Thursday, January 16, 2020

Poetry Friday - Postcard Smiles

             Catherine at Reading to the Core hosts us today, sharing some lovely haiku written in December. Be sure to read her post, then visit others who are gathering to share their poetry offerings. Thanks, Catherine!

               And, thanks to Jone MacCulloch for her yearly postcard idea. Finding more than ads and bills in the mail is always wonderful. 

from Carol Varsalona

frosted winter hopes
undeniably etch
windows of life
painting shadows of
wonder across a new year
dreams not deferred

from Jone, who always makes me envious
of her beautiful ocean visits

from Linda Mitchell
on the other side: a story of the year of the rat, and--

Some days we dash
to win the race.

Others, friends carry us
over dangerous rivers.

Each a heavenly gift.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Non-Fiction Picture Books - What Can Be & What is

     Visit Alyson Beecher on Wednesdays for Non-Fiction Picture Books at Kidlit Frenzy -- hashtag #nfpb2020! Thanks to her hosting and sharing and those who add their posts, you can discover and celebrate terrific nonfiction picture books!  I always learn from these books, am happy that they are more and more available today for children, for everyone!

            I wanted to share two books that I've had for a while and somehow have not yet shared. They are from 2019 and are ones that can inspire students in different ways. One book shares that a small idea can grow into something wonderful that helps people all over the world. The other shows how creatures thought to be abhorrent adds to the diversity of living creatures in many, but thought-to-be gross, ways. It too will inspire students and everyone to learn that 'first opinions' aren't necessarily the best ones.

          I got this book at my fall Highlights workshop, read it, then put it away to share. I don't have a Little Free Library and wish I did, but this story of one small idea started by Todd Bol, the founder of this movement is so inspiring, perhaps especially for booklovers everywhere. Miranda Paul narrates it from start to the worldwide success, showing young Todd supported by his mom after a hurtful comment at school. After her death, he wanted to share her love of reading with others, hammered together a box that looked like a schoolhouse, put books inside, and waited. No one came. At a later rummage sale, people began to notice, and as many say, the rest is history! John Parra's illustrations illustrate the colorful story, including the diversity that embraces these libraries in our world. The endpapers are lined with books, too. The back matter adds more information, including the sadness that Todd Bol died from cancer just as the book was coming out. We will remember him, won't we, as we travel our town's streets and see those Little Free Libraries everywhere!

           Here is the link to the Little Free Library site. 

          I love Jess Keating's books, like Pink is for Blobfish, Cute As An Axolotl, and Shark Lady these past few years! I also love that she creates picture books about creatures we may know something about or may think "EW" when we see them or hear their names and makes us (ME) want to know more and revel that such interesting creatures are out there in our world. 
           This time, double-page spreads with a brief intro, one large photo of the 'real' creature with David DeGrand's fun cartoons showing one aspect of that animal's life, and a column of facts on the right take enough time for the reader to think (or say outloud) "Wow"! and "I didn't know that!" or (to the reader sitting next to me: "Listen to this!"  That column shares common and scientific names, size, diet, habitat, and predators and threats. Imagine a book that focuses on slime, snot, mucus, poop, pee, and barf! Kids will love it, and really, adults will too. 
           I'm fascinated by the way evolutionary traits create a creature that contributes to an ecosystem, wishing kids who study such creatures with the help of authors like Keating will be inspired to go further. They might learn more about one of these, or discover their own to learn about. It's a terrific book!
             A glossary of terms has been added at the back.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Monday Book Sharing - Stories Past & Future

              Visit Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts to see what they've been reading, along with others who post their favorites.  Your TBR lists will grow! Happy Reading!


      This book came out in 2014 and Greg Hickey asked me to take a look. Wow, now six years old, a sci-fi plot backed at the end by a lengthy summary of what has happened on earth, what has pushed humans to find a way to colonize a new planet. It's all science, parallels some of the realities that have happened in these recent years, but we are far from this future, I hope, when we must send some of the earth's population off into space because of simply no room left.
           Greg invites us readers into a small colony on the planet Pearl where citizens are taken care of with dormitories for sleeping, meal halls for receiving meal cakes three times a day, and lovely outdoor spaces in which to relax and play. The citizens are so relaxed they seem in a stupor when speaking in phrases like "hellohoweryou?" and "Goodthankshoweryou?" At times, unable to reply, they stare, finally turning to leave. Bells carry them to the sleeping quarters and to eat, a whirring sound delivering those cakes, until one day it stopped after giving only a few!
             The story deepens as colonists wail, unable to understand, leaving hungry. Another time, the sleeping halls are locked, forcing everyone to sleep outside. The picture laid out from this new way of living is stark, and my questioning started with "Why?" and "How?" A focus begins on one of the citizens, a young man named Samuel who shows us what he is seeing as well as what he might do about it. He begins the thinking that shows a problem-solving mind, adrift and isolated from the others. There are parts of drawings left at random that he finds, and tries hard to decipher them, frustrated by their elusive meaning. Bit by bit, those pictures help Samuel solve the problems that come to the colonists, who ignore his work and only whimper and whine, resigned to every disaster. It is a relief that Samuel had one helper who steps forward, a young woman named Penny, at first shy and brief of speech, yet she also grows bolder in her manner, a strength, and help to Samuel. The story moves from one disaster and discovery to another until a final revelation and the end. I rooted for Samuel and Penny, also for all those sad inhabitants. And I hope there may be more to this story!
           It's good sci-fi, like others perhaps predicting a future we can only imagine, sometimes with the horror of what can be for our great-grandchildren and beyond. That summary mentioned above shows some connections to problems humans have created already. 

          I won't give any scenes away, but Liz Garton Scanlon and Audrey Vernick's words give the opportunity for Olivier Tallec to create page after page of fall-off-the-sofa laughs when viewing. Use "It'll only be five minutes" as a line where you might want to imagine your own scene, with kids! That's what it's like! It was much fun to read aloud with my younger granddaughter, who's eight.

        This is one of the final books edited by the late Lee Bennett Hopkins and it is a treasure he and many poets and artists have given us. In his intro, Lee writes "Heritage makes us who we are." And by collecting these pieces, he has shown that. You might see yourselves in this book, art or words, or some may connect another personal memory. Sean Qualls' cover art gives a glimpse of what's inside. It will make a beautiful pairing with George Ella Lyons' "Where I'm From" poem if you and students are doing some exploration of heritage.