Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Never Quite So Alone Again"

This poem came out of the February 2016 [community profile] crowdfunding Creative Jam. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] alexseanchai. It also fills the "someone reads a story to you" square in my 1-23-16 card for the Valentine's Day Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Shiv thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

Warning: This poem is mostly fluff, with a few rocky bits. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. Shiv takes turns reading and being read to. Because of his past trauma, this is sometimes angsty for him and sometimes fun. The rough stuff concerns Shiv's memories of crappy past experiences regarding both education and child abuse/neglect, and his astute but unexpected interpretation of Max in Where the Wild Things Are. I was impressed by it, but some people whose favorite book that is may not feel the same. As a teacher, my stance is we got the kid to read a book, let's call that a win. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before moving onward.

"Never Quite So Alone Again"

Shiv feels anxious and restless
while waiting for storytime, so he
curls up in bed early with his Microfyne,
and that helps him settle down a bit.

When the tablet chimes,
it comes as a relief, and he
turns it on eagerly. "Hi, Dr. G."

"Hi, Shiv!" Edison pipes,
crawling up his father's body
to peer into the tablet. "Da says
I get two stories now, one from him
and one from you. I just have to get
ready for bed a little earlier on
team storytime nights."

Dr. G chuckles, a warm sound
that smoothes down the hairs
on Shiv's skin. "We may have
finally found something that will
get the monkey in bed on time."

"I guess that's good," Shiv says.

"Now, I'm not an official literacy teacher,
but I've taught six kids to read, so we're
using the Finn family playbook," says Dr. G.
"If you want a real expert, that's on you --
I know you have access to them."

Right now there is nothing Shiv wants less
than another 'expert' hounding him about
how 'fun' reading is supposed to be.

Dr. G doesn't talk about fun.
He just pulls it out of his pocket
like a perfectly working switchblade.

"So how does this work?" Shiv says.
He props he knees on his wedge pillow
and lays the tablet against them, all comfy.

"I thought about it and realized that
making you go first or last just has
different disadvantages," says Dr. G.
"So I'm putting you in the middle,
and I'll read shorter things at
the beginning and the end."

"Okay," Shiv says, because yeah,
that does take some of the weight off.

"Tonight we're starting with a favorite poem,
'Where the Sidewalk Ends' by Shel Silverstein,"
says Dr. G, opening a hardback book.

"I hate poetry," Shiv mutters.

"How can anyone hate poetry?"
Edison says, his little eyes wide.

"I think people have been showing Shiv
some stinky poetry," says Dr. G. "Let's see
how he feels about the good stuff." Then
Dr. G begins to read in a low voice.

Shiv isn't expecting much,
but suddenly he is captivated.

This isn't Mother Goose junk.

This poem is white and red and black.
It's about the bad part of town,
and how to get out of there.

It makes him think of hiking and camping.
It makes his fingers itch to draw things.

There's even a picture right in the book,
two kids creeping to the edge of the sidewalk
and a dog about to fall through it, all drawn
with wiggly-squiggly pen lines that
somehow don't look messy.

"So is it stinky?" Edison says,
hanging on the edge of the tablet
the way he hangs on people's arms.

"That was ... um, different,"
Shiv says, still trying to wrap
his mind around it. "Wow.
I guess not all poetry stinks."

Dr. G has a look in his eye
like he just opened up a truck
and found it full of cash.

"I'm delighted to hear that," says Dr. G.
"All right, Shiv, it's your turn to read.
Edison picked out a favorite book
that should be easy for you
to get started with."

The view abruptly shifts so that
Dr. G and Edison now appear on
the wall viewscreen, and a book
takes over Shiv's tablet instead.

"Where the Wild Things Are,"
Shiv reads, and realizes that this
is one of those books that looked
kind of interesting but nobody would
let him have because it's 'too violent'
and 'encourages anti-social behavior.'

Well, if Dr. G forgot to check it with
the prison people, Shiv isn't about
to remind him of the restrictions.

"The night Max wore his wolf suit and
made mischief of one kind and another,"
Shiv reads, his finger tracing along the lines.
Then he has to make himself stop, because
that's gotten him smacked more than once,
just like letting his lips move with the words.

"Go ahead and point if it helps, Shiv,"
says Dr. G. "Remember that you learn
with your hands. Get a feel for the words."

Shiv gives the viewscreen a nervous glance,
but all he sees is Dr. G smiling and Edison
mouthing Story at him, so he reads on.

