Friday, November 30, 2007

Friday Poetry: Undivided attention

By Taylor Mali

A grand piano wrapped in quilted pads by movers,
tied up with canvas straps - like classical music's
birthday gift to the insane -
is gently nudged without its legs
out an eighth-floor window on 62nd street.

It dangles in April air from the neck of the movers' crane,
Chopin-shiny black lacquer squares
and dirty white crisscross patterns hanging like the second-to-last
note of a concerto played on the edge of the seat,
the edge of tears, the edge of eight stories up going over, and
I'm trying to teach math in the building across the street. the rest here.

This is a new-to-me poet a teacher friend shared with me this week. Check out his webpage. If you are a teacher, are interested in urban poetry slams or live near NYC you should definitely check this dude out.

The round up today for Friday Poetry is at Two Writing Teachers.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


Since September I am excited to find that many of the adults in my building are talking about books every chance we get; passing in the halls, in between meetings, over lunch or at the coffee machine. I discovered there was a network of best sellers being passed around the office and I decided to tap into it. We set up a book exchange shelf in the faculty lounge where anyone can drop off a book they have enjoyed and find new reads. We just got the book shelf set up and are in the process of acquiring some comfy chairs to go along side it. I've been looking for ways to promote our book exchange.This week I decided to leave little incentives on the top shelf to encourage people to remember to check what's new and bring in a few of their own books to add. Some chocolates (gone in an hour), specialty teas, hand made book marks, mints...

Thanks to Chicken Spaghetti's link to the site Home Library today I am making book plates for everyone who drops by the book exchange shelf. At this site these beautiful and clever designs are totally free and you can print them yourself. You can go out and buy sticky-backed mailing labels to print them on or just use regular paper and glue. I adore book plates but it has been a few years since I took the time to use them. With their aide we can share out books and still feel confident that they will find their way home again eventually. Many well know children's book illustrators have contributed designs... check it out!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Carnival and Haiku

Mother Reader has the

November Carnival of Children’s Literature: Tips Edition

up today and it's a doozy!! I feel smarter just browsing the descriptions. It's going to take me all week to read them all.

Here's your haiku for the day:

lady birch

White birch stands
in the center of the mist;
a dance of joy.

Software Review: Microsoft Sudent with Encarta

I teach kindergarten through fifth grade computer classes so I was eager to get a chance to preview this Microsoft product. We use the Office Suite at school and have moved up to Office 2007 this year. It's a learning curve. Microsoft Student is an additional program intended for 3rd grade through high school students.

It includes Encarta Premium 2008 Encyclopedia with 60,000+ articles, videos, photos, illustrations, sound and music clips, maps and links to preselected web sites. With an Internet connection you will be able to update continually for one year. Since I am currently reading the book Three Cups of Tea I spend a lot of time reading up on Pakistan and Afghanistan. The photos of the mountains and information on climbers was fascinating. There are 3D panoramas of Mount Everest and other high peaks. The quality of the video is not exceptional but the still shots are beautiful. The map feature helped me place the villages that Greg Mortenson talks about in the book. I learned a lot about the cultures and languages of the people of that region. Encarta has a good overview and links for further reading.

The encyclopedia also includes these reference tools: Encarta World English Dictionary, Thesaurus, Quotation Dictionary, Translation Dictionaries, and Foreign Language Verb Conjugations. The Math Tools section of Microsoft Student includes tutorials for pre-algebra, algebra, geometry and statistics. It also includes step-by-step instructions for using a graphing calculator, solving equations, and working with triangles.

The other sections of the program offer extensive writing help, with reports, research projects, presentations, foreign language tools, search tools and style guides. Students can plan a project, get organized with graphic organizers, work on pre-writing, drafting, revising and editing by following the prompts using pre-formated templates for Microsoft Office software.

The main focus seems to be on what a high school student should be learning. For a strong, alert student with good math English teachers this program might be redundant. Home schoolers would get a lot out of it I am sure. The tutorials and writing aides are all things that should be taught in good middle and high schools. Students that benefit from extra reinforcement or who are in weak schools would be wise to invest in something like this. It also includes tips and prompts for preparing for college applications and job searches.

I had a lot of fun exploring this software. I did find that it required a lot of disc space and slowed down my computer. It crashed a couple times when I was running more than one Microsoft program and online all at the same time. It requires a PC with XP with service pack 2. The box recommends a 1Ghz or faster processor and almost 3 GBs of hard drive space for full install. The Learning Essentials templates and toolbars require Microsoft Office XP, Office 2003, or the 2007 Office system available separately. Access to sounds and videos requires Windows Media Player 8. Access to interactive media requires Adobe Shockwave and Adobe Flash. I had to install it on my work machine because at home I have a Mac and an older PC.

Sponsored by MomCentral.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Review: The Daring Book for Girls

After all the brouhaha over the Dangerous Book for Boys last spring I couldn't wait to get my hands on this book when MotherTalk announced a blog tour. I really couldn't see the need for designating the boy book as being for boys, since any of us could and did do the things in it. I feel a lot the same about the girl book, but then I have sons and I am not about to let them think that making God's Eyes or playing Four Square is a girl thing.

The Daring Book for Girls, by Andrea J. Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz, is a compendium of fun stuff to do and make, as well as brief histories of women inventors, the letters of Abigail Adams, and queens of the ancient world. There are geographical facts about the countries of Africa and the South Sea Islands, a list of state capitols of the U.S., and descriptions of how to paddle a canoe or build your own wooden swing in a tree. Each subject gets only one or two pages written in clear, straightforward language. I am fascinated with the explanations of the rules of the games for bowling, playing darts, softball and double dutch jump rope. I think I played Chinese jump rope a little differently than Buchanan and Peskowitz, but the spirit is the same.

There is a section on boys (brief and to the point; boys are people.) There is a section on princesses and a list of French terms of endearment. There are directions for how to put your hair up with a chopstick (mainly to get it out of the way) but it is not overly romantic or fussy. It's not a "pink" book; no beauty tips, make-up discussions or manicures. The closest thing to the kind of "home ec." suggestions girls used to get when I was young are the pages on Japanese T-shirt folding, what you can do with vinegar and baking soda (including washing the car and making a volcano) and making a lemon-powered clock.

