Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday Poetry; Review of a Poetry Book

African Acrostics: A Word in Edgeways, written by Avis Harley with photographs by Deborah Noyes,  Candlewick Press, 2009. (review copy). This stunning volume is a fabulous example of the art of acrostic poetry, which many children learn about and practice in school. Harley has taken the form to a whole new level by crafting double, multiple, and cross acrostic poems which sing the unique atributes of the lovely African animals displayed in Noyes' photographs. Not only do the poems spell out descriptive words and phrases in the first and/or last letters up and down the poem, but each one includes other poetic devices such as assonance, alliteration, enjambment, and internal rhyme. Teachers striving to give students examples of "juicy" vocabulary combined in striking, vivid phrases will do well to feature this book prominently. Two of my favorite poems which clearly illustrate the fine craftsmanship in this collection:

Your Majesty

Lion looks so lazy, watching day-life pass,
Yet searing eyes are stalking shadows in the grass.
Inside a mighty golden throat, he stores his
Nightmare roar that sends his subjects
Galloping across the sunstruck floor.


Interest have zebras in
Leather tethers or
Dusty saddles?

Since only
The wind
Reins In their
Power, and sun so

These poems can be drunk in quickly in long droughts of gold and dusk or drawn out lazily to savor the multiple levels. The back of the book includes notes on the African animals, information about the poetic form, and information about the photography done on location in Namibia. I would strongly recommend this book for poets and children of all ages; to absorb, enjoy and learn from in delight and surprise. If you are building your classroom or home library in preparation for a new school year you need this poetry book added to your curriculum!

Other blog reviews: (more poems from the book & photos)

Miss Rumphius (also links to an interview with Alex Harley)
Kids Lit
Becky's Book Reviews

Today's Friday Poetry roundup is hosted by Heidi Mordhorst's my juicy little universe. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Review: Nabeel's New Pants

An Eid Tale retold by Fawzia Gilani-Williams. Illustrations by Proiti Roy. Marshall Cavendish Children, 2010. (review copy) This beautiful picture book tells the tale of Nabeel, the shoemaker. The Muslim holy month of Ramadan is over. The holiday of Eid marks the end of the fasting, and everyone wants new shoes and new clothes to celebrate. Nabeel happily buys gifts for his wife, his daughter, and his mother. He buys a new pair of pants for himself, but they are too long. He asks each of the women in his family to help him shorten them but they all say they are too busy. In the scurry of getting ready for the holiday, visiting friends and relatives and doing acts of kindness and mercy, however, it turns out the each person in the household finds a few hurried minutes to shorten those pants. Nabeel's pants go through some very silly changes in this funny story.

The book is scattered with Arabic phrases and the names of different articles of clothing or special holdiay foods. The front matter of the book includes a glossary to explain these terms and they are all marked with italics in the text to aid the reader in identifying them.

This book is charmingly illustrated with bold colors and simple domestic views of the family stumbling over each other's good intentions in a zany but kindly way. Children will get a taste of the excitement of preparing to celebrate the feast with this loving, busy family. Ramadan is celebrated from mid-August to mid-September in 2010, so this would be a great book to share at beginning of the new school year.

Fawzia Gilani-Williams, a teacher, librarian and author of twenty books, lives in Ohio and is of Indian descent, born and raised in England. Proiti Roy is a teacher and children's book illustrator living in Chennai, India.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

4th of July Parade Haiku

bike haiku

washing his bike
before the big parade;
he whistles Sousa

-Andromeda Jazmon

My son Buddy is approaching 8 years old and taking on a love of doing chores around the house and yard. Here he is cleaning his beloved bike that he rides up and down the street every available moment. He is such a great kid!


With my oldest son in Air Force Basic Training this holiday I am feeling a whole new level of patriotic. Enjoyed a fabulous parade in my parents neighborhood with my dad, my two youngest sons and some friends. Deeply appreciating all who serve in the military & their families.

Friday Poetry is at Carol's Corner this weekend. Enjoy!

Monday, July 05, 2010

Review: The Secret World of Walter Anderson

by Hester Bass, illustrated by E. B. Lewis. Candlewick Press, 2009. (review copy). With the gulf struggling under a terrible weight of the BP oil spill, it seems a good time to celebrate the artwork and life's work of Walter Anderson with this stunning biography.

Anderson was an artist living on the gulf coast of Mississippi in the mid 20th century. He is best known for his watercolor paintings of Horn Island, where he would spend days in isolation painting the wildlife. He rowed his skiff out to the island where there was no running water, electricity or even a house. He lived under the shelter of his boat and ate canned beans or whatever washed up on the shore in order to paint non-stop. His family lived in Ocean Springs, MS, where he kept a cottage out in back that was always locked. After his death his wife unlocked it and found, to her amazement, that every inch of the walls was covered in paintings of the wildlife of Horn Island. Hurricane Katrina destroyed the cottage but much of his art was saved in a museum farther inland. In 2003, as a celebration for the 100th anniversary of Walter Anderson's birth, the Smithsonian in Washington DC honored his life's work with a special exhibit.

