Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween Fun

Last year as William and I worked up until the last minute to finish his costume, I swore I would never do it again. So what was I doing last night? Sewing the legs on the spider costume, until William cracked his head open on the coffee table. Everything got put on hold while we dealt with that mess. Last night's emergency meant I had lots of last minute sewing to do when I got home from work today. It all worked out in the end. Even though the legs were a bit droopy, he still looked good. (And if you're wondering, he does have 8 spider legs -- two arms, two legs, and four socks!) Here's my favorite spider.

Isn't he cute? He makes a great spider, but last year's costume was pretty darn cute too!
Happy Halloween, all!

Woo-Hoo - Blog of the Day Award!

Blog Awards Winner
Color me happy, for today I won an award. I can't take all the credit, though. I believe I won because of this post about my son.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

When Sneaky is a Good Thing

When we moved into our new house we promised our son a bunk bed. It seemed a good way to help him get over the moving blues. For the first few months he slept on the bottom and only played on the top. Then, in late fall of last year, he got over his fear and began sleeping on the top. He's been there ever since -- until recently, that is. I couldn't figure out why he suddenly began sleeping in the bottom bunk again. When I asked why he wasn't sleeping up top he said, "Just because." Hmmm. . . Being a nosy mom, I investigated. Lo and behold, here's what I found.

It seems that the slats on the bed above make a perfect "hiding" spot for books. Now I know what William has been doing when he's still awake well past his bedtime. For the longest time I was convinced he was playing with a toy of some kind. Imagine my surprise (and delight) to find books. How can I possibly be mad? Besides, the kid's got great taste! (Other books not pictured include Mr Putter and Tabby Write the Book, Henry and Mudge and the Careful Cousin, and Enemy Pie.)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Monday Poetry Stretch - Found Poetry

This week's stretch takes the form of literary collage.
Found poems take existing texts and refashion them, reorder them, and present them as poems. The literary equivalent of a collage, found poetry is often made from newspaper articles, street signs, graffiti, speeches, letters, or even other poems.

A pure found poem consists exclusively of outside texts: the words of the poem remain as they were found, with few additions or omissions. Decisions of form, such as where to break a line, are left to the poet.
(Excerpt from Poets.org)
To learn more you may want to play with the found poetry tools at Poetry Forge, read the Wikipedia entry, or check out this amazing found poetry blog.

I've mentioned in several entries lately that I have been cleaning my attic. This is all part of my yearly fall obsession with cleaning the house from top to bottom. In going through boxes packed during our move last year, I've had the opportunity to read over old letters, notes, journal entries and other memorabilia from my childhood. I was thrilled to come across an envelope full of letters from Japan, written in the most elegant handwriting by my high school pen pal from Kyoto. Holding the onion skin paper and reading her questions about life in America, her attempts to teach me Japanese words and hiragana/katakana, and her willingness to share details of her life made me see these gems as a form of poetry.

So, this week, I am going to use my box of letters and such to create some found poetry. Won't you join me? Leave a comment about your poem and I'll post the results later this week. Don't forget to let us know where your found poetry comes from, be it old catalogs, junk mail, street signs, or anything else that inspires you.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Robert's Snow - Week 2 Round-Up

It's been another amazing week full of gorgeous art and talented illustrators. If you haven't seen the snowflakes that were highlighted this week, along with their fabulous creators, please take some time to do so. Robert's Snow needs your support! Here are a few of my favorites so far, along with links to all the features.
If you want to learn more about this extraordinary effort, visit the Robert's Snow site. Not only can you view all the all the 2007 snowflakes, but you can also link to children's books illustrated by the artists. Finally, many of the illustrator's have been generous in offering prizes for the readers of these blog entries. For a listing of all the Robert's Snow contests, check out this list at Paradise Found.

**Please Note - At the time the Blogging for the Cure event was organized, not all snowflakes were in the hands of the folks at Dana Farber. As a result, not all of the illustrators were available for selection as part of this effort. This in no way diminishes the work of any of the illustrators that will not be highlighted. It is our hope that these features will encourage readers to visit Robert's Snow and look at ALL the wonderful snowflakes up for auction.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Nonfiction Picture Books - Nominations Please!

The books are trickling in, and the nonfiction picture book panel is gearing up for the hard work ahead. Here are the books that have been nominated so far.
There is no doubt that there are many outstanding books on this list. However, there are still many wonderful books out there that have NOT been nominated. I spent the better part of the last two days combing through the shelves of booksellers, from large chains to small independents. Here are a few of the titles I own or have recently read that are missing from this amazing list.
You will note that two widely discussed books are missing from both these lists. One is Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion by Loree Griffin Burns and The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Peter Sis. Fear not! Both have been nominated in the middle grade and young adult category for nonfiction.

