Saturday, May 30, 2009

Kalman Honors Those Who Serve

Yes, I know I link to Kalman's blog every time there's a new piece up. The latest is At Ease. I dare you to read it with a dry eye. I certainly did/could not.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Poetry Friday

I perhaps missed Poetry Friday most of all while I was away. I thought seriously of trying to post, but I couldn't get Elizabeth Bishop's poem One Art out of mind, and so decided against it. (You know the one. It's the villanelle that begins "The art of losing isn't hard to master.") I'm still reading rather mournful poetry, but it seems to be healing, not hurting. Today I'm sharing a piece by Gregory Orr.
Untitled (This is what was bequeathed us)
by Gregory Orr

This is what was bequeathed us:
This earth the beloved left
And, leaving,
Left to us.

Read the entire poem.
The round up this week is hosted by Irene at Live. Love. Explore! 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. Also, check the results I failed to post before I headed home in early May. There are some mighty fine poems about work.

Poetry Stretch Results - Animal Poems

The challenge this week was to write a poem about an animal. Here are the results.
Jane Yolen left this poem in the comments.

    "Live like the velvet mole. . ." Elinor Wylie

    Mole in his hole,
    The soft brown of old rubbed velvet,
    Wrinkles up dirt through the night.
    Does he daydream of grass
    Or the roots of grass?
    Does he listen to beetles passing?
    Does he recognize in his blind way
    The pink ribbony worms?
    Or are his thoughts
    As dark, as deep
    As velvet tunnels,
    As velvet sleep?

    --Jane Yolen
Elaine Magliaro at Wild Rose Reader shares a poem entitled Toucan Talk.
I wrote a poem about a bower bird, but got stuck. Then I got caught up thinking about sloths. Here's what I'm working on right 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.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Poetry Stretch Results - Poems of Work

At the beginning of the month I proposed a stretch on writing poems of work. My blogging was derailed by life and I never got to post the results before taking a hiatus. I haven't forgotten, so I'm posting them today.
Harriet at spynotes shares a poem entitled The Gardener.

Jane Yolen left this poem in the comments.
    Bird Recordist

    What a strange bird the recordist is,
    Up at dawn, check.
    Listens to the chorus. Check.
    Takes out his parabolic mike.
    Wait a minute.
    He presses record.
    Captures song.
    Brings it home.
    And then bird song fills the room:
          The jubilant invitations to a nest;
          Harsh challenges to a rival;
          Sweet, soaring seductions;
          Bold warnings to a fox or raptor or passing owl;
          Praise of succulent berries;
          And the querulous rantings of the unwanted male.
    The recordist never opens his own mouth,
    But his ears--oh his ears--are ready, content full,
    A blevit of sound.
    Tomorrow he will find another glen.

    @2009 Jane Yolen
Julie Larios at The Drift Record shares a poem entitled Carpenter.

Tess at Written for Children left this poem in the comments.

    She convinces that the blade
    can be persuaded to behave
    and find its way inside her.
    The lady sword swallower
    knows the trick to let it slip
    along her throat, apparently without choking;
    her hands rise above her head, while wide
    she spreads her fingers as if approaching light will blind her. Simply note the violation
    and what follows: the neat compartments submit to art, wherein the take makes show of letting go.
    It looks just like a swallow.
    How can we know?
    One might even question if,
    in fact, she's hollow.
    A practiced conductor won't reveal the trick;
    the magic is no magic but repeating it.
If you've written a poem of work, please let me know. I'd love to include it in this list.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Music and Marcelo

I don't read many YA books, but I do have a few on my TBR pile. One is Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco Stork.

After reading Living with Music: A Playlist by Francisco X. Stork, I'm happy to report that it's just moved up in the pile.

To learn more about the book, read Behind the Book at Cheryl Klein's blog. She's the editor and has written a mighty fine piece about it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What I Missed While Away

I came back to find more than 1600 unread posts in my RSS feed. NOT GOOD. I have a syllabus to write and summer school classes to prepare for, which happen to start tomorrow. Sadly, I'm going to have skip most of the unread posts, but here are a few links that caught my eye.
Okay, back to my syllabus. Happy reading!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Nonfiction Monday is Here!

In the tradition of Nonfiction Monday, here's what folks are sharing today.
Why?, written and illustrated by Lila Prap, reviewed right here at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Jama at Jama Rattigan's Alphabet Soup has a review of Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story, written by Paula Yoo and illustrated by Lin Wang.

Sarah at In Need of Chocolate has a review of Dinosarium by Barbara Brenner.

Shirley at Simply Science has a review and activity ideas for Nic Bishop Frogs.

Heidi at Wild About Nature has a review of The Robins in Your Back Yard, written and illustrated by Nancy Carol Willis.

Abby at Abby the Librarian has a thematic list of books on Reading Around the World.

Roberta at Wrapped in Foil has a review of Who Lives in an Alligator Hole? (Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science 2), written by Anne Rockwell and illustrated by Lizzy Rockwell.

Robin at The Booknosher reviews two titles by Brenda Guiberson.

Violet at Book Brew has a review of The Thinking Toolbox, written by Nathaniel Bluedorn and Hans Bluedorn.

Wendie at Wendie's Wanderings has a review of Jackson and Bud's Bumpy Ride, America's First Cross-Country Automobile Trip, written by Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff and illustrated by Wes Hargis.

At Chronicle of an Infant Bibliophile you'll find a review of My Red, White & Blue (Musical Board Book) by Sally Williams Chapin.

Lori at Lori Calabrese Writes! has a review of The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier by Roger Wachtel.

Charlotte at Charlotte's Library has a review of Narwhal Unicorn of the Sea (Smithsonian Oceanic Collection), written by Janet Halfmann and illustrated by Steven James Petruccio.
In addition to these reviews, I encourage you to visit Marc Aronson's blog, Nonfiction Matters. Today he's written a post entitled On War. Enjoy your tour of nonfiction around the kidlitosphere today.

Nonfiction Monday - Why?

One of my favorite things about working with young children in the classroom is responding to their comments and questions. Kids are curious and aren't afraid to ask the most wonderful, interesting, and oddball questions.
Why?, written and illustrated by Lila Prap, answers some of the questions kids often ask about animals, such as:
  • Why do hyenas laugh?
  • Why do camels have humps?
  • Why do hippos yawn?
Here's how the book begins.
Dear Curious Friends,
Some of the answers in to the questions in this book are silly, some are sensible, and some are scientific. (Those are the ones marked by an asterisk *.) But feel free to make up some questions, some answers, and some animals of your own. They can be silly or serious ... whichever you like.
First published in Slovenia in 2003, this gem from Kane/Miller is witty and informative. The illustrations and text are whimsical and kid-friendly. On the spread that asks "Why are zebras striped?" you'll find these silly answers.
  • Zebras are horses wearing pajamas.
  • They escaped from prison.
  • Because their mamas are striped, too.
  • Because they can't decide whether to be black or white.
You'll also find this scientific one.
Every zebra has a different and unique stripe pattern, just as every person has a different and unique fingerprint. Their stripes can be used to tell them apart, but many scientists believe their stripes also help to confuse predators.
This is a book that provides a relatively unorthodox introduction to popular animals (elephants, giraffes, monkeys, etc.) while managing to be silly and serious at the same time. It is not only a terrific read aloud, but a great book for reading and discussing one-on-one.

This would make a great mentor text paired with Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories. After reading, kids could be guided to write their own animal questions and answers--from silly to creative and scientific. Recommended.

Author and Illustrator: Lila Prap
Publisher: Kane/Miller Book Publishers
Publication Date: September, 2005
Pages: 32 pages
Grades: preK-3
ISBN: 978-1929132805
Source of Book: Personal copy purchased at a local independent bookstore.

This post was written for Nonfiction Monday. I am hosting this week, so please stop by and see what others are sharing in the world of nonfiction today.

Monday Poetry Stretch - Animal Poems

In The Practice of Poetry: Writing Exercises From Poets Who Teach, Deborah Digges suggests the following writing activity.
Write a poem in which an animal figures prominently. As you decide on your subject, consider an animal that fascinates, even confuses you, one that incites in you wonder, perhaps even fear. Brainstorm a bit, taking quick notes on any particular experiences you've had or heard about in relationship to that animal. Reread stories, fairy tales, biology texts, in which your animal appears. Go look at it if you can, or study its features in a book. You might also trace the etymology of its name to discover new facts and information that might trigger your imagination.
I wrote a lot of poems about animals for my students when I was teaching middle school. I still like to write poems about them. Here's one I wrote about bats.
Nocturnal navigator
aerial magician
and flip
and grab
erratic flights of fancy

Not feathered
on the wing
This is a topic about which much can be written. So, that's it. Your challenge is to write a poem about an animal. Leave me a note about your work and I'll post the results here later this week. Have fun!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

On Life and Loss

I returned to Richmond yesterday after 16 days at home. Even though I had planned to be there for some time, I still deeply regret not seeing my father before he passed away. He, however, had other plans and simply couldn't wait for us to tidy our lives before heading home.

My father celebrated his 83rd birthday on May 5th. The next day my parents closed on a new home. That evening he was having difficulty breathing, so his hospice nurse suggested they take him to the hospice facility where he would be spending a few days during the move. An ambulance came and took my father away. A few hours later he was in a room and stabilized. My mother stayed for a while, but when she saw he was resting comfortably, she went home. My father, who had been suffering from pulmonary fibrosis, stopped breathing not long after.

I spent that day trying to tie up those loose ends so I could get home quickly, though I know I left many dangling. The impact of the news left me in a mental fog that I couldn't seem to break through. I flew home on the 8th and survived a series of delays and many hours stuck in airports thanks to a copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It probably wasn't a wholly appropriate title, but reading it did bring a few smiles.

Sunday, May 10th would have been my parents' 57th wedding anniversary. A steady stream of tears ran down my face during morning mass. The priest talked about mothers and fathers during his homily. They read my father's name during the prayers of the faithful, and many people came to offer their condolences. I just wasn't prepared. My mother, however, handled it all beautifully.

My father's only sibling arrived from California on Monday. The funeral was Tuesday morning. I was surprised and honored to see parents of my high school friends, the daughter of neighbors long since moved away, retired teachers my father once worked with, and many others. Having had a good cry on Sunday, I was actually pretty calm during the service, at least until the Honor Guard showed up. I don't think there was a dry eye during the playing of Taps, or during the moment when they handed my mother the flag.

The days leading up to the funeral and the day after were filled with visits from family and friends. They were also filled with stories, so many stories. At times it felt odd that there was so much laughter given the circumstances, but these words from The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society seem oddly fitting--"The old adage--humor is the best way to make the unbearable bearable--may be true."

The days that followed were filled with phone calls and paperwork, lots of paperwork. Dying is a messy business, leaving those who are left behind with so very much to do. I was glad to be with my mother through those early days. My sister returned shortly before my departure to pick up where I left off. The "To-Do" list is still very long, but it is slowing melting away.

When I return home in 8 weeks my mother will be in a new house, with new furniture, embarking on a new phase in her life. She'll also be celebrating her 80th birthday. I'm sure this time will be bittersweet for all of us, but we'll carry on, keeping the memory of my father in our hearts.
Thank you for allowing me this bit of indulgence. I needed it. Thanks too to all of you who have written and sent notes of condolence. I am so grateful for your thoughts, prayers and kindness.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Goodbye Daddy

The call I've dreaded these last few weeks came in the wee hours this morning.

I had planned to go home next week to be with my family and move my mother into a new home. She'll be 80 in July, and as she reminded me just a short while ago, she's never lived alone in her life. But true to form she said, "If God's handing me this opportunity on a silver platter, I guess that means I better take it."

I'll be gone for a few weeks. Please keep my mom in your prayers.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

A Maddening Contest

William and I spent many hours in bookstores and shops this past weekend. In one bookstore visit we sat together and read Linda Urban's new book Mouse Was Mad. (I love that at 8 William still wants to read picture books.)

After reading we talked about what makes him mad. We also talked about the ideas offered by various animals as to "how to be mad," and ultimately, how to feel better. I was thrilled when he said the best way to feel better was to get a hug from me! But then, what if he's mad at me? So I asked. He said he likes to stick his tongue out at me when I'm not looking! (Um, I do this to my husband, so there's no question about where he got it. Must mend my ways . . . )

What makes me angry? Not much these days, but I do get really frustrated in general while driving, and yes, sometimes angry. Not road rage angry, but shake-you-head-angry about the dumb things people do. Wouldn't the road be a nicer place if we all (me included) just slowed down a bit and learned to take turns?

What makes me feel better? Ironing. Washing dishes in very hot, soapy water. Sticking my tongue out (and the ensuing laugh that always follows). A nice long walk. Curling up with the dog, down on the floor, at her level. Turning the music up really loud. Sometimes the cure depends on what made me mad.

How about you? What makes you mad? What makes you feel better?

Blog about it or leave a comment over at Crooked Perfect, Linda Urban's blog, and you could win a copy of Mouse Was Mad AND a box of truffles! (How did chocolate not make my feel better list?!) Hurry, contest ends on May 9th.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Happy Birthday, Opa!

This picture is nearly two years old, but it's one of my favorites of William and his Opa, my dad. He's celebrating his 83rd birthday today. Happy birthday, Opa!

My dad taught science for many years. Before that he was a chemical engineer. Before that he was a member of the Naval Air Corps during the final years of WWII, where he was stationed in Pearl Harbor. Growing up I called him a jack-of-all-trades, though renaissance man would have been more appropriate. He restored old cars, handmade toys for the grandkids in his woodshop, taught himself to play the banjo, loved to go fishing, and more.

