Across the Alley

March 17, 2018

Stories embedded into my heart are my favorites like Pricilla and the Hollyhocks by Anne Broyles. Although I came across this book in 2009, I still recall the richness of the words and the endurance of the character.

Across the Alley by Richard Michelson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis, is a new books to add to this favorite list of powerful stories. I have read it five times trying to comb the craft and I just sit in the story. Richard Michelson brings to life the friendship of two boys, one Jewish, one black, both separated by many cultural differences, but blend through nightly conversations through their bedroom windows. Not allowed to be friends during the day and in the open, the persist for the good.

Abe plays violin. Willis plays baseball. Through their nightly, across-the-alley window talks they teach each other their skill. Ironically, the switched activity becomes a natural talent for the other. Read how the boys rise above the grown-up expectations and bridge a friendship between their families. My guess is you’ll be cheering at the end like I did. Share this sense of hope with your students.

Willie’s real quiet now and I wonder if I said something wrong. Maybe he doesn’t know about the Nazis.
“My great-granddaddy was a slave too,” Willie finally says. “I never knew any white folk that were.”

Click on the link to view a preview of the book. My guess is you will be drawn to the story too. You can also listen to Jay O. Sanders read the book on this link (scroll midway down the page).

Share this 2 minute video with your students as he talks about writing fiction.

Savorings for Across the Alley:

  • Figurative language/ Visualization
  • Overcoming racial differences
  • Friendship
  • Sharing talents – the arts and sports blended
  • Show not Tell – “My palms turn sweaty.”
  • Sequence of pivotal scenes
  • Sense of hearing – descriptive in order for the reader to feel as if they are watching and hearing the scenes unfold

Baseball Scrapbook

October 28, 2013

B is for Baseball: Running the Bases from A to Z by Chronicle Books  is filled with historical photos found in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. Two or three words are featured and defined for each letter, teaching the reader the terms of baseball.  Some words are familiar like a position name yet other vocabulary is very unique. Even I hadn’t heard some of these terms.

The book layout reminds me of a scrapbook with its background colored paper, die-cut letters, and photo cut-outs. I love the historical pictures inlaid throughout the book. This feature could allow students to compare and contrast the game of baseball in the past versus the present. I think you could have fun creating a class book on a theme using the structure of the book. Students could create a summary of a topic using this format as well. Who wouldn’t have fun creating a scrapbook page?

The National Hall of Fame video tour:

Savorings for reading and in writing for B is for Baseball: Running the Bases from A to Z:

  • A to Z book – class book
  • summarizing – specific word choice
  • Picture Captions
  • Punctuation – variety used
  • Compare and Contrast

WCPL book

SOLC: Baseball from A to Z

March 26, 2012

Baseball season has officially begun for the Whitko Wildcats. With it being Wesley’s senior year, my calendar is filled with each game being a priority. Sitting in the stands, I hope, cheer, and have a twisted-tight stomach.When Wesley pitches, I’m on the edge of my seat, clutching my pitch-count notebook. I also scribble baseball lingo and try to craft it. Tonight, I am sharing some of my favorite words in baseball: atta-kid, burner, change-up, double-play, hop-up, pick-off, slider, two-seamer. Learn of others in the book Baseball from A to Z. Below is a quick taste of what I feature on Book Savors the other eleven months of the year. (Savorings is my word for lingering in a beautiful text to find the craft of writing.)

In Baseball from A to Z , each letter has one vocabulary word with a simple definition. Macky Pamintuan’s illustrations make you smile and feel a part of the game. He states on the book jacket that he loves baseball. The illustrations are action packed and introduces specific terms used in baseball. This book could be a mentor text for kindergartener students or first graders for an All About Unit of Study.

At the end, Michael Spradlin encourages the reader to find other baseball words at the ball park. Read an excerpt from his book on the website.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Baseball from A to Z:

  • Alphabet practice
  • All About Unit of Study
  • Baseball lingo
  • Word choice
  • Definitions

SOLSC: “Don’t You Think Someone Should Go?”

March 20, 2012

Our oldest is a senior with college fastly approaching. He is asked, I am asked, “What’s Wesley’s plans?” “Has he chosen a college yet?” “What does he want to major in?” Wes has the answers, well most of them, but honestly, the plans will not be finalized until May, toward the end of baseball season.

