Saturday, February 28, 2009

Interview with Joseph Bruchac

I'm crazy about the work of Joseph Bruchac. You can learn more about him at Motivating Young Readers: An Interview with Famed Children's Book Author Joseph Bruchac. Here's an excerpt from the introduction.
In honor of NEA's Read Across America, I'm posting an exclusive interview with celebrated children's book author Joseph Bruchac, who for over 30 years has captivated millions of young readers with his more than 70 books. His writing often draws inspiration from his Abenaki Indian heritage and offers a strong corrective to what Bruchac sees as widespread and damaging stereotypes about American Indians.

Bruchac spoke with me about strategies for motivating children to read.He offered ideas for helping struggling readers, resources parents and teachers can use to combat stereotypes in children's literature, thoughts on the promise and perils of the internet, observations the shortcomings of standardized assessments, and a preview of his forthcoming books.
It's a wonderful piece. Do take a few minutes to listen to it.

The Dog and the Novel

I buy a lot of used (out of print) books through AbeBooks. Every so often they have articles and interviews on topics near and dear to my heart. Today you can find a piece entitled The Dog and the Novel: Loyal Companions. Here's an excerpt from the introduction.

Literature has long had a love affair with dogs. Granted, in January, an AbeBooks bestseller was Vicki Myron's Dewey, a tale about a library cat, but by and large, dogs in literature must outnumber their feline counterparts 10 to one.

. . .

And truth isn't a factor - fiction lovers can't get enough dog stories, either. From the small but brave Toto from L. Frank Baum's Wizard of Oz, to the courageous collie in Lassie Come-Home, authors and audiences are enchanted by the adventures of their furry, four-legged, canine subjects.

With that in mind, we spoke to Dr. Bryan Cummins, professor, collector, author and Ontario-based expert on dog books. He's been a bookseller with AbeBooks since March 1999, and kindly agreed to offer his insights into the world of dog books.

We've also compiled a list of some of the best-loved fictional dog books available, from collectible, to children's, to fiction for adults, to help you discover more about man's best friend.

It's a lovely little article that brought back some fond memories of some of my favorite stories. And yes, I'm proudly a member of team dog. (Sorry all you kidlit cat people!)

Friday, February 27, 2009

In Love With Lincoln - Kalman Style

Maira Kalman's In Love With A. Lincoln. Now that I've seen her work, I've got a bit of a crush myself. Head on over to her blog And the Pursuit of Happiness to see what I mean.

Poetry Friday - On the Receipt of a Familiar Poem

Yes, I'm still reading Dunbar. I hope you haven't tired of him yet. I'm finding that some of his poems call me back again (and again) for another read. Here's one on poetry.
On the Receipt of a Familiar Poem
by Paul Laurence Dunbar

To me, like hauntings of a vagrant breath
From some far forest which I once have known,
The perfume of this flower of verse is blown.
Tho' seemingly soul-blossoms faint to death,
Naught that with joy she bears e'er withereth.
So, tho' the pregnant years have come and flown,
Lives come and gone and altered like mine own,
This poem comes to me a shibboleth:
Brings sound of past communings to my ear,
Turns round the tide of time and bears me back
Along an old and long untraversed way;
Makes me forget this is a later year,
Makes me tread o'er a reminiscent track,
Half sad, half glad, to one forgotten day!
The round up is being hosted by Karen at Mommy's Favorite Children's Books. Do stop by and take in all the great poetry being shared. Before you go, be sure to check out the macaronic verse written for this week's poetry stretch.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Guess Who's Turning 40?

No, it's not me. Been there, done that. However, knowing that this literary staple is marking a major milestone makes me feel just a wee bit old. Who is it, you ask?

It's Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar. On March 20th, Philomel is launching The Very Hungry Caterpillar Day. You can download an activity kit which includes a commemorative poster and a booklet with lesson plans, book lists, and art projects. You'll also be interested to know that a special edition of the book in pop-up format will be released in March.

You can read more about this at School Library Journal and at Eric Carle's web site.

I use TVHC to introduce math (counting, days of the week) and science (life cycle, metamorphosis) concepts, though there are many other ways to use it in the classroom. Here are some additional ideas and resources you may find helpful.

Poetry Stretch Results - Macaronic Verse

The challenge this week was to write in macaronic verse, a form which includes two or more languages. Here are the results.
Jane Yolen left this poem in the comments.
    Carrying On Carrying On

    When life is a blevit of failure and grief
    We carry on carrying on.
    When life is so tres, even nothing’s relief,
    We carry on carrying on.

    When things of the future are things of the past,
    When death is before us and first is the last,
    When everything comes as a TNT blast,
    We carry on carrying on.

    When all the mananas are dwindling down,
    When slips on bananas are tattered and brown,
    When it’s too hard to smile and much simpler to frown
    We carry on carrying on.

    I’ll carry on you, if you’ll carry on me
    On a tres filled with sorrow, and crackers and brie.
    And the only thing tres-er is so tres jollie
    That we carry on carrying on.
Julie Larios from The Drift Record also left a poem in the comments.
    El Dia de la Wedding
    (for Fernando)

    We were just kiditos,
    babycitios, me
    in my wedding dress,
    you looking so Si,
    Senor! in that tuxedo
    and white tie, your hair
    jet black, your face blanco
    and your eyes scared. Muchacho,
    I loved you mucho (still do) but
    what was the hurry, me
    wet behind the ears, and you
    just this side of a wetback? How
    did we know what it meant, "I now
    pronounce you"? Did we think wishes
    were horses? Sure, we knew how
    to kiss in Spanglish. And maybe
    that was enough, baby mio,
    but for el love of God,
    que idiotas, riding roughshod
    over common sense, our day
    scented with orange blossoms,
    our parents praying for rain.
Jane Yolen came back with another poem! (Lucky us—two poems in one week!)
    Casa Dia: A Big Macaronic Poem

    Casa dia,
    one day with cheese,
    perhaps macaronic,
    smelling like old shoes,
    zapatals and sandals,
    ripe from walking in the sun.
    I like the blander, blender kind,
    but sometimes a soft brie
    blowing through the hair
    is just the thing to make the day
    a little bit cheesy.
    Am I crackers?
Jone at Check It Out shares a poem entitled Pourquoi.

