Thursday, May 27, 2021

Poetry Friday - Sometimes Only A Few Words Shout


           Thanks to Michelle Kogan, artist and poet extraordinaire, who is hosting this Poetry Friday, at her blog,  More Art 4 All.
            My son & family are coming in for the long weekend. Thus, I won't get to reading & commenting so fast this week! Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend however you can. Remember those who gave their lives for us all.
           I have a few books by these extraordinary people below we've been blessed to have in our lives. Yet as I looked for some of them, I realized that I have only a few left, mostly because I've bought them again. My grandchildren have them because first, my children had them, and then, kept them for their children. It's quite wonderful to think that they, too, will pass them on. No more need be said. 


Monday, May 24, 2021

Monday Reading - Don't Miss These Books!

   Visit Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders and 

Jen at Teach Mentor Texts to see what they and others have been reading! Your TBR lists will grow! Happy Reading! 

          This one summer, Ben finally talked his dad into asking his mother if he could visit his mom who lives in a primitive cabin deep in the woods. His mother left him when he was three and he seems to be about ten now. The story didn't tell how old he was. He, his father, and this little dog Sunshine have led a loving life, except sometimes Ben has all these "what-ifs?", and I wondered why until I learned about his mother leaving. Marion Dane Bauer lets Ben tells this story, much of it showing deep feelings, anxiety about many things, yet a determination to do the right thing. Sunshine is his imaginary dog and there is pressure from his dad to give him up. This time (the first he's seen his mother since she left) he wants to show his mother what a good person he is so she will want to return to live with him and his dad again. The emotional ups and downs in this brief, poignant book made me a little teary. It's not only for those who have had upheavals in their family, who may find comfort that others do, too but for everyone to try to learn and understand. It is a beautiful story.
                  Thanks to Candlewick Press for this advanced copy.


              It didn't take long for me to fall in love with this book by Elizabeth Acevedo that sat on my stack for far too long. In a novel-in-verse, she tells of Camino Rios from the Dominican Republic and Yahaira Rios from New York City, both in high school, both facing news they did not want to face. Their father has died when his plane went down in the ocean on his way to visit Camino. The strange and mixed-up world of these sisters who did not know their father had another family, that they did not have a sister. Anger, love, grief, yes, all mixed and told with Acevedo's beautiful poetic writing. How it evolves, what each one holds dear, what each one needs as well as those surrounding the two sisters offers loving scenes of patience despite the inner anger, jealousy, also hope. It feels important that the story is read instead of me telling all about it. You may wonder and imagine what you would feel. You might cry with certain scenes, and smile at others. But, as Acevedo has written, you certainly will "clap when you land". I loved it!

                It's time to celebrate and learn about many things that grow, like an acorn that splits and roots and "grows" into an oak tree or a caterpillar that sheds its skin and wraps itself into a cocoon, then becomes "a butterfly"! In repetitive text, the description of "something" shares beginnings with "If you", most often the actions like "If you were a tadpole, you'd swish and dart in a mossy pond," all the steps leading to "You'd be a leopard frog..." Delightfully happy pictures by Stephanie Fizer Coleman show children and grandparents filling the pages as each one enjoys nature's wonders. JoAnn Early Macken's text is brief but does not waste one word explaining eight creatures, including a child reading this book! It's a lovely surprise at the end, connecting all of us as we truly are. 
            I've met JoAnn at a poetry workshop and know her through social media. She is a fierce lover of nature and our environment. This book will be special to use on long nature walks with a class or your own children or grandchildren, perhaps searching for their own "If you were a ..."? 

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Poetry Friday - Celebrating #MarvelousMaryLee

 Thanks to Christie Wyman, hosting this Poetry Friday, at her blog, Wondering and Wandering

        And, it's Christie's birthday, time for celebrating. Happy Birthday!


AND - It's an especially huge celebration for Mary Lee Hahn's retirement! After thirty-seven years, Mary Lee is leaving the classroom, ready for her next adventure(s)! #PoemsforMaryLee   #MarvelousMaryLee

          Here's my poem of celebration for your retirement and gratitude for the teacher that is you, Mary Lee.


for Mrs. Hahn, My Teacher


From the flower to the gardener

(this student to my teacher),

thanks for caring that I flourish,

for knowledge I will cherish,

I’m grateful for the way you helped me grow.


