Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Review: The Last Black King of the Kentucky Derby

by Crystal Hubbard, (click the link on her name to read an author chat) illustrated by Robert McGuire. Lee & Low books, 2008. Cybils nonfiction picture book nominee. This fascinating picture book for middle and upper grades tells the life of Jimmy "Wink" Windfield, the last Black jockey to win the Kentucky Derby in 1902. The forward tells us that Black jockeys were common in 1875, when the Kentucky Derby was first run. By 1902 changing economic times and racism had pushed Black jockeys out of the sport. Wink suffered from hate groups and left the country after 1903. He continued to race in Europe and when he retired in France he had won over 2.600 races. Although he continued to love his country and his home in Kentucky he was never again treated with respect and courtesy or given the credit he deserved as one of the greatest jockeys in history.

The illustrations are vibrant and exciting. My two young boys are enthralled by the action and the thrill of the races. Older readers will be interested in the issues of racism, justice and equity. SLJ reviewer Diane Chen found the need to do further research with her students when they responded with pressing questions about the limitations racism forced on Wink Windfield. (She's got some great links and ideas in that post linked on her name.) That's the sign of a really good book doing it's job!

I received this book as a review copy and I am donating it to Flying Horse Farms. Author/poet/blogger Sara Lewis Holmes is starting a library of kid's horse books for this camp for kids with serious illnesses and their families. I think that's a fabulous idea! She's got a wish list going at Amazon full of wonderful books the campers will love. You can add your suggestions, make a donation, or send along a book or two yourself. Read more about it in her post here. It's a little thing that can go a long way towards making happiness for yourself and others this New Year!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

December 27 Haiku


found: rushing water,
woodpecker's distant drilling,
beech leaf shadows

Monday, December 22, 2008

Review: Larry and Rita

by Jamie Michalak, illustrated by Jill Newton. Candlewick Press, 2008. A Brand New Reader level 1. Cybils nominee for Easy Readers.

The minute my kindergartner saw this book he remarked that it reminded him of Here Comes Tabby Cat, by Phyllis Root, another Candlewick Brand New Reader that we very much enjoyed.

Larry and Rita, a porcupine and a chipmunk, are friends who like to blow bubbles, dance, go to the fair and find treasures on the beach. They are cute and funny and clever. The text is simple, in large print, and the illustrations are dynamic elements of the story. Beginning readers need that as well as a storyline that engages their curiosity and intelligence. Humor, surprise, predictable results, order and chaos - these are the things young readers delight in and Michalak hits the nail on the head. Highly recommended for beginning readers.

Choose Joy

trashcan icicles

when frozen rain falls
the trash can offers its rim -
collecting crystals

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

December 16 Haiku

dec 16 006

just enough snow
to make the path slippery -
why this joy?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Review: Planet Earth

25 environmental Projects You Can Build Yourself. By Kathleen M. Reilly. Nomad Press, 2008. Review copy.

This book has won a Moonbeam award, given by the Independent Publishers , honoring "books ... by little-known authors, illustrators and publishers from around the world, ... that inspire our children to read, to learn, and to dream " The full list of 2008 awards are here.

Hat tip to Scrub-a-Dub-Tub for the links.

Reilly has collected fun and interesting projects for kids to learn hands-on about the natural world. Getting their hands dirty and hair tousled they'll play with wind, dirt, worms, sunlight, bubbles, spices and plant materials. The first section of the book explores space, land, water, air, sun and life forms. The second half is full of environmental projects to teach kids about recycling, materials use, global warming, and the balance in nature.

Written for kids 9 and up and their grown-ups. Great for home, clubs and school.
Today's Nonfiction Round Up is at Picture Book of the Day. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Review: Houndsley and Catina in the Quiet Time

By James Howe, illustrated by Marie Louise Gay. Candlewick Press, 2008. Cybils Easy Reader nominee.

I love this book. Houndsley and his best friend Catina are snowed in on the day of the big concert they've been preparing for over the last month. Catina is frantic with anxiety about the shopping and prepping they won't be able to do, but Houndsley is happy to sit and watch the snow fall. Howe's language is so poetic in spite of the limited vocabulary and concrete imagery that beginning readers require.

Houndsley gazed out the window at the silent white falling everywhere. The world had no shadows, only white on white on white.
"It is the quiet time," Houndsley said in his soft-as-rose petal voice.
Catina listened.
"It is too quiet," she said.
"Oh," said Houndsley. "But that is why this is my favorite time of year. In the quiet time, everything stops. I think we may be snowed in."
As the day goes on Houndsley manages to persuade Catina to relax and enjoy pretending they are stuck on an island. Fortunately the island has books, and board games, and a kitchen for baking cookies. Catina discovers the music of the quiet time as they sit dreaming in front of the fire. Even the neighbor, who is practicing playing the cymbals for the concert that evening, finds the joy of quiet time music.

