Friday, March 28, 2008

Children’s Literature in Action

I’m happy to announce the publication of another book, Children’s Literature in Action: A Librarian’s Guide. It’s intended to help the new librarian or library media specialist become knowledgeable about the field of children’s literature in preparation for guiding young people, ages 5-12, in their reading. It provides practical ideas for generating interest in reading, strategies for connecting with the school curriculum, and guidance for reaching out to families and the wider community through children’s literature. The “action” components of each chapter include:
• Literature in Action (strategies for sharing books)
• Librarians in Action (written by librarians in the field)
• One Book in Action (ideas for sharing one book in creative ways)
• Authors in Action (written by Pat Mora, Seymour Simon, Janet Wong, Kristine O’Connell George, Laurence Yep, T. A. Barron, Cynthia Leitich Smith, and Ashley Bryan)
• History in Action (connecting with classics)
• Assignments in Action (learning activities for adults)

It’s a genre approach with the following chapters:
CHAPTER ONE: An Introduction to Children and Their Literature
CHAPTER TWO: Picture books
CHAPTER THREE: Traditional Tales
CHAPTER FOUR: Poetry for Children
CHAPTER FIVE: Modern Realistic Fiction
CHAPTER SIX: Historical fiction
CHAPTER SEVEN: Fantasy and Science Fiction
CHAPTER EIGHT: Informational Books

And of course, I have a theme poem, gifted to me by the always generous J. Patrick Lewis. As we prepare for National Poetry Month, let me share it here. It’s a lovely gem about books and the power of reading.

Ars Libri
after Ars Poetica by Archibald MacLeish
by J. Patrick Lewis

A book should be spirited and odd
As a divining rod,
As the wonder of a child,
Open to the sky and the slanting rain
As an attic’s shattered windowpane.
A book should measure its success
By a censor’s distress.
* *
A book should be ten candle-watts
Of afterthoughts,
Brilliant as a marbled vein in a quarry
Of story,
Bold enough to leave behind
Unpeace of mind.
A book should be a welcome overnight guest
Long after a day’s standardized test.
* *
A book should be the map, flashlight and skeleton key
To literacy.
For all imaginations out of whack or work,
The CEO and the filing clerk,
For kids
Who yearn to see but hesitate to dream—
A book should both be
And seem.

Watch my blog for daily postings for April, National Poetry Month. And meanwhile, join the Poetry Friday Round Up at Cuentesitos.

Picture credit:

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Poetry and Science

If you’re a regular Book Links subscriber, you may have already received your March issue. This time my “Everyday Poetry” column is focused on “’Doing’ Science with Poetry.” I’ve identified poetry books and activities for each of the seven categories of the National Science Education Standards for the curriculum, K-12.

Science as Inquiry
Physical Science
Life Science
Earth and Space Science
Science and Technology
Science in Personal and Social Perspective
History and Nature of Science

Here’s just an excerpt to whet your appetite.

“At first glance it may seem odd to combine science and poetry, but they share one major attribute in common: the importance of keen observation. Poetry offers highly charged words and vivid imagery that tap the essence of a subject using sensory language. Poetry’s brevity, conceptual focus, and rich vocabulary make it a natural teaching tool for connecting with curricular content….

One Sample Curricular Area: Physical Science
As we introduce children to physical science and the concepts of motion, matter, energy, atoms, light, heat, electricity, and magnetism, poetry can help pave the way. The rhyming shape poems of Flicker Flash by Joan Bransfield Graham explore the different ways that light appears in our world, from the flicker of birthday candles to a flash of lightning. Read them aloud by flashlight for added effect. A natural complement is Anna Grossnickle Hines poetry book, Winter Lights (Greenwillow 2005) or Marilyn Singer’s Central Heating: Poems About Fire and Warmth (Knopf 2005).

Three of Jane Yolen’s poetry collections look at water in its varying forms: Once upon Ice and Other Frozen Poems (Boyds Mills Press 1997), Snow, Snow: Winter Poems for Children (Boyds Mills Press 1998) and Water Music: Poems for Children (Boyds Mills 1995), all illustrated with stunning photographs. For more “wet” poetry, consult Joan Bransfield Graham’s Splish Splash (Houghton Mifflin 2001), Constance Levy’s Splash!: Poems of Our Watery World (Orchard 2002), and Ralph Fletcher’s Water Planet: Poems about Water (Arrowhead, 1991). Many of these water poems lend themselves to reading aloud along with props such as soap bubbles, Christmas tree “icicles,” or audiotapes of waterfalls or the ocean surf.

One Sample “Science” Poem:
by Valerie Worth

The stained,
Bucket tips out
Orange rind

Eggshell ivory,
Garnet coffee-
Grounds, pearl
Wand of bared
Chicken bone:

Worked back soon
To still more
Curious jewelry
Of chemical
And molecule.

from All the Small Poems (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1994)

I’m also tickled to report that my previous Book Links article on “Pairing Poems Across Cultures” is now reprinted at PaperTigers as part of their March/April emphasis on poetry.

