Monday, September 27, 2010

Here & There and Banned Books Week: September 27, 2010

For Banned Books Week

Check out my most recent Poetry Friday post at Blue Rose Girls: Poems for Banned Books Week (September 25-October 2, 2010). The post includes a video of Laurie Halse Anderson reading her poem Listen, Manifesto, a poem that author Ellen Hopkins wrote for Banned Books Week in 2009, and two poems I wrote some time ago. You’ll also find links to other articles and information about Banned Books Week from the American Library Association.

From School Library JournalAnderson's Speak Under Attack, Again
By Rocco Staino September 23, 2010

Alvina Ling has an excellent book-related post at Blue Rose Girls titled Speak Loudly, which was mentioned in an article at Huffington Post last week.

Here’s a link to the Huffington Post article that mentioned Alvina's post—Young Adult Novels Called 'Soft Porn': Attack Ignites Storm Of Responses From Publishing Community (POLL)

Also from Huffington Post--Banned Books Week 2010: 15 Iconic Movies Based On Banned Books (PHOTOS)


Here & There

From Publishers Weekly (9/22/2010)
Selling Color in a White Town
Elizabeth Bluemle

When we moved to Vermont from Manhattan, the biggest shock wasn’t the change from city to country; it was the shift from color to (not black-and-) white. We couldn’t get used to the lack of diversity. It felt unnatural, limited, and wrong. When tourists of color happened into the store, we embarrassed ourselves with our enthusiasm. For the first year, I even had a hard time telling some of my customers apart; in addition to the uniform Caucasian-ness, there was a sameness of dress—cotton turtlenecks, fleece vests, jeans*—and hair, lots of straight, shoulder-length hair. (Josie’s Mediterranean Jewish ringlets are quite exotic here.) Up until 14 years ago, Josie and I spent our individual lives in areas of the country that were richly multicultural.

Last I checked, Vermont had the United States’ least diverse population. I think we’re at 97+% white. In Vermont’s defense, its record for equal treatment is excellent; we may not have a big nonwhite population, but folks that do live here have equivalent opportunities and salaries as their white counterparts. But the point I’m making is, Dorothy, we’re not in New York City anymore.

All that by way of saying, we understand the challenge of making ‘books of color’ mainstream purchases for white audiences.

At the New England Independent Booksellers Association trade show next week, the Children’s Bookselling Advisory Council is holding a panel discussion on this topic. I’d love for booksellers, authors, publishers and editors, sales reps and publicists to attend and share their successful strategies for getting past reluctant or stymied gatekeepers and reaching across color lines to share wonderful, diverse books with kids. I’ll be posting a follow-up in ShelfTalker after the panel.

Here’s the description:
Friday, October 1, 10:15-11:45 am
Multicultural Kids Books: Selling Color in a White World
We all want to support and sell wonderful multicultural books, but many of us live in areas with fairly homogenous populations. How do we get past unconscious color barriers, both our own and our customers’, and put great books featuring characters of all colors in the hands of children? Participants will leave with helpful resources, including sample booktalks, tips for successful conversations with hesitant customers, resources for meeting the needs of multiracial families in your neighborhood, a list of helpful websites, and an annotated bibliography of great multicultural books by age. Panelists will include bookseller Elizabeth Bluemle (The Flying Pig Bookstore, Shelburne, Vt.), author Mitali Perkins, Stacy Whitman (Editorial Director of Tu Publishing), and Karen Lotz (President and Publisher of Candlewick Press).

From Publishers Weekly (9/22/2010): The Stars So Far by Elizabeth Bluemle

  • CONSPIRACY OF KINGS, A. Megan Whalen Turner. (Harper/Greenwillow, $16.99) ISBN 978-0061870934.
  • COSMIC. Frank Cottrell Boyce. (HarperCollins/Walden Pond, $16.99) ISBN 978-0061836831
  • DREAMER, THE. Pam Muñoz Ryan. Illustrated by Peter Sís. (Scholastic, $17.99) ISBN 978-0439269704
  • WAR TO END ALL WARS, THE. Russell Freedman. (Clarion, $22) ISBN 978-00547026862


