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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Tag Archives | Poetry

Read Out Loud for Easter

As you prepare to celebrate Easter, we encourage you to include books in your celebration. A tradition of reading out loud before Easter dinner, after Easter dinner, as you awaken on Easter morning … perhaps each day during Holy Week? Here are a few gems we believe you and your family will treasure. Happy Easter!

At Jerusalem's Gate  

At Jerusalem’s Gate: Poems of Easter
written by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by David Frampton
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2005

There are twenty-two free-form poems in this book, each from the point of view of a witness to the events of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Each poem could be read by a different family member or the poems could be read separately throughout the Easter weekend. The woodcut illustrations will engender conversations about the style, technique, and details.

The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes

 

The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes
written by Du Bose Heyward, illustrated by Marjorie Flack
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1939

Little Cottontail Mother is raising 21 children, but it’s her dream to become the Easter Bunny. As she assigns her children chores and teaches them life’s lessons, she gains confidence to audition for the job of one of the five Easter Bunnies who deliver eggs and baskets on Easter Sunday. It’s a sweet story still, nearly 80 years after it was first published. The brightly colored illustrations are memory-making for new generations of readers.

The Easter Story  

The Easter Story
written and illustrated by Brian Wildsmith
Alfred A. Knopf, 1994

The events of Holy Week, the Last Supper, the crucifixion, and the Resurrection, are recounted through the eyes of the little donkey that carried Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. With Wildsmith’s distinctive illustrations, this book has been published in many editions and many languages. A good read-aloud book to add to your Easter bookshelf.

Egg  

Egg
written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes
Greenwillow Books, 2017

Four eggs, each a different color, hatch (one doesn’t) and the chicks set off—and return for the unhatched egg. When the egg hatches, there’s a surprise! When the book ends, there’s another surprise! This is a book about friendship and growing up, just right for reading out loud and for emerging readers to read on their own. With simple lines and appealing colors, the illustrations are irresistible.

The Golden Egg Book  

The Golden Egg Book
written by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Leonard Weisgard
Golden Books, 1947

A true classic among Easter books, a small bunny finds a blue egg. He can hear something moving around inside so he conjectures what it might be. As the bunny tries to open the egg, he wears out and falls asleep. Only then does the young duckling emerge from the egg. With richly colored illustrations from the masterful Leonard Weisgard, this is a treasured book for many children and families.

Simon of Cyrene and the Legend of the Easter Egg  

Simon of Cyrene and the Legend of the Easter Egg
written by Terri DeGezelle, illustrated by Gabhor Utomo
Pauline Books & Media, 2017

Based on a few lines about the legend of Simon of Cyrene that the author found while researching, this book brings to life the experience of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, as told through the perspective of Simon. He takes eggs to Jerusalem to sell for Passover when he becomes caught up in the procession following Jesus as he carries his cross to Calvary. As Jesus stumbles and falls, a Roman soldier forces Simon to bear the cross instead. Told with a lively narrative and brightly colored, satisfying illustrations, this is a good story to choose for read-alouds, opening up an opportunity to discuss the many aspects of the Easter story.

Story of Easter  

Story of Easter
written by Aileen Fisher, illustrated by Stefano Vitale
HarperCollins, 1997

With an informative text and glorious illustrations, this book explains both how and why people all over the world celebrate Easter. It tells the biblical story of Jesus’ Resurrection and then describes how people honor this day and the origins of these traditions. Hands-on activities help draw children into the spirit of this joyous celebration of rebirth.

Story of the Easter Bunny  

Story of the Easter Bunny
written by Katherine Tegen, illustrated by Sally Anne Lambert HarperCollins, 2005

Most people know about the Easter Bunny, but how did the Easter Bunny get his job and how does he accomplish the distribution of so many colorful eggs each Easter? It all began in a small cottage with an old couple who dye the eggs and weave the baskets. One Easter, they sleep in and it’s their pet white rabbit’s decision to deliver the eggs and chocolate, thereby starting a tradition. Told in a matter-of-fact style with appealing, detailed illustrations, this is a good addition to your Easter tradition.

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Behind the Poem, “What She Asked”

one of Virginia’s many popular books for upper middle grade and teen readers

Listen to Virginia’s poem, “What She Asked,” on Poetry Mosaic, the April 7th entry, and then read her description of the real-life event behind the poem.

In a rural Oregon high school where I taught English more than 20 years ago, we had big teaching areas separated by screen-wall things, but they came nowhere near reaching the high ceiling, because a few years earlier the design of the school had been to have a giant Resource Center and Library, and teachers and groups of students would ideally meet in sections of the massive room, and that would be school. Didn’t turn out that way (of course): Acoustics were the main problem, but also the continuous human traffic through, coming and going in the Library section. So the dividers arrived, and we had somewhat discrete class areas, but not really. If the neighboring class area was noisy, focus and concentration were difficult. In one or two periods of the day, my area’s nearest neighbor was Human Health and Sexuality, and we who were studying fiction heard “and the condoms don’t always work,” etc.

“What She Asked,” is including in this poetry anthology, published by Pomelo Books, 2016

There were the occasional paper airplanes. One or two per week, maybe. 

One afternoon, in the sleepy after-lunch period, I whisperingly asked my class (high school juniors, maybe some sophomores) to make paper airplanes and we would send them, on signal, over the wall to Human Health and Sexuality.

“Can we make more than one?” “Sure! As many as you can fly all at once,” said I. I insisted that they understand that only at my signal would the fleet of airplanes have the desired effect of simultaneity. I, too, made one paper airplane.

On my own personal count of 3, it worked. I think we must have sent over 40+ airplanes into the next class. Great fun. The teacher had a fine sense of humor (her fields were Biology and Ski Coaching) and she liked the dramatic moment of it. Of course Human Health and Sexuality sent the planes back, but I suppose we won because we had done it first. And simultaneously.

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Merna Ann Hecht and Our Table of Memories

Merna Ann Hecht

Merna Ann Hecht

When one poet, Merna Ann Hecht, and one educator, Carrie Stradley, observed their community, their schools, their students, and realized that a plethora of life experiences surrounded them, they put their teaching and their hearts together to create The Stories of Arrival: Refugee and Immigrant Youth Voices Poetry Project at Foster High School, in Tukwila, Washington.

These weren’t typical high school stories. Instead, these students have experiences of leaving their homes, their friends, their schools, their countries … to emigrate to America, where life is often astoundingly different.

Encouraging these English Language Learning students, more than 240 of them over the past six years from 30 countries, to communicate their stories through poetry helps to empower them to find their voices and move confidently into their chosen futures (a paraphrase of the project’s mission).

Stories of Our Arrival

Combine this project with another, Project Feast, and you have not only a cookbook of worldwide appeal but a book of poetry that is often eye-opening, compassionate, and heartrending. A recipe for understanding. A taste of the memories, travels, and longing behind the poets’ words.

Together with their partners The Institute for Poetic Medicine (Palo Alto, CA), the Jack Straw Cultural Center (Seattle, WA), and Chatwin Books (Seattle, WA), these two women and their projects have created Our Table of Memories: Food & Poetry of Spirit, Homeland & Tradition. It’s a beautiful book, part poetry by high school students, part recipes from the traditional cooks from their countries, and part art with illustrations by Morgan Wright, a recent college graduate, newly enrolled in New York City’s Bank Street College to pursue her Master of Arts in teaching.

By publishing this interview with Merna Hecht, it is the hope of Bookology‘s editors that you will be inspired to consider a program like this in your own community. Feel free to contact Merna with your questions.

  Can you tell us a bit about your life, in particular what pulled you toward poetry?

 There is not a moment I can recall when I wasn’t pulled toward poetry. I first heard the incantatory rhythms of poems from my grandfather who gave beautiful, memorized recitations of Longfellow and John Greenleaf Whittier. I think it was second grade when I began writing rhymed poems. Those childhood poems were shaped by what then seemed the magic of the natural world. Noticing details of bugs, petals, leaves, cracks in the sidewalks on my way to and from school often made me late. At the time it seemed like a secret world. Now I think that early impulse for close observation and a deeply private inner world have shaped the poet I’ve become. I have always turned toward poetry to nourish my spirit. As a young woman, I began to read many different poets who spoke to me, challenged me, provoked me and opened my eyes and heart to the beauty and suffering of the world; I’ve not stopped turning these pages. Poetry is the place where I find a wellspring for expression of what seems most tender, most true and most unsayable. 

How did you find your way to teaching?

By a somewhat gnarled and twisted path and I’m so glad I got there! I was a registered nurse by the age of 21 and worked for five years as a pediatric nurse. I usually carried finger puppets in my pockets and offered impromptu storied puppet shows at children’s bedsides. Then came a realization that I much preferred the storytelling and puppets to the nursing! “The rest is history,” from working with midwives on the Navaho reservation, to jaunting about as a puppeteer and poet in the schools in rural Idaho, to earning a Masters Degree as a children’s librarian. Under the tutelage of master storyteller, Professor Spencer Shaw at the University of WA, I fell in love with the art and craft of tale-spinning. Fast forward to working as a children’s librarian for Seattle Public Library to my first formal teaching job in a progressive teacher certification program and onward to becoming a teaching artist and a university lecturer.

You’re nationally known as a storyteller. In 2008, the National Storytelling Network presented you with their Brimstone Award for Applied Storytelling, with which you created a pilot program as a poet and storyteller at Bridges: A Center for Grieving Children in Tacoma. Can you tell us about applied storytelling? What does that mean and how do your stories work toward that specific application?

These days, storytellers show up in many places: detention centers, hospitals, war torn countries at centers for young people in trauma and drug rehab facilities for teens. These raconteurs bring the age old pleasure of listening to a tale well told. This allows young people (and all of us) to temporarily walk in someone else’s shoes; it sparks the imagination to life. Through ancient patterns of myth and folktales stories can allow a trust in possibilities to take hold. To apply storytelling in settings for young people and adults who have experienced loss or trauma helps create safe space and gathering places where deep listening can occur. There are universal truths in stories from all cultures. Many stories reflect the inevitability of loss in human life and they speak to our interconnectedness to each other, to animals, trees, the moon, the stars and to mysteries beyond us. In this way stories can ease a sense of isolation and loneliness. Finding the right story for a situation, a group, or an individual is part of applying storytelling to special settings and using stories to help others trust that they can overcome obstacles and find their inner strength and courage.

What drew you toward working with refugee and immigrant children?

The short answer is that these young people are my teachers! Their determination to succeed in high school, continue on to college and contribute to this country and/or to return to their homeland to help others inspires me and gives me hope. They dream of becoming doctors, nurses, peace-makers, environmentalists, actors, pilots and they do not bemoan the difficulties they have experienced at such a young age. Loss of family members, life in refugee camps, forced migrations, lack of enough food, health care, education and still they are model citizens. They are young people who are hopeful, curious, and deeply kind who wish to help create a more peaceful, humane world.

Stories of Our Arrival poets

The Stories of Our Arrival poets. Educators Carrie Stradley (front row, left) and Merna Hecht (front row, second from right) feel privileged to have worked with more than 240 students over the past six years from 30 countries.

You’re an organic gardener with respect for food traditions. How did this inspire you for Project Feast and how did the idea of the cookbook, Our Table of Memories, with poetry and illustrations come into being?

Our Table of MemoriesWhen I heard about Project Feast and found that it was located within a mile of the school my idea for a collaboration sprang in part from years of “hands on” intensive gardening and cooking and from a passion for exploring different ways people across the globe prepare and share food. This love of cross cultural food is something Carrie and I share. When she heard the idea for collaborating with Project Feast her eyes lit up with a “yes!” We both recognize that when people leave their homelands, a deep sense of home remains with them, in part, with eating and growing the foods of their cultures. We felt that a food-themed project would generate a rich outpouring of poems. Given that food and poetry both speak languages of flavor, scent, spice, texture, and color we wanted to include illustrations that would reflect the sensory feel of the poems—to create a presentation much like a memorable meal which the eye feasts upon before the palette! We also wanted to celebrate our students and the refugee women of Project Feast by including beloved recipes from their memories, their families and their homelands.

 Can you share a particular story from this Project that gave everyone hope?

One of Carrie’s ELL classes had fourteen boys and only two girls. Hope certainly flourishes when a group of adolescent boys, all refugees from different countries, cultures and ethnicities, openly support and applaud each other for writing poems that are vulnerable and emotionally expressive. Hope flourishes when they tell us that they’ve found their voices and a way to tell their stories through poetry. At the project’s conclusion those who wished to apply for a scholarship were asked to reflect on what they learned from poetry. Their replies filled us with hope and in truth, with tears, here are a few short excerpts:

Khai, from Burma

I can speak the truth in the poem I wrote… Poems will make other people understand us (immigrants). As an immigrant and a lot of others who are just like me, we have a vastly hard life… One of the ways that we can explain our painful past is only by a POEM, it is the only way to make a connection with everyone; poems make us two in one. Poems are vastly crucial to all of us because poems are ALIVE! There is peace, love, friends, family, and much more in a poem. This is why poems are extremely important to us (immigrants) and to everyone who has a heart.

Abdi A.

Abdi A.

Abdi A., from Somalia

I was born in a refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya, and lived there most of my life. Writing poems helped me remember and appreciate what I have now and also helped non-immigrants to have a better understanding of what is it really like to be a young boy with a hopeless dream of becoming a doctor. I remember a white man who worked with the IOM asking me what my dream was and I told him I wanted to be a doctor and laughed at myself because I thought it was ridiculous and ‘’too big’’ for someone like me. But here I am today living a happy life and working towards my dream… Poetry doesn’t just show us how much we share, it helps us see the world in an entirely different way. When I heard Kang Pu’s poem about how his mom died and the struggle that his family had and how the government didn’t even help, I understood him better… Poetry is universal. ELLs can learn about or read poetry in their primary language, helping them bridge their worlds… I plan on going to a four-year college and I still have that dream of becoming a doctor, so I can go back home one day and help the sick and the needy.

Has there been an effort made to replicate this project in other high schools around the country?

This is a next step that project co-director and ELL teacher extraordinaire, Carrie and I have wanted and intend to accomplish. Along with the wonderful engagement and sage advice of John Fox, founder/director of the Institute for Poetic Medicine, (we are proudly an IPM Poetry Partner Project) we intend to take the next step and publish a template of poetry prompts and activities along with a collection of resource material for replicating this poetry project.

WHERE TO BUY OUR TABLE OF MEMORIES

The poems in this book are luscious but, to tempt you further, the recipes includes Doro wet: an Ethiopian Chicken Stew (pgs. 120-121), Arroz con Leche, (pgs. 130-131), Zawngtah: Burmese Tree Beans with Tilapia (pgs. 136-137), Orange Iraqi Teatime Cake (pgs. 154-155) and many more. Is  your mouth watering yet? Everything about this book is inviting … you will embrace it!

Publisher, Chatwin Books

Your Local Bookseller

SAMPLE

Kang Pu

Kang Pu

Here’s a sample of one of the heart-touching poems in Our Table of Memories:

MY MOTHER’S KITCHEN
Kang Pu, from Burma

When my mom cooked it smelled of sweet wintertime cherries,
of a solitary forest with rain falling
and it smelled like the murmur of a lonely bird, singing,
I picture the spherical smoke rising from her kitchen
it was like the sound of sleep at night,
it was like arriving home safe and sound
the sounds of her kitchen were peaceful. 

I still long for the laughter of those family meals
we all waited for that table, my mom’s table,
how she prepared every family meal,
this is what I still long for,
so often I remember my mother
nothing can take her memory away from me,
it is truly difficult that I have departed
from my motherland,
and from my mother’s kitchen.

Kang Pu – MY MOTHER’S KITCHEN
The reason I wrote this poem is for memories of my mom and her kitchen. It was difficult for me to write this poem because I still long for my mother’s kitchen. Sometimes it makes it hard for me to study. Yet, no matter how far away from my parents, I am still holding their lessons and still using what they taught me. Without lessons from parents it’s hard to be in community with others and hard to stand on your own.

Nathaly Rosas

Nathaly Rosas

And another sample:

WHERE FOOD IS ART
Nathaly Rosas, from Mexico

I am from a place where
The food is an art and every bite
Is a spicy piece of our culture.
Where the smells call you to enjoy
And the flavors take you to your memories.

Read more poems like these on Merna Hecht’s website.

RESOURCES

“Stories of Immigration and Culture” poetry podcasts are available here, hosted by the Jack Straw Cultural Center.

Institute for Poetic Medicine, founded by John Fox, where Merna and Stories of Arrival are Poetry Partners.

Jack Straw Cultural Center

Stories of Arrival: Immigrant Youth Voices Poetry Project

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Charles Ghigna, Champion of Poetry

Charles Ghigna

Charles Ghigna at Fox Tale Book Shoppe in Woodstock, GA

Our thanks to author and poet Charles Ghigna (GEEN-yuh) for taking time out from his writing, school visits, and conference tours to answer these questions which have been knock-knock-knockin’ on my brain since I first began reading his many books of poetry and, now, a nonfiction book about fascinating animals!  

Do you remember when you first read a poem and it caught your attention?

Mending Wall” by Robert Frost, Freshman English class.

At what point in your life did you realize you wanted to write poetry? For a living?

I wrote little rhyming poems and stories in elementary school and started keeping a daily writing journal in high school. Some of my entries were written as poems. I continued writing and keeping journals through my college years. When I began teaching high school English, I had less time to write and my journal entries began appearing as short, poetic pieces. That was my delicious late night writing time— after grading my students’ papers. 😉 Later, I submitted a few of those early poems and some of them were published in Harper’s and other magazines. A few years later, after my son was born, I began writing poems for children. It was then I began dreaming of “writing for a living.”

What kind of poems did you like when you were young?

As a child I liked poems by Robert Louis Stevenson, Wordsworth, Longfellow, Kipling, and others.

How do you stay tuned in to the kinds of poems very young children like?

I’m on the road this month visiting schools while promoting my new Animal Planet book. It’s easy to stay tuned in to the kinds of poems the very young like by seeing so many “children’s faces looking up holding wonder like a cup.” 

