Monday, September 28, 2009

Well Hello Cybils Poetry!

And the poetry goodness in my life just keeps on coming. . .
It's that time of year again. On October 1st, the Cybils open for nominations. This year I'm moving out of nonfiction picture books and into poetry. I know I will miss nonfiction, but am looking forward to examining this year's crop of poetry in more depth. I am particularly excited about the amazing folks I get to serve with. Here's the scoop on the poetry category.

Our esteemed organizer: Kelly Fineman of Writing and Ruminating.

Panelists (Round 1)

Judges (Round 2)
I know we'll have a slew of terrific books to review and report on, with the outcome being a small group of outstanding finalists that will give those round two judges a whole lot to talk about. Three cheers for the Cybils!

My Poetry Weekend

Susan Pearson, Rebecca Dotlich and Alice Shertle

I am still coming down from the clouds after spending Thursday through Sunday with three poetry mavens (pictured above) and a new group of poetry loving friends. The weekend was nothing short of fabulous, from the accommodations and food to the company kept.

Here's where I stayed.
See my name in the window?

Quaint and not a TV in sight--a very peaceful place to write.

This was the nest hanging near my porch.

The spot was lovely, but it was the people who made it so memorable. I can't tell you how wonderful it was to be immersed in poetry with others who feel such an affinity for it. We read, we ate (oh boy did we eat!), we wrote and shared. The sharing among members of a small, supportive group was what made this so worthwhile. I wrote and rewrote a lot of poems. Here are two I wrote about writing poetry. The first is a quatrain. The second a triolet.
I wrestle nouns, put verbs in place
scribble, scratch, delete, erase,
until I've found the words that fit
then check the meter--oh sh*t!

Why bare your soul upon the page?
Why poetry at all?
Must stories pass from age to age?
Why bare your soul upon the page?
Do you believe the world's a stage?
Will civilizations fall?
Why bare your soul upon the page?
Why poetry at all?
I will be forever grateful to Rebecca Dotlich, Susan Pearson, and Alice Shertle for sharing themselves so generously with us. Their knowledge of and love for poetry placed us all in the most capable hands. I am extremely fortunate to have met and worked with them. Thank you, ladies, for everything!
They made me stand tall in more ways than one!

Monday Poetry Stretch - Roundel

After spending quite a bit of time writing poetry this weekend, I'm up for a bit of a form challenge. A roundel is a variation of the roundeau. In the book A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms, Paul Janeczko calls it a roundel and defines it this way.
A roundel is a three-stanza poem of 11 lines. The stanzas have four, three, and four lines in them and a rhyme scheme of abab bab abab. Ah, but there's more. Line 4 is repeated as line 11 -- not an easy trick!
The roundel in the book, entitled A Silver Trapeze, was written by Alice Schertle, a woman who once said "Writing poetry is difficult, absorbing, frustrating, satisfying, maddening, intriguing – and I love all of it!" I'm with her there.

Here is a roundel about a roundel.
The Roundel
By Algernon Charles Swinburne

A roundel is wrought as a ring or a starbright sphere,
With craft of delight and with cunning of sound unsought,
That the heart of the hearer may smile if to pleasure his ear
A roundel is wrought.

Its jewel of music is carven of all or of aught--
Love, laughter, or mourning--remembrance of rapture or fear--
That fancy may fashion to hang in the ear of thought.

As a bird's quick song runs round, and the hearts in us hear
Pause answer to pause, and again the same strain caught,
So moves the device whence, round as a pearl or tear,
A roundel is wrought.
Will you join me this week in writing a roundel? Leave me a note about your poem and I'll post the results later this week. Happy writing!

Meet My Pooch (and Me)!

Why yes, I'm back and just filled to the brim with poetry. Until I have a chance to write about it, head on over to coffee with a canine and learn more about me and my lovable pooch. (Sorry all you cat lovers!)

Thanks to Marshal for the profile.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Poetry Stretch Results - Haiku Riddles

And now, coming to you live from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport, I offer you the results of this week's poetry stretch. (The challenge was to write haiku riddles.)
Susan Taylor Brown of Susan Writes left this poem in the comments.
    garden buzz alarm
    blood sucking helicopter
    lands on my fair skin
Jane Yolen left these poems in the comments.
    I wax and I wane,
    When I am all fired up.
    Happy birthday, friend.

    Needless to say, child,
    I have lots of Christmas cheer,
    Though balsam for yew.

    I often reflect
    On the state of my drinking.
    Clarity is best.

    All poems © 2009 Jane Yolen, all rights reserved
    Answers: candle, Christmas tree, glass of water
Kate Coombs of Book Aunt left these poems in the comments.
    Green grazing on green,
    I chomp and I jump. I slurp
    bud's heart for dessert.

    Brambles saunter through
    the garden, sniffing for snails:
    shouldn't spheres be smooth?

    Hooligan by night,
    who-dunnit by day, dropping
    bone-and-whisker clues.

    Answers: grasshopper, hedgehog, and owl
Shutta (who are you?) left these poems in the comments.
    Clouds are cradled—safe
    In the arms of strong mothers
    Still, there will be tears

    Soldiers rise early
    Green-capped and orderly. Snap!
    I’ve captured them all.

    Answers: mountains/rain and asparagus
Pat Lewis stopped by to share a haiku that Paul Janeczko admired and sent along to him. This one is anonymous. (Okay, it's not a riddle, but it's fun!)
    Writing a haiku
    in seventeen syllables
    is very diffi-
Laura Purdie Salas left these poems in the comments.
    I’m caught dead center
    in summer’s sweaty tug o’ war
    with winter’s calm, icy pull

    I’m ocean’s dancer,
    echoing wind’s rhythms with
    my white-caped shoulders

    Raindrops on demand
    fall from bathroom’s popcorn sky
    Warm, hot—flush—ICE!

    Answers: autumn, wave and shower
Harriet of spynotes left these poems in the comments.
    Inside me you find
    A plethora of stories
    But not any stairs

    Darting needle-sharp
    A flash of iridescence
    Skimming the pond

    Answers: book and dragonfly
Cindy Blair left this poem in the comments.
    Coat of many shades
    falling softly off my limbs
    bare when the snow falls

    Answer: fall tree
Julie Larios of The Drift Record left this poem in the comments.
    I was bound to be
    beautiful, isn't it true?
    Dedicated, too.

    Answer: a book
Here are my contributions this week. I wrote the last one just a short while ago while winging my way to Pennsylvania.
Look at me! BLINK! BLINK!
Do you find me attractive?
I’m the one! BLINK! BLINK!

Powerhouse lifters
An army marching afield
to steal your picnic

Nature's costumer
places high top hats on trees,
whiskers on mountains

Answers: firefly, ant and fog
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, September 23, 2009

Blog Tour Coming Soon! - A Place for Wonder

If you are a regular reader of TMRE you know how I love nonfiction. That's why I'm thrilled to be a part of the blog tour for the new book, A Place of Wonder: Reading and Writing Nonfiction in the Primary Grades. Here's the scoop.
Georgia Heard and Jennifer McDonough, authors of A Place for Wonder: Reading and Writing Nonfiction in the Primary Grades, will embark on a three-stop blog tour starting October 19.

In their book, Georgia and Jennifer discuss how to create a “landscape of wonder,” a primary classroom where curiosity, creativity, and exploration are encouraged, and where intelligent, inquiring, lifelong learners are developed. They provide teachers with practical ways – setting up “wonder centers,” gathering data through senses, teaching nonfiction craft – to create a classroom environment where students’ questions and observations are part of daily work.

Join Georgia and Jennifer as they visit the following blogs and answer your questions:
As a special treat, we’ll wrap up the blog tour with a live webcast with Georgia and Jennifer on Oct. 26th at 8 p.m. EST. This will be a great opportunity to join a small group discussion with the two authors. Participants in the live session will be chosen from those who have posted comments or questions at one of the stops on the blog tour. (Seats are limited. No special software or equipment needed – just a phone and your computer!)

From now until the beginning of the tour you can also receive free shipping when you order A Place for Wonder. Just use code “blog” at the checkout when you order from <> or by phone at 800-988-9812. The book will start to ship Sept. 25, so reserve your copy now!
I'm also happy to report that I'll be giving away 5 seats to the webcast to readers who comment on my blog tour post on October 21st. I hope to see you then! In the meantime, you can read the book online.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

National Standards in Education?

This from today's Washington Post.
Experts convened by the nation's governors and state schools chiefs on Monday proposed a set of math and English skills students should master before high school graduation, the first step toward what advocates hope will become common standards driving instruction in classrooms from coast to coast.
Read more in the article entitled Skills Set Drafted for Students Nationwide. Then go read the proposal, posted at the site Common Core State Standards Initiative.

Finding Poetic Footing

For a long time now my writing has been guided by a piece of advice my dissertation advisor gave me--"Read widely and deeply." And so, I read to become a better writer. Many of the ones pictured below, to be exact.
(These are a few of the shelves in my office.)

These books have been and continue to be wonderful resources, but a while back I realized that reading was simply not enough. I needed more formal education. (What else would you expect from a teacher?!)

After many months of anticipation I finally leave on Thursday for a Founders Workshop at the home of the founders of Highlights for Children®. Entitled Wordplay: Writing Poetry for Children, this workshop will be led by Rebecca Kai Dotlich (see her Poetry Makers interview), Alice Schertle, and Susan Pearson. I'm over the moon with excitement and more than a little bit nervous. It's for this workshop that I've been assigned the task of choosing three favorite poems for children. I wrote a bit about this earlier in the week. (I've selected two of the three poems, by the way. What a fabulous lesson in opportunity cost!)

I'm not sure I'll be blogging while I'm there, but will definitely tell you all about it when I return. Wish me luck!

Books for Elementary Science - Earth Science

This is the last week my preservice teachers will be posting science book reviews at Open Wide, Look Inside. This time around they're covering earth science. You'll find books on weather, oceans, shadows, recycling, the moon, and more. Head on over to Open Wide, Look Inside and see what they're sharing.

If you want to check out some of the titles and topics you may have missed, follow these links.
Enjoy these ideas for integrating science and children's literature. They will be back in a few weeks with books for use in social studies.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Monday Poetry Stretch - Haiku Riddles

If Not For the Cat, written by Jack Prelutsky and illustrated by Ted Rand, is a collection of poetic riddles about members of the animal kingdom. Here's an excerpt.
I, the hoverer,
Sip the nasturtium's nectar
And sing with my wings.

Poem ©Jack Prelutsky. All rights reserved.
For some additional examples, browse inside the book.

I also rather like this haiku found in A Hippopotamusn't, written by J. Patrick Lewis and illustrated by Victoria Chess.
      Suddenly Spring wings
into the backyard, ready
      to play tug-of-worm.

Poem ©J. Patrick Lewis. All rights reserved.
Since we haven't been writing to form in a while, I thought this would be a good time to begin revisiting a few favorites. So, the challenge this week is to write some haiku riddles. Leave me a note about your poem(s) and I'll post the results here later this week.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Books for Elementary Science - Life Science

I lost my head last week and forgot to post the latest round of books reviews from my students. This time around you'll find classics like The Carrot Seed and The Very Hungry Caterpillar, a number of nonfiction titles, a bit of poetry, and much more. Head on over to Open Wide, Look Inside and see what they're sharing.

Choosing Three--JUST THREE--Favorites - Oh Help!

