Monday, June 29, 2020

Monday Reading - New Inviting 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.  Your TBR lists will grow! Happy Reading!
          Share with the hashtag #IMWAYR

           I hope all of you are doing well and doing the best you can during this time. I'm taking a July break, will keep track of my reading, hope each of you enjoy this middle summer month wherever you are.

Thanks to Candlewick Press for this advanced copy, out in May.

         With lessons to learn from the past, Marcella Pixley has written a poignant story from the summer of '83, a Boston suburb centering on one street, Trowbridge Road. Here is a seemingly quiet and friendly street, neighbors gather to barbeque together, children ride bikes up and down, up and down. Some are friendly; others peek out of windows, like June Bug Jordan's mother. She is living a lie with her mother since her father died of AIDS. Her mother is mentally ill and June Bug keeps all the secrets, but she does venture into the neighborhood, watching families from up in a tree, wishing some were her own. A boy named Ziggy has moved in with his grandmother because of his own family troubles and together, they find solace in their imaginations and support for each other. June Bug reaches a moment where she must choose to tell, for her own and for her mother's survival. The writing that shows the imagination of children trying to survive takes one's breath away. Also to be admired is the sympathy for those touched by mental illness and grief. It's full of heartbreak and a wish that life didn't happen this way for children, but also hope for better as adults step forward to help.

And thanks again to Candlewick Press for the following picture books, published in recent months!

           There's a whole lot of different kids and a whole lot of different animals that you will see from the cover and inside. It's sometimes an opposite book, "I am big. You are small. I am short. You are tall.", but Karl Newson adds delightful surprises on some of the pages. I spent the whole time grinning from page to page, reading the words like "I am playful. You are too. I can't hide as well as you." looking at kids being silly with a turtle and a zebra standing by a black and white striped wall while a young girl peeks behind a houseplant. Its spare text all in rhyme brought to colorfully creative life by Kate Hindley is fabulous. 

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Poetry Friday - Musings On Our World

Karen Eastlund, with whom I've had a great time with at Highlights, is hosting today on Poetry Karen's Got A Blog! Since most of us are not going much of anywhere these days, Karen is sharing a Norwegian memory from her dad for Father's Day and a poem votes as the "finest Norweigian poem of all time." Wow, that's quite an honor. Thanks, Karen!

I'm becoming more political every day, and can't seem to stop more learning about candidates, policies, and reading books that help me know about #ownvoices for #blacklivesmatter and other groups left out because of who they happen to be. 

           Last Monday, FYI, I posted a review of the new poetry book, Woke - A Young Poet's Call to Justice. You can find it here. Don't miss reading this book!

This week I voted and am working to get people registered through sending postcards. It's so easy in Colorado. We've voted by mail since 2013 and according to some news sources, it's also cheaper! There are drop-off stations everywhere or one can use postage to mail the ballot in, too. 

         I also realize that sometimes one needs to laugh, and this week a book of Ogden Nash's Beastly Poetry was donated to the used bookstore where I volunteer. And it was full of chuckles and smiles for me. Wouldn't it be the most fun to read what he would write in our world today?

The Cow

The cow is of the bovine ilk;
One end is moo, the other, milk.

The Duck

Behold the duck.
It does not cluck.
A cluck it lacks.
It quacks.
It is specially fond
of a puddle or pond.
When it dines or sups,
It bottoms ups.

       He wrote of all kinds of creatures but touched today's world after all when toward the end I found

The Germ

A mighty creature is the germ,
Though smaller than the pachyderm.
His customary dwelling place
Is deep within the human race.
His childish pride he often pleases
By giving people strange diseases.
Do you, my poppet, feel infirm?
You probably contain a germ.

        I'm taking a break for July, wishing all of you a good month of summer wherever you might land!

Monday, June 22, 2020

It's Monday - New Wow Books - One Old Discovery

              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!
          Share with the hashtag #IMWAYR

           I hope all of you are doing well and doing the best you can during this time. Enjoy your family and Happy Summer!

         I have a second post today, a blog tour with a giveaway! Come visit here!

          The girl in this book is in seventh grade, but at least in my area, sixth graders begin middle school. My oldest granddaughter will be starting this strangest of growing-up experiences next year. Unlike Shayla, the protagonist in Lisa Moore Ramée's debut chapter book, my granddaughter is starting in a new school knowing very few students. I wish her well in navigating this time, hope she will find courage as Shayla did.
         Twelve-year-old Shayla is allergic to trouble, so much so that when she's really upset or nervous, inside, her hands itch. She really values following the rules and is looking forward to starting seventh grade with the United Nations (her two best friends from grade school). 
         Soon enough Shay realizes that rules change when kids get older. They want to be liked, girls and boys both. Her two friends are of different backgrounds, Latina and Asian. Shayla is black. Each wants something different and in this story, that means some disagreements, perhaps even friendships broken.
          Some at school are saying she's not black enough, doesn't mix enough with her black classmates! Different boys like Shayla, but she likes other boys. Sound familiar. Young teens are trying to figure out who they are, and Shay struggles with it all, too. Teachers and the principal also play a part in her life, mostly good, but when it comes to what's really important, Shay does figure out what is most important to her, wearing an armband to school in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
          Shay's older sister Hannah is involved in protests, but at first, as I wrote earlier, Shay really doesn't like breaking rules. She's learned from others, including her coach while doing track. And she's thinking more about what her favorite history teacher is saying, that we have to be ourselves, no matter what. 
          What I loved was reading the thoughts of this marvelous young woman that Lisa Moore Ramée has given us. If you know a young adolescent, you'll see how much they think about life and stuff, over and over again. Ramée has Shayla ending each chapter with a bit of learning, showing her grow and grow until she feels good about what happens, what she does even though it takes lots of courage. For example, Shayla says: "I never knew walking right into trouble would make me feel strong. Maybe it has to be the right type of trouble."
           It's a wonderful book that's so current, it feels as if Ramée wrote it yesterday. There are the students, the varied teachers, and the protests over another police officer getting off the hook for a shooting. It's about today!

           I was lucky to win this copy from Michele Knott's giveaway and it is terrific. Remember You Are (Not) Small? These two creatures are happily building a sandcastle when more than one creature you'll recognize from the earlier book needs to add some advice. This turns into quite an amazing structure, and a surprise! Everything 'perfect' is in the eye of the beholder, right? 

Blog Tour - New Book and A Giveaway!

         I'm excited to share this new book in partnership with The Children’s Book Review and Justine Avery, the author.

         According to their bios in the back of the book, both Justine Avery and Liuba Syrotiuk are adventurers and travelers. Justine has jumped out of airplanes and off high bridges; Liuba is happiest while traveling with a small box of watercolors! When I read the book, with Justine's words of inspiration illustrated in such varied ways of what "thinking outside the box" can mean, I knew that it would be a book to use throughout a school year or with one's child (or grandchild) at home. You can discover more about Justine on twitter @Justine_Avery and here! I found Liuba on Instagram - liobiko and in an art studio here.

         In poetic phrases, when faced with a problem or discovering that ways of living can be confusing, don't always worry about the regular path, but "think outside the box"! Rules at times can be broken. One needs to use one's brain to "think" and wander many different paths to come to workable solutions. 
        Some examples show the opposite of what is often imagined as a solution. Coloring "outside" the lines, walking on one's hands instead of feet, or eating an ice cream cone from the bottom up are some of the fun examples. 
         Relaxing while thinking can help, too. One can "Close your eyes, cover your ears. . . And wait for the ideas to come to you." It is lots of fun to view the creative graphic-style illustrations by Liuba Syrotiuk. You can see by the cover that she also creates "outside the box"!

         For all those who want support because they take different paths, love to create and invent, to discover what else can solve a problem, find this book!

The Giveaway - also 'outside the box'!

Enter for a chance to win a Think Outside the Box prize pack!

One (1) grand prize winner receives:
Ten (10) winners receive:
  • A hardcover copy of Think Outside the Box.
Ten (10) winners receive:
  • A paperback copy of Think Outside the Box.
Giveaway begins June 15, 2020, at 12:01 A.M. MT and ends July 15, 2020, at 11:59 P.M. MT.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Poetry Friday - Take A Side

       It's Poetry Friday, it's Juneteenth. Tricia Stohr-Hunt at The Miss Rumphius Effect is our host today, sharing a personal Golden Shovel poem from a line by T.S. Eliot. Be sure to read her post and all the others who are sharing their poetry this week.