Candace Ryan from Book, Booker, Bookest left this poem in the comments.
    I have a lingua for lengua.
    I got a schwa for bar mitzvah.
    But not even I
    Can use mein old eye
    For decoding Joyce's Wörte.
Jacqueline at Neverending Story shares a poem entitled Vamos Embora Para Praia (Let’s hit the beach).

Elaine at Wild Rose Reader gives us the poem The Exterminator’s List of Things to Do or A Typical Workday for Tom Delay.

Schelle at Brand New Ending shares an untitled verse.
My poem this week is entitled For the Love of Latin.

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

Super Secret Poetry Project - A Little Poetic Math

24 new books (probably more!)
10 winners and honorees of the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award
3 recipients of the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children
2 winners of the Américas Award for Children's and Young Adult Literature
2 recipients of the IRA Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award
1 Newbery Medal honoree
1 Pura Belpré honoree
1 Children’s Poet Laureate
One grand surprise for National Poetry Month. RIGHT HERE! In 33 days.

Mark your calendars and prepare to get your poetry on.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Artfull Bras

Okay, I know this has absolutely nothing to do with children's literature, poetry or teaching, but I just had to share this creative idea for a worthy cause.
Members of Quilters of South Carolina have created one-of-a-kind bras for Breast Cancer Awareness. The exhibit consists of fifty original works of art which are unique, entertaining, humorous, and beautiful to make the public aware of breast cancer, to memorialize those lost to the disease, and to honor survivors.

This exhibit will tour SC until Oct '09 at which time individual Artfull Bras will be auctioned and the proceeds donated to the Best Chance Network, a program to provide care and treatment of uninsured women across the state who are diagnosed with breast and cervical cancer.
Visit the Artfull Bras Project to see these amazing creations. My favorites are Buttons and Bows and Boobs (p. 1) and Look at Them Melons (p. 2). Which one(s) do you love?

Blog Tour for Literacy

If you haven't heard already, the Share a Story - Shape a Future event will kick off on Monday, March 9th. This blog tour for literacy will feature a group of bloggers writing each day around a particular theme. I'll be participating on the first day, where the focus is raising readers. (Yup, I've got one!) Here's the schedule for that day.

Day 1: Raising Readers
hosted by Terry Doherty at Scrub-a-Dub-Tub, the Reading Tub blog
Day 2 will focus on selecting reading material.
Day 3 is dedicated to read aloud.
Day 4 looks at visiting libraries.
Day 5 is all about the future of reading and the role of technology.

You can see the entire schedule at the Share a Story - Shape a Future blog.

I find it a bit ironic that I'll be writing about finding time for reading at home on one of the few days I won't actually BE at home reading with my boy. Even so, I'll have some great ideas to share. I do hope you'll stop by and join in the conversations.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

For the Love of Latin

My Monday poetry stretch participants (Hi Julie! Hi Jane!) have kept me thinking and writing since I posted the challenge to write macaronic verse. Here's my contribution.
For the Love of Latin

We enter the room and silently take our seats.
“Good morning, class!”
“Salve magistra.”
“Quid agis?”
We raise our hands to respond.
Here I am Ceres, goddess of agriculture.
There are several Venuses, but I did not believe
myself deserving of such a name.
I wanted wisdom, but Minerva was taken
before Mrs. Shillington got to the S’s.
“Ceres, quid agis?”
I reach for a word other than very well,
but how do you say lousy in Latin?
“Bene, Magistra.”
She turns to the weather.
“Quinem es tempestas hodie?”
This daily ritual is a finely rehearsed play,
performed each day
for a language no longer spoken.

We open our books to translate.
I despise Virgil. He’s fine in English,
but getting there is no picnic.
“Arma virumque cano,”
I sing of arms and a man . . .
For years I have endured this. Why am I here?
Sometimes I forget, but in science class I remember.
I am reminded again when I beat my mother at Scrabble,
and the day I take the SAT.
I love words, their meaning and origins,
the way they feel on my tongue and sound in my ears.
Four years spent studying a long dead language
that invariably lives on.
Veni! Vidi! Vici!
Well, perhaps not Virgil, but high school.
I hope you're thinking about this challenge and writing some macaronic verse of your own. I'll be posting all the results here later this week.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Monday Poetry Stretch - Macaronic Verse

The Handbook of Poetic Forms defines macaronic verse in this fashion.
Macaronic verse is a peculiar, rare and often comic form of poetry that sometimes borders on nonsense. It is a mixture of two (or more) languages in a poem, in which the poet usually subjects one language to the grammatical laws of another to make people laugh.
You can read more at Wikipedia and learn a bit about the history of this form. You can also read something by an academic (c'mon, don't let that stop you). I was interested to note that the Carmina Burana (which I sang eons ago in high school) is a fine example of this.

So, your challenge for this week is to write a poem that uses more than one language. If you don't know another language, make one up. Pig Latin, anyone? Leave me a comment about your macaronic verse and I'll post the results here later this week.

Nonfiction Monday Is Here!

Check out this week's cool reads in nonfiction.
100 Scope Notes has a review of First Science Encyclopedia by DK Publishing.

Mark and Andrea at Just One More Book!! podcast their thoughts about Cybils nonfiction picture book winner Nic Bishop Frogs.

Jama Rattaigan at Jama Rattigan's Alphabet Soup has a tasty review of George Crum and the Saratoga Chip. Yum!

Anastasia Suen at Picture Book of the Day has a review of Owney: The Mail Pouch Pooch.

Over at the Scholastic site Kid Lit Kit, Anastasia shares some books and resources on dental health.

Camille at Book Moot shares a review of Are You Afraid Yet?: The Science behind Scary Stuff.

Lori Calabrese at Lori Calabrese Writes! has a review of Buffalo Song.

Shirley at SimplyScience Blog has a review of Wangari's Trees of Peace and some activity ideas.

Abby (the) Librarian shares a review of The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West.

Jone at Check It Out has an interview with Kirby Larson, author of Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship and Survival, and Hattie Big Sky (a 2007 Newbery honor book).

Jennifer at Jean Little Library shares a review of Sophie Skates.

Amanda at A Patchwork of Books has a review of
Organic Crafts: 75 Earth-Friendly Art Activities.

Cari at Book Scoops shares a review of Wanda Gag: The Girl Who Lived to Draw.

Meredith at Sweetness and Light has a review of The Usborne Art Treasury.

The ACPL Mock Sibert blog is looking for comments/reviews of One Beetle Too Many: the Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin. If you've read it, do stop by and let them know what you think.

Infant Bibliophile reviews a number of books on baby signing (that's sign language for the wee folk).

Valerie at Living the Good Life on Not Enough Acres Farm shares a review of the book Cow by Jules Older.

Sarah at In Need of Chocolate highlights the book The Deep: The Extraordinary Creatures of the Abyss.

Jennie at Biblio File has reviews of two books, We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball and Ain't Nothing but a Man: My Quest to Find the Real John Henry.

Wendie at Wendie's Wanderings shares a review of Money Madness.

Fiona Bayrock at Books and 'Rocks shares a few of her favorite nonfiction blogs.
It's not too late if you still want to participate. Leave me a note about your review and I'll add it to the list.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Poetry Friday - Numbers

I am teaching math this semester and can't get away from numbers. I think about them all the time. Wait! Don't go. I know you're here looking for a poetry entry, but I promise, that's exactly what I have!
by Mary Cornish

I like the generosity of numbers.
The way, for example,
they are willing to count
anything or anyone:
two pickles, one door to the room,
eight dancers dressed as swans.

I like the domesticity of addition--
add two cups of milk and stir--

Read the poem in its entirety.
The round up is being hosted by Cuileann at The Holly and the Ivy. Do stop by and take in all the great poems being shared. Before you go, be sure to check out the SIJO written for this week's poetry stretch.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Poetry Stretch Results - Sijo

The challenge this week was to write in the form of sijo, a poem composed in three lines of 14-16 syllables each. Here are the results.
Tess at Natural Worlds shares an untitled sijo.

Jacqueline at Praise, Poetry and Parenting shares a poem entitled Homeschool.

cloudscome at a wrung sponge shares two sijo.

Laura Purdie Salas also shares a couple of sijo.

Jone at Deo Writer shares a sijo inspired by her recent trip to Denver.

Winnie the poohi at Song of my life shares a sijo entitled Men Goof, If Sly (an anagram of the blog title).

Jasmin at Jazz Dabbling wrote an untitled sijo.

Schelle at Brand New Ending shares four (count 'em, four!) sijo.
This form was very hard for me. I'm not sure if these qualify as sijo, but they're the best of the lot. (Apologies to my friends who teach English. I do not have fond memories from high school.)
As Ms. Johnson drones on about the beauty of oxymoron,
we watch the ticking clock, wait for the bell to ring. When it does,
we suddenly realize why parting IS such sweet sorrow.

English 101
In tidy rows of tiny desks we study poetry—
theme, meter, metaphor, form. But where is the heart, the soul?

Battered and broken by a pink highlighter and margin notes.
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.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Super Secret Poetry Project

I have been working on my plans for National Poetry Month for a while now. Yes, I know it's not until April, but with only 41 days left, that time will be gone in a flash. This has been my super secret project and I am thrilled that it's coming together so nicely.

Last year I wrote a series of posts called Poetry in the Classroom in which I highlighted a book or related set of poetry books and offered suggestions on how they might be used in the classroom. This year ... well you'll just have to wait and see.

I can tell you this—while working on this project I have learned that authors of books for kids are truly the kindest most generous people on the planet.

Reading as a Means to Improve Schools

In Monday's Class Struggle, Jay Matthews posted an article entitled Boosting Schools' Value Without Spending a Dime. The list, which included seven ways to improve schools without spending, emphasized the act of reading. In fact, it's at the beginning, middle and end of the list. Here's an excerpt.
1. Replace elementary school homework with free reading. Throw away the expensive take-home textbooks, the boring worksheets and the fiendish make-a-log-cabin-out-of-Tootsie-Rolls projects. One of the clearest (and most ignored) findings of educational research is that elementary students who do lots of homework don't learn more than students who do none.
5. Have every high school student read at least one nonfiction book before graduation. I am not talking about textbooks.
7. Furlough everybody -- including teachers, students and parents -- for an unpaid national reading holiday.
It's a great piece with some very creative ideas. Go now and read the article in its entirety. Check out the comments too for some additional suggestions.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Monday Poetry Stretch - Sijo

I'm quite fond of the poems in Linda Sue Park's lovely book Tap Dancing on the Roof: Sijo Poems.

Originating in Korea, sijo are poems divided into three or six lines. These poems frequently use word play in the form of metaphors, symbols and puns. Here is a description from AHApoetry.

More ancient than haiku, the Korean SIJO shares a common ancestry with haiku, tanka and similar Japanese genres. All evolved from more ancient Chinese patterns.

Sijo is traditionally composed in three lines of 14-16 syllables each, totaling between 44-46 syllables. A pause breaks each line approximately in the middle; it resembles a caesura but is not based on metrics.

Here is the description from the jacket flap of Park's book.
What is sijo?
A type of poem that originated in Korea.

But what is it?
A sijo has a fixed number of stressed syllables, usually divided into three or six lines.

Like haiku?
Kind of. But a sijo always has a surprise, an unexpected twist or joke, at the end.
The poems in the book are full of these lovely surprises. One of my favorites is entitled Long Division. It is the poem that gives the book its title. Another favorite is Summer Storm. It is below.
Summer Storm

Lightning jerks the sky awake to take her photograph, flash!
Which draws grumbling complaints or even crashing tantrums from thunder--

He hates having his picture taken, so he always gets there late.
Now that you've read a sijo, you'll know that the challenge this week is to write one. Here is a brief summary of the advice Park gives at the end of her book.

Three line poems should contain about 14 to 16 syllables per line. Six line poems should contain 7 or 8 syllables per line.

The first line should contain a single image or idea. The second line should develop this further. The last line should contain the twist. Park writes:
I try to think of where the poem would logically go if I continued to develop the idea of the first two lines. Once I've figured that out, I write something that goes in the opposite direction--or at least "turns a corner."
So, there's your challenge. Once you've written your sijo, leave me a note and I'll post the results here later this week. Have fun!

Nonfiction Monday - Stinging Scorpions

The new series No Backbone! The World of Invertebrates examines a range of "creepy crawlers" from leeches to centipedes. Stinging Scorpions, written by Natalie Lunis, offers young readers an up close and personal look at this oft-feared arachnid. Readers will also find another name on the title page under the author's. It is the consultant for the book, Brian Brown, Curator of the Entomology Section of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

The text begins this way.
Deadly Stingers
Scorpions are small animals with big
front claws.

Like spiders, they have eight legs and
belong to a group of animals called

A scorpion, however, has something
that no spider has—a tail with a
deadly stinger.
This excerpt, like all text in the book, appears on the side of each page. Next to it readers will find themselves face-to-face with a scorpion that covers the entire right side of the page. Images of stones placed throughout the book serve as "interest bubbles," providing readers with additional facts about scorpions. On this first spread the bubble reads:
Scorpions can
be from half an inch
(1.3 cm) to 8 inches
(20 cm) long.
Let's just stop here for a moment to think about that number. Eight inches! Now that's a scorpion I do not want to meet.

The next spread introduces readers to a scorpion's body. The accompanying photograph is labeled to help readers identify the claws, legs, tail and stinger. The interest bubble describes a scorpion's exoskeleton. The text describes where legs are attached, what they're used for, the tail, and the purpose of the stinger. The page begins:
Like all arachnids, scorpions have two
main body parts—a front part and a back part.
This is the only part of the book I found a bit disappointing. In a text that introduces and defines words like pectines, molt, invertebrate, exoskeleton and more, I found myself wondering why the terms cephalothorax (fused head and thorax) and abdomen were not used to describe the body parts of arachnids. Even though this book is targeted at younger readers (K-3), big words are part of what makes reading nonfiction, and particularly science, so inviting. What kid doesn't like trotting out his/her knowledge of some new found term that mom, dad or the teacher may not know?

This minor point aside, the book moves easily through a variety of topics, including scorpion habitats, how they find and eat their food, a description of their predators, their danger to humans (are they?), how they reproduce, and how they grow. The text ends with a description of invertebrates and a number of photos of related species of arachnids (spiders, ticks, mites), a picture glossary, and extensive index.

Here are some things I found particularly interesting.
  • While there are about 1,500 different kinds of scorpions, only 90 or so species live in the United States.
  • Scorpions have from 2 to 12 eyes, but don't see well.
  • Scorpions have tiny hairs all over their bodies that help them feel movements in the ground and air. (The close up view of the hairs on a scorpion's tail is amazing!)
  • Scorpions don't lay eggs, but rather give birth to live scorpions. As soon as they are born they climb onto their mother's back. (These photos were squeal inducing!)
This is a well-written, engaging text that is accompanied by big, bold photographs. You should expect to hear plenty of oohs and aahs as the pages are turned in this one. I thoroughly enjoyed this introduction to the world of scorpions and can't wait to read about the other invertebrates in this series.

Book: Stinging Scorpions
Author: Natalie Lunis
Publisher: Bearport Publishing
Date Published: 2009
24 pages
Source of Book:
Review copy received from publisher.

This post was written for Nonfiction Monday. This week our host is Jennifer at the Jean Little Library. Do stop by and see what others are sharing in the world of nonfiction today.

If this book peaks the interest of a reader in your life, check out some of these additional resources.

Happy Birthday Baby!

My boy is 8 today. Eight! It hardly seems possible. Where has the time gone?

He was 20 pounds at 4 months, so in addition to suffering from sleep deprivation, my back was killing me. I cannot, however, complain about any of it. He is a happy kid with a big heart and a ready smile.
Happy Birthday William!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Cybils Love 2009

The wait is over! Hop on over (that's a clue!) and check out the winners. You won't be disappointed. Go Now!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Poetry Friday - A Spiral Notebook

I've been reading quite a lot of Ted Kooser lately. Like Valerie Worth, his writing brings the most ordinary items gloriously to life.
A Spiral Notebook
by Ted Kooser

The bright wire rolls like a porpoise
in and out of the calm blue sea
of the cover, or perhaps like a sleeper
twisting in and out of his dreams,
for it could hold a record of dreams
if you wanted to buy it for that

Read the poem in its entirety.
The round up this week is hosted by Kelly at Big A little a. Do stop by and take in all the great poems being shared. Before you go, be sure to check out the love poems written for this week's poetry stretch results.

Poetry Stretch Results - Love Poems

The challenge this week was to write a love poem without any terms of endearment or adoration. Lots of folks chose to play! Here are the results.
Jane Yolen shares a poem on her Facebook page entitled "Anniversary of Your Death."

Noah the Great from Let's lie and call it love shares the poem Acting.

Sherry Rogers from Splatt a way of life left this poem for Romeo and Juliet in the comments.
    On this day a promise died.
    It was a promise that couldn’t be kept, you ask why?

    Well on this day he lost his love.
    A tragedy not sent from above.

    He lost his love in a terrible way.
    He will never forget the memory of that day.

    The day was so calmed, so beautiful.
    The memory was so sad, so terrible.

    She broke the promise because of pain.
    She couldn’t stand to live another day.

    So on this day, Valentines.
    Two loves were destroyed because of suicide.
Jacqueline, who's been leaving her poems in the comments the last few weeks, has started a blog called Praise, Poetry and Parenting. This week she shares a poem entitled Love.

The very clever Douglas Florian from the Florian Cafe left this poem in the comments.
    Love's a lark
    Love's a thrill.
    The opposite of LOVE?
Julie Larios from The Drift Record shares A Valentine of Sorts to My Husband.

Laura Purdie Salas left this poem in the comments.
    Before and After

    marble cliffs
    encased me
    crystalline, solid

    but you shattered the rock, and we
    fell together into the
    wild, translucent ocean

    sailing days on
    blue velvet waves
    of conversation and starfish constellations

    dancing through nights
    to the rhythm of tides
    to the music,
    the rush,
    the surge
    of the sea

    circling back to allow
    today to soften the shell
    of yesterday

    building fragile
    sand castles of the
    shores of tomorrow
Linda from Write Time shares a poem entitled Thinking About Her Life.

Schelle from Brand New Ending has written a poem for her husband.

cloudscome at a wrung sponge shares her poem entitled Love Poem.

Sara Lewis Holmes at Read*Write*Believe shares a poem entitled I cannot.

Jone at Deo Writer shares a poem entitled For My Husband.
My poem this week is about my son. It's called Weekday Routine.

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.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Low-Brow Topics That Make For High-Brow Reading

On Tuesday I finally threw up my hands in frustration over the proliferation of "boys don't read" articles in the last few months. Here's an excerpt from the post entitled More Boy Bashing - Here We Go Again.
Can we please give boys and young men just a bit of credit for their reading habits? If we constantly push potty and other forms of low humor on them as something they'll read, aren't we just setting the bar a tad bit low?
I was thinking about this last night as my son and I were reading a portion of Jurassic Poop: What Dinosaurs (And Others) Left Behind, written by Jacob Berkowitz and illustrated by Steve Mack. Yes, this is a book ostensibly about poop (see that word in the title?), but it is SO MUCH MORE. The book discusses fossils, fossilization, carbon dating, history, archaeology, and the work of several different scientists. My son was drawn in more by the dinosaur connection than anything else, but since reading it he has been endlessly fascinated with the notion that you can learn about the past from things (artifacts) that are left behind, poop being one of them.

There are a number of books on low-brow topics that we hand to reluctant readers in an attempt to encourage them to read. However, the base nature of these topics and the quality of the work don't need to be mutually exclusive. (Oh, a book about poop? Must be crap!) So, in an effort to elevate some topics and/or titles perceived to be low-brow, here are some books (nonfiction all!) that will interest boys AND girls by the very nature of their FABULOUSLY INTERESTING content.

The Truth About Poop, written by Susan Goodman and illustrated by Elwood Smith - Divided into three main sections: (1) Birds Do It, Bees Do It; (2) The ABCs of Elimination; and (3) Useful Poop; Goodman provides readers with an amazingly informative look at everything from the history of toilet paper to the pooping habits of a range of animals. The author info lets readers know that Goodman "used a toilet in an underwater hotel, flushed into the Amazon River, and shared an outhouse with a tarantula."

Gee Whiz! It's All About Pee, written by Susan Goodman and illustrated by Elwood Smith - Divided into three main sections: (1) Pee Basics; (2) The Call of Nature; and (3) Nature's Gold Mine; this sequel is a terrific companion to The Truth About Poop. The book is packed with facts and anecdotes that describe not only how urine is produced, but also the incredibly ingenious ways that humans and animals use it. If you have ever wondered how knights or astronauts "took care of business", pick up this title and wonder no more.

Poop: A Natural History of the Unmentionable, written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Neal Layton - I think Nicola Davies is a genius. She has the knack for writing about science in a clever, highly engaging manner. In this very smart book, Davies explains what poop is, why it's brown, where it goes, how different animals use poop, and much more. Lest you think me crazy, this one was a 2004 BCCB blue ribbon winner.

Dino Poop, written by Jane Hammerslough - There's a whole lot more than fossilized poo gracing these pages. Hammerslough introduces readers to all kinds of remains from the past, including dino dung, woolly mammoths and more. The book is chock full of information on paleontology, geology, and history. Fun facts and quizzes are found throughout. Readers will learn how fossils are created, how they are found, and what we can learn by studying them. Near the end of the book they will find directions for some science experiments about fossils. (Did I mention this one comes with a piece of dino dung attached to the spine?)

Poop-Eaters: Dung Beetles in the Food Chain, written by Deirdre A Prischmann - The Extreme Life series from Capstone Press looks at the amazing and varied ways animals adapt to the environments in which they not only live, but thrive. This particular book examines dung beetles and describes their development, place in the food chain, and importance in the environment.

