Thursday, June 28, 2012

Men: An Appreciation Revisited

It is not news that guys write and guys read. Except that it is. I write about this a lot. Posts include Men: An AppreciationMen: An Appreciation Part 2 Making Boys Visible. Revolution, and The Boys Got Left Behind.
At the American Library Association Convention on Friday, I attended a panel comprised of some very  fine men.
The panel was called "Guy Writers Talk Guy Readers."
I talked a little bit about this event last weekend. I want to talk about it a lot today.
See, you don't see a bunch of guys often enough at book events. I don't have any statistics about the ALA Convention, except that the ALA website says about 14,000 people attended and I'm pretty sure that there were a lot more women than men.At The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Conferences women are exceptionally well-represented, which is cool.
There aren't as many guys. This is not cool, because guys do write and guys do read.
So here who was on this panel:
Michael Grant
Daniel Handler
Moderator: Daniel Kraus
Jon Scieszka
Andrew Smith
All these Guy Writers in one place: Daniel Handler, Andrew Smith, Daniel Kraus, Jon Scieszka,  Michael Grant

Each one of these men spoke and the coolness factor was so high that I can't even assign numbers to it. I'm not big on assigning numbers to stuff anyway.
Jon Scieszka spoke about growing up as one of six brothers. Six. And he knows that guys read and he's doing something about it. He has a Guys Read  series of books and a whole website on the subject. I love hearing this man speak because he gets kids, especially guys, and he makes me laugh really hard. I like laughing really hard.
Here is a picture of me with Jon Scieszka. I have decided that whenever I get my picture taken with Jon Scieszka I will make a face because something about Jon brings out my inner third grader. I think this is a good thing.
Jon says that he does not assign blame for the fact that guys tend to taper off their reading habits once they hit adolescence. I am not as kind. I do assign blame. More on this later.
Michael Grant spoke about how books were "home" for him. I completely  relate to this statement, and I know it is true for many of my students. Here I am with Michael Grant.

Here is Andrew Smith's post about his "Guy Writers Talk Guy Readers" presentation.
Andrew also talked about how amazing the Angel Potatoes are. This is always a happiness to me.
Daniel Handler began his presentation by reading something that guys would like to read. I can say with complete honesty that it was a really beautiful selection and that many people needed to fan themselves during and after he read what he did. It was so completely wonderful to hear truth all that night, topped off with a pedal-to-the-metal reading like that.
Here is a series of pictures of me with Daniel Handler.

I am not being specific with details because writers and other people who present work really hard on their presentations and these presentations are their intellectual property.
Suffice to say that every one of these guys is amazing and I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to attend this event. And you can check them out and read their books, because then you can see for yourself that these are some of the finest human beings a person can hope to meet in this dimension.
So, guys, I know that you will keep writing. And please believe me when I say that I will do everything in my power to make sure that all human beings in my care, male and female, will have access to your stories.
And, guys?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Revolution: Book Signings and Why They Matter

Here is my schedule for today:

I get to meet cool people at this Coffee Klatsch. Andrew Smith said I needed to be there so be there I shall.
It's in the Royal Ballroom at the Hyatt or something.
I fear I may be woefully underdressed.
That, however, is not the point.
I am meeting people whose books or other work make or will make a difference to the lives of the Angel Potatoes and the Tater Tots(my middle school kids). This is a happiness.
And then I need to get books signed.
No one carries piles of books INTO the convention center, because you can buy them or get ARCs IN the convention center.
But I got grant money so I could buy books in advance so I could get them signed by the authors.
So I have piles that look like this everywhere:
And my mission is to get them ALL signed.
Thing is, the kids see autographed books--G.Neri's Yummy comes to mind--and they say stuff like, "Hey, this is autographed. Isn't this valuable?"
And other kids gather around and look.
And I tell them to take the books, and they do, and they may carry the book a little more carefully or not and that is okay.
Thing is, I think to myself, this writer took the time to sign it to you and you are valuable and priceless and books are to be read. So take the book, dear one. And know that you are seen and loved and celebrated.
I promised I would get all the books signed.
It matters.

Friday, June 22, 2012

ALA Convention. Guys at Work. Paying it Forward.

