Friday, November 30, 2007

Book Review - Lightship by Brian Floca

The Ambrose lightship was built in 1908 to guide ships safely from the Atlantic Ocean into the mouth of the lower New York Bay between Coney Island, NY and Sandy Hook, NJ. Lightships, if you aren't familiar with them, were basically "floating lighthouses" anchored in areas where it was too deep, expensive or impractical to construct a lighthouse. Lightships displayed a light at the top of a mast and in areas of fog also sounded a fog signal and radio beacon. The last member of the U.S. lightship fleet was decommissioned in 1983.

Today the Ambrose is docked at the South Street Seaport Museum, where
visitors can climb aboard and view an exhibition of photographs, charts, and artifacts on lightships and navigation. This is the vessel that is visible from Brian Floca's studio in Brooklyn, and the one that is the subject of his amazing new book, Lightship.

In the acknowledgments Floca describes nosing around "otherwise inaccessible corners of Light Vessel 87" and other ships, speaking with former crew members, and viewing old photographs. This research informs the text and illustrations in the book. There is also an extensive author's note at the end that provides an overview of the history of lightships.

The book
opens with cutaway images on the endpapers of the Ambrose, labeled to show the important components of the vessel. In spare, but beautifully written text, Floca describes the lightship's crew, daily life, and important job it is tasked with.
Her crew lives
in small spaces,
works in small spaces.

Always there is
the smell of the sea . . .
and the rocking
of the waves.

Always they hear
the creaking of the ship
and the slow
slap, slap, slap
of water on the hull.
The text is accompanied by ink and watercolor illustrations that range from
close-ups of the crew and spaces in the ship, to double-page spreads of the ship, the sea, and passing ships. The beauty and genius of the pictures lies in the details, like the deckhand with several women's names tattooed and crossed off on his arm, the captain using a sextant, the cat that shouldn't be aboard the ship at all, the crew member snoring in his rack, and many more.

As someone who spent time sailing on this ship, and one of these, I have great affection for depictions of nautical life, and Floca has done a terrific job capturing it. Kids don't need to love boats to enjoy this book. Anyone who picks it up will be enchanted by the text and illustrations. This is one of my favorite nonfiction books of the year. I highly recommend it.

Check out the book trailer for even more information.
Book: Lightship
Author and Illustrator: Brian Floca
Publisher: Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books
Publication Date: March 6, 2007
Pages: 48
Grades: K-3
ISBN-10: 1416924361
ISBN-13: 978-1416924364
Source of Book: Copy received from publisher for Cybils consideration

Other Reviews
the excelsior file

Losing Ground on Literacy - International Results

The IEA's PIRLS report was released on November 28th. This is an international study of reading literacy in 40 countries at the primary school level. Here are some of the results.
PIRLS 2006 reinforces on a worldwide basis the well-established finding that children from homes fostering literacy become better readers. Students had higher reading achievement when they were from homes where their parents enjoyed reading and read frequently, books were in abundance, and students were engaged in literacy activities--from alphabet blocks to word games--from an early age.

Only about half the students across the PIRLS 2006 countries agreed that they enjoyed reading and appreciated books, reflecting a troubling downward trend since 2001. Moreover, fewer students in PIRLS 2006 reported reading for fun. Almost one third hardly ever read for fun (twice monthly at most).

In PIRLS 2001, and again in PIRLS 2006, girls had higher reading achievement than boys in all countries (509 vs. 492, on average). The difference was substantial in many countries, raising concern about the educational prospects of so many low-achieving boys during their adolescent years and beyond.

Both principals and teachers reported that textbooks were the foundation of reading instruction. In general, more students were asked to read literary than informational texts on a weekly basis.

Both teachers and students agreed that independent silent reading was a frequent classroom activity. Most often, students were asked to answer questions about what they had read, either orally or via worksheets.

You can read the Washington Post article where they share more U.S. statistics. You can also get your own copy of the report in pdf format.

Poetry Friday - The Sonnet

After struggling all week to write a sonnet, I needed some inspiration. Thanks to Libby for sharing this poem by William Wordsworth.
The Sonnet


NUNS fret not at their convent’s narrow room;
And hermits are contented with their cells;
   And students with their pensive citadels;
Maids at the wheel, the weaver at his loom,
Sit blithe and happy; bees that soar for bloom,
   High as the highest peak of Furness-fells,
   Will murmur by the hour in foxglove bells:
In truth the prison, unto which we doom
Ourselves, no prison is: and hence for me,
   In sundry moods, ’twas pastime to be bound
   Within the Sonnet’s scanty plot of ground;
Pleased if some souls (for such there needs must be)
Who have felt the weight of too much liberty,
   Should find brief solace there, as I have found.


SCORN not the Sonnet; Critic, you have frown’d,
Mindless of its just honours; with this key
   Shakespeare unlock’d his heart; the melody
Of this small lute gave ease to Petrarch’s wound;
A thousand times this pipe did Tasso sound;
   With it Camens sooth’d an exile’s grief;
   The Sonnet glitter’d a gay myrtle leaf
Amid the cypress with which Dante crown’d
His visionary brow: a glow-worm lamp,
   It cheer’d mild Spenser, call’d from Faery-land
To struggle through dark ways; and, when a damp
   Fell round the path of Milton, in his hand
The Thing became a trumpet; whence he blew
Soul-animating strains—alas, too few!

The round-up this week is over at Two Writing Teachers. Please stop by and check out all the great posts. Happy poetry Friday, all!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Poetry Stretch Results - The Sonnet (Italian Form)

Well, this was a tough one. I spent all week writing, revising, discarding, writing, revising, discarding . . . you know the drill. I'm not at all satisfied with my offering, so I'm going to start with the brave souls who joined me on this terrifying journey.
I'm so thrilled that Laura Purdie Salas joined in this week. I must now repay the visit and join in her 15 words or less poetry challenge. Her sonnet is called 5th Period.

Our friend sister AE from Having Writ killed two challenges with one poem and gives us the sonnet entitled Butterfly Patience.

Here is my sonnet. It's the first one I've ever written and . . . it's pretty bad. I need lots of practice!

On Writing Sonnets
Fret not, she said, the form will support you.
A would-be writer shrugs her poet dreams,
but choosing feet is harder than it seems.
With pen to paper, words spill out on cue.
Stop. Breathe. Remember what you’re here to do.
With thoughts of form she loses deeper themes,
but what of other rhymes and forms and schemes?
Just find your voice and tell the story true.
Will form bind the thought or free it to smile?
Can it breathe and grow to become true art?
What is a poem or sonnet today?
Words that inspire and often beguile,
sharing their secrets before they depart,
they blossom into a word-filled bouquet.
It's not too late to play. Read the rules here and then go write! Once you have a sonnet, leave me a comment and I'll add your poem to this page.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

November Carnival is Here!

The November Carnival of Children's Literature is now up. MotherReader asked bloggers to share tips, suggestions, advice, and lessons learned from all areas of kids’ lit, and boy, did they respond. Head on over and check it out.

Cybils Nominees - Nonfiction Picture Books

Nominations for the Cybils closed one week ago. I am thrilled to be working through the nominees in nonfiction picture books with these amazingly thoughtful folks.

Here is the list of books we are considering as we begin the difficult task of selecting the finalists.
ABC Safari
Written and illustrated by Karen Lee
Sylvan Dell
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Anne Hutchinson's Way

Written by Jeannine Atkins; illustrated by Michael Dooling
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)


Written by Jacqueline Farmer; illustrated by Phyllis Limbacher Tildes
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Artful Reading

Written and illustrated by Bob Raczka
Millbrook Press
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Ballerina Dreams

Written by Lauren Thompson; illustrated by James Estrin
Feiwel & Friends
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Bugs Up Close

Written by Diane Swanson; illustrated by Paul Davidson
Kids Can Press
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Campy: The Story of Roy Campanella

Written by David A. Adler; illustrated by Gordon James
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Capoeira: Game! Dance! Martial Art!

Written and illustrated by George Ancona
Lee & Low
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

City Hawk: The Story of Pale Male

Written and illustrated by Meghan McCarthy
Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

D is for Drinking Gourd: An African American Alphabet

Written by Nancy I. Sanders; illustrated by E.B. Lewis
Sleeping Bear Press
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Different Like Coco

Written and illustrated by Elizabeth Matthews
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Dogs and Cats

Written and illustrated by Steve Jenkins
Houghton Mifflin
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Dolley Madison Saves George Washington

Written and illustrated by Don Brown
Houghton Mifflin
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

First the Egg
by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Roaring Brook
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Footwork: The Story of Fred and Adele Astaire

Written by Roxane Orgill; illustrated by Stephane Jorisch
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Guess What is Growing Inside This Egg

Written and illustrated by Mia Posada
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Hiromi's Hands
Written and illustrated by Lynne Barasch
Lee & Low
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

A Horse in the House and Other Strange but True Animal Stories

Written by Gail Ablow; illustrated by Kathy Osborn
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

In My Backyard

Written by Valarie Giogas; illustrated by Katherine Zecca
Sylvan Dell
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Let's Go!: The Story of Getting From There to Here

Written by Lizann Flatt; illustrated by Scot Ritchie
Maple Tree Press
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)


Written and illustrated by Brian Floca
Atheneum / Richard Jackson Books
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

A Little Peace

Written by Barbara Kerley
National Geographic
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Living Color

Written and illustrated by Steve Jenkins
Houghton Mifflin
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Louis Sockalexis: Native American Baseball Pioneer

Written by Bill Wise; illustrated by Bill Farnsworth
Lee & Low
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Make Your Mark, Franklin Roosevelt

Written by Judith St. George; illustrated by Britt Spencer
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Martha Ann's Quilt for Queen Victoria

Written by Kyra E. Hicks; illustrated by Lee Edward Fodi
Brown Books Publishing Group
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Mary Cassatt: Impressionist Painter

Written by Lois V. Harris
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

May I Pet Your Dog?: The How-to Guide for Kids Meeting Dogs (and Dogs Meeting Kids)

Written by Stephanie Calmenson; illustrated by Jan Ormerod
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

My Name Is Gabito/Mi Llamo Gabito: The Life of Gabriel Garcia Marquez/La Vida De Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Written by Monica Brown; illustrated by Raul Colon
Luna Rising
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Nothing But Trouble: The Story of Althea Gibson

Written by Sue Stauffacher; illustrated by Greg Couch
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Ocean Seasons

Written by Ron Hirschi; illustrated by Kirsten Carlson
Sylvan Dell
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

One Thousand Tracings: Healing the Wounds of World War II

Written and illustrated by Lita Judge
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Rough, Tough Charley

Written by Verla Kay; illustrated by Alan Gustavson
Tricycle Press
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Sawdust and Spangles: The Amazing Life of W.C. Coup

Written by Ralph Covert and G. Riley Mills; illustrated by Giselle Potter
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

A Seed is Sleepy

Written by Dianna Hutts Aston; illustrated by Sylvia Long
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Strong Man: The Story of Charles Atlas

Written and illustrated by Meghan McCarthy
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Surfer of the Century: The Life of Duke Kahanamoku

Written by Ellie Crowe; illustrated by Richard Waldrep
Lee & Low
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

The Book of Time Outs: A Mostly True History of the World's Biggest Troublemakers

Written and illustrated byDeb Lucke
Simon & Schuster
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Turtle Summer: A Journal for My Daughter

Written by Mary Alice Monroe; illustrated by Barbara J. Bergwerf
Sylvan Dell
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Vulture View

Written by April Pulley Sayre; illustrated by Steve Jenkins
Henry Holt
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)


Written by Alice Schertle; illustrated by Kenneth Addison
Lee & Low
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Where in the Wild?: Camouflaged Creatures Concealed ... and Revealed

Written by David Schwartz and Yael Schy; illustrated by Dwight Kuhn
Tricycle Press
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Who Put the B in the Ballyhoo?

Written and illustrated by Carlyn Beccia
Houghton Mifflin
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)


Written by Anastasia Suen; illustrated by Paul Carrick
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Young Pele: Soccer's First Star

Written by Lesa Cline-Ransome; illustrated by James Ransome
Schwartz & Wade
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Here is a behind the scenes look at what our panel will be doing.
  • Each panelist will present a list of his or her 10 favorite books from the long list to the committee. When compiling this list, each person will consider the following:
      • Writing (and, if pertinent, illustration)
      • Kid appeal (to discuss "kid appeal," click here)
      • Is it a book an older child, or even an adult, will rush to finish, before reading it a second time?
      • Is the book innovative? Does it surprise you with something new?
      • Does the book speak to you as a reader?
  • Books that are on everyone's lists will be set aside for further discussion.
  • Panelists who have made unique choices will argue their position: Why should this book be on the shortlist?
  • Books read by only two members will receive particular attention by those two readers. They should argue why or why not this book deserves to be on the shortlist.
  • Panelists will then return to the top-10 lists. When there's clear agreement, we should see it with overlap.
  • We will continue debate through our discussion list. At this point, a few more books may have to be read. A few cases may have to be argued.
  • Committee organizers must have their lists of finalists (5-7 titles) in no later than noon on Dec. 28. The nominating committee will also write a sentence or two explaining why each book was selected for the shortlist. The shortlists will be posted Jan. 1.
Sounds like fun, doesn't it? While you're waiting for our panel to whittle down this list to the finalists, why not check out some of the nominees. You won't be disappointed.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Book Review - Let's Go!: The Story of Getting From There to Here

Earlier in the year I wrote a post highlighting books for science and social studies that examine change over time. Let's Go!: The Story of Getting From There to Here is a book that fits this theme well. Written by Lizann Flatt and illustrated by Scot Ritchie, this lively look at the evolution of transportation in North America covers travois, toboggans and snowshoes, to canoes, ships and horses, to carriages, coaches and wagons, to steamboats, trains and streetcars, to automobiles, planes and more. Phew! This informational book shows not only the change in forms of transportation over time, but how these advances helped to fuel the growth of cities and changes in the landscape.

