Thursday, October 30, 2008

An Original Poem: Who's on Board the Straight Squawk Express?

I'm leaving today for the Keene State College Children's Literature Festival in New Hampshire. I'll be back on Sunday.

Here's my final, I think, political poem of the 2008 presidential campaign:

Who’s on Board the Straight Squawk Express? or Joe the Plumber Et Al
by Elaine the retired teacher

Joe the plumber,
Mack the Knife,
Hal the husband,
Val the wife,
Don the dentist,
Dick the doc,
Phil the farmer,
Hank the hawk,
Gail the grocer,
Ken the catcher,
Pat the daft
Police dispatcher,
Val the vet and
Babs the baker,
Chad the chocolate
Candy maker,
Al the actor,
Sal the singer,
Greg the guy
Who sniffs his finger,
Bud the butcher,
Mike the mayor,
Steve the hunky
Land surveyor,
Peg the pilot,
Bill the banker,
Nell the nightly
News-hour anchor,
Vic who drives
the old age van,
Rob the Roto-Rooter man,
Will the waiter,
Gil the gilder,
Bo the brawny
Body builder
Ted the teacher,
Don the drummer,
George and Sarah--
Dumb and dumber…
Driving over
Hill and dale
Busy on
The campaign trail.

At Blue Rose Girls, I have a poem entitled Halloween written by Mac Hammond.

Sylvia has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Poetry for Children.


Bone Soup: A Great Halloween Read-Aloud

Written & illustrated by Cambria Evans
Houghton Mifflin, 2008

When I was an elementary school teacher and a school librarian, I was always on the lookout for picture books to read aloud in my classroom or in the library in October. My students loved it when I turned off the overhead lights, switched on the electric jack-o’-lanterns, and began reading spooky or creepy tales to them. Here’s a review of Bone Soup, a book I recommend for reading aloud on Halloween.

Bone Soup is a retelling of the traditional tale Stone Soup--but this version is set on Halloween--and is replete with all manner of creatures, including zombies and a witch.

The Story: The main character, a ghoulish figure named Finnigin, is known far and wide for his ravenous appetite. Finnigin, a vagabond with no family or home, lives by his wits. Everywhere he goes, he takes along with him three things: his eating stool, his eating spoon, and his enormous eating mouth.

One Halloween, Finnigin sets off for a new town. He hopes that he’ll be invited to take part in the great feast. But a witch sees him on route, heads back to town, and warns the beast that “The Eater” is coming. Word spreads--and soon the zombies and mummy and all the creatures of the village are “talking about the impending arrival of Finnigin the Eater.” In a trice, the villagers stash their edibles:

In a panic, the witch booby-trapped
her jars of eyeballs,
the beast locked his bat wings in a cupboard,
the zombies put their frogs legs in the cellar,
and the mummy and other towns-
creatures hid all they had to eat.

The rest of the tale follows the storyline of the traditional tale. Finnigin knocks on doors and windows and requests food. Time and again he is told by village creatures there is no food. Undaunted, Finnigin makes a fire, fills the largest town cauldron with water, and sets it to boil. Then, he ceremoniously opens his cloak and pulls “out a magnificent piece of bone” and drops it into the cauldron. While stirring his bubbling concoction, Finnigin sings:





The townspeople are intrigued. One by one, they open their doors and head toward Finnigin and his pot of soup. And, one by one, Finnigin tricks the villagers into adding their tasty edibles to the pot: stewed eyeballs, bat wings, frog legs, etc. There’s a fabulous double-page, close-up spread of the gross greenish concoction floating with the aforementioned ingredients. In addition, there are spider eggs, dried mouse droppings, dandelions, and toenail clippings--all labeled for the reader lest he/she wonder what else is being stirred about in the cauldron. Of course, the villagers all concur that Finnigin’s bone soup is a hit.

Once the Halloween feast is over, Finnigin sets off again with his eating stool, his eating spoon….and his gigantic smiling mouth.