I've been assigned an impossible task. I have been told I must choose "3 of your favorite poems written for children." I've been mulling this over for two days now, wondering how in the world I'll choose JUST THREE. What criteria should I use? Should these be poems I loved as a child? Poems that speak to me now? Poems I know or think kids will love?

After sitting on the floor of my office and reading through my poetry books for more than 2 hours, I now have a short stack with post-it notes sticking out of the pages. There are 26 poems by 14 authors. It is from these poems that I will ultimately choose my three favorites. In reviewing them I have found a few threads that connect this seemingly unrelated set of poems.
  • Making the ordinary extraordinary or beautiful - A number of these poems take everyday items or experiences and point out their real beauty. I guess I could call this poetic wabi sabi.
  • Form - Many of the selections fit into discernible poetic forms, like villanelle, pantoum, haiku, acrostic, list poem and more.
  • Surprise - Some of these poems surprise the reader with the twist of a phrase or double meaning.
  • Concrete - Each and every one of these poems paints the subject so clearly I can see it.
  • No rhyme - Don't get me wrong, I love rhyme. How I ended up without any rhyming poems is a bit of mystery. I do see/hear some near rhyme, however.
  • Economical - Not one of these poems contains an unnecessary word.
  • Science and Nature - Yeah, in some way, every poem is related to science or nature. Sorry, that's just a personal quirk/love.
I guess I'll just need to bite the bullet and pick three. However, my three favorites today may not be my three favorites tomorrow! Oh heck, how will I choose? Before I jump off the diving board here, perhaps you can give me some much needed help. What makes a poem "a favorite" for you? Please share! I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Bookshelves Around the World - Richmond, VA

For a while now the PaperTigers blog has been running a series they call Around the World in 100 Bookshelves. It's been inspiring to see how families value reading by surrounding their kids with books. I've been reluctant and a bit embarrassed to share William's bookshelves because ... well, because he's the most spoiled boy in the world, and I do mean that in the nicest way possible. As you'll soon see, when it comes to books, I have a hard time saying no. They're also my favorite gifts to give.

William got new bookcases this week and not only did he clean his room and arrange the shelves himself, he weeded his collection. Tomorrow we'll be taking more than 100 books to his school as a donation for the K, 1 and 2 teachers. He's very excited about sharing his "old" books with other kids who are learning to read.

So, without further ado, my son's bookshelves. (One of these shelves holds games, puzzles, and pop-up books.)
You can click on the photos for a close-up view of the titles. You'll find lots of nonfiction about animals (and the requisite dinosaurs), the picture books he still loves to read (365 Penguins is one of his favorites), and a whole lot of series books. Enjoy browsing!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Poetry Friday - Rereading Frost

Sometimes when I write I am reminded of this verse from Ecclesiastes:
What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
I'll admit that this comes to me when I'm at a loss for words, or the right words, or the right way to order them. I find myself thinking that there cannot be another way to say what I want, because it's probably been said already. But then, I look at my bookshelves and see all the wonderful new books and stories that keep pouring out of people's heads and hearts and I keep writing.

I'm so glad to know I'm not the only person who's ever felt this way. Over at How a Poem Happens you'll find a poem by Linda Pastan entitled Rereading Frost. It begins this way.
Sometimes I think all the best poems
have been written already,
and no one has time to read them,
so why try to write more?

At other times though,
I remember how one flower
in a meadow already full of flowers
somehow adds to the general fireworks effect

Read the entire poem and Pastan's thoughts about the writing of it.
The round up this week is hosted by Becky of Becky's Book Reviews. 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 - Prefix Poems

The challenge this week was to use a prefix to form a series of words and then write a poem around them. Here are the rather spectacular results.
Julie Larios of The Drift Record shares a poem entitled Pre of the Fixed.

Jane Yolen left this poem in the comments.


    When my beloved husband died,
    And after I cried
    For a thousand days,
    Making myself unhappier
    In a thousand ways
    I realized that the problem
    Was neither warmth nor sex,
    But that like that turtle
    “Twixt plated decks,”
    I have no one to lie over
    Or under me.
    That fact alone
    Practically sundered me.


    Looking into the mirror
    A year after his death,
    I saw an old woman
    with eyes like shallows:
    cold, inhospitable,
    covered with rime.
    I shall get to know her
    In time.


    We shall,
    I shall,
    Make a life,
    Not a better,
    Not a wife,
    But a new
    And fierce
    What was two
    Is now

    © 2009 Jane Yolen, all rights reserved
Laura Purdie Salas left this poem in the comments.

    don’t dive in
    to that hole.
    is there a bottom?

    peer in,
    scrabble back from the edge.

    may be the only
    way around the
    drown it in words
    larger than the hole
    itself obliterating
    its unknowableness.

    study the
    of the
    is it
    pi times
    the d(ying)
    all around you.
    the dying that
    you fear?

    your thoughts,
    walls of words,
    borders of phrases,
    continents of

    --Laura Purdie Salas, all rights reserved
Susan Taylor Brown of Susan Writes finally joined us for a stretch! Hurray! (and Welcome!) Her poem is entitled SEMI.

Kate Coombs of Book Aunt left this poem in the comments.
    The Sorcerer Chants

    It twists like fire
    in my mouth: sands pour
    into glass and mass,
    demanding the spell-shape.

    I aim the word
    like an arrow with eyes
    and magic hisses
    the name of every star.

    Thought trembles down
    the bones of mountains.
    My incantation
    rises like a golem.

    I leave behind silences,
    as if I were dragging
    a thin, jagged tail
    through the dust.

    It isn't enough to tell
    the size of the darkness
    I have bloomed
    into being like a new flower.

    —Kate Coombs
Linda of Write Time shares a poem entitled UN.
Here is one of the poems I wrote for this stretch.

Cleave attention
halve time
part ways
our days are
split and split and split

It’s really all about
the little things
the tiny
bits and pieces of
our lives

I am
so small
so insignificant
so meaningless
in the grand scheme
of things

still …
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, September 15, 2009

S and S and Sea Monsters!

While all the world talks about today's release of the new Dan Brown book, I want to hear about another book released today ... Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.
Nope, I haven't read it, but I did read the first chapter online. It begins this way.

The family of Dashwood had been settled in Sussex since before the Alteration, when the waters of the world grew cold and hateful to the sons of man, and darkness moved on the face of the deep.

The Dashwood estate was large, and their residence was at Norland Park, in the dead centre of their property, set back from the shoreline several hundred yards and ringed by torches.

BTW, have you seen the book trailer? And just in case you were wondering, here's how to escape from a giant octopus.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Nonfiction Monday - Down, Down, Down

On his web site, Steve Jenkins has this to say about science and wonder.
My own view is that the more we understand about what the universe is and how it works, the greater our appreciation of the beauty and wonder of the world, of each other, and of being here to think about it all.
This perspective permeates every book he creates. His latest, Down, Down, Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea, treats readers to the wonder of the world's oceans.
How much do we really know about the earth's oceans and the creatures that live there? The answer is, not much. Jenkins, however, shines a light on a topic sorely in need of treatment at the elementary level. If the illustration of the sperm whale eating a giant squid on the cover doesn't pull kids in, then surely this introduction will.
Viewed from space, the earth looks like a watery blue ball. Oceans cover more than two-thirds of the globe's surface, and well over half the planet lies beneath water more than a mile (1 1/2 kilometers) deep. We have explored only a small fraction of the oceans. In fact, more humans have walked on the moon than have visited the deepest spot in the sea.
Jenkins' tour of the oceans begins at the surface and ends in the Marianas Trench. Each double page spread contains a paragraph (or two) of information about that particular depth, illustration of the inhabitants, and a depth meter. The depth meter appears on the right edge of each spread and extends from the top of the page (the surface) to the bottom (deepest spot in the ocean). The depth is marked with what looks like a red push-pin and is labeled with the distance below sea level (in both feet and meters) and the temperature (in both Fahrenheit and Celsius).

In clear, concise text, Jenkins takes us on an unbelievable, fact-filled journey. Here are some of the interesting things you'll learn along the way.
  • The Pacific Ocean is the largest body of water on the planet, with an area greater than all the earth's dry land combined.
  • Almost all sea life depends on the microscopic organisms living near the ocean's surface--plants, algae and bacteria.
  • At a depth of 33 feet, the pressure in the water is twice that of the atmosphere.
  • Bodies of most ocean animals are filled with fluid, so pressure is not a problem. Anything with an air-filled space (like humans!) risks being crushed as it descends.
  • The twilight zone begins around 660 feet, and does not contain enough light for plants to survive. Only animals live below this depth.
  • Most animals (9 out of 10!) that live below the sunlit layer are bioluminescent.
  • The dark zone of the ocean contains "marine snow," which is composed of falling bits of fish scales, animal waste, and more.
  • The abyssal plain (13,000 feet) is covered with a layer of ooze, thousands of feet thick.
  • The deepest spot in the ocean has been visited only once, in 1960 by a research vessel with two scientists aboard.
The illustrations of the creatures, from the beautiful and familiar to strange and exotic (weird!), are gloriously rendered. (See images here, here and at this terrific review at Seven Imp.) At the end of the book are five full pages of background information on the animals in the book. Each section includes a diagram that shows the size of each creature compare to an adult human's body or hand. The final page includes a brief bibliography and another depth meter that shows how deep humans and sea vessels can descend.

Jenkins opens the door to the wonder of the ocean depths and its inhabitants in a way that no book I've seen has done before. This is a terrific addition to Jenkins expanding body of work, and a must-have for libraries and classrooms where biomes, oceans, food chains, or animal adaptations are studied. Highly recommended.

Book: Down, Down, Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea
Author/Illustrator: Steve Jenkins
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Publication Date: May, 2009
Pages: 40 pages
Grades: 2-7
ISBN: 978-0618966363
Source of Book: Personal copy.

This post was written for Nonfiction Monday. Hosting this week are the folks at Wild About Nature. Do take some time to check out all the great posts highlighting nonfiction this week.

Other Reviews

Monday Poetry Stretch - Prefix Poetry

I was quite taken with the Friday post at How A Poem Happens. Poet Idra Novey shared her poem Trans and described its creation. In it she used the prefix trans- as the title of her poem and created sections that begin -late, -gress, -mogrify, -form, and -scend.

I love the idea of taking a prefix and using it to form a series of words, each their own piece of a whole. So, your challenge this week is to write a poem around a prefix. Leave me a note about your work and I'll post the results here later this week.

P.S. - If you need help generating a possible word list, try More Words. Enter your prefix or word of choice and click search for words. Scroll down the page (past the definitions) until you find the link for list all words starting with __. You'll find this a helpful tool. I'm thinking about the word down and the link generated a list of 114 words, including downhill, downcast, downpour, downtown, downtrodden, downwind, and more.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Feeling Poetic? Try the Punctuation Mark

Did you know that September 24th is National Punctuation Day? No, really. In honor of this auspicious day, Grammar Girl is sponsoring a contest. Send an ode to your favorite punctuation mark to The week of the 24th, the best entries will be featured as the tip-of-day in the Grammar Girl e-mail newsletter. One entry may be chosen to be the Grammar Girl podcast on September 24.

Get the full details here. Sounds like fun, right?!

Kidlitcon 09 Meme

Did you know there is less than one week left to register for the KidLitosphere Conference this October in Washington, D.C.? MotherReader started a meme for past conference attendees in an effort to get out the word about the conference and encourage registration. Here's my contribution.

