Friday, January 30, 2009

Original Winter Poems

I'm under the weather today. It seems I have a bronchitis again--for the second time this month. I didn't have the energy to write new poems or to review poetry books--so here are some winter-themed poems that I posted previously at Wild Rose Reader:


by Elaine Magliaro


Whooshing down the hillside fast

Trees and people blurring past

Runners carving out the snow

Like an astronaut I go

Blasting into outer space

Rocketing at record pace

Through the stratosphere I fly

I’m commander of the sky

Won’t return to Earth until . . .

I reach

the bottom

of the hill

Pond in Winter

The meadow pond lies silent, still…

Sealed in tight by winter’s chill.

A downy quilt of fallen snow

Hides a cold, dark world below.

I wonder all the winter through

“What do fish and turtles do?”

Bedtime in Winter

Dark comes early.

Night is long.

Mommy sings

A bedtime song.

I am snuggled

Down and deep

Beneath soft covers.

While I sleep,

I have my teddy bear

To hold.

He keeps me warm

When nights are cold.


It’s white snow,

Bright snow,

Soft-as-feathers light snow…

Tiny ballerinas there

Pirouetting through the air

With their sparkly crystal shoes

In their winter dance debuts.

Ferns of ice


On windowpanes, their

Silver fronds growing in the frigid night

Then melting in the morning light.

Snow dropped by

And here am I

Catching flakes

Of falling sky.

Sleet tap-dances on

my roof, clicks its icy heels

on my windowpane

With frosty feet

little mouse prints a message

in the snow: Hello!

I wrote the following poem for Tricia’s Monday Poetry Stretch—What Words?. The “stretch”—or challenge—was to write a poem that contained all of the following eight words: snow, frozen, wind, evening, woods, lake, village, farmhouse.


A long way from the village,

near quiet woods,

snow settles on a frozen lake.

Burrowed in the mud below,

frogs dream the winter away.

Their larders full,

sleepy squirrels curl upagainst the cold.

No wind stirs in the trees

this chill evening.

Everything is still.

In the distance,

a solitary farmhouse stands,

a weathered monument

to the past.

Here, in his lonely lair,

an old man

wraps himself in the silence

and his memories

and hibernates from the world.


At Blue Rose Girls, I have a poem by Nobel Laureate Wislawa Szymborska entitled Children of Our Era.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is at Adventures in Daily Living.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

2009 ALSC Notable Children's Books

From the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC): 2009 Notable Children’s Books (Final—Uncorrected List)

From The Horn Book: 2009 ALA Awards (Includes Horn Book reviews of the award-winning books)

From the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE): 2009 NCTE Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Chinese New Year: Picture Books & Activities

Chinese New Year 2009: The Celebration begins on January 26th!
The Year of the Ox

A Story about Adventure, Friendship, and Chinese Characters
Written & Illustrated by
Christoph Nieman
Greenwillow, 2008

NOTE: The Pet Dragon is not a tale about Chinese New Year. It’s a picture book with a story in which readers are introduced to characters in the written Chinese language.

The Pet Dragon is a tale about Lin, a young Chinese girl, and her new pet dragon. Lin loves her baby dragon. They do everything together—play hide-and-seek and ping pong and soccer, make friends with other animals, tell each other funny stories. One day, when they are playing soccer in the house, they break an old vase, which shatters into hundreds of pieces. Lin’s father is so angry that he locks the little dragon in a cage. The next morning, Lin finds the cage empty. She is distraught. She must find her dragon.

Lin sets off in search of her pet—through the city, over mountains, along the Great Wall. But there is no sign of her beloved pet. Then Lin comes upon a wide river. She sees a strange little woman standing at the water’s edge. The old woman tells Lin that she cannot swim and asks her to carry her across the river. Lin complies with the woman’s request.

As fortune would have it, the old woman is a witch who feels that she should return Lin’s favor in kind. The witch pops a magic bean into her mouth and chews it slowly. She begins to grow and grow and grow…until she’s as tall as a mountain. Then she lifts Lin up through the clouds. And, there in the sky, Lin finds her pet dragon—“all grown and beautiful.” The dragon flies Lin home. Father is so happy at the return of his child that he thanks the dragon and promises to let the two friends play together whenever they want.

