Tag Archives: book review

Sorting Quiet

Today was a sorting and categorizing kind of day in my classroom.  Yesterday we read The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood.

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In it she describes quiet in lots of evocative ways…here’s a couple of lines:

Last one to get picked up from school quiet.  Swimming underwater quiet.  Pretending you’re invisible quiet.  Lollipop quiet.  First look at your new haircut quiet.  Sleeping sister quiet.

Then we asked our students to think about the best kinds of quiet they have experienced. They had so many wonderful ideas including things like lost in a good book quiet, waking up before everyone else quiet, playing your favorite video game quiet, watching your favorite cartoon on television quiet…  They wrote their best kind of quiet on an index card before the end of the day.

Today to help us think about sorting and categories we read Shoes, Shoes, Shoes by Ann Morris–a book about shoes from around the world used for a variety of purposes.  We thought about the categories our shoes fit into…and the ways they cross categories: school shoes, running shoes, playing shoes…  And then, in groups of four students shared their best kinds of quiet and thought about ways to group their “bests” into categories.  We asked each group of four to try to find 2 categories that their 4 index cards would fit.  They came up with lots of categories: electronics quiet, family quiet, in-the-zone quiet, playing quiet, learning quiet…

And as a class we were able to narrow their categories down to four that we will use to create a class graph of our best kinds of quiet tomorrow.  Can’t wait to see what the data tells us!

What’s your best kind of quiet?

Neverwhere and more: a book(s) review

In the last few weeks I read two books written by Neil Gaiman.  I finished Neverwhere last night and read The Ocean at the End of the Lane a few weeks before that.  I read Coraline a few years ago…and remembering some picture books I bought last year, I reread The Wolves in the Walls and The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish today.  In some ways I’m surprised that I like these books, they are a little bit fantasy with some parable-type qualities woven in.

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So what do I read, you might ask?  That question seems to become more and more complicated.  If you follow me on Goodreads you may notice that I have binged on several YA series.  I’ve read the Hunger Games series followed by a number of dystopian novels including Blood Red RoadDivergent and InsurgentThe Water Wars, and the Maze Runner series (that was not my favorite series).  I’ve also read some series more in the fantasy category including The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas FlamelThe Mortal Instruments (City of Bones…), The Infernal Devices, and Graceling Realm.  Interspersed were murder mysteries by Gillian Flynn and Danish author Jussi Adler-Olsen…and then there were the 4000+ pages of The Game of Thrones (haven’t gotten to A Dance with Dragons yet).  I’ve also read other odds and ends, novels and plenty of books for kids, especially graphic novels for the younger crowd.

But back to Neverwhere.  I read a lot.  Fiction and non-fiction, fantasy, mystery, realistic fiction, historical fiction and everything in between.  And some books stay with me longer than others. I liked Neverwhere.  Some reviewer described it as an urban fairytale.  In some ways I think that most of Gaiman’s books are fairytales of sort…maybe in the Grimm tradition.  When I think of Richard (of Neverwhere) and the unnamed narrator in The Ocean at the End of the Lane, they are both those anti-heroes who learn powerful life lessons as they interact with supernatural beings from somewhere other than the world of humans that you and I live most of our lives in. They are flawed, often seen as weak pushover types as the story begins.  They find their strength in unusual ways.

These are stories about overcoming difficulties…in many cases difficulties that the adults around them just don’t get.  When I think about Gaiman’s books I find myself thinking about the qualities of grit and resilience that we look to cultivate in our students…and that teachers need too in our current educational climate.   Neverwhere is a story about trusting your gut, learning from close observation, and hanging in there even when the going gets tough and things are scary.  It’s about feeling invisible and doing what is right anyway and finally about realizing that what you thought you needed and wanted for your life might not really be what you were looking for.

Gaiman’s books are richly layered, both readable and complex.  There are books for kids (The Wolves in the Walls and The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish), for older kids (Coraline) and stories for adults.  And I haven’t read them all yet.  I think The Graveyard Book is up next for me.  What’s your favorite Gaiman book?  What else do you recommend?