The Illustrations: Cambria Evans chose just the right palette for her tale set on the last night of October. Grays, browns, black, and ghoulish green provide a spooky atmosphere. Evans also added just the right touches of pink, yellow, and other colors for contrast. Her round-faced creatures aren’t really frightening--but just Halloweeny enough to send delightful shivers down the spines of young children who are sure to enjoy this new take on a familiar old tale.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sherman Alexie on The Colbert Report

I don't read too many YA novels. This summer I did read Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and absolutely loved it! Last night, Alexie was on the The Colbert Report, one of my favorite TV programs. Alexie was a great guest--and kept pace with the witty Colbert during his interview. Here's a link to the Alexie segment:

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Rabbit Hill

I had the time of my life at the Rabbit Hill Festival of Literature in Westport, Connecticut, last week! Grace Lin and I drove down to Connecticut last Thursday. Grace was one of the festival’s featured children’s illustrators. The other illustrators were Steve Jenkins, Barbara McClintock, David Wiesner, E. B. Lewis, and Mo Willems. It doesn’t get any better than that!!!

Here’s a description of the festival from the Web site:

The theme this year is Bringing Life to Literature,
featuring six creators of ground-breaking picture books
for all ages who will discuss how their lives inform their work.

Grace and I had dinner at Rabbit Hill, the home where Robert Lawson lived, with the other presenters and the festival organizers on Thursday evening. Our hosts, the present owners of Rabbit Hill, served up a sumptuous spread. The hosts gave us a tour of the downstairs after dinner. Then we headed off to the Westport Public Library for the keynote address by H. Nichols B. Clark, the Founding Director of the Eric Carle Museum. (BTW, Grace and I met Susan Thomsen of Chicken Spaghetti at the library. It was great to finally see Susan in person.)

Grace, Moi, and Susan Thomsen

On Friday, I accompanied Grace to Long Lots School where she did several presentations for students in the auditorium. The children were so excited to see her. Later, a small group of fifth graders interviewed Grace in the library…while the librarian filmed a video of the question and answer session. The teachers and school librarian had prepared the children well for Grace’s school visit. Students had made kites, paper fortune cookies, and one class even designed their own snowflakes.
Scenes from Long Lots School

Friday evening, we all had dinner at the Red Barn Restaurant. I had the great fortune to sit next to Steve Jenkins, one of my favorite authors and illustrators of nonfiction books for children. The gentleman is a font of knowledge about science and the natural world. That evening, I also met and chatted with children’s poet Patricia Hubbell. That was an unexpected--and happy--surprise.
On Saturday, attendees of the festival got to hear the large group presentations of all six illustrators and authors. We learned about their early years and how they became authors and illustrators of children’s books. Their presentations were all outstanding and unique--like the art these individuals create for their books.

After lunch, I sat in on the small group breakout sessions led by Steve Jenkins and E. B. Lewis. Steve explained his process for writing and illustrating a nonfiction book, discussed how he selected handmade papers for his illustrations, and talked about science. In E. B. Lewis’s session, we had an informal discussion about the current state of publishing multi-cultural books for children and other topics. He also showed us some of his beautiful watercolor originals. E. B. is a fine artist--as well as an illustrator. He coined the term artistrator for himself.

Then, after the book signing, Grace and I headed off for a lovely buffet dinner with the rest of the “Rabbit Hill Gang.” We decided not to drive home on Saturday--so we spent one more night in lovely Westport.

Mo Willems & Marcia Leonard

(Marcia is an editor for Clarion.)

David Wiesner & E. B. Lewis

Barbara McClintock & Steve Jenkins

I can tell you that all the public and school librarians who guided us around and drove us from place to place while we were at the festival were some of the finest, warmest, and most helpful people I have ever met. I just wish I had taken pictures of them all!

