Saturday, March 29, 2008

National Poetry Month

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April is National Poetry Month. I plan to celebrate by posting a haiga (haiku and image) every day. I did it last year too and it was exhilarating and challenging. I would love to hear what you are doing this month with poetry. Here's a list of what I've found so far:

The blog ReadWritePoem has a master list of those posting poems every day. If you want to join in let them know what you are doing. You can add this cool button to your blog if you want. Get the button code here.

Other Resources:

Tips for teachers at

Poem in your Pocket Day (April 17)

Events listed at USAToday

NAPOWRIMO - Reen's blog Squash Blossom has a link list of poets and is NAPOWRIMO central.

Some short poetry forms to consider if you want to try writing every day.

Paper Tigers -celebrating poetry in April, starting with an interview with poet Janet S. Wong and the essay called Pairing Poetry Across Cultures by professor Sylvia Vardell. Also look for many articles, reviews, book lists, resource links and other poet/author interviews.

Kidlit bloggers posting poems or poetry themes in April:

Seven Imp is kicking off National Poetry Month on Tues. with a review of Imaginary Menagerie, complete with some art work from Julie Paschkis.

Laurel Snyder -blogging a quatrain (for kids) a day.

Deo Writer - "I plan to write a poem a day." At Check it Out, (school library blog) "for my Poetry Lunch Club we plan to write poems, put them on postcards and send them away."

Katie Davis -a limerick or haiku a day.

GottaBook - Greg's third year in a row posting an original poem! Subscribe to his Google Group and get a poem in your inbox here.

Lectitans, (the latin teacher) says, "I think I will try to translate a few
lines of Vergil's *Aeneid* every day."

Miss Rumphius -highlighting a poetry book a day and suggesting ways to use them in the classroom.

Wild Rose Reader - original poems, book lists & reviews, ideas for classrooms, interviews with poets... "I will also be giving away children’s poetry books to blog visitors who leave comments at my posts during the month of April." Here's Elaine's comprehensive list of links all about poetry and kids.

Marianne Nielsen - "I plan to post an original poem every day in the form of a Laturne"

Kelly Fineman - "I'll be doing poetry-related posts everyday in April (original poems, poems by others, analysis of poems, and discussion of writing poetry - it's a mashup)." at Writing and Ruminating

At A Year of Reading Mary Lee is planning some guests poets from her classroom on Poetry Fridays this month!

Kristy Dempsey, a new-to-me blogger, children's poet and author living in Brazil, will be doing poetry-related posts, original poems and/or translations.

Bugs and Bunnies: an informal contest for fellow bloggers to submit their own original poems. Deadline for entries is Thursday, April 10.

How about you? Leave a comment and I'll add your link.

The Nonfiction Monday roundup is over at Picture Book of the Day - don't miss it!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Daffodils by Ted Hughes

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I couldn't help myself looking for more daffodil poems this week. Driving to and from work I am overcome with glimpses of their nodding gold along the road and tucked into unexpected corners. I stood out in yesterday's mist to photograph the clutch beside my son's daycare.

march 27 005

Here is a poem by Ted Hughes. I've just given you the center of the second stanza and part of the third - you must click through to read the rest. It was published in his collection Birthday Letters in 1998, when he was Poet Laureate of England. The poems in this book are about his relationship to his late wife Sylvia Plath.

Treasure trove.
They simply came,
And they kept on coming.
As if not from the sod but falling from heaven.
Our lives were still a raid on our own good luck.
We knew we'd live forever. We had not learned
What a fleeting glance of the everlasting
Daffodils are.

march 27 006

In the rain of that April-your last April.
We bent there together, among the soft shrieks
Of their jostled stems, the wet shocks shaken
Of their girlish dance-frocks-
Fresh-opened dragonflies, wet and flimsy,
Opened too early.

march 27 005

The Friday Poetry round up is at Cuentecitos this week. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Review: Jesus Loves Me

illustrated by Tim Warnes. Simon & Schuster, 2008 board book edition. Warnes has illustrated the classic hymn Jesus Loves Me with scenes from life in a warm, loving family of bears. The text is spread out throughout the book with a line or two for each picture. It includes the familiar first verse, the chorus and a couple of verses I had never heard before. I bought it for my three year old's Easter basket because of the cheerful spring theme and because that is his favorite bedtime lullaby.

The bears are working in the garden together, fishing, gathering eggs, decorating them for Easter and enjoying an egg hunt on bright spring days. It starts early in the morning and ends with a sweet bedtime story. The board book format is perfect for little hands. We are greatly enjoying it in our evening story time. This is one I plan to pass on in many gifts.

Children's Book Week Finalists

Read on JacketFlap this week:

"The Children's Choice Book Awards program was created to provide young readers with an opportunity to voice their opinions about the books being written for them and to help develop a reading list that will motivate children to read. Children will be able to cast their vote for their favorite books, author, and illustrator at bookstores, school libraries, and at until Sunday, May 4, 2008. 10,000 children in five teams from around the US spent months reading and evaluating books submitted by publishers. They looked at hundreds of titles. The five favorite books published in 2007 in each of these categories are open for a nation-wide vote in March and April 2008 in each of three grade categories: K-2, 3-4, 5-6 as well as Favorite Author, and Favorite Illustrator. The winner in each category will be named at a gala during Children's Book Week on May 13th, 2008 in New York City. "

From Children's Book Week Online: "Since 1919, Children's Book Week has been celebrated nationally in schools, libraries, bookstores, clubs, private homes-any place where there are children and books. Educators, librarians, booksellers, and families have celebrated children's books and the love of reading with storytelling, parties, author and illustrator appearances, and other book related events."

