Friday, July 31, 2009

Poetry Friday -- Countdown

Countdown to Summer: A Poem for Every Day of the School Year
by J. Patrick Lewis
illustrated by Ethan Long
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009
review copy provided by the publisher

High Schools have had Poetry 180 ever since Billy Collins came up with the idea when he was Poet Laureate. Now elementary school has their own Poetry 180, brought to us by one of the most prolific poets in all of children's literature -- J. Patrick Lewis!

You've got about a month to get your copy so that you're ready to read a poem a day to your class. You'll begin on page one, on the poem numbered 180, and you'll count down, poem by poem, to summer.

Lewis has timed the placement of the poems in the countdown to roughly coincide with a traditional "after Labor Day" school start, and he includes an amazing variety of holiday poems: Eid ul-Fitr (a special thanks for this one from those of us who have Muslim students in our class whose families observe Ramadan), Columbus Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Groundhog Day, 100th Day of School, Chinese New Year, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, April Fool's Day, Passover, Easter, and Mother's and Father's Days. There probably are more that I've missed!

Also amazing is the variety of poetic forms included in this book! I found at least one limerick, epitaph, quatrain, haiku, abecedarian, concrete, acrostic, riddle, couplets, haik-lues, ode, lullaby, tongue twister, rebus, and free verse. Again, there are likely more that I've missed!

The simple line drawings by Ethan Long sometimes help the punch line of the poem, sometimes provide a clue to understanding or solving the poem, and sometimes are a visual retelling of the poem.

I tabbed seven poems I really wanted to share with you today, but I guess that's about 5 or 6 too many. You'll have to check these out when you buy your copy: #174 "The Librarian" (an abecedarian), #87 "Martin Luther King, Jr. Day" (a beautiful acrostic), #76 "The Ninth Ward: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans" (heartbreaking and true), #59 "When is Its It's?" (maybe this poem will help my students learn proper use of its and it's...we can hope), #28 "Ars Libri: after Archibald MacLeish (everything books are and should be).

Here are two teacher/teaching poems since this is (I proclaim it so) the current quintessential volume of poetry for the elementary classroom. Apologies for the lost formatting on the first one...the middle lines should be centered between the first and last lines:

#163 I Was Your Teacher Once

I was your teacher once. You may remember me.
I am the chalk dust of memory.
I was the trusted ship you sailed.
You were the promise I unveiled.
I was the show. You were the tell.
I was your magic. You were my spell.
I was the ticket. You were the game.
I was the candle. You were the flame.
I was the curtain. You were the play.
I was the sculptor. You were the clay.
I was your teacher once. You may remember me.

Proposed Amendment to the Constitution

The President and Vice-President
of the United States shall be required
to take the Fourth Grade Standardized
Achievement Test so that
No President or Vice-President
shall be left behind.

Sylvia Vardell at Poetry For Children reviewed Countdown to Summer during Poetry Month in April and, coincidentally, she's got the round up this week!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

14 Cows for America BLOG TOUR

with collaborator Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah
illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez
Peachtree Publishers, 2009

A young Maasai man returns home to Kenya nine months after witnessing the events of September 11, 2001 in New York City. He and his tribe want to do something to help America heal. This is the story of a remarkable connection between two cultures a world apart.

"It's one of those books like Pink & Say that'll make me cry in front of my students no matter how many times I read it but it makes you proud to be a human being. Which is saying something." -- teacherninja

"14 Cows for America is a picture book that prompts reflection, sensitivity to others, and appreciation for each individual's place in our interconnected world." -- Diane Chen, SLJ


Saturday, August 1, 2009

5 Minutes for Books

Sunday, August 2, 2009

**Right Here** A Year of Reading

Monday, August 3

The Picnic Basket

Maw Books Blog

Tuesday, August 4

Children’s Book Biz News

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Books Upon A Wee One's Shelf

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Patchwork of Books

Friday, August 7, 2009

I.N.K. Interesting Nonfiction for Kids

Hope is the Word

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I Know an old Lady

I know an old lady who swallowed a fly, along with any number of other things. I have known this old lady since the early 1960's. I still have my 50 cent "Scholastic Book Services" book club copy of this classic.

I have a small collection of "old lady who swallowed" books and I use them to teach a unit on parody (along with Goodnight Goon and Goodnight Moon).

They include:

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Shell (all by Lucille Colandro and illustrated by Jared Lee. ...Looks like I need There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bell and, new in 2009, There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Chick to complete the Colandro segment of my collection!)

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Trout (by Teri Sloat and illustrated by Reynolds Ruffins -- a Northwest coast/Indian-themed version shared by a fellow Old Lady Book collector who used to live in Washington)

I Know a Shy Fellow Who Swallowed a Cello (by Barbara S. Garriel and illustrated by John O'Brien -- did I share this with the music teacher, or did he share it with me? I don't remember, but it matters not -- we both love it!)