So far the American Library Association Convention in Anaheim has been illuminating. I am amazed at just how much information about the digital world and books I have taken in. I need a zip file for my brain.
And I tweeted this earlier, but I think it bears repeating.
Librarians are total models of the Chaos Muppet theory in action.
None of them has a cool wolf hat though, but many have commented on mine.
The highlight of the day was  the "Men at Work: Guy Writers Talk About Guy Readers."
Daniel Kraus was the panel facilitator. He facilitated Jon Scieszka, Michael Grant, Andrew Smith, and Daniel Handler's comments/presentations.
Everyone, go out RIGHT NOW and buy all of the books these men have ever written.
Trust me.
Andrew Smith, again, spoke so beautifully about the Angel Potatoes, and I am so  touched and grateful.
More on this tomorrow.
On another note, I am participating in the Pay it Forward Blog Giveaway.
I bought a Catherine Ryan Hyde book called Jumpstart the World. Catherine Ryan Hyde is awesome. You should buy all of her books, too. She wrote Pay It Forward.
So in the spirit of paying it forward, I am giving away a copy of Denise Jaden's newly released Never Enough. Denise is really supportive of the Angel Potatoes, and she sent me autographed bookmarks, very cool, and the winner will, of course, receive one of these as well.
I think Denise's work is worth reading because she has good stories that are well-written and my students like them. This is why she is part of the Revolution.
Plus, she's really cool.
So all you need to do to enter is:
1. Follow this blog through Google Friend Connect
2. Leave a comment. You could suggest a writer we all should be reading, or you could just make suggestions for the music for my next interpretive dance, or you could just say "Hi. I like you wolf hat."
That's it.
Entries will be open until midnight on June 30th. Winner will be randomly picked by Randomizer.

So right now I am grateful for just about everything going on in my life right now, and I want to thank you all for taking the time to read this and support the Revolution.

It's about two hours past my bedtime.
Good night, awesomsauce peeps.
You are all a Great Happiness to me.

Sunday, June 17, 2012


This year I had a truly amazing crop of Angel Potatoes.
On the first day of school, I had all of my classes create posters.
I asked them to answer two questions for me.
The first question was: What makes a person an Awesome Human Being?
The second question was: In a really crowded computer lab, what are some good ideas for working and playing well with others and the equipment?

As soon as I saw their work I knew I had me something special.

I showed them a picture of a Grumble Bunny before we did this activity. Here it is, the first day of school, and these kids were actually listening.

Leadership, Not Judgmental, Responsibility, Loyal, Smart, Funny, Common Sense, Patient, Initiative, Observant, Boldness, Kindness Courageous

Wouldn't it be something if all the adults in the world understood what these kids understand.

I took these pictures on the last day of school, because the posters were up around my room all year. 
I couldn't bear to take them down. I'm leaving them up for the summer.

A student gave me a shirt. She is an artist. Here is a detail of the front corner:
Add caption

I talk to and about the Mothership a lot.

This is me. She said she put a purple shirt on because she knows its my favorite color, and that she will always think of me laughing. This made me cry.

One of my girls grew this potato and decorated it.
Cards and pictures
Two of my boys helped me pack the books that I am bringing to the American Library Association Shindig this week. I want to get them autographed for the Angel Potatoes.

In so many ways this year was difficult.
But never, ever were days better or brighter than the days I spent in my classroom with these amazing human beings, who each day gave me hope, made me laugh, and taught me something.
One hundred and eighty-seven Angel Potatoes for one hundred and seventy-six days.
That's what I call gifted.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Gifts. Andrew Smith. The Angel Potatoes. Granted.

I have been quiet for awhile.
Not because it's been quiet, but because of an embarrassment of riches that I have been glad to cherish, light upon light upon light.
I've told you I have the best job in the world, right?
This is true.
Andrew Smith came to visit the Angel Potatoes last week.
He talks about it here and here.
This was absolutely one of the best days of my life.
I smiled almost all day.
I realized this because my face hurt when I got home.
Here's how it is.
If you get a chance to see Andrew interact with kids, take it.
Andrew gets them.
I loved listening to Andrew talk, and read from his books, and most of all I loved watching my kids watching and listening to Andrew.
It is a Forever Happiness, this memory.
You can't have too many Forever Happinesses.
One of my boys listened to Andrew and then asked Andrew to sign his yearbook.
This is a kid who trusts exactly one adult.
I know because he told me.
So for him to ask Andrew to sign his yearbook?
I saw my boy read what Andrew wrote. He nodded to himself and left the room quiet and coyote-like, because that is how he has learned to be.
Later, he came back and asked me to sign it, too, right next to what Andrew wrote.
This made me cry a little, in a good way.
You know what? Today this young man graduated and I cried again, partly because of relief(he has a gift for pissing off people in Authority and was this close to having his grad participation pulled) and partly because I am going to miss him, and so many others, so very much. Even as it is a gladsome thing to see them fly.
And I realized that the reason Andrew's visit was such a shine and glory was exactly this:
He told the truth. He made them laugh. He gave hope.
That's a trifecta you sure don't experience often enough.
Thanks, Andrew.
And, in news of the Revolution, I found out that another grant came through and I have another one thousand dollars to buy Good Books for the Underground Library.
Did I mention that I have an embarrassment of riches?