Sunday, February 28, 2010

Preparing for April - 31 Days and Counting Down

Did you know that National Poetry Month is just around the corner? I've been planning and plotting since the middle of January, trying to figure out how to celebrate this year. Last year's Poetry Makers series (interviews with children's poets) was so much fun to do and so well received that I've decided to do it again. Here are the amazing folks who have agreed to participate this time around.
  • Francisco Alarcón
  • Kathi Appelt
  • Brod Bagert
  • Carmen Bernier-Grand
  • David Bouchard
  • James Carter
  • Kurt Cyrus
  • Kalli Dakos
  • Gene Fehler
  • Charles Gingha
  • Nikki Giovanni
  • Nikki Grimes
  • David Harrison
  • Juanita Havill
  • Anna Grossnickle Hines
  • Mary Ann Hoberman
  • Pat Hubbell
  • X.J. Kennedy
  • Ron Koertge
  • Bruce Lansky
  • JonArno Lawson
  • Marjorie Maddox
  • Heidi Mordhorst
  • Michael J. Rosen
  • Deborah Ruddell
  • Alice Schertle
  • Charles R. Smith, Jr.
  • Hope Anita Smith
  • Eileen Spinelli
  • April Halprin Wayland
  • Jenny Whitehead
  • Allan Wolf
I'm actually quite thrilled that so many of the writers I reached out to said YES. I can't wait to share this with you. I'll be kicking it off on April 1st with a visit from the current Children's Poet Laureate, Mary Ann Hoberman, who will be talking about her efforts to be a Pied Piper for children's poetry. I do hope you'll join us.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Poetry Friday - Birds Small Enough

I'm so longing for spring and looking forward to the return of the birds. Here's a poem for them.
"Birds small enough...”
by Donald Revell

Birds small enough to nest in our young cypress
Are physicians to us

They burst from the tree exactly
Where the mind ends and the eye sees

Another world the equal of this one
Though only a small boy naked in the sun

Read the poem in its entirety.
The round up is being hosted by Jone at Check It Out. Do stop by and check out all the wonderful poetry being shared. Before you go, be sure to check out this week's poetry stretch results. Happy poetry Friday all!

Books for Elementary Science and Social Studies

You may have noticed that I've been blogging lite the last few weeks. Quite simply, this semester is kicking my *ss. Not only am I swamped with work, but I've had the flu and now am seeing my son through his bout with it as well.

So, my apologies for the lack of interesting stuff here. I do miss it and you. I will get back on track in the next few weeks. In the meantime you should know that my students have been hard at work reviewing books for use in teaching science and social studies. Since January 25th they have posted more than 100 titles for use in the elementary classroom. Their reviews include a brief summary of the book, ideas for curriculum connections, and links to additional resources that support the concepts being taught. Here are links to their most recent posts.

Social Studies
After spring break we'll go back at it again, and you'll have more than 100 new posts by the end of April. They're working hard, so please do visit and see what they are contributing to Open Wide, Look Inside.

Poetry Stretch Results - Kyrielle

The challenge this week was to write in the form of kyrielle. There was some discussion about whether this was actually the correct name for the form. We wrote "traditional" kyrielles back in April 2008. Here's the explanation for that form.
A kyrielle is a French from that was originally used by Troubadours. In the original French kyrielle, lines had eight syllables. Written in English, the lines are usually iambic tetrameters. The distinctive feature of a kyrielle is the refrain in which the final line of every stanza is the same. The name of the form comes from the word kyrie, a form of prayer in which the phrase "Lord have mercy" (kyrie eleison) is repeated.
The definition of kyrielle I used this time around came from the book Fly With Poetry: An ABC of Poetry, written and illustrated by Avis Harley.
Kyrielle - a kyrielle is divided into couplets, each pair of lines ending with the same word which acts as the refrain.
There was a question of whether or not this form as described was actually a ghazal. Here's what I know about this form. This definition comes from The Teachers & Writers Handbook of Poetic Forms.
The original Persian form was fairly simple--a poem of five to twelve couplets (two-line stanzas), all using the same rhyme, with the poet putting his name in the final stanza. ... Originally the main themes of the ghazal were love and drinking wine, but later poets became more philosophical and even mystical in their writing.

In it's contemporary form, the ghazal doesn't usually rhyme, poets don't sign their name in the last couplet, and it isn't very often about love or drinking. So you might wonder what's left of the original Persian form.

The two important features are the long-lined couplets (sometimes unrhymed) and the often mystical thoughts that are expressed.
In the end I don't know what the answer is, but I did have fun reading the results in their variant forms. Here they are.
What Will I Wear
by Jane Yolen

What will I wear when day is done,
When all my skin and flesh are gone?

How will I know which skills to hone
When brain and heart are also gone?

Who will I speak to, in what tone,
When mouth and ear and throat are gone?

Who will I love when I’m alone
And all I know are dead and gone?

©2010 Jane Yolen all rights reserved

by Kate Coombs of Book Aunt

Maybe this is the day to begin.
I can sort of see it, but I hesitate.

Today I will sprout a future
like green wings. Except--I hesitate.

If I can just drop that habit,
life will gleam. I hesitate,

wanting to keep it and drop
a different one. To hesitate

is easy. Should I call you?
Should I write a poem? Hesitate

and all is not lost. But something is,
something isn't born because I hesitate.

--Kate Coombs, 2010

An Artist Mother’s Plea
A kyrielle by Nicole Marie Schreiber

I’ve laid the plan, the plot’s in sight,
I think it’s time to sit and write.

But laundry's piled and money’s tight,
With dinner to make, how can I write?

With dishes reaching such a height,
And whiny kids who cry, “Don’t write!”

Whatever it takes, the muse must fight,
For artist mamas to write, write, write!

Something Fishy
by Kate Coombs of Book Aunt

At breakfast, James does not feel well,
staring like a mackerel.

His skin gleams coolly as a shell.
Fetch water for the mackerel!

And then, of course, there is a smell
of ripe and briny mackerel.

Oh, surely someone's cast a spell
To turn James to a mackerel.

Poor boy. I wish that I could tell
just how to care for mackerel.

--Kate Coombs, 2010

by Diane Mayr of Random Noodling

Piercing rain, freezing drizzle, glaze
my vision, blinding me with grays.

Snow falls. It clings, lingers, and stays.
Exhaust and dirt turns white to grays.

Endless nights after cold dank days
intensify these winter grays.

Dear Lord, your name I surely praise,
but please, enough with winter grays.

Eubalaena glacialis
by Steven Withrow of Crackles of Speech

One day I'll take a whale watch boat
To see your great descendants float
And breach up their enormous girth,
Before they perish from the earth.

That day I'll hear their right whale song,
And I will gladly sing along,
As they intone with mammal mirth,
Before they perish from the earth.

And if I'm lucky, I'll have spied
An infant calf by mother's side,
Who weighs a ton his day of birth,
Before they perish from the earth.

Your skeleton is ghostly white,
But I will join your faithful fight.
If humans learn your precious worth,
You'll never perish from the earth.

by Doraine Bennett of Dori Reads

It wouldn't be a bother
to help take care of Mother,

but she only wants my father
to get her out of bed. So I said, Mother,

you really need another
pair of hands. Well, then my mother

took a fit of temper and she stuttered
I should listen to my mother.

It's easy to misjudge her
even if she is my mother,

so I turn aside and mutter,
the woman is my mother.

What is it now? Oh, brother.
Lord, have mercy on my mother.

by Liz Korba of

Their father said that God was One
Two brothers – each he called his son
But One was not to be their fate.
”Awaiting Easter – God is Great.”

I pray not knowing if I’m heard
Petition, sorrow, praise – Absurd?
Yet I must hope, that is not my fate
“Awaiting Easter – God is Great.”

These words I whisper - this my prayer
To those who hear, to God, to air
The truth I crave, I here create
“Awaiting Easter – God is Great.”

The spring will come, bring life anew
I’ll call this fact. I’ll claim this true.
As real as fear. As real as hate.
“Awaiting Easter – God is Great.”

Tiel Aisha Ansari of Knocking From Inside share a poem entitled Dowry of the Bride.

MsMac (Jone) of Check It Out is our host today and has written an Ode to Poetry Friday.

Nepalese Monsoon
by M.F. Atkins of World of Words

Steaming tin roof, sloped and plain
echoes the drumbeat of the rain

waiting beneath for the rumble to wane
while downpours puddle up the rain

my thoughts jumble in my brain
scrambled by a deafening onslaught of rain

a conversation I try to feign
but give up shouting over the rain
It's not too late if you still want to play. Leave me a note about your poem and I'll add it to the list.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Monday Poetry Stretch - Kyrielle

Back in 2008 we wrote poems in the form of kyrielle. I'd like to do this again, but think we should try a different definition of the form. This one comes from the book Fly With Poetry: An ABC of Poetry, written and illustrated by Avis Harley.
Kyrielle - a kyrielle is divided into couplets, each pair of lines ending with the same word which acts as the refrain.

Here is her example.

How is it the salmon know
where to bury ruby roe?

Something signals when to go;
they journey homeward, rich with roe.

To birthstones of so long ago
the fish return to lay their roe.

Under currents, just below,
the jade green streams are jeweled with roe.

Poem ©Avis Harley. All rights reserved.
So, your challenge this week is to write a kyrielle. Leave me a note about your poem and I'll post the results here later this week.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Poetry Friday - Shout Out

I've been listening to Sekou Sundiata this week. Here's a poem I love. There is no text today, only the music of his words.
The round up is hosted by Irene Latham of Live. Love. Explore!. Do stop by and take in all the great poetry being shared. Before you go be sure to check out this week's poetry stretch results. Happy poetry Friday all!

Poetry Stretch Results - Yearning

The challenge this week was to write a poem about yearning. Here are the results.
Sometimes There’s Something
by Kate Coombs of Book Aunt

Sometimes there’s something
I want so much I think
my hands will fly off,
fingers fluttering like birds,
to search in the east
and my feet will run fast
by themselves to the west
and my head will dive down
to the ground to roll south,
my eyes flashing to find it
while my body flounders
around, trying to go north,
every bit of me wanting,
wanting to know what it is
that I’m wanting so much.

--Kate Coombs, 2010

by Diane Mayr of Random Noodling

Reporter's microphone captures
background sounds of children
playing and unknown birds a-twitter.
Both groups unaware that they
put the war in context and make it
that much more unbelievable.

Round Frame
by Jane Yolen

My father's past lies hidden in an round frame.
The child there has plump cheeks,
uncolored eyes; a heavy Russian hat
perches awkwardly on his baby curls.
He stares out at me, through me, daring me
to take away his manufactured birth
in Connecticut. All those years Ykaterinslav
was lost to me, when I could have celebrated
Ukrainian winters, learned words of love,
fashion, passion, paternity,
how to season the fish with pepper, not sugar,
how to cut the farfl from flat sheets of dough.
All I had was New Haven.
Would I go there now, when Ykaterinislav
no longer exists; go and see
what Cossacks, Hitler, Chernobyl could not conquer,
the little shtetl my father alone destroyed
by never speaking its name.
No, I shall stay here, at home, instead,
gazing back at the boy who stares at me,
whisper to him, through him, dare him,
"Tell me the story of Ykaterinslav,"
till one day the picture itself speaks.

by Steven Withrow of Crackles of Speech

is to hold
the interminable
of time
over the bowl
of what's possible
and wait,
to savor,

Julie Larios of The Drift Record left this poem in the comments.

Each year I yearn
to write some fiction.
I think of dialogue
and diction,
and motivation,
rising action
point of view
(He and She
or Me and You?)
I do my best
with prose and plot
to do what poetry
does not:
Go on and on
and on and on
and on and on
and on and...yawn.
I toss my fiction
on the floor
and cuddle up
with Metaphor.

Still, She Cannot Write the Spring
by Doraine Bennett of Dori Reads

It was a cold Christmas
That chilled the roots and left no promise
Against the hard consonants of November.
A songless sparrow picks lichen
From trees standing bare in the wind
And listens with her for a touch
Of sunlight, for words to melt the icy ground,
To bear the burden of a crocus
Rising through frozen earth.

What I’d say to the mountains
by Harriet of spynotes

Your blue edges blur
Beyond the belltower
at the edge the town,
over the river
outside my vision, just,
but hovering over us
to catch us
in the event of a sudden loss of gravity.

Why are you not here
In this flattest, barest place
Where no blue exists,
Nor belltowers, nor even towns,
Only white fields
And more white fields
And more white fields
And tufts of dried grasses?

I know your contours,
Your smoky smells.
I could draw you, with my finger, in the air
I could erase the train that carried me away,
And leave me standing on a mountaintop
Looking at a mountaintop
While the valley between us
Hums with pleasure.

But my train rumbled out
And I wished I’d yelled and leapt.
You would have caught me, I think,
Picked me out of the air and held me close
So I’d never need leave you,
Never need remembrance or the writing of poetry
But only the living of it
Without this missing piece at the middle.

by Nicole Marie Schreiber

For passports and postcards,
countries with castles,
anywhere there’s tea brewing,
and tall ships at sea.

For sunrises on bridges
beaches with seashells,
anywhere with ruins,
and a tale not yet told.

For flowers and fairies,
dancing and music,
anywhere to read a book,
and a pillow to dream.

English Was Her Second Language
by Liz

In tears
Without words
She declared

My husband said.
Our government said
No. White-
My husband said.
We lost our jobs,
We lost our home,
We lost our servants,
All we had.

In external form –
Hand slapped
Against a classroom wall…

It's not too late if you still want to play. Leave me a note about your poem and I'll add it to the list.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

What's In a Name or Title?

If you read any of my poetry on this site, you'll find the poems often lack titles. I rarely come up with words that seem appropriate. Naming my child was easier than the task of choosing titles for poems, articles, and blog posts. And my dissertation? That took months to title and it's nothing to write home about!

Over at The, Eric Puchner has written blurb #14 entitled The Land of Underwater Birds, in which he asks "What makes a good title? What makes a bad one? And how do you know when you’ve found the right one?" Here's an excerpt.
The honest truth is I struggle with titles myself. On the one hand, they seem like the least important part of the writing process: Shouldn’t the story or novel speak for itself? On the other, they’re the first words anyone reads, and in some respect the most important words of all—what we sniff before ordering the bottle.
In addition to his exposition on titles, he talks briefly about the book Deepening Fiction by Sarah Stone and Ron Nyren. It lessened the angst I feel about all the crap I write before getting to the good stuff. Here's an excerpt.
[They] talk about the idea of creative beginnings versus actual beginnings: Even if we end up cutting the original “creative beginning” of a novel or short story—the part of the novel or story, often, that we’re most attached to—this doesn’t mean it’s not an essential part of the writing process. In some ways, it’s the most essential.
It's a wonderful piece, so do head over and check out The Land of Underwater Birds.

Literary Classics As Graphic Novels

I don't read many graphic novels, but I'm intrigued by the added dimension and new perspective they bring to texts. Over at Flavorwire Chelsea Bauch has written a piece entitled Graphic Content: 10 Literary Classics Made Better as Comic Books. Here's an excerpt.
Most of us are familiar with the inevitable anxiety that comes with seeing a beloved book turned into a movie, but some stories can actually benefit from a little cross-media reinterpretation. Amid the medium’s own rapid ascension toward highbrow acceptance, the graphic novel has proved a flexible format for literary adaptation, transforming texts into improved visual narratives without eliminating the reading process.

Now, with a spate of recently published and upcoming graphic adaptations making headlines — including Robert Crumb’s The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb and the sure-to-be-divisive Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Graphic Novel — we recommend ten classic works that have been effectively translated into comic books.

I haven't seen any of the recommended books, but think Frankenstein and Farenheit 451 look glorious. My most recent graphic novel read came last fall in the form of Edgar Allen Poe's Tales of Death and Dementia illustrated by Gris Grimly, and I found it fabulously creepy.

So, what are you waiting for? Head on over to Graphic Content: 10 Literary Classics Made Better as Comic Books and check out the recommendations.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

2010 Green Earth Book Award Winners

The winners of the Green Earth Book Award were recently announced. Given by the Newton Marasco Foundation in partnership with Salisbury University, this award promotes books that inspire a child to grow a deeper appreciation, respect and responsibility for his or her natural environment. You can read about the prize criteria at the Newton Marasco Foundation site.

Picture Book Winner
Miss Fox's Class Goes Green
written by Eileen Spinelli and illustrated by Anne Kennedy

Nonfiction Winner
Earth in the Hot Seat: Bulletins from a Warming World
written by Marfe Ferguson Delano

Children's Fiction Winner
Operation Redwood
written by S. Terrell French

Young Adult Fiction
The Carbon Diaries: 2015
written by Saci Lloyd

Honor Books
For more information on this award and its past winners, check out the March 2008 issue of Book Links and the article "The Green Earth Book Award" by Fred Chapel, Sharon James, and J. Cynthia McDermott.

Monday, February 15, 2010

My Love of Poetry is Rubbing Off ...

I'm in a bit of a Monday posting slump because I teach for six-hours (two three-hour classes back-to-back) and I spend my day grading and preparing. However, I had to take a break to share this with you.

Here's what I found in one of my student's first grade lesson plans on counting. This is in the lesson introduction.
Read the poem "The Boy Who Counted Stars" by David Harrison.
And honestly, the whole lesson revolves around this poem and thinking about numbers.
It's really that easy folks.

In Passing - Lucille Clifton

I was saddened to read the news of poet Lucille Clifton's death.

You can read more about her at The Poetry Foundation.

You can hear her read "September Songs, A Poem in Seven Days" about the days surrounding Sept. 11, 2001.

You can watch a video in the Poetry Breaks series where she talks about how she started writing.

You can watch this video from the Poet Vision series where she reads quite a bit of her poetry.

Finally, here's Lucille reading her poem Won't you celebrate with me.

Monday Poetry Stretch - Yearning

I came across this poem yesterday while I was reading through Winter: An Alphabet Acrostic by Steven Schnur.
Yes, we've had
Enough of winter's white
And we long for the
Rich green of a
New season.
All I could do was shake my head in agreement--vigorous agreement.

I don't know about you, but this time of year always puts me in the doldrums. What do I yearn for these days? Sunshine, spring, flowers, nesting birds, a trip home, and more. How about you? What do you yearn for? Let's write about that this week.

Leave me a note about your poem and I'll post the results here later this week.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

I Heart Cybils Winners - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more
The long awaited day is finally here. Get thee to the Cybils and check out the winners. Congratulations to all.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Poetry Friday - Wild Nights

Next to Halloween, Valentines day is one of my least favorite holidays. Why do I need a special day to tell my love how I feel? I have every day for that. He's not much of a poetry lover, but I know he'd appreciate this one by Emily Dickinson. I'll bet the love of your love would like it too.
Wild nights! Wild nights!
Were I with thee,
Wild nights should be
Our luxury!

Futile the winds
To a heart in port,
Done with the compass,
Done with the chart.

Rowing in Eden!
Ah! the sea!
Might I but moor
To-night in thee!
The round up is being hosted by Lee Wind at I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I read?. Do stop by and take in the great poetry being shared. Before you go, be sure to check out this week's poetry stretch results. Happy poetry Friday all!

Poetry Stretch Results - On Beauty

The challenge this week was to write a poem on beauty. Here are the results.
Write a Poem about Beauty
by Kate Coombs of Book Aunt

What isn't beautiful?
Self-pity, cruelty,
bodily excretions
(except those of oysters),
the hungry sound
of a dentist's drill,
office cubicles
filled with grayness,
most souvenirs—
especially plastic ones
in insincere colors,
printed with place names.

Just about everything
else is beautiful.

But the greatest beauty
is the lively surprise
of the singular universe
behind human eyes.

--Kate Coombs, 2010

by Jane Yolen

All mirrors lie,
showing me as I am,
ravaged by age and gravity,
by time and tears and loss.
Here’s the scar on my chin
from my tumble onto the concrete
from the height of my skates,
on Rosh Hashanah.
There’s the mole I am too vain
to have removed.
The breasts sucked dry by three babies.
The slash across my stomach muscles
to mark where a fetus
locked in the tube,
had to be cut out.
The frown lines that came
from nursing my late husband,
the smile lines from laughing at his jokes.
The fingers crabbed with time.
The toes twisted from ballet.
The white slash where the new knee was inserted.
The mark like an X on a treasure map
where the doctor found my burst appendix.
All mirrors lie, missing the me
that husband, children, grandchildren see.
Perhaps beauty does not reflect.
Or we do not reflect upon beauty.

©2010 Jane Yolen all rights reserved

by Steven Withrow of Crackles of Speech

First, believe in glories,
in satellites and sorceries of sky.
Any meddler in moonstuff
who's punched enough holes
in night will tell you:
Doubt's the thing to lose.
Certitude's essential
in cleaving the celestial.
Nothing grounds a moon deeper
than doomy howls of gloom.
Instead proceed as a boy
might shape a ball of snow,
mittens sugared with sweet cold,
confident it will fly.
Remember, all that is, is glory.
Now look up.
See the high, bright world you made.

Diane Mayr of Random Noodling shared this poem.

field of snow...
the sparkle of the sun
and the strutting crow

by Julie Larios of The Drift Record

She likes her skin to be skin,
likes only a thin tip of change,

likes the shift sub-dermal,
likes the inward gist of that.

Change that's Meta is not her style.
Why should people know?

Why would Apollo chase her
once the bark began to show?

Rose Window
by Liz Korba of

I see through glass
A solid thing
Like beauty
When it's there
A verb
Today I'm sharing a poem inspired by the dictionary and my family. It's probably too prosaic to be poetry, but it's true. Perhaps truth is beauty too.
Beauty - That quality or combination of qualities which affords keen pleasure to other senses (e.g. that of hearing), or which charms the intellectual or moral faculties, through inherent grace, or fitness to a desired end (Oxford English Dictionary)

My father found beauty in
engine parts
unfashioned wood
Dixieland jazz

My mother in
children's smiles
handmade gifts

My sister in

My brother in
cars (he got the gene)
pure-bred dogs

Me in

All of us found it in
our parents
our children
our loves

What is beauty?
Whatever you believe it to be.
It's not too late if you still want to play. Leave me a note about your poem and I'll add it to the list.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Thematic Book List - For the Love of Birds (Poetically Speaking)

The Great Backyard Bird Count is this weekend. I have been participating for a number of years. My son is an avid birdwatcher (at almost 9!) and so we count birds together. With all the snow we have in Virginia right now I fear our numbers may be low, but we'll be out on Saturday watching and listening.

For those preparing to do a little birdwatching this weekend, this is a perfect time to read about birds. There are so many great bird books for kids that I simply don't know where to begin, so I decided to focus today on some of my favorite books of avian poetry.

First, let's start with some titles written by Jane Yolen with photographs by Jason Stemple. To get a feel for the depth and vibrancy of the images in these books, be sure to check out some of Jason's bird photos.
Wild Wings: Poems for Young People - The first collaboration between Jane and her son focused on birds, this collection of 14 poems was inspired by the stunning photos.

Fine Feathered Friends: Poems for Young People - The second book on birds in the Yolen-Stemple collaboration includes even more gorgeous photographs and inspired poems in a variety of forms.

An Egret's Day - The latest collaboration (and 14th book by Yolen and her son!) focuses on the egret. That neck! Those feet! Photos get up close and personal and allow readers to see this magnificent bird from every angle. Poems full of metaphor and keen observation tell us much about these birds. Also included is factual information.
Here are a number of additional titles I use when teaching students about birds.
Bird Watch, written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Ted Lewin - Yolen's familiarity with birds is clearly evident in this collection of 17 poems. Accompanied by the artwork of Lewin they practically soar off the page.

The Company of Crows: A Book of Poems, written by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by Linda Saport - I find crows fascinating, and it's obvious that Singer does too. In this collection of 23 poems crows are viewed from the perspective of crows, other birds, animals, and people.

The Cuckoo's Haiku: and Other Birding Poems, written by Michael J. Rosen and illustrated by Stan Fellows - The bird in this collection are introduced by season, beginning with spring. The spare form works well in these poems, highlighting each of the 24 bird species in delightful ways. The illustrations are elegant and nicely complement the text.

Feathers: Poems About Birds, written by Eileen Spinelli and illustrated by Lisa McCue - My favorite poem EVER about a woodpecker is in this book. It's one of the 27 short, rhyming poems that mark this playful collection of verse. Readers will also enjoy the feathery facts at the end of the book.

Hummingbird Nest: A Journal of Poems, written by Kristine O'Connell George and illustrated by Barry Moser - In this collection, George describes a hummingbird's building of a nest in a potted ficus tree on her patio, as well as the hatching and growth of the baby birds. An extensive author's note describes how she kept a hummingbird journal and the joy brought to the family by simply observing the birds over the course of two months. There is also information about hummingbirds, as well as a list of selected books for both younger and older readers. (Read more in this Poetry in the Classroom post.)

I Am a Phoenix: Poems for Two Voices, written by Paul Fleischman and illustrated by Ken Nutt - While on poem in this book refers to the mythical creature in the title, the remaining 14 poems provide a look at the world of birds all through the day and night as they engage in a variety of activities.

On the Wing: Bird Poems and Paintings, written and illustrated by Douglas Florian - This collection of art and poetry examines 21 birds with witty word play and a keen sense of observation.

Today at the Bluebird Cafe: A Branchful of Birds, written by Deborah Ruddell and illustrated by Joan Rankin - This collection of 22 poems does a fine job introducing readers to birds with personality. The poems are funny and sweet and set against the most pleasing and whimsical illustrations.

Wings on the Wind: Bird Poems, selected and illustrated by Kate Kiesler - Kiesler's beautifully painted birds and landscapes accompany poems that largely focus on wild birds, though there are a few odd inclusions, such as the poem about the pet parakeet or the one about the pirate's parrot. The balance of the collection provides readers with a nice introduction to the wonder of birds.
While penguins won't make anyone's bird counting list here in North America, I can't leave this entertaining volume of poems off the list.
Antarctic Antics: A Book of Penguin Poems, written by Judy Sierra and illustrated by Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey - This one is fun and sneaks in quite a bit of science. Readers will find some predator riddles as well as poems that celebrate and explore the lives of penguins.
A new book in my TBR pile by Sallie Wolf is entitled The Robin Makes a Laughing Sound: A Birder's Journal. It includes poetry, sketches, watercolors and more. The book is just beautiful and looks like a nice resource for kids interested in keeping their own nature journals.

While I don't usually recommend adult books in these lists, here are two poetry books you'll find worthwhile, despite the fact that there is a bit of overlap in the selection of poems.

Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems About Birds, selected by Billy Collins and illustrated by David Allen Sibley - I adore this work for its inclusion of classic and contemporary poetry on birds as well as its scientifically accurate (and gorgeous) illustrations.

On Wings of Song: Poems About Birds, selected by J. D. McClatchy -This is a huge anthology with every manner of bird, from hummingbird to albatross. You'll also find such poets as Dickinson, Plath, Poe, Keats, Yeats and many more.

Finally, you might enjoy this article from the Guardian books blog. Here is an excerpt from Adam O'Riordan's piece entitled Why Are Poets So Fascinated With Birds?.
What is that draws poets to birds? And why have so many turned to them at critical points in their own writing? The collective nouns we all remember from childhood speak of language's innate fascination with all things avian: a murder of crows, a murmuration of starlings, a parliament of fowls. And it's no coincidence we afford them the most poetic collective nouns: right from the birth of literature birds have been present.
Have I missed one of your favorite books of bird poetry? If so, please share. I'd love to know what you've been reading.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Monday Poetry Stretch - On Beauty

I was a typical awkward teenager, with no confidence about the way I looked or dressed. I kept a small journal during this time with quotes and poems on beauty. Here are some of my favorite quotes.
Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.

Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart.
Kahlil Gibran

Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.
Anne Frank

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Beauty is no quality in things themselves: It exists merely in the mind which contemplates them; and each mind perceives a different beauty.
David Hume
As I hear everyone talk about how beautiful the snow is, I'm reminded that we all see beauty in different things and different ways. So, let's write about beauty, shall we?

Leave me a note about your poem and I'll post the results here later this week.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Poetry Friday - How Is It That The Snow

Last Friday the snow began to fall and did not stop until much later in the weekend. Schools were closed for most of the week. The kids went back yesterday, but when a wintery mix was predicted for today, they were closed again. So, I write this while watching the falling snow. What other poem could possibly be on mind today?
How Is It That the Snow
by Robert Haight

How is it that the snow
amplifies the silence,
slathers the black bark on limbs,
heaps along the brush rows?

Read the poem in its entirety.
The round up is being hosted by Mary Ann at Great Kid Books. Do stop by and take in all the great poetry being shared. Before you go, be sure to check out this week's poetry stretch results.

Poetry Stretch Results - Snow

The challenge this week was to write about snow, very fitting considering another foot or two is headed this way.
by Steven Withrow of Crackles of Speech

Frigid night,
first light snow
frosts blacktop.

Plows shiver to life
after silence,

Truck engines
cough quietly,
frothy exhalations.

All move out,
slow, coordinated

Snow falls.
Blades scrape
cold roads clean.


letting it mount,
letting it grow.

New light shows
new snow


Last Night's Snow
by Kate Coombs of Book Aunt

The white eraser
took out black lines
of roads, dark
roof rectangles,
and scribbled branches.

It rubbed away
colored-pencil cars,
gray streaks of fence,
and etched hedges.

But it can't erase
my new red boots,
my yellow scarf,
or my blue coat
as I tromp along,

--Kate Coombs, 2010

Amy Ludwig VanDerwater left two poems in the comments.

Born in a cloud.
Lived in sky.
Died on my mitten.

- Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

Snowflake Designer

I’m quick.
I’m careful.
I work when I wake.

I’m cool.
I’m quiet.
I make no mistake.

Each winter
I sketch
I measure
I bake
flake after
flake after
flake after

(If I find a double
I take it and break it.)

- Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

Julie Larios of The Drift Record shares a poem entitled What Snow Knows.

Diane Mayr of Random Noodling left this poem in the comments.

first snow...
the puppy's nostrils
full of it

Barbara Turner left this poem in the comments.

is the sound
of snow.
Can you hear it?

Ode to a California Winter
by Nicole Marie Schreiber

I know it’s why people move here--
Mild winters.
72 degrees.

But just once, I’d love to see snow
sugaring those orange poppies,
if only for a day.

Just once
instead of car chases
and Amber alerts
and traffic congestion
and illegal immigrants
all over the news,
how about a freak snowfall
blanketing the Hollywood sign,
thick as meringue
and just as sweet?

Just once
let’s keep everyone indoors
and off the freeways,
snuggling next to their gas fireplaces,
drinking their Coffee Bean lattes,
and taking off their sunglasses,
if only for a day.

by Carol Weis

A drizzle of snow
laces the field
where stubbles
of corn stalks
bear witness
to turkey tracks
sprinkled across
its wintry breast.

© 2010 Carol Weis

Southern Snow
by Doraine Bennett of Dori Reads

Trees steeled themselves
against the coming cold.
Sparrows and squirrels snuggled
deep in strawed nests.

Children caught the first flakes
on trembling tongues, scraped
white powder from the dry grass,
and threw wet balls at friends
until the unfamiliar cold
hurried them inside
in search of hot chocolate
and warm hands.

The sudden storm dropped
an icy blanket
over the city’s shoulders,
waited for its arteries to slow,
and sealed the frozen life
in a box of snow.

Linda Armstrong of Notes From a Virtual Easel left this poem in the comments.

so still
all muffled
All motionless
under the
solstice moon.
The years
fall away
on either
side, and for a moment,
all is

© 2010 Linda Armstrong

Jane Yolen left this poem in the comments.

Much snow?
No go.

Elaine Magliaro of Wild Rose Reader shares a number of original winter poems.

Jone (MsMac) of Check It Out is sharing two snow poems.

Liz Korba of left this poem in the comments. She's expecting more snow too!
Snow True

snow snow
snow snow snow
snow snow snow snow snow snow
Snow Snow Snow Snow Snow
snow snow
snow Shovel
I'm sharing a fib this week.
Steady now
breathless race to the end - Again!
It's not too late if you still want to play. Leave me a note about your poem and I'll add it to the results.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Monday Poetry Stretch - Snow

Richmond got dusted with another good amount of snow this weekend. There's at least a foot, schools are closed (not the university, however), and with low temperatures hanging around, it won't be going away any time soon. So, let's write about snow.

Leave me a note about your poem and I'll post the results here later this week.