Saturday, June 30, 2007

OUT & ABOUT: June 30, 2007

Sections of the July/August issue of The Horn Book Magazine are now available online. Check out Michael J. Rosen’s column My Search for the Wrong Title. It’s a riot! You can also read profiles of Newbery and Caldecott Medalists Susan Patron and David Wiesner.

Have you heard about the 1st Annual Kidlitosphere Conference that will be held in Chicago on October 6th? If not, get yourself over to Robin Brande’s blog and read all about it. You may also want to check out the RSVP list.

Literacy Teacher of Mentor Texts & More is starting a Picture Book Carnival. The deadline for submissions is July 31st.

Stop by The Miss Rumphius Effect to read Tricia's Joyful Education post, which includes a link to Educational Leadership (Summer 2007/Volume 4).

Mitali Perkins has announced the winners of the Fire Escape’s 2007 teen poetry and short fiction contest.

The Poetry Friday Roundup for June 29th is at Shaken & Stirred.

Joyce Sidman, winner of the Cybils Award for Poetry, found a robin’s nest in a hanging plant on her porch. Read all about it in her online photo-journal Nesting with Robins.

Join the other readers who have left comments at Susan Thomsen’s post Multicultural Books, or Is “Whacking the Pinata” Necessary?


Friday, June 29, 2007

Poetry Friday: Into the Sea

Here are two picture books for those of you who think that summer is the perfect time to read some sea-themed picture books with young children.

Written by Deborah Lee Rose
Pictures by Steve Jenkins
Scholastic, 2000

INTO THE A, B, SEA is a rhyming alphabet book about marine animals. The featured creatures in this book include Anemones, Barnacles, Crabs, and Dolphins—as well as Yellowfin and Zooplankton. The only problematic letter for Rose was X, which appears embedded in the word exhale: Whales eXhale. In spite of X, this is an excellent A, B, C book to share with young children—especially those who have an expressed interest in animals that inhabit our oceans.

Rose’s rhythmic, rhymed couplets scan well. Her meter and use of language are exemplary as she describes the movements and actions of different sea creatures. The book begins:

Swim the ocean waves with me
and dive into the A, B, Sea

where Anemones sting
and Barnacles cling

where Crabs crawl in
and Dolphins spin

where Eels explore
and Flying fish soar

Other creatures:
peep, leap
prance, dance
sway, prey
lumber, slumber
hide, glide
glow, swoop low
grab, nab
dine, shine
dive, thrive

At the end of the book, Rose includes a section called More about the A, B, Sea…. This section contains a bit “more” information about each of the creatures named in the text. The author also acknowledges a number of organizations for their advice and inspiration.

The book’s cut-paper collages created by Steve Jenkins are colorful and uncluttered and let each of the different sea creatures stand out on their respective pages. Jenkins captures well: playful dolphins leaping from the water, the power of a humpback whale breaching in a spray of white water, the curving tentacles of an octopus that is being engulfed in a cloud of black ink, the jaws of an umbrellamouth spread wide open to capture its prey, the sinuous movements of an eel and a leopard shark, the spiny skin of a sea star. His cut-paper jellyfish seemingly floats on a background of indigo. The final two-page spread teems with tiny and enlarged zooplankton.

When I was teaching, I was always on the lookout for picture books in which authors select their words carefully—books that would be excellent for helping children enrich their vocabularies. INTO THE A, B, SEA is certainly a good book to use to help expand a child’s vocabulary. I’d have children name the action words (verbs) in the text. With really young children, I’d ask specific questions to elicit responses: What do the barnacles do? (Cling) What do the manatees do? (Lumber) I’d make a list of the words—and explain the meanings of those with which my students were unfamiliar. Children could refer to this list of words later when they were writing their own stories or poems.

Written by Stephanie St. Pierre
Illustrated by Beverly Doyle
Peachtree, 2006

WHAT THE SEA SAW is not a picture book written in verse—it is, however, a book with a lovely lyrical text. The book provides readers with different points of view of the sea as seen/perceived by the sky and by fish and by the sea itself. Here is how the book begins:

What the sea saw was sky above.

What the sky saw was sea below.

The sea saw
a gull shoot from the sky
leaving the wind empty.

The sky saw
soft, white-feathered wings
dip into the foaming sea.

The gull saw fish with scales shimmering silver. The fish in the water saw light on the waves weaving into the deepstringy seaweed gardenslobsters with clamping claws.

We rise from the sea and are transported to the shore where waves crash and splash and foam…and treasures are left behind in tide pools that mirror the sky…and sandpipers run across wet sand…and beach plums ripen in the sun…and starfish cling to rocks.

Later, the moon rises in a purple night full of stars and the sea sees a ring around the moon. The sky sees a dolphin leaping from the sea. The book ends as dawn arrives in a luminous two-page spread of an early morning sun lighting the horizon—its golden rays glistening on the surface of the ocean and the sand.

At the end of the book, the author includes further information and some eco-tips for readers about the shoreline, the dunes, and the ocean’s ecosystem. The illustrator provides a list of books that she found helpful in developing her paintings for WHAT THE SEA SAW.

Doyle’s illustrations—done in airbrush on illustration board—capture the essence of St. Pierre's poetic text. Her changes in perspective help readers to “see” what the sea, the sky, and the fish saw from their points of view. There are close-ups of starfish and sandpipers, a fearsome looking lobster, butterflies tangled in a spider’s silk that is strung between blades of dune grass, and small sea creatures left behind in a tide pool. There are paintings of foam-tipped waves, and sand dunes, and moonlight shimmering on the sea at night. The illustrations, in effect, help readers experience what the sea, the fish, and the sky saw...between the covers of a children’s picture book.

Sea you soon. Happy Friday!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Books for Summer Reading

Today, I thought I’d give you lists of books for summer reading that have been suggested by the fine ladies of the Banbury Cross Children’s Bookshop in Wenham, Massachusetts. This is the place where I buy nearly all of my children’s books.

Here’s a peek inside the bookshop:



The Adventures of Vin Fiz, C. Cussler. A toy plane grows in size and takes two siblings on a cross-country trip.

Akimbo and the Lions, A. Smith. Akimbo wants to help his father, head ranger on an African game preserve.

Amanda Pig and the Really Hot Day, J. Van Leeuwen. Amanda Pig tries to beat the heat!

Busy Busy Moose, N. Van Laan. A humorous seasonal woodland tale.

Evangeline Mudd and the Golden-Haired Apes of the Ikkinasti Jungle, D. Elliott. Evangeline, raised by parents who study monkeys and apes, has a most unusual childhood!

The Get Rich Quick Club, D. Gutman. Gina and her friends plan to become millionaires during summer vacation.

How Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen, R. Hoban. A very silly story about Tom, who has mastered the art of fooling around, and his Aunt Fidget, who wants him to stop.

Lulu’s Hat, S. Meddaugh. Things don’t just pop out of this magic hat, they sometimes vanish into it!

