Friday, September 28, 2012

Poetry Friday - Reading the Brothers Grimm to Jenny

This week's poetry stretch was to write about school supplies. Folks contributed some really wonderful  poems. You can read the results at Monday Poetry Stretch - School Supplies

I'm still reading poetry about fairy tales. Here's one by Lisel Mueller.
Reading the Brothers Grimm to Jenny
Dead means somebody has to kiss you.
Jenny, your mind commands
kingdoms of black and white:
you shoulder the crow on your left
the snowbird on your right;
for you the cinders part
and let the lentils through,
and noise falls into place
as screech or sweet roo-coo,
while in my own, real world
gray foxes and gray wolves
bargain eye to eye,
and the amazing dove
takes shelter under the wing
of the raven to keep dry. 
Read the poem in its entirety.
The round up today is being hosted by Marjorie at Paper Tigers. Be sure to visit and take in all the great poetry being shared this week.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Monday Poetry Stretch - School Supplies

There's nothing better then getting poetry in your inbox on a daily basis. So, given my love for all things school-related, I was particularly thrilled that this week's American Life in Poetry included a poem ostensibly about a school supply every child needs.
by Daniel J. Langton 
I was sent home the first day
with a note: Danny needs a ruler.
My father nodded, nothing seemed so apt.
School is for rules, countries need rulers,
graphs need graphing, the world is straight ahead. 
Read the poem in its entirety.
This got me thinking about the movie You've Got Mail and this note sent by Joe Fox.
"Don't you love New York in the fall? It makes me wanna buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address. "

Yes, I ADORE New York in the fall, but I also LOVE school supplies (not the shopping so much). Honestly, have you met a teacher that isn't enamored of the newest twist on colored pencils? Or crayons? I'm quite intrigued by the poetry of Joe Fox's "bouquet of newly sharpened pencils."

Your challenge this week is come up with some poetic turn of your own for some deserving school supply. Leave me a note about your poem and I'll share the results in time for Poetry Friday. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Monday Poetry Stretch - Photographs

I've been having trouble wrapping my head around a new challenge, as I'm still having fun thinking about last week's stretch, writing the homophoem. (Check out the comments of the post to see all the great poems folks shared.)

Since we've been writing to form the last few weeks, I thought we'd take a topic this week. Did you happen to hear the NPR story last week about the photo historian who found an archive of more than 14,000 photos taken by Charles W. Cushman? Cushman began using Kodachrome soon after it came out and used it to capture the world in ways it had never been seen before. 

You can hear the story at The Found Archive of Charles W. Cushman. Better yet, you can see some of the photos at Lost and Found: Discover a Black-and-White Era in Full Color.

Where is all this leading? I'm thinking about the power of a photograph. Do you have one you treasure? Does it capture a person or a place? What do you love about? Why does it move you?

Let's write about photographs this week. Leave me a note about your poem and I'll share the results in time for Poetry Friday. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Nonfiction Monday - Planting the Wild Garden

I've seen a number of books over the years about how seeds move from one place to another. PLANTING THE WILD GARDEN, written by Kathryn O. Galbraith and illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin, is a beautiful, quiet book that had me hooked from the opening pages. It begins:
The farmer and her boy plant their garden. They drop seeds--tiny, fat, round, and oval--into the earth. From these seeds, pumpkins and peas, carrots and cabbages will grow. In the wild meadow garden, many seeds are planted too, but not by farmer's hands. 
On this first double page spread is a pictures of a woman and her son, both kneeling in the dirt planting seeds. I was most enamored of the illustrations of the growth stages of the pumpkin, carrot, cabbage and pea that border the main illustration.

On the pages that follow are may examples of how wind, water, and animals help seeds disperse. Galbraith uses language that evocatively describes the sounds of the wind (Oooooo--whishhh!), rain Plip-plop!), acorns falling (thump, bump) minnows dining (Gulp! Gulp!) and more. The sentences are simple but so carefully crafted. There is a lovely rhythm to the lines and the story they tell. It all comes full circle when readers learn that people also help to plant the meadow. 

The muted colors and dreamy quality of Halperin's work gives readers much to appreciate. Many of the illustrations beg to be pored over. 

This book is a terrific introduction to seeds, how they travel, and can even be used to introduce the growing stages (life cycle) of plants. I'm using this one with my preservice teachers next week and predict this will become a classroom favorite. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Author: Kathryn O. Galbraith
Illustrator: Wendy Anderson Halperin
Publisher: Peachtree Publishers
Publication Date: April, 2011
Pages: 32 pages
Grades: K-5
ISBN: 978-1561455638
Source of Book: Personal copy

This review was written for Nonfiction Monday. Head on over to Books Together and check out all the great posts highlighting nonfiction this week.

Monday Poetry Stretch - Homophoem

It's always a pleasure to receive an e-mail from our Children's Poet Laureate, J. Patrick Lewis, especially when he's writing to share a new poetic form. We have him to thank for our stretch this week.

homophoem is a two- to ten-line poem that contains at least one homophone, preferably as the surprise end-word.  

If you haven't studied grammar in a while, homophones are words that share the same pronunciation, irrespective of their spelling, but differ in meaning.  

Here are some examples of the form, all written by Pat.


   No one understood
genetics until Mendel
     went to take a pea

*  *
Zen Football

      The quarterback folds
his hands under the center—
“18, 6, X, haik-! “    

*  *
Not Aloud

A horrid fifth-grader named Nate
Was a bully to every classmate.
     When she sent him to school,
     His mother—no fool—
Made certain Nate’s jacket was strait.

*  *
Foul Ball

When the high school band took their places
In the stands for the Rams vs. Aces,
     A kid hit a home run,
     But confused by the sun,
He kept running around all the basses.

*  *  *  *  *
So, the challenge for the week is to write a homophoem. Leave me a note about your poem and I'll share the results in time for Poetry Friday. 

Friday, September 07, 2012

Poetry Friday - Humdrum

This week's poetry stretch was to write a Nonet. A nonet is a nine line poem where each line contains a decreasing number of syllables, from 9 to 1. You can learn more about this form and read the results at Monday Poetry Stretch - The Nonet.

The poetry stretches since their return have been all about new forms (or at least forms new to me). On Monday, I'll be sharing a new form the J. Patrick Lewis sent me. Do stop by and check it out!

In my spare time (the few minutes before bed each night) I am reading Sandburg.

57. Humdrum
by Carl Sandburg

If I had a million lives to live
    and a million deaths to die
    in a million humdrum worlds,
I’d like to change my name
    and have a new house number to go by      
    each and every time I died
    and started life all over again.

I wouldn’t want the same name every time
    and the same old house number always,
    dying a million deaths,      
    dying one by one a million times:
    —would you?
              or you?
                    or you?

The round up today is being hosted by Katya Czaja at Write. Sketch. Repeat. Be sure to visit and take in all the great poetry being shared this week.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Nonfiction Monday - Bugs By the Numbers

BUGS BY THE NUMBERS, written and illustrated by Sharon Werner and Sarah Forss, is a book I have a love/hate relationship with. Let's start with the stuff the "bugs" me (no pun intended) so that I can get on to the many things I love about it. Please bear with me while I put on my scientist hat.

First, I really dislike the use of the word bugs as a broad classification for arthropods and other "creepy crawly" creatures. Here's a rundown on the classification system and where these organisms are found.
Domain - Eukarya / Kingdom - Animal / Phylum - Arthropod

Arthropods are composed of five classes of organisms--arachnids, insects, crustaceans, centipedes, and millipedes. Now, hemiptera is an order of insects known as "true bugs." Included here are stink bugs, cicadas, aphids, water striders and more. 

The animals highlighted in this book are ant, butterfly, dobsonfly, fly, ladybug, spider, centipede, grasshopper, walking stick, leaf insect, scorpion, dragonfly, bee, mosquito, firefly, flea, cockroach, praying mantis, tick, bed bug, beetle, termite, and earthworm. All come from the phylum arthropod with the exception of the earthworm. This raises my second concern regarding the use of the word bug. Annelids are a phylum in the animal kingdom consisting largely of segmented worms. Earthworms fall within this phylum. They are not bugs in any sense of the word. I will admit that the term "worm" is used rather loosely and  is sometimes used to refer to certain forms of insect larvae (think mealworms, glowworms, inchworms, etc.). The authors do explain in the fine print on the earthworm page that all bugs evolved from earthworms. Even so, I find their inclusion here troubling. It's the one page that I skip while sharing this book with students.  