And for more poetry, check out the Poetry Friday Round Up at Wild Rose Reader.

Picture credit:

Friday, March 14, 2008

Preparing for National Poetry Month + National Library Week

Here at the mid-point of March, I thought I’d pause to begin preparations for National Poetry Month, right around the corner. In addition, I got an email from ALA reminding me that National Library Week is also coming up (April 13-19). As I’ve shared before, I love putting these two topics together, hunting for poetry ABOUT the library. In my resource book, Poetry Aloud Here (ALA, 2006), I share a list of 10 library-poems, but the hunt continues and I’ve been finding even more, including this gem by Kathi Appelt.

by Kathi Appelt

Javier, he was so cold that day
only a thin t-shirt and old jeans
to keep the icy air
from rubbing his ribs raw
only thin rubber soles
between his feet
and the cold concrete
with still an hour before the
bell rang

Mrs. Rivera, the librarian, she saw him
she couldn’t look directly
at his blue lips
or his naked arms
without shivering
but Mrs. Rivera, she could break the rules and
let him in
led him into that warm room
with its burnished tables
flame-stitched chairs
toasted books

Javier, he had a quick notion of heaven
and when he found that book
someone left opened to a
page of mustangs
wild and shaggy
ears back free
well Javier, he burned that page
into a place behind his sight
and kept it there all morning
all through the day

and now
when you see Javier
wild and shaggy
ears back free
look at that tall, proud boy
the icy air the cold concrete
lost their grip
Javier, he’s been to heaven
mustangs are there

From Appelt, Kathi. 1997. Just People and Paper/Pen/Poem: A Young Writer’s Way to Begin. Spring, TX: Absey & Co.

[Kathi also has a new novel just out, The Underneath, that is also quite amazing-- but that’s another topic!]

As you make plans to celebrate poetry month (and library week!), here are some creative ideas from our friends at Potato Hill Poetry, a wonderful Web resource with many unusual and innovative options for celebrating poetry, including:

1. Start each day with a poem read aloud by someone different (invite guest readers); 30 poems for 30 days
2. Leave a poem on your answering machine at home or school or as a cell phone message
3. Make a National Poetry Month Time Capsule. Students can submit favorite poems or their own original writing. Put them in the Time Capsule and have a ceremonial sealing, not to be opened until National Poetry Month next year.
4. Send a poem to your state or local representative or other government official.
5. Plan a poetry reading for a senior center, hospital, or local business

For more on poetry, join the Poetry Friday Round Up at Jama Rattigan’s Alphabet Soup.

Photo credit: The Beyond Words: Celebrating America's Libraries Photo Contest, which helped mark National Library Week 1999 and the Bicentennial of the Library of Congress.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Poetry and citizenship and mashups

This is the week—some 42 years ago—that I became an American citizen. I was remembering the day fondly, and decided to make a poetry connection. I was 10 years old and my German-born parents were becoming naturalized citizens, so I was, too. I remember getting out of school, going to the Dallas courthouse, the seriousness and the celebration, and the chocolate milk shake that followed. What a day! A few years later, as a teenager, I helped my Oma (grandmother) master enough American history in broken English to pass the questions that were asked of her as she became an American citizen, too. This is the little old lady who stood up to Hitler and was a German refugee fleeing with five children and an elderly mother in tow. I am still touched when I see swearing in ceremonies and look at all the different faces that are proud to call the United States home. I know it may seem corny, but this is very real in my family.

And there are many poets who have written about their feelings about this country, both good and bad. Maybe that’s why I love Langston Hughes and his “I, too am America” poem—although I recognize a very different struggle there. Or why I relate to Janet Wong’s poem, “Speak up” about kids taunting a child who speaks another language. Many Latino/Latina poets have addressed this issue of immigration, language difference, and cultural assimilation in their work, including Pat Mora, Gary Soto, Juan Felipe Herrera, and Francisco X. Alarcón. One poetry collection that really speaks to me on this issue is Monica Gunning’s America, My New Home (San Francisco, CA: Children’s Book Press, 2004). Although Gunning is my mother’s age, and comes from Jamaica not Germany, her poems speak with wonder about the contrasts between her old home and new home, and about the challenges in straddling old ways and new, in ways that echo my own experiences and emotions. Across cultures, there are still children for whom “home” is a very real question, whose families talk seriously about loyalty and identity, and who walk the tightrope of keeping family traditions while being “real” Americans.

I looked for the perfect poem to share and decided to try an experiment. My 19 year old son has been educating me about “mashups,” a new trend in music to blend parts of many different songs into one. It’s led to interesting discussions between us about artistic freedom and copyright infringement, but it has also prompted me to think about what that might look and feel like in other arts—like poetry. So, with all due respect to two fantastic poets, Langston Hughes and Walