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Two teachers think about and write about their lives as readers -- readers of children's books, professional books, and adult fiction, nonfiction and poetry. Yes, we still want to try to have read the Newbery, but our reading lives are much bigger than just that.
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1. Animal Bites: A Nonfiction Series from Animal Planet

I am always looking for good new nonfiction series that are accessible to my 3rd graders. I recently received a copy of OCEAN ANIMALS from the newish Animal Bites series from Animal Planet.  It looks like it will be a perfect fit for 3rd and 4th graders.

The book is filled with amazing photos so it will definitely attract readers--it is one they will pick up on their own. And there seems to be just the right amount of text on each page. Each page contains more than a few facts but not so much text that the book becomes overwhelming for young readers.

The book's text features are color-coded so readers are directed to a key on the Table of Contents page.  There are several categories covered in the book and the colored tabs alert the reader to which umbrella topic is being discussed on a page.  Topics like "Where They Live", "How They Live" and "Big Data" are some of the categories. There are also some pages that focus on one type of animal to get more information.

The book has a good progression so can easily be read from cover to cover over a few days. But the pages also stand alone so each page can be read alone and there are lots of mini lesson possibilities form the stand-alone pages.  This is a good series to use to share various ways to read nonfiction and the ways the various nonfiction text features are used to help share information.

There are a few other books in this series and I am anxious to see if my kids like them as much as i think they will. I definitely have plenty of series about animals but many of  my 3rd graders could read about animals every day and still want to read more! They are a sturdy paperback book so they seem like they will hold up well in a classroom.

The other books in the series include Polar Animals, Farm Animals and Wild Animals.

I'm excited to discover this new series!

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2. Do You Know Emily Arrow?

I recently discovered Emily Arrow! It was one of my best recent discoveries for sure!  Maybe you have too. It seems that I have come across her work a few times over the last few weeks and I have become a huge fan! I remember watching her Water is Water video during our Mock Caldecott study. I had a small group of girls who learned the hand motions and had a blast with the book and song. But I didn't pay much attention except that I loved the song and was amazed that someone could create something like this around a book! Then I discovered her Be a Friend video and then researched to see what else she had out there!

If you didn't discover her work during Caldecott season, maybe you discovered it when you saw her new amazing Louise Loves Art video on Mr. Schu's blog this week!  As Colby Sharp said on Facebook:

Or maybe you discovered her because you celebrated Poem in Your Pocket Day last week and there is nothing better than her song to celebrate the day.   (We like the one with the Motions Guide--it has become a class favorite in the last few days!)

Before I introduced her songs to my class this week, I created an Emily Arrow Padlet for my students so they could easily get to each one of the videos. I knew they would want to know how to find all of her videos as I knew they would fall in love with her work just as I did. They are mesmerized and inspired by every single video. We started off with Be a Friend. I hadn't been sure which video to show first , but when one of my students came unknowingly dressed perfectly for Be a Friend,  how could we not start by watching Emily Arrow's Be a Friend video first?  Then, of course, they wanted to watch every one of her videos!

 I love Emily Arrow's work for so many reasons. First of all, it is pure joy.  The songs are happy and joyful.  This week, Emily Arrow brought so much joy to our classroom.  We are in testing season and we needed a few pick-me-ups after a few tiring mornings. I shared the Emily Arrow videos I discovered and could not believe the happiness in every face as they watched and played along. Just as I did, they became instant Emily Arrow Fans!

But the songs are not merely fun and happy (although that alone would be enough!) But the books Emily chooses to interpret in song are books that have powerful messages for readers.  They give our young readers another way to look at a book.  I love that my kids can think differently about a book because of Emily's songs.

I also think that these inspire a kind of creativity that I hadn't thought of. love that kids are already thinking about creating their own songs. Some are thinking about the videos and how she creates those.  We have a few Makerspaces at our school and no one had thought about making a song. Emily Arrow inspired a few that making a song is something they might like to try. Emily Arrow has brought huge possibilities to our classroom.

I purchased her new album (Emily Arrow Storytime Singalong) on iTunes and added it to our classroom playlist.  We have cleaned our classroom this week while singing along to The Dot Song (we are partial to the version with the motion guide!), Poem in Your Pocket and Max the Brave.  These songs are perfect for all ages.

So, my recommendation, if you are looking for more joy in your life...if you want your students to see things that are possible with books, music, video, play... if you don't want to miss anything new that Emily Arrow creates, you should :

Follow her on Facebook
Follow her on Twitter (@hellowemilyarrow)
Visit her blog.
Subscribe to her Youtube Channel.

If you don't know Emily Arrow, go get to know her now!

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3. Jackie


Mommy? Grandma?
Why are you crying?
Did I do something wrong?

No, Jackie. No, Punkin'.
It's not you.
We're crying for the bygones.

We're remembering Uncle Jack.
Grandpa's trumpet 
was one of the things from home that he took along

with him into the war.
The trumpet didn't come back, and neither did he.
But you're here, so Uncle Jack will live on.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2016

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4. Papa


It seems like just yesterday
my little girl was in ruffles and a bonnet,
then serious-faced with that long, long hair.