This is an easy read aloud with lots of interesting things going on in the illustrations. There is a Carolina dog (or American dingo) that appears somewhere on each double-page spread. Readers will enjoy looking for him among the faces and landscapes. At the end of the text is a section entitled Did You Know? that provides assorted interesting facts about some of the concepts shared earlier in the book.

Here is an excerpt.
The land slowly warmed. The people
walked with packs on their backs.

Some trailed travois,
pulled toboggans,
wore snowshoes.

In quiet canoes made from forest trees,
they crossed lakes, rode rivers,
and skimmed the shores.

The text is lyrical and packed with information. A few words, like travois and portage, may be difficult for readers and will need to be defined/explained. While the word portage is defined in the back of the book, travois is not.

Let's Go! provides a good general introduction to the history of transportation and offers interesting details about some of the forms introduced. The illustrations extend the text in numerous ways and beg to be examined at length. There is much here for readers to consider and this text will offer a marvelous springboard for discussion and further research. There are, however, two weaknesses that should be noted. First, there is no timeline or chronology in the final notes. It would have been nice to be able to situate the inventions and innovations mentioned in a particular century. Second, a short list of references or bibliography of additional resources would have greatly added to the usefulness of the text.

All in all, this book succeeds on many levels and will be a welcome addition to the classroom. I recommend it.

Book: Let's Go!: The Story of Getting From There to Here
Author: Lizann Flatt
Illustrator: Scot Ritchie
Publisher: Maple Tree Press
Publication Date: September 28, 2007
Pages: 40
Grades: 1-3
ISBN-10: 1897349025
ISBN-13: 978-1897349021
Source of Book: Copy received from publisher for Cybils consideration

Monday Poetry Stretch - Sonnet (Italian Form)

Gulp. Yes, you read that right. Sonnet.

I did this really crazy thing last week. When Liz Garton Scanlon wrote to ask if I wanted to participate in writing a crown sonnet with a group of Poetry Friday bloggers, I said YES! I am thrilled (and more than a bit intimated) about joining these amazing writers for this project.
Now that I'm committed, I need to practice. So, this week's stretch takes the form of the sonnet. Since we will be using the Italian form for our crown sonnet, that's the form I propose we stretch with.

Here are the basic guidelines to follow.
  • A sonnet is composed of 14 lines written in iambic pentameter.
  • The Italian sonnet is divided into an octave (8 lines), followed by a sestet (6 lines).
  • The rhyme pattern for the octave is a-b-b-a, a-b-b-a. For the sestet the pattern can be c-d-e-c-d-e or c-d-c-c-d-c.
You can read more on sonnets in this great post by Kelly Fineman.

If you could see me now, you'd see a serious "deer in the headlights" look on my face. Are you with me? What kind of sonnet will you write? Give it a whirl and then leave me a comment about your poem. Later this week I'll post the results.

Learning to Read and Learning to Love It

As the host of the upcoming Carnival of Children's Literature, MotherReader has asked for tips. She writes, "I want a tip as a reader, writer, illustrator, reviewer, publisher, or editor of children’s literature. I want a lesson learned from a teacher, librarian, author, or parent with regards to kids’ lit." I've been trying to figure out what to write about for a while now, but after receiving this e-mail, I knew what my topic would be. Here is an excerpt.
I have a 4 year old daughter who loves learning and has tested very well. She enjoys learning, so we started her in Kumon last year. Usually they discourage kids under 4, however the director was impressed with her ability to focus. We moved preschools and changed Kumon locations. Since then, she has made little progress in math. My daughter knows her letters and their sounds and can even sound out words. She can't recognize numbers over 5 consistently. In her kindergarten admission test she said the thing she likes least is Kumon.

I am looking for someone to tutor her in math and reading. She needs a fresh, fun approach to math and someone to challenge her to maximize her potential in reading.

Wow. I haven't responded to the request yet, as I want to make sure I respond appropriately and without any hint of vitriol for this fast-track approach to educating a child. I shouldn't be surprised that so many parents are pushing their kids to read sooner than ever these days, especially with commercials like these clogging the airwaves.

