Friday, October 31, 2008

Have You Read THIS?

Have you read Colleen Mondor's Blog the Vote post? If not, get thee to Chasing Ray. It's all about teaching and making a difference--precisely the kind of story I love. You'll love it as well.

If you want to read more about this Blog the Vote event, read the stunning piece entitled Faces in the Crowd.

Since I can't comment there (I just don't want to register for yet another site), I'm doing it here. Bravo, Colleen! Thanks for sharing your story and wisdom.


Poetry Stretch Results - Bat Poetry

The challenge this week was to write a poem about bats. Here's what folks are sharing.
sister AE at Having Writ shares a poem entitled Bats.
Here's my poem about the state bat of Virginia (pictured here).
Big-eared bat,
no one likes
the look of you.

Only a mother could
love that
wrinkled, crinkled face,
those outrageous proportions—
four inches of bat,
more than one inch of

Cave dweller,
erratic flyer—
you fairly dance in air
over treetops,
pastures and
fields of corn,
gorging on a
midnight feast of
moths and insects.

Expert pollinator,
pest eradicator,
endangered species—
if only favored status
in the Old Dominion
could save you now.
It's not too late if you still want to play. Leave me a note about your poem and I'll add it to the list.

Poetry Friday - A Deadly Apple

I loved the 1987 publication Halloween ABC, written by Eve Merriam and illustrated by Lane Smith. However, I must say that I am even fonder of the 2002 revised edition retitled Spooky ABC. Besides the absolutely pitch-perfect poems and illustrations, one of the most interesting things about the book is the section at the end entitled "The Awful Truth Behind The Making Of Spooky ABC." In it, Lane Smith describes how the first book and revised edition came about. This section also includes images that were created for the first book, but ultimately dropped because Eve Merriam's poems suggested other illustrations. For example, vampire was lost to viper, tree to trap, and cat to crawler. (I do LOVE the cat illustration, as well as the one for invisible. I wish you could see them!)

One of my favorite illustrations is the witch. What's that? There is no witch you say? There is in mine!
The letter W in the book actually stands for witchery. There is just so much to love in these words and illustrations. Today I'm sharing the poem for the letter A. In the book it is accompanied by an image of a red apple, held in a hand with long, slim fingers tipped with long fingernails.
by Eve Merriam

sweet apple,
what do you hide?
Wormy and
rotten inside.

sweet apple,
so shiny and red,
taste it,
don't waste it,
come and be fed.

one bite and
you're dead.
The round up this week is being hosted by Sylvia Vardell at Poetry for Children. Do stop by and take in all the great poetry being shared. Before you go, be sure to check out this week's poetry stretch results. Happy poetry Friday, all!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Monday Poetry Stretch - Bat Poetry

Mea Culpa, mea culpa. I'm late again. So, without further ado, here's what I've been thinking about.

My son wants to dress as a vampire for Halloween. While I have been working overtime to convince him that there is no connection between fictional vampires and bats in the animal kingdom, I am failing miserably in my endeavors. In my efforts to convince him otherwise, we have been reading lots and lots of books on bats, including The Bat-Poet by Randall Jarell. Here is an excerpt from the poem the little bat recites.
A bat is born
Naked and blind and pale.
His mother makes a pocket of her tail
And catches him. He clings to her long fur
By his thumbs and toes and teeth.
Here is another poem excerpt, this one is an excerpt from D.H. Lawrence's Bat. You can read the poem in its entirety here.
Bats, and an uneasy creeping in one's scalp
As the bats swoop overhead!
Flying madly.

Black piper on an infinitesimal pipe.
Little lumps that fly in air and have voices indefinite, wildly vindictive;

Wings like bits of umbrella.

So, are you feeling a little bit batty? Will you join me in writing some bat poetry this week? Leave me a comment about your poem and I'll post the results later this week. If you want to read some additional bat poetry for inspiration, check out this Poetry Friday post on Bats.

Odds and Ends - A Bit of Reading-Related Randomness

I'm up to my eyeballs in grant writing and paper grading. No new news really, just some random links and thoughts I want to share.

Number 1 - A few weeks ago a commenter told me she'd found my blog through another site. That site led to another, and another, and after being led down the rabbit hole I eventually found myself at the amazing site Making Books with Children. I signed up for the monthly newsletter and found my very first issue to be real gem. In the October issue, Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord shared her idea for a sticker poem book. Here is an excerpt from the newsletter introduction.
This month's book used the side panels from a grocery bag for the pages, a plastic piece that came with a purchase of a pair of socks and an elastic for the binding, and candy wrappers, fruit stickers, and the left over sticky paper from red and green dot stickers that were left over from jurying at the Newburyport Art Association to decorate the pages. The poem was inspired by the fruits the stickers were on.
The book in the newsletter is a variation of her stick and elastic band book. You will find many terrific book projects here. If you are looking for a project to do at home or in your classroom, this is a site you won't want to miss!
**NOTE - Susan also has a series of videos to take you step-by-step through the process of making some of these books.

Number 2 - Today in the Guardian blog is an article entitled The Misery of Chain Bookstores. I feel Charlotte Higgins' pain, really I do. The comments are almost as entertaining and thoughtful as the article. Here's a fine example.

It has all become depressingly polarised, viz. the following:

1. I went to a Waterstone's the other day looking for some Thomas Hardy. Any would do: I was in a bad mood, and wanted only to remind myself that it could be worse.