Some of my favorite pages are the crafty ones like how to braid a friendship bracelet, make a cloth book cover, make a willow whistle, but I also like the pages on how to read tide charts and negotiate a salary. In short, I am spending some very entertaining hours flipping through this think volume reading over the parts I think I could already do on my own, to see how these authors write them up, and eagerly reading the new-to-me sections to see what fun projects I could try next. I am thinking of giving this book to my sister and niece for Christmas because I think they would have a lot of fun with it. First I'll have to experiment with some of these projects myself!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Text to Text Connection

Yesterday we were driving home from church listening to NPR on the radio. Someone was telling a funny story about a chicken driving a truck - I can't remember exactly what it was about. I was thinking of something else at the time. Buddy, my five year old, was in the back seat listening carefully to the radio. He pips up,

"Chickens driving a truck? That sounds crazy. Chickens don't drive, do they mom?"

"No." I said absentmindedly. "Chickens don't drive. Don't let the pigeon drive the bus either."

After a few minutes of thoughtful silence he said,

"Yeah. And please don't let the pigeon stay up late."

Sunday, November 25, 2007

November 25 Haiku

sunset moonrise

last light of sun
rushes up the hillside
to meet the moon

Saturday, November 24, 2007

November 24 Haiku

moon over church

driving home;
full moon rising over fields
washed in light

Friday, November 23, 2007

Apology Poem

Miss Rumphius has asked us to try an apology poem this week for her poetry stretch. Here's mine:

Dear Mrs. Librarian,
I am sorry
I lost my library

I was reading it
on the way home
from school when
Jimmy whopped me
upside the head
with a giant

I had to put
the book down
to get him back
and a snowbank
swallowed it.

I promise
I'll bring it back
in the spring
when I find it.

May I haveanother book
of scary stories
Elaine, at Blue Rose Girls, has an interesting interview up with Joyce Sidman, the author of the poetry book This Is Just to Say, a book of apology poems written with kids. Sidman says many of her poems come from her own life experiences. The poem above I wrote after remembering the winter I was in fourth grade. I used to read my library books on the walk home from school (only two blocks and one street to cross). One day I set them down for some reason I can't remember (could have been getting creamed by a snowball) and I didn't find them again till the spring, when I brought them back to school soggy and warped. I had to give up about two month's allowance to pay for them.

The Friday Poetry round up is at Susan Writes.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

November 22 Haiku

field gate

Mist clings to the gate
muting the dance of tree's
leaves meeting the grass.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Shop for a good cause

Every year I try to do more to simplify our family holidays. I like to find ways to share our wealth and contribute to other's needs even as we celebrate our family and express our love for each other. Last year I wrote this about simplifying the holidays and this year I am doing many of the same things. We all have long lists of people we want to buy gifts for and I like to see that as an opportunity to contribute to worthy causes. This year I am planning to give contributions in the name of loved ones to UNICEF, World Vision or the Heifer Project. For people that I want give a "thing" gift that is wrapped I am shopping at The Greater Gift or Ten Thousand Villages.

Mitali's Fire Escape reminds us that the recent cyclone in Bangladesh has caused tremendous pain and suffering. Thousands of families are homeless this week when we in America celebrate Thanksgiving. I encourage you to go follow her link and give a little to share your wealth in order to celebrate and give thanks.

Mom Unplugged has a series going on about simplifying the holidays.

Other ideas for giving gifts and celebrating this holiday season:

Adoptive Families has a list of gift giving ideas that benefit orphans and children in foster care.

Book of Kells suggests a micro loan through KIVA

Gift Ideas from New American Dream:

Try these alt gift alternatives:

What are your favorite places to shop that make the world a better place?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

November 20 Haiku

laughing leaves

We're tumbling downhill
with no thought of ground below;
red-faced with laughter.

The prompt this week at One Deep Breath is adventure.

Monday, November 19, 2007

November 19 haiku

trees and pond

My spot to sit
soaking up sun's reflection;
rock pile by water.

November Carnivals

The November edition of the Bookworms Carnival is up at Armenian Odar Reads. The theme is short stories and there are some really interesting posts linked. Check it out!

Mother Reader is looking for submissions to the next Carnival of Children's Literature. She says, "For this month I want a tip as a reader, writer, illustrator, reviewer, publisher, or editor of children’s literature. I want a lesson learned from a teacher, librarian, author, or parent with regards to kids’ lit. It doesn’t have to be a post that you did in November or October, though you may consider tweaking and re-posting an older entry to use. You can pick a post from any point this year. The deadline for submission is Saturday, November 24th, and I’ll post the Carnival on Wednesday, November 29th. Send your links through my email or the Carnival site — and please indicate, if possible, whether the tip/trick/hint is more for reader, writer, illustrator, reviewer, publisher, editor, teacher, librarian, or parent."

Review: The Arthritis Handbook

The Essential Guide to a Pain-free, Drug-Free Life by Grant Cooper, MD. DiaMedica, 2007. Advance Review Copy compliments of Library Thing Early Reviewers.

I was happy to be one of the early reviewers chosen by LibraryThing for this book because I have suffered from arthritis for years. I had Lyme disease back in 1989 and I have had painful joints ever since. It runs in my family too on both sides. My dad had knee replacement surgery last year and my mom had one replaced just last month. Many days I can feel pain in my joints from my fingers, neck, shoulders, elbows and toes. I have talked to doctors about it and the basic advice I get is to take OTC pain reliever. That's pretty typical advice and it doesn't really help much. I was anticipating things getting a lot worse as I get older.

The first thing I learned from Cooper's book is that pain doesn't have to be my future. There are significant things I can be doing right now to protect and rejuvenate my joints. What good news!

