I distinctly remember being in eighth grade when Hendrix died.  My English teacher, a pretty cool guy for 1971, made the comment that Hendrix’s death, while tragic, would not be of lasting importance(not like one of the Beatles).  Hendrix was doomed, I can infer by his comments, to be a historic footnote, and would not transcend the era.

Several years later, say 1973, I started listening to Hendrix and, while acknowledging his importance as a guitarist, really found myself studying his lyrics.  (Foreshadowing of a future career as an English teacher).

Like, Little Wing:

Well she’s walking through the clouds
With a circus mind that’s running round
Butterflies and zebras
And moonbeams and fairy tales
That’s all she ever thinks about
Riding with the wind.

When I’m sad, she comes to me
With a thousand smiles, she gives to me free
It’s alright she says it’s alright
Take anything you want from me,
Fly on little wing,

I actually wrote the lyrics down and put them into the locker of a girl I had a crush on back in 1974.

g-ent-111122-hendrix.photoblog600And another favorite, from the song “Up From The Skies”

I have lived here before, the days of ice,
And of course this is why I’m so concerned,
And I come back to find the stars misplaced
and the smell of a world that has burned.


Mr. Ives Christmas

I heard Oscar Hijuelos on a radio show when this book first came out, and it sounded appealing.  Hijuelos is so talented and there are many pleasures to be found in reading Mr. Ives’ Christmas.  This narrative of sadness, forgiveness, and redemption is skillfully crafted and never maudlin. The way he evokes a sense of time and place, especially winter in New York, totally allowed me to become immersed in the setting.  Finally, his tenderly written observations of work, family, and church capture the beauty in ordinary things

As a ninth grade English teacher, I am constantly prowling for books that are well written, with a compelling plot to keep the reader hooked. JUMPING OFF SWINGS by Jo Knowles has proven to be one of those types of books that I recommend to students all the time. The author alternates chapters between four interlocking characters who are thrown together by one’s untimely pregnancy. There is no morality, no judgment, just an absorbing story with rich characters


Like finding twenty bucks in a pair of pants, I was elated when I came across a free copy of “It’s Like This Cat, by Emily Neville. It is one of those elemental books from my childhood, which had kind of recessed in my memory.

I read this novel when I was in 5th or 6thgrade and I was very much aware that its themes were more mature and real-world than the sports books that made up most of my reading. This book really helped turn me into a more discerning reader, and even at that early age, I could start to evaluate a work and appreciate it for its stylistic choices. The New York City setting was fascinatingly vivid to me; and the protagonist’s first glimmerings of attraction to girls paralleled my own shifting thoughts.

However, that isn’t the only significance that “It’s Like This Cat” has for me. I have always felt that there are certain books that evoke a very specific time and place and I distinctly remember another time that I read it, sometime in the middle school years. I was having a radical mastoidectomy at Johns Hopkins, and was in the hospital for at least a week. One afternoon, a few days after the surgery, we were allowed to go to this little bookroom that they had in the pediatric ward. My roommate was a young black child, maybe seven, who was extremely shy and had few visitors. I remember he took my hand as we shuffled down the hallway and I found a copy of this wonderful book. I re-read it twice over the next couple of days. I know that my Aunt Anna, who came and sat with me quite a few times that week, and I would talk about him, worrying because he had no visitors.https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/7/7c/It%27s_Like_This%2C_Cat.jpg/180px-It%27s_Like_This%2C_Cat.jpgAnyway, that said, I have embedded a link to the book and hope you will read it. I teach ninth grade English, and I am curious if the book still holds up. Here are links to downloadable, audible, and online versions of this book.

Download various file types:


Audio files:


Online Version:


Now, why didn’t I think of that?

Chew: Secret Agent Poyo #1

A maniacally adept killing machine rooster is coaxed back into the light after a near death experience, and an apocalyptic battle, in Hell.  And this is only the opening for this wildly outrageous offering from Image Comics


I am not a huge fan of comic books, and I have only a passing knowledge of graphic novels.  My oldest son was into manga and my youngest has gotten into comic books since he started college.  So the other night, he got a stack of comics from a friend and left them lying around.  I picked this one up and was utterly engaged.  Some subtle humor combined with the obligatory violence made this a nice little read.  Unfortunately it’s apparently a “one-shot” spin-off from the Chew series at Image Comics

Give a read




After great pain, a formal feeling comes–
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Toombs–
The stiff Heart questions was it He, that bore,
And Yesterday, or Centuries before?

The Feet, mechanical, go round–
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought–
A Wooden way
Regardless grown,
A Quartz contentment, like a stone–

This is the Hour of Lead–
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons recollect the Snow–
First–Chill–then Stupor–then the letting go–

My family and I visited here around six summers ago, right after I had returned to teaching.  That year, I had taught American Lit and totally got into hyper-fervid enlightenment as I coaxed students into understanding her work, particularly this piece.  I think I jumped off a desk.  So we took the tour and when it was over, the curator gathered us in the garden and asked volunteers to read some of her work.  Of course, English teacher geek that I am, I found this one and told the patrons about how this poem had engaged me.  When I finished, the curator looked at me like I had just spit snot on her, and my oldest son ragged on me unmercifully.

Still, it was pretty cool seeing the house.

As a part of Maryland Reading Month activities, a group of ninth-graders from Joppatowne High School spent time reading and discussing books with the enthusiastic members of Ms. Barb Matos’ first grade class at Riverside Elementary School.  For the Riverside students, it was a chance to see modeling of the skills they have been learning, while interacting closely with teenagers.  For the high school kids, it was an occasion where they could be role models to younger learners while utilizing some of the skills they used in Mr. Bowman and Ms.Harris’  Strategic Reading class



The Strategic Reading program is used in9th and 10th grade to provide selected students with a semester class that focuses on the strategies used by highly proficient readers. Using high-interest, level appropriate texts, students identify and apply reading strategies in a way that allows them to boost their reading and writing abilities.  This focus ultimately leads to an increased proficiency in English, as the students transition into the ninth grade curriculum.

Tracy Weidner, the reading specialist at Riverside Elementary felt that this would be a perfect fit for the first-graders.  As she coordinated the effort, she reflected that it would be a positive thing for Ms. Matos’ students to see that the reading strategies they were learning (predicting, questioning, inferring) would be valuable tools  in their future endeavors.  Alex Shuron, one of Joppatowne’s students, noticed the link right away.  “They used the same words when they discussed the books,” she reflected.   “It was nice for us to teach the stuff we’ve been learning.”  Chelsey Harris, one of the ninth grade co-teachers, considered that “it was nice to see our students in a leadership role, reinforcing some of the skills we’ve worked on.”

The first graders at Riverside enjoyed the experience as well.  Tyler Cox related, “I liked it because my partner, Damon, was a good reader and we laughed together.”  Keshawn Morgan, said,“The first graders were just so into it.  They kept fighting to answer questions and just wanted to do more.” As the visit started to wind down, Riverside’s first grade students started to pull out some of their favorite books and show the big kids how well they could read.

The two schools are planning to collaborate again in the spring.  Feeling that the experience was positive, Ms. Weidner observed, “Celebrating literacy at Riverside Elementary was a wonderful, valuable experience.  The younger and older students came together to learn first hand, the power of reading together.”