I want kids to learn to read just as much as the next person, but not when it comes at the expense of the love of reading. When reading becomes a chore, kids will not turn to books. I have to wonder if all the emphasis on testing reading and making AYP will have an impact on the way reading is viewed by children in the years to come.

All these thoughts bouncing around in my head have me thinking about how you get kids to love reading while they're learning to read, with the emphasis on enjoyment, not how fast, how accomplished or how soon it happens. Helping your child learn to read shouldn't be about bragging rights (MY child read Harry Potter at age 7), it should be about modeling and encouraging a healthy love for a skill that will last a lifetime. Jen Robinson has already suggested some great ideas in her post entitled Ten Tips for Growing Bookworms. I'd like to piggyback on her work and offer some additional thoughts of my own.
  • Read to your child every day. Make time to do it and make it routine. While William and I frequently read throughout the day, the one time we do not miss is reading at bedtime. We curl up together under the covers, read the books he selects, talk about them, and then talk about the day that is ending and our plans for the next one.
  • Even though it's sometimes hard, do read the same books again and again if that's what your child requests. For months we read Freight Train by Donald Crews over, and over and over. After a while, I didn't need to look at the pages to read the words, and neither did William. This was the book that allowed him to begin to recognize words. He'd heard the story so many times that he was able to make the connection between what he was hearing and what he was seeing in the text. Rereading favorites allows kids to begin to recognize words by sight.
  • Make mistakes while reading familiar texts. I can hear you now saying, "What? Is she kidding?" No, I'm not. Even now when we read I will purposely read words incorrectly or in some silly manner to be sure William is paying attention and following along. Last night I read, "One day in May, Mudge and Mudge's big dog, Henry, were playing basketball with some friends." The immediate response was, "Mom, NO! It's Henry and Henry's big dog, Mudge, were playing KICKBALL. Look at the words. See the picture?" This is exactly what you want to hear. We play this game so often that sometimes William asks me to "read it wrong" so that he can correct me.
  • Explore genres beyond fiction. William and I play what I call the Dewey Decimal game. I ask him to pick a number between 100 and 999. Once he picks a number, we find that section in the stacks and pull books that look interesting. Then we read them, right there on the floor. When we first began going into the stacks, I stuck to the 811s (poetry), 550s (earth science) and 590s (animals), but now we have fun exploring whatever number William picks.
  • Get your child a library card. When William turned five I promised him he could have his very own library card. On his birthday we went to the public library, filled out the paperwork, and he signed his name. This is a big responsibility and one that he takes very seriously. He has his own book bag for transporting books to and from the library. He loves to check books in and out at the library and keeps good track of them while at home. We can go online to look at the book's he's read and even get neat little printouts of the books each week.
  • Travel with a book in hand. We never leave the house without a bag that holds plain paper, crayons or colored pencils, and a few books. There always seems to be time to read in the car, the doctor's office, the restaurant, you name it. Develop this habit now and it will last a lifetime. William packs books in his backpack every morning so he has something to read while waiting for the afternoon bus.
I'm sure there are lots of other great ideas out there for helping develop kids who love to read. If you have any other suggestions, please share them. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Robert's Snow - Auction 2

Auction 1 ended this afternoon. I bid for a while on 3 snowflakes, but alas, the bids quickly moved out of my price range. I hope this is very good news for the folks raising money for cancer research.
Auction 2 will begin accepting bids on Monday, Nov. 26 at 9:00 a.m. with a starting bid of $100 for each snowflake. All bids must be in before 5:00 pm on Friday, Nov. 30. Don't forget that 100 percent of the proceeds from this online auction will benefit sarcoma research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and that all but $25 of the winning bid is tax deductible.

Read about all the illustrators who contributed to this auction at the sites linked below. (The order presented is the same as on the auction page.)
Pick out your favorite so you're prepared when the bidding starts.

The Cybils Nominees Are In!

Nominations for the Cybils closed on Wednesday. The number of books nominated in each category is still being tallied, but suffice it to say that there are many exciting titles. You can always head over the to Cybils blog to learn about the nominations, or you can check out the handy-dandy new widget in my sidebar. Since I'm all about picture books, poetry and nonfiction, these are the nominees you'll find here.

Do you want your own? Well then, go get one!

Poetry Friday - At the Window

I woke early this morning and spent time looking out the window while the house slept. I watched the sun rise, the wind blow leaves from trees and bend branches, and the squirrels wake to begin their spirited work of gathering acorns. This reminded me of a favorite by D. H. Lawrence.
At the Window
The pine trees bend to listen to the autumn wind as it mutters
Something which sets the black poplars ashake with hysterical laughter;
While slowly the house of day is closing its eastern shutters.

