Stacey Loscalzo

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May 18

Quick Lit: May 2015 Edition

by Stacey

Today I am joining Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Quick Lit for a super short run down of the books I have read since last month.


The Fall: A Father’s Memoir in 424 Steps by Diogo Mainardi. This was going to be my next review for Great New Books until something else jumped ahead of it in line. That is not to say thought that this book is any less great just that something else caught my attention. The Fall tells the story of a father’s journey toward acceptance of his son’s cerebal palsy. The book is part memoir but also a lesson on art history, architecture, Abbot and Costello and Alfred Hitchcock. I know this sounds a bit strange but I promise it is a book worth reading.


The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. I have been reading a lot of middle grade fiction lately in preparation for the Read Like a Writer Book Club that I will be teaching this summer. I am planning on picking books in various genres and allowing my students to chose which books they are going to read. So far, this title is at the top of my historical fiction list.


The Night Gardner by Jonathan Auxier. I am not a big fan of fantasy. In fact, until last week, I had’t really loved a middle grade fantasy novel since Harry Potter. I now have a new favorite. The Night Gardner is definitely the best fantasy that I have read since Harry and quite frankly one of my favorite reads of the year so far. This is a great book for tweens who aren’t afraid of getting a bit scared and also a perfect read for grown ups looking to get back in the reading groove.


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May 11

Middle Grade Family Book Club

by Stacey

The other day, I woke up to my favorite kind of e-mail. A friend wrote the following:

“Hey Stacey!
I always think of you as the “book guru” – do you have any novel
recommendations for me as well as for my daughter ? Maybe some books we can both read?? Any recommendations are much appreciated :)”

Of course, I love this person. How can you not love the person who calls you the ‘book guru’ but I digress. I was so excited to put a list together for this fifth grader that I got started right away. I brainstormed a bit on my own and then went to Caroline to gather her ideas. Caroline is a year older than the daughter of my friend so it was fun for her to think back to what she loved a year ago. It was also really interesting for her to think about books that had been read alouds in her fifth grade classroom and to decide if they would still be great for independent reading.

Here is our combined effort:


The Giver by Lois Lowry. This was the first book that came to mind. Caroline read it last summer and I re-read it at the same time. We had tons and tons to talk about. That said, there are some pretty mature themes in the book and Caroline got freaked out for a bit. If you haven’t read it yet, you should definitely read it first to decide. I’m only even suggesting it because it led to such great conversations.


Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit. Tuck is the first book that I remember reading that was worthy of discussion. I’m pretty sure that Caroline had exactly the same experience when she read this book in fourth grade. I’ve re-read it twice in the past few years, once when Caroline read it and then again when Caroline and I were lucky enough to see Natalie Babbit speak this winter. This is a book rich in conversation possibilities.


Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. This is a beautiful story of a girl who struggles terribly in school. Fish in a Tree leads to lots of great conversations about what it means to feel different and we all know that every kid feels different at one time or another.


Rain Reign by Ann Martin. I have not read Rain Reign yet but Caroline promises it is very much worth talking about and not just because it is written by the author of her most loved Baby Sitter’s Club series.


Wonder by R.J. Palacio. Simply because no list of this kind can exclude this remarkable book. If you haven’t read this book as a family, stop what you are doing and go read Wonder immediately.


The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. I read Ivan on my own and it was one of the read alouds that Caroline most remembers from fifth grade. We didn’t discuss it too much on our own but I am quite sure there would be lots and lots of material.


The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo. I can’t believe I’m writing this but I actually have not read this one. Caroline loved it as a read aloud at school and I love Kate DiCamillo so I am pretty positive this would be a great family read.


Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper. Out of My Mind tells the story of a little girl in search of a voice to communicate all of her thoughts. Reading and discussing this book was a great way for our family to gain a greater understanding of individuals with disabilities.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these or any other middle grade reads that could lead to great family conversations. Thanks for sharing!

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May 04

What Form Does Your Comfort Take?

by Stacey


When Caroline started middle school this year I crossed my fingers that all the stereotypes of middle school were untrue and that reality had drastically changed from when I traversed the same waters. It turns out that all the finger crossing in the world doesn’t change middle school so there has been a fair amount of drama on and off since school started. I was recently talking with a friend about how we feel a complete lack of control over the happiness of our children.

As we talked, I remembered a quote that I had read a few months back. It focused on what we can in fact do as parents of middle schoolers and then I spent the better part of this weekend trying to remember where I had read this quote.

It turns out the quote was on my friend Lindsey Mead’s lovely blog, A Design So Vast, and she had found it in a piece by the ever talented Jenny Rosenstrach of Dinner a Love Story.

The line reads like this;

“You just make sure that when those girls walk in that door every day, they never doubt that home is the most comforting place for them to be. That is what you can do.”

Jenny goes on to say that to her, comfort comes in the form of mashed potatoes. For me, comfort comes in lots of forms. Banana bread and chocolate chip cookies sometimes. A new stack of library books often. And always, open ears and open arms.

What about you? What does form does comfort take in your home?

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May 01

This Moment: May 1

by Stacey

IMG_6415“We’ve got this gift of love, but love is like a precious plant. You can’t just accept it and leave it in the cupboard or just think it’s going to get on by itself. You’ve got to keep watering it. You’ve got to really look after it and nurture it.”

-John Lennon

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Apr 29

Why Is No One Talking About Poverty?

by Stacey


I’ve written about poverty here a few times before.

I think the first time was when I went to Caroline and Katherine’s school library right before volunteering at a school in a high poverty area located only about fifteen minutes away from us. That school had no library because their budget did not allow for a librarian. The doors were locked. On the flip side, our library was full of books, a full time librarian and so many parent volunteers that we had to take turns volunteering with our children’s classes.