"His mother called him 'WILD THING!' and
Max said 'I’LL EAT YOU UP!' so he was
sent to bed without eating anything," Shiv reads.

It's not hard for him to understand
the words, but making them sound good
is a whole different thing. He has nothing
like Dr. G's low velvety voice that makes
everything sound amazing. Shiv's voice
is thin and sharp, and sometimes he
stumbles over the longer words.

He looks up again, because this is
probably just annoying his audience.

Dr. G seems so proud of him, though,
and Edison is making go-go motions with
his hands, so Shiv clears his throat
and keeps on reading the story.

Actually, this book is mostly pictures
with just a few lines of text for Shiv
to read. It's done in ink too, he thinks,
with some kind of colors -- watercolor,
maybe -- tinting between the lines.

Shiv can understand why Max
is so angry and so wild, but
then other parts of the story
make him uncomfortable.

He doesn't like the way that
Max treats the Wild Things,
and knows that not everyone
gets to come home to a hot meal,
and you never can tell whether
the people who get mad at you
will stay mad or change their minds.

So yeah, this story is making
Shiv's stomach squirm, but he
tries not to spoil it for Edison.

"The end," Shiv says at last,
automatically reaching to close
the book, only to remember it's a tablet.

"Thank you," Edison says.
He looks as wiggly as ever,
and not at all ready to sleep.

Shiv realizes that he's having fun,
enjoying storytime, enjoying just being
with these weird people, and even
the creepy story isn't too scary
as long as he has company.

He's starting to think that,
for all his ragged past, he may
be never quite so alone again.

"My turn again," says Dr. G. "I'm going
to read 'The Edge of the World,' because
I think it matches well with the sidewalk."

Shiv closes his eyes to let them rest,
because reading isn't easy for him
and sometimes it makes them ache.

Dr. G's voice is full of sass as he reads,
"Columbus said the world is round?
Don't you believe a word of that."

When Shiv talks like that, it gets him
in trouble, but that doesn't stop
him from sassing people.

Like the first poem, this one
is about edges and wildness
and the point where reality
kind of runs out on you.

At the end, Shiv even admits,
"That's a good one too."

"Okay, time for the next round
of fun," says Dr. G, reminding Shiv
that the suck part is about to begin.
"Go knock on your door now;
Mr. Vanburen should have
a package waiting for you."

Shiv is not looking forward to this,
but he is no welcher, so he gets up
and knocks on the cell door.

Mr. Vanburen opens it and says,
"Hi, Shiv. Ready for the goodie bag?"

"It's sharp!" Shiv exclaims,
suddenly distracted by
the new sensation. "What
do you have that's so sharp?"

"There are one hundred Legos in
the baggie, and when you're done,
I'm going to count them to make sure
all hundred make it back to the craft room,"
Mr. Vanburen says. "Those things are
like caltrops; you really don't want
to step on one of them."

Shiv thinks it would be funny
to see someone do that, but
he keeps his mouth shut.

"Yeah, I know that look on your face,
don't even think it," Mr. Vanburen says,
his voice stern as he watches Shiv.
"My little brother Joey went through
a carpet-bombing phase, so I know
all the tricks. You screw with these,
and you will not like what happens."

"No Lego carpet bombs," Shiv says,
which is disappointing, but the little bits
of plastic are still sharp and bright in
his mind, so he's not too upset.

"Okay, here you go," Mr. Vanburen says,
handing him a folder and the Legos.

Shiv goes back to his bed, then realizes
that he probably needs the desk, so he
moves again, propping up his tablet
to allow Dr. G to watch him working.

Then Shiv brings out his journal with
the pencils and pens, noticing how
the worksheets are punched so that
they'll fit into his three-ring binder.

He loves the Legos, but there are so many
of them. There are a lot of worksheets too,
and those aren't even sharp, unless Shiv
runs his finger along the edge of the paper,
and that would definitely get him in trouble
if he got caught doing it on purpose.

He's good at fooling people, but
not so sure he could fool Dr. G, who
is at least as sharp as the Legos.

"Don't wilt on me now," says Dr. G.
"Check out your Legos. I think you'll
do better learning words if you can
see and feel them while you work."

So Shiv dumps out the baggie
and explores the little plastic bricks,
spreading them across his desk
and stirring them with his hands.

They have letters and symbols stamped on them.

He soon discovers that they aren't random;
the letters come in sets of matching colors,
some brighter, some lighter. The gray blocks
have punctuation marks and the white ones
are blank. He sorts them into batches.