       Our Governor Jared Polis, Colorado, will sign a sweeping police reform bill this important Friday, some of the most comprehensive legislation passed since the death of George Floyd on May 25th. I am proud that he and our legislature has acted so quickly. More is needed, and I have faith it will come. I am participating in one neighborhood protest but know that is only my beginning of change.

          While reading differing news articles and opinions this week, I came across a line that stuck. Sometimes it's challenging to figure out the why of things, but this one led to a poem. I am sad to learn more of what has been happening that I have not been aware of as a white person through the years, sad that it happened, sad that I was ignorant of things like policies I thought were good, but ones that only served to keep black people and other people of color from their own successes, well-deserved, but so little acknowledged. I want to learn, no matter how hard it might be. This line (my title) shows the beginning of my learning, but the poem reflects the more recent sorrow.

All Sides Are Slippery

days and days
(this is the upside part)
hundreds march
carry broadsides
alongside each other
outside on streets
sometimes bridges
also highways
all together for one side

or so imagined 
until people beside them
threw things
that made them cough 
and their eyes water,
therein lies an upside 
and a downside

no one has stopped
even marching in the countryside

yet more have died
this lingering lopsided world
makes my heart hurt
sidestepping continues 
on most real issues
sidelining big needs
tearing away the underside
of breath

Linda Baie ©

Monday, June 15, 2020

Monday Reading - Reading Books Help Us Learn

              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!
          Share with the hashtag #IMWAYR

           I hope all of you are doing well and doing the best you can during this time. I'm glad that I've had some books that help me learn and grow during this heartbreaking time of unrest. Because I've always read books by diverse authors, it has been helpful to know those books and authors. Now, I'm reading some of those same authors and books, and learning about others, too.

       From "The Story of the World's First Racist" in Chapter One to "A Miracle and Still a Maybe" in Chapter Twenty-Eight, I re-learned some policies and laws I thought were good, and some of them were good, but they were turned around and interpreted in ways that harmed black people anyway. I learned that the presidents I thought did well, didn't help black people at all, but made their lives worse. I learned that there are many things I need to un-learn and other things I'll need to research further. I learned that it is all of our work to make changes for the better for people of color. The book did not go as far as President Obama's and now President Trump's administrations, but the explanations of laws and policies through our history in this book will help me to see more clearly what has happened (or sadly not happened) has led to the recent protests. Thanks to Ibram X. Kendi for the base and then to Jason Reynolds for the re-mix. I don't teach anymore, but I have friends and family, grandchildren, to share my learning with and I will! 

        As I read Nikki Grimes' memoir, Ordinary Hazards, I kept imagining I had read it before. I knew I hadn't, yet it seemed so familiar. Then I realized that I had read its essence, in Nikki's past books, when I read Meet Danitra Brown, Words With Wings, Bronx Masquerade and so many others. Her story is in them, too. In this memoir, Nikki traces her life beginning with a fraught childhood, a mother with schizophrenia that causes a move to a foster home, then back to her mother with a new husband that makes life even more frightening. Throughout the years, Nikki discovers that writing helps her forget the tough days and because at a later time her mother throws all her notebooks away, in this book she recreates what she remembers in new writing, sometimes titled "Notebook". The work to remember as she admits that trauma has often denied the memories is a powerful tribute to her honest search for how she grew up into the person she is now, a survivor and magician with words, telling a real story of her, reflecting all those books we've read and loved from her before. We all know there are "ordinary hazards" to face in life, but when you discover Nikki's meaning, she is to be admired for the telling of a life of danger and heartbreak and her determination to find goodness in the arts that she loves and the beauty brought to all of us readers.  

Thursday, June 11, 2020

#PoetryFriday - Nothing Nicer Than Celebrating Nikki Grimes

       It's Poetry Friday, and on this very special day with Irene Latham at Live Your Poem hosting, we've been invited by Irene to a celebration.  Janet Fagal joins me today for this post, both of us shouting out a HOORAY for the life and work of talented and awesome Nikki Grimes. Thanks for hosting the party, Irene!

