Book Review: The Water Bears by Kim Baker

I saw this diverse read written by Kim Baker at the OLA Super Conference earlier this year. I love the cover of The Water Bears and decided to pick it up.

Genre: Middle Grade

Blurb:

A story about a boy recovering from a bear attack with the help of his friends and maybe, some magic.

All Newt Gomez wants for his thirteenth birthday is a bike. After surviving a bear attack last year, he thinks this isn’t an unreasonable request. Instead, his hardworking parents give him a former taco truck to help him get around the wacky island where they live in the Pacific Northwest. And then Newt and his best friend Ethan find a life-sized wooden bear washed up on the shore. Ethan is convinced the bear grants wishes; Newt doesn’t know what to think.

Newt also has a big decision ahead: go to middle school on the island, or to the mainland where his warm extended family lives? There, he won’t be the only Latinx kid; he doesn’t have bad dreams about the attack, and not everyone knows what happened to him. Newt secretly plots to move to his abuela’s house, but his truck is stolen with the maybe-magic bear inside. He must confront his fears and adapt to the reality of a world that’s often uncertain, but always full of salvageable wonders.

My Thoughts:

This is a wonderful and poignant story that middle grade readers will enjoy. It contains a little adventure, some facts about nature, and features a boy who learns the value of friendship and that it is okay to be a little different.

Newt has experienced a traumatic event (the bear attack) and slowly learns to accept what has happened to him. He also learns, with the help of his friends, that he can move on from his experience – and that it is okay to move on in a way of his choosing. Newt learns that despite the bear attack, he can still enjoy moments in his life – and that he can continue to do things that he enjoyed in the past.

I like the message in this story; it is a message that will sit well with preteens when they read the book. They will learn what it is to be accepted; as well as what it means to be different. The Water Bears is a well-written story that will appeal to children who enjoy reading novels that show growth in the main character.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novels was the 59th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Music Monday: Muévelo

One of the songs on my current Zumba playlist that I dance to when I exercise is Muévelo by Nicky Jam and Daddy Yankee.

Not only do I like the song, but I also enjoy moving to the choreography. Often during the day, the melody creeps into my mind and I dance to the music in my head. This song is definitely going to be on the playlist I dance to with my students when school starts up again!

What song are you currently moving to?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

Weekend Coffee Share: A Week of Reporting

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that we are still living under restrictions. We are now able to have a social bubble up to 10 people so at least social interaction with other families can happen. Plenty of stores are still closed, however, as the number of cases has not gone down enough in the city to move completely into what is called stage 2. So no eating at restaurants, having your hair cut, or visiting the library.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I have spent the week in front of the computer writing my report cards. It was not an easy task because of the school closure and not having worked with children face-to-face for 3 months now. On Thursday afternoon I finished and submitted them with a sigh of relief. Next week I will do the corrections and I will then be done with another end of the year task.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that this weekend I am tired and yesterday I took a day off away from the computer screen. Teaching remotely does mean I am in front of the computer more often. It also means that when it comes time to blog, I need a break from from sitting in front of my laptop and therefore can no longer foster the desire to type and stare at the screen. Hopefully this upcoming week it will be easier.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that the weather was a little chilly for the last four days. The cooler temperatures made my morning walks more refreshing and also made it easier to breathe in our home (which does not have air conditioning). I am sure it will get warm again soon so I am currently enjoying the milder temperatures.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that there are 2 more weeks left of school and then it will be the summer holidays! I am hoping by then that I will be able to meet up with my friend and go shopping for things we need at home. In the meantime, I will continue with my work and look forward to the time that I can do so.

What would you tell me if we were having coffee?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This post is linked to Eclectic Ali and the Weekend Coffee Share)

Portrait of Blossom Tree

I have been walking past a tree filled with blossoming buds for weeks now. At the beginning of last week, the tree was in full flower – it looked stunning and I could not help but admire the sight.

I have no idea what type of tree this is, but I do admire the size and beauty of its blooms.

When I took photos of the tree, some of the petals had already fallen to the ground. The surrounding area looked so pretty – just like it would in a picture book.

Seeing the tree was definitely an added pleasure to my walk. The blooms indicated that I was passing the mid-Mark of my exercise period.

I no longer see the beauty of these blossoms as the tree is now fully green. I do remember their beauty, though, and look forward to seeing the blooms once again next year.

