Sunday, July 27, 2008

Unlikely Titles

The following “unlikely titles” were written by Ron Koertge for the Cadenza feature that appeared in the September/October 2006 issue of The Horn Book:

Ron Koertge's Unlikely Titles

A Wrinkle Caught Just in Time (The Botox Journals)

Winnie the Poop

Bipolar Magee

Horton Hears a Whom

The Little Engine That Could but at $3.99 a Gallon Didn’t Very Often

You can read the rest of Koertge’s Unlikely Titles here.

I was inspired by Koertge’s Unlikely Titles. As soon as I finished reading the Cadenza, I picked up my pencil and started writing down my own “unlikely titles.” Then I typed the titles on my computer, saved them in a file, and forgot about them. This morning, as I was deleting files from my computer, I came upon my “Unlikely Titles” document. I added a few more titles…and here they are:

Elaine’s Unlikely Children’s Book Titles

Chicken Soup with Lice

The Very Hungry Larva

The Ultra-suede Rabbit

Mike Mulligan and His Ethanol-powered Backhoe

Snow White and the Seven Short-statured Men

Alexander and the Wonderful, Marvelous, So Good, Very Great Day

Green Egg Beaters and Spam

A Condo Is a Condo for Me

Frog and Toad Are Married

The Bon Jour Au Revoir Window

I Still Stink!

Frankenstein Makes a Panino

Click Clack Cluck: Chickens That Tap Dance

Brie and Caviar for Frances

Where the Wild Things Are Having an Orgy

Harriet the Spy Returns: The FISA Files

Would anyone care to suggest some more Unlikely Titles?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Goodnight Bush: A Picture Book for Adults

A good friend--who is a fellow book lover and liberal--called me the other day. She wanted to tell me that she had a “special” book for me. She wouldn’t tell me anything about it. She wanted it to be a surprise. And it was…most definitely! My friend couldn’t wait for me to read the book. She knew my husband and I would appreciate it as much as she did. Here’s the book she had gotten for me:

By Erich Origen & Gan Golan
Little Brown, 2008

There is nothing I like more than a good parody. And what could be better than searing parody of our present administration?

Find Out More about Goodnight Bush

The Official Good Night Bush Website

From NPR: Goodnight Bush Closes Chapter On Bush Years

NY Times Book Review: The Secret to Success in Publishing: Bash Bush, With Nods to a Classic

The World's Greatest: Poems--A Book Review

When I was working as an elementary school librarian, one of the most frequently requested books was The Guinness Book of World Records. Kids seem to relish reading about the biggest/tallest/smallest/longest/shortest, etc., objects and animals and “the most” amazing human feats. My guess would be that kids who enjoy reading about such things would really appreciate J. Patrick Lewis’s most recently published poetry book, The World’s Greatest: Poems. Take note of the colon in the title. The book is not a compilation of poems that Lewis thinks are the “best” in the world--but of superlatives that have made the record books. Here is a sampling of poem titles from this book: The Shortest Street, The Longest Traffic Jam, The Winningest Woman in the Iditarod Dog Sled Race, The Most Live Scorpions Eaten by a Human, and The Most Cobras Kissed Consecutively. Now, tell me you’re not especially intrigued by those last two titles! I bet you would really like to find out who would eat live scorpions…and how many he ate, wouldn’t you? Well, you’ll just have to read the book to find out.

by J. Patrick Lewis
Illustrated by Keith Graves
Chronicle Books, 2008

This collection of “record-breaking” poetry is fun to read. A master of light verse, J. Patrick Lewis proves himself adept at taking factual information and writing about it with wry humor and the clever turn of phrase. These “greatest” poems are written in a variety of forms, including limerick, acrostic, and concrete poetry. Although not of historic importance, the subjects Lewis selected to write about in his rhythmic and rhyming (with one exception) poems would most likely be of interest to young readers...and listeners.

Here are some of the facts Lewis imparts in his book:

  • The smallest American newspaper measured 3 X 3 ¾ inches.
  • The biggest pumpkin weighed 1,469 pounds.
  • The longest time a person was stuck in an elevator was 81 hours.
  • The talkingest bird was a budgerigar (a type of parakeet) named Puck who knew 1,728 words.
  • Alfred A. E. Wolfam holds the record for the most Kisses. He smooched a total of 10,504 people in eight hours. (After that I bet Alfred was not only tuckered--but also puckered--out!)

