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1. November BOOK LINKS: Jeannine Atkins and STEM

Have you seen the November issue of ALA's BOOK LINKS magazine? It's always such a helpful resource for teachers, librarians, and parents and this issue has a STEM focus. I was lucky enough to do an interview with the lovely Jeannine Atkins for this issue. Jeannine's work explores many aspects of science with a particular focus on the true stories of real women of science. Her latest book published this year, FINDING WONDERS, is about THREE women in history who followed their passion for science-- even from childhood. 

And here's a list of several of her books, including her book on writing:

Atkins, Jeannine. 1999. A Name on the Quilt: A Story of Remembrance. Atheneum.
Atkins, Jeannine. 2003. Wings and Rockets: The Story of Women in Air and Space. Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
Atkins, Jeannine. 2005. How High Can We Climb?: The Story of Women Explorers. Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
Atkins, Jeannine. 2012. Anne Hutchinson’s Way. CreateSpace.
Atkins, Jeannine. 2012. Mary Anning and the Sea Dragon. Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
Atkins, Jeannine. 2013. Get Set! Swim! Lee & Low.
Atkins, Jeannine. 2013. Views from a Window Seat: Thoughts on Writing and Life. CreateSpace.
Atkins, Jeannine. 2015. Little Woman in Blue: A Novel of May Alcott. She Writes Press.
Atkins, Jeannine. 2016. Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science. Atheneum/Simon & Schuster.
Atkins, Jeannine. 2017. Stone Mirrors: The Sculpture and Silence of Edmonia Lewis. Simon & Schuster.
Atkins, Jeannine. Borrowed Names; Poems About Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C. J. Walker, Marie Curie, and Their Daughters.
Atkins, Jeannine. Girls Who Looked Under Rocks: The Lives of Six Pioneeering Naturalists.

This month's issue of BOOK LINKS is already available online, so here's the link for my article

And in case you can't access the link, here are a few excerpts.

TALKING WITH JEANNINE ATKINS

A friend told me recently that research has found that girls decide science is not for them by second grade. (See: http://policystudies.org/when-do-girls-give-up-on-math-and-science-its-all-over-sooner-than-you-think/) New England author and poet Jeannine Atkins is determined to change those perceptions and has created multiple books that put girls and women at the heart of science exploration, technological innovation, ingenious engineering, and mathematical inquiry (STEM!). Jeannine Atkins’s recent novel in verse, Finding Wonders, is one fantastic example of this with its depiction of three women in history whose passion for math, astronomy, paleontology, botany, and more is evident already in their young childhoods. In addition, Atkins’ books such as How High Can We Climb?: The Story of Women Explorers, Girls Who Looked Under Rocks: The Lives of Six Pioneering Naturalists, Mary Anning and the Sea Dragon, Wings and Rockets: The Story of Women in Air and Space, Borrowed Names reveal a real passion for science, history, and biography, particularly in mining the untold stories of girls and women who ventured into these male-dominated fields long before Gloria Steinem (or even Elizabeth Cady Stanton) advocated for women’s rights and roles. Using careful research, thoughtful storytelling, lyrical language, and powerful portraits, Atkins honors real women in history whose lives and contributions deserve to be shared and celebrated with young readers of today. “What’s lost is found again.” Here she answers a handful of questions about poetry, science, feminism, biography, and the importance of fathers as models and encouragers. You may also enjoy her introspective book, Views from a Window Seat: Thoughts on Writing and Life.

SV: Can you describe the role poetry played in your childhood? When and how did you first discover a love for science, too?

JA: I grew up in a small New England town where I could wander in the woods, bicycle down back roads, and walk to the library. There wasn’t what we’d call a lot to do. In other words, it was a sort of golden age of childhood. In the attic of our old house, I found musty primers that I used to give my dolls lessons and memorized some poems. All these years later, some lines remain with me.

Poetry, science, and play blurred together. I cracked open rocks, made lists of birds and flowers, and collaborated with my brother on experiments using old glass cigar tubes as test tubes, but no one ever suggested I become a scientist. That’s okay. I lost most of my interest in science when cloud formations and maps of the earth’s core got swapped for abstractions. Who knows if anything would have been different if I was aware of women scientists, but I want to help today’s children know more possibilities. 

SV: How would you characterize the relationship between science and poetry, between being a scientist and being a poet?

JA: Poetry hints, explores, and doesn’t pounce onto certainty. Science is like that, too. For each question solved, another rises. Both poets and scientists may look closely at the world, make mistakes, try again, and wonder.

SV: You quote Maria Mitchell as saying, “Science needs women” and you clearly celebrate the achievements of girls and women in science in your writing. Where does this feminist perspective come from?

JA: Writing was a pleasure for me as a child, but in high school, my memories of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Louisa May Alcott faded under reading lists with just a few poems by Emily Dickinson and stories by Eudora Welty among bulky novels written by men. Curriculums have become more diverse, but women remain underrepresented in science. I like the thrill of the hunt to find what’s partly buried. And it’s another joy to introduce young readers to women who pursued their dreams. Reading can show us we’re never alone.

SV: What do you think biographical poetry might offer that a nonfiction prose biography might not?

JA: Biographies don’t always suggest the sense of a life in context, such as the sounds of waves, the slickness of rocks, or the scent of the night sky by the salt water where discoveries were made. Some fact-heavy nonfiction can give the wrong impression that everything has been discovered. Poetry’s compression, imagery, and omissions may create a sense of mystery that reflects the way nature keeps surprising us. 

SV: You’ve authored several different books about girls and women and science—some in verse, some in prose. How do you decide which you are writing and which story must be told in verse?

JA: There’s often more blundering than choosing, or I work my way through the wrong form before finding one that’s better. I first wrote Borrowed Names as prose, but it seemed to grow more alive under my hands when I took out words. Sometimes nonfiction can seem too long. And sometimes poems may seem too short. 

I loved writing small poems about how Jean-Henri Fabre got his children involved in his study of insects and the mathematical work of Florence Nightingale for The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science. A poem can be a window into a life. But for Finding Wonders I wanted to spend more time with my subjects. Verse narratives can be the perfect way to use poetry’s precision along with the wondering of “What happens next? And then?” 

Writing the linked poems let me show what led to discoveries, as well as how girls devoted to science also cared about neighbors, families, religion, a friend’s choice in shoes, whether the chowder was hot, or other everyday concerns. Sure, science needs devotion, but even Marie Curie made time to bicycle with her daughters and tend a rose garden. 

SV: Why do you think fathers are so important in the lives and stories of female scientists?

JA: It’s said that every father of a girl becomes a feminist. Maybe that’s wishful, but the fathers in the families shown in Finding Wonders wanted to share their passions, needed help with their work, and didn’t discriminate between daughters and sons. Even today, fathers are more likely than mothers to have science and engineering knowledge to pass on, and men who don’t have sons seem more likely to ask daughters to help them fix the car or plumbing, ensuring that girls feel competent with making measurements and using tools. Hurray for those dads!

TEACHING ACTIVITIES

1. Read Finding Wonders aloud as a class or group book selection. Select passages can even be read readers’ theater style with volunteers taking the parts of the main characters/subjects Maria Merian, Mary Anning, and Maria Mitchell, as well as their dads, moms, siblings, and friends. You serve as narrator reading the rest of the lines. Talk about each of these women and what she accomplished in her life. Then work together to add visuals so students can truly picture the era in which each of these women grew up and worked (Maria Sibylla Merian (1647–1717); Mary Anning (1799 -1847); Maria Mitchell (1818–1889). Check out the “Finding Wonders Timeline” at the author’s website. Collaborate to create a slideshow featuring these images and reading (and recording) a poem or two about each woman from Finding Wonders. Share during an Open House or Science Fair. 

2. In Finding Wonders, Atkins makes it clear that each woman’s interest in science, math, or engineering is rooted in her childhood explorations, hobbies, and interests (e.g., painting outside, hunting and collecting, numbers and puzzles, stargazing, etc.) In many cases, each girl had several interests (in drawing or painting AND in studying nature, for example) that evolved into true scientific inquiry. Talk with students about their hobbies and interests and point out how these may offer STEM connections. Research possible career paths that might emerge from these interests using websites like SmithsonianEducation.org/Scientist/ or ScienceBuddies.org/science-fair-projects/science_careers.shtml or Discovere.org/discover-engineering/engineering-careers or CareerCornerstone.org/muscenters.htm Invite guest speakers (particularly women) who work in these fields to talk with students about their own STEM work and the roots of their interests too. 

3. What other women have been unheralded in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics? Work together to research more names worthy of exploration using books like Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky or Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women by Catherine Thimmesh or Amelia to Zora: Twenty-Six Women Who Changed the World by Cynthia Chin-Lee and websites such as Biography.com or FamousFemaleScientists.com or AMightyGirl.com. Students can choose a women scientist subject, then take notes or jot key words describing her and her contributions and examining what is known about her childhood, in particular. They can begin with the women featured in Atkins’s works: Maria Merian, Mary Anning, Maria Mitchell, Anna Comstock, Frances Hamerstrom, Rachel Carson, Miriam Rothschild, Jane Goodall, Jeanne Baret, Florence Baker, Annie Smith Peck, Josephine Peary, Arnarulunguaq, Elizabeth Casteret, Nicole Maxwell, Sylvia Earle, Junko Tabei, Kay Cottee, Sue Hendrickson, Ann Bancroft, Katharine Wright, Blanche Stuart Scott, Bessie Coleman, Amelia Earhart, Jackie Cochran, Jerrie Cobb, Shannon Lucid, Eileen Collins, Marguerite Perey, Florence Nightingale, and Marie Curie. Then challenge students to take those details and turn them into a free verse poem or biopoem and make a class poetry book of STEM women heroes for Women’s History Month in March, National Poetry Month in April, or for sharing any time. For more examples of poems about women in science, look for The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science


I'm also happy to say that I'll be presenting with Jeannine and several other poets including Margarita Engle, Patricia Hruby Powell, and Janet Wong at the annual conference of the National Council of Teachers of English next week in Atlanta. If you're going to the conference, I hope you'll join us and if not, I'll try to post some nuggets from the conference later. 


