Monday, October 21, 2019

Monday Reading - Time For Halloween

              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 arrived home last night from a Highlights poetry workshop led by Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Georgia Hear. I am full to the brim with writing and reading many poetry books, including Halloween ones new and old. The library there is filled with their published books new and old, as is each room and cabin with a bookshelf full! I read a lot, but didn't take note of them, just enjoyed every time I opened another book! We skyped with Jane Yolen and Nikki Grimes. It was a week I will treasure. 

            One book I finished before I left!

             Ruta Sepetys tells stories that live (so far) in our past of historical events, some (without her deep research) we would never have known about without our own investigation. She says she took eight years to bring this to us, she's added a thorough author's note, research and notes, a bibliography, and a glossary to help us through the Spanish phrases included throughout. In this book of the Spanish Civil War and its effects that have stayed, she expands the complexity by allowing different characters a voice. Although there are a couple of main characters, others touch the heart, too, when learning about their experiences. We try to understand from the outside, as Sepetys expresses that she did herself. It's been a while since I've read a book that kept me worried about what's next at every spot. The resilience and different survival approaches show just how different everyone is. Yet, in that path of survival, one quote scratched in the dirt by a character in jail showed everyone's actions though they did take varied paths: "Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly." It's a marvelous book!

Thanks to Candlewick Press - new Halloween books!

        Kim Norman's rhyming picture book begs to be read aloud, on Halloween and perhaps on "Talk Like A Pirate" Day. The end papers themselves are delightful. In the opening, human bones are scattered and labeled, except for that peg leg! The back is vertical, showing the full skeleton of a pirate, with accompanying pirate wear, like hat, sword and spyglass. He's found all his bones! The four-line rhymes on each page after the opening are good for laughing out loud every time. A poor pirate skeleton's bones have been scattered throughout the sea bed, and he shouts for the creatures down there to help put him back together again. Bob Molar's illustrations of the ocean's dark bottom serves as backdrop for many kinds of colorful creatures and plants as well as peeks at the bones needed, skull first, and on. Each verse defines the bone called for in rollicking rhyme! Here's one from this fun book: 

                                     "Who can spot my shoulder blade,
                                        my shrugging jacket-holder blade,
                                        my shiver-when-I'm-colder blade?
                                        Oh, scapula, come back!"

         It's the first U.S. edition of this imaginary tale by Katie May Green where those twins of Seen and Not Heard return as the moon wakes the children "out" of their picture frames and they climb out the window, into the woods for a hide 'n seek game. Written in rhyme with woodland animals seen having fun watching these Victorian-dressed children, some pages show the twins (on the cover) in various 'hide-outs' while the others look for them, through woods and a maze. There is so much to see and smile about on each page illustrated by Katie May Green in shadowy night-time blues, purples and greens. 

         Remember Pick A Pine Tree? I do and loved it. Here is another by Patricia Toht with perfect rhyming and a story from family to friends to neighborhood traditions, illustrated by Jarvis with pencil, chalk, paint and digital color in sunshine first at the pumpkin patch through evening, then dusky dark at the end when all is lit and Halloween arrives! It's hard to pick a favorite page spread. My favorite crows are there in day with bats replacing later in the dark. A black cat can be found on every page, a fun thing for readers, but when the pumpkins are carved, the faces delight, and first before lighting, time to decorate: 
                                   " Cobwebs strung from post to post.
                                    Rings of gauzy dancing ghosts.
                                    Spiders. Tombstones. 
                                    Dangling bats.
                                    Skeletons and witches' hats."
          Patricia Toht and Jarvis have given us readers another wonder of a book, yes, a Halloween treat, but those autumn illustrations make it a celebration of the season, too! It's wonderful.

        It's the first edition of this book in the U.S., a 'ghostly' tale by Violeta Noy about young Roderic who is the fourth Roderick and among all the ghosts wearing white sheets, is tired of being missed. Noy shows quite a creative flair for illustrating white ghosts, but thank goodness this  young ghost wants to be different. He tried a lot of ideas that do not work, but finally, finds a way to be different and insists that's the way he wants to be. When kids like standing out from the crowd, this time readers will love applauding Roderick for his persistence and courage!


          And an olded favorite Halloween poetry book! You can read my Goodreads review here from a few years ago!

Now Reading: I didn't get far, but Wierd Little Robots by Carolyn Crimi is lots of fun so far and I'm nearly finished with an advanced copy of Gae Polisner's new YA novel, Jack Kerouac Is Dead To Me. out next spring!

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. 

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Poetry Friday - Surprise Gift

            Cheriee at her blog, Library Matters, hosts today on Poetry Friday. She's been sharing fascinating poem memories these past weeks (months?) and last week wrote that she was done, now ready to revise. She's sharing a poet from her country, Canada, whose books look and sound great. We don't get many books out of Canada here, but some. I will look for these! Thanks, Cheriee!

            Yes, I wrote about autumn, but I didn't intend to until I walked outside this week, near my old and large cottonwood and saw this! Beautiful things happen in this season. I see so many "images" that I love, like busy spiders, knowing that they have much to do before their goodbyes, too. Happy Autumn however it's happening in your neighborhood.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Non-Fiction Picture Books Celebrate Action

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!

        Here are two books that care, about children and animals who have different needs, as we all do!

          A beginning analogy shares “Each of us grows in our own way,” says Sonia, a young child based on the author, as she and her friends plant a garden. Just as each plant has a “different color, different shape, and different purpose,” kids are like that, too. Rafael López and Sonia Sotomayor have teamed up to tell about children of every part of the world who do things in their own ways, like all the rest of us. Sonia begins with her own actions needed because she's diabetic, and how she noticed that others thought she was doing some weird things when she gave herself her insulin shot. She suggests that if one sees someone whose actions seem new or different, "Just ask." However, she also offers that some don't like answering questions and need respect for that, too.
          López' drawings add to Justice Sotomayor's ideas by showing diverse children living lives in varied ways because of who they are. And, she surrounds them with the bursting colors of a garden, a park with trees, flowers, birds, and action!
         An introductory letter begins this story, and along come the children, introducing themselves along with ending with a question? (Just ask.) For example, "Do you ever need to take medicine to be healthy?" is followed by a boy who has asthma, using an inhaler. But, like others, he's also shown as a painter, a regular boy! The page connections connect in creative ways. This boy asks, at the end of his story, "My inhaler is like a tool to help my body. Do you use a tool to help your body?" Then--the next page introduces Anthony, a boy in a wheelchair who shares, "Even though I can't run with my legs, I can go super fast!" He asks: "How do you get from place to place?" Each child does what Sonia Sotomayor advises: "Just ask!"  It's a wonderful overview of differences that children might wonder about, or might connect to themselves.

         It's hard to imagine how Lindsay Moore manages to write in the voice of a sea bear, somber, serious, filled with the self-knowledge one needs for survival, but she does invoke its strength and knowledge in this poignant story. These words she chooses filled me with sadness as the bear itself, telling how life is, is patient, full of hope. This sea bear is trying hard to survive, following the sea ice as much as is possible. It swims for days one time in order to reach land. There are no small ice floes on which to rest. He swims with narwhals, over whales, past walruses, through a storm, and finally there is land. The illustrations in blues, whites, a touch of green swirls like the ocean, in and around the bear. It is his home and it is changing!

       Lindsay Moore adds a page with further explanation and small parts about the other animals "above and below the ice". These few words are all that's needed to show one part of the effects of climate change. What a compelling and beautiful book.