This is an award chosen by kids. There are sections for kids in grades kindergarten through sixth, with authors from Jan Brett to Anthony Horowitz. Your children/students can vote for their favorite authors and books by going to the website. You can print out the list or the book covers, have them vote in your classroom, and then go put the votes in as their teacher if you don’t want to send them to the Internet (a good choice for the lower grades). It might be fun for the kids to see what other kids are choosing and what the favorite books are…

Download book lists, posters, bookmarks, activity guides and lots more here.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Review: The Buddha's Diamonds

by Carolyn Marsden and Thay Phap Niem. Candlewick Press, 2008, paperback review copy. This story is based on the childhood events of Thay Phap Niem, now a Buddhist monk. Growing up in post-war Viet Nam, he lived in a small fishing village. In The Buddha's Diamonds the boy Tinh is ten years old and beginning to take on adult responsibilities as he fishes with his father in their handmade bamboo boat. When a typhoon hits and their boat is destroyed he feels responsible for not acting quickly enough to save it. He struggles with mixed emotions, wanting to play with toy cars with the other boys and also wanting to help his father feed the family.

What I really love about this book is the clear, simple way the Buddhist faith is presented. In the opening chapter Tinh is at the Buddhist temple with his parents listening to the monks and nuns chant. Although his cousins and friends are outside playing soccer, Tinh looks forward to this peaceful time each week listening to the temple bells. An old monk gives a talk about how each of us has a handful of diamonds, or blessings from the Buddha. The moon, the ocean, our parents, our homes, the wind and the fish in the sea; all are gifts for us to enjoy. Tinh takes the message to heart and learns to see his world with new eyes.

Tinh offers incense, flowers, leaves and sweets to the statue of Phat Ba Quan Ahm, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, at the temple during the Lunar New Year.
"Tinh had felt Phat Ba Quan Ahm come to him. He'd felt her in the sunshine and in the breeze that tickled his cheeks. She manifested in the ripple of sun and shade under the trees. he sensed her in the air he breathed as he presented his sweet gift while the round shadow of the tray fell over his shoulders."

He understands that the statue is not the real thing but an image of the spirit of compassion. She has many arms with a thousand hands and eyes that watch over those who suffer. She is a mother figure as Buddha is a father figure.

Later on when Tinh is walking across an old abandoned mine field that may still contain live mines he contemplates the happiness and courage of the Buddha.
"By tomorrow the boat would be ready for the ocean once again. But for now, he was just walking over the sand. The repaired propeller and the flower bouquet firmly in his hands, Tinh began to smile. He was ready to accept the Buddha's diamonds; the first stars, the dome of the sky overhead, the birds hurrying to nest, his own heart. beating. Steadily, Tinh crossed the sand dunes. No ghosts came to torture him. No land mines exploded. He reached the cemetery as the light faded. He found the gravestones of Banoi and Ong Noi. Kneeling, he laid down his tiny bouquet for his beloved ancestors. Beside it, he laid the pendant. Taking a last look at the Buddha's smile, Tinh walked into the night."

This book is written for middle grades and reads quickly. I think older readers will enjoy it as well for its vivid descriptions of life in rural Viet Nam and its graceful presentation of Buddhism lived meaningfully by a boy.

All of Thay Phap Niem's royalties will be donated to the Touching and Helping Programs in Vietnam.

March 26 Tanka

Trisha's Monday Poetry stretch this week is to compose a Tanka. She says, "Tanka is a form of Japanese poetry that has been practiced for more than 1000 years. Tanka are composed of 31 syllables in a 5/7/5/7/7 format. Most tanka focus on a single event of some significance." Read more at Tanka Online.

march 24 019

Fifty years
enclosed on hard packed dirt;
zoo elephant
seeks retirement
to open green space.

I took my three year old to the zoo the other day to celebrate his birthday. We greatly enjoyed seeing the elephants. I realized I have been visiting these elephants most of my life and admiring them. When I looked up the zoo website to read more about them I discovered that they are scheduled to move to another zoo this spring because their present home is inadequate for their needs. There is a group advocating sending them to a sanctuary where they can live on open land in a herd of like-minded elephants. I am sad to think of these lovely animals living in a small, hard packed dirt enclosure all their lives simple for the benefit of my viewing.

Links to elephant sanctuaries:


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

March 25 Haiku

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tiny spring flowers
waiting by the front step;
no rush

This week's prompt at One Single Impression (a haiku community) is spring. Go enjoy other haiku links here.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Review: Psalms for Young Children

by Marie-Helene Delval, illustrated by Arno. Eerdmans, 2008. First published in France in 2003. The book of Psalms in the Bible is one of the poetry sections. Every human emotion and experience can be found expressed in these 149 songs written by King David and other ancient Hebrew poets. Psalms for Young Children is a collection of 40 paraphrased Psalms written in simple, direct language accessible to young children. Adults will enjoy it as well because it does not sugar coat or dismiss the genuine feelings we all share. Joy, sadness, fear, comfort, happiness, longing, regret, sorrow and contentment all are found in these brief expressions from a lifelong dialog with God.