Further down the valley the clustered tombstones recede,
Winding about their dimness the mist's grey cerements, after
The street lamps in the darkness have suddenly started to bleed.

The leaves fly over the window and utter a word as they pass
To the face that leans from the darkness, intent, with two dark-filled eyes
That watch for ever earnestly from behind the window glass.

(Please forgive the formatting. Lawrence intended there to be only three lines per stanza. Blogger seems to have its own ideas today.)
The round-up today is over at Susan Writes. Before heading over, be sure to check out the poems of apology written as part of this week's poetry stretch. Happy poetry Friday, all!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Check Out Fibs at the Poetry Foundation

It's no secret that I love poetry. I also love math. By extension, you should know that I'm smitten with Fibs, and just a tiny bit with Greg K. too! Greg is featured in a Poetry Foundation article entitled 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, Fun... What's a Fib? Math plus poetry. Go now and read it. By the end I know you'll be smitten too!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Poetry Stretch Results - Poems of Apology

While most of my readers are reflecting on what they are thankful for this week, a few are thinking about righting some wrongs. The folks who participated this week wrote poems of apology, and apparently, some of them had much to confess.
Cloudscome at a wrung sponge gives us an apology poem for a librarian.

Cece Bell wrote two poems of apology, one funnier than the next. I wonder who they're for? Hmmm . . .

Sam Riddleburger joined Cece and wrote an apology poem of his own.

Mad Kane's gives us an apology limerick!

Over at Having Writ, sister AE gives us an apology poem called Belated.

Elaine reviewed Joyce Sidman's book way back in March, and included two poems of her own. The first is Elaine's poem to her daughter. The second is a daughter's response. Here is an excerpt.
This Is Just to Say: A Poem to My Daughter

I have eaten
the chocolate bunny
I bought you
for Easter

a big-eared, brown hunk
of deliciousness
you probably saw
in the closet
and were expecting
to unwrap and savor
on a flower-filled Sunday
Read the rest of the poem and the response here.

Finally, my contribution is the apology poem I wrote for my sister.
It's not too late if you still want to play. Read the rules here. Then leave me a comment about your poem and I'll include a link to it on the list.

To Read or Not to Read

I know that everyone is talking about the report released yesterday by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) entitled To Read or Not To Read: A Question of National Consequence. I downloaded the pdf and read the report. What I am mulling over now is this graphic.

From To Read or Not To Read (Research Report #47),
courtesy of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Can you see the influence of NCLB here? While the focus has been on improving the reading skills of young children, and testing them in grades 3-8, we seem to have forgotten about those in high school. I'm not sure what to make of the drop, but I find it astounding.

Commentary on NYT Best Illustrated Books

Never one to mince words, David Elzey at the excelsior file has written a marvelous commentary on the New York Times recently released book list entitled The NYT "Best Illustrated Books" List, In a Word (or Three). Go now and read it.

You can view a slide show with images from the books and links to reviews at Best Illustrated Children's Books 2007.

Off to Play the Lottery!

My mother always told me that good or bad, things come in threes. Well, in the last two days I have been VERY lucky. Take a look at what I've won!
Yes, that's right. This lovely sock monkey fairy, made with love by HipWriterMama, is on her way to Richmond to bring me "good writing juju!" Thanks, Vivian! I won her in the Shout Out for All the Wonderful Authors Out There contest. The idea was to think of an author's name (living or dead) and then create a name and cool personality of a character based on the author's name. Here's my entry.
Let me introduce Silver Stein, a feisty 13-year old girl with a talent for cartooning, spoonerisms and waxing rhapsodic. She is a dreamer who isn't discouraged by Whatifs. She and her friend Ursula sell homemade books (written and illustrated by Silver, published by Ursula) in the summer instead of lemonade. Someday they're both going to make it big.
Can you believe it? I was the lucky ducky grand prize winner in Elaine's (Wild Rose Reader) drawing for a limited edition Robert’s Snow giclee print signed by Grace Lin! Elaine generously provided six prizes that went to randomly selected folks who left comments at any one of her posts about a Robert’s Snow artist. Thanks, Elaine!

I'm not one to ignore the cosmic alignment of my lucky stars, so the odds be damned, I'm off to buy a lottery ticket!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Monday Poetry Stretch - Poems of Apology

I love the poems of William Carlos Williams. Inspired by his work and Joyce Sidman's book This is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness, I thought it would be fun to write poems of apology this week.
First, read This is Just to Say, by William Carlos Williams.
Next, read an example from This is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness.
Now, write your own poem of apology.
For more ideas and examples, read the apology poems at Hands-On Stanzas.

