Thursday, May 31, 2012

Currently Reading

The Dyslexic Advantage by Broke L Eide and Fernette F. Eide. Hudson Street Press, 2011. I have only just started reading  this book but it is blowing my mind. Totally new way to look at the way my brain works. Read more here and here. I am considering the possiblity that some of the best strengths of my mind are not verbally accessible.

And that is not incompatible with being a reader, writer, librarian and poet.

Anyone else read this book? What do you think?

More to follow as I read the book and mull it over. I'd love to see a discussion here with other dyslexics and those that love us.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Review: A Full Moon Rising

poems by Marilyn Singer, pictures by Julia Cairns. Lee & Low Books, 2011. (e-book review copy from NetGalley). Lovely, lovely, lovely collection of short poems about the moon, as seen from around the world. Poems set in Turkey, China, India, Colombia, Mexico, the U.S., Canada, and  Morocco, with short background notes on the perspectives of children celebrating the moon from each place.

Here is my current favorite, from mudflats in Broome, Australia where the moonshine builds a staircase to the sky: (Listen to Marilyn read this poem here.)

Staircase to the Moon 
Broome, Australia
by Marilyn Singer

Under the sea, divers find pearls,
though none as big and round that jewel up high.
Its glow builds a magic staircase
....from the mudflats to the sky.
Can someone climb and pluck that gem?
Our silly little cousins
....dare themselves to try.

The beautiful illustrations by Julia Cairns are full of soft glowing blues and silvers... moon struck is what I am. The next full moon is coming up June 4. I am planning an evening viewing and poetry reading. Doesn't that sound like summer to you? The Friday Poetry round up is posted by Linda at TeacherDance. Enjoy!


Discussion with Singer and Cairns at Lee & Low

Review at Jama's place (gorgeous photos!! yummy food!!)

Bank Street College of Education's 2012 Best Children's Books of the Year.

Gathering Books review


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Review: It Jes' Happened

When Bill Traylor Started to Draw. By Don Tate, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. Lee & Low Books, 2012. (e-book review copy from NetGalley) What I love best about this picture book is the way Tate brackets the telling of the events in artist Bill Traylor's life with a celebration of the deep well of his soul-memory. From the time Bill is born in slavery in 1860 to his days of living alone and lonely on the streets of Montgomery, Alabama 72 years later, Tate emphasises how he is storing up memories of all he loves. Those memories come bounding out in whimsical, rollicking images drawn by pencil on recycled scraps of paper. Traylor gave us the gift of his best memories. Tate and Christie have passed it on in this charming biography.

In a recent interview at Cynsations Tate tells us of the long process of research that went into his thoughtful reconstruction of Traylor's story. He spent years studying the events of his life, construction a time line and contemplating how to best tell the story. It's simply brilliant how through study he came to understand that the art itself reveals the heart of Traylor's life. From the farm, to the raising of children, to the gathering of a community joined in joy and sorrow, Traylor spins the world in line and color. Tate tells how Traylor sits on an orange crate on the street corner and draws. The farm animals, town characters, days of dancing and sweating the cotton all are recorded in vibrant colors. When he is "discovered" by a patron of the arts who starts to give him art supplies and encourage his  production, Traylor responds with an outpouring of his best work. He is now considered one of the most highly regarded American folk artists.

Perhaps it is Tate's own career as an artist and illustrator that gives him a particularly keen understanding of Traylor's life and work. This is his first book as an author, although it is clear there will be many more coming. The manuscript won him the Lee & Low New Voices Honor Award before it was even picked up by an editor for publication.

The illustrator chosen to work on this book with Don Tate is R. Greggory Christie, a supremely talented multiple Coretta Scot King honor award winner. Read more about him and view his art at this interview from 2009 at the SevenImpossibleThings blog.

This wonderful biography is highly recommended for ages 5 and up. It's such an inspiring story of a man who loved his life and discovered his passion at the age of 80, when some would think he was about done. I take great inspiration from that. How about you?


Teacher's Guide by Debbie Gonzales

Kirkus starred review

A fuse #8 review

Publisher's Weekly review

Tate interview at the Brown Bookshelf

Friday, May 18, 2012

My Black Me: A Beginning Book of Black Poetry

My seven year old is nuts about poetry these days. He has been checking out the same anthology of poems from the school library every week for about three months. I am so glad the school librarian is Ok with that! It's an old tattered thick book that has seen better days. The illustrations are nothing to sneeze at. Some of us would have replaced it long ago. I am willing to bet he is the only one to check it out in years. But now it's one of the popular books making the rounds of his friends because he is so excited about it and they can't stand not being in the loop!

Since he is so into poetry I have been gathering all the children's poetry books in the house to share with him during our evening story time. One slim volume I really love is Arnold Adoff's collection My Black Me: a beginning book of black poetry, edited by Arnold Adoff. (Dutton Children's Books, 1984.) He has gathered poems by Lucille Clifton, Kali Grosvenor, Langston Hughes, Don L. Lee, Ted Joans, Sonia Sanchez, Ray Petterson, Nikki Giovanni, Norman Jordan, Sam Cornish, and others. They are delightful, poignent, spicy, surprising and satisfying.

