Slice of Life: 2019 Reading Goals

Resolutions really aren’t my thing. I’m much better at setting goals and working toward them. That way, I’m always making progress.

At school, we always challenge our students to, in the words of Lucy Calkins, “outgrow themselves as readers.” January is the perfect time to check our progress and set new goals. Knowing that many of our students need help choosing titles, we’ve adapted The Strand Book Store’s “Reads-olutions” (I know; I said I don’t like resolutions, but this is too catchy to pass up.) to guide them.

I always tell kids that these categories are only suggestions, and really, as long as they keep reading, they’re achieving their goal. I do share with them my reads-olutions (aka goals), and tell them that I almost never read every book I plan to, but always read many more that I didn’t know about when I made my list.

With that in mind, here are several titles I hope to read in 2019:

  • Book by a debut author (also covering Book with a one word title):
    Speechless by Adam P. Schmitt

  • A Newbery Award winner:
    Although I haven’t read every Newbery winner, I’ve read many of them. Kira-Kira, by Cynthia Kadohata is the most recent winner I haven’t read. Of course, if I haven’t read this year’s winner, I’ll add that to my list.

As always, I’ll continue to chip away at the mountains of books already scattered around my house, waiting to be read! Thanks to Betsy Bird for her fabulous blog, A Fuse 8 Production, and her incredible series, 31 Days/31 Lists. Many of these titles came from these posts. The Nerdy Book Club also has wonderful year-end lists if you need more suggestions.

What books are you looking forward to reading in 2019?

Thank you to StaceyBetsyBethKathleenDebKelseyMelanie, and Lanny for creating this community and providing this space for teachers and others to share their stories every Tuesday. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.


Poetry Friday: #haikuforhope


Happy Friday, everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday filled with family, friends, feasting, and love. Somehow, I managed to keep up with Mary Lee Hahn’s #haikuforhope. Here are my offerings for the week.

brief December days
bookended by darkness
long for sun’s bright shine

feathers ruffled
against a cold, steady rain
swans glide onward

snowflakes flit and float
scattering fairy dust
over the world

dawn’s golden light
filtered by gathering clouds
still holds promise

swollen stream rushes
babbling its timeless tune:
joy to the world

silent stars swirl, our
dazzling partner in an
endless cosmic dance

© Catherine Flynn, 2018

Harpagornis [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, from Wikimedia Commons
Please be sure to visit Donna Smith at Mainely Write for the Poetry Friday Roundup. Wishing you all a happy and healthy New Year!



Slice of Life: A Christmas Miracle

The turkey had been roasting for about forty-five minutes when we heard the POP! At first we thought juices had spattered, but then the oven timer went off.

I hadn’t set the timer.

When I got to the oven, a bright green “F1” was flashing where the temperature setting should have read 325 degrees. Uh-oh.

I tried to open the oven door. It would not budge. Locked. Tight.

My twenty pound turkey was stuck in the oven. Thirty people would be arriving for a Christmas feast in just a few hours.

“Go turn off the breaker,” I said to my husband. “Maybe it will reset itself and the door will open.” Meanwhile, I was mentally scanning my neighbor’s kitchens. Who was likely to be home, not needing their oven a week and a half before Christmas?

“Did that work?” my husband called from the basement.

“Yes! The door’s open!” I hollered back as I dialed the neighbor most likely to have an empty oven. “Hi, Jean? I need a huge favor.”

Fifteen minutes later, my turkey was safely tucked into Jean’s oven. But I still had mashed potatoes, butternut squash, and broccoli to worry about.

“Well, we were going to get a new oven soon anyway,” my husband reasoned. “I’ll just go buy one today.”

Within the hour, my well-used, trusted oven was on its way to the great appliance graveyard.

Within three hours, our new oven was settled into its new home, gleaming brightly.

Four hours after that ominous pop, the turkey finished roasting in our new oven, the potatoes were mashed, and the squash was boiling. When our first guests arrived, everything was under control. They only reason anyone knew anything had gone wrong was because we told them.

At school, we help students to put their problems in perspective, categorizing them as bummers, glitches, or catastrophes. Thanks to a good neighbor and a handy husband, what at first felt like a catastrophe turned out to be only a glitch. Dinner was on the table a bit later than originally planned, but otherwise, our Christmas celebration with my husband’s family went off without a hitch. It was a miracle!

Wishing you all a glitch-free holiday! Thank you to StaceyBetsyBethKathleenDeb, KelseyMelanie, and Lanny for creating this community and providing this space for teachers and others to share their stories every Tuesday. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Poetry Friday: Finding a Poem

Last night I was at a total loss about what to share today. For some reason, I remembered this post by Irene Latham about using Google Arts & Culture as a source for images for her annual Artspeak! poetry project. When I opened the site, these stunning images greeted me.

