Friday, August 31, 2007

Backpack: A Back to School Poem

On Monday in her Poetry Stretch post, Tricia of the Miss Rumphius Effect asked her blog readers to attempt writing a list poem. Here is a list poem I wrote last September. I just made a few changes to it this week.

by Elaine Magliaro

What’s in my backpack?

Hmm…let’s see:

a tunafish sandwich,

raspberry tea,

an apple for the teacher…

and one for me,

a pair of scissors,

a stick of glue,

washable crayons…

and markers, too—

three sharp pencils

my Winnie Pooh

a bright red folder,

a paper pad,

a calculator to help me add…


a little love note from my dad!

The Poetry Friday Roundup is at Mentor Texts & More this week.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Sad News

I am sorry to tell you that Grace Lin's husband Robert Mercer passed away early this week. One way to send your condolences to Grace and to Grace's and Robert's families would be by donating to cancer research in Robert's memory via the Jimmy Fund. I also encourage our blogging friends to help spread word about Robert's Snow for Cancer's Cure and the 2007 auctions that will raise money for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

I know many of you will keep Grace in your thoughts during this very difficult and sad time.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


It seems I'm always a week behind in posting my attempts at trying out the "poetry stretches" that Tricia has been giving us on Mondays this month at The Miss Rumphius Effect. Last week she challenged blog readers to try writing a lune. You can read more about the lune in Tricia's Monday Poetry Stretch-Lune post and at The Lune: The English Language Haiku.

I think the lunes I've posted here need a bit more tweaking. I usually write dozens of drafts of a poem before I feel satisfied that it's as good as I can make it. I used to share different drafts of some of my poems with my students to show them that a writer rarely gets a poem perfect the first time around. I know the fact that I wrote poetry helped to make me a much better writing teacher.

Not Yet Ready for Prime Time Lunes by Elaine Magliaro


Rays of sun poking
Long golden
Fingers through the clouds


Mosquito’s whining
Through the night
Drowns out cricket’s song.


August has grown old
Waits at the threshold


Summer still sizzles
Soon it will
Fizzle into fall

Summer's sharp edges
Smoothed to silk
By autumn’s cool hand

Where will butterflies
Go now that
Summer has left town?

September sings as
School bells ring
Vacation’s over


Bright yellow crescent
Pasted to
A royal blue night

Sunday, August 26, 2007

OUT & ABOUT: August 26, 2007

The upcoming Picture Book Carnival: Celebrating the Start of School will be hosted by Mentor Texts. The deadline for submissions is noon on August 29th.

MotherReader is hankering to make up a list of the kidlitosphere’s favorite children’s books of the year. Read all about it in her Best Books of 2007 (So Far) post.

The Poetry Friday Roundup for August 24th is at Book Mine Set.

Some bloggers may be interested in reading Children’s Galleys to Grab by John Sellers, an article from Publishers Weekly (8/20/2007). Included in the piece are books listed under he following headings: Some Don’t-Miss Debuts, Sequels of Note, New from Favorite Authors, and Adult Authors Turn to YA.

From the Cooperative Children’s Book Center: Publishing in 2006 by Megan Schliesman and Merri V. Lindgren.

There’s going to be an exhibit of original artwork from Leo Landry’s book Space Boy, which will be released this fall. The Space Boy art exhibition opening will be held on September 9th at The Danforth Museum in Framingham, Massachusetts. Read more about it at Leoland.

Jarrett Krosoczka, talented picture book author and illustrator…and good friend of the Blue Rose Girls, recently posted images of his “punk farm” snowflake for the Robert’s Snow 2007 and the owl he created for the Keene State College Festival Owl Project at his blog. Check out his cool creations.

A Chicken Book for Chicken Spaghetti

I wrote this review especially for Susan Thomsen and Junior. Check out Saturdays with the Flock to see a picture of one of Susan Thomsen’s chickens.

Written by Bruce McMillan
Illustrated by Gunnella
Houghton Mifflin, 2005

Bruce McMillan lives in Maine—but he has made many trips over the years to an island country that he loves: Iceland. The Problem with Chickens, in fact, is the seventh book of his that is set in that country. McMillan is most well known for his nonfiction books illustrated with his photographs. His inspiration for doing a picture book about chickens came to him after he bought an oil painting by Icelandic artist Gunnella.

From Bruce McMillan’s website: Gunnella's paintings have a narrative quality about them, and people always smile when viewing her art at an exhibition. I saw a book in them. With so many paintings with chickens I knew I could develop a story, I did and Gunnella liked it. Then Gunnella filled in the few gaps where we needed new art.

The Problem with Chickens is a humorous tale. It’s set in a village in Iceland where there are no chickens…but plenty of eggs. Unfortunately, the eggs laid by wild birds on the sides of cliffs overlooking the ocean are too difficult to reach. The ladies of the village want eggs for cooking. So what do they do? Why, they decide to go to the city to get some chickens. Alas, getting chickens doesn’t solve their problem of having no eggs for long. And why, you might ask, is that? Well, you see, these chickens start acting like the ladies of the village. They go blueberry picking with them. They tag along with them to a birthday party. When the ladies sing to the sheep—so do the chickens. In fact, they’re so busy following the ladies around and acting like them that they stop laying eggs. That’s when the ladies decide that they really have a PROBLEM with their chickens.

