Discovering new bookstores

One of the unexpected joys of sending my book Five Blocks Down into the world has been exploring new neighborhoods with quirky independent bookstores, and meeting the wonderful people who own or manage them. I recently discovered the town of Winthrop (founded in 1630, has several beaches and historical forts). If you live near Boston, I highly recommend a visit to the town. Stop at Simon’s Winthrop Bookstore, 152 Shirley Street, Winthrop, MA. This is a book-lover’s paradise with floor to ceiling books in a home converted into a bookstore. It is owned by a retired school teacher who is very knowledgeable and friendly. She ushered me into her kitchen to discuss my book. After I sold her a copy, she invited me to join a book club. Lovely. After browsing at Simon’s, have a cup of coffee at The Winthrop Book Depot & Cafe, 11 Somerset Avenue, Winthrop, MA. This is a sweet cafe with a small book and gift shop at the back. It is a friendly and comfortable place to sit and have a great cup of coffee and good snacks. On another day, in another neighborhood, you might want to check out Tres Gatos, 470 Centre Street, Jamica Plain. Tres Gatos is a Spanish tapas restaurant and wine bar. It is a small place with a great atmosphere, good food and a record and bookstore in the back. It is a fun place to browse. Be sure to look for my book.

Drawing for literacy

One of the things I discovered as a high school English teacher is that many students don’t visualize what they read. When I read fiction, I see the images in my head like a movie. It is one of the joys of reading. I thought having the students draw a picture of what is being described might help them develop that capacity.

While teaching Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck with a tenth grade class, I had the students draw a picture of the first page which describes a scene by a river in the countryside on the way to a ranch. The students had to number every image on their picture. They had to include a key with a numbered list of the phrases and sentences that were the basis of the images.

The results of this lesson were both informative and at times hilarious. One of the students included a building named Hillside Bank in his picture. The phrase that went with the image was: “the Salinas River drops in close to the hillside bank.” Another student had a swimming pool in the middle of her picture. She got that image from the sentence “The water is warm too, for it has slipped twinkling over the yellow sands in the sunlight before reaching the narrow pool.”

From that time forward, whenever I taught Of Mice and Men, I began with a lesson on the multiple meanings of the words ‘bank’ and ‘pool’, but I also continued to have the students draw some scene from every work of literature we read so they could form an accurate mental picture of the setting.

For Five Blocks Down, I recommend teachers have their students draw a picture from the first two pages describing the block where the main characters spend most of their time. As a second lesson, I suggest the students write a short essay comparing their neighborhood to the one depicted in the story.



Angel’s Song

by Angel Martinez

sitting here by my window day dreaming to the sky I ask myself why does this

life seem to pass me by. I’m still hoping for my future to take off and be

nothing but bright but I’m just afraid cause when I look around there’s


light in sight no one telling me don’t worry son you’ll be alright there’s

no need to cry wipe your eyes and continue cause your dream is worth the


and if u pursue to ride what u wanna do in life it will all come together in

a matter of time. I was a hopeful kid by the age of nine already realizing

what’s good and what’s right my pops telling me you wanna do the crime


face the time so I listened to his words and saw the signs instead I just

sit back and reminisce about life and try to put into words and make sure


rhymes. But I will keep on going because I will still face my toughest

battles today but I know I will be okay because hope is what makes me


to stay life to me is like one of the old shows all black and grey just

hoping to see another day. These memories filling my mind over and over

haunts me more as I get older like a heavy boulder I got to carry on my

shoulders. It’s something that I can’t get over I wish I was a lucky one

like a four leaf clover no problems no pain still question why I’m sober.

Sometimes at night I pray and ask God for a chance to change my life to


something to strive for what I want and feed off the drive instead I feel

like I’m barely getting by like fight for my life hoping to survive. I

have to wake up and realize that this is all in my mind remember that I’m

one of a kind that’s put into the category as undefined that will stop at

nothing to stay on my grind and continue to shine and keep my dreams

as my

number one prime but I will keep on going because I will still face my

toughest battles today but I know I’ll be okay.




I am accepting submissions of Hispanic poetry/rap lyrics to be posted on this page. Please submit to:
Below in the first submission by Angel Martinez. I think you will agree that he is a very talented young man.