Score!50 Poems to Motivate and InspireI admire your book Score! 50 Poems to Motivate and Inspire. With the emphasis on growth mindset in classrooms, it occurred to me that each of these poems could be used as a blackboard or whiteboard encouragement, a discussion starter. The illustrations are excellent examples of graphic design—they add even more depth to each poem. As teachers work with students to build graphic design skills, this is a mentor text on several levels. (In spite of the cover, this is not a sports-centric book.)

Vicki, thank you so much for asking about my Score! book. That book is near and dear to my heart. It was a true labor of love. I always wanted to write a book of short quotable poems for young people to use when they needed a little extra nudge to keep them going toward their dreams. I wanted to create a book of poems to inspire and motivate. I was thrilled to have Abrams publish that book and even more thrilled to watch it become a popular resource for teachers, coaches, and parents. I’m happy to report the book has been adopted by school systems to use in their character education programs with principals reading a poem a day from it during their morning announcements.

Strange, Unusual, Gross & Cool AnimalsYour newest book, Animal Planet Strange, Unusual, Gross & Cool Animals, appeals to any kid who’s lived around animals or yearns to welcome animals in their lives. Do you have animals around you?

Yes, but all my animal friends are free range. I have a hawk who lives in a nearby tree and circles over my treehouse each day to say hello, a multitude of squirrels and chipmunks I watch from my window, and two jeweled hummingbirds who come each day to drink from the feeder. I would add the menagerie of monarchs that have been dancing outside my window this summer, but they have since flown farther south for the winter. My hummingbirds will no doubt soon join them on their way south.

This book is a departure from your poetry—how did you come to work on this project?

Yes, this book was a “departure” for me. I wrote a piece for the Bermuda Onion about how the project came to be. The first paragraph explains how the project got started. 

“I had just finished spending nearly a year writing a six-book animal series for toddlers when the phone rang. It was a Time Inc editor in New York asking if I might be interested in writing a 128-page book for Animal Planet about strange, unusual, gross, and cool animals for kids ages 8-12. Sure. And it’s due in nine months. Wait. What? Let me think about it. I’ve written more than 100 books, but I’ve never written a big, nonfiction, research-based book. I do write a lot about animals though. Mostly in rhyme. Mostly for toddlers. Sure. What the heck. I can do that. Wait. Did you say nine months?” (read the full essay by Charles here)

Have you always lived in Alabama?

I’ve lived in Alabama for more than 40 years now. I was at Florida State University serving as poetry editor of English Journal when I received a two-year grant from the National Council on the Arts & Humanities to begin the first Poet-in-the-Schools program for the state of Alabama. I fell in love with this beautiful state—and with my wife. People say to me, “You’re a writer. You could live anywhere in the world.” I always smile and say, “Yes, I know. That’s why I live in Alabama.”

Who have your poetic mentors been?

Too many mentors to name, but my very first poetic mentor was my mother. She was the most creative, inspiring “kid” I ever knew. She made each day an adventure. She had magic in her eyes and she challenged me to dream big—and to follow those dreams. I also had a high school English teacher who on Fridays told us to close our books, look out the window, and make up stories and poems. 

Tickle DayHow did you get the name Father Goose?

Many years ago when I first started visiting schools, students and teachers began calling me “Father Goose.” The name stuck. It was a lot easier to say than Mr. Ghigna—and a lot easier to spell. The Walt Disney Company suggested I use that moniker for one of my first books with them, Tickle Day: Poems from Father Goose. They created the first image of Father Goose. Since then my other publishers and illustrators have continued the tradition, often including a goose or two in my books. I’m called Father Goose now more often than my real name!

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Thanksgiving is a Good Time for a Book

Thanksgiving is fast approaching, As food is being prepared and family gathers, as food is being digested and some people are napping, as sports and shopping beckon, perhaps it’s a good time to take out a stack of Thanksgiving books to read aloud as a family. Here are 11 books that reflect the Thanksgiving holiday with many different stories, ranging in age from very young to teens … with books adults will enjoy as well. Happy Thanksgiving!

1621: a New Look at Thanksgiving  

1621: a New Look at Thanksgiving 
written by Catherine O’Neill Grace
National Geographic Children’s Books, 2004

“Countering the prevailing, traditional story of the first Thanksgiving, with its black-hatted, silver-buckled Pilgrims; blanket-clad, be-feathered Indians; cranberry sauce; pumpkin pie; and turkey, this lushly illustrated photo-essay presents a more measured, balanced, and historically accurate version of the three-day harvest celebration in 1621.”

 

Balloons Over Broadway:
the True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade

written and illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011

“Everyone’s a New Yorker on Thanksgiving Day, when young and old rise early to see what giant new balloons will fill the skies for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Who first invented these “upside-down puppets”? Meet Tony Sarg, puppeteer extraordinaire! In brilliant collage illustrations, Melissa Sweet tells the story of the puppeteer Tony Sarg, capturing his genius, his dedication, his zest for play, and his long-lasting gift to America—the inspired helium balloons that would become the trademark of Macy’s Parade.”

Boy in the Black Suit  

Boy in the Black Suit
written by Jason Reynolds
Atheneum, 2016

A book for older children and adults, Matt’s mother has just died and his father isn’t doing well. Matt’s on his own so he gets a job at a funeral home, where he’s surprised by how moving he finds the stories behind these funerals. When he meets one young woman whose beloved grandmother just died, he goes on his first “date” with her … at the homeless shelter where she and her grandmother have always served Thanksgiving dinner. This is an uplifting story of friendship, caring, and healing.

Cranberry Thanksgiving  

Cranberry Thanksgiving
written by Wende Devlin
illustrated by Harry Devlin
Purple House Press, 2012

“First published in 1971, this beloved favorite shares the story of Grandmother inviting a guest for Thanksgiving dinner and allowing Maggie to do the same. “Ask someone poor or lonely,” she always said. Thanksgiving was Grandmother’s favorite day of the year. The cooking was done and her famous cranberry bread was cooling on a wooden board. But she wasn’t happy to find out Maggie had invited the unsavory Mr. Whiskers to dinner. Would her secret cranberry bread recipe be safe with him in the house?”