The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs, B. Birney. Can Eben really find wonders in his sleepy little hometown? A nice choice for a read-aloud.

Time Spies: Secret In the Tower, C. Ransom. An old spyglass sends 3 friends back in time to Revolutionary War days.

Wind Boy, E. Eliot. This gentle, poetic story about a poor family aided by an ethereal girl from over the purple mountains (perhaps a fairy realm) makes an excellent family read-aloud.

The Year Of the Dog, G. Lin. Taiwanese-American Pacy learns about friends, family and herself in this funny slice-of-life novel.

Zelda and Ivy: The Runaways, L. Kvasnosky. Three short stories about two fabulous fox sisters.

You’ll also find books recommended for students entering grades 5 and 6, books for young adults, and a list of newly published picture books at the website of the Banbury Cross Children's Bookshop. Just click here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

OUT & ABOUT: June 26, 2007

That was some blogging vacation I took. I returned home from Vermont on Saturday afternoon and had planned to get back to blogging by Sunday…but the weather was so perfect that I spent the day sitting outside reading and writing. And yesterday? I was just plain lazy! Here’s what I have for you today.

I guess the QuickMuse has been around since 2006—but I just read about it in the Living/Arts section of The Boston Globe this morning. As stated on the QuickMuse website:

QuickMuse is a cutting contest, a linguistic jam session, a series of on-the-fly compositions in which some great poets riff away on a randomly picked subject. It's an experiment, QuickMuse, to see if first thoughts are indeed the best ones. We're not entirely sure about this, but we suspect QuickMuse will bring readers closer to the moment of composition than they have ever been before. Best part: our "playback" feature lets you watch the poems unfold, second by second. Or as Thlyias Moss says, it's "the chance for a poem to find its/audience fast," in which words don't "have as much/time to stale, pale/lose the relevance of the moment" to which they belong.

Included among contributors of the Most Museworthy are former US Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, Roy Blount Jr., Pulitzer prizewinner Paul Muldoon, and Thylias Moss.

Mary lee and Franki bring us The Good News in the Kidlitosphere: The June Carnival of Children’s Literature at A Year of Reading.

Anne at Book Buds has added an occasional new feature to her blog called Off the Shelf. You’ll see this feature whenever she feels the need to rant about something. Read her first Off the Shelf posting about Jack Prelutsky entitled Resting on His Laureates.

Cloudscome has the Poetry Friday Roundup for June 22nd is at A Wrung Sponge.

Jules has a great Picture Book Round-Up at 7-Imp today.

The Three Silly Chicks are In the Coop with Dori Chaconas this week.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

OUT & ABOUT: June 16, 2007

I’m leaving today for a week’s vacation with family in the beautiful Green Mountains of Vermont. I doubt I’ll be posting again until after I return home on June 23rd. Happy Summer Solstice!

Susan Thomsen of Chicken Spaghetti has written a fine article about Poetry Friday in the kidlitosphere for Poetry entitled Thank Goodness It’s (Poetry) Friday. Great job, Susan!

Jules and Eisha have a stellar interview with Adrienne of What Adrienne Thinks About That (WATAT) at 7-Imp.

You may want to stop by The Miss Rumphius Effect to read Tricia’s Reflections on China post.

Alvina had an interesting post and a poll for blog readers at Blue Rose Girls early this week. Stop by and leave a comment for her.

Check out the beautiful new website of illustrator and Blue Rose Girl Linda Wingerter.

The irrepressible Three Silly Chicks have another contest to celebrate the launch of Laura Durango’s new book PEST FEST.

The Poetry Friday Roundup this week is at The Simple and the Ordinary.

Both Liz B. at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy and Jen at Jen Robinson’s Book Page have posted the schedule of the Summer Blast Blog Tour at their blogs. Thanks, ladies!

At A Wrung Sponge, Cloudscome has information about a haiku contest sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation. (The deadline is June 30th.)

Friday, June 15, 2007

Interview with Poet Rebecca Kai Dotlich

On Wednesday, I posted The Poetry of Rebecca Kai Dotlich in which I discuss Rebecca's poetry and review three of her poetry collections.

Elaine: Can you tell us what inspired you to become a writer of children’s poetry?

Rebecca: Inspiration is some kind of mystery, isn’t it? We speculate, look back, put pieces of the puzzle together, then say, ah-ha, that was it, coupled with this and strengthened by that. Honestly, I only began to write for children after I had them. Immediately upon cradling that first child, I knew it—when I sang the songs my mother sang to me (Mares Eat Oats, How Much Is That Doggy in the Window?, Que Sera, Sera, Mr. Sandman, and Hush Little Baby) while rocking a fevered baby during long, quiet spring nights, and later, playing records for my toddlers, and listening to rhyming Sesame Street songs (Somebody Come and Play), then reading magical Nursery rhymes—I knew I wanted to write poetry for children. I had always had a love and a natural instinct for rhythm and rhyme, but never translated that into just children’s writing. I had written rhymes (never considering them poems) on a toy typewriter when I was maybe 8 or 9 or so, actual poems on a manual typewriter my grandfather gave me in high school and then in college, but about lots of dying and love. Oh, and love. And sometimes love. But when I started reading and singing to my children about moons and muffins, snowflakes and stars, I knew I had found the kind of writing I not only loved, but needed.

Elaine: Did you read or have much poetry read to you when you were a child?

Rebecca: No, I never read poetry as a young child. I do remember hearing, or somehow knowing Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Swing, etc. But I’m not sure exactly where or how. We certainly didn’t have books of poetry in our house, and I never had a teacher in elementary school that introduced or talked about poetry. But I did love Nursery Rhymes, and we did have lots of those around our house, both in book form and records. So they were my first introduction to poetry. Also, even though my parents never read poetry to me, my father sometimes made up silly rhymes at bedtime, and I loved memorizing jump rope rhymes, and traditional quick rhymes like “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.”

And my brother was always playing songs on his little record player, and most of these rhymed: Take Me Out to the Ballgame and Yankee Doodle Dandy.

“Yankee Doodle went to town riding on a pony, He stuck a feather in his hat, And called it Macaroni.”

I couldn’t wait until I got to the Macaroni part. I loved saying that word.
I remember singing the words to Que Sera, Sera, over and over and over, being touched by the sentiment of our futures being myserious and unknown: When I was just a little girl, I asked my mother what will I be. Will I be pretty, will I be rich, and here's what she said to me -- que sera sera, what ever will be, will be, the future’s not ours to see, que sera sera.

Just threw this in: My grandfather wrote lines of poetry here and there, sometimes in the margins of his bible, or on the back of a photograph. My father wrote beautiful letters and had a fondness for quotations. My brother kept a journal in high school and as a young man in the army. My brother and dad were both avid readers.

Elaine: Do you have any favorite children’s poets? If so, can you tell us their names and what you like about their work?

