Friday, September 28, 2012

The Day I Saw Barack Obama Reading Derek Walcott's Collected Poems

by Yusef Komunyakaa

Was he looking for St. Lucia's light
to touch his face those first days 
in the official November snow & sleet 
falling on the granite pose of Lincoln?
If he were searching for property lines
drawn in the blood, or for a hint
of resolve crisscrossing a border,
maybe he'd find clues in the taste of breadfruit.
I could see him stopped there squinting
in crooked light, the haze of Wall Street
touching clouds of double consciousness,
an eye etched into a sign borrowed from Egypt.
read the rest her at 

Or watch this slideshow in Poem Flow at
Whatever your politics, it is fascinating to think of the President of the United States reading poetry. It could be any president; it's just the thought of wondering how it effects him, how he hears it.
Friday Poetry is hosted at Paper Tigers. Enjoy!! 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Review: The Sky of Afghanistan

by Ana A. de Eulate, Illustrated by Sonja Wimmer. Cuento de Luz SL (May 2012) (Review copy). A little girl in Afghanistan gazes at the sky and dreams of peace, her heart soaring above a grey-brown landscape torn by war. She visualizes peace as a kite of brilliant colors, with tails and strings connecting people of all places, races, and faces. She sees children and adults together, leaning into a longed-for peaceful world. The themes of flight and connection are beautifully illustrated in the flowing of women's burkas, hair blowing in the breeze, trees bending and swaying, and of course kites flying with ribbons trailing through the crowd. This is a moving picture book full of the passion of children for peace in the midst of a history of trauma.

The age recommendation from the publisher is 5-7, but I believe it would also be appropriate and appreciated by older children, perhaps in a discussion group where they can explore current events, the history, geography and culture of Afghanistan, and relate their own dreams of peace to the young girl in the story. It would be a dramatic way to introduce a Middle East focus into a social studies class or writing class with middle grade and upper grade students. Younger children will respond to the illustrations and the intensity of the young girl's dreaminess, but the geo-political setting and history will be largely lost on them. They hear a lot about Afghanistan in the news and know we are at war there. Perhaps many young readers have family members in the service who have been deployed in the region (our family does). It is wonderful to be able to show how the children of Afghanistan are just like we are; longing for peace and treasuring joyful play with friends and family. There is great value in that message, and it shines out from this lovely book.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Train Track Trimeric

Several weeks ago Miss Rumphius gave us a Monday Poetry Stretch challenging us to write a new form of poem called the Trimeric invented by Charles H. Stone. He describes it this way:

Trimeric \tri-(meh)-rik\ n: a four stanza poem in which the first stanza has four lines and the last three stanzas have three lines each, with the first line of each repeating the respective line of the first stanza.  The sequence of lines, then, is abcd, b – -, c – -, d – -.

This week Miss Rumphius asked us to write a poem related to a photograph. Well you know that is right up my alley!! LOL I had to try to play some catch up and use the trimeric form paired with a photo of my son that I took last week on one of our fall hiking days.

A pilgrim is hiking lost
train tracks made to trails
never expecting to reach the end
grown over with weedy scrub.

Train tracks made to trails
scarred with the ghost of historic crashes, 
 explosions of jewel-weed.

Never expecting to reach the end
he’s a one-boy expeditionary force
unable to turn back.

Grown over with weedy scrub
he beats back unseen losses
rubbing against the rust.

The Friday Poetry Round up is hosted by Renee at No Water River. Enjoy this beautiful fall day!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Gearing up for the Cybils: Best Children's Books of 2012

October 1, 2012 the nominations open for the Cybils awards: Children's and Young Adult Blogger's Literary Awards. FAQs Anyone can nominate their favorite children's  books released between Oct. 16, 2011 and Oct. 15, 2012. You don't have to be a blogger, author, illustrator, editor, teacher, librarian, big cheese, or anything special. Just know a book you and your children loved! There is only two weeks when you have an opportunity to put in your two cents. What are your favorite children's books this year?

