Thursday, April 27, 2017


I have mentioned many times at Wild Rose Reader that I love writing mask poems! I enjoy taking on the "personality" of an animal...or plant...or inanimate object and expressing my thoughts in a "voice" other than my own.

The riddle rhyme is a type of mask poem in which the writer provides clues to the reader about who/what is speaking in the poem. I used to read riddle rhymes aloud to my students. They had fun trying to guess/deduce who was talking in the poems.
Last year, I began working on a collection of riddle rhymes--but never wrote more than a half dozen rhymes. Here is one of the riddle rhymes that I finished:

I’m a sucker for crumbs that fall on the floor.
I gobble them up and go looking for more—
Dead house flies and dog hair and sand from shore.
Your dust and your dirt are foods I adore!
I’m a ravenous, cavernous, hungry machine—
I’m a great greedy beast who keeps your house clean.


Unfortunately, the books of riddle rhymes that I used in my classroom are now out of print: Myra Cohn Livingston's My Head Is Red and Other Riddle Rhymes and J. Patrick Lewis's Riddle-Icious and Riddle-Lightful.  Fortunately, there are mask poems that can serve as examples of riddle rhymes. Some good ones can be found in Paul Janeczko's book Dirty Laundry Pile: Poems in Different Voices (HarperCollins, 2001.)
You have to remember not to tell children the titles of the poems before reading the rhymes to them.
Here are excerpts from a few of my favorites:
by Tony Johnston

I am the trusted consort
of floors, accomplice
of water and swash,
confidant of corners
where skulks shifty, fugitive

by Patricia Hubbell

I munch. I crunch.
I zoom. I roar.

I clatter-clack
Across the floor.

I swallow twigs.
I slurp dead bugs.

I suck cat hair
From the rugs...

by Douglas Florian

Big as a street--
with fins not feet--
I'm full of blubber,
with skin like rubber.

You can also find some fine mask poems that could be read as riddle rhymes in Douglas Florian's book Insectlopedia:
·         The Dragonfly
·         The Inchworm
·         The Praying Mantis
·         The Black Widow Spider

Writing Workshop for Kids
Chappaqua Library, Chappaqua, New York
Saturday, May 6th at 2:00 pm

I'll be at the Chappaqua Library in Chappaqua, New York, on Saturday, May 6th. I will be leading a writing workshop for children in Grades 1-3. I'll be talking about "things to do" and mask poems. Cati Chien, the illustrator of THINGS TO DO, will join me for a Q & A session and a book signing following the workshop, which begins at 2:00 pm.
JoAnn has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Teachings Authors.

Friday, April 21, 2017

This Great Big Sky: An Original Poem

I have been "reworking" a collection of nighttime poems. I'm taking a new approach suggested by my editor. I'm hoping it will give the collection a better focus. Here is one of the poems that I decided to cut from the manuscript:


This great big sky,
this starry dome,

this universe that we call home—
it’s a vast and endless place

filled with space
      and space

          and space.


In other news: Catia Chien, the illustrator of my book THINGS TO DO, was on PBS NEWSHOUR last night on a Brief but Spectacular segment!

I thought some people might be interested in a guest post that Catia wrote for All the Wonders titled ON FAILING.
In her piece, Catia shares her relationship with failures and setbacks she encountered during the process of discovering the voice of a story's illustrations.

Tabatha has the Poetry Friday Roundup over at The Opposite of Indifference.



Friday, April 14, 2017

THINGS TO DO: Creative Writing, Language Arts, and Art Activities to do with a Poetry Picture Book

I had hoped to post more often during National Poetry Month--but I have been busy writing up posts about my book THINGS TO DO and on how to write "things to do" poems for All the Wonders, Book Source, and Two Writing Teachers. Two of my posts are already online. One is due today.

For Poetry Friday this week, I am providing a link to my Booksource article...and to three links at All the Wonders.


In this article, I share the peaks and valleys that I encountered while creating my poems for THINGS TO DO. It includes some poems that were cut from my original manuscript and the revisions that I made to a few poems in the collection.
In this article, Matthew talks about the poetry and art of THINGS TO DO. It includes six of the beautiful spreads that Catia Chien created for the book.

Katey Howes: "One of my favorite aspects of the book Things To Do is the energy contained in the words and layout. These poems are anything but static! The placement, font, size and color of the words move the reader up, down, and all around the page. As I read, I get the urge to jump, glide, buzz and twirl along—which makes me want to create a very kinetic craft."


In this article, I provide suggestions for some language arts discussion and creative writing activities that teachers can do with their students in the classroom using my book THINGS TO DO.


You'll find this week's Poetry Friday Roundup over at Dori Reads.


Monday, April 10, 2017

All the Wonders Is Highlighting My Book THINGS TO DO during National Poetry Month

Written by Elaine Magliaro
Illustrated by Catia Chien
Published by Chronicle Books

I am so excited because All the Wonders is highlighting my book THINGS TO DO during National Poetry Month with the following:
* an inside look at the book
* two giveaways of the book!
* podcast interview with my illustrator Catia Chien by Nick Patton at picturebooking
* podcast interview with me by Matthew Winner
* a personal piece by me on writing Things To Do
* a personal piece by Catia Chien on Failing
* a poetry mobile craft

You can find out more about THINGS TO DO and download a Teacher Guide for it here.

Friday, April 7, 2017


When I was working on my book Things to Do, I tried to select verbs that best described the actions of the things that I was writing poems about.  For example, in my RAIN poem, I wanted my verbs to help readers hear sounds that rain makes and to help them envision things that rain does: polka dot, freckle, whoosh, gurgle, patter, tap dance. Using strong verbs helps to make our writing come alive for the reader.

Things to do if you are RAIN

Polka dot sidewalks.
Freckle windowpanes.
Whoosh down gutter spouts.
Gurgle into drains.
Patter ’round the porch
In slippers of gray.
Tap dance on the roof.
Go away.


When I was teaching elementary school, my students wrote quite a bit of poetry. I often tied their poetry writing in with science units that we were studying in class. My students especially enjoyed writing "things to do" list poems about animals.  
Before asking my students to write their own "things to do" poems, I'd gather them together and have them collaborate on writing a class poem. I'd talk to them about trying to select the verbs the best described the actions of the subject of their poem. I also ask them to try to begin each line or sentence of the poem with a verb.

On a large sheet of chart paper, I'd write down the  rough draft of our class poem. We'd read through it once or twice. Then I'd give them a day to reread it to themselves...and to think about any changes they'd like to make to their poem. As we worked on revising the class poem on a second sheet of chart paper the following day, we'd try to think of more dynamic verbs that we use in place of those we used in the first draft.

One year, my students chose to write a collaborative poem about the things they would do if they were a witch. It was October...and their interest was high on all things Halloween:

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.

Excerpts from some of my students' "things to do" poems:

SHARK by Mike B.

Speed through the freezing sea
like a bullet.
Dart away from enemies.
Catch silvery fish
for your chick.

KITTEN by Leo S.

Tear up couches.
Pounce on a furry mouse.
Rocket out an open window
and climb a tree...
Sharpen your claws on tree bark.

DOLPHIN by Billy E.

Dive for whiskery catfish
and eat them.
Fly out of the water
like a bullet...
Jet through warm seas.

MANATEE by Adam K.

Nibble yummy water weeds.
Nuzzle a friend...
Fold up your flippers,
Close your eyes,
And go off to dreamland.


Soar through the air like a rocket.
Feel the wind on your wings.
Swoop down to the river.

BUTTERFLY by Phoebe G.

Flutter in the sky
And show off your rainbow scales.
Find a yellow rose
And settle on a petal.
...sip up the sweet drops of nectar.

I found that having my students write "things to do" poems was not only a good creative writing activity--it was also an excellent language arts exercise.

Here are other examples of verbs that my students used when writing about animals:

Rattlesnake: slither, stick out, rattle, bite, swallow, slip, coil
Shark: glide, bite, gobble, sneak, scare
Penguin: dive, speed, dart, catch, waddle

Kitten: pounce, tear, climb, fiddle, hide, curl up, rocket, sharpen



Irene Latham has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Live Your Poem.


Sunday, April 2, 2017

THINGS TO DO IF YOU ARE A BIRD: A Poem You Won't Find in My Book

I had to write four "new" poems for my book THINGS TO DO. Why? My editor Melissa Manlove and I cut nineteen poems from the original manuscript after we decided to change the focus of my "story in poems."

This morning, I was looking at different drafts of those four "new" poems. It was interesting reading the versions that you won't find in my book.

One of the "new" poems in my book is titled Things to do if you are BIRDS. Here is one of the earlier versions of that poem:

Things to Do If You Are a Bird

Perch in a tree top.

Warble a song.

Fill morning with music

Welcoming dawn.

Go fetch a fine breakfast.

Get up…out of bed.

Time to get busy—

A new day’s ahead!

You'll see the final version of the poem as it appears in the book in the illustration below. Sorry the text is so small: