Sunday, October 30, 2011


Say what?!?!  That's Picture Book Idea Month (and my scary Halloween this year).  PiBoIdMo is a chance for picture book writers to force themselves to look for ideas for new picture books.  An "all-monther" of ideas (instead of an "all-nighter" for an exam).  Adjectives that come to mind for me thinking about this: daunting, overwhelming, insane, impossible, frustrating.  But from a more positive light: hopeful, helpful, challenging, improving.  The idea is to help writers find ideas anywhere and everywhere, to teach the brain how to look.

No, this isn't about what I've been reading lately, but it is certainly what I'll be reading in the future as I try to take my ideas and turn them into something that hopefully you'll read one day.  But I've also found that I haven't been reading as much as I'd like to lately either.  Maybe I'll get really into it and make it PiBoIdMo/RePiBoDaMo (Read a Picture Book a Day Month).

Maybe PiBoIdMo isn't for you, but it could be your jump-starter for something else.  Set a goal.  Maybe you'll only succeed to some extent, but it's a step at getting better at something, or becoming more of who you want to be.  And at least then you can say you tried.

Good luck, and let me know what you're crazy acronym is!

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The View from Pride Rock

Broadway recently held its first ever autism-centered performance, debuting the idea with "The Lion King."  There are scads of articles online and video clips from local stations, but I wanted to add one more.

Being a teacher, I've had some experience with children on the autistic spectrum.  Granted, I teach in a regular education setting so any students I might work with would be "higher functioning," but experience is experience.  We've taken field trips to plays, had performers come to school, had students perform in front of their peers, and even shown a video or two (dare I say that!).  There have been loud noises and flashing lights (fire drills, need I say more?).  Sensory overstimulation can cause anxiety.  I don't like loud unexpected noises (thunder), and I don't like unexpected flashing lights (lightning).  While Broadway may be something spectacular and a special treat I enjoy, you can imagine the anxiety it could cause for someone on the autistic spectrum.

I teach my students to be accepting of everyone.  I teach my students that everyone is different and people have different needs depending on who they are, regardless of any "special needs" they may or may not have.  I teach my children to help others and be there for them, especially when things are upsetting or challenging.  Kudos to the Theatre Development Fund for reaching out to these adults and children.  With a few tweaks (lighting & sound), theatre-goers were able to enjoy a full production of "The Lion King."  Check out the article on, complete with a video clip.

Best part - I've read future performances are in the works.  Happy theatre-going!

Monday, September 26, 2011

"Haircuts for Hope"

New Jersey has just enacted the toughest anti-bullying law in the country.  It's become the focus of local news reports, magazine and newspaper articles, and professional development meetings.  Amidst all this, it's nice to see a story that emphasizes kids supporting each other, especially in a high school setting.  Check out what students at Downingtown West High School are doing:

My favorite 3 parts of the video:
1. the girl who had her head buzzed
2. the dean of students initiated the supportive action
3. haircuts were given in the cafeteria, not out of school

What's your favorite part?


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Remember to Say "Thank You"

I'm working at a concert venue this summer, and before each show, they play the national anthem.  To many, it seems to be a simple tradition that carries little real significance.  People go on buying food and souvenirs, looking for their seats, and texting other friends attending.

In light of the recent deaths in Afghanistan, I want to say thank you to all those who serve our country.  We may not always agree with what the government decides to do, but these men and women put their lives on the line every day to help ensure our freedom and safety.  Most of us will probably be fortunate enough to never personally know someone who gave their life for our country, but each person willing to take that risk deserves our heart-felt gratitude.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was quoted in the article saying, "We ought to remember that the troops we lose in this war aren't just statistics or numbers on a wall.  They were parents and siblings, and someone's child.  We need to make sure we do all we can to comfort and support the families whose lives are now forever changed."  I'd like to take that one step further; everyone who fights for our country is someone's parent, child, or sibling.  None are statistics or numbers.  While we need to comfort those who are mourning loss, we also need to support those who are still here.  Next time you see a member of the military, please stop and thank them.  Shake their hand, and let them know you're grateful.  And more than that, stop and listen the next time you hear the national anthem.  Show respect to those who have gone, and those who still bravely fight for you.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Kite Runner & A Thousand Splendid Suns

Hopefully by now you've realized I'm not the source for the most recent book reviews.  There are only so many hours in a day, and too many books in the library to keep up.  But if you find your summer reading list is running low, here are two books worth adding.

