Archive for September, 2011

September 26, 2011

a single good book in A SINGLE SHARD

My husband constantly makes fun of my reading habits. Examples: when one of his relatives picked us up at the airport and I spent the entire car ride home reading a book by flashlight. Well, flashlight app to be more accurate. Yes, I have a flashlight app and yes, it’s probably the most used of all my phone apps. It’s also great for reading at night in hotel rooms when the kids are trying to go to sleep.

Last night I told him I was exhausted and going to bed early and he came upstairs two hours later to find me with my nose in a book. I think I just have a special fondness for staying up late with a book. It conjures memories of Nancy Drew books in elementary school, staying up way past bedtime.

Recently, it conjured a different memory–that of staying up late reading to cram for a class in high school and college. I haven’t had to do that in while, but with my SCBWI writer’s conference coming up, I was mortified that I was about to meet Newbery Award-winning author Linda Sue Park without actually having read any of her books. So after the first day of the conference I came home and started A Single Shard around 9:00 so I’d be ready for my intensive with her the next day. My husband turned the lights out and put his head under the pillow.

9:00 PM for me today is probably the equivalent to what 2:00 AM was for my college self. It seemed a daringly late time to be starting a project; it felt like a secret endeavor, like I might get in trouble or had something important to do.  Maybe both. And so there I sat, cuddled under the quilt, my family asleep, sharing the nighttime hours with a story about a young boy. A simple story, told with simple words, on a simple night. It was heaven. I’m on a Linda Sue Park kick right now, so you’ll be hearing about more of her books later.

Title: A Single Shard
Author: Linda Sue Park
Genre:  Middle Grade
Age: 8 – 12, upper elementary and young middle grades

Summary and Review:

It won a Newbery so I don’t need to tell you it’s a great book. This is the story of a homeless boy and the man he lives with under the bridge. It is the story of the boy’s quest to learn pottery. It’s the story of how he learns about himself and how he learns to belong to others.

What stood out most to me about this book was how disarmingly simple it was. The prose is clean and spare, light on its feet. I found out at the conference that Linda Sue Park is also a poet and that comes through strongly in this book. If I told you what happened in the book–the boy wants to learn pottery and apprentices to a potter, you might start yawning. But even though the action is there, and the plot strong, it’s the characters that make this a story you want to read. It’s the boy’s simple yet ardent desire and his willingness to work hard—and always put others first—to fulfill it.

I read it about a week ago. I liked it then, but the more I think about it, the more the story seems to seep into some place deep inside me and I like it more and more every time I think about it. What really stayed with me is the boy, the main character, and how straightforward, honest, and hard-working he was. He was the kind of kid you’d like to raise, or teach, or meet, or be, depending on whether you are reading this as a parent, a teacher, a girl, or a boy.

September 22, 2011

chocolate spoons and red leaves

I do have so many books to write about, and that’s coming I promise! But before I get to that, I’m blogging about licking the spoon and enjoying the seasons at Nashville Parent. Catch me there and please share your own thoughts on enjoying the fall and cooking with your kids!

September 8, 2011

Who was your favorite teacher?

Some of my favorite teacher memories:

1) My preschool teacher making fun for me for asking where my hat was. You only get one guess.

2) My third grade teacher swinging me around in circles by my arms to demonstrate centrifugal force. (Today you’d probably get in trouble for trying to dislocate a kid’s arm.)

3) My sixth grade teacher turning me upside down to demonstrate reciprocal fractions. (Are you getting a good picture of me as the smallest person in the class?)

4) My (future at that point) Econ professor telling me as I inwardly rolled my eyes that people like me never ended up being Poli Sci majors; they were always Econ majors. (In my defense I also majored in Biology.) Both majors are coming in handy right now as I work on my fantasy/historical fiction novel.  It’s important to note that with all that majoring going on I didn’t take one English or History course.

5) My Biology professor and thesis advisor apologizing for the oversight of not telling me it was opening day of deer hunting bow and arrow season when I got back from the field after my father (visiting at the time) and I were almost killed by angry men with, yes, bows and arrows, trying to collect an underground fungus from blueberry plants.

For some more information on some great teachers in my area, see my recent article in Nashville Parent on three of Tennessee’s Teacher of the Year finalists. Every single one of us who lives in this society and interacts with other people owes a lot to great teachers like these.  Here are some tips on how they do it:


And please, share some of your own teacher memories below!