Our Lizzy was the observer.
She worshipped Lewis,
kept Jack out of more than his share 

of trouble. She watched over Henry
like a mother hen.
She could beat me at checkers, fair and square.

Now I've given her away.
My little girl.
Take care of her, young man. Take good care.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2016

I'm going to miss this family I've invented from random photographs and scraps of my own family's history. I plan to work on giving them a more proper storyline. Or perhaps I'll just collect them into an e-book. Time will tell. It always does, it seems.

Buffy has the Poetry Friday roundup at Buffy's Blog.

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5. Lizzy


Falling in love
with a race car driver
surprised me as much as it did you.

When the children come,
he has promised
to find a new,

safer line of work.
How many grandkids?
I think you can plan on two.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2016

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6. Henry


Dear Iva,
I couldn't be more sure.
But are you?

You'd give all that up for me?
For a life on this farm?
For a job at the school?

When I look at your face
in the photo you sent
I still can't believe it's true.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2016

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7. The 2016 Progressive Poem is HERE!

It's been a little nerve-wracking to be the 27th poet to add a line to the 2016 Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem. I've peeked in on it a couple times a week since the first of the month, but I didn't want fall in love with the direction it was heading, knowing that the direction would certainly change. (And boy has it!!)

I'm glad I got a spot this year -- the schedule filled up fast! Here's who's added lines so far (and who will add after me):


1 Laura at Writing the World for Kids
2 Joy at Joy Acey
3 Doraine at Dori Reads
4 Diane at Random Noodling

5 Penny at A Penny and Her Jots
6 Carol at Beyond LiteracyLink
7 Liz at Elizabeth Steinglass
8 Janet F. at Live Your Poem

9 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
10 Pat at Writer on a Horse
11 Buffy at Buffy's Blog
12 Michelle at Today's Little Ditty

13 Linda at TeacherDance
14 Jone at Deo Writer
15 Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme
16 Violet at Violet Nesdoly

17 Kim at Flukeprints
18 Irene at Live Your Poem
19 Charles at Poetry Time
20 Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town

21 Jan at Bookseedstudio
22 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge
23 Ramona at Pleasures from the Page
24 Amy at The Poem Farm

25 Mark at Jackett Writes
26 Renee at No Water River
27 Mary Lee at Poetrepository
28 Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe

29 Sheila at Sheila Renfro
30 Donna at Mainely Write

The poem started off with some gorgeous images of birds and wishes, then the ocean and more wishes. A celebration of spring kept the spirit of the poem light in the third and fourth stanzas. In the fifth stanza, we took a short break from the earthly poem and rode Pegasus to the largest moon of Jupiter. The breeze returned with an offer for our speaker: "I give you flight!" What a gift! But the speaker suddenly gets cold feet in stanza seven, line one, at which point, Renee, in yesterday's line, "pushed her out of the plane."

Here's the poem:

A squall of hawk wings stirs the sky.
A hummingbird holds and then hies.
If I could fly, I’d choose to be
Sailing through a forest of poet-trees.

A cast of crabs engraves the sand
Delighting a child’s outstretched hand.
If I could breathe under the sea,
I’d dive, I’d dip, I’d dance with glee.

A clump of crocuses craves the sun.
Kites soar while joyful dogs run.
I sing to spring, to budding green,
to all of life – seen and unseen.

Wee whispers drift from cloud to ear
and finally reach one divining seer
who looks up from her perch and beams —
West Wind is dreaming May, it seems.

Golden wings open and gleam
as I greet the prancing team.
Gliding aside with lyrical speed,
I’d ride Pegasus to Ganymede.

To a pied pocket, the zephyr returns
blowing soft words the seer discerns
from earthbound voyage to dreamy night,
The time is now. I give you flight!

Yet I fear I am no kite or bird–
I lift! The world below me blurred
by tears of joy. I spiral high 

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8. Mother


This picture haunts me.
It's as if
I sealed my fate

in a moment of silliness
prompted by the photographer.
The blind date

with the man who would be your father
was that same night.
I was blind indeed. And he didn't wait

a single minute for my good sense to return.
Almost before I realized it,
I was hitched and whisked away

to that wretched farm.
His conquest
was my doomsday.

I won't try to stop you, Iva.
Neither will I come rescue you.
It is your life to waste.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2016

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9. Iva


I never knew Great Uncle.
When I turn twenty and can manage
the money he left for me

I will thank him for his hard work,
his thrift, and his service in the Great War.
Then I'll not hesitate to leave.

A life on the farm
was Mother's "terrible mistake."
It is my dream.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2016

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10. Iva


Dear Henry,
Yes, that's me --
on the outside.

Inside, I'm still the girl
who could out-race and out-spell you
with one arm tied

behind my back!
Keep sending your poems about the homeplace.
They're what's keeping the true me alive.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2016

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11. Henry


All right, Pa.
You want me to invent a better story?
Youngest son

grows up to become
the world's first famous
ukulele musician.

Deprived of violin and trumpet
by his older brothers,
he discovers a musical passion

all his own. Deeply regrets
missing out on a life of farm work.
How's that for invention?

The truth will be:
Youngest son inherits farm,
makes agriculture his ambition.