Psalm 23: "God is my shepherd. He leads me in the right direction. And even if I have to walk in a dark place, I am not scared. I know nothing will hurt me if I walk with God!"

Psalm 88: "God, please listen to me. I am full of sadness, I am crying. I feel lonely and scared. Do you really love me? I'm calling you, God. Please comfort me!"

Psalm 108: "My heart is ready, God. I want to sing. I want to play music for you on the strings of a harp or on a beating drum. Your love is bigger than the earth and sky!"

The illustrations are bold and bright, ranging from vivid desert colors to cool nights full of stars. Children of every hue ride the backs of elephants, sail across calm seas, dance through city streets or calmly gaze at still waters. I bought this hardback for my five year old son Buddy's Easter basket and look forward to sharing its poetry for years to come.

The Nonfiction Monday round up is at Picture Book of the Day.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Daffodils on a City Street

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The city streets run slick with rain
this early spring; the rows of high rise tunnel wind
that rushes tattered trash along the lane.

Each tower's bones with gray glass skinned
a great dull sheen that looms above our heads;
from mud to cloud the city vista's trimmed.

Not all is gray. There is reserved a bed
beneath the grimy, shrinking snow banks where
some tender hand has planned a blooming spread.

Now March has brought this jagged air;
one day is frigid, damp and wild,
the next is temperate, smooth and fair.

Shy shoots are witnessed by a child
then buds begin to swell in gold and green -
harried passers-by toss glances mild.

Cold rain still falls, umbrellas lean
into the wind; we dare not raise our eyes
above the splash of traffic sharp and mean.

Except in shock to marvel at this prize;
a golden host of sunny daffodils
wandering lonely as a cloud that lies
in deepest canyons of the city's hills.
...........-Andromeda Jazmon

Miss Rumphius has challenged us to write a poem in terza rima this week. She quotes,
"Handbook of Poetic Forms defines terza rima in this fashion.
Terza rima is a tumbling, interlocking rhyme scheme that was invented by the thirteenth-century Italian poet Dante for the creation of his long poem, The Divine Comedy.

Terza rima (an Italian phrase meaning "third rhyme") consists of a series of three-line stanzas (tercets) with the rhyme scheme aba bcb cdc ded and so on. It can go on as long as the poet wishes. At the end of the poem an extra line is often added to complete the structure: yzy z.

I've written about the daffodils growing along city streets with a nod to Wordsworth. It really is spring and around my neck of the woods and it's starting to look like it!

Friday Poetry is over at Wild Rose Reader this week. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Fusion Stories

At Mitali's Fire Escape I just read about a new blog initiative celebrating Asian American kidlit. From the press release:

"This year’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month begins May 1, 2008, and ten authors are banding together to offer FUSION STORIES (, a menu of delectable next-gen hot-off-the-press novels for middle readers and young adults. FUSION STORIES' critically acclaimed authors so far include Cherry Cheva (Los Angeles, CA), Justina Chen Headley (Seattle, WA), Grace Lin (Boston, MA), An Na (Montpelier, VT), Mitali Perkins (Boston, MA), Janet Wong (Princeton, NJ), Joyce Lee Wong (Los Angeles, CA), Lisa Yee (South Pasadena, CA), David Yoo (Boston, MA), and Paula Yoo (Los Angeles, CA).

FUSION STORIES aims to be a helpful resource for parents, educators, and young readers, so if you know of a novel that (1) is for middle readers or teens, (2) was published in 2007-2008 by a traditional publishing house, (3) features an Asian American protagonist, and (4) is set primarily in contemporary America, please send a .jpg of the cover, a .jpg of the author, one or two reviews, and a brief description of the novel to FUSION STORIES would be delighted to add titles and authors to the site.

A press kit package (available at FUSION STORIES, includes downloads, bios of FUSION STORIES authors, information on their books, and conversations with experts about Asian American literature for young readers. For more information, review copies, or interview requests with any of the authors, please contact"
Looking forward to reading more of that!

March 20; Officially Spring


Siberian squill
emerges from tired ground-
photographer kneels

Review: Chicken Sunday

by Patricia Polacco This is a story from Polacco's childhood. As a girl she and her neighbors Winston and Stewart want to raise enough money to buy the boy's grandmother a new Easter bonnet that she has been admiring. Patricia is over their house for chicken dinner every Sunday and she considers Miss Eula her grandmother too. When they go to try to get a job at the hat shop they are mistaken for some bigger boys who threw eggs at the back door. Old Mr. Kodinski, a concentration camp survivor with a number tattooed on his arm, is a frightening, grouchy old man. After asking Miss Eula what to do the children make "Pysanky" eggs decorated with dye and wax. In order to prove their innocence and restore their good character they bravely go back and offer him the eggs. He is so impressed with their work he suggests that they sell the eggs in his shop to earn the money they need. The eggs sell immediately and out of kindness he gives them the very hat that Miss Eula desires. The story ends with everyone in church on Sunday morning listening to Miss Eula sing with a voice "that sounds like slow thunder and sweet rain."

