Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Books as Art - Breathing Books

Edith Kollath exhibited a breathing book show (yes, you read that correctly) at the Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn from mid-November to mid-December.

Here is a short video of the show.
Things - Edith Kollath Creates Books that Breathe from Bre Pettis on Vimeo.

For some reason I couldn't help but think about Harry Potter and The Monster Book of Monsters while watching the video. At least these books don't bite! Technology in the hands of an artist is an amazing thing, isn't it?

When Buying a Book Means Making a Difference

Way back in November, the amazing Sara Lewis Holmes floated a proposal to put books in the hands of some very deserving kids. Inspired by her niece Emily, an amazing young woman in her own right who's been battling cancer for over two years now, Sara suggested starting a library of camp and horse related books for Flying Horse Farms. Here's a bit of information about FHF.

Flying Horse Farms is a nonprofit organization committed to building a summer camp and year-round retreat center that inspires children with serious illnesses to reach beyond their diseases and embrace the healing power of unbridled fun!

This special place is located in the heart of the Midwest, Mount Gilead, Ohio. Situated on nearly 200 acres of gently rolling hills, lakes, woods, trails, meadows, and wetlands, Flying Horse Farms promises to help children and their families trade the restraints of hospital visits, blood transfusions, chemotherapy treatments, overwhelming stress, worry and fear with days of swimming, fishing, horseback riding, and nights of campfires and singing! All camp activities are designed to allow campers to experience success no matter what their disease or disability. The camp will focus not only on activities but also on building self-confidence, friendships and, of course, providing good old-fashioned fun... at no cost to the campers or their families.
You can participate and help breathe life into this dream by purchasing a book or two for Flying Horse Farms. Here are several ways you can contribute.
  • Sara set up a wish list on Amazon. You can choose a book and donate it directly from there. The list is small now, but it will grow as the campers and counselors and the director add new requests to it.
  • You may also buy from that list at your local independent bookstore and have them ship to the address below.
    Flying Horse Farms
    225 Green Meadows Drive South, Suite A
    Lewis Center, Ohio 43035
  • You can blog about your favorite camp or horse related book. Sara will round up those posts and forward them to the director and consult them in expanding the Wish List.
  • If you're an author or illustrator or publisher or blogger with a camp or horse related book, you can donate directly to the camp, but please remember that the camp serves kids ages 7-15 and your donation should reflect the needs of the camp. (Please, in all cases, only NEW books.)
In our house, stories with horses generally revolve around multicultural titles and folktales. Here are some of our favorites.
Fritz and the Beautiful Horses
written and illustrated by Jan Brett

Horse Song: The Naadam of Mongolia
written and illustrated by Ted and Betsy Lewin

The Magic Horse of Han Gan
written and illustrated by Chen Jiang Hong

The Lost Horse: A Chinese Folktale
written and illustrated by Ed young

We have purchased two of William's favorites, Fritz and the Beautiful Horses and The Magic Horse of Han Gan, for Flying Horse Farms. Won't you join us in sharing the gift of a book?

Thoughts on the Cybils

The list of nonfiction picture finalists has been signed, sealed and delivered to our intrepid organizer. It will be published on January 1st, along with the finalists in the seven other categories. I can't wait to see how the other groups of panelists have whittled down their lists.

Here are some of my initial thoughts about the Cybils in general and more specifically about working through the nonfiction picture book titles this year.
1. Where Does It Belong?
The organizers for all the categories worked behind the scenes as nominations rolled in to determine the eligibility of titles and to ensure proper placement of books. This required a lot of hard work and some intense discussion. In some cases, where a book belongs isn't evident until a panelist sees it first hand. One of our books was moved to fiction picture books because the note in the back of the book explained the book was "based on a true story." The cataloging information just wasn't enough go on when deciding where to place the book.

2. Is It Nonfiction?
During the nomination stage, a few titles were moved to the fiction picture book category. While they were clearly "informational" books, they weren't strictly nonfiction. I tend to think of these books as "faction"--a nice blend of fact and fiction. One example of this was Boycott Blues: How Rosa Parks Inspired a Nation, written by by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney. Narrated by a guitar-playing hound dog, it's a beautiful, blues-inspired account of the Montgomery bus boycott. Another example can be found in Fartiste, written by Kathleen Krull and illustrated by Paul Brewer. This biography of Joseph Pujol, a Frenchman who built a stage career using fart effects, reads on the cover, "an explosively funny, mostly true story." It's unfortunate this disclaimer appears so boldly from the outset, as it seems designed only to let readers know that the title relies on fact as well as legend in telling Pujol's life story.

