Sunday, March 25, 2018

Monday Reading - Favorites

              Thanks to Ricki and Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts for hosting this meme. Your TBR lists will grow longer, but you will find books to love and to share. 
              I reviewed and shared a wonderful new poetry book last Friday if you're interested, a "how-to" approach that is lots of fun!

               This week, books that made me smile and that made me cry. I am amazed at the beautiful writing that writers do for us readers.

            Jewell Parker Rhodes again uses her fictional skills to bring racial issues to us in a deeply touching story of a twelve-year-old black boy, twelve, who is shot and killed by a police officer. As in “Towers Falling”, the themes of community, socio-economic disparities and diversity underlie the story. In the earliest words, we read, “How small I look. Laid out flat, my stomach touching ground. My right knee bent and my brand-new Nikes stained with blood.” And a bit later, “Doesn’t seem fair. Nobody ever paid me any attention. I skated by. Kept my head low./Now I’m famous.” 
           Jerome tells his story of his death and his life in the few weeks before and after, helping us readers enter his world of an unsafe neighborhood and school, with a loving family who daily try to keep him safe. He is a good boy, discovering the differences in his own neighborhood and that of the police officer who shot that fatal bullet only ‘after’ his death. Rhodes’ style of first-person narrative is strong and poignant. In addition to the “facts’, Jerome as a ghost has limited powers, longs to eat and enjoy his grandma’s food again, to hug his little sister and to see all the sights of his city he now knows exist, but did not before. He wishes he could still take care of that little sister, and be even better friends with a new friend made just days before the shooting. 
Those “Ghost Boys” are there sometimes, most especially their leader, Emmett Till, making the history of racial strife even sadder, for Emmett Till died decades ago, showing how little lives have changed for black children. Jerome can talk with Emmett and also the policeman’s young girl his own age. She is in mourning too, believes her father did wrong by shooting Jerome. These two seem as if they’ll be forever connected. It is heartbreaking to hear their conversations about Jerome’s death, watch them listen to the court witnesses, including Sarah’s father’s testimony, and wondering if anything these youth can do to make changes in our world? Rhodes leaves them and us with hope, most particularly in a gathering of families at Jerome’s graveside where they celebrate his life in their own special ways. The book is not long, and to me, it would be helpful to start important conversations if read aloud or if read with a small book group.
                Thanks to Net Galley for the advanced copy!

           Thanks to Candlewick Press for this Advanced Copy of Emily Windsnap's latest adventure. It came out on the first day of spring! I have to admit I've never read one of these stories by Liz Kessler, so was surprised quite a lot, did not know that Emily was a "half-mer" like her boyfriend, Aaron, and her best friend was a mermaid. This was another adventure, this time managing to mess up the family's vacation plans to do nothing but have fun and relax in a resort by the sea. Yet in the midst of calamities, there are challenges in relationships, too, and words of advice in handling conflicts. The story holds tense, loving and surprising moments, and I enjoyed it, imagine Emily's fans will love her newest challenge. 

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Little and Big Celebrations

      Celebrating today with Ruth Ayres and others who share. 

          This past week, busy and fun, sometimes captured in photos. My daughter and family and a friend of hers and her son are leaving Tuesday for our condo and spring break in the mountains, them to ski and me to write and get ready for April, poetry month. I might be online, but am taking a break from blogging after Monday, want to enjoy the company every day, sometimes sit in a ski lodge and then watch outside to see what I can of the grand-girls skiing. They've progressed quite a bit this year and I want to see how they're doing. 

        This week, I celebrated. . .

 fuzzy trees

wonderful books for children at the bookstore

a tiny bit of spring hope

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Going On A Jabber-Walk!

            Poetry Friday is with Laura Purdie Salas today at her blog, Writing The World for Kids! She's sharing more about her new book out, Meet My Family, which I reviewed a few weeks ago and had the joy of also winning a copy. Laura signed it for my granddaughters and they are thrilled! Be sure to visit to learn about her book (if you haven't already seen it). It's great!  