These Icelandic females are no slouches when it comes to devising a clever plan to outwit their avian antagonists. The ladies start to exercise. They know the chickens will follow suit. Soon their wings are so strong that the chickens can actually fly. That’s when the ladies lift them into the air and set them to flying at the edge of a cliff where no wild birds roost. The chickens safely land on ledges on the side of the cliff, build nests, and—yes—lay eggs. So how is the problem solved if the chicken eggs are now nestled on the side of a steep cliff like those of the wild birds? Why, the ladies also got strong from all their exercise. That was part of their plan. They rig up a pulley system at the top of the cliff and while one woman collects eggs from the nests, her comrades hold onto the rope from which she hangs. From that day forward, the ladies have no problem with their chickens.

McMillan’s text is spare. Much of the story is told through Gunnella’s colorful folk art style illustrations, which are a perfect complement to this original story with the flavor of an old tale. Gunnella’s village women are round-faced and buxom and always shown wearing aprons and babushkas. The illustrations have touches of droll humor, which add to the fun of McMillan’s lighthearted story. A reader can't help but smile when looking at pictures of chickens lounging alongside the ladies on a hillside, peeking out from the greenery at the ladies while they are enjoying their tea and cakes, and pushing small boulders through a meadow with their wings.

The Problem with Chickens was a New York Times Best Illustrated Book of 2005 and a recipient of a Parent’s Choice Foundation Seal of Approval.

Visit The Problem with Chickens page at Gunnella’s website to view some of the book’s illustrations.
The second book collaboration between McMillan and Gunnella, How the Ladies Stopped the Wind, will be published this fall.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

A Found Poem

Inspired by one of Tricia’s Monday Poetry Stretches at The Miss Rumphius Effect, I wrote a cento about writing and posted it last Monday. Tricia also included a link to an explanation of a “found” poem in her post about the cento. I decided, with the help of Kelly Herold’s extensive blogroll at Big A, little a, to write a found poem about reading using the names of blogs. Unfortunately, I couldn’t incorporate the names of some of my favorite blogs into my poem. To be sure, the poem isn’t terribly poetic—but it is what it is! And here it is:

Untitled Found Blog Poem about Reading
by Elaine Magliaro

Develop A Fondness for Reading
Become a person who Lives to Read

Get a book, book, book
From Charlotte’s Library
Find A Chair, A Fireplace
A Tea Cozy
Not far From the Windowsill

Settle down and drift away by Sun and Candlelight

Through the Magic of Books
Slip Into the Wardrobe

With Miss Erin
It’s Worth the Trip

Go Barefoot!
In a World of Words
Quiet Words, Words, Words
Rustling in The Shady Glade
Wild Words, Words, Words

Shaken & Stirred
Delicious Words, Words, Words
Sweet as Oowey, Goowey Marshamallows
Savory as Chicken Spaghetti

Relish a Readable Feast
Inhale and bite into a juicy Bookburger
On Mitali’s Fire Escape

Step onto the Reading Carousel
For some grand Adventures in Daily Living
Be someone who Lives to Read

So Many Books
Just One More Book
Haven’t you heard? It’s All About the Book!!!

Click here to read Poetic Form: Found Poem at

Friday, August 24, 2007

Poetry Friday: Going Back to School...with Poetry

When I was teaching elementary school, I liked to start the school year off with poetry. I’d make little booklets of end-of-summer and going-back-to-school poems to share with my students on the first day. My students would take the booklets home to read with their parents that night. Here are some of the poems in the “little” anthologies I compiled: Leavetaking by Eve Merriam, Summer’s End by Judith Viorst, Lunchbox by Valerie Worth, Now by Prince Redcloud, September Is by Bobbi Katz, September by Lucille Clifton, Back to School by Aileen Fisher, First Day of School by Barbara Juster Esbensen, and The First Day of School by Aileen Fisher.

As you can see, I’ve included links to the poems I found posted on the Internet. Here are the titles of books in which the poems can be found:

Leavetaking by Eve Merriam: A SKY FULL OF POEMS by Eve Merriam and THE SKY IS FULL OF SONG selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins

Summer’s End by Judith Viorst: IF I WERE IN CHARGE OF THE WORLD AND OTHER WORRIES by Judith Viorst

Lunchbox by Valerie Worth: PEACOCK AND OTHER POEMS by Valerie Worth and SUNFLAKES: POEMS FOR CHILDREN selected by Lilian Moore

Now by Prince Redcloud: THE SKY IS FULL OF SONG selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins

September Is by Bobbi Katz: ONCE AROUND THE SUN by Bobbi Katz and SUNFLAKES: POEMS FOR CHILDREN selected by Lilian Moore

September by Lucille Clifton: EVERETT ANDERSON’S YEAR by Lucille Clifton and THE SKY IS FULL OF SONG selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins


First Day of School by Barbara Juster Esbensen: COLD STARS AND FIREFLIES: POEMS FOR THE FOUR SEASONS

The First Day of School by Aileen Fisher: OUT IN THE DARK AND DAYLIGHT by Aileen Fisher

Here are short reviews of two school-themed poetry books. One is a collection written by Dee Lillegard; the other is an anthology with poems by a variety of poets.

Written by Dee Lillegard
Illustrated by Don Carter
Alfred A. Knopf, 2001

Hello School! Contains thirty-eight short, rhyming poems about all kinds of objects found in an early elementary classroom and on a school playground—including paper, crayons, scissors, glue, an easel, a paintbrush, clay, blocks, a water fountain, swings, a slide, and letters of the alphabet (They stand in line from A to Z/longing to be wild and free/to fly away like breezy birds…/in a flock of words.)