Give Thanks to the Lord  

Give Thanks to the Lord
written by Karma Wilson
illustrated by Amy June Bates
Zonderkidz, 2013

“Celebrate the season in this heartwarming story that references Psalm 92 in tender rhyme from award-winning author Karma Wilson. Told from the point of view of one young member of an extended family, Give Thanks to the Lord celebrates joy of all kinds, from the arrival of distant relatives to a cozy house already filled with merriment, to apple cider and the delicious smells of roasting turkey and baking pie.  And just when your mouth is watering, sit down and join a thankful child in prayer, praising God for ‘food and fun and family, all the wonderful things I see.'”

Giving Thanks  

Giving Thanks:
Poems, Prayers, and Praise Songs of Thanksgiving 

written by Katherine Paterson
illustrated by Pamela Dalton
Chronicle Books, 2013

“Katherine Paterson’s meditations on what it means to be truly grateful and Pamela Dalton’s exquisite cut-paper illustrations are paired with a collection of over 50 graces, poems, and praise songs from a wide range of cultures, religions, and voices. The unique collaboration between these two extraordinary artists flowers in this important and stunningly beautiful reflection on the act of giving thanks.”

Gracias, the Thanksgiving Turkey  

Gracias, the Thanksgiving Turkey
written by Joy Cowley
illustrated by Joe Cepeda
HarperCollins, reissued in 2006

Miguel’s trucker father is on the road and Miguel is worried about him making it home in time for Thanksgiving. But then Papa sends a big wooden crate with the message, “Fatten this turkey for Thanksgiving. I’ll be home to share it with you.” Miguel names the turkey Gracias and takes him for walks in New York City. Adventures follows. Miguel wants desperately to save Gracias from the Thanksgiving table. Fun and high-spirited tale.

How Many Days to America?  

How Many Days to America? a Thanksgiving Story
written by Eve Bunting
illustrated by Beth Peck
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1990

When soldiers come to their home in the middle of the night, father and mother decide they must flee their country for their family’s safety. This is the tale of that journey and their landing in America on the Thanksgiving holiday, where the family is thankful for freedom and safety.

Squanto's Journey  

Squanto’s Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving 
written by Joseph Bruchac
illustrated by Greg Shed
Silver Whistle, 2000

“In 1620 an English ship called the Mayflower landed on the shores inhabited by the Pokanoket people, and it was Squanto who welcomed the newcomers and taught them how to survive in the rugged land they called Plymouth. He showed them how to plant corn, beans, and squash, and how to hunt and fish. And when a good harvest was gathered in the fall, the two peoples feasted together in the spirit of peace and brotherhood.”

Thankful  

Thankful
written by Eileen Spinelli
illustrated by Archie Preston
Zonderkidz, 2016

A book that conveys “the importance of being thankful for everyday blessings. Like the gardener thankful for every green sprout, and the fireman, for putting the fire out, readers are encouraged to be thankful for the many blessings they find in their lives.”

Thanks a Million  

Thanks a Million
written by Nikki Grimes
illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera
Greenwillow Books, 2006

A very appropriate book for your Thanksgiving celebration, there are sixteen poems that range in form from a haiku to a rebus to a riddle, Nikki Grimes reminds us how wonderful it is to feel thankful, and how powerful a simple “thank you” can be. This book can be used throughout the year as well. In classrooms, this is a good mentor text for creating poems of thanks and gratitude.

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Word Search: Jazz Day

Jazz DayWere you already a jazz afficionado? Love groovin’ to the tunes? Or did reading Jazz Day: the Making of a Famous Photograph by Roxane Orgill, with inspired illustrations by Francis Vallejo, draw you closer to the sometimes energetic, sometimes mellow, but always riveting music we call JAZZ? If you love puzzles and games, we hope you have a good time solving this Word Search. 

Simply use your mouse or touch pad to draw a line over your found words and the program will mark them off for you. Words can be found forwards, backwards, horizontally, vertically, and diagonally. As you find a word, it will be highlighted on the board and it will disappear from the word list.

Have fun!

Hidden Words

Puzzle by mypuzzle.org
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Reading Memories

bk_threelittlekittensMemories of my childhood are imperfect. Yours, too?

I don’t remember having a lot of books as a child. I remember The Poky Little Puppy and another dog book (title unknown) and Three Little Kittens (perhaps a reminder to me to keep track of my mittens).

I remember using the school library voraciously to read books. I had no access to the public library (too far away) so that school library was my lifeline. And our librarian understood what I was looking for before I did.

But back to the question of having books on our shelves. My mother had a Doubleday Book Club subscription so a new book arrived each month for the adult reader in our family. I saw To Kill a Mockingbird, Catcher in the Rye, The Light in the Piazza, and The Sun Also Rises added to the shelves, but other than curiosity, I felt no interest in those books.

My mother also subscribed to Reader’s Digest. We had a lot of music in our house in the form of LPs. Some of my favorites were those Readers Digest collections, classics, folk songs, Broadway musicals. There was always music on the turntable. More importantly, Reader’s Digest published story collections and books for children.  

Yesterday, I was sorting through the three boxes that remain of my childhood toys and books. We’re downsizing, so the tough decisions have to be made. Do I keep my hand puppets of Lamb Chop, Charlie Horse, and Hush Puppy or let them go?

Reader's Digest Treasury for Young ReadersI know I’ve gone through these boxes since I was a kid but every ten years or so I’m surprised all over again by what I played with as a child and cared enough to pack in a box for remembrance.

I found two Reader’s Digest Treasuries for Young Readers and the three-volume Doubleday Family Treasury of Children’s Stories.  My mother also subscribed to the Reader’s Digest Best Loved Books for Young Readers. This is how I read Lorna Doone and Ivanhoe and Where the Red Fern Grows.

I was startled to realize that my familiarity with many of the classic poems, stories, and nonfiction articles came from these books. I was introduced to Dorothy Canfield Fisher and Elizabeth Janet Gray and Dr. George Washington Carver and Jules Verne and The Odyssey and NASA’s work and more than a hundred more stories and articles. I’d like to believe that I’m an omnivorous reader today because of the wide variety I encountered in these books.

The Family Treasury of Children's BooksThere’s a penchant for everything new right now. Grandparents pick up the latest Dora the Explorer or Where’s Waldo? book because they’ve heard of them and have a vague sense that kids like them. Or the bookstore clerk suggests a Caldecott or Newbery winner of recent vintage.

This is a plea to remember those classic books: the stories, the folk tales, the fables, the poetry. Children will read a lot that you wouldn’t expect them to read, especially if you give it to them. Those classics provide a common language for educated people.

Can’t find something suitable? Write to your favorite publisher and suggest that they print collections of classics, old and new. There are a few books published in the last 20 years that sort of approach these collections published in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Here are a few:

Story Collections

Perhaps 50 years from now your children and grandchildren will open their own box of childhood memories, being thankful that you gave them such a great gift.

Thanks, Mom. You gave me a gift that has sustained me all my life.

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Dear Poet: Notes to a Young Writer

Charles Gigna

Charles Ghigna (photo: Scott Pierce)

This month Charles Ghigna, well-known as the poet Father Goose, offers “Dear Poet: Notes to a Young Writer.” There is much to ponder here, no matter what your age might be, but young writers especially will find these words of encouragement to be useful and inspirational. For example:

Trust
your instincts
to write.

Question
your reasons
not to.

How many times do you tell yourself you shouldn’t be writing poetry? When that’s what you really want to do?

Enjoy these poems and take them to heart: you, too, are a poet.

Do you teach children to write poetry? The stanzas of “Dear Poet” are short gems that will give you and your students good ideas for discussions.

Charles is a prolific poet, publishing books for children, teens, and adults, who lives and writes in Alabama. Here are some of his recent titles.

Charles Ghigna Books

 

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Melissa Sweet

In this interview with Melissa Sweet, illustrator of A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams, our Bookstorm™ this monthwe asked six questions and Melissa kindly took time from her busy days of visiting schools and creating art.

A River of WordsDo you recall the first time you encountered a William Carlos Williams poem?

My first introduction to William Carlos Williams was when I was seven years old and went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I saw a  painting by Williams’s  friend Charles Demuth, based on Williams’s poem “The Great Figure.” I loved both the painting and the poem.

The Great Figure

Do you have a list of Most Favorite Poets? Was William Carlos Williams on that list before you began the research for this book? Is he on that list now?

My short list is Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, and, yes, William Carlos Williams is now on that list.

When you begin to illustrate a book like this, what is your very first step? And what do you do next?

William Carlos Williams prescription padFirst I decide how and where to research. I’m looking for clues as to what to draw to inspire the illustrations. For this book I read biographies about Williams, his poetry, and newspaper articles about him. It was important to travel to Rutherford and Patterson, NJ, to see where he lived and worked. At the Rutherford Public Library, I saw his bowler hat, his manual typewriter,  and the prescription pads he used as a doctor. All those things became inspiration for the art. Then, back in the studio, I make a dummy placing the words on the page and begin to sketch to out the paintings or collages. Lastly, I make the final art.

A River of WordsIn the book, we see handwritten bits of poetry in several different styles of handwriting and we also see typeset scraps of paper as well as intriguing bits of type. Do you create these by hand? By computer? With friendly help?

All my art is created by hand—I don’t use the computer to make the illustrations. I cut up old books and use lettering from wherever I can find it. Incorporating calligraphy and hand–lettering into the art makes the piece more fun and lively. A typeset font would look very different, maybe somewhat static. In A River of Words I recreated Williams’s handwriting in places, and hand–lettered his poems within the art. The content of the poems became the inspiration for what to draw.

A River of WordsAre there entire spreads you prepare that don’t make the final cut of the book? When you send the illustration in for review by the editor or art director, do you leave things unglued so they can be moved if requested? And what do you use to affix the parts of your collage? 

Sometimes spreads need to be redone, but rarely. The editor and art director see the dummy, but typically they don’t see the art in progress, just the final art. It’s difficult to plan or sketch a collage–it happens as you go along adding and subtracting elements to make it work visually. (Even I don’t know exactly how the art will look in the end!) I use stick glue, white glue, and depending on the materials, I might need something strong like epoxy. Kids often ask how my arts gets “in” the book. My work is generally photographed since there is too much dimension in the pieces to scan them. Those photos are downloaded to the designer and the text is added digitally.

If you had met William Carlos Williams, what question would you have asked him?

I have two questions: Where was the red wheelbarrow? What did you think when you first saw it?

illustrations in this article are copyright © Melissa Sweet

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Jen Bryant

In this interview with Jen Bryant, author of A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams, our Bookstorm™ this month.

A River of WordsDo you recall the first time you encountered a William Carlos Williams poem?

I was in high school—and it was part of an anthology reading that we did for English class. I had disliked/not understood/ been unmoved by all of the other poems in this assigned reading (I recall that the language in those poems was archaic and flowery, and the forms very, VERY traditional)—and then—whooosh—like a breath of fresh air, here were a few selected W. C. Williams poems, which used little punctuation, were freeform in structure, and focused on everyday scenes and real life. They were the first poems I enjoyed and felt “welcomed” into.

Do you have a list of Most Favorite Poets? Was William Carlos Williams on that list before you began the research for this book? Is he on that list now?

He’s definitely on the list—and there are too many others to name here, so I’ll just start by listing a few of them: Emily Dickinson, Mary Oliver, Yusef Komunyakaa, Wendell Berry, William Stafford, Rita Dove, Marge Piercy, Robert Frost, Lucille Clifton, Phillip Levine, Marilyn Nelson, Gary Soto, Galway Kinell, Eamon Grennan, Jane Kenyon … (see? way too many!)

When you turned your manuscript in to your editor, did you envision how the book might be illustrated? What do you think when you first saw Melissa Sweet’s ideas for illustrating Williams’ life?

Melissa and I did not know each other before Eerdmans paired us for this book. Gayle Brown, the art director at EBYR, chose Melissa as the illustrator—and I believe that this single act has influenced my writing life ever since! I’d already written three picture book biographies on creative people (O’Keeffe, Messiaen, and Moore) and I had never met ANY of those illustrators. All of their styles were very distinct, very different from one another’s—so, no, I had no clue what an illustrator would do with this text. You can just imagine my reaction when I saw Melissa’s art for this book … I wept with happiness. She’s truly amazing.