         Until last year, Juan Felipe Herrera was our country's poet laureate. You can find a brief biography of him here. The last year I taught, I remember being so excited about a new book for older students that was published: Laughing Out Loud, I Fly: Poems In English and Spanish. It was a wonderful addition to my poetry collection about growing up in a very different environment from most of my own students.
         Recently, thanks to Candlewick Press, I received an advanced copy of Herrera's most recent book, this time for varied ages, perhaps kids especially, but I love it, too, all about writing poetry, in this crazy and mixed-up world of ours. Oh, how I wish I was still teaching. It's a "crazy and mixed-up" poetry how-to from him, guaranteed to make everyone smile and take off! Starting with a quote from Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky itself:

 "And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!"
                                             Herrera hurries into the pages with "The Incredible Chapter Uno", and introducing us readers to "Jabberwalking in a Fast, Fast World!"

       Herrera asks the reader (writer) often to rush into things without much thought, with some play on words like "blue-cheesy", not "cheesy". He writes that "You do not have to know where you are going! Or what you are saying" Art from Herrera's words, by him, too, is fun, clever, and (my word) doodles of extraordinary detail. With the words, it's exhilarating to know one can take off with a notebook and pen or pencil and catch a poem, or a sketch of what one sees or what one thinks. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

She Broke A Ribbon and More!

art by Sarah S. Brannen
         Visit Alyson Beecher on Wednesdays for Non-Fiction Picture Books at Kidlit Frenzy.  From her and others, you will discover and want to celebrate terrific nonfiction picture books!  

          I am old enough that I remember that girls could not wear pants to school, could not participate in sports except in intramurals. That means we only formed teams to play each other in school-wide competitions. In college, women were only allowed to wear pants when the temperature reached 20 degrees or below. Yes, I am older, but it was not so long ago. Bobbi Gibb ran her first marathon in 1966, sneaked into the crowd of runners, was not recognized until years later as having completed it  "officially". 
          Annette Pimental focuses on Bobbi starting with her childhood, having to wear a dress to school, but changing immediately after school and running, then running more, and loving it. The text reads: "She is fast." And as for this Boston Marathon, the course is laid out and comes near where Bobbi lived, so she watches the runners go by and her "legs twitch to join the race". On one page, Annette shares that early running fever of Bobbi's, showing her running through town, using nurse's shoes because no company makes running shoes for women. And "People stare. Is that a girl running?" 
         Amazing changes have happened in those years since Bobbi was growing up, and running! As we celebrate Women's History Month, it is a wonderful thing to learn of those women who "broke the ribbon" set before them, those who carried on their passions, for themselves and for all of us who came after. 
         Micha Archer's oil and collage illustrations serve beautifully for the constant movement in this story of Bobbi Gibb. I love that she's added timelines of the marathon run at the bottom of certain pages. Each page accompanies Annette Pimental's words with action, like Bobbi's beginning run through an autumn forest or scenes from her trip across the country, even the page when Bobbi's Boston Marathon application is rejected and a crumpled letter flies across the room. My favorite part, however, is when Annette tells of Bobbi hiding in the bushes, preparing to jump out and join the race for her first time, the only woman! What courage she showed to jump in! And how wonderful it was that so many of those running and the crowds watching cheered her on!
        In addition to this inspiring story, Annette has added an Afterword, a note on names and a selected bibliography. I hope many teachers read this book to their students, inspiring both boys and girls to follow their dreams. 

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Monday Reading

             Thanks to Ricki and Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts for hosting this meme. Your TBR lists will grow longer, but you will find books to love and to share. 