Following is one of my favorite poems in the book:

Costume Box
by Dee Lillegard

Opens up and spills out
capes, scarves, a pig’s snout,
a clown’s nose and floppy feet,
witch’s wand and ghostly sheet,
wigs and hats of every hue…
Get ready to be someone new.

Most of the poems in this collection are no longer than three or four lines…and would be great for sharing with young children in pre-kindergarten through first grade. Don Carter’s colorful three-dimensional illustrations stand out against a white background and really do add another “dimension” to Lillegard’s brief poems. I think they are a perfect fit for the poetry in this book.

CLASSROOM CONNECTION: This would be a good book to use throughout the school year to spark the writing of collaborative poems about objects found in the classroom and on the playground. Of course, the collaborative poems wouldn’t have to rhyme. The teacher could encourage children to pretend that the objects they write about are speaking and write mask poems like Lillegard’s Glue, Puppet, Xylophone, and Wastebasket (Feed me, feed me!/Yum yum yum…/Toss your tidbits/into my tum!). The teacher could also show his/her students how to use personification as Lillegard does in many of her poems. For example, she writes about a rug that “Likes nothing more/than snoozing/on the floor…” and a paintbrush that “gets paint in his hair” and a chair that “Prefers your seat/to your feet.”

If a teacher worked with his/her students to write one poem a week, the class would have written more than thirty poems by the end of the school year. The poems could be photocopied, collated, and bound in booklets. A booklet could be given to each student to illustrate and take home as a gift for his/her parents at the end of school in June.

Selected by Dorothy M. Kennedy
Illustrated by Abby Carter
Little, Brown, 1993

I Thought I’d Take My Rat to School is the most comprehensive book of poetry about school that I have read. It contains fifty-seven poems by many of America’s greatest children’s poets, including David McCord, Aileen Fisher, Nikki Grimes, Arnold Adoff, X. J. Kennedy, Karla Kuskin, Myra Cohn Livingston, Eve Merriam, and Lilian Moore—all recipients of the National Council of Teachers of English Award in Excellence in Poetry for Children. There are also poems by Eleanor Farjeon, Nikki Giovanni, Ted Kooser, Jack Prelutsky, Gary Soto, Judith Viorst, Jane Yolen, and Carl Sandburg.

This anthology takes us through the school year from September to June with poems about school buses, going back to school, being the new boy at school, arithmetic and math class, recess, a science lesson, lunch, a spelling bee, art class, a school play, homework, and the first day of summer vacation. Many of the poems are rhythmic and rhyming; some are humorous; some are wistful; and some…like I don’t understand and The Schoolbus Comes Before the Sun…are more serious in tone.

From I don’t understand
by Nikki Grimes

I don’t understand
how “good” English
and five times two is ten
can help us buy more food
and extra blankets…

From The Schoolbus Comes Before the Sun
by Robert Currie

The day drags by with textbooks
lunch cold and lumpy from a pail
an afternoon of facts
the ride by the nearer farms
where kids get off and horseplay dies
Yarrow bears the rocking of the bus
the fumes the history teachers growl
knows there’s homework still to do…

And here is an excerpt from one of the funny poems in the book:

From Homework! Oh, Homework!
by Jack Prelutsky

Homework! Oh, homework!
You’re last on my list,
I simply can’t see
why you even exist,
if you just disappeared
it would tickle me pink.
Homework! Oh, homework!
I hate you! You stink!

I Thought I’d Take My Rat to School has many poems that would appeal to children in the early elementary grades. It also contains poems that are appropriate for sharing with students in the middle grades. This is definitely a poetry anthology that should be included in a school library collection.

Today's Poetry Friday Roundup is at The Book Mine Set.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Children's Literature Festival at Keene State College

The registration forms for the Children's Literature Festival at Keene State College in New Hampsire are now available. This year's festival will be held on Saturday, October 27th. I have been attending the Keene Festival for years and now serve as a member of the advisory board. Dr. David White, the organizer of the festival, always plans for an exciting and diverse program of speakers.

What: 2007 Children's Literature Festival

Where: Keene State College in Keene, New Hampshire

Speakers: Raymond Bial, Michael Dooling, Natalie Kinsey-Warnock, Richard Peck, and Chris Soentpiet

When: Saturday, October 27th

Registration Fee: $72

Luncheon Reservations: $5.50

Click here to find out more about the speakers.

Click here for the registration form.

The 2007 Keene State College Children's Literature Festival poster is the creation of Kevin Hawkes. Hawkes was a presenter at the 2006 festival.

I hope to see some of my blogging friends at Keene State College this October!


I was inspired to write the following poem by Tricia of The Miss Rumphius Effect. Every Monday she challenges blog readers to attempt writing a specific form of poem. Last week it was the cento. Here is my cento about students doing creative writing in school. I used just one punctuation mark because I was trying to capture the essence of someone writing a rough draft when the words come fast and furious and the writer doesn't stop to think about spelling or punctuation and just wants to get his/her thoughts down on paper as quickly as possible...before they slip away

(For an explanation of what a cento is click here.)