Bass's biography is simply and wonderfully told. The mystery, the quirkiness, and the passion of Anderson's life is portrayed poetically and lovingly. Opening sentences draw the reader in to discover the wonder of this amazing life:
"There once was a man whose love of nature was as wide as the world.
There once was an artist who needed to paint as much as he needed to breathe.
There once was an islander who lived in a cottage at the edge of Mississippi, where the sea meets the earth and the sky.
Hes name was Walter Anderson.
He may be the most famous American artists you've never heard of."

Coretta Scott King award-winning illustrator E. B. Lewis has done a masterful job of painting scenes from his life and the awesome beauty of the Gulf coast. Reading it in these times, when we see daily updates of ugly oil blotches washing up on beaches and struggling sea birds coated with oil, is all the more poignent and moving.  This is a book to share with young and old, as we strive to cherish the beauty of our world and seek to recover from this disaster.

Bass has included an extensive review of the life and work of Anderson in the final Author's Note. Older readers will learn a lot about the times and the work of this great artist here. She tells us that part of the proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to the Anderson family and the Walter Anderson Museum of Art to support their conservation efforts.

for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children
awarded by the National Council of Teachers of English
Bank Street Best Children's Books of 2010
CCBC Choices 2010 - Best-Of-The-Year List
chosen by the Cooperative Children's Book Center
Best Children's Books of 2009 - Kirkus Reviews 
2010 Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People
as selected by the National Council for the Social Studies and the Children's Book Council

Other blog reviews:
Chasing Ray
Kids Lit

This is a book not to miss! Today's Nonfiction Monday Round-up is at 5 Great Books!

Friday, July 02, 2010


by Tony Medina, illustrated by Jees Joshua Watson. Lee & Low Books, 2009 (review copy). I was in DC this past week at ALA's annual meeting/conference for librarians, authors, illustrators, bloggers, publishers, and editors. (Yep, I slipped in bloggers 'cause we love it too!) I was thrilled to attend Marilyn Singer and Barbara Genco's  seventh annual Poetry Blast!, and Tony Medina was one of the featured poets.  (ETA: read Laura Salas's post here to get tips she picked up with some serious note-taking and see her photos of the poets.) He read a few poems from this fabulous book and it was awesome to hear him. I was completely star-struck to be in attendance at this amazing event. A bunch of us went to dinner afterward at Zaytinya (OMG Delicious and gluten free for me!!!) I got a chance to sit and chat with him. I was gushing over the book and telling how I had blogged about it and my boys and I love it... etc. etc. Then I came home and looked up the blog post to re-read what I had said... and I couldn't find one. Wha? Didn't I blog it on a Poetry Friday this past winter? or Spring? No? How can that be? We love this book!!!! OMG I met Tony Medina and lied to his face about blogging his book!!!!

Now I have to blog a public confession. We really do love this book. And I swear my boys and I have read it dozens of times and they adore it. Tony has completely captured the rhythms and cadence of Bob Marley in his poems. So much so that I have to jump up and find my iPod and put some Marley on every time we read it... which is a lot...

At the Poetry Blast Medina read from "My Heart the Island":

Mama just a caramel country girl shy as can be
and Papa many many years older than she

Papa is a white man so I've been told
My face a map of Africa in Europe's hold...

His voice was powerful and passionate. The poem itself brings one a strong feeling of the longing and love in young Marley's heart as he is left with Mama "alone to scrape and fuss..." Watson's vibrant, evocative paintings of the family divided, with Mama and young boy on one side of the text and Papa riding off into the sunset on a horse washed with gold on the far side of the next page, perfectly accents and extends the poem. The room responded with a hush, a gasp, and then resounding applause.

The poem from this collection that I would like to share with you for Friday Poetry is part of this one:
I Am a Rasta Man

A troubadour for the common man
Singing what a Rasta sings

Reggae music from
My guitar strings

Rasta man lyrics
Of peace and love...

Look for the book I and I Bob Marley to read more of this wonderful poem and enjoy the stunning illustrations. You can get a preview of the artwork at Jesse Watson's web page here.

Watson and Medina got together for a book talk at Lee & Low last fall, discussing what Marley's music means to them and how they expressed that in their book.  And here is an interview Medina did at The Brown Bookshelf last  February. He is a professor at Howard U. in Washington DC and has four other children's books out as well as several volumes of poetry for adults. More about Tony Medina here.

Friday Poetry is hosted by Amy at The Poem Farm today. Enjoy your weekend and Happy Fourth of July!! Go out to a parade and celebrate!!