Since I'm on the nominating panel that will selecting the finalists in this category, I don't feel comfortable adding a title to the list. So, if you haven't nominated a book yet for the nonfiction picture book category, won't you please look over the lists on this page and think about what worthy titles may have been missed? Then, head on over to the Cybils blog and make your nomination.

Remember the Cybils?


Remember the Cybils? With all the wonderful work going on to showcase Robert's Snow and the amazing snowflakes created by a whole host of talented illustrators, some of you may have forgotten about the Cybils. Now in year two, the Cybils are the only blogger-based literary awards. Nominations for the 2007 awards are underway. Anyone with an e-mail address may nominate books in these categories:
Here are the rules for participation.

  • The books must be 2007 publications.
  • You my only nominate one book in each category.
  • Nominations must be in by November 21st.
To get started, click on a category and read the description. Our fabulous panel chairs have given you some guidance as to what kinds of books fit their categories. Next, read through the comments left by others. Please make sure your book isn't already listed. Click on "comments" and type in the author and title. That's it! It's simple! Remember that multiple listings for a title mean nothing in the nominating process. This is all about providing the panels with a wide range of great books to choose from.

Head on over to the Cybils blog to make your nominations today!

Poetry Friday - Gathering Leaves

It's that time of year. The leaves are beginning to fall, though the drought in many areas has left the colors muted and less vivid than in years past. Since we have been out raking leaves every day after school, I have them on my mind (and in my shoes, my hair, my house . . .). In honor of the fallen, I offer up this gem.
Gathering Leaves
by Robert Frost

Spades take up leaves
No better than spoons,
And bags full of leaves
Are light as balloons.

I make a great noise
Of rustling all day
Like rabbit and deer
Running away.

But the mountains I raise
Elude my embrace,
Flowing over my arms
And into my face.

I may load and unload
Again and again
Till I fill the whole shed,
And what have I then?

Next to nothing for weight,
And since they grew duller
From contact with earth,
Next to nothing for color.

Next to nothing for use.
But a crop is a crop,
And who's to say where
The harvest shall stop?
Today's round up is being hosted over at Literary Safari. Please stop by and check out all the great posts. And while it may not be poetic, I have posted a new thematic list on books for fall. It does include excerpts from some poems you might want to explore. Happy poetry Friday, all!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Thematic Book List - Fall

We're well into fall already, though you wouldn't know it here. Until recently our temperatures were still in the 80's and our leaves were barely changing color. But yesterday we got some rain and cooler temperatures. Pumpkins are dotting the landscape, the squirrels in my yard continue their frenzied gathering of acorns, and the sound of geese in flight have me convinced that fall is finally here. There are many, many good books about the seasons, and fall in particular. I know I cannot name them all, so instead, here are some of my favorites.
  • Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert - Made of leaf collages, leaf man must go where the wind takes him. Along the way he will meet ducks, rabbits, and many other animals composed of collections fall leaves.
  • Autumnblings by Douglas Florian - One in a series of seasonal poetry, this book contains a variety of inventive poems about fall.
  • Leaf Jumpers by Carole Gerber - Beautiful colored linoleum prints and rhyming text showcase the leaves and events of the fall season. Eight leaf types are identified for children who want to try some identification on their own.
  • Why Do Leaves Change Color? by Betsy Maestro - This book in the Let's Read-and-Find-Out Science nicely explains what happens to leaves in the fall.
  • When Autumn Falls by Kelly Nidey - Illustrated with beautiful cut-paper collage, poetic text describes many fall events, like bobbing for apples, selecting pumpkins, and jumping in leaves.
  • It's Fall by Jimmy Pickering - One in a series on the seasons, this one follows Sally and Sam (a dog) through an apple harvest festival, hayrides, Halloween and more.
  • Fletcher and the Falling Leaves by Julia Rawlinson - The change of seasons is coming, and Fletcher the fox doesn't understand why the leaves are falling. Text and illustrations come together beautifully in this moving tale.
  • Apples and Pumpkins by Anne Rockwell - This text describes the joy of visiting a farm in fall to pick the reddest apples and the perfect pumpkin.
  • Leaf by Leaf: Autumn Poems by Barbara Rogasky - This book contains 25 poems on fall accompanied by beautiful photographs. Here you will find poems by Yeats, Whitman, Poe, and more.
  • In November by Cynthia Rylant - This is a lovely poetic text that captures the mood and feel of November. It's also a wonderful book for thinking about the seasons with your senses.
  • Autumn: An Alphabet Acrostic by Steven Schnur - This is one book in a seasonal series featuring acrostic poetry. In this installment, you will find one acrostic poem for each letter of the alphabet, from acorn to zero. How does zero fit with fall? You'll have to pick up the book to find out!
  • I Know It's Autumn by Eileen Spinelli - In rhyming text, a young girl describes all the signs that tell her it is fall.
  • Leaves by David Ezra Stein - A young bear becomes concerned when the leaves begin to fall from the trees. This is a beautiful, quiet story that captures the feeling of fall.
  • Nancy Elizabeth Wallace has created two terrific books for fall. Both feature cut paper collage illustrations that hold hidden facts and riddles. There is much to be found in a close examination of the pictures.
    • Pumpkin Day - Follow the rabbit family on a trip to Pumpkin Hollow Farm where they select pumpkins for cooking, decorating, and carving.
    • Apple, Apples, Apples - Follow the rabbit family on a trip to Long Hill Orchard as they learn about how apples grow before picking their own.
Here are some poems touching on the theme of fall to round out your study. I have included the first few lines of each, along with a reference to the book where you can find the poems in their entirety.
  • October by John Updike, in A Child's Calendar.
    • The month is amber,
         Gold, and brown.
      Blue ghosts of smoke
         Float through the town,

