Friday, December 26, 2008

Chameleon: An Original Rhyming Acrostic Poem

I have written a few dozen acrostic poems. There's no particular theme to the collection. I just like playing around with words that pop into my head at any given moment: shadow, unicorn, seeds, nest, Pluto, moon, asteroids, cocoon, cars, lilacs, wreath, mouse, spider, willow, grass. Sometimes, I like the challenge of writing acrostic poems that rhyme. Here's a rhyming acrostic about the chameleon that I wrote a few years ago:

by Elaine Magliaro

Changes suits to suit

His locus. Abracadabra! Hocus-pocus! He’s

A clever

Master of disguise…a trickster who can fool the

Eyes! This

Lizard with a fashion flair takes his wardrobe

Everywhere. Predators don’t stop

Or stare.

No one even knows he’s there.

At Blue Rose Girls, I have a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye entitled Snow.

Tricia has the Poetry Friday Roundup at the Miss Rumphius Effect.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Christmas Day Post in Honor of Our Soldiers and Veterans

James Taylor is one of my favorite singers. Here is video of him in concert in 1971 singing a song he wrote entitled Soldiers.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Video: Cute Animal Christmas Song

I haven't had much time for blogging lately--too busy preparing traditional dishes and desserts for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I came upon this "cute" video today and thought I'd post it for your holiday viewing pleasure.

Cute Animal Christmas Song

Happy Holidays to all!!!

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Christmas Babka: An Original Poem

One of my favorite childhood memories is of the time my mother and I drove over to her parents’ house one December night before Christmas. Babci, my grandmother, had taken a big pan of her homemade babka out of the oven just before we had arrived. She sliced a big hunk of the sweet bread for us to take home. We devoured half of it in the car. It was still warm and soooo delicious!

Here is a poem I wrote more than a dozen years ago about my Babci making her famous babka:

by Elaine Magliaro

We watch Babci make the Christmas babka.

With plump peasant hands

she kneads sweet dough

on the white porcelain-topped table,

places it in a large sky-blue bowl,

covers it with a damp towel,

and sets it on the kitchen counter

near the hissing radiator.

Swelling with bubbles of air,

the dough rises into a pale yellow cloud

flecked with bits of orange rind.

The baking babka fills the house

with the scent of Christmas.

We eat the bread fresh from the oven,

its insides steaming and golden—

a homemade treasure

rich enough to warm a winter night.


At Blue Rose Girls I have a video from Brave New Films entitled George Bush’s Nightmare before Christmas. In the video, an actor impersonates Bush and recites a parody of Clement Moore’s famous holiday classic The Night before Christmas.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is at Author Amok.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Picture Book Reviews: Winter Trees, Christmas Trees

Written by Carole Gerber
Illustrated by Leslie Evans
Charlesbridge, 2008

This is a treasure of a nonfiction book written in verse. The rhyming text introduces young children to the different shapes of the crowns of deciduous trees once they are bare of leaves—

the egg shape of the maple tree;
the taller oval of the beech…
The V formation of the birch;
the yellow poplar, wide and high;
the spreading structure of the oak,
its branches reaching toward the sky.

Gerber also writes about the bark and buds and other characteristics of different trees: The American beech’s bark is smooth and silver-gray; the yellow poplar’s is furrowed. The sugar maple’s buds are stout and have clawlike tips; the poplar’s reddish twigs hold puffy buds. She writes, too, about evergreens and how they keep their needles throughout the year. The back matter includes three paragraphs with further information about trees and small illustrations of the seven trees written about in the book.

The spare illustrations created from linoleum block print, watercolor, and collage, are a fine complement to the text. The pictures are set mostly against a plain white or pale blue background. Evans focuses the reader’s eye on the shapes of the trees, the leaves, the buds, the bark—whatever is the main point of each page of text. This helps to enhance the information that is conveyed through Gerber’s verse.

Winter Trees would make a great read-aloud for children in Pre-K through the early elementary grades. It’s an excellent book for young naturalists and one that encourages kids to observe nature more closely.

