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
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Feathers Not Just for Flying

February 26, 2018

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Melissa Stewart brings nonfiction alive. In FEATHERS Not Just for Flying, she uses similes to compare the uses of feathers to common objects. View the video of Melissa sharing what similes are and how she uses them in her book.

Each two-page spread features the bird on one side with a simile sentence describing how the feather benefits the bird. For example, feathers are like sunscreen, help them float, carry items, keep them extra warm. A text box explains the feather’s use in more detail. An added bonus is the geography reference, siting a place the bird can be found around the globe.

Colby Sharp asks Melissa Stewart why kids need to know the five types of nonfiction texts. View the YouTube video here (9 min).

 

Savorings for FEATHERS:

  • Similes
  • Definitions
  • Hybrid text – text boxes
  • Geography – links the birds to areas around the globe
  • Uses of feathers
  • Author’s note

Ameila Earhart

July 25, 2011

Robert Burleigh chooses beautiful words dipped with richness in his book Night Flight: Amelia Earhart Crosses the Atlantic. His use of careful phrasing, short quipped sentences and interwoven personification,challenges your thinking. His biographical narrative allows the reader to feel Amelia’s anxiousness and hopefulness at the same time. I marvel at Burleigh’s molding of words. The emotion keeps you on the edge.

1:00 a.m. The friendly night becomes a graph of fear: a jagged line between where-I-am and not-quite-sure.

Your students will be engaged in thought. Each page turning brings forth a new possibility.

Wendell Minor‘s paintings illuminate the highlights of the scene. The reader has the sense he/she is flying with Amelia, viewing the Atlantic for the first time.

When you open the book, notice the end papers. They have a map of Amelia’s journey from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland to Derry, Northern Ireland. A sketch of her plane, Little Red Bus, depicts the Lockheed Vega she flew. An afterword in the back shares a short biography of Amelia’s ambitious personality and love for flying. In addition, other research websites are shared. I particularly love the “Things Amelia Said” section. She was a bold lady with zest!

Savorings for reading and in writing for Night Flight: Amelia Earhart Crosses:

  • 2 word sentences – lots of varying
  • Foreshadowing – the flight seems to be going smoothly when a storm erupts
  • Similes – lots
  • Personification – brings the reader into the midst of history
  • Colon – used numerous times

PES new book