Do you know the name of this tree and it’s flowers?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This post is linked to the Sunday Stills photo challenge)

Weekend Coffee Share: First Week of June

If we were having coffee, we would still be meeting virtually. Even though some stores have opened up in our city for curbside pickup, we cannot yet meet up for coffee at our local coffee shop. I long for the time that I can do so and I look forward to chatting with a friend and experiencing the buzz of people around me.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that in the final week of May, we were told that we would continue with remote teaching until the end of June and the end of the school year. I was disappointed to learn that I would not be spending time with my students, but the decision was what I expected. We will know by the end of June what the new school year will look like in September. Our province is looking to others to see what their experience of going back to school is like.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that on Tuesday afternoon I went into school to place my students’ belongings into bags and to tidy up things a little in the classroom. My heart felt a little sad as I saw the incomplete projects lying around in the room; projects that I will not be able to complete with this year’s group of students. I had to organise and tidy everything within a 3 hour framework. Both my daughters came to help me and I would not have managed to do as much as I did without their help.

If we were having coffee, I would ask you if you have noticed the new banner on my blog. My daughter (who is studying art at university) created it for me. She also created the specific banner for my weekly coffee share. What do you think? I like the clean-cut lines of it – and the banners definitely make my space look more professional. Slowly I am cleaning up my blog and hopefully taking it to the next level.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that during the next week I will be focusing on report cards. I have not seen my students for 3 months and I know that writing them is not going to be easy. I will be focusing on what we did in class before the March Break, and mentioning as well the tasks that they have completed during the school closure and the remote learning period. The upcoming week is definitely not going to be an easy one as I grapple with them.

If we were having coffee, I would encouraged you to enjoy the upcoming week and to focus on the positive. This is what I am going to try and do.

What would you tell me if we were having coffee?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This post is linked to Eclectic Ali and the Weekend Coffee Share)

Book Review: Under Currents by Nora Roberts

My hold for the audiobook Under Currents by Nora Roberts came in and I eagerly began listening to it. This title had been on my TBR list and I thought that listening to the story instead of reading the text may help me put a dent into my list.

Format: Audiobook

Narrator: January LaVoy

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Mystery

Blurb:

Within the walls of a tasteful, perfectly kept house in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, young Zane Bigelow feels like a prisoner of war. Strangers—and even Zane’s own aunt across the lake—see his parents as a successful surgeon and his stylish wife, making appearances at their children’s ballet recitals and baseball games. Zane and his sister know the truth: There is something terribly wrong.

As his father’s violent, controlling rages—and his mother’s complicity—become more and more oppressive, Zane counts the years, months, days until he can escape. He looks out for little Britt, warning her Be smart. Be careful. In fear for his very life, he plays along with the insidious lie that everything is fine, while scribbling his real thoughts in a secret journal he must carefully hide away.

When one brutal, shattering night finally reveals cracks in the façade, Zane begins to understand that some people are willing to face the truth, even when it hurts. As he grows into manhood and builds a new kind of family, he will find that while the darkness of his past may always shadow him, it will also show him what is necessary for good to triumph—and give him strength to draw on when he once again must stand up and defend himself and the ones he loves… 

My Thoughts:

The audio version of this book was fantastic and I really enjoyed listening to LaVoy as she performed the story. The accents for the different characters were spot on and the emotions were perfectly pitched. I think the audio added another dimension to the story and increased my enjoyment of it.

Under Currents explores a sensitive topic – that of domestic violence. We see the affect of violence on both a child and a spouse. Even though the topic is a difficult one, Roberts explores it with sensitivity. I like that the story ends with a sense of hope even though I know, realistically, that domestic violence doesn’t always end happily.

Roberts is a master at creating the perfect pace to keep a reader’s interest. The story also had a good mix of serious topics, mystery, and romance. The characters are varied and true to life and I enjoyed listening to the connections that they made with one another. I always enjoy reading the contemporary fiction novels by Nora Roberts and this one did not disappoint.

I give this audio novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novels was the 58th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

A Flower Treat

Yesterday I was unable to walk in the morning as it was raining when I woke up. I missed being outside but I knew, according to the weather forecast, that I would be able to walk today. I took my usual route which allows me to achieve my goal of 10 000 steps.

I passed by a house that has not showcased any flowers up until now and I could not help but admire the beauty of the flowers that had recently opened up. The colour stands out to me as it is my favourite, and the flower is always impressive.

I look forward to seeing these flowers again on my next walk. I hope their beauty is on display for a couple of weeks.

What made you smile this morning?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2017

(This post was inspired by Trent’s Weekly Smile, a challenge which focuses on sharing all things positive.)

Book Review: Grown Up Pose by Sonja Lalli

I had previously read and enjoyed a novel by Sonja Lalli so when I saw the audiobook for Grown Up Pose was available at the library, I decided to listen to the novel instead of reading the text.

Format: Audiobook

Genre: Contemporary, Romance

Blurb:

A delightfully modern look at what happens for a young woman when tradition, dating, and independence collide, from acclaimed author Sonya Lalli.

Adulting shouldn’t be this hard. Especially in your thirties. Having been pressured by her tight-knit community to get married at a young age to her first serious boyfriend, Anu Desai is now on her own again and feels like she is starting from the beginning.