"Good job," says Dr. G. "You figured out
the subsets all by yourself. Have you
noticed anything else about them?"

Shiv has, in fact, realized that
the pink-blue-lavender set has
the only long blocks, and once he
pulls those out, he can see that
the letters which go up are written
on pink bricks while the ones which
go down are on turquoise, and
the squares are lavender.

"Like this?" he says.

"Exactly like that," says Dr. G.

He even explains how the other set
of red-yellow-blue-green letters is
supposed to be about sounds, which
goes right over Shiv's head as usual,
but it's nice of Dr. G to try.

Also it's a lot easier to concentrate
when nobody's yelling at him
or calling him a retard.

Dr. G shows Shiv how the bricks
fit together to spell words and
then make whole sentences --
the white bricks are spacers.

Soft clattering carries over the speaker,
and Shiv realizes that Edison has a set
of bigger bricks, probably because it's hard
for his hands to hold little things yet, and
whatever word the kid is building is
already longer than his arm.

"What's Edison doing?" Shiv asks.

"Spelling," says Dr. G. "Lego letters
are a tool that grows with you.
What's the word, kiddo?"

"Oscilloscope," Edison says
as he presses the E on the end.

Shiv feels like a retard all over again.

"Remember that Edison is
growing up in a family where he
gets bedtime stories every night,
and thinks the world is full of people
who want to read to him," Dr. G says
in a gentle tone. "It makes a difference."

"Yeah, well ... how much am I in for?"
Shiv says, poking at the worksheets
with about as much enthusiasm as he
pokes at lawnmower salad during lunch.

"Pick one worksheet you can fill out
with art, and another for writing practice,"
says Dr. G. "That fulfills the obligation
to show your work. If you want to do more,
then you can earn extra points -- I tried to find
things in a range of levels and subject areas,
hoping for some that might interest you."

"I can answer homework with art?" Shiv says,
now looking at the pages more closely.

He notices that some of them seem easy
while others seem really hard, and since
Dr. G is letting him pick which to do,
Shiv doesn't have to feel babied or
overwhelmed, he can hunt for stuff
that more-or-less makes sense.

"Yes, art is an accepted approach,
just not something that every school
offers," Dr. G assures him.

There's a packet of cards with
vocabulary words and pictures
on them, some to look at
and others to trace.

Shiv realizes that with his set
of gel pens and colored pencils,
he could trace the letters the same
as the colors in the Lego sets.

"What are these for?" he asks.

"They go with some of the worksheets
designed for a word wall, so you can
practice vocabulary by matching up
the words with their shapes," says Dr. G.
"If you don't want a wall-size display,
you can just stick them in your journal.
Sort the cards whichever way you like."

"Huh," Shiv says, laying them aside
to put into his journal later. Or maybe
he'll stick them on the wall instead,
to make himself look good.

Then there are pages about character
and setting, along with some that are
just blank frames, or a frame with
a few writing lines under it.

Shiv finds a half-and-half page
with two frames that both say,
"I feel wild when ..."

So he draws himself in school,
wanting to move but stuck
hunched behind his desk.

Then he draws himself outside,
swinging from the monkeybars
like Max and the Wild Things
during the wild rumpus.

He uses the black gel pen
to make the outlines all crisp,
and the colored pencils for shading.
It's not exactly the same as the pictures
in the book, but it's pretty close.

"Wow, you did a before-and-after set,"
Dr. G says. "That's a smart way to use
the half-page frames. Did you see
the other pages with blank frames?
Those are storyboard templates, for
plotting events with illustrations."

"Like comic books?" Shiv says.

He likes comics, when he can
get them, which isn't often.

Most of his foster parents didn't
approve of them, and the only kind
the prison allows are stupid civics cartoons.
He'd rather watch paint dry than read those.

"Exactly, and some of them are templates
for comic book pages," Dr. G says. "You can
try one of those for your art page another time,
or even as an extra later tonight. For now,
what do you want for your writing page?"

Shiv shuffles through the worksheets
again, setting aside the art ones.

Then he weeds out the writing pages
that look too difficult for him to do.
There go all the poetry ones, because
he knows bupkis about poems.

Surprisingly, he still has a bunch of pages
that give some pretty good prompts about
what he's supposed to fill in, instead of
leaving him to guess and get it wrong.

"How about this one?" he asks,
holding up a worksheet of
questions about Max.

"Go ahead," says Dr. G,
so Shiv picks up a pencil.

Why did Max have to go to bed
without dinner?
the worksheet says.

Well, that's obvious.