       You can find Nikki in a myriad of places these days, HERE on her web page and HERE at The Poetry Foundation are two. She's on twitter, @nikkigrimes9, and in these times of unrest and protests, she's been writing heartfelt poems there, along with all the other projects happening in her life.  Of course, the best places you can find Nikki Grimes lie in her books! 

        I could return to old memories of books I've loved by Nikki. I could sing her praises for the most recent picture books like Southwest Sunrise illustrated by Wendell Minor, or show my gratitude for a new picture book biography coming later this year about Kamala Harris. I have just finished Nikki's memoir, Ordinary Hazards, out last year. I haven't shared a review yet, but what struck me, what Nikki gives to me, the reader, from this book along with all her other books is a heart-full of words that tell about life. 

      Thus, I'm celebrating, honoring her with a few more. Thank you, Nikki and congratulations for the many honors you've been given!

from a line from “Journey”, p. 61, Ordinary Hazards
             Celebrating Nikki's Words

Whenever I search for The
poem I know will touch me Daily
I often March
to find another book of
perfect words
by – bet you can guess – Nikki Grimes, parading
quietly but readily pulled from
the poetry shelf, to search for my
way into Nikki’s poems to inspire the pen
keenly kept
waiting for me
to write like Nikki (I hoped) moving
into new territories of words, moving forward.

                                              Linda Baie (c)

           Janet celebrates with a few special memories of being with Nikki and from her book, Words With Wings.

Knowing Nikki Grimes
          Despite problems, there are very good things about social media and FB. It was there that I began to connect with Nikki Grimes. Now I consider her a friend. At first, I was an admirer of her huge and important body of work, the photos of her glorious roses, and her openness about sharing her faith and ideas. In 2018 Nikki came to my community to visit two schools. One in my town and one in a neighboring city.  I was her host and we spent quite a bit of time together. We went to the Harriet Tubman Home and Park and also to Harriet’s graveside. We met Harriet’s nieces. It is hard to find the words I need to speak about that time together. Later at lunch when the cover of Ordinary Hazards came to her email she shared it with me and the librarian who was with us. I felt honored. Special. Happy. That cover is extraordinary as is her memoir. Nikki uses her voice to teach, and show us so much about life. Again and again. Her list of awards speaks volumes for her incredible talent and hard work. Her words pull me in every time. But to honor Nikki I want to talk about a favorite book.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Monday Reading - Good to Step Inside People's Lives

              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!
          Share with the hashtag #IMWAYR

           I hope all of you are doing well and doing the best you can during this time.  

    Out in May, thanks to Candlewick Press for this copy!

          First published in England. You probably know David Almond is British, thus this story, set during World War I, is about John, a British boy, whose father is fighting in the trenches in France, and his mother works the long, twelve-hour shifts with hundreds of other women in a munitions factory in their town. 
       John's teacher Mr. McTavish (not a friendly soul at all) is taking the class for a tour to the munitions factory, continues to lecture the children that they're all at war, too, fighting the enemy children. On the way, they encounter John's friend Dorothy's Uncle Gordon, evidently deemed a traitor, against the war. He has pictures of children in Germany, says they are good children, not an enemy. You can begin to guess the dilemma. Some, like a boy named Alec, is enthusiastic about the war and the killing, but John questions. He is just a child. How can he be at war? He picks up a picture of a German boy named Jan and later has a dream-like encounter with that boy where they scatter seeds of peace. It's a story made sad by all the elements of war and childhood mixed poignantly by Almond and illustrated in somber black and white illustrations by David Litchfield. Almond's stories are deeply thoughtful. I believe this will resonate with middle schoolers and up.  

        You may have already heard some of this story of Mohammed Alaa Aljaleel. Now, Irene Latham and Karim Shamsi-Basho have told it with beautifully vibrant illustrations by Yuko Shimizu in a new picture book. It is a celebration of this story of kindness and filling a need that eventually touched people everywhere. A special note by Alaa himself begins the story, written in Arabic as well as English. 
        War in Syria caused many people to leave the city of Aleppo, but not Alaa. He stayed but misses his family and friends, stays to serve as an ambulance driver to help the wounded get medical help. He begins to notice the cats, strays now, but once pets that had been left behind. He begins to feed them as well as he can. More cats come and somehow his story is told and aid comes from the locals, then from all over the world. They find one building that serves as a shelter, then another. Alaa does not stop giving and loving, and the story tells of more that he does, like building a playground for the children still there and helping to dig a well for clean water. When I read this to my granddaughters, they asked about the destruction shown which lead to talk about what it must be like to live in a war-torn city, finding safe places when possible, etc. The book shows the good that can happen when someone, like Alaa, just begins, then another offers help, then another. 