I am taking this very seriously and optimistically because of what I learned from Cooper's book about my joints in the first three chapters. I never understood this before:
"up to eight times more slippery than ice, and with the ability to soak up and push out water as easily as a sponge, cartilage is perfectly designed to permit seamless motion between bones, while at the same time providing ideal shock-absorbing capacity."
Cartilage is slippery and sponge-like. That's why drinking water is so important. Cooper continues to explain the anatomy of joints in clear, simple language. He explains how joints, bones, muscle, tendons and ligaments work together, support each other and react to injuries. He give rules for arthritis management and discusses the diagnosis process.

The second section of the book tells us about how important nutrition is and how to optimise our diet for pain reduction. His five nutritional basics are:

1. Drink plenty of fluids, mostly water.
2. Eat more fruits and vegetables.
3.Eat more cold-water fish.
4. Eat red meat sparingly.
5. Eat fewer processed foods.

We've heard these rules before certainly, but this time I heard the message with the compelling motivation to give my joints the tender loving care that they are crying out for, with the hopes that I will be able to reduce or eliminate the daily pain I am enduring. As a result I am taking the necessary steps to change things immediately. I am drinking water as I type.

I didn't realize the impact cold water fish would have on my joints, but in fact they are full of the omega-3 fatty acids. These omega-3 fats "fight depression, improve insulin sensitivity, and potentially aid in cancer prevention." They also have proven anti-inflammatory, anti-arthritis capabilities.

Cooper goes into detail about which fruits and vegetables are most beneficial based on their antioxidant levels, vitamins and minerals. Some of the very best that I already have in my diet include red beans, blueberries, other berries, onion, citrus, broccoli, spinach, pumpkin, and carrots.

Section three in the book discusses the best exercises for flexibility and strength training. Cooper gives practical advice for starting a new regime, including checking with your doctor first, joining a gym and choosing what level of activity is best for your situation. If you are already in significant pain more exercise may seem foolhardy. The problem is, Cooper explains,
"joints degenerate if you don't exercise them. Without movement your joints will not receive sufficient nourishment because they do not have a direct blood supply. The cartilage will begin to erode, the shock-absorbing capacity of the joints will diminish, and the supporting ligaments and muscles will weaken. Your joints will fell stiff and hurt when you need them to support you. what's the good news? By exercising, you can nourish and strengthen your joints, and reduce your pain and stiffness. It's never too late to start exercising."
It is always hard to get into the habit of a new exercise routine. I have started and given up on them many times over the years. This time I am wondering how in the world I will find an extra half hour in the day to walk or do tai chi. I am determined to do it though, and I am starting slowly with just ten minutes extra stretching in the morning and evening. Cooper gives us some good warm-up stretches, strength training exercises and aerobic exercises. I believe that if you just learn to do all the ones in this little book you will be way ahead of the game, no extra equipment or gym memberships needed.

A word about achieving lasting lifestyle changes. Cooper says,
"Intentions are important, but results are what count. Results come from two inner resources: purpose and discipline. Purpose carries with it a sense of fulfillment. To find your purpose, you must first identify your core set of values - the principles by which you live your life. This is imperative if you truly want to accomplish lasting change."
One of my core values is to stay healthy so I can continue to explore my full potential as a parent, a teacher, a librarian, a writer and a human being. I want to stay active and pain-free and involved in new projects, learning new things and trying new adventures into the next three or four decades. To do that I need to be at my optimum health. That is why this book is having such an impact on me.

The fourth section of the book is about what nutritional supplements are best for managing arthritis. I have heard about glucosamine and chondroitin before, but I never understood why they were supposed to be so good. This book explains it clearly and patiently. Glucosamine and chondroitin are both sugars that hold water and stimulate cartilage growth as well as act as anti-inflammatory agents. Numerous studies have shown them to be highly effective against arthritis. I went out and bought a supply last week and I am getting into the habit of taking them every day. It will take a few weeks to show a difference. If I can get into really good habits of eating, exercising and taking these supplements I will be on my way to a pain-free happy new year!

The last section of the book talks about further therapies including prescription medications, injections, and surgery. I am not considering any of those options at this time, but it is good to know Cooper's clear-headed advice will be there if I ever do. The back of the book contains a glossary full of terms, a list of web sites and books for further reading. I highly recommend it to everyone struggling with arthritis.

Three More Days to Nominate Books for the Cybils

Do you remember that the Cybils nominations close this Wednesday, November 21? Have you nominated your best pick for 2007 books in all eight categories? Just to recap the poetry nominations, here's how they are listed in the comments:
Animal Poems, by Valerie Worth
Behind the Museum Door, ed. by Lee Bennett Hopkins
Big Poppa E's Greatest Hits by Big Poppa E
Birmingham, 1963, Carole Boston Weatherford
Blue Lipstick: Concrete Poems by John Grandits
Collected Poems for Children by Ted Hughes
Comets, Stars, the Moon & Mars, by Douglas Florian
Coolhead Luke and Other Stories by Jennifer Lasker White
Dog Poems by David Crawley
Faith and Doubt:An Anthology of Poems, ed. by Patrice Vecchione
From Dawn to Dreams: Poems for Busy Babies, by Peggy Archer
Gallop O Gallop by Sandra Alonzo
Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz
Here's a Little Poem, ed. by Jane Yolen
Hey You! Poems to Skyscrapers, etc., ed. by Paul Janeczko
How to Catch a Fish by John Frank
I Don't Want to Clean My Room by Hope Vestergaard
In Aunt Giraffe's Green Garden by Jack Prelutsky
Miss Crandall's School for Young Ladies & Little Misses of Color by Elizabeth Alexander and Marilyn Nelson
Oh, Theodore! Guinea Pig Poems by Susan Katz
Poems in Black and White by Kate Miller
Shape Me a Rhyme: Nature's Forms in Poetry by Jane Yolen
Tap Dancing on the Roof: Sijo by Linda Sue Park
The Moon is La Luna: Silly Rhymes by Jay M. Harris
The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear
This is Just to Say by Joyce Sidman
Toad by the Road: A Year in the Life of These Amazing Amphibians by Joanne Ryder
Today and Today by Kobayashi Issa
Today at the Bluebird Cafe by Deborah Ruddell
Tough Boy Sonatas by Curtis L. Crisler
Trailblazers: Poems of Exploration by Bobbi Katz
Twelve Rounds to Glory: The Story of Muhammad Ali by Charles R. Smith, Jr.
Twist: Yoga Poems by Janet S. Wong
Waiting to See the Principal by Joe Sottile
Where I Live by Eileen Spinelli
Your Own, Sylvia by Stephanie Hemphill
Yum! Mmm! Que Rico! by Pat Mora

I can think of a couple good ones NOT on this list. Can you?

This is just poetry, mind you. Check out picture books or middle grade fiction, or all the other sections. Now is your chance to put in the best titles of the year!

Robert's Snow Auction 1 Opens

Auction 1 will begin accepting bids on Monday, Nov. 19 at 9:00 a.m. with a starting bid of $50 for each snowflake. All bids must be placed before the close of Auction 1 on Friday, Nov. 23 at 5:00 pm. Don't forget that 100 percent of the proceeds from this online auction will benefit sarcoma research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and that all but $25 of the winning bid is tax deductible.

Read about all the illustrators who contributed to this auction at the sites linked below. (The order presented is the same as on the auction page.)

Many thanks to Trisha at Miss Rumphius Effect for writing and coding this post. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Weekly Winners

Sarcastic Mom is doing a weekly winners favorite photo meme so I thought I'd join in. These are some of my favorite photos taken in the past week that I haven't published on blogs yet. What are your favorites?

dawn web

Wednesday was extremely foggy all day.

bare trees

It's starting to look like winter around here.


Friday we had sunshine. Isn't it brilliant?

November 18 Haiku

yellow, red maples

old leaves flashing fire,
sun slips from behind gray clouds;
a child's laughter

Saturday, November 17, 2007

November 16 Haiku


these steps
so often traveled in a rush;
leaves come to rest

Friday, November 16, 2007

Circle of Thanks

Native American Poems and Songs of Thanksgiving, told by Joseph Bruchac and pictures by Murv Jacob. This is a joyful collection of praise and thanksgiving songs and prayers from fourteen different Native American cultures. Joseph Bruchac is himself part Native American (Abenaki, from central New York state) and he has made a career of writing and storytelling drawing from a rich heritage. We have several of his books in our library and they are all excellent.

The fly leaf to Circle of Thanks tells us:
"The tradition of giving thanks is one that is deeply ingrained among the native peoples of North America. For Native Americans, every day is a day to give thanks, and the oral traditions of this continent are rich with songs and poems of thanksgiving."
The songs celebrate the earth our Mother, the plants that give us clothing and medicine as well as food, the wind, the stars and the people living in harmony. Here is one of my favorites, which I want to teach to my sons:

The Circle of Thanks

As I play my drum
I look around me
and I see the trees.
The trees are dancing
in a circle about me
and they are beautiful.

As I play my drum
I look around me
and I see the sun and moon.
The sun and moon are dancing
in a circle about me
and they are beautiful.

As I play my drum
I look around me
and I see the stars.
The stars are dancing
in a circle about me
and they are beautiful.

As I play my drum
I look around me
and I see my people.
All my people are dancing
in a circle about me
and my people, they are beautiful.

- Micmac, Northeast Coast

In this season when we celebrate giving thanks, so many school programs are focused on a folk history of the pilgrims that is a mixture of fact and fantasy. It is refreshing to read the true history written from an Indian's perspective, which is what we find in another of Bruchac's books titled Squanto's Journey. If you are looking for the real story of how the pilgrims survived you need to read this book and share it with the children in your life. My own young sons are getting a cloying diet of feather headdresses and hand print turkeys at their day care this fall. I am planning on gifting their teachers with these books to attempt to balance the scale some.

Squanto's Journey tells the story from the Native American perspective, which I find is rare in books for children. Squanto was a Patuxet born in 1590. He was kidnapped and taken to Spain against his will in 1614 and made a slave. He was able to escape slavery and made his way to England, where he learned the language and managed to make allies and procure a job that would take him by ship back to his homeland. Squanto found that all his people were killed by smallpox when he finally reached his home. His wife, children, parents and all his friends were dead. In spite of this he was a man of peace and worked to establish mutually beneficial relationships between the Indians of Nemasket the Pokanoket, and the Narragansett tribes. Massasoit, the sachem of the Pokanoket and Samoset, the sachem of the Pemaquid people came together with Squanto to befriend the English settlers. Squanto taught them how to plant and harvest the three sisters of corn, beans and squash, which kept the settlers alive. Their three day feast of the harvest in 1621 was in large part the result of Squanto's life work. In spite of the threat to himself, his people and his homeland he was a man of peace and he teaches us all the meaning of giving thanks. He is a hero in that he used his strength, intelligence, creativity and honor to reach out to his potential enemies and make a way of peace. This little book is a beautiful way to share the story with today's children. Check out this chat with Joseph Bruchac at Wordsmith in 2001, where he talks about poetry and children.

Today's Friday Poetry round up is at Big A, little a. Head on over and read some!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

November Pay It Forward results

This month I am giving away my copy of The Splendor of Silence to one lucky commenter on my post about this month's Pay It Forward Book Exchange.

And the winner is... Jill!!! Send me your snail mail Jill so I can pass on your book.

Check on the other book give aways over at Overwhelmed With Joy!

I'll be giving away another book the first week of December and every following month until I run out of books.

November 15 Haiku


The red tree stands by
a green grass field under fog;
end of the season.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

November 14 Haiku

fading lines

trees together
leaning toward the fence;
the path to fog

The prompt this week at One Deep Breath is "belonging".

Game Ratings

If you are thinking about buying video games or a new game system this holiday season, you would do well to spend some time at the esrb, or Entertainment Software Rating Board site studying up on the latest information. Here is how they describe themselves and their mission:
"The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) is a non-profit, self-regulatory body established in 1994 by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). ESRB assigns computer and video game content ratings, enforces industry-adopted advertising guidelines and helps ensure responsible online privacy practices for the interactive entertainment software industry.