  • November by John Updike, in A Child's Calendar.
    • The stripped and shapely
         Maple grieves
      The ghosts of her
         Departed leaves.

  • Bullhead in Autumn by Marilyn Singer, in Turtle in July.
    •    in autumn
      I settle
         belly down in the shallows
      above me
         leaves
            red and yellow

  • Why do leaves change colors? by Amy Goldman Koss in Where Fish Go in Winter And Answers to Other Great Mysteries
    • The oak tree always lets me know
         When autumn has begun.
      But why do its dark green leaves
         Change colors one by one?

  • Moon of Falling Leaves by Joseph Bruchac and Jonathan London in Thirteen Moons on Turtle's Back.
    • So, each autumn, the leaves
      of the sleeping trees fall.
      They cover the floor
      of our woodlands with colors
      as bright as the flowers
      that come with the spring.

  • Fall by John Frank, in A Chill in the Air: Nature Poems for Fall and Winter.
    • Fall sets fire
      To the tips of trees,
      And fans the flames
      With an icy breeze.
I have just scratched the surface here of some wonderful books that celebrate autumn. You will notice that I have not included books that cover the full change of seasons (year), or those that cover life cycles of plants. I know that The Seasons of Arnold's Apple Tree, From Seed to Pumpkin, and Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf are missing (among others). These titles, and the aforementioned topics, dear readers, are for the next lists. As always, if I have missed a terrific book about fall, please let me know.

Poetry Stretch Results - First Lines

I had a particularly hard time with this week's challenge. Perhaps it was because I couldn't get the words of the original poems out of my head. Everything I came up with was cold and prosaic. However, the folks who responded to this week's stretch fared much better. Here are the results of their efforts.
We haven't seen Terrell from Alone on a Limb in a while. He's back (hurray!) with I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.

Over at Having Writ, sister AE gives us Making Mistakes.

Mad Kane went all out and chose two different lines to use for her poems on Time Travel.

Tiel Aisha Ansari at Knocking From Inside shares a poem called Lone and Level that begins with the last line from Ozymandias.
Here is my own offering, needing a great deal of work (still).
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
unplug the computer, live with alone.
Disconnect from the world, the noise and decay
embrace silence and solitude – do not delay.

Remember the life that once was and could be,
slow down and appreciate all that you see.
Find time in your day to reflect and be still,
read, and write, and believe what you will.
Still want to play? Read the rules here. Then leave me a comment about your poem and I'll include a link to it on the list.

For those of you wondering where these lines of poetry came from, you can find them below.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Monday Poetry Stretch - First Lines and New Directions

Yesterday morning, while I should have been dutifully listening to the homily, I was thumbing through the back of the hymnal, noting that the songs were indexed in in at least three different ways -- by title, by "topic" and by first line. When I got home, I thumbed through an old book of poetry and noticed that the poems were indexed by title, author and first line. Aha! The light bulb went off. Wouldn't it be fun, interesting and/or otherwise challenging to take a great first line of poetry and head off in a new direction? Absolutely. And so, basking in the glow of an aha moment, I give you this week's poetry stretch.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to take one of the first lines below and use it as the starting point for your own poem. Here are your starter choices.
  • Brother, I am fire
  • I wandered lonely as a cloud
  • Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
  • When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
  • Yesterday is History,
So, will you write with me this week? What kind of poem will you write? Post your effort(s) on your blog and then leave a link in the comments. Once we have some poems, I'll link them all here.

Robert's Snow Illustrator - Mark Teague

My teacher, Ms. Danielson, assigned us an interview paper for language arts. My job is to find out as much as I can about the author and illustrator Mark Teague. Since we just finished reading Dr. Mr Henshaw, she wants each of us to write a letter and then share the response. Letter? Doesn't she know that no one really communicates this way any more? I'll bet if I tried hard enough, I could learn everything I needed to know on the Internet and Ms. D. would be none the wiser. Are you with me? Okay, here's my draft of the letter from Mark Teague.

