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<<February 2017>>
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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Jack Prelutsky, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 27
1. 10 Things I Love (March 31st Edition)




Blogs are dead, everybody knows it, the tweet spread the news long ago. Nobody reads blogs anymore. These days it’s all Twitter and Instagram and Facebook and short, short, short.

I get it, I do. We’re all feeling the time squeeze.

But because I’m childishly oppositional, I refuse to give up my blog. And I’m keeping my 8-Tracks, too. I started this blog back in 2008, so we’ve become attached. I like to have readers, but I’m not sure I really need them. It wouldn’t stop me from writing. There’s something about the open-ended blog format that offers room to spread out and say things, however long it takes. Whether anyone listens or not.

My pal, illustrator Matthew Cordell, used to blog with enthusiasm. One of his recurring features was his monthly-ish “Top Ten” lists, where Matt randomly listed some of his recent enthusiasms. It could be a song, a book, a movie, or a type of eraser (Matt was weird about erasers). It was always fun to read.

So I’m stealing it.

Here are ten things I’ve recently loved:




I visited Cleveland with my son, Gavin, to check out Case Western Reserve University. The following day, we headed over to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which was spectacular in every way. (Except for: The Red Hot Chili Peppers? Really?) I’m a huge music fan, so it was perfect for me. I found the museum strangely moving in parts, my heart touched. I could see that rock music was big enough, and diverse enough, to offer a home to people from every walk of life.

CARRY ME HOME by Diane McWhorter


Amazing, fascinating, and at times brutal Pulitzer Prize-winning book that’s stayed with me long after the last page. It provides a dense, detailed account of the civil rights struggle centered in Birmingham, Alabama. Martin Luther King, the Klu Klux Klan, Fred Shuttlesworth, George Wallace, J. Edgar Hoover, Bobby Kennedy, Bull Conner, and more. One of those books that helps you understand America.



I’ve been ridiculously fortunate in my career, in that I’ve received a lot of fan mail across the past twenty years. But I have to admit, I especially like it when those letters include a drawing. There’s just something about children’s artwork that slays me, every time. This drawing is by Rida in Brooklyn.



This book has been on my list almost since the day it came out — the buzz was instantaneous, and huge — but on a tip from a friend, I waited for the audiobook to become available through my library. Here, Ta-Nehisi Coates gives a powerful reading. It’s poignant to listen to an author reading his own words, particularly since this book is essentially a letter to his son.

“WINTER RABBIT,” a poem by Madeleine Comora

Scan     Scan 1

We’re not here to bash Jack Prelutsky. Because, after all, Jack Prelutsky is hilarious. But, but, but. There are times when I worry that too many people think children’s poetry begins and ends with Mr. Prelutsky. That a poem for kids always has to be bouncy and fast and slight and funny, i.e., Prelutsky-ish. Well, here’s a poem I came across while reading Oh, No! Where Are My Pants? and Other Disasters: Poems, unerringly edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins. I admire the heartfelt, beautiful sorrow of Comora’s poem. “I thought of his last night alone/huddled in a wire home./I did not cry. I held him close,/smoothed his fur blown by the wind./For a winter’s moment, I stayed with him.” The illustration is  by Wolf Erlbruch. Click on the poem if your eyes, like mine, need larger type.



I’m so grateful that I live near a cool, little movie theater that makes room for small foreign films such as this, a mind-blowing look at life on the Amazon, spectacularly filmed in black-and-white. Click here for more details.



My wife Lisa and I don’t watch hours of TV together, but we do like to have a show we can share. We’ve been a loss for a few months, but recently discovered season one of “The Americans” on Amazon Prime. We’re hooked.


We have tickets to see Bromberg this coming weekend. He’s an old favorite of mine, first saw him in 1980 on Long Island. I’ve just rediscovered “Sammy’s Song,” which I haven’t heard in decades. What a chilling coming-of-age story, brilliantly performed. Oh, about that harmonica part? That’s Dave’s pal, Bob Dylan, with an uncredited guest turn.



I just finished writing my first Jigsaw Jones book after a long time away. For many years, Scholastic had allowed the series to die on the vine, with book after book slowly going out of print. It’s been a crushing thing for me to stand by helplessly and watch. But with the help of my agent, I got back the rights, and now Macmillan has plans to relaunch the series. I am thrilled. There are more than 10 million copies of those books out there in world, and it seems like every second-grade classroom in America has a ragged copy or three. Writing the new book, The Case from Outer Space, was such a pleasure. It felt like being home again.



For an author, it’s a special day, always, always. That book you’ve been toiling over for months, years, finally arrives in book form. Uncorrected, unfinished, but for the first time you can hold it in your hands — a book! — and think, “I did that!” Note: Arc = Advanced Reader’s Copy. The Courage Test, a middle grade novel, will be out for real in September.




I love documentaries of almost any nature, but I can’t recommend this one highly enough. A pure joy, with twinkling mischievous wit and surprising heart, too. If you like running at all — or not! — see this movie. About the toughest, wildest, and weirdest race in the world. Catch it on Netflix Instant!

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2. Guest Post by Maria Gianferrari, Author of Penny & Jelly The School Show

To follow on from my review of Penny & Jelly: The School Show last Friday, I am very happy to have the author, Maria Gianferrari on the blog today to share about the inspiration for her debut picture book and offer … Continue reading

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3. Margaret Bloy Graham Has Died

9780060268657Children’s books illustrator Margaret Bloy Graham has died. She was 94 years old.

Graham became well-known for collaborating with Gene Zion, a writer and her husband, on the Harry the Dirty Dog picture book series. She went on to work on projects with other writers and author her own books. Altogether, she earned two Caldecott Honors for All Falling Down and The Storm Book.

Here’s more from School Library Journal: “Though Harry remains Graham’s most well-known collaboration, it was far from her only one. Her illustrations for legendary children’s book author Charlotte Zolotow’s The Storm Book (Harper, 1951), a gentle look at a child’s first thunderstorm, won her a Caldecott Honor. A versatile artist, she also provided the illustrations for renowned poet Jack Prelutsky’s humor collection Pack Rat’s Day (Macmillan, 1974), while in the 1980s, she collaborated with longtime friend and Little Bear author Else Holmelund Minarik on What If? (1987) and It’s Spring (1989, both Greenwillow).”