There are always so many titles in the category of fiction picture books that I fear some of these more "information-oriented" books may get lost in milieu of more traditional stories.

3. First Person Narratives?
I was surprised by the number of titles that used first person in the writing. In some cases, the author included extensive notes that lent veracity to their use. However, in other cases there was no such information. How then, is a reader to take this information? Keep Your Eye on the Kid: The Early Years of Buster Keaton, written and illustrated by Catherine Brighton, is a fantastic biography of Keaton's early years, but it is written entirely in the first person. The author's note provides sources for further reading, as well as some Keaton films that are currently available on DVD, but she never explains the first person use.

4. Common Themes
Biographies abounded in the list of nominees this year. At least 25 titles were accounts of important events in the lives of historical figures or works that recounted a large portion of their life stories. Two very different biographies on Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Mathaai were included in this number. In addition to these, one title provided a biographical look at the Statue of Liberty!

Always popular, books about animals made a strong showing. Two of these animal titles were inspired by events following hurricane Katrina. There were also 2 books about bears, 2 about frogs, and 2 about ocean life.

I found it interesting that a number of the nominees contained photographic illustrations. These tended to be books on science (animal) topics.

5. Publisher Participation
Nearly one third of the nominated titles in our category were not sent to the panelists. (One panelist informed us that two titles arrived on her doorstep yesterday!) Fortunately, most of use were able to wrangle books through local libraries or interlibrary loan. In the end, there were only 2 books we never saw. I must say that I'm a bit puzzled by the lack of participation. Members of our panel highlighted nominees on their blogs. The titles got face-time at the Cybils site and even more publicity from the Cybils widget. Based on the strength of many of these titles, I purchased some for my own collection. I also took books into local schools and read them with kids. While there I made recommendations to classroom teachers and school librarians.

The positive press generated by the Cybils should not be underestimated. I'm not sure how we get more publishers to participate, but I would think that this kind of free advertising is worth giving away a book or two.
That's all for now. I still have more book reviews to post, so don't forget to come back and look for them in the new year.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Holiday Recap - Wandering Through the Days

On Christmas eve day we decided to start a new family tradition and went bowling. At 10:30 am we had the alley entirely to ourselves. We bowled two games each and had quite a bit of fun. We came home for lunch, watched some Animal Planet videos together, and then headed out for the chaos that is the "children's mass" on Christmas eve. The church was standing room only and so hot it was unbearable. (I learned today that the A.C. was even turned on, but you wouldn't have known it.) Dinner and the quiet that followed were terrific. We visited the NORAD web site to track Santa and then headed off to bed.

Christmas day was lovely and quiet. We spent it building and read lots and lots of books. While the overwhelming majority of them were nonfiction, the two picture books were huge hits. If you haven't seen these yet, you need to check them out.
Skunkdog, written by Emily Jenkins and illustrated by Pierre Pratt (You can see some excerpts and learn more about the book at Emily Jenkins' web site.)

Tadpole Rex, written and illustrated by Kurt Cyrus (You can preview some of the pages at Google Book Search.)

Here are a few pictures of the boy with some of his favorite gifts.

Today was filled with making art, constructing a LEGO fire station, and building more marble-run arrangements than we can count. This is one of our favorites so far.
Here are two of the projects we worked on. One used old toilet paper tubes while the other made good use of leftover tissue paper. The results were fairly nice and we had great fun making them. The directions were very easy to follow and are linked below.

Unlike the folks in the Northeast, Midwest, and Northwest, we have no snow. It was nearly 60 degrees on Christmas, though it was much cooler today. We've been housebound (by choice!) for two days now. Perhaps we'll actually get outside before the week is out!

That's all for now. I hope everyone is enjoying the break as much as we are.

Poetry Friday - December 26th

Welcome to Poetry Friday on this beautiful day. Today I'm sharing a bit of Frost. This one comes from the collection North of Boston.
Good Hours
by Robert Frost

I had for my winter evening walk—
No one at all with whom to talk,
But I had the cottages in a row
Up to their shining eyes in snow.

And I thought I had the folk within:
I had the sound of a violin;
I had a glimpse through curtain laces
Of youthful forms and youthful faces.

I had such company outward bound.
I went till there were no cottages found.
I turned and repented, but coming back
I saw no window but that was black.

Over the snow my creaking feet
Disturbed the slumbering village street
Like profanation, by your leave,
At ten o’clock of a winter eve.
Here's what folks are sharing today.

Books and Reviews
Sally from Paper Tigers shares some thoughts on poetry for parents.