A River of Words

How did you find information about this poet’s younger years?

I had to piece scenes together from many different sources: forewords and prefaces to poetry collections, a few audio recordings, an old film, some archival records, etc. The key, though, was to keep the river as the central image around which the rest of the story could spin. Once I had made that decision, the rest became a bit easier.

A River of WordsDid you have to cut much material from your original concept of the book? Did you go through a few revisions with the editor or many revisions with the editor?

I always prefer to give the editors more than they need—then let them give me feedback on which scenes/stanzas are more compelling and which are redundant or less compelling (and thus can be cut.) Yes, there were on-going revisions with this manuscript—but if I recall correctly, the originally-submitted version was the one that was sent to Melissa and she got started from that text. We didn’t make HUGE changes to this story, but we tweaked wording here and there—and then the back matter was added later on.

If you had met William Carlos Williams, what question would you have asked him?

“If you had been able to quit your day-job (as a physician) and could support your family full-time by writing, would you have done that? OR, did your daily rounds—with all kinds of patients and in many different settings—feed your art so much that you needed to do both in order to write well?”

___________________________________________

Jen, thank you for sharing your answers with our readers. Your style of writing biographies is so unique, and so well researched, that it’s valuable for us to know more about the process of this book’s creation.

For use with your students, Jen’s website includes a discussion guide that you’ll find useful as you incorporate this book into your planning.

illustrations in this article are copyright © Melissa Sweet

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Treasure Hunt

gemsOne of my favorite road-trip memories is “mud-puddling” in western North Carolina. We had followed signs that lured us in with the promise of gemstones practically free for the taking. The space we wandered into looked like a roadside picnic area, and seemed ideal for the kind of lazy afternoon we had in mind. We each purchased buckets of dirt-covered rocks for a small fee, and then claimed our places along
a bench in front of a trough of running water.

While sunshine dappled the green of the surrounding hills, my best friend and I reverted back to one of the great delights of childhood: mucking about. We played in the muddy water, washing off our piles of rocks, convinced each time that the natural beauty of a stone was revealed that we had discovered a fabulous treasure. Could this be a ruby? An emerald? A sapphire?

We left a few hours later with nothing more than a pile of pretty rocks. But we had found something much more valuable in our treasure hunt than a gemstone: one perfect afternoon, reclaimed briefly from a childhood we’d both left behind long before.

Words are the treasures I’ve carried forward with me from that childhood; I’ve been collecting my favorites for most of my life: Collywobbles. Lugubrious. Gobbledygook. Insouciance.

Why not spend a few moments on a perfect afternoon taking your students on a linguistic treasure hunt? Ask them to them crack open the dictionary and write down one or more new word “gems” and their meanings. Have them use these new-found words to inspire their own poems, or create a collective class poem by swirling all the words together.

I’ve made a career out of proving that there are lots of treasures to be found when you go mucking about amidst
words.

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Bookstorm™: A River of Words

 

Bookmap for A River of Words

A River of WordsAuthor Jen Bryant and illustrator Melissa Sweet have teamed up on a number of picture book biographies about creative artists. We’ve chosen to feature their very first collaboration during this month in which poetry takes the spotlight. By telling us the true story about poet William Carlos Williams’ childhood and growing up, with his clear poetry surrounding the pages, they awaken interest in young people who may think this no-longer-living, ancient (he was born in 1883 and died in 1963) poet is not within reach. They’ll be surprised by how his poetry will touch them. And he made a career for himself as a poet while he was being a country doctor! What an interesting fellow.

We trust you will find this month’s Bookstorm useful for teaching poetry, teaching writing, units on nature, talking about nonfiction and biography … and enjoying the quieter moments when reading poetry is one of life’s pleasures.

For more information and discussion guides, visit Jen Bryant’ website.

You can learn more about Melissa Sweet, the illustrator

Downloadables

 

 

BOOKSTORM TOPICS

Picture Book Biographies of Poets. From Shakespeare to Woody Guthrie, from Dave the Potter to Pablo Neruda, you’ll find top-notch biographies of poets with whom kids find connection. Several of these are excellent mentor texts as well.

Biographies of Poets for Older Readers. If you’d like to use A River of Words with older grades, we’ve included a few biographies that pair well. For instance, you’ll find Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People (Monica Brown and Julie Paschkis) on the picture book side and Pam Muñoz Ryan’s Dreamer, also about the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, for the more comfortable readers.

Revolving Around William Carlos Williams. We’ve recommended a biography written for adults, a collection of Mr. Williams’ poems for children, and a book that was inspired by his poem, “This is Just to Say.”

Kids and Nature. Nature-deficit disorder is on many educators’ minds. William Carlos Williams had a significant connection to nature. He wrote about it often. We’ve included books with terrific ideas for enthusing children about going outdoors, both unplugged and plugged-in.

Collage and Mixed-Media Illustrations. Do the types of illustration confuse you? We’ll have an interview with Melissa Sweet this month that we hope will make you feel more comfortable discussing the art in A River of Words. We’ve suggested a few books that also use a mixed media style.

Let us know how you are making use of this Bookstorm™. Share your ideas and any other books you’d add to this Bookstorm™.

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The Jungle Book

The Jungle BookThe word exquisite once won the game for me while playing Password. I have been fond of that word since that time and look for instances where it applies. That is surely the illustrated edition of The Jungle Book, written by Rudyard Kipling all of those years ago, and newly illustrated by Nicola Bayley. Candlewick published this edition of the classic stories and their classics are worth collecting, reading, and treasuring. They should be well-worn on the bookshelves in your home.

I first read The Jungle Book when I was ten. I don’t remember any illustrations in the Reader’s Digest Condensed Books version but I remember that this book made a big impression on me. It was so “other.” It was not the world I knew and it was larger than the farm dogs and pet cats I observed. It gave me a sense of the world beyond my vision. I believe it can still do that for readers today.

