Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Halloween Costume and a Bit of History

Halloween is big for William, though it's never been one of my favorite holidays. I'll admit that I have had a great deal of fun while sharing in the costume-making each year. Here's a bit of Halloween history.

Kindergarten (06) - Thomas the Tank Engine

First Grade (07) - Spider

Second Grade (08) - Vampire

Third Grade (09) - Bird


Halloween Reads - A Few Suggestions

Kate Coombs of Book Aunt has put together a most awesome post entitled Enter the Witches. Whether you like them good or really, really bad, she's pegged them all. If you're looking for a book with a witch, you'll find one here.

If it's poetry you're looking for, I put together a list last week entitled Monstrously Good Poetry. You'll find a range of titles that all include monsters and fantastical creatures. There's even a bit of superstition thrown in!

Over at Wild Rose Reader, Elaine has a post on Children's Poetry Books for Halloween. She has an even longer post with beau coup links called Picture Books & Poetry Books for Halloween.

On the Booklights blog, MotherReader's Thursday Three is Monsters.

Mary Ann at Great Kids Books shares some books on Halloween traditions and stories.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Kalman's Back!

She's at it again over at The Pursuit of Happiness. Check out E Pluribus Unum by Maira Kalman.

I'm going to share this with my students when we look at teaching civics/government. My favorite bit is this line.
And what will happen now?
Bills will be passed into LAW.
And if they are not perfect,
Don't Despair.
There is hope that the system could work
and they can be

Poetry Friday - Spelt from Sibyl’s Leaves

I'm in today with some Hopkins. For some reason, this one just seemed right for the season. (My apologies for the tiny type. I wanted to preserve the format, but it still didn't work!)
Spelt from Sibyl’s Leaves
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Earnest, earthless, equal, attuneable, ' vaulty, voluminous, … stupendous
Evening strains to be tíme’s vást, ' womb-of-all, home-of-all, hearse-of-all night.
Her fond yellow hornlight wound to the west, ' her wild hollow hoarlight hung to the height
Waste; her earliest stars, earl-stars, ' stárs principal, overbend us,
Fíre-féaturing heaven. For earth ' her being has unbound, her dapple is at an end, as-
tray or aswarm, all throughther, in throngs; ' self ín self steedèd and páshed—qúite
Disremembering, dísmémbering ' áll now. Heart, you round me right
With: Óur évening is over us; óur night ' whélms, whélms, ánd will end us.
Only the beak-leaved boughs dragonish ' damask the tool-smooth bleak light; black,
Ever so black on it. Óur tale, O óur oracle! ' Lét life, wáned, ah lét life wind
Off hér once skéined stained véined variety ' upon, áll on twó spools; párt, pen, páck
Now her áll in twó flocks, twó folds—black, white; ' right, wrong; reckon but, reck but, mind
But thése two; wáre of a wórld where bút these ' twó tell, each off the óther; of a rack
Where, selfwrung, selfstrung, sheathe- and shelterless, ' thóughts agaínst thoughts ín groans grínd.
The round up is being hosted by Jennie of Biblio File. 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!

Vote For Your Favorite Dirt Poem!

Over at David Harrison's blog you'll find a contest and a lot of dirty poems. Ahem. Poems about dirt, I mean! David threw out the word dirt as inspiration for a poem, and lots of folks played along. You can vote for your favorite until noon on November 3rd. The winner will receive the honor of being placed in the monthly hall of fame.

I am rather partial to the limerick Dirt by Laura Purdie Salas, Pies for Sale by David Harrison and The Dirt-Reader by Steven Withrow. (Alas, David's poem isn't in the running!)

The poem I wrote for this one was inspired by Richard Wilbur. It is untitled.
The opposite of clean is dirt
Like ketchup dribbled on your shirt
Or grass stains on your favorite jeans
Or brown stuff stuck to fresh plucked beans
It’s bunnies made of dust and hair
And specks and flecks found everywhere!
So, what are you waiting for? Head on over to read some great dirt poems and vote!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Poetry Stretch Results - Zenos

The challenge this week was to write a Zeno. Here are the results.
Pat Lewis left these two poems in the comments.
    Travel by Armchair
    You can take a trip by Greyhound,
    ocean liner
    I prefer the

    * * * * *
    Weather by The Old Masters
    The Michelangelo thunder
    of an April
    at what follows
    a great
    spring meadows in
Carol Weis left this poem in the comments.
    Great Blue
    The great blue heron tries to hide
    itself in tall
    passers see this
    take photos to
    not for-

    © Carol Weis. All rights reserved.
Greg K. of GottaBook shares a poem for Halloween.

Kate Coombs of Book Aunt left this poem in the comments.
    October 31st
    Night. A graveyard. A single boy
    walks soft as a
    with each step re-
    making that quick,
Laura Purdie Salas left these poems in the comments.
    Weapons Make the Warrior?
    Marching in time, but out of time
    into the harsh
    light of
    Emperor Qin’s
    wield bronze swords in
    arms of

    * * * * *
    Putting the Art Before the Horse
    In Emperor Qin’s afterlife,
    he would rule by
    But death had its
    way, of
    Lesson? Don’t ride
    a clay
Amy Ludwig Vanderwater left this poem in the comments.
    One Hen Speaks
    We make eggs inside our bodies.
    Roosters chase us
    make us
    Every egg is
    Farm life or your
Julie Larios of The Drift Record shares two poems. And yes, the first title is longer than the poem! And the second? Well, I dare you to read it without snarfing (which is exactly what I did)!

Tanita Davis shares a poem entitled On Intentions to Speak to Richard Peck at a Writer's Conference.

Jone of Check It Out and Deo Writer shares some zenos she wrote with her students and one of her own.
This was darn hard. Here's the poem I came up with.
What secret incantations do
you write upon
the sky?
poems on a
flash on, flash off --
"Hold me
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, October 28, 2009

Shelving Decisions I'll Never Understand

I just returned from a quick visit to a local bookstore. Actually, I've been to several bookstores in the last week and am surprised about some of the shelving decisions that were made. Here are two.
The Day-Glo Brothers, written by Chris Barton and illustrated by Tony Persani - You could put this one in biography or even science and I'd be really happy with that decision. I finally found it in the ART section.

The Monsterologist: A Memoir in Rhyme, written by Bobbi Katz and illustrated by Adam McCauley - This one is pure poetry and a perfect read for Halloween, yet I didn't find it in the Halloween displays or the poetry section. I found it shelved with books on dragons and other -ologies, like Wizardology, Spyology, etc..
I'm sure there are others, but these are the ones that stood out. How about you? Have you found books shelved/displayed in odd places lately?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Remembering Sylvia Plath

Today at the blog The Best American Poetry, Laura Orem has a lovely post on Sylvia Plath. It begins this way.
Today would have been Sylvia Plath's 77th birthday. She left an astonishing number of good-to-excellent poems for someone who died at 30, a testament not only to her talent but to her dedication to her craft and iron Yankee work-ethic. Easily, so easily, she could have been writing still - imagine that raw voice honed by five more decades of experience and maturity.
It's a remarkable piece. On this, the anniversary of Plath's birthday, please take a moment to read A Birthday.