Dear Tricia,
Thank you so much for your kind letter. I am very busy with work, but never too busy to respond to one of my many fans. I hope you'll forgive the fact that this note is typed, but in order to maximize my time in the studio I dictate letters while I paint. As you can see, it may save time, but it doesn't keep the printed copy safe from drips and splatters of paint. Without further ado, here are the answers to your questions.

1. How were you trained as an artist?
I received no formal training whatsoever. Nada. Zip. Zilch. The down side to this is that there is still a lot I don't know, and some stuff that has taken me years to learn that I could have picked up in the first semester of art school.

2. Which illustrator's have influenced your work?
At first I was inspired by the work of Chris Van Allsburg, Richard Egielski and William Joyce. Now I find inspiration in the stuff produced by David Shannon, Kevin Hawkes, Mary GrandPré, Paul O. Zelinsky and Stephen Johnson.

3. What medium do you work in?
Acrylics

4. What process do you use in creating your artwork and how long does it take?
It takes me about 4 months to illustrate a book. I wrote a short article on how I illustrate picture books. It's pretty cool and has pictures that show the whole process. Check it out!

5. Did you like to read when you were a kid? What were your favorite books?

My mom took us to the library every week, so I loved to read. As for my favorite books, I loved Where the Wild Things Are. I also liked Dr. Seuss and Babar.

6. How is illustrating a book that someone else has written different from one you've written yourself?
It is very different working with another author, but challenging, because I'm sort of borrowing someone else's imagination. I really like this kind of work, and I get to make art for amazing authors, like Audrey Wood, Cynthia Rylant, and Jane Yolen.

7. What do you think of your editor?
My editor is a tough critic. In fact, she often finds flaws in my very best stories-sometimes major flaws. And when she finds them, she points them out. I've had stories come back from her so covered in small, written comments that I could hardly read my own words anymore. It's a terrible thing she does. What makes it really awful is that she's usually right.

8. Do you have any kids? If yes, do you want more?
Yes, I have two children. Do I want more? Have you not read any of my books? (Baby Tamer, for example?) Did you not notice the I depict children as dinosaurs? Just kidding! I think kids are great and I'm very happy with the ones I have.

9. What are you working on now?
Here's a hint!
10. I hear you've made a snowflake for Robert's Snow. What can you tell me about it?
Robert's Snow is an online auction that benefits Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Over 200 children's book illustrators have created art on individual snowflake-shaped wooden templates. My snowflake shows the character from one of my favorite books. The title of this snowflake is "Larue Skating."
I was really fortunate to be able to participate in each of the last two auctions. These are the snowflakes I created in 2004 and 2005.
I think that's it. Thanks again for writing. I hope you get an A on your project.

Sincerely,
Mark Teague

******************************
If you are interested in bidding on this wonderful Larue snowflake, be sure to follow the link for Auction 3. Don't forget that 100 percent of the proceeds from this online auction will benefit sarcoma research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. While you are there, be sure to view all the snowflakes up for auction. Each and every one is a unique and amazing work of art.

Finally, be sure to check out the other snowflake illustrators being featured today.
**Please Note - At the time the Blogging for the Cure event was organized, not all snowflakes were in the hands of the folks at Dana Farber. As a result, not all of the illustrators were available for selection as part of this effort. This in no way diminishes the work of any of the illustrators that will not be highlighted. It is our hope that these features will encourage readers to visit Robert's Snow and look at ALL the wonderful snowflakes up for auction.

******************************

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Robert's Snow - Week 1 Round-Up

It's been an amazing week full of gorgeous art and talented illustrators. If you haven't seen the snowflakes that were highlighted this week, along with their fabulous creators, please take some time to do so. Robert's Snow needs your support! Here are a few of my favorites so far, along with links to all the features.
If you want to learn more about this extraordinary effort, visit the Robert's Snow site. Not only can you view all the all the 2007 snowflakes, but you can also link to children's books illustrated by the artists. Finally, many of the illustrator's have been generous in offering prizes for the readers of these blog entries. For a listing of all the Robert's Snow contests, check out this list at Paradise Found.

**Please Note - At the time the Blogging for the Cure event was organized, not all snowflakes were in the hands of the folks at Dana Farber. As a result, not all of the illustrators were available for selection as part of this effort. This in no way diminishes the work of any of the illustrators that will not be highlighted. It is our hope that these features will encourage readers to visit Robert's Snow and look at ALL the wonderful snowflakes up for auction.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Poetry Friday - For the Birds

I am spending nearly every waking hour finishing a report for work. At home I sit at my husband's desk and gaze out the picture window while typing and thinking. I have a perfect view of the trees, the birdbath, and the feeders. We have been blessed with a multitude of birds this year. I have been amazed by their colors and boldness and cheered by their songs.

These days I'm wondering how much longer they will be with us. While birds are on my mind, I offer up these poems this week.
Bird Watching
by Myra Cohn Livingston
in Flights of Fancy: And Other Poems

Up in the bush is a tiny nest.
That's where the hummingbird likes it best.