To empower consumers, especially parents, with the ability to make informed decisions about the computer and video games they choose for their families through the assignment of age and content ratings, and to hold the computer and video game industry accountable for responsible marketing practices."

Parents who are unsure about just what their child is getting in a video game can search the site by publisher, title, platform, rating or content in order to learn about the games and systems. If your child has a wishlist with particular games or systems on it (and what child doesn't?) this is essential information. Check it out before you go shopping!

Buddy has been begging me for a PSP. We don't actually play very many video games in our house. Buster has an old PlayStation; one of the first ones that came out when he was about 10. It is in the attic and not hooked up. Buddy has a GameBoy Advance, that I gave him for his fifth birthday. He lost two of the three games I gave him in the back yard this summer. He sometimes plays his brother's Mario Brothers game that is 10 years old. We usually forget to charge the batteries. I also bought him a computer game for his fifth birthday (JumpStart Kindergarten) but he doesn't often think to turn on the computer and play. He would rather ride his bike, play trains or write and draw. That is fine with me. Computer teacher that I am, I believe children under the age of eight or ten don't need to be spending any time at all staring at a screen. Physical play in the real world and direct face to face interaction is where the essential learning takes place for young children. They'll be using technology for the rest of their lives and there is plenty of time to learn it.

That said, I realize most families spend a lot more time playing video games. Some careful planning about what is appropriate and beneficial to your child pays off in the long run. I am glad to recommend this site to you, with it's clear explanation of the rating guide. Did you know, for example, that the "E" rating is not really meant for everyone under the age of six, for example? There is another rating category, EC, for Early Childhood, that is meant for children age 3 and up. Children under three are better off not playing video games at all, but that is another discussion. Here are some more helpful tips for parents about choosing games and game systems, as well as setting up parental controls. If your game system has Internet access you need to think about the options for downloading extended "mods" that allow chat and interactivity that will take your child beyond your direct supervision. It can be confusing to parents and there is a lot to think about when you are trying to keep up with 21st century kids!

Let me know what you think of this site. I am curious to know what games you'll be adding to your household this winter. If Buddy keeps up his campaign for a PSP I will need to know what games are best...

This post is sponsored by

November 13 Haiku

electric fence

flaming red maple
out in the horse pasture;
electric fence

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A Book Request

from the window

OK Kidlitopians, I have a question for you.

About grown up books.

What are the best books out there on menopause?

This is something I know nothing at all about and I am getting some twinges that I ought to study up on... anyone else been through this? What do you recommend?

Monday, November 12, 2007

November 12 Haiku

red, green, gold, grey

Red hidden by green;
blue sky behind gray cloud banks,
at last bare branches.

Robert's Snow Week 5 Schedule

As you know if you've been visiting any children's book blogs for the past few weeks, Robert's Snow is an online auction that benefits Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Over 200 children's book illustrators have created art on individual snowflake-shaped wooden templates. The snowflakes will be auctioned off, with proceeds going to cancer research. You can view all of the 2007 snowflakes here. Jules and Eisha from Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast have found a way for bloggers to help with this effort, by blogging about individual illustrators and their snowflakes. The idea is to drive traffic to the Robert's Snow site so that many snowflakes will be sold, and much money raised to fight cancer. The illustrator profiles have been wonderful so far - diverse and creative and colorful. And there are lots more to go.

Here's the schedule for Week 5, which starts Monday. As previously, this early schedule links to the participating blogs, instead of to the individual posts. You can find links to the posts themselves, and any last-minute updates, each morning at 7-Imp. Jules and Eisha have also set up a special page at 7-Imp containing a comprehensive list of links to the profiles posted so far. Also not to be missed is Kris Bordessa's post summarizing snowflake-related contests to date over at Paradise Found.

Monday, November 12

Tuesday, November 13

Wednesday, November 14

Thursday, November 15

Friday, November 16

Saturday, November 17

Sunday, November 18

Please take time out to visit all of these blogs, and read about these fabulous illustrators. And, if you're so inclined, think about bidding for a snowflake in the Robert's Snow auction. Each snowflake makes a unique gift (for yourself or for someone else), and supports an important cause.

See also the following note from Elaine Magliaro of Wild Rose Reader:

Note to Blog Readers about Blogging for a Cure: When Jules of 7-Imp put out her call in September for bloggers to interview/feature artists who had created snowflakes for Robert’s Snow 2007 at their blogs, a number of artists had not yet sent in their snowflakes to Dana-Farber. As time was of the essence to get Blogging for a Cure underway, we worked with the list of artists whose snowflakes were already in possession of Dana-Farber. Therefore, not all the participating artists will be featured. This in no way diminishes our appreciation for their contributions to this worthy cause. We hope everyone will understand that once the list of artists was emailed to bloggers and it was determined which bloggers would feature which artists at their blogs, a schedule was organized and sent out so we could get to work on Blogging for a Cure ASAP. Our aim is to raise people’s awareness about Robert’s Snow and to promote the three auctions. We hope our efforts will help to make Robert’s Snow 2007 a resounding success.

Thanks to Jen Robinson for coding this post.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

November 10 Haiku

that maple

two strangers
stopped in their tracks by this tree;
holding the light

Poetry in Place results

One of the things I really love about Saturdays now is that I have a whole day of poetry to read! I can't be online as much on the weekends because of these short people running around always hungry at my house, but I keep trying to find little snatches of time when they are busy to come here and read poetry. YAY!

This week you can go right here to my Friday Poetry roundup and click all the links to read, read, read. I just open them all in tabs and browse away. Leave some comments too, please, for all these posters. We love comments! It is encouraging to know others are grooving on the poetry we post.

I want to do some special highlights of all the brave souls who planned to post poetry IRL this week for the Poetry in Place project.

Sara at Read, Write, Believe was a big encouragement to me to go ahead with this project, so I am really happy to hear she is memorizing a poem, doing a podcast, and she posted it in the gazebo where many will enjoy it.