Now that I've had may little science rant, let's talk about the really amazing features of this book. When I read this book I begin by reading a bit from the jacket flap, as two brief rhyming stanzas do a terrific job introducing the contents of the book.
Each bug on these pages
Looks unique and rare,
Not like the insects
You see everywhere.

They're made up of numbers:
The ones that you count.
'Cause when you think bugs,
You think BIG amounts.
When you open the pages you'll find 23 different animals constructed from numbers of varying sizes and font faces. Many of the pages have fun flaps and flip-out sections. On every page there is a wealth of information on the animal, always highlighting in some way the numbers used to create it. For example, the ant is composed of 1s, 2s, and 3s, with each number comprising a different body segment (1s-head, 2s-thorax, 3s-abdomen). A fold-out flap of a leaf includes the number 3 and the fact that like other insects, ants have 3 body parts. When the flap is lifted up, 50 ants form the number 50. Beneath the number is this fact. "Ants can lift 50 times their own body weight. If you could do that, you'd be able to life a car." The fold-out flap on the bottom of the page looks like a pile of dirt. When it is folded down, a picture of ant tunnels beneath the ground is accompanied by the fact "An ant colony can reach 20 feet below ground. " In addition to these numbers and facts, readers learn that ants have 2 stomachs, that worker ants can take 250 short naps a day, and that queen ants can live for 30 years. As you can see, this one double-page spread is jam-packed with information. Nineteen of the animals in the book receive such extended treatment, with only four (dobsonfly, fly, tick and bedbug) garnering only a single page each.

My favorite page is the beetle page. While the graphic highlights the rhinocerous beetle, the bits of information along the bottom of the page describe a few standouts in the beetle family. Did you know that the fastest-running insect is the Australian Tiger Beetle? Or the that Goliath Beetle is the world's heaviest insect? Or that there are over 300,000 species of beetles on the planet? 

Want to know or see more? Check out the BUGS BY THE NUMBERS photostream on Flickr.

It's clear from the outset that Werner and Forss anticipated the kind of concern I raised about the use of the word bug. Here's an excerpt from the introductory page.
Now some smarties might notice
As the go through and look,
Not every creature is a bug in this book. 
Not all critters that fly or crawl  on the ground
Are technically bugs, but we both have found
Mos folks call them bugs, and since they do,
We figured, why not? We'd call them "bugs" too. 
Real bugs are insects, but not all insects are bugs
And spiders are neither (oh, please don't say, "Ugh").
So yes, the authors beg a bit of latitude in the beginning. I do think that if you use this in any kind of science context this needs to be explained and perhaps examined in a bit more depth.

Despite my concerns regarding the use of the word bug and the inclusion of the earthworm, I find the bulk of the book to be gorgeously constructed, highly engaging, and chock full of interesting tidbits. The kids in your classroom will be fighting over this one, so you may want more than one copy. RECOMMENDED.

Author/Illustrator:  Sharon Werner and Sarah Forss
Publisher: Blue Apple Books
Publication Date: April 2011
Pages: 56 pages
Grades: 3-8
ISBN: 978-1609050610
Source of Book: Copy borrowed from my local public library

P.S. - Did I mention that their new book, Alphasaurs and Other Prehistoric Types, comes out in October?

This review was written for Nonfiction Monday. Head on over to The Swimmer Writer and check out all the great posts highlighting nonfiction this week.

Monday Poetry Stretch - The Nonet

I've been spending time researching forms I haven't tried before. I'm actually pleased with how many new ones (new to me, at least) that I've found. This week I'd like to try the nonet. Here's a description of the form.
A nonet is a nine line poem. The first line containing nine syllables, the next line has eight syllables, the next line has seven syllables. That continues until the last line (the ninth line) which has one syllable. Nonets can be written about any subject. Rhyming is optional.
You can read more about this form and see a few examples at Poetry Dances - Nonet

Leave me a note about your poem and I'll share the results in time for Poetry Friday.