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4. IT'S THANKSGIVING by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Marilyn Hafner

Earlier this summer I started doing some research on easy readers to see what sorts of images of Native people I'd find in them. I've written about some in the past (like Danny and the Dinosaur) but haven't done a systematic study.

This morning I put out a call asking librarians for titles in their collections. Michelle replied, sending me scans from Jack Prelutsky's It's Thanksgiving! That book was first published in 1982. Michelle sent me illustrations from the 1982 edition, and, from a newly illustrated edition in 2007. The text did not change. Just the illustrations. (A shout out to Michelle for sending them to me!)

I don't know what prompted the new illustrations, but certainly, it wasn't a concern for accuracy. The Wampanoag's didn't use tipis as shown in the old and new editions:

The one on the left is from 1982; the one on the right is from 2007. The illustrations are from "The First Thanksgiving" chapter of the book. If you're a regular reader of American Indians in Children's Literature, you know I find the telling of that Thanksgiving story deeply problematic.

But let's spend a few minutes with those two illustrations. In the old one, the Pilgrim and the Indian have their hands up. Are they saying "how" to each other? Maybe the publisher and illustrator knew "how" was a problem but were clueless about the tipis and clothing? It also looks like they made the Indian noses less prominent, but just barely. The Pilgrims, though, their noses look a lot better.

If you are weeding books and want to weed this one but aren't sure how to justify it? Accuracy. Check out page 47 of CREW: A Weeding Manual for Modern Libraries published in 2008. Crew has an acronym, MUSTIE, to help with weeding. Here's what the M stands for:
Misleading refers to information that is factually inaccurate due to new discoveries, revisions in thought, or new information that is now accepted by professionals in the field covered by the subject. Even in fields like physics, that were once thought to be pretty settled, changes occur that radically impact the accuracy and validity of information. 
So how 'bout it? Will you weed it? So kids don't keep growing up thinking that All Indians Lived in Tipis? There's a lot more to say about the "First Thanksgiving" story. I've reviewed a lot of books about it, but for now, check out this post. It features the thinking of a 5th grader: Do you mean all those Thanksgiving worksheets we had to color every year with smiling Indians were wrong?

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5. Jack Prelutsky Recites ‘Today is a Very Boring Day’ Poem On ‘Arthur’

To celebrate National Poetry Month, we found a video featuring Jack Prelutsky’s guest appearance on the animated TV series, Arthur. The video embedded above features him delivering a performance of his poem, “Today is a Very Boring Day.”

Prelutsky, the United States’ first children’s poet laureate, has written more than eighty volumes of poetry. Back in April 2012, we sat for an interview with him and asked him for tips about reading poetry aloud; he feels that “a poem is a living organism, and no two are alike. Most poems (perhaps all poems) are read best when read aloud.” What do you think?

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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6. A Few Valentine's Day Picture Books from Harper Collins

My three year old is getting excited for Valentine's Day. It is, after all, the next holiday coming up. And there will be chocolate involved. But in truth, much of her excitement was sparked by a box of Valentine's Day-themed picture books and early readers that Harper Collins sent us last week. They're not all my personal cup of hot chocolate, but my child is thrilled. 

Far and away the most exciting of the books for her is Pete the Cat: Valentine's Day is Cool, by Kimberly and James Dean. In this story, Pete initially thinks that Valentine's Day isn't "cool." However, encouraged by his friend Callie, he gets on board with using valentines to tell people how special they are. By the end of the book he's making valentines for the school bus driver and other people he encounters throughout his day. Pretty classic Pete the Cat storyline, all in all. But there is a pull-out poster, as well as stickers, and a set of tear-out valentine cards. This turned out to not be a great bedtime book, because my daughter was so excited by all of this. She just came in to my office needing help finding the cards, which I imagine she wants to give to her friends. I do like the "show people you appreciate them" message, delivered in a light-hearted fashion. 

My daughter also enjoyed Foxy in Love by Emma Dodd. We have not read Foxy, for which this book is a sequel. But the premise comes across fairly quickly. Foxy is a fox who can conjure things with a wave of his magical tail, though he doesn't always quite understand what his friend, a girl named Emily, wants from him. In Foxy in Love, Foxy comes across Emily as she is working on a valentine. He suggests that she draw what she loves in the card, hoping that she'll draw him. But instead, she focuses on things like balloons and rainbows. Not until the end of the book does Foxy finally tell Emily that "Valentine's Day is not about what you love... It's about who you love." Of course it all ends happily. Foxy's longing to be loved actually comes across in relatively subtle fashion throughout the book, and there is plenty of humor as he tries, with mixed results, to conjure the things that Emily wants (not tarts, hearts!). I think we'll keep this one in our arsenal. 

The first book that my daughter actually picked up from this box was Little Critter: Just A Little Love, an I Can Read book by Mercer Mayer. She adores Little Critter, and I've come to appreciate the humor in the differences between what he says is happening and what the pictures show. The expressions on the faces of the characters, particularly Mom and Dad, are often priceless (as when Dad looks rueful after Little Critter causes a flood in a gas station restroom). Just A Little Love is not actually a Valentine's Day book at all, though it certainly works for the season. Rather, the family members (pets included) have a series of mishaps as they set out to visit Grandma, who isn't feeling well. Each time someone ends up unhappy, someone else "gives him (or her) a little love." There's not enough of a storyline for this one to end up a favorite for us, I don't think, but one can't really argue with a book that makes us laugh, and in which family members console one another. 

It's Valentine's Day by Jack Prelutsky & Marylin Hafner is a level 3 I Can Read! book, full of love-themed poems. It's fairly text-dense, with a small illustration or two on each page. My daughter lost interest after the second poem. It's more a book for elementary school kids than preschoolers, it seems. But I thought that the poems, on subjects like how pets respond to receiving valentines, and how a child might be tempted to eat all of the chocolates that he bought for his mother, were clever and funny. This is a nice introduction to poetry for new readers, with colorful illustrations to make the book more accessible.