There, that’s a summary of Niemann’s story about friendship and an adventure. Now let me explain what makes this picture book special: It’s a clever introduction to characters in the Chinese written language—including the characters for person, tree, woods, dog, woman, warrior, eye, ear, father, prisoner, mouth, speak/words, river, above, and below. I’m not a big fan of computerized art—but Niemann uses Adobe illustrator to its best advantage in this picture book. His bold, uncluttered illustrations are striking and perfectly suited to the purpose of teaching about Chinese pictographs and ideographs. Not only does Niemann include one or more Chinese characters with its/their English translation(s) at the bottom of each page, he also incorporates these Chinese characters (in bold black print) into the illustrations. By so doing, Niemann helps readers visualize and remember the Chinese and English words that the characters stand for.

Here is a two-page spread from the book:

Click here to view more two-page spreads from The Pet Dragon.

Click here to browse inside The Pet Dragon.


Written by
Grace Lin
Little, Brown, 2006

This fine first novel is based on Grace Lin’s childhood. Lin takes us along with her through the "Year of the Dog" as she meets her soon-to-be best friend Melody, competes in a science fair, gets a crush on a classmate, celebrates her newest cousin’s Red Egg Day, has an outing in New York City’s Chinatown with her family, and wins a prize in a national writing contest. The author also touches on feelings she experienced as one of the only Asian-American students in her elementary school in upstate New York. Skillfully interwoven in the story are family anecdotes and references to Taiwanese cultural traditions and foods. Filled with gentle humor and warmth, this is a wonderful story about family, friendship, and finding one’s self.

Adding to the appeal of Lin's heartwarming story are her black are white spot illustrations.

NOTE: The beginning chapters of Lin’s novel are replete with talk about Lunar New Year traditions and mouthwatering descriptions of the foods typically prepared for this special holiday.

Click here for The Year of the Dog activities.


Two Nonfiction Books about Chinese New Year

Written & illustrated by Demi
Dragonfly/Crown, 1997

Each double-page spread in Happy New Year provides information about some aspect, tradition, or foods associated with the celebration and observance of Chinese New Year. The holiday topics Demi writes about include: the animal zodiac, decorating with poems, special foods and their symbolic meanings, firecrackers, heavenly beings, gift giving, lion dances, and lantern festival. Most sections include just a brief paragraph or two of text. Demi’s book is a good introduction to Chinese New Year for children and adults alike.

Written by Diane Hoyt-Goldsmith
Photographs by Lawrence Migdale
Holiday House, 1998

This nonfiction book gives readers a glimpse of a contemporary Chinese boy named Ryan and his family preparing for and celebrating Chinese New Year in San Francisco. It provides an historical perspective of the holiday, touches on the immigration of Chinese people to America in the 1850s, shows Ryan and other children learning about calligraphy at a Chinese school, and talks about many of the holiday traditions that have been handed down through the years. The book also talks about one of the most important parts of Chinese New Year—honoring one’s ancestors.
In the photographs, we observe Ryan and his father shopping in the open markets of Chinatown, visiting the cemetery where his grandparents are buried, and preparing special holiday dishes. We also see Ryan and his extended family partaking of the New Year’s feast, Ryan preparing the family altar, and scenes from the lion dance and New Year’s parade in Chinatown.

Celebrating Chinese New Year provides readers a more personal look at this holiday and its traditions as we see it observed and celebrated by an actual Chinese American family—Raymond and Karen Leong, their children, and other relatives.

The book includes a glossary and an index

Book Lists


Reviews of Children’s Books from Wild Rose Reader


Crafts, Activities, & Resources

Friday, January 23, 2009

Winter Picture Books in Verse

The following books have rhyming texts and would be wonderful for reading to very young children at this time of year. They are fine ways to introduce little listeners to rhyming words and rhythmic language.

Written by
Bob Raczka
Illustrated by Judy Stead
Albert Whitman & Company, 2008

Raczka’s zippy text and Stead’s bold and colorful illustrations take us through the chill and sights of winter days and nights and common seasonal activities—icicles hanging from eaves, snow swirling through the air, sliding down hills, making snow angels, shoveling, making a snowman, feeding birds. They also take us through the warm indoor happenings—sipping hot cocoa, having a hot bath, reading by the fire, baking cookies.