You can use this heart-warming story to teach memoir writing and the Quaker SPICEs of peace, community, and integrity. Some of the more intense aspects good for discussion with older students are only indicated in the illustrations (like the concentration camp tatoo.) I bought it for my five year old son Buddy's Easter basket.


Polacco's website where you can read a summary, get art work, postcards, posters and activity downloads. Links here for all of her other books.

Lesson plans, author study, artwork from the book, and information on how to make Pysanky eggs, etc.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Barack Obama

This is why I am voting for this man: he gives me hope.

From Barack Obama's speech today in Philadelphia on on race and the campaign:

"Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not. I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork. We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias.

But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America – to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.

The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through – a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.


For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, “Not this time.” This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time."

Go read the rest here at the New York Time. It's long, but it's worth every word.

March Pay It Forward Winner

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The House of Djinn by Suzanne Fisher Stapes
was my March Pay it Forward book giveaway. I picked one lucky person from the comments on this post for the book. This is the third book in the stories of the life of Shabanu, a young woman living with her family in the desert of Pakistan.

And the winner is...

Tiffany!!! God Bless you and your family Tiffany, and comfort you in the loss of your sweet daughter. Send me your snail mail at cloudscomeATyahooDOTcom and I'll shoot your your book.

Everyone: Click on over to Overwhelmed with Joy and see what other books are up for grabs this month. 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 the book post.
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 a book away for free to one of your readers. If you're a non-blogger who has won the book, please consider donating a 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!

Easter Books

violet sunshine 4

I'm going through all our bookshelves rounding up Easter books and bunny books. Here's what we have so far:

The Easter Story by Patricia A. Pingry, illustrated by Mary Ann Utt. This board book tells the story of Jesus in simple, direct language. It starts out explaining that "when we celebrate Easter, we remember that God gave us his Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Savior." Jesus' healing miracles and love are contrasted with those who were angry and frightened at his teaching. Scenes of Jesus and his followers are presented from Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday. This is a good book for families with young children celebrating at home and participating in church services through out Holy Week, introducing children to the Christian holiday.

Why is There a Cross? by Kathleen Long Bostrom, illustrated by Elena Kucharik. A questions my five year old often has is "Why did Jesus have to die on the cross?" That is a hard one to answer for anyone, but especially hard to explain to a young child. I don't like to come down heavy on the sin and punishment rational. I try to emphasis the love and mercy of God. I found this book in the bookstore that does that very well, and includes children of all races.

The National Geographic book Celebrate Easter by Barbara Heiligman. Beautiful photos of people all around the world in their various styles of celebration and worship. Simple, clear explanations of the history, mythology and practices of Easter. Fabulous book!

The Whispering Rabbit, by Margaret Wise Brown. A sweet story about a bunny who accidentally swallows a bumble bee and must find the quietest sound in the world to lure him out. Love this one!

Home for a Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown. Another sweet little story. A lonely bunny looks for a home to share with someone to love. Wise Brown follows the classic quest for home pattern with a satisfying ending.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter. We have both the Golden Book version illustrated by Cyndy Szekeres and the little F. Warne & Co. classic version.

Renchenka's Eggs by Patricia Polacco. Polacco is a masterful writer and artist. Her illustrations glow with joy. Her stories are often autobiographical and full of genuine folk history and humor from her family’s roots in the Ukraine, Russia and Ireland. She grew up very close to her grandparents and writes most of her stories about the magical relationships between older and younger people. She didn’t start illustrating and writing children’s books until she was in her 40s, another reason I like her! This particular story is full of miracles and revolves around Easter themes. Many of her picture books are very appropriate for middle grade and older children.

I always try to put a few books in the Easter baskets. I'm about to go over to the book store for some solitary browsing while my kids are at school. (Yippee! Mom's holiday!!) What would you recommend we add to our collection this year?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

March 15 Haiku

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lilac leaves unfurl
in the late afternoon light;
a child twirling

Friday, March 14, 2008

Irish Poet: Eavan Boland

lamp post

I've been reading more Irish poets this week. At Norton Online I found this new-to-me poet Eavan Boland. She was born in Dublin in 1944 and now teaches at Stanford U. Read all about here here at Wikipedia and follow links to interviews and more poems. Her 2007 book Domestic Violence contains this lovely gem:

Atlantis—A Lost Sonnet

How on earth did it happen, I used to wonder
that a whole city—arches, pillars, colonnades,
not to mention vehicles and animals—had all
one fine day gone under? the rest here.

Jama is doing the Friday Poetry round up and celebrating Bob Dylan today at jama rattagan's alphabet soup.

My favorite Dylan lyric for today is this:

"God Knows

God knows there's a river,
God knows how to make it flow,
God knows you ain't gonna be taking
Nothing with you when you go.

God knows there's a purpose,
God knows there's a chance,
God knows you can rise above the darkest hour
Of any circumstance.