Lying in wait, set to pounce on the page (1)
While vowels open wide as waves in the noon-blue sea (2)
We sit and write (3)
I go to the land of words (4)
Snatch new words out of nowhere (5)
Invent words (6)
Grouping words into sentences (7)
The bright words and the dark words (8)
You know how the words slip out and you can’t believe it? (9)
Blur of words too fast too low (10)
So fast you can hardly keep up with them (11)
No more grammar (12)
I don’t know what will happen (13)
About what rhymes with what and how (14)
It is the duty of the student (15)
To sometimes split infinitives (16)

From The Joy of Writing by Wislawa Szymborska (1)
From Inside a Poem by Eve Merriam (2)
From Difference by Aileen Fisher (3)
From I Go to the Land by Eloise Greenfield (4)
From You Have to Write by Janet Wong (5)
From Letter to a Young Poet by Michael Dugan (6)
From Winged Words by Joyce Sidman (7)
From Metaphor by Eve Merriam (8)
From Fashion Sense by Joyce Sidman (9)
From Wind by Ralph Fletcher (10)
From Spring Is by Bobbi Katz (11)
From Free Writing by Kristine O’Connell George (12)
From Story by Eloise Greenfield (13)
From Just Not a Very Good Pantoum for Mom by Ron Koertge (14)
From Duty of the Student by Edward Anthony (15)
From Propper English by Alan F. G. Lewis (16)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

On Reading Lists, Literature, and Writing

A member of the National Council of Teachers of English, I subscribe to NCTE Inbox. I have to admit I often ignore the weekly updates because I’ve retired from teaching. Yesterday, I decided to check out the most recent NCTE Inbox edition in which I read an interesting article from The Christian Science Monitor about high school reading lists. At the NCTE website, I also came upon some position statements and a list of notable children’s books. Here are the links:

From The Christian Science Monitor (August 8, 2007)

High School Reading Lists Get a Modern Makeover: Find out what recent bestsellers are taking their place next to classics at schools across the US.
EXCERPT: Precious summer minutes spent poring over Shakespeare or Nathaniel Hawthorne may seem less than appealing to teens, but some experts say there is a slowly growing trend to infuse more modern literature into summer reading. As a result, the revered literary canon, which includes such classics as "Hamlet," "The Grapes of Wrath," and "The Scarlet Letter," may be due for a shake-up. Glance at high school summer reading lists across the United States and you are likely to find more recent authors such as Alice Sebold, Walter Dean Myers, and even Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong alongside Dickens and the Brontë sisters.

From the National Council of Teachers of English

NCTE Position Statement: Resolution on the Essential Roles and Value of Literature in the Curriculum
EXCERPT: The current era of high-stakes testing has resulted in a narrowed curriculum in many schools, leaving little time or resources for extended interaction with literature. The Reading First Initiative of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 encourages the use of specific commercial reading programs, many of which make minimal use of authentic books. "Teachers are finding . . . that some of the mandated scripted programs are crowding out of the curriculum the time needed for reading aloud, independent reading of enjoyable and informational texts, writing, discussion, and in-depth exploration of literature" (NCTE position statement "On the Reading First Initiative," 2002).

NCTE Guideline: NCTE Beliefs about the Teaching of Writing
EXCERPT: Just as the nature of and expectation for literacy has changed in the past century and a half, so has the nature of writing. Much of that change has been due to technological developments, from pen and paper, to typewriter, to word processor, to networked computer, to design software capable of composing words, images, and sounds. These developments not only expanded the types of texts that writers produce, they also expanded immediate access to a wider variety of readers. With full recognition that writing is an increasingly multifaceted activity, we offer several principles that should guide effective teaching practice

Children’s Literature Assembly: 2007 Notable Children’s Books in the English Language Arts

Friday, August 17, 2007

Poetry Friday: Swimming Upstream

Illustrated by Debbie Tilley
Clarion, 2002

Since I began blogging last fall, I have written quite a number of reviews of poetry books for children—most of them about collections or anthologies intended for preschoolers and children in the early and middle elementary grades. Today, I’m reviewing a book by award-winning poet Kristine O’Connell George that was written especially for kids who will be attending middle school for the first time in their lives.

Swimming Upstream is jam-packed with poems that touch on the common experiences and emotions of students who have left their smaller elementary schools behind and now must face the challenges of a much bigger school with a seeming sea of students. The poems are told from the perspective of one of the “new” middle schoolers. She worries about such things as finding her way around…where to sit at lunch…losing friends…the way she looks…people gossiping about her. There are poems about homework meltdowns, science projects, going on a field trip, band practice, free writing in class, an award assembly, and the last day of school. The poems also touch on such things as reigniting a friendship with an old friend who had moved away, making new friends, and finding out that the boy she has a crush on likes her back.

George takes us from the first day of school to the end of the year with free verse, haikus, and even an acrostic poem entitled SNOB. This book isn’t a novel in verse—but there is the thread of a story as we read about the day-to-day experiences that one girl has from September to June in her first year of middle school.

One of the book’s earlier poems is Changing Classes, which begins As soon as the bell rings/students pour out the doors and ends Pushing forward, I weave/in, out, and among/a thousand others/feeling as if/I’m swimming upstream. And the girl does “swim upstream” until she gets into the flow of making new friends and trying new things like playing the flute in the school band and adapting to the changes in her life.

By the end of the school year, she has confidence enough to honor herself with an award while listening to the principal name honorees at the award assembly.

From Award Assembly

I end the suspense
awarding myself

First Place
Most Improved
That Matters to Me

This is a great book for middle school teachers and middle school students.

I didn’t include more poem excerpts because Kristine O’Connell George has a neat page with a flip book of Swimming Upstream at her fabulous website. Click here and you’ll be taken to it. There you will be able to read several poems from this fine collection.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A Perfect Pair: School Stories

Written by Amy Hest
Illustrated by Jill Barton
Candlewick Press, 1999

Baby Duck isn’t excited at all about going to school. She’s got first day jitters. She tries to put off the inevitable. At home, it takes a long time for her to button her sweater and to buckle her shoes. She walks behind her parents on the way to school. Her feet feel too heavy for her to hop. She can’t skip because her school bag keeps bumping against her. Her shoe buckle pops open.