This is a picture book where the pictures help to “tell” readers what the spare text doesn’t. Some pages have no words. The other pages have just one, two, or three words—with the exception of the last two pages. The final page includes all the “fun” words Raczka used to describe Snowy, Blowy Winter. This would certainly be an enjoyable book to share with youngsters and could be used as a springboard for having them add their own words to describe winter.

Here are some excerpts from the book:

windows are glowy.

icy and slippery.

Angels are lovely.
Sidewalks are shovely.

The back matter of the book has a recipe for “Snowy, Blowy Ice Cream.”

Written by Mary McKenna Siddals
Illustrated by
Elizabeth Sayles
Clarion, 1998

This small book is perfect for lap reading. It is also a counting book for little ones just beginning to learn about numbers.

The book begins…

One little snowflake
falls on my nose.
It makes me shiver
from my head to my toes.

Two little snowflakes
get in my eyes.
Blink! Blink!
What a surprise!

And so the text goes—from a child counting two snowflakes to counting three and four and five snowflakes and then to looking at snow all around her:

Snow on the house.
Snow on the tree.
Snow on the grounds.
Snow on me!
Millions of snowflakes in my hair.
Snowflakes falling everywhere!

Sayles’ illustrations work perfectly with Siddals’ text. The first picture is a small square surrounded by a thick white border. As the book progresses, the pictures get larger and larger until the end of the book. Then the borders are gone and the illustrations fill up the pages—just as the child’s world is filling up with snow.

Sayles’ illustrations are uncluttered and spare. The focus of the pictures is the snowflakes and a young Asian child with her dog enjoying the falling—and fallen—snow. The illustrations have warm, purplish and or peach backgrounds. This is a lovely little winter book to share with a very young child.

Written & illustrated by Wong Herbert Yee
Henry Holt, 2003

Tracks in the Snow is another small picture book—just right for lap reading. It has more text than the previous two books that I reviewed here. In this book, a young Asian girl sees some mysterious tracks in the snow and wonders what animal might have made them. She goes looking. She skips around the old oak tree, walks by the frozen pond, crosses a snowy bridge, peeks under a log, tramps up a hill. She finally realizes that it was she who left the tracks. She made them the day before when she was out playing in the snow.

The book has a lovely rhythmic text that is written in quatrains with a rhyme scheme of ABCB—except for the refrain.

The Refrain:
Tracks in the snow.
Tracks in the snow.
Who made the tracks?
Where do they go?

Here’s another excerpt from the book. In this quatrain the child is thinking to herself and trying to solve the mystery of who made the tracks in the snow:

It could have been a duck,
But I think they’ve gone away.
I know it’s not a woodchuck;
They sleep all night and day.

Wong Herbert Yee’s illustrations done in Prismacolors on Arches watercolor paper have a soft, blurry look. They are set against a white background and capture the feel of a wintery country world blanketed with snow. This quiet picture book is a keeper!


At Blue Rose Girls, I have a special Elizabeth Alexander post that includes links to her inaugural poem Praisesong for the Day and to videos of her poetry reading at the inauguration, Jeffrey Brown’s conversation with her on the Newshour with Jim Lehrer, and her appearance on The Colbert Report.

Laura Salas has the Poetry Friday Roundup this week.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Seymour Simon...Seymour Science

I’m adding another blog to my blogroll. I was so excited when I found out the other day that Seymour Simon, one of my favorite writers of nonfiction books for children, has a blog.

Here’s the link to Mr. Simon’s blog Seymour Science.

Mr. Simon responded to a comment that I left at one of his posts and wrote the following: “It's my hope that my website will supplement my books with my readers in the classroom, library and home.”