Out in the trees the mockingbirds call.
Three build nests just over the wall,

And in the morning, yesterday,
I saw four crows and two blue jays.

These were the birds I counted--ten.
Will ever the same birds come again?


The Painter

by Marilyn Singer
in The Company of Crows: A Book of Poems


You'd think I learned color
   from the cardinal or goldfinch
But no--
   I learned it from the crow.
From the blackest wings
   an unexpected rainbow springs,
A sheen of green, purple, blue.
My art is to reveal each elusive hue.
The crow's art is
   to glow.

If you haven't read it recently, revisit Wallace Steven's Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.
The round up today is over at Kelly Fineman's place. Please drop by and check out all the great poetry this week. Then, take in some visual poetry and look over the snowflakes highlighted this week in the Blogging for the Cure event. Happy poetry Friday, all!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Poetry Stretch Results - Haiku

Everyone seems to write haiku these days. I write it for the challenge of selecting exactly the right words to describe what I see. It is great practice for honing my vocabulary and focusing on word choice. This week several folks joined me in writing haiku, including the one who inspired me to select this form.
Over at a wrung sponge, cloudscome shares a photo from her father's garden and a haiku.

Elaine at Wild Rose Reader shares many lovely haiku.

Mad Kane gives us some very funny spam haiku. You can also read her political SCHIP haiku.

sister AE at Having Writ has written a number of haiku on bodies of water.

Tiel Aisha Ansari at Knocking From Inside shares a haiku entitled Gusty. She also shared two great links for writing (haiku and more), Three Word Wednesday and One Deep Breath.
I have been working these last few weeks on finishing up a major report. It is due tomorrow, so the bulk of my writing these days has been academic. UGH! I did, however, take a moment to pen a few haiku. Here is my favorite.
last leaves holding fast
to branches bare - now bracing
for slumbering days
Still want to play? Read the rules here. Then leave me a comment about your haiku and I'll include a link to your poems on the list.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

How Diversity Helps Literacy

Thanks to Don Tate, I had the chance to mull over the ideas in How Diversity Helps Literacy, an informational piece over at Lee & Low Books. It's very interesting. Do head on over and take a look.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Robert's Snow Illustrator - Janet Stevens

"I am not a snowflake, I'm a dog!"
I first came across the work of Janet Stevens in 1995 when I was looking for children's books on plants to integrate into an elementary science lesson. It was then that I discovered Tops and Bottoms, the story of a lazy bear and enterprising hare. Bear and Hare enter into a deal where Hare and his family will work Bear's land and then split the crops in half. Bear Lazy Bear sleeps through every planting season, so conniving Hare makes a deal. He and his family will work Bear's land and split the crops in half.
"So, what will it be, Bear" asked Hare. "The top half or the bottom half? It's up to you--tops or bottoms."
Bear chooses the top half, so Hare plants root crops, leaving Hare with all the best parts and Bear with a useless harvest. When Bear realizes he has been tricked, he tells Hare to plant the field again, and insists on getting the bottoms. This time Hare plants leafy crops, leaving Bear with another useless harvest. The third time around, Bear requests tops and bottoms, so Hare plants . . . can you guess?

I had great success using this book in the classroom for teaching plant parts. A bit later it occurred to me that this also a terrific choice for teaching economics, as the story is all about opportunity cost, or that valuable alternative you give up when you make a decision.

Tops and Bottoms has gorgeous double-page spreads in a format that opens from top to bottom instead of left to right. This cleverly designed and beautifully illustrated book was awarded a Caldecott Honor medal in 1996.

Since Tops and Bottoms, Janet Stevens has illustrated many lovely books, including some she has collaborated on with her sister and some she has written herself. You may recognize a few of these titles:
Like many illustrator's today, Janet Stevens is very busy working on new projects. However, she wasn't too busy to offer her time and talent to the cause of Robert's Snow. For this year's auction, Janet created a snowflake entitled "I am not a snowflake, I'm a dog!"
I love the wrinkled face full of personality and can just imagine getting thumped by that tail as it swings. If you are interested in bidding on this heartwarming snowflake (oops, I mean dog!), be sure to follow the link for Auction 2. Don't forget that 100 percent of the proceeds from this online auction will benefit sarcoma research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. While you are there, be sure to view all the snowflakes up for auction. Each and every one is a unique and amazing work of art.

Finally, be sure to check out the other snowflake illustrators being featured today.
That about wraps it up. I'd like to end this post with a poem from a random Christmas card I found while reading through an old box of letters in my attic. It's an appropriate description of all the wonderful people driving and contributing to Robert's Snow.
Like snowflakes
floating gently,
unexpectedly
to earth,
small kindnesses
touch our lives.
First one, and then another
and another,
until at last the world is
bright and shining
with goodwill.

