Friday, August 31, 2012

A poem for the first day of school

I was inspired this week by Trisha and her Monday Poetry Stretch at The Miss Rumphius Effect blog. She always comes up with fun poetic forms to try out, many of which I have never even heard of before. I used to be such a "free verse" girl LOL. Since getting so involved with the kidlitosphere and Friday Poetry I have rubbed up against many new challenges; one of which is the Monday Poetry Stretch. This week I am naturally thinking about the kids going back to school. Our district starts the Tuesday after Labor Day, but many of you may already have had your first day (or week!)

walking to school

This year I am not starting up again after a long summer vacation. I've been working in a college library and have been here all summer enjoying the slower but still intense pace of summer college students. My boys are going back next week though, so we have all the excitement and jitters that school shopping brings on. It has filled my mind with the sounds of lockers slamming, the smell of chalk dust and lunchrooms, and the happy smiles of eager teachers and students. The cries of friends who've missed each other all vacation, the static from the morning loud speaker... I could go on. Here's my first attempt at a Lai, a French poetic form explained in detail by Trisha here. Basically, it's 9 lines in a stanza with a rhyme scheme of a-a-b-a-a-b-a-a-b. The first two lines ("a" rhymes) are five syllables each, the third line ("b" rhymes) is just two syllables.

off to school.JPG

The Kids Go Back to School

White shirt tucked neatly,
lunchbox filled sweetly -
new shoes!
Moms kiss discreetly,
bus fills completely -
no snooze!
Rules call obliquely,
we come uniquely -
school crews!

........-Andromeda Jazmon 

 school bus

Go on over to Trisha's blog to see the other Lai poems made this week, and check out the Friday Poetry round up done by Sylvia at Poetry For Children. And have a GREAT school year all around!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Review: Zapato Power

Freddie Ramos Springs into Action by Jacqueline Jules, art by Miguel Benitez. Albert Whitman, 2012. Freddie Ramos is a boy superhero. He has purple sneakers with "zapato power". When he is walking they are just like normal sneakers, but when he runs they ZOOM across the playground or down the street in a puff of smoke. The smoke can be a problem when grownups complain about it. The speed can be a problem when other kids complain he gets all shots on the basketball court.

But when a little kid in the neighborhood breaks a window playing ball, Freddie Ramos is there to help save the ball from bouncing down the street. He also races off to get the handyman to fix the window. Mr. Vaslov, the handyman, is the reason Freddie has Zapato power. He invents things like sneakers that can go ninety miles an hour. He is also a good friend for a boy with a busy working mom and a dad who died as a soldier hero.

This entertaining book is perfect for action-loving readers who are just launching into independent chapter books. There are lots of line drawings, including full page spreads in a cartoon style, done sweetly by Miguel Benitez. There are large, bold, graphic fonts for onomatopoeia, making words such as BOING BOING and ZAPATO!, fun to read and breaking up the text. In much the same way many other currently popular middle grade books are sticky about grabbing reader's interest, these graphic novel elements are a siren's call for today's visual kids. They make it a quick and exciting read even for those not confident in their budding skills.

I like the cultural elements included naturally in the story as well. We can surmise that Freddie is Latino by some of the language he uses. "Zapato" means "shoe" in Spanish and he speaks with sadness about the passing of his Abuela, missing the arroz con leche (rice pudding) she used to make him. His friends and neighbors have names such as Geo and Maria, Mr. Vaslov, and Mrs. Tran. The live in an urban neighborhood and look out for one another. There is humor in the story as well, when Freddie forgets to change out of his pajamas before doing superhero work or Mr. Vaslov gets stuck on the roof trying to rescue Geo's ball.

This is book 2 in a series of four books readers in grades 1, 2, and 3 will want to blast through. (Freddie Ramos Makes a Splash came out in 2012 and could be on your Cybils nomination list... you're working on that, right?) You can see a trailer and get reader's guides at the author's webpage HERE.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Review: Latasha and the little red Tornado

by Michael Scotto, illustrations by Evette Gabriel. Midlandia Press, 2011. (review copy) Latasha is a typical 8 year old third grader. She has a mom who works long hours and goes to school trying to get a better job, and who is often too tired at night to play games or pay much attention to her. After school Latasha stays with a babysitter who lives downstairs in an apartment that smells like the strange soup she is always cooking. Mrs. Okocho grumbles about the way Latasha's  puppy zooms around the apartment upstairs with way too much energy, shaking the ceiling and rattling the chandelier. Latasha is afraid her pup, named Ella Fitzgerald, is going to cause too many problems and get them all into trouble. She comes up with a scheme to get her new friend Ricky from across the street to help her get the puppy outside running around in the park to release the "zoomies".

Wonder what "zoomies" look like? Here's the author's book trailer to illustrate:

Wowza! That's a lot to handle in a small apartment! Good thing Ricky is eager go out with Latasha and Ella to search for wild turkeys in the park down the block... It works out fine until the Reading Challenge at school has Ricky feeling down and looking for a way around writing those book reports...

Things get complicated. Latasha is handling it though, and even when she gets down and worries about her mom or her dog or her friendship troubles, she always bounces back with new energy and a new plan. I like how the story presents life for a third grader as it is; full of troubles and uncertainty, but also full of new ideas and friends (and grown ups) around to help out in a difficult moment. This is a great book for second and third graders. I think it would make a great book club selection, especially for kids who love dogs.

Scotto has a sequel coming out next year titled Latasha and the Kidd on Keys. Can't wait to see it!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Friday Poetry comes out on Saturday!


Big changes happening here in my household which have my mind in a tumble of uncertainty. Of my three wonderful sons only one is home with me now and I spent the day with him yesterday, trying to establish a new normal. My oldest is in the Air Force, about to be deployed to the Middle East again, and my middle son is living away from home for a time.

I am afraid I totally dropped the ball with hosting Friday Poetry yesterday. I am so sorry to everyone who came looking, hoping to share and enjoy the dance. Thankfully, Mary Lee at A Reading Year picked up the baton and flew with it! See her round up HERE.

To try to catch up and find my place again, I will link here to all the poetry posts I am aware of. If I miss you please leave a comment and I will update. Hope your Saturday goes better than my Friday did!

Joy has a poetry party over at her blog She has a poem posted by Rebecca Kai Dotlich titled Mrs. Betty from the new, THE POETRY FRIDAY ANTHOLOGY. Come join us, everyone who loves poetry is invited.

April Halprin Wayland  at Teaching Authors has a contest winner and a Writer's Drought Poem posted today - don't miss it!

Julie Larios also posted about the fabulous new book THE POETRY FRIDAY ANTHOLOGY over at Drift Record. She is one of the poets with a poem included in this exciting new resource. Can you imagine how fun it's going to be with all those teachers and students joining us on Friday Poetrys this year?

And speaking about beautiful... The Write Sisters are talking 'bout Beautiful People today.

Laura Purdy Salas says she is in with "Petting Zoo" from The Poetry Friday Anthology at and with 15 Words or Less poems at Happy Weekend!

Matt Forrest Esenwine joins us with a poem written for his two year old son at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme. Don't fall asleep and miss it!

Tabatha Yeatts has a really interesting post about Su Hui's verse poem written in a grid that can be read thousands of different ways. So cool!

Linda at TeacherDance is in with a post about the Perseid showers and a Rilke poem, Falling Stars.

The Hedgehog by J.J. Bell over at the Florian Cafe in time for Sunday Brunch.

Kerry Aradhya is sharing a short action rhyme by Mary Quattlebaum this week.

There are many more posts linked at A Year of Reading... go enjoy them!