Zenos, Anyone?

Have you written your ZENO yet?

Check out this week's poetry stretch for more information.

The Monsterologist - Interview with Bobbi Katz

I'm excited to welcome Bobbi Katz to the blog today. We'll be talking about her new book, The Monsterologist: A Memoir in Rhyme. Before we start, let's take a look at the book trailer.
I picked up this book in September while perusing the poetry shelves in my local bookstore. My son (who's closing in on 9) immediately took it from me and placed it in his stack of books on dinosaurs and dragons. I've had difficulty prying it from his hands, a sure sign that this book is a winner. The fact that he has added post-it notes to mark his favorite poems makes me love it even more.

Written by Bobbi Katz (ghostwritten as it says on the cover) and illustrated by Adam McCauley, this collection of poems introduces readers to some of the world's most famous monsters -- Count Dracula, Godzilla, King Kong, Medusa, Grendel, the Loch Ness Monster, the Yeti and more. What sets this book apart from others is the form the poems take, and I don't mean poetic forms. In this collection you'll find letters, notes, interviews, personal ads, e-mails and other objects amassed through a lifetime of studying monsters. The illustrations are also particularly beautiful and unique. Here's how McCauley describes the illustrations on the copyright page.
The illustrations for this book were created using: lots of paper, spaghetti, twigs, tape, Adam's great grandmother's stamp collection, paint, file folders, rubber stamps, a scanner, old sketchbooks, new sketchbooks, a printer, a ballpoint pen, a Xerox machine, scraperboard, computer programs, clip art, things found on the street, and some string. Oh yeah, and a few brains and hands.
You can learn more about Adam and see some of the artwork from The Monsterologist at his interview at Seven Imp.

Bobbi was kind enough to stop by and answer some questions about The Monsterologist. So without further ado, here's what she had to say.

How did you select the monsters for the collection?
I'd been filling a folder marked NOISY POEMS over several years that eventually became A Rumpus of Rhymes. As I read the poems aloud before sending the manuscript off, I realized that all the poems were packed with onomatopoeic words except one: “Ping Pong with King Kong.” As I removed the poem, I wondered who might really care to play ping pong with King Kong. Almost immediately, a male character took shape: an eminent scientist and lecturer, a fussy but fearless bachelor, wholly dedicated to the study…. of monsters. That was in 1996. “The Monsterologist” introduced himself in the opening poem, and it was as if I began channeling him as I wrote. Naturally, he corresponded with Count Dracula. The Monsterologist and I both loved Greek mythology, so “Medusa” and the “Cyclops” came next. Our mutual discomfort with computers-the Monsterologist has no confidence in them whatsoever-resulted in “The Compu-Monster.” In 1997, I was writing 25 Great Grammar Poems for Scholastic Professional Books. I wrote a didactic poem about verbs one morning; “The Verbivore” was born that same night. So as you see, I didn't exactly decide what monsters to write about. The collection reflects the Monsterologist's life work, his concerns, and at times, our mutual interests.
Did you write any monsters that didn't make it into the book?
Yes, indeed. My truly wonderful editor felt that four poems seemed somehow wrong. Having been an editor myself, I did not wish to be a difficult diva author. Three of the poems were based on characters James Whitcomb Riley claimed to have heard about in logging camps: “The Squidicum Squee,” “Squonks,” and “Wonks.” The fourth was “The Blobster,” which was probably part of a huge sea animal that was actually found in the early 20th century. Some newspapers created buzz about an unidentified sea monster. (Of course, the Monsterologist was consulted.) My editor suggested “Godzilla” as a companion for “King Kong,” since both were movie stars. She also wanted a reason for the Monsterologist to close his memoir. I added the “The International Zombie Survey” in an E-mail from Will Nixon, a poet who actually has written poems based on the film, “The Night of the Living Dead.”
What kind of research did you do to prepare for writing these poems?
Most of the research I did was for the four poems that were cut. I did very little beyond checking the proper dates for the three musicians in “Ghost Notes,” and reading about the Golem (after I wrote the poem) and Godzilla. (Alas, I'd never seen any of the Godzilla movies, but I learned that this monstrous character had been first created as a metaphoric embodiment of atomic destruction in Japan.) “Godzilla” was the most difficult poem to write. Since Godzilla was to be opposite King Kong, I wanted some degree of balance between the poems.

Many things became fodder for the Monsterologist. I went to a series of three readings of poet Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowulf. The violent images marinated and finally resulted in the Monsterologist's discovery of Grendel's mother's recipe for Danish Pastry! I must say that I knew the Monsterologist so well that he led me to the poems. I knew he might go hiking in Denmark or notice “Bluebeard's Personal Ad” while reading a newspaper in a London tea shop.
What inspired the memoir format and the use of letters, notes, and other objects?
From the very beginning, I saw this as a memoir: a scrapbook of memorabilia. I thought it would be interesting to reflect the work of an academic scientist. I wanted the poems to take various forms from note cards, queries, and descriptions to letters. Just as you are interviewing me, the Monsterologist interviews the Loch Ness Monster.

As for the design of the book, that is the work of the art director and Adam McCauley, who did a stunning job. I had nothing to say about its creation, except in response to early versions.
Do you have a favorite poem? If so, will you share?
Oh, dear! Your request reminds me of when one of my children asked which of them I loved the most! Here comes a letter “From the Desk of Count Dracula”:

My Dear Friend,
I'm the Count whom you can count on for hospitality.
When you come to Transylvania, be sure to stay with me.
My ancient castle's gloomy, but you'll have a lovely room,
Conveniently located…close to the family tomb.
Just buy a one-way ticket. There's no need to splurge.
I'd really love to see you. It's an overwhelming urge.
You'll find that I'm a genial host,
but at times I think I'll burst,
unless I drink a bit of blood to satisfy my thirst.
A friendly nip, a little sip is harmless you'll agree.
It's natural and organic, and my castle is smoke free.
Please hurry, hurry, hurry! No need to R.S.V.P.
I can hardly wait to see you. Please come and visit me.
Yours, truly, most cordially,
The Count
The Monsterologist has a terrific web site. You can listen to Bobbi read a number of the poems, play a matching game that uses the monster stamp images from the endpapers, read a Q&A with the Monsterologist, learn more about the author and illustrator, and find advice from some of the monsters themselves.

Finally, you should know that there is a Monsterologist Contest underway. Here are the details.
You may have seen the back of my head, but what about my face?

Starting right now, imagine me! Draw a mask with pencils, markers, crayons or paint! Mold one from papier mache. A council of witches will select the ten best entries. Each will receive a valuable prize.

Next the witches will choose the very best mask of all. I will wear it on Halloween and on Day of the Dead (el dia de los muertos) which I may celebrate in a graveyard in Mexico. Whoever creates that mask gets a signed copy of my memoir.

Be sure to send your name and address with the mask. Print neatly. Don’t miss a chance to be the witches choice.

All entries must be mailed no later than Nov. 13th 2009 to:

PO BOX 113
Thanks to Bobbi for stopping by to chat about The Monsterologist. If you haven't seen it yet, what are you waiting for? I promise you'll love it.

Text copyright c Bobbi Katz
Art copyright c Adam McCauley
These images and poems have been used with permission.
All rights reserved Sterling Publishing Company, Inc

Monday, October 26, 2009

Nonfiction Monday - Let It Begin Here!

While I dutifully studied history and memorized dates, names and places in high school and college, it wasn't my favorite subject. That's unfortunate, because history learning should be filled with STORY. I suppose that's why I was so enamored of Schoolhouse Rock. The videos combined music and story in a way that made me want to know more. Here's an example.

What gets lost in all these accounts, whether cleverly told in song or written in textbooks, is the story of the people involved (some might say the little people), and absolute horror that is war. Let It Begin Here!: April 19, 1775, The Day the American Revolution Began, written and illustrated by Don Brown, puts readers on the Lexington Green with the militia, facing a column of regulars (redcoats) three times their size. Brown puts a human face on the events of that day, tracing the skirmishes at Lexington, Concord, Meriam's Corner, Bloody Curve, and Menotomy (today's Arlington). When the regulars finally reached the safety of waterfront and a nearby British warship, the "road between Charlestown and Concord lay strewn with dead men and horses. Seventy-three redcoats died and 174 were wounded. The Yankees suffered 49 dead and 39 wounded."

It is this day, these events, this start to the war that Brown has described so clearly. It's not an easy story to read. The pictures are filled with the bloody imagery of war--bullets fly through victims from both sides, members of the militia are bayoneted by the regulars, a redcoat is killed with a hatchet. War is not pretty or romantic. It's an ugly thing. Brown has managed to capture these notions in his illustrations without too much gory detail.

While the illustrations on every page help bring the story to life, it is the well-written text that pushes readers forward through the story. The events unfold slowly, but once the fighting begins the story is riveting, and even though we all know how it turns out, a bit unbelievable. The militia assembled on Lexington Green are small in number and led by a man dying of tuberculosis. When dawn arrived, so did the regulars. Spectators gathered around the edges of the green. No one knows who fired the first shot, but that one shot signaled the assembled to begin firing. Before long the green was filled with smoke from the muskets. As that battle ended, here's what happened next.
They left the dead and grieving of Lexington. But as the regulars marched the six miles to Concord, thousands of militiamen from surrounding towns rallied. The lanthorns Revere had shone hours earlier had set in motion alarm riders, signal shots, and beacon fires that had spread the call to arms everywhere.
It wouldn't be an overstatement to say that the events in the book are pulse-pounding. I began racing through the text to see what would happen next.

In an interview in SLJ, Brown had this to say about the book.
We're connected to the past by a shared humanity. You can make a 21st-century connection to a loss in the 18th century because you're human. It doesn't matter if it's the Babylonian War or the Revolutionary War. [The events have a] greater impact if you use people to tell the story. The Battle of Lexington and Concord is well documented. You can put names and faces on the people involved. The man who dies on his own stoop in front of his wife and children [in Let It Begin Here!]—that's pretty rough stuff.
This is exactly why I loved this book. The battles at Lexington and Concord ARE well documented, but it's Brown's focus on the individuals involved that makes this book so compelling.

I have only focused here on the day of the battles, but Brown provides several pages of introduction that describe how the colonists got to this point in the first place, as well as a page of resolution that describes what happened to the individuals who took part in the events on April 19th. There is also a bibliography at the end of the book. I found myself wanting only two things from this book that I didn't get--page numbers (why are so many nonfiction picture books without them?!) and a map. Oh how I would have loved a map (even on the endpapers) to trace the path of the day's events.

This book would make a terrific read aloud for 4th and 5th grade students studying the Revolutionary War. Heck, I even think middle school students would be moved by the tale Brown tells. Pair this with the poem Epitaph for a Concord Boy by Stanley Young, found in Lee Bennett Hopkin's anthology America at War.

Did I mention that I loved this book? Highly recommended.

Book: Let It Begin Here!: April 19, 1775, The Day the American Revolution Began
Author/Illustrator: Don Brown
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Publication Date: December, 2008
Pages: 64 pages
Grades: 4-8
ISBN: 978-1596432215
Source of Book: Personal copy.

This post was written for Nonfiction Monday. Hosting this week is Roberta at the blog Wrapped in Foil. Do take some time to check out all the great posts highlighting nonfiction this week.

Monday Poetry Stretch - The Zeno

Drum roll please ....
For this week's poetry stretch I am very happy to be introducing a NEW poetic form invented by Pat Lewis. Here's Pat's explanation.
I've invented what I had called a “hailstone," after the mathematical "hailstone sequence." It has nothing to do with Mary O'Neill's Hailstones and Halibut Bones, but it would no doubt instantly be confused with it. Hence, "hailstone" is problematic. So I call the form a "zeno," so named for Zeno, the philosopher of paradoxes, especially the dichotomy paradox, according to which getting anywhere involves first getting half way there and then again halfway there, and so on ad infinitum. I'm dividing each line in half of the previous one. Here's my description of a zeno:

A 10-line verse form with a repeating syllable count of 8,4,2,1,4,2,1,4,2,1. The rhyme scheme is abcdefdghd.
Pat was even kind enough to send along a few examples.
Sea Song
A song streaming a thousand miles
may sound like a
but it’s only
love’s bulk-
coming out of
the blue...

Why Wolves Howl
Gray wolves do not howl at the moon.
Across a vast
they oboe in
Fur-face, I am
all a-

The great horned owl sits in the tree
answering each
swivel-neck and
of night-

Hags’ Rags
One Halloween two goblin girls,
got an
to make a quick
Now who can tell
which is

A Thanksgiving Custom
November: An American
tradition you
can count
Once the family
like clockwork, they
start to

All poems ©J. Patrick Lewis. All rights reserved.
So, that's the challenge for the week. What kind of Zeno will you write? Leave me a note about your poem and I'll post the results here later this week.

Special thanks to Pat Lewis for sharing and inspiring us this week.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Poetry Stretch Surprise!

I am thrilled to report that for this week's poetry stretch I have the great honor of debuting a NEW poetic form. Invented by Pat Lewis, it is a form that warms my mathematical heart. Here's an example to whet your appetite.
What a Day

Out of dark’s rougher neighborhoods,
Morning stumbles,
none too
that thief,
who stole her work
of art—

Poem ©J. Patrick Lewis. All rights reserved.
I hope you'll join me here tomorrow for the unveiling of the Zeno.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Poetry Friday - The Animals Are Leaving

My son has been reading books about endangered and extinct animals. While I love the books he reads, I'm partial to some sad but moving poetry on the subject. Here's one I particularly like.
The Animals are Leaving
by Charles Harper Webb

One by one, like guests at a late party
They shake our hands and step into the dark:
Arabian ostrich; Long-eared kit fox; Mysterious starling.

One by one, like sheep counted to close our eyes,
They leap the fence and disappear into the woods:
Atlas bear; Passenger pigeon; North Island laughing owl;
Great auk; Dodo; Eastern wapiti; Badlands bighorn sheep.

Read the poem in its entirety.
For more poems of extinction look for Swan Song, written by J. Patrick Lewis and illustrated by Christopher Wormell. (You can preview this title at Google Books.)

The round up is being hosted by Kelly Herold at Big A little a. 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. You'll find a cornucopia of double dactyls. Happy poetry Friday all!

Poetry Stretch Results - Double Dactyls Galore!

The challenge this week was to write a double dactyl. Who knew this form would inspire so much poetry! Here are the results.
Pat from Knowledge, Ltd. left this poem in the comments.
    Physicist Heisenberg
    Wrote a new Planck,

    Constantly stressed the Un-
    Certainty Principle,
    Leaving some scientists
    Drawing a blank.
Last week over at Political Verses, Elaine Magliaro published two double dactyls, one by Julie Larios and the other an original.

Julie Larios of The Drift Record left this poem in the comments.
    Diggery Dockery
    Emily Dickinson
    wrote about Nobody,
    frigates and fame.

    Flies in most poetry
    buzz us, but Emily's
    flies aren't the same.
Kate Coombs of Book Aunt left these poems in the comments.
    Daisies and daffodils
    Eleanor Roosevelt
    Rode on a bicycle
    Down to the lake.

    Sixty-four suffragettes
    Galloped behind her as
    Eleanor taught them to
    Make no mistake.

    Jefferson Cavendish
    Fiddled and faddled and
    Loitered and whined.

    Ravenous tigers came
    Leaping to eat him, so
    Jefferson learned how to
    Move his behind.

    Benjamin Rosenbaum
    Lounges in Switzerland
    Writing a book.

    Characters circle him
    Tugging at strangenesses,
    Whispering, "Look!"
Elaine Magliaro of Wild Rose Reader and the Blue Rose Girls shares three double dactyls at BRG.
    Jane Yolen left this poem in the comments.
      Emily Dickinson
      Dressed all in white while she
      Eschewed all prose.

      Scribbling poems that
      Nobody would publish
      That all could be sung to
      The song “Yellow Rose.”
    Amy Ludwig VanDerwater left this poem in the comments. *Blushing* THANK YOU, AMY!
      Internet Spinternet
      Tricia the blogerette
      poses her poem posts
      into the sky.

      Teachers, librarians,
      mothers, grammarians
      gather words gratefully.
      “This one I’ll try.”
    Harriet of spynotes left these poems in the comments.
      Tippety Typety
      Poe (Edgar Allen)
      Sat down at his desk
      At a quarter past four.

      Moaning and groaning
      And clutching his stomach
      “Oh WHY did I eat so much
      crow? NEVERMORE!”

      Knickety Knockety
      Ludwig von Beethoven
      Wanted to write just one
      Symphony more

      In want of ideas, he
      Sat down to ponder,
      When “Dum dum dum DUM”
      Came a rap at the door.

      Flippety Flappety
      Orville and Wilbur, they
      Wanted to ride a bike
      Into the sky.

      They fiddled and tinkered,
      Fell over and over.
      They made some mistakes, sure.
      But now we can fly!
    Carol Weis visited for the first time and left this poem in the comments. Welcome Carol!
      Xanadu Shmanadu
      Samuel Coleridge
      created his Kubla
      throughout the night.

      But oh! the intruder
      a damsel from Porlock
      who found the poor poet
      high as a kite.
    At her blog Political Verses, Elaine Magliaro shares a poem entitled Better Duck...It's Dick: A Poem about Dick Cheney's Hunting Prowess. BEST TITLE EVER!

    Jone at Check It Out shares a poem inspired by Skippyjon Jones.
    My poem was inspired by the recent spate of dinosaur books I've been reading with my son. Just in case you need the pronunciation of the dinosaur name, it's KET-sahl-koh-AHT-lus!
    Quetzalcoatlus the
    Mexican dinosaur
    what a surprise!

    Pterosaur terrible
    size unbelievable
    king of the skies!
    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, October 21, 2009

    Thematic Book List - Monstrously Good Poetry

    I generally don't write book lists for the holidays, as there are just too many books to consider. However, in the last few weeks I've been reading some terrific "monster" poetry, so I've decided that this is the perfect time to share a short list of some favorites.

    Spooky ABC, written by Eve Merriam and illustrated by Lane Smith - Originally published in 1987 as Halloween ABC, this book is haunted by bats, nightmares, skeletons and loads of other spooky things. Here's an excerpt from the poem for the letter W, entitled Witchery.
    Which, which,
    which woeful bane?
    Juice of the hemlock
    or brimstone with rain?

    Which, which,
    which plaguey pox?
    Soup bowls of toadstools
    or mouse broth in crocks?
    This poem is accompanied by a bubbling cauldron with clawed feet. *Shiver* The illustrations by Lane Smith are just as terrific as the poems. (Read a short review.)

    Grimericks, written by Susan Pearson and illustrated by Gris Grimly - Limericks on all manner of monsters appear in this fun volume of poems. It begins with this poem.
    Dear Reader, please lend me your ear.
    If ghosts, ghouls, and goblins you fear,
    don't open this book.
    No--don't even look!
    There are spooky things hiding in here.
    You'll find incompetent and unlucky witches, mummies, skeletons, banshees, and more. Grimly's illustrations are full of (appropriately!) grim humor. At Google Books you can preview some of the images and poems.

    Making Friends With Frankenstein: A Monstrous Book of Poems and Pictures, written and illustrated by Colin McNaughton - How can you not love a book with an opening poem entitled Cockroach Sandwich?
    Cockroach sandwich
    For my lunch,
    Hate the taste
    But love the crunch!
    There are poems on monster parties, cyclops, bullies, an ooze-zombie, doom merchant, ogre's, a few dinosaurs, and LOTS more. This one is just chock full of fun stuff. Ode to the Invisible Man always makes me chuckle, and Transylvania Dreaming makes me want to sleep with the light on.

    The Gargoyle on the Roof, written by Jack Prelutsky and illustrated by Peter Sís - Beautifully illustrated by Sís, this one includes poems that run the gamut from funny to spooky. You'll meet vampires, werewolves, gargoyles, gremlins, a basilisk, the Headless Horseman, a lonely troll, and more. Here's the first stanza from one of the poems.
    My Sister is A Werewolf

    My sister is a werewolf,
    It's disquieting and strange.
    One moonlit night I watched her
    Undergo a sudden change.
    Her arms and face grew hairy,
    And her voice became a roar.
    In some ways she looked better
    Than she'd ever looked before.
    Monster Motel, written and illustrated by Douglas Florian - This volume contains all sorts of fantastical creatures, brought to life in word and illustration. You'll meet the Fabled Deerz, Gazzygoo, Crim, Purple Po, Teek, Brilly, Tweet, and more. I'm rather partial to the Bleen. (I'm nasty and I'm cruel./I steal, I lie,/I make you cry/I'm just a ghastly ghoul.) Doesn't the monster motel sound like a rather interesting place to be?!