Grampa just happens to be sitting on a bench in front of the schoolhouse. He asks Baby Duck questions. He understands that she is worried. He tells her it might help to sing a song. So baby Duck sings:

Please don’t make me go to school.
My teacher will be mean.
I won’t have any fun or friends.
And who will buckle my new shoe?

Grampa buckles Baby Duck’s shoe. Then Baby Duck shows him all the special things in her school bag, including the pencil she got from her younger sibling Hot Stuff. Grampa reminds baby that she draws nice pictures—so she draws a picture. Grampa praises her creation. Then, with Baby Duck at his side, he talks to Miss Posy, the teacher, about the kinds of things she likes…and the kinds of things that the children will do in school. Baby Duck listens. We see her smiling in the illustration. Evidently, she’s changed her feelings about going to school.

Baby Duck’s parents kiss her good-by and promise to be there when school is dismissed. Then Baby Duck hops and skips into the schoolhouse with her new friend Davy singing a happy song.

Written & illustrated by Anna Alter
Greenwillow/HarperCollins, 2003

Francine is having a contrary day. She doesn’t want to do anything that she is expected to do. She doesn’t want to get out of bed…or take off her pajamas. She does not want to go to school…or find her desk in school…or sing the morning song…or recite a poem in front of her classmates…or sit at the snack table…or sit at the art table…or go out to the school playground at the end of the day. No, she’d prefer to have a picnic at home with her mother—and to sit on her porch and draw pictures all afternoon.

Francine’s Day has a very spare text. Much of the story is told through Anna Alter’s pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations. For example, the text tells us that Francine doesn’t want to recite a poem—but it doesn’t tell us that she does. She is, however, shown in a two-page spread standing at the front of the classroom. It’s easy to infer that Francine DOES recite a poem.

Francine may not WANT to do the things she is expected to do—but she does them anyway. She sits at the snack table when Mr. Wendell, her teacher, sets her a place…and she sits at the art table when he pours out bright, colored paints and hands her a brush…and she goes out to the playground when he tells her that it won’t be long before her mother meets her at the bus stop.

That night, Francine recites a poem and sings a song to her stuffed animals—just as she was asked to do in class. It appears that Francine is enjoying herself playing school. In fact, she does not want to climb into bed.

But Mother pulled back
the covers, kissed her
good night, and turned off
the lights in her bedroom.

“It is time to close your
eyes and go to sleep,”
said Mother.

And she did.

There is nothing in Alter’s text that tells us that this is Francine’s first day of school. Still, Francine experiences the reticence that many young children do before they set off for school for the very first time.

Alter’s uncluttered illustrations focus on Francine…lying in bed, looking at her fall clothes folded on the rocking chair, sitting eating breakfast, walking down the front walk to the school bus, entering her classroom, sitting at her desk and at the snack table and at the art table, holding her teacher’s hand, hugging her mother upon her return home, playing with her stuffed animals, and being tucked into bed at night by her mother. Alter’s palette of soft pastel colors and her use of pale yellow in many of the backgrounds lend warmth and coziness to this story.

Francine’s Day is a good book to read to a young child who may be worried about beginning school.

For more school stories, check out my earlier post Book Bunch: School Stories.

OUT & ABOUT: August 16, 2007

Interested in writing an essay about connecting children and books? Check out Writing for the Horn Book: Field Notes at Read Roger.

Susan Thomsen has links to all the posts of the Australian Book Tour (via American Bloggers) at Chicken Spaghetti.

I got this link to a new Mock Newbery blog called Sharon’s Mock Newbery thanks to Fuse.

Cynthia Leitich Smith of Cynsations has returned to the world of blogging after a two month hiatus.

Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect is offering a Poetry Stretch every Monday. She’s trying out different forms of poetry. This week it’s the cento. Care to join her?

MotherReader has a great logo for BACA and a few more thoughts about celebrity authors of children’s books in her post BACA Off Again.

Here’s a “Back to School” book list I missed in my Book Lists: School Stories post on Monday. This list is the September/October 2002 CBC Showcase: Back to School.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Book Bunch: School Stories

Here are titles of some school stories I recommend:


Off to School, Baby Duck!
Written by Amy Hest
Illustrated by Jill Barton
Candlewick Press, 1999

Baby Duck is nervous about going to school. It’s a good thing Grampa is on hand to help allay Baby’s fears and send her into class singing a happy song.

Wemberly Worried
Written & illustrated by Kevin Henkes
Greenwillow/HaperCollins, 2000


Someone Says
Written by Carole Lexa Schaefer
Illustrated by Pierr Morgan
Viking, 2003

For children in nursery school through grade one. This book celebrates childhood creativity. The spare text and art work together perfectly in this joyful picture book about imaginative play.


Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse
Written & illustrated by Kevin Henkes
Greenwillow/HaperCollins, 1996

Today Was a Terrible Day
Written by Patricia Reilly Giff
Illustrated by Susanna Natti
Viking, 1982

Ronald Morgan gets discouraged at school one day when he does everything wrong—including making mistakes when reading aloud in class. Then, on the way home, he reads the note his teacher has given him without any help. The day’s troubles dissipate in the excitement of knowing that he can actually read. (Pair this book with Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day and have children discuss their “terrible” days.)


David Goes to School
Written & Illustrated by David Shannon
Blue Sky Press, 1999

Morris the Moose Goes to School
Written & illustrated by B. Wiseman
Harper & Row, 1970

Morris can’t read or count. He goes to school to learn how. Young children will enjoy all the funny situations and experiences Morris has during his first day in an elementary classroom.