Trisha at Miss Rumphius posted one of her own Centos in a gazebo too - wonderful!

MotherReader is posting concrete poetry by the water fountain. I can just see people dribbling water all down their chins while they read “The Little House”. I hope there are photos coming!

Kelly at Big A, little a is sharing a poem from Yolen and Stemple's Shape Me a Rhyme. I can't wait to hear the reaction at the rink.

Daphne at Fertile Ground is posting a carrot poem in the grocery store. This one really tickles me. Carrots are the one vegetable all three of my boys like. I want to see that poem in my grocery store!

I heard a rumor that was going to post some Dylan Thomas at the metro station. How did that go I wonder? Which poem?

And how about Susan saying she was going to post Tree Traffic at the nature center? Those squirrels have the run of my trees, that's for sure.

Anyone else? Did I miss anyone? Leave me a comment if you put up some ink and paper poetry around your neighborhood.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Here's A Little Poem

a little poem book

I've been enjoying sharing this lovely book with my little guys this week. Jane Yolan and Andrew Fusek Peters' anthology of poems for the very young is full of delightful rhymes about mud, ice cream, bugs, rain, grandmas and grandpas, baby brothers, swings, kites, and good night kisses. The poets range from Langston Hughes to Bobbi Katz and Margaret Mahy. The illustrations are bouncy and joyful, showing children doing all they do with vim and vigor. We love this book! Here's what Punkin is reading in this picture:

Happy Birthday!

Happy birthday to you!
Squashed tomatoes and stew!
Bread and butter
In the gutter
Happy Birthday to you!

-traditional British street rhyme

This week I am hosting Friday Poetry right here at a wrung sponge. I am inviting you to do something a little different. We share our favorites poems here in blogs every week, but why not take it a step further and go into the face to face world? Back in September I posted about our sixth graders doing something they call "Poetry in Place". They chose favorite poems, typed them up, printed them and posted them all over the school in appropriate places. Jack Prelutsky's A Pizza the Size of the Sun in in the kitchen by the microwave, for instance. I thought it would be great fun to do the same thing with all of the Friday Poetry bloggers. What if we all, all over the country (world?) shared our favorite poems in public places?

Here's how I explained where we got the idea from at our school: The sixth grade teacher found this project idea in Georgia Heard's book Awakening the Heart; Exploring Poetry in Elementary and Middle School. I have mentioned this book before when I was posting about Nanci Atwell's Lessons That Change Writers. Heard tells about how she first encountered the New York City Poetry in Motion Project when she found a poem posted on a public bus. She also found poems posted in the women's rest room at the Columbia University's Teachers College. A secretary started doing it at the Teacher's College. Every week she posted a different poem. She had women from all over the college coming in to her office and asking for copies of the poems she posted. Once a man came in and when she asked if he had been in the woman's restroom he admitted that he was the window washer and he was reading the poems through the window as he worked. He wanted a copy of one for his daughter.

Can you think of a place where one of your favorite poems could be shared? Print it out or pick up a pen and copy it onto paper and hang it up! I printed out a few poems from Here's A Little Poem and shared them with my son's daycare teachers. They are going to put them up on the bulletin boards to share with the children. The poems I thought they would especially like include Late Last Night by Michael Rosen, Mud by Flanders and Swann, and The No No Bird by Andrew Fusek Peters. What would you like to share? Leave a comment and put your link in the Mr. Linky below.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Robert's Snow: Genevieve Cote

I am just thrilled to bring another snowflake feature for Robert's Snow auction for Dana Farber cancer research. Today I have an interview with Genevieve Cote. Check out her home page to see the fabulous work she has done in a variety of places. She has a long list of awards for her children's books, exhibitions of her work, and her editorial illustrations published in major periodicals. A few of her children's books: The Lady of Shallot, What elephant? and With You Always, Little Monday.

I would have to say my favorite is With You Always, Little Monday. The forest animals find a little bunny sleeping alone in the moonlight and decide to call him "Little Monday". Little Monday is happy playing with his friends, but:
"Sometimes, in a quiet moment, Little Monday would sit alone and wonder who his mommy might be. One day he decided to look for her."
He searches everywhere for as he longs for his missing mother. Each animal that he asks kindly tells him that they are not his mother. At last he finds her reaching out to him from the moon in love. Based on the legend of a woman living in the moon, this sweet story of a parent's love deeply touched me. The artwork is simple and deeply expressive. With just a few lines and washes of color Cote brings us into the heart of Little Monday and draws out our own longings. In the back of the book Cote explains,
"In many languages, Monday means "day of the moon." Look carefully at the full moon. Do you see the shadow of a rabbit running across the sky? Or maybe she is sitting quietly in the moonlight? From China to the Americas, people around the world have celebrated this gentle presence for thousands of years. The moon rabbit can still be seen today, reminding us that no one is ever truly alone in the night."
Since Genevieve's snowflake is based on the Little Monday character, I began my interview with Ms. Cote by asking her about the story:

Interview with Genevieve Cote

Bonjour Genevieve!
I am so impressed with your work! Your art is stunningly beautiful. Your books are charming. I particularly like With You Always, Little Monday. I have two adopted sons and I think it will really resonate with them. We are quite open about talking about their first parents and how much they are missed. My 5 year old son in particular often talks about his first mother and father. Although we have close, loving relationships and a wonderful family, I believe adopted children never lose the love and longing for their first parents. The little rabbit in your story expresses those feelings so poignantly. I'd like to mention that in my blog feature running this Thursday, and I wonder if you could speak about the inspiration for this book. Do you have experience with adoption in your family? Did you think about how an adopted child might miss their first/birth mother when writing this book? It seems a natural connection to me, but that may because of my own family experience.

GC: I'm really glad you liked Little Monday, as it is a favorite of mine. I guess, my intention, doing this book, was to address every child's occasional feelings of abandonment. Basically, I meant it as a comfort book, my way of saying that we're never alone, no matter how dark the night may seem. And I like the fact that a child might be reminded of this just by looking at the Moon, which is big, bright, and always there. I wrote it for an orphan, who is very dear to me, but I do believe that this will speak to every child, because, as I said, those feelings of abandonment are shared by all, at one time or another. But of course, it would resonate particularly for adopted children, and I'm really truly glad if you think your children might find something of use in this story.

