Lois Responds Again!

lowryIn my last post, I mentioned that I’ve had a yearlong email relationship with my literary hero, Lois Lowry. I’ve been curious about her thoughts on the upcoming Giver movie, and decided to ask her to share her thoughts. She is a rock star and never fails to respond in such a timely manner.

Have I mentioned it’s my favorite book? Have I persuaded you to read the series yet? What are you waiting for? Her memoir, Looking Back, is amazing as well.

Ms. Lowry’s response:

I am excited that after all this time and many false starts THE GIVER is finally being made into a film.  The people involved are very respectful of the book and I feel it is in good hands.  The movie will not be slavishly devoted to the test; the language of film requires a different approach.  Only time will tell how successful the film makers have been, but I have high hopes.

As for the rest of the quartet, who knows?  If this film is successful i suspect they will want to try to make lightning strike twice.

Dear Santa,


Dear Santa,

I still hear the bell, so I was wondering if you could bring me a few things. Really, these would be for Emerson and Reese, since they are the ones who will benefit from them 🙂

Thanks, Santa! and MERRY CHRISTMAS!


Chapter Book To Read List::

Because of Mr. Terupt – Rob Buyea


Out of My Mind – Sharon Draper


The One and Only Ivan  – Katherine Applegate


The Fault in Our Stars – John Green


Schooled – Gordon Kormon


Freak the Mighty – Rodman Phillbrick


The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane  – Kate DiCamillo


Same Sun here – Silas House and Nella Vaswani


Rules – Cynthia Lord


Stargirl – Jerry Spinelli


The Liberation of Gabriel King – K.L. Going


True (Sort of) – Katharine Hannigan


Picture Book To Read List:

Because of You – B.G. Hennessy


Crow Call – Lois Lowry


I love You Stinky Face – Lisa McCourt


How Full is Your Bucket – Tom Rath


The Stranger – Chris Van Allsburg


The Very Cranky Bear – Nick Bland


One and Zero – Katherine Otoshi


Molly Lou Melon – Patty Lovell


Something Else – Katherine Cave


You Are Special – Max Lucado


Violet the Pilot


Authors To Read List:

Todd Parr

Mo Willems

Patricia Polacco

Mem Fox

Donald Crews

I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library


I was downright depressed when I realized that we were moving to Houston and I would be leaving behind my beloved literature curriculum that I helped create in fifth grade at Madison Crossing. I was on the roster as a Reading/Language Arts/Social Studies teacher, but I have always considered myself a literature teacher primarily. Reading is my love. But beyond that, sharing great books is where I truly thrive. It’s always an emotional experience for me when I see young minds immersing themselves in the worlds of the characters I introduce them to.

I felt I was giving up a great deal when I agreed to leave it all behind. I thought that it would be years before my own children were ready for thought provoking literature. I was wrong.

Until now, Emerson has only been drawn to juvenile chapter books such as Junie B. Jones, Ivy and Bean, Judy Moody, etc. I see now, that she needed those stories to engage her interest. She has become a lover of literature just like her mom. She carries a book with her everywhere. She loves fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. And I love her for it. Don’t get me wrong…Reese doesn’t not like to read. She just hasn’t entered into that stage where one reads for pleasure and seeks out literature that interests them. She is still learning the foundations of decoding. But she loves to listen to a good story. In fact, her deep thinking, analytical skills may surpass Emerson’s.

We began The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe last night. I hesitantly began reading, what I feared might be a story that wouldn’t hold their interest. I feared they might not be ready for it.

I had to hold back laughter as I read the first two chapters to them. Their eyes were wide with anticipation over the land of Narnia that Lucy stumbled into last night. When I finished reading the second chapter, Emerson asked me to give her a list of books by C.S. Lewis. For he is her “new favorite author.” Reese is most enthralled right now with the Professor as he reminds her of Santa… Just wait until she meets Father Christmas. Emerson is most curious about Mr. Tumnus and how in the world he can have half a human body and half a goat’s.

I am just thrilled to begin this adventure. I still miss my fifth graders and the discussions over Lois Lowry literature. But I look forward with anticipation to the discussions I will have with my children. I have a list a mile long of all the books I can’t wait to share.

Encouragements of the day:

“So please, oh PLEASE, we beg, we pray, Go throw your TV set away, And in its place you can install, A lovely bookshelf on the wall.”

— Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.”

— Emilie Buchwald

“There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.”

— Jacqueline Kennedy

A Year of Reading!

This has been an amazing year. A year of reading, really. I have never had a group of students more motivated to read than this group. Not only have they taken on the tasks of reading and discussing deeply what we have required for class, but they have independently become searchers and researchers of great literature. 

We finished our Giver series today. Although these books were not part of our testing curriculum (and by that, I mean they were pure read alouds…for listening pleasure), we have learned so much from these books. Life lessons mixed with deep analytical discussions of literary devices were the name of the game with these books. I have learned through reading these this year that beauty is certainly in the eye of the beholder. I also feel that delivery is everything. Although Lois Lowry can be quite somber in her literary quest for great plot, she also has such poignant and beautiful themes. I chose, as the sole reader and guider of these read aloud days, to focus not on the trees but the forest. The forest (no pun intended…for those of you who have read The Messenger) was a magical place for us to have real conversations throughout our entire year about character and social issues such as honor, truth, love, kindness, and overall good vs. evil in our world. As far as literary analysis goes, I had students picking up on such intelligent topics as dramatic irony and point of view, an author’s use of characterization as well as foreshadowing and flashback. Where some teachers spend a year knee deep in work sheets, we accomplished these same goals by reading for pleasure and simply having conversations. What a way to end a year. It has truly been a journey of discovery this year. The main lesson we walked away with today, was that there is evil in this world that we can only fight with good. Evil feeds off of tragedy. Evil was finally destroyed today with love, generosity, selflessness. I can’t think of a better lesson for us all to learn than that. 

 Kwaylon and Mrs. DuBose reading Freedom Crossing
Free book grab!
A group of eager students! They have decided that Lois Lowry must write another book in the series. They are writing a summary of what it should be, and I will email it to her for them. Can’t wait to get her response!

Beauty in Tragedy

Today, we finished the third book in Lois Lowry’s Giver series. For twelve years, The Giver has been my favorite. Today, however, The Messenger became my favorite. Today was proof for me that books are meant to be shared, discussed, and analyzed. I love reading alone, but there is no greater joy than a group of people coming together to witness true beauty through words. I was given the amazing opportunity to experience heartfelt emotion twice today with both of my classes. As I read the final chapters, tears came to my eyes and I had to suppress the urge to have a student finish reading aloud so that I could gather my emotion. I finished though, and was privy to a crowd of faces that caught the same connections I did. The students felt the same bittersweet feelings as their teacher as we realized our main character was willingly and tragically sacrificing himself for the world. He was a true HEALER! We had a brief class discussion afterwards but suggested they save their thoughts for the blog. Tonight’s assignment is for them to respond with their thoughts. Below, I share the most poignant passages from today:

    With difficulty he leaned painfully toward her, so that his ear was near her mouth.
    “We need your gift,” she whispered.
    Matty fell back in despair. He had followed Leader’s instructions. He had not spent the gift. He had not made Ramon well, had not fixed Kira’s crooked leg, or even tried to save his little dog. But it was too late now. His body was so damaged he could barely move. He could no longer bend his ravaged arms. How could he place his hands on anything? And what, in any case, did she want him to touch? So much was ruined.
    In agony and hopelessness, he turned away from her and rolled off the blanket and into the thick foul smelling mud. With his arms outstretched, his hands touching the earth, he lay there waiting to die. 
    He felt his fingers begin to vibrate…

    Gasping, Matty called for his gift to come. There was no sense of how to direct it. He simply clawed into the earth, feeling the power in his hands enter, pulsating into the ruined world. He became aware, suddenly, that he had been chosen for this….

    Kira smoothed his hair. “He called himself the fiercest of the fierce.”
    Leader smiled. “He was that. But it was not his true name.”
    Kira wiped her eyes. “He so hoped to receive his true name at the end of this journey.”
    “He would have.”
    “He wanted to be Messenger,” Kira confided.
    Leader shook his head. “No. There have been other messengers and there will be more to come.” He leaned down and placed his hand solemnly on Matty’s forehead above the closed eyes. “Your true name is Healer,” he said.

