Tuesday, May 30, 2017

N-F Wed. - Cautionary Tales To Know

  Visit Alyson Beecher on Wednesdays for Non-Fiction Picture Books at Kidlit Frenzy.  From Alyson and others, you will discover terrific non-fiction books!

          This tale, written and illustrated so poignantly by Jan Thornhill, is for older readers. She has included a map, a glossary, the varied names given through history to the great auk, a short list of extinct species and resources used. 
         I chose to share it first because it feels like a cautionary tale, one that can be read to learn from before reading about bees in the next review. Jan starts at the beginning, where the auk (the first Penguin) made its home and continues through the years showing evolutionary factors which helped it both thrive and become doomed. Because it needed to be a fast swimmer, slowly the auk's wings shrunk and its webbed feet moved back in its body. It needed to become a fast swimmer because it had moved into warmer waters and the fish there could swim faster. Because its wings grew smaller, it lost the ability to fly, thus narrowing the range of habitat. Because of the feet change, it could only "toddle", increasing its vulnerability to predators, and its inability to find safer places to lay eggs. Here briefly are factors given through the auk's long history, including the final blows of men's increasing ability to navigate the ocean and man's greed for collections. Jan leads us in this tragic tale through the travels and changes of the auk, of nature and of humans. It's a story that ends with a short explanation of some protections created for animals. I'm hoping those that are now in place will be kept for our own future.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Imagination Inspiration

   Join us on Tuesdays with the Two Writing Teachers and others who post. 

         I love windows, pictures of windows, sketching windows, doors too. And I love imagining what's going on inside those windows. A recent picture book I read is about a Mama Rabbit carrying her little bunny home. On the way they see lighted windows and the people in them, imagining a little more than what they see. The book is The Way Home In The Night written and illustrated by Akiko Miyakoshi. I'm in the midst of writing a picture book story that involves numerous characters, so when I read the book, I connected especially to those lit windows, imagining my own characters and what I might see if I "peeked" through each child's window. I've begun taking notes about each one, drawing a window, putting the notes "inside" the window of what I create about the particular child. 
         As a writer, I question all the time, and am wondering if that's what you who are reading do, too, when you write? Sometimes that questioning voice is tiring, and I want it to stop, and simply say "Okay, just let those words stay." When I re-read what I've written, I also wonder and wonder, "Is this enough? How much more is needed? What is it I want readers to understand?" See, more questions! 
          That's how my life is slicing lately, lots of writing, lots of questions, with a bit of cleaning in between and some good times with the family. Also, lots of looking in windows!

photo credit: hans pohl Monsaraz via photopin (license)

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Monday Reading - More Goodness

              Visit Jen at Teach MentorTexts and Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders to discover books you'll love!        tweet #IMWAYR

It's been a full, full week as I'm sure all of you have had. I am reading Wildman by J.C. Geiger, an arc from NetGalley. Then I got hooked on Who Killed Christopher Goodman?, Allan Wolf's latest book. And they are both about teens and crazy decisions made in good times and bad. I haven't finished either one, but they are both YA books you should look for.

 When you order a kitten and the company is out of kittens, so sends a lion instead, it's a good thing to have this "how-to" book. Sauer and Cummings include all the best tips, like how "not" to look like a gazelle, a zebra or a bunny. I'm sure it will make a good read aloud, and using it as a mentor text for both 'how-to' books and cartooning work beautifully.
 Yellow Bird has a button, which does nothing, or so he says! Red Bird and Blue Bird have more to say about it when they “push” the button. One of my favorite things aside from that "do-nothing" button is Blue Bird's cute hat. And then there’s that little worm. Lots of Elephant & Piggie at the end and the beginning, and lots of laughs in between.

Celebrations - The Future and The Past

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         Celebrating with Ruth Ayres and others at Discover Play Build.  

         I just spent most of Friday with the grand-girls. We went to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science for lunch then an Imax movie. It was a new experience for the girls and they loved it. This time, the movie seemed to make a good end to the week for Imogene because on Tuesday she and I went to the zoo for a couple of hours and saw some of the same animals in this movie, Wild Africa! I always have fun with both girls, but this week I celebrate Imogene, who "graduated" from kindergarten at her Montessori School Thursday morning. It was a sweet and short ceremony. The kids sang, recited a poem, and received their certificates after they "crossed over" a little bridge. Sarah, Imi's mother, told me that Imi said it was the best day of her life. I wish her to have lots of best days ahead.
I celebrate the future. . .

Imi's under the atrium, crossing the bridge.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Poetry Friday - Musing About Peacocks

      Thanks to Margaret Simon at Reflections on The Tech for hosting our Poetry Friday this last one in May. Here comes summer!

      My youngest granddaughter and I visit different places each week after I pick her up from school. Sometimes it's a nearby park, at other times, we just return to my home. Lucky for us that I have memberships in our zoo and in the Museum of Nature & Science. Both lie between her school and my home. It's a fun thing to stop in for an hour or two. This time, while we did ride the carousel and did watch some of the primates, mostly we watched the peacocks and new goslings, both parading around the park for their and our enjoyment (and a few crumbs). No, we do not feed them, but there are plenty of dropped crumbs anyway.

the peacock’s tail
flashes iridescence 
his parade of fireflies
lindabaie©All Rights Reserved

a peacock spreads the tail
creates his own gate 
no welcome here
lindabaie©All Rights Reserved
peacock still life 
heedful of child with pretzel
lindabaie©All Rights Reserved

       Numbers two and three, pictures by me.
photo credit: xpgomes13 UK - London (Holland Park) via photopin (license)

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

N-F Picture Books Tell Stories We Should Know

       Visit Alyson Beecher on Wednesdays for Non-Fiction Picture books at Kidlit Frenzy.  From Alyson and others, you will discover wonderful non-fiction books!

"Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear." ~Ambrose Redmoon

        Considering all that we know of recent escapes from homelands in the middle east, this book reminds us that there was another time of escape for survival. That time was years ago when many Vietnamese were forced to leave their homes and country because they were no longer safe when Communists took over the whole country. The sole way of leaving was to escape at night, under cover of darkness and eventually by boat. This picture book, while brief, shows exactly what happened to Tuan Ho and his immediate family when they escaped. They left at different times because some of the children were young. The father and older sister escaped earlier. This boat ride for Tuan, his mother and siblings, some aunts and uncles turns harrowing when the boat starts leaking and then the motor dies. Previously, others had died, either by starvation or drowning, but Tuan's boat finally was spotted by an American carrier, and the boat's sixty people were saved.  

Monday, May 22, 2017

Garden Challenges & Wonders

   Join us on Tuesdays with the Two Writing Teachers and others who post. 
         It, that bindweed, is back, and I'm out again on the prowl! But in the midst of weeding, I saw such wonders, all busy, moving, eating, growing! I'm glad the weather is warmer, and we've had more rain in the evenings. Plants and trees are happy! And I am, too.
        "The moment one gives close attention to any thing, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself."   
                                                                                                           ~Henry Miller
Bees have returned!

See those pointy leaves crawling up the leaf?
That's bindweed!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Monday - Holding On To One's Values

              Visit Jen at Teach MentorTexts and Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders to discover books you'll love!        tweet #IMWAYR

         Although different, these first three books, all connected to conflicts, in war, in revolution, and in civil rights. People who strive to do the right thing at personal cost are heroes. And those who use creativity to achieve their goals are to be applauded. Each book shows parts of that, and each happens to be non-fiction this week.

      Thanks to Candlewick for the Arc of this book. We know Janeczko from his wonderful poetry anthologies, but do you know that he's also written books about codes (Top Secret) and spies (The Dark Game) as well as professional books for teachers? His name is an important one to know.                              This book is fascinating and detailed, although I did wish there were a few more personal stories given. For anyone who is beginning to be interesting in deception in war, this book will spark interest and further research. It offers ancient background deception examples, but quickly moves and focuses on United States history, from the Civil War all the way to the Gulf Wars. The complexity of planning the huge operations like D-Day are amazing to learn about. I liked that there were maps and photos included which aided the explanations. It is also interesting that artists and people who had previously been employed by the movie industry played important roles in creating important deceptions. 

     A memoir about the years between the age of 12 to 14, Ji Li Jiang tells her story of the suffering of her family during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, a time when they were considered "black families" because her grandfather was a landlord. He had long passed, but the connection was there, one that she could not overcome no matter how good a student. The only way would be to denounce her family, and she did not. In the afterword, Ji Li Jiang writes: "Without a sound legal system, a small group or even a single person can take control of an entire country." She admits that Mao Zedong brainwashed them all, and as a young girl, learned to love him and his words. For anyone who is beginning to study China or revolutions, this should be in the list of books to read. 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Celebrating A Few Nice Things

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         Celebrating with Ruth Ayres and others at Discover Play Build.  

            I haven't posted for several weeks, busy times, even though I know teachers are even busier at this time of year. If you teach, I hope you all have wonderful school year endings!
            I've done some traveling and had fun with friends, enjoyed the granddaughters' weekly visits, and loved spring flowers blooming so fast that each time I look, some new ones have appeared. I've been writing, poetry and prose and am excited about a new idea for a picture book that I'm working on. 
            I only saw them for a quick breakfast at a local favorite restaurant, but Nathan, Barb & Carter flew in Thursday morning to travel to the mountains for a friend's daughter's high school graduation. Yes, amazingly, it was snowing, but I loved our short visit, and after some delays, they made it to their destination!
They sent this pic from the mountains,
all bundled up!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Poetry Friday, Spring Spin

      Thanks to Kiesha Shepard at Whispers From The Ridge for hosting our poetry Friday this week. She's sharing a gift from a friend of an older book that sounds lovely, Jean Hersey's The Shape of A Year. It's good to read others' words of their observations, and Kiesha shares some of those from Hersey.

       A favorite book from Bob Raczka & Nancy Doniger caught my eye as I was dusting this week. There's nothing nicer than discovering a book I hadn't read in a while as I do that boring task of dusting! I thought I would try one of these "poems squeezed from a single word". I didn't follow exactly. Raczka sprinkles the letters down the page first and rarely rhymes. I used only letters from the word but did rhyme in my story. It was messy, fun and sometimes hard to keep track of the words. I found that as I wrote, even more words appeared to add to the list. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Non-Fiction Picture Books - Loving Nature

       Visit Alyson Beecher on Wednesdays for Non-Fiction Picture books at Kidlit Frenzy.  From Alyson and others, you will discover wonderful non-fiction books!

    “Time in nature is not leisure time; it's an essential investment in our children's health (and also, by the way, in our own).” 
― Richard LouvLast Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder

     It's so important to me that we all learn to love our earth, and that we share that love with our children, those we raise and those we teach. 
      Here are two books about two men who love the earth and show how wonderful it can be.

        It’s an inspiring story by Jacqueline Briggs Martin (Snowflake Bentley, Farmer Will Allen and The Growing Table, among others) of a man named Mike who moves to some land and discovers that where he wanted to restore a corn field back to a prairie, he was told there had been a creek. Through years of work, he searched and found it, and Brook Creek is born again. Gorgeous scratchboard and painted illustrations by Claudia McGehee show the journey, the ripples and new life returning to the creek restored. First came the big machines that dug and dug until the trickle began to fill the stream bed. Grasses were planted and in a few years, more rocks were placed. Insects returned to leave their eggs, birds returned to nest, and finally, a few fish called ‘sculpin’ swam into the creek. The book explains that these fish indicate clean water, the same kind of water where brook trout survive. The journey continued when Mike and his friends added small “finger-sized” fish, trout! The language is poetic, like this: “Perhaps Brook Creek laughed, too--tickled by trout.”

        Along some pages lie small-print explanations of certain actions, like how the sculpin ended up in this new Brook Creek. They are helpful to the story and subtly placed within the illustrations.  There is also author’s and illustrator’s notes and a small piece about the Mike in the story.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Some Days Hold The Unexpected!

   Join us on Tuesdays with the Two Writing Teachers and others who post. 
      I could write about my credit card being compromised which meant I've had to wait for a new card, verify it, then communicate with all those companies that are on auto pay.
      I could share that I've been arguing with a certain insurance company to which I've paid on autopay through my bank for many years. Although my bank cleared TWO payments, one of which I do not owe, this company says I did not. They will only process through slow-mail. . .
       Really, both are not terrible things, and I'm grateful that the unlawful use of my card was caught immediately, but both take time and not time that's very fun, either. I am reminded of the Robert Burns' line from To A Mouse
                               "The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men/Gang aft agley"

Instead, I choose to share a couple of good things:
         A new book that I have for the granddaughters. Have you heard of this one: Strong Is The New Pretty by Kate T. Parker? I'm not reviewing, just sharing the title, and saying it's good. 

I think they'll like the book!
       The bookstore that I share about has lots of books, but it also has lots of geraniums, cared for by our manager. They thrive and bloom all seasons, and along with the books, give much pleasure. I was at the store a few hours today, and cleaned a few dead leaves and dropped blooms, enjoying my bit of inside gardening. Here's one photo.  

         Focusing on those nice things helps a bunch when things travel a different path than expected, right?

Sunday, May 14, 2017

It's Monday - More Books To Love

              Visit Jen at Teach MentorTexts and Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders to discover books you'll love!        tweet #IMWAYR

         I had the chance to read Berlin Boxing Club from a few years ago. It is partly inspired by the true story of boxer Max Schmeling's experiences up to and following Kristallnacht. I enjoyed this book very much that details the story of a boy who must take the responsibility of his family far too young during the beginning of the Nazi era. Karl Stern doesn’t look Jewish, but eventually, his school peers discover his secret. Their bullying is his first challenge.

Karl’s father has early and strong ties from his time in World War I, and one is Max Schmeling, the famous boxer, who in an odd deal promises to give Karl boxing lessons. The changes that occur to Karl through the people met and the challenges faced are the beginning of the events that follow. There is much to like about the story and the writing, and I especially enjoyed the relationship between Karl and his younger sister. The author manages to infuse love growing deeper between the family members as their circumstances grow more perilous. When one reads this, one can see the beginnings of Nazi suppression, a chilling realization of what will come. Here is one quote: “The Nazis had broken our windows and torn apart our furniture, but they had not destroyed our selves.”
      The book includes an author's note and sources page detailing the factual inspirations behind the novel.

This is a book for all to learn how challenging it is when moving to a new country. It’s a wordless picture book that shows beautifully the feeling of chaos in this experience along with loneliness, boredom, fear, and a bit of happiness. Illustrations are similar to a graphic novel, but less arranged with so much detail. You literally can "see" this upset child begin to calm. She has brought one small seed along to America, and through the loss of that seed flung out her window, makes herself go out into the world and explore and search for the girl she has seen take the seed. There is a summary of the story by Patti Kim at the back, telling of her own personal experience moving from Korea at age four.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

One Spring Fling & Question

       Tara Smith at A Teaching Life hosts our poetry Friday this week, with love in the air at her school. Thanks, Tara! 

               Spring, even early, makes me want to substitute its name for June in that old song from Carousel, "June (Spring) is bustin' out all over/All over the meadow and the hill!"  I often share how much we need rain, even to the extent of celebrating snow in April. But this week we are having rain! And the plants and trees have rarely looked greener. Flowers are 'bustin' out all over." 

                                              Wondering About Violets

Beginnings mystify
especially in spring.
How can this tiny seed keep
the secrets of 
I’m comforted to know
that it will never
a rose,
but is this comforting
for the violet?
Linda Baie ©All Rights Reserved

photo credit: Mabacam Sweet Violets via photopin (license)</a>