Click here to view illustrations from Winter Trees.

More Blog Reviews of Winter Trees

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #93: Featuring Leslie Evans (This post includes images of a number of illustrations from the book.)

From Check It Out: Nonfiction Monday: Winter Trees

Written by
Ann Purmell
Illustrated by Jill Weber
Holiday House, 2006

This is a “realistic fiction” picture book that tells all about the planting, pruning, and care of evergreens on a farm where Christmas trees are raised as the cash crop. The story is narrated by a young boy who explains how his Grandpa and the rest of his family go about their work on the farm throughout the year. The boy also informs readers about the measuring and tagging of trees before they are cut down and brought to the Tree Hut to be sold. Christmas Tree Farm is also a book about a family working together. The story closes with a slew of relatives coming to Grandpa’s and Grandma’s house for a tree trimming party. Weber’s gouache and acrylic naïve-style illustrations are colorful and an appropriate complement to a story narrated by a young boy.

The back matter of the book includes information under the following headings: Christmas Tree Lore, Christmas Tree Facts, and a Christmas Tree Time Line—as well as a two-page spread with labeled illustrations of different types of evergreen trees: Colorado Blue Spruce, Fraser Fir, Virginia Pine, Scotch Pine, Norway Spruce, White Pine, Balsam Fir, and Douglas Fir.

Click here for the teacher packet for Christmas Tree Farm.

Written & illustrated by David McPhail
Atheneum, 2003

Henry Bear enjoys everything about Christmas: the presents, the jelly cakes Momma Bear always bakes, the warmth and good cheer of the holiday season. But what Henry loves most of all is having a fine, full, beautifully decorated Christmas tree and good friends all around. This story tells about Henry’s search for a Christmas tree. When Henry and his best friend Stanley find the perfect tree at the church, the vicar tells them that it’s not for sale. The tree is going to be raffled off. So what does Henry Bear do? Why, he spends all his Christmas tree money on raffle tickets. He feels certain he’ll win the tree. Unfortunately, on the day of the raffle drawing, Henry Bear isn’t present when his winning number is picked. He’s at the doughnut shop warming himself with a steaming mug of cocoa. Henry ends up having to settle for a brown-needled, scrawny tree that no one wants. After looking over the tree more carefully, Henry observes: “I see that it is not such a bad little tree after all.” Christmas ends up a happy occasion for Henry, Stanley, and Momma Bear. In the book’s final illustration, we see Momma Bear, Stanley, and Henry celebrating the holiday by a glowing fire. This book is another charmer from the talented McPhail.

Written by Eve Bunting
Illustrated by Ted Rand

This is a cozy story about a family (father, mother, son, and daughter) going out on Christmas Eve to decorate a tree in the forest with holiday treats for wild animals: apples and tangerines and balls of sunflower seeds pressed with millet and honey. Beneath the tree the family scatters shelled nuts, breadcrumbs, and pieces of apple for “the little creatures who can’t climb very well.” When the family is finished, they spread out a blanket, open a thermos of hot chocolate, sing songs, and admire their handiwork. This story is told from the perspective of the son who conveys the excitement he feels sharing this annual tradition with his family in the forest and the wonder of this special night as he lies awake in bed. Ted Rand’s realistic watercolor illustrations transport us to a winter forest. The royal blue sky aglow with a full moon adds warmth to the scenery and the changing perspectives help bring the story alive on the pages.

Written & illustrated by
Trinka Hakes Noble

Published nearly a quarter century ago, Apple Tree Christmas is still in print today. It’s a book I used to read aloud to my elementary students every December.

The book is set on a farm in the late 19th century. This is a warm family story about a mother, father, and two young daughters named Katrina and Josie. It’s also about an apple tree overgrown with wild grape vines that stood near their barn. It was a special tree to the girls. Josie loved to sit on the swing her father had fashioned from the tree’s vines—and Katrina, the artist, sat on a limb that made a perfect drawing board. “She called it her studio.”

