Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Award Winners and Poetry

I know everyone is writing about ALA midwinter and all the awards announced yesterday. Have you taken stock of the poetry on the list? Here's a recap from a poetry perspective.
Coretta Scott King Book Awards - Author Honors
The Great Migration: Journey to the North, written by Eloise Greenfield and illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist
Never Forgotten, written by Patricia C. McKissack and illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon 

Pura Belpré Author Award Winner AND William C. Morris Finalist
Under the Mesquite, written by Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Pura Belpré Author Honor Book 
Hurricane Dancers: The First Caribbean Pirate Shipwreck, by Margarita Engle

John Newbery Medal Honor Book
Inside Out and Back Again, by Thanhha Lai
This is not a bad showing for poetry. Check out all the winners at the 20102 ALA Youth Media Awards page.

Monday Poetry Stretch (On a Tuesday) - Homework

I've had a hard time getting my homework done these days. Over the weekend my son asked why I still have homework if I'm not in school anymore. Well, technically, I am still in school (and will be in school until they drag me out kicking and screaming), though he doesn't see it this way. I did try to explain that sometimes people just need to bring their work home. My homework consisted of reading through a stack of poetry books published in 2011. Not a bad assignment as far as I'm concerned.

My students are complaining about homework, though they're doing it. My son is complaining about his. (He's doing his too!) So, now that we've hit mid-year (academically), let's write about the homework that's dragging us down. Perhaps someone out there will write an ode to homework that's actually positive!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Monday Poetry Stretch - Like LEMONADE or Lawson

Okay, I know it's Tuesday (and late on Tuesday), but classes started yesterday and I got a bit behind. Please forgive me!

I have been reading and rereading Bob Raczka's book LEMONADE: AND OTHER POEMS SQUEEZED FROM A SINGLE WORD. I'm really impressed by the way he used each word to provide the constraints for the lipogram he wrote. The letters from each word are the only letters allowed in the poem ABOUT that word. It's elegant and probably very difficult to pull off, but we're going to try! For a bit of inspiration, here's one of my favorite poems from the book.



So, there's your challenge for the week. Pick a word, any word, and use the letters in it to write a poem about that word. Leave me a note about your poem and I'll share the results later this week.

I was thinking a bit about Jane's comment that this exercise if more like Boggle than poetry. It's not a bad comparison given the constraints. If you need a little more wiggle room, try the form of lipogram favored by JonArno Lawson in A VOWELLER'S BESTIARY. This alphabet book is based on vowel combiations rather than initial letters. The lipograms in this book exclude certain vowels  from each set and include each of the vowels in the word. Here's an example.
Excerpt from  "Moose"
(p. 30) 
Yellow-toothed wolves
lope somewhere close, rove homeless over broken slopes,
overwhelm moose's forest home.
Moose seldom welcome wolves.
In this case, the poet is limited only to vowels and vowel combinations, not limited to using only the letters found in the word. Feel free to try this approach if it works for you. Either way, i guess we're writing lipograms!

Monday, January 09, 2012

Resources on Pinterest

I blame my students for seducing me, and Loreen Leedy for finally convincing me to take the plunge. Let me back up. Have you read the post Pinterest for nonfiction (and everything else)! by Loreen Leedy? Leedy has a new book coming out called SEEING SYMMETRY. She has a Pinterest board dedicated to Seeing Symmetry. The images she has found are very cool. I'm already thinking about how I can incorporate these ideas in math this semester.

So, based on Loreen's post, I asked her to invite me to Pinterest. I've only started pinning, but what you'll find are largely resources devoted to teaching, though I do have a board for 2012 books I can't wait to read.  Here are a few links to my boards.
My Pinterest Account (other boards include foldables, classroom organization, making teaching easier, bulletin board)

If you like this idea and don't have an account, send me a note and I'll invite you.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Top Five List Continued

Okay, here's the recap. In my last post I began the excruciating task of picking my 5 favorite books of 2011. I had to leave for a meeting before I finished, so here are my last two choices. (If you want to know what the other three are, you'll need to check out my last post!)

Can We Save the Tiger, written by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Vicky White - No surprises here. Did you honestly think I'd make a favorite book list and leave out science? I loved a lot of nonfiction picture books this year, but I was especially impressed with Jenkins take on endangered species. The language is compelling, yet easy enough for children' to understand. Jenkins does a fine job emphasizing the importance of conservation efforts and recognizing this complicated work. Good science and fabulous illustrations make for a terrific read.

