Bringing Historical Fiction to the Modern Classroom

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Please enjoy my recent guest blog post on KIDLITERATI Blog by clicking on the title below:

Reaching Readers Guest Post with Kathleen Burkinshaw

Today we’re fortunate to have debut middle grade author Kathleen Burkinshaw with us to discuss how she brings historical fiction to the modern classroom. Enjoy…click to continue

GETTING THE WHOLE PICTURE….

I remember one day coming home from school – after walking uphill both ways- (sorry couldn’t resist 🙂 ) and being mad at a girl in my class because of something one of my friends told me she said. To be honest, I have no recollection of what the issue was.  However, I do remember my mom asking me if I went up to the class mate and asked her if or why she said anything about me.  I needed to have a better understanding- needed to have the whole picture before making an assumption (and we all know what can happen when we assume).

One of the reasons that I chose not to start THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM on the day of the bombing, but instead give the reader a glimpse into Yuriko’s family life first, was to show readers that even though Yuriko lived in Japan she still had the same love of family, fear of losing loved ones in the war, and enjoyed being with her friends. She acted very similar to and had the same emotions as the children in the Allied countries. I hope that by discussing her family traditions and introducing the readers to a culture they may not know much about, I am giving them more than just a couple of paragraphs in a history text-book about the end of WWII in the Pacific. And by the end of the book, they could discover that the people we might see as the ‘enemy’ are not always so different from ourselves.

Which is why I’m so excited to be an Author Sponsor of Multicultural Children’s Book Day which is this Friday, January 27th!! Multicultural Children’s Book Day(MCCBD), co-founded by Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen began on January 27, 2014. It is a chance for authors, illustrators, publishers, bloggers, librarians, and teachers to work together and introduce children to books that celebrate each other’s cultures and heritage. But just as important- to be sure these books are available in libraries and classrooms.

Please visit MCCBD’s website and check out the book reviews, reader activities, and book lists. There will be a Twitter party/giveaway of many fantastic books (including mine 🙂 ) on Friday at 9pm. Information can be found on Twitter under #ReadYourWorld.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day is a great start to introducing children to books that encourage them to look at the whole picture – a skill they can develop for years to come.

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Light the Lights and Ring the Bells

At this time of year, almost anywhere you may go, you can see holiday lights. Sparkling lights adorn the evergreen tree in the mall parking lot, as well as decorating doorways and front lawns in your neighborhood. Personally, I’m partial to the blue lights on our Palm tree in front of our house.bluelightspalm

Lights also play a major role in the Jewish celebration of Chanukah, the winter festival of lights.  In Japan, the celebration of Christmas is not necessarily for religious reasons, nor is it much of a commercial holiday.  However, their outside Christmas light displays are amazing.

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But lights are not just illuminating the outdoors.  Two weeks ago, I attended a remembrance service sponsored by the local hospice. Each of us that gathered there had lost a loved one. Some people had lost someone as far back as twenty years while some as recent as a few days before.

Inside the church four candles were lit- one represented grief, the second courage, the third one for our memories, and the fourth for our love. One of the hospice staff lit his individual candle, while saying the names of the people he was honoring and a fond memory about them. He then passed the light to the next person and we each in turn did the same. I’m not going to lie, it was difficult, yet very cathartic.

Inside my home, I lit candles the past 4 Sundays on our advent wreath. These lights remind me that a baby was born long ago to be with us, to save us, to stay with us.  Celebrating that miraculous birthday gives me strength and hope through each aspect of my life.adventwreath2

Our own birthdays are another occasion with candlelight.  My mom’s fell on December 15.  She loved éclairs more than cake. I remember the last birthday we celebrated. She was in a nursing home for physical rehab after her first hospital stay.  She finally had her appetite and I wanted to bring her an éclair.

It sounds easy enough.  However, around here, eclairs are not all made the same.  Some only have a fluffy, frosting cream instead of the yummy custard we had up north.  Anyway… I finally had found a bakery.  My daughter and I brought it to her, along with a little battery operated candle that she could make a wish on.  We sang to her, and kept the candle going the rest of the night. Little did I know, she would be gone in 4 weeks to the day of that birthday.

Last year, I was too depressed to celebrate her birthday.  But this year, I bought an éclair, lit a candle, and we celebrated my mom.

Glimmering lights and candles are used for remembrances and celebrations. In that sense, I feel that a person’s love for us can also be a light in our life.  When someone passes away, their light may flicker, but it is never really snuffed out. The source of the light is just a bit further away, and our loving memories keep the flame burning.

We are now about to usher in 2017. Many countries celebrate the new year with fireworks, firecrackers, and bells ringing. While I was growing up, my mother insisted that I always be home with her on New Year’s Eve. She believed that if the whole family was together at that time, there would be good fortune in the new year.  When I married, and moved further away, I would call her right after the ball dropped in Times Square and wish her happy new year in Japanese –  “Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu”. (One of the few Japanese phrases I know). I did this every year until she passed away. I so miss that. (I also miss the time when I could stay awake past midnight.)

In THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM(TLCB), one of the featured holidays is the New Year celebration(Oshogatsu).  Yuriko’s Papa settled his business finances for the year, they cleaned the house, New Year decorations were put up, and Yuriko helped her relatives prepare their special food for the New Year celebration which lasted from December 31st through January 3rd.

I feel that the sentiment from this paragraph of Yuriko’s celebration in TLCB echoes what I hope 2017 will bring:

           I took Papa’s hand as the temple bell began to strike. It rang out 108 times.  Each toll of the bell was intended to symbolize the release of a sin or bad habit, giving a fresh start to the New Year. But with each bong I sat wishing, “Peace, peace, peace…”  

I wish you a peaceful New Year filled with much joy and light with your loved ones!

Also linking up at Coffee For Your Heart.

STATIC

Do you remember what the screen looked and sounded like when a TV station would go off for the night? Yes, I know to some it’s hard to believe there was a time without 24 hour programming or infomercials. White noise bothers some people, but others use white noise machines to relax and sleep.

In Tokyo we were dazzled by all of the bright neon lights and digital billboards. At every subway stop in Tokyo there was an equivalent to the NYC Times Square. The neon lights were not limited to the famous Ginza shopping district.

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Once we exited the subway station in the Shibuya district of Tokyo, multiple digital billboards that talk at you greeted us. At a certain time every hour, all the billboards played the same commercial in unison as a type of surround sound not found in any cinema. I found it eerie-it seemed more like an episode of DR. WHO, when people on the billboards come to life and attack (I have no idea if there is such an episode, but there should be).

shibuya stationThe displays were mesmerizing yet overwhelming at the same time. I can relate it to the emotions that have been buzzing through my thoughts lately. Sometimes, all the concerns and anxiety I have just will not stop yammering.

Some thoughts are exciting ones like: I’m less than 9 months away from the publishing date when THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM hits the shelves! That’s August 2nd for those of you who don’t want to do the math 🙂 But that leads to: how will I successfully market the book? Will I physically be able to attend conferences? Will schools want to buy the book for their classroom? And lastly, will I be able to write anything else?

Other constant chatter involves my concern with my bad pain days increasing and that each RSD flare up takes me longer to bounce back to my “normal pain level”.

The static in my head feels as if my fight or flight switch that turned on 18 months ago from various losses and changes has been on for so long it doesn’t know how to shut off. I feel like I am supposed to put out a fire but I’m running (well limping would be more like it) in circles looking for my lost bucket of water needed to douse the flames.

Sometimes to feel better, I scream, rant, and cry (not necessarily in that order). But it is not always plausible to burst into tears. For example being in the produce section at the grocery store is NOT the best time. Not that I know this for a fact or anything…okay, yeah it happened. However, I do find that if I am in the car screaming or yelling, I don’t feel embarrassed because anyone that might see me may think I have a Bluetooth or am singing a really, really angry song.

I’m still trying to figure out how I’ll deal with the first major holidays without my mom. My grief counselor and various articles I’ve read about the grief journey discussed that there is no wrong way to celebrate the holidays. Celebrate in a way that is comforting to you and what makes you feel the most grounded amidst all the changes. Interestingly enough, a YA novel I recently read has been helpful with this sentiment.

In ORCHARDS, an award-winning novel by Holly Thompson, the main character, Kana, is trying to find meaning of a classmate’s suicide. She’s sent from the U.S. to spend her summer vacation with Japanese relatives on their mikan (orange) farm on the seaside of Japan. She is only half Japanese so many of the Japanese customs aren’t followed in her American home. I could definitely relate to that 🙂

Kana, stuck in her grief, wondered if she could have helped the classmate somehow and what she can do to help her friends deal with what happened. While in Japan she celebrates the Obon Festival (a carnival like celebration usually in August, but depends on the region of Japan and celebrated for over 500 yrs.).  Loved ones are remembered  with appreciation for all they had done for their family.

The family welcomes the spirit back into their homes with a special altar, sprucing up the burial area, sharing the memories of their loved one, and a bonfire to guide their family members back to their resting place.

Because of other lessons learned while living with her Japanese relatives and partaking in the Obon Festival to honor her Grandfather she becomes ‘unstuck’. Kana discovers a way to remember the classmate, heal her own heart, and help others heal as well. It is a wonderful novel and well worth reading to find out what other steps she took on her grief journey.

The sentiment that got through my white noise was that she couldn’t control one way or another what happened to her classmate, but she could control how she chose to remember her in a meaningful, loving way. So, I am continuing to pray that I am open to whatever God (one constant amidst the changes) places in my heart to offset the static in my head.

(Sending prayers to all who are grieving for loved ones or their loss of a sense of security and peace in Paris) ❤

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