God knows there's a heaven,
God knows it's out of sight,
God knows we can get all the way from here to there
Even if we've got to walk a million miles by candlelight."

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Review: The White

by Deborah Larsen. Knopf, 2002. In 1758 Mary Jemison was taken in a Shawnee raid of her home near Gettysburg, PA. Her family was scalped and killed and she alone survived. She was adopted by a Seneca family to replace their brother who had been killed by whites. Mary lived with the Seneca for the rest of her long life under the name of Two-Falling-Voices. In 1823 in New York State she told her story to a physician named James Seaver. He wrote a book called The Narrative of the Life of Mary Jemison: The White Woman of the Genesee. Deborah Larson has done research into the life of Mary Jemison and written this fictional account based on her real life.

It's a relatively short book and a quick read. It is written very poetically, full of beautiful description and poignant details. In the beginning Mary is mourning the lives of her family and deeply depressed. She has witnessed their murders and is horrified to see their scalps in the possession of her Indian companions. Because Mary's new sisters love her and possess a rare wisdom she is nurtured beyond her grief. They are patient with her, they goad her into acknowledging the horror of what was done to her, and they challenge her to begin speaking again both in English and in Seneca. As she recovers from the initial shock of her lost family she mourns the loss of her knowledge of reading and writing in English. She hadn't been literate long enough to hold onto it when her world was torn apart. At last she comes to the point where she lets it go and looks for something else to replace it. She
"...loved the world. She loved the open air and the contrasts of its temperatures; earth dry and sodden, loamy and rock-like; fire and its warmth and scorch; water, cleansing and flooding. The closer she came to these things the more she realized that words were not the same as the real wild onion, the actual rabbit fur, the coiled fern frond, the lightening. It came to me that I could listen, could memorize, could speak, could tell stories, could sing, and that in two languages, to be sure. That was what I would do. I would not let one word escape me; I would speak new words aloud as I learned them so as not to forge them. I would pay attention to the human voice; I myself would speak carefully and expressively; I would never mumble. And I could give my children this gift: the words, the names, the arrangements of words, the pitches - rising notes, falling notes. I would teach them about the world using my ears, my throat and tongue. I would speak the things of the earth out loud, so loud that the moon itself would feel called upon and would incline to my signals."
Her life is a passionate mixture of joy and sadness. She marries twice and gives birth to seven children. She buries both husbands and five children. She builds houses and buys land. At several times she has the opportunity to return to white society and she feels deeply ambivalent about it. Each time she chooses to stay with her Indian people. At the end of her life she sells her ten thousand acres of land to move to the Buffalo Creek Reservation in order to stay with them.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and I plan to go back and read it again for the pure pleasure of it. It's a very romantic picture of what it could have been like to be whisked away from a dull, grueling life of drudgery as a stiff, strict Presbyterian pioneer's daughter into an idealized Native community. There is shocking violence and horrible treachery, to be sure, but the mellow, beautiful, satisfying eddies of her life more than balance that and make her life ultimately deeply attractive. I would call the whole thing a fairy tale from my childhood daydreams if it were not actually based on a real woman's life; a woman who did indeed marry twice, raise six children and own land as a white Seneca woman. In the preface Larson tells us that Mary is reported to comment on her telling of the story of her life to James Seaver "...but I did not tell them who wrote it down half of what it was." Larson's imaginative writing of what it might have been makes a fantastic story. Larson lives in Gettysburg now with her family and teaches at Gettysburg college.


Helium Reviews
Random House
The White at Amazon

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Quaker Meeting House Doors

meeting house door.JPG

Sara's passed the word:
"It's a blog group art event!" as Jennifer Thermes says. Bloggers from all over the world are posting pictures of doors today. Go check it out. (Do not miss the doors from Marrakesh.)"

These are the doors to a Quaker Meeting House left wide open last fall, inviting the warm autumn breezes and passing contemplatives.

I love photographing doors.


I was feeling a little down yesterday because it seems comments are down. I was away at a workshop on Monday and hadn't posted anything since Friday, so I shouldn't be complaining, but nonetheless it is a bit discouraging. I decided I should make a greater effort to comment on other people's blogs instead of moaning about my own.

So this morning I went after my full feedreader. (I use bloglines but here is a wiki telling how to set up Google Reader). The first blog I read was Crazy for Kids Books, where I found a post telling us how to make a talking avitar or Voki. What fun! But since I am often reading blogs in the library and I don't want to attract attention, I don't think I'll do that one just yet. I followed her links to The Edublogger and found a bunch of other interesting stuff.

This article on Conversations caught my eye right away. She says,
"The most important aspect of blogging, and where the true learning happens, is in the conversations. Blogging conversation like these are powerful because you are drawing from a diverse range of people, from various backgrounds, with a variety of experiences. Each individual shares their differing perceptive leading to greater gain and innovation by all involved. "
That is so true! That's why I miss the comments. I want to know what other people think about what I'm reading and I want to follow the thread to see what develops in the group mind. Here's what she says about how to keep the conversations going.