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

2009 Inaugural Poem: Video & Transcript

There's No One as Irish as Barack Obama: Song & Video

One of my Irish-American friends sent me a link to the following video No One as Irish as Barack Obama:

Here are the beginning lyrics:

O'Leary, O'Reilly, O'Hare and O'Hara
There's no one as Irish as Barack O'Bama

You don't believe me, I hear you say
But Barack's as Irish, as was JFK
His granddaddy's daddy came from Moneygall
A small Irish village, well known to you all

Toor a loo, toor a loo, toor a loo, toor a lama
There's no one as Irish As Barack O'Bama

He's as Irish as bacon and cabbage and stew
He's Hawaiian he's Kenyan American too
He’s in the white house, He took his chance
Now let’s see Barack do Riverdance

Toor a loo, toor a loo, toor a loo, toor a lama
There's no one as Irish As Barack O'Bama

From Kerry and cork to old Donegal
Let’s hear it for Barack from old moneygall
From the lakes if Killarney to old Connemara
There’s no one as Irish as Barack O’Bama

You can read the rest of the lyrics here.

Thank you, Corrigan Brothers!

Elizabeth Alexander: Our Inaugural Poet

Read about Elizabeth Alexander at

Read about Elizabeth Alexander at the Poetry Foundation.


Here are excerpts from three poems by Elizabeth Alexander:

From Blues

I am lazy, the laziest
girl in the world. I sleep during
the day when I want to, 'til
my face is creased and swollen,
'til my lips are dry and hot. I
eat as I please: cookies and milk
after lunch, butter and sour cream
on my baked potato, foods that
slothful people eat, that turn
yellow and opaque beneath the skin.
Sometimes come dinnertime Sunday
I am still in my nightgown, the one
with the lace trim listing because
I have not mended it. Many days
I do not exercise, only
consider it, then rub my curdy
belly and lie down. Even
my poems are lazy. I use
syllabics instead of iambs,
prefer slant to the gong of full rhyme,
write briefly while others go
for pages. And yesterday,
for example, I did not work at all!
I got in my car and I drove
to factory outlet stores, purchased
stockings and panties and socks
with my father's money.

You can read the rest of the poem here.

From Ladders

Filene's department store
near nineteen-fifty-three:
An Aunt Jemima floor
display. Red bandanna,

Apron holding white rolls
of black fat fast against
the bubbling pancakes, bowls
and bowls of pale batter.

This is what Donna sees,
across the "Cookwares" floor,
and hears "Donnessa?" Please,
This can not be my aunt.

You can read the rest of the poem here.

From Race

Sometimes I think about Great-Uncle Paul who left Tuskegee,
Alabama to become a forester in Oregon and in so doing
became fundamentally white for the rest of his life, except
when he traveled without his white wife to visit his siblings—
now in New York, now in Harlem, USA—just as pale-skinned,
as straight-haired, as blue-eyed as Paul, and black. Paul never told anyone
he was white, he just didn’t say that he was black, and who could imagine,
an Oregon forester in 1930 as anything other than white?
The siblings in Harlem each morning ensured
no one confused them for anything other than what they were, black.
They were black! Brown-skinned spouses reduced confusion.
Many others have told, and not told, this tale.
When Paul came East alone he was as they were, their brother.

You can read the rest of the poem here.


Two Videos

A Reading by Elizabeth Alexander (The Online Newshour Poetry Series, January 13, 2009)

Elizabeth Alexander Describes Inauguration Plans (The Newshour with Jim Lehrer)


Saturday, January 17, 2009

OUT & ABOUT: January 17, 2009

Susan Thomsen has the schedule for the Sydney Taylor Awards Blog Tour at Chicken Spaghetti.

From The Horn Book MagazineMonthly Special Booklist for January 2009: American Presidents

From Shelftalker (January 15, 2009)—A Handful of Highlights from Candlewick's 2009 Spring/Summer List (And two of the highlighted titles are poetry books!)

From Publishers Weekly (1/12/2009)—Children’s Book Reviews (Includes reviews of two picture books, two fiction books, and a nonfiction book about Abe Lincoln—just in time for the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth.)

From The Washington Post (January 12, 2009)—Unexpected Twist: Fiction Reading Is Up

Book Event

The Foundation for Children’s Books

Graphic Novels: A User’s Guide

DATE: Thursday, January 29, 2009

TIME: 7:30 p.m.

PLACE: Walsh Hall at Boston College

From The FCB Website—Graphic novels: a format or a genre? Comics or literature? How to read them? How to evaluate them? Join us for a lively and informative panel discussion featuring Robin Brenner, youth librarian in Brookline and author of Understanding Manga and Anime; Maya Escobar, youth librarian in Cambridge with a passion for graphic novels and anime; and Alexander Danner, formerly a bookseller at Porter Square Books, co-author of Character Design for Graphic Novels, and a graphic novelist.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Charming Prince Has Second Thoughts: An Original Poem

Here’s an original fairy tale poem from my unpublished collection Excerpts from the Fairy Tale Files.

by Elaine Magliaro

Listen…Sleeping Beauty snoring

Sounds just like a lion roaring!

If I kiss her cheek, she’ll rise

And look into my deep blue eyes.

She’ll fall in love with me no doubt.

I’m the only prince hereabout.

Should I kiss Beauty? Should I not?

In this dilemma I am caught.

If I wake her now she’s mine—

A roaring, snoring valentine!

I know they say that love is blind,

But it’s not deaf. I’m disinclined

To rouse this maid. I’ll let her snore

And dream of me forevermore.


At Blue Rose Girls, I have a poem by Wendell Berry entitled The Peace of Wild Things.

Karen Edmisten has the Poetry Friday Roundup today.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

After Eight Long Years!!!

Sometimes...I think I'm going to miss Dubaya!

Letterman Counts Down To Final "Great Moments In Presidential Speeches" (VIDEO)

The 50 Dumbest Bush Quotes of All Time

Safety Act Catches Publishers Off Guard

I was visiting with a friend who owns a small, independent children’s bookshop yesterday when she showed me a copy of Safety Act Catches Publishers Off Guard, an article she had just read at My friend expressed concern to me about her business. Here are some excerpts from the article about the impact that the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 may have on book publishers, bookstores, schools, and libraries:

Safety Act Catches Publishers Off Guard
By Karen RaugustPublishers Weekly, 1/12/2009

The children's book industry is currently dealing with a new and pressing challenge that is threatening publishers, bookstores, libraries and schools. It's not the economy or school spending or reading rates—it is a recent act of Congress, which has blindsided the industry with the implementation of stiff safety standards on all children's products, and whose application to books is vague. It has left many publishers, retailers and industry groups scrambling to interpret the law and determine what kinds of compliance will be required, and at what cost.

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, enacted in August 2008 as a response to the high-profile 2007 recalls involving Chinese-made toys containing lead, covers not just playthings but all consumer products intended for use by children 12 and under. That includes books, audiobooks and sidelines, no matter where they are manufactured, even though most books have lead levels that are well below the Act's most stringent safety standards. The industry is fighting to have most books exempted, but there may not be a resolution by the time the Act kicks in on February 10, so publishers and retailers are proceeding as if books will be included.

Not since the Thor ruling of 1979—which changed the way companies depreciate their unsold inventory—has a government regulation not aimed at publishing had such a far-reaching impact on the industry.

The industry consensus is that the concept of ensuring children's safety is, in principle, a good thing. “Everybody agrees that the basis of the [CPSIA testing] requirement is absolutely in good faith,” said Kathleen McHugh, president of the American Specialty Toy Retailers Association. “But there must be exceptions to that. With books, you're testing for lead on a material that's just not associated with lead at all.”

“This is an absolutely knee-jerk reaction to the fact that, yes, there have been children's toys and cribs that have contained lead,” said Bruce Smith, executive director of the Book Manufacturers' Institute. “But let's not take a paintbrush and paint everything the same color.”

Chip Gibson, president and publisher of Random House Children's Books, goes further. “This is a potential calamity like nothing I've ever seen. The implications are quite literally unimaginable,” he said, noting that children's books could be removed from schools, libraries and stores; nonprofit groups like First Book would lose donations; and retailers, printers, and publishers could ultimately go out of business. “Books are safe. This is like testing milk for lead. It has to be stopped.”

You can read the rest of the article here.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Book Lists, Etc.



Sunday, January 11, 2009

Small Graces Auction Begins on January 12th!