Love Is Real by Janet Lawler & Anna Brown is a picture book for the youngest listeners about all of the little things that people (well, animals doing human-type things) do that show their love for one another. Like this: "Love awakes... and helps you dress. Love will clean up any mess." These sentences are accompanied by three different images, each showing a different kind of animal parent helping his or her child (bunny, bear, fox). The same three families are followed throughout the book. The children sometimes are the ones who do things that express love. For us, this book skewed a bit young / sentimental. But the digital collage illustrations are fun. 

Finally, we read Tulip Loves Rex by Alyssa Satin Capucilli & Sarah Massini. Tulip Loves Rex is a picture book about a little girl who loves dancing, and dances everywhere, but has one unfulfilled wish. One day in the park she encounters a dog who, miraculously, loves to dance, too. And it turns out that this perfect-for-Tulip dog needs a home. I quite liked Massini's breezy illustrations, and I liked Tulip as a character, but the convenience of the ending felt a little flat for me. The parents "didn't mind a bit" bringing home a large stray dog from the park? Really? Perhaps I just don't want my daughter to get any ideas... 

All in all, though, these books are a welcome addition to our February reading.  Wishing you a happy run-up to Valentine's Day (or Balentine's Day, as it's called around here). 

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate. 

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7. Review of the Day: Stardines Swim High Across the Sky and Other Poems by Jack Prelutsky

Stardines1 300x247 Review of the Day: Stardines Swim High Across the Sky and Other Poems by Jack PrelutskyStardines Swim High Across the Sky and Other Poems
By Jack Prelutsky
Illustrated by Carin Berger
Greenwillow Books (an imprint of Harper Collins)
ISBN: 978-0-06-201464-1
Ages 4-8
On shelves February 26th.

To non-children’s librarians the statistics are baffling. Your average poetry book isn’t exactly a circ buster. It sits on the shelf for months at a time, gathering dust, biding its time. When kids come to the reference desk to ask for titles, they don’t tend to ask for poetry unless they’ve some sort of assignment they need to fulfill. Yet for all that poetry books for kids are shelf sitters, it’s hard to find a single one that hasn’t gone out in the last two or three months. How to account for it? Well, there’s Poetry Month (April) to begin with. That always leads to a run on the 811 portion of the library shelves. But beyond that kids read poetry in dribs and drabs over the course of the year. Maybe as Summer Reading books. Maybe as class assignments. Whatever the reason, poetry has a longevity, if not a popularity, that’s enviable. Now Jack Prelutsky, our first Children’s Poet Laureate and creator of Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant is following up his work with yet another delve into (in the words of Kirkus) “iambic ‘pun’tameter”. And while Prelutsky gives us a second round, illustrator Carin Berger steps up her game to give these hybrid birds and beasts a kick in the old artistic derriere.

Stardines1 263x300 Review of the Day: Stardines Swim High Across the Sky and Other Poems by Jack PrelutskyForget everything you ever knew about animals. Not since On Beyond Zebra has the world seen a menagerie quite as wild as the one on display here. Step right up, folks, and take a gander at the rare and remarkable Fountain Lion. “The only lions no one dreads, / They all have fountains on their heads.” Delicious crustaceans more your speed? Then come and observe the rare Slobsters. “Their sense of decorum / Is woefully small. / Slobsters don’t have / Many manners at all.” Or for the kiddies, how about an adorable Planda? “They plan to learn to roller-skate, / To juggle, and to fence. / They plan to go to clown school / And cavort in circus tents.” With his customary clever verse, Jack Prelutsky invents sixteen imaginary animals of varying degrees of odd. Accompanying his rhymes is his old partner-in-crime Carin Berger, who has moved beyond mere collage and has gone so far to construct elaborate shadow boxes of each and every poem. The end result is impressive, hilarious, and one of the most original little poetry collections you’ll see in many a year.

The shadow box, that staple of undergraduate art projects everywhere, is a relative newcomer to the world of children’s literature. A shadow box, once you’ve designed it and filled it with cool images, needs to be photographed perfectly if it’s going to work on a flat page. That means you need an illustrator confident in their abilities to produce art that will look as good in two dimensions as three. Berger is clearly up to the challenge. A master of collage, in this book she bends over backwards to make her images the best they can be. She’s very good at conveying distance. She also conveys perspective quite well. A cut image of a bicycle makes it appear to be three-dimensional because it is photographed from above. I know the image itself is just a flat piece of paper, but the illusion is complete. Everything, in fact, appears to have been planned with a meticulous eye.

Even within the boxes themselves Berger’s job is not easy. Consider an early poem called “Bluffaloes” which combines the word “Buffaloes” with the word “Bluff”. It’s about buffalo types who are scaredy cats should you call their bluff. Fair enough. Now how the heck do you illustrate that? In Berger’s case it looks like she may have considered an alternative definition of the word “bluff” as in “a cliff, headland, or hill with a broad, steep face” since her bluffaloes look like nothing so much as little pieces of a cliff running hither and thither on newly sprouted legs. Artistic creativity is much called for when wordplay is open ended.

Stardines2 280x300 Review of the Day: Stardines Swim High Across the Sky and Other Poems by Jack PrelutskyOf course, as an adult I’m going to be naturally inclined towards artsy fartsy styles. But this all begs the obvious question: Will kids dig it? Well, let’s stop and consider for a moment. What precisely has Berger done? She has made little boxes and put action-packed scenes within them. Who else does that kind of thing? If you said, “Kids who make dioramas for school” you have earned yourself a cookie. Yes, it appears to me that Berger has taken one of the oldest homework assignments of our age and has turned it into a book. An enterprising teacher would find a goldmine of assignment material here. What if they had their kids write their own poems in Prelutsky’s style? What if they made pairs of kids come up with the idea for the poem and then one kid could write it while the other made a diorama to go with it? Can you now say, “instantaneous original poetry project for Poetry Month”? I knew you could.