Here's my poem for my sister. I must confess--it's all true.
For Susan
I came in after playing
in the sandbox and woods,
tired and dirty,
and left a trail of bugs and sticks
on your side of the room.

I spilled poppy red
on the floor
and quietly erased any trace of it,
then claimed not to know
where your favorite polish was.

I used watercolors
to create beautiful pictures,
not meaning to go beyond
the borders of the paper,
and painted your brand new bedspread.

Forgive me for being
an annoying little sister.
I hope I'm better now.
So, do you want to play? What kind of poem will you write? Leave a comment about your poem and I'll post the results later this week.

Robert's Snow - Auction 1

Auction 1 opened today! All snowflakes in this auction open with a starting bid of $50. All bids must be placed before 5:00 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 23. Don't forget that 100 percent of the proceeds from this online auction will benefit sarcoma research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and that all but $25 of the winning bid is tax deductible.

Read about all the illustrators who contributed to this auction at the sites linked below. (The order presented is the same as on the auction page.)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Robert's Snow Illustrator - Teri Sloat

Today is the last day of the Blogging for the Cure effort to raise awareness of Robert's Snow, and I have the distinct pleasure of presenting an interview with author/illustrator Teri Sloat. I sent Teri a series of questions, which she kindly answered. She began by saying "I always say too much, so edit away." Hah! Once you read her thoughtful responses, you'll be glad I didn't cut a word. So, without further ado, I give you the incomparable Teri Sloat.

Tricia: When did you decide you wanted to be an illustrator of children’s books?
Teri: To be fair, I think it was having a mother that read to me and to the other kids in the neighborhood that made me know picture books were special. After college, I taught for many years in preschool through 3rd grade classrooms in Yup'ik villages in Alaska and also in Kindergarten before moving to California. It was during that time that I fell in love with books that read well enough out loud to please children whose English level was low. I ended up practicing in the village and making books during those long winter nights. When I found out that I liked the whole process I decided that someday that is what I was going to do.

Tricia: Which illustrator's have influenced your work?
Teri: I watched a movie with my students about Ezra Keats while I was teaching and loved the idea of making a book from marbleized paper. My class marbleized lots of paper and made collages. I took all the rest of the pieces and made my first book. Others that I keep on my bookshelf have been Arnold Lobel, Leo and Diane Dillon, Tomi de Paolo and Chris Van Allsburg. They always seem to take you to another world with their art. Also there is a wonderful artist in Alaska who has done a couple of picture books, whose name is Rie Munoz. Our house is full of her art because it makes me happy.

Tricia: What media do you work in?
Teri: The media I use is different for each book. One of my favorites is Caran d'Ache watercolor crayons. They are vivid and blend into one another. They can be thick and pasty or used like a wash. You will find them in Hark! The Aardvark Angels Sing! and Berry Magic. I'm a Duck! is done with pastels. I started with acrylic but they were too heavy and flat for the content of the story. Much of the time I start with an acrylic wash and burnish with a variety of colored pencils from Prismacolor to Aquarelle. Just as important is the kind of paper that I'm always experimenting with.
Tricia: I loved reading about you on your web site and learning about your years in Alaska. Can you tell me how your time there has influenced your work?
Teri: I started illustrating at the Bilingual Education Center. They needed an illustrator and there were none around for 4-500 miles so I got the job. I learned as I did small story books and the first folklore from the region, and had a chance to make up some stories of my own for readers that were in the Yup'ik language. I realized how wonderful trade books were in quality and color compared to the books we were printing ourselves and became determined to learn the whole process and to publish some of the folklore at a major publisher. But most of all, we had a slower life-style, and without television, I had time to read and daydream. I took long walks, traveled by boat and snowmachine, sat for hours ice fishing. Living on the tundra literally put the white space all around me that lets my mind drift. I made up many stories and images while there, and now I'm putting them in prints that are on my web-site. There are some that may someday be books of their own, but most of my books start with images. I also learned to write on the spot, as the girls were always asking me to play story knife with them and they expected a story with images scratched into mud to appear pretty instantly. They taught me not to worry about how well I drew (which I still worry about) but to get with it and let the pictures tell the story.