I just finished reading A Thousand Splendid Suns, and before that, The Kite Runner, both by Khaled Hosseini.  Being that I'm 8 years behind in reading The Kite Runner (not to mention that it then became a movie in 2007), and 4 years behind with A Thousand Splendid Suns, I'm going off the assumption that some of you may have already read the books.  What are your thoughts?  Which did you like more?  It seems everyone I talk to has a definite opinion about which they favored, but it's a 50/50 split between the two.  For me, it was The Kite Runner.  I'm not sure why, just seemed to pull me in until I had completely blocked out everything else in my life (sorry "To Do" list!).

If you haven't read them, get to the library!  At this point, the waiting lists shouldn't be too long.  They're well worth any wait you may have, or postponing your own "To Do" lists to read.  Be prepared for heart-breaking moments, sacrifices made selflessly and without hesitation, and for every last detail to find its way into the plot later on.  Hosseini is a master craftsman and can weave with the best of them.  For those who miss the nightly 6:30 world news, these two humanitarian tales will open your eyes and change your perspective.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How High Can You Climb?

My brother's getting his Ph.D at Berkeley, so for the last few years, we've taken west coast vacations to visit him.  Washington was the winner this year, and since California and Oregon were last year's winners, I suppose it was a bit uncontested as far as the coastline goes.

It's a cross-country flight, and I'm notorious for my lack of sleep on/in moving objects so I brought along Peak by Roland Smith.  It's the Intermediate School's assigned summer reading, and since I work with some of those students, I figured I should probably read the book.  I knew students who had read it and didn't like it at all - just what I wanted to hear prior to boarding the first of two flights, totaling over 6 hours.

Holy cow!  If only every one of those kids who found the book not their cup of tea, to be polite, had been on my trip!  I teach reading, I focus on background knowledge and connections you can make to your own life while reading, I've read the research and know how important those things can be to a reader's understanding.  But never have I seen it in action quite like this.

Haven't read the book?  Here's the skinny: a teenager (Peak) gets caught scaling a skyscraper and ends up attempting to summit Mount Everest as a way to avoid juvie.  There's snow, there's ice, there's climbing.  I was vacationing at Mount Rainier.  There was snow, there was ice, there was climbing.  Okay, I didn't summit Mount Rainier, and maybe I didn't even climb above the 8000 ft mark, but let me tell you, I felt like I was living Peak's adventure, albeit a watered-down version.

Here's my personal Mount Everest:
Okay, not really.  That was through one of those park-owned telescopes.  But it certainly helped me imagine what the summit of Mount Everest would look like if you were preparing to climb it.

Here's my climb:
Those little dots are "serious" hikers, complete with hiking poles, hiking clothes, and real crampons (not the $15 rentals we had that looked like short, fat water skis that swallowed something spiky).  This doesn't look so steep from where you are on your couch, but trust me, it was!

This is my brother, patiently waiting for the rest of us to make our way up to the top of Panorama Point.  Notice how well we dressed for the trek.  Then compare the angle of the people to the angle of the mountain - I told you it was steep!

Getting up was one thing, down completely another!  There's a glissade (luge minus the sled) for those more experienced climbers (i.e. not me).  Then there's the good old-fashioned "use your poles and slowly hike down."  We opted for #3.  Sit on your butt and bump your way down everyone else's foot-holes.  It wasn't as fast as the real glissade, and probably a bit drier than a 10-minute "sit and scoot" in jeans, but I made it down in one piece.

Long story short, I loved the book!  While my trip wasn't quite as intense (no one developed HAPE or had to be carried down the mountain, fingers crossed that they'd survive), the vacation definitely made the book that much more exciting, and vice versa.  Looking to make your book more interactive?  Travel with it!

Monday, June 27, 2011

1/2 Marathon, Part 2

My first attempt at a half marathon didn't go as well as I had hoped.  It's almost time to start training for the second, hopefully much more successful, race.  With that in mind, I'm looking for motivation to keep me going when I want to hide the laces from my shoes.

Mr. 142 Marathons in a Row is going to be my first line of defense.  He finished his insanity in November of 2010.  The real question isn't "What kind of training did you do to get ready for this?" but "Have you found the gusto to run since?"

While I don't envision running even 1/142 of what he ran, I'll go for 1/284 of it (that would be a half marathon for you non-math majors).