CC: Tell us about how you made your lovely snowflake. What is your process of creation?

GC: As for the snowflake, it was made with crayon, watercolors and acrylics - I like mixing media. I did one side first - the bunny in the butterfly-shaped snowflakes, and then I thought I should draw a different character. I couldn't resign myself to paint it over, so I turned it over and painted on the other side that bird bringing in a bit of rainbow. I was approached by Grace Lin for this project, and felt very privileged right then to take part in such a wonderful and inspiring project.

CC: I believe you are Canadian, is that right? Can you tell us about where you live? What is the seasonal change right now? What do you like to do in the great outdoors?

GC: I'm Canadian, (french-speaking Canadian) and I live in Montreal, where November is now beginning to earn its reputation of bleakest month in the year. I love to ski, and bike, and hike, but these days I find the weather somewhat uninviting...

CC: What projects are you working on right now or have planned for the future?
GC: I'm working on two other stories of mine - I'm actually awaiting news from the publisher - and am busy this week preparing for the Salon du Livre de Montreal next week.

Thank you Genevieve Cote for your time in this interview and for your generous and lovely snowflake for Robert's Snow! Everyone please visit her snowflake at the Robert's Snow auction site and consider bidding on this one or others when the auctions open November 19th!

And don't forget to check out the comprehensive list of illustrator blog features over at 7Imp. What a treasure chest of children's literature that is turning out to be! Other posts today:

Thursday, November 8, 2007:

November 8 Haiku

lavender clouds

look east in evening;
buff fields in shadow before
lavender cloud banks

Haiku Books for Children

My friend at Mom Unplugged has weekly projects going with her kids. This past week she was writing haiku with them, and she asked for suggestions for haiku books to read with kids. I got to thinking about it and browsing our shelves. Here are some of my favorites:

Today and Today, Issa Kobayashi
Cricket Songs, Harry Behn
Cricket Never Does, Myra Cohn Livingston
One Leaf Rides the Wind, Celeste Mannis
A Pocketful of Poems, Nikki Grimes
Basho and the River Stones, Tim Myers
If Not For the Cat, Jack Prelutsky
Wingnuts, Paul Janeczko
Baseball Haiku, Cor Van Den Heuvel
Dogku, Andrew Clements

*Edited to add:

I remembered this post from World of Words that features some of her favorite haiku books for children, as well as this post from Wild Rose Reader where she posts some of her haiku and recommends her favorite books. Both of these links are really helpful resources.

I was also reading When You Are Alone/It Keeps You Capone: An Approach to Creative Writing with Children by Myra Cohn Livingston. She has a whole chapter on teaching haiku to children. She warns us not to take it lightly and introduce it as an "easy" form of just counted syllables with no rhyme. Livingston says haiku is one of the most difficult forms of poetry to master. She says,
"Without a long dissertation on the involved rules that govern the haiku, which is the beginning of a much longer Japanese form, I explain that the word "haiku" is made up of two Japanese words, hai and ku. Hai means to compose a poem; ku means a phrase. It is, indeed, a beginning of an idea, a thought, some picture seen by the writer that will lead us on to further thoughts, thoughts of our own about what the writer of the haiku has seen or felt."
The rules Livingston gives us are these:
  1. It must includes a reference to nature, indicating a season.
  2. It must refer to a particular event; No generalizations.
  3. What is happening must happen at the moment, now, rather than at some past or future time.
  4. We must make every word count.
  5. Some feeling or emotion must come through in the haiku. We are trying to re-create in the haiku a moment that will show the writer's emotion and arouse emotion in the reader, make him see something he may never have seen before.
These are all excellent points to keep in mind. I remember learning about haiku in my fourth grade classroom, but I didn't really know what it was all about until I studied it in college. By trying to write haiku every day and by reading the Japanese masters I find that I am beginning to understand it a little better each day. It is a life time practice!

**Edited again to add: Myra Cohn Livingston offers these titles to help us learn more about writing haiku with children: Wind in My Hand, The Story of Issa, by Hanako Fukuda. Livingston says,
"I read it aloud to the class, for it shows how haiku are made up of the commonplace, and tells of the observations of Issa himself as a boy and a man, the things that were important to him and how he made them into poetry. No set of rules given to children will make them understand half as well as this book how the human emotions are part of creative writing - haiku as well as all poetry.

For the teacher who wishes to learn more of haiku for himself, Harold G. Henderson's Haiku in English is most concise and understandable and offers practical guidelines fr judging haiku."
The Wind in My Hand book is out of print now, but you can get used copies. I am requesting it from interlibrary loan.

A couple other websites I found: Two Dragonflies: Haiku and Music for Children
Aha poetry haiku links

The Brown Bookshelf

Have you seen the new blog called The Brown Bookshelf? Here's how they describe their mission:

The Brown Bookshelf is a group of 5 authors and illustrators, brought together for the collective goal of showcasing the best and brightest voices in African-American Children’s Literature, with a special emphasis on new authors and books that are “flying under the radar.”

Be sure to check out our new initiative, 28 DAYS LATER!