You see, Wes LOVES baseball. He has since he was young. To play in the major leagues, even for a brief time, is his dream. I know, I know, you say, “Ya, but how many baseball players actually make it?” I don’t know. What I do know is that Wes wants to play baseball in college and take it from there. I also know that I want to provide and support my son in his dreams. What college Wes goes to depends on playing for a baseball team.

A couple of weeks ago, a nearby college baseball coach called and asked Wes to tryout for their team. I really had not thought Wes would attend there. I guess I just envisioned him to be away. Tomorrow is the tryout. “Don’t you think someone should go with you?” I asked Wes that day. He shrugged. “I’m just going to pitch.”  (AKA, I’ll be fine.)

I spoke with my husband about it later. “Don’t you think someone should go with him?”

“I have to work,” was the reply. He felt Wes would be fine, maybe even wanting to be independent. This I frowned at. (I am his mom, you know.)

“Yeah, but don’t you think someone should go?” My question resonated. Wait. That someone means me.

Last night, after baseball practice, I asked Wes. “What’s the plan for Wednesday?” to which he then said he was meeting at eleven o’clock and pitch.

Today, we headed to an appointment and I had him trapped in the van for an hour. Lucky me. We began talking about tomorrow.

“Don’t you think someone should go?” I nudged.

“Why? I’m just going to throw,” was his matter-of-fact-confident-I-can-do-this reply.

“Yeah, but don’t you think someone should go?” This question seemed familiar.

“What are you going to do?” Wes replied.
“I don’t know. I probably will just be sitting there, watching.” (And praying and cheering silently and… learning to let go). “I just think someone should go just in case there are questions or I have questions. I could be there.” My mind was thinking about several synopsis, and the unknown had me wondering more than anything.

At this, Wes turned toward me, smiled, and said, “If it will make you feel better, you can come. I’m fine with that.”

I think my son figured out that his mom is trying to support and not be too pushy, be loving while realizing he’s becoming an adult. He’s figuring out that this mom needs to be there just because she has been there all the time.

I love you, Wes.

The Field Beyond the Outfield

April 21, 2011

Field Beyond The Outfield (Scholastic Bookshelf)

The Field Beyond the Outfield is a different type of spin on the game of baseball. Many of the books I read on baseball have a connection to history; this one is not. A true fantasy, Mark Teague creates as if he tapped into a boy’s imagination. A boy who loves bugs more than baseball. A boy who lets his imagination go and becomes the hero in a truly remarkable game.

Ludlow Brebe is a boy who is great a science but lacks athletic ability. He enjoys exercising his mind more than his body.  He loves to daydream about creatures and have mysterious escapades.  Due to the encouragement of and respect for his parents, Ludlow joins a baseball team.

Ludlow is placed way out in the backfield, far away from the main action of the game. But his imagination does not stop. He begins to see another game, a baseball game beyond the outfield. Bugs are the main players and Ludlow is swept away. He becomes a player and hits a game winning hit.

Researching Mark Teague as an author, I found a wonderful author video. I find these interviews are great to show your students. In this video, Mark Teague shares how he began writing and how he uses his imaginations with illustrations.

Savorings for reading and in writing for The Field Beyond the Outfield:

  • Specific language – pennants, big-league
  • Imagination – creative story
  • Every day activity
  • One day event
  • Point of View

Baseball Hour

April 17, 2011

Yesterday, I spent nearly five hours outside watching my oldest play a double-header baseball game. It was rainy. It was cold. It was a motherly moment. Wrapped in blankets and eventually a sleeping bag, I was determined to survive the weather to cheer on my son. My husband had to work and one of us likes to be there. I pulled out my little notebook and kept score. I know how many pitches he threw and whether the throws were strikes, balls, or a hit.

While watching the games, I take in the setting, the comments, the action. Baseball Hour is a great book focusing on the action of the game. Bill Thomson’s illustrations are up close and personal. On one page, the bat seems the swing out through the page, almost 3D like.

Carol Nevius (rhymes with devious) writes in rhyme, two lines per two page spread. Her specific word choice adds the pop to the illustrated scenes. Your students will be drawn into this fantastic book.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Baseball Hour:

  • Two Word Phrases – “catchers catch and batters switch
  • Comma in a series
  • Simile
  • Varied punctuation – ellipse, possessive apostrophe, quotation marks
  • Illustrations – zooming in on the important part

SOL 20: How Do You Know Baseball Season Has Begun?