There was none. I am a mild-tempered woman and disinclined to shout, but when I queried this with the pleasant but ignorant four-year-old on the till, her apologetic shrug (she simply had no idea why their not stocking Hardy was even vaguely odd) raised in me the desire to launch myself over the till and batter her to death with a copy of The Little Book of Calm (or whatever).

2. The following day I ventured into a local independent bookshop. The woman on the till gave me a protracted up-and-down sort of look, apparently established (wrongly) that I was not one of life's readers, and ignoring my smile returned to her newspaper. I panicked, picked up a Nabokov I didn't want and a Dostoyevsky I already had, and returning to the till found myself greeted with an icy expression since she was on the phone and reluctant to be disturbed. God help anyone that went in there to pick up a nice PD James to read in the bath. I suspect she'd actually spit in their faces.

Someone lend me one hundred large and I promise I'll open a big, shambling, pleasing, cosy bookshop that stocks everything from Sir Philip Sidney to Doris Lessing. There'll be armchairs. And cake! And neither ignorance nor judgement! And probably a marmalde cat.

Number 3 - Normally I don't talk about what a great mother I think I am, but I'm still reeling from the Saturday afternoon matinee of High School Musical 3 that I dutifully took my son to see, so brag I will. In a theater filled with screaming and swooning tweens (and yes there were a good number of boys in the room), the best part of the experience was the amazing behind-the-scenes look at Coraline. February 2009 no longer seems so far away. Here's a nice clip. Did you know they're making this in 3-D?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Snowy Day Postage Stamp? It's Got My Vote!

I received this press release today from the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation.
Celebrate The 50th Anniversary Of THE SNOWY DAY
By Ezra Jack Keats
Help Create A Commemorative Postage Stamp

The U.S. Postage Stamp Citizen’s Advisory Committee, the group that decides what subjects are chosen for our country’s commemorative postage stamps, is considering celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the publishing of THE SNOWY DAY by Ezra Jack Keats. This book is not just an American classic beloved by generations of children and parents around the world; it is also the book that broke the color barrier in mainstream American children’s book publishing.

It takes three years for the subject of a postage stamp to be considered, accepted and developed. The fiftieth anniversary of THE SNOWY DAY is in 2012. Help us gather signatures to send to the Citizen’s Advisory Committee to let them know how welcome this stamp would be to families and educators across the country. Help us show the world that Ezra’s character Peter, playing in the snow, a character they recognize and treasure, is as valued here as it is abroad.

To support the creation of THE SNOWY DAY 50th Anniversary Commemorative Stamp visit the website of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation and add your name to the Support the Stamp list. Tell your friends, your students, your teachers and your parents to add their names to our petition. Names will not be used for any other reason than for THE SNOWY DAY Stamp Petition, nor will they be shared or sold to any other entity. Help make 2012 a celebration of American children in all their diversity!
I'm in! How about you? Here's the direct link to the petition page.

Nonfiction Monday - Bats

With Halloween approaching, I thought this would be a good time to share one of my favorite nonfiction books about our flying mammal friends. Bats, written and illustrated by Gail Gibbons, is a clear, concise and highly readable introduction to these often maligned animals. Readers will learn about different species of bats, their physical characteristics, behavior, adaptations, and the important role they play in the environment.

The book opens with a spread that shows bats flying against the backdrop of a night sky. The text reads:
Bats dive, swoop and swerve through the dark night sky. These creatures are nocturnal, meaning they are awake at night and asleep during the day. Most people have never seen a bat.
All the pages that follow are set against this same nighttime scene, emphasizing the nocturnal nature of bats.

The very next page shows a witch stirring a cauldron while a ghosts and bats hang in the sky overhead. The text goes on to tell readers about the roles bats have played in stories and describes a few of the myths about them. The facing page shows a bat in flight with text that reads:
Because many unkind things have been said about bats, some people still think they are scary. Actually, bats are shy and gentle animals.
From here readers learn basic bat facts, including that they are mammals, warm-blooded, give birth to live young, and are the only true flying mammals. Three pages explore the anatomy of a bat, with one double-page spread providing a close-up view of a bat's wings. This is very interesting stuff. For example, did you know that bats can "move each finger separately to change the shape of its wings?"

After learning a bit about bat flight and how they flip upside-down when they land, readers learn about roosts and the many places groups of bats live and sometimes hibernate today. More than 1000 species of bats live on every continent except Antarctica. Readers meet several different kinds of bats throughout the pages of the book.

The section of the book that describes what bats eat begins with an introduction to echolocation and how this skill helps bats to find food. While many bats eat insects, some eat fruit and nectar, a few eat meat, like fish, frogs, and mice, and one species survives on the blood of other animals. One page in the book is devoted to the vampire bat, providing a close-up view of its face, as well as an illustration of how the bat feeds. The text reads:
When the vampire bat finds an animal it makes a tiny cut with its teeth in the animal's skin. Then the bat laps up the blood with its tongue. The animal hardly feels the cut.
The facing page includes an illustration of a vampire, surrounded by flying bats. The text explains the connection between bats and stories about vampires.

One of the most interesting series of illustrations in the book shows how very different bats can look. Four species are shown with a focus on their faces. One face has a leaf-like shape on its face, another has a nose with tube-shaped nostrils, and another with a snout like a dog.

This section is followed by information about how bats give birth and raise their young, as well as information about how bats are becoming endangered and how this impacts our environment. The final page has some odd and entertaining facts about bats.

This is one of my favorite books about bats. It is an appealing, informative and highly engaging read. Don't miss it, especially at this time of year.

