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!

Cybils: what's not on the lists yet?

I've been watching the Cybils nominations over the past week and making my nominations. We only have five more days to put books on the lists! 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.

Book Not Yet Nominated for Easy Readers:

Young Cam Jansen and the Molly Shoe Mystery by David A. Adler
Biscuit and the Little Pup by Alyssa Satin Capucilli

Snack Attack by Stephen Krensky

Annie and Snowball and the Teacup Club by Cynthia Rylant

Benny and Penny in Just Pretend by Geoffrey Hayes

Dog and Bear: Two's Company by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

You can read short reviews of these books and many other beginning readers at the ACPL Mock Geisel blog.

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:

Get on over there and drop some titles!
Any bloggers who are posting lists of books nominated or not, please let me know and I'll do a round up on Monday.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Review: Cleo's Alphabet Book

Text by Stella Blackstone, illustrations by Caroline Mockford. Barefoot Books, 2003. Board Book edition, 2007. Review copy from the publisher.

I have to say this is one of my all time favorite alphabet books. I love the bright, bold colors, the action, and the charming simplicity of the animal and child characters. The alphabet letters are prominently displayed on each page in Upper and Lower case along with an engaging picture that usually includes Cleo the cat. What I love most about it is that the text alludes to the word that begins with each featured letter but does not specifically state the letter or the sound.

"A" is crunchy,
crisp and red.

"B" floats on the waves.

The picture shows Cleo sniffing you guessed it - a big round apple. (Click the hyperlink to see the book on Google books.) The "B" page shows Cleo on a sailboat on the water. The gap between text and illustration leaves room for the reader/listener to supply the arc of electric thought connecting them. This tension gives listeners a gift and draws us along to complete the circle, bringing meaning to the text. This is what the very best picture books do - inspire creative thought and reward our engagement with pleasure. I think this little book is perfectly on target and completely delightful.

Barefoot books is a publishing company started by two working moms dedicated to bringing children the very best in story, music and art. More Cleo books here.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

October 8 Haiku

Oct.8 003

Cold mornings.
Sweaters abandoned by noon.
First red leaves waving

Monday, October 06, 2008

Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau

by Jennifer Berne, illustrated by Eric Puybaret. Chronicle Books, 2008. We just got this lovely book into our library. Every year our second graders read biographies and they study the ocean so when they come to the media center I read them a biography of Cousteau in October. In the past I've read Catherine Reef's 1992 biography from the Earth Keepers series. It's a good story but it's a little long to read in 15 minute sections in the library. It doesn't have great pictures.

I am thrilled with Manfish. The illustrations are stunning. On some pages the text flows through the water getting larger and smaller in waves or changes direction as if it were made of bubbles. It is a delight to read and I am sure the second graders are going to love it.

The text follows Cousteau's life closely, starting from when he was a boy growing up in France and first discovered the sea with all its mystery and beauty. One of the things I like best about telling the second graders about Cousteau is that his life long ambitions started as the dreams of a boy their age. He changed the world for good with the passions he discovered in childhood.

At the very end of this book the author leaves us with the words:

Jacques dreamed that someday it would be you, exploring worlds never seen, never imagined. Whole new worlds, silent and shimmering. Worlds that are now yours. To discover. To care for. And to love.

Fabulous! Other blog reviews:

The Well Read Child

Shelf Elf

Abby (the) Librarian

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast

And as always on Monday, Picturebook of the Day has the Nonfiction Monday roundup. Cheers!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

October Garden

Oct.4 021

There are those few moments, in the hour before evening starts, when the light hits the windows of the sunroom and reflects back onto the garden.

Oct.4 014

I've just watered the new grass seed and mulched the flowerbeds. Now to sit back and drink it in.

Oct.4 024

Oct.4 005

Hope you're having a weekend like mine.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Friday Haiku

Oct 3 007

the cherry fades
green to gold along little
nibbled edges

Poetry Friday this week is at Two Writing Teachers. I posted about copyright and poetry sharing over at my new blog Parsing Fair Use.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Cybils Nominations Open October 1st: How Can You Participate?

The Press Release:

Nominations for the third annual Children's and Young Adult Bloggers'Literary Awards (the Cybils) will be open Wednesday, October 1st through Wednesday, October 15th.

The goal of the Cybils team (some 100 bloggers) is to highlight books that are high in both literary quality and kid appeal. The Cybils were founded by Anne Boles Levyand Kelly Herold. This year, awards will be given in nine categories (Easy Readers, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Fiction Picture Books, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade Novels, Non-Fiction Middle Grade/Young Adult Books, Non-Fiction Picture Books, Poetry, Young Adult Novels). Anyone can nominate books in these categories (one nomination per person per category). Nominated titles must be published between January 1st and October 15th of this year, and the books must be in English (or bilingual, where one of the languages is English).

To nominate titles, visit the Cybils between October 1stand 15th. A separate post will be available for each category - simply nominate by commenting on those individual posts. If you are not sure which category to choose for a particular book, a questions thread will also be available. Between October 16th and January 1st, Cybils panelists (children's and young adult bloggers) will winnow the nominations down to a 5-7 book short list for each category. A second set of panelists will then select the winning titles for the different categories. The winners will be announced on February 14th, 2009. The Cybils lists, from long lists to short lists to the lists of winners , offer a wonderful resource to anyone looking for high-quality, kid-friendly books.

The Cybils team has worked hard to balance democracy (anyone can nominate titles) with quality control (two rounds of panel judging by people who focus on children's books every day). We do this work because we consider it vital to get great books into the hands of children and young adults.

How Can You Participate? We think that the Cybils nominations will be of interest to parents, teachers, librarians, writers, and teens. If you have a blog or an email list or belong to a newsgroup that serves one of these populations, and you feel that your readers would be interested, please consider distributing this announcement (you are welcome to copy it). The Cybils team would very much appreciate your help in spreading the word. And if you, or the children that you know, have any titles to suggest, we would love to see your nominations at the Cybils blog , starting on Wednesday. Thanks for your help, and stay tuned for further news!

-Jen Robinson Literacy Evangelist for the 2008 Cybils

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