Then there’s Prelutsky. He always scans. He always rhymes. And he throws in big words that will give some children a good dictionary workout. For example, in the Sobcat poem he writes, “The SOBCAT is sad / As a feline can be / And spends its time crying / Continuously. / It has no real reason / To be so morose. / It’s simply its nature / To act lachrymose.” Nice. Of course the unspoken secret to many of these poems isn’t that they simply make clever pairings of words and phrases with animals but that they say something about certain types of people. The Planda makes eternal plans and never carries them out. The Sobcat “delights / In its own misery”. You can find many a friend and a relation found in the animals of these pages.

The pairings of the poems is sometimes key. It works particularly well when you place the “Jollyfish” poem next to the “Sobcat”, for example. There are other moments when you suspect that the layout and order of the poems was a carefully thought out process. The book begins, for example, with the titular poem “Stardines” which comments that “In silence, these nocturnal fish / Are set to grant the slightest wish.” That’s a good note to begin on. The book then alternates between animals with physical attributes that are their primary lure and animals with one-of-a-kind personality quirks. It’s interesting to see how all this ends with, of all the animals, the Bardvark. “BARDVARKS think they’re poets / And persist in writing rhyme. / Their words are uninspired / And a total waste of time.” So it is that book of poetry for kids ends by highlighting an animal that’s an atrocious poet. The final lines, “Undeterred, they keep on writing / And reciting every day. / That’s why BARDVARKS are a problem – / You can’t make them go away.” One can’t help but think Prelutsky is taking a little jab at himself here. Not a significant jab, but small enough to allow him to laugh at himself a little. Not a bad way to finish, really.

Stardines3 300x243 Review of the Day: Stardines Swim High Across the Sky and Other Poems by Jack PrelutskyPerhaps a key at the back of the book explaining which animals and concepts were combined would not have been out of place. I found myself baffled by the “swapitis” (pronounced swap-uh-teez) and found myself wishing I knew what animal it hailed from. It looks somewhat deer-like. After a bit of internet searching I discovered an animal called a wapitis, which is a kind of North American deer. Good to know, though I suspect it won’t immediately pop to many folks’ minds unless prompted and prodded a bit. Of course having kids find the animals referenced could be a fun homework assignment in and of itself. There are possibilities there. Just no answers.

Jack Prelutsky is a staple. Folks my age still associate him with The New Kid On the Block. Kids these days have a lot more Prelutskyian choices to pick from. Berger, in contrast, is new and fresh and bright and shiny. Combine the old school rhymes and chimes of a Prelutsky with the crackling energy and visual wit of Berger and you’ve got yourself a heckuva team. Stardines may tread familiar ground once trod before, but its method of presentation is anything but overdone. Hand this one to the kid who moans to you that they “have” to read a book of poetry for school. Who knows? It may hook ‘em before they realize what’s what. One of a kind.

On shelves February 26th.

Source: Galley sent from publisher for review.

Like This? Then Try:

  • Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein, illustrated by Ed Young

Other Blog Reviews: Book Aunt

Professional Reviews:


  • poetryfriday Review of the Day: Stardines Swim High Across the Sky and Other Poems by Jack PrelutskyRead this great little short interview with Ms. Berger at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast as she discusses how, “This seemed a perfect opportunity to reference my passion for wunderkammers and early science — and crusty old museums.”
  • It’s Poetry Friday!  Head on over to Teaching Authors to see the round-up of other great poetry books of the day!


Take a studio tour into the world of Carin Berger to see some of the fantastic art from this book.

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4 Comments on Review of the Day: Stardines Swim High Across the Sky and Other Poems by Jack Prelutsky, last added: 2/2/2013
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8. What a lovely birthday present! Introducing Carrotiger!

In honor of PaperTigers’ 10th Anniversary, Cathy Mealey (who blogs at Bildebok), sent  us a photo of  lovely tiger drawn by her 9 year old daughter Grace. Grace’s  “Carrotiger” was inspired by her love of children’s poet laurerate Jack Prelutsky’s  book Scranimals, illustrated by Peter Sis (Greenwillow Books, 2006).

We’re sailing to
Scranimal Island,
It doesn’t appear on
most maps….

Scranimal Island
is where you will find
the fragrant RHINOCEROSE,
the cunning BROCCOLIONS.
And if you are really, really lucky
and very, very quiet,
you will spot
the gentle, shy PANDAFFODIL.
(You may even hear it yawning
If the morning’s just begun,
Watch its petals slowly open
To embrace the rising sun.

Thank you so much for your lovely drawing Grace! With this submission,  Grace and her mom Cathy are entered in our 10th Anniversary give-away. The closing date for entries is midnight PST on Saturday Nov 10th with winners being announced here on the blog on Monday Nov 19th. There are 10 fabulous prizes to be won so don’t delay, get your entry in too. Click here for all the details!


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9. Books of Poetry for Kids

By Nicki Richesin, The Children’s Book Review
Published: April 25, 2012

Beautiful Dreamers

In celebration of National Poetry Month, we’ve hand-picked ten many-splendored new books. Children are born loving poetry from the moment they form their first babbling words to when they begin to tackle more complex rhythms and tongue twisters. As they acquire language and enjoy how it rolls off their tongues, they also gain an appreciation for the beauty of creative expression. Nothing quite tops that moment when they learn to recite their first nursery rhyme. So leave a poem in your child’s pocket and help him discover the appeal of modern poetry.

Every Thing On It

By Shel Silverstein

If you’re like most of us, you may have grown up with Where the Sidewalk Ends, A Light in the Attic, or The Giving Tree on your childhood bookshelf. Master wordsmith and doodler Shel Silverstein invented laugh-out-loud silly rhymes for us to endlessly ponder. Every Thing On It has been posthumously published as a new collection of his irreverent poems and characters drawn with his trademark squiggly offhand style. It’s a great joy to share his nonsense poems with a new generation to puzzle over and love for years to come.