Book: Bats
Gail Gibbons
Holiday House
Date Published:
30 pages
Personal copy

This post was written for Nonfiction Monday. Head on over to Anastasia Suen’s blog and check out all the great posts highlighting nonfiction this week.

For some other ideas for bat-themed books and units of study, check out these links.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

War of the Worlds Anniversary Is Coming!

This Thursday marks the 70th anniversary of the 1938 broadcast of the Halloween episode of The Mercury Theatre on the Air. Directed and narrated by Orson Welles, the episode was an adaptation of H. G. Wells' novel The War of the Worlds. Aired without commercial breaks and presented as a series of simulated news bulletins, many listeners believed that an actual Martian invasion was in progress.

Meghan McCarthy's book Aliens Are Coming!: The True Account of the 1938 War of the Worlds Radio Broadcast provides an excellent introduction to this event. It begins with illustrations of radios from the 1930s and an announcer proclaiming,
"Hey, kids! Did you know that in 1930s most Americans did not own TVs? But you know what they did have? The radio!"
The announcer goes on to explain that radio was the primary source for both entertainment and information. Readers also learn that "because Americans believed what they hears, they were easily fooled by a radio play that sounded like an actual news bulletin."

When readers turn the page, they are transported to October 30th, 1938, where the scene is in shades of black and white. The street is nearly empty, save for a young boy and a single car. The window of a shop reads Happy Halloween, and a smiling pumpkin sits out front. On the next page a family is gathered around a radio, listening to music. The sounds emanating from the radio are illustrated in color. (This is a wonderful device for helping young readers understand that listeners had to use their imaginations to make broadcasts come alive.) Suddenly the music stops. Upon turning the page the family looks frightened as they listen to an announcer interrupt the program with a news bulletin.

The rest of the broadcast comes to life in double-page spreads in muted colors (lots of reds) as the story of The War of the Worlds unfolds in news bulletin format. Readers see a meteorite shooting through the sky, the opening of the Martian spaceship, the appearance of the aliens, the attack that follows, and finally a map of the United States and the question "Was this the end of the world?"

The illustrations return to shades of black and white as readers learn that "Radio listeners across the country were in a state of panic!" The pages that follow show the panic that followed, from highways jammed with cars, to overloaded switchboard operators, to police investigating a farm to find only an empty field.

The final double-page spread shows the actors performing the radio play. They kept right on going, unaware of what was happening outside the studio. Readers learn that the alien invasion was just a story based on the novel The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells. An extensive author's note at the end provides information about the broadcast and aftermath, as well as information about subsequent readings of the story. A lengthy bibliography is also included.

This is a terrific choice for a read aloud any time of the year. However, it's particularly appropriate this Halloween as we celebrate the anniversary of the original broadcast.

Book: Aliens Are Coming!: The True Account of the 1938 War of the Worlds Radio Broadcast
Author/Illustrator: Meghan McCarthy
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 2006
40 pages
Source of Book: Personal copy purchased from a local independent bookstore.

Here are some additional resources you might find helpful.

My Blank Verse

I'm thinking of home quite often these days. So much so that it's the topic I kept returning to while trying to finish the poetry stretch this week. This draft is not a great poem, but it's certainly full of emotion.
It's Just Geography

It’s just geography I tell myself,
but looking at this map the distance grows.
Five hundred miles and more to bridge the gap,
that separates the home I’ve built from one
I’ve long felt deep inside my bones--that place
that carries me to childhood reverie.
Just stepping through the door and seeing in
blue blankets, photos, furniture and more,
old memories made plain before my eyes.

But I’m so far away from you these days,
I curse the word geography and wish
with eyes clamped shut, to make now disappear
the mountains, rivers, valleys and the states,
that bar the path to journeys to the north.
In dreams I look across this landscape bare,
to gaze from windows here to see that place,
and momentarily return back home.
I suppose I shouldn't mope too much. I kept thinking of TadMack while writing this and began to feel absolutely silly about my glumness. She is, after all, separated from her loved ones by an ocean. Mine are only a few states away. (Sorry, Tanita! I am thinking of you and sending good thoughts your way!)

You can read more blank verse in this week's poetry stretch results.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Poetry Friday - Geography

I've been immersed in the study of geography this week. There's quite a bit of poetry in geography, both in maps and poetry of place. Today I'm sharing two poems related to this theme.
My Father's Geography
by Aafa M. Weaver

I was parading the Côte d'Azur,
hopping the short trains from Nice to Cannes,
following the maze of streets in Monte Carlo
to the hill that overlooks the ville.

Read the rest of the poem. You can also listen to the author read it!
This second poem is an excerpt from Lines Written for Gene Kelly to Dance To. You can find the entire poem in The Complete Poems of Carl Sandburg (pp. 704-705).
Why we got geography?
Because we go from place to place. Because the earth used
   to be flat and had four corners, and you could jump off
   from any of the corners.

But now the earth is not flat anymore. Now it is round all
   over. Now it is a globe, a ball, round all over, and we
   would all fall off it and tumble away into space if it wasn't
   for the magnetic poles. And when you dance it is the
   North Pole or the South Pole pulling on your feel like
   magnets to keep your feet on earth.
And that's why we got geography.
And it's nice to have it that way.
If you want more poetry for geography, check out this post from National Poetry Month entitled Poetry in the Classroom - A World of Wonders.

The round up is being hosted by Kelly over at Big A little a. Do stop by and take in all the great poetry being shared this week. Before you go, be sure to check out this week's poetry stretch results. Happy poetry Friday, all!