March 20, 2011

Today, I asked my husband, “Do you know how I know baseball season has begun?”

“Uh, Wesley’s baseball cleats are lying in the middle of the floor,” he replied.

“Not this time.”
“Wesley’s bat bag is lying on the couch?” he guessed again.
“Good guess, but not this time – thank goodness.”

My husband thought for a moment and then said, “Got it. You found a pair of dirt-stained baseball pants lying on the bathroom floor?”

“Yes. Scrub, scrub, scrub time is here again,” I pronounced.

Everyday, his white baseball pants have ground-in-dirt stains, deep-red infield stains, or slide-to-catch-the-fly-ball grass stains.  Every night I grab the Oxy Clean and All Stain-Fighting detergent to scrub, scrub, scrub the stains away.

I’m happy to be scrubbing away the winter blues.  Baseball, here we come!

Baseball Highlight

April 6, 2010

My son’s HS baseball team was selected as the WANE TV Team of the Week.  You can view the two minute video clip at the link below.  It’s exciting to see them play.  If you read my baseball banter post, this video helps you relate.

Baseball Video

Slice of Life: Baseball Banter

March 29, 2010

As I was listening to my son’s baseball game, one player’s voice seemed to rise above the rest.  His pitch added to the resounding boom of his words.  Naturally, I heard our players add in their rebounding comments.  In a strange way, the talk struck me as poetic, like a symphony of phrases.  Baseball has its own language. 

I grabbed my notebook and began to write as quick as I could.  I wanted to capture the vocal canter happening on the ball field.  In one way, the baseball banter was a two-, or possibly three-, voiced poem.  I’m not sure if I can scribe what I heard, but I want to try with at least one batter.  I scribed 5 pages worth and only made it through the first inning.  My hand could not keep up with the lingo that was happening.  I think I have a fun challenge ahead this season, as I know that my ear will be tuned in to the banter of baseball.

Balls in!

Let’s go Boggs; come on, Kurt                  Let’s go Justinnnn

Go 2-2                        PLAY BALL

                                       Strike                      Good pitchn babyyyyy;

                                                                         Let’s go babyyyyy

Let’s go Kurt                                               Come on 10; Good job,

                                                                         Will; Routine throw

Let’s go 12                   Strike                      Keep firing;

                                                                         You’re all right

Know what you’re looking for              Keep firing, babyyyyyy


                                          foul ball; 1 ball 2 strikes

Let’s go 1-2                                                    You’re all right; Don’t worry about it.

Box it up

Move him over                                             Yre still on top;

Do a job now, kid                                         You’re all right 10;

                                                                          Relax 10; Fire it in

Let’s go kiiiidd.


Run it out. 


Atta Boy, Kid!


October 14, 2009

Brothers.  My husband, Rick, shares stories about growing up with his brother, B.  Although Rick was always five years younger than B, Rick would try his hardest to be as good as his brother.  He wanted to be with his brother all the time.  By high school, they were doing many activities together.  They are still close, even though we are miles apart.

Tiki and Ronde Barber had a special brotherly relationship.  As twins, they must have done a lot together.  They collaborated with Robert Burleigh to create the book,  By My Brother’s Side.  Many students are intrigued with the fact that the authors are pro-football players.  Elementary students relate to the story as well with the brothers being their age doing activities they are involved in.

The story begins at the start of summer.  They are heading out to explore with their bikes, where a dare meets disaster.  Tiki has a bike accident that impairs his leg, forcing him to stay off of it for the summer.  The theme shows the boys being together through it all.  The book is an excellent, rich text that’s filled with huge teaching points.  Enjoy the great read!

Savorings for reading and writing for By My Brother’s Side:

  • Passage of Time – the story takes place through the summer months, highlighting the most important;  “July was long and hot.  whenever Ronde would go out to play baseball, Tiki would say, “Maybe I could just--“
  • Stretching a Scene – with each month, a scene is highlighted with the boys talking together
  • Perseverance – Ronde walked fast.  Tiki limped behind.  “Come on, Tiki.  You can do it.  I know you can.  We’re supposed to meet Chris in five minutes.
  • Semi-colon – Finally, the doctor gave his orders:  no more brace.
  • Importance of Studying – Before practice Ronde and Tiki sat under the bleachers with their notebooks spread out.  “Homework first,” their mom always said.