“If you watched a movie about a guy who wanted a Volvo and worked for years to get it, you wouldn’t cry at the end when he drove off the lot, testing the windshield wipers. You wouldn’t tell your friends you saw a beautiful movie or go home and put a record on to think about the story you’d seen. The truth is, you wouldn’t remember that movie a week later, except you’d feel robbed and want your money back. Nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who wants a Volvo. “But we spend years actually living those stories, and expect our lives to feel meaningful. The truth is, if what we choose to do with our lives won’t make a story meaningful, it won’t make a life meaningful either.” -Donald Miller 📖 So begins Miller’s phenomenal book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. I don’t know how I missed this book all these years (it came out like 10 years ago), but when my friend Sarah sent me a link to a podcast about this book, I knew I had to check it out. Then I read it in a day, and loved it so much I altered my lesson plans to make my students read a portion of it. We talked about it in class today, and it was one of my favorite lessons ever. 📖 In our first unit, my students have to write a personal narrative. I had my students read the section of this book where Don has been approached by two filmmakers to adapt his best-selling memoir into a movie. The problem? His life doesn’t actually have a compelling story that would make a good movie. In fact, it’s kind of boring. So Don sets out to learn what makes a good story, and decides to purposefully live his life to be a better story. I talked with my students about the elements of a good story that Don discovers, and how they can look back on their life and, with the right perspective, find the hidden meaning, find the good story to write. Thursday we are going to talk about being the hero of their own story. I’m so excited! 📖 I’ve sat through theory courses and post-modern lit classes where people have argued that we don’t need story anymore because life is meaningless. I disagree. Life has meaning because we have stories that tell us the meaning. What’s your story? Are you living a good one?
“It’s a wheel, Winnie. Everything’s a wheel, turning and turning, never stopping. The frogs is part of it, and the bugs, and the fish, and the wood thrush too. And people. But never the same ones. Always coming in new, always growing and changing, and always moving on. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. That’s the way it is. ... I want to grow again,” he said fiercely, “and change. And if that means I got to move on at the end of it, then I want that, too.” -Tuck Everlasting 💧💧💧 It’s been a while since I’ve reported on one of our read-alouds, but this is the one we finished just last week (appropriate timing, as the book takes place in the first week of August). I don’t remember who picked this one, me or my son, but I do remember thinking after the first chapter that it was going to be a flop. This book is light on plot and action, strong on flowery description and pretty writing. I thought there was no way it was going to interest my 7-year-old boy. But to my great surprise, he was hooked by the end of the second chapter, and begged me to read more every night. He was definitely more interested in figuring out the scientific explanation for the Tuck’s immortality than in the moral/philosophical conundrum of Winnie’s choice (he was disappointed when the author never offered a satisfactory explanation for how the spring water worked), but even still, this book proved to me that I should never make assumptions about what books my kids will find interesting. Don’t be afraid to try books a little above their level, or classics, or books with a story you might assume they won’t like. You’ll never know until you actually try. If the book is a flop, well, just move on to the next one. But maybe your kids will surprise you. Maybe you (and they) won’t know what they like if they’re never given the opportunity to taste what is out there. 💧💧💧 As we usually do, after finishing the book we watched the movie as a family. It was just as slow and ponderous as the book, yet somehow not nearly as good. We were all bored by it (I wonder if it would’ve been any better if they had kept Winnie a ten-year-old, instead of making her 16?). 💧💧💧 #suchstuffbooksreadalouds
It’s Friday, is today your family’s pizza day? I know so many families have a tradition of pizza on Fridays, and my kids would love it if we did too, but confession: I can’t eat any meal (including pizza) on a weekly basis. I just get too sick of it, so my kids only get pizza about once a month. But the kind of pizza William Steig writes about on this book? I could handle one of those every day! 🍕🍕🍕 Okay, I’m sure most of you are familiar with the late great William Steig, author of such classics as Sylvester and the Magic Pebble and Doctor De Soto, but recently my mother-in-law introduced me to some of his other books that I’d never heard of (like Shrek, did you guys know he wrote the original Shrek?!?!), and Pete’s A Pizza became my immediate new favorite picture book of all time. Pete, the little boy in this book, is grumpy because it’s raining and he can’t play ball with his friends, so his dad tries to cheer him up by turning him into a pizza. Inspired by a game Steig used to play with his own daughter, this book is both hilarious and heart-warming and so much fun. It’s just fantastic, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Check this one out! 🍕🍕🍕 #petesapizza #childrensbooks #childrensbookstagram #classicpicturebooks #picturebooks #picturebooksofinstagram #williamsteig #raisingreaders #kidbooks #suchstuffbooks #backlistbooks
Ah, doesn’t that cover up there just evoke delightful summer reading? 🍉🍉🍉 Well, don’t judge a book by its cover, because while this may look fun and juicy and light, the story is actually quite a bit heavier than you might expect. Where the Watermelons Grow by Cindy Baldwin is about 12-year-old Della, who spends her summer worrying about her mother’s mental illness and trying to figure out a way to help her mother get better. I’m not saying this is the best middle-grade book ever, but it resonated with me and my own personal story in ways that left me sobbing through much of the book. 🍉🍉🍉 Have you ever read two completely different books and had them connect for you in a way that completely surprises you? Well, Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming and this middle-grade fictional novel could not be more different, yet reading those two books within a month of each other led me to make an interesting connection about what I’d do if I ever became the First Lady of the United States. I wrote all about it in my latest blog post, check the link in my bio if you’re interested. 🍉🍉🍉 #summerreading #wherethewatermelonsgrow #middlegradefiction #middlegradebooks #bookstagram #readstagram #igbooks #igreads #suchstuffbooks