Poetry Stretch Results - Blank Verse

The challenge this week was to write a poem in blank verse. Here's what folks have shared.
Tiel Aisha Ansari at Knocking From Inside has played some metrical games with her poem Condor Storms.

cloudscome at a wrung sponge shares a poem inspired by a conversation with her son. It is called Geese Fly.
I'm still working on mine and will post it here a bit later today.

It's not too late if you still want to play. Leave me a comment about your poem and I'll add it to the list.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

New Book Reviews - Geography

Over at Open Wide, Look Inside my students are reviewing books that connect to the teaching of social studies. Last week they highlighted book focused on economics. Each of their posts includes a brief summary of a book, curriculum connections, links for some supporting resources, and general information about the book.

This week the focus is geography. You'll find books about travel, map reading, Uri Shulevitz's gorgeous How I Learned Geography, two titles by Loreen Leedy, and much more.

Do stop by and check out these selections for geography. I promise you won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Art in the Classroom - Picturing America

Have you applied for a Picturing America grant? Picturing America is an initiative from the National Endowment for the Humanities that brings masterpieces of American art into classrooms and libraries nationwide.

Successful applicants will receive:
  • An innovative, free resource that provides educators with an engaging way to teach American history, culture, and other subjects through the use of artistic images.
  • Public, private, parochial, and charter and home school consortia (K-12), as well as public libraries in the United States and its territories, may receive a total of 40 high-quality, laminated reproductions (approximately 24” x 36”). (Preview the art by visiting the image gallery or downloading a PowerPoint presentation of the images in the collection.)
  • An illustrated Teachers Resource Book, with activities organized by elementary, middle and high school levels. The resource book will help K-12 teachers use the images to teach core curriculum subjects such as: American history, social studies, civics, language arts, literature, science, math, geography, and music. (Preview these resources by downloading the entire resource book.)
  • Access to the Picturing America Web site, which contains additional information and resources, including innovative lesson plans.

In return for receiving the Picturing America reproductions and Teachers Resource Book, schools are required to encourage teachers to use the reproductions in the classroom. Schools and libraries are required to keep as many of the reproductions as possible on continual exhibit in classrooms or public locations in the school or public library during the April 2009 – April 2010 grant term, and to retain the reproductions for future display and educational use.

If your school hasn't yet applied, please encourage your principal or librarian to do so. While individual home schools are not eligible to apply, consortia or alliances of home schools may apply for Picturing America materials to place in a common resource center.

The submission deadline is November 14. So, what are you waiting for?

Monday, October 20, 2008

It's Official - NFPB Nominations

I am pleased to share the official list of nominations for the Cybils in the category of nonfiction picture books. This is the same list you'll find at the Cybils site, only this one organizes the titles alphabetically within the categories of history and biography, science, and other.
History and Biography
Animals Christopher Columbus Saw: An Adventure in the New World, written by Sandra Markle and illustrated by Jamel Akib

Animals Robert Scott Saw: An Adventure in Antarctica, written by Sandra Markle and illustrated by Phil

As Good as Anybody: Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Joshua Heschel's Amazing March Toward Freedom, written by Richard Michelson and illustrated by Raul Colón

Ballots for Belva: The True Story of a Woman's Race for the Presidency, written by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen and illustrated by Courtney Martin

Before John Was a Jazz Giant: A Song of John Coltrane, written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Sean Qualls

A Boy Named Beckoning: The True Story of Dr. Carlos Montezuma, Native American Hero, written and illustrated by Gina Capaldi

Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman, written by Marc Tyler Nobleman and illustrated by Ross MacDonald

Duel! Burr and Hamilton's Deadly War of Words, written by Dennis Brindell Fradin and illustrated by Larry Day

Elizabeth Leads the Way: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Right to Vote, written by Tanya Lee Stone and illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon

Farmer George Plants a Nation, written by Peggy Thomas and illustrated by Layne Johnson

Johnny Appleseed: The Legend and the Truth, written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Jim Burke

Keep Your Eye on the Kid: The Early Years of Buster Keaton, written and illustrated by Catherine Brighton

Lady Liberty: A Biography, written by Doreen Rappaport and illustrated by Matt Tavares

The Last Black King of the Kentucky Derby: The Story of Jimmy Winkfield, written by Crystal Hubbard and illustrated by Robert McGuire

Lincoln and Douglass: An American Friendship, written by Nikki Giovanni and illustrated by Bryan Collier

Manfish: The Story of Jacques Cousteau, written by Jennifer Berne and illustrated by Éric Puybaret

March On! The Day My Brother Martin Changed the World, written by Christine King Farris and illustrated by London Ladd

Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai, written and illustrated by Claire Nivola

A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams, written by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Melissa Sweet

The Road to Oz: Twists, Turns, Bumps, and Triumphs in the Life of L. Frank Baum, written by Kathleen Krull and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

Sandy's Circus: A Story About Alexander Calder, written by Tanya Lee Stone and illustrated by Boris Kulikov

Seven Miles to Freedom: The Robert Smalls Story, written by Janet Halfmann and illustrated by Duane Smith

This is the Feast, written by Diane Z. Shore and illustrated by Megan Lloyd

Wanda Gág: The Girl Who Lived to Draw, written and illustrated by Deborah Kogan Ray

Wangari's Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa, written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter

We the People: The Story of Our Constitution
, written by Lynne Cheney and illustrated by Greg Harlin

What to Do About Alice?: How Alice Roosevelt Broke the Rules, Charmed the World, and Drove Her Father Teddy Crazy!, written by Barbara Kerley and illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham

Yours for Justice Ida B. Wells: The Daring Life of a Crusading Journalist, written by Philip Dray and illustrated by Stephen Alcorn

10 Things I Can Do to Help My World: Fun and Easy Eco-Tips, written and illustrated by Melanie Walsh

Astronaut Handbook, written and illustrated by Meghan McCarthy

Baby Polar Bear, written by
Aubrey Lang with photographs by Wayne Lynch

Corn, written and illustrated by Gail Gibbons

A Den is a Bed for a Bear, written by Becky Baines

Down by the Shore, written by Marilee Crow and illustrated by MarySue Roberts

Eggs, written by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by Emma Stevenson

Fabulous Fishes, written and illustrated by Susan Stockdale

Flip, Float, Fly: Seeds on the Move, written by JoAnn Early Macken and illustrated by Pam Paparone

Gone Fishing: Ocean Life by the Numbers, written and illustrated by David McLimans

It's Moving Day!, written by Pamela Hickman and illustrated by Geraldo Valéro

Little Green Frogs, written and illustrated by Frances Barry

Looking Closely: Inside the Garden, written and illustrated by Frank Serafini

"Mrs. Riley Bought Five Itchy Aardvarks" and Other Painless Tricks for Memorizing Science Facts, written by Brian Cleary and illustrated by J. P. Sandy

Nic Bishop Frogs, written and illustrated by Nic Bishop

Please Don't Wake the Animals: A Book about Sleep, written by Mary Batten and illustrated by Higgins Bond

Sisters and Brothers: Sibling Relationships in the Animal World, written by Robin Page and illustrated by Steve Jenkins

Trout are Made of Trees, written by April Pulley Sayre and illustrated by Kate Endle

What's Inside Your Tummy, Mommy?, written and illustrated by Abby Cocovini

Winter Trees, written by Carole Gerber and illustrated by Leslie Evans

Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator, written by Sarah C. Campbell with photographs by Sarah C. Campbell and Richard P. Campbell

The Art of Freedom: How Artists See America, written by Bob Raczka

Dignity Rocks! I Feel Like Nobody When...I Feel Like Somebody When, written by Stephanie Heuer

Egypt in Colors, written by Nathan Olson

Making Cents, written by Elizabeth Keeler Robinson and illustrated by Bob McMahon

Molly the Pony: A True Story, written and illustrated by Pam Kaster

Smart-Opedia Junior: The Amazing Book About Everything, written by the Editors of Maple Tree Press

Sparkles the Fire Safety Dog, written by Dayna Hilton

Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship, and Survival, written by Kirby Larson and Mary Methery and illustrated by Jean Cassels

Underwear: What We Wear Under There, written by Ruth Freeman Swain and illustrated by John O'Brien

Used Any Numbers Lately?, written by Susan Allen and Jane Lindaman and illustrated by Vicky Enright
That's 59 titles dear readers. It's a beautiful list, don't you think? Now that you've seen the nominees in nonfiction picture books, be sure to check out the nominees in the seven remaining categories.

Monday Poetry Stretch - Blank Verse

The challenge this week is to write a poem in blank verse. Blank verse poems are not rhymed and iambic (10 syllables or five feet consisting of two syllables each). Here are some examples of blank verse.
Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones.

From Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare (Act III, Scene ii)

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Matched with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.

From Ulysses by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Back out of all this now too much for us,
Back in a time made simple by the loss
Of detail, burned, dissolved, and broken off
Like graveyard marble sculpture in the weather,
There is a house that is no more a house

From Directive by Robert Frost
What kind of blank verse poem will you write? Leave me a comment about your poem and I'll post all the entries here later this week.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

When is a Writer Good Enough?

Yesterday while making a pan of chicken parmigiana for dinner (homemade sauce, lots of garlic, fresh basil and freshly grated parmesan) I was listening to NPR and had the great fortune to hear this interview with Neil Gaiman. In talking about the inspiration for his new work The Graveyard Book, he said that when the idea for the book came to him and he actually sat down to write it, he came to the realization that "I am not yet a good enough writer for this idea. I am not yet a good enough writer to do this justice."

I've been thinking a lot about this comment. When is a writer not good enough? Do writer's return to their early work and think, "Yuck. This could be so much better."? I know when I write poetry I think that I'll never be very good, even with continued practice. Or do writer's complete a first work and think "I'll never write anything this good again."? ShelfTalker wrote a post a few weeks ago in which she asked "How often is an author's first novel their best?"

What's the point? I don't know. Someday I'll actually be able to take all these ideas swimming around in my brain and put them down on paper. Until then, I'll just keep wondering--when will I be a good enough writer to do this?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Poetry Stretch Results - Abecedarian Poems

The challenge this week was to write an abecedarian poem, or one in which the verses or words begin with successive letters of the alphabet. I have only one entry today, but it's a great one.
Teil Aisha Ansari at Knocking From Inside shares a reverse abecedarian entitled Copy Editor's Rant.
Between workshops for teachers, my own classes, and a conference this week, I did not write much. What I did keep coming back to was the notion of fall. Nearly every day last week we had temperatures above 80 degrees, so my dreams are filled with falling leaves and cool days, even if real life isn't full of them yet. Here's the piece I'm still working on.
Autumn leaves
Brightly colored
Down to
Earth --

Flocks of
Honk and fly
In their
Journey southward,
Keen to
Nature’s chilly
Overtures behind.
It's not too late if you still want to play. Leave me a comment about your poem and I'll it to the very short list above!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Guess What I Saw Today?!

I am still living 5 years in the past when it comes to cell phone technology. I have a very old phone that I don't often carry, and when I do, it's rarely on. I guess I figure I'm not so important that I need to be reachable every minute of the day. My husband, on the other hand, has a fancy-schmancy phone with a camera and every other imaginable gadget.

While at a conference today I was just a smidgen sorry I didn't have such a phone myself, as prominently displayed at a publisher's table in the exhibit hall was this book.
I think I may have squealed with delight (yes, squealed). I wanted a picture of myself with the display, but alas, no fancy phone. This cover will have to do. (You can read more about the book at Laura's site.)

And here's the funny part. I wanted to tell all the people milling around the stand that I knew the author. Now, we haven't actually met in person, so this may strike some as odd. We have, however, we've commented on each other's blogs, written poetry together, and talked online.

Isn't it amazing how closely this world of online communication can sometimes bring us together? So, to my friend in Minnesota, I hope you get just a small thrill knowing what a big thrill I had seeing your book today.

Poetry Friday - Autumn Movement

It's been eighty degrees here nearly every day this week. I am dreaming of fall and hoping it comes soon. To encourage fall to show it's colors, I've been reading Frost, Dickinson and Sandburg. Today I'm sharing a piece by Sandburg.
Autumn Movement
by Carl Sandburg

I cried over beautiful things knowing no beautiful thing lasts.

The field of cornflower yellow is a scarf at the neck of the copper sunburned woman, the mother of the year, the taker of seeds.

The northwest wind comes and the yellow is torn full of holes, new beautiful things come in the first spit of snow on the northwest wind, and the old things go, not one lasts.
The round up this week is being hosted by Becky at Becky's Book Reviews. Be sure to stop by and check out all the great poetry being shared this week. Happy poetry Friday, all!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

New Book Reviews - Economics

Over at Open Wide, Look Inside my students have begun reviewing books that connect to the teaching of social studies. Each of their posts includes a brief summary of a book, curriculum connections, links for some supporting resources, and general information about the book.

This week the focus is economics. Do stop by and check out these first reviews for social studies. There are lots of good ideas for classroom use you won't want to miss. Some of the books highlighted are shown below.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Get Thee to the Cybils! - One More Day to Nominate

Nominations for the Cybils close on October 15th. That's tomorrow, folks. Time is running out to nominate your favorite books.

If you're still wondering what to nominate, here are some suggestions! If you want even more ideas, check out Esme's great post on nonfiction and picture book biographies.

Monday, October 13, 2008

More on NFPB for the Cybils

Nominations for the Cybils will close in two short days. The winning books will be selected from all the titles nominated by YOU (the general public) and must combine quality and "kid appeal." Here's a discussion of kid-friendly from the Cybils site.

There are many books that still haven't been nominated in the category I am privileged to be judging. I mentioned a few titles in a post last week. Since then, some of the titles have been nominated, while others are still waiting. I've also seen some additional books in the days in between, so here are some other suggestions if you are still waiting to nominate a book.

Okay, let's talk about kid appeal. My son is crazy about books and stories that mention skivvies and other "unmentionables." Yup, he's 7! This book is right up his alley. It's called Underwear: What We Wear Under There, and it's written by Ruth Freeman Swain and illustrated by John O'Brien.

Steve Jenkins and Robin Page never fail to capture the attention and imagination of their readers. They have two books out this year that are both fine suggestions for this category. They are Sisters and Brothers: Sibling Relationships in the Animal World and How Many Ways Can You Catch a Fly?

Speaking of kid appeal, how about a book on dirt? That's right, dirt. The Dirt on Dirt, written by Paulette Bourgeois and illustrated by Martha Newbigging, covers the lowdown on dirt while providing lots of great activities. If you want to learn more about this one you can read my review.

In the category of biography there are lots of great titles still available. What kid wouldn't enjoy reading the biography of the man who gave us The Wizard of Oz? The Road to Oz: Twists, Turns, Bumps, and Triumphs in the Life of L. Frank Baum, written by Kathleen Krull and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes, provides a fine introduction to the author. If you have a kid interested in exploration and extremes, you can't get much more extreme than the North Pole with the biography of Matthew Henson. It is called I, Matthew Henson: Polar Explorer, and it is pure poetry written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Eric Velasquez. You can read my review of this one too! Finally, I've been hearing great things about Manjiro: The Boy Who Risked His Life for Two Countries, written and illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully. It's the story of young Japanese boy who was shipwrecked in 1841 and ultimately rescued by an American whaling ship.

I'm still partial to science, as anyone reading my Nonfiction Monday entries can tell. William and I loved Wild Cats: Past & Present. (This one fits in the middle grades/YA nonfiction category.) The one book we can't wait to see just came out. It is called Our Three Bears and is written by Ron Hirschi with photographs by Thomas Mangelsen. In it readers can learn more about black, grizzly, and polar bears.

Now that you have some ideas, won't you please go and nominate an outstanding title for the Cybils? Most of the books mentioned here fit in the category of nonfiction picture books, though at least one meets the criteria for middle grades/YA nonfiction. There are also 6 other categories for which you can nominate books. They are:
So, what are you waiting for? Head on over and nominate a title today! Don't forget, that nominations close on October 15th.

Monday Poetry Stretch - Abecedarian Poems

For this week's challenge I thought we should tackle abecedarian poetry. An abecedarian poem is one in which the verses or words begin with successive letters of the alphabet. Here is an excerpt from a poem found in America At War, poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins.
by Jane Yolen

What is the alphabet of evil?
the names of camps
rolling off the tongue,
the tongue lolling in the mouth,
the mouth hanging open,
Psalm 119 (King James numbering) is also an abecedarian poem. has more information about the abecedarian form.