  • FEVER CRUMB. Philip Reeve. (Scholastic, $17.99) ISBN 978-0545207195
  • INCARCERON. Catherine Fisher. (Dial, $17.99) ISBN 978-0803733961
  • KAKAPO RESCUE: SAVING THE WORLD’S STRANGEST PARROT. Sy Montgomery. Illustrated by Nic Bishop. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $18) ISBN 978-0618494170
  • MIRROR, MIRROR: A BOOK OF REVERSIBLE VERSE. Marilyn Singer, illus. by Josée Masse. Dutton, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0525479017
  • NOTHING. Janne Teller, trans. from the Danish by Martin Aitken. (Simon & Schuster/Atheneum, $16.99) ISBN 978-1416985792
  • SIR CHARLIE: THE FUNNIEST MAN IN THE WORLD. Sid Fleischman. (HarperCollins/Greenwillow, $19.99) ISBN 978-0061896408
  • UBIQUITOUS: CELEBRATING NATURE’S SURVIVORS. Joyce Sidman, illus. by Beckie Prange. (Harcourt, $17) ISBN 978-0618717194

From School Library Journal
Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog

It's My Birthday
By SLJ Staff September 23, 2010

Boy Story: Do you really want guys in your library?
By Helen Cox
September 1, 2010

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Super Duper "Things to Do" Poems Post

The Inspiration for My "Things to Do" Poems

Last week, poet Heidi Mordhorst left a couple of questions for me in the comments section of one of my Poetry Friday posts.

Her questions:
- Where can I see more of your Things to Do poems?
- How did you get started with that?

And Looking for the Write Words left the following comment: You know how much I love your poems so my contribution is modeled after many of your Things to Do poems.

I thought it might be a good time to explain how I got started on writing “things to do” poems.

The process began in 1995...I think. I was trying to come up with new ideas for writing poems with my second grade students. I was looking through Paul Janeczko’s book Poetry from A to Z: A Guide for Young Writers when I read a list poem by Bobbi Katz titled "Things to Do If You Are the Rain.” That jogged my memory. I went to my bookcase and pulled out Upside Down and Inside Out: Poems for All Your Pockets, a collection of poems written by Bobbi. In the middle of the book, I found six "things to do" poems—

  • Things to Do If You Are a Subway
  • Things to Do If You Are a Flower
  • Things to Do If You Are the Snow
  • Things to Do If You Are a Pizza
  • Things to Do If You Are a Cold
  • Things to Do If You Are a Star

Bobbi's “subway” poem begins like this…

Pretend you are a dragon.
Live in underground caves.
Roar about underneath the city.

The “snow” poems ends like this…

Perch on the branches of all the trees—
Sparkle when the sun shines—
Quiet the city.
Close the schools.

I really liked the idea of writing list poems using this type of format. I went into school one day shortly thereafter and wrote some collaborative poems with my students.

Here is one of the collaborative class poems I wrote with my students a couple of years later. (Sorry I can’t find the collaborative class poems I wrote with my students in 1995 at the moment.)

Things to Do If You Are a Witch

Wake up at midnight.
Fly around the moon
on your magic broom.
Zoom around a haunted house.
Swoop out of the dark sky
and scare children.
Have a huge purple wart
on the tip of your long, pointy nose
and skin as green as grass.
Wear a tall black hat
pointed as a thumbtack.
Make yucky snake skin potions
in your kettle.
Cast nasty spells on princes
and turn them into toads.
Eat vulture leg stew, bat wings,
and frog eyes for lunch.
Throw bat noses into the air
and catch them in your mouth.
Go to sleep in a graveyard
before the sun comes up.

My students enjoyed writing “things to do” poems together. Later, they attempted writing some on their own. Some students would even write them from time to time when given a poetry writing assignment.

NOTE: You’ll find some “things to do” poems my students wrote about animals during the 1995-1996 school year here.

And here are three of the “things to do” poems about space that my students wrote in 1998:

Things to Do If You Are the Sun
by Teddy B.

Explode your fiery volcanoes.
Reach your flaming arches
millions of miles into space.
Show off your sunspots.
Heat up your solar system.
Shine on the planets for
billions of years.
let your light give life to Earth.
Spin all the planets around you.
Don’t let the planets
get lost in space.

by Joey G.

Spin around the Earth.
Come out in the evening.
Put on your silver dress
and dance in the night sky.
Shimmer like a pearl.

What to Do If You Are the Sun
by Lila M.

Shine on the planets
and their moons.
Give Earth dawn and dusk.
Stretch out your arms of light
and wake people up in the morning.
Hug Earth with your warmth
and help living things grow.
Show off your glorious crown
during a solar eclipse.

I loved the “things to do” poems my students wrote. Their poems inspired me, in 1998, to start writing my own “things to do” poems. I began listing subjects for the poems in my writing journal. Then I started writing rough drafts of the poems in the journal.

Here are two "things to do" poems in that journal that remain in their “rough draft” stage:

Things to Do if You Are a Frog

Be beetle small.
Don’t be green.
Be ruby red, topaz yelloe, or amethyst.
Sit inside a rainforest flower
Like a little jewel
Drinking dewdrops.

Things to Do If You Are A Fish

Be sleek.
Flash your silver scales.
Slip through the water like a whisper.
Play hide and seek in the seaweed.
Watch your breath rise in spheres
to the surface of the sea.


Here are links to some of my original “things to do” poems that I’ve posted at Wild Rose Reader:

Things to Do If You Are a Mole

Things to Do If You Are a Castle

Things to Do If You Are a Mountain

Things to Do If You Are a Lawnmower

Things to Do If You Are Grass

Things to Do If You Are the Moon

Things to Do If You Are a Bell

Things to Do If You Are a Pencil & Things to Do if You Want to Be a Snowflake

Things to Do If You Are the Ocean

Things to Do if You Are an Orb Spider

Things to Do if You Are a Cow



At Blue Rose Girls, I have some poems and links for Banned Books Week.

Karen, at The Blog With the Shockingly Clever Title, is doing the Poetry Friday Roundup today.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The 2010 Cybils Poetry Panel is Announced!

Introducing the 2010 Cybils Poetry Panel

Panel Organizer: Kelly Fineman: Writing and Ruminating
Panelists (Round I Judges):
Bruce Black: Wordswimmer
Elaine Magliaro: Wild Rose Reader
Gina Ruiz: AmoXcalli, The Graphic Landscape
Laura Purdie Salas: Writing the World for Kids
Sylvia Vardell: Poetry for Children

Judges (Round II):
Kelly Fineman: (see category organizer)
Sara Lewis Holmes: Read Write Believe
Greg Pincus: GottaBook
Jama Rattigan: Alphabet Soup
Liz Scanlon: Liz in Ink

I'm excited to be serving on the 2010 Cybils Poetry Panel this year! We have an outstanding group of panelists. I'm looking forward to our in-depth discussions about the best children's poetry books published in the past year.


Visit the Cybils website to find out who some of the other Cybils panel organizers are.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Poetry Friday Roundup: September 17, 2010

Here, at Wild Rose Reader, I have another original list poem titled Things to Do If You Are a Mole.

Over at The Drift Record, Julie Larios has a jump-rope rhyme made all of questions that she wrote for Tricia's Poetry Stretch this week.

Toby Speed has a review of Skywriting: Poems to Fly over at The Writer's Armchair.

Gregory K. has a guest post about PoetrE up over at David L. Harrison's blog today.

At A Year of Reading Mary Lee has a rainbow, a song (no surprises which one), and some great news about a certain Poetry Friday panel session at KidLitCon.

Tabath Yeatts has haiku, pie-ku, and a giveaway today at her blog today.

Andromeda Jazmon has a review of Hip Hop Dog by Raschka & Radunsky over at A Wrung Sponge.

And at Poem Farm, Amy has an original poem, Mother Poet, #17 in her series of poems about poems. She also features a picture (not poetry) book that makes its debut tomorrow.

Ruth's got a Hitomaro poem for us today at her blog.

Laura Salas has a poem from Dark Emperor, Joyce Sidman’s wonderful new collection of night poems about the woodland.

Laura also presents the weekly 15 Words or Less poems.

Over at the Paper Tigers blog, Sally has a post about Wombat Walkabout.

Jone found a poem about autumn by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Check it out at Check It Out.

Head on over to Jama’s Alphabet Soup for a taste of some clever light verse written by one of my favorite children’s poets—J. Patrick Lewis.

Diane Mayr talks about a way to have a poetry collection published at The Write Sisters.

Diane also announces Catzilla! and shares a cat tanka at Random Noodling.
Laura Shovan says she’s back after a break. You'll find an onomatopoeia mini-lesson using Carolyn Crimi's picture book The Louds Move In! at Author Amok.

This week at the Stenhouse Blog you’ll find a poem and some wisdom from Tao Te Ching.

David Elzey says: “i'm in this week with a parody of robert frost that also happens to be true. mostly true. about me and crows.”

At Writing and Ruminating, Kelly Fineman has her review of Baby Baby Baby! by Marilyn Janovitz.

Karen Edmisten joins in this week with Our Town and Lucinda Matlock.

Sara Lewis Holmes returns to Poetry Friday with a Kafka quote and a Francisco Stork poem at Read Write Believe. (Welocme back, Sara!)
Charles Ghigna is tiptoeing in today with a bird nest poem at Father Goose.

My good friend Grace Lin is joining Poetry Friday this week with Moon Poetry for the Autumn Moon Festival. Check out Grace’s Moon Poetry post at her blog Gracenotes. (Note: Grace’s beautiful new picture book Thanking the Moon: Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival was recently published by Alfred A. Knopf.)


Janet Squires has a post about Pirates: Poems written by David L. Harrison and illustrated by Dan Burr in recognition of Talk Like a Pirate Day.

After a long absence, Tricia returns to Poetry Friday with the poem The Reader by Richard Wilbur.

Tricia has also posted this week’s poetry stretch results—Just Questions—at The Miss Rumphius Effect.


Anne Shirley is in with a poem she shares with her students each year. She says it's a thought-provoking piece written by Helen Buckley.

Head on over to Looking for the Write Words for another original list poem—not written by me—titled Things to Do If You Are a Frog!

Shelley invites us to read about some people who knew how to live without much money at Dust Bowl Poetry.

Announcement! Click here to find out who the 2010 Cybils Poetry Panelists are.


I'm doing the Poetry Friday Roundup at Wild Rose Reader this week. Please leave the URL of your Poetry Friday post in the comments. I'll be updating the list throughout the day.

Things to Do If You Are a Mole: An Original List Poem

Here is one of my favorite list poems from my original “Things to Do” poetry collection. It is another one of the poems I had to cut from my new “Things to Do” manuscript. That’s how it goes sometimes—you have to eliminate some of the poems you love in order to create a more cohesive and unified collection.

Things to Do If You Are a Mole

Make your home

in the damp darkness


unknowing of snow

and stars

and summer breezes.

Live among roots

and rocks

and sleeping cicadas.

Excavate tunnels

in the moist brown earth.

Listen for the soft music

of seeds sprouting,

worms wiggling,

rain pattering on your grassy roof.

Spend your days in a world

of unending night.


The Poetry Friday Roundup is at Wild Rose Reader this week! Click here to leave the URL of your poetry post at my Poetry Friday Roundup post.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Small Graces September 2010 Auction Is On!

Painting by Author/Illustrator Brian Lies

In 2009, the talented and generous author/illustrator Grace Lin donated 11 original paintings to the Foundation for Children's Books to be auctioned on eBay as a benefit for its programs in under-served schools.

This year, the FCB is fortunate enough to have 10 different illustrators contributing to our "Small Graces" auction. Each month a small, unpublished, original painting 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 "small Grace."