At the end of the snowy day the whole neighborhood troops out in the snow to the park gazebo and relishes the community music.
"Without saying a word,the musicians picked up their instruments and began to play so softly that the notes fell on the listening ears like snowflakes on waiting tongues, gently, softly, there for a flicker before melting away."
Sigh. I want that kind of snowstorm. I find this book to be a gem that will hold readers of all ages in the magic. It's as sweet as a read-aloud as it is a beginning reader. You must find this and snap it up!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Guest Poet J. Patrick Lewis

Imagine my surprise and delight when I checked my email yesterday and found a message from J. Patrick Lewis!! THE J. Patrick Lewis, who did Birds on a Wire: Renga Round the Town (with Paul B. Janeczko) and The Brothers War, and Freedom Like Sunlight: Praisesongs for Black Americans, and tons more great poetry books. I mean!

He graciously offered to let me post the following poem here on my blog. It is a celebration of one of December's most beloved holidays: Chocolate-Covered Anything Day (December 16). It's really fitting for us because my two little guys are always trying to tell me they like eating ants. I've never even mentioned dipping them in chocolate so boy are they going to love this!

Sept. 8 046

Chocolate-Covered Ants

You start with that ant mandible—
Completely understandable—
.....A chocolate jaw has never tasted sweeter.

Then bite of bit of abdomen
Before you’ve finally grabbed a min-
.....i-leg, an itty-bitty centimeter.

But ants despise the holiday
That is their grand finale day
.....When you become The Chocolate Anteater.
................................-J. Patrick Lewis

The Friday Poetry round up is over at Wild Rose Reader. Hope you enjoy your day today and get ready for next Tuesday with some chocolate-covered treats!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

December 11 Haiku

dec 10 017

arriving home -
blown & rain-splattered, seeking
gathered light

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Evolution Theory overheard:

Third grade girls are looking at a book on evolution:

Girl # 1: Hey look at this! We used to be gorillas?

Girl # 2: Euw!! Look at that!

Girl # 3: Maybe it's just boys...

Monday, December 08, 2008

Review: Yours For Justice, Ida B. Wells

The Daring Life of a Crusading Journalist. By Philip Dray, illustreated by Stephen Alcorn. Peachtree, 2008. A Cybils nonfiction picturebook nominee. Library copy.

Ida B. Wells, born in Mississippi in 1862 in slavery and freed at the end of the Civil War. Her father was a carpenter. Her mother learned to read by attending school with her children. When Ida was 16 both parents died of yellow fever. Ida was determined to raise her younger brothers and sisters and became a teacher to support them. Over the years she began writing and became a journalist. She wrote against Jim Crow and spoke out against lynching. She traveled around giving speeches and raising awareness as her support grew. She ended up working in New York for the New York Age and her work had a tremendous impact on the movement to end the commonality of lynching. Ida B. Wells is a hero we should all hear more about. She unflinchingly believed in the good of Americans and never gave up her battle for truth to win out. In Mob Rule in Now Orleans she said:
"When this conscience wakes and speaks out in thunder tones, as it must, it will need facts to use as a weapon against injustice, barbarism and wrong. It is for this reason that I carefully compile, print and send forth these facts."
I greatly enjoyed reading this picture book biography. I think the watercolor sketch illustrations are beautiful. Their sweeping, flowing movements are a perfect compliment to the text. There are several spreads where you can feel the tension as Ida faces the evil of racism head on with unshakable faith in the power of truth and good. The violence and horror are expertly balanced with Ida's determined energy.

The last few pages of the book include further biographical information and, background on lynching, a timeline and list of recommended readings for ages 4 through 13 and Up. This is a wonderful resource!
Today's nonfiction roundup is at Picture Book of the Day. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Feast of St. Nicholas

"Friend of children, giver of gifts, climber of chimneys, etc." Today is the feast day of Bishop Nicholas of Myra, (Turkey) who died on this day in 326 AD. Many European countries celebrate his life of generosity and service by giving gifts on this day rather than on Christmas day. Children leave their shoes out by the door or the fire place and find them filled with chocolate. Read more about his life and miracles here. See a photo of St. Nicholas on his white horse in the Netherlands here on flickr.

My little boys will find bubble gum and lollipops in their shoes this morning because they prefer that to the almond and peanut filled chocolate that I have on hand. There are clementines too for sweetness and joy. I cut out pictures of St. Nick from old Christmas cards and left them there as his calling card. We are going to breakfast with Santa at our church this morning and bringing my dad. Telling the story of Nicholas, with his loving heart and kind, giving spirit takes the emphasis off the shopping and excess that sometimes threatens to overwhelm us this time of year. This is one of the fun little traditions I love to celebrate.

We've also been reading the children's Advent devotional books published by Creative Communications. What Color is Christmas? and Which Way is Christmas? are beautiful books with full color illustrations in the style of I Spy and Where's Waldo? Each two-page spread features Bible readings, a short paragraph on the themes of the day that retell the Gospel story from Genesis through Jesus' life, and beautiful, engaging search-and-find puzzles. My parent's church gave us one and our church gave the other. My boys love them.