I Know an Old Teacher (by Anne Bowen and illustrated by Stephen Gammell -- new last fall. I reviewed it here, with some other back-to-school books.)

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed FLY GUY (by Tedd Arnold -- my 4th graders love finding the folk tale embedded in a FLY GUY book -- a series they read when they "were little."

One I don't own (yet), but found at the library -- I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie (by Alison Jackson and illustrated by Judith Byron Schachner -- a fun Thanksgiving-themed version with a surprise ending that's just PERFECT!)

And now (drumroll.....) the newest in my collection...

There Was an Old Monster
by Rebecca, Adrian & Ed Emberley
Orchard Books (Scholastic), 2009
review copy provided by the publisher

This one doesn't just break the mold, it swallows it!

It is bright and bold and delightfully icky -- the monster begins by swallowing a TICK! A larger than life bright purple but horribly life-like TICK! Ick! The tick is followed by ants, a lizard, a bat, a jackal and more. Eww!

This book is an Emberley family labor of love. The unique take on the story was written by Rebecca Emberley, the fabulous illustrations were made by Rebecca's father Ed Emberley, and the daughter of Rebecca and granddaughter of Ed, Adrian Emberley (a performing songwriter according to the back flap), joined the fun with with a recording of the story at the Scholastic website. Go listen. I'll wait until you come back.

Wasn't that fun?! Can you not wait to share this with your students?!? Will they not be inspired to write new versions of this often-parodied story? Will they not want to make pictures in the Emberley style?!?! (Buy reams of bright-bright paper now, so you can be ready!!) Will they not want to make podcasts of ALL of the versions for Swallow Fest?!?!?!


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Ghost in the Machine Video

For those of you waiting for the sequel to SKELETON CREEK by Patrick Carman, the video premiere is up--loved it and can't wait for the book, GHOST IN THE MACHINE coming out this fall.

Monday, July 27, 2009

2 Great Adult Novels

I have given myself permission these last few weeks to read adult fiction. I love children's books and my stack continues to grow. But working through the stack started to feel like a chore a few weeks ago. I was hearing from so many friends about great adult books they had read and I felt like I couldn't have the luxury of reading one myself until I "caught up" on my children's book reading. Just as Mary Lee was feeling overwhelmed with Twitter, I was feeling overwhelmed with my never ending stack of children's books. Being a K-5 school librarian, it is always a never-ending stack. I find that I have no trouble keeping up with middle grade realistic fiction but other genres take more of my time and energy. And if I want to be able to put the right book in a child's hand, reading widely is key.

I have always been amazed at the amount of reading that Mary Lee does and every month, my mouth drops when I read the list of books that Jen Robinson is able to finish. Her monthly post of books read is one of my favorites but I so wish I could fit more reading time into my life. And some months I can--but not so much lately. And when I do have time to read lots, I tend to read from the stack of children's books that were recently published.

So I have given myself permission to take a few weeks off and do some reading for me. Not that the children's books aren't for me. I love them. But I realized that I had not read an adult novel for almost a year. And there are so many that I have been dying to read. Somehow, with this job, I have to figure out how to balance out the reading of children's books and the reading of adult novels. How do I find the time to do both?

I must say, I am sooooo happy I gave myself the time to read some adult novels. This month, I read 2 great books. Since I don't give myself time to read many adult novels, I have to be VERY picky. And I was thrilled with both of these choices. Neither was a very happy or upbeat book. But I love great characters and these were filled with complex characters. I highly recommend both of them if you are looking for a few good adult novels.

The first book I read was was LITTLE BEE: A NOVEL by Chris Cleave. I love books in which characters come together in unexpected ways and this is one of those stories. In this story, a 16 year old orphan who has seen much tragedy in her home of Nigeria connects with a husband and wife who are vacationing there. Tragedy brings them together and their lives are forever changed. This author has been compared to Ian McEwan and I can see why. I have read 2 of McEwan's novels and there is a similar feeling--a similar tension. I will definitely read more books by Chris Cleave.

The other was THE BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO by Junot Diaz. (I read the Kindle edition---more on that later!) I decided to read this for a few reasons. First of all, it was recommended by several people I trust as readers. But, I mostly wanted to read it because the author will be the opening speaker at this year's NCTE Annual Convention in Philadelphia. After reading the book, I am really looking forward to hearing him talk.

THE BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE is the story of Oscar--an overweight social outcast who spends his time reading, writing and looking for love. He is a great character. But this is more than the story of Oscar. It is the story of his family --the people who love him. The characters and their relationships were the thing that hooked me to this book. Characters you could believe. We come to know Oscar and his family over years and lifetimes. Through the stories we come to understand them and the decisions they make.

