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It was an honor to serve with the other judges on the 2012 committee and a pleasure now to announce:
WON TON–A Cat Tale Told in Haiku by Lee Wardlaw, illustrated by Eugene Yelchin (Henry Holt,2011) has won the 2012 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award! Creatively structured and exquisitely conceived, WON TON is a book that has stayed with me since the very first reading. You can find a ReaderKidZ review of the book HERE.
Using free verse and a new form developed specifically for this story, Helen Frost - no stranger to the LBH award – created HIDDEN, (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2011) a narrative rich in intrigue with a mystery that pulled me quickly through the story. HIDDEN was named a Lee Bennett Hopkins Honor Book.
Read more about the Lee Bennett Hopkins Award HERE.
Yes. I’ve been away for a while. A long long while. Check out READERKIDZ to see where I’ve been spending a lot of time and what my friends and I have been up to.
In the meantime, I’m still writing, teaching, and traveling.
While away on spring break, I read HEART OF A SHEPHERD by Roseanne Parry. It’s the kind of book I knew, based on the title, that I would be intrigued by and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s an amazing debut, a book I’ll long remember because the story *is* full of heart. The setting – a ranch in Oregon – is one I was only vaguely familiar with, having driven through a part of Oregon I imagine was similar to the land Brother and his family ranched. And the people, so interesting! Four sons, a father in the military, a mother who’s off living her life as an artist, yet who still manages to feel loosely connected and forgiven for her departure; and a set of grandparents, each with his/her own intriguing background and story.
This was a book that as I read, the writer-me wanted to know exactly how the author did it. What did Parry bring to the story from her own personal background? How did she infuse such depth into a story that, in looking over her comments about the book on her website, doesn’t seem at all related to her personal experience? How did she write about life on a ranch without being a rancher herself? How did she bring to life the cultural details of a rural setting that most certainly isn’t very similar to her own suburban lifestyle? And what about the grandfather who’s Quaker, and and the grandmother who’s Catholic? Again, another interesting layer.
It’s a book I enjoyed very much. A book I will return to.
You know that wonderful feeling when you find a great book and you can’t wait to share it with someone else you know will love it, too? That’s exactly what I felt this weekend: JULIA GILLIAN book love.
I enjoyed every minute of the reading and I know there will soon be more JULIA GILLIAN fans in my classroom.
POETRY LOVE: Last spring I was able to take a poetry workshop with amazing poet and teacher, Rebecca Kai Dotlich. I’ve long been a fan of Rebecca’s work, but I just discovered Kathi Appelt‘s recent interview with Rebecca about writing, poetry, picture books, and more. Rebecca shares a great poetry writing tip for teachers and Kathi and she talk a bit about BELLA AND BEAN, a beautiful picture about poetry and friendship.
I wrote a brief entry about BELLA AND BEAN earlier this year on ReaderKidZ. Check it out HERE.
Enjoy Kathi Appelt’s video interview : (Don’t you just *love* the background music, “Adieu False Heart”? I sure do!)
The months since summer’s end have been incredibly full. ReaderKidZ launched the last week of July, school began a mere two weeks later, and ever since, free time has been somewhat elusive.
But the holidays are approaching and, with them, the promise of time off to do some of the things I’ve put on hold; I’m looking forward to catching up on a bit of extra reading.
One book I hope to dive into (it’s been sitting on my bedside table for over a month now) is A FAMILY OF READERS: The Book Lover’s Guide to Children’s and Adult Literature, by Roger Sutton and Martha V. Parravano (editors of The Horn Book Magazine.)
If you love kid’s books, this is certainly a resource you won’t want to miss.
The book is divided into four sections – “Reading to Them,” “Reading With Them,” “Reading On Their Own,” and “Leaving Them Alone,” – each part broken down further into chapters such as, “Books for Babies,” “Girl Books and Boy Books,” “Nonfiction,” and so on.
With essays such as “What Makes a Good Mother Goose?” by Joanna Rudge Long, “Grow Up with Us, You’ll Be Fine” by Mitali Perkins and “Up the Bookcase to Poetry” by Alice Schertle, there’s sure to be plenty of good words, advice, recommendations, and just plain terrific information for each and every book-loving family.
Deborah’s the author of the beautiful, award-winning novel, CHARLES AND EMMA and it just so happens that I met (and ate lunch with) her and her cousin, a former colleague at my school, while attending the SCBWI National Conference in LA last weekend.
Deborah has made a video of her reading COOL DOG, SCHOOL DOG, to Zachary Bear, the yellow lab that accompanies her editor to work each day.
We’re official. ReaderKidZ , a brand-new kidlit website designed for teachers, librarians, and parents has launched!
On our website you’ll find: Author-in-Residence, (one or more featured authors each month,) Beyond Borders (a look at books about children from around the world), Book Room (a library of selected titles and reviews), and the Tool Box (classroom activities, Teacher’s Guides, links to interesting articles, and more!).
Just in time to welcome the back-to-school crowd, ourtheme for August is “New Beginnings.”
Not sure why, but I like writing picture books about pigs. For that reason, when I saw that Betsy Bird of Fuse 8 had placed a link to a new crazy illustrator blog called Dueling Banjo Pigs, I just had to check it out! Too funny. Enjoy!
Yep. Now that school’s out for summer, I’ve been busy catching up on those many things that fall by the wayside. I’ve picked up – and, most importantly, caught up - on all the household basics since I clocked out, on the last day of school.
Believe it or not, summer vacation is almost over. But not to worry. I’ve had a grand time with my favorite writing buddies in Taos, New Mexico.
We stayed at the Laughing Horse Inn (a story in itself), former digs of some well-known celebs/artists who made Taos their get-away spot. Folks like Georgia O’Keefe, whose ghost is purported to visit the Laughing Horse from time to time (and sit on her bed!).
We had no such sightings, but we did have a marvelous time. Laughing (it *is* the Laughing Horse Inn, after all), catching up, critiquing, eating, and yes, occasionally, actually writing. Amazing!
Since my return, I’ve been working with several writing friends on a fabulous new website that we plan to unveil August 1st. We’re gearing our site towards the K-5 crowd, and we hope it’ll be a welcome addition to kidlitosphere. Details soon.
In addition I’ve been taking a photo class with the goal of *finally* learning how to use my DSLR camera. I’ve picked up many helpful tips, including a short course on all things Photo Shop Elements. I couldn’t be more pleased.
My dear Vermont College teacher and friend, Kathi Appelt, stopped by Peachland Elementary earlier this week as she was finishing off the last days of her Keeper tour. What a treat. Our Peachland community of teachers and students LOVED peeking into the life of a real-live author.
It’s with great pleasure that I introduce readers to Joseph Ruak. Joseph is Repagu’nu’worh and was born and raised on the island of Saipan, the setting of Nancy Bo Flood’s debut YA novel, WARRIORS IN THE CROSSFIRE. His father’s family came from the outer islands of Chuuk and settled on Saipan during a time when few people lived on the island.
DW: You’ve known Nancy Bo Flood for many years. Can you talk a little about how your paths first crossed, your long-term friendship, and your feelings about a person like Nancy – who is not from the island – writing a book about such a significant piece of Saipan’s history?
JR:I met Nancy through a mutual friend, who used to teach at the Northern Marianas College (NMC), where Nancy used to teach also. My friend told me that Nancy writes books, collects legends, myths and folklores. My friend encouraged me to meet Nancy regarding the idea of getting the Talabwogh Men Stick dances recorded on a written format and/or video format. You have to remember that, like many cultures, the Carolinian culture was passed down through the generations through its oral histories.
My father and I had been brainstorming ideas on how to save our traditional chants and dances when this rare opportunity presented itself. We discussed it and decided that the best chance our chants and dances would have of being saved was to work with Nancy.
After my father and I met and worked with Nancy on our first project together, I felt like Nancy was sent by our ancestors to look for my father and me, so that we might work together to save our dances. I have since adopted Nancy to be my Nina or Godmother. Anyone who has the patience and takes the time to see another world view is an exceptional human being.
DW: You were born and raised on Saipan and grew up some
20 years after the events chronicled in WARRIORS. Unlike many, myself included, whose parents lived through WW II but experienced it far from the battlefield, your father, Felipe I. Ruak (to whom WARRIORS is dedicated), and many family members actually lived in the middle of the battlefield.
DW: WARRIORS IN THE CROSSFIRE is a book you acquired while in your position as publisher of Boyds Mills Press. In an interview on Cynsations, you said, “I love publishing first novels, and we always have one or two on our list.” In fact, WARRIORS was one such book.
While many editors and publishers are hard put to quantify what piques their interest when reading a new submission, what elements of WARRIORS drew you to this particular manuscript and the decision to publish a first-time novelist?
SR: Initially the book came to my attention by way of my wife, Carolyn Coman, who knew Nancy from when she attended one of the Whole Novel Workshops Carolyn runs for the Highlights Foundation. I read the manuscript and immediately recognized its potential. In particular I was dawn to the subject, which struck me as fresh and exciting, and the voice, which is Nancy’s forte. At the time I don’t recall knowing it was Nancy’s first novel, but when I discovered that it was, I was delighted.
DW: You wrote a fascinating article in School Library Journal (“Literature in translation can break down barriers between cultures. So why is our nation so resistant?”, Jan. 1, 2004) about the difficulty of publishing literature in translation and the irony of such, given the emphasis in educational circles on “multiculturalism” and multicultural literature.
WARRIORS IN THE CROSSFIRE, though not a book in translation, is a book about a time and place – Saipan during World War II – that is largely, to my knowledge, unexplored in children’s fiction and unfamiliar to many.
Oh so many years ago… I dreamed of writing picture books.
I took many many classes at UCLA extension with wonderful writers: Ann Whitford Paul, Kristine O’Connell George, Sonia Levitin, Caroline Arnold, Madeline Comora, Alexis O’Neill, and Barbara Abercrombie.
I signed up for more classes – online, this time – with Anastasia Suen, Barbara Seuling, Dennis Foley and Lynn Hightower.
I completed an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts and worked with fabulous advisors: Phyllis Root, Marion Dane Bauer, Jane Resh Thomas, and Tim Wynne-Jones.
I went back to Vermont again (!) to finish a post-grad picture book semester with the amazing Kathi Appelt.
I met many wonderful people who supported my growth as a writer, including my Whirligig Vermont College classmates and my dear “Cookie” friends: Ann, Candy, Debbie, Nancy, Miriam, Texas Steph, and Stephanie G.
Then, after all those years, and all those classes, and all that writing, in January of 2009, I received a lovely phone message from picture book editor par excellence Allyn Johnston of Beach Lane Books re: a manuscript I had sent her after attending a weekend class she and Ann Whitford Paul had taught at UCLA. Allyn wanted to buy my book!!
In June of 2009, I received the official offer for BLUE ON BLUE. I was at the movies with friends (“Away We Go”). My good friend, Cheryl, was there when I heard the news. We celebrated!!
Many months passed. I waited. I worked. I took more classes. I revised other stories. And then, a contract! (Which I promptly signed!)
Soon, an officially official “signed-by-both-parties” contract found its way back to my doorstep. HOORAY!!
Time to celebrate again. This time, with my dear husband, the one person who has been there all along, encouraging me to pursue my dreams.
I had no idea when I chose my selection for Poetry Friday that the round-upwas being hosted by PaperTigers. It seems providential somehow, that the poem I chose to post (with permission) is one my good friend, Nancy Bo Flood, shared in an email early this morning. By pure coincidence, Nancy was a guest on PaperTigers just yesterday. Here’s her beautiful poem. Enjoy.
And I’m okay with a decent amount of math, too. But the bottom line is that the pendulum has swung TOO far and this op-ed article in Monday’s NYT sums up quite nicely the direction in which I *wish* education was headed.
What I wouldn’t give to teach in the (theoretical) third grade classroom described here.
All I can say is… I hope somebody with the power to make these kind of HUGE changes in the way curriculum is developed is listening.
I’m a bit fascinated, as I’m sure many are, with the ongoing discussion re: ebooks.
The arguments in favor of digital books seem plausible to me and while I love the idea of curling up with a good book and holding it in my hands, I sense the time is coming when I will be just as comfortable reading the same words digitally.
There’s much on the web about this topic. Here are a few links I found interesting.
On the floor beside my computer is a favorite book/poem of childhood, “Wynken, Blynken, and Nod,” by Eugene W. Field.
I have vague recollections of someone – my mother, probably – reading it to me. And another memory of the shoe-shaped sailing ship, and other small wooden ornaments from the poem, hanging on the wall above my sister’s bed.
David McPhail’s illustrations take me back to the bedroom my sister and I shared, the bunnies, a shoe boat, and the stars “in that beautiful sea.
I’m not an artist and while I *wish* I had the language/vocabulary to talk about BUNNY DAYS in a way that does it justice, I don’t.
BUT, what I do have is a deep appreciation for spare lines and meaningful use of color, and a general intuitive sense of “what works” from a design standpoint.
BUNNY DAYS has all this in spades.
Suffice it to say, that I think this book is absolutely Caldecott worthy. (Perhaps Jules over at Seven Imp will do an interview with Tao??? Check here (scroll to the bottom) for a snippet by Jules about BUNNY DAYS.)
In the first chapter, “Muddy Bunnies,” curved lines abound. In the hills, in the repeating shapes of flowers, in the arch of tree trunks. The pallete is soft: “retro” blues, oranges, greens and browns. White is used with intention.
The composition varies – double page spreads, spot illustrations on a sea of white set off by a few carefully placed clouds, and so on.
Bunnies abound, each with a personality of its own. One sleeps by a tree, another basks in the sun, arms spread wide, another leans in to study a small green frog.
I could go on about how the “feel” of each chapter is different because each has its own color palette – distinct from the others and yet complementary - so that one chapter seems to lead easily to the next.
I could talk about the quality of the paper, the whimsy of end papers filled with tumbling bunnies, the dust jacket that is an actual POSTER (!) and the full-color casewrapped (I think that’s the term) illustrated hardcover.
Besides the stellar illustration and overall design, there’s the humorous and original story line.
MuddyBunnies swish swashing in the (delicate cycle) washer. Bunnies that dry on the line all day, all night, then hop off, happy and ready for a brand-new adventure.
Dusty Bunnies dozing deep underground while Mrs. Goat vacuums up… grass, leaves, bunnies. “WHIRRRRR goes the fan” A few quick fixes by Bear and all is well again.
Bunnies without tails and tails without bunnies. Poor Mr. Goat turns to Bear again. Of course, Bear knows what to do! In the end, “everyone is happy.”
My niece is getting married tomorrow and spring is in the air. The family has flown in from various places, with more arriving later today. Most of us are staying in a beautiful house on a small canal off Okanagan Lake.
Family members are chipping in to make sure the day is special. Yesterday, we worked on flower arrangements. While one of the family trimmed and began to collect vases, I sat in the kitchen with rolls of ribbon, beads, small silvery decorations, and a glue gun, assigned with the task of decorating the mason jars my niece had chosen to hold arrangements that would be scattered around the house.
It’s cloudy in Kelowna today, but with beautiful bouquets scattered throughout the house, birds darting above the canal, a wedding and Easter just a day or more away, it’s spring.
In the spirit of new birth and new beginnings, my offering for Poetry Friday is Robert Frost’s poem, “A Prayer in Spring.”
Here’s how it begins:
A Prayer in SpringRobert Frost (1915)
Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.