Thursday, October 10, 2019

Poetry Friday - BOO!

            Catherine Flynn at her blog, Reading to the Core, hosts today on Poetry Friday. She's sharing a poem that comforts and celebrating gratitude, a post like a hug! Thanks, Catherine!

             This is quick but fun. I'll try to read everyone's and comment when I can. I'm excited and thrilled to be headed to Highlights on Saturday to work with Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Georgia Heard for a poetry week, AND to re-connect with a few poets I've met there before! I come home, then fly to visit my grandson for parents' weekend at his college. Thus, I won't post until the day "after" Halloween!

          There is a street a few blocks from me that we call Halloween Street. For some of you on social media with me, you know I share photos from there all during this month. Many of the houses do some kind of decorating, but there are three whose creativity is amazing. Some things are the same every year, but most rearrange or add to what they have stored until OCTOBER! Here is one favorite and a poem I've shared with students in the past and still love. It is both haunting and sweet, perfect for a spooky October 31st.


                 Mac Hammond

The butcher knife goes in, first, at the top
And carves out the round stemmed lid,
The hole of which allows the hand to go 
In to pull the gooey mess inside, out -
The walls scooped clean with a spoon.
A grim design decided on, that afternoon,
The eyes are the first to go,
Isosceles or trapezoid, the square nose,
The down-turned mouth with three
Hideous teeth and, sometimes,
Round ears.        
                                Read the rest HERE, on Poetry 180.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

NF Picture Book Wednesday - Music Celebration

Visit Alyson Beecher on Wednesdays for Non-Fiction Picture Books at Kidlit Frenzy.  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've been reading, then listening to the provided playlist (on Spotify) for about a week now. first from England, now from Candlewick, James Rhodes gives us readers and listeners an introduction to classical music for everyone, whether novice or professional! One lovely thing is that it is the size of an old record album, you know, an LP!

           Rhodes offers a long introduction. Here is part of it: 

"Bach. Mozart. Beethoven. Old guys with curly wigs, right? But trust me: those composers were the original rock stars.
           Let me introduce you to some of the most breathtaking and magnificent pieces of music ever created. We'll meet the rebels and revolutionaries who wrote them - did you know Beethoven peed into a chamber pot he kept under his piano? - and find out why they're responsible for every track on your phone today. The world of classical music is going to blow your mind.
          So take some time out to listen to the online playlist I've curated for you as you read. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Schubert, Rachmaninoff and Ravel: the perfect introduction to classical music."

           Each composer's page begins with a stunning double spread by Martin O'Neill with collaged psychedelic art evoking important history from the man's life, adding a head portrait, also with something important near or on. Their lives vary, their music innovated, even corrected prior belief. After the composer's brief biography, two pieces are discussed at length, like where used, what was unusual, and the inspiration from that particular music.

          There is one double spread devoted to "The Orchestra", its families of instruments and how they are seated. And one giving a "Time Line of Western Classical Music".

           Some quotes and brief pieces of information: 

"Bach created some of the most perfect, life-changing music the world has ever known and single-handedly altered the course of musical history."

"Mozart composed his first opera at the age of twelve."

Monday, October 7, 2019

Monday Reading - Grateful for These Books!

              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. I'm leaving this coming Saturday for a retreat at Highlights, then home a couple of days and will be visiting my grandson and his parents at his college, the University of Kentucky. It'll be a great two weeks!

            Thanks to Candlewick Press for this poignant novel set during World War II handling some tough topics with ease for a middle grade audience.

          Ellen Hollingsworth's Aunt Pearl comes to the rescue when her father proudly signs up to go to war and leaves her and her mother to survive. Really, it's Ellen who's having to survive because her mother has stopped caring, suffering from deep depression. The two are taken to Aunt Pearl's home in tiny Snowden, Virginia. Ellen's finding it tough to live in this new simpler way of life: there's no electricity and she's got a classmate who smells of skunks. She worries that she will fall to the same depression that has claimed her mom, and insists that this new and awful place will never be "home".
        Ellen finds school hard to believe with a few children set on benches and a boy, Russell, older than she is at the front, still trying to learn the alphabet with the little ones and smelling like skunk! It's Russell and Ellen getting together, learning to survive homes with mental illness, abuse and alcoholism as they also learn how to be friends. There are touching moments along with frightening ones, but it feels as if the troubles met as well as possible might connect to children today living with similar challenges in their own young lives. 
          I enjoyed the tentativeness of the characters, making do in their lives, acting out on occasion with regret as children and adults do, feeling their way to thoughtful actions and beliefs, growing up. And they're learning that even adults learn, too. It's a complex story filled with complex characters facing tough odds for survival. Even the character one begins to loathe is given some sympathy.
        Weaving the setting into this poignant story feels right, too. Seeing that others have lived happily with so little, reading the parts about the woods and the animals so loved by Russell showed that things in the outside world can offer solace in the midst of harsh living. I enjoyed the story and would like to know more about these characters as years pass. Some questions linger.

Thanks to Charlesbridge for the copy of this book!

               In Neward, N.J., 1984, Beatriz Mendez and her older brother, Junito, lead the powerful Latin Diablos gang. But Beatriz doesn't celebrate her 15th birthday with the usual celebration because a Haitian gang leaves Junito for dead and Beatriz terribly injured. This is the second novel from Tami Charles, connecting to Like Vanessa opens with me shocked as this "just fifteen-year-old" Beatriz, an immigrant from Puerto Rican has “a blade tucked inside [her] cheek", ready to stop anyone who crosses a certain line. She has learned to be tough! She's struggling in school, desperate to raise her grades, needs to maintain her standing as a Diabla, and take care of her grief-stricken mother who hasn't spoken since Junito's death. She loves dancing, was taught as a young child and in lessons, and one good moment in her days is when she, her mother and her Abuela watch the TV show, Fame. She tells this tale, full of Spanish phrases, too, that sometimes I had to translate and enjoyed slowly learning more Spanish! Once in a while there are flashback dreams that catch readers up in Beatriz' past, and realistic newsprint clips of the gang news. A friendship with a new boy is up and down as she keeps her "real" self from him, soon discovers he is Haitian, the enemy!  Slowly she realizes, with his help and the support of others that she can make her own choices, and it's not a betrayal of her brother. The story shows the complex layers of life children who face a new world and in poverty have many choices to make, many challenges to overcome. It is a world we might feel more sympathetic about if we read real stories like this one.

        I forgot to share that I read this, but only AFTER I gave it to my fifth-grade granddaughter, then she loaned it back to me. Raina Telgemeier knows middle graders, speaks about her own experiences with empathy, shows them that many things may be troubling, but they are not alone. There is no more loving message one can find from a book than that, for all ages.

         It's time for Oliver Wizard's bedtime, as told so sweetly by Rebecca Kai Dotlich. Luckily for him, he has his cape and magic wand, and through the bedtime rituals like brushing his teeth and a quick snack, he parades around the house casting spells. Father continues to remind Oliver that it is time, time for sleep, that even wizards need rest. When it gets closer to time and Oliver is whisked off to bed, he shows a bit of worry, saying "I might imagine wild things." And dear Daddy tells him to "Whisper your best chant." And to "wave them away." Oliver waves that wand, whoosh to the ceiling and whoosh to the floor. "Like that?" And Daddy answers, "Like that." With the caring love from a parent helping, this young boy wizard manages one last chant and whispers a repeating phrase found throughout, "That should do it." Josee Masse's illustrations fit the bedtime dark and shadows, as she allows Oliver's imaginings to swirl around him and his Daddy as they follow this familiar ritual, still needing the chants so this little wizard can go to sleep. Be sure to watch for the cats who appear all along the way! I think I would love to have had this when I put my children or grandchildren to bed. What a comfort it will be to children to imagine their own spells at bedtime.