One night a ferocious blizzard howls through the farm. Katrina and Josie learn to their dismay that their special apple tree has been felled by the storm. In the days before Christmas, Katrina finds it difficult to concentrate on knitting papa’s presents. She’s disturbed by the sound of her father’s sawing and hacking away at her beloved tree. But what Katrina and Josie don’t know is that Papa isn’t just chopping firewood—he’s making presents for his daughters from the vines and limbs of the tree. On Christmas morning, this is what the girls awake to find:

There, hanging from the beam, was Josie’s swing, the very same swing from the apple tree. Sitting on the swing was a little rag doll that mama had made.

Near the swing was a drawing board made from the very same limb that had been Katrina’s studio. On the drawing board were real charcoal paper and three sticks of willow charcoal.

Noble’s homey, period-style art suit this story of country life in bygone times.

Click here to see illustrations from Apple Tree Christmas at Noble’s website.

More Picture Books about Christmas Trees

Click here to read my review of A City Christmas Tree.

Click here to read my reviews of Merry Christmas, Merry Crow and Mr. Willoughby's Christmas Tree at Blue Rose Girls.

Click here to read my review of Wendell and Florence Minor’s Christmas Tree!.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

From the National Council of Teachers of English: For Parents & Teachers

Most Viewed Views of 2008

Of all the weekly choices, more readers clicked on the following NCTE guidelines and position statements than any others:

Best of the NCTE 2008 Inbox Blog
Effective writing assignments and strategies for teaching nonfiction along with the summer series of blogs on 21st century tools for the classroom were Traci Gardner's most read Inbox blogs this year.

More Buzz about the Newbery Award

I think many of you may have already read Has the Newbery Lost Its Way?, an article written by Anita Silvey that appeared in the October 2008 issue of School Library Journal. Here’s another article from The Washington Post entitled Plot Twist: The Newbery May Dampen Kids' Reading that speaks to the same subject. It seems there are children’s literature and literacy experts who feel that some of the recent Newbery winners are too complicated and inaccessible to kids. What are your thoughts on the subject?

Here are the first two paragraphs of TheWashington Post article:

The Newbery Medal has been the gold standard in children's literature for more than eight decades. On the January day when the annual winner is announced, bookstores nationwide sell out, libraries clamor for copies and teachers add the work to lesson plans.

Now the literary world is debating the Newbery's value, asking whether the books that have won recently are so complicated and inaccessible to most children that they are effectively turning off kids to reading. Of the 25 winners and runners-up chosen from 2000 to 2005, four of the books deal with death, six with the absence of one or both parents and four with such mental challenges as autism. Most of the rest deal with tough social issues.

Click here to continue reading the article.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Poetry Friday Roundup Is Here!

I'm doing the Poetry Friday Roundup this week. Please leave the URL of your poetry post in the comments. I'll be adding poetry links throughout the day.
The Wee Hours of the Morning Edition


The Breakfast Edition

  • Michele at Scholar’s Blog has a wintry poem for us—A December Day by Robert Fuller Murray.
  • John Mutford of the Book Mine Set has a review of Beatitudes by Herménégilde Chiasson and translated by Jo-Anne Elder. In addition, he uses his style to attempt a short Christmas poem.
  • Gotta minute? Then get thee on over to GottaBook. Gregory K. says he’s up with an original for the season: Why I Love the Holidays in My Family.
  • Jill Corcoran’s post celebrates children's poets and the series that brings these poets to life, SPEAKING OF POETS.
  • Cloudscome brings us an original poem by J. Patrick Lewis celebrating National Chocolate Covered Anything Day: Chocolate Covered Ants.
  • Over at A Year of Reading, Mary Lee has a purr-fect poem for feline fanciers in honor of her cat: John Ciardi’s Why Nobody Pets the Lion at the Zoo.
  • Julie Larios says she burnt herself out on the Poetry Stretch clerihews and Emily Dickinson this week, so she’s letting John Keats speak for her over at The Drift Record.
  • Laura at AuthorAmok has an original poem and a writing exercise, "Poetry Rocks!" She says it was inspired by a third grader's enthusiastic doodle.
  • Sara Lewis Holmes is in today with a post about creatively altered old books, a BBC modernization of Much Ado About Nothing, and Shakespeare's unchanging sonnet 116: "Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds."
  • At Across the Page, Janet is sharing something special today—her 7-year-old's first poem: "Two Little Snowflakes."
  • Stacey of Two Writing Teachers says she has a very rough original poem about her desk, which she FINALLY cleaned off this morning! Check out her post Poetry Friday & Photo Fridays Collide!
  • And Andrea of Just One More Book!! Podcast is in with a chat about a fabulous rhyming story of sibling dynamics: When I Was King.
  • At the Miss Rumphius Effect, Tricia joins the poetry posters today with a poem entitled Sorley's Weather.
  • What will you find bubbling in Jama Rattigan’s Alphabet Soup today? Why, "The Twelve Thank-you Notes of Christmas"—that’s what!
  • This week Carol reviewed EVERY HUMAN HAS RIGHT. She says it’s a remarkable new book of poetry written by children, illustrated with National Geographic photographs from around the world. She thinks it’s a book every adult who cares about kids needs to know.
  • Over at Shelf Elf, there are some cute gift ideas for poets—poetry-inspired pins!
  • Lisa Chellman’s contribution this week is "Fearing Paris," by Marsha Truman Cooper.
  • Linda Kulp has a tribute to Lee Bennett Hopkins at her blog Write Time.
  • Like me—poet Laura Salas is into Acrostics today, too! She also has her 15 Words or Less Poems for December 12, 2008.


The Brunch Bunch

  • Kelly Polark presents an original Christmas cinquain entitled Tree Topper this Poetry Friday.
  • Douglas Florian penned an original poem for Poetry Friday. He claims his meter reader was getting on his nerves. Fortunately, that annoyance inspired a well-metered verse entitled The Meter Reader.
  • Sally Ito joins in posting on Poetry Friday for the first time at the PaperTigers blog. She’s in with Poetry and the Spiritual: The Work of Tomihiro Hoshino.
  • Jennifer Knoblock has some Christopher Marlowe at Ink for Lit.
  • The proud MotherReader has an original poem written by her wise seventh-grader titled The Third Level.
  • Ruth is in with a poem entitled Schoolsville, which was written by Billy Collins—one of my favorite poets.
  • Jules at 7-Imp contributes to Poetry Friday with a poem by Rilke entitled To Music.
  • Karen Edmisten shares some Billy Collins, too. She's in with his poem entitled Her.


The Literary Lunch Crowd


The Early Evening Edition


Late Edition

Poetry Friday: Christmas Acrostics

I thought I'd write a few holiday-themed acrostics for this Poetry Friday in December.

Wrapped around itself,


Evergreen, fragrant of winter forests,

Adorned with berries, baubles, bells of gold,

Tacked to the front door...

Home for the holidays.

Trimmed with tinsel, bedecked with shiny bulbs,

Ribboned with red satin, strung with bright lights—

Each twinkling like an earthbound star in an

Evergreen sky.

Santa snaps the reins. Red-nosed Rudolph

Leads the team of reindeer this early winter

Eve. Up, up

Into the sky with a cargo of Christmas

Gifts and goodies they rise, weaving through clouds. Can you

Hear the merry jingle of their silver bells?


At Blue Rose Girls, I have a poem by Russell Libby entitled Applied Geometry.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is at Wild Rose Reader this week. Click here and leave a comment with the URL of your poetry post.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Poetry Stretch: The Clerihew

Tricia’s Monday Poetry Stretch this week challenges us to write a clerihew. A clerihew is a four-line poem that pokes fun at a famous person. It has a rhyme scheme of AABB. The first line should end with the name of the celebrity.

I have never attempted writing a clerihew before. Here are the three clerihews I wrote this morning:

So naive
In her birthday suit,
Tempted Adam with forbidden fruit.