One thing I've noticed about Friday Poetry; I always look forward to seeing what poems others are posting and I try to comment on as many as possible. The trouble is I always forget where I've found ideas or made comments that I want to follow up on or where I am hoping to read further on what others are saying. I have a terribly short attention span so by Sunday or Monday I've forgotten all about Friday's comments. I've tried various ways to track comments, including technorati tags and RSS, but so far it's always been to complicated and time-consuming to keep up with. Today I found another edublog post addressing just this subject: Managing Comments.
"Blogging is all about having the conversations — not talking to yourself! True conversations, which is what we want to achieve, is when we all, author and commenters interact."
Step by step directions are given for setting up co.mment, which I am in the process of learning to do. I'd love to hear what anyone else thinks of this or how you keep track of comment conversations. What works for you?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Review: Un Lun Dun

written and illustrated by China Mieville. Ballantine Books, 2007. (advance review copy of paperback edition with teacher's guide) Un Lun Dun is fantasy author Meiville's first novel for young adults. It has been compared to Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz and The Phantom Tollbooth. Mieville gives inspirational credits to Joan Aiken, Clive Barker, Lewis Carroll, Michale D Larrabeiti, Tanith Lee, Walter Moers, Beatrix Potter and Neil Gaiman in his acknowledgments. I found the book to be engaging and highly amusing. After the first chapter I wanted to stay up all night reading but forced myself to settle down and enjoy a leisurely read spread out over a week or so. I found myself looking forward to those evenings after the little boys were in bed and I could return to Un Lun Dun to see what Deeba, our heroine, was up to.

Deeba and her best friend Zanna live in London. They are mystified when strange attention begins to find Zanna. Foxes and dogs start following her around and quietly gazing at her. Messages are left for her and a stranger hands her a ticket she can not decipher. One night they observe an umbrella sneaking around her window and they follow its crabish scampering down an alley. They end up in a basement that whisks them to another world freakishly named Un London. Un Lun Dun - London on an acid trip. Trash is animated and housed are built out of abandoned junk seeping through from our world. Crazily enough, they've been waiting for Zanna to come and save their world. She is immediately recognized as the "Shwazzy" or the Chosen One.

Unfortunately she is not up for the task. The evil Smog, which is seeking to take over Un Lun Don, and then the universe, easily knocks her out. Deeba is able to bring her back to London and heal her, leaving Un Lun Dun to growing war. Deeba is not able to forget her friends there and finds evidence that the man they thought was going to lead them is in fact a traitor. She returns to set things right and is drawn into the struggle.

It turns out that the Swazzy was not their best hope. Deeba's courage, common sense and ingenuity bring her to become the true heroine. Time and again she gets in a tight spot that seems to have no escape only to come up with something unexpected and brilliant that turns the situation around and defeats her enemy. Although she repeatedly refuses to accept the role of savior, she keeps revealing a unique brilliance that perfectly out-thinks the evil threatening her and her friends. The constant plot twists and up and down action are full of delightful surprises revealing Deeba's humble, never-outdone creativity and persistence.

I have to say the most satisfying, entertaining part of the book for me is the extremely clever use of language. As I said, everything in Un Lun Dun is freaked-out. The trash is animated so one of Deeba's companions is a milk carton that follows her around like a pet. There is a book that speaks prophesies and becomes depressed when it turns out he's wrong about the Swazzy. The leaders call themselves the Propheseers and keep and office on a moving bridge called the Pons Absconditus. It is guarded by living trash cans called the Binja, who fight with martial arts-like intensity. The moon is shaped like a peppermint lifesaver, with a hole in the middle, and is called the Loon. One of Deeba's new best friends is a half-ghost boy called Hemi. They go on a quest to find a weapon called an Ungun. The only thing their enemy The Smog is afraid of is "the Ungun and nothing". Every time you think you have figured out what is going to happen next the whole thing turns upside down - but it all makes perfect sense with a dream-like logic.

The second time Deeba goes to Un Lun Dun she tries to enter by climbing the shelves in a library. She is not sure but she thinks, from following a clue on a scrap of paper, that the books will lead her into the other side. She climbs for a long time and the shelves continue to stretch above her. At last she reaches the top of an enormous tower.

"It was a cylinder, at least a hundred feet in diameter, hollow and book-lined. Outside, bricks went down the height of countless floors past small clouds and flocking bats, to UnLondon's streets. Inside, it was ringed with the bookshelves she had climbed. [...]

There was motion below her. There were people on the shelves. The clung to the edges of the cases and moved across them in expert scuttles. They wore ropes and hooks and carried picks on which they sometimes hung. Dangling from straps they carried notebooks, pens, magnifying glasses, ink pads, and stamps. [...]

"Can I help you?" the woman said. "I think there's been some mistake. How did you get past reception? These shelves aren't open-access."

"Sorry," said Deeba. "I don't know what you mean."

The woman moved like a spider just below her. She looked at Deeba over the top of her glasses.

"You're supposed to put in a request at the front desk, and one of us'll fetch whatever you're after," she said. "I'm going to have to ask you to go back." She pointed over at UnLondon.

"That's where I want to go," Deeba said, pulling off the glove and putting it in her bag. "But I came from inside."

"Wait... really?" the woman said excitedly. "You're a traveler? You came by storyladder? My goodness. It's been years since we've had an explorer. It's not an easy journey, after all. Still, you know what they say: 'All bookshelves lead to the Wordhoard Pit.' And here you are.