Finds fame
in cattle and crops.
His regrets? None.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2016

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12. Papa and Henry

Papa and Henry

There's my gallant Henry,
high on his steed,
ready to gallop into the sunset!

                                                  Tell the truth, Pa.
                                                  We both know
                                                  from the set

                                                 of Dolly's ears
                                                 what was about to happen.
                                                 I was lucky to get

                                                 out of that alive.
                                                 When Dolly went to live at the Dobler's
                                                 I was not upset.

Henry, my boy, what's stopping us
from inventing a better story
complete with some imaginary regrets?

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2016

Jama has the Poetry Friday Roundup this week at Jama's Alphabet Soup.

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13. Henry


There I am,
Jack's shadow.
I'm surprised he let me hold his precious bat.

Do you think he's okay?
Why haven't we heard from him?
Where's he at,

anyway? Why won't they tell you?
When will this war be over?
I want my hero back.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2016

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14. Lizzy


A note to my younger self:
Don't take the world so seriously.
You don't always have to do as you're told.

Snatch off that silly bonnet
and run towards freedom.
Make your move, and make it bold.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2016

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15. Papa


I remember that day.
I did all my morning chores
up to my knees in mud,

came back to the house
to clean my boots up,
and there he was,

proud as punch
in my overshoes.
How could I begrudge his fun?

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2016

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16. Mama


We went back to Nebraska
just that once.
My brother's wealth was hard

on your Pa.
All of it --
tidy barn, grass in the yard,

and Jack in hand-me-downs
holding tight
to that car,

not wanting to leave it
for our dry and dusty
struggle of a farm.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2016

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17. Papa


Jack was always a joker,
using the animals
for some prank or scheme,

but Lewis loved them
deep and hard.
They were a team:

his Bonnie dog,
and Queenie --

the old mare
who was so patient,
so gentle with Lizzy and Henry.

Jack's been gone nearly a year,
but whenever a car comes into the yard
they both look up hopefully.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2016

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18. Mama


This one takes me right back
to the day of my mama's funeral --
Lewis playing "Amazing Grace,"

sitting there in a kitchen chair
at the edge of her beloved garden.
The one place

in all this endless brown dryness
where there was color and life.
That's what her garden was -- an amazing grace.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2016

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19. Jack


Mama gave me my own camera
for my eighteenth birthday.
She seems to believe

that I could profit from studying the world
instead of always trying to get the world
to look at me.

Your plot backfired, Mama.
The herefords are watching.
And behind the shed, so's Henry.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2016

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20. Mama


Got a photo postcard today
from my brother who stayed
back on the old place

north of Concordia
when he rest of us moved to Colorado.
Looks like they've got no complaints.

"Richard on Eds shoulder,
he couldn't look out. Mrs. and myself
in our oats field, it made 62 bu."

We watch the clouds build up in the west,
watch them pass by our fields,
watch them continue east to deliver their rain.

It's sure enough dry here -- nearly desert.
But there's a beauty in it, and we are learning
to lean into the wind and weather. We'll stay.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2016

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21. Papa


That Jack.
He pestered me
like a horsefly

on a mule.
Just had to have my picture.
Stood me beside

the car, but made sure
the mistake he made after the dance
was hidden behind.

I was madder than a hornet that night.
Reckless, ungrateful son-of-a-gun.
But I can't help myself. He makes me smile.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2016

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22. Mama


I've got enough work
to fill three days,
but here I sit,

mooning over the photo book.
Mama, I wish you'd look up
from your prize houseplants and chat a bit.

Help me figure out how to go on --
my two big boys gone to war --
one on a ship, one in a cockpit --

my little girl suddenly a woman, and lovesick --
the youngest just trying to find his way,
figuring out where he fits in all this.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2016

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23. Hnery and Lizzy

Henry and Lizzy

Who's that, Mama?
The one in the middle
marked with an X?

                                        He's so young
                                        and handsome!
                                        Tell us how you met!

I never knew
that once upon a time
Papa played trumpet!

                                        Did he bring you
                                        flowers? Candy?
                                        ...How could you forget?!?

Can I have it?
May I have it?
Pleeeeease, may I have it?

                                      Papa gave it to Jack
                                      when he enlisted?
                                      ...I guess that's best...

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2016

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24. Papa


Yes, indeed.
That's me.
Star of the team.

Valedictorian of my class, too.
If you work hard,
I believe you can succeed

at whatever
you aim for.
Of course, when it comes to wheat

a farmer can work his tail off
and the weather decides
what will be.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2016

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25. Lizzy


When Lewis' first model plane
took off like a dream on the first try,
is that when you knew

he'd be a pilot someday?
How he loved to tell that story.
Now, whenever a plane goes buzzing through,

I look up and imagine him there,
beyond "the surly bonds of Earth,"
"Up, up the long delirious burning blue..."

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2016
(with a hat tip to John Magee's "High Flight")

If you're new to my National Poetry Month project, you can go back to April 1, 2016 and read forward to catch the story line. Or you can go here and click on the link(s) under the pictures.

Michelle has the Poetry Friday Roundup this week at Today's Little Ditty.

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