Rebecca: It would be easier to address the poets that I first became familiar with when I began to read and study children’s poetry: Eve Merriam, Karla Kuskin, Jack Prelutsky, Barbara Juster Esbensen, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Aileen Fisher, Dorothy Aldis, Valerie Worth, Lillian Moore, and J. Patrick Lewis. I’m sure there are more, but these few immediately come to mind. I can’t tell you what an honor it is to be writing for, and with, some of these brilliant poets. Some others, sadly, I never got to meet or know.

I can point to a few of the first individual poems that caught my heart and made me first say I wish I could write like that, or, I wish I had written that: Jigsaw Puzzle, by Russell Hoban, Mice by Rose Flyeman, A Story That Could Be True, by William Stafford, Catherine, Snow and Knitted Things, by Karla Kuskin, Grandpa Bear’s Lullaby by Jane Yolen, the color poems (Hailstones and Halibut Bones) by Mary O’Neill, and a poem by David McCord that blew me away. I’d like to quote it here, hopefully doing my part in never letting this important poem be forgotten:


“Blessed Lord, what it is to be young;
To be of, to be for, be among –
Be enchanted, enthralled,
Be the caller, the called,
The singer, the song, and the sung.”

What I read to my Children: I read them lots of Nursery Rhymes and fairy tales, like Rumpelstiltskin. Snow White frightened my daughter, so I put that one on the shelf until they were older. But they all adored Hansel and Gretel, just as I had as a child. The Three Little Pigs, Three Billy Goats Gruff, Dr. Seuss, Pinocchio and There Were Ten in the Bed, Jack and the Beanstalk. Oh, they all (children and grandchild) loved being deliciously scared with the enchanting rhyme: Fee, Fie, Foe Fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman! Be he alive or be he dead, I’ll grind his bones to make my bread!” I read Goodnight Moon quite a bit, and my son had a favorite, which was a thin, small little square of a book, called Little Max the Cement Mixer, and both of my children adored The Runaway Pancake.

Elaine: Do you have a certain writing routine that you follow every day?

Rebecca: Oh, how I wish I did. It’s not in my makeup. The only thing I can say for certain is that I always, always, write early in the morning. I always, always have. I am an early riser, and I love nothing more than having that first cup of coffee and thinking about a poem. I write on and off through the entire day, before, after and in between laundry and buying milk, taking care of grandchildren and baking darn good peanut butter cookies. I don’t usually write at night anymore, although I used to. My eyes and brain just can’t trick themselves anymore into thinking they are young. So I resort to lazy TV watching or reading one of the many books that I’ve started.

Elaine: What are the things you enjoy most about writing poetry for children?

Rebecca: Being able to say something about something in a way that maybe no one else has, or can, just because I’m the only one of me, just like the poets before me, with me, after me; we are all just who we are, but we each have a very different heart, and a unique way of looking at the world; the giggle and the ghost of most every childhood experience or feeling.

And then I love playing with words, being the puppeteer that dances and places the words on the page using nothing but a pencil or a computer, creative juices, and hard work. Poetry can bring a child further into their world, by sharing some of your own. It is truly a magical thing; spending your days playing with words and metaphors. I love writing poetry for children mostly because I adore children. I love connecting with them in both the silly and noisy hours as well as the tender, quiet ones.

And spending mornings in pajamas.

Elaine: Wordsong has published nearly all of your poetry books. Is there a particular editor with whom you work at that publisher?

Rebecca: I’ve had a few editors at Wordsong. My very first editor was Lisa, but she isn’t there anymore, then I worked with Joan Hyman, Wendy Murray, and a young man named Erin. Each and every one brought something different to the editing process, and were, and are, wonderful editors.

Elaine: You dedicated What Is Science?, one of your most recent books, to Lee Bennett Hopkins. Has he been your mentor in regard to your poetry writing?

Rebecca: He certainly has and is. I was lucky enough to connect with Lee soon after I was offered a contract for my first book of poetry. The first collection he invited me to write for was SMALL TALK. Since then he always at least gives me the chance, or the invitation, to try out for a place in his books. I usually write something he chooses, but not always. He’ll often steer me to different waters, urging me to think out of the box; is blunt in telling me when I’m off base, but also raves with praises when I deserve it.

Almost like a good parent. He’s the perfect mentor to have, and a dear, dear friend.

One of the very first books of poetry that I found, bought, studied and read to my children constantly was Side By Side, by Lee Bennett Hopkins.

Elaine: I see that many of your poems appear in anthologies. Are most of them written especially for the anthologies? Do the anthologists, (Lee Bennett Hopkins, Jane Yolen, etc.) request that you write poems for the poetry books they are compiling?

Rebecca: Yes, most of the time I write a new poem with a specific anthology in mind. There are also times anthologists will see a poem in a magazine or another book, or in my own collections, and secure permissions this way. But for the most part, anthologists request a certain poem and they give parameters as to length, form, subject matter, age, tone, etc. I do a lot of this type of writing; it inspires me. I like the challenge, and often am pushed (especially by LBH) to go above and beyond the poem I create, often after I have told myself it is “finished.”

More info about publishing poetry in anthologies: Anthologists, for the most part, don’t post information about their works in progress, so my advice for poets would be to get your own collection out there in the world, and they will see that, and possibly pick up a poem or contact you at some point. Another way, of course, is to go to conferences, make contacts. Still another, and very good way, is to publish your poetry in children’s magazines.

Info about poems appearing multiple places: Often, the same poem will be picked up multiple times by different anthologists. I have had this happen with at least two poems. “A Circle of Sun,” from my book Lemonade Sun and Other Summer Poems, was reprinted in Jack Prelutsky’s 20th Century Children’s Poetry Treasury and in Jane Yolen’s Here’s a Little Poem. Before that, LBH used it in a poetry program of small books and tapes by Sadlier Oxford, Me Myself and I, “Worlds of Poetry.” All have different illustrations that accompany the same poem, which is very interesting to see.

A poem I wrote for an older audience is “Whispers to the Wall,” and is in Paul Janeczko’s Kick in the Head, again in his newest Hey, You!, and will appear in America at War, selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins.

Elaine: You collaborated with J. Patrick Lewis on the book Castles: Old Stone Poems that was published last year. Can you tell us how the two of you connected to write that poetry collection?

Rebecca: Pat and I are very good friends, and email (multiple times) daily. We share poems, sometimes asking for advice, and sometimes just for a quick look with another critical eye. So it seemed natural when we decided to write a book together, but we needed a theme. We threw out ideas, then I told him I was working on a few castle poems, and he jumped on that idea. He loved the mystery of legend and castle lore as much as I did. We researched and made lists of castles we wanted to include, chose and divided up which ones we each would write, and set out to include fact, fantasy, legend and mystery. We traded poems back and forth, trading ideas and revision suggestions as we went along. It didn't take us long, although he is a much quicker writer than I am. He probably wanted to pull his hair out a time or two. You give Pat Lewis a collection of poems to write and he's finished while you sneeze.

Elaine: Are you working on a new collection of poems that you would care to tell us about?

Rebecca: I am always working on a new collection of poems. I am working on a dozen or more – that’s the problem. Like my grandmother always said, “honey, can’t you just stick with one thing?” If I could do that, I would have many, many more books of poetry out by this time. Instead, I have files full of half finished projects. I lose concentration easily. I get bored and jump from one thing to another. I was always like this. You might be able to tell by the way I answer interview questions. Speaking of which, back to your question – since my projects are jumbled, half finished and in progress, I’d probably rather wait until at least one is completed before I talk about it. I will say the poems I’m working on are not about Peeps or Sharpies. (Two of my favorite things.) They are about the magic I felt as a child.

P. S. I am writing a collection of Fairy Tale poems with Jane Yolen.

Visit the website of Rebecca Kai Dotlich to learn more about her and her books.
I would like to thank Rebecca Kai Dotlich for this interesting and informative interview.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Poetry of Rebecca Kai Dotlich

Last Friday, I wrote about the poetry of summer. In the post, I included a short review of Rebecca Kai Dotlich’s Lemonade Sun and Other Summer Poems—as well as two poems from her book.
Today, I’m going to write more about the poetry books of Rebecca Kai Dotlich. For Poetry Friday, I’ll post my interview with her.

I was introduced to Rebecca’s poetry with her first book Sweet Dreams of the Wild: Poems for Bedtime. This is a perfect book to read to young children at night. The poetry is soft and lilting and dreamy. Here is how the book opens:

As the moon unwinds its silver thread
And sleepy children climb in bed,
Sweet dreams are stirring in the air
As wild ones sleep—
Do you know where?

Illustrated by Katharine Dodge
Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press, 1996

Different animals—including a hummingbird, a red robin, a black spider, a caterpillar, a spotted cow, and a sea otter—are all asked where they sleep. The animals then answer the query in lyrical fashion. Here are excerpts from two of the book’s poems:

Red robin,
red robin,
where do you sleep?

I rest in a nest
built of twigs and string
with my head tucked under
a folded wing…

Black spider,
black spider,
where do you sleep?

I sleep in a web
of knitted threads,
woven of silk
in a flower bed.
On a thin, gauzy sheet
I sway in the air,
from a lilac bush
to the garden chair.

The book ends with a young child being asked where she sleeps:

Do you sleep in a bed
fluffed cozy and warm
with a white woolen quilt
and a bear in your arms?…

I thought Sweet Dreams of the Wild: Poems for Bedtime was reminiscent of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?. I asked Rebecca if that book was the inspiration for her first book. Here is her response:

No. But I can see why you might think that. No, it was actually a poem by Margaret Wise Brown that was written long before Martin wrote Brown Bear. It was called The Little Black Bug and was published in 1937.

From The Little Black Bug by Margaret Wise Brown: "Little black bug/little black bug/where have you been?"

Click here for a peek inside at Sweet Dreams of the Wild: Poems for Bedtime.

Rebecca also wrote a collection of poems entitled When Riddles Come Rumbling: Poems to Ponder. In the poems that are contained in this collection, Rebecca provides clues for readers—and the illustrator Karen Dugan provides further clues—to help them solve the riddles. And if readers still can’t deduce the answers, all they have to do is to flip back to the verso of the title page where the answers are provided.

Illustrated by Karen Dugan
Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press, 2001

The poems in When Riddles Come Rumbling could best be described as riddle rhymes. They are short and rhythmic…and many are written in the voices of the animals or objects that are the subjects of the poems. Here is one of the mask poems from the book:

I curl,
I coil,
I sidewalk-slide,
I slip,
I slink,
I garden-glide,
I speak in reptile-tongue,
(a hissssss)
I try to bite
You hope
I misssssssssss.

I guess it’s easy enough to figure that one out!

I particularly like the language Rebecca uses in some of the riddles to describe the animals and objects: A telescope is “A small magic funnel/a star-/spangled tunnel.” What does a hula hoop do? “That ring of wonder/spins around below the waist” A gumball machine is “a round glass world” and an octopus is a “boneless bandit/of the sea.” I also like her use of words describing the action of animals and objects in her riddles:

Snake: curl, coil, side-walk-slide, slip, slink, garden-glide
Roller coaster: grunt, grumble, twirl, whirl
Yoyo: rock, swirl, snap
Fireworks: boom, pop, decorate
Marbles: spinning, rolling, circling, colliding
Mechanical crane: swing, shoot, swivel
Telescope: searching, exploring, seeking, scanning, parading

When I was teaching in elementary school, I was always looking for poems like these with precise use of words, strong verbs, and creative language—poems that would serve as fine examples for my students’ writing…literature that would enrich their vocabularies.

Classroom Connection: Using the poems in When Riddles Come Rumbling: Poems to Ponder as models, have students write their own poetic riddles. The riddles don’t have to rhyme—but should include clues to help readers figure out the answers. It might be fun for the children to write their riddles in the form of mask poems and speak in the voice of the animals or objects that are the subjects of their riddles. The children could then read their riddles to their classmates and have them “ponder” the answers.

Click here for a peek inside at When Riddles Come Rumbling: Poems to Ponder.

Let’s take a look at another of Rebecca’s poetry collections entitled In the Spin of Things: Poetry of Motion.

Illustrated by Karen Dugan
Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press, 2003

This book contains poems about objects…in motion! These things include windshield wipers, a pencil sharpener, scissors, a rubber band, a classroom globe, a washing machine, a lawn mower, wind chimes, puppets, a roller coaster, a kitchen broom, and a carousel. Here again, Rebecca is adept with her use of language: Bite-sized bits of cereal “bob before/our breakfast nose…paddle in spoons.” A pepper shaker is a “peppered palace” “packed with a million/midnight spots.” Autumn leaves “gather in gutters.” A pencil sharpener “gnaws/and nibbles/whittles and whirs.” Ice cubes in drinks are “mixing, scrambling/changing places/chilly cubes/frozen faces.” The cubes swirl and romp and swim and melt. A lawn mower “Clips tips/spits bits/of grass/Scribbles/paths/forges trails/snails around/a maze/of trees.” A helicopter sways and swerves and hovers and its “paddle blades whirl/in the spin of things.” A roller coaster is described as “turtling up” as it climbs on the rails and as “hugging/the armored/humpback track.” Here are two poems from the book. The first poem rhymes; the second does not:

by Rebecca Kai Dotlich

X slides open,
squeezes shut—
snip, snip, snip,
Silver mouth
yawning wide;
clip, clip, clip,
Slash, gnash,
Dice up, dice.
slice, slice.
Paper cutters,
steel shears—
X swings out, then

by Rebecca Kai Dotlich

sea secrets
to the wind,
tin ballerinas
on a tangle
of string
their bittersweet
sweet voices
of chattering ghosts.

Classroom Connection: Discuss the objects in motion in Rebecca’s In the Spin of Things. Point out the ways she describes how the objects move or how they are moved by another force. Ask them to look around the classroom to see if they can name things that move or can be made to move--for example, windows, doors, chalk or dry erase markers, an eraser, computer keys, a pencil, a paint brush. Take the children outside and ask them to do the same thing. Students might mention that trees move in the breeze, swings swing back and forth on the playground, balls bounce up and down and can swirl around the rim of a basketball hoop.

Make a list of all the objects that the students name. Then talk about the kinds of movement specific to two or three of the objects. Select one of the objects and write a collaborative class poem about that object that is “in the spin of things.” All this brainstorming, discussion, and collaboration should be enough to get the children revved and ready to write their own “poetry of motion.”

Click here for a peek inside In the Spin of Things: Poetry of Motion.

I would like to express my thanks to Rebecca Kai Dotlich for granting me permission to include the full text of her poems posted here.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Wild Rose Reader 48 Hour Poetry Writing Challenge

Well, Michele of Scholar’s Blog and I didn’t participate in MotherReader’s 48 Hour Book Challenge—but we did a lot of writing this past weekend. I made up my own personal Wild Rose Reader 48 Hour Poetry Writing Challenge. I didn’t count up the minutes and hours I spent composing animal mask poems. That would have been too difficult because I was writing poetry while also doing research for and writing up my Here is a Poem About…#2 post and reading an adult nonfiction book. We also had two family birthdays to celebrate this weekend.

I challenged myself to write and polish six poems. I wrote and polished six poems. I may still tweak some of the poems a bit if I think I can make them better—and I may also change some of the titles.

Wild Rose Reader 48 Hour Poetry Writing Challenge Stats

First Poem: I’m Cat = 2 stanzas, 14 lines, 5 pairs of rhyming words

Second Poem: Monarch Caterpillar = 3 stanzas, 11 lines, 4 pairs of rhyming words

Third Poem: Minnow Music = 1 stanza, 14 lines, 6 pairs of rhyming words

Fourth Poem: Crickets = 1 stanza, 8 lines, 4 pairs of rhyming words

Fifth Poem: Mole Answers an Interview Question = 1 stanza, 12 lines, 3 pairs of rhyming words

Sixth Poem: Worker Bee = 1 stanza, 8 lines, 2 pairs of rhyming words

Total Stats = 9 stanzas, 67 lines, 24 pairs of rhyming words

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Here Is a Poem About...#2

Here are the poems I found for Laura and Vivian. Ladies, I did my best to fulfill the requests you made last week.

For Laura Purdie Salas of Wordy Girls

Laura asked for poems about guinea pigs and rock music. Let me say this: Poems about guinea pigs aren’t found in abundance in children’s poetry books.

Here’s A Guinea-pig Song (Anonymous 1773)

(Anonymous 1773)

There was a little guinea-pig,
Who, being little, was not big;
He always walked upon his feet,
And never fasted when he eat.

When from a place he run away,
He never at the place did stay;
And while he run, as I am told,
He ne’er stood still for young or old.

He often squeaked, and sometimes violent,
And when he squeaked he ne’er was silent.
Though ne’er instructed by a cat,
He knew a mouse was not a rat.

One day, as I am certified,
He took a whim and fairly died;
And as I am told by men of sense,
He never has been living since.

The poem above, which I can’t say I think is fine literature, can be found in the following book—which also includes an acrostic poem about a guinea pig written by a boy named Jake:

Edited by Robert Foster
Illustrated by Sally Kindberg
Faber and Faber, 1989

There is also a brief rhyming poem about a child’s pet guinea pig entitled Lullabies written by Katie McAllaster Weaver that can be found in the following I Can Read Book:

Selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins
Illustrated by Jane Manning
HarperCollins, 2003

Laura, I also found a website where you can read some haikus and tankas—purportedly written by a pet guinea pig named Piggywig. Click here to go to Tomato Leaf and Other Notions of Love.

I highly recommend the following picture book, which is a story of two pet guinea pigs that escape from their cage and end up inside the “tunnels” of a pool table. It’s an excellent book to read aloud to young children.

Written & illustrated by Holly Meade
Marshall Cavendish, 1998

Here are two poems about rock music. Both can be found in the following anthology:

Selected by Myra Cohn Livingston
Margaret K. McElderry Books, 1995

by Monica Kulling

dialing down the stations
tune in hot-shot rock
a compact sound companion
everywhere I walk…

walking with my radio
the city noises gone
the place between my ears
wall-to-wall song

by Eloise Greenfield

I get way down in the music
Down inside the music
I let it wake me
take me
Spin me around and make me
Uh-get down…

Way Down in the Music can also be found in the following poetry collection:

Written by Eloise Greenfield
Illustrated by Diane and Leo Dillon
Harper & Row, 1978

Laura, you may also want to look for Jaime Adoff’s poetry book entitled THE SONG SHOOTS OUT OF MY MOUTH. This collection contains twenty-four free verse poems about all different types of music—including rock, jazz, hip hop, and reggae…as well as a poem praising Mozart’s work.

Written by Jaime Adoff
Illustrated by Martin French
Dutton Children’s Books, 2002

For Vivian of HipWriterMama

Vivian asked for a poem about the frustration of dealing with a crashed laptop and a ranting poem that would make someone feel better afterward.

Vivian, these poems are the closest I could come to finding the kinds you are looking for.

by Gwendolyn Brooks

A computer is a machine.
A computer is interesting.
A machine is useful.
I can study a computer.
I can use it…

I conduct a computer.
A computer does not conduct me.

Computer can be found in the following book:

Selected by Paul B. Janeczko
Bradbury Press, 1990

(I had two experiences in successive summers a few years back. My house got hit during lightning storms and my computer got zapped in both storms! Fortunately, a computer technician at my husband’s company was able to retrieve all my files. I know…I know! I should back up all my files.)

I have a ranting poem by Karla Kuskin that was one my students always enjoyed listening to me read aloud. I can’t type the poem exactly the way it appears in books with the text getting increasingly larger as you read it from beginning to end to show how much angrier the child keeps growing.

by Karla Kuskin

I woke up this morning
at quarter past seven
I kicked up the covers
and stuck out my toe.
And ever since then

(that’s a quarter past seven)
they haven’t said anything
other than “no.”
They haven’t said anything
other than “Please, dear,
don’t do what you’re doing,”
or “Lower your voice.”

Whatever I’ve done
and however I’ve chosen,
I’ve done the wrong thing
and I’ve made the wrong choice…

I didn’t say sorry
I didn’t stand straighter.
I didn’t speak louder
when asked what I’d said.
Well, I said that tomorrow
at quarter past seven
they can
come in and get me.
I’m Staying In Bed.