"I'm Margarita Staples." She bowed in her harness. "Extreme librarian. Bookaneer."

Doesn't that make you smile and think of one or two librarians you've known? I don't think I would qualify as an "Extreme librarian; Bookaneer", but I can think of someone who would.

Unfortunately while Deeba was back in London things went from bad to worse in UnLondon. She has come back to tell them what she knows; she ends up leading a small group of rebels that accept her knowledge and throw their lot in with her quest. The book culminates in a giant battle for the control of UnLondon against the deadly cloud of Smog. The action is wild and and there are casualties on both sides.

I really loved this book and I think anyone who likes fantasy and action will enjoy it. Highly recommended for grades 4 and up. At Random House you can read an interview with the author, get a teacher's guide and read an except.

Friday, March 07, 2008

John O'Donohue

Goldilocks forsythia

Last Sunday morning while cooking a great breakfast I listened to the NPR show "Speaking of Faith". Krisa Tippett was interviewing John O'Donohue, an Irish poet who passed away last December. I was so moved by hearing him recite his poetry I decided to post one here for Friday Poetry. Please follow these links to see lovely photos of green, green Ireland and hear him read his poem "Beannacht", a blessing he wrote for his mother after his father's death.

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you. the rest here.

"John O'Donohue was an Irish poet and philosopher beloved for his book Anam Cara — Gaelic for "soul friend" — and for his insistence on beauty as a human calling and a defining aspect of God."

Transcript of the interview with Krista Tippett on

Here is a Slideshow of him speaking the poem "Beannacht" with photos of him in Ireland.

The Poetry Friday Round-up is at The Simple and the Ordinary.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

March 6 Haiku

bicycle horn 2

left out;
bicycle horn announces
melting snow

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Review: One City, Two Brothers

By Chris Smith, illustrated by Aurelia Fronty. Barefoot Books, 2007. (review copy) Chris Smith has retold this Jewish/Arab fable of how the city of Jerusalem came to be. In the back of the book he says,
"If you ever happen to be traveling, and come to the point where Europe meets Asia, and where Asia meets Africa, you will find a city bursting with history and mystery. [...] This story gives an answer. The tale can be heard in synagogues around the world, told as a Jewish fable. it is also shared by Palestinian Arabs living in and around the city. told as an Arab folk tale."

He continues on telling a little of the history of this great city which has been home to prophets and people of Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths. Arabs, Turks and Europeans have all ruled there at various times. Readers will find Jerusalem is still often in the news as a disputed place. Reading this folktale gives a little perspective into the history of the people who love her.

The story tells of two brothers who come before their king over a land dispute after their father dies. King Solomon tells them the story of the city.
"Long ago, a river valley curved and curled its way through the land from the hills in the east to the sea in the west, its steep sides lined with orchards of olives and almonds. [...] Two brothers farmed a piece of land on the flat valley floor between the two villages, where the soil was rich and deep - perfect for farming."

The brothers have separate farms, each on his own land, but they work together to plant and harvest. They divide the harvest equally between them until the elder brother marries and starts having a houseful of children. The younger brother stays single, needing only to feed himself. The elder brother, out of gratitude for his wonderful family, thinks his younger brother must be lonely and so he secretly gives him some extra grain. He and his wife are mystified when the count of sacks of grain in their store never lessens. The younger brother has been thinking his elder brother needed a little extra because of all the children in his house... and so the two generous brothers pass each other every night in their secret acts of kindness. They are equally puzzled until one night they run into each other with their donkeys carrying sacks of grain. Their hearts filled with happiness as they realized the love they had both been shown. That hill, between the two villages, was the place where the city of Jerusalem began.
"That blessed spot, where the two brothers met, became the site of the holy temple."

So Chris Smith tells this touching story and brings to us the blessing of the fable.

Aurelia Fronty's paintings are glowing with warm earth colors. Many pages are vibrant greens and blues, showing the hills and valleys as fruitful and luxurious. Bright reds and yellows round out the pallet on alternating pages, bringing the story to life. This is a book to treasure and share. Use it to spark discussions of faith, community, kindness, trust and peace. Use it to expand and compliment discussions of Middle East conflict and peace. Add it to your folktale collection and enjoy it!

Barefoot Books is a small press started by two moms who wanted to publish "high quality picture books that enable children to explore the world's cultural diversity and discover their own creative gifts at the same time." They focus on stories filled with creativity, art, play, and respect for the world's cultures and fragile ecosystems. Visit them on the web here.


Crazy 4 Kids Books review
JacketFlap blog reviews
Quaker Books

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

March 4 Haiku

march 3 012

forest floor thaws;
bees are into their cups
tipping sunshine


The Tenth edition of Learning in the Great Outdoors is up at Alone on a Limb. There are so great posts linked there all about what fun people are having outdoors with kids birding, organic gardening, roaming the hills, doing a 'green hour', looking at bugs, playing and learning. Check it out!

The February Carnival of Children's Literature is up over at Picture Book of the Day. Lots of great posts rounded up on KidLit.