(This snowflake created by Janet Stevens for the 2005 auction.)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blogging For a Cure Starts TODAY!

Robert's Snow
Itty, Bitty, Pretty,
Sharing, Caring, Daring,
Glowy, Showy, Snowy
Bidding, Winning, Grinning!

(My apologies to George Ellis.)

It's finally here! Starting today and lasting for more than one month, a dedicated group of bloggers, organized and led by the ladies at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, will be highlighting some of the snowflakes created for Robert’s Snow. Over 200 children's book illustrators have created art on individual snowflake-shaped wooden templates all in an effort to raise money in the fight against cancer. Starting November 19th, these snowflake creations will be auctioned off online, with 100 percent of the proceeds to benefit sarcoma research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

The master list of featured illustrators will be posted each day at Seven Imp. Each week you will also find a list of featured illustrators in the sidebar of my blog. I hope you will visit these sites, tell your friends, and encourage everyone you know to not only view the snowflakes, but bid on them.

Monday Poetry Stretch - Haiku

One of the blogs I love to read is a wrung sponge. I love the photographs and the haiku (among other things). Since this is a form we haven't officially tried here yet, I think it's about time.

Traditional Japanese haiku consist of a pattern of 5, 7, 5 "sound symbols." These are not exactly like syllables, but adapting haiku to the English language, this is the pattern that many follow. Haiku generally contain a "kigo" or season word, but this word is not always obvious. Most haiku are written about nature. Senryu use the same form but are often humorous or satirical and written about human nature.

There are many good resources online about this poetic form. Here are a few you may want to explore.
This is one of my favorite Haiku. It was written by Hashin.
No sky
no earth - but still
snowflakes fall
I am also very fond of this poem by Myra Cohn Livingston. You can find it in Flights of Fancy: And Other Poems.
Highway Haiku

Wild branches, spilling
over the concrete wall, reach
out to touch the bus . . .
Leaning against each
other comfortably, birch
watch down the highway . . .
Hemlocks build themselves
their own dark houses, their own
tall secret castles . . .
Pines, tamed by fences,
pop their heads over to look
out at the traffic . . .
One willow escapes
to sun herself on the soft
green grasses of summer . . .
So, will you haiku with me this week? What kind of haiku will you write? Post your effort(s) on your blog and then leave a link in the comments. Once we have some poems, I'll link them all here.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Poetry Friday - What is Beautiful?

I was a typical awkward teenager, with no confidence about the way I looked or dressed. I kept a small journal during this time with quotes and poems on beauty. Somehow reading them got me through those difficult years. I found this notebook recently while searching through a box of old letters in my attic. Here are some of my favorite quotes.
Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.
Confucius

Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart.
Kahlil Gibran

Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.
Anne Frank

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Beauty is no quality in things themselves: It exists merely in the mind which contemplates them; and each mind perceives a different beauty.
David Hume
While these quotes all gave some degree of comfort, I found the greatest solace in this poem. I memorized it in junior high and can still recite it today.
Swift Things are Beautiful
by Elizabeth Coatsworth

Swift things are beautiful:
Swallows and deer,
And lightening that falls
Bright-veined and clear,
Rivers and meteors,
Wind in the wheat,
The strong-withered horse,
The runner's sure feet.

And slow things are beautiful:
The closing of day,
The pause of the wave
That curves downward to spray,
The ember that crumbles,
The opening flower,
And the ox that moves on
In the quiet of power.
Poetry Friday this week is being hosted by Ruth and Stacy over at Two Writing Teachers. Please stop by and check out all the terrific contributions this week. Happy poetry Friday, all!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Coming Soon - Blogging for a Cure

What happens when a motivated group of authors, illustrators, kidlit bloggers and others get together to support an event to raise money for cancer research? If they're led by Jules and Eisha of Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, you get Blogging for a Cure. Beginning on Monday, October 15th, more than 60 bloggers will be highlighting the amazing group of illustrators who have created snowflakes in support of Robert's Snow 2007.
Robert's Snow is an online auction that benefits Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Over 200 children's book illustrators have created art on individual snowflake-shaped wooden templates. Starting in November, these snowflake creations will be auctioned off online, with 100 percent of the proceeds to benefit sarcoma research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. You can view all of the 2007 snowflakes here.

I am honored to be participating in this important event. The Robert's Snow artists I will be highlighting in the coming weeks include:
Tuesday, October 16: Janet Stevens
Monday, October 22: Mark Teague
Sunday, November 18: Teri Sloat
The master list of featured illustrators will be posted each day at Seven Imp. I hope you will visit, tell your friends, and encourage everyone you know to not only view the snowflakes, but bid on them.

Until next week . . .

Has Standardized Testing Dumbed Down the Curriculum?

In an opinion column in Teacher Magazine, Anthony Cody has written an interesting piece entitled Bad Testing Drives Out Good Learning. In it, he quotes this exchange from the blog Teaching in the 408.
Commenter Nancy Flanagan wrote:
"NCLB has put the bright lights on some pretty awful schools...but stops short of pushing 21st Century learning skills (synthesis, analysis, creativity, collaboration) in favor of the multiple-guess and fact regurgitation. NCLB has settled for rote presentation and narrowed curriculum, a disservice to kids who deserve more and better of everything—resources, teaching, attention, depth, etc."

The blog author, a teacher of reading and writing to ELL and SpEd students responded:
"There's nothing here that says ONLY teach basic skills. The law says AT LEAST teach those skills. If we can't handle the AT LEAST, of what value is the MORE?"
In the article Cody asks, "Does this logic hold up?" Read the piece for his take on this.

What's my take on this? I constantly try to convince my students and the teachers I work with that the state standards should be considered the floor for instruction, or the foundation from which they should work. It should not be the ceiling, or what we are aiming for. Unfortunately, the emphasis on AYP has forced many schools to focus on simply meeting the standards, not moving beyond them. Don't get me wrong, I am all for accountability and standards, and I would fully stand behind teaching to the tests if the test were decent. It is possible to move beyond recall in standardized testing, but is expensive, so it isn't often done. Ultimately what I hope to convince my teachers of is that by shooting for more, by making the standards the floor or foundation of what they do, by focusing on understanding rather than memorization, that students will not only pass the tests, but will come through the academic year with a higher level of interest and will be better prepared to take on more challenging work.

Now it's your turn. What do you think?

Happy Birthday to Russell Freedman

Russell Freedman was born on this day in 1929. A prolific writer of biographies and nonfiction (though he prefers to be called a factual author), he has published more than 54 books, many of which have been highly acclaimed and honored. Recognitions include:
Mr. Freedman has also been the recipient of eight Golden Kite Awards. My favorite recently published books include two I read in preparation for my trip to China.
While thinking about using children's literature across the curriculum, I ask my students each year to read an article he wrote for Booklist in 1998 entitled On Telling the Truth. It is a wonderful piece on the challenges faced and responsibilities encumbered by writers of nonfiction. Here is an excerpt.
The biographer is like a fisherman trawling with a net--a collection of holes tied together with string. The net fills. The biographer hauls it in, sorts the catch, throws much of it back, then cleans and fillets what he keeps. Think of what he didn't catch. Think of everything that got away.
When reading Russel Freedman's work, it doesn't appear that much has gotten away. He manages to weave the most interesting details of his research into stories that are fascinating and readable. Who says nonfiction can't be enjoyable?

More recently I have decided to include the text of his Arbuthnot Honor Lecture, entitled The Past Isn’t Past: How History Speaks and What It Says to the Next Generation, as required reading. (You can read the full text in the Summer/Fall 2006 edition of the Children and Libraries journal.) In it he says:
What finally matters most to me about the reading and writing of history is the way it deepens us, allows us to glimpse worlds so different from our own—the way an understanding of history extends our own feelings and compassion, enlarges our ability to recognize everyone’s humanity.

Isn’t that what all literature—novels, poetry, history, biography—wants to convey: a shared sense of humanity, a sense of the mysterious connections that link each one of us here today to all those who have come before?
Amen to that. So, happy birthday Mr. Freedman. I salute you and thank you for all the wonderful works you have given the world of children's literature, and anxiously await those yet to come.

Poetry Stretch Results - Limericks

Well, it appears that either limericks were just plain uninspiring or folks were too busy this week to participate. Even though I have little to share, one poem I have is extra special.

This past April, in honor of National Poetry Month, Elaine Magliaro at Wild Rose Reader posted a poem a day. Many of them were dedicated to members of the kidlitosphere. Elaine even had one for me. Can you guess what it was? A limerick! It is the perfect entry for this week's stretch. Do head on over and read Elaine's limerick, Cruise for Twos.

Here are the other entries for our limerick stretch.
Please welcome Mad Kane who is playing for the first time. She shares a limerick entitled School Daze.

Sister AE stops by this week and shares a work-related limerick.
It's not too late if you still want to play. Read the rules here. Then leave me a comment about your limerick and I'll include a link to your poem on the list.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

1st Annual Kidlit Conference Recap

What can I say that hasn't already been written about the 1st Annual Kidlit Conference? I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful folks. If I was surprised by anything at all, it was just how nice, outgoing, and friendly everyone was. Yes, even the self-described introverts had something to say and offer. I wish I had time to talk more extensively with some bloggers, but our time together was too short. Here are some of the things I saw and heard this weekend.