This poem can be found in the following books:

Illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier
Laura Geringer/HarperCollins, 2003

Selected by X. J. and Dorothy Kennedy
Illustrated by Jane Dyer
Little, Brown, 1992

Another poem I found isn’t exactly a ranting poem—it’s a sulking poem:

by Felice Holman

I scuff
And puff
And frown
And huff
And stamp
And pout
Till I forget
What it’s about

Sulk can be found in the following book:

Selected by Jack Prelutsky
Illustrated by Arnold Lobel
Random House, 1983

And here’s an excerpt from Mean Song:

by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers

I’m warning you,
stay out of my way.
Today’s my day
for being mean mean mean!
So better stay clear.
Don’t even come near
or I’ll look at you mean
and you’ll wither away…

So better stay clear.
Keep out of my way.
I got up on the wrong
side of the bed today,
and I’m feeling mean—
and I mean mean.
Ve-ry MEAN!

I feel better already!

Mean Song can be found in the following book:

Written by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers
Illustrated by Susan Meddaugh
Clarion, 1988

Note to Laura and Vivian: If I find more poems for you, I’ll post them at Wild Rose Reader at a later date.

Friday, June 8, 2007

A Poem for MotherReader & Her 48 Hour Readers

I feel like a slug because I haven’t signed up for MotherReader’s 48 Hour Book Challenge. I recently made it one of my “summer goals” to finish a manuscript of animal mask poems that I began working on in May. I know that according to the calendar summer has not yet officially arrived—but I am going to have my own personal Wild Rose Reader 48 Hour Poetry Writing Challenge this weekend. I have fourteen poems (five old poems and nine new ones) for my collection in final draft form. I’d like to write and polish at least six more poems by Monday. Wish me luck.

I am dedicating a poem that I wrote for my daughter and put in a memory book for her when she graduated from high school in 1998 to Mother Reader and Her 48 Hour Readers. My daughter loved the memory book so much she took it away to college with her.

by Elaine Magliaro

A book and a chair
Are nice to share
When the edges of day
Have melted away
Into the night.

A book and a chair
Are nice to share—
Touching and talking,
Reading and rocking
Into the night.

POETRY FRIDAY: Summersaults and Lemonade Sun

School will soon be out. The summer solstice is just around the corner. Hotter days will arrive along with the sounds of children playing outdoors on weekday mornings. I can still remember vividly many of the sights and sounds and smells and tastes and activities of summer from my childhood:

Watching fireworks exploding into color in the night sky and hearing their loud crackles and booms on the Fourth of July

Eating slices of succulent watermelon, juice dribbling down my chin, and spitting out the slick black seeds onto the sidewalk

Listening to the sound of cicadas in the heat of a summer day and the song of crickets at night

Slurping up raspberry lime rickeys and chocolate ice cream sodas

Running through the sprinkler, my bare feet squishing through wet grass

Picking feather-topped carrots, glossy-skinned peppers, scallions, and ripe tomatoes from my grandparents’ garden

The smell of hamburgers and hot dogs being cooked on an outdoor grill

The banging of my kitchen screen door as I ran outside to play

The tart, refreshing taste of my mother’s homemade lemonade

Feeling the cool wet sand beneath my feet at the seashore

Playing hide-and-go-seek with my cousins and friends on a balmy summer evening

With these images in mind, I thought this would be a good time to write poems about summer. Wouldn’t this also be the perfect time for children to write summertime poems? I think it would be a wonderful and enjoyable final writing exercise for the school year.

Well, here are two fine collections of poems to get kids thinking “poetically” about the warmest season of the year.

Written & illustrated by Douglas Florian
Greenwillow/HarperCollins, 2002

Most kids love the poetry of Douglas Florian. I know my students did! SUMMERSAULTS contains twenty-eight lighthearted verses about such topics as fireflies, dandelions, swinging on a swing, bees, jumping rope, grazing cows, and baseball. The poems are rhythmic and rhyming and lots of fun to read aloud.

SUMMERSAULTS includes several excellent examples of list poems: What I Love about Summer, What I Hate about Summer, Greenager, Some Summers, No Fly Zone, Names of Clouds, Lost and Found, The Sea, and Dog Day. These poems could be used to inspire your students to write their own list poems about the different sights, sounds, smells, tastes, weather, and activities of summer. A teacher could brainstorm with her kids about all the things that come to mind when they think of summertime and school vacation. The teacher could write her kids’ contributions down on chart paper, guide the class in writing a class list poem about summer, and then ask them to write their own individual poems.

Here are excerpts from some of Douglas Florian’s list poems in SUMMERSAULTS.

From What I Love about Summer

Morning glories
Campfire stories
Picking cherries
And blueberries…

Skipping stones
Ice cream cones
Double plays
And barefoot days.

From What I Hate about Summer

Skinned knees
Ninety degrees…

Humid nights
Mosquito bites
Clothes that stick—
I hate that summer goes too quick.

From Lost and Found

Along the shore
I found six shells:
Two gray,
One white,
Three caramel…

Five feathers from
A seabird’s wings.
I wonder: Who
Has lost these things?

As a teacher, I believed it was always best to read the poetry of more than one poet to my students before asking them to write their own poems on a particular topic. Another collection of poems that would be great to share with kids prior to having them write their own summer poems is Rebecca Kai Dotlich’s LEMONADE SUN.

Written by Rebecca Kai Dotlich
Illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist
Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press, 1998

Dotlich’s writing style is different from that of Florian’s. While most of her poems celebrating summer are rhythmic and rhyming, they contain more imagery and figurative language. Let me provide you with some examples from her poems. She refers to jacks as tin bouquets/small bundles of piggyback stars. In Sunflowers, she compares the flowers to Golden guards/saluting/sky/garden kings/with chocolate eyes. In Dragonfly, she calls the insect a sky-ballerina/this glimmering jewel…with wings that you/could whisper through. In Backyard Bubbles, one of the loveliest poems in the collection, she compares a bubble to One fragile globe/of soapy skin/a glimmering/of breath within/a perfect pearl. Later in the poem she writes about another bubble that dances on a summer sigh/shimmering with shades of sky.

Dotlich includes other poems about lemonade, a lemonade stand, bumblebees, playing marbles, dandelions, pinwheels, jumping rope, going barefoot, jellyfish, a firefly, and fireworks. The poetry in this book definitely takes me back to the summer days of my childhood

Here are two poems from LEMONADE SUN


Popsicle stains.
Fudgesicle fun.
Strawberry sizzle—
Lemonade sun.

I will leave you with Dotlich’s poem SUMMER GREETINGS.

Today’s the day
that summer comes.
Good-bye to cold;
hello to sun!
Hello to rose
and vines of green,
to lettuce leaves—
oh, hello beans!
Today’s the day
for climbing trees,
for jumping rope
and skinning knees,
for swinging high
and skipping fast,
and reading
at last.

May we all have fun reading outside in summer!

Note: I would like to thank Rebecca Kai Dotlich for giving me permission to print the full text of two of her poems in my Poetry Friday post.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Memed Again!

Anne of Books Buds was tagged for a meme by Mentor Texts to share 10-15 professional and/or personal goals for the summer. Anne then went and tagged me. Sheesh…I got triple memed last week. I’m just about memed out.

Here are my goals for the summer…in no particular order.

1. I will attempt to finish throwing out all the old “stuff” I have accumulated over the years that is stored in my basement.

2. I will finish cleaning out my bedroom closet—which is rather large—of all the old clothes I haven’t worn in a year or two.

3. I am going to clean out the two closets on my first floor. (Yes, I am a pack rat. I admit it!)

4. I will send out the three finished manuscripts that have been sitting in a bookcase for several months.

5. I will complete and send out the manuscript of animal mask poems I started working on in May.

6. I will get back into my daily walking routine.

7. I’m going to try acupuncture.

8. I am going to try to get back into a more normal sleeping routine. It’s not easy for a night owl!

9. I’m going to try writing more picture book reviews for Wild Rose Reader.

10. I am going to attempt to finish a picture book text that I began last fall…and put aside for several months.

11. I am going to try to evade being tagged again for another meme for a few weeks!!!

I am tagging just one blogger for this meme—the one, the only…Michele, the Scholar and Doctor Who Aficionado!

I Am Looking for a Poem About...#2

Well, it has been over a month since I offered to find poems for blog readers. Today, tomorrow, and Friday you can ask me to look for a children's poem for you on a specific topic or subject. I will do my best to fulfill your requests. As I stated in an earlier post, I will provide requesters with the titles of poems and titles of books in which the poems can be found. I may have more than one poem suggestion for each requester.

I have no idea how many requests will be made. I will definitely search high and low for poems for the first three requesters. Last time, I had four requesters and found poems for them all.

You can read my responses to the I Am Looking for a Poem About...#1 here and here.

I will do my best to post my poetry suggestions by late Sunday evening or Monday morning.

Please be reasonable with your poem requests.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Picture Book Review: The Growing Story

Heavens knows I don’t need another picture book to add to my collection—but sometimes I just can’t help myself. When I was browsing around at the Banbury Cross Children’s Book Shop on Saturday, the front cover of a picture book caught my eye. I opened up the book, flipped through the pages, and knew I had to have the book…even before reading the text. I would have bought this book just for the illustrations!

I will admit that I usually have an emotional response to fine art and to illustrations in a picture book. I can look at art and know that I like it…know that it appeals to something inside me without stopping to evaluate why. It’s a response that is hard to express precisely in writing. I can tell you that the art in THE GROWING STORY captured my heart! I don’t how else to say it.

Written by Ruth Krauss
Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
HarperCollins, 2007

This is a simple story about a little boy who wonders if he will grow bigger. In spring, he notices that everything around him is growing—the grass, buds on trees, flowers on the side of the barn—and asks his mother if the baby chicks, his puppy, and he will grow too. His mother assures him that they all will grow.

A little time passes and the boy continues to see changes in the world around him. The days grow longer and the nights shorter. The grass grows faster, the flowers higher, and the leaves bigger. “We’re growing too,” the little boy assures the chicks and his puppy. When the days grow warmer, the little boy and his mother fold up his warm pants and his warm coat and put them away in a box. His mother informs him that he will put them on again once summer is past.

Summer progresses into autumn—all the while the roses and honeysuckle have bloomed, the corn has gotten taller than a man, and the pears have ripened. Even the chicks and puppy have grown up. The little boy wonders to himself if he is really growing. It is not until the cold weather returns and the little boy puts on his warm clothes once again that he realizes he HAS grown. The pants are too tight and the legs are too short. The sleeves on his jacket are also too short. Excited, he somersaults outside and announces to the chicks (that are now hens) and his puppy (who is now a big dog): “I’m growing too.”

This is most certainly a story to which young children can relate. They are always eager to grow taller and older so they can be like the “big” kids. Krauss’s text addresses the subject matter with plain and simple language—and lots of repetition, echoing the boy’s persistent questions and the perpetual changes in the plants and animals he sees all about him over the course of several months. This is a lovely tale about a child’s desire to grow up told in the context of seasonal changes.

I have never seen the original edition of THE GROWING STORY that was illustrated by Phyllis Rowand and published in 1947. I can’t imagine that the illustrations in the earlier edition could have complemented and interpreted the text of this story any better than Oxenbury’s illustrations.

Oxenbury sets the story on a farm in the countryside. She uses a palette of soft colors in her paintings. Her realistic watercolors and black and white drawings are the perfect mate for this old classic. Oxenbury is adept at drawing facial expressions, body language, and physical positions of the little boy, his mother, and the animals so that they display the characters’ feelings of wonder, love, excitement, comfort, and happiness.

The artist varies her illustrations in this book—some are two-page full color spreads with no frames or borders, some are smaller close-up illustrations of the boy and his mother in color, some are black and white drawings of the dog and hens. In two of the large paintings, the boy and his dog are but a tiny part of the illustrations—in effect, showing readers this boy’s sense of feeling so small in a world where everything seems to be growing but him. A two-page spread of the boy and his mother walking through an orchard of blossoming fruit trees is a glory of white blossoms, sunlight, and shadows.

THE GROWING STORY is a real charmer of a book. There is so much more to tell you about the ways Oxenbury employed every bit of the book from the front cover and endpapers to the back cover to enhance and extend the meaning of Krauss’s tale—but you’re just going to have to find yourself a copy and read it to see why I love this little gem of a picture book!

Classroom Connection for Preschool and Kindergarten Teachers: I think it would be a great idea to read this book to a small group or class of young children at the beginning of the school year and then measure their heights. At the end of the year, the story could be reread to the children and they could be measured once again. The children could then compare their heights to see how much they had grown from September to June.


Written by Lilian Moore
Illustrated by Jill McElMurry
Candlewick Press, 2001

This collection contains short poems for very young children about such subjects as the following: wearing a snowsuit, sneezing, peanut butter, waiting, finger painting, playing in the sand, and growing.

by Lilian Moore

I’m taller today
but nobody knows.
I looked in the mirror
way up on my toes.
For the very first time
I saw

Written by Lilian Moore
Illustrated by Lilian Hoban
Atheneum, 1995

This collection, which is now out of print, contains poems that speak to the experiences of very young children: hanging upside down on the monkey bars for the very first time, wearing a new pair of sneakers, going for a walk with an understanding grandpa, sliding downhill on a sled alone, and outgrowing last year’s coat.

From The Coat in My Closet

I opened the closet and
there was my coat—
the coat that I wore last year…

“I don’t reach your knees,”
the coat complained.
“Whatever did you do?”

“Coat,” I explained,
“I grew.”

OUT & ABOUT: June 4, 2007

I have been a bit remiss with my Out & About posts lately—so I have some links to one or two blog articles that may be a bit dated. Nonetheless, I am including them in case you’ve missed them along the way. I know I have a difficult time keeping up with all the things being written about in the kidlitosphere. That’s one reason I always check Jen Robinson’s Book Page for her roundups.

The Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards have been announced.

