Thursday, April 23, 2015

Top Ten Books I Read While Recovering

I have been a book lover all my life but it is the first time in 52 years that I have broken a bone.  I fell, twisted my ankle and broke the third metatarsal bone in my left foot and was told that I could not put any weight on it for six weeks.  So for the first time in my adult life I was given permission to not do anything but sit on a coach and read.  And I happily did for the first two weeks of my recovery.  I read quite a few books but here is my top ten list:

1.  Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller:  I love this book not because I am a teacher and I work with other teachers of reading, but because it was about me!
A wild reader since the age of four.  I read anywhere and everywhere, in the car, in the bathroom, while eating breakfast by myself, on my phone at night if I don't want to get up and turn on the light (which has been the case often during my convalescence), while breastfeeding (not recently, of course!), or waiting in line at an amusement park.  For years I collected books that I was going to read when I stayed home with my babies.  I didn't know I would have the kind of babies that never slept or sat down.  Instead I read books to them and with them.  Ten years ago I became a teacher and somehow I developed this anxiety that there will never be enough time to read all the books that I want and need to read.  So I started reading multiple books at a time.

This is taking reading multiple books a time to a whole new level!
Donalyn Miller made me feel part of a community of people that share these crazy habits and gave me the language to share my passion with others.

2.  Grave Mercy by Robin Lafevers:  Again I must thank Donalyn for turning me on to this book. She mentions it in the chapter on reading preferences, as one of her preferences.  When my daughter and my friend Andrea saw the book in my to-read pile, both had the same expression on their faces and the same question:"You are going to read a book about assassin nuns who are really the daughters of Death and go around killing traitors to the Duchess of Brittany in 1489?" I said: Yes, I am branching out.  If I ask teachers and kids to have a varied reading diet, it is only fair that I try it myself.  I finished the 549 pages in a couple of days and went on to read the next two books in the series.  It goes to show that good writing is good writing.

3.  American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang:  I know better than to snub graphic novels.  I think they can be highly sophisticated and it takes a special kind of writer to know what words to put on paper and what to leave for the reader to figure out on his own.  But I know that I have not read widely in this genre so this was another new territory to explore while I had the time.  I read several graphic novels during this period but this one in particular resonated with me because it was about living on the edge of two cultures and trying to find a true identity that is not strictly one or the other.

4.  Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan:  My students remember me as "that teacher who read us Esperanza Rising".  The year I had a student teacher in my room, I told him right off the bat that he could take over teaching everything but I would be the one reading Esperanza to my class.  I have read everything Pam Muñoz Ryan has written and was so excited to have bought her newest book Echo, right before my accident.  It is magic inside a historical fiction, inside a fairy tale.  Brilliant!

5.  Aurora County All-Stars by Deborah Wiles:  It is not often that you are reading a children's novel about kids wanting to play a baseball game in some small town in Mississippi and you burst out crying because you find out who is the surprise pinch hitter.  It is not often that I read books about baseball or any sport for that matter. But good writing is good writing.   I loved this book so much I wrote a review of it and tweeted it. Shortly after that, I heard from the author.  I felt like I had reached out and touched a star!

6.  Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm:  I read this in one afternoon.  It is a fairly short children's novel.  When I put it down, I realized I had been totally transported to Key West, Florida in 1935, lived through a hurricane, learned some local lingo and met Ernest Hemingway.  I have been doing this kind of time/space travel since I was very little. I highly recommend it!

7.  Getting to Got It:  Helping Struggling Students Learn How to Learn by Betty K. Garner: Teaching should not be like shooting in the dark.  The brain is a powerful and mysterious organ but thanks to science and technology we have learned a lot about how it works.  Teachers should be equipped with more diagnostic tools to be able to help students learn and more importantly learn how to learn. This book should be required reading in teacher prep programs.

8.  Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal:  Amy starts with A and writes about her name and continues down the alphabet recording random thoughts and memories.  I bet we all could do that.  For those who keep a diary or a writing journal, just give a title to each entry and then alphabetize them.  We all deserve to write the encyclopedia of our own life.

9. Crossover by Kwame Alexander:  There have been several novels in verse lately, especially for children.  This one is particularly good.  The format lends itself well to a story about basketball and the back and forth banter between rival twins and their father.  Once again I found myself reading a book about sports but as I have been saying . . .

10.  My prayer book:  When I was very young I learned this verse by heart: "The healer of all thine ills is remembrance of Me, forget it not." And I have never forgotten.  These past eight weeks I have prayed that my foot heals quickly so I don't have to be a burden to those around me.  But more often I have prayed out of gratitude, that my injury did not require surgery, that my mother spent almost two weeks taking care of me, that my family has been holding down the ship while I do the bare minimum of household chores, that an angel lend me a scooter that made the envy of every kindergartner (and some adults) at my school.  I have also prayed for the healing of others, who are in more pain than me, who are more uncertain of their recovery and who have loved ones that worry about them.

It's all good.

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