Why did you decide to attend the KidLitosphere Conference?
I went to the first conference in Chicago because I saw the list of folks that had signed on and decided I didn't want to be left out! I bought a ticket and never looked back.

Who was most like their blog? Who was least like their blog?
I think just about every blogger I met in person reflected the voice I heard/read on his/her blog. I loved meeting the teachers I read so regularly (hi Mary Lee!), the poets (hi Greg!), school librarians (Jone and Camille!), and so many others. Mark and Andrea were as ebullient as their podcasts. Adrienne and I shared a hometown connection that has kept us connecting since our first meeting. I could go on about how amazingly kind and generous every single person I met was, but I know you'd get bored. Suffice it say that if you're reading someone's blog on a regular basis, you won't be disappointed when you finally get to meet them in person.

What surprised you at the conference?
Here's what I wrote after the first conference.
If I was surprised by anything at all, it was just how nice, outgoing, and friendly everyone was. Yes, even the self-described introverts had something to say and offer.
What will you always remember about the last conference?
I was so disappointed that I couldn't attend Kidlit 08. I had another conference the same weekend here in VA. I would much rather have been in Portland.

Did you blog about the conference?
Yes, I wrote a conference recap.

I will be attending this year and if there is any way YOU can be at Kidlitcon 09, I highly recommend it. I hope I see you there.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Should Writers Keep a Journal?

I've been a fan of the site Grammar Girl for some time now. I often listen to the podcast while I'm in the kitchen cooking. While the information is often about word choice and general grammar, once in a while there are interesting bits about writing in general. As an avid keeper of a writing journal, yesterday's post/podcast provided a great deal of food for thought. Give a listen to Should Writers Keep a Journal?.

For some other thoughts on writing journals and journal writing (both pro and con), try these sites:

Friday, September 11, 2009

Poetry Friday - The Weight of What Is Thrown

I love stones. I love the way they feel in my hand, how they skip over the water, or heavily sink. While doing a search for something related to skipping stones I stumbled upon this poem. Not only did I find a new poetry journal to read, but also a wonderful poet to look for. Isn't the Internet a strange and marvelous thing?
The Weight of What Is Thrown
by Joe Wenderoth

Smooth stones have always appealed to me.
River stones, I guess they’re called,
though the best ones come from ocean shoreline
where cliffs are crumbling and tides are rising
and falling
and perfecting what they have broken.

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

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

For Lovers of Books and Music

For a while now I've been hooked on the Book Notes series at Largehearted Boy. In it, authors create and describe a playlist of songs that in some way relates to a recently published work. Recent entries include:
There are lots of great lists here for a huge range of books. If you love music as much as you like to read, don't miss this series.

World Animal Day is Coming - Celebrating with Books (and More!)

October 4th is World Animal Day. The goals of this day are to:

  • Celebrate animal life in all its forms;
  • Celebrate humankind’s relationship with the animal kingdom;
  • Acknowledge the diverse roles that animals play in our lives – from being our companions, supporting and helping us, to bringing a sense of wonder into our lives; and
  • Acknowledge and be thankful for the way in which animals enrich our lives.
In the next few weeks I hope to launch a series of posts about ways in which you might celebrate this day with books and activities. To get things started, here are a few useful resources.

The Humane Society: Best Books - Since 1995 The Humane Society has recognized "an exceptional children's book with a humane focus on animals or the environment with the KIND Children's Book Award." The results for each year include best picture book, best chapter book and a number of honor books.

The Gryphon Press is a publisher dedicated to "picture books for children that explore the human-animal bond." You can learn more about their books here.

The Humane Society's Kind News has been published since 1983 for classroom use. In addition to resources for kids, you will find a series of lesson plans on responsible pet care.

Humane Education Children's Literature Index - The site Humane Education Teacher was created by Stephanie Bucalo as a way to combine her love of animals and children's literature. The index contains a lengthy list of books around themes including, but not limited to Animal Shelters, Animals Used for Entertainment, Farm Animals, Homeless Animals, Kindness, Loyalty, Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation, Wildlife, Sharing the World with, and much more.

Last fall I put together a list of books for kids who love animals. It's organized around the nonfiction works of Steve Jenkins, Sneed Collard III, Gail Gibbons, and Nic Bishop.

The Hennepin County Library has an annotated list of realistic stories about animals.

Poetry Stretch Results - Poems of Work

The challenge this week was to write poems about work or particular profession. Here are the results.
Jane Yolen left this poem in the comments.
    The Best-Selling Author

    Getcha red hot metaphors here,
    Your poetry stretches line by line.
    Yes, you can handle the similes
    I think you’ll find they’re rather fine.
    Alliteration always sells,
    Even in recessions,
    But slant rhymes are another kettle
    Of fish, of flesh, of fissions.
    I’ve got some second-hand paragraphs,
    Some small, used punctuations
    Suitable for a senior prom
    And for most graduations.

    And pssst, if you will come back here,
    You’ll find that you’re in luck.
    I’ve got some first class sentences
    That just fell off the truck.

    c 2009 Jane Yolen, all rights reserved
Laura of Author Amok also left a poem in the comments.

    Mom drags me to the bookstore every Saturday.
    I grump and groan,
    complain and moan,
    “Can’t I stay home and play?”

    She puts her yellow apron on,
    with its shiny flowers.
    “Make yourself comfy,” she says. “We’ll be here a few hours.”

    I straighten the tiara that sparkles on her hair
    So she can be Queen Barbara Jean -- Story Lady Extraordinaire.

    When we go in the bookstore, kids rush up and hug her.
    They shout, “Story Lady! Barbara Jean!” acting like they love her.

    Mom stands on a small platform and takes out her guitar.
    Kids smoosh and squish to sit in front, as if my mom’s a star.

    Mom sings about a car. The audience goes, “Vroom!”
    They honk like horns. They beep and laugh. Those kids shout, “Crash!” and “Boom!”

    Then Mom puts on her glasses. She opens a big book.
    Thirty kids lean toward her, trying to get a look.

    I sit in the back and yawn. I’ve heard this book before.
    Mom must have read it 50 times to kids at this bookstore.

    When we’re home alone tonight, we’ll have a cup of tea
    And Mom will read a special book to no one else but me.

    We’ll hold the book on our laps, so no one blocks my view.
    And Mom will say, “You’re my best audience. This book is just for you.”
Laura Purdie Salas left this poem in the comments.
    Old Yeller

    I’m right-on-time dependable.
    I rarely whine or fuss.
    I get them to their school on time
    But they’re not happy. Plus
    They sometimes—oops—have accidents,
    Or spill their lunch, or cuss!
    They hate to see me pulling up—
    It sucks to be the bus.

    --Laura Purdie Salas, all rights reserved
Amy Ludwig VanDerwater left this poem in the comments.
    Snowflake Designer

    She’s quick.
    She’s careful.
    She makes no mistakes.

    She’s cool.
    She’s quiet.
    She does what it takes.

    Each winter
    she sketches
    she measures
    she makes
        and flakes
            and flakes
                and flakes.

    (If she finds a double
    she takes it and breaks it.)
Here's what I'm offering up this week. Please forgive the little conceit at the end! (I just couldn't figure out how to wrap this one up. Once that line stuck in my head, I was sunk.)
My Job (24/7)

Hand holder
Clothes folder

Costume maker
Cookie baker

Meal feeder
Troop leader

Chauffer driver
High fiver

First teacher
Top-shelf reacher

Back rubber
Face scrubber

Tear wiper
Pied piper

Leaf raker
Morning waker

Shoe lacer
Go-kart racer

Hurt healer
Kiss stealer

Secret keeper
Ice cream heaper

Party thrower
Answer knower

Book reader
Dream seeder

    Tired mom
    Who's the bomb?
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, September 08, 2009

Books for Elementary Science - Physical Science

Last week my preservice teachers posted their reviews of books for teaching process skills in science. This week they're focused on physical science. This time around you'll find a wealth of nonfiction and a few very creative picture book suggestions. Head on over to Open Wide, Look Inside this week to see what they're sharing.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Time Out for Fun! - Scrap Coloring

Have you seen this site? Scrap Coloring offers free online coloring pages for kids. What's different about this site is that it comes with a rich variety of colorful patterns, gradients, fabrics, papers and textures for kids to color with.

I played around with it for a bit and had some fun. I can see some great classroom tie-ins here as well. I selected a background pattern and then colored the chameleon in different ways to try and camouflage it. Kids would enjoy doing this as well. For older kids you could actually discuss and give examples of concealing coloration, disruptive coloration, disguise and mimicry. Then the kids could try to create animals with camouflage in these types of forms.

I also think kids could work with the butterfly and mandala images to experiment with the concept of symmetry.

The number of images available is small (46), but hopefully growing. This one looks to be a lot fun, so take some time to visit and play around. You won't be disappointed.

Nonfiction Monday is Here!

The round up is here! Check out these cool reads in nonfiction this week.
Mary Ann at Great Kid Books shares a review of Mrs. Mingo and the First Day of School.

Sally at All About Children's Books shares a review of Corrie Ten Boom.

Kim at Wild About Nature shares a review of What's New at the Zoo?

Abby at Abby the Librarian shares a review of Barnum Brown: Dinosaur Hunter.

Anastasia Suen at 5 Great Books shares 5 Great Books for Labor Day.

Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect (that's me!) shares a review of When I Grow Up.

Carol at the Lerner Publishing Group blog shares some thoughts about nonfiction in regards to First Lines and First Impressions.

Lori at Lori Calabrese Writes! shares a review of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Cool Jobs for Teens.

Betsy at A Fuse #8 Production shares a review of 14 Cows for America.

Katie at Katie's Literature Lounge shares some titles about Grandma Moses.

Jennifer at the Jean Little Library shares a review of Marsh Morning.

Maples and Fiddleheads shares a review of Before Columbus: Early Voyages to the Americas.

Shirley at SimplyScience Blog shares some ideas for using the book Way Down Deep in the Deep Blue Sea.

Roberta at Wrapped in Foil shares a review of Secret of the Puking Penguins.

MsMac (Jone) at Check It Out shares a review of Nic Bishop Butterflies and Moths.

Chronicle of an Infant Bibliofile shares a review of Little Green Frogs.

Andrea and Mark at Just One More Book!! share a review of It's a Snap: George Eastman's First Photograph.

INK: Interesting Nonfiction for Kids has new posts by authors Gretchen Woelfle, Vicki Cobb, and Rosalyn Schanzer.

Bill at Literate Lives shares a review of Tiger Pups.

Tasha at Kids Lit shares a review of Our World of Water.
It's not too late if you still want to join in. Leave me a note about your post and I'll add it to the list.

Nonfiction Monday - When I Grow Up

In honor of Labor Day, I thought it appropriate to review When I Grow Up: A Young Person's Guide to Interesting and Unusual Occupations by Jessica Loy.

When I was growing up, I never dreamed about "normal" occupations. Doctor, lawyer, teacher and the like were not on my list. I longed to work with Jacques Cousteau and study marine mammals, study the fossil record of human evolution with the Leakey's, or work in animal breeding and conservation at a zoo. My dream jobs grew largely out of reading about the work of famous scientists. I wanted to have those same adventures and make the same kinds of discoveries.