What are you doing to prepare for Christmas?

Friday, December 05, 2008

End Of The Day

dec 4 009

Looks to be stone,
always there, bone just
left, thrown down and now
alone. Empty wrappers -

what was once known
for wild cones of jazz.
One moan holds all
sewn into the ground.

Perhaps it’s a loan
or rough zone ripening
our own tough heart -
.......-Andromeda Jazmon

The Monday Poetry Stretch this week was for "a climbing rhyme, or poem in which the position of the rhyming word changes from line to line. It first appears in the 4th word of line 1, 3rd word of line 2, and 2nd word of line 3. The pattern continues as a new rhyme appears in the 4th word of line 3, the 3rd word of line 4, and the 2nd word of line 5. This continues on and on, giving a stair-step feel to the poem." Click over to Miss Rumphius to read the other poets work.

And then head over to Mommy's Favorite Children's Books for the Friday Poetry Round up. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Review: Goose and Duck

by Jean Craighead George, illustrated by Priscilla Lamont. HarperCollins, 2008. An "I Can Read" book level 2 (reading with help). This is another beginning reader that has been nominated for a Cybils Award for 2008. In the dedication by Ms. George says, "To Craig George, who was imprinted as "mother" on the wild pets Goose and duck. that's how it is with birds." We can surmise from this that George is writing the story based on a real life experience. When my brother was in graduate school for biology he spent a Thanksgiving break away from our family because he had to stay at school in the lab with the baby geese that had just hatched. They were part of his research project and they had imprinted on him. He was acting as their "mother". We thought it amusing but we missed his company. Maybe that's why I can relate so well to this book.

In this story a boy finds a goose egg and when it hatches the little goose follows him around copying his every move. Then he finds a duck egg and the duckling imprints on his goose. Hilarity ensues when they copy each other in a chain reaction. Things get even more complicated when goose and duck awake in the night and decide to go out searching for more mothers. They end up at the police station where they are helping to wash patrol cars. The boys rides his bike down there in alarm the next morning, thinking they got arrested. After the birds swirl the captain's papers all over the office the boy is able to bring them home again.

My six year old is totally into this story at this point. George does a masterful job of making a really complex and fascinating tale in simple, straightforward language that beginning readers can grasp. The large print, repetition and white space add to the appeal. Lamont's illustrations are comical and endearing. I especially like how the boy puts his pets to sleep in boxes next to his bed.

In the fall the birds have grown up and are ready to fly away south with their own kind. The boy is briefly saddened, but since he knows who he is and how much his family loves him, he can let them go with grace. We really enjoyed this story and highly recommend it to young readers.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Advent One Haiku

early morning

Advent's first light a
slight rose behind charcoal trees;
new candle tips

Advent is the church's celebration of the four weeks in December waiting and anticipating the birth of Christ. One new candle is lit each week building to a blaze of light on Christmas. We are lighting candles at the dinner table. I've got my new camera and am looking for the light.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Review: When Louis Armstrong Taught Me Scat

by Muriel Harris Weinstein, illustrated by R.Gregory Christie. Chronicle Books, 2008. Review copy; release date is Dec. 10, 2008. Put this book on your holiday gift list for sure! All ages will be delighted with the bouncy rhythms of a young girl dancing to jazz with her mother and then dreaming of learning the art of scat singing from the master Louis "Satchimo" Armstrong in bubble gum be bop.

Rippity wrapper
glittery new
stickety CHEW


gummity thick


blowitty quick!









The loud colors of lime green, royal blue and neon pink work with the warm people shades of brown to shout with energy as our girl in fuzzy slippers twirls around Armstrong's musical staff in the blasts of his trumpet and bubble gum scat song. I read this to second graders in the library and they couldn't help themselves joining in on the chorus:

Oooba lee COOO,

obba lee CAT

bubble me a bubble
bubble it FAT.

Oooba lee COOO,

oooba lee BAT


bubble gum scat.

The next morning she takes the rhymes to the playground and gets everyone doing double dutch to the joyful beat of the bubble gum song. Christie's illustrations are a perfect match for this celebration of Armstrong's well loved art form.

There is a short biography and explanation of Armstrong's development of scat in the last few pages of the book. Our students are learning to use scat to warm up in their music classes so I think I'll have to gift the music teacher with this book. Who would you give it to?

Other reviews:
Young Readers
The Reading Tub

Muriel Harris Weinstein is a poet with work published in
The Comstock Review, Nassau Review, Kent State Review, Nexus, and in many anthologies. Here's a link to a poem she has in The Comstock Review from November 2008. She has a children's biography on Louis in the works.

Friday Poetry is over at Lisa Chellman's blog. Hope you're having a restful, thankful weekend!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Review: I Love My New Toy

by Mo Willems. Hyperion Books for Children, 2008. This is an Elephant and Piggie book for beginning readers. The really wonderful thing about these books is the amount of complexity Willams manages to portray with simple line drawings and minimal text. Gerald the Elephant and Piggie show an amazing range of emotion revealing all the varied interactions of a really deep friendship; affection, confusion, anger, resentment, kindness, forgiveness, perplexity, loyalty, surprise and comfort. All this in a few strokes. The cleverness and humor delights both adults and young children. We just can't get enough Elephant and Piggie over here.

In this volume Piggie has a new mystery toy that neither friend knows exactly what to do with. When Gerald accidentally breaks it they are both horrified. Piggie is really very angry. Gerald apologizes over and over but that is not enough for Piggie. Luckily a friendly squirrel comes along and shows them that it's not really broken - it's supposed to do that! Piggie his happy about that but Gerald still has his feelings hurt from Piggy's anger. He finds a way of forgiveness though, because he really wants to play with his friend more than the toy. How many times have we seen this very drama worked out on the playground and the living room floor? Willems hits on so many of the real issues children deal with and he shows human, graceful, realistic ways to deal with them.

I was amazed to hear from another librarian that she didn't think she should buy these books for the school library because she thought they were for toddlers just based on the front cover. I told her I think they are great for beginning readers. Large print, repetitive, simple text, complex story lines told in brilliantly simple language and evocative illustrations! Even the firm weight of the pages and the solid binding show that it is meant for the earnest, passionate use of beginning readers intent on unlocking the code. In my experience preschool, kindergarten and first graders love them. I told her we had to buy them all for our library and for home. I am sure she just hadn't given them a real look before. I enlightened her immediately and a first grade teacher standing next to us confirmed it.

There are seven titles in the series of Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems. I Love My New Toy and I Will Surprise My Friend are nominated for Cybils Easy Reader Awards. Mo Willems shared on his blog that Kirkus named Surprise as a best book of 2008.

Friday, November 21, 2008

What I Would Photograph

nov. 16 011

What I Would Photograph

The light in the glass
of those ancient bottles,
green wobbled sea jewels
wrapped in spider webs...

The light in the small hands
chubby and round,
brown fragrant spice
and more than clever...

The light in the trees
outside my window,
scarlet flashes of blood
from a sudden wound...

The light in the cat's eyes
while she watches squirrels
with her tail curled but
twitching just the tip...

The light in the first flakes
of morning's sudden snow,
slowing commuters with
a hush of beauty...

The light in my brother's grin
thown over his shoulder quick
before he turns and
closes the door...

.....-Andromeda Jazmon

Miss Rumphius's Poetry Stretch this week was to write a list poem. I dropped my camera last Sunday and haven't been able to take a picture all week. These are just a few of the things I've wished I could've captured.

Today's Poetry Friday round up is over at Holly Cupala's blog. Go enjoy!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Caps to Cap-Haitien

I've just found a new craft blog called Mama to Mama and I am excited about joining in on her Caps to Cap Haitien project. She is organizing a drive to make and send handmade newborn infant caps to be distributed with Konbit Sante birthing kits in Haiti:
"The Caps to Cap-Haitien Project: A Partnership with Konbit Sante, will initially provide newborn jersey caps to be distributed in Safe Birthing Kits in northern Haiti. [...] Konbit Sante is working to assemble Safe Birthing Kits to be distributed by traditional birth attendants in the desperately poor Fort St. Michel area of Cap-Haitien. These kits - consisting of plastic sheeting, hand sanitizer, a sterile piece of string and razor blade, and these newborn baby caps - have the potential to reduce infant and maternal mortality, and give babies a safer, healthier start."

Read more about it here and download the pattern here along with the address of where to send them. You can use old tee shirts and all it involves is a simple seam to sew. Caps should be mailed by December 10 so it's a perfect Thanksgiving project! Please leave a comment and let me know if you are interested in joining in.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

November 11 Haiku

Nov. 10 001

playground at dusk;
under a color-washed sky
laughter settles

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Obama Grabs Headlines

Wanna see the headlines from November 5, 2008 on papers from all over the world? Click here and scroll down... and down... and down...

Still celebrating over here!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Poem for Election Day 2008

color election morning_edited-1

Election Day 2008

Bleary eyed, clutching coffee and cheerful
we rose early and went out to vote.
An old Black man sitting along the wall
watched me lean down to take my little boy’s coat.
I caught his eye and joy rushed back.
Heard somebody say “We as a people will get there.”

A white woman sitting along the wall
beamed with delight at my little Black boys.
We couldn’t stop smiling, knowing we had
on one ticket a Woman; on the other a Black man &
never before have we had such a choice.
Heard somebody say “A brighter day is coming.”

When I cast my vote and turned to go
my youngest laughed and ran from me.
He put himself back in the middle of the line
standing up proud behind suited legs.
“He wants to vote!”My neighbors laughed.
Heard somebody say “…we are all in this together.”

Later that night in Grant Park, Illinois
the people roared with hope.
Our man stood up above the crowd
and spoke in a clear strong voice:
“Our stories are singular but our destiny is shared.”
Amen! Go ahead on! Amen!