Ages 8-11 | Publisher: HarperCollins | September 20, 2011

A Stick Is An Excellent Thing

By Marilyn Singer; Illustrated by LeUyen Pham

What a winning combination Pham’s playful illustrations and Singer’s amusing verse make in this lovely poetry collection. Bouncing rhyme and pictures of active children at play ensure even the most poetry-adverse child will warm to its magical delights. As Singer’s light-handed verse concludes, “A stick is an excellent thing if you find the perfect one.” We’ve certainly found the perfect book of poetry in this one. For more on LeUyen Pham, check out our interview with her.

Ages 5-8 | Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | February 28, 2012

Water Sings Blue

By Kate Coombs; Illustrated by Meilo So

In her first book of poetry, Kate Coombs takes us on a voyage under the sea.

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10. Holiday Round-Up

I know, it seems crazy to talk about the holiday season already.  But this is also the point where we start putting in book orders for the latest titles and replacing old books as well.  So let’s jump in and talk about some of the newest books for the holiday season:

MARY ENGELBREIT’S NUTCRACKER by Mary Engelbreit (On-sale: 11.1.11).  Download the memory game

THE HAPPY ELF by Harry Connick Jr., illustrated by Dan Andreasen (On-sale now).  Based on the song by Harry Connick Jr., this comes with a CD.  You can also watch the video.

A CHRISTMAS GOODNIGHT by Nola Buck, illustrated by Sarah Jane Wright (On-sale now).  In its starred review, Publishers Weekly said that this book “serves special status, to be kept off-season with other holiday decorations and then brought out each year at Christmas.”

THE LITTLEST EVERGREEN by Henry Cole (On-sale now).  School Library Journal calls this “a fine Christmas choice with an environmental message.”

FANCY NANCY: SPLENDIFEROUS CHRISTMAS by Jane O’Connor, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser (On-sale now).  Download the event guide.

Need to replace books in your collection?  Here are some possible titles that you may need to re-order:

11. "Buffalo Dusk" by Carl Sandburg

Some years back, I came across "Buffalo Dusk" by Carl Sandburg. The poem is in The Random House Book of Poetry for Children: A Treasury of 572 Poems for Today's Child (1983) selected by Jack Prelutsky and illustrated by Arnold Lobel. Here it is:
The buffaloes are gone.
And those who saw the buffaloes are gone.
Those who saw the buffaloes by thousands and how they
     pawed the prairie sod into dust with their great hoofs,
     their great heads down pawing on in a great pageant of dusk,
Those who saw the buffaloes are gone.
And the buffaloes are gone.
Sandburg was wrong, but is that what he thought when he wrote the poem in 1920? How many people, in 1920, thought "those who saw the buffaloes" were gone? It wasn't true then, and it wasn't true in 1983 when Jack Prelutsky chose the poem for the collection... Did Prelutsky think so in 1983? And when Lobel was drawing the buffalo herd that accompanies the poem, did he think so?    

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12. Light Verse or Lightning Verse? (Joe Sottile, 2005)

Cover of Once Upon a Time magazine, Sprint 2005 issue

If you were to ask this elementary teacher of thirty-three years what type of poetry has the biggest impact on students, the thumbs up winner is light verse. Light verse is defined as "poetry that is playful or humorous and usually rhymed." If we extend the umbrellas of "light verse" to include such poetry as what we find in the late Shel Silverstein's Where the Sidewalk Ends or Falling Up, which is full of quirks, surprise rhymes, and free verse, then light verse is music to soul of most elementary students.

Children love the poetry books of Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutsky, Judith Viorst, Bruce Lansky, Jeff Moss, and Kalli Dakoa. At first glance their poems look easy to write. Just pick a topic — any topic — from apples to zebras, and write a poem. You don't have to worry...

To read the rest, click here...


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Looking Back on CWIM: The 1992 Edition
An Interview with Jack Prelutsky...

In 1992 I graduated college with a degree in English Lit and Journalism and I'd been an employee of F+W for about a year but had not yet joined the Market Books department. (I was an editorial assistant for a few of the magazines, including Writer's Digest.)

The edition of CWIM published that year was more than 300 pages (at $17.95) and included "A Writer's Guide to the Juvenile Market: Ten Steps to That First Sale," by Elaine Marie Alphin, an article for illustrators on "Portfolio Power," and nine "Close-up" interviews.

Since we're in the midst of National Poetry Month, I pulled an excerpt from an interview with Jack Prelutsky, who, in 2006, was be named the first U.S. Children's Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation.

Jack Prelutsky gets his ideas from everywhere. "Everything I see or hear can become a poem. I don't respond to topical events or trends, although some themes, like my book about dinosaurs, were lucky to hit the crest of waves." He says sometimes ideas literally pop into his head. "I find inspiration from everything. I wrote a poem about a boneless chicken because one day when I was in the supermarket shopping for boneless breast of chicken, I started to imagine what the rest of a boneless chicken would look like and what kind of a life it would have.

"Writing for children in general, and I think writing children's poetry in particular, is harder than writing for adults. Literature for children must be succinct, and yet present in the most artful manner possible.

"The children's book market operates, most of the time, quite differently from the adult book market," says Prelutsky. "Adult books often explode upon the publishing scene with a lot of media hype. But most have literal shelf lives of approximately one year as hardbacks and one additional year as paperbacks before disappearing into remainder bins and the eventual exile known as 'out of print.' Children's books generally take years to establish themselves in bookstores and libraries. But once they achieve the status of 'classic,' they will stay in print as long as they remain in the memories of parents, grandparents, teachers and librarians. Patience in this profession is an absolutely necessity."

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14. Wacky Wednesday: Teaching Kids Poetry During April, Poetry Month

photo by lululemon athletica www.flickr.com

To get ready for spring and April, National Poetry Month, I thought we should start having some Wacky Wednesday posts about teaching kids poetry. Whether you teach your kids at home or you are a K-12 teacher, your students can benefit from reading and studying poetry. The next two weeks, the Wacky Wednesday posts will target elementary school students, using a book called More Pocket Poems poems selected by Bobbi Katz and illustrated by Deborah Zemke. Then I’ll have a post or two for middle school and high school teachers and home schoolers. So, on to April, poetry month, and looking at poems. . .

Bobbi Katz wrote a poem titled “Put the World in Your Pocket.” In this poem, she talks about how it’s nifty to hold a quarter or key in your pocket, but that a pocket can’t hold really big things like summer, elephants, or the sea. However, and here’s the secret–if those things are in a poem, a pocket sure can hold them! This is the introductory poem in the book More Pocket Poems, and it’s a perfect starting point for teaching kids poetry and doing several poem activities during April, poetry month.

The rest of the book has poems by some very famous poets, and all of this poetry could easily fit in a pocket or two. For example, “March” by Emily Dickinson is included in this book with a cute illustration of hats flying in the wind–did students know they could carry March around with them? There are also “Skeleton Parade” by Jack Prelutsky and “Song of the Witches” from MacBeth by William Shakespeare. Bobbi and the poets take children through the four seasons, and the illustrations add to the poetry fun. Teaching kids poetry with this book might just be e-a-s-y or at least easier.

Once you have shared some poems from this book with your students, ask them to choose a poem either from the book or a favorite. They should copy it down; or if they are too young, you can make a copy for them. Ask them to illustrate it, fold it neatly, and put the poem in their pockets. (Maybe send a note home earlier in the week to make sure students can wear a jacket or pants with a pocket that day if you teach in the classroom–or bring some aprons with pockets in case anyone forgets.) At the end of the day, gather students around or put them into small groups and ask them to take out their pocket poems to share for April, poetry month, activities.

Stay tuned next Wacky Wednesday (3/17) for some poetry writing fun while teaching kids poetry. Also, don’t forget there’s a book giveaway going on this week. See yesterday’s post for a chance to win a copy of Aries Rising, the first book of a new contemporary YA series with some astrology mixed in! Contest goes until Friday at 11:55 p.m. CST.

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15. Jack Prelutsky's Pizza, Pigs and Poetry

He is Children's Poem Laureate for good reason! His poems tickle my funny bones as well as my rhyme-loving brain. I honestly do not have nearly enough of his books! They are so fun to read over and over again, that they are truly useful to have around for more than just the funny pictures and fun stories. His works  are major word play inspiration and are a GREAT example of GREAT children's poetry!

Here is one Jack book that I do have and that I love a lot: Pizza, Pigs and Poetry is kind of a poetry primer plus  an inspiring read. Written for kids who are interested in getting started in writing poetry (so, of course, I had to buy it!) Jack shares several humorous anecdotes from his youth and how the stories inspired some of his poems.  He shares ideas for writing  exercises to get started. He explains some poem terminology. It's a great pick for a 9 - 12 year-old (my best guess) who enjoys creative writing and is interested in poetry... but, it's good for.. ahem... all ages! Can't go wrong with this book. Too fun!

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16. From "Vintage Kids' Books My Kid Loves"

Lazy Blackbird and Other Verses (thank you http://www.vintagechildrensbooksmykidloves.com/!)

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17. Go Get Carin Berger’s “OK Go” Today! OK? (And kids, enter her contest!)

okgoCarin Berger never deliberately set out to become an author/illustrator, but she found her true calling in picture books. She was awarded the Society of Illustrators Founder’s Award in 2006, the NY Times named The Little Yellow Leaf one of the top ten picture books of 2008, and Publishers Weekly called her “one to watch.”

And now’s a great time to watch.

Her latest title OK Go, a playful book about making greener choices, releases in bookstores today.

I had the opportunity to talk with Carin about her journey to publication (somewhat serendipitous) and her plans for the future (deliberately delightful). I shall follow PW’s lead and not only watch her, but predict the Caldecott will soon be calling.

Carin, how did you start on the path to becoming a children’s book illustrator?

I’ve always loved reading, writing, old paper stuff, children’s books, type and making things. I studied graphic design and spent almost 20 years working in the field. I worked my way down the (pay) food chain towards what I really loved: from very high-end annual reports and brochures to eventually designing book jackets for all the major publishers. I did jackets for poetry, fiction and non-fiction. I still do this and love it. I get to read manuscripts and can often use my own illustration or photography.

Anyhow, I had a daughter, and it turned out she was a sleepless wonder. (When she was little. Now she sleeps like a baby!) I spent much of most evenings hanging with her, waiting for her to fall asleep. I wrote the poems for Not So True Stories and Unreasonable Rhymes in those long hours, mostly to amuse myself.

carinbergerpaperHow did you first get involved in collage?

As for collage, that was kind of serendipity. I thought I would do paintings and was experimenting with different painting styles, some which included collage, and then my friend gave me a magic box full of old letters and documents and ephemera that she picked up at a flea market, knowing I had a thing for that kind of stuff. And that was the beginning.

Once I had pulled together some sample illustrations and manuscript, a friend-of-a-friend agreed to rep it; and she, amazingly, ushered it into the world.

And was Not So True Stories and Unreasonable Rhymes your first manuscript?

Yes, it was my first manuscript, though I’d written a bit, for myself, before.

umbrellaphantWow. That’s a rare accomplishment and speaks volumes about your talent. Where did you go from that first success?

Not So True Stories was a quirky little book that got good reviews but sold…well, like a quirky little book. Chronicle Books graciously published my second book, All Mixed Up, another quirky and very little book. (It can fit in your pocket.)

I was then called by Greenwillow Books and asked to illustrate Jack Prelutsky’s book. A real honor. And, because it was the amazing Master Jack’s book, it received lots of nice attention. He was named the first ever Children’s Poet Laureate right when the book came out which meant that there was a shiny golden sticker that went on the front of the book, too. I’ve been working with Greenwillow Books for the last couple of projects.

How has your illustration style evolved from one book to the next?