Math Curse
Written by Jon Scieszka
Illustrated by lane Smith
Viking, 1995

Captain Abdul’s Pirate School
Written & illustrated by Colin McNaughton
Candlewick Press, 1996

This is a hilarious tale told via the diary of a young girl whose father has sent her off to pirate school to toughen her up. Children will laugh at some of the pirates’ names—Poop Deck Percy Ploppe, Walker the Plank, Yardarm Pitts—and will enjoy the ending in which the children attending the school outwit the pirates, take over the ship, become pirates themselves and decide not to return home. Ooh-arrgh!

A Fine, Fine School
Written by Sharon Creech
Illustrated by Harry Bliss
Scholastic, 2001

No matter how fine a school may be—too much of a good thing can prove to be a bad idea. Principal Keene learns about some of the other important things in children’s lives from a young girl who has the courage to speak up to an adult.


Written & illustrated by Kevin Henkes
Greenwillow, 1991

Hooway for Wodney Wat
Written by Helen Lester
Illustrated by Lyn Munsinger
Houghton Mifflin, 1999

Poor Wodney Wat (Rodney Rat) can’t pronounce his r’s. His classmates constantly tease him. When Camilla Capybara, a new student who is a big bully, enters the classroom, Wodney fears his days at school will only get worse. Fortunately for Wodney, he is a hero by story’s end because he gets rid of Camilla….forever.

Stand Tall, Molly Lou Mellon
Written by Patty Lovell
lustrated by David Catrow
Penguin, 2001

Molly Lou is the shortest girl in first grade. She’s got buck teeth, has a terrible singing voice, and is quite clumsy. Her grandma gives her the courage to take pride in herself. Then Molly Lou moves to a new town away from her grandma and old friends. A bully picks on her and teases her—but Molly takes it all in stride and wins over her classmates…including her harasser.

Thank You, Mr. Falker
Written & illustrated by Patricia Polacco
Philomel, 1998

Autobiographical story about young Polacco who was teased by classmates and called a “dummy” because she couldn’t read. In fifth grade, a teacher who is both understanding and wise takes the time to tutor the young artist every day after school and opens the world of words to her.


Sailing Home: A Story of a Childhood at Sea
Written by Gloria Rand
Illustrated by Ted Rand
NorthSouth, 2001

This story is based on the experiences of the children of Captain and Mrs. Mads Albert Madsen aboard the four-masted sailing bark named the John Ena, a ship that carried cargo all over the world during the late 1800s and early 1900s. The children learn school lessons from their mother and governess. Their father teaches them about the planets, stars, celestial navigation, and how to send signals with flags at sea. The back matter of the book includes an afterward and Madsen family photographs.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Book Lists: School Stories

Here are links to websites with lists of recommended school stories.

New York Public Library: Back to School

The Horn Book Monthly Special: Back to School

Bank Street College of Education: Back to School Books

KidsReads: Back to School Books

Children’s Literature: The Back to School Jitters

Monroe County Public Library (Indiana): Starting School Stories

Allen County Public Library (Indiana): School Booklist

Boston Public Library: Countdown to Kindergarten

Carol Hurst’s Children’s Literature Site: Kids’ Books Set in Schools

Friday, August 10, 2007

Poetry Friday: Toad by the Road

A Year in the Life of These Amazing Amphibians

Written by Joanne Ryder
Illustrated by Maggie Kneen
Henry Holt, 2007

Toad in the Road is a poetry collection with a plus: It includes a brief paragraph of information about toads below the poems on nearly every page. The author, Joanne Ryder, is one of my favorite authors of books about nature for young children.

This collection is divided into four sections—each of which contains from five to seven poems: Spring-Summer, Summer, Late Summer-Fall, and Winter-Spring. This format allows readers to follow the life cycle and experiences of these “amazing amphibians” through the course of a year.

Nearly every poem in Toad by the Road is a mask poem told in the voice of a single toad or the collective voices of a group of tadpoles or toads. The poems are rhythmic and rhyming and undoubtedly would appeal to young children—especially those who have a keen interest in animals and nature.

The book opens with The Pond’s Chorus, a little counting chant.

From The Pond’s Chorus

One toad,
One song.
Two toads
Sing along.
Three toads,
Better yet.
Four toads,
A quartet…

Next come poems about toads singing in springtime and a vigilant toad escaping before a snake can strike. In the fourth poem, Tadpole’s Surprises, a tadpole is surprised by the changes happening to its own body:

From Tadpole’s Surprises

I’m sleek and shiny,
Smooth and black.
Hey, legs are popping
Out in back.
These legs are fun.
I’d like some more.
Hey, look at me.
Now I’ve got four...

By the end of the poem its tail has disappeared and it can hop!

There’s a poem Zap, Zap in which a toad talks about its long, sticky tongue…and a poem Summer Days about a toad hiding from the sun’s hot “breath” and “touch” beneath a porch…and a poem about a toad shedding its snug, dry sky…and a poem entitled Just Fooling in which a toad explains how it plays dead to defend against predators…and a poem about getting ready for hibernation. The collection ends with the poem Toad by the Road, which brings us full circle and back to spring again.

Here is an excerpt of the book's informational text from one of the pages: Toads have strong hind legs and dig their own burrows to hide from danger, extreme heat, and cold. Their hearts beat slowly, as they rest below the frost line, safe from snow and icy winds.

