An Unexpected Discovery…and A Warm Reception
My eyes skirted across a kaleidoscope of colors, scanning the shelves for familiar spines or popped out covers. Already my arm crooked protectively around a stack of books. Crouching to peruse the lower shelves, I leaned in close. Head tilted sideways I skimmed the author names and drank in the varied fonts. My eyes snagged on something and I reeled my attention back across the shelf.
“Ah, Smart Cookie! I was so glad to have that delivered to my door last week when it was released,” I thought. “Two book treats in the same week.”
I adjusted the books balancing on my hip and began to stand. But there, just next to the gorgeous blue hardcover was a matching volume. Shorter. Slimmer. But the same hue, and was it? It was. The same title!
I reached for the paperback edition. Pulling it free from its shelfmates, I inspected the book more closely.
“Is this pirated?” I wondered. “How does The Strand have this days-old book in paperback…and for $3.50 no less?!” But the cover gave no other clues. Nowhere did I find it stamped ARC or Not for Release…or anything.
Part of me was mystified at finding this bargain copy of the book that was waiting, hot off the presses, for me in my hotel room. The rest of my brain was doing a happy dance and hollering, “Woohoo! All the better for sharing!”
So today I carried both copies with me to a 4th grade classroom I’ve been embedded in for the past month. Just before I left, I pulled the copies out with a flourish, hugged them close, and asked: “Would you mind if I just gave you a tiny book talk about this book?”
Twenty two pairs of eyes looked back. Nonplussed.
I began anyway.
“So readers, I’m so excited to tell you about this book because I got to meet the author.” One or two glazed looks cleared.
“Actually, I had dinner with her in September.”
“Is it the author of One for the Murphys?” a boy called out. I’d book talked that to his club recently and they were desperately trying to hunt down two more copies.
“No, but I actually had dinner with both those authors the same night,” I responded, as though such things happened all the time. “It’s actually the author of Finding Perfect.” I glanced at the girl I’d slipped that book to months ago.
“Oh! I loved that book,” she exclaimed.
Now all eyes were on me.
I told of the moment of discovery, then pitched the story. Before I’d finished speaking four arms were wagging. When I started to suggest I could leave these two copies in case anyone…
Half the class is on a waiting list. When I left, the lucky readers to get it first were drawn at random. A little while later I tagged our only copy of Finding Perfect with a sticky note: “If you’re waiting to read Smart Cookie, you might try…” and sent it back to that classroom with a student.
I also recently received Peter Reynolds’ Word Collector on its book birthday. I honored it with cake.
It was displayed on the counter in my office waiting for when I returned from a mini institute at Teachers College so I could share it with classrooms. I thought, maybe I’d guest read and spread some word love with my book love.
I’m standing in line with hundreds of other teachers early on a Sunday morning. My eyes still a little bleary from a late night show on Broadway. My hands cupping a warm tea, breathing in its steam and drinking in some much needed caffeine.
As I approach the front of the line and find my section of the alphabet, I notice an array of name tags, piles of handouts, and each person walking away from the table is carrying a copy of Word Collector.
Someone hands me my pile of materials and now, instead of sleepily sipping my tea, I am hugging Word Collector to me. Suddenly alert, I consider that Random Acts of Kindness Week is about to begin. I have two copies of this delightful, delectable book.
This morning as I wrapped up a meeting with my second grade team, I pulled out a copy of the book.
Let’s just say that while the teachers didn’t resort to the popsicle sticks, there’s a waiting list for that one, too.
E-mail Inbox: “Happy snow day! Would everyone agree to read From Striving to Thriving by Stephanie Harvey? I’m starting it today and would love your thoughts…”
Why, yes I would!
I love the PLNs I’ve joined through Twitter, the Connecticut Reading Association Conference Committee, and other conferences across the northeast. Met you in the Learning Lounge (well, setting it up), the conference room, the Storified chats. See you from time to time in blog comments.
Would anyone like to keep learning?
Laughing with Neighbors
I recently jumped at the opportunity to join my kindergarten neighbors as a guest reader on pajama day. (It also happened to be World Read Aloud Day.)
Prepared, I showed up in my pajamas with a book under my arm–The Incredible Book Eating Boy.
Very seriously I presented the book. In a stately voice, I began to read.
“He’s eating them! The paper!”
There were squeals of overwrought disgust. Then giggles. And finally belly laughs.
Gradually, as the boy becomes too full of books to eat any more, the mood shifts. One final groan of protest as he turns green and spews their contents.
Thoughtfully, I pause.
“You know, readers, this book is kind of reminding me of you.”
“I know you aren’t eating books, that’s so silly. But when you first came to kindergarten to be my neighbors…you hardly even knew any letters. But then I heard you through our secret door. You were writing letters in the air, and singing songs about them, and when I came in to visit one day, you were writing WORDS. And now…you’re gobbling up whole books during reading time!”
Heads bobbed confidently up and down. Skinny, pajama-clad bodies bounced on their knees. Another round of giggles burst from them.
We finished the story…and they ran off to their bins to devour more books.
Reminds me of…
Speaking of more books.
One of the other books I climbed to the highest shelf in The Strand to retrieve was Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan. I’d seen pictures of its cover in Twitter posts. The cover art was gorgeous. So much so that I’d assumed it was a picture book. But here it was, a slim one inch novel.
It reminds me of Shooting Kabul, the story of an Afghan boy searching for his place in America (and for his missing younger sister). He had photography as a lens through which to examine the twists and turns of middle school, relationships, and San Francisco. Amina has her singing and a seemingly tangled knot of friendship, identity, and too little confidence. Funny how art can be both an outlet and an entry point in life.
It reminds me of Wishtree where being different felt hard at first, but where everyone found welcome and community in the end. Amina’s Voice has similar gems of language sprinkled throughout. While I haven’t finished this story, the tone is hopeful.
Oh, what a week in books!