As for the collage style, it has sort of evolved in a few directions.

allmixedupAll Mixed Up, a mix and match book where the heads, middles and legs (as well as the alliterative poems) combine in various ways to make new characters, was born out of the idea of collaging the collaged illustration. I had originally conceived it as a game, but Chronicle preferred to do it as a book. The illustrations are similar, yet somewhat simpler than Not so True Stories, so that the mixing worked.

For Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant, I wanted to do a slightly different style than the books that I had authored, and also, because the poems are about a conglomeration of animals and objects (such as Ballpoint Penguins), I thought it would be fun to play that up and make it really obvious.

I collect old dictionaries and army/navy catalogues that have engraved images, and so I used those images and integrated them into the collage. To do this I actually scanned engravings from the book, played with them in Photoshop, printed out pieces and used them to cut and paste with.

littleyellowleafThe Little Yellow Leaf felt like a really simple, nostalgic story and I ended up introducing a bit of paint (stenciling) to the collage to add another layer and also, at times, to age the paper.

Ok Go has a zillion funny little characters carousing throughout the book and feels much more like the art in the end papers of Not so True Stories and also in All Mixed Up. It was fun to change things up a bit and to do such playful art.

My next book, due out late next winter, is called Forever Friends and the art is much more similar to the art in The Little Yellow Leaf. I see it as a companion book to The Little Yellow Leaf because the bunny on the front cover and the bird on the back cover of Leaf are the characters in Forever Friends.

Your newest picture book OK Go is a playful book for the wee set, all about making greener choices. How did the concept for this book come together?

As best I can recall, it all sort of came as a whole piece. I liked the idea of introducing taking care of the environment to really young kids. I remember growing up in the 70s when “Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute” was around and feeling very empowered to help make the world a better place. Here are some early sketches:


One of the biggest things I needed to figure out was how to emphasize the message in a powerful yet playful way. The gatefold came about because I wanted it to feel like a huge gathering or movement.

How do you choose which paper to cut for certain images? Does the paper speak to you?

carinbergerpaper2I have files of papers sorted by color—yellows/oranges, reds/pinks, blues/purples—and I also have files for some of my passions: polka dots, plaids, wood grain, buttons…

carinbergerpaper3I actually cut a vellum stencil of the shape I need and hold it over the paper to find a good section. Something with good gradations for example, that help the piece, say a car, look more dimensional. Clothing catalogs are great for plaids and buttons. And then I use a variety of old stuff, both really old ephemera like letters and receipts with great calligraphy on them and also bits and pieces that I find around: ticket stubs, laundry tags, etc.

Do the words on the paper hold any significance?

I do think about the paper I use, where it comes from and what it says. Not in a huge way, but in a quiet, just-to-amuse-myself sort of way. And in almost every book I make sure to include, somewhere, my daughter’s name, Thea. In The Little Yellow Leaf it appears on the page with the giant sun, and in OK Go I use her name and the names and initials of lots of friends to decorate the cars.

Speaking of the glorious sun in The Little Yellow Leaf, do you have any idea how many pieces of paper you used? Or how long it took to create that page?


I always knew what I wanted to do with that illustration, but it took a little longer (well, w-a-y longer) than I thought it would. I spent probably close to a week on it. Actually, part of the reason it took so long is that I started from the outside and was working my way towards the center and I got pretty far before I realized that, because the sun is asymmetrical, it wasn’t going to work. I had to add another layer working from the center out. Ugh!

I have absolutely no idea how many pieces there are, and I can’t imagine anyone who would be nuts enough to count (though I’d be curious to know that)!

Circling back to your newest book, what kind of impact do you hope OK Go will have on green thinking among parents and young children?

There are some very simple things that kids can do to be more green and they are listed in the back of the book.

I think if you plant the idea early, children will live more careful, aware lives, and remind their parents to do so as well. Plus, what is more motivating than our kids to get us to take care of this planet and the environment?

But mostly I want kids to have fun with the book, and to be introduced these ideas in a playful, engaging way.

One last thought: all of my art is made with found and recycled materials, so maybe this will prove inspiring and enabling, too.

Indeed it is, Carin! So let’s use that inspiration for a contest!

Kids age 10 and under, create a collage with a green theme–reduce, reuse, recycle or whatever you can dream up! Email your illustration to tarawrites at yahoo (you know the rest, dot com) and include child’s first name and age.

With the help of Random.org, we’ll randomly select three winners.

The grand prize winner gets an autographed copy of  OK Go. The second and third winners will receive an All Mixed Up promotional mini-book. And all three illustrations will be featured on Carin Berger’s website and/or blog.

In your email, be sure to grant your permission for sharing the illustration and the child’s first name/age online.

One illustration per child. Enter now through midnight E.S.T., Tuesday, May 12.

Carin, thank you for giving us a glimpse into your beautiful world! I bet everyone is going to GO! GO! GO! get your book today!


Take a peek inside OK Go or
Find OK Go at your local bookstore!

OK Go by Carin Berger
April 2009
Greenwillow Books

8 Comments on Go Get Carin Berger’s “OK Go” Today! OK? (And kids, enter her contest!), last added: 5/18/2009
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18. Poetry Friday: The Swamps of Sleethe

Who doesn't love Jack Prelutsky? I don't think anyone out there, that has actually read his poems, can deny loving this poet and his work. His latest, The Swamps of Sleethe: Poems from Beyond the Solar System is alien-filled, super silly, and just as enjoyable as all of his previous works.

Illustrated by Jimmy Pickering (and wonderfully so), The Swamps of Sleethe is teeming with cool new names for species and planets beyond our Earth, such as "globulings," "Sarbro," "Fesstor," and my favorite "Wolvar Sprod." The poems are fun, typical Prelutsky, filled with laugh-out-loud stanzas, and great rhymes. I think my favorite selection from this book is "There's Something on Skreber." I mean, what better way to die than from laughing?!

A great choice for poetry collections, you can never go wrong with Prelutsky!

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

The Swamps of Sleethe: Poems From Beyond the Solar System
Jack Prelutsky
40 pages
Alfred A. Knopf
March 2009

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19. Interview with Chris Raschka and Jack Prelutsky

Chris Raschka and Jack PrelutskyThis episode of Just One More Book! is part of our showcase coverage of the International Reading Association’s 52nd annual conference.

Mark speaks with writer and illustrator Chris Raschka, and poet Jack Prelutsky about the role of musical styles and rhythms in their writing, and inspiring children to write.

Books mentioned:

Participate in the conversation by leaving a comment on this interview, or send an email to justonemorebook@gmail.com.

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20. A Reader’s High: Tyrannosaurus Was a Beast

Tyrannosaurus Was a BeastAuthor: Jack Prelutsky (on JOMB)
Illustrator: Arnold Lobel
Published: 1988 Harper Trophy (on JOMB)
ISBN: 0688115691
Chapters.ca Amazon.com

Full of meaty words, infectious beats and fact*-based blackish humour, this invigorating feast of illustrated, dinosaur poems is permanently woven into the fabric of our family.

*The facts upon which the poems are based are twenty years out-of-date — but what’s twenty years between 225 million year old friends?

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21. A Reader’s High: Tyrannosaurus Was a Beast

Tyrannosaurus Was a BeastAuthor: Jack Prelutsky (on JOMB)
Illustrator: Arnold Lobel
Published: 1988 Harper Trophy (on JOMB)
ISBN: 0688115691
Chapters.ca Amazon.com

Full of meaty words, infectious beats and fact*-based blackish humour, this invigorating feast of illustrated, dinosaur poems is permanently woven into the fabric of our family.

*The facts upon which the poems are based are twenty years out-of-date — but what’s twenty years between 225 million year old friends?

Tags:, , , , , , , , , ,

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22. POETRY FRIDAY Jack Prelutsky's 'My Dog May Be A Genius'

My Dog May be a Genius
by Jack Prelutsky

Prelutsky's tenure as the nation's first Children's Poet Laureate ends in May, when the Poetry Foundation announces his successor (no, I have no idea who's in the running). Publishers have been eager to cash in on the foundation's imprimatur and they'd slap a gold sticker on anything with his name on it, which isn't entirely Prelutsky's fault, even if I've chided him on this blog for it.

Fortunately, his career blazes on, and he has another collection of poems out before he goes back to merely being the performer with a thousand funny voices and the creator of rampantly silly stanzas.

As usual, his best verses are those with a punchline or some sort of payoff:

I crossed a lion with a mouse.
Their progeny patrol my house,
and often roar, demanding cheese--
I give them all the cheese they please.

And he's at his worst when trying to sneak a message in, as he does with a plodding paean to schoolwork in "Homework, Sweet Homework":

My friends think I'm loony
to take such delight
in homework, sweet homework--
they're probably right.

He also adds several concrete poems, with an understated assist from illustrator James Stevenson, as in the vertiginous "I am Climbing up a Ladder" that reads from bottom to top.

I'll leave you with one of my favorites, "A Turtle," partly because it's a prime example of how he uses adult words for comic effect, but mostly for its Zen-like resolution:

A turtle never feels the need
to ambulate at breakneck speed.
Of course, unsuited for the deed,
it certainly would not succeed.

Because a turtle takes its time,
its life is quietly sublime.
It's happy in its habitat ...
there's something to be said for that.

Rating: *\*\*\

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Robert's Poem-A-Day Challenge for National Poetry Month...

April is National Poetry Month and to celebrate Robert Brewer (poet, Writer's Market editor, and Poetic Asides blogger) challenged himself to write a poem every day of the month--and he wants other poet's out there you to join him.

Robert kicked of his Poem-A-Day Challenge yesterday. The goal is to simply get poems on paper without worrying so much about quality as just doing the writing. For those who'd like to join the PAD Challenge but need a little kickstart, Robert is offering a poetry prompt each day on his blog. For more inspiration, view the comments on Poetic Asides posts and read the poem's submitted by poets who are participating in the Poem-A-Day Challenge.

If you're not a poet you can still celebrate National Poetry Month by reading poems (kids love em!). Here's an Amazon list of children's poetry books to give you some ideas--heavy on the Prelutsky, of course.

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24. Other Trains: Jack Prelutsky, Children’s Poet Laureate

So, as I have had no email due to a technical glitch that can only be handled by the people that don’t answer the phones - don’t get me started on Customer Service as a right not a privilege…. I devoured a great Writing Prompt Book - Jack Prelutsky’s Pizza, Pigs, and Poetry: How to Write A Poem.

One really cool thing about him, he is the first Children’s Poet Laureate.  I love that distinguished title, it is something so grown-up like “Consultant”, but his poems reflect the pure joy of wordplay.   That joy was in the reading and in the exercises or “tips” as he labels them - stuff that I forgot like concrete poetry: words as art.  He wrote a poem in the shape of a circle, that you had to spin it around to read - something right up my skating alley, as I love to spin!

So I wrote one in the shape of a boomerang:


boom             and

a                               it

threw                            never

I                                                  came

Once                                                             back.

Just pure fun!

I’ve been stressing out about writing for the conferences, and getting the rejections, and crafting the words just right that nothing comes out— that creates a big writer’s block of nothing.

So thank you Jack for your personable poetry book, and someday I hope to take over your laureate position.

Posted in Kid Lit, Other Trains of Thought Tagged: Boomerangs, Jack Prelutsky, Kid Lit, Poet Laureate, Poetry, Writer's Block

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National Poetry Week Goings-On...

If you're looking for ways to get your daily shot of the poetic during April (which, of course, is National Poetry Month) here are two great options:

  • Poetic Asides' Poem-a-Day Challenge. Poet's Market editor, blogger (and my super-duper co-worker) Robert Lee Brewer is holding his annual Poem-a-Day Challenge on the Poetic Asides blog. Throughout April Robert will post a daily poetry prompt and poets are encouraged to post their prompt-inspired work on the blog (every day if they're up to the challenge). In May Robert's 50 favorite poems will be offered in an e-book. It's all free and there's no registration to complete--poets simply write and post.

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