Maggie Kneen’s watercolor illustrations befit the poems in this collection. The artist uses a palette of soft natural colors--mostly browns, greens, grays, blues, and white…with touches of yellow and orange. Kneen’s toads don’t stand out on the page…rather, they nearly blend into the different settings as they do in nature.

This is a great collection for connecting poetry and science in the early elementary grades.

The Poetry Friday Roundup today is at Big A, little a.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

A Perfect Pair: Olvina Swims...and So Does Baby Duck!

I know some kidlit bloggers have already begun thinking about books that would be great to read to children once they begin the new school year. I’m sticking with summer for the time being—mainly because the weather in these parts has been pretty uncomfortable for most of the past few weeks. The humidity has been oppressive!!!

I’ve chosen to review two picture books that are perfect for reading to young children who may be timid about the water or who may not have learned how to swim yet.

Written by Amy Hest
Illustrated by Jill Barton
Candlewick Press, 2002

Although Baby Duck swam last year, this summer she sits at the edge of the town pool dipping her webbed feet in the water. She’s hesitant to take the plunge. Her parents prance and dance and splash in the pool, remind Baby Duck what fun she had last year, and encourage her to join them. “No,” says Baby Duck. Even when her mother says: “Be a big girl now, and jump right in,” she remains at the pool’s edge with a troubled look on her face.

Then along come coach and the swim team. Coach blows his whistle and the young ducks splash into the pool. Davy and Dotty Duck come paddling by and eagerly announce that they’ve made the swim team. Baby Duck wishes she could be on the team, too. But she worries that she may be too slow a swimmer…or that her arms might get tired…or that she might swallow water.

That’s when Grampy comes along to save the day. He hugs and kisses Baby Duck, listens to her concerns, gives her gentle encouragement, and eventually allays her fears. He understands that Baby Duck is the one who must make the decision about taking the plunge.

When Baby Duck is ready, she stands up and lines up her toes at the edge of the pool. She squeezes her eyes tight and jumps into the water. She swims along with the other ducks…kicking very hard—and her arms do not get tired—and she doesn’t swallow any water!

Jill Barton’s pencil and watercolor illustrations are a perfect complement to Amy Hest’s text. They show the emotions Baby Duck is feeling and the warm and loving relation between Grampy and his little granddaughter. In one touching illustration, Grampy is shown bending down to kiss Baby Duck; in another, a worried Baby Duck clings to Grampy as he speaks to her.

You Can Swim, Baby Duck! Would be a great book to include in a unit of stories about childhood fears.

Written & illustrated by Grace Lin
Henry Holt, 2007

Olvina Swims is another good book to read to children who haven’t yet learned to swim. Olvina the chicken, who was afraid of flying in Olvina Flies, returns. This book begins where Olvina Flies leaves off. Olvina and her friend Hailey (a penguin) are vacationing in Hawaii after attending the annual Bird Convention. Now that Olvina has conquered her fear of flying in an airplane, she learns to muster the courage to overcome her fear of the water. She does this with the help of her good friend Hailey.

First, Hailey teaches Olvina how to take a deep breath, dip her face in the warm water of a bathtub, open her eyes, and blow out bubbles. Once Olvina learns how to do that, Hailey takes her to the pool where she learns how to do the dog paddle, to float, and to do the backstroke. The day before they leave Hawaii, Hailey encourages Olvina to swim in the ocean. Gradually, Olvina wades into the salty sea. Then she dips her head into the waves and it seems as if the water is hugging her. “It was a wonderful feeling.”

The last page of text:
"Isn’t swimming fun?” Hailey said to Olvina. “I told you chickens could swim if they really wanted to!” “I guess chickens can do anything,” Olvina said with a smile, “if they have good friends to help.”

Admirers of Grace Lin’s picture book art will not be disappointed in Olvina Swims. The gouache illustrations are bright and colorful and include touches of sly humor: The title of the book that Olvina is reading at the beach is Bird Sense: What Every Chicken Knows…and some of the fish she sees swimming underwater are wearing hats!

I really like the ending of the book because it is true to life. Childhood friends and relatives close in age can often teach each other how to do things. One of my first cousins taught me how to float in the ocean. A neighborhood friend taught my daughter how to ride a two wheeler. Olvina Swims is not only a story about learning how to swim—it’s a story about how friends help one another.

Note to Blog Readers: Grace Lin is a good friend.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

OUT & ABOUT: August 7, 2007

The Summer Issue of The Edge of the Forest is here with a profile of Peter Reynolds, interviews with author Linda Buckley-Archer and blogging writers Greg Fishbone and Kim Winters, and a report from MotherReader on her 48 Hour Book Challenge.

Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect brings us the 5th Edition of Learning in the Great Outdoors.

Some of you may want to check out the July-August 2007 Bimonthly Showcase, Math and Science in Fact and Fiction, at the Children’s Book Council website.

Thanks to Roger Sutton for announcing a list of “starred school stories.” Find them at Monthly Special: Back to School at the Horn Book website.

Guess what Susan Thomsen of Chicken Spaghetti went and got herself? Some chickens…that’s what! Read all about it in her post Let There Be Chickens.

Got a favorite children’s book that you wish you had edited or written or illustrated? Stop by Blue Rose Girls and tell Alvina Ling. She’d like to know.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Children's Literature Institute at Simmons College

Here is my recap of Food Glorious Food!, the Children's Literature Institute I attended at Simmons College from July 26th-July 29th. I haven't included information about the presentations of all the children's authors and illustrators. My notes are incomplete. Sorry! Here's what I do have to tell you about:

David Macaulay showed us his work-in-progress, The Way We Work--a book about the human body. It will be published in Fall 2008.