Since there are only a few more weeks left until school stars, I may just read a few more great adult books. I know that I'll be a bit behind on my children's books but it is okay. I guess I have to get used to the fact that I might always be behind. On my stack of possibilities for the other adult novels I might read this summer are THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, OLIVE KITTERIDGE and THE HELP.

Two For the Ocean

Vacation: We're Going to the Ocean
by David L. Harrison
illustrated by Rob Shepperton
Wordsong (Boyds Mills Press), 2009
review copy provided by the publisher

I saw this excellent little volume of poetry reviewed for Poetry Friday last week by Sylvia at Poetry for Children, and lo and behold, I found it today, waiting, on my very own bookshelf, for review for the Notables!

Kids will love the friendly little size of this book and the story it tells of going to the ocean for vacation, from the moment the family loads up into the car, through the sand burials, the no-see-ums and the sand castles, all the way to the dumping of the stinky dead crab and the return home. The poems and the pictures work perfectly together.

by Lucy Nolan
illustrated by Connie McLennan
Sylvan Dell, 2009
review copy provided by the publisher

To continue on the theme of the ocean, we have a new collection of Mother Goose rhymes told by Mother Osprey. Here's an example:

Mary Had a Little Clam

Mary had a little clam--
its shell was white as snow.
And everywhere that Mary went,
the clam was sure to go.

He followed her to school one day.
He set out in September
but reached the school in mid July--
clams cannot rush, remember?

Where were all the boys and girls
to play with as he'd dreamed?
School was out for summer break--
boy, was that clam steamed!

Kids will love this! Jack and June go up a dune, the old woman lives in a shell, and Hattaras light is falling down, falling down, falling down. I'm sure this will be a favorite for choosing poems to perform for Poetry Friday in my 4th grade classroom!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Poetry Friday -- Round Up is Here!

One of the books I won in Elaine's drawings last spring during National Poetry Month was American Wits: An Anthology of Light Verse, edited by John Hollander. Here's a poem by Robert Frost to set the tone for this week's Poetry Friday:

In a Poem

The sentencing goes blithely on its way,
And takes the playfully objected rhyme
As surely as it keeps the stroke and time
In having its undeviable say.

Leave your link in the comments. I'll round up throughout the day.


Readertotz has a Syrian poem about chickens this week. My last name means rooster in German!!


Linda, at Write Time, has an original villanelle that perfectly captures the frustration of how to tell someone something they already (intimately) know.

Kelly, at Writing and Ruminating, wrote her original poem for a writing exercise. She says the poem "went someplace she didn't expect it to go..." You'll likely agree.

Gregory K., at GottaBook, has baseball on his mind because of the perfect game that was tossed yesterday.

Diane, at Random Noodling, wrote a poem in honor of "National Drive-Thru Day," which is today!

Diane, at The Write Sisters, wrote a poem inspired by the photo of a child dripping in lace, and shares look at both sides of the story.

Andromeda Jazmon, at A Wrung Sponge, distills the sport of basketball into a haiku.

Jone, at Check it Out, gives us a glimpse into her own writing process as she walks us through her revision of a haiku based on her own personal summer book study.

Jim, at Haunts of a Children's Writer, has an original limerick that will be his toast at his son's rehearsal dinner.

Elaine, at Political Verses, has another poke at Palin. There's an element of "you gotta hear this" in her post as well.

Susan, at Susan Writes, is hosting the 15 Words or Less Poems again this week.

Charles Ghinga (aka Father Goose) started blogging in June. He's posting an original poem every week! This week's poem explores "What's A Meadow For?"

Lori Ann Glover, at On Point, shares her "Midsummer Fairies" today.

Here's what Marjorie, at Paper Tigers, says about her post this week: "I'm in this week with some original rap poems written via a youth project as a part of a local Community Opera production, Everyman, a modernized version of the 15th Century Morality play."


Eisha, at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, had a close encounter with Walt Whitman this week, and that's why she picked one of his poems.

Carol, at Carol's Corner, has an ee cummings poem that's as quiet as Eisha's Whitman pick is loud!

Kurious Kitty, at Kurious Kitty's Kurio Kabinet, shares two classics by Christina Rossetti.

Little Willow, at Bildungsroman, shares a poem by Emily Dickinson that is almost as loud as the Whitman that Eisha shared...but not quite.

Martha, at Martha Calderaro, has been enjoying Karla Kuskin this week.

Pam, at Mother Reader, uses the classic "I, Too" by Langston Hughes to make a strong point about a controversial book cover.


Shelf Elf has a very summery grasshopper poem for our delight this week.

Beth, at the Stone Arch Books Blog, shares a very relaxing water poem.


Tabatha A. Yeatts has a little bit of this-n-that this week. Be sure to check out her Christopher Morely picks.


Elaine, at Blue Rose Girls, shares "Otherwise" by Jane Kenyon.