Review: The House of Djinn

by Suzanne Fisher Staples. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, to be released spring of 2008. (advance review copy) This is the third book in the stories of the life of Shabanu, a young woman living with her family in the desert of Pakistan. In the first book Shabanu, Daughter of the Wind Shabanu has come of age and had to chose between following her heart or agreeing to her father's matching her in a political/economic alliance in an arranged marriage. In the second book Havali, "Shabanu, now a mother at 18, faces daily challenges to her position in her husband's household, even as she plans for her young daughter's education and uncertain future. Then, during a visit to the haveli, their home in the city of Lahore, Shabanu falls in love with Omar, in spite of traditions that forbid their union."

In The House of Djinn Shabanu is living in hiding in the family haveli. Her daughter Mumtaz is a fifteen and just beginning to understand the complexity of her family and the life ahead of her. She lives in the household of her uncle and her father's nephew, whom she calls "Baba" and "Uncle Omar". Her father's other wives and her half-sister are cruel to her, treating her like a servant behind her grandfather's back. Mumtaz (nicknamed "Muti") thinks of this relationship as "death by a thousand pinpricks".
Mumtaz thinks her mother died when she was a young child. Shabanu faked her death and went deep into hiding in order to protect her daughter's life when her husband died. The poignant love and longing of mother and daughter weaves through the story like sad music.

Muti's best friend is her cousin Jameel, six months older than she, who lives half of the year with his parents in San Francisco. Mumtaz and Jameel are growing up in the crush of old and new cultures; the influence of the West and the traditions of their affluent, powerfully
tribal Pakistani families. They love to play tennis and skateboard. They and their friends care about music, shopping, modern western fashions, and developing crushes. The obligations of their families weigh on them and they know eventually the older family members will expect them to take on the responsibilities of the next generation of power and influence.

When Baba begins to show signs of age and illness Muti's anxiety grows. When he passes what will happen to her? Will the family send her back to her mother's family in the dessert? or worse, arrange her marriage to a family acquaintance?

Jameel wants to go to Standford University. Will he be asked to return to Pakistan and take his role in the family leadership before he can seek his own dreams? What about his friendship with the lovely blond girl he has a crush on in California?

The writing is fragrant and smooth. Descriptions of their homes and their activities lead into action and dialog that perfectly expresses the feelings of the characters. I can feel the dry heat of the desert and breath the scented air of the gardens right along with the tensions of the teenagers.

"When Muti was helping to serve tea, Jameel caught her eye and gave her the signal they'd always used for emergency meetings; five fingers spread on the tabletop,he head beckoning slightly with a tilt over the shoulder. it meant five minutes, out in the garden.
Muti waited until Leyla was occupied with giving more orders to the bearers, and slipped out the French doors that led to the swimming pool and the gardens beyond. She followed the path beside the pool, through the rose garden, and down to a small garden with a little pond that held Baba's silver-and-orange koi, with a wooden garden swing beside it, where Jameel sat waiting.
"What took you so long?" It was Jameel's turn to smirk. Muti sighed and sank down beside him on the swing.
"Leyla's always watching to take advantage of me. It'll be almost a relief after you've gone, when she'll simply ignore me again!" Muti said."

Suzanne Fisher Staples worked as a UPI correspondent in Hong Kong,
Afghanistan, India and Pakistan for many years. She has written nine novels for young adults set in the Middle East. I highly recommend them.


Suzanne Fisher Staples web site with book descriptions
Author spotlight at Random for Teachers
list of books at Google books

I'm offering this paperback ARC as my monthly Pay it Forward book giveaway. All you have to do is leave a comment by March 14. I'll pick one lucky person and mail you the book. Click on over to Overwhelmed with Joy and see what other books are up for grabs this month. 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 March 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 a book away for free to one of your readers. If you're a non-blogger who has won the book, please consider donating a 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 March 14!!

Monday, March 03, 2008

February Edge of the Forest

The February issue of The Edge of the Forest is up. Lots of good reading here:
Great job Kelly. Everyone -Go take a look!

Review: Amelia to Zora

Twenty-Six Women Who Changed the World by Cynthia Chin-Lee, illustrated by Megan Halsey and Sean Addy. Charlesbridge, 2005. March is National Woman's History Month. This book is a nice overview of the lives of 26 woman who made significant contributions to the world. At the publisher Charlesbridge's website for the book Cynthia Chin-Lee states,
"I wanted the women I chose to be easy to identify with, so I looked for contemporary figures who were diverse in nationality, profession, race, and religion. Although each profile is short, my intent is to spark an interest and encourage further study of each woman."

The woman are listed alphabetically by first name. A few descriptive paragraphs outline their life story and detail a few of their outstanding accomplishments. There is a quote from each one and dynamic collages illustrating their life work done by Megan Halsey. It is recommended for grades 4-7 but I am reading it out loud in the library to my second graders. They are fascinated by these short biographical sketches and eager to hear each one.

Interview with Cynthia Chin-Lee at papertigers
Publishers' site with author note, teacher guide, awards listed and reviews.
Charlesbridge teacher's guide with charts, study questions, reproducibles
Another Lesson plan for grade 5
Woman's History Month activities at InfoPlease

The Nonfiction Monday round up is at Picture Book of the Day.