Because he's a smartass,
Shiv writes, and then looks over
at Dr. G on the tablet.

"Can I say that?" Shiv asks aloud.

"It's your homework, so you can say
whatever you want," Dr. G says.
"Just remember that this project is
more educational than therapeutic.
Suppose Mr. Howard asks to see
your work so he can confirm that
you're learning something from it.
What would you say about that line?"

"That it's the truth," Shiv snarls,
who's gotten himself sent to bed
hungry for being a smartass
more times than he can count.

Dr. G sighs. "I'm sorry to hear that.
I know you've had a rough time.
Do you want to talk about it?"

Shiv just shakes his head and
fills in the next line on the page.

"Max's mother shouldn't have done that,"
Edison says suddenly, looking unhappy.
"I don't think it's a good consequence,"

"What isn't?" Dr. G asks him.

"Sending Max to bed without supper,"
Edison says. "It's related, because he
said he'd eat her up and that's mean,
but it doesn't teach him anything about
getting along with people or even
how to calm himself down."

"Those are good arguments,"
Dr. G says. "Isolating someone
who's already upset can make
the problem even worse, and then
they won't trust you when things
go wrong. Shiv, what do you think?"

"I dunno," Shiv says.
He's not sure why they're
talking about the story when
he's got worksheets for that stuff.

"Okay, then how could Max's mother
have handled this better?" Dr. G says.
"Does anyone have ideas?"

Try not being such a douche, but
Shiv doesn't want to explain that.

"Make Max clean up his own mess,"
Edison says with a firm nod. "I always
get that one, unless it's so bad
that I can't clean it myself."

"If you're so full of energy, then
take it outside," Shiv says suddenly.
"One of my foster moms used to tell me
that a lot. Sometimes if I was feeling
restless, I could just go run it off."

"So that's a good solution for you,"
Dr. G says. "Keep it in mind."

Shiv thinks about going outside
as he writes about the forest growing
in Max's room, which reminds him of
all the yard time he could buy with
these points he's racking up.

Then he gets to the end of the worksheet
and yep, there's the suck all right.

Shiv scribbles an answer quick
and then pushes the page away,
leaning his head on his hand.

He forgets that he's not actually alone.

"You look a bit uneasy," Dr. G says.
"Is something about tonight bothering you?"

"It's Max," Shiv admits. "He looks like
a little kid, but he's ... really kind of creepy.
I mean he basically mind-whammied
all those poor monsters."

Dr. G looks startled, and then
impressed. "That's a very fresh take
on the story," he says. "Why don't you
find a good worksheet and write or
draw something about that?"

"What for?" Shiv asks.

"Shiv, you just pointed out that
Max is a questionable character
because he showed bad manners
with his superpower," Dr. G says.
"That could be very interesting work
to show someone who wanted to argue
that you don't understand ethics."

So Shiv messes around the papers
until he finds one about character traits.
He draws Max as a mad telepath and
copies down the part of the story
that goes with that idea.

It makes him shiver.

He doesn't want to use nice colors
for such a nasty topic, so instead
he tries to copy the style from
the other book, the one with
black-and-white pictures.

He's got pretty good pens for
drawing, now, but the lines still
don't come out quite the way that he
wants them to, and that frustrates him,
because he should be grateful
for the nice things he has.

"Problem?" Dr. G asks.

"I can't get this stupid pen to make
lines like the ones in the poetry book,"
Shiv growls, squeezing it harder.

"Well, the illustrations were probably
done with some kind of art pen --
fountain, calligraphy, or technical --
and yours are all ballpoints," Dr. G says.

Shiv doesn't recognize the other names,
but he knows what a fountain pen is.
The warden has one that he's so proud of,
he likes to carry it around in his pocket,
all silver and shiny in the light.

It's hard for Shiv to keep from messing
with that thing, because it's so sharp and bright,
even though touching it is about as smart as
trying to take a hound dog's only bone.

"Fountain pens are pretty smooth," Shiv says,
wondering what it would be like to draw with one.

"Let it go for now," says Dr. G. "If you want
better pens, we can explore that another time."

Shiv rubs his finger over the plastic barrel
and remembers the creme pastels. If Dr. G
is willing to bring him those, then perhaps
he's serious about a real art pen. "Okay."

That reminds Shiv of something else
from their recent counseling sessions.

They've been doing the marshmallow thing
a while now, and if Dr. G can find worksheets
that aren't all awful, then maybe Shiv has
been missing out on a lot of extra treats.

It's something to think about,
along with the possibility of
getting some nicer pens.

He still likes the gel pens, though,
even if they don't do the same tricks
as whatever pen the artist had.

Shiv sorts through the stuff on
his desk again, and wow, it's really
turning into a mess by now.

So he grabs the Legos
and clicks them into words,
squeezing them in his hands,
and then setting them aside.

They take up a lot less space this way.

It's gotten quiet on the other side, and
Shiv glances up to check the viewscreen.

Edison has quit scrambling around with
his letter blocks to lean against the bed,
just watching Shiv work or whatever.

Dr. G silently touches a finger to his lips.

Shiv goes back to work, because he
really does not want creepy Max
to be the last thing on his mind
right before going to bed.

He pulls out a page about mood.
It reminds him of how the two poems
talked about edges and colors and patterns,
how they made him feel as he listened.

He doodles inside the mood ring,
not trying to draw anything in particular,
just letting the gel pens block out
patches of white and red and black,
curling together in some places
like the way the wind swirls.

By the time Shiv finishes,
he feels better, and he doesn't
want to push his luck doing
any more worksheets.

"Yes," Dr. G says on a soft note
of triumph, and Shiv realizes
that Edison is out like a light.

Dr. G scoops him up and
tucks him into bed, smoothing
a quilt over the boy's chest.
Then he tiptoes out of the room.

It makes Shiv think of his own blanket.

"If you're done for the night, Shiv, then
tidy up your desk and we'll say goodnight,"
Dr. G suggests. "Put the finished worksheets
in one folder so you can hand them over if
Mr. Howard asks to see your work, and
put the blank ones in another folder
to save for later sessions."

It's not really that late, but Shiv
is tired -- schoolwork wears him out --
and Dr. G's voice is as soft as Microfyne.

"Okay," Shiv agrees, reaching for
the pages. "What about the Legos?"

"Put them back in the baggie,"
says Dr. G. "I'm afraid that you
can't keep those in your room, but
you can use them in the craft room
or the library with supervision. I'm sure
that Mr. Howard would be happy to help."

Shiv has no intention of trying that
without backup, but he likes
the feel of the Legos and he
has a bundle of points for
the craft room now.

"Done," he says finally.

"Good job," says Dr. G.
"Now go turn in the Legos."

At Shiv's knock, Mr. Vanburen
opens the cell door and says,
"Ready to call it a night?"

He has a magazine tucked under
one arm, which he sets aside while
he counts out all one hundred bricks --
without unsticking them from
the words Shiv has made.

The steady count of numbers
makes Shiv yawn hugely.

"All present and accounted for,"
the guard declares. "Well done.
I'll put these in the craft room."

"Good night, Shiv," says Dr. G,
and Shiv replies, "Night."

One nice thing about private confinement
is that Shiv doesn't have anyone else
making a racket when he wants to sleep,
and he doesn't look forward to losing that.

He knows he'll have to, before
they'll let him out of prison, and
he even knows that the reasons
make plenty of sense, but that
doesn't make it suck less.

Shiv snuggles into bed with
his pillow and blanket all fuzzy
and warm around him.

In the dark, he remembers
the sound of Dr. G's voice
reading the poems, and
the colors that Shiv had
used to draw them.

It's a little like falling asleep
to the sound of slow, smoky jazz
on a slow night in the lair when Shiv
could tuck himself into a corner booth
until sleep made his vision blurry and
the wall art turned into dreamy smears.

Even in a solitary room, Shiv understands
that he's coming to the edge of his old life,
and the new one will leave him feeling
never quite so alone again.

He thinks about how the colors
can go side by side with each other,
never the same, but still not
erasing one another,

and he's not sure how to be okay
with that, but he's starting to believe
that he'll find his way there somehow.

* * *


"When you learn to read you will be born again…and you will never be quite so alone again."
Rumer Godden

Browse a list of books to read aloud.

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. Here is the table of contents. Read the poem "Where the Sidewalk Ends" and see the illustration. Listen to it on YouTube. These are favorites for family reading and for discussing illustrations. Do a worksheet on "Where the Sidewalk Ends" or explore a lesson plan.

Pen and ink art is full of interesting techniques and exercises. Here are instructions for drawing some specific things. Learn about fountain pens, why they are good for sketching, and how to use one.

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. This book is full of beautiful art. See the text and pictures online, or just read the text. Listen to a YouTube performance. Read about the psychology behind the story. Shiv's insights are particular to growing up in a society with superpowers, but also his own disadvantaged childhood.