Here is an email that I received today from The Foundation for Children's Books with information about the "Small Graces" auction that begins tomorrow. Those of us receiving the email were asked to spread word about the auction by forwarding the message to others.
Small Graces: A Painting a Month to Benefit the FCB

January 2009 Painting
Auction from
Mon., Jan. 12-Fri., Jan. 16

Grace Lin's Original Artwork to be auctioned this week on eBay!

The talented author/illustrator Grace Lin has generously offered to auction original artworks on eBay every month in 2009 to benefit the Foundation for Children's Books. Grace has visited several under-served schools in Boston with us and she wants to support our work even further with her artwork.

Every month a small (5x5 inches), unpublished, orginal artwork will be auctioned on eBay with 100% of the proceeds to support the FCB's author/illustrator visits and residencies in urban schools. Each painting will illustrate a bit of wisdom, a proverb, a "small grace."

This month's painting (above), painted in gouache on watercolor paper, will be auctioned beginning Monday, January 12 through Friday, January 16. The estimated value is $450.

To bid on the painting,
please click here. Or search for item # 220343292781 on eBay.

Grace Lin is the author and illustrator of more than a dozen picture books, including The Ugly Vegetables and Dim Sum for Everyone! Grace's critically acclaimed children's novels include The Year of the Dog and The Year of the Rat. Read more about Grace and her work here.

For more information about us: The Foundation for Children's Books

The Foundation for Children's Books (FCB), a nonprofit, educational organization, was founded in 1983 to assist the professionals who most directly influence young readers: teachers, librarians, and parents. We achieve this through professional development programs, including a dynamic speaker series, innovative conferences and workshops, as well as through author visits and residencies in under-served schools.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Small Graces: A Painting a Month for the Foundation for Children's Books


My good friend Grace Lin has come up with a wonderful idea for raising money to help fund the visits of children’s authors and illustrators in under-served schools in the Boston area. She calls this initiative Small Graces.

What is Grace going to do to raise money? She’s going to auction off an unpublished, original painting each month on eBay! All proceeds of each auction will go to The Foundation for Children’s Books to help pay the fees of visiting authors and illustrators.

January's painting will be auctioned from Monday, January 12 through Friday, January 16. Here’s the painting:

I’m excerpting from a post Grace wrote about this project for Blue Rose Girls:

It isn't fair that the only schools that get authors to visit are the ones that can afford to. Every visit I do, I can see the excitement in the students. But it also isn't fair to ask the author (the usually financially-strapped author) to do it for free either.

That is where organizations like the Foundation of Children's Books, the beneficiary of my new little project, comes in.

The Foundation funds school visit programs for low-income schools. So, schools that usually can't afford an author to visit, get one and the author doesn't have to suffer financially either.

Supporting the Foundation is win-win for everyone. Students of all incomes get wonderful programs and fellow authors are able to make a living to keep creating books! Isn't that great?

Check out the details of the Small Graces project at Small Graces: A Painting a Month for The FCB.

Read about The Foundation for Children’s Books and its programs.

Here are links to two posts about Small Graces that Grace Lin wrote Blue Rose Girls:

Please help us to spread the word about Small Graces!

Friday, January 9, 2009

A Home for the Seasons: An Original Poem

After the death of my maternal grandparents, I attempted to write a book-length poem about them. It wasn’t very good—so I never finished it. I decided instead to write a collection of memoir poems entitled A Home for the Seasons about them and their home—a place where I had spent many of my happiest childhood days playing with cousins, celebrating holidays, and picking fruit, vegetables, and flowers in their yard and garden. The poems in the collection take us through one year/four seasons at their house. I’m posting the introductory poem today. I was inspired to post it after reading Tricia’s First Poetry Stretch of 2009 at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Note: My Babci (grandmother) and Dzidzi (grandfather) were born in Poland in the 1890s. They came to America in the early part of the 20th century. They met in Boston, got married, and moved to Peabody, Massachusetts—a city about twenty miles north of our state capital.


My grandparents’ house seems to hug their shady street.

A white duplex, its twin front doors

stand side by side

just three steps up from the sidewalk.

We always enter the house through the side door.

Stepping into the kitchen,

we find Babci sitting at the far end of the table

spooning filling onto circles of homemade dough

and making pierogis, crocheting afghans,

or snipping lacy designs from paper—

a traditional folk art she learned in Poland.