Meanwhile, join the Poetry Friday fun over at Jama's Alphabet Soup. She always throws the very best parties! See you there!

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2. Celebrating Native American Heritage Month with Poetry

November is national Native American Heritage Month and a good time to seek out, share, and celebrate poetry by and Native American writers. In fact, check out the recent Presidential Proclamation that beautifully describes why this is such an important celebration. I'm so pleased to feature a poem by Debbie Reese in honor of Native American Heritage Month. Debbie is a fellow academic who keeps the rich and informative blog, American Indians in Children's Literature. She is Pueblo Indian, tribally enrolled at Nambe Pueblo in New Mexico and her poem, "Making Bread," describes a beautiful family and Pueblo tradition complete with Tewa words (and a helpful pronunciation guide).






For more poetry by Native American writers, look for these poetry collections.

Native American Poetry For Young People

Voices from Native American or Indian tribes and traditions offer poetry in many forms. Here is a selection of these poetry books for young people.

Begay, Shonto. 1995. Navajo; Visions and Voices Across the Mesa. New York: Scholastic.
Bruchac, Joseph. 1996. Between Earth and Sky. San Diego: Harcourt Brace.
Bruchac, Joseph. 1996. The Circle of Thanks. Mahwah, NJ: Bridgewater Books.
Bruchac, Joseph. 1995. The Earth Under Sky Bear's Feet: Native American Poems of the Land. New York: Philomel.
Bruchac, Joseph. 1996. Four Ancestors: Stories, Songs, and Poems from Native North America. Mahwah, NJ: Bridgewater Books.
Bruchac, Joseph. 1992. Thirteen Moons on Turtle’s Back: A Native American Year of Moons. New York: Philomel.
Carvell, Marlene. 2005. Sweetgrass Basket. New York: Dutton. 
Castillo, Ana. 2000. My Daughter, My Son, the Eagle, the Dove: An Aztec Chant. New York: Dutton.
Francis, Lee. 1999. When The Rain Sings: Poems by Young Native Americans. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Geis, Jacqueline. 1992. Where the Buffalo Roam. Nashville, TN: Ideals Children's Books.
Hirschfelder, A. and Singer, B. Eds. 1992. Rising Voices: Writings of Young Native Americans. New York: Scribner’s.
Littlechild, George. 1993. This Land Is My Land. San Francisco, CA: Children’s Book Press.
McLaughlin, Timothy. Ed. 2012. Walking on Earth and Touching the Sky; Poetry and Prose by Lakota Youth at Red Cloud Indian School. New York: Abrams.
Ochoa, Annette Piña, Betsy Franco, And Traci L. Gourdine. Ed. 2003. Night Is Gone, Day Is Still Coming; Stories and Poems by American Indian Teens and Young Adults. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
Slapin, Beverly, And Doris Seale. Eds. 1998. Through Indian Eyes: The Native American Experience in Books for Children. Berkeley, CA: Oyate. 
Sneve, Virginia. D. H. Ed. 1989. Dancing Teepees: Poems of American Indian Youth. New York: Holiday House.
Swamp, C. J. 1995. Giving Thanks; A Native American Good Morning Message. New York: Lee & Low.
Swann, B. 1998. Touching the Distance: Native American Riddle-Poems. San Diego, CA: Browndeer Press/Harcourt Brace.




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3. Vote for poetry!

Yep, Election Day is around the corner and it's time to VOTE! 

Did you know that Election Day is set for the Tuesday immediately following the first Monday in November? It can be as early as Nov. 2 or as late as Nov. 8-- which is the date this year! It's our opportunity as citizens to make our voices heard in choosing leadership at the local, state, and national levels. Whatever your political views, it's a privilege to participate in this important process. And this poem, "Voting," by Diane Mayr from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations captures this beautiful moment (in English AND Spanish).






This "Voting" postcard is also available at Pinterest here.

And here are the Take 5! activities that accompany this poem in the Celebrations book:

1. Present children with a choice between two bookmarks and challenge them to vote for their choice. Then share the title of the poem (“Voting”) and read it aloud slowly and clearly.

2. Divide the children into three groups and share the poem again. Have each group chime in on one of the key ”constituencies” mentioned in the poem (the word: town, state, or country) while you read the rest of the poem aloud. 

3. Talk about how voting is both an opportunity to express an opinion and a responsibility to shape government in our town, state, and country—once they are 18. 

4. Pair this poem with the picture book Vote! by Eileen Christelow (Clarion, 2003) and discuss the questions the dog and cat characters raise about the voting process that the children also share. 

5. Connect with another poem about citizenship with “A Dream Come True” by Georgia Heard (September, pages 246-247), and with poems from Declaration of Interdependence: Poems for an Election Year by Janet Wong (PoetrySuitcase, 2012).

Check out my previous blog post on "Patriotic Poetry" complete with a list of 25+ poetry books on the topic here

Now join Linda over at TeacherDance for this week's Poetry Friday fun. See you there!

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4. ARE YOU AN ECHO? Behind the Scenes

<!--[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-US JA X-NONE <![endif]-->

An Interview with Are You an Echo? Author David Jacobson and Translator Sally Ito
by Janet Wong

I am half-Chinese and half-Korean, but my father’s closest friends were Japanese Americans, Nisei. I loved visiting Little Tokyo in Los Angeles when I was a child, picking boxes of mochi at Fugetsu-Do, leafing through paper at Bun-ka Do, stocking up on senbei crackers and Botan candy at Umeya, and listening to taiko drummers at festivals. When I saw Are You an Echo? and its blend of images from traditional and contemporary Japan, I was transported to my childhood and immediately full of questions for author David Jacobson (DJ) and translator Sally Ito (SI).

JW: I’d like to urge readers to order Are You an Echo? in time for Japanese Culture Day, Bunka no Hi, celebrated on November 3rd. Can you tell us about that holiday?

DJ: Though originally established to honor Japan’s Emperor Meiji on his birthday, Bunka no Hi was recast after World War II to promote the arts and scholarship. Today, many schools hold culture festivals and art exhibitions and universities announce new research projects. Also on that day, the emperor announces the Order of Culture award to those who have made significant advancement in the arts or sciences. Which is why it is so appropriate that we celebrate Misuzu Kaneko at this time. 


JW: Your book has received glowing reviews, most notably from Betsy Bird in School Library Journalso I suspect that it is already on the wish lists of many librarians, teachers, parents, and poetry fans. What would you say to convince a person to order the book now, rather than continue to wait? 

SI: Well, I am of the mind that if a book appeals to you now, you should get it immediately!  

DJ: I think this book offers so much–Misuzu’s wonderful poetry, the story of her life, the rediscovery of her work after the earthquake and tsunami of 2011. Moreover, it’s accompanied by Toshi’s beautiful illustrations, which give an accurate depiction of bygone Japan. All this in just 64 pages, which you can read in 10 minutes.

JW: Do you have any recommendations for how a librarian or teacher should approach sharing your book with students? Are there, for instance, certain websites or multimedia resources that you would like teachers to introduce to students before (or immediately after) they read your book?

DJ: I think the book offers librarians and teachers a choice as to whether they share her life story, or just share her poetry. Any of the poems in the latter part of the book can stand alone for use on a “Poetry Friday.” For more advanced students, teachers can read the initial narrative section of the book, then ask their students how the inclusion of poetry within the narrative adds to the effect. How do the poems help you understand Misuzu? Does their inclusion in the story change how you read the poems?

SI: Chin Music has created a website for Misuzu Kaneko and her poetry. In addition to that, I also wrote an essay called “Forgotten Woman” which is on the Electric Literature website.


JW: I enjoyed reading your Electric Literature piece, Sally, and learning about how you discovered Misuzu’s poetry. As you noted, “her viewpoint on the world of living things was unique”; something that her poem “Big Catch” demonstrates well. “Big Catch” might be my favorite poem by Misuzu. Which poems in the book are your favorites?

DJ: One of my favorites is the last poem in the anthology, “Day and Night.” Sally suggested this, as she wanted to include one of the more philosophical and “challenging” poems. In just a few words, Kaneko poses questions that probably occur to many children:  Where does day stop and night begin? Does time have a beginning and end? Illustrator Toshi Hajiri complements the poem brilliantly by envisioning a child jumping rope, which divides night and day.




SI: “Stars and Dandelion” is one of my favorites, as well as “Are You an Echo?”  




JW: Sally: in your Translator’s Note, you mention that you and your aunt, Michiko Tsuboi, had begun translating Misuzu’s poetry even before David contacted you with the idea of collaboration. How do you think that your book might’ve been different from Are You an Echo?, if David had not been involved?

SI: Well, it wouldn’t be in a book if David hadn’t gotten involved! Michiko and I were translating Misuzu Kaneko’s poetry for ourselves to enjoy her work, sustain our relationship and for both of us, to improve our facility in English (for Michiko) and Japanese (for me). It was David who wanted to create a book about Misuzu Kaneko and her poetry and found us. I think now that Michiko and I have had our translations published in a book, we would like to publish more of our translations in the future. Ultimately, I would like to translate all 512 of Misuzu’s poems into English which have been published in Japanese by JULA publishers in their six volume anthology.  