So, what kind of poem will you write? Leave me a comment about your abecedarian piece and I'll post the results here later this week.

Friday, October 10, 2008

New Yorker Out Loud: Talking About Babar

I'm finally catching up on podcasts that I've missed as of late. On September 22nd the New Yorker Out Loud piece was entitled Elephant in the Room. In this podcast, Adam Gopnik discusses the controversy behind Babar and the books’ enduring appeal. Also included is some very interesting audio of an early recording (1947) of the story.

You can read the related article, Freeing the Elephants, also by Gopnik. The article highlights the current exhibition at the Morgan Library & Museum entitled Drawing Babar: Early Drafts and Watercolors, which runs from September 19, 2008, through January 4, 2009.

Poetry Friday Book Review - My Letter to the World and Other Poems

A few weeks ago when I hosted Poetry Friday I shared a short poem by Dickinson. Kelly Fineman left a comment about it in which she said, "I've been on an Emily kick myself lately - I honestly think it's the fall weather that does it, since I binged on her about this time last year, too." Binge indeed. I seem to be reading Emily at every turn, and somehow, just like Robert Frost, she feels right for fall. So today, I thought I'd share my review of the book My Letter to the World and Other Poems, the newest book in the Visions in Poetry series from Kids Can Press.

Here is a description of the series.
Visions in Poetry is an innovative and award-winning series of classic poems reinterpreted for today’s readers by outstanding contemporary artists in distinctively beautiful editions.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

NFPB - Calling All Nominees!

Last year at this time I published a list of nominated books for the Cybils in nonfiction picture books and named some titles that were startlingly absent. We have a terrific list of nominees to date, but some excellent titles are still missing. Won't you head on over and make a nomination? Here are some of the books I have yet to see on our list.
I'm sure there are many other worthy titles still waiting to be nominated as well. I may be pushing for nonfiction picture books here, but don't forget there are 7 other categories you can nominate titles in. They are:
So, what are you waiting for? Head on over and nominate a title today! Don't forget, that nominations close on October 15th.

Poetry Stretch Results - Three Words

The challenge this week was to write a poem in any form using the words cup, gate and sea. Here are the results.
Tiel Aisha Ansari at Knocking From Inside shares a poem entitled Teacup.

sister AE at Having Writ gives us a prose poem entitled Treasure.

Laura Purdie Salas used the three words in her 15 Words of Less Challenge. First, check out the photo that inspired the poem. Her poem is below.

    Rusty gears cup gears

    grinding gate open
    until grain sea spills down
I wrote several poems this week, one about a garden, one about building castles at the shore, and the one I'm sharing here.

What stories dwell
in cups and saucers,
some without partners,
others with chips?

In a toy farm with
doors that moo,
windows that crow,
and plastic animals
with ears chewed off?

In walking sticks,
hat boxes,
and tattered lace?

In polished stones,
sea shells,
dried flowers,
and potpourri?

In mismatched chairs,
a stained glass window,
garden hose,
and arbor gate?

Before this home
is packed and sold,
what stories are there
left to tell?
It's not too late if you still want to play. Leave me a note about your poem and I'll add it to the list.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Monday Poetry Stretch - Three Words

I invited you all back last week (and you came!) and what did I do? I forgot to post yesterday! Please forgive me. Here is the Monday Poetry Stretch, delivered on Tuesday.

A while back, Elaine at Wild Rose Reader and Janet Wong challenged folks to write ring/drum/blanket poems. I enjoyed this particular exercise and thought it might be interesting to try it again with three different words. So here are the three words around which to write your poem.

Choose any form that works for you. The only rule is that you must use these three words. Have fun and when you are done, leave me a note about your poem. I will post the entries here later this week.

Monday, October 06, 2008

More on Best Book Lists and Diversity (or Lack Thereof)

On Saturday I posted a brief response to the article The 25 Best Picture Books for Children by Diane Petryk-Bloom. The author was kind enough to leave a comment, which I have reprinted here.
There have been some wonderful books written since 1995, of course. But since they haven't stood the test of time, we can't comfortably say they are among the "best."

For instance, a decade ago you might have put Dinotopia there. And now the book has almost faded into oblivion. Why? Don't know. Peter Glassman says that could even happen to Harry Potter. He says that at one time Captains Courageous was as big a phenomenon as Harry Potter is now. And almost no one reads it now.

I think Harry will last. But its too soon to be absolutely certain.

My disclaimer was the subjective nature of the task. On top of that any "Best" list will fluctuate with time. But sample these authors...that's the guarantee. You'll find greatness there. No particular title can appeal to all.

You might be interested to know that Peter Glassman wanted Miss Rumphius right up there with Where the Wild Things Are. It didn't make the cut, but it will lead the next list!
I don't disagree with any of this, as I know how subjective these lists can be. I suppose my response to the list was a gut feeling that lists like these aren't always good. I know there are those who will disagree. Putting lists of outstanding titles in the hands of kids is a very good thing. Forgive the bluntness of this delivery, and please accept my apologies in advance if this offends, but, let's face it, this is a very white list. Kids and families today don't look the way they did thirty years ago. I get that many of these books have "stood the test of time," but as the demographics of our nation change, shouldn't our choices for best books change as well? This is particularly true if we are putting these lists in the hands of parents and teachers. Now, I can see booksellers arguing that this is not their job, they are, after all, business people. However, as an educator, it is my job.