John Mutford of The Book Mine Set reviews his year of reading poetry and ranks his favorites.

Carol of Carol's Corner shares a haiku from Pat Mora's book Yum! Mmmm! Mmmm! Qué Rico!.

Marietta from The Bookworm's Booklist reviews some Mother Goose and Mommy & Me CD's.

Sylvia Vardell from Poetry for Children shares her thoughts on the best poetry of 2008.
Original Poems
Tiel Aisha Ansari from Knocking from Inside gives us a poem entitled A Winter's Discontent.

Elaine of Wild Rose Reader has an original rhyming acrostic poem entitled Chameleon.

David Elzey, writing at Fomagrams, recaps his year of blogging with a found poem of his own posts. This is very cool!

Author Amok (Laura) and her daughter wrote a parody entitled We Wish it Was a 'Winter Wonderland'.

Laura Purdie Salas
rounds up all the original poems from her 15 words or less challenge.

Lorie Ann Grover of On Point shares an original haiku entitled Melting.

Over at DeoWriter, Jone also shares a few seasonal haiku.

Julie Larios from The Drift Record shares her poem entitled Months of the Year.
Poetry of Others
Over at Blue Rose Girls, Elaine shares the Naomi Shihab Nye poem Snow.

Barbara from The Write Sisters shares a Christmas classic.

Jill Corcoran gives us The Christmas Cactus by Liz Rosenberg.

Mary Lee over at A Year of Reading shares Oliver Wendell Holme's Contentment.

Over at Into the Wardrobe, Tarie gives us the T.S. Eliot poem The Journey of the Magi.

Lisa Chellman of Under the Covers shares an epigraph written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge entitled What If You Slept?.

Laura Purdie Salas shares the poem The Snake from David Elliott's book On the Farm.

Douglas Florian from the Florian Cafe is in today with two poems on mortality.

Stacey from Two Writing Teachers shares an excerpt from the Maya Angelou poem Amazing Peace.

Over at readertotz, Lorie Ann Grover has posted the nursery rhyme Come to the Window.

Erin of Miss Erin is sharing the poem she found in her Christmas stocking, Mary's Song by Luci Shaw.

Suzanne from Adventures in Daily Living is also sharing Luci Shaw's powerful poem.

Kelly Fineman of Writing and Ruminating shares my love of Frost with the sigh-inducing To Earthward.

Little Willow of Bildungsroman shares the first stanza from The Night-Piece: To Julia by Robert Herrick.
Enjoy this marvelous feast of poetry, and if I haven't said it before now, happy holidays.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Poetry Stretch Results - Terza Rima

The challenge last week was to write a terza rima. Terza rima (an Italian phrase meaning "third rhyme") consists of a series of three-line stanzas (tercets) with the rhyme scheme aba bcb cdc ded and so on. It can go on as long as the poet wishes. Here are the results.
Tiel Aisha Ansari from Knocking From Inside shares a poem entitled Faust in the Industrial Age.

Kim Kasch left this poem in the comments.

    See the flakes dancing in the air-
    White, fluffy, like cotton candy
    Look around – they’re everywhere.

    Floating slowly they hit the ground
    Squishing as they hit their landing
    They do it all without making a sound.

    Now, run and build a snowman – quick!
    Don’t wait for later in the day
    Hurry, do it, lickity-split.
    Or the snow might melt away.

    So, go outside, now, run and play!
Julie Larios from The Drift Record shares a poem called The Doctor Says, "He Has Meningitis”.

lirone from Words that sing shares a poem entitled What Remains.

Jane Yolen left her poem in the comments of Julie's post. It is called Cheney Confesses.

Laura Purdie Salas shares a poem entitled Tarnished Silver.

sister AE from Having Writ gives us Hunting Season.

Libby from Lessons from the Tortoise wrote a terza rima about advent.
I tried to write a poem for my sister's birthday, but given that I didn't finish my grades until 2 am on Friday, I had a lot of trouble focusing on writing. I'll keep at it and post something soon.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Poetry Friday - Winter Hues

William and I are not only reading chapter and picture books at bedtime, but also a fair amount of poetry. We've read a ton of Florian as a complement to the stacks of nonfiction books about animals. Last night we started reading Winter Eyes. Here's one of my favorite poems in this volume.
Winter Hues
by Douglas Florian

Winter has to pick and choose.
The clothes she wears
Are few in hues:
A raw sienna,
A dark burnt umber,
Some yellow ochres
Scant in number,
Steel gray day,
Navy night,
And winter white
And winter white.
The round up this week is being hosted by Author Amok. Do stop by and take in all the great poetry being shared. Happy poetry Friday, all!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

KIND Children's Book Award

While doing some research to follow-up on the post I wrote about great children's books about animals, I came across a new-to-me book award and list. It's really lovely, so I thought I would share it. Here's an excerpt from the introduction.

Story is a powerful tool for teaching humane concepts like compassion, responsibility, and respect. Good books provide context, create empathy, and give children characters to identify with, care about, and learn from. Stories can even inspire moral action and good citizenship.

Each year, Humane Society Youth recognizes an exceptional children's book with a humane focus on animals or the environment with the KIND Children's Book Award.

The 2008 winner was Before You Were Mine (2007), written by Maribeth Boelts and illustrated by David Walker.

Honor books for 2008 were:

For more information on these titles you should read the entire annotated list for 2008. You can also view the list of winners and honor books from previous years (1995-2007) for some outstanding choices.

In the meantime, perhaps we can try to predict some of the titles that will appear on the 2009 list. My suggestions include poetry, nonfiction and a picture book.

Will you play along with me? What was your favorite book published in 2008 with a "humane focus on animals or the environment"?

Have You Met Señor Calavera?

I should be grading, but right now I'm doing a bit of procrastinating, thanks to Yuyi Morales.
trickster badge
If you have some time, go meet Señor Calavera yourself!

Great Children's Books About Animals

Have you ever read something written that so totally described you that you wondered if the author had read your secret diary? I have. Here it is.
One of my mother's favorite stories about my childhood is the time she heard me sobbing in my bedroom, and came in to see what was wrong.

"Christie, what is it?" she asked from the doorway. "Why are you crying like that?"

I looked at her, my face a swollen mess. "I'm crying because Charlotte died, and she saved Wilbur's life!"

"Who are Charlotte and Wilbur?" she said, sounding somewhat alarmed.

I swallowed a sob. "Charlotte's a spider, and Wilbur's a pig."

That's when she realized I was clutching a book in my hands . . .
Is there anyone in this world that hasn't cried while reading Charlotte's Web? I have to wonder how classroom teachers get through read aloud with it, because I still cry.

In her article From "Black Beauty" to "The Underneath": 132 years of great children's books about animals, Christie Keith talks about the beauty and importance of children's books, particularly those with animals as the characters or focus of the story. Not only does she talk about the value of these books, but Keith has created two annotated lists: classic children's books and books that haven't necessarily earned that status yet.

The Classics are books published until the mid-60s and the Not-quite Classics come after that. The mid-60s were a clear watershed moment in American culture. Themes in children's books changed along with the music, films, and books written for adults, becoming more sophisticated, more about urban settings, more psychological and less overtly sentimental.

. . .

I included suggested reading levels with each description, based on the sometimes conflicting information given by publishers, librarians, and children's book reviewers. These are meant to be suggestions only. I read most of these books when I was quite a bit younger than the given age ranges, and some of them I still enjoy as an adult. Let the reading level of the individual child be your guide.

Here are the lists, without annotations. They are listed in order of publication date.


  • Black Beauty (1877) By Anna Sewell
  • Beautiful Joe (1893) By Margaret Marshall Saunders (writing as Marshall Saunders)
  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1902) By Beatrix Potter
  • The Wind in the Willows (1908) By Kenneth Grahame
  • The Secret Garden (1909) By Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • The Velveteen Rabbit (1922) By Margery Williams
  • National Velvet (1935) By Enid Bagnold
  • Lassie Come-Home (1940) By Eric Knight
  • The Black Stallion (1941) By Walt Farley
  • My Friend Flicka (1941) By Mary O'Hara
  • Gobbolino, the Witch's Cat (1942) By Ursula Moray Williams
  • Big Red (1945) By Jim Kjelgaard
  • Misty of Chincoteague (1947), King of the Wind: The Story of the Godolphin Arabian (1949), Mustang: Wild Spirit of the West (1966) By Marguerite Henry
  • Charlotte's Web (1952) By E.B. White
  • Goodbye, My Lady (1954) By James H. Street
  • Old Yeller (1956) By Fred Gipson
  • My Side of the Mountain (1959) By Jean Craighead George
  • Where the Red Fern Grows (1961) By Wilson Rawls
  • Rascal (1963) By Sterling North

Newer Books (Not Classic YET)