Bagheera and Mowgli by Nicola BayleyThe story of Mowgli and his wolf-pack, of Shere Khan, the tiger who believes Mowgli is his to dispose of as he wishes, of Baloo and Kaa and Bagheera … is as captivating now as I remember reading it as a child. There is such dignity and grace in the words that Kipling wrote, the stories he weaves with fierceness and humor and respect, that The Jungle Book transcends time. Who would not be fascinated by this story of a young boy (cub) who is adopted by a wolf pack, grows up believing he is a wolf, and then must re-join the world of man when the animals judge it is time. He lives in the jungle, is accustomed to the ways of the animal tribes, and this never leaves him, especially in his dealing with humans.

Midday Nap by Nicola BayleyThe book is such a treat to read because the visual experience is so rewarding. There are richly-colored borders and sumptuous story-dividing pages with patterns evocative of India, where The Jungle Book takes place. Every spread has some illustration it, done in colored pencil, that set the scene or enhance the storytelling or give us a glimpse of Mowgli and the animals. The full-page illustrations are riveting.

You’ve read before of my fondness for “butter covers,” dust jackets finished with a smooth and tangibly soft cover that invites holding and reading. This book has such a cover and it is irresistible. (I made that term up, by the way. Don’t try Googling it.)

In the “Word” at the beginning of the book, Nicola Bayley writes, “I’d been to India and visited all sorts of places you wouldn’t normally see, and I went to libraries in London to find out what the country was like in Kipling’s time.”

In the author’s bio on the jacket flap, we learn that “Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) was born in India and spent his early childhood there. He lived a migratory life: educated in England, he returned to India in 1882, then met his wife in London and spent the early years of their marriage in Vermont, eventually settling in England. The most famous writer of his time, Rudyard Kipling was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1907, thirteen years after the publication of The Jungle Book.” His writing is a look into his world and his time, his experience, his feelings about life.

This edition of The Jungle Book is exquisite. I recommend it highly for your family read-aloud time, for young and older. Don’t skip over the poetry. Its rhythm and words are part of the experience. It will give you much to discuss and a world to explore.

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Molting Advice

Debra FrasierI just survived the Great Blizzard of 2016 from a cabin atop a mountain in western North Carolina. When the snow and wind stopped we emerged into a soft, untouched world. Tall snow-heavy pines. Layers of Blue Ridge mountains now white. Silent.

We shoveled.

Two days later I could finally drive down the mountain to a friend’s home and there, on the twisting creekside road, two red cardinals suddenly crossed in front of my car. Piercing red. An event lasting no longer than two seconds.

I should mention that I am currently artistically lost. Me, who once gave lectures on what to do when lost. I am more than lost. Psychically molting, I am the lobster who has outgrown a shell and shivers naked behind the coral arch, waiting for something dreadful to happen, or, in more hopeful moments, the caterpillar turned to mush with absolutely no brain to even invent a conception of the future. Every assured being amazes me—tree, bird, human—how can anything have such strength, bones, shell, wings, purpose?

Debra Frasier letter forms

Those two seconds of red birds flashing magic in front of my car’s first post-blizzard trip pierce this mush. But, I argue, what will it possibly matter if I try to put words to this tiny, tiny, startling moment?

Cardinals’ wings cross,
quick red threads stitch tree to tree
on snowbed’s white quilt.

Later, THIS quote crosses my Facebook (oh, inadequacy!) feed:

“The world is full of magic things
patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”  
W.B. Yeats

In the dark the mush tremors slightly.

So I try again:

Startled red wings cross—
two sudden cardinal threads
stitching winter’s quilt.

Yes. Yeats speaks to ME on Facebook, of all godforsaken places.
Artist wakes artist.

I suddenly realize:
This is what we do to form the long bucket brigade to save each other.

Red flashes, flick, flick,
Two cardinal threads cross-stitch
The slow falling snow.

Debra Frasier Calligraphy

This is the advice I heard deep inside the molting mush: forget everything, every longing for meaning or contribution, for riches, for applause. Simply do this:

Grow your senses sharper.

Yeats told me. On Facebook.

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Brown Girl Dreaming

Brown Girl Dreaming

There is a silly debate taking place about whether adults who read children’s books, including young adult books, are infantile and should have their driver’s licenses revoked because they’re obviously not mature enough to play dodge ‘em cars on the freeway and text while their two thousand pound vehicle hurtles down the road. Grown up, […]

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The Crossover

The Crossover Kwame Alexander Houghton Mifflin Harcourt From the moment I began reading this poetry collection, I knew it was a different type of book because the rhythms, the cadence, were infused with energy and awareness. The Crossover is primarily free verse, with a few hiphop, rhythmic poems that change up the action. The narrator, […]

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A Time to Dance

A Time to Dance Padma Venkatraman Nancy Paulsen Books / Penguin Putnam Disclaimer: I’m a fan of Padma Venkatraman’s books. Each one has charmed me. I know I can always expect a reading experience unlike any I’ve had before. Her new book does not disappoint. In A Time to Dance, teenaged Veda has already dedicated […]

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Gifted: Giving Thanks

Giving Thanks: Poems, Prayers, and Praise Songs for Thanksgiving edited and with reflections by Katherine Paterson illustrations by Pamela Dalton Handprint Books / Chronicle Books, 2013 ISBN: 978-1-4521-1339-5 The season when we focus on giving thanks will quickly be here. If you are looking for a gift to take to your hosts, to give to […]

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When Thunder Comes

Just in time for the Martin Luther King remembrance on Monday, J. Patrick Lewis has a challenging new poetry book, When Thunder Comes: Poems for Civil Rights Leaders. The title captured my attention and held me: Mr. Lewis is including me as a civil rights leader. Each of us. All of us. By including his readers, […]

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Hitting a Home Run

It’s still April and I’m still feeling crazy about baseball. The first Ron Koertge book I read was Shakespeare Bats Cleanup (published by Candlewick Press in 2006). He tried several tricky writing tasks in that book and I finished it with a sense of admiration for his skill as a writer. Koertge hit a triple. […]

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Celebrating Earth Day

How did you celebrate? How about your classroom? Your library? Your family? We went to Joyce Sidman‘s publication party for Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature’s Survivors (Houghton Mifflin), illustrated with linoleum block prints by Becky Prange, who lives in Ely, Minnesota, and was trained as a scientific illustrator. When Joyce explained how Becky created the amazing timeline […]

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