It’s All Coming Together

I have been anxiously waiting for this term since August. I always look forward with anticipation to third nine weeks for several reasons. This is what we have been leading up to for 18 weeks now. Our author study on Lois Lowry is such a rich journey and experience. My students are eager, after already completing three of her books, to hear more of her stories and about her life. As we enter into this new term of school we will continue in our Giver quartet. We thought this would just be a trilogy until Ms. Lowry, herself, graced our blog with her presence to announce that the fourth installment would be published in October. As soon as it hit the shelves, I picked up five copies. I have read it, and it is such a wonderful culmination and completion of this series. With that said, we are on our third book in that series. The Messenger is the first of the four books that allows its readers to begin seeing connections through the first two books. The students will see how Gathering Blue and The Giver come together in this third novel. We are also embarking on a wonderful adventure through her memoir, Looking Back. Ms. Lowry’s life story, told through pictures of her childhood and quotes from her stories, is both amusing at times as well as heartbreaking. While reading this memoir, the students make connections between an author’s real life and their stories. They are able to see how an author takes personal life experiences and uses them to create fiction. We will become authors once again this term to create our own memoirs.  Lois Lowry’s collection of novels would not be complete without Number the Stars. This beautifully written work allows us a glimpse into a Jewish family’s struggles during the onset of WWII. The students have also chosen a Lois Lowry book of their own to read independently. What great insight we are gaining as life learners. We are entering the world of an author. Each week the students will design photo projects that connect both with the memoir and with WWII. This week the students are telling a story through pictures. They are working on taking ten photos of themselves. These ten photos must tell a story from the perspective of someone from WWI, the roaring twenties, or the Great Depression era. These are the events we have dsicussed in class that led our country to WWII. I am looking forward to seeing what creativity my students have in store for me. Please stay tuned, as their creativity is shared in the coming days and weeks.


This blog has always been designated specifically to my students. However, tonight as I ponder the “why’s” of what MCE teachers do everyday, I am compelled to write this post for those of you who may question why.

The most frequently asked questions I have heard this year are 1) “Why do you read so many depressing stories in 5th grade?” and 2) Is this a Common Core “thing”?

Please indulge me for a moment while I express my joy over the literature we read in 5th grade. Beauty is certainly in the eye of the beholder. The literature that has been chosen for the fifth grade reading curriculum has come about over a span of five years. It has been a progression of realizations that has led us to our author study on Lois Lowry. Some may say that her books are too depressing…not appropriate….needing to be censored and edited too much. I say, those who think that either have not read her books, or have not seen the beauty that I take from her stories. Her Giver quartet gives a picture, when read together as intended, of true redemption and compassion.The lessons and discussions that come from each of these stories include seeing the beauty in our world, realizing that without despair, we could not cherish hope….without fear, we could not value freedom….without pain, we could not appreciate joy.  How many of us adults learned such beautiful life lessons such as this as fifth graders? Empathy, compassion, grace, mercy, and diversity are just a few of the topics discussed within these stories. Lois Lowry enables us, through her stories, to see the beauty in our own world from seeing the struggles in her characters’ worlds. Many of us do not have the slightest clue what it is like to struggle, to need. These characters know pain and turmoil on a level that we have never known in our safe worlds. Because of their struggle to escape their conflicts to find harmony and beauty, we see their pure joy over the wonders of a world as safe and colorful and happy as our own. So for the word “depressing” to be used to describe Lois Lowry’s literature, I cringe just a bit. Only because my heart is full of joy as I end each story with my class. My smile is a mile wide at the end of each story as my students realize the same truths I have time and time again. I have read The Giver twelve times now. Never once has it become old or mundane, because of the discussions and emotions that come about as a result of it. Please bear with me, if you are a concerned parent. Please trust that I teach these stories from a deep heartfelt place of love and compassion. Please know that my goal is not to check items off of a list to teach your child, but to give them a lasting memory of what beauty looks like. Beauty from words is the best beauty of all in my opinion.

Is this a Common Core “thing”… The simple answer to this question is a resounding no. I think the best way to express what I believe Common Core to be is to tell you what Common Core is not.
1. It is not a book of worksheets to be run off.
2. It is not a checklist of skills to be taught.
3. It is not an item that can bought at school aids.
4. It is not giving 5th graders 7th grade work and calling it a day.
Common Core, to me, means that as a teacher I am teaching in the most deeply connected way that I can. My students should be able to see how science, social studies, and reading all come together. My students should be able to tell me why an author feels the way they do based on the textual evidence from our stories. My students no longer have to tell me what is being personified in a poem, but how that personification contributes to the overall theme of the story. Deep thinking is required. Therefore, deep thinking is modeled on a daily basis.

I am not an expert. I am only a teacher with a very idealistic view of what teachers do and what students should learn. I value my profession more than you know and strive daily to build a community of learners in my classroom, who will one day become a community of leaders.

I will leave you with just a few of my favorite Lois Lowry quotes.

“Of course they needed to care. It was the meaning of everything.”
Lois Lowry, The Giver

“Be proud of your pain, for you are stronger than those with none.”
Lois Lowry, Gathering Blue

“But now he knew that there were communities everywhere, sprinkled across the vast landscape of the known world, in which people suffered. Not always from beatings and hunger, the way he had. But from ignorance. From not knowing. From being kept from knowledge.”
Lois Lowry, The Messenger

“The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It’s the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.”
Lois Lowry, The Giver

“They were satisfied with their lives which had none of the vibrance his own was taking on. And he was angry at himself, that he could not change that for them.”
Lois Lowry, The Giver