DJ: Though this question is not meant for me, I’d like to mention that one of the reasons I sought Sally and Michiko’s help on the book was because they already knew of Misuzu, and were so enthralled by her poetry that they were translating her poems just for the love it. Turning your question on its head, I’d say the book is very different because of their input. Sally and Michiko helped me extensively with the text of the narrative (which is why they get “editorial contribution” credit on the title page). And I helped them with the translations, though my role was more that of an editor and sounding board. We spent months communicating back and forth debating the tiniest details of the translations. It sounds cliché, but it was truly a work of love, on all three of our parts.

JW: Can you share with us a small additional nugget of information about the book?

DJ: The town where Misuzu grew up was once one of four major whaling centers in Japan, though its whaling industry had already declined by Misuzu’s time. The folks in that town had a long tradition, based on their Buddhist beliefs, of praying for the souls of the whales who had given their lives for the fishermen’s livelihood. Every year then and since, they conduct a whale memorial service, to remember the souls of the dead whales and perhaps to appease their guilt. That is the service that Misuzu writes about in “Whale Memorial.” But she brings yet another level of empathy, that of the child wondering how a child whale feels after its parents have been killed.  The illustrator, Toshi, and I visited the temple where the service is still conducted, which is the one depicted in the illustration. At that temple there is a register of special Buddhist names that were given to the slaughtered whales posthumously. It is thought to be the only such registry in Japan dedicated to non-humans.

Note: Look for Are You an Echo? at Amazon and Indiebound or ask for it at your favorite local booksellers.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  * 
Sylvia: Thank you, Janet, David, and Sally, for sharing so many fascinating details about the creation of this book and your deep love for Misuzu Kaneko and her poetry. It's so rare to see any bilingual poetry for young people published, much less Japanese and English poetry, so what a unique and special contribution this is in so many ways!

Now head on over to the Miss Rumphius Effect where Tricia is gathering all our Poetry Friday posts this week. 

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5. Teen Read Week

It's Teen Read Week this week and a fun time to showcase poetry for young adults. October has been the month for celebrating Teen Read Week since 1988, a time to encourage teens to be regular readers and library users” according to the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). At YALSA you’ll find many great programs and strategies to try, as well as a list of Teens’ Top Ten “teen choice” books, where teens nominate and choose their favorite books of the previous year.

I did a blog post about poetry for Teen Read Week for Dr. Bickmore's YA Wednesday this week, so you can find more info about poetry for YA there including recommended anthologies of poetry for YA, books of poetry BY teens, and suggested resource books on writing poetry with teens. Check it out. 

Of course, I'd also like to feature a few poems from my collaborations with Janet Wong, The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School and You Just Wait. I just love all the poems those 70+ poets created for us! I made a few new digital poem postcards featuring their poems to share with you here and you'll find them on Pinterest too. 

Here's "Black Ice" by Joseph Bruchac along with a "mentor text" poem by Janet Wong in response to Bruchac's poem (below) and a response activity for teen writers from You Just Wait.













Here's "Who Am I?" by Margarita Engle along with a "response poem" AND a "mentor text" poem both by Janet Wong in response to Engle's poem (below) and a response activity for teen writers-- all from You Just Wait.





And if you'd like to see how one poem connects with ALL of the activities in You Just Wait, here's one example with Robyn Hood Black's "Locker Ness Monster" as the featured poem at the heart of things. 






Now head on over to Live Your Dream, where the lovely poet Irene Latham is hosting Poetry Friday. See you there!

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6. WWU Poetry Camp

Last weekend I had the time of my life steeped in poetry with 150 other people who love it as much as I do. On October 1, Western Washington University’s PoetryCHaT center was the proud host of “Poetry Camp 2016,” the first-ever national conference dedicated solely to poetry for children and teens. Nearly forty children's poets, including the first Children’s Poet Laureate, Jack Prelutsky, came from California, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Ohio, Oregon, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, Washington, Washington, DC, and even Japan to join teachers, librarians, and poetry fans in a day packed with sessions on poetry performance, writing techniques, curricular connections, and s’more(s). These were the participating poets:



















The Friday before Poetry Camp, Janet (Wong) and I spent the day with the 38 poets meeting one another (many for the first time), getting acquainted, chatting informally, and engaging in lively discussions about the value of performing poetry out loud while honoring those who prefer quiet reading or savoring visuals. We had several guest speakers including Kathy Humphrey on using social media effectively, Paige Bentley Flannery on school and library visits, Michael Salinger and Sara Holbrook on conference presentations and Julie Larios on poetry writing tools and techniques. The camaraderie and energy was something to behold! Then in the evening, poet and artist Robyn Hood Black led a Makerspace workshop that was so fun and inspiring. 


Saturday was the BIG day of Poetry Camp and Janet and I led two keynote talks and featured all the 38 poets reading their own poetry in rapid fire succession. The audience was so thrilled to hear so much poetry read by the poets who wrote it! In between everyone chose three sessions to attend all led by poets on a wonderful variety of topics including: playing with sound, playing with visuals, metaphor and simile, verse novels, poetry performance, writing for journals, publishing anthologies, blogging about poetry, and poetry and STEM, as well as grammar, social studies, movement, art, and music. I wish I could have sat in EVERY session! I rotated through to take photos and they all seemed marvelous!


Then at the end of the day, the first Children's Poet Laureate Jack Prelutsky performed his poetry (singing and yodeling and shouting along with his guitar) to an audience of all ages that was completely enthralled! Two groups of children had also prepared dramatic readings of Prelutsky's poetry and they did such a great job-- complete with motions and humor!


The organizers of PoetryCHaT’s Poetry Camp 2016 were Sylvia Tag and Nancy Johnson:
Sylvia Tag is Librarian/Associate Professor and curator of the WWU Libraries Children’s Literature Interdisciplinary Collection.
Nancy Johnson is Professor in the English Department, specializing in children’s and young adult literature and English/language arts education.
They did an amazing job in organizing this fantastic event and emceeing throughout the day!

What is PoetryCHaT? 
A collection of resources, ideas, and curricula designed to help poets and educators share their love of poetry with children and teens. The WWU PoetryCHaT Children & Teen Poetry Collection includes a growing collection of materials written and published since 1920 for children and teens, birth through age 20. PoetryCHaT sponsors programs, special events, and readings that celebrate poetry. Their inaugural programming this past spring featured poet Kwame Alexander.

Press coverage included a local television station airing more than one hour of video clips of poet readings. You can see a summary of the day’s activities at the Poetry CHaT site and can see more photos on the Poetry CHaT Facebook site. 

My favorite photo was of all 38 poets and me standing on the library steps. What a beautiful, generous, smart, funny, and lovable group! What a treat to meet all these writers whom I admire and spend time together laughing and learning!



I also enjoyed meeting this week's Poetry Friday host, Violet Nesdoly at Poetry Camp! And just now as I looked for her link, I saw that she is also sharing her experiences at Poetry Camp! So check out more photos and comments there. She's done a marvelous job capturing the joy and energy and personalities too!






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7. Time for WWU Poetry Camp, Poetry Makerspace, and 40 POETS all in one place!

Over a year ago, Sylvia Tag (librarian) and Nancy Johnson (professor), at Western Washington University, had the idea to host a "Poetry Camp" and invited Janet (Wong) and me to come and speak. Of course we said YES! Then Janet had the idea of inviting poets we know if they'd like to come and join us. And 40 poets said YES YES YES! And now the time has come and we're gathering in Bellingham, Washington, at the WWU Poetry CHaT Center for poetry for young people with 100+ others to talk poetry, make poetry art, share poetry ideas, and just plain have fun together! Here's the lowdown on the Saturday conference activities.


But first, we gather with just the poets to share ideas and have fun. Kathy Humphrey is presenting social media strategies. Paige Bentley Flannery, Sara Holbrook, and Michael Salinger are sharing presentation tips. JoAnn Early will be talking about publishing and Julie Larios will inspire us with Oulipo Leaping ideas. Then Robyn Hood Black will lead us (and the public at large) in a fun Makerspace activity night. What a blast!


The 40 poets presenting this weekend?


Janet helped create a special Poetry Camp celebration book of poems by each of the 40 participating poets and I've adapted that into a mini-slideshow. Plus, we're talking about sharing poetry everyday and making connections across the curriculum. (Hope to share details about all of that later.) So excited to meet each of these people IN PERSON and spend a few days reveling in poetry, writing, sharing. I plan to share photos and nuggets from this amazing experience afterward. Stay tuned. 

For the rest of the Poetry Friday gathering, go to Karen's place here.

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8. Poet to Poet: Jeannine Atkins

It's time for another installment in my Poet to Poet series where one poet interviews another poet about her or his new book. This time, the lovely April Halprin Wayland interviews Jeannine Atkins about her new nook, Finding Wonders. 

Photo by Webb Burns
April Halprin Wayland is a poet and picture book author and one of the founding members of the Teaching Authors blogging team and the UCLA Extension's Creative Writing Instructor of the Year. Her works include the novel in verse, Girl Coming in for a Landing, and New Year at the Pier, a Rosh Hashanah story, and More Than Enough, a Passover story, as well as To Rabbittown, It's Not My Turn to Look for Grandma, and The Night Horse.  She's a violinist, a political activist, and a frequent speaker, as well as the recipient of a Sydney Taylor Book Award. 

Jeannine Atkins is a poet and author of novels in verse, biographical works, picture books and nonfiction with a particular focus on girls, science, and nature, many inspired by history including this history-biography-in-verse, Borrowed Names About Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madame C. J. Walker, Marie Curie, and Their Daughters.  She also published her first novel for adults about May Alcott, Little Woman in Blue. She blogs at Views From a Window Seat and founded her own publishing company, Stone Door Press. Her new book is Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science, about the fascinating lives of Maria Merian, Mary Anning, and Maria Mitchell.
Here, April asks Jeannine questions about this new book, Finding Wonders. 

APRIL: 
Jeannine, your metaphors and similes are breathtakingly original. As I read your book, you pulled me in with your deft use of language from the first page. So my question is: can you teach me how to come up with jewels such as the few I've listed below?

"...witch. That word sets hooks under her skin,/like the tiny barbs on the backs/of caterpillars' legs that help them climb."
"They exchange a glance,/swift and silent as two moths meeting in midair."
"Her voice scatters like sharp pieces of broken crockery/that can't be repaired, and will be hard to forget."
"Coughs scrape the air, as if Pa breathes through a grater."
"A constellation of sisters in one bed."

JEANNINE:
I begin with real things that were part of a person’s daily life and work. I imagine some cluttered on my desk and looking at them from different angles, trying to find language for them beyond their names. As I stick with an ordinary object, playing with its colors, uses, shapes, and scent, it seems richer - or it doesn’t, in which case it gets left behind. As I try putting details in poems, some seem to whisper to the theme. A metaphor may slip out, connecting something small to the big world.

APRIL:
You never fail to include evocative details, clearly culled from long hours of research. Tell us how you research... and how you choose just enough details to weave it into your story, such as the following:

"Mum gathers bee balm, foxgloves, and thistles/to make tinctures and teas she says will help/ Pa breathe easier or tame his aches. She is careful/ not to disturb spirits by spilling salts, dropping a knife,/or setting a loaf upside down on the table./ She holds up an apple cut in half,/showing how her knife didn't slit a single seed./That means blessings are coming. She scoops out bits of the soft apple for the baby, feeds/ him wedges curved like half-moons."
"For dinner, they must change from gingham dresses to silk,/and when biting into bread, be vigilant not to leave a vulgar/horseshoe shape."

JEANNINE:
Some poets begin with voice, but I start and move along by giving time to words that evoke the five senses. I read for the shapes of lives, but while slogging through summary and abstraction, am on the lookout for particular tools, clothing, animals, food, or furniture. My process is to read and write a lot – because I don’t know when I start out what will be valuable – then get out the scissors.

APRIL:
You keep the lives of these scientists real. My final question is: if we were to go back in time and see you as a young child, would we see a budding scientist? Some examples of how you show how scientists think and how they work:

"...Mary considers. Certainty is like a pillow/ she has learned to live without./ Doubt is crucial. Discoveries are made/ by those willing to say, Once we were wrong,/ and ask question after question. Every one is a gift."
"She becomes as familiar with the creature as her own body./ No, more. Her tenderness toward the stone is long,/ while at home she spends just seconds pulling a comb/ through her hair, scrubbing grime from her fingernails,/or tucking her feet into stockings."
"Mary believes that the Lord loves questions as well as answers./ People were given scripture, but also the earth./ She means to read both."

JEANNINE:
I grew up in a small town at a time when parents let children wander or bicycle around. I was curious about what I saw in fields and woods, but shortly after a delicious classroom assignment to press and take apart a dried flower to label the parts, science moved toward abstractions, and my interest waned. Would it have made a difference if all my science teachers hadn’t been men? If I’d known of women besides the singular Marie Curie who’d made careers in science? I don’t know. But I’m happy. Writing and science find common ground in the need for wonder, working through mistakes, and paying close attention to the world.

Thank you, April and Jeannine, for digging deeply into poetry and sharing your conversation with us. Fascinating!

Here's a quick list of previous Poet-to-Poet interviews. FYI.
Julie Larios & Skila Brown

Jane Yolen & Lesléa Newman

Joyce Sidman & Irene Latham

Laura Purdie Salas & Nikki Grimes

Helen Frost & Chris Crowe

Holly Thompson & Margarita Engle

Allan Wolf & Leslie Bulion

Margarita Engle & Mariko Nagal

Carole Boston Weatherford & Jacqueline Woodson

Now head on over and enjoy the rest of the Poetry Friday crew at Today's Little Ditty

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9. The wait is over for YOU JUST WAIT

Happy Book Birthday to You Just Wait!

Today, Janet (Wong) and I are officially launching another poetry venture and we’re trying something different once again. It's entitled You Just Wait: A Poetry Friday Power Book. Our special focus is always linking poetry with teaching and learning—all in one book. Usually, our audience is teachers, librarians, parents, and other adults. This time, we’re focusing on young people themselves, particularly on teens and tweens with a new, slim book that is part poetry, part road map for thinking-responding-writing poetry themselves. 

Here’s the deal:

You Just Wait: A Poetry Friday Power Book is a mashup of:
  • Poems from an anthology
  • Plus new poems written in response to those poems
  • Plus creative activity pages to jumpstart thinking, brainstorming, responding, and writing
These are all linked together with a story thread involving friends, siblings, sports, school, movies, and dreams. 

The twelve poems at the root of this book come from our previous collaboration, The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School (an NCTE Poetry Notable), and were written by Robyn Hood Black, Joseph Bruchac, Jen Bryant, Margarita Engle, Julie Larios, Carmen T. Bernier-Grand, Charles Ghigna, Avis Harley, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Charles Waters, and Virginia Euwer Wolff

Then Janet Wong created two dozen new poems to join them together in a story featuring Paz, an Asian-Latina soccer player with dreams of stardom in college, the Olympics, and ultimately the World Cup; Lucesita, her feisty movie-loving cousin; and Joe, an older brother with dreams of the NBA. 

You can read the book simply for the poems and the story—a novella in verse.

And you can scribble right in the book to interact with the poems as a reader and a writer. 

For the educator, the structure of the book provides a five-part model for instruction with each of the following components ideal for guiding the reading, responding, and writing process:

*PowerPlay Activity
*Outside Poem
*Response Poem
*Mentor Text Poem
*Power2You Writing Prompt

There are a dozen of these PowerPack sets of 5 linked activities each with a slightly different focus encouraging readers to consider the elements of repetition, rhyme (including internal rhyme), structure, dialogue, and form (list poems, prose poems, sequence poems, cinquain, poems of address, concrete/shape poems, acrostic poems, found poems, and odes). 



Here’s one sample PowerPack showing each of the five components for PowerPack #7. 


*PowerPlay Activity 

*Outside Poem 

*Response Poem 

*Mentor Text Poem

*Power2You Writing Prompt 

#1 PowerPlay activity
#2 Outside Poem                   &                         #3 Response Poem
#4 Mentor text                     &                        #5 Power2You Writing Prompt
In addition, aspiring writers will find helpful backmatter with a poetry self-edit checklist and lots of other lists, including places to publish teen poetry, books of poetry by teen writers, books for young people about writing poetry, collections, anthologies, and novels in verse, websites, talking points, and performance tips. 

Please help us spread the word, as we reach out to young readers with a book they can read, ponder, respond to and write in. 

We’re offering 5 free copies of our new book to a commenter chosen at random, so you can gather a group to read, discuss, share, scribble, and write together. This can be for a small writer’s group, a Reading Recovery session, an ELL teacher with a small middle school cluster, an eager book group, or a homeschool session. Comment below this blog entry please.

Buy your copy now and some for your favorite teacher, too! Here’s the link.

Note: Some vendors such as QEPBooks.com are offering healthy discounts this month as part of the book’s promotional launch; please consider ordering some copies for your school or library.  

Now, head on over to Amy's place at the Poem Farm for more Poetry Friday goodness! 


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10. More NZ poetry




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11. My NZ Poetry Adventure

I just spent an amazing week in New Zealand for the IBBY Congress and enjoyed sharing my poetry poster, meeting New Zealand poets, soaking up a panel dedicated to poetry, chatting with a Latvian publisher of poetry, checking out poetry at the downtown library and area museums, and seeing the country's plans for their National Poetry Day (TODAY!). So fun! Here are a few highlights. So gratifying to learn we are part of a global poetry community!

I had my poster printed on a scarf and then WORE my poster-scarf for the rest of the conference! Check out Mailpix.com (but get a Groupon first and it only cost $20 plus $10 for shipping!).


I met these poets at the conference and was excited to point out to Jenny and Paula that their work was featured on my poster. Bought Paula's massive book (pictured in blue) and got her to autograph it too! Don't miss this excellent website: nzpoetryshelf.com


She is publishing 100 individual Latvian poems as little cardboard books with art by various well-known Latvian illustrators-- to reach pre-school children and their families in particular! Check out FB.com/bikibuks


This panel featured poetry exclusively and here Helen O'Carroll talked about verse novels including works by Holly Thompson, Allan Wolf, Kwame Alexander, Ann E. Burg, and Karen Hesse, as well as Australian and New Zealand novels in verse.

Here's an example of the reader response to THE WATCH THAT ENDS THE NIGHT by Allan Wolf from a NZ teen.


American professor and author Chris Crowe shared the fascinating process that emerged as he created his novel in verse, DEATH COMING UP THE HILL about a teen struggling with war in the world and in his family, written entirely in haiku and containing one syllable for each soldier who died in the Vietnam War.


Check out this shelf of poetry books at the downtown public library (including UNBEELIEVABLES, ECHO ECHO, WATER SINGS BLUE), plus the first issue of the NZ School Journal, THE source of literature provided to ALL NZ children for years and years-- including now.

A participatory magnetic poetry wall at the main cultural museum (Te Papa) in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand.

Yes, National Poetry Day is held on the last Friday of August every year in New Zealand (since 1997) and there are tons of activities planned for all ages. Wish I could stay for it!


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12. IBBY in New Zealand and poetry

I'm attending the biennial Congress of the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) in Auckland, New Zealand. This is such a wonderful event, a great opportunity to get a global glimpse of he field of children's literature and meet people from around the world and hear speakers from many countries. I'm particularly eager to check out the poetry published for young people in New Zealand (and Australia) because they are doing some very interesting things there! 

I'm also presenting a poster session on how poetry is a perfect medium for crossing cultural boundaries and will share the graphics here, FYI. I'm trying something different this time and have printed my poster on a scarf which I will display during my allotted time and then WEAR afterwards! I'll try to share photos later. Meanwhile, check out the conference programme here. Very cool!


Several years ago I co-edited the IBBY journal, Bookbird, and we closed every issue with a page featuring a poem for young people by different poets from around the world (usually in English as well as in the poet's native language). I just LOVED doing that and learned so much about poetry for young people published in other countries. Anyhoo, here's a graphic that features all the poems (too small to read, but you get the idea). You can access all these prior issues of Bookbird via Project Muse, if you have access to that resource. Enjoy!


More info to come soon...
Meanwhile, head on over to Dori Reads for more Poetry Friday fun. 






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13. Irene Latham + Awards + Elephants

Did you know that August 12 is World Elephant Day? Yep, and of course we have a poem for this occasion in The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations written by the lovely Irene Latham. 











PLUS:
It's also the perfect moment to announce that Irene Latham was chosen to be the 2016 recipient of the Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award.  Congratulations, Irene! This award is given every three years and goes to a poet with two books (or fewer) of poetry published thus far. The committee recognized her book, Dear Wandering Wildebeest: And Other Poems From the Water Hole (Millbrook Press/Lerner), in particular. She also published When the Sun Shines on Antarctica (Millbrook Press/Lerner) prior to receiving this award and just this year published a new poetry collection, Fresh Delicious (Boyds Mills Press). 

Check out Irene's interesting website and follow her thoughtful blog, Live Your Poem, where she posts regularly. Irene was part of my fabulous Poetry Round Up panel at the TLA conference this spring and it was so lovely to meet her in person-- finally!  As a fellow southerner, I really appreciate her storyteller's way with words and her genteel spirit. Check out her work!





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14. Millersville Poetry Institute

Our whole group-- with everyone holding a book of poetry!
Janet (Wong) and I just wrapped up a wonderful week at the Millersville University Poetry Institute (in Pennsylvania) led, planned, and coordinated by Dr. Lesley Colabucci. (Intro and info here.) 


What a fun week-- and what a great opportunity to work with 23 teachers (K-12) in helping them get comfortable and confident with sharing poetry in all kinds of creative ways. Lesley had several "celebrity" readers start each day by sharing a poem (including the University President), invited local experts who lead various poetry projects and initiatives, and had several other poet speakers too-- like Jacqueline Jules, Heidi Mordhorst, Marjorie Maddox, Sandy Asher, and Linda Oatman High. Teacger Maggie Bokelman spoke about teaching with poetry and Karla Schmit presented the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award. (Sorry I missed you, Karla!) And I'm probably missing other awesome speakers. 
Janet has the group in the palm of her hand!

It was so fun to watch my good friend Janet (Wong) do her thing, presenting an awesome day of activities and challenges. She even had us collaborate to create a poetry suitcase-- which turned out amazingly well! Plus, Janet and I were able to take time outside the Institute to work together on our next project-- more on that soon. Hope you enjoy a few photos and feel inspired to try some of the things we saw here too. 

My focus was on modeling the "Take 5" approach to sharing poetry and showing how we can bridge oral and written language, involve kids actively, integrate skill instruction, and make text-to-text connections, among other things. I had a ton of slides, examples, and handouts, so I'll just share one nugget here below.

Reading Poetry Aloud

    Rachel created a poem poster
For each poem, we provide suggestions for how to invite students to participate in reading the poem aloud. Often the poem itself will “show” you how to perform it if you study the lines and their arrangement on the page. And when you invite students to participate in poem performance, you will find that they will have ideas about how to try a poem this way or that way. Follow their lead! Here are some general guidelines for involving students in reading poetry out loud.
  • Take the lead, be the first to read the poem, and don’t be afraid to “ham it up.” Take the pressure off students by showing how the poem sounds, how words should be pronounced, how the meaning and emotion might be conveyed. Don’t ask them to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself.
Poetry suitcase with props
  • Use props whenever possible to make a concrete connection to the poem, focus attention, and add a bit of fun. Choose something suggested by the poem. It’s even worth planning ahead to have a good prop ready beforehand. Students can then use the props too as they volunteer to join in on reading the poem, taking the focus off of them and giving the audience something specific to look at while listening—the poetry prop.
  • Try using media to add another dimension to the poetry experience. Look for digital images or videos relevant to the poem to display without sound as a backdrop while reading the poem aloud, or find music or sound effects suggested by the poem to underscore the meaning or mood as you read the poem aloud. 
    Poems on the sidewalk
  • Offer choices as you invite students to join in on reading the poem aloud with you. They can choose a favorite line to chime in on or volunteer to read a line or stanza of their choice or ask a friend to join them in reading a portion aloud. The more say they have about how they participate in the poem reading, the more eager and comfortable they will be about volunteering.
  • Make connections between the poems and their lives and experiences, between one poem and another, and between poems and other genres like nonfiction, short stories, newspaper articles, and songs). We provide example questions and poem connections for each poem, but once you have established that pattern, be open to the connections the students themselves make first. 
    Creating a "found" poem
  • Be creative and use art, drama, and technology to present the poem and to engage students in participating in that presentation. Find relevant photos, draw quick Pictionary-style sketches, make word clouds, create graphic “novel” comic panels for poem lines, use American Sign Language for key words, pose in a dramatic “frozen” tableau, collaborate on a PowerPoint slide show, and so on. Look to share the poem in a way that is particularly meaningful for students. Or better yet, let them show you!

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15. My poetry decade

I can't believe it's been 10 years since I set up this blog and started posting! My goodness, that has flown by fast. I've been trying to decide what to do to celebrate, but have been so busy with fun summer stuff, I haven't had a moment. Isn't that how life (and blogging) goes? How do we maintain our social media life while actually LIVING our lives? So, I thought I might pause to ponder what I've learned in my last 10 years-- a glimpse at how poetry for young people has evolved in the last decade, filtered through my own tiny lens, of course. As it turns out, this is my 811th post-- which is the Dewey decimal number (811) for the poetry section at the library! (Only someone who works in the library field would love that serendipity as much as me!) Here we go.


1. Since posting on July 14, 2006, I have added blogging to my writing life and learned (some) discipline in posting--usually every Friday and daily for the month of April, National Poetry Month. This is the same year that Kelly Herold started "Poetry Friday" on her blog-- and it has definitely caught hold and gained popularity. I LOVE THAT! And in case you missed it, poet Janet Wong and I grabbed hold of that concept and have published several teaching anthologies with "Poetry Friday" at the center-- hoping people who don't already love poetry will give it a try on Friday.

2. I have learned about the work of so many poets in the last ten years-- met them, presented together, promoted their work, and continue expanding my own awareness of how many new writers are creating wonderful poetry for young readers. Just look at the list and links to 99 poets here in the sidebar on my blog-- and if I have missed some poets (who write for young people), please let me know. So many teachers, librarians, and parents only know the names of Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky (both very popular and appealing, of course), and they have no idea that there are so many other great poets out there. I love surprising them with all the other great writers I know!

3. I hope I have helped connect poets with each other too! Poetry (and writing in general) can be a solitary business, so I really enjoy helping poets "meet" other poets-- a fantastic mutual admiration society.  I created a "Poet to Poet" series with regular installments (and more to come) in which one poet asks another poet questions about her/his new work. I find it so fascinating to see what authors ask each other about writing, poetry, form, process, etc. 


4. In ten years, I have read a LOT of poetry-- close to 1000 books of poetry published for young readers in the last decade. I try to keep a "sneak peek" list of poetry that will be published for children and teens and post that every January and then keep it updated all year long. You can find links to each of those lists in the sidebar of this blog and I hope it's a resource for finding poetry books on an ongoing basis.
5. Keeping this blog has helped me (mostly) keep current with technology too. I've learned how to use Blogger (and all its iterations) and add more visuals, links, video, etc. (I wish they offered a way to post audio only, but that has to be a third party post at this time-- at least I think so!) How has technology changed in 10 years? Ha! You can post from your cell phone now, link with Twitter,  Facebook, Instagram, and so many more outlets. People can comment and interact more (and I need to get better about that). It's amazing to me how this continues to become an essential part of our personal and professional lives. 
6. I love how blogging has helped me share my professional opportunities with a wider audience. As a university professor, I am expected to submit proposals, plan panels, and attend and present at professional conferences and conduct workshops and I really enjoy that. But I'm always a little sad that all that great work and energy of so many smart and interesting people is only shared with a small audience. So, I've been able to share a few nuggets, slides, and videoclips from those presentations here. Yay! Win-win!

7. Another expectation for me as an academic is to write for publication. (Interestingly enough, blogging is still not really valued in my academic community.) But keeping this blog has inspired so many other articles, columns, presentations, and books-- and I've been able to share nuggets from this publications HERE, so that a wider audience can benefit from those works. When you corral a group of people to write something, it's really nice if you can get their work out to the widest possible readership, right? Keeping this blog has led to writing the poetry column for Book Links magazine for the American Library Association which has been really gratifying, as well as my book, Poetry Aloud Here (my very first post was promoting that new book!) and my Poetry Teacher's Book of Lists, too. And of course, all four of The Poetry Friday Anthologies published in collaboration with Janet Wong and 100+ poets grew out of all this blogging too. And I'm so proud of those and have loved all that collaboration! 


8. Celebrating National Poetry Month every April has been so fun every year and I love how all the poetry bloggers come up with some new twist each year. It's wonderful to see the interwebs flooded with poetry every April-- I just wish I could read, process, and comment on ALL of it. I think it is certainly helping more people find poetry and share it with children and teens. It's only been since 1996 that we even recognized National Poetry Month, so we've come a long way already. And there's certainly more room for more...


9. There's so much more poetry "stuff" available now too-- and I have enjoyed learning about how to create more varied ways to promote and share poetry. I've made reader guides for poetry books so that more teachers feel confident about sharing poetry books with young people. I've created tons of postcards and visuals to catch the eye-- and get more people reading more poetry. I love making all the lists of poetry books (duh!), so that people see how many choices they have when they want a poetry book about dogs or school or family. And I love discovering new ideas and resources from all of YOU.


10. And that's the best of all-- connecting with YOU all readers-- with people who care about poetry and children and teens and making sure they get exposed to all the beautiful language, big heart, quiet moments, and spiritual/emotional lift that poetry can offer. We need that all now more than ever, don't you think? I so appreciate the comments, links, "shares," and connections that blogging has offered with you readers, poets, teachers, and fellow poetry lovers. When our lives are busy and our world is crazy, pausing for a poem has such power. I love that the Internet in the last decade has given us the ability to break down barriers and connect a bit more. It's not perfect, but it can be reassuring and empowering. Let's use that power for good!

Here's to the next ten years. More poetry! More connections! 


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16. ALA Poetry Blast

Meeting the Berenstain Bears!
I just came back from the annual convention of the American Library Association in Orlando and what a great event-- as always! There's so much to love about these conferences-- running into great friends from across the country, meeting fascinating new people, learning-learning-learning (at sessions, events, exhibits, and EVERYWHERE), attending fun publisher previews, receptions and dinners, and reveling in the amazing Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder banquet. Wow! I'm probably forgetting a ton of other things-- all packed into 3-4 days of nonstop action. No wonder I always come home equal parts exhilarated and exhausted! 

Proud mom, daughter, and daughter's first book!
One of the highlights this year was attending ALA with my grown up daughter who is also a librarian-- although in the medical field. She's so much fun to travel with and I'm so proud of all her achievements too! She presented her poster on her new book about the Affordable Care Act for librarians.

Janet (Wong) and I also had a poster session featuring how to connect poetry and picture books and I was so pleased with all the traffic we had and all the social media buzz our visitors created! 





Check out my homemade "share poetry" dress which I was excited to debut here. I ordered this customized fabric (with a Groupon from PersonalizedFabric2) and then made it into a simple dress. So much fun! 

And of course I couldn't miss the Poetry Blast which was held Sunday afternoon, hosted by Marilyn Singer and Stephanie Bange and featured poets Robert L. Forbes (Beastly Feasts; Let's Have a Bite; Beast Friends Forever), Madeleine Kuderick (Kiss of Broken Glass), Ann E. Burg (Unbound), Lee Bennett Hopkins (Jumping Off Library Shelves; Amazing Places, Been to Yesterdays), Carole Boston Weatherford (Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement; You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen), and Marilyn Singer herself, of course (Miss Muffet, or What Came After; Echo Echo). I made tiny video clips of their readings and I tried to post them here, so you can catch some of the excitement we all felt there-- and get the scoop on some new, forthcoming poetry books, but neither Blogger nor YouTube is cooperating! Heck! Sorry! I'll keep trying and re-post, if I have more success. 
(L-R) Lee Bennett Hopkins, Carole Boston Weatherford, Ann E. Burg, Robert L. Forbes, Marilyn Singer & Madeleine Kuderick
Thanks to the sponsors for bringing poets and sponsoring the Poetry Blast: Candlewick Press, HarperCollins Children's Books; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers; Lee & Low Books; Scholastic Books, and Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press.

Meanwhile, head on over to Tabatha's place, The Opposite of Indifference, where she has heaps of Poetry Friday goodies to share. See you there!

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17. Poetry for Summer

I just got back from a fun TASLA conference meeting with school library administrators from around Texas. What a fun group and productive meeting. I always enjoy being a "groupie" at their functions learning more about what school librarian leaders are doing-- always so innovative and engaging. I spoke about my experiences sharing poetry with students in Guam and debuted my new poetry dress-- photos to come. :-) They also loved the pocket poems I brought of Tricia Stohr Hunt's "Summer Melon" poem-- here-- and also available on Pinterest.

Meanwhile, it feels like summer has truly arrived with hot temperatures across the country. I know it doesn't officially begin till next week, but I thought I might share a handy list of summer-themed poems featured in The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations as well as my list of poetry books about summer from my Poetry Teacher's Book of Lists.



And here's my list of poetry books about summer from my Poetry Teacher's Book of Lists.

Poetry Books about Summer

Summer time is the perfect time to catch up on all kinds of poetry reading of course, but we can kick off our summertime events and gatherings with poems written specifically about summer and typical summer activities. Here are a few examples to get us started.

Alarcón, Francisco X. 1998. From the Bellybutton of the Moon and Other Summer Poems/Del Ombligo de la Luna y Otros Poemas de Verano. San Francisco: Children’s Book Press.
Appelt, Kathi. 2004. My Father’s Summers: A Daughter’s Memoirs. New York: Henry Holt.
Brown, Marc. 2013. Marc Brown’s Playtime Rhymes: A Treasury for Families to Learn and Play Together. New York: Little, Brown. 
Bruchac, Joseph. 1995. The Earth under Sky Bear's Feet: Native American Poems of the Land. New York: Philomel Books.
Carlson, Lori M. Ed. 1998. Sol a Sol: Bilingual Poems. New York: Henry Holt. 
Dotlich: Rebecca Kai 1998. Lemonade Sun and Other Summer Poems Honesdale: Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press.
Dotlich, Rebecca Kai. 2004. Over in the Pink House: New Jump Rope Rhymes. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press.
Esbensen, Barbara Juster. 1984. Cold Stars and Fireflies:  Poems of the Four Seasons. New York: Crowell. 
Fletcher, Ralph. 2001. Have You Been to the Beach Lately? New York: Orchard Books.
Florian, Douglas. 2002. Summersaults: Poems and Paintings New York: Greenwillow Books.
Fogliano, Julie. 2016. When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons. Macmillan/Roaring Brook/Porter.
Frank, John. 2007. How to Catch a Fish. New Milford: Roaring Brook Press.
George, Kristine O’Connell. 2001. Toasting Marshmallows: Camping Poems New York: Clarion Books.
Giovanni, Nikki. 1981. Vacation Time: Poems for Children. New York: Morrow.
Graham, Joan Bransfield. 1994. Splish Splash. New York: Houghton Mifflin.
Grimes, Nikki. 2004. Tai Chi morning: Snapshots of China. Chicago: Cricket Books.
Hopkins, Lee Bennett. Ed. 1993. Beat the Drum, Independence Day has Come: Poems for the Fourth of July. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press.
Hopkins, Lee Bennett. Ed. 2005. Days to Celebrate: A Full Year of Poetry, People, Holidays, History, Fascinating Facts, and More. New York: Greenwillow.
Hopkins, Lee. Bennett  Ed. 2010. Sharing the Seasons. Margaret McElderry.
Janeczko, Paul. Ed. 2014. Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
Katz, Alan. 2011. Mosquitoes Are Ruining My Summer! And Other Silly Dilly Camp Songs. New York: McElderry.
Lansky, Bruce. Ed. 2009. What I Did on My Summer Vacation: Kids' Favorite Funny Summer Vacation Poems. Minnetonka, MN: Meadowbrook Press.
Latham, Irene. 2016. Fresh Delicious: Poems from the Farmers' Market. Highlights/Wordsong.
Lessac, Frane. 2003. Camp Granada: Sing-Along Camp Songs New York: Holt.
Levy, Constance. 2002. Splash! Poems of Our Watery World. New York: Orchard.
Lewis, J. Patrick. 1994. July is a Mad Mosquito. New York: Atheneum.
Michelson, Richard. 2014. S is for Sea Glass: A Beach Alphabet. Chelsea, MI: Sleeping Bear Press. 
Mora, Pat. 1998. This Big Sky. New York: Scholastic.
Schnur, Steven. 2001. Summer: An Alphabet Acrostic. New York: Clarion.
Shaw, Alison, comp. 1995. Until I Saw the Sea: A Collection of Seashore Poems. New York: Henry Holt.
Siebert, Diane. 2006. Tour America: A Journey through Poems and Art. San Francisco: Chronicle.
Singer, Marilyn. 2000. Fireflies at Midnight. New York: Atheneum. 
Singer, Marilyn. 1992. In My Tent. New York: Macmillan. 
Singer, Marilyn. 1989. Turtle in July. New York: Macmillan.
Spinelli, Eileen. 2007. Summerhouse Time. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 
Weatherford, Carole Boston. 2001. Sidewalk Chalk; Poems of the City. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press. 
Wissinger, Tamera Will. 2013. Gone Fishing: A Novel in Verse. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Wong, Janet. 2008. Minn and Jake’s Almost Terrible Summer. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. 
Zimmer, Tracie Vaughn. 2005. Sketches from a Spy Tree. New York: Clarion.

Yolen, Jane. 2000. Color Me a Rhyme: Nature Poems for Young People. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press. 

Let the summer fun begin! 

See you over at Carol's Corner for a lovely gathering of Poetry Friday posts.

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18. GARVEY'S CHOICE by Nikki Grimes

I'm happy to toot the horn for another new novel in verse by Nikki Grimes that is perfect for the intermediate grades (grades 5-8), in particular. It's Garvey's Choice, the story of a nerdy boy whose father wants him to pursue sports rather than the sci fi he enjoys. Fortunately, the discovery of a mutual love of music helps them connect in the end. Plus, Garvey's mom and sister, as well as his old and new friend, round out this engaging story about being true to oneself while respecting the differences in others. Oh, and did I mention that the entire book is written in tanka poems? Very cool! Nikki was kind enough to share a bit of "back story" on the writing of Garvey's Choice for my blog. Enjoy!

GARVEY'S CHOICE: THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY
by Nikki Grimes


Most often in my work, form follows function, which is to say I begin with character and story, and then determine what form that story will take.  However, in this particular case, form came first.  I'm fascinated with tanka poetry and wondered if it would be possible to write an entire novel using that form.

The idea for the subject matter was easy to arrive at, because body-image is such a fixation in this culture.  You can't turn on the television without hearing commentary on, or seeing a PSA about obesity in general, and childhood obesity, in particular.  It's a growing problem, and the topic is unavoidable.  (This is the second time I've addressed this.  I first took on the topic in Halfway to Perfect, a Dyamonde Daniel chapter book.)

I knew, from the beginning, that I would tell this story from a boy's point of view, rather than a girl's.  Stories on this particular subject are, more often than not, told from a girl's perspective, and I wanted to flip that.

I began with a clear idea and tight focus on theme, rather than character and story, and there's a danger in that.  The first polished draft was a portrait of an overweight boy in which all you learned about him was his experience of being overweight. There needed to be much more to him, and to his story, but I was too close to the material to see that.  Thinking I'd pretty much nailed the topic, I sent the first draft off to one of my editors.  

As it happened, that editor was both the best and the worst person I could have chosen to share this manuscript with. This editor had been an overweight young person, and still keenly felt the wounds inflicted by childhood bullies, still flinched at the memories of body insecurity, and all that came with it.  In fact, the editor found the piece difficult to read, and impossible to edit.  This was hardly the response I had anticipated!  Suddenly worried my text might do readers more harm than good, I set it aside for a year or two and all but forgot about it.

I went on to write books like Planet Middle School and Words With Wings, and after the latter went into production, the editor of that novel-in-verse inquired whether I had any other projects we might work on together.  I thought about that for a few days, and suddenly remembered the tanka manuscript I'd filed away.  "You know," I told her,  "I do have one manuscript that needs some work.  I don't know if you'd be interested in it, but..." I went on to explain a bit about the story, and she invited me to submit it.  I'm glad I did.

Rebecca Davis, an editor I'd worked with for years, not only read the manuscript, but saw what it could be.  She recognized the narrowness of the story's focus, and suggested ways I might broaden the story, and shift its focus so that weight became part of Garvey's story, and not the whole of it.  She posed questions about the emotional life of the character, about his back-story, his family, his relationships, and she challenged me to draft a revision that answered some of those questions.  I looked them over carefully, gulped, and finally agreed.  I knew I had my work cut out for me.

Why did Garvey over-eat in the first place?  That was a key question that helped me shape the story that finally emerged.  I had to come up with a rational, plausible answer, and it was exploring that question that led me into the intricacies of Garvey's relationship with his father.  It was my editor who identified this as the heart of the story.  She was right.

I certainly know what it's like to have a disconnect with a parent.  From the time I was six years old, I dreamed of being a writer.  And yet, my mother did everything she could to dissuade me from pursuing that goal.  My father, on the other hand, both understood and supported my dream.  (In Garvey's Choice, I flip the roles, posing the mother as the supportive parent.) To be fundamentally misunderstood by a parent is very painful, and I was able to draw from my own experience of that pain as I wrote about Garvey's.  As they say, we write what we know.  I may not have grown up as an overweight boy, but I understood Garvey's heart.

Garvey's friendships were also important to his story, as mine were to my story. The friends we let into the inner sanctums of our lives and hearts help to influence the people we become.  In the case of Garvey, his friends not only encouraged him to love himself, but also challenged him to stretch and grow in ways that were good and healthy.  Each recognized potential in Garvey that he, himself, was unable to see.  Our best friends can do that for us.

Little by little, the larger story of Garvey began to come together.  There was a problem, though.   As the manuscript became more complex, writing it entirely in tanka became more difficult.

A five-line poem is not much space in which to convey a complex narrative.  For that reason, my editor suggested I weave in additional poetry forms.  Of course, I was far too stubborn to accept her advice.  I'd set out to write a novel in tanka, alone, and that's what I was committed to doing. For the more compound narrative threads, I decided to try linking two or more tanka poems together. I wasn't sure it would work, but I'm glad it did.  Whew!

In the end, Garvey's Choice stretched me as much as Garvey's journey stretched him.  I hope this story will inspire readers to dare to follow their own dreams, whether or not loved ones choose to go along for the ride.  When we choose to follow our dreams, we discover who we are on the inside, and find the strength to be who we want to be, on the outside. Just like Garvey.


Note from Sylvia: I was also lucky enough to get the assignment to create an educator's guide for Garvey's Choice and I'll share a few nuggets next week. 

Now head on over to Beyond LiteracyLink for the Poetry Friday party this week!

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19. Science + Poetry = Motion and force

Here is another installment in my series of science poetry tied to science-themed picture books. My graduate student, Melissa Willardson (in my "Poetry for Children" class) selected the focus on “motion and force” from the series of professional resource books, "Picture Perfect Science Lessons" by Karen Ansberry and Emily Morgan (and published by the National Science Teachers Association). Here are her three infographics centered around learning about motion and force. The focus picture book is:
  • Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy Shaw
The poem that works perfectly with this book is “Sledding (Uphill and Downhill)” by Karma Wilson from her book, Outside the Box. Below is a graphic featuring this book and others, followed by the featured poem, and then the Take 5 activities to accompany the poem along with a "bonus" poem, “Push Power” by Janet Wong from The Poetry of Science. Enjoy!




Science of poetry graphics created by Melissa Willardson
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Image credit: dialoguealumninews.wordpress.com

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20. Science + Poetry = Classifying rocks

Here is another installment in my series of science poetry tied to science-themed picture books. My graduate student, Susan Williams (in my "Poetry for Children" class) selected the focus on “classifying rocks” from the series of professional resource books,"Picture Perfect Science Lessons" by Karen Ansberry and Emily Morgan (and published by the National Science Teachers Association). Here are her three infographics centered around learning about classifying rocks. The focus picture book pair is:
  • If You Find a Rock by Peggy Christian
  • Rocks: Hard, Soft, Smooth by Natalie M. Rosinky
Susan chose an excerpt from “If You Find a Rock” by Peggy Christian as the poem to accompany this pair of books. Below is a graphic featuring this book and others, followed by the featured poem, and then the Take 5 activities to accompany the poem along with a "bonus" poem, “My Rock” by Ken Slesarik from The Poetry of Science. Enjoy!




Science of poetry graphics created by Susan Williams

Image credit: dialoguealumninews.wordpress.com

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21. Science + Poetry = Earthworms

Here is the final installment in my series of science poetry tied to science-themed picture books. My graduate student, Elizabeth Zelenak (in my "Poetry for Children" class) selected the focus on “earthworms” from the series of professional resource books, "Picture Perfect Science Lessons" by Karen Ansberry and Emily Morgan (and published by the National Science Teachers Association). Here are her three infographics centered around learning about earthworms. The focus picture book pair is:
  • Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin
  • Wiggling Worms at Work by Wendy Pfeffer
The poem that works perfectly with this book is “Reliable, Pliable Worms” by Celia Warren from her book Don’t Poke a Worm till it Wriggles. Below is a graphic featuring this book pair and others, followed by the featured poem, and then the Take 5 activities to accompany the poem along with a "bonus" poem, “Soil Inventory” by Kate Coombs from The Poetry of Science. Enjoy!





Science of poetry graphics created by Elizabeth Zelenak
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Image credit: dialoguealumninews.wordpress.com

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22. El día de los niños/El día de los libros 20th anniversary

Today is officially El día de los niños/El día de los libros, celebrated every April 30. And today is particularly special, since it’s the 20thanniversary of Día. This special celebration was conceived by and established by founder Pat Mora, author, poet, and literacy advocate. In March 1996, while being interviewed in Tucson, Arizona, she learned about the holiday El día de los niños celebrated in Mexico. Realizing that the United States had nothing similar, Pat proposed linking Children's Day, the celebration of childhood and children, with literacy and bilingualism, creating a new holiday: El día de los niños/El día de los libros.

Earlier this month, Pat also delivered the prestigious May Hill Arbuthnot Lecture in Santa Barbara, CA, “Bookjoy! Alegria en los Libros!” the Garvin Theatre at Santa Barbara City College. Fortunately, they recorded her talk and you can watch it in its entirety here

Meanwhile, here’s the official description of Día from the ALSC sponsor website: “El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Children's Day/Book Day), commonly known as Día, is a celebration every day of children, families, and reading that culminates yearly on April 30. The celebration emphasizes the importance of literacy for children of all linguistic and cultural backgrounds.”

Check out the ALA/ALSC website for
free downloadable materials, tips for starting a book club, booklists, toolkits, and more. You can find even more info, help, and celebration videos at Pat’s websitePlus lesson plans here and even more resources here.

Share Pat’s celebratory picture book all about Día, Book Fiesta! and her poem about Día in The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations (below) to celebrate this special anniversary of this special day.


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23. TGIPF: Thank Goodness It's Poetry Friday!

Welcome, poetry friends! I'm happy to host Poetry Friday once again right here. Jump to the bottom and link your post below courtesy of Mister Linky. Meanwhile, Mother's Day is coming up, so I thought I might take a moment to share some poetry resources for celebrating the moms and grandmoms in our lives-- and other women who are special to us. So, in that spirit, here is a list of 10 of my favorite books of poetry about mothers. (You can find many more in my Poetry Teacher's Book of Lists. FYI)

Diverse Poetry Books about Mothers

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What better tribute for a mother, aunt or grandmother than a well-chosen poem? Poets have given us words with which to honor the women in our lives in many poetry books in picture book form or in novels in verse or in anthologies of poems by many poets. 
  1. Atkins, Jeannine. 2010. Borrowed Names; Poems About Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C. J. Walker, Marie Curie, and Their Daughters. Henry Holt.
  2. Grimes, Nikki. 2015. Poems in the Attic. Ill. by Elizabeth Zunon. New York: Lee & Low. 
  3. Holt, K. A. 2015. House Arrest. San Francisco: Chronicle.
  4. Lewis, J. Patrick. 2005. Vherses: A Celebration of Outstanding Women.Mankato, MN: Creative Editions.
  5. McCall, Guadalupe Garcia. 2011. Under the Mesquite. New York: Lee & Low.
  6. Mora, Pat. 2001. Ed. Love to Mamá: a Tribute to Mothers. New York: Lee & Low Books.
  7. Smith, Hope Anita. 2009. Mother: Poems. New York: Henry Holt.
  8. Thomas, Joyce Carol. 2001. A Mother’s Love: Poems for us to Share.New York: Joanna Cotler.
  9. Wong. Janet S. 1999. The Rainbow Hand: Poems about Mothers and Children. New York: McElderry.
  10. Yolen, Jane and Heidi E.Y. Stemple. 2001. Dear Mother, Dear Daughter: Poems for Young People.  Honesdale, PA: Wordsong/Boyds.
Plus, I hope you'll also indulge a plug for the many poems about mothers in The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations, including the poem that Janet Wong wrote especially for Mother's Day. (And yes, that is my own mom and holding me as a newborn in the photo!)

Now, let's see what poetry goodness awaits us at other lovely blogs! Mister Linky will gather all our posts below. Thanks for sharing!









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24. You Can Fly

It's no secret, I'm a big fan of Carole Boston Weatherford

She beautiful melds nonfiction and poetry in book after book after book, in addition to many collections of "just" poetry. Previously, I featured an excerpt from her poem, "I am the Bridge," in honor of President Obama's first inauguration here, plus an interview with her about her award winning book, Birmingham, 1963, on the 50th anniversary of the bombing in Birmingham here, as well as many other posts that reference her appearances at the ALA Poetry Blast, TLA Poetry Round Up, and her many other awards and honors. Plus, you can find Carole's "Poet to Poet" interview with Jacqueline Woodson about her National Book Award-winning, Brown Girl Dreaming here.

Now, I am honored to participate in a blog tour featuring her new nonfiction book in verse, You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen (Simon & Schuster, 2016), which pairs her poems with the scratchboard illustrations created by her son, Jeffery Weatherford, their first collaboration as mother and son. It celebrates "the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, pioneering African American pilots who triumphed in the skies and past the color barrier." Carole and Jeffery were kind enough to agree to an interview-- asking each other questions about their collaboration.

JEFFERY: Why did you want to write this book?
CAROLE: My parents came of age in the 1940s, so I am nostalgic about that era. My father fought in WWII. The Tuskegee Airmen’s saga resonated with me. It is stirring—historically, politically and emotionally. As a children’s literature professor, I knew of an historical fiction picture book and of several informational books about the Tuskegee Airmen. I thought the narrative would work as a sequence of poems. 

CAROLE: What was your inspiration for the illustrations?
JEFFERY: My inspiration was documentary photographs from the Library of Congress. While researching picture references, I had some dreams of meeting Tuskegee Airmen. I also watched the movie Red Tails.

JEFFERY: The text is in second person. Whose voice is the narrator’s?
CAROLE: I’m not sure. I may have channeled First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt or abolitionist Frederick Douglass. After completing and titling You Can Fly, I was doing picture research and found an account of Mrs. Roosevelt’s flight with Tuskegee instructor Chief Anderson. Afterwards, the First Lady said, “You can fly.” Much later, I read Frederick Douglass’s Civil War editorial calling for African Americans to join the U.S. Colored Troops to end slavery. He urged black men to “fly to arms.” You can’t make this stuff up.

CAROLE: What is your favorite poem from the book?
JEFFERY: The first poem, “Head to the Clouds,” is my favorite. Another favorite is "The Fight Song." It is the actual fight song of the 99th Fighter Squadron.

JEFFERY: What is your favorite illustration from the book?
CAROLE: I can’t choose just one. I have three favorites: the portrait of an Airman, the picture of three planes and the picture of the boy who is lying in the grass and gazing at the sky. The Airman looks heroic, the picture of the boy resembles an etching, and the planes are straight out of a comic book.

CAROLE: How did you come to illustrate children's books?
JEFFERY: For my senior project in high school, I illustrated one of my mother’s manuscripts entitled Which Way to Dreamland? It’s based on a question that I once asked: How do dreams get in your head? After college graduation, my mom asked me to create some art samples for her manuscript You Can Fly.

JEFFERY: Share something about your experiences with planes or flying.
CAROLE: I loved planes as a girl. On Sundays, my family went to Baltimore’s Friendship Airport to watch planes take off and land. That was long before I ever boarded a plane.

More Resources
WWII by the numbers: Of nearly 1,000 Tuskegee pilots, half went overseas and fewer than 10 were captured or killed.

From the archives:
Tuskegee Airman Edward Gleed at air base in Italy.


Check out the comprehensive review at "The Children's War: A Guide to Books for Young Readers About World War II" available here.

Now watch the book trailer here:


Do not miss this powerful book of 33 poems and lots of heart and history, already getting starred reviews from Publishers Weekly ("wields the power of poetry to tell a gripping historical story") and Kirkus ("A masterful, inspiring evocation of an era"). 

Now head on over to Violet Nesdoly's place for more Poetry Friday news. 





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25. Celebrating Asian American Heritage Month

I didn't realize how many special occasions occurred in May until I worked on our Celebrations book with Janet Wong. Sure, it's the end of the semester and school year (in many places) and the home of Mother's Day and Memorial Day. But it's also National Photo Month, National Bike Month, National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, and the time we celebrate National Pet Week, National Teacher Appreciation Week, Children's Book Week, National Etiquette Week, as well as World Laughter Day, World Red Cross Day, and World Hunger Day (which is close to Red Nose Day also devoted to eliminating hunger). Wow. And of course there are many other occasions, once you start digging. My family teases me that I always find SOMETHING to celebrate!

Today I'd like to pause and celebrate Asian American Heritage Month and Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month-- with a poem of course! I posted this on Facebook and Twitter, so please forgive me if you've been inundated. I love this poem by my pal Janet Wong and what it says about celebrating Asian Americans, as well as our many diverse, blended, and intertwined roots in the U.S. 

And here are the Take 5 activities that accompany this poem in The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations (Teacher/Librarian edition):

  1. If possible, display a map in the background that features Asia and Pacific Islands while you read the poem aloud, pausing between stanzas. One source is Google.com/Maps/@29,100,3z.
  2. Share the poem again with pauses so the children can join in on the key words Chinese, Korean, and plucots while you read the rest of the poem aloud.
  3. Talk about how new words are “coined” and how plucot is a combination of plum (plu) and apricot (cot), just as the plucot fruit is a hybrid combination of those two fruits. 
  4. Pair this poem with the picture book Grandfather Counts by Andrea Cheng (Lee & Low, 2000). And for more information about celebrating Asian Pacific Heritage Month, check out the resources at AsianPacificHeritage.gov.
  5. For another poem about a family with roots in more than one culture, look for “Our Family” by Kate Coombs (November, page 305) as well as poems in A Suitcase of Seaweed by Janet Wong (McElderry, 1996).
Plus, if you'd like even more poetry, here's a list from my book, The Poetry Teacher's Book of Lists.

Asian American Poetry for Young People

Asian and Asian American poetry for young people is not just haiku; there are many lovely, ancient and contemporary works to share with children. Here is a sampling of poetry for young people by Asian and Asian American poets.

Cheng, Andrea. 2005. Shanghai Messenger. New York: Lee & Low.
Ho, Minfong. 1996. Maples in the Mist: Poems for Children from the Tang Dynasty. New York: Lothrop, Lee, & Shepard.
Issa, Kobayashi. 2007. Today and Today. New York: Scholastic.
Izuki, Steven. 1994. Believers in America:  Poems about Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander Descent. Chicago, IL: Children’s Press.
Lai, Thanhha. 2011. Inside Out and Back Again. New York: HarperCollins.
Mak, Kam. 2001. My Chinatown: One Year in Poems. New York: HarperCollins.
Park, Linda Sue. 2007. Tap Dancing on the Roof; Sijo Poems. New York : Clarion.
Wong, Janet S. 1994. Good Luck Gold and Other Poems. New York: McElderry.
Wong, Janet S. 1996/2008. A Suitcase of Seaweed, and Other Poems. New York: Booksurge.
Wong, Janet S. 1999. Behind the Wheel:  Poems about Driving. New York: McElderry.
Wong, Janet S. 1999. The Rainbow Hand: Poems about Mothers and Children. New York: McElderry. 
Wong, Janet S. 2000. Night Garden:  Poems from the World of Dreams. New York: McElderry.
Wong, Janet S. 2003. Knock on Wood: Poems about Superstitions. New York: McElderry.

Wong, Janet S. 2003. Minn and Jake. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
Wong, Janet S. 2007. Twist: Yoga Poems. New York: McElderry.
Wong, Janet. 2008. Minn and Jake’s Almost Terrible Summer. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. 
Wong, Janet. 2011. Once Upon A Tiger; New Beginnings for Endangered Animals. OnceUponaTiger.com.
Wong, Janet. 2012. Declaration of Interdependence: Poems for  an Election Year. PoetrySuitcase.
Wong, Joyce Lee. 2006. Seeing Emily. New York: Abrams.
Yep, Laurence, ed. 1993. American Dragons: Twenty-five Asian American Voices. New York: HarperCollins.
Yu, Chin. 2005. Little Green; Growing Up During the Chinese Cultural Revolution. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Now don't miss the rest of the Poetry Friday posts that Margaret is gathering over at Reflections on the Teche. See you there!

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