Young people today can learn about a whole host of jobs on television and online. However, it's the printed page that still holds me captive, and a means for learning I hope young people will continue to use. Jessica Loy's new book When I Grow Up is a winning entry in this category. Loy has done a fine job of capturing men, women and families in her profiles, and has selected occupations that are sure to encourage readers to "think outside the box" when it comes to career options. The book begins this way.

How do we decide what we want to be when we grow up? We might get ideas from our families and teachers or from people we admire.

Inside you will find fourteen careers that began as a dreams and have turned into lifelong pursuits. Many started as childhood interests. Maybe there is something you love to do that will someday become your career.

There are so many possibilities!

The fourteen careers profiled include:

  • Entomologist
  • Alpaca Farmers
  • Archaeologist
  • Master Cheese Maker
  • Research Biologist
  • Game Designer
  • Chocolatier
  • Percussionist
  • Lobsterman (actually a woman!)
  • Guitar Makers
  • Kite Designer
  • Pet Photographer
  • Set Designer
  • Robotics Engineer

Each occupation is described through the profile of a person who actually holds that job. The pages are filled with photographs of the person at work. There is a tremendous amount of information on each occupation's double-page spread. The entry for Alpaca Farmers profiles a family in New York. There are photos of the family and the alpacas, alpacas being sheared, and a very interesting series of photos and captions about making yarn from alpaca fiber. After reading nearly every entry I found myself nodding my heading and thinking, "Now THAT would be a cool job!" I think young readers will feel the same way.

The book ends with contact information for each occupation profiled, complete with home/work addresses (should readers care to send mail the "old-fashioned" way) and web sites. The facing page provides a list of summer camps ideas that "offer an opportunity for kids to explore potential career paths." Included is information for space camp, culinary camp, robot camp, computer camp and many more ideas.

Overall this is a well-researched, highly informative and engaging read. I highly recommend it.

Book: When I Grow Up: A Young Person's Guide to Interesting and Unusual Occupations
Jessica Loy
Henry Holt
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 40 pages
Grades: 4-8
Source of Book: Review copy received from publisher.

This post was written for Nonfiction Monday. I'm hosting today, so check out this post highlighting nonfiction this week.

Monday Poetry Stretch - Poems of Work

A while back, inspired by poems from Tracie Vaughn Zimmer's book Steady Hands: Poems About Work and J. Patrick Lewis' book The Underwear Salesman: And Other Jobs for Better or Verse, we wrote about work or professions. Since it's Labor Day, I thought this would be a fun one to revisit. Here is a poem from Pat's book for a little inspiration.
Subway Driver

A sixty-mile-an-hour mole
On automatic cruise control,
I worm my way around and around
Big bunny tunnels underground
With folks who stare or read or sleep
And dream of something
V E R Y   D E E P.

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

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Thoughtful Piece on Authors of Color

At her blog Fledgling, Zetta Elliott recently wrote a post entitled Something like an open letter to the children's publishing industry. In addition to being a mighty strong argument for the recognition of works by authors of color, she includes links to some astounding and disheartening statistics.

Zetta's ideas have been batted around and intensely discussed on child_lit for the last few days. It's worthy of our attention, so do take some time to read it.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Books and Blogging Authors

I've written before about why I love the Kidlitosphere. But lately I find great joy in seeing and celebrating the books of blogging authors, particularly when they've just hit the shelves. I feel as if I've been in on a great secret, having heard about the work that went into it, the anticipation, over its release, and sheer joy on the date of publication.

Yesterday while browsing at my local Barnes and Noble I was thrilled to come across these titles. (Thank heavens for phones with cameras in them!)
First up is Operation YES, by Sara Lewis Holmes. I found it on a special display of new fiction. If you don't know about this one, check out the fabulous launch post at Jama Rattigan's alphabet soup.
The second title is The Runaway Dragon by Kate Coombs. Kate blogs at Book Aunt and is a regular participant in the poetry stretches here. This one was shelved in a display of new fiction for young readers.

Not only did I get a thrill from seeing them on the shelves, but I purchased both (along with a few others titles) for a thank you package I'm putting together for the children of the hosts of our recent family reunion. Books DO make the best gifts.

What new titles have you been excited to see lately?

Friday, September 04, 2009

Poetry Friday - Three Songs at the End of Summer

Summer is officially coming to a close. This is sad for some, but I relish the onset of fall. Here's one of my favorite poems about this time of year.
Three Songs at the End of Summer
by Jane Kenyon

A second crop of hay lies cut
and turned. Five gleaming crows
search and peck between the rows.
They make a low, companionable squawk,
and like midwives and undertakers
possess a weird authority.

Crickets leap from the stubble,
parting before me like the Red Sea.
The garden sprawls and spoils.

Read the entire poem.
The round up is being hosted by Kelly Herold (of Big A little a fame) at her new blog Crossover. Do stop by and take in all the terrific poetry being shared this week. Before you go be sure to check out this week's poetry stretch results. Happy poetry Friday all!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Poetry Stretch Results - Picture Day

The challenge this week was to write a poem about having your picture taken. Here are the results.
Kate Coombs of Book Aunt left this poem in the comments.

    Kerri has 500 photos
    of herself on Facebook:
    pouting sexy like a model,
    then cute and funny, sitcom girl,
    very Kerri, never scary.

    I let her take photos:
    they're supposed to be me.
    A smile I practiced
    for Picture Day,
    dragon dabs of mascara,
    a dropped shoulder
    (Kerri says to, but I feel like
    the hunchback of Notre Dame).

    She doesn't get it. "Not one?
    This one! This one is perfect!"
    No. I go home.
    I take out my paints,
    my brushes, my scissors and paper,
    a bottle of glue. A feather
    I found on the sidewalk,
    a button, a twig.

