Some days you just need a small book. One that takes only a few minutes to read, but that stays with you once you’ve read it. It might even make you want to pick it up and read it again.
A friend of mine gifted me this book a while ago. I read it then, then put it aside.
Today it found me again. I picked it up and read it again…and then again.
There aren’t many words, but the words there feel significant and the spare inky drawings seem just right.
Here’s a favorite page of mine:
“Do you have a favorite saying?” asked the boy.
“Yes” said the mole.
“What is it?”
“If at first you don’t succeed, have some cake.”
“I see, does it work?”
Some days you just need to have some cake. And maybe read this book, The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy, who says in the introduction, “This book is for everyone, whether you are 80 or 8–I feel like I’m both sometimes.”
If you need a lift…try this book, there are many more gems inside. Maybe I’ll read it to my class this week.
I’ve been reading quite a bit lately…so this must be the perfect time for a mini book review!
I recently finished Daniel Pink’s new book, The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward. As someone who is a huge proponent of reflection–for students, for teachers, and humans of any kind, Pink’s conclusions didn’t surprise me.
Without giving away anything, here’s a few highlights:
There are benefits of regret–improving decisions, boosting performance, and deepening meaning. If feeling is for thinking, and thinking is for doing, then feeling can help us think…and then take action.
There are 4 general categories of regret: Foundation regrets (decisions that have to do with stability), Boldness regrets (chances you didn’t take in life), Moral regrets (choices that compromise our beliefs or when we behave poorly), and Connection regrets (relationships with people). These categories can blur and overlap, but Pink argues that regrets fall into these 4 general categories.
I loved the opening to chapter 11 where there is a comparison between regret and photography. (The old-fashioned version of photography where film and negatives are in play.) Pink talks about how on a film negative, the light spots appear dark and the dark spots light. He then goes on to say, “The four core regrets operate as a photographic negative of a good life. If we know what people regret the most, we can reverse that image to reveal what they value the most. (p.149)
There are strategies for using regret to move forward positively. One metaphor I enjoyed was the description of self-distancing which, “…changes your role from scuba diver to oceanographer, from swimming in the murky depths of regret to piloting above the water to examine its shape and shoreline.” (p.178)
And Pink connects regret to storytelling. He says, “Open the hood of regret, and you’ll see that the engine powering it is storytelling. Our very ability to experience regret depends on our imagination’s capacity to travel backward in time, rewrite events, and fashion a happier ending than in the original draft. Our capacity to respond to regret, to mobilize it for good, depends on our narrative skills–disclosing the tale, analyzing its components, and crafting and recrafting the next chapter.” (p.208)
While the book is not earth shattering in its revelations, it is interesting and reads in a pretty typical Daniel Pink way. I personally like the connections to the power of reflection–and the way it refutes the idea of a “no regrets” approach to life.
What are you reading? I’d love to hear your recommendations!
I finally got the chance to break out the Paint Chip Poetry with my students–and they loved it! I shared a few of my attempts, explaining how the poems don’t have to be about color…they could use the paint chip words with whatever topic they wanted.
And because there is an #USvsHate deadline for student anti-hate messaging on Friday, I encouraged students to write anti-hate poetry.
I wish I had taken a photo of the paint chips upside down on the back table where students were invited to choose 3 or 4 at random. Some cheated a bit–giving back chips that they didn’t understand or didn’t like. And some “borrowed” paint chip words that they saw and liked…from one of my poems or something they saw as I showed the huge variety they would have to choose from.
Some of the poems were simple…but oh, so interesting. Aspen pulled “Sahara” as one of the paint chips and wrote this:
As I moonwalk
in the Sahara desert
I look up and see
the magical blue moon
and then look ahead at the
Luca (who broke his arm over the weekend and had to write wrong-handed today) wrote about the Earth on Earth Day.
It’s the neighbor
to the red planet
but unlike Mars
with its radical red
our world has a verdant green
and heavenly blue
with white clouds
like a blank canvas.
And Hudson, often reluctant to commit words to a page, wrote this piece in about 2 minutes! Clearly paint chips inspired him!
As I cross
those pearly gates
and cross the antique brass
I boarded that old ship
and expected smooth sailing
But soon a blizzard
created an iceberg
and before you know it
a big chunk of ice
sank that old ship that they called
And a couple anti-hate poems. It was fun to see both the paint chip influence AND the influence of some of our class read-alouds. We recently finished reading Save Me a Seat about a 5th grader who had recently immigrated from India to a school in New Jersey. He found himself the victim of a charismatic, mean bully–making fun of him and treating him badly–to the point that he wanted to quit school. The characters learn a lot about themselves…including the power of reflecting on their own actions. I see evidence of this book in Elli’s poem:
Her name is Sunset
people think its weird
but I don’t get it
As she watches the bird making a nest
someone out of nowhere said
I hate you and hate the birds
As your wisdom tooth is growing
and the fire is blowing
hate shouldn’t be a thing
but kindness should always be a part of our life
the kindness of our joy
will bring us love
bad names like curryhead or bom bom butt
say who cares because that’s junk
things that do matter
are happily happy things
hate or no hate?
And Henry is thinking about how to make a difference through his poem.
US vs Hate
In a garden bed
with four leaf clovers
A boy makes good luck
turn into real life.
His wish was for everyone
to feel like they’re special.
A tiny change
makes a big change
A tiny change
makes everyone change.
For my poem I pulled four chips: wonderful wisteria, smoke signal, black tie, and lily of the valley.
Today was a sorting and categorizing kind of day in my classroom. Yesterday we read The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood.
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!
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.
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 Road, Divergent and Insurgent, The 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 Flamel, The 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 ADance 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?