Floating Sailboats and Gum Chewing Rattlers


Our dentist is in to sailing and had a sailboat mobile in the room I was in for my cleaning yesterday.   When left in the room by myself, I blew a big breath of air toward the mobile and got it moving.  I sat mesmerized and calmed by the floating sailboats.   Then I started cupping my hands to funnel larger breaths toward the boats to get the mobile rotating in one direction, trying to see how fast I could get it spinning.  I know, I’m a kid at heart…easily amused.  Once the technician came in and started cleaning my teeth, I watched the boats drift through the air moving slower and slower without my wind source and that reminded me of Chris Van Alsburg’s book, The Wreck of the Zephyr.  From there, my mind drifted back to my 4th grade days when, for a treat and break from the reader routine,  we’d do an author study for a couple of days.  I’d pick an author (like Van Alsburg) and check out every book in the school library, break the kids into groups of 3 and let them read that book together.  Then they would do a journal response answering a question or two about  the book before they could exchange that book for another.  The kids LOVED this.  Perhaps because it was a break in the routine or I always picked awesome authors!  My main purpose was to expose them to a variety of authors (the go to favorites and unfamiliar new names), along with looking for patterns in the author’s writing and or pictures (illustrator study).  Plus it was just a great way to bring in all of the reading skills through the variety of questions they’d have to respond to.  I’d do this about once a month.

Then my mind wandered to teeth, rattlesnakes and bumble gum and another author popped into my head.  One year I stumbled upon this author I knew nothing about because I had a large number of ESL students in my class.  Wanting them to be able to be a part of the action (they were emergent English readers), I went to our awesome librarian to explain my dilemma.  She said, “Use Joe Hayes’ books.  They are written in both Spanish and English.”  She pulled every Joe Hayes book for me and off I went.  And what a surprise I had.  His books were awesome.  I couldn’t stop reading them.  I’d finish reading one and want to start another.  If you have not had a chance to read his books, I suggest you look for them.  Even if you are just looking for a children’s picture book to read to your class.  The class favorite was, “The Gum Chewing Rattler”.  Other popular titles were, A Spoon for Every Bite, El Cucuy!, Watch Out for Clever Women, The Day it Snowed Tortillas.

This was a fun flash back to my teaching days and the joy I had watching my students have fun reading new authors.  It’s those kind of memories that make me wonder if I should have retired.   And then I remember all of the bench mark testing I had to deal with at the end to prepare for the state tests and realize it was time for me to move along on my own floating sailboat to look for a gum chewing rattler.


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