Categories are:
  • Book Apps
  • Easy Readers/Short Chapter Books
  • Fantasy & Science Fiction
  • Fiction Picture Books
  • Graphic Novels
  • Middle Grade Fiction
  • Non-Fiction Picture Books
  • Non-Fiction: Middle Grade & Young Adult
  • Poetry
  • Young Adult Fiction
I have the privilege and joy of being a round two judge for Middle Grade Fiction. Round one judges will narrow the long list of nominated titles down to the top five. Then my committee has to chose just one winner. It's a tough job but someone's got to do it!

I am making my own lists of books that I want to read and consider, because I only get one chance to make my own nomination in each category. Here is my GoodReads list of 2012 Middle Grade Fiction. Most of them I haven't read yet. What would you add to this list? Have you read anything you and/or your kids absolutely loved? The thing that is most unique about this award is that it focuses on KID APPEAL. That means we want to highlight the very books that kids themselves love the most. What holds your child's attention and makes them beg for just one more chapter? One more book? Five more minutes before the lights go out? Those are the books we want to celebrate. So get your list together and check it twice!!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Friday Poetry: Lady, Lady

I am taking a class online this fall on African American Literature from 1900 - 1960. This week our forums discussed poetry Anne Spencer and Gwendolyn Bennett. Here is a poem that particularly grabbed me:

"Lady, Lady"

Lady, Lady, I saw your face,
Dark as night withholding a star . . .
The chisel fell, or it might have been
You had borne so long the yoke of men.
Lady, Lady, I saw your hands,
Twisted, awry, like crumpled roots,
Bleached poor white in a sudsy tub,
Wrinkled and drawn from your rub-a-dub.

Lady, Lady, I saw your heart,
And altered there in its darksome place
Were the tongues of flames the ancients knew,
Where the good God sits to spangle through.
-Anne Spencer (1882-1975)

I found the allusion to "tongues of flames" in line eleven to refer to the coming of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts, chapter 2 from the Bible. I saw the star in her dark face from line two to foreshadow this indwelling spirit. I enjoyed how the poem builds a scaffold of imagery from the work worn, struggling outer darkness to the spark of eternal fire on the alter within to be inspiring and hopeful. Some of my classmates thought it was a depressing picture of a woman responding to injustice with hate. What do you see in this poem?

The Friday Poetry Round up is hosted by Diane at Random Noodling. Enjoy your weekend! 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Review: Clubhouse Mysteries

Lost in the Tunnel of Time by Sharon M. Draper. Aladdin, 2011. This middle grade adventure book is one in a series by Draper focusing on four high spirited boys living in Cincinnati. They've have been friends since first grade. In this story they are 10 years old and excited to go on a field trip to the Ohio River with their classmates and teacher Mrs. Powell. They are delighted to discover she has invited an older gentleman they know from the neighborhood to accompany them to the river. Mr. Greene shares a story of family history and mystery when he tells the boys and girls about his grandfathers' midnight journey to escape slavery on the Underground Railroad. Later in the week he lends them an actual map of the tunnels under their school that have been abandoned for a hundred years. You can imagine what happens when the boys decide to just take a look under the mysterious trap door behind the school stage. This is a really masterful telling of the history of the Underground Railroad in a way that makes it come alive to modern kids who love adventure, are amazed at the lives of heroes, and are still a little scared of the dark.

What I like best about this book is the lively, natural, and thoroughly believable voices of the four boys. Each one has a clearly articulated and celebrated character with strengths and weaknesses. I can almost hear them speak aloud from the pages, with all their likes and dislikes, fears and foibles. Ziggy is a little wild and unpredictable, always forgetting his homework and dipping pickles in his hot chocolate. Rico likes to keep his notebook papers in order and is careful to plan everything out following the rules. Jerome is a problem solver and thinker, who notices cute girls. Rashawn is a little shyer and likes to appear tough and loves to laugh. Ziggy is scared of monsters, Jerome is scared of bugs, Rico is scared of the dark, and Rashawn is scared of tornadoes. What the boys love to eat and what they are scared of is important in the stories, just as it is important to real boys and girls who read them.

I've read a couple of the books in the series and really like the pacing, the strong character development, and the humor. The boys I've read the stories aloud to are hooked from the first page and eager to follow the  the end. This series is a really great launch for readers about to take off in independent reading. There are six books in the series. Sharon M. Draper is a really great writer with exciting books for teens too.