What You Never Knew About Tubs, Toilets, & Showers, written by Patricia Lauber and illustrated by John Manders - This picture book presents the history of bathing, washing, and the disposal of human waste. The text is engaging and the cartoon illustrations while humorous, offer a real glimpse of the difficulties of keeping clean and sanitary in the past. While there is a heavy emphasis on European history here, readers will still come away with an understanding of how standards of cleanliness can vary among cultures.

Underwear: What We Wear Under There, written by Ruth Freeman Swain and illustrated by John O'Brien - This skillfully written, engaging text describes the evolution of underwear from early days to the present. The clever, cartoon-style illustrations are downright funny. In addition to the history of underwear, there is a bit of an introduction to the history of diapers, as well as information about what happens to old underwear. The book ends with a timeline on the history of underwear, and includes a list of books and web sites where readers can get additional information. (You can read my review for more information.)

There you have it. From the scatological to the unmentionable, these well-written works of nonfiction are sure to delight many young readers. However, don't thank me for the oohs and aahs, guffaws, and giggles that will follow. That honor goes entirely to the terrific authors and illustrators who brought these titles to life.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Can You Feel the Love?

The poetry stretch this week is to write a love poem without explicit words of love—no terms of adoration or endearment.

My son will be 8-years old in a few days, so he's been much on my mind lately. This is where my poem went.
Weekday Ritual

Early each morning
we walk up the hill
to the bus stop.
We wait.
He hops, puddle jumps,
can’t stand still.
We thumb wrestle.
As the lumbering yellow giant approaches
we are all formality—
no kisses
no hugs
no nicknames—
just a high five in which our hands
stay pressed together a mere second
longer than expected.

He bounds
up the steps,
down the aisle,
takes his seat—
sometimes alone,
sometimes next to a girl.
I wave, but can’t see him through the
tinted glass.

He heads to school,
I to work.
He does not see me,
but I see him everywhere—
in the words I write,
students I teach,
stories I tell.

At days end
I head home,
pull into the drive,
honk twice.
From inside I hear
him yell
“Mommy’s Home!”
and I melt.
So, is it a love poem? I don't know, but it feels like it. I'm going to keep writing and see what else spills out on paper this week.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

More Boy Bashing - Here We Go Again

Okay, as the mom of a boy who LOVES to read (nonfiction and LOTS of it), can I just say STOP! If I read one more article that starts this way, I'm going to scream:
Despite everyone's best efforts, we all know that boys don't read. There have been attempts to lure them in with subjects close to the heart of any creature made of slugs and snails: the trumping and nose-picking of picture-book fave Dirty Bertie, the rank silliness of Captain Underpants, and the insane does-what-it-says-on-the-tin popularity of Walter The Farting Dog, soon to be a movie starring the Jonas Brothers (another baffling success story).
In the article Can a Book Really Look Like the Web?, the focus is on the new "Gamer's Edition" of the Guinness Book of Records. There are some interesting thoughts about "reverse engineering" books to resemble the things readers so love about the web. However, must authors always resort to boy-bashing to do it? Can we please give boys and young men just a bit of credit for their reading habits? If we constantly push potty and other forms of low humor on them as something they'll read, aren't we just setting the bar a tad bit low?

Don't get me wrong, "tooting" in our house still brings on a fit of the giggles, but my boy left with a heavily-laden backpack this morning because he was taking 4 books about animals (at 100+ pages each) to school so he'd have something to read in his free time.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Monday Poetry Stretch - Love, Love, Love

I'll admit it right here and right now that I generally despise love poems. UGH. Hey, I'm the girl who wanted to elope. I just don't go in for that romantic stuff (no really). I do have a fondness for Ted Kooser and enjoyed the poems in his Valentines collection. You can hear him read a few in this NPR story.

As unromantic as I am, I thought it would be interesting to write a love poem. There is a catch, however. The love poem you write cannot include any terms of endearment or words of adoration. How's that for you? A Love poem without explicit words of love. Also, you don't necessarily need to write about a person, as surely there are those who love things as much as people (or pets).

So, there's your challenge. Leave me a comment about your love poem and I'll post the results here later this week.

On Buying/Reading Children's Books at Any Age

In today's Christian Science Monitor is an article by Jayne Hanlin entitled Books for 'children of all ages'. It begins:

My friend and I are both retired elementary school teachers, so my recent purchase surprised her.

"You mean you bought a children's book for yourself?" she asked. "I have started getting rid of mine by giving them to my grandchildren."

But I am not ready to part with mine quite yet. My library of children's books represents an integral part of me, transporting me back to the days of my own childhood as well as those of my sons and grandchildren. I indulge myself by reliving experiences as I read these books through the years. And I long to add more memories.
It's a lovely piece. Do take some time to read it in its entirety.

Nonfiction Monday - Double Plays of 2008

Turning two in baseball is a good thing -- one batter, two outs. However, I imagine that for an author, learning that another author has published a book on the exact same topic in the very same year must be a bit disconcerting. A number of my favorite nonfiction books of 2008 were part of a double play series. Here are two pairs that are particular standouts.

Double Play 1: Two books--two takes on the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone after an absence of nearly 70 years.

When the Wolves Returned: Restoring Nature's Balance in Yellowstone, written by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent with photographs by Dan and Cassie Hartman, provides a historical account of the changes to the Yellowstone ecosystem by both the loss and reintroduction of the wolves. The gorgeous photographs of the Hartmans are accompanied by black and white images from the National Park Service. The text is written on two levels, with short, simple sentences on the left page, with paragraphs of more detailed information on the right page. At the end of the text, an illustrated page entitled "The Wolf Effect" looks at the connections among plants and animals in the Yellowstone ecosystem. Also included are an index , list of resources for kids, and a photo quiz.

The Wolves are Back, written by Jean Craighead George and illustrated by Wendell Minor, shows the restoration of the Yellowstone ecosystem through the eyes of a wolf pup. It begins with the pup looking over the landscape, then taking in a meal in which other animals also share the food. The next page reads:
Where had they been?