    I take out the day I was born,
    smoothing it with my hands,
    the time I cut my knee
    and it bled on my green dress
    like geraniums,
    a quarrel tasting
    like unsweetened chocolate,
    the ruffled pages of books,
    my mother's daisy of a sneeze,
    the times tables lined up
    as if they made sense,
    my sister's baseball bat swinging
    through the air like a song,
    and my secretest secrets,
    like the heart of a stone or a tree.
    I'm making
    a picture of me,
    and it's going to be

    nothing like anything
    in that book of faces.
    It's going to be so me
    that if wizards came,
    they'd take one look at it,
    and know my true name.
Diane Mayr of Random Noodling left this poem in the comments.

    Having my picture
    taken over and over
    and each time
    expecting to see
    someone else.
Laura Purdie Salas left this poem in the comments.
    Author Mug Shot

    one hundred twenty five pixels square
    double chin, cowlick, frozen stare
    they told me this pose would make me look stunning
    now black pixel bars restrain me from running

    my crime: an unphotogenic cliche
    my punishment: infinite awkward display

    --Laura Purdie Salas, all rights reserved
Linda of Write Time left this poem in the comments.
    Picture Day

    Last year I stayed home
    sick on picture day—
    I wasn’t even faking,
    my stomach ached
    thinking about my face
    forever fat
    on the yearbook page.

    I had a plan
    nothing but salads
    I’d be skinny-jean ready
    by re-take day—
    It didn’t happen.

    So I promised myself
    a new me
    in the new year.

    But tomorrow
    is picture day
    and already
    my stomach
Cindy Blair left this poem in the comments.
    Family Pictures

    Pictures of my foot and ear
    are probably those I hold most dear
    because the bloopers of my life
    are able to erase some strife.

    License pics are another story
    my hair's remiss of any glory.
    A sunburn or a windburn shows
    it's Mother Nature's joke;my woes.

    In the end pictures I treasure
    then display professional measure.
Here's the poem I started but haven't yet figured out how to finish.
I face the mirror
on the wall
practice smiling
stand real tall
tilt my head
rest hand on chin
try to mask
the fear within

The face that stares
at me each day—the one
I know by heart
is not the one
that is revealed
in photographic art
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.

Meme - My Life According to Poetry

I'm blaming and thanking Monica at educating alice for this one. The idea here was to take your list of books read in 2009 and use them to answer some questions. However, I don't always play by the rules, so I've modified this one. What follows is my life as defined by the books on my poetry and writing shelves, most of which I read this spring for my Poetry Makers series.

Describe yourself
Eats: Poems

How do you feel?
I'm Glad I'm Me

Describe where you currently live
Over in the Pink House (okay, it's brick, but pink is close enough!)

If you could go anywhere, where would you go?
Monster Motel

Your favorite form of transport
Always Got My Feet

Your best friend is . . . ?
A Kick in the Head and M Is for Mischief

You and your friends are . . .?
Voices From the Wild

What’s the weather like?
Full of Lemonade Sun

Favorite time of day?
Fireflies at Midnight

What is life to you?
Pass the Poetry, Please!

Your fear?
America at War and a Dirty Laundry Pile

What is the best advice you have to give?
Take Joy

Thought for the Day?
My Dog May Be a Genius and Technically It's Not My Fault

How I would like to die
Messing Around on the Monkey Bars

My soul’s present condition?
Nothing's the End of the World

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Half-Read Books

What kind of reader are you? There are many ways to answer this question, but for me, the two words I'd use are slow and persistent. Slow in that I don't read particularly quickly because I like to savor what I'm enjoying. Persistent in that I will push on to the very last page, even if I'm not particularly connecting with the characters or thrilled with the story.

In today's Guardian books blog Suzanne Munshower has written a piece entitled In Praise of Books Half-Read. It begins:
Some folks feel the need to finish any book once started; that this is something "owed" to the author. Some also won't walk out on a bad film because it's been paid for, or send back a plate of pricey dog food in this week's hot restaurant for fear of "looking bad". But if a close personal friend didn't write the book, take you to the cinema, or cook the meal, why care?
Yup, that's me, dead-on. I suppose I'm persistent because I'm an inveterate optimist. I believe something good might come out of the experience if I stick with it. And so I do.

However, I reached the end of Munshower's article and had a revelation. Here's what she said.
There is, after all, no accounting for taste – as a friend who saw the film Mouse Hunt on my recommendation has never let me forget.

There is, however, accounting for time, and time spent in reading an unappealing book can never be regained.
Once again I'm reminded of the terrific post by Julius Lester entitled How Many Books Can One Read? In essence it's an eloquent summary of the notion "so many books, so little time."

I think both Munshower and Lester are right. Time is too precious and there many books out there waiting to be read. If a book doesn't work for me (or you), why stick with it?

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Meet Ian Falconer (and Olivia!)

There's a really lovely article about Ian Falconer and his iconic Olivia at Teaching K-8. It's an update of the original published in 2006. Do stop by and check it out.

Reading Rainbow Petition

If you have concerns about the cancellation of Reading Rainbow, consider signing this petition and adding your personal story about the impact of the show on your and/or your children. There are close to 500 signers already. The petition will close at the end of the day today and will be sent to Paula Kerger, President and CEO of PBS.

Good Books Don't Have to Be Hard

While education folks in the blogging world continue to discuss the NYT article on reading workshop (see responses here, here and here), I find myself looking for balance and asking "Why not read old and new classics?"

Perhaps this question and my desire for balance explain why I enjoyed Lev Grossman's article so. In Good Novels Don't Have to Be Hard he writes:
There was a time when difficult literature was exciting. T.S. Eliot once famously read to a whole football stadium full of fans. And it's still exciting—when Eliot does it. But in contemporary writers it has just become a drag. Which is probably why millions of adults are cheating on the literary novel with the young-adult novel, where the unblushing embrace of storytelling is allowed, even encouraged.
Read the entire article for some interesting thoughts on the Modernists and the return of the novel.