Tricia: Can you tell us a bit about your work with Alaska Northwest Books First Language Program?
Teri: The bilingual project I was working in was the second in the US and we had a staff of 7-8 people to create, translate, print, bind and ship books to the villages. In 5 years we created about 250 books, which is amazing in retrospect. But the entire time we wanted the kids to hold books in their language that matched the quality of books in English. We started working with a printer in Anchorage and soon we had basal readers, with recognizable characters professionally printed....a step in the right direction. But the only trade books they had with their wonderful stories and illustrations were pasted over in their language. So after 30 years we finally found a publisher that would print a minimum of 1500 books in one of the indigenous languages. . . almost a non-profit amount, if a native group or district would make the purchase. Translators worked to make sure their words fit artistically into the space provided to make handsome books. The Yupiit School District was the first district brave enough to make the purchase and there were celebrations in the libraries in the villages when the books were presented. It is a slow process with brave translators, but now many other indigenous groups are seeing the value and buying into the program.

Tricia: You have written and illustrated your own books and illustrated books for other authors. How is illustrating a book that someone else has written different from one you've written yourself?
Teri: I haven't illustrated that many for other writers, but when I have I still feel like I'm writing part of the story. I'm making up and filling in visuals for the story that they are telling and creating a world for the story to take place in. It is different because the text I'm handed is
fairly finished. When I illustrate my own books, I work on the writing, eliminating and adapting the rhythm to the images that come up so that both the writing and the art are finished together. Sometimes I write a wonderful story but know that I'm not the one that can make it the best book with my illustrations. So I turn it over to another illustrator to add their own side of the story. The result is a delightful surprise. I've been lucky to have Nadine Westcott, R.W. Alley, Reynold Ruffins and Stefano Vitale as illustrators as well as Mike Wright's hysterical joke book illustrations. Betty Huffmon and I are in the process of writing a third book together, and that collaboration is a wonderful experience.

Tricia: Are you currently working on any new projects? Do you have a new book coming out in the next year or two that you would like to tell us about?
Teri: There Was an Old Man Who Painted the Sky will come out in the spring of 2009. It is a take off again of The Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, but is a creation song. I'm excited about the art which I have just seen for the first time. The book ends with a tribute to the girl who discovered the first cave paintings in Altamira, and is dedicated to the observation and wonder of children. I'm fascinated with cave paintings and how pigments were made and sprayed through tubes onto the wall and have used the book as an excuse to visit many caves. It tells the story of the old man who paints the world into being and then hands his paints to the people who paint themselves. As they dance round the fire their spots and stripes fly off onto the creatures watching them. Then the last first says: There was a young girl in a cave all alone, who found the whole world had been painted on stone. There were children like her; there was woman and man, there were creatures of water and creatures of land. There was earth and the planets that spun, one by one, as they whirled through the sky, while they circled the sun. She found the old man, painted high on the wall, and she wondered and wondered as she looked at it all. . . How did he do it, the old man in the sky? How did he paint the sky? It's so high.

Tricia: I love the What I Learn From Students section of your web site. Does this interaction with children ever make you miss teaching?
Teri: I sometimes miss having my own classroom, but now I get to teach the thing I am most excited about. . . . imagination. I visit many schools a year, and often do workshops on fable writing, poetry and art with smaller groups. I think I have the best of both worlds. I get to use my imagination and to have exchanges with younger minds who are still so full of imagination and just need skills to share it with the rest of the world. The art of young students has changed my art forever and helped me take the limits of "realism" off my own art.
Tricia: Please tell us about your Arctic Christmas snowflake.
Teri: My snowflake is influenced by Yup'ik masks. The center of mine is the moon and if it were hanging on a wall, there would be spokes going out to the seals, the whales, and the fish on the ends. (To the left is a print that Teri was making when she made the mask.) The print is called Seal Moon and is a story I made up about a seal that fell in love with the moon shining down through the hole in the ice. That love is turning the seal into a man.

Teri closed her message by saying that creating the snowflake was one of her favorite projects of the year. I will echo her sentiments by saying that featuring illustrators here, and reading about so many more all across the blogosphere has been an amazing experience. I hope we have raised awareness to a level where Robert's Snow will make oodles of money for cancer research.

If you are interested in bidding on this wonderful snowflake, be sure to follow the link for Auction 2. Don't forget that 100 percent of the proceeds from this online auction will benefit sarcoma research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and that all but $25 of the winning bid is tax deductible! While you are there, be sure to view all the snowflakes up for auction. Each and every one is a unique and amazing work of art.

Before you leave, be sure to check out the other snowflake illustrators being featured on this last day before the auctions begin.
Finally, help me in thanking Teri for sharing her time and talent. I have been inspired by her words and work. I hope you are as well. If you want to learn even more about Teri and the book Berry Magic, visit Just One More Book! and listen to this great podcast from our friends Mark and Andrea. You can also learn more about Teri at her website. Thanks, Teri!