These are all pieces of glass, but this image in particular reminded me of malachite.

Stained glass fragment, 13th century, via The Metropolitan Museum of Art

I wanted to confirm what I thought I knew about this stunning green mineral, so I Googled it and this image popped up.

Which led to this poem:

He pressed a polished malachite heart
into my hand;
whispered, “to match your eyes,”
then hurried off to Mrs. King’s calculus class.

No one noticed
as I sprouted gossamer wings
and floated

the stratosphere.

© Catherine Flynn, 2018

Please be sure to visit Carol’s Corner for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: Pheasant Haiku

Two surprises arrived last week: an early snow storm and a ring-necked pheasant. We have never seen a pheasant in our yard, so his presence was quite thrilling. His sudden appearance was explained when I found out that a local landowner had stocked his property with 100 birds. This is a common practice in our area, and these gorgeous birds may have wandered onto our property in the past, but I was too busy to notice.

dressed for dinner
a pheasant feasts on seeds
scattered on snow

© Catherine Flynn, 2018

I hope you all had a joyous Thanksgiving feast. I am forever grateful for this generous, nurturing community of poets. Thank you for all your friendship and support! Please be sure to visit Irene Latham, one of the kindest people I know, at Live Your Poem, for the Poetry Friday Roundup!

Poetry Friday: Forever Friends?

I didn’t get much writing done in October. I probably won’t get much writing done in November, either. But I keep plugging away. Slow and steady, right? Today’s poem is my response to Michelle Heidenrich Barnes‘s October(!) ditty challenge from Calef Brown. He asked us to “Write a poem or a story about two anthropomorphized objects.” 

I thought about this for days, but kept coming up empty. Then, on Halloween, it finally came to me. I have a drawer full of pins to match almost every book and subject from the third grade curriculum I taught for many years. I don’t wear them too much any more, but I have a cat pin I often wear on Halloween. Bingo! Finally, several drafts later, here is my still-needs-work-but-it’s-come-a-long-way draft.

Forever Friends?

Trapped inside a box of baubles,
An enamel mouse and rhinestone cat
Grew restless and began to squabble
On their cushiony, cottony mat.

“If I had legs, I’d crouch and pounce,
Then grab your shimmering tail.
You’d be completely trounced,”
that feline loudly railed.

“If I had legs, I’d dart and dash,
Evading your golden claws,
zipping past you in a flash,”
the wee brave mouse guffawed.

“If only we could reach the rim,”
bemoaned the paralyzed pair.
“We’d be free to stretch our limbs,
and breathe in pure fresh air.

“This lid won’t budge; we’re out of luck.
Why don’t we make amends?
No lark for us. We’re truly stuck.
Let’s bury our grudge and be friends.”

© Catherine Flynn, 2018

Will the truce last?

Thank you, Michelle and Calef for this thought-provoking challenge! Please be sure to visit Linda Baie at Teacher Dance for the Poetry Friday Roundup!


Poetry Friday: Sydell Rosenberg’s H is for Haiku

“It’s amazing what you can see when you just sit quietly and look.”
Jacqueline Kelly, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

Looking closely and seeing familiar objects in new and unique ways is the essence of poetry. H is For Haiku is a joyful collection of haiku by Sydell Rosenberg, a poet and New York City public school teacher who passed away in 1996, that celebrates everyday life 17 syllables at a time. Rosenberg’s daughter, Amy Losak, has lovingly gathered 26 poems to fulfill her mother’s dream of publishing a book of haiku for children. (Read more about this journey here.)

I love that this collection begins with the word adventure, for that’s exactly what H is For Haiku is. Readers step into a world where children’s daily lives and dreams spill across the page, just as the universe seems to be pouring out of a cat’s tail in the first poem. What child hasn’t thought of monsters when they see lobsters in a tank or wondered about turtles perched on a rock?

Rosenberg’s haiku are also full of the joy of language. Young readers may not know what a jaunt is, but they will to go on one with a “wide-eyed doll” after reading the poem for the letter C. The subject of each poem does not necessarily begin with the letter the poem represents. This inventiveness shows children how playful language can be. After reading “a squirrel sweeps up sunbeams/with her transparent tail,” who won’t be inspired to notice the world in new way?

 This collection is spirited, inventive, and fun. Sawsan Chalabi’s whimsical illustrations fill H is For Haiku with a diverse cast of expressive characters that perfectly complement the tone of Rosenberg’s poems. After reading H is For Haiku, children of all ages will pay closer attention as they go about their day, always on the lookout for the poetry hiding in unexpected corners of their world.

Honoring Syd’s life,
crafted with her daughter’s love:
H is For Haiku

Thank you, Amy Losak, for giving us the gift of your mother’s poetry.

Please be sure to visit Michelle Heidenrich Barnes at Today’s Little Ditty for the Poetry Friday Roundup.