             There are those who dismiss board boards as only for toddlers, and yes, numerous ones published are wonderful for toddlers, but I have had the pleasure of receiving a copy of Charles Ghigna's newest board book, Who Can? and the first time I read it was with my granddaughter in kindergarten, a beginning reader. The book is a 'just right' one for her, with repeating text in rhyming riddles and enough 'new' words to get her excited about reading them, too. Riddles like "Who can fill his bill with tasty fish? Who Can? Pelican"  and 
"Who stirs the wheel in their playground? Who stirs? Hamsters?" make reading fun with clever rhymes, bolstered by Vlasta van Kampen's bright, bold illustrations. Not only does Charles offer the clues in the beginning questions, but Vlasta gives a bit of a hint in the corner of the same page. Here's one example:
 Charles' rhyming riddles with help from Vlasta's art create a book full of fun for younger readers as they learn about riddles and rhyming, guessing from hints in the words and the pictures. The plus is that this learning is what readers do all the time. It's a terrific new book!

           Thanks to Candlewick Press for the advanced copy of the following book. 

In 1775, the British Army occupied Boston in order to subdue and discourage the colonists. At this poignant story’s beginning, told in different forms of poetry in order to give each a unique voice, George Washington (the ‘General’) was named the Commander-In-Chief of the Continental Army, and so with a rag-tag military in disarray, little equipment (almost no cannons), he took that challenge. As the story realated, he could have refused and gone home to his beloved Mount Vernon or could
           Roxanne Orgill tells the ‘story’ of the siege through different characters’ points of view. Even the “orders” are given a part, with a repetitive ending that shows the control Washington has begun over his army: “Lapses will be noticed,/Consequences severe.” Thirteen voices tell the tale, including Washington’s slave/servant William Lee; Washington’s aide-de-camp, Joseph Reed; A Boston bookseller, Henry Knox who has been written of before because of his monumental feat of bringing many cannon and other needed weaponry 300 miles through forest and over mountains from Fort Ticonderoga; Sir William Howe, commander of the British forces; and Martha Washington, George’s wife.  Some ‘lesser’ folk are shown from Orgill’s research, words from their diaries. Other writing comes from letters saved.
           It is a poignant story showing feelings of defeat, but struggling on, sending heroes out to do a job that seems impossible, sending for the company of wives that seems for solace, and stern discipline to help the rank and file from despair.  There are words from a young boy who gives the directions for loading a Brown Bess and there are words of letters to a wife “from your loving husband until death”. It cannot fail to show readers the mixed-up work of people who go to war, especially so long ago, ill-equipped but determined to gain freedom.
          I imagine this can stand as a terrific beginning to a study of American independence. It would be interesting to do further research about each part the author has included. The backmatter holds a glossary, source notes and a bibliography where Orgill shares that “the poems are the result of both study and imagination. A single poem may have a dozen sources.” There is also a map of Boston and its environs. It’s a great book.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Celebrating A Success I Didn't Want

      Celebrating today with Ruth Ayres and others who share. 

            Do you ever know you can do something, and also understand it will take time and help from others, but you don't want to do it?
             I am doing more and more at the bookstore. Remember it's run entirely by volunteers? I love working there, helping customers, reviewing donations, that part of the job. I am on the board of directors now, so more is involved. I am the volunteer coordinator which means "asking" a lot from others. When one "asks", my belief is that I also have to step up and do some of the work as well. So. . .

           We are in the process of replacing bookshelves in the basement, an eclectic mix of book ambiance that might either thrill or overwhelm one. I don't know the whole history, but shelves appear to have been placed one by one per need. They are filled to the brim, from biography to a women's section to parenting to sports and everything else you can imagine.

             But, there is also a locked closet walled off at one end that houses the most valuable books, all of these listed on our Amazon site. And it is/was a mess. The final straw was a shelf that collapsed because of the weight of oversized books. I found a heap of books one day when on the search for an order. 