Shot. Every one.

Many years ago the directors of the national parks decided that only the gentle animals should grace the beautiful wilderness. Rangers, hunters, and ranchers were told to shoot every wolf they saw. They did. By 1926, there were no more wolves in the forty-eight states. No voices howled. The thrilling chorus of the wilderness was silenced.

The wolves were gone.
What follows is a look at how the reintroduction of the wolves brought positive changes back to the ecosystem. Near the end, the wolf pup grows up and heads south where he meets a mate from another pack. Minor's illustrations are exquisite and show the beauty of the landscape and its inhabitants.

Double Play 2: Two books--two views on Nobel peace prize winner Wangari Mathaai.

Wangari's Trees of Peace: A True Story From Africa, written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter, is a biography of Mathaai told in clear, simple text and accompanied by vibrant acrylic illustrations. Readers see the landscape of Kenya change from barren to beautiful as a result of efforts by Wangari and the women who embraced her Green Belt Movement. It is a story full of hope and beauty. The author's note in the back provides more information about Wangari and the Green Belt Movement she started in 1977. (For more information, read my review.)

Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Mathaai, written and illustrated by Claire Nivola, is a more detailed biography that is accompanied by intricate pen and watercolor illustrations. Nivola uses words and pictures to show Mathaai's connection with nature developed as a youth, and how this connection inspired her environmental practices as an adult. This one also includes an author's note with additional information on Wangari and her life.

To get a feel for how differently the two illustrators approached their topic, take a look at the images below. (The first is by Winter, the second by Nivola.)

Both books were reviewed in the New York Times Sunday Book Review in She Speaks for the Trees. While both were 2008 Cybils nominees in the category of nonfiction picture book, only Wangari's Trees of Peace was named a nonfiction picture book finalist. Planting the Trees of Kenya was recently named a Green Earth Book Award winner in the picture book category.

You may be hearing more about one title than the other in these double plays, but EACH title is a worthy addition in its own right. Together, they make a perfect pair for readers wanting to know about these topics.

This post was written for Nonfiction Monday. This week our host is Charlotte at Charlotte's Library. Do stop by and see what others are sharing in the world of nonfiction today.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Poetry Stretch Results - Diminishing Rhyme

The challenge this week was to write a poem with a diminishing rhyme. Here's what folks have shared.
Jane Yolen left this poem in the comments.
    A Poem About Art

    I pick my pen up, then I start,
    Should I be gentle, or be tart
    In my art?

    Some words come fast, some come slow,
    Some are LOUD and some are low,
    Some I still ow.

    But when at last the thing is done,
    And when at last pjs I don
    This last I do—

    Set pen and paper near at hand,
    Should dreams bring further poems and
    Art does not (e)nd.
Jacqueline left this poem in the comments.
    I write this poem as Jacqueline
    with a mind that's sharply aquiline,
    my thoughts soar high and then align
    transposed on paper line by line
    using of my brain each atom and ion.

    Others ideas I must not pirate!
    for it would make them rather irate.
    Instead I battle with feeling second rate
    until seeing through the eyes of one whose eight.
Lisa Chellman from under the covers wrote a poem entitled Lunatic's Lullaby.

Tess at Written for Children also left a poem in the comments.
    The heart is clever.
    Love’s art never turns from gold to rust,
    When one’s beloved turns to dust.
    The balm that lifts the lever and gives wing,
    Is belief that together, two hearts will ever sing.
    Through its own device
    --here and after --
    One loves twice.
As for me, my writing this week was a bust. I worked with the diminishing rhymes of scat/cat/at, charm/harm/arm, spin/pin/in, and tries/rise/eyes and came up with a bunch of junk. I'll keep working at it and if by some chance I'm hit by a sudden stroke of literary genius, I will most definitely share.

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.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Poetry Friday - Spring Song

Can it really be just February? I love, love, love fall, but once it's over, I want to move straight on into spring. Lately I've been hoping for a glimpse of Dunbar's song.
Spring Song
by Paul Laurence Dunbar

A blue-bell springs upon the ledge,
A lark sits singing in the hedge;
Sweet perfumes scent the balmy air,
And life is brimming everywhere.
What lark and breeze and bluebird sing,
Is Spring, Spring, Spring!

No more the air is sharp and cold;
The planter wends across the wold,
And, glad, beneath the shining sky
We wander forth, my love and I.
And ever in our hearts doth ring
This song of Spring, Spring!

For life is life and love is love,
'Twixt maid and man or dove and dove.
Life may be short, life may be long,
But love will come, and to its song
Shall this refrain for ever cling
Of Spring, Spring, Spring!

The round up this week is hosted by Elaine at Wild Rose Reader. Do stop by and take in all the wonderful poetry being shared. Before you go, be sure to check out this week's poetry stretch results. Happy poetry Friday, all!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

2009 Green Earth Book Award Winners

The winners of the Green Earth Book Award were recently announced. Given by the Newton Marasco Foundation in partnership with Salisbury University, this award recognizes books that inspire children and young adults to appreciate and care for the natural environment. You can read about the prize criteria at the Newton Marasco Foundation site.

Picture Book Winners (2)
Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai
written and illustrated by Claire Nivola
(nominee for 2008 Cybils nonfiction picture book)

written by Helen Ward and illustrated by Marc Craste

Children's Fiction Winner

Night of the Spadefoot Toads
written by Bill Harley

Young Adult Fiction Winners (2)

The Blind Faith Hotel
written by Pamela Todd

Write Naked
written by Peter Gould

Nonfiction Winner

My Space/Our Planet: Change is Possible
written by the Myspace Community, Jeca Taudte, and Dan Santat

Honor Books
10 Things I Can Do to Help My World
written and illustrated by Melanie Walsh
(nominee for 2008 Cybils nonfiction picture book)

Cam Jansen and the Green School Mystery
written by David A. Adler and illustrated by Joy Allen

Fern Verdant and the Silver Rose
written by Diana Leszczynski

Generation Green: The Ultimate Teen Guide to Living an Eco-Friendly Life
written by Linda Siversten and Tosh Siversten
(nominee for 2008 Cybils nonfiction MG/YA)

How We Know What We Know About Our Changing Climate: Scientists and Kids Explore Global Warming
written by Lynne Cherry and Gary Braasch

Science Warriors: The Battle Against Invasive Species
written by Sneed B. Collard III

The Last Wild Place
written by Rosa Jordan

The Wolves are Back
written by Jean Craighead George and illustrated by Wendell Minor

Tin Lizzie
written and illustrated by Allan Drummond

Whirlwind: The Caretaker Trilogy: Book 2
written by David Klass

When Santa Turned Green
written by Victoria Perla and illustrated by Mirna Kantarevic

For more information on this award and its past winners, check out the March 2008 issue of Book Links and the article "The Green Earth Book Award" by Fred Chapel, Sharon James, and J. Cynthia McDermott.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Jarrett Krosoczka's At It Again!

Here is the making of a book Krosoczka style. Bonus points to you if you can name the authors and illustrators in the cameos BEFORE the credits roll.

BOOK BY BOOK: the making of a monkey man from Jarrett Krosoczka on Vimeo.

Fun quotes:
Jarrett is brilliant. Visit him online at the jjk blog.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Monday Poetry Stretch - Diminishing Rhyme

I am still working my way through The Practice of Poetry: Writing Exercises From Poets Who Teach, jotting ideas in one of the many journals I have tucked away. This week I want to try an exercise from this book entitled Emotion/Motion/Ocean/Shun. Here's what Susan Mitchell writes:
If you read the title of this exercise aloud, you will hear a quadruple rhyme. But if you examine the words themselves, you will notice that there is something special about this rhyme scheme. The sound shun is contained in ocean, the sounds of both shun and ocean in motion, and shun, ocean and motion can all be folded into emotion. Such a rhyme scheme, which incidentally was favored by the seventeenth-century poet George Herbert, is called diminishing rhyme because the rhyme words get smaller as you move from emotion to shun. But I prefer the term nesting rhymes because the words nest one inside the other like Russian wooden dolls.
Here is an example of this form from the George Herbert poem "Paradise".
I bless Thee, Lord, because I grow
Among the trees, which in a row
To Thee both fruit and order ow
So, that's it. Your challenge is to write a poem that uses diminishing rhyme. Leave me a comment about your piece and I'll post the results here later this week.

Nonfiction Monday - Bubble Homes and Fish Farts

I live with an almost 8-year old who is crazy for nonfiction, particularly about animals. While "traditional" books about animals are always fun, he and I derive much enjoyment these days from thematic books. For example, we love the the books Teeth, Wings, and Animal Babies by Sneed Collard III. We're also enamored of the books Living Color by Steve Jenkins and How Many Ways Can You Catch a Fly? by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page. Well, throw another title on the thematic pile, because we've found a new favorite.

Bubble Homes and Fish Farts, written by Fiona Bayrock and illustrated by Carolyn Conahan, is an all-out fun-fest of animal bubbleology. Ho do animals use bubbles? After reading this title, a better question is how don't they?! Here's how the book begins:
Bubbles are soft and squishy and full of air. They shimmer. They float. And they are very handy. Animals make bubbles, ride bubbles, breathe bubbles, and even live in bubbles. Animals use bubbles in amazing ways.
Accompanied by a soft palette of gorgeous watercolor illustrations, Bayrock takes readers on a journey into worlds not often explored. Each double-page spread begins with a short sentence that describes the way in which bubbles are used. Beneath that are the common and scientific names for an animal, followed by a paragraph that describes how that particular creature uses bubbles in its daily life. The illustrations are whimsical, with each animal spouting its thoughts in, you guessed it, a bubble.

Readers will find animals that sail through the water, run on its surface, and even taste disgusting, all thanks to bubbles. Here is an excerpt from one of my son's favorite pages.
Bubbles are for

Bottlenose Dolphin - Tursiops truncatus

Young dolphins play with bubbles. They push bubbles around and chase them. It's a game to try and bit the bubbles before they burst at the surface. Some dolphins also make bubble rings. A quick flick of the head starts a small underwater whirlpool. Bubbles enter the whirlpool from the dolphin's blowhole and form a ring about as thick as pencil and up to two feet wide.
There is much to learn here. Before opening the book I tried to guess what animals and/or bubble strategies might be highlighted. Whales and bubble netting? Check. Tree frog nests? Check. And ... that's where my knowledge of bubbles stopped. Who knew there were so many ways to use bubbles? All total, Bayrock has introduced readers 16 different animals and their unique use of bubbles. As for the FaRTs in the title? Well, you'll just have to read to find out. I'm not one to spoil the fun.

The back matter in the book contains end notes about each animal, including its habitat, where in the world it lives, and even more amazing facts. There is also a glossary of terms and an index, as well as a lengthy list of acknowledgments, a huge number of them scientists and scholars who aided the author in her research.

This is a well-researched, thoroughly engaging book for studying animals and the way they adapt to their environment. I highly recommend it.

Book: Bubble Homes and Fish Farts
Author: Fiona Bayrock
Illustrator: Carolyn Conahan
Publisher: Charlesbridge
Date Published: 2009
48 pages
Source of Book:
Personal copy purchased at Amazon.

This post was written for Nonfiction Monday. This week our host is Anastasia Suen at Picture Book of the Day. Do stop by and see what others are sharing in the world of nonfiction today.