Would you believe that the longest traffic jam was more than 1,000 miles long? To be exact, it was recorded at 1,093 miles! Where and when did this record-breaking jam occur? Lyon toward Paris, France, on February 16, 1980.

Here is how Pat Lewis relates the event in his poem that takes the shape of a long line of traffic:

The Longest Traffic Jam
By J. Patrick Lewis

Bleak end.

(That poem certainly resonates with me--and would probably with anyone else who has ever been stuck waiting in line near the Hampton toll station in New Hampshire on a Saturday in summer. Our longest time waiting in line to pay our toll was 2 ½ hours! One year we even got rear-ended--twice--by the same driver who tried to leave the scene of the accident…until her car conked out a few hundred feet ahead of us. She couldn't have gone far anyway--not with all that traffic! It was no minor accident. The car repairs cost $7,000.)

But…I digress from this book review. Forgive me.

The Largest Mantle of Bees provides a fine example of Lewis’s mastery of humorous verse and poetic wordplay. The poem is about a man whose body was said to have been covered by an estimated 343,000 bees. Lewis concludes it with a delightful--and “punny”--ending.

The Largest Mantle of Bees
By J. Patrick Lewis

A busy buzzy body, he’s
a hive for eighty pounds of bees.
His beard was bees,
his nose was bees,
his arms and legs and toes were bees.

His wife, they tell us, laughed so hard
she broke the hammock in the yard!
We don’t know why it struck her funny,
but ever since, she’s called him Honey!

The World’s Greatest: Poems would be a “great” book to share with children in elementary and middle school. Kids are sure to take pleasure in hearing poems about The Kookiest Hat, The Dumbest Dinosaur, The Tallest Roller Coaster, The Longest Time a Human Remained Standing, and The Highest Air on a Skateboard. The book’s illustrations done by Keith Graves in acrylic paints and colored pencils add to the fun and complement the humorous nature of this poetry collection.

Classroom Connection: After sharing this book with children, it might be fun to have them select their favorite “record breakers” from The Guinness Book of World Records and write their own "greatest" poems about them.

Note: I asked Pat Lewis where he got his idea for writing The World’s Greatest: Poems. Here’s what he told me:

The inspiration came from my having written A BURST OF FIRSTS. I thought I could extend that by choosing the biggest, tallest, shortest, smallest, et al, all of whose subjects were culled from THE GUINNESS BOOK OF RECORDS. I'm trying to prove in my books that there is no subject in the world that does not lend itself to poetry.

I say Amen to that!

Written by J. Patrick Lewis
Illustrated by Brian Ajhar
Dial, 2001

Another Note: I had planned to include a full review of A Burst of Firsts: Doers, Shakers, and Record Breakers in this post. Unfortunately, the book is now out of print. I will tell you that in this book Lewis wrote poems about both historically significant and insignificant events and people. The insignificant: the first non-Japanese sumo wrestler, the first parachute wedding, the biggest bubble-gum bubble ever blown, and the #1 lunch choice of school kids.

From #1 Lunch Choice of School Kids

ISN’T macaroni
ISN’T French fries
ISN’T plain bologna
ISN’T Moon Pies
ISN’T peanut butter
ISN’T Cap’n Crunch
ISN’T what your mother went
And packed inside your lunch!

(Pssst! It’s pizza.)

The historically significant events and figures: Ruby Bridges, the first child to integrate a white school; Jackie Robinson, the first person to break the color barrier in baseball; Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, the first men on the moon; and Sally Ride, the first American woman in space.

Here are the third and fifth stanzas from First Men on the Moon:

The first man down the ladder, Neil,
Spoke words that we remember now--
“one small step…” It made us feel
As if we were there, too, somehow.

A quarter million miles away,
One small blue planet watched in awe.
And no one who was there that day
Will soon forget the sight he saw.

To learn more about the talented J. Patrick Lewis and his work, click here to read the interview I did with him for Wild Rose Reader in April.

I would like to thank J. Patrick Lewis for granting me permission to post poems and excerpts from his books The World’s Greatest: Poems and A Burst of Firsts.


At Blue Rose Girls, I have a poem by Richard Hoffman entitled Summer Job.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is at A Year of Reading.


Monday, July 21, 2008

Rattletrap Car: A Great Summer Read-Aloud

Here’s a terrific summertime read-aloud for young children. It was a favorite in my elementary school library. Rattletrap Car is a good book for introducing children to onomatopoeia and for predicting skills. The book has rhythmic refrains and words that are fun to say. I always encouraged children in the library to participate in the telling of the story when I read it to them. (See below.)

Written by Phyllis Root
Illustrated by Jill Barton
Candlewick Press, 2001

The Characters: Poppa and his three children--Junie, Jakie, and “the baby”

The Story: It’s a hot hot hot summer day. Junie, Jakie, and the baby want to go to the lake to cool off. Father is concerned that they might not make it to the lake in his “rattletrap” car. As Poppa says, “It doesn’t go fast and it doesn’t go far.” But the children insist…so Poppa decides to give it a try. The family packs up everything they want to take along for their outing at the lake:

  • Dad packs a thermos full of razzleberry dazzleberry snazzleberry fizz and a tub of chocolate marshmallow fudge delight.
  • Junie takes her beach ball.
  • Jakie takes his surfboard.
  • The baby takes her three-speed, wind-up, paddle-wheel boat.

Little do the characters know that they will need everything they’re taking with them even before they reach the lake.

Once everyone is in the car, Poppa turns the key…

brum brum brum brum
Clinkety clankety
bing bang pop!


They were off to the lake
In their rattletrap car.
They didn’t go fast and
They didn’t go far when


The tire went flat.

Oh my goodness! What are they going to do? Junie knows. She gets her beach ball and sticks it onto the car in place of the flat tire with some of the chocolate marshmallow fudge delight.

The family sets off again on the trip to the lake…but...

whumpety whomp!
The floor fell off.

No problem! Jakie takes his surfboard and sticks it to the underside of the car with…what else?...chocolate marshmallow fudge delight.

With a
Wappity bappity
lumpety bumpety
clinkety clankety
bing bang pop!

They are off to the lake once more. Then the gas tank falls off. Not to worry. Dad attaches the thermos of razzleberry dazzleberry snazzleberry fizz to the rear of the car--with chocolate marshmallow fudge delight--and the family is back on the road. But when the engine falls out, it seems their hopes of ever getting to the lake are dashed. Jakie, Junie, even Poppa don’t have a clue what to do to get the car running again. That’s when the baby shakes her three-speed, wind-up, paddle-wheel boat and cries, “Go, go, go.”

Junie, Jakie, and Poppa get to work putting the baby’s boat in place of the fallen engine. Then Poppa turns the key and the car starts up. Sure enough…the family makes it to the beach in their "rattletrap car." They splash in the water and stay cool all day long…till the moon comes up and they get into the car and go…

flippita fluppita
fizzelly sizzelly
wappity bappity
lumpety bumpety
clinkety clankety
bing bang

all the way back home.

Library/Classroom Suggestions

1. Prior to reading the book aloud, print the words below on large chart paper. Point to the words as you read them aloud to children. Do this a few times until children know the words. Then encourage them to join you in saying the words when they are repeated several times in the book…along with the addition of a new line (two words) each time the family fixes a "rattletrap car" problem and sets off on the road again.

lumpety bumpety
clinkety clankety
bing bang

2. Tell children to listen carefully as you read to them all the things the family took with them to the beach. Tell them it will be important to remember what they brought along.

3. When the family experiences their first problem--the flat tire--ask children what item the family brought along that they might be able to use in place of the tire? Do the same with the car floor, gas tank, and engine.

My students loved saying words like razzleberry dazzleberry snazzleberry fizz and those listed above and repeating the refrains with me as I read Rattletrap Car aloud. I got lots of requests for this book after I shared it in the library.

Lesson Idea
A Lesson from Writing Fix: An Onomatopoetic Field Trip (using onomatopoeia to tell the story of an imaginary field trip)

Art by Jill Barton
Images of some illustrations done by Jill Barton for Rattletrap Car and other picture books.

Three More Books Illustrated by Jill Barton

Friday, July 18, 2008

Popsicle: An Original Poem

I’ve been on a semi-vacation from blogging for a few weeks now. I’ve been spending more time reading--and cleaning out my basement--than writing poetry or posts for Wild Rose Reader. I thought I’d post an original “summer” poem this week, a poem I just wrote this spring.

By Elaine Magliaro

Red rivers
Of cherry juice
Down my chin.

My mouth’s
A crimson cave
Of coolness
Of flavored ice
At Blue Rose Girls, I have a poem by Ted Kooser entitled So This Is Nebraska.

Kelly Fineman has the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Books for Summer Reading

Book Lists and More

Bimonthly Showcase from the Children’s Book Council: Summertime Fun

From The Horn Book: Summer Reading

Scholastic: Fun in the Sun Books

Kids Out and About: Use Summer-Themed Books to Keep Kids Interested in Reading

PBS: Tips for Summer Reading

Chicago Children’s Museum: Don’t Snow on Summer (This webpage has ideas for “teachable” moments that may crop up during the summer season.)

Book Reviews Posted Previously at Wild Rose Reader



Friday, July 11, 2008

New Mexico, Independence Day, and A Puppy

A Sculpture Outside a Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Lately, I haven’t been posting much at Wild Rose Reader or reading other blogs the way I usually do. I haven’t even been writing much poetry. I had been on a roll for a couple of months--writing one entire collection and several poems for another. Now, I can’t seem to focus the way I did before my trip to New Mexico. It’s been challenging getting my head out of the clouds--probably the result of my hot air balloon ride over the Rio Grande a couple of weeks ago. It was a fabulous high altitude trip!!!

Then came the Fourth of July. I spent hours preparing food last week for the holiday, and spent three days with family and friends. It was the best Independence Day celebration in years. The heat wave hadn’t yet arrived. Add to the distraction quotient that my daughter’s boyfriend just got the cutest yellow lab puppy with the sweetest disposition. I couldn't resist playing with Jack!

So…for this Poetry Friday, in addition to a poem entitled Taos, written by New Mexican poet Cynthia Gray, I’ve got more photos of New Mexico, pictures taken at sunset on the Fourth of July from a boat that was moored in Marblehead Harbor, and some puppy pictures!

Scenes from the Hyatt Regency Tamaya in the Santa Ana Pueblo
The Sandia Mountains (as seen from the Hyatt)

From Taos
By Cynthia Gray

From the house on the High Road
the Bridge is invisible
but I know it’s there

Spread out below I can see the
crevasse carved by the Rio Grande
over lifetimes, generations
centuries, eons

And the option draws me back

time and again

You can read the rest of the poem here.

Pictures of the Rio Grande and Other Sights from Our Hot Air Balloon

Sunset at Marblehead Harbor
July 4, 2008


This is Jack!

This is the stick that Jack fetched!
This is the stick that Jack ate!

At Blue Rose Girls, I have a poem by Mark Doty entitled A Green Crab’s Shell--and the schedule of poetry readings that will be held at Boston University next week as part of the Summer Poetry Institute for Educators.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is at Under the Covers.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Summer Poetry Readings at Boston University

Poetry Readings at Boston University

Place: Sargent College Auditorium at 635 Commonwealth Avenue
Time: 3:45 to 4:30

Monday, July 14th: Heather McHugh
Tuesday, July 15th: Louise Gluck & Frank Bidart
Wednesday, July 16th: Robert Pinsky & Maggie Dietz
Thursday, July 17th: Mark Doty

NOTE: The poetry readings, co-hosted by the Favorite Poem Project and the Boston University School of Education, are free and open to the public.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Fourth of July Parade

Here’s an anonymous poem I selected especially for Independence Day.


Hear the blare of bugles,
Hear the beat of drums,
Hear the sound of marching feet.
Down the street it comes,

Playing, marching,
Marching, playing,
In the sun and shade,
All the music,
All the color
Of the Fourth’s parade.

See the buglers blowing,
See the drummers pound,
See the feet go up and down
To the music’s sound.
Playing, marching,
Marching, playing,
In the shade and sun,
All the color,
All the music
Says the Fourth’s begun.

Here’s a link to the fireworks acrostic I posted for the Fourth of July in 2007.

At Blue Rose Girls, I’ve posted a poem by New Mexican poet Cynthia Gray entitled High Desert July.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is at In Search of Giants.

Happy Independence Day!!!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Up, Up, and Away!

I'm back! I haven't been blogging for a week--and with good reason. My husband and I flew out to New Mexico last week for a relative's wedding. We stayed at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya, a beautiful resort in the Santa Ana Pueblo not far from Albuquerque. My husband and I and most of the guests who stayed at the resort fell in love with the place--and New Mexico. Many of us are hoping to return for another vacation.

On Friday morning, my husband and I went for a hot air balloon ride. It was only our second time taking a high altitude adventure in a basket. What a blast!

Here are two pictures of the Hyatt Regency Tamaya:

Here are some scenes from our hot air balloon ride:
Getting the Balloon Ready
That's me, in the middle, and my husband.
Scenes of the Rio Grande and the World Below Us

New Mexico rocks!!!