I also wrote about poverty after participating in a poverty simulation. My post about this event is long but please go read it. I know I still don’t understand what it is like to live in poverty but I know more for having participated. For one hour, I played the role of an extremely poor person. It was a truly eye opening experience.

With only these very minimal touches in to the world of poverty, I am incredibly confused. I am confused that the ‘people in charge’ don’t understand what a huge role poverty plays in all that is broken in our country.

Where is the word poverty in our discussions about Baltimore? Does being poor excuse rioting and looting? Absolutely not. But does being poor contribute a whole lot to the culture that lead to rioting and looting? Absolutely.

And how about all the energy that we are putting in to reforming our public school system? Where is the word poverty in that discussion? If children are coming to school hungry does it matter what curriculum their teachers are teaching? If children have no books at home, does it matter what standardized test they take? If parents are working three jobs and there is no one at home to read aloud to a child, will that child learn to read at the same time as my girls who have been read to since they were in the womb?

I certainly don’t know how to erase poverty in this country but I do know we need to start talking about it. What happened in Baltimore this week makes me incredibly sad. My only hope is that these events will further and create a much needed conversation.

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Apr 27

The Weekend Papers: Eighth Edition

by Stacey


Everyone so often, I write a post about what I found especially interesting in the weekend papers.

Here are my latest thoughts about discussion worthy articles. Let me know what you think!

Push, Don’t Crush the Students by Matt Richtel. I definitely have a ‘whole blog post’s worth’ of thoughts on this one but frankly not the ability to wrap my mind around the whole thing enough to write it. The story is one of the Palo Alto school district where high achieving students are feeling significant stress. You could easily replace Palo Alto with many towns including Ridgewood. I know what the problems are. I sure wish instead of writing another article about the crazy stress we are putting on our kids, we could find a way to collectively change it.

The Cost of Daydreaming by Vivian Gornik.  I am taking a memoir writing class and my teacher quotes Vivian Gornki’s The Story and the Situation frequently. The book is sitting on the top of my to-be-read stack. So of course it seems appropriate that Gornik has an essay in the paper this weekend. And an essay is about… wait for it… paying attention, of course!

Are You Smarter Than an Eighth Grader? by Nicholas Kristof. Again, we are given multiple examples of how far down the United States has fallen in our mathematical abilities. I’m not sure what needs to change but it certainly seems like something must.

Owning a Bookstore Means You Always Get to Tell People What to Read by Ann Patchett. While technically not a ‘weekend read’, I loved this article so very much. I’ve often said that I want to be Ann Patchett when I grow up and now that is even more true. Her description of a great reason to own a bookstore makes me want to own one all the more!

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Apr 22

Picture Book Favorites: April Edition

by Stacey

I can’t believe that another month has passed.

Somehow it’s already time for our new favorites…



The Bus Ride by Marianne Dubuc. This modern day take on Little Red Riding Hood is not to be missed. I’m pretty sure that each time I’ve looked at it, I notice a new charming detail.


Hoot Owl: Master of Disguise written by Sean Taylor and illustrated by Jean Jullien. This book is laugh out loud funny. Turns out Hoot Owl is not such a master after all but it is awfully fun watching him figure that out.


Sidewalk Flowers by Jon Arno Lawson & Sydney Smith. Shh… Don’t tell anyone but we don’t usually love wordless picture books around these parts. Truth be told, I have a hard time ‘reading’ them. At first Katherine put this book aside but we both picked it up again at separate times and I’m so glad we did. The story and the illustrations are equally engaging.


Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle and Rafael Lopez. This lyrical picture book is inspired by the true story of a girl who fights Cuba’s traditional ban against female drum players. Richly colorful illustrations are the perfect accompaniment for the strong girl power represented in this story.


By Mouse and Frog by Deborah Freedman. Mouse and Frog got a lot of attention before it’s publication and after reading it, I see why. It is the perfect story of the power of working together and of creativity. This may be my go to teacher gift this year.


Home by Carson Ellis. This is another book that has gotten a lot of attention in the blogging world. Gorgeous illustrations and sparse words show us how different people live around the world.

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Apr 20

Quick Lit: April 2015

by Stacey

Over the past two weeks, life, full of all good but time consuming things, has taken priority of over this space here. Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Quick Lit was last week, but I’m going to participate today with my latest reads.

Here goes…


Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin. I haven’t read a ‘self-help’ book in a long time. I tend to start them and abandon them so I stopped trying. Better Than Before was a book worth finishing. I learned a lot about myself and how and how not I should try to change my habits. This one is worth the read.


We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach. I saw the cover of this book and decided to read it before I even read the flap. It really is just about the coolest cover I have ever seen. The story is about a group of teenagers in the month leading up to what many have predicted to be the apocalypse. A giant asteroid is headed toward earth and it is fascinating to see just how people behave.


The Stranger by Harlan Coben. Harlan Coben lives in our town which made this book with multiple Ridgewood references all the more fun to read. The story was compelling and pretty easy to relate to- scarily enough!


Wreckage by Emily Bleeker. I had heard good things about this book so I decided to read it as soon as we got home from vacation. It seemed like a good idea to read it as far away from the next time I’ll be on a plane as possible. In case you didn’t guess, the story is about a small plane that crashes on a small island and the relationships that develop between the survivors.


Girl in the Dark by Anna Lyndsey. Can you imagine if even the tiniest bit of light made your skin feel as if it were on fire? This memoir was a page turner and equally parts depressing and inspiring.


Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. This recently released young adult novel has been called the new “Fault in our Stars.” I definitely did not like as much as that but it was a great read and an interesting opportunity to understand how it feels to be a gay teenager in today’s world.

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