Anne at Book Buds has a challenge for readers. Read about it in her Another Cosmic Giveaway post. If you’d like to win a copy of COMETS, STARS, THE MOON, AND MARS, Douglas Florian’s new collection of space poems, you'll want to check it out.

If you haven’t been to the Carnival of Children’s Literature No. 14: The Fiesta Edition, get on over to Chicken Spaghetti.

You may want to stop by the Creation Museum Carnival, too. (Thanks to Becky at Farm School for the link.)

Read 7-Imp’s interview of fiction writer Libby Koponen, the last of the Blue Rose Girls to reveal interesting tidbits about herself. It’s a sad farewell for us girls. I’d like to send my thanks to Eisha and Jules for making the interview experience so easy and so much fun.

The Poetry Friday Roundup for June 1st is at Adventures in Daily Living.

Tricia has returned from her grand adventure and has posted a bunch of great articles about her travels this morning at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Cloudscome at A Wrung Sponge has a link to a slideshow of 24 photos she took for Project 365. Check out her Project 365: A look at May post for a glimpse of some of her wonderful pictures.

In her Poetry Friday post at A Year of Reading, Mary Lee gives us a couple of letter poems her students wrote recently. She plans to share the poems with her new students in the fall to give them a glimpse of what their school year in her classroom will be like.

Grace Lin has news about her next book project at Pacyforest.

Tricia Has Returned!

I just wanted to let everyone know that Tricia of The Miss Rumphius Effect has returned from her adventure of a lifetime. She's back blogging again about her travels on the other side of the planet. You've got to see the photographs she's posted this morning!

Welcome back, Tricia!

Saturday, June 2, 2007

It's Party Time for Another Blue Rose Girl

We Blue Rose Girls sure know how to party! Yep, just two weeks ago Grace Lin had a big bash to celebrate her birthday and the publication of LISSY’S FRIENDS on May 19th. You can read all about it and/or see party pictures at Pacyforest, Blue Rose Girls, and Wild Rose Reader.

Now, Meghan McCarthy, the camera-shy-frank-tell-it-like-it-is Blue Rose Girl is getting into gear for her big book celebration next Saturday—that’s June 9th for those of you who don’t have a calendar handy. Meghan’s new book, STRONG MAN: THE STORY OF CHARLES ATLAS, will be released on June 12th. And it’s already gotten a starred review from Kirkus! Way to go, Meghan!!!

Click here to get information about Meghan’s party at her website. Click here to read a party description at Blue Rose Girls.

I bet you’d like to have a sneak peek at STRONG MAN: THE STORY OF CHARLES ATLAS, wouldn’t you? Then just click here.

You just may want to read, if you haven’t already, Jules and Eisha’s interview with Meghan at 7-Imp.

Wishing you all the best with your new book, Meghan!!!

Friday, June 1, 2007

Poetry Friday: Interview with Douglas Florian, Part 2

Douglas Florian was kind enough to grant me a second interview. You can read my first interview with Douglas here. And let me say, once again, I am a huge fan of his poetry books for children!
Elaine: I read in a BookPage interview that you were inspired to write your first collection of children’s poetry after you picked up a copy of Oh, That's Ridiculous!, an anthology of humorous poems that was edited by William Cole. Can you tell us what it was about that book that gave you inspiration? Can you also give us some information about your first foray into children’s poetry?

Douglas: Oh, That's Ridiculous! was basically a very funny book, with poems from a wide variety of poets and time periods, including some of the first poems of Shel Silverstein. The irreverent drawings of Swiss artist Tomi Ungerer were amazing, and the design format was to have many poems with black ink drawings.

Elaine: Your series of books of animal poems has been very popular. Can you tell us what gave you the idea for Beast Feast, the first book in the series?

Douglas: I always felt that animals are a "natural" not only for poetry but visually as well. And they're great fun to research!

Elaine: Do you do much research before you begin one of your collections of animal poems?

Douglas: I do enjoy going to the Bronx Zoo, American Museum of Natural History, or reading books and articles about animals. And I always interview my backyard menagerie.

Elaine: You employ clever wordplay, puns, and pithy endings in many of your poems. You also coin new words like Saturning, super-dupiter, walrusty, and porcuskin. Much of your poetry is humorous. One would assume you enjoy having fun with words and making your readers laugh. Are you a funny person?

Douglas: I am occasionally a punny, I mean funny, person, but I'd rather be more funny in print than in person. Prince Charles of England once said, "The Americans are inventing too many new words," but I'm sorry, Charlie, it's great fun to do that.

Elaine: In addition to narrative and lyric poems, you write mask poems, poems of address, and concrete poems. You are also a master of rhythm and rhyme and the use of repetition in your poetry. How did you learn so much about the genre?

Douglas: I immersed myself in verse before writing beast feast, reading poetry from different times, cultures, forms, and mentalities. I am especially big on "pithy" poems, and sometimes wear a pith helmet to facilitate that.

Elaine: Do you read children’s poetry? If so, do you have any favorite children’s poets or favorite books of poetry?

Douglas: My favorite children's poet, by near and far, is Ogden Nash, although almost all of his animal poems follow the AABB rhyme scheme. His poems are sometimes misprinted. To see what I mean, just google: Ogden Nash the Kitten .

Elaine: Do you have any favorite adult poets?

Douglas: I've always loved the beat poets, especially Allen Ginsberg. In college I spent an entire term studying Milton's Paradise Lost, but it was lost on me.

Elaine: Which of all your collections has been your most successful or best-selling book to date?
Douglas: Insectlopedia was the number two pestseller, I mean bestseller, of children's books, thanks, in part, to Daniel Pinkwater's reading it with Scott Simon on NPR one Saturday. It's still selling well. I guess it has "legs" so to speak.

Elaine: Do you have a favorite among all the poetry books you have written?

Douglas: My favorite is:
beastfeastintheswiminsectlopediamammalabilializardsfrogsandpolliwogsbowwowmeowmeowbingbangboinblaugheteriazoo'swhoand comets,stars,themoon,andmars. I love them all.
For the art my favorite is comets, stars, the moon, and mars.

Elaine: Now that you have completed your fine series of seasonal poetry, published nine books of animal poems, and written a collection of space poems—what can we expect from you next? Are you working on a new collection that you would like to tell us about?

Douglas: I am totally obsessed with dinosaurs, in fact, I am thinking about changing my first name to Douglasaurus.

And there you have it readers—my second interview with Douglas Florian, a funny—and punny—man…and certainly one of the most talented illustrators and poets creating books for children today.

Note: I own and enjoy all of Douglas Florian’s poetry collections. My particular favorite is Insectlopedia. I absolutely LOVE that book!!! But I also love Winter Eyes, and Lizards, Frogs, and Polliwogs, and In the Swim, and On the Wing, and Summersaults, and Mammalabilia, and on and on and on.

I want to thank Douglas Florian for granting me this second interview for Wild Rose Reader. Douglas, I look forward to your next poetry collection!

Happy Poetry Friday!