Thursday, January 16, 2020

Poetry Friday - Postcard Smiles

             Catherine at Reading to the Core hosts us today, sharing some lovely haiku written in December. Be sure to read her post, then visit others who are gathering to share their poetry offerings. Thanks, Catherine!

               And, thanks to Jone MacCulloch for her yearly postcard idea. Finding more than ads and bills in the mail is always wonderful. 

from Carol Varsalona

frosted winter hopes
undeniably etch
windows of life
painting shadows of
wonder across a new year
dreams not deferred

from Jone, who always makes me envious
of her beautiful ocean visits

from Linda Mitchell
on the other side: a story of the year of the rat, and--

Some days we dash
to win the race.

Others, friends carry us
over dangerous rivers.

Each a heavenly gift.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Non-Fiction Picture Books - What Can Be & What is

     Visit Alyson Beecher on Wednesdays for Non-Fiction Picture Books at Kidlit Frenzy -- hashtag #nfpb2020! 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 wanted to share two books that I've had for a while and somehow have not yet shared. They are from 2019 and are ones that can inspire students in different ways. One book shares that a small idea can grow into something wonderful that helps people all over the world. The other shows how creatures thought to be abhorrent adds to the diversity of living creatures in many, but thought-to-be gross, ways. It too will inspire students and everyone to learn that 'first opinions' aren't necessarily the best ones.

          I got this book at my fall Highlights workshop, read it, then put it away to share. I don't have a Little Free Library and wish I did, but this story of one small idea started by Todd Bol, the founder of this movement is so inspiring, perhaps especially for booklovers everywhere. Miranda Paul narrates it from start to the worldwide success, showing young Todd supported by his mom after a hurtful comment at school. After her death, he wanted to share her love of reading with others, hammered together a box that looked like a schoolhouse, put books inside, and waited. No one came. At a later rummage sale, people began to notice, and as many say, the rest is history! John Parra's illustrations illustrate the colorful story, including the diversity that embraces these libraries in our world. The endpapers are lined with books, too. The back matter adds more information, including the sadness that Todd Bol died from cancer just as the book was coming out. We will remember him, won't we, as we travel our town's streets and see those Little Free Libraries everywhere!

           Here is the link to the Little Free Library site. 

          I love Jess Keating's books, like Pink is for Blobfish, Cute As An Axolotl, and Shark Lady these past few years! I also love that she creates picture books about creatures we may know something about or may think "EW" when we see them or hear their names and makes us (ME) want to know more and revel that such interesting creatures are out there in our world. 
           This time, double-page spreads with a brief intro, one large photo of the 'real' creature with David DeGrand's fun cartoons showing one aspect of that animal's life, and a column of facts on the right take enough time for the reader to think (or say outloud) "Wow"! and "I didn't know that!" or (to the reader sitting next to me: "Listen to this!"  That column shares common and scientific names, size, diet, habitat, and predators and threats. Imagine a book that focuses on slime, snot, mucus, poop, pee, and barf! Kids will love it, and really, adults will too. 
           I'm fascinated by the way evolutionary traits create a creature that contributes to an ecosystem, wishing kids who study such creatures with the help of authors like Keating will be inspired to go further. They might learn more about one of these, or discover their own to learn about. It's a terrific book!
             A glossary of terms has been added at the back.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Monday Book Sharing - Stories Past & Future

              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.  Your TBR lists will grow! Happy Reading!