  • J.T. (1969) By Jane Wagner
  • The Tenth Good Thing About Barney (1971) By Judith Viorst
  • Julie of the Wolves (1972) By Jean Craighead George
  • The Harper Hall Trilogy: Dragonsong, Dragonsinger, and Dragondrums (1979) by Anne McCaffery
  • Babe the Gallant Pig (1983) By Dick King-Smith
  • Dogsong (1985) By Gary Paulsen
  • Rosalie (1987) By Joan Hewett
  • I'll Always Love You (1988) By Hans Wilhelm
  • Two Travelers (1990) By Christopher Manson
  • Shiloh (1991) By Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  • Dogteam (1993) By Gary Paulsen and Ruth Wright Paulsen
  • Protecting Marie (1995) By Kevin Henkes
  • The Wolf's Chicken Stew (1996) By Keiko Kasza
  • Olive, the Other Reindeer (1997) By Vivian Walsh
  • Fire, Bed, and Bone (1998) By Henrietta Branford
  • The Grannyman (1999) By Judy Schachner
  • Because of Winn-Dixie (2000) By Kate DiCamillo
  • A Day in the Life of Murphy (2003) By Alice Provensen
  • Breakfast for Jack (2004) By Pat Schories
  • Martha (2005) By Gennady Spirin
  • Nora's Ark (2005) By Natalie Kinsey-Warnock
  • The Underneath (2007) By Kathi Appelt

This is not only a very smart article, but the annotations provide some real perspective on the choices. Do take some time to read it. Once you've finished, please come back and comment on the lists. Did you find any surprises? Do you have a real favorite that's missing? Let's chat, shall we?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Changing Views on Reading

Reading vs. digital literacy. The debate continues as Christine Rosen presents an interesting perspective regarding the future of reading. Here is an excerpt.

We have already taken the first steps on our journey to a new form of literacy—“digital literacy.” The fact that we must now distinguish among different types of literacy hints at how far we have moved away from traditional notions of reading. The screen mediates everything from our most private communications to our enjoyment of writing, drama, and games. It is the busiest port of entry for popular culture and requires navigation skills different from those that helped us master print literacy.

Enthusiasts and self-appointed experts assure us that this new digital literacy represents an advance for mankind; the book is evolving, progressing, improving, they argue, and every improvement demands an uneasy period of adjustment. Sophisticated forms of collaborative “information foraging” will replace solitary deep reading; the connected screen will replace the disconnected book. Perhaps, eons from now, our love affair with the printed word will be remembered as but a brief episode in our cultural maturation, and the book as a once-beloved technology we’ve outgrown.

My favorite quote, and the one I'm thinking quite a bit about, actually comes from historian David Bell.

As he tried to train himself to screen-read—and mastering such reading does require new skills—Bell made an important observation, one often overlooked in the debate over digital texts: the computer screen was not intended to replace the book. Screen reading allows you to read in a “strategic, targeted manner,” searching for particular pieces of information, he notes. And although this style of reading is admittedly empowering, Bell cautions, “You are the master, not some dead author. And that is precisely where the greatest dangers lie, because when reading, you should not be the master”; you should be the student. “Surrendering to the organizing logic of a book is, after all, the way one learns,” he observes.
Read the entire article, entitled People of the Screen. Once you do, please come back so we can discuss.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Monday Poetry Stretch - Terza Rima

I've been sonnet writing lately, so I have iambic pentameter on the brain. I need, however, to try a different form, so this week I've chosen terza rima. The Handbook of Poetic Forms defines it in this fashion.
Terza rima is a tumbling, interlocking rhyme scheme that was invented by the thirteenth-century Italian poet Dante for the creation of his long poem, The Divine Comedy.

Terza rima (an Italian phrase meaning "third rhyme") consists of a series of three-line stanzas (tercets) with the rhyme scheme aba bcb cdc ded and so on. It can go on as long as the poet wishes. At the end of the poem an extra line is often added to complete the structure: yzy z.
You can read more on this form at Poets.org. Generally, terza rima is written in iambic pentameter, though you will find exceptions. One notable one is this terza rima by William Carlos Williams. You'll notice a lot of near rhyme and then ... not so much.
The Yachts

contend in a sea which the land partly encloses
shielding them from the too-heavy blows
of an ungoverned ocean which when it chooses

tortures the biggest hulls, the best man knows
to pit against its beatings, and sinks them pitilessly.
Mothlike in mists, scintillant in the minute

brilliance of cloudless days, with broad bellying sails
they glide to the wind tossing green water
from their sharp prows while over them the crew crawls

Read the poem in its entirety.
Here is a clearer example of the form.
Ode to the West Wind
Percy Bysshe Shelley

O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being
Thou from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,

Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes! O thou
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed

The wingèd seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave, until
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow

Read the poem in its entirety.
Will you join me in writing a terza rima? Leave me a comment about your poem and I'll post the results later this week.

The Wonder of Children's Books

FINALLY! Someone gets it right when talking about children's literature and YA books. Here are a few excerpts.
"A self-styled literary snob, I began buying titles in the children's and young-adult section of the bookstore. I became an addict, and what's worse, I started to act like one. "

"I realized that what drew me was not just the superb storytelling but the speed with which I could get through the texts. It was a rhythmic experience I was encountering every time I opened a book."

"In other words, the texts I was reading told their stories in an economical and exact style, without the unnecessary burden of digression or overexplication."

"The literature I was reading was every bit as complicated and thought-provoking as the texts I included on my syllabi."

"It would be a mistake to say that these texts are simplistic. They contain all the complexities we look for in any well-written narrative. "
Go now and read the entire article, Wonder Rediscovered in Children's Books, by Andrew Martino.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Poetry Friday - Sorley’s Weather

Yesterday was a wet, dreary day. However, I curled up in the corner chair near the fire last night and read poetry while deciding what to post today. Here's my choice.
Sorley’s Weather
by Robert Graves

When outside the icy rain
   Comes leaping helter-skelter,
Shall I tie my restive brain
   Snugly under shelter?

Shall I make a gentle song
   Here in my firelit study,
When outside the winds blow strong
   And the lanes are muddy?

With old wine and drowsy meats
   Am I to fill my belly?
Shall I glutton here with Keats?
   Shall I drink with Shelley?

Tobacco’s pleasant, firelight’s good:
   Poetry makes both better.
Clay is wet and so is mud,
   Winter rains are wetter.

Yet rest there, Shelley, on the sill,
   For though the winds come frorely,
I’m away to the rain-blown hill
   And the ghost of Sorley.

This poem comes from the book Fairies and Fusiliers, published in 1918. You can read more poems from the book here.
The round up this week is being hosted by the amazing Elaine over at Wild Rose Reader. Do stop by and take in all the great poetry being shared. Before you go, don't forget to check out this week's poetry stretch results. Happy poetry Friday, all!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Poetry Stretch Results - Clerihew

The challenge this week was to write a clerihew. A clerihew is a four-line verse written in an a/a/b/b rhyme scheme that is biographical and humorous. Here are the results.
Terry, one of my amazing colleagues, left this poem in the comments.
    When Old Man Winter comes out to play
    Children put their bikes away
    And, gloved and coated, they ride instead
    The slippery roads on a saucer sled.
Julie Larios from The Drift Record went WILD and wrote six, count 'em, six poems!

Elaine from Wild Rose Reader wrote clerihews for the first time and came up with these three gems.

Jane Yolen stopped by and left this poem in the comments.
    Emily Dickinson stayed at home
    And each day wrote a little poem.
    A little poem each day turns out
    To be a lot to write about.
I chose to write about seasonal characters this week. Here are two of my efforts.
Frosty was a man of snow
who liked it ten degrees below.
He feared for days that were too warm,
for melting ruined his boyish form.

The shiny nose on Rudolph's face,
gives the 'deer a special place.
Leading the sleigh through fog and snow,
he's grateful that his bum don't glow!
It's not too late if you still want to join us in a little cheeky fun. Leave me a note about your poem and I'll add it to the list.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Ultimate in Reading Comfort?

While this doesn't meet my definition of comfortable (though I have been known to recline in front of the fireplace), my son has made great use of the boxes that are piling up at our house from all the recent online shopping.

Here he is listening to some audiobooks on the iPod, lounging in his "box-chair" invention.
Oh to be nearly eight!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Books and Swag - Holiday Gift Pairings for Kids

I had lots of young folks to buy gifts for this year. Here are some of the things I've purchased and/or considered for the little people on my list. Each one of these ideas pairs a book with a related item.

For the Dinosaur Lover -

For the Kid Who Wants to Workout with Mom and/or Dad -

For the Fishing Fanatic in the Family -
For the budding Author/Illustrator -

For the Insect Lover -

For the Puzzle Solver -
That's all for now. If you're still at a loss in the shopping department, MotherReader is the queen of this kind of stuff and has many more ideas for pairing books and gift.

Rounding Up the Cybils NFPB Reviews

I am still making my way through the Cybils nominees in the category of nonfiction picture books. So far I have written reviews for nearly 35% of the books. Here are the titles reviewed to date.
My colleagues on the review panel are also hard at work. You can find their take on the nominees at the sites below.
You can find links to even more NFPB reviews at this post.

We're getting down to the wire now, with a list of finalists due at the end of the month. Criteria used to evaluate the nominees include:
  • Writing (and if pertinent, illustration)
  • Kid appeal
  • 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?
I can't wait to see where this goes. More to come . . .

Grant Opportunity for Classroom Teachers

This one is for all my friends and readers who teach. Please note that you must be trained in PLT (attended a workshop) to enter.
Project Learning Tree (PLT) will award a $500 cash grant to four randomly selected schools throughout the country. All you need to do is register before the December 30th deadline and you’ll be eligible to win a Learn Outside GreenWorks! Grant for your school. Winners can create a butterfly garden, host a PLT Learn Outside activity day, or even create an outdoor classroom. Enter today!

Entry Deadline is December 30, 2008. Winners will be notified by January 15, 2009.

To enter, sign up now at:

Shakespeare as the Avon Lady?!

If you are a lover of history (like me) and enjoy sarcasm and inventive wit, you need to start reading one of my favorite blogs, The History Bluff. The tag line of this blog is "Making a mess of history." It is one of my regular morning reads and always offers a quick giggle. Today was no exception. Since it has literary connections, I thought you might enjoy it. Here's how it begins:
William Shakespeare is one of the leading dramatists of all time; the first true master of the modern English language - but he was a pioneer in more ways than one. Researchers at The History Bluff have discovered that Shakespeare may well have been the first person to sell cosmetics and perfumes door to door.
Hungry for your own morning giggle? Then get thee to the post entitled William Shakespeare: The Avon Lady.

Monday Poetry Stretch - Clerihew

I'm late again, but actually have a good reason this time. I'm in a foul, foul mood, which is really disappointing for this time of year. To lift my spirits I need some clever or funny poetry, so this week I'm challenging you to write a clerihew. A clerihew is a four-line verse written in an a/a/b/b rhyme scheme that is biographical and humorous.

Here's one of the poems I wrote for the last challenge.
Sir Isaac Newton, mathematician
scientist of recognition,
saw an apple fall from a tree
then shouted, "Yes, that's gravity!"
You can read all the results at this post. This time around I'm going to attempt to skewer some well-loved holiday types, like Rudolph or Frosty. We'll see how that goes.

Will you stretch with me? Leave me a comment about your poem and I'll post the results here later this week. Happy writing!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Why I Love Opening a Book

I have had a terrible day. No, make that a terrible few days. I have oodles of work, papers to grade, and lots of end-of-semester chores to complete. However, I can't concentrate.

Instead of work, I am burying myself in a book that has been in my TBR pile for more than a year. I knew it was the perfect choice when I got to this passage.
Stories were different, though: they came alive in the telling. Without a human voice to read them aloud, or a pair of wide eyes following them by flashlight beneath a blanket, they had no real existence in our world. They were like seeds in the beak of a bird, waiting to fall to earth, or the notes of a song laid out on a sheet, yearning for an instrument to bring their music into being. They lay dormant, hoping for the chance to emerge. Once someone started to read them, they could begin to change. They could take root in the imagination, and transform the reader. Stories wanted to be read, David's mother would whisper. They needed it. It was the reason they forced themselves from their world into ours. They wanted us to give them life.
Isn't that beautiful? Are you nodding in agreement with the sentiment? This is why I love opening a book. Each one I read surprises, comforts, and often teaches me in some way. After only three pages, this one is off to a grand start.

The above excerpt is from The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly. You can read the first chapter online.

The Latest in Book Censorship

Here is the latest in censorship from a school district in New York.
Pages from the middle of the book have been torn out by the school district after having been deemed "inappropriate" by school officials due to sexual content and strong language. Removed is a scene where the rebellious Lisa (played by Angela Jolie in the movie) encourages Susanna (played by Winona Ryder) to circumvent hospital rules against sexual intercourse by engaging in oral sex instead.

"The material was of a sexual nature that we deemed inappropriate for teachers to present to their students," said English Department Chariperson Leslie Altschul, "since the book has other redeeming features, we took the liberty of bowdlerizing."

Read more at Book Interrupted. I am shaking my head in stunned silence.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Gifts for Readers and Writers

My holiday shopping is finally done. Today I'm sharing some of my favorite purchases along with suggestions for the readers and writers on your list.

Readers always love books, but sometimes gifts that enhance the reading experience or allow them to show their love for literature can be fun. Here are a few ideas.
The next time you step out in the rain, sport one of these Literary Luminaries umbrellas. Perhaps you have a friend who loves to read comic strips just as much as Shakespeare. Then the choice is a Gazette Comic Umbrella. (And really, sporting an umbrella with Kalamazoo on it will inspire such interesting conversations!)

For the friend or family member with a large collection of titles, you can't go wrong with bookends. I'm quite enamored of these James Thurber Dog Bookends. My favorites, however, are the Reading Gargoyles that adorn my shelves.

These days lots of folks take their own bags to the store for groceries, or the library to carry their books. You can carry a tote bag with Driven to Read (Mo's pigeon), Click, Clack Read (farmer Brown's crew), Share Books (Kevin Henkes characters), or several other options.

On those days when you need a good insult for co-worker or friend (or heaven-forbid, a family member), try a package of Shakespearean Insult Gum. Each set includes seven boxes that look like miniature Shakespeare volumes. Inside each box are two fruit flavored gum balls and an eloquent Shakespearean insult printed on the inside.

Bookplates are always a good idea, but they can be expensive. Here is a relatively inexpensive source of customized bookplates with some very cool vintage images.

For the reader who must mark important lines, but hates to write in his/her books (that's me), these Book Leaves are folded bookmarks with inspiring quotes about collecting meaningful words on the front. There are also lines to write your thoughts.
You don't need to be a published author to be a writer. My mother continues to write actual letters, and lots of folks I know write thank you notes. Others still like to scribble away in notebooks. Here are some ideas for them.
I have a love for notebooks and notecards made out of recycled paper. Give your eco-loving writer friends a journal or stationery made out of elephant poo. Believe it or not, elephant poo is largely made of fibrous material (undigested plant matter) that can be processed to make lovely, STINK-FREE paper.

I'm also quite fond of this set of 10 Quaderno notebooks in a rainbow of colors.

If you have a friend writing a novel or working on revisions, I suggest the T-shirt that reads "Careful, or you'll end up in my novel." (Being nice to your writer friends is always a good idea!)

Let your writer show his/her love for children's literature with a packet of notecards featuring Curious George, Olivia, Max and the Wild Things, and more.

While scribbling away in your notebook, tickle your fancy with these sweet smelling pencils called Smencils. If you like to write in color, try these Colored Smencils.

Is your writer friend suffering from writer's block? Try The Observation Deck: A Toolkit for Writers. Inside the portable box is a 160 page book of proven techniques and 50 cards with verbs to stimulate action. The book offers inspiration and practical advice from writers and shares their secrets to approaching work with renewed creativity.
Do you have a Jane Austen lover on your list? Here are some ideas from the ridiculous to sublime.
Do you know someone trying to get her inner Jane on? Get her this Jane Austen finger puppet for a bit of fun.

For even more inspiration, superhero style, go for the Jane Austen Action Figure.

Lesley at Small Meadow Press makes "beautiful and useful papers for everyday life." Her gorgeous Jane Austen stationery consists of three missives each of three different designs, with nine decorated envelopes in matching colors. The quotes are from Jane's letters to her sister Cassandra in the early 1800's.

Laini Taylor, author and artist extraordinaire makes Laini's Ladies, beautiful adornments with inspirational quotes. Perfectly Happy and Silly Things both contain quotes by Austen.

While rereading your favorite Austen novels, keep your place with a Jane Austen bookmark.
Finally, for readers and writers who love to cook, I recommend the book Writers in the Kitchen by Tricia Gardella. It contains 200 hundred recipes, including appetizers, entrees, and desserts, from more than 150 writers.

That's all for now. If you have favorite gifts for the readers and writers in your life, please share your ideas. Happy shopping!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Poetry Friday - Convention

My son and I have been talking of snow for weeks now. Since his Oma and Opa have had snow on a few occasions already this year (gotta love lake effect snow), he wants to know when it's coming here. I'd like to know myself, though a light dusting is all I really require. I certainly don't miss the kind of snow described in this poem.
by Agnes Lee

The snow is lying very deep.
My house is sheltered from the blast.
I hear each muffled step outside,
I hear each voice go past.

But I’ll not venture in the drift
Out of this bright security,
Till enough footsteps come and go
To make a path for me.
Before I send you to the round up today, I must first encourage you to visit this week's poetry stretch results, where you'll find climbing rhymes by the likes of Jane Yolen, Julie Larios, doug florian, many of your favorite bloggers (TadMack, Laura Purdie Salas) and others. You won't want to miss the wonderful, original poems being shared.

Now that you've read some climbing rhymes, take a gander at the poetry being shared this week. Karen at Mommy's Favorite Children's Books is our intrepid hostess. Happy poetry Friday, all!