            We've found a carpenter willing to build and replace a little at a time. That's another person's job, to choose the carpenter. And we as a board chose to start with this closet. It has been my job to gather helpers, boxes, plastic sheeting, and to remove every book, keep them in order by SKU number so that those who are most in charge of orders could find them this past week. I didn't want to do it, but there was that moment when I volunteered because no one else did. Yes, I admit, I waited. 
             I wish I'd taken a before and after picture. I will try to at least insert an "after" later. But I, plus two others, did it. We spent Monday afternoon removing the books, placing them in boxes, marking the boxes as to which held what. Tedious, dusty, and now, with the help of one other, DONE! I am celebrating that it turned out well. The new shelves are awesome, well worth the work involved. 

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Poetry Friday - Spring Roundup!

       Welcome to a poetry spring fling, only three more days until "The Earth Laughs In Flowers" according to Ralph Waldo Emerson.
       It has been quite a week of change: daylight savings time arrived, PI day and another nor'easter have come and gone, this time replaced by students' passions across the country, determined to carry on their cry for gun reform. And as I write this, it is the Ides of March, "notable for the Romans as a deadline for settling debts," and of course, Shakespeare. In another meaning, it's only the middle of a month, yet I feel a 'turning'. . .

                                                                      garden walk,
                                                                      first bee invitation 

            Recently, I discovered this older book at a library sale, full of older poems collected, as you see from the cover, for children to memorize.

            Here is one poem from long ago, to begin our spring celebration. Do you remember that this is also a song? I imagine many of you have your own favorites, have written your own poems, too. Spring seems to be a release for us, maybe not right away depending on where you live, but there are signs of sprouts, more birds flying around, and I see busy ants and ladybugs. It's on its way!
             While doing some research, I discovered that Al Jolson used words from this poem in his famous song April Showers. Robert Loveman was also the poet for the Georgia state song, Georgia until 1979 when the state changed it to Georgia On My Mind.

April Rain
         Robert Loveman

It is not raining rain for me,
It's raining daffodils;
In every dimpled drop I see
Wild flowers on the hills.

The clouds of gray engulf the day
And overwhelm the town;
It is not raining rain to me,
It's raining roses down.

It is not raining rain to me,
But fields of clover bloom,
Where any buccaneering bee
Can find a bed and room.

A health unto the happy,
A fig for him who frets!
It is not raining rain to me,
It's raining violets.

         Leave your links below!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Musical Memories

 art by Sarah S. Brannen

          Visit Alyson Beecher on Wednesdays for Non-Fiction Picture Books at Kidlit Frenzy.  From her and others, you will discover and want to celebrate terrific nonfiction picture books!  
           Thanks to Candlewick Press, I am fortunate to have a copy of this new book by G. Neri and David Litchfield showing the journey together of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. 

        Beginning with the backdrop of a reunion concert in Central Park, this story of a famous pair many grew up with during the beginnings of rock 'n roll is written in what seems like a song itself. G. Neri begins with poetic descriptions of the music of two boys who started a friendship in Queens: "Two voices sounding like autumn and spring rolled into one, like snowflakes falling on barren trees, or the joyous dance of summer in the park. Two voices intertwining, birds soaring in flight, pure harmony, pure delight."
         Paul was short and didn't like it, but he loved baseball and was good at it until he heard Simon sing as a fourth grader. Simon grabbed that young grade school audience in his hand and "holds them spellbound". He had a pitch-perfect voice and Paul was mesmerized, thought if Simon can do it, maybe Paul could, too.
        And the book, through ups and downs, tells the story in great detail, the early thrill of a hit, the depression of failures. They part and take time to grow up, off to California during the sixties or to Europe, hanging out with others, still loving music, pressed to do something for themselves. 
        After reading other biographies of those who succeeded, I come away from this one about Paul and Artie with a word that has been popular again and again recently, persistence. They did have help, record companies who gave a "listen", another chance at figuring out the best way to make their music, but they took time to learn, kept on working at different approaches, went away and returned to amazing accomplishments. 