Pen and ink combines well with watercolor washes. Learn how to make illustrations this way.

Pointing while reading causes quite a controversy because some people think it produces robotic readers while others argue that it helps children learn reading. It is how most children learn to read at first, and may improve reading in later years. Certainly if you punish children for learning in the ways that are most natural and effective for them, you will get bad results and students who hate you. And occasionally a supervillain.

Similarly people complain about moving lips while reading, but subvocalization is part of the kinesthetic learning style. Once again, if you cut off the way kids learn, they will not learn well. If you hit them, they may learn that violence is an acceptable way of solving problems.

Reading aloud is good for younger and older children. Here are some tips on reading aloud.

The Edge of the World by Shel Silverstein comes with an interesting picture.

Lego caltrops are famous for the intensity of pain they can cause. Caltrops are small pointy weapons, which appear in the shoulder insignia of III Corps -- in T-Britannia, the Pictish emblem.

There are worksheets for Where the Wild Things Are. These are word cards. Here is the "I feel wild when..." worksheet. This is the setting worksheet. Here are the questions about Max. This page has more word cards, games, and other activities.

Here are some general reading worksheets. This is a kindergarten book report and a reading response page. A summary hand helps students to summarize a story. A story map helps readers to diagram a plot. There are worksheets for setting, character, and character with drawing. Learn about teaching character analysis with graphic organizers.

Drawing stories can help readers understand them better. This is a simple half-and-half page for writing and art. Here is a four-frame outline. This comic template has six identical rectangles, and this one has eight with writing space. These six rectangles are different sizes. Here is a layout based on a star. This one has speech bubbles. Check out these printable templates and learn how to make a comic book of family stories.

Poetry worksheets can explain terms and devices. This one asks for art and writing and this one considers the objective. Here is one with a literary perspective.

Word shape worksheets can teach letter shapes and be used with a word wall. This one focuses on animal names and this one has miscellaneous words. You can also make your own word shape worksheets.
Word Shape Worksheets

Dr. G is like the Legos: perfectly safe if played with according to the directions, but painful to step on. Read an introduction to Lego letters. They can be written on blocks and sorted in sets. They teach the shapes of words. If you write whole words on some blocks and letters on others, you can match them up. This set of blocks uses preprinted labels stuck on them so that whole words may be sorted.

In case you want to make your own, the T-American Lego Wordplay Starter Set contains 100 pieces, comprised of several subsets:
* 26 - one complete upper-case alphabet color-coded for phonics. Vowels (AEIOU) are in red. Voiced consonants (like B and D) are in blue, unvoiced consonants (like F and P) are in yellow, and letters commonly associated with multiple sounds (like C) are in green. These are all 2x2 bricks.
* 26 - one complete lower-case alphabet color-coded for letter shapes. Tall letters (like f and d) are pink, short letters (like a and c) are lavender, and tailed letters (like g and y) are turquoise. Tall and tailed letters are on 2x3 bricks; short letters are on 2x2 bricks.
* 24 - the most common letters ETAOINSRHDLU, one set in each color code
* 14 - common punctuation marks on gray: period, question mark, exclamation point, comma, semicolon, colon, dash, hyphen, pair of parentheses, pair of quotation marks, apostrophe, elipsis. These are all 2x2 bricks.
* 10 - white blocks for spacers. These are all 2x2 bricks.

Edison is working with engineering vocabulary. He has not yet learned that just being smart can hurt other people's feelings, especially if they have been picked on about not being smart enough.

Word walls have sets of words and pictures, often relating to a theme. These word cards are for tracing. Finished cards may be organized alphabetically. Here is a vocabulary worksheet.

Duplo can be used the same as Lego, just easier for small hands to hold. Spell words or make sentences.

For writing and sketching, some colored pencils and gel pens are interesting. Here is an example of flowers.

Why Shiv is so messed up.

The ethics of telepathy are complex. Terramagne has the interesting feature that most telepaths are mentally fastidious, but there are still exceptions that scare the crap out of decent people. Mindrape is heinous specifically because most people have no defense against it, but even nonviolent contact can be very wrong without consent. Shiv happens to like telepaths -- his boss is one -- even though it's not a power he has himself. That gives him a fascinating and insightful perspective on superpower ethics. You can argue that he doesn't have the "right" kind of ethics, but not that he has no understanding of ethics. He does, and it's actually quite nuanced.

This is the worksheet on character traits that Shiv fills out regarding Max. Here is the literary mood ring page.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, education, family skills, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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