This month's painting (seen above), a gorgeous piece by author/illustrator Brian Lies based on his new book Bats at the Ballgame, is on auction now through Friday, September 17.
To bid, click here for the link to eBay. For those who find original art from children's books beyond their budget, this is a great way to buy affordable art! Please spread the word and bid!
Brian Lies has illustrated more than 23 children's books and written five, including the New York Times bestsellers Bats at the Ballgame (2010--published this week at #6 on the NYT list!), Bats at the Library (2008) and Bats at the Beach (2006). Brian has won numerous awards for his work in books, newspapers and magazines, and visits schools to work with young readers. He lives with his family in Duxbury, MA.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Book Review: Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman

Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night
Written by Joyce Sidman
Illustrated by Rick Allen
Houghton Mifflin 2010

Well, Joyce Sidman has done it again! She has written another topnotch collection of nature poems. This time her focus is on the flora and fauna of the woods. This time she examines her subjects through the lens of night. She brings the dark forest to life with her words and imagery. In her poems, Sidman illuminates the nocturnal actions of the snail, primrose moth, great horned owl, orb spider, baby porcupette, cricket, oak tree, mushrooms, eft, tree bat—and provides insight into the moon’s thinking. Dark Emperor is a "must have" book for teachers who enjoy connecting science with poetry/literature--and for kids who are budding naturalists!

Joyce Sidman explains how this book started . . .

I used to be just the teensiest bit afraid of the dark. I loved the concept of the nighttime, its mystery and dark beauty, but the reality was a different story. For us humans—diurnal, sight-oriented creatures that we are—the darkness is alien and forbidding, especially in the woods (which already have dark, mythic undertones). But there are all sorts of creatures that prefer the dark, that thrive in the dark. Why? And how? This book is my exploration of those questions. And you know what? Now that I know so much about these fascinating night creatures, I'm not as afraid of the dark anymore!

Welcome to the Night

Welcome to the Night, the first poem in the collection, is a poem of address. In it, Sidman speaks to woodland creatures and invites them to immerse themselves in their habitat and to use their senses to experience their world after dark:

Come feel the cool and shadowed breeze,
come smell your way among the trees,
come touch rough bark and leathered leaves:
Welcome to the night.

To be sure, Sidman is also welcoming readers to immerse themselves in her poems. She takes readers on a sensory field trip. We experience night in the woods along with the flora and fauna. Sidman even has certain animals, an oak tree, and the moon relate their poetic tales in their own voices.

A young porcupine describes its life after the sun has set:

From I Am a Baby Porcupette

I am a baby porcupette.
I cannot climb up branches yet.
While mom sleeps in the trees I curl
beneath a log till sun has set.

I am a baby porcupette.
I nibble in the nighttime wet:
a sprig of leaves, a tuft of grass,
in hidden spots I won’t forget.

In Cricket Speaks, the winged insect expresses its desire to sing “till the branches tremble/and life/swells/to a single/searing/unstoppable/ sound” when midnight—the trilling hour—arrives.

In Oak after Dark, a tree describes how it carries on its business when most may think it’s merely resting:

As nighttime rustles at my knee,
I stand in silent gravity

and quietly continue chores
of feeding leaves and sealing pores.

While beetles whisper in my bark,
while warblers roost in branches dark,

I stretch my roots into the hill
and slowly, slowly, drink my fill.

In Dark Emperor, a small creature (a mouse) beseeches a great-horned owl to let it be: “O Dark Emperor/of hooked face and/hungry eye: turn that/awful beak away/from me; disregard/the tiny hiccup/of my heart/as I flee.”

Sidman is most adept at incorporating poetic devices and figures of speech and of using language in creative ways in her work. One example: She employs repetition to great effect in a number of her poems. In The Mushrooms Come, she uses it to reinforce how the ubiquitous mushrooms spring from many different places in the forest—moss, loam, crumbling logs, musty leaves—and to help capture a soft and fluid rhythm.

From The Mushrooms Come

Unbuttoning the forest floor,
the mushrooms come,
the mushrooms come.

Like noses pink
in midnight air,
like giants’ ears,
like elfin air,
like ancient cities
built on cliffs,
the mushrooms come,
the mushrooms come.

Each two-page spread in the book contains a poem, an elegantly written informative paragraph about the subject of the poem, and large and small linocuts. The book also includes a glossary that explains such terms as echolocation, stridulation, and omnivorous.

About the Art: Rick Allen uses muted colors and abundant black lines in his illustrations to capture the forest after dark. His pictures draw readers into the woods…into the night…and into the nocturnal goings-on of animals and plants.

(Note: I think kids would really enjoy examining Allen’s illustrations to find all the animals he's included in them that are not clearly visible at a glance.)

Rick Allen informed me that he “never tired of her [Sidman’s] words over the eighteen months or so that we worked on the book.” That’s evident. Allen’s illustrations are perfect companions for Sidman’s words. Both poetry and art enlighten and shed light on a dark world that most of us are unfamiliar with.


I asked Joyce if she come tell me more about Dark Emperor. Here’s what she wrote:

Dark Emperor is part of an original "trilogy" of books I wanted to write, about different ecosystems. Water Boatman was the first (pond), Butterfly Eyes was the second (meadow), and this is the third (woods). I can't really remember when I decided to set it in the night time. It was fascinating to learn how different organisms cope with, and thrive in, darkness. As always, I learned a lot as I researched and wrote the book. One other tidbit: "Ballad of the Wandering Eft" was written to the tune of "Dark as a Dungeon" by Merle Travis. I'm hoping at some point some kid will perform it on You Tube and I can listen!

Good news for Joyce Sidman fans: Joyce and Beth Krommes are working on a picture book for younger children called Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature, that will come out in fall of 2011!

Note: I would like to thank Joyce Sidman for providing me with information about Dark Emperor and for the news about her next book. I also want to thank Rick Allen for his quick response to my request for images of illustrations from the book.


Dark Emperor Book Trailer

Dark Emperor Reader’s Guide

At Blue Rose Girls, I have a poem by Wislawa Szymborska titled Photograph from September 11.
Anastasia Suen has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Picture Book of the Day.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Here & There: September 8, 2010

School Library Journal

What Every New Media Specialist Needs to Know: These 10 tips can help your career get off to a great start
By Donna Corbo and Candace Sample (September 1, 2010)

Scales on Censorship—Going Rogue: What to do when a committee is threatened by one of its members
By Pat Scales (September 1, 2010)

The Horn Book (September/October 2010 Issue)

What Makes a Good Book for All Ages?
By Horn Book reviewers

EDITORIAL: The Reading Life
By Martha Parravano

Reading on the Spectrum: A boy with autism connects with books
By Ashley Waring


Top 10 Sports Books for Youth: 2010 (September 2010)
By Ian Chapman

Book Links

Everyday Poetry: The Poetry of Science (June 2010)
By Sylvia M. Vardell

The Bulletin for the Center for Children’s Books

Growing, Sleeping, Flying, Scheming: A Babies Dozen (September 2010)
Selected by Kate Quealy-Gainer, Assistant Editor

The Cooperative Children’s Book Center

50 Multicultural Books Every Child Should Know
Compiled by Ginny Moore Kruse and Kathleen T. Horning
Updated by Kathleen T. Horning, Carling Febry, Merri T. Lindgren and Megan Schliesman
© 2010, 2006, 2001 Cooperative Children's Book Center

Friday, September 3, 2010

Toasting Marshmallows: An Original Poem

I love September! The days are still warm. The nights are cooler. There's less humidity. Crickets serenade us loudly at night. It's a wonderful time of the year to camp out...or to have a barbecue.
That's why I selected a poem I wrote about toasting marshmallows to post for this holiday weekend.
Toasting Marshmallows

I pierce
two candied clouds…
a pair of whipped sugar pillows
with a wooden stick,
toast them over the campfire
till they’re warm and brown
and their insides ooze
sticky white lava
when I bite in.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Glen Beck Has Nazi Tourrette's Syndrome

Glenn Beck has been all over the news lately. I couldn’t resist posting a video of one of the funniest Back in Black segments that I’ve ever seen on The Daily Show at my blog Political Verses. In the segment, comedian Lewis Black claims that Glenn Beck has Nazi Tourette’s Syndrome. It's a riot!

Here's the link to my post at PV: Lewis Black on Glenn Beck and His Terrible Affliction