Sunday, March 11, 2018

It's Monday - Book Sharing

             Thanks to Ricki and Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts for hosting this meme. Your TBR lists will grow longer, but you will find books to love and to share. 

               Here are a few books I read and enjoyed this week!

I had to do some research as I read this book because the story is based on Indian folktales, and that is a good thing! There also is a terrific afterward by the author that explains quite a bit. Kids reading this will learn about another culture's stories and find more scary adventures that include escapes from other kinds of monsters. Ugh, and these monsters have sticky, sticky snot! The heroine, Kiranmala, has a big surprise on her twelfth birthday and it isn't cake and ice cream. Her parents mysteriously disappear, two young (and handsome) princes show up to help save her from that other 'thing' that shows up, ready to eat her, a rakkhosh. These rakkhosh are not the only ones to worry about when Kiranmala beats off this one (with the help of a prince). There are snakes, a demon island, and the one she never thought she wanted to see, The Serpent Prince.  Kiranmala learns that she is a real Indian princess, something she has resisted learning from her parents. She is smart and sassy, and no matter how alarmed, she acts to save herself, and others too. It's a story that's number one in the series, has a satisfying end, just makes you want that next book now!

          Thanks to Candlewick for the next two books, fun for younger readers. 
        It would be difficult not to love a story by Eve Bunting, and Will Hillenbrand adds to this story of a poor duck who can't swim with a lovely watercolored natural setting. In verse, we hear of this duck who laments: "I cannot swim, and that is bad./A landlocked duck is very sad." To me, the best thing shown is that he seeks advice from a frog and a wise owl. It helps! He decides to find a puddle: "I'll find a puddle. It will be . . ./the perfect practice place for me." A happy ending after he gains some courage will make a good topic for conversation. How does one find courage, and how to feel confident with that advice? When is it okay to wait a while to try a scary thing? Young children will like the story and applaud for this young duck!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Celebrating "Flakes of Light"

      Celebrating today with Ruth Ayres and others who share. 

         I just finished reading posts for Poetry Friday, and need to share a part of one post with all of you. This excerpt from a shared poem connects to our celebrations, a new-to-me way of collecting beauty from our daily lives.

If a man in China can keep ten thousand dollars' worth
of caterpillars in a metal box underneath his bed
for medicine, then I want to collect flakes of light
for those winter months where we go a whole week

without seeing a slice of sun.  The light I want to collect
is free.  Can't be sold as a cure for muscle ache
or to ward off evil eye.  I write this in August.  It should be
illegal to talk about snow in Western New York now.

from The Light I Collect by Aimee Nezhukumatathil 

         My 'flakes of light' brighten my world.

Spending time

— with Imogene, and having her read to me. She's just beginning and is having a wonderful time looking at all the books she's loved before, but now, can read them herself!

— with Ingrid, sewing pillows for Imogene and herself. She's learning all about the sewing machine, how to fill a bobbin, thread the machine, push on the pedal just enough. She has been hand-sewing for a few years, now is making the tiniest stitches.

 reading. There are so many wonderful books, new and old. I just re-read To Kill A Mockingbird. It is still one that both warms and breaks your heart.

 noticing! Remember that I have a garden that grows "outside" my own fence, the one where I madly fight the bindweed?  Also, I continue to share that we need rain or snow, are so, so dry. It's a season of "brown". But a day or so ago I looked out at this garden, and some of the bushes have grown green sprouts, a beautiful green topping!

 fixing! My front door latch stopped working. I swabbed a little WD-40 into it, and it can now open again!

— writing! For a friend's birthday celebration, I joined her February challenge in a closed FB group and wrote a poem a day. From the warm-up to the wind-down, that meant 43 poems! It is a habit to write every day, but not always a poem. I'm pleased that I did it!

       I'm wishing you your own discoveries of "flakes of light" this week!  

photo credit: Alexey Kljatov (ChaoticMind75) Snowflake macro: ice dust via photopin (license)