My plane was a few hours late on Friday night. By the time I arrived, most folks were in bed or out for ice cream. I headed to the bar and joined a small group of authors. Gwenda and Michol talked about writing and the MFA program at Vermont College that they are both enrolled in. Funny, funny Ellen Klages told a story about once seeing a trailer full of zebras on the New York State thruway. (Wouldn't THAT make an interesting story?!) Greg shared a few tantalizing scraps of information about the book he's working on (you know, just enough to make me want to know much more).

I woke Saturday morning to the chorus of It's a Hard Knock Life from the Annie Musical, followed immediately by a rap song. Go figure! I know that rap samples all kinds of music, but this was new to me. So, you've all guessed by now that I don't listen to rap, but I had to at least look up the song. It's Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem) by Jay-Z.

The best quote of the conference goes to Liz Burns from A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy. In one session (was it the Cybils panel?) she mentioned a friend once told her that "The plural of anecdote is not evidence." Brilliant. I constantly hear from education naysayers who use data points of 2 or 3 to make a case for wholesale change in our educational system. I plan to use this line as often as possible.

From 4-5 on Saturday afternoon our meeting room was slightly rearranged for a Meet the Author event. Esme Raji Codell had the brilliant idea to supply us all with posters for the authors to sign. Here's mine.
Every author was gracious and happy to talk about his/her latest project. I was especially thrilled to speak to a few authors who are or were teachers. I also chatted with Matthew Cordell, the illustrator of The Moon is La Luna, a cute book of poems in English and Spanish. He gave me a copy to add to my teaching library. Very cool.

Dinner was nice, followed by a raffle and prizes, a walk to Starbucks for coffee (not for me, I drank hot chocolate), and back to the lobby for conversation. Sunday morning included breakfast at IHOP and a wait in the lobby for the shuttle to the airport. While hanging out with the lucky folks who went to brunch at Esme's place (I'm sooooo disappointed I missed it), the lovely Laini Taylor gave me one of her pieces of art. It is gracing my bookshelf at home, but may soon join my Jane Austen action figure at work. Here's what her beautiful piece looks like.
All in all, I had an incredibly good time. I also learned that artistic and literary folks wear the best t-shirts! I was thrilled to talk teaching with Mary Lee, books with Camille, Cybils with Eisha, writing and SCBWI with Sara, anything and everything with Greg, academia with Kelly, and so many others that I'm going to feel bad for not naming them and/or leaving them out. For sure the couple who wins the Energizer bunny award is Mark and Andrea, who kept going, and going, and going. If you don't believe me, just take a look at their pictures.

I must thank Robin Brande here for dreaming big and crazy and then having the courage to see it through for all of us. If it weren't for all the hard work she put into this, it never would have gone so well. Thanks Robin for making this dream a reality for everyone!

Next year this shindig will be in Portland, OR. I hope to be there, and will look forward to renewing and making new acquaintances. Let's just hope all those Boston fans (man there were a lot them) won't be angry with me when my beloved Indians knock the Red Sox out of the playoffs! Until next year . . .

Monday, October 08, 2007

Monday Poetry Stretch - Limericks

I'm feeling the need for a bit of humor this week, so let's exercise our poetry muscles by writing some limericks. Limericks are five line poems that were made popular in English by Edward Lear.

Limericks not only have rhyme, but rhythm. The last words of the first, second, and fifth lines all rhyme, and the last words of the third and fourth lines rhyme. This means the rhyme scheme is AABBA. The rhythm of a limerick comes from a distinct pattern. Lines 1, 2, and 5 generally have seven to ten syllables, while lines 3 and 4 have only five to seven syllables. Here is an example from Edward Lear.
There was an Old Man with a beard,
Who said, 'It is just as I feared!
   Two Owls and a Hen,
   Four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard!'
I usually get my fill of limericks each weekend while listening to Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me. Give a listen and see if you can complete the limericks. Then continue your warm-up and learn how to write a limerick, read a limerick lesson plan, or write an instant limerick.

Here are two limericks I wrote for my middle school science students.
A crocodile lived in the Nile
Near the bank he swam for a while
   A girl leaned o'er the water
   He jumped up and caught her
And ate with a cold-blooded smile.

Sad Sue swallowed bite after bite
But her weight was incredibly light
   She ate all her dinner
   Yet got thinner and thinner
But fat was that darn parasite!
So, will you join us this week? What kind of limericks will you write? Post your effort(s) on your blog and then leave a link in the comments. Once we have some poems, I'll link them all here.

I'm Back, I'm Tired, I'm Happy

I had a fabulous, wonderful, amazing time in Chicago and have now returned to a mountain of work. I promise I'll write all about my experience meeting so many terrific authors, bloggers, teachers, librarians, podcasters and oh so many more wonderful folks very soon. Until then, take a look at the picture of most of our group. You can mouse over the faces and see who came and where they make their home on the web.
Until I get back, you can read what these folks had to say about our 1st Annual conference. Will I be able to add anything new? I hope so.
Sorry you missed out? Don't be. You can join us next year in . . . click here to find out!