I’ll try that thing called “listen”

before I rush to judgment.

I’ve learned that words do matter;

they’re rarely mindless chatter.

That is a thing that I’ll be sure to show.


When you venture from our classroom,

your presence leaving imprints,

the kindnesses will linger in the air.

Parts of you will always remain there.

You’ve taken care of much I need to know.


Linda Baie ©


Grunge Stock photos by Vecteezy

Monday, May 17, 2021

It's Monday - Time to Share More Books!

  Visit Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders and 

Jen at Teach Mentor Texts to see what they and others have been reading! Your TBR lists will grow! Happy Reading! 

       Carlie Sorosiak also wrote I, Cosmo, which I loved, showing her beautifully imagined affinity with dogs, and this time, Leonard, the cat tells his tale. Only there's a catch! Leonard is no ordinary cat but a misplaced alien who goofed when entering the data on his beam of light. From where he comes, those who wish may take the identity of one life on earth, but only for a month. Leonard, as a cat (instead of the Yellowstone Park Ranger he planned), ends up stranded in a rainstorm in a tree on a beach in South Carolina. Luckily for him, he is rescued by a young girl named Olive. His adventure begins, full of love for Olive and her summer family, Grandmother Norma, a friend called Q who, with Norma, runs the local aquarium, and a dog named Stanley. It may be called a science-fiction story, but it's also a sweet family story, what Leonard learns makes a family, even as they rush madly to make his rendezvous in order to travel back to his "other" home. Olive is with her grandmother for the summer, anxious about a move to California where her mother and boyfriend, maybe-to-be step-father are planning to settle. Olive struggles because he, and others, have called her weird with no social skills. Within this time with Leonard, Gran, and Q, she learns that "who she is" is who she is pleased to be. And Leonard, experiencing bowling and cheese sandwiches among other special wishes, learns so much more. It's a story adventure filled with love. Sad to write that it's not eligible for a Newbery award!
           First published in the UK, now this year in the US, thanks to Candlewick Press and Walker Books US for the advanced copy.

         David Almond gives readers beautiful, complex characters. I'm rarely sure they are real but perhaps are meant mostly as metaphors? Annie Lumsden, at thirteen, is perfectly content to live in a shack with her mother by the sea, listening to her mother's tales, telling us her own tale. She has not gone to school for a while, was asked to leave because she could not grasp the letters and numbers. There is a brief mention of other children mocking. Occasionally things happen like her legs weakening, collapsing. A kind doctor cannot discover why though he is supportive every time she comes to him? Her mother is loving, an artist who sells painted rocks and tells stories at the school. Things are rather normal until a man from America shows up and seems to know who Annie really is, how special she is. Is it about growing up? Is Annie's tale complex because all growing up is complex? I imagine every reader will have something different to answer. Beatrice Alemagna's illustrations help us see more of the tale, yet enhance the mystery, too.
           Thanks to Candlewick Press for this copy, first published by Walker Books Ltd Uk.

          In every family, it seems that children can be embarrassed for something or other by their parents. When one is an immigrant, their ways can be part of bigger things that are "different". This time, in a brief story, Andrea Wang draws on her own experiences of stopping by a stream to pick watercress. The girl in the story is muddy, cold, and clearly disgusted. At home, creating a dish her parents clearly love, she refuses to eat it, saying she'll only eat "store-bought" food. She knows she hates their ways of picking up "roadside trash-heap furniture and "dinner from a ditch". Her mother brings out a picture of her family, mother, father, herself, and a little brother. That brother is no longer alive and Mom tells about China's great famine. There was just not enough food. 
        In an author's note, she shares about parents, not only immigrants, who don't tell their children stories of their childhoods, and they must. With beautiful watercolor paintings by Jason Chin, whose work seems always to highlight beloved stories, it's a book that not only shares a memory but may offer a chance for parents to let their stories be told! It's sad but so very hopeful.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

It's Poetry Friday - Risky?

Thanks to Irene Latham, hosting this Poetry Friday, at her blog, Live Your Poem. She's sharing some peeks at her new verse novel arriving next week, D-39: A Robodog's Journey and a lovely poem about poetry for another Artspeak painting. Don't miss her post and all the others who join us on Fridays!