.................................................- Andromeda Jazmon

boy watching election

I took the above photo early on election day while we stood outside the polling place waiting for it to open. The original photo is not that great so I played with it a bit in Photoshop. The poem is inspired by the most exciting and hopeful election day I've ever experienced.

Today's Friday Poetry roundup is at Check It Out. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Odd Cinquain

Nov. 5 009

curtain of
falling leaves outside
library windows; I watch and

The Monday Poetry Stretch this week was an "Odd Cinquain". Cinquain is a poetic form involving five lines with a set number of syllables. Trisha has challenged us to write it "odd" in lines of 1,3,5,7,1. It was quite difficult! There is a definite tension and it leaves me feeling a bit breathless. Try one why don't you?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

American Indian Perspectives on Thanksgiving

"Each November educators across the country teach their students about the First Thanksgiving, a quintessentially American holiday. They try to give students an accurate picture of what happened in Plymouth in 1621 and explain how that event fits into American history. Unfortunately, many teaching materials give an incomplete, if not inaccurate, portrayal of the first Thanksgiving, particularly of the event’s Native American participants."

This quote is from the poster I received in the mail today from the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian. If you're teaching or celebrating Thanksgiving with kids this year you will love the resources here.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

An Email to Pass On Today:

Election 2008 Voting Information

Today, November 4th, is Election Day! Remember to vote—not just for Barack Obama, but for Congressional, state, and local candidates as well.

Where and when do I vote?

Find your polling place, voting times, and other important information by checking out these sites and the hotline below. These resources are good, but not perfect. To be doubly sure, you can also contact your local elections office.

What should I do before I go?

  • After you've entered your address on either Vote For Change or Vote411, read the voting instructions and special rules for your state.
  • Voting ID laws vary from state to state, but if you have ID, bring it.
  • Check out all the voting myths and misinformation to look out for: http://truth.voteforchange.com/

What if something goes wrong?

  • Not on the voter list? Make sure you're at the right polling place, then demand a provisional ballot.
  • If you're voting on an electronic machine with a paper record, verify that the record is accurate.
  • Need legal help? Call 1-866-OUR-VOTE.
  • If you encounter a problem, try to videotape the situation and submit it to VideoTheVote.org

Want to do more?

  • Text all of your friends: "Vote Obama today! Pass it on!"
  • Volunteer at your local Obama office. Find an office here or here.

Now, everybody go vote!!!

MOVEON.ORG POLITICAL ACTION, http://pol.moveon.org/.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

November 2 Haiku

Nov. 1 020

look closely -
the parking lot landscaping
waves delicately

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Time Off to Vote Laws?

With election day coming in just three more days I am excited to join in with bloggers all over the kidlitosphere who are blogging about our voting rights. Colleen Mondor at Chasing Ray, Lee Wind and Gregory K. at Gottabook hatched a plan to bring us all together to Blog the Vote.

I am hearing reports on the radio that record voter turnouts are expected. Long lines, problems with voting machines, and unexpected delays are all getting me wondering about whether it will be possible for me to vote before work on Tuesday. Since I work about 45 minutes from my voting district and I have two kids to pick up on the way home I am afraid it will be too late to go after work. I was talking about it in the lunch room on Friday and my tech director said he thought there was a law assuring workers of their right to time off to vote. He said employers can not penalize workers for being late if they are waiting to vote. I said what if we are all late but the kids are on time? He said that would be interesting.

He has just recently moved here from another state so I wondered if it was a state law from his home state that didn't carry over to our current state. Since I'm a librarian I just had to do a little research to find out. I found some interesting sites.

It turns out it is a state law and not all the states have them. Here is a site where you can check your state and see what you qualify for: in some places you must not have your pay docked if you had to miss work to vote. In some states (including mine) there are no such laws at all and it's up to your employer to say what they will tolerate.

I am planning to get to the polling place in my neighborhood a little before they open at 7 am, and I hope not too many other folks will be up that early. If I have to wait a long time in line I'll just be late for work. I think it's OK because I don't teach an early class on Tuesday. Hopefully if I'm late my tech. director will be later for doing the same thing!

I can be a bit light hearted about it because I don't think I would be seriously penalized if I were late because of voting. But what if I were? What if I had a job I could lose just for coming in late? Plenty of people are in that situation. What about you? How important is it to you to vote and what would you give up for the opportunity?

I think the reason we are all expecting huge crowds this time around is that we have an election with dynamic, driven, highly respected candidates who are running on what they really believe is in our best interest as a country. Whether you agree with either of them or not, it's clear that they both are serious in their intentions. Now more than ever it is important to get out there and let your choice, your vote, your voice have an impact on the direction we take. There is no standing on the sidelines. We are all in this one.

Take some time to check out the laws in your state. Know where you are going to get to your polling place, bring ID just in case, and find out if it's OK for you to be late for work to vote. This is going to be one of the more exciting voting days in our lives - don't miss it!