Grace Lin with two of the fabulous librarians of Westport and a young admirer.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Rabbit Hill Festival of Literature

Grace Lin and I will be heading off to Westport, Connecticut, for the Rabbit Hill Festival of Literature today.


Here is a list of the children’s authors and illustrators who will be presenting at the Festival's Saturday Symposium:

That’s quite a lineup, isn’t it? I’ve never heard Steve Jenkins, E. B. Lewis, or Mo Willems speak at a children’s literature festival or conference before. I’m so excited. I’m looking forward to seeing Barbara McClintock again. Barbara is going to be the featured speaker at the spring dinner meeting of our reading council in May 2009.

Grace and I won’t be returning to Massachusetts until Sunday--so I doubt that I’ll be posting on Poetry Friday.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Children's Literature and Teaching about Diversity

I have found it difficult recently to focus my mind on blogging about children’s literature considering everything that’s transpired in the past couple of weeks during the presidential campaign. I have been truly disturbed by the tenor of some of the campaign rhetoric that appears to have incited some individuals to outwardly express racist and divisive sentiments.

I found this video (Muslim McCain Fans Confront Intolerance at Rally) at the Huffington Post Monday morning. It inspired me to write up the following post:

Several years ago I attended a children’s literature conference in Maine. There, I met Suzanne Fisher Staples, the author of the Newbery Honor book Shabanu, Daughter of the Wind. Staples had at one time served as a UPI correspondent in Asia in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. During her presentation at the University of Southern Maine, Suzanne talked about her experiences in Afghanistan and showed slides that she had taken while stationed in that region of the world. That night, I had dinner with Suzanne, Brian Pinkney, and Sue Sedenka, the organizer of the conference. It was interesting to hear Suzanne’s perspective about the people she had met and gotten to know when she worked as a correspondent and about what she had learned about the kinds of lives they lead.

Suzanne wrote a Compass Points piece entitled Tolerance Is Not Enough for the November/ December 2001 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. It was required reading for the students who took the children’s literature course that I taught at Boston University for several years. I’d like to post some excerpts from Suzanne’s piece and to provide you with a link to the full text of the article at The Horn Book Web site.

From Tolerance Is Not Enough
by Suzanne Fisher Staples

Among the many things I learned living in that part of the world is that Christians and Jews and Muslims have a lot more in common than they have differences. The Koran is much like the Bible and the Judaic scriptures in its prescriptions for how people ought to behave toward one another.

From hours of sipping tea around fires in camps all over rural Pakistan and Afghanistan, I have also learned that relatively few Muslims are fundamentalists. They abhor terrorism and are more often victims of it than we are. Muslim terrorists are not regarded as religious martyrs but as fanatics who use religion to justify political acts.

I began to think then of story as a way of providing insight into the lives of people from other cultures, because story is based on the stuff of the human heart. Story shows what we have in common, not what separates us. That was when I decided I wanted to write fiction.

We in America pride ourselves on tolerance, but we must learn quickly that tolerance is not enough. It is diversity that must be embraced and celebrated if this madness is ever to stop. Diversity can fill us with surprise and touch us with familiarity. It is the richness of life, and is not to be feared.

You can read the full text of Staples’ piece here.


Message to Sarah Palin, Nancy Pfotenhauer, and Michelle Bachmann: I’m a registered Democrat; I live in a city in Massachusetts, the bluest of blue states; I’m a real American…and I'm pro-American!!!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Halloween Acrostics

I had really hoped to write a poem about "Joe the plumber" for today--but, alas, not all the “dirt” on this pseudo handyman has been unearthed yet. I must do more research before I can pen my Ode to Joe and His Plunger. So, instead, I wrote these two acrostic poems for Halloween.

Ghastly spirit
Hovering in dark corners of the
Old house it once inhabited…
Silent sentinel of the past
Torn between two worlds

Wicked, warty crone, dressed
In black, a peaked hat
Teetering on her head as she
Careens through the air on her broom cackling
Happy Halloween!


At Blue Rose Girls, I have two poems for daughters--one by Naomi Shihab Nye and one by Minnesota poet James Lenfestey.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is at Becky’s Book Reviews.


Friday, October 10, 2008

Poetry Friday: Another Palinoem

I couldn't help myself again. Here is the third in my series of "Palinoems"--poems about Sarah Palin.

Innuendo…and More
Sarah Palin Stumpin’ Along on the Campaign Trail
by Elaine Magliaro

He pals around with terrorists!
He doesn’t love the USA.
He really isn’t one of US!
“Fer shur, fer shur,” that’s what I say.

His middle name’s Hussein, ya know.
How UN-American is that?
“Who is ‘that’ tall dark one?” you ask.
Why, he’s one black, elusive cat.

Who is Obama? Who is he?
He’s really not one of our kind!
He lived in Indonesia once…
Hawaii, too! Keep that in mind!

He won’t support our troops--oh no!
He’s not a patriot like me.
I’m just a down home country girl.
Heck, I’m a hockey mom, ya see.

Why, he’s elitist; I’m mainstream.
Ya know, I’m like the rest of you.
Gosh darn it, I’m no millionaire.
I know what y’all are goin’ through.

I’m a maverick reformer.
Oh, I’m a mighty Amazon.
My heels are on; my gloves are off.
I’m here to save the day for John.


At Blue Rose Girls, I have a poem by James Weldon Johnson entitled The White Witch.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is at Picture Book of the Day.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

2008 Keene State College Children's Literature Festival

The 2008 Keene State College Children’s Literature Festival will be held on Saturday, November 1st. It looks to be another great festival. Just look at the list of speakers!!! I highly recommend this children’s literature event. Come join us in New Hampshire this year. (Click here for the registration form.)

Featured Speakers
(The list below was taken from the Festival Web site.)

Steven Kellogg presented at our very first festival on April 1, 1978. His books are loved by children, and he is known for his energetic and humorous presentations. His beloved harlequin Great Dane inspired Pinkerton, Behave! and his senior cat Secondhand Rose was in its sequel A Rose For Pinkerton. His tall tale titles include Mike Fink, Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, and Johnny Appleseed. He has also done nonfiction work as in If You Made A Million. A new book is Clorinda about a farm cow who goes to the ballet. Steven's website is

Andrew Glass lives in NYC and is a twin. He has illustrated many books for other authors and well as writing and illustrating his own. He is the illustrator of the Appalachian folktale Soap! Soap! Don't Forget the Soap! as well as She'll Be Coming Around the Mountain. He is the illustrator of Eric A. Kimmel's The Erie Canal Pirates. He illustrated The Legend of Strap Buckner and Thank You Very Much, Captain Ericsson. Two of the books he both wrote and illustrated are The Wondrous Whirligig and Bewildered for Three Days: As to Why Daniel Boone Never Wore His Coonskin Cap. For information about Andrew, go to

Eric A. Kimmel, of Oregon, has retold so many folktales from around the world that it would be a task of identify them all. Some of his titles include, I Took My Frog To The Library, Hershel And The Hanukka Goblins illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman, several Anansi tales from Africa, from the Ukraine Sirko And The Wolf, from the Middle East Onions & Garlic, from Italy Count Silvernose, from Israel Why The Snake Crawls On Its Belly, and from China The Rooster's Antlers. Eric's web site is

Carolyn Coman divides her time between homes in Waymart, PA and South Hampton, NH. Her first novel was Tell Me Everything. For Many Stones she was a National Book Award finalist and a Michael L. Printz Honor Book recipient. What Jamie Saw, a novel about child abuse set in New Hampshire, was a National Book Award finalist and a Newbery Honor Book. The Big House is a funny crime and punishment novel with siblings Ivy and Ray. Its sequel is Sneaking Suspicions. Both of these books have drawings by Rob Shepperson. Coman and Shepperson are currently working on another project.

Rob Shepperson, of Croton-on Hudson, NY will be co-presenting with Carolyn Coman. In addition to their books together, Rob has been the illustrator for other authors' works. Some of these include: Under the Kisseltoe by J. Patrick Lewis, Bugs by David L. Harrison, and Thunderbloom by Charlotte Pomerantz. Rob has a web site at

Jerry Pinkney is a good friend of Keene State College and has been here several times. He has been creating art for more than 30 and has more than 75 children's books. His truly exceptional art has earned him numerous awards including Caldecott Honors, Correta Scott King Awards, and King Honors. Just a few of his titles are Sam And The Tigers; Black Cowboy, Wild Horses; Drylongso; Mirandy And Brother Wind; and John Henry. His illustrations for Noah's Ark earned him one of his Caldecott Honor Awards in 2003.

More Festival Information

Here’s the daily schedule for a festival.

Click here for directions.

Read A Keene Time in New Hampshire, a blog post about the 2007 Festival written by Liz Goulet Dubois.

Here’s my post about the 2007 Keene State College Children’s Literature Festival.

Owl Unveiling at Keene State College
Children’s author and illustrator Michael Dooling will be at Keene State College in New Hampshire on Saturday, October 25th. Dooling created the one hundredth owl for the Festival Owl Project. There will be a special unveiling of the owl at the college at 3:30 PM. Dooling will then be doing a free presentation on the second floor of Rhodes Hall from 4:00 to 5:00 PM.

(You can read more about the “Keene” owls here.)

New Children's Poet Laureate Announced!


Here’s some great news: Mary Ann Hoberman has just been named the second Children’s Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation. Hooray!!! Mary Ann is one of my favorite children’s poets. Read more about Mary Ann and her poetry here.

Here are two Wild Rose Reader posts about Mary Ann Hoberman:

Monday, October 6, 2008

A Pumpkin Year

It's that pumpkin time of year! I have reviews of two picture books and links to pumpkin crafts and activities for you.

Story by George Levenson
Photographs by Shmuel Thaler
Tricycle Press, 1999

Pumpkin Circle is a fine nonfiction book to read aloud to children in kindergarten through the early elementary grades. This book clearly conveys information about the life cycle of a pumpkin from seed into a fully matured fruit to decaying jack-o’-lantern to seedling through photography. Thaler’s close-up photographs of pumpkin seeds, seedlings, roots, leaves, tendrils, buds, flowers, and rind are exceptional. The spare text is at the same time factual and lyrical. Although the book may have read better had the author not tried to rhyme the text, there is still much to commend in Levenson’s writing.

The first page of the book:

the air
is damp
and cool.
The walls
teardrop seeds,
each one
a slippery jewel.

From a description of the plant’s leaves:

Huge green leaves grow toward the sky,

The plant’s “flower buds appear/with pointy little collars and gleaming silver hair.”

Pumpkin Circle isn’t a typical nonfiction book. The text reads like a book-length poem, albeit with imperfect rhymes. Still, I think, it lends itself well to reading aloud to young children--and to introducing them to figurative language. For sure, even the youngest non-readers could learn much about the life cycle of a pumpkin just from browsing through the book and looking at Thaler’s photographs.

Written & illustrated by Will Hubbell
Albert Whitman, 2000

Pumpkin Jack is a title that I would describe as a “realistic fiction” picture book. The book’s story explains the life cycle of a pumpkin--but this tale starts with the decomposition of a jack-o’-lantern named Jack--one carved by a young boy named Tim.

After Halloween, Tim takes Jack outside and leaves him in the garden. After a time, Tim notices that Jack is beginning to shrivel. Then he sees that mold has spread over Jack's “bright orange skin.” Jack grows flatter and flatter…and then is cloaked beneath a layer of snow. Winter passes, March arrives, and the snow melts. Tim observes that there is little left of the pumpkin--just crumpled skin, a stem, and a few seeds. Tim scrapes a layer of dirt over Jack.