Here is one of my favorites by Dorothy Long:

Where my grandmother lived
there was always sweet potato pie
and thirds on green beans and
songs and words of how we'd
survived it all.
And the wind
a soft lull
in the pecan tree
Ethiopia, Ethiopia


The introduction by Adolf says, "This book of Black is for you. Black poems for Black sisters and brothers. Black poems for all sisters and brothers. Of every race. Every open face. Poems that help you know your inside faces. Your human pieces put together strong and fine. Human poems."

I love this book!

Friday Poetry is being rounded up by Katya at Write. Sketch. Repeat. Enjoy this lovely May wonder day!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Tall Tales

John Henry by Julius Lester, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. Dial Books, 1994. "You probably never heard of John Henry. Or maybe you heard about him but don't know the ins and outs of his comings an goings. Well, that's why I'm going to tell you about him. When John Henry was born, birds came from everywhere to see him..."

Openning lines from a magnificent version of the tall tale John Henry. I am sharing tall tales with fourth graders in the library this week. I have gathered some of my favorites to share with them and plan to have a rolliking good time. Tall tales are a unique American genre that grew out of the 1800s years of westward expansion. Many of the settles interested in moving west during that time had been told stories of wonder and magnificence in the land of milk and honey. When they came to find hardships and struggle is was a shock. These stories grew out of the people's attempt to make fun of their hard times and monumental efforts to carve out a new way of life.

Dona Flor by Pat Mora, illustrated by Raul Colon. Knopf, 2005. "Long ago, when Flor was a baby, her mother sang to her in a voice sweet as river music, When Flor's mother sang to her corn plants, they grew tall at trees, and when she sang to her baby, her sweet flower, well, Flor grew and grew, too."

Regional differences across the land brought out heroes that tamed the weather, climbed mountains, re-directed rivers, and caused the sun and moon to weep. The railroads, the timber industry, agriculture and commerce all play into the oral histories found in tall tales. Exploring these stories is a way of celebrating and claiming our cultural history. One of the charming elements of these tall tales is that they almost always begin with a wondrous birth of a magical child:

Thunder Rose by Jerdine Nolan, illustrated by Kadir Nelson. "Rose was the first child born free and easy to Jackson and Millicent MacGruder. I remember most vividly the night she came into this world. Hailing rain, flashing lightning and booming thunder pounded the door, inviting themselves in for the blessed event."

Some of the elements found in tall tales that I will explore with my students are the use of exaggeration, hyperbole, metaphor, and simile. The stories are set in local folk history and were pasted around in oral traditions. They usually include humor and feats of wonder. The hero solves persistent problems that common people are stumped by and is able to restore order and justice to the community. The main character is remarkable right from birth and is of super human size, strength and abilities. The voice of the storyteller draws in the audience in compelling, colorful language. The authors and illustrators of my favorite picture book tall tales have exceptional talents in this regard.

Paul Bunyan by Steven Kellogg. Harper Collins, 1984. "Paul Bunyan was the largest, smartest, strongest baby ever born in the state of Maine. Even before he learned to talk, he showed an interest in the family logging business. He took the lumber wagon and wandered through the neighborhood collecting trees."

I plan to read a couple of these books and then have the children pull out all the characteristics of tall tales that they can identify. I am going to ask them to draw a simple picture of themselves with the exaggerated features they would claim for themselves if they wrote a tall tale about their lives. I'll demonstrate for them with myself as an example.

Here are a couple other ideas for lessons from Read, Write, Think: a  tall tales T chart.pdf and a rubric.pdf. And here is a link to my wiki pathfinder on tall tales. What ideas do you have for sharing tall tales with kids?

Friday, May 04, 2012

The Poetry Sisters Play at Renku

Poetry sisters Tanita , Sara, Laura, and Liz , Kelly, Trisha and I have been playing a game called Renku. It's an old Japanese haiku game of round robin, or, as Sara called it "Daisy Chain" haiku. Each person adds a stanza that is linked to the one before and also contains a shift of some sort. There is always a season reference, which moves through the stanzas. The end returns to the beginning in a circle. We have had some fun playing with layers of story in our Daisy Chain. The stanzas alternate between three lines of about 17 syllables to two lines of about 14 syllables. You can read more about Renku and it's development in Japan in the 17 c. here and here. I've linked the authors of the following poem to their blogs in the initials following their stanzas. Please be sure to visit the Poetry Sister's blogs and let them know how much you enjoyed it! Today's Friday Poetry round up is hosted by Elaine at Wild Rose Reader.

The Poetry Sisters' Daisy Chain

fall leaf in April
wearing last season's fashions--
shunned by the green crowd                           lps

nature’s first green is gold
progeny emerge in flame                                aj   

white melts into green
gardens blush Crayola proud  
blooming shades of spring                              tsh

strolling down the pebble path
rose-cheeked dreamer lost in thought            aj

palest pink dogwood
April breezes whisper by
petals flutter down                                          kf

ink dries on palest pages
garden rows plow down sillion                       aj

Brash green garter snake
Hoe laid beside June daisies
Book and tart limeade                                   sh

serpent jewel, puckered words,
work abandoned, glory claimed                    aj

afternoon drifts by                                      
wispy clouds, half-closed eyelids
distant playground sounds                              lps

cloud congestion, dully pewter
petrichor from distant patters                       td

tapped on leaden skies                                td
rain’s persistent percussion
arrhythmic ad lib   

a morse-code chicken scratch                     lgs
a fresh start too hard to resist

the rain leaves its mark --                             lgs
such an inscrutable plot
begs to be re-read

red again so soon and down
persimmon fingers shiver                             aj