The House Baba Built: An Artist's Childhood in China by Ed Young - This is a moving memoir provides a unique look at Young's early years in Shanghai. Not a straightforward narrative, but rather an episodic look at growing up in a fantastical house (where kids roller-skated on the roof and rode bikes in an empty swimming pool) during years of depression, occupation, and war. Young's illustrations are beautiful collages constructed of sketches, painting, paper, and photographs.

2011 Recommendations - Top Five Lists

Are you looking for some of the best reads from 2011? The staff members at Powell's each selected their top 5 titles of the year. There are picture books, middle grade novels, young adult titles and plenty of adult fiction in here. It's a fascinating collection of lists that has given me some new titles to start of 2012. Hop on over and take a look at Staff Top 5s of 2011.

If asked to select your 5 favorite reads of 2011 could you do it? I'm going to try and I hope you'll join me. Here is my list (in no particular order).

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd - I read this one on the plane ride home to see my mom. Big Mistake. I sobbed through the last portion of the book, probably frightening those around me. Given what I know about the untimely death of Dowd, it made the tale even more moving. 

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor - I loved Karou and her relationship with Brimstone and got swept up in the mystery surrounding Karou's history. I was enchanted with Prague, the art, the chimaera, and Akiva (of course!). However, the kicker for me came at the end of the book. Just as I thought things were winding up -- no way! I should have seen it coming, and darn, now I must wait for book 2!

Requiem: Poems of the Terezin Ghetto by Paul Janeczko - Heartbreaking, shocking, and brutally honest, Janezcko's poems pack an emotional punch. There is beauty in this collection, even though readers repeatedly experience loss and death. The humanity and strength of the victims, the depravity of the SS, and the horror that was the Holocaust  is evident in Janezcko's carefully chosen words. Reading this is like watching a train wreck—you want to look away, but can't. I wanted to stop reading, but couldn't put it down. 

Okay, I've got to head out to a meeting. Books 4 and 5 when I return. Until then, won't you join me in listing your top five of 2011?

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Best Poems of 2011

I read a lot of poetry in 2001, yet I still can't imagine picking the single best poem I read. Never fear! If you're looking for some guidance on this issue, the good folks at NPR picked a few. Hop on over and check out Savage Beauty: The Top Three Poems of 2011.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Monday Poetry Stretch - Prose to Poem

I've been inspired by Walter Dean Myers' book We Are America: A Tribute From the Heart to reread the Declaration of Independence, portions of the Constitution, the Gettysburg Address and more. This got me thinking about transforming a prose document into poetry. Consider this your first found poem challenge of the year. Take a letter, a speech, a passage from a favorite book, any portion of prose with some meaning, and use words from it to write a poem. (Note that if you use excerpts from poems by other authors that you will be writing a cento. You can read more about the cento at Poets.org.)

I've been reading (for the umpteenth time) Walden: Or Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau. Here's a poem I wrote based on the words from the chapter Winter Animals.
Hills rose up around me
and in misty weather loomed
like fabulous creatures.

I could walk freely
far from the village street,
where I heard the forlorn but
melodious note,
quite familiar to me,
of a hooting owl.

At length the jays arrived
with discordant screams.
Then came the chickadees
in flocks, hammering away
with their bills.

And once a sparrow
alighted upon my shoulder.
For a moment,
I felt more distinguished
by that circumstance
than by any epaulet
I could have worn.
So, there's your challenge. Leave me a note about your poem and I'll share the results later this week.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

And the Finalists Are ...

The finalists for the 2011 Cybils are in! This year there was a new category (Book Apps) and as usual, many wonderful titles up for review.

Links to the finalists are below.
Book Apps
Easy Readers & Early Chapter Books
Fantasy & Science Fiction (Middle Grade)
Fantasy & Science Fiction (Young Adult)
Fiction Picture Books
Graphic Novels
Middle Grade Fiction
Nonfiction for Middle Grade & Young Adult
Nonfiction Picture Books
Young Adult Fiction
    I had the honor of serving on the round 1 panel for poetry. We had a wonderful group of judges who engaged in some thoughtful discussions about the award criteria and the nominated titles.

    So, off you go! I  do hope some of your favorites made the lists.