Wednesday, May 23, 2018

NFPB Wednesday - Women Who Made A Difference

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 know that many have already heard the story of Ada Lovelace, and here is another book about her, this time focusing on her childhood and the path that led her to the mathematical thinking that preceded (by over a hundred years) the invention of the computers we know today.
          Perhaps some have heard of Kathryn Johnston, the first girl to play little league baseball, yet although I grew up in her time, I had not heard her story until Heather Lang told it in this picture book of a passion fulfilled that made history.
         It's terrific to hear stories that show both passions and persistence resulting in good things we now appreciate.

        Kathryn Johnson loved baseball, loved her father's glove, even used it for a long time though it was for right-handers, and she was a lefty. Frustrations grew when Kathryn's brother tried out and made the local little league team. She knew she was better, but because she was a girl, she had to stay back, play only in local sandlot games. That itself was an honor because those local players recognized how good she was and invited her to play. There came a time for the tryouts of a new little league team. Frustrated again, Kathryn decided, with her mother's help and approval, to cut off her pigtails, borrow her brother's clothes and tryout as a boy! How it all turns out shows that risk-taking often means success! Cartoon-like illustrations by Cecelia Puglesi show this time in our history well. The pages show only white children, Mother in the kitchen wearing an apron, girls playing hopscotch, and Dad wearing a sweater vest. The backmatter includes an author's note and a timeline of women and girls in baseball. Heather Lang has written another wonderful biography of a story that will be inspiring for young people to read! Like "Fearless Flyer" and "Swimming With Sharks", she shows that taking that next, sometimes frightening, step can make a difference for self and for others! Thanks, Heather!

         This new book about Ada Lovelace not only tells more of her story as a young girl, illustrations by Marjorie Priceman fit the Victorian age in which Ada grew up and include real numerical equations researched by Tanya Lee Stone. Ada, perhaps like her poet/dreaming father, Lord Byron, was also a dreamer, thus Ada was punished at times by being put in a closet when she doesn't please her mother's expectations. Her mother, according to the text, "was hoping to protect her from what Lady Byron believed were the dangers of a vivid imagination such as her father had."  We are told that Ada spent many hours alone, her only companion, her cat, Madame Puff. She was tutored from an early age that focused on mathematics, and Ada was also studying French and music. She liked many other things but was denied learning about them as she grew up. As a young adult, her friendship with the scientist, Charles Babbage kept her mind occupied. How exciting it was to see his new inventions, to read his articles. They wrote each other often, and the crowning point was that Babbage told Ada she should write her own original paper. Ada's longer explanation of his own invention now shows it to be the precursor that explains how computers work. 
        There is "more to the story" in the back matter and an added little bit about how Ada Lovelace got her name. Thanks to Tanya Lee Stone, readers have another glimpse of this important woman who followed her passions. It's a wonderful book!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

#IMWAYR - Sharing "Don't Miss" Books

          Visit Jen at Teach MentorTexts and Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders to see what they've been reading, along with everyone else who shares.  

            Is there a "key to everything"? There is one KEY, one that serves as the underlying theme of this story of more than one person who is trying hard to overcome hard things, and especially Tasha, or Bug or Kid, eventually Tash. She's survived being left alone at a very young age by her father who ends up in prison. There is little blame but for too much drink and poor choices, but his brother, Tash's Uncle Kevin saves her, becomes her dad. And when that "aloneness" feeling pushes her into "ragers", he's there, and so is the next-door neighbor, the one who never leaves her home, Cap'n Jackie. She's an older woman that fights her own demons but she loves Tash, the 'Kid' and they have forged an unlikely relationship. 
          Tash's and Kevin's lives are tense throughout the story, beginning with Kevin planning a month's trip and signing up Tasha for a sleep-away camp. There's another rage to no avail. She does go, but not before hate-filled words are spoken to both Kevin and Cap'n Jackie. That magic key that's been so important to Tasha's and Cap'n Jackie's relationship is thrown in anger back to Jackie. 
          Camp turns out okay, but coming home is not the happy time Tash imagines. Her "Cap'n" has disappeared, so has the key, and finally, they discover she has fallen, broken her hip and is in a rehab center. The rest is a story of heartbreak, yet also hope, some resolution with Cap'n Jackie's nephew Nathan, another child she helped. Pat Schmatz has managed to write a complex story that shows how much people need love and support in their lives. It's not a long book, but caring words rule the lives of most of these people. I would have liked to have some of the references to people, and the history between Tasha and Cap'n Jackie developed further. I imagine some readers will like connecting to the feelings and experiences. 
           There are some tough scenes in the rehab/nursing home that I felt were stereotypical, like unfeeling and lazy workers. I realize that they may represent some places, but I know they are not like all homes. In all, I enjoyed the story, the characters' love and support for each other.
          Thanks to Candlewick Press for the Advanced Copy. This book came out early in May.

          Perhaps I shouldn’t have read this second one. Now I have to wait and wait for the next (or last?). Rowan and Citra move into different paths in this next phase of this scythe-building world. Some expected characters are there, and others are introduced. Just like our own lives, there are people one must trust or distrust, and Shusterman gives us plenty to judge. New people come into our lives and change us, as they change others here in this story and become changed themselves. It’s more complex than “Scythe”, the first in the series, with more surprises, some predictable, some I didn’t see coming. This time, Thunderhead writes thoughts between each chapter, also making changes in perspective. It’s another wild ride adventure. One quote from the Thunderhead feels like a good response to all the story: “There is a fine line between freedom and permission. The former is necessary. The latter is dangerous--perhaps the most dangerous thing the species that created me has ever faced.”

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Poetry Friday - Window Memory

         It's another wonderful spring Poetry Friday, and everyone is gathering at Sloth Reads with Rebecca Herzog who's sharing a wonderful new poetry book and giving a copy away! Thanks, Rebecca!  

            The challenge this month from Michelle Barnes at Today's Little Ditty is given here by Julie Fogliano, to look out one's windows and write from what one sees. Thanks for this latest way to write and share, Michelle.

             I've already written one poem for Julie's challenge, but because I look out windows often, I wanted to write again. Here is a sonnet with additional musings out my window, early morn. I did change the rhyme scheme, FYI. It just seemed to be needed this time. The photo is my view outside one of my windows. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Bringing Books To All - Grateful

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!  Here are two about men whose life's work has entertained children for a long, long time. I know that I am grateful!
        I grew up reading books about Oz, but in all these years, I've never read about L. Frank Baum's life. Thanks to Kathleen Krull, it's now available in a new biography of him. It's rather a surprise story, a rags-to-riches one. Baum grew up in a wealthy family, and according to the text, had all the indulgences one might imagine. He and his brothers were even given their own printing press from which they wrote and printed a monthly newspaper about the family life, the "Rose Lawn Home Journal". Frank grew up trying all sorts of things, finally settling on being an actor, where in order to belong to a troupe, he was required to bring along thousands of dollars of costumes. He never got a part, soon moved on to other enterprises, all seeming to go nowhere, and resulting in quite a loss of money.
        After telling stories as a young man and in his married life to his children, and after being poor because he continued to make bad investments, finally, finally Frank figured out that he could write the "told" stories. That invented name "OZ" came from looking at his file cabinet one day when asked where his wonderful creatures came from, and he saw O-Z! Once again, late in life, L. Frank Baum became rich and gave children favorite story after story.
        Kevin Hawkes' illustrations fill most right-hand pages, sometimes double-pages with foreground action and background settings, letting the art add much to the story. The text pages have added illustrations that connect to the text as well, like the ferris wheel from the 1894 World's Fair and a few chickens (another of Frank's failed projects). 
        In the backmatter: an author's note, sources and a list of the Oz books.

      I imagine many know the story of Dr. Seuss' challenge to write a story with only a list of 236 words, those being early readers' words. Judy Sierra and Kevin Hawkes have now told it with inspiration from Seuss himself with fun facts about Seuss' writing habits and choices, along with a taste of Seuss' art illustrating them. For instance, Sierra writes that every morning after breakfast, Ted (as known to his friends) climbed stairs to his studio to write. Hawkes shows that with a whimsical Seuss-like staircase, a couple of fun animals following, including one pink, furry animal with a pencil. I loved the way Hawkes slid his own creative illustrations a la Dr. Seuss as Sierra told this fun story. He shows Ted with the hats he said inspired his work. He shows fading ideas, a "creature" in a tall hat (sound familiar?), a fish jumping out of a bowl. He adds in the pots of brushes and pencils. Seuss thought he might write a story about birds, but alas, that word was not on the list! But then, "why not let the cat juggle instead? He can juggle the stuff on the list. Yes, he can!" 
       There is a brief mention of another challenge Dr. Seuss achieved, that from Bennett Cerf to write a beginning reader with only 50 words. And he did! Do you know which one it is?
       It's a special book telling about the birth of The Cat In The Hat, plus it includes an author's note, an illustrator's note, and that long, long list of books written and illustrated by the beloved Dr. Seuss.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