      This book came out in 2014 and Greg Hickey asked me to take a look. Wow, now six years old, a sci-fi plot backed at the end by a lengthy summary of what has happened on earth, what has pushed humans to find a way to colonize a new planet. It's all science, parallels some of the realities that have happened in these recent years, but we are far from this future, I hope, when we must send some of the earth's population off into space because of simply no room left.
           Greg invites us readers into a small colony on the planet Pearl where citizens are taken care of with dormitories for sleeping, meal halls for receiving meal cakes three times a day, and lovely outdoor spaces in which to relax and play. The citizens are so relaxed they seem in a stupor when speaking in phrases like "hellohoweryou?" and "Goodthankshoweryou?" At times, unable to reply, they stare, finally turning to leave. Bells carry them to the sleeping quarters and to eat, a whirring sound delivering those cakes, until one day it stopped after giving only a few!
             The story deepens as colonists wail, unable to understand, leaving hungry. Another time, the sleeping halls are locked, forcing everyone to sleep outside. The picture laid out from this new way of living is stark, and my questioning started with "Why?" and "How?" A focus begins on one of the citizens, a young man named Samuel who shows us what he is seeing as well as what he might do about it. He begins the thinking that shows a problem-solving mind, adrift and isolated from the others. There are parts of drawings left at random that he finds, and tries hard to decipher them, frustrated by their elusive meaning. Bit by bit, those pictures help Samuel solve the problems that come to the colonists, who ignore his work and only whimper and whine, resigned to every disaster. It is a relief that Samuel had one helper who steps forward, a young woman named Penny, at first shy and brief of speech, yet she also grows bolder in her manner, a strength, and help to Samuel. The story moves from one disaster and discovery to another until a final revelation and the end. I rooted for Samuel and Penny, also for all those sad inhabitants. And I hope there may be more to this story!
           It's good sci-fi, like others perhaps predicting a future we can only imagine, sometimes with the horror of what can be for our great-grandchildren and beyond. That summary mentioned above shows some connections to problems humans have created already. 

          I won't give any scenes away, but Liz Garton Scanlon and Audrey Vernick's words give the opportunity for Olivier Tallec to create page after page of fall-off-the-sofa laughs when viewing. Use "It'll only be five minutes" as a line where you might want to imagine your own scene, with kids! That's what it's like! It was much fun to read aloud with my younger granddaughter, who's eight.

        This is one of the final books edited by the late Lee Bennett Hopkins and it is a treasure he and many poets and artists have given us. In his intro, Lee writes "Heritage makes us who we are." And by collecting these pieces, he has shown that. You might see yourselves in this book, art or words, or some may connect another personal memory. Sean Qualls' cover art gives a glimpse of what's inside. It will make a beautiful pairing with George Ella Lyons' "Where I'm From" poem if you and students are doing some exploration of heritage. 

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Poetry Friday - It's January!

Poetry Friday today is hosted by Sally Murphy, a poet friend from across the sea, Australia! Sally shares one way to help the needs of her country because of the fires. It goes by the hashtag #authorsforfireys and ends Friday evening.  Our prayers are with her homeland and the terrible devastation by the fires. 
           And you can take a peek at Sally's new verse novel here! Thanks for hosting, Sally!
           Here is a link to a NY Times article that offers other ideas for giving to help those affected by these fires:

            Thanks to Jone MacCulloch who created the annual postcard exchange, I've been receiving wonderful Happy New Year postcards. Thanks to all. I'll share them next week!

            Here's a poem for the 'after'. A new year is a refresh, a beginning, a welcome for 'new', but also a 'remembering' what came before, to celebrate, to rue. January slip-slides into our lives whether we want it or not, and we begin!

January Takeover

Day follows day 
frozen time 
choosing how to 
make a rhyme

reading stories 
baking bread
freeing to-do lists
from my head
hours now for 
nature walks
sketching writing
friendly talks
sparkles packed 
and put away 
quiet memories
that stay

Linda Baie ©

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Non-Fiction Picture Books Share Back Stories

Visit Alyson Beecher on Wednesdays for Non-Fiction Picture Books at Kidlit Frenzy -- hashtag #nfpb2020! 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 didn't know this story of C.S. "Jack" and Warren "Warnie" Lewis, brothers and best friends all their lives. Caroline McAlister tells of their life together and apart, taking readers to the story of Narnia's birth, too. The boys' games lead to the beloved books that children continue to read and love. Jack had the imagination coming from extensive reading and pretending; Warnie leaned more to technology, ship-building for example. Together, after some separation in their schooling and during both World War I and World War II, they ended together. Jack wrote, always by hand; Warnie typed the manuscripts.
           Yes, early on in the attic of their home, there was a wardrobe, hand-carved by their paternal grandfather. Jessica Lanan's rather dreamy illustrations follow their lives, but focus on the beginnings of Narnia, way back in that attic when the boys imagined a world called "Boxen". Both author and illustrator add more information in the back matter. McAlister's and Lanan's notes show details of their research along with more of the story of these fascinating brothers. 
             Here's one of my favorite spreads, showing the boys' imaginative play, even within their differing interests. It's a lovely story, ending with that 'needed' glimpse of Aslan!