But when spring turns “barefoot warm, a tiny seedling appeared where Jack had been.” Sure enough, one of the pumpkin’s seeds has sprouted. Tim weeds and waters the plant and watches it grow from a sprout to a “web of vines.” Days grow warmer still--and flowers appear on the pumpkin plant: “Flowers opened on the plant each morning, yellow stars that twisted shut forever in the afternoon.”

In time, Tim finds “a little green ball growing behind a crumpled blossom.” He’s excited. The pumpkin plant continues to grow. Then, one October morning, Tim awakes to see frost coating plants in the garden. Upon his return from school that day, Tim searches through “the withered leaves for the unripe pumpkins.” He picks them and puts them on his front porch. By the end of October, the pumpkins have ripened. Tim gives all but one of them away. He carves the one he keeps…another pumpkin he calls Jack. A year has come full circle.

Hubbell’s illustrations done in colored pencil with solvent washes are colorful, effective, and strongly support the realistic tone of this nature-themed story about decomposition and rebirth.

Pumpkin Crafts & Activities

From Scholastic: Observing the Pumpkin Cycle

From Kaboose: Pumpkin Crafts.

From Free Pumpkin Carving Patterns

From Scholastic: Pumpkin Seed Estimation & Pumpkin Science Photograph Book

From Education World: Pump Up the Curriculum with Pumpkins!

From Enchanted Learning:
Anastasia Suen has the Nonfiction Monday Round-up at Picture Book of the Day.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Poetry Friday: Autumn Acrostics

Here are four autumn acrostics I wrote for Tricia’s Monday Poetry Stretch at The Miss Rumphius Effect. You will find the Poetry Stretch Results here.

Elaine Magliaro

Animals get ready for winter--slip
Under stones, hide in hollow logs, bury
Themselves in pond bottoms. The
Underlife of leaves bursts forth in a
Myriad of colors and they dazzle like jewels on a
Necklace of trees.

Must fly south
Into the sun…must
Get going…before Mother Nature
Raises her icy hands
And frosts
This world
In white. Follow me
On the wing to a land that does
Not know the chill of winter

Like baby birds
Eager to test their wings
A scarlet flock takes flight in a silent
Valediction to summer.
Earthbound, they

Settle into autumn, curl up from the cold.

Crimson and gold, pumpkin
Orange, lemon yellow, burnt sienna...
Leaves don their autumn finery in
October to celebrate the season.
Restless breezes set them dancing,
Swirling through air like a rainbow of dervishes

At Blue Rose Girls, I have a poem by Judith Harris entitled Gathering Leaves in Grade School and three of my original autumn poems that were previously posted at Wild Rose Reader.

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is at Two Writing Teachers.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Autumn: Book Lists & Book Reviews


Here are links to some of my previous posts at Wild Rose Reader for those of you interested in autumn leaf crafts and picture books and poetry books about autumn and autumn leaves:

Autumn Book Bunch: Leaves, Leaves Leaves!
Here you’ll find reviews of three picture books I highly recommend for reading to young children during the fall season: Oliver Finds His Way, Fletcher and the Falling Leaves, and The Little Yellow Leaf.

Look What I Did with a Leaf!
Here you’ll find a review of the nonfiction book Look What I Did with a Leaf!, which includes ideas and instructions for creating leaf animal collages. I used this book as a springboard for a cross curricular/collaborative art project I did with our art teacher when I taught second grade.

Fall into Poetry
Here you will find reviews of Dappled Apples, a picture book written in verse and three poetry collections--Autumnblings, Autumn: An Alphabet Acrostic, and A Chill in the Air: Nature Poems for Fall and Winter.

Browse Inside Douglas Florian’s Autumnblings (HarperCollins Web site)

Autumn Leaf Crafts & Activities

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

HALLOWEEN: Book Reviews & Book Lists

A List of Links

Book Reviews from Wild Rose Reader