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:

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

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!!!


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.