Diversity in book lists is a good thing for all readers. It helps some kids see themselves in the world of literature where they may not have been pictured before, and it helps others recognize that not all children are like them. Would it really be that hard to put together a "best books" list that included such titles? What might they be? Surely we could make a case for The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats or A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams. Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold also comes to mind. What other titles would you suggest?

Please don't read this response as an indictment of the author or any of the folks involved in assembling these titles. Diversity is not a criterion that is used when putting
lists like this together. I'm just wondering aloud if it should be.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Why I Love the State Fair

Mischief and mayhem of the animal variety, brand new babies, crazy fun rides, and a few hundred smiles thrown in--all reasons why I love the fair.

Sheep eating chair.

Sheep nuzzling (biting?) William.

Goose eating rope, wagon and anything else he could get his beak on!

Hungry piglets.

Calf at 12 hours old.

One very happy boy.

Best Picture Books for Kids - Really?

In the Norfolk Examiner, Diane Petryk Bloom shares The 25 Best Picture Books for Children. Here is an excerpt from the introduction.
Here, presented countdown style, are the twenty-five best picture books ever written for children. These are, of course, limited to those written or presented in the English language.
Books are ranked here by weighing their impact, artistic merit, and just how beloved and enduring they are. We agonized over selections and placement, even while recognizing the subjective nature of the task. Most of the authors included have other titles which, it could be argued, belong here as well. There is no guarantee your favorite picture book will be here.

But there is one guarantee. It comes from long-time children's bookseller Peter Glassman who consulted on this list: If your children explore the works of the authors included here, they will have rich and wonderful reading experiences as well as insight into their literary heritage.
Okay folks, I'm going to highlight one sentence again. There is no guarantee your favorite picture book will be here. I read with caution, but still found myself shaking my head and saying, "Really?" Here is the list. You can find annotations and more information in the article.
25. Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain by Edward Ardizzone, 1936
24. Hey, Al by Arthur Yorinks, 1989
23. The Two Sisters by Elizabeth MacDonald, 1975
22. Wump World by Bill Peet, 1970
21. Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson, 1955
20. Lentil by Robert McCloskey, 1978
19. A Pair of Red Clogs by Masako Matsuno, 1960
18. Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathman, 1995
17. Little Toot by Hardie Gramatky, 1939
16. And To Think I Saw It On Mulberry Street by Dr. Seuss, 1937
15. The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge by Hildegarde Swift, 1942
14. Swimmy by Leo Leoni, 1963
13. Babar by Jean De Brunhoff, 1931
12. Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey, 1941
11. The Sailor Dog by Margaret Wise Brown, 1953
10. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton, 1939
9. Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter, 1909
8. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, 1963
7. Curious George by Margaret and H. A. Rey, 1942
6. Corduroy by Don Freeman, 1968
5. Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans, 1939
4. Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss, 1961
3. The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf, 1936
2. Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss, 1957
1. The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper, 1930
There is much I could say here. Some of the titles bring back memories of first sharing them with William. When he was 2 he received Babar as a Christmas gift. I hadn't read it in years, so I was shocked and a bit disturbed to find/remember that his mother dies (is killed, actually, when she is shot by a hunter). Later in the book the king of the elephant dies after eating a poisonous mushroom. We do still read it once in a while, and I continue to get the "But why did his mom have to die?" question. We read Madeline over and over for years. In fact, William had most of the book memorized, so often I would read it incorrectly just to see if he would catch me at. He did.

Books I've never read include 11, 15, 19, 20, 23, 24 and 25. That's a whopping 28% of the titles! For someone immersed in print throughout her life who also does the same for her child, I'm surprised that I've missed so many "best" books.

The oldest book on this list was published in 1909. The most recent in 1995. Have no new "classics" or best books been published in the last 13 years? I wonder ...

I'm writing this while sitting in a coffee shop and am hungry for conversation, so let's have one! What do you think of this list? Do you think it startlingly lacking in diversity? Should that be a criterion for putting together a list of best books? Should a list like this simply be based on number of copies printed and length of time in publication? What book do you think is missing from this list? What books would you not have included that are listed here?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Poetry Stretch Results - Fall Acrostic

The challenge this week was to write an acrostic poem using a word that relates to fall. Here are the results.
cloudscome writing over at her photo blog sandy cove shares a photo and a poem for autumn.

Tiel Aisha Ansari at Knocking From Inside wrote an acrostic poem in sonnet form (and in record time)! I don't know how she does it. Read her amazing poem entitled Changing Leaves.

sister AE at Having Writ wrote about the air of fall in her poem for crisp.

TadMack, one of two creative minds behind Finding Wonderland, left a poem in the comments. I have posted it below.
Another full moon
Unearthly shadows drape.
Thin branches scrape a tune
Upon a window's pane.
Migrating wings flash
Now prepare for winter's lash.
Elaine at Wild Rose Reader shares 4, count 'em, 4 autumn acrostics!
My acrostic breaks all the rules, as it's not about the word itself (which I'm guessing is a no-no). However, since my son has Halloween on the brain and has done nothing but talk about costume choices, I couldn't get these thoughts/words out of my head. Perhaps now that they are down on paper (electrons?), I may actually be able to write a poem about pumpkins!
Picture a witch
Ugly and mean.
My brother's an alien,
Purple and green.
Kids dress in costume,
It's that time of year--
Now it's Halloween!
It's not too late if you still want to play. Write your own acrostic and leave me a comment about your poem. I'll be happy to add it to the list.