Sometimes we see her painting flowers on the cupboard doors

or hanging starched curtains she embroidered by hand.

The aroma of stuffed cabbage or babka baking in the oven

often greets us at the door.

Most days, Dzidzi spends outdoors tending to his garden

or painting the shutters green

or mending the picket fence

or building a backyard fireplace for summertime barbecues.

My grandparents always busy themselves

making their place a special place

for the family to gather throughout the year,

making it a home for all the seasons.

Here are five more poems from this unpublished collection that I posted previously at Wild Rose Reader:


The crowns of the blossoming fruit trees

are pink and white clouds.

We sit under the apple tree,

petals falling around us like spring snow.

Nearby Babci relaxes in the wide Adirondack chair

crocheting an earth-brown afghan

for our summertime picnics.

Her nimble fingers dance

as she hooks and loops

the dark yarn into intricate designs.

From a single strand

she creates a lacy island

where we will float

on a sea of soft green grass

near Dzidzi’s garden,

eating ham sandwiches,

crunching homemade pickles,

savoring our summer afternoons.


I live on a busy main street.

In summer our open windows

bring us the whoosh and rumble of traffic

we don’t hear during the colder seasons.

I often fall asleep counting cars, not sheep.

I love to spend summer nights

sleeping in my grandparents’ spare room,

with crickets serenading me to sleep

and mourning doves cooing softly

before the sun has kissed the sky awake.


My mother and I arrive at my grandparents’ house

late one Sunday afternoon.

Babci greets us in the kitchen

with cold drinks clinking with ice cubes.

Dzidzi fetches a small wooden basket

from the cellar, takes my hand,

and walks me down the stone path to his garden.

He leans over a tomato plant,

holds a fat red globe in his cupped hand,

and looks at me. I nod approval.

I can almost taste the tomato’s warm, juicy flesh.

We choose a dozen more and place them in the basket.

We pick three green, glossy-skinned peppers,

pull up a bunch of feather-topped carrots,

enough beets for my mother to make a pot of zimny barszcz

thickened with sour cream and floating with cucumber slices.

Every visit to my grandparents’ house

is the same this season—

a small harvest of vegetables—

and when we leave, I take home

a little basket of Dzidzi’s garden.


Two tall maple trees grow

in front of my grandparents’ house.

In late October

they shed their golden crowns.

When the fallen leaves

curl up like little brown bear cubs,

we rake them into a pile

at the side of the street.

As dusk arrives

Dzidzi sets our harvest afire

with a single match.

We sit on wooden crates

at the sidewalk’s edge,

watch the brittle leaves

blossom into golden flames,

smell autumn’s pungent breath.

From the pyre summer rises,

a small gray ghost,

and drifts away

into the darkening sky.


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.

Here’s to happy childhood memories—and to all memories that give us fodder for creative writing!


At Blue Rose Girls, I have a poem by Philip Appleman entitled To the Garbage Collectors in Bloomington, Indiana, the First Pickup of the New Year.

Anastasia Suen has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Picture Book of the Day.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Some Notable Children's Books & Book Awards

Notable Children’s Books & Book Awards

From The New York Times

Sherman Alexie & The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Sherman Alexie’s book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is the winner of the 2008 Boston Globe-Horn Book Fiction Award. It’s an outstanding young adult novel. I loved it! I give it my highest recommendation.

Sherman Alexie’s award acceptance speech is printed in the January/February 2009 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. You can read the speech here. (You can also scroll down that page at The Horn Book's website and click on a link to listen to Alexie give his speech.)

Click here to read Alexie’s I Still Wish, a Stories Out of School piece, that appeared in the September/October 2008 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Sherman Alexie’s Website

Here’s a video taken at the 2007 Texas Book Festival of Sherman Alexie reading from and talking about The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian :

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The 2008 Cybils Finalists

I was away in New Hampshire for a few days welcoming in the New Year with close friends. We had no Internet access in our unit—so I took a blogging vacation. While I was away, the 2008 Cybils Book Finalists were announced.

The 2008 Cybils Finalists

Click on each genre for its short list: