photo for #bookaday that featured both my book and the #viewfromhere, but the lighting foiled my plans. Take a look at this lovely bird, though.

Photo2 (8)Off I go!



Thirstday 02/21/13

Mad props to David Etkin for starting Thirstday!

thirstday022113I do, in fact, drink things other than espresso! Drinking caramel tea from Teacup, brewed in my rad glass teapot and sitting on my tea warmer from Remedy Teas. (Seattle has a bazillion great tea places.)

I’ll admit, I took the above picture and applied the vignette filter before I had read much of Jarrett Krosoczka’s The Frog Who Croaked. I anticipated a pseudo-film-noir book, kind of in the style of Chet Gecko.

Nope! Jarrett’s first chapter book (he wrote all the Lunch Lady books) has more of the tone of a buddy cop film. The urban issues he includes are LEGIT. The book takes place in the fictional Kalamazoo City, but it definitely reminded me of a different troubled city on the opposite side of Michigan. I would honestly include this book in a reading list for the MSU economics course on public policy.

I’m sure every single post about this book will include the following video, but there’s a good reason. It’s definitely one of my top five TED talks. Yesssss.

Thanks to the Walden Pond Press folks for the ARC and for being so kind to the Nerdy Book Club at ALA Midwinter.


It’s Monday! What are you reading?



I’ve been reading quite a bit in the past week, mostly before bed as I’ve been a slacker as far as taking the bus goes. Yesterday my iPad fell on my face while I was reading The Second Siege in bed. Whoops.

Here’s what I’ve been reading.

Screen shot 2013-02-18 at 9.58.52 AM

I was most thoroughly disappointed in Not My Bag, and most excited by Lincoln’s Grave Robbers.

Treat Tuesday / Thirstday 02/05/13 and 02/07/13

My snacks and coffee mugs were too rad for me this week to bypass this Tuesday and Thursday’s memes, even though I am late.

I am late on much of my writing lately, it seems. I still need to put together an ALAMW post, and I have a Nerdy Book Club post that Colby kindly pushed back. I DID get my report cards done on time. And I have National Board stuff to mess around with.

But first, SUPER-QUICK, you’ve gotta see this:


I’m not where I want to be, both health-wise and weight-wise. But my pants reached a critical point where I couldn’t pretend they were fitting any more. So I bought my Orange Pants of Guilt, which isn’t a terribly healthy name body image-wise, but it was kind of true. Plus, the pants were amazing.


The orange shade of my Orange Pants of Guilt is the same shade as Taki dust, which we discovered when we had a Hot Cheetos and Takis party Tuesday in class. It’s also the same color as Taco Bell hot sauce, which you can see from the photo.

The book above, Dignifying Science, is written by the guy who wrote Feynman, and it’s illustrated by a bunch of rad women cartoonists.

And then there was Thirstday.

thirstdayOh haaaaaay! It’s Thursday again and I’m drinking coffee again.


Making some espresso for Toby too. His cup is from Crate & Barrel.

The book is my FAVORITE book on Bucky Fuller, called Starting with the Universe. It’s a book that came out to go along with the retrospective exhibit at the Whitney in 2008.

I think pixel art is pretty much the best thing in the universe. It might be because I’m a child of the 80s or because I’m a big cross-stitch nut, but I love that little squares can wind up representing things pretty clearly. This mug was designed for the holiday collaboration between Rodarte and Starbucks, but it makes me think of Minecraft, Lego art, and this book trailer by Julian Hector:


Happy reading!

Treat Tuesday 01/22/13


Lunch is a challenge for me. Most days, it’s not unusual for me to make it clear through until 4 in the afternoon before I realize all I’ve consumed for the day is a cup of coconut mocha coffee and 23439246627 cups of tea.

I’m fortunate that our office clerk Danielle is usually looking out for me and will sometimes force a tuna snack pack on me.

Me and Danielle last weekend. We ate LOTS OF FOOD after seeing The Book of Mormon.
Me and Danielle last weekend. We ate LOTS OF FOOD after seeing The Book of Mormon.

But look! Today I packed a banana WITH my yogurt and granola (and a stack of books that need to be added to our class library). I’m on FIRE!


Do you like that I used the “grunge” filter on my Camera+ photo to make my treat seem edgier?

Hope you’re eating something yummier than my overripe banana. Happy Tuesday!

Treat Tuesday 1/8/13


Tuesdays are always pretty hectic with math team in the afternoons, and they’re even worse when I don’t have planning time.

I’m not much of a sweet snacky person. Bring on the bread.


NOMNOMNOM. Snappy Dragon green onion pancake.

You know what’s inside that building? DELICIOUS FOOD IS INSIDE THAT BUILDING.

And the book I’m reading is Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones. It’s the companion novel to Howl’s Moving Castle. I discovered Diana Wynne Jones when I read her book Earwig and the Witch during my Paul O. Zelinsky book frenzy this fall. Which reminds me, I still need to publish the post about our Skype with him. GAH.

Anyway. Off to read and snack some more.

It’s Monday… What Are You Reading? 01/07/13

This is my new favorite way of contributing to IMWAYR, just by taking a screenshot of recent additions to my GoodReads 2013 book challenge.

Screen shot 2013-01-06 at 9.00.22 PM

GUESS WHAT ELSE I’M DOING THIS WEEK? Getting started on winter report cards. I already finished my favorite part, personal student comments. For the third year in a row, I’m running my comments through Wordle. Here’s what I’ve got this time around.

Screen shot 2013-01-06 at 8.54.26 PM

Have a fantastic week!

I have all these UNSPOKEN feels.

Ben Folds Five has been rattling around in my brain lately.


A bit melodramatic, but “It often makes no sense, in fact, I never understand these things I feel” has seemed particularly applicable to my feelings on the hyped 2012 picture book Unspoken. (Also, do you see the Bill Clinton-Anderson Cooper-hybrid horn player in the background of that video?)

Unspoken is a gorgeous wordless book by Henry Cole. My kids said they loved it because the pencil drawings reminded them of Wonderstruck. It’s pretty lovely, but something keeps hitting a nerve.

It’s a nerve that I suppose SHOULD be struck whenever I read any book about the Underground Railroad. It’s the white people savior business. The idea that we should all be soooooo grateful for the white people who helped the poor minority out. What I’m struggling to understand is why I’m so grouchy at Unspoken while I’m fine with other books that address a similar theme.

I CANNOT STOP THINKING OF THIS SKETCH whenever I see/read/think about Unspoken.


As someone who grew up in the 80s and 90s in a suburb of Detroit, I was sharply aware of racial tension/awkwardness/sensitivity and how touchy people got when white folks wanted to meddle in the city’s affairs. I heard things like how Mayor Coleman Young told white people to get out of Detroit and let black people take care of things. Or how Dennis Archer wasn’t a successful mayor because he was “too white.”

In researching this blog post, though, I found some evidence that the legend of Coleman Young telling white people quit meddling with Detroit might be just that — a legend. Which is cool, but I still feel awkward when I think about how all the hipsters are coming back into town… I just hope that things just don’t re-gentrify and that residents can work together. Lofty, naive goals, I know. But the Christian Science Monitor observed that it just might happen.

I’ve dealt plenty with my own white privilege and white guilt, so I don’t know how much that plays into ALL THESE FEELS. (I love Macklemore’s song addressing it. LOTS OF NAUGHTY NAUGHTY WORDS, BE WARNED)



Anyway. Yargh. I thought writing this post would help me, but I still can’t seem to articulate why Unbroken rubs me the wrong way. I mean no offense to Mr. Cole, nor to the scads of readers who love his story. I just think this angle deserves to be explored. What do you think?