Sir Isaac Newton—
There’s no refutin’—
With a force of nature had to grapple
When he got conked on the head with a falling apple.

Were deducted, so they say,
Through an interminable series of Q and A.

Click here to read this week’s Poetry Stretch results.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Deciding the Next Decider--and Other Political Verse by Calvin Trillin

John Lundberg has written a review of Calvin Trillin’s new book, Deciding the Next Decider: The 2008 Presidential Race in Rhyme, for The Huffington Post. Lundberg’s article, The 2008 Election in Verse, includes several excerpts from the book.

Here’s an excerpt from a verse at the end of Trillin's book:

And foreigners, from Rome to Yokohama,
Were cheering an American: Obama
From this vote they were willing to infer
We aren't the people they had thought we were.
And Lady Liberty, as people call her,
Was standing in the harbor somewhat taller.

You can read the rest of the review here.

From The Nation: Here is an excerpt from and links to some of Calvin Trillin’s political verse that’s available online. (You can read about Calvin Trillin here.)

From Bush Labor Department Pushes Hurries to Change Toxic Substance Rules Before Obama Takes Office

For industry they're rushing through some rules
To ease restraints on using toxic goop
And dumping tops of mountains into streams.
In every hole, they seek a larger loop.

You can read the rest here.
Click here to see Calvin Trillin on The Daily Show.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Horn Book Fanfare: Best Books of 2008

Here are more suggestions for those of you planning to buy children’s books for the holidays: The editors of the Horn Book Magazine have announced their selections for the best children’s and young adult books of 2008. Click here to see all the books that were chosen for this year’s Horn Book Fanfare.


I’ve bought a batch of picture books for a six-year-old lady I know named Megan. I’ve already given her several of the Christmas-themed books so she could enjoy them before the holiday arrives. She loves all the books she’s gotten. She especially likes the illustrations in Marla Frazee's Santa Claus, The World's Number One Toy Expert--which happens to be one of my favorite picture books!
Here are the holiday books I've given to Megan to date:

Links to my previous I’m Buying Books for the Holidays posts at Wild Rose Reader.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Poetry Book Reviews: Under the Kissletoe & Hanukkah Haiku

I’m sorry to say I never got around to writing a review of J. Patrick Lewis’s poetry book Under the Kissletoe, which was published in 2007, last December. Shame on me! Well…I couldn’t let another holiday season pass without writing a review of this Christmas-themed collection of light verse. And Lewis is definitely a master of light verse! To my mind, he’s the Ogden Nash of children’s poetry.

J. Patrick Lewis

Written by J. Patrick Lewis
Illustrated by Rob Shepperson
Wordsong, 2007

Under the Kissletoe contains sixteen poems. Here’s a little taste of some of the poems included in this book:
  • Donder and Blitzen is a poem about two antlered friends who have spent years as “stablemates” and “celestial greats” traveling to the far reaches of the world.

  • Ten-Point Snowman Inspection is a rhyming list poem with a series of questions for a snowman maker to check out his/her icy creation to determine if it’s worthy of a stamp of approval from Inspector Snow.

  • Santa’s Summer Vacation is a poem in which eight reindeer fly Santa and Mrs. Claus to Santa Cruise where the couple plan to spend two months relaxing and enjoying themselves away from the elves.

  • Snow Star is a rhebus poem with directions for pressing a February snowflake in a book and then opening the book the next December to find a snow star printed in the book—a perfect present for Christmas Eve.

  • Winter Scene is a lovely rhyming concrete poem printed in the shape of a Christmas ornament.

  • What Everybody Wants for Christmas tells readers what Mouse, Bird, Squirrel, Fish, Cat, and Dog are hoping for: Limburger cheese, Jujubes, a honey-roasted nut, chocolate sprinkles, eggnog, and the mailman, respectively.

  • The Gingerbread House Song is a poem composed of five rhythmic quatrains that tells us what this edible structure is made of—including, among other things, chocolate nougat, licorice twisters, gumdrops, blue jelly beans, and graham crackers.