Check out the round up at Chasing Ray to see what everyone else is blogging about around the theme of Voting.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Hip Hop Speaks to Children

A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat edited by Nikki Giovanni. Sourcebooks, 2008. Review copy. This is a rich book of poetry with an accompanying CD that includes background explanations, poems read by the original writers, excerpts from storytelling and speeches, blues, song, rhymes and rap. In Giovanni's interview with Tony Cox on NPR a few weeks ago she explains why the book covers such a broad range all under the label of hip hop. She goes back through the history of Black oratory, music, and poetry, showing how hip hop has legitimate roots in the Biblical storytelling of churches and the speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. In another interview on NPR on October 13 she says,
"It's not religious what we're trying to do; we're trying to deal with the cultural end of it," Giovanni says. "So if we have a young, Jewish kid in East Point, North Carolina, who has no occasion to go into a black church, they can now begin to understand, 'Oh, this is where that cadence comes from.' That the history is going to be there, and they can enjoy it without having to compromise their religious beliefs."
I've been reading the book and listening to the CD with my sons and we are really enjoying it. I am glad they get the chance to hear the included works by Eloise Greenfield, Jacqueline Woodson, A Tribe Called Quest, Gary Soto, Kanye West, Sugarhill Gang, Queen Latifah, Oscar Brown, Jr., Walter Dean Meyers, and Paul Laurence Dunbar among others. My favorite poem in the collection is not on the CD, however. There are several poems by Langston Hughes that are read by the poet, but this one, which I particularly love, can only be read off the page:

Harlem Night Song

by Langston Hughes

let us roam the night together

I love you.
Across The Harlem roof-tops
moon is shining
night sky is blue
stars are great drops
of golden dew.

Down the street
a band is playing
I love you.

let us roam the night together

This is a really wonderful collection that will be enjoyed for years.

Other reviews:

Nikki Giovanni will be at the Multicultural Children's Book Festival in Washington DC this Saturday, Nov. 1. If you can make it there, GO!

The Friday Poetry round up is over at Poetry for Children today. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Annie and Snowball and the Teacup Club

by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Sucie Stevenson. Simon & Schuster, 2008. (View and excerpt by clicking the link on the publisher's name). I've loved Cynthia Rylant's beginning readers ever since my oldest son was learning to read with Henry and Mudge back in the early 90s. Annie is Henry's cousin and best friend, and Snowball is her pet rabbit. Annie loves dainty, frilly things. She loves her teacup collection and she wants to find some friends who will enjoy it with her. As much as she loves Henry and Mudge, his 200 pound dog, she knows that they are more interested in messy, drooly things. She knows she can have fun with them but also wants to have fun at a dainty tea party.

When she tells Henry she wants to find some"teacup friends" he suggests she start a club. Great idea! They make a sign and have seven teacup girls call up to join the club. My favorite part of the story is that Annie's dad is the one who helps her arrange the party and make the sugar cookies. No mention of her mother so I think he's a single father. At the party "Annie was proud that her dad was such a good mother, too." So although the book appears to follow gender roles with girls in dresses and shiny shoes loving pink and boys loving drool and mess, her father is a role model for an adult that can do either. Nice balance!

The story is interesting and the vocabulary is just varied enough, with some repetition for readers still needing sure footing on familiar words. The pacing is just right with an interesting problem for kindergarten and first grade social development and a satisfying resolution. I think my boys will like this book as much as the girls in their kindergarten and preschool classes.

Annie and Snowball and the Teacup Club is on the Cybils nomination list for Easy Readers. It's a Level 2 book (Reading Independently) in Simon & Schuster's Ready -To- Read series.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Review: Seven Miles to Freedom

The Robert Smalls Story by Janet Halfmann, illustrated by Duane Smith. Lee & Low books, 2008. Review copy. Sometimes I get tired of reading about slavery from the perspective of Blacks/Africans as helpless victims. You don't often get exciting stories of heroism and resistance by smart, brave, persistent African Americans who spent their lifetime working for justice and freedom. Robert Smalls is such a man and Seven Miles to Freedom is a thrilling biography for elementary age children.

Halfmann, whose book Little Skink's Tail I reviewed last year, has written an engaging, exciting book about Small's early life in slavery and his passion for freedom. He grew up on a plantation in Beaufort, South Carolina where his owner had him employed for profit from a young age. He began working on the docks at the age of 15 and learned the trades of navigation and piloting the ships in and out of the harbor. When he and his wife began to have children his desire for freedom deepened. During the Civil War he was working on a Confederate steamer carrying soldiers and equipment in and out of Charleston Harbor. By ingenuity and courage he was able to commandeer the ship while the crew was on shore. He impersonated the captain and stole the boat across lines into Northern territory in the dead of night, escaping with the African American slave crew and all of their families. Halfmann tells the story full of suspense and significance, giving young readers a clear picture of the danger and the imperative hunger for justice and freedom.