Monday, January 6, 2020

Monday Reading - Beauties From 2019

              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.  

           You can find my #MustReadin2020 post here

           Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you had a super holiday with family and friends, and have had a great start to 2020!

            Here is a story for young readers who may not know what D-Day really meant in all its horror, yet triumph, too. The relationships already there, then made during the battle are not as deeply shown. After all, it is only the description of one day. Yet the gathering together of all the parts, all the people who fought, perhaps fell, perhaps survived, beautifully exemplifies the definition of 'allies', which is "to unite or form a connection or relation between". The code name examples like "Operation Overlord" for the entire operation are used and Gratz further explains the background of some of his own invented names, like "Operation Bathing Suit", based on some truths. He manages to include areas not always included like the prejudicial treatment of black soldiers and the exclusion of women on that day. Many, many parts make the whole and while I'm glad they were included, sometimes I wished for more of the stories. It is a good introduction to that important day in history.

              It's number one of my #mustreadin2020 list!

          I first learned about Ashley Bryan through his gorgeous picture book Freedom Over me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan. This time he writes about the years of his life spent at war, a time he rarely shared with anyone until now. It is an artist's book, created something like a scrapbook with lots of original material included, but also shown in small paragraphs in case it's hard to read his writing. He was in art school when he was drafted in 1943 during World War II, eventually ending up on Omaha Beach during D-Day. He worked within an all-black battalion, is sharing some of the prejudices and restrictions placed on black soldiers, no matter the good work, no matter that many died for their country just as others did. His thoughts tell the readers that despite the terrible time, his art was at least part of how he survived. He carried paper and pencil, sometimes crayons, everywhere. And when supplies were low, he used toilet paper, one sheet at a time. From war to peace, Bryan drew scenes and people, recording the who and the what of his contacts, from Boston to Scotland to France. Touching on racism and the Nazi beliefs offer a story of interest to us today as well as the yesterdays. The art highlights the words as he tells this story of his life in the army. It's a beautiful book that brings much to ponder as we know those prejudices continue to exist today, nearly seventy-five years later! 

           The following books center on both memories and the importance in one's life about a place, each one special.

             I grew up with one set of grandparents running a full working farm, with such a barn that Patricia MacLachlan describes in this story. It's told by a boy who was five when many came to help build this barn. A picture of the more than 100 people who helped hangs on a wall inside. MacLachlan lets the storyteller take us readers through the beginnings and through the years as he grows up, returns home to help run the farm, tells of sleepovers in the loft, a resident owl and mice scurrying for the crumbs left by the children. I participated once during a harvest time on a friend's farm, and the picture of a very long table heaping with food to feed the construction helpers made me remember that's how it was, all gathering to celebrate something wonderful and complete. There are other special parts, shown in gorgeous paintings by Kenard Pak as he shows the wide-open prairie where (perhaps) a hundred-year barn still sits. 

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Poetry Friday - Looking Back & Forward

Carol Wilcox, my Denver friend, hosts today, our greeting to a new year, 2020! You can find her Poetry Friday post at Carol's Corner! Thanks for starting us off so wonderfully with a poem by Maya Angelou, Carol! I especially noted that line about gratitude: "To let gratitude be the pillow. . ."    

         Happy New Year to everyone! Wishing you lots of goodness in your year, "full of things that have never been" according to Rilke. 

          Today, I'm celebrating some goodness received in the poetry swap in December. Thanks always to Tabatha Yeatts for starting this wonderful tradition for us!
         I was fortunate to have my name given to Robyn Hood Black, blogging at Life on the Deckle Edge, lover of haiku and all things from far in the past! She wrote a poem comparing me to a tree (Yes, I love trees!) and added some lovely chocolate, also tree-related plus some extra goodies like that map bookmark from her Etsy shop, ArtsyLetters! I'm not so sure I am quite like that lady swooning on the tree today, but perhaps in another life, long ago. The title is included, "The Fair Dreamer" and indeed, I am still that. In the poem's note, Robyn shares that the picture is from Crown Jewels or Gems of Literature, Art and Music, Kansas City, MO, 1888. What fun that it was printed in KC where most of my growing up years occurred.
                      Thank you, Robyn, for the special gifts!

        Yes, Robyn, I do love trees! Here's a tribute to them and a thank you for you!