              A few weeks ago, my friend Jane Heitman Healy, who works for Siouxland Libraries in South Dakota, sent me a marvelous poetry packet they had been giving out. Among other things is a booklet with some instructions to write several poetry forms, a small journal, several pages from a book, a marker, and instructions for blackout poetry. I promised Jane a poem from one of those pages and I did it. I believe this is the first time I'm actually attempted this. I read all the pages she sent and finally chose one. I found a spark of an idea, created, and that final part, the blacking out, whew! This was not easy. I cut off some of a word more than once; I blanked out several words I wanted to save; but here it is, a draft? I'm not sure one can have a second draft of a blackout poem. Oops! Thank you, Jane, for all the gifts and all the fun!


take the lifeline
in high places
imagine doing 
a song
tightrope walking
high-rise buildings
she gets her kicks
if you go that high
the most wonderful thing        is        you
the wind
shakes me
I decide to go
I'm not afraid
of a high place           that
cool assurance
the rest of the way

Linda Baie ©

Skyscraper Stock photos by Vecteezy

Monday, May 10, 2021

Monday Reading - Books To Find!

       Visit Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders and 

Jen at Teach Mentor Texts to see what they and others have been reading! Your TBR lists will grow! Happy Reading! 

 A #MustReadin2021 book           
           Everyone wonders why they put off books so long and I guess the answer is other books piled on top! I both enjoyed and am saddened by the challenges this fourteen-year-old faced as a half-Asian girl in 1880's Dakota territory. Linda Sue Park writes in her author's note that she has lived this life, that this story is autobiographical and most of the incidents her fictional Hanna faces happened to her. Linda grew up reading and loving the Little House books, wanted so much to be like Laura although she was distressed by some of the racism shown in the books. Hanna's story shows those incidents and what I loved most was reading her thinking, and how she handled different attacks. The story endears you to Hanna whose mother was Chinese and father is white, meeting at a boarding house in California. They owned a dry goods/tailoring shop and Hanna was taught to sew at a very early age by her mother. Sadly, her mother dies when Hanna is nine. She and her father are off to a new home in the Dakotas, and a new shop. Going to school, opening the shop bring more interactions with the townspeople, most of whom are not welcoming to the girl with slanted eyes. It's not an easy read, knowing that attacks on Asians in the US continue here nearly a century and a half later. But it's an important one.

               Keeping a family as a family remains a challenge after the Peach family's mother dies of cancer. In an author's note, Erin Soderberg Downing tells how much her own three children add to this story. Isn't that wonderful, too? The Peach family is struggling, mostly held tightly by twelve-year-old Lucy. Their father hides in his work, so Lucy keeps younger brothers Freddy, ten, and Herb, eight, going with good food, warm hugs, and words, reading aloud at night. When a windfall of a lot of money comes from the mother's invention, the father buys a food truck with the idea of a summer month of fun being a family again. What!!!! The kids are not so excited but with plans and goals, each one jumps on board with hope, to be that peachy family, again! What I loved most was what I call a celebration by Soderberg of each of the kids' personalities. Each one is different, each one needs support in who they are, not who others expect them to be. Slowly, readers will grow to love every character, especially understand that this really is a "peach" of a family with the good and the bad, like all of us, too. It is a special story, much needed in these past so challenging months.

 If you've studied the play, "A Midsummer Night's Dream", you will love this re-telling. With magical illustrations, it can introduce the laughter and surprise that comes from mishaps when love potions do not end up the way they're meant. Thanks to Candlewick Press for the copy!

           I enjoy Sam Usher's books every time I have one, and this new one will become a favorite read-aloud, I'm sure. With a sweet surprise at the end, anyone would smile and clap. A boy looks out a window and notices a bird who seems sick. He and Grandpa bring it in, give it some water, and notice he's better, so they put it back outside. "That's that." they thought. Well, there is more and more, a repeating story that comes out as perfect as the imagination can take it. 
           Thanks to Candlewick Press for the copy!

Thursday, May 6, 2021

It's May! And Poetry Friday! - One Special Tree

Thanks to our host this first Friday in May, Bridget Magee, at Wee Words for Wee Ones. She has a really special surprise, one of her stories brought to an audio storytime! Be sure to check it out and listen!

           I've read quite a few books about trees in my past, most recently a new book by Lita Judge, The Wisdom of Trees, How Trees Work Together to Form a Natural Kingdom, a non-fiction picture book. Also, last year I read The Overstory, a fiction book by Richard Powers. Certainly, there have been others and you probably know some titles, too. I often laugh and share that I bought my home mostly because of a hundred-year-old plus cottonwood outside my side door. 

          This week, after listening to an NPR interview, I discovered a scientist who has done extensive research about trees helping the forest, every part. Her book is Finding the Mother Tree - Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest by Suzanne Simard. It came out just this week! HERE is one article that includes some description of her work. And a small quote from it: "Before Simard and other ecologists revealed the extent and significance of mycorrhizal networks, foresters typically regarded trees as solitary individuals that competed for space and resources and were otherwise indifferent to one another. Simard and her peers have demonstrated that this framework is far too simplistic. An old-growth forest is neither an assemblage of stoic organisms tolerating one another’s presence nor a merciless battle royale: It’s a vast, ancient and intricate society. There is conflict in a forest, but there is also negotiation, reciprocity and perhaps even selflessness." 

            Last year, I took a picture of a marvelous tree that I thought I might write about during poetry month. Yet, I never did, so this week, I wrote, letting it tell its own recent story.

Monday, May 3, 2021

It's Monday - New and Terrific

      Visit Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders and 

Jen at Teach Mentor Texts to see what they and others have been reading! Your TBR lists will grow! Happy Reading! 

        New and marvelous world-building with a trio PLUS of wonderful characters makes a fantasy worth reading. This is an adventure I could not stop reading. It begins in a Dickensian world with a young boy sliding through dark alleys, in and out, back and forth until he sees an opportunity for theft, his way of surviving. It begins with a dropped box, silvery glowing with jewels. He'll eat well tonight! Yet inside that box, that opens only when asked nicely, is something not so nice, actually repugnant. Thus, the tale begins, including frights and witches, specters and royals, goodness and evil. Just the book to read aloud perhaps to a class ready for an adventure. Last note: I struggled to keep track of all the characters who were introduced. This probably fits an older mid-grade reader best.
           Thanks to Candlewick Press for this advanced copy, first published by Walker Books in the UK.

 I first heard the words, "We are still here" when I read an article from Teaching Tolerance, the magazine published by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Through all the decades, Native Americans seem to be taught about only from the past, as if they existed then, but not now. I had never heard it before and began to research, and also with students, the history everyone should be taught. If you haven't started with younger children, this new book by Traci Sorell, with those beautifully colored illustrations by Frané Lessac, serves as an introduction to Indigenous People's History. Traci shows students who have prepared presentations about topics such as  'Relocation', 'Indian Child Welfare & Education', 'Language Revival', and 'Tribal Activism'. There are thirteen, shown in a double-page spread in a large room (all-purpose room?) with visitors. Imagine a science fair. It's a warm approach to show middle-grade children doing great work and sharing. There is added information, a timeline, a glossary, sources, and an author's note. 

        I guess I say this often enough to know that I'm lucky to have and read so many marvelous and gorgeous picture books. This is one that is a challenge to describe, the sweetness of the story of young Dovey Johnson Roundtree and her grandmother Rachel Bryant Graham on one 'before-dawn' morning. Dovey was afraid of the dark but with Grandma's care, this became a favorite memory and one she would always remember, going out before dawn to pick blackberries. Before long, other women joined in and soon the ping of blackberries hitting the tin buckets were heard. Before that, Dovey had the joy of "the first berry of the day, frosted with dew". They worked and picked, but soon enough Grandma whispered, "Look, Dovey Mae...Over Yonder." There were the pinks, then reds, then golds. "Here she comes", Grandma whispers again. The lovely illustrations in the dark, then the group picking, finally the sky lightening by Raissa Figueroa bring the mood of Dovey's adventure right to the reader. According to the author, Katie McCabe, this is the story Dovey told her, the one she cherished, representing the most influential person in her life, her Grandma Rachel. It may not seem so, but it is a non-fiction book with much more added at the back from an author's note with extensive information about both Dovey and Rachel, a timeline, and a bibliography. Don't miss this one! Even the endpapers are filled with forest magic.