Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Oxymorons, Irony and Sarcasm

I love Francine Green! She is trying so hard to find herself and figure out her place in this world. I remember being like her--wanting to be compliant and wanting my teachers to like me. I always wanted to do the right thing, but I also was trying to find my voice. What did I believe in? What did I really want to form an opinion about? Francine lives in the 1950s, a time of bombs scares, McCarthyism, and respecting elders. Francine begins to question the world around her and current events. Her parents shush her and want her to just not talk about current events. Her friend, Sophie, encourages her to speak out, have an opinion, rebel a little. Sophie's home provides a place where Francine hears about what is going on in the world and where she encourage to voice her opinion.
Francine is in Catholic school and the nuns are teaching them about oxymorons, irony, etc. Francine uses irony throughout the book. I learned something new from the book. I never realized that sarcasm is irony! Duh! Where have I been? Was I sleeping in English class or was it never explained to me that way....

My "new" space

This is my new revamped writing space. Before all of the things in the blue boxes sort of found themselves out and about. No more. I have tamed the clutter so my mind won't be cluttered.

Hopefully more time for thinking, writing, blogging, etc.

My first writing priority? Figure out where I left off with my story about Thailand. I'm going back there this summer, so I think if I can get myself engulfed in the story now, it will only get better when I can refresh my memory with real details I'll experience this summer again.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Jane Yolen interview

I have always been inspired by Jane Yolen, children's writer extraordinare. She has written almost 300 books. That makes me look so lazy. I need to spend more time B.I.C. (Butt in Chair). There is a really good interview with her on Wordswimmer. Check is out:

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Higher Power of Lucky Controversy

The Newbery award winner for 2007 is facing quite the controversy. Apparently a male body part is mentioned in the book. Of course this is one of those body parts that adults think is an "unmentionable." You can read the article in the NY Times here: I have not read the book yet. It just arrived from the other day. It's next on my list. I'll write more once I've read the book. For the record, fourth graders in my area are taught the correct names of their body parts in family life class. Is anyone gasping--really, it's okay for children to know the real names for their body parts.

Where I'm From

I have always loved the autobiographical poem "Where I'm From" by George Ella Lyon. It is one of my favorite activities to do with my students each year--to have them write their own poem.

Here is my version:

Where I’m From
by Marcie Flinchum Atkins
Based on the poem by George Ella Lyon

I am from Ashland, ChiangMai, Penang, Roanoke, and Salem.
I am from Poage, ChiangMai International School, Salem High, Virginia
Western, Roanoke College, and Hollins University.
I am from visiting India, Nepal, Canada, Ireland, Ocean Isle, Bar Harbor,
Langkawi, Baltimore, Altanta and Delaware.

I am from Mike and Debbie saying,
“Remember who you are and what you are” and
“You can be anything you want to be.”

I am from suitcases and carry-ons, and never enough room.
I am from tickets and passports, and half-way-around-the-world
I am from pack-the-night-before and it-will-all-fit.

I am from chinchokes, Songkran, and bare feet.
I am from rice, naan, curry, mangoes, milo ice, and khao soi and a pantry full of ingredients to make them at home.

I am from obsessive cooking and baking and watching Food Network.
I am from books stacked up in my office, beside my bed, and on my piano.

I am from writing in private journals to public blogs,
Snail mail to e-mail to any mail but bill mail,
Echoey phone calls to webcams.
I am from records, to tapes, to CDs, to satellite radio, to iPods.

I am from Flinchum to Atkins,
From Donnie to Makenna,
From single to blessed.

I am from writing and writing and more writing,
And the dream that one day,
By Marcie Flinchum Atkins will appear on a book cover.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Rules rules!

I just finished reading Newbery Honor book Rules by Cynthia Lord. I have been reading through a bunch of kids' books because I wanted to use them with my 4th graders. I am working on a presentation called "Reading Like a Writer" for the Virginia State Reading Association conference based on the same idea that I use in class with my students. I use good writing to demonstrate how to learn how to be a good writer. I read stories to them and show them how writers create voice, characters, description, etc. It has made me a more in-tuned reader and has helped me appreciate all of the elements that make a book memorable. I have probably enjoyed "Reading Like a Writer" more than my students have because I have been amazed of the beauty of words out there in kids' books.
I loved this book! Catherine, the main character, has a brother who is autistic, and has become friends with a handicapped boy named Jason while waiting for her brother at occupational therapy sessions. Jason cannot speak, but he uses a book to communicate. Catherine chooses and illustrates words to put in his communication book. I also loved the celebration of words, and how Catherine gives Jason words--that no one else would give him--to really express himself.
This book is so honest. Catherine is not perfect and doesn't always do the "right" thing when dealing with the people in her life who have disabilities. She is still selfish, thinks about what her friends might think, and just struggles with her feelings. That's what I loved most about this book. Catherine felt real.

Friday, February 16, 2007

My love of children's books

When did I start loving children's books? Probably when I was being potty trained. I heard stories of my cousin forcing me to sit on the toilet while she read me a book and insisted that I use the bathroom. I have loved children's books ever since.

I became a teacher as a good excuse to keep reading children's books and to promote good books to kids. I also fell in love with good children's books all over again when I took my first children's lit. class as an undergrad.

Then, I decided I wanted to really get serious about my study of children's literature and get even more serious about writing children's literature. I had always loved writing, and I wanted to do even more. When I was finally paying for my own graduate school, I did what I'd always wanted to do--get a degree in writing. Well, I sort of did. My masters is from the wonderful Hollins University Children's Literature program.

I've missed discussing and critiquing children's lit, so I have found a new way to do it. Blogging.... So here begins my book banter.Hopefully it will be a place where I can regularly talk about my writing and my reading of children's books.