But Anu doesn’t have time to start over. Telling her parents that she was separating from her husband was the hardest thing she’s ever done—and she’s still dealing with the fallout. She has her young daughter to support and when she invests all of her savings into running her own yoga studio, the feelings of irresponsibility send Anu reeling. She’ll be forced to look inside herself to learn what she truly wants.

My Thoughts:

The narration of this novel is well done and the Canadian, English, and Indian perfect. The excellent narration of the novel enhanced my enjoyment of the story.

The story is that of a woman in her early thirties who has an identity crisis – especially as she married when she was so young. She takes time out from her marriage and the presence of strong women in her life (her mother and mother-in-law). In doing so, she discovers who she is and reconnects with the dreams she had as a young woman.

The story moves between the past and the present. At times the shift did cause me confusion – a confusion, I think, which I would not have experienced had I been reading the text for myself. Looking back to past events helped me to understand, though, the actions of the character and why she made the choices that she did. There were times, though, when her reflections were a bit repetitive – and if I were reading, I would have skim read these paragraphs.

What I did enjoy in this novel was the snapshot into the Punjabi culture and the expectations of women within this culture. Reading this novel helped me to understand a little more the ways of the women within this group. I liked that the novel was unashamedly of a group of people I do not know much about.

The message I got from this story is that a woman can follow her dreams no matter what her responsibilities are. In addition, your age does not determine when it is that you can follow your dreams. Grown Up Pose is not a romance in the traditional sense. Instead, it is one that charts the story of an ordinary woman who rediscovers herself and her dreams, and finds what it is that makes her happy.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novels was the 57th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Diverse Reads: The Book of Negroes

I am horrified to hear of what is currently happening in the US and the steps that have been taken to silence voices. World-wide people have struggled and sacrificed for decades so that they can be heard – and in a few moments all the progress that has been made is taken away. We need to respect the voices of the disempowered; we need to listen to what they are saying.

I ask myself what I can do as an ordinary person living an ordinary life. I can listen and respect the experiences of those different to my own. I can pay attention to the voices of the disempowered. I can read the stories written by those whose lives are disimilar to my own. I can speak up when comments and actions are made to disrespect the experience of those living without ingrained privilege.

Reading fiction is one way in which to explore the voices of those that are often submerged in society. Experiences described by authors of colour can give an insight into a life different to our own. When I was growing up, these reads were not available. Now, however, the shelves in the bookstores are slowly showcasing stories written by authors of different races and culture.

Today I share with you a powerful story written by a Canadian author: The Book of Negroes. Lawrence Hill gives voice to those who were forced from their home country in West Africa and sold as property. The novel centres on the story of Aminata Diallo from the time she was captured, sold into slavery in the United States, and fought for freedom. This powerful novel not only brought tears to my eyes, but it made me think on the slave trade and the far-reaching consequences of this moment in history. Hill writes Aminita’s story with empathy and brings the experience of the woman to life. This is a novel that I have recommended to others to read; and it is one that will always have a place on my bookshelf.

What diverse read has resonated with you?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

Visual Arts: Inspired by Van Gogh

The Ontario Curriculum of Visual Arts for grades 1 and 2 encourages the exploration of lines, colour, and a variety of media with which to create art. For one of my lessons created on the remote teaching platform, I thought students would enjoy a break from math and literacy to create a little and work with paint.

After asking them to watch some videos – in French – on the life and art of Vincent van Gogh, I asked my students to use the painting titled Starry Night as an inspiration for their own night scene.

In order to determine whether the project was possible, I decided to do a painting of my own. I laid out my materials for the project: acrylic paint, a paintbrush, a jar of water, a pencil, a sheet of card stock, a plastic fork, and a copy of Van Gogh’s painting.

For my first step, I lightly penciled in what I wanted to paint. I looked to the original painting for inspiration, knowing that I would not be able to copy the original exactly.

To recreate the lines seen as in the original painting, I used a plastic fork. For the lines to show up, I noticed that I had to layer the paint thickly onto the card.

I painted section by section and then used the fork in specific areas before the paint dried.

I enjoyed the activity and found it calming. I am hoping that the children I work with will find it calming as well – especially those who enjoy creating art with paint.

I like the effect of using the fork on the painting and am now thinking of other ways in which my students can practice this technique.

The acrylic paint is a bit sticky to use – or maybe it is because the paint I had was a little dry. The next time I do this activity (hopefully when in the classroom), I will attempt the task with tempura paint. It would be interesting to make a comparison and to see which medium is more effective.

My final product is not bad for a first attempt though it it nowhere near to what my daughters (who are art students) would produce.

I now look forward to seeing what my students create.

Have you attempted to recreate Van Gogh’s Starry Night?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020