  • A Brown King, a poem of a more serious nature, is about one of the Magi who visited the stable in Bethlehem.

Here are the full texts of a limerick and another poem from Under the Kissletoe:

Mrs. S. Claus
by J. Patrick Lewis

A woman named Mrs. S. Claus
Deserves to be heard from because
She sits in her den
Icing gingerbread men
While her husband gets all the applause.

Why Santa Sometimes Prefers the Front Door
by J. Patrick Lewis

He remembers
Those Decembers
Burning embers,
Chimney holes,

When he splendid-
Ly descended,
But rear-ended…
On the coals!

Lewis provides a nice variety of topics and poetic forms in the poems he wrote for this book. There’s plenty of humorous verse between the covers of Under the Kissletoe—and lots of rhythm and rhyme and wordplay as well. Rob Shepperson, who has done editorial drawings for the New York Times and Washington Post, adds to the levity of the funny poems with his droll full-page and spot illustrations. Under the Kissletoe would make a great pre-holiday gift for a child, an elementary school classroom, or school library.

From the Wordsong Website: Excerpts of journal reviews of Under the Kissletoe

NOTE: I would like to thank J. Patrick Lewis for giving me permission to print the full text of two of his poems from Under the Kissletoe.

Written by Harriet Ziefert
Paintings by Karla Gudeon
Blue Apple Books, 2008

Hanukkah Haiku is a picture book in which the illustrations work as a perfect complement to Ziefert's short poems about lighting the candles on a Menorah (Hanukkiah) each of the eight nights of Hanukkah. Each two-page spread includes a full-page illustration on the left side and a haiku and a close-up illustration of a Menorah on the right hand side. With each turn of the page, one finds another candle lit in the Menorah and a haiku about the traditions of this holiday—spinning a dreidel, frying latkes, giving gifts of gelt, listening to the story of the Maccabees. Gudeon’s celebratory illustrations done in jewel tones are gorgeous. Her pictures, borders, and endpapers abound with intricate patterns and symbols of the holiday. The back matter of the book includes the traditional Hanukkah blessings in both Hebrew and English and information about the Shammash and lighting of the candles. Hanukkah Haiku would make a fine addition to a collection of holiday books.

From the Blue Apple Books Website: Reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal.


At Blue Rose Girls, I have links to the reviews I wrote of children’s poetry books that have been nominated for a 2008 Cybils Award.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is at Mommy’s Favorite Children’s Books.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

NCTE's National Day on Writing

Yesterday, I received an email from NCTE. The email included a link to the most recent issue of NCTE Inbox. Here’s something I read about that I thought I'd pass along to blog readers. It's about the National Day on Writing. I thought some of you might be interested in participating in this project sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English.

Here’s some information about the National Day on Writing taken from the NCTE website:

Writing is a daily practice for millions of Americans. But few notice how integral writing has become to daily life in the 21st century.

To draw attention to the remarkable variety of writing we engage in and help make writers from all walks of life aware of their craft, NCTE is working to establish October 20, 2009, as the National Day on Writing.

To celebrate composition in all its forms, we are inviting diverse participants --students, teachers, parents, grandparents, service and industrial workers, managers, business owners, legislators, retirees and many more -- to submit a piece of writing to the National Gallery of Writing.

The National Gallery will be a digital archive of samples that exhibit how and why Americans are writing every day, accessible to all through a free, searchable website. Writers’ pieces will be accompanied by
  • brief descriptive entries (meta-data) describing who the writer is,
  • the genre of writing represented, and
  • why s/he selected this particular piece to submit to the Gallery.

We will build the archive of writing submissions in the Gallery throughout 2009, before sharing it with the nation on the National Day on Writing.

To find out more, click on the following link: NCTE's National Day on Writing

NCTE Inbox also provided a link to the following article:

Writing skills are life skills
5 ways to help your child learn to love to write – plus several online writing resources.