    Monster Museum, written by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by Gris Grimly - What happens when a group of children follow a docent (an undead one at that!) through a monster museum? Are Frankenstein, Dracula, Bigfoot, Medusa and others wax replicas? Or are they something else? Grimly's illustrations are terrific and reward those who take the time to study them. Here's the beginning of one of my favorite poems.
    Frankenstein's Monster
    They gave me some bolts,
    They gave me some jolts.
    They gave me a great deal of fame.

    They gave me a bride,
    And even some pride.
    But they never did give me a name.
    You Read to Me, I'll Read to You: Very Short Scary Tales to Read Together, written by Mary Ann Hoberman and illustrated by Michael Emberley - This is the fourth title in the very popular series. I know the title says tales, but they're all written in rhyme and so much fun to read aloud with a friend! Included here are spooky tales of mummies, skeletons, witches, zombies, ghosts, and more.

    Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich and Frankenstein Takes the Cake, both written and illustrated by Adam Rex - Kids will love the high jinks and hilarity found when Frankenstein makes a sandwich, Dracula gets spinach stuck in his teeth, the Phantom of the Opera gets an annoying song stuck in his head, Frankenstein gets married, the Headless Horseman writes a blog, and so many other wonderful things! Don't miss either of these gems. There are just as many jokes in the illustrations as the poems, so do take the time to enjoy them. (Read an interview with Adam to learn more about these books.)

    The Monsterologist: A Memoir in Rhyme, written by Bobbi Katz and illustrated by Adam McCauley - Meet some of the world's most famous monsters -- Count Dracula, Godzilla, King Kong, Medusa, Grendel, the Loch Ness Monster, the Yeti -- in this collection of poems in the form of letters, notes, interviews and other objects from a lifetime of studying monsters. Here's an excerpt from the poem Meet a Monsterologist.
    But ...
    if monsters are what interest you,
    the how and why of what they do,
    I know the facts: What's false, what's true,
    since I'm a monsterologist.

    I've traveled all around the world
    to study and observe.
    At times I have been terrified
    but I've never lost my nerve.
    Check out the Monsterologist web site for a bit of fun. You can also read an interview with Bobbi Katz.

    Imaginary Menagerie: A Book of Curious Creatures, written by Julie Larios and illustrated by Julie Pashkis - While not monsters, the poems and illustrations in this book highlight creatures inspired by mythology and folklore. There are some trolls and hobgoblins, but the dragon, centaur, naga, and other imaginary creatures are just as interesting.

    Knock on Wood: Poems About Superstitions, written by Janet Wong and illustrated by Julie Pashkis - Superstitions abound this time of year, so this seems a fitting title to wrap up the list. Readers will find poems about black cats, garlic, broken mirrors, the number 13, and more. The final pages of the book describe each of the superstitions.

    There you have it, a few of my favorite books of monster poetry. Did I miss one of your favorites? If so, please let me know about it. I'd like to check out some of your poetic recommendations on this topic.

    Poetry Learning Lab Launched!

    I'm only a week behind, but just in case you haven't heard this great news either, here's a bit of the press release.
    Poetry Foundation Launches Online Poetry Learning Lab
    New educational, media-rich poetry experience for teachers and students

    CHICAGO — The Poetry Foundation invites teachers and students to tap into its new online resource, the Poetry Learning Lab. Hosted on, the Poetry Learning Lab is designed for anyone who wants to learn more about poetry.

    A dynamic resource for teachers, students, and learners of every age, the Poetry Learning Lab has been developed by the Poetry Foundation in conjunction with a team of education experts—including writing and literature teachers, librarians, and poets—to provide an immersive educational experience with poetry. By allowing students to experiment with different ways of reading poems—as text, sound, and visual artifacts—the Learning Lab provides readers of all levels with the opportunity to practice close reading and listening skills and to think broadly and analytically about poetry and poetics.
    I've spent some time exploring the Poetry Learning Lab and am thrilled with all it has to offer. The tag line under the title reads "Begin in Delight, End in Wisdom." Best of all, the descriptive summary reads "Developed for teachers, students, and learners of every age, this section of the site encourages readers of all levels to immerse themselves in poetry."

    On the first page you'll find a column of links to such things as the term of the day (today it's textual criticism), poem talk podcasts, Poetry Out Loud, poem guides, poetic essays, and a discussion guide for POETRY magazine. The main body of the page contains featured poems and resources. There is much here to explore, so do take some time to check out this amazing new resource.

    Thanks to KidsPoetLaureat (that would be Mary Ann Hoberman) for the tweet!

    A Place for Wonder - Chatting with the Authors

    Today I'm thrilled to be hosting Georgia Heard and Jennifer McDonough, the authors of A Place of Wonder: Reading and Writing Nonfiction in the Primary Grades.

    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 to create a classroom environment where students’ questions and observations are part of daily work.

    I've been sharing excerpts of the book with my students for a few weeks now, and they've been intrigued and excited about the ideas presented. Since these are preservice teachers, they also have a lot of questions, many of them about process. They asked, "How do you do this in the classroom?" I decided to let the experts answer. Here are Georgia and Jennifer talking about the nitty gritty issues related to reading and writing nonfiction in the elementary classroom.

    Q1: The Benjamin School seems like an extraordinary place for learning. How do you imagine these ideas working in a public school?
    The majority of my work has been in public schools, so working in an independent school was new to me. In my experience, kids are kids – they are the same everywhere –with different life experiences -- but one of the major differences between public independent schools is class size. Most public schools I’ve worked in have as many as thirty plus kids in one class, which no doubt can be daunting -- even for the most experienced teacher.

    The wonder centers and the heart wonder writing work pretty much the same with a larger class – the challenge is in the research wonder writing – specifically, managing thirty kids as each one pursues a different topic. We touch on this in the book, but the best piece of advice we can give is to be sure you are prepared. Spend some time making sure you have resources on their topics: gather books from the school and public libraries; print out pages from specific web sites; and post-it -note pages in magazines. If you can find a volunteer – a parent or a colleague -- to assist you during the research station days – it will help you confer with most of the children. Even with twenty kids, it can seem chaotic at times so just remember that independent exploration and thinking is messy – but trust that what you’re inviting your students to do will make a profound difference in their learning and thinking.
    Q2: Given the emphasis on testing, which you described in the introduction, how can teachers help others (team members, administration) see the value in this type of instruction?
    As we write in our book, we were surprised at the discordance between what most tests measure and what many state standards recommend. Many state standards recognize the importance of setting up classroom environments that encourage discovery and curiosity. Copy the standards we cite on pps. 4 and 5, and at the front of every chapter, in A Place of Wonder: Reading and Writing Nonfiction in the Primary Grades, and show them to team members and administrators. Even if they can’t see the value in this type of instruction, if they look at what state standards recommend, they might be able to understand it within the larger educational context.

    Teachers with little time, because of testing, can still create places of wonder in their classrooms. Teachers can set up wonder centers as an activity in the morning when kids first arrive, or as after-school activities. You can write a question on a chart, and invite students to write their thoughts and answers throughout the day as a kind of shared writing. A Place of Wonder: Reading and Writing Nonfiction in the Primary Grades, we name numerous centers and activities that teachers can put in place without giving up curriculum time. But the bigger question is how can teachers find their voices, and make a stand as to what we value in the curriculum for young students.
    Q3: The strategies shared all took place in early elementary classrooms. Can you imagine this approach in the upper elementary grades (4 and 5), and if so, would it look the same or different?
    Encouraging wonder and curiosity in the classroom is not just for the primary grades. If you think about the genres of writing – poetry, fiction, nonfiction, essays, newspaper articles, etc. – the authors of those genres speak about getting their ideas from observation and wonder. A unit of study on personal essays could have a wonder component. We might start with asking students if they have a question or a wonder -- that has been persistent and important in some way to them–that they could explore in a personal essay. Students could also keep wonder boxes – or wonder notebooks – of questions and ideas they want to pursue in independent projects. Teachers could write a question – pertaining to the curriculum, or not, -- on an easel, and kids could write down their theories and ideas during the day. And of course, their research writing could be fueled by their wonders.
    Q4: You do have a wonderful book list in the Resources section that offers some great suggestions for classroom libraries. However, for a teacher just beginning, do you have recommendations on areas of wonder or topics that should be “first purchases” in building a library?
    Many of the books we cite in the first two chapters are available in school or public libraries. We suggest purchasing The Wise Old Woman and Her Secret by Eve Merriam to read aloud when you’re introducing setting up a wonder world, and the wondering centers. And Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox is a great example of answering a heart wonder question. Most of the “first purchases” we would recommend would be in the nonfiction information book category. The kids love the Kingfisher and DK publishing series. The Kingfisher: I Wonder Why series books are filled with kid-like questions such as I Wonder Why Zippers Have Teeth: And Other Questions About Inventions. The illustrations, in both the Kingfisher and the DK series, are engaging and the text is fairly easy to read. These books are also great for examining non-fiction text features as they contain: table of contents; indexes; captions; fun facts and diagrams. These books are always in book baggies because the kids love to read them.
    Q5: Is it possible to involve kids in the planning of the nonfiction collection?
    When you’re ordering nonfiction books for your classroom library read the book selections out loud to your students to spark interest in nonfiction books, and to give students choice. When Jen’s students get the Scholastic Book Club order form, she gathers the class and tells them that they will be building their classroom library together, and asks what books they would like to see in their library.
    Q6: You mentioned that kids got excited about the nonfiction titles through the organization activity. Does the excitement for these books ever fade? If so, how do you keep them interested in nonfiction, especially when so much emphasis is placed on fiction?
    In our experience, kids love to browse nonfiction books especially if they have engaging photographs and interesting text features in them. Many kids prefer nonfiction books to fiction. One way to keep kids engaged is to have nonfiction read alouds. You can read a variety of nonfiction texts out loud -- narrative nonfiction, informational nonfiction, even parts of books and magazines – and as you’re reading you can point out interesting features and facts. There are so many well-written nonfiction texts that will keep kids’ attention, and make them eager to explore more.
    Q7: Your chart on nonfiction book features was very helpful. I’ve noticed, however, that a lot of the nonfiction picture books today don’t have a Table of Contents. Many don’t have page numbers. How do you help kids negotiate and/or understand these differences?
    You’re right; many nonfiction books don’t have all the features, such as a Table of Contents and page numbers, which we describe on the chart. When we give mini-lessons on nonfiction book features, our goal is to give kids all the possible features that a nonfiction book might have, and why authors would include features such as page numbers or a Table of Contents. We want young authors to be able to make informed decisions as to what kinds of features they would like to include in their nonfiction books, and to understand the reasons why.
    Q8: Can you tell us a bit about how your ideas for this collaboration came about?
    When my son was younger, he inspired me by how curious he was -- especially about the natural world. During every outing, he learned something new and he asked so many questions about how the world works. I’ve written and spoken about this especially with poetry but with all writing really – how poems, novels –- come from curiosity, close observation and the freedom to explore. I believe that young children are natural poets because they have a poetic way of looking at the world.

    When my son attended school for the first time, I was surprised by how that poetic way of looking at the world, the appetite for learning and curiosity, was almost viewed as a negative and a distraction. The structure and curriculum of school seemed to want him to do the opposite – to rein his unbounded enthusiasm in. So, I began to investigate early childhood and primary grade classrooms and environments, and realized that particularly with No Child Left Behind – many primary classrooms were not places of exploration and curiosity because teachers were under so much pressure to plan their curricula around state tests. I was so grateful to meet Jen, who was my son’s teacher, who felt the same way as I did, and we teamed up to explore creating a wonder-filled world for primary children. So, it was a personal decision to pursue the idea -- not just for my son -- but for all young children.
    Q9: Ultimately, what do you hope teachers will take away from this book?
    We hope to develop habits in children that will last a lifetime and help develop intelligent, alive human beings, who value the beauty of the planet, are fascinated and interested in the world, and ask questions and live a life connected to other people and the global community.
    Thanks to Georgia and Jennifer for taking the time to answer these questions. If you have some of your own, you may just win the chance to have them answered live and in (virtual) person! As a special treat, the blog tour is wrapping up with a live webcast on Oct. 26th at 8 p.m. EST. This is an amazing opportunity for you to join a small group discussion with Georgia and Jennifer. Participants in this live session will be chosen specifically from the folks who comment at stops on the blog tour. That means if you comment on this post or at A Year of Reading or Carol’s Corner, you can win seat in the session.

    If you would like to participate in the webcast, please be sure to indicate that in the comments. (Don't worry! No special software or equipment needed – just a phone and your computer!) I will select five folks at random on Friday and will send your info along to the folks at Stenhouse.

    This is a fabulous book with lots practical ideas for use in the classroom. I hope you find it as inspiring as I have.

    Monday, October 19, 2009

    Monday Poetry Stretch - Double Dactyl

    A few weeks ago at my poetry workshop I was challenged to write a double dactyl. I still haven't managed to do it, so now I'm giving myself a deadline in the hopes that I'll think of something.

    A double dactyl consists of two quatrains in this form:
    1 - double dactyl nonsense phrase (like Higgeldy Piggeldy)
    2 - double dactyl of a person's name
    3 - double dactyl
    4 - one dactyl plus a stressed syllable (/ _ _ / )

    5 - double dactyl
    6 - double dactyl
    7 - double dactyl
    8 - one dactyl plus a stressed syllable (/ _ _ / )
    Here are some other helpful notes.
    • A dactyl contains three syllables, one stressed followed by two unstressed (/ _ _ ).
    • Somewhere in the second stanza is a double dactyl formed by a single word (usually).
    • The last lines of the quatrains (4 and 8) must rhyme.
    • Like the clerihew, these are generally written about famous people and are meant to be humorous.
    Phew! I hope this makes sense to you. Writing it in this way helps me to see what the poem should sound like. Here is an example.
    Hans Christian Andersen
    Wrote of a mermaid who
    Swam up on shore.

    There she became somewhat
    Less than amphibious;
    Drowned in the sea-foam 'mid
    Morals galore.
    If my notes aren't helpful, you can find a description of double dactyls at Poetry Base and

    So, there's your challenge. Write a double dactyl (or two) and leave me a note about your poem. I'll post the results here later this week.

    Friday, October 16, 2009

    Poetry Friday - Frost's October

    It's fall and I'm reading Frost again.
    by Robert Frost

    O hushed October morning mild,
    Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
    To-morrow’s wind, if it be wild,
    Should waste them all.
    The crows above the forest call;

    Read the poem in its entirety while you listen to Frost read it.
    The round up is being hosted by Laura Purdie Salas. 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!

    Wednesday, October 14, 2009

    Poetry Stretch Results - Love Letters to the World

    The challenge this week was to write a poem about the thing(s) you love. Wow! This one seemed to really inspire a lot of folks. Here are the somewhat lengthy results. Enjoy!
    Jane Yolen left this poem in the comments.
      This Thing I Love in My Yard

      I loved that great fir tree,
      watched it growing for thirty-eight years.
      It kept walkers on School Street
      from staring into my bedroom windows
      and a resident Downey full of bugs.
      Now there is an empty space
      where a lightning strike
      killed what wind and rain and snow and ice
      and three climbing children
      had never damaged at all.
      But this new space, where the wind blows
      red and gold leaves about
      like crazed autumn dervishes
      is inviting in its own way.
      Dear One, it says, make a stone garden here,
      a place to sit, read, enjoy the sun,
      to contemplate the rambling house
      now that husband and children have left it.
      Put statues here—an owl perhaps, or a plaque,
      slate stones with phrases from poems.
      Emily Dickinson might be best:
      “A word is dead, when it is said,”
      “Tell all the truth but tell it slant,”
      “I’m nobody, who are you?”
      Short, pithy, like the space
      now that the tree is gone.
      Make a monument, a statement,
      make a taradiddle, a fantasy.
      You are good at that.
      And you have less time to do it,
      than the tree that has given you the place.

      © 2009 Jane Yolen, all rights reserved
    Diane also left a poem in the comments.
      Appreciating the Rarae Aves

      Winter afternoons...
      cold, gray, joyless
      until a flash of cardinal
      red opens my eyes.

      Spring mornings...
      chirps, twitters, love
      songs of early risers gently
      awaken me to possibility.

      Summer dusks...
      in the dash dart of swallows,
      finding proof that every
      creature is a piece in the puzzle.

      Fall evenings...
      far off honks of geese,
      reminders that the
      trip is all worthwhile.
    Shutta Crum left this poem in the comments.
      Sea Song

      I had a life as simple and full as the sea.
      And out of the surf I carried stories—
      wet, and unraveling.

      I had a man who dove into water
      and cradled my heart like a prize.
      I had a child with tides to travel,
      and another with kelpie eyes.

      I had land on a windy cliff,
      and a house that danced as it sang.
      I had cats and dogs that spoke my tongue,
      and a bird that proclaimed my name.

      I had a strong hand clasped in mine,
      and hallowed work to craft.
      I had little hands that followed,
      and mysteries that made us laugh.

      I had a piece of floating ribbon
      plucked from my mother’s hair.
      I had a word of wisdom my father
      found pooled in a magical year.

      I had a friend who died too soon,
      and another who died too late.
      I had brothers and sisters and strangers,
      who waved as they rounded the cape.

      I had a place in my own time,
      and a joy for the labors I sing.
      I had a son, a daughter, and a man,
      and hearts to set a-cradling.

      So make me a promise will you?
      If you should ever speak of me,
      remember what I’ve said:
      I had a life as simple and full as the sea.

      And out of the surf I carried stories—
      wet, and unraveling.
    Julie Larios of The Drift Record shares a poem entitled A Love Poem To.

    Harriet of spynotes left this poem in the comments.
      The Things You Love

      The things you love are harder to hold
      Than the things you don’t.
      The things that aren’t bore their way in,
      and fix to a place you can’t scratch away
      to worry over later.

      But the things you love, the things that are,
      seep in and out of your very pores,
      fill your nostrils and cushion your head:
      the sound of a sleeping child,
      and the way the light falls on the page of
      your favorite book
      in your favorite chair.

      They are your architecture,
      like the house you know so well
      you can see it better blindfolded,
      like the crease of a lover’s elbow,
      the soft damp hollow
      in the base of your son’s neck,
      like the view from the roof
      on the Fourth of July.

      They travel with you, the things you love.
      You take them when you walk in the woods
      in the fall, to smell the leaves underfoot,
      and maybe pick an apple
      or two.

      They soar over your head,
      scudding like clouds, which
      taunt you with shapes that disappear
      when you look at them.

      They wrap around you,
      Curl you up inside
      when you go to sleep at night.

      The things you love are your worst sorrow
      and your greatest joy at once.
      They are your breath, your eyes.
      They live in your blood and
      just below
      your speaking place
      before your lips pronounce, “joy.”
    Susan Taylor Brown of Susan Writes shares a poem entitled Four-legged Love.
    Laura Purdie Salas also left a poem in the comments.
      My October Wish List

      Please give me
      dogs leaning out cars, ears flapping like windy-day laundry
      clattery leaves to shuffle through
      clear x-rays

      And I’d like
      the chunk-click of a glossy red stapler
      tang of smoky cheddar and bonfires
      and a singer’s voice breaking as 8,000 hearts break with it
      While you’re at it, may I have
      cinnamon tea and mattress warmer
      thumbs kneading my back, stony pleasure rippling outward
      while winter’s white bees swarm the window

      and shorter days to make October moments endless

      --Laura Purdie Salas, all rights reserved
    Kate Coombs of Book Aunt left this poem in the comments.
      Greens I Love

      The wave's green curl, more temporary
      and translucent than a snowflake.
      The small crisp face
      of a green onion, sliced.
      Rough green of my couch,
      where I read, looking up
      to see green vibrating
      outside the glass doors.
      The green of my mother's eyes,
      faded like a fence
      after years of rain.
      The green giggle of a meadow
      tickled by bees.
      The brash green of plastic—
      raincoats and sippy cups,
      toy monsters, balloons,
      pretending to be real.
      The show-off greens
      of a June tree juggling sunlight.
      Frog green stretching
      across air like a shout,
      then gone
      into green water.
      The smallest shoot bursting
      through a concrete crack
      like a skinny kid
      karate-chopping six boards.
    Jone of Check It Out shares a poem entitled Early Morning Things I Love.
    I stopped and started several times, but couldn't get my childhood home out of mind, so that's what I wrote about.
    Still Loved

    I miss the clothes line
    sheets snapping in the wind
    smelling of sunshine and lilacs
    though that lilac bush is long gone

    I miss the crabapple, mulberry,
    weeping willow and white birches
    yet it’s the Rockefeller Center-worthy
    firs that hold my imagination
    My brother once jumped his pony over them
    now they tower far above the house

    I miss the lily of the valley,
    white trilliums, black-eyed Susans,
    Queen Anne’s lace, pussy willows,
    cattails and silver dollars
    flowers of my youth

    I miss the wafting scents of manure,
    fresh cut grass, spring in bloom,
    summer rain, leaves in fall,
    fires in winter

    I miss the snow,
    the blank canvas
    wrought by each new storm

    I miss the uneven slate floor,
    naked baseboards,
    drafty hall, narrow stairs
    squeaky closet doors,
    the wabi sabi of the home
    my father built

    I miss who we were there
    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.

    Monday, October 12, 2009

    Monday Poetry Stretch - Love Letter to the World

    Rupert Brooke wrote a poem entitled The Great Lover in which he listed "the hundred and one everyday things that gave [the poet] joy (Poetry Foundation)." Here is an excerpt.
    These I have loved:
            White plates and cups, clean-gleaming,
    Ringed with blue lines; and feathery, faery dust;
    Wet roofs, beneath the lamp-light; the strong crust
    Of friendly bread; and many-tasting food;
    Rainbows; and the blue bitter smoke of wood;
    And radiant raindrops couching in cool flowers;
    And flowers themselves, that sway through sunny hours,
    Dreaming of moths that drink them under the moon;
    Then, the cool kindliness of sheets, that soon
    Smooth away trouble; and the rough male kiss
    Of blankets; grainy wood; live hair that is
    Shining and free; blue-massing clouds; the keen
    Unpassioned beauty of a great machine;
    The good smell of old clothes; and other such—
    The comfortable smell of friendly fingers,
    Hair's fragrance, and the musty reek that lingers
    About dead leaves and last year's ferns....

    Read the poem in its entirety.
    Now, I could easily write a list of all the things I love, but it would be far from poetry. So, the challenge for this week is to write your own love letter to the world highlighting all the things you love, from the exotic to the mundane, the ugly to the beautiful, and everything else in between. Don't worry, it needn't be 101 items long! Leave me a note about your poem and I'll post the results here later this week.

    Nonfiction Monday - Slap, Squeak & Scatter

    A few years ago Betsy Bird wrote, "It must be very frustrating to work in the field of cut-paper picture books these days. I imagine your average collage artist will spend countless hours trying to get an illustration or scene just right in their book. At long last they will sigh, wipe the sweat from their forehead, and go out to treat themselves to a bagel or muffin. On the way to the bakery, however, they might pass a bookstore and there, propped up prominently in the window, will sit a book by Steve Jenkins. It has to sting. I mean, the guy is phenomenal."

    Okay, time for a confession. This is how I feel when I read reviews that Betsy has written. Honestly, once she's given a book an amazingly thorough once-over, how much can others (like me!) really add to the conversation? That's why I was at once thrilled and just a wee bit disappointed when she covered Steve Jenkins' new book, Never Smile At a Monkey. As usual, Betsy is right on point in her commentary, so do take some time to head on over and read her review.

    Instead of writing a review that would simply echo Betsy's sentiments, I thought I'd highlight an older Jenkins title that you might not be familiar with.
    Slap, Squeak & Scatter: How Animals Communicate, written and illustrated by Steve Jenkins, tells the story of how animals send messages in a myriad of ways. Here's how the book begins.
    Animals, like people, have important things to tell one another. The may need to warn of approaching danger or let others in their group know where to find food. They may want to protect their territory, keep their family together, or find a mate. Sending and receiving these kinds of messages is called communication.
    In the pages that follow, Jenkins highlights how animals warn one another of danger, declare their desire to reproduce, attempt to keep their groups /families together, find their offspring, tell others where food is located, mark their territory, and more. Some of the ways animals communicate are listed below. See if you can figure out what each display is meant to communicate. (Answers at the end of this post.)
    • A beavers slaps its tail on the water.
    • A mole rats bangs its head on the roof of its tunnel.
    • A wolf flattens its ears and lowers its body to the ground.
    • A ring-tailed lemur walks through tall grass with its tail high in the air.
    • A house cat rubs its head against its owner's legs.
    The pages in the book describe these animals and others. You'll find mammals, insects, arachnids, amphibians, birds and fish. A short descriptive paragraph describes each animal's behavior and how that behavior specifically aids in communication. The illustrations are pure Jenkins, depicting animals in colors, patterns and textures so real they belie their paper origins.

    I've reviewed a number of Jenkins' books here, so it's no secret I'm a huge fan. The only real flaw in this book is the lack of endnotes with additional information on the animal subjects. This is one of the highlights of his later books, and with this title I find myself wanting more information about some of the more unfamiliar animals, like the Klipspringer antelope, chaffinch, barking tree frog, flashlight fish, and blue-footed boobies. Despite this weakness, readers will find the text engaging, well-organized, easy to read, and highly informative. Recommended.

    Book: Slap, Squeak & Scatter: How Animals Communicate
    Author/Illustrator: Steve Jenkins
    Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
    Publication Date: April, 2001
    Pages: 32 pages
    Grades: K-5
    ISBN: 0618033769
    Source of Book: Personal copy.

    This post was written for Nonfiction Monday. Hosting this week is Jennifer of the Jean Little Library. Do take some time to check out all the great posts highlighting nonfiction this week.

    Answers: Beaver - warning of danger, Mole rat - tells others it is coming, Wolf - submitting to a stronger wolf, Ring-tailed lemur - a flag to keep track of group members , House cat - marking its territory (the human belongs to it!).

    Sunday, October 11, 2009

    Blogging Kidlit - What Do YOU Want to Know?

    MotherReader was kind enough to invite me to sit on a panel at the KidLitosphere Conference this week. I'll be joining Mary Lee from A Year of Reading, Jennie of Biblio File, and Melissa of Book Nut. There will be quite a range of ideas discussed in the 10 minutes allotted to each panelist, with plenty of time (20 minutes) for Q&A at the end. Here's (tentatively) how it's shaping up.
    Mary Lee is taking the teacher/blogger angle and may talk about: (1) the joys of co-blogging; (2) allowing your blog to evolve and become more than just a book blog; and (3) the importance of knowing your audience.

    Jennie is tackling the question of turning blogging into professional reviewing. She may also address issues of blogger jealousy and cliquish-ness, especially when it comes to the adult/kidlit book blog divide.

    Melissa is going to discuss the publicist/blogger angle and how it affects her writing. She's also going to cover the 48 Hour Reading Challenge and maybe a bit about the wider book blogger world.
    That just leaves me. Since I'm quite fond of organized participation, I'm going to talk about weekly events like Poetry Friday and Nonfiction Monday.

    Whether you're coming to the conference or following from afar, I'd love to know what questions you might have about these or other weekly events in the kidlitosphere. Please leave your questions, thoughts, comments or other discussion ideas for me and I'll see what I can work in to my 10 minutes or otherwise share with the panel members. Thanks for your help!