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Poetry Friday - To Remember

         It's Poetry Friday, it's June, the month when summer arrives, at least officially! Welcoming us is  Margaret Simon at Reflections on The Teche.  Margaret writes alongside a line from Naomi Shihab Nye in a poignant letter of goodbye to her students. Thanks, Margaret!

Argument Gone Bad - full credit below

           Sometimes I wish this week weren't so, returning to the 'before' of George Floyd's death, for him. But I have hope that it will turn into good, that we can make change. I hope each of you continues to be well in light of the continuing virus threat, too. 

Do Not Forget This Week

Seeing bridge building
among people
can be as beautiful
as capturing a chasm
with strongest of steel, which we 
have managed, do manage,
will manage. 
Let us not stop!

Respecting those who are

Realizing my glass
cannot remain half-full, 
when others' stay half-empty.

Linda Baie ©

        I have been reading Richard Blanco's How To Love A Country: Poems for a while now. Several poems are favorites, but one feels right for this Friday. It is a persona poem written from a river's viewpoint speaking to us humans, humbling.

Complaint of El Río Grande 

     for Aylin Barbieri

I was meant for all things to meet:
to make the clouds pause in the mirror
of my waters, to be home to fallen rain
that finds its way to me, to turn eons
of loveless rock into lovesick pebbles
and carry them as humble gifts back
to the sea which brings life back to me.
I felt the sun flare, praised each star
flocked about the moon long before
you did. I’ve breathed air you’ll never
breathe, listened to songbirds before
you could speak their names, before
you dug your oars in me, before you
created the gods that created you.
the rest is here at Poets.Org

photo credit: natasia.causse Day 83/365 - Argument gone bad via photopin (license)

Monday, June 1, 2020

It's Monday! Books That Help Us Live Stories

              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!
          Share with the hashtag #IMWAYR

           I hope all of you are doing well and doing the best you can during this time. 

         I've read one other book by Monica Hesse, Girl in The Blue Coat, set during World War II Holland in the secret underground. In this new book, she has written the "after" of a story, the "after" concentration camps are liberated and the lives at least some of those who survived lived "after". Hesse, in her afterword, shares that most books set at this time usually finish the story at the end of the war. Few take the story further. I've read many books about the Holocaust, too, and she's right. While the books fill the stories with people of great courage, some who make it and some who do not, usually the ending is hopeful, but not detailed. 
         This story is of Zofia, a young woman recently liberated from a camp. She knows her family is gone, except for a young brother, nine, Abeck. She first travels to her old home with the help of a Russian soldier, only to find an empty ransacked place. She reunites with one old family friend, then moves on to a displaced persons' camp. Hesse lets us into the story by letting Zofia tell it. A first-person voice is powerful, and this time, particularly so because we are taken into her thoughts as she anguishes over decisions, analyzes what response is expected of her along with the response she could also give. Her mind twirls in choices, wondering what is right, what is not, how to protect herself. It's both a story to agonize over this life as a reader and one that made me wonder how the survivors managed? How did they create lives "after"? There are small bits of writing that show Hesse keeps the sad tone expertly. This is not a happy story. Once, upon waking, Zofia shares she must have slept longer than she thought, says, "It's still dark outside, but the sky is a dark bruise instead of an inky black." There are some moments of happiness of those who choose it with courage instead of sinking into the past. I kept hoping for Zofia while reading every page! Monica Hesse has given what must be only a glimpse of one person, but it opens new learning about the time in these lives I hadn't considered before. Her author's notes at the back are also wonderful to read.

Thanks to Candlewick Press for the copy!
         Khalil lives upstairs with his family ad Mr. Hagerty lives downstairs. They are old and young, love having cake and cold milk together to help cool off, and share a few secrets that make them smile. The story is about their days, told by Tricia Springstubb in a story of genuine empathy for others, made all the more wonderful by Elaheh Taherian's full-color illustrations.