At first I was not overly attracted to the illustration style, as it is an impressionistic rendering full of broad strokes in bold colors. The faces are not drawn with detail and the nuances require careful study. After I had read it a couple times I began to understand the power of this presentation. Because the figures are indistinct it becomes apparent that these are everyday people just like us. Smalls is not some out of the ordinary superhero - he was a man determined to do as much as he could with what he had in the time he had. The portraits of Smalls with his wife and baby, and the outline of him standing tall and proud on the ship in his uniform meeting the Union army are evocative of any citizen. That he fought slavery for his people and his country is inspiring.

Halfmann gives us a full page of text at the end of the story, telling us what happened later in Small's life. He was praised as a national hero, worked as pilot for the Union navy, and went on to serve on the state legislature of South Carolina where he assisted in writing a new democratic state constitution as well as a proposal for the creation of the state's first free system of public education for all children. He spent the rest of his life fighting for equal voting rights for African Americans and women. Robert died at the age of 75 in 1915. In 2004 the Major General Robert Smalls was christened by the US Army as the first vessel ever named after an African American. Robert Smalls is an American hero and this picture book is a wonderful edition to any library.

In writer's workshop you could use this book as an example of how to create a narrative arc, building suspense and leading readers on through carefully planned pacing and page breaks. Halfmann's cleverly build back-story and thoughtful use of details along with a balanced portrayal of the institution of slavery gives a lot of discussion material for middle grade students.

Other reviews:

The Well Read Child
School Library Journal
Charlotte's Library
Janet Halfmann at Chicken Spaghetti
Duane Smith at The Brown Bookshelf

The nonfiction roundup is at Picture Book of the Day. Enjoy!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Original Poem: Geese Fly

jan 18 034

Geese fly in V’s across the autumn blue -
My young son wants to know the reason why.
“How do they know?” he asks,” Who’s in the front?”
When I explain he pauses deep in thought.
His mind leaps forward, then he says, “So geese
can sometimes fight and sometimes help a friend?”
“Yes”, I said, “like that”. And then we drove
and noticed geese in fields, not one alone.
..........................-Andromeda Jazmon

jan 18 032

I took the photos last January and wrote the poem this morning in response to Miss Rumphius' Monday Poetry Challenge this week. My son and I had this conversation in the car this morning and I was struck by his insight into the emotional/social life of geese based on my explaination of their flight behavior. The mind in kindergarten!

Friday Poetry round up is at Big A, little a today. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Chess in Kindergarten

I talked about some good chess books for kids age five to ten in a blog post on my photo blog Sandy Cove 365+ today. Have you ever played chess with kindergartners? That's what's on my schedule for 2:00 pm today. Fun times!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Review: Silent Music

A Story of Baghdad by James Rumford. Roaring Brook Press, 2008. Library copy. This is a truly beautiful book. Ali is a young boy living in Baghdad who loves soccer, "loud, parent-rattling music", dancing, and calligraphy. He says, "I love to make the ink flow - from my pen stopping and starting, gliding and sweeping, leaping, dancing to the silent music in my head." He compares the lines of ink in a long sentence to soccer players moving across the field in slow motion. He exclaims over the beauty of letters looping across the page in flowing shapes. And he shares how he struggles over some words that tangle the ink in knots.

Throughout the story there are examples of Arabic in lovely calligraphy, showing us the names of his family members and some basic vocabulary like "cat" and "camel". The warm, loving community of his family and friends bring us into his world. The art work is fascinating collages of texture and prints, drawings of his family and friends layered over samples of money, receipts, tickets, lists, stamps, and the fabulous calligraphy of the famous Yakut who lived in Baghdad eight hundred years ago and is still revered today.

Yakut wrote in a tower during a war, making beauty in a terrifying situation. Ali write into the night while Baghdad is bombed in 2003, trying to find beauty in a world of war. He ends the book with the startling insight,
"It's funny how easily my pen glides down the long, sweeping hooks of the work HARB - war... how stubbornly it resists me when I make the difficult waves and slanted staff of SALAM - peace... how much I have to practice until this word flows freely from my pen."
The collages on that page move from a scramble of fencing with stealth bombers circling to a filed of lilies and clouds with doves rising. This is a such a wonderful book! Any class doing readers and writers workshop would find so much to exclaim over and draw from this book. Use it also to teach the Quaker SPICES of Peace and Integrity. Highly recommended for home or school.

Friday, October 17, 2008

October 16 Haiku

Oct 16 006

October morning -
fog frames each remaining leaf
as glowing treasures

The Friday Poetry roundup is at Becky's Book Reviews. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Last Day to Nominate for a Cybil!

Tonight at 11:59 nominations close for a 2008 Children's and Young Adult Blogger's Literary award. I have two more suggestions if you haven't nominated anything yet.