When I close my eyes and picture my dad many images come to mind, but the one I see most often is my dad reading. He never went anywhere without a book in his hand. He encouraged my love for reading and a thirst for knowledge that endures today. It's not surprising really. I had a great role model.

So, even though this day is almost over, I want to wish him a happy birthday one last time. Happy birthday, Daddy!

Love, Loss and Guinea Pigs

*Sigh* - William's guinea pig died on March 29th. Like me, he holds a lot of his emotions inside. My release is to write poetry. His is to draw. I am happy to report that he finally seems to be moving on from this whole guinea pig heartbreak. How do I know? He took up residence in the guest room the night Squeaker died, because he didn't want to sleep in the "dead" room. (How did I NOT foresee this might happen? Where else would you keep your very first pet?)

Yesterday morning he asked if I could wash his sheets and blankets and "make everything all new again." I did. He helped me make the bunk beds after his bath and finally, after more than a month away, went back to sleeping in his room. Hallelujah! He did not sleep through the night, however. He woke up crying and asked (once again) why Squeaker had to die. Then he asked when he could get another pet. There it is--my second piece of evidence that he's moving on. My 8-year old is ready to risk his heart again. I know he's sad, but this was a lovely thing to hear.

Now the only question that remains is this--how do I make sure I'm ready?

Monday, May 04, 2009

A Poem for the Rain

Since it's been raining on and off here, with more rain expected throughout week, I thought I'd share this poem.
Rain Songs
by Paul Laurence Dunbar
(from The Complete Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar)

The rain streams down like harp-strings from the sky;
The wind, that world-old harpist sitteth by;
And ever as he sings his low refrain,
He plays upon the harp-strings of the rain.
Lovely, isn't it? I'll be thinking of this image the next time it rains.

Celebrating the REAL Alice's Birthday

I'm a big fan of the KR blog. Today they have a lovely post up about Alice Liddell entitled Riddles That Have No Answers. If you're a fan of Carroll and the Alice stories, do stop by. It's a wonderful read.

Monday Poetry Stretch - Poems of Work

Last week I shared a few poems from Tracie Vaughn Zimmer's new book Steady Hands: Poems About Work. In that post I challenged each commenter to name a profession that would be interesting to write a poem about. Suggestions included trapeze artist, ice cream taster, zookeeper, rodeo clown, astronaut, children's book writer, shoe maker, etc.

These ideas are just too good to pass by. I can already imagine what some of these poems might look/sound like. I would love to write about a trapeze artist, but can't seem to get Alice Schertle's "A Silver Trapeze" out of my head! So, inspired both by Tracie's book and J. Patrick Lewis' new book The Underwear Salesman: And Other Jobs for Better or Verse, let's write some poems about work or professions.

Here is a poem from Pat's book for a little inspiration.
Belly Dancer

Wiggle those hips,
Swivel that torso,
Shake that belly--
Then do it more so!

©J. Patrick Lewis. All rights reserved.
Have fun with this one. I can't wait to read the results!

Friday, May 01, 2009

April Recap

I'm sad to say that April is over and May is already here. So long National Poetry Month, hello Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. What's happened in the last 30 days? Let's recap.
  • 35 wonderfully talented poets/writers were interviewed in the Poetry Makers series.
  • 78 posts for the month (this is double what I normally average!)
  • Somewhere in the middle of it all I passed the 1000 post milestone.
  • Nearly 16,000 (15,953 to be exact!) visitors stopped by to take in all the poetry goodness.
  • 15 books were given away thanks to generous authors and publishers.
I'm off now to dig deep into the end-of-semester grading and take a day or two off from blogging. I'll see you in a few days for Nonfiction Monday.

Final Poetry Book Giveaway Winner

And the winner is . . .
Steady Hands: Poems About Work, goes to . . .

Linda at Write Time
(Another two-time winner!)

Congratulations to all of this month's lucky recipients!

Poetry Friday - Shakespeare and the Poet's Eye

I'm coming down from a poetry month high, so my choice today is about the poet's eye. Thank you, William Shakespeare.
From A Midsummer Night's Dream
Spoken by Theseus at the beginning of Act 5

The lunatic, the lover, and the poet
Are of imagination all compact:
One sees more devils than vast hell can hold;
That is the madman. The lover, all as frantic,
Sees Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt.
The poet's eye, in fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
Such tricks hath strong imagination,
That if it would but apprehend some joy,
It comprehends some bringer of that joy;
Or, in the night, imagining some fear,
How easy is a bush supposed a bear!
The round up is being hosted by Maya at allegro. 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!