Abby, at Abby (the) Librarian, tells about the (FABULOUS) poetry program she did in her library yesterday.

Zsofia, at The Stehouse Blog, uses Billy Collins' "Introduction to Poetry" to remind all teachers that the Stenhouse Poetry Contest is still going on! Check out this post for information about how to enter.


Laura Shovan, at Author Amok, posts about "portrait or persona poems" and shares the bio of her fellow Maryland poet-in-the-schools MiMi Zannino.

Esther Hershenhorn, at Teaching Authors, describes how she uses successive "name poems" (adjectives, then verbs, then nouns) to flesh out the characters in her novels.


Pudding the Bear posted this week for Jama at Jama Rattigan's Alphabet Soup. He's got a boatload of funny teddy bear pictures and a recording of the song "The Teddy Bears' Picnic" to go with them.

Heidi, at My Juicy Little Universe, shares her discovery of The Favorite Poem Project. Scroll down and listen to photographer Seph Rodney read Sylvia Plath's "Nick and the Candlestick."

Liz, at Liz in Ink, is sorting through the pros and cons, weighing the ups and downs of the writerly life. You can listen to Garrison Keiller read her pick: Frank O'Hara's "Autobiographia Literaria."


Elaine, at Wild Rose Reader, reviews two collections of city poems this week.

Sylvia, at Poetry for Children, has a review of a perfect collection for summer -- vacation poems!

Anastasia, at Picture Book of the Day, has a word choice lesson to go with the book, I LOVE CATS.

Becky, at Becky's Book Reviews, has a peek at a new collection by Jane Yolen that is illustrated with photos by her son!

You Must Meet Hope Anita Smith

Five Facts and a Mission:

1. She's the author of three collections of poetry: The Way a Door Closes, Keeping the Night Watch, and Mother Poems. (All three of these collections could be considered novels in verse, but because she works hard to make sure that each poem stands alone, I'll call them poetry collections.)

2. She's an illustrator whose medium is torn paper collages. (Mother Poems)

3. She just completed her term as Thurber House Writer in Residence.

4. Every Valentine's Day, she makes 100 Valentines and passes them out to strangers on the street.

5. She is frustrated by the economics of hardbacks vs. paperbacks, and passionate about the politics of language and color.

The Mission: Hope Anita Smith wants to place two copies of each of her books in every inner city library in the United States, starting with her home city of Akron, OH.

What can you do to help make her mission a success? Details will be coming soon on her website.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Panorama: A Foldout Book by Fani Marceau

Panorama: A Foldout Book
by Fani Marceau
illustrated by Joelle Jolivet
(originally published in France in 2007)
Abrams, 2009
The review copy still lives at Cover to Cover, shown here extended to its full length, but I may have to go back and buy it!

This is a gorgeous, gorgeous book. (Thank you, Beth for taking it out of its shrink wrap so that I could properly swoon!) Each page is a natural scene from a different place around the world, and each scene morphs into the next, linking our world in surprising and wonderful ways. It is a new take on the interconnectedness of our world, and it invites wonder and further exploration by highlighting places beyond the typical: the first four pages show the Ganges River Delta, Bangladesh, India; Mount Katmai, Alaska, United States; Adrar Desert, Sahara, Mauritania; and Cotopaxi Volcano, Andes Mountains, Ecuador.

The return journey, on the backs of the pages, shows the scenes at night and invites the reader to look for changes. Night sends animals into hiding and brings new animals out, people stop working and go home, and if you look carefully, in the picture of Scotland, the Little People come out!

The message at the end reads, "Here you are, back at the start. At the bottom of your pocket, keep a pebble -- a star -- to remind you of the world."

Other books by this illustrator include 365 Penguins, Zoo-ology, and Almost Everything. All are oversized and visually stunning. Jolivet's website is here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Nursery Rhyme Connections

I just picked up two books that connect to favorite nursery rhymes and fairy tales.

EGG DROP is Mini Grey's newest book. This is a fun take-off of Humpty Dumpty. In this story, one of the eggs wants to fly. Instead of waiting until he hatches, he climbs high and jumps. Needless to say the results are disastrous. The story and illustrations are quite fun with little surprises on each page. And, on the last page, the reader is invited to see the positive in the tragic ending. This book is a quite different story than Humpty Dumpty but the kids will definitely see the connections!

I also just discovered HEY, MAMA GOOSE by Jane Breskin Zalben. In this story, the woman who lived in the shoe, decides that her family has outgrown their home. Mama Goose suggests that they move into Snow White's house since she and the dwarfs have moved to help Rapunzel. And so the story goes, many of our favorite nursery rhyme and fairy tale characters moving into new places. Kids love to read new stories about characters they love and they should recognize all (or most) of the characters in this story. A fun way to revisit lots of favorite fairy tale characters.