#IMWAYR - Sharing The Week's Favorites

          Visit Jen at Teach MentorTexts and Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders to see what they've been reading, along with everyone else who link up.  

Finished! - From my #MustRead list:  Scythe - Neal Shusterman

         Two memorable characters, others as well, plus those despicable ones that make one nervous, hurrying past their scenes in order to calm down. This is a tough one to share without giving away the many surprises. It's a feat of world-building that hopefully will never happen, yet some of it, in the most gruesome of ways, has already happened, like the wars and murders of those "others" in countries where they are not wanted. This new world, in our world's future, takes science to a different level, for even when one ends up "deadish", off to the recovery center they go to be healed. Small wounds are healed by what are called "nanites". We now live in "the age of mortality" but population growth and extreme science cause over-population, thus a world that needs "scythes", those ordained to kill, to "glean" with compassion. It is a world of immortality.If you like science-fiction that takes what is "now" and gives it a nudge into future history, this is the first of the series. There is still good in this world, as we say about today, too. But there is also bad. "Nature deemed that to be born was an automatic sentence to death, and then brought about that death with vicious consistency." 
           Somehow when this book came out, I didn't read it, so months passed and it became one of those books I knew about but not one I needed to read, until last week. I took my 3rd-grade granddaughter to our favorite Indie store and she chose this one, plus the second one, too. Last week, she brought it to me saying, "You have to read this, Grandma, it's great." And so I did, and I loved it, too. Rozzum, or Roz, a female robot ends up a survivor from a shipwreck that dumped hundreds of crates of other robots in the ocean, but she washed ashore, and when curious sea otters pushing her "on" button, she came alive and decided she wanted to stay that way. Through years of work, which you can read about here, Peter Brown wrote an amazing tale of a robot that became beloved by the animals on a small island, when at first they were alarmed by a "monster". It's a different kind of survival story, but one that shows how much caring for others makes a difference in the way others think of you. There are moments of celebration, of sadness, but most of all, many moments filled with love. I can't wait for my granddaughter to finish The Wild Robot Escapes!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Personal Response to Art - "World Make Way"

          Poetry Friday is flashing today at Jama's Alphabet Soup with the birdbird of happiness, Jama Rattigan! Thanks, Jama, for helping our appetites grow for tasty food and beautiful art, fabulous books and the sweetest of animals. 

         Though I haven't written many ekphrastic poems, I do love what others do when writing about the art they are viewing, art that they love. Diane Mayr at Random Noodling wrote cheritas to art by women artists this past April, Irene Latham at Live Your Poem wrote  to art from the Harlem Renaissance and often poets share some new poem they've written or discovered about a piece of art for Poetry Friday. This year, for Laura Shovan's birthday month, a large group signed up to share a piece of art they own for all of us in the group to respond to. You can read about her plan here. I posted a few of the poems I wrote here. It was special to read the depth of the poems written and the varied responses to each piece of art. After all, this was a daily exercise, not easy to write beautiful words so quickly! Here is the piece I shared and the intro to it: This is a pencil drawing from one of my grandfathers who went to art school briefly before having to return to the family farm while his brother served in WWI. He said this was by one of his teachers. Over 25 wrote a poem response. 

          I tried a prose poem to this, my own response!  
Long Ago Life

       When I was young, after World War II, I lived with my maternal grandparents. We had flush toilets then, but others did not, nor running water. The war meant sacrifices of more than people. Grandma had tho
se luxuries but washed the clothes in big tubs. Grandpa dumped the wash water on his garden, nothing wasted. I remember handing her clothespins as she hung the clothes on the line. My uncles came home from the war, midst celebration for them, grief for my father, who did not. They held a party with distant family finding enough gas to make the journey to welcome them home. People hugged me and my uncles a lot, ate, laughed, and cried. The first thing one uncle did was borrow Grandpa’s truck and take it to the nearby bigger town, brought back a wringer washer for Grandma. She sat down on the sofa and cried and cried. I didn’t understand. It seemed like a wonderful thing to me.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Trees and Dreaming

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!  

         There isn't a much sweeter thing than climbing up into a tree, sitting there with the squirrels and birds, peeking out, perhaps in secret, at those below. Bob Redman thought that, felt too confined in his New York apartment, tiny classrooms with narrow halls at school, crowded sidewalks. He raced to Central Park after school, any chance he could, and at age thirteen, began building his treehouses. At first, they were simple platforms as high as he could manage, places to be "away" from the city's busy-ness so he could dream and read. Then he arrived one day, and his "house" was gone. So he built another, a bit more elaborate. Friends helped gather materials, helped build, and joined him sometimes. They were always taken down. However, as Redman grew up year by year, so did those houses in the trees. He built thirteen of them by the time he was caught. That final one was the most elaborate of all: "Five levels and a bridge!"
        One morning he awoke to find several park people there, asking him to come down. No, he wasn't in trouble but was hired to become an arborist for the park, an ending that meant a reward for his passion for trees. Breaking rules is not always a bad thing. 
        Bob Redman worked for the park for a long time, then started his own company, still there, still taking care of trees all over the city. Here is one article about him from the New York Times. Another fun thing is that Shira Boss, the author of this book, is Redman's wife.
       Jamey Christoph has illustrated this story in a pleasant matte finish, showing the look of nature all through the seasons and of course, including lots of beautiful and different trees.

Monday, May 7, 2018

#IMWAYR - Great Books

          Visit Jen at Teach MentorTexts and Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders to see what they've been reading, along with everyone else who link up.  

Still Reading - From my #MustRead list:  Scythe - Neal Shusterman   Oh my, what an interesting concept this is. And now, Thunderhead the next one is already out! 

I was so busy last week but did finish The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. You can read my review on Goodreads. 

         It really is a new way to look at the word, yes, that word, NOTHING! The endpapers offer a lot of synonyms for it first, like nada, nil, zilch, zippo! I won't give much away this time, nearly writing "nothing", but it does include a delightful mix of animals and illustrations by Hugh Murphy, like that hippo on the cover. It is fun to read, a LOUD story. My youngest granddaughter took it immediately from me after we read it, and started over again! She's six.

         Another wonderful book just right for spring when insects, those "crawly bugs" seem to appear immediately, and then, according to David L. Harrison, they go to school! "Come by air/hop or crawl--/Crawly School/welcomes all!" This opening poem is wonderfully illustrated by Julie Bayless in a woodland setting that shows each "student" journeying to school, bag or backpack with each. Considering that these insects have poems that show their school actions, some not so good, it will be great fun to learn about the insects and compare what David has written, and Julia Bayless has illustrated to verify the truth, or what can be interpreted in a different way. The poor tick has a people problem: "She [the teacher] says they hate it when we bite/hide our heads and dig in tight." In "What's Left of Termite Class" - not much, because "We ate the walls/and foundation, hungry for more/alliteration." The school nurse, of course, is a mosquito, who "always takes some blood". You'll need to see this page, with other classmates leaving unhappily! Among other tips, there also "What We Learn in Bird Class". Imagination rules this school, and kids will love comparing it to their own!

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Poetry Fridays - Flowers Blooming

               "It's May, It's May, the lusty month of May" and Brenda Harsham at Friendly Fairy Tales is hosting, and with additional spring flowers. Thanks,  Brenda. 

         If one chooses to write about green and growing things in May, it's a challenge to know what to write. Should it be about the dainty white coral bells? (And I must be sure to remind my daughter that they are blooming; they are her favorites.) Perhaps I should mention the lilacs that cover the large green shrubs next to the fence? They are favorites of a grandmother with their perfume that takes me to her home every year. And maybe I will include at least one mention of the bleeding hearts, unique in their bloom arrangement, sad to imagine their demise. May begins, soon giving over to summer!