28 Days Later

I have already left comments three times, to nominate the following authors:

Nikki Grimes, When Gorilla goes Walking
Christopher Paul Curtis, Elijah of Buxton
E.B. Lewis, This Little Light of Mine
Janice N. Harrington, The Chicken Chasing Queen of Lamar County
Jabari Asim Whose Knees Are These?
Karen English Francie
Cheryl Willis Hudson Good Night Baby
Rosa Guy The Friends
Mildred Taylor Mississippi Bridge
Angela Shelf Mederis The Seven Days of Kwanzaa
Eloise Greenfield When The Horses Ride By
Jim Haskins John Lewis in the Lead
Sherley Anne Williams Working Cotton
Patricia C. McKissack Goin’ Someplace Special
Gloria Jean Pinkney The Sunday Outing
Jerdine Nolen Thunder Rose
Zora Neale Hurston, The Six Fools
Nina Crews, The Neighborhood Mother Goose
Won-Ldy Paye (American citizen? Not sure)
Traci L. Jones, Standing Against the Wind
Janet McDonald Twists and Turns
Shelia P. Moses, The Legend of Buddy Bush
Ntozake Shange, Betsey Brown
Rita Williams-Garcia, no laughter here
Kyra E. Hicks, Martha Ann's Quilt for Queen Victoria
Gwendolyn Brooks The Tiger Who Wore White Gloves
Kay Lovelace, Princess Aisha and the Cave of Judgment

I am keeping my list here in order to keep track of the African American authors I have already identified. What can you add to this list? I think it is a wonderful project and I am looking forward to reading the features for all the authors they choose next February.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

November 7 Haiku

broad path

the empty
crunch of fallen leaves;
one walker

This week's prompt at One Deep Breath is "loneliness".

Pay It Forward: The Splendor of Silence

This month for my Pay It Forward Book Exchange I am offering The Splendor of Silence by Indu Sundaresan. I reviewed this book in a September post, as part of the MotherTalk blog tour. It is a fascinating page turner about an Indian American woman named Olivia. She receives a mysterious trunk from her deceased mother's family just a few days after her father's death. As she unpacks the trunk she finds a long letter telling her the story of her parent's love affair in 1942. Read more by clicking on this link to my post here, which includes links to other book reviews.

This is a review copy of the book, so if you are the winner in my drawing I request that you pass it on to another reader without cost. If you don't have a blog or participate in Pay It Forward Book Exchanges please donate it to a library or another free book exchange.

Here's a summary of the exchange: I got the idea for this from Overwhelmed with Joy. I plan to give away a book to one of my readers in the first week of every month until I run out of books. Here's how it is played:

1) Once a month I'll pick a book to give away to one lucky reader (you don’t have to have a blog to enter). It may be a book that I’ve purchased new or used, or it may be a book that someone has shared with me that I really like. It’ll probably be a paperback, just to make things easier, but no guarantees.

2) All you have to do to enter the giveaway is leave me a comment on this post. I'll draw names out of a hat on Wednesday, November 14.

3) If you’re the lucky winner of the book giveaway and you have your own blog I ask that you,in turn, host a drawing to give that book away for free to one of your readers, after you’ve had a chance to read it (let’s say, within a month after you’ve received the book). If you mail the book out using the media/book rate that the post office offers it’s pretty inexpensive. If you're a non-blogger who has won the book, please consider donating the book to your local library or shelter after you're done with it.

4) If you’re really motivated and want to host your own “Pay It Forward” giveaway at any time, feel free to grab the button below to use on your own blog. Just let Overwhelmed know so she can publish a post plugging your giveaway and directing readers your way!

The Pay It Forward Book Exchange is designed to encourage people to read, to share good books, to possibly get you out of your reading comfort zone, and to get fun stuff in the mail instead of just bills!

So just leave me a comment if you'd like to be part of this month's drawing. Remember, you have until next Wednesday, November 14!! And stop by Overwhelmed to see what other books are being given away this month.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

November 6 Haiku

posion ivy

tree hugging
in delicate colors;
poison ivy

Coming this Friday: Poetry in Place!

If you are like me and you do Friday Poetry most weeks, you don't plan ahead. You just let the week roll you over and come up for air on Friday wondering what poem will grab you. It's a fun way to do it. I look forward to waking up early on Friday morning and browsing my poetry books or online poetry spots like and the Poetry Foundation. I rarely plan ahead.

This week I am doing something different, and I invite you to join me. It is my turn to host Friday Poetry right here at a wrung sponge, so I am going to make it a project. Back in September I posted about our sixth graders doing something they call "Poetry in Place". They chose favorite poems, typed them up, printed them and posted them all over the school in appropriate places. Jack Prelutsky's A Pizza the Size of the Sun in in the kitchen by the microwave, for instance. I thought it would be great fun to do the same thing with all of the Friday Poetry bloggers. What if we all, all over the country (world?) shared our favorite poems in public places?

Here's how I explained where we got the idea from at our school: The sixth grade teacher found this project idea in Georgia Heard's book Awakening the Heart; Exploring Poetry in Elementary and Middle School. I have mentioned this book before when I was posting about Nanci Atwell's Lessons That Change Writers. Heard tells about how she first encountered the New York City Poetry in Motion Project when she found a poem posted on a public bus. She also found poems posted in the women's rest room at the Columbia University's Teachers College. A secretary started doing it at the Teacher's College. Every week she posted a different poem. She had women from all over the college coming in to her office and asking for copies of the poems she posted. Once a man came in and when she asked if he had been in the woman's restroom he admitted that he was the window washer and he was reading the poems through the window as he worked. He wanted a copy of one for his daughter.

These days I am really tickled with Jane Yolan's book Here's a Little Poem; A Very First Book of Poetry. It is a collection of poems perfectly suited for toddlers and preschoolers. I am delighted to share them with my little boys at home. So for my first "Poetry in Place" attempt and I am planning to offer copies of some of my favorite pages to share with the teachers at their day care. I am going to ask that they let me post some on the parent's bulletin board, just for fun. On Friday I'll tell you which ones we hung and what the reaction (if any) has been. I have to admit I am feeling a little shy and silly doing this. I'll be embarrassed to tell people I want to post poems on the bulletin board. But that just makes me stubborn enough to want to push myself to do it anyway. If I don't share these delightful poems with the families and teachers at our day care, who is going to?

What do you think? Can you think of a favorite poem that would go well in a place you often visit? The perfect place is one where people stop and wait. A place where they pause and have nothing in particular to do. Good places might be the hallway by the elevators, the vending machines, by the coffee machine, in the post office, next to the bank ATM machine, on the grocery store bulletin boards, at the vet, the dentist office waiting room, the bus stop, the lobby of your children's school... Where else can you think of? Let's go for it!