In Graphic Novels:

Are there any books you were hoping to see on the lists that aren't?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

October 14 Haiku

Oct.13 015

softly she beckons
throwing reflections over water;
a winding path

Great Books not yet nominated for Cybils

Tomorrow is the last day to name your favorite books from 2008 for a Cybils award! If you haven't yet spoken up now is the time. Over one hundred children's book bloggers are on commitees eagerly waiting to review all the best books published between Jan. 1 and Oct. 15, 2008. It only takes one mention for a book to be on the list and sent to the review committee in nine categories:

All you have to do is leave a comment with title and author in the above linked posts. If someone else has already mentioned your favorites you don't want to repeat it though, because that is like wasting your vote. Because it's kind of hard to read through all the comments to check what's been left out I offer you a few suggestions of books I like that I don't see in the comments yet:

Fiction Picture Books:

Fleas! by Jeanne Steig

Mother Reader has a list of what's missing too.

Middle Grade Fiction:

(this book is a story told in verse, which as I understand it, means it does not go in the Poetry category but in Middle Grade Fiction)

Here's a list of what HAS been nominated by Semicolon.

Miss Rumphius has the list of what's been nominated for Non Fiction Picture books.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Cybils nominations round up

Only 3 more days to make your nominations for a 2008 Cybils book award! The Cybils (Children's and Young Adult Bloggers Literary book awards) are the only children's book awards done by bloggers. Click here for a pdf of the 2007 Finalists.

Anyone can nominate their favorite books of high quality and kid appeal in each of the nine categories. You can only nominate ONE book in each category, and every book only needs to be named ONCE. After it's on the list it goes to committee. The very best five books are chosen to go to the judging round, where a panel of book blogger judges will chose the best of the best.

Nominated Books by Genre

Last time I checked there were 43 Easy Readers on the list and many more yet to be named. What would you put on that list? How about for Poetry?

If you are blogging about the book lists and your hoping to see particular books get mentioned leave me a comment and I'll add your link.

Nominations close on October 15 (that's Wednesday folks!) The round up of blog posts about what books are already on the lists and what is still missing is here at the Cybils site. Amanda has a few more suggestions. Also, Cheryl has a list of what's missing in fiction picture books here. Go check and see what everyone is talking about!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

October 13 Haiku

Oct 10 003

morning sun catches
trees on fire with briefest gold;
fog settles on grass

Saturday, October 11, 2008

You Betcha

Read ThatOne's bio and buy a shirt supporting him here.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Cybils: Poetry books not yet nominated

The Cybils are the "Children's & Young Adult Blogger's Literary Awards." This is the only book award started, run and awarded by bloggers. We focus on the very best books with strong kid appeal that have been published in the last year. Anyone can nominate one book in each category. I've used my votes already so I'm going to list some suggestions for those of you who haven't done it yet.

Books not yet nominated for POETRY: (updated Sat. night)

Adventures of Isabel by Ogden Nash

Awful Ogre running wild by Jack Prelutsky

Carrots to cupcakes : reading, writing, and reciting poems about food by Susan M. Freese

Come and play : children of our world having fun by Bloomsbury

Keepers : treasure-hunt poems by John Frank

My dog may be a genius : poems by Jack Prelutsky

Please note: Each book only needs to be nominated ONCE. If it's on the list it will be carefully considered by the panel. Only the very best four or five books will be chosen in each category to go to the judges, who will then pick one winner. It doesn't make a difference how many people have nominated it.

Please check the comments at the Cybils site to see if your pick has already been named. If it's on the list add your second choice. Thanks so much for participating!

Check out all the rest of the categories and check the comments to see what's been nominated:

Nominated Books by Genre

Fantasy and Science Fiction
Fiction Picture Books
Graphic Novels
Middle Grade Fiction
Non-fiction: Middle Grade and Young Adult
Non-fiction Picture BooksPoetryYoung Adult Fiction
Easy Readers

Review: Tyrannosaurus Was a Beast

Dinosaur Poems by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Arnold Lobel. Scholastic, 1988. This is my two young sons' current favorite bedtime story. I had forgotten we even had the book until they found it on the bookshelf. Even when I try to pick something else they insist on searching for this book and bring it to the story spot, snuggling down on the pillows clutching it and discussing which poems we will read first. The two of them take turns picking a dinosaur poem from the title page, which has little avatar-like illustrations of each dinosaur. The newly-minted ritual is firm: youngest picks first, older brother picks last.

There are fourteen dinosaurs featured, some well known and some less familiar, such as Tyrannosuarus, Brachiosuarus, Leptopterygius (lep-toe-ter-IDGE-ee-us) and Questzalcoatulus (ket-sol-ko-AT-lus). Those pronunciations are given under the full page illustration for each dinosaur, thankfully. My three-year old's favorite poem starts out:

"Leptopterygius lived in the ocean,
Leptopterygius swam very fast,
its head was enormous, its fangs were abundant,
its temper ferocious, its appetite vast."

This poem is fun to say because it flows like music and it perfectly describes some of the qualities most fascinating to little boys. If you've got a dinosaur lover in your family this is the poetry book for you.

More on Jack Prelutsky and his poems at The Poetry Foundation. View the book illustrations and read a few more poems at Google book search.

Poetry Friday is at Picture Book of the Day today. Enjoy!