Alice Hoffman talked about an author’s voice as being one of the most important things about a writer. She likened it to an author’s fingerprints—a unique style born of the writer’s life experiences.

Natalie Babbitt spoke about writing being a weighty kind of therapy. Her advice to a writer: Set your story in a time that allows you to have characters do and say what you want them to. She also talked about chocolate and bacon being two things she takes great pleasure in today.

Roger Sutton talked about professional reviewers writing book reviews. He quoted one individual as once saying that “sometimes words just don’t taste write.” He also discussed some words that may be overused and lack specificity—charming, beautiful, interesting, delightful, appealing, entertaining. As he was speaking at an institute that featured a focus on food in literature, he mentioned that “edible metaphors can bite us in the ass.” He also opined that “Reading is not eating.” I think I got both quotes correct. You can always ask Roger! I did have the opportunity to finally meet Roger and chat with him briefly.

I finally got to meet Angela Johnson, the author of one of my favorite poetry books for young adults—The Other Side: Shorter Poems. Did you know that Angela was once a nanny for Cynthia Rylant—and that Cynthia sent out one of Angela’s manuscripts without her knowledge? Good thing Cynthia did, too, because the manuscript was accepted for publication. I talked to Angela about The Other Side and about another favorite book of poems by Cynthia Rylant, Waiting to Waltz. It also happens to be one of Angela’s favorite books. If you haven’t read it—I highly recommend that you do.

Arthur Yorinks told the funniest story about himself, actor Alan Arkin, their wives, a poodle, a pair of red Reboks…and a canoe trip down a river in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia—which he compared to the writing process. It was like a standup comedy routine. He was so funny. I can’t capture in writing Yorinks’ flair for storytelling. Sorry again!

Jack Gantos was funny and entertaining as always. He was serious about books, too, and talked about how you—as a reader—may be finished with a book…but the book may not be finished with you. He also advised us not to forget the older books that are “already good.”

Sy Montgomery, an award-winning author of nonfiction books for children and adults, told us the heartwarming story of a pig that was an important part of her life for fourteen years—a pig that brought her closer to the people in the community where she lived, a pig that helped her learn lessons about life. This was the pig she wrote about in her national bestseller The Good Good Pig: The Extraordinary Life of Christopher Hogwood. Montgomery’s was a wonderful presentation, which included slides of a little runt pig who grew to an enormous size. Everyone rushed to buy The Good Good Pig after her presentation. I had to pick one up at Banbury Cross this week because I wasn’t quick enough.

I enjoyed the presentations of all the speakers—even though I haven’t written about them all. Another thing I always enjoy about the Simmons Institute is getting to know the other attendees and talking about books with people who also love children's literature. They are teachers, and librarians, and children’s authors and illustrators—many of whom I have met at Simmons in previous years.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Poetry & The Pan-Massachusetts Challenge

This weekend my husband will be riding for Team Daisy in the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge to raise money for the Jimmy Fund and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. Last year, at the age of sixty, Mike participated in this event for the first time. He and the other proud members of Team Daisy raised $65,ooo!

Team Daisy is named in honor of my friend Daisy Locke. Daisy is a cancer survivor...and a very brave girl indeed! As I wrote at Blue Rose Girls last November: Daisy has shown the adults in her life what courage is all about.

If you'd like to make a contribution in my husband's name, go to the Team Daisy webpage and click on Michael Magliaro. You will be taken to his page at the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge website where you can make an online donation. Mike's goal is to reach $3,600 this year.
NOTE: There is also a Team Daisy page at the PMC website. You can reach my husband's page at the PMC website directly by clicking here.


I have two poems for Daisy today. One is To the Daisy, which was written by William Wordsworth, and one is an original poem I wrote. The word daisy is really a poem in itself: day's eye. I kept that in mind as I penned my poem.

For Daisy

by Elaine Magliaro


burst from their stem tops

like exploding suns

lighting green fields

with their bright-eyed wonder.

To the Daisy

by William Wordsworth

With little here to do or see
Of things that in the great world be,
Sweet Daisy! oft I talk to thee
For thou art worthy,
Thou unassuming commonplace
Of Nature, with that homely face,
And yet with something of a grace
Which love makes for thee!

Oft on the dappled turf at ease
I sit and play with similes,
Loose types of things through all degrees,
Thoughts of thy raising;
And many a fond and idle name
I give to thee, for praise or blame
As is the humour of the game
While I am gazing.

You can read the rest of the poem here.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

OUT & ABOUT: August 2, 2007

Linda Wingerter is back at Blue Rose Girls. Read her post Green Again, which includes an image of the first painting she has done since she broke her hand late last year.

In Snow in July at Blue Rose Girls, Anna Alter posts a picture of the snowflake she created for the Robert's Snow 2007 auction.

In My Snowflake for Robert's Snow, Elizabeth O. Dulemba shows us her process for creating her snowflake for Robert's Snow 2007. In An Ode to Harry, Elizabeth posts an original poem about Harry Potter.

At Leoland, Leo Landry gives us a Sneak Peek at the front cover and two illustrations from his forthcoming book Friends and Pals and Brothers, Too, which will be published in April 2008.

At Read Roger, Roger Sutton provides us with a list of the books that have been awarded starred reviews in the September/October issue of the Horn Book Magazine.

Head on over to Mentor Texts & More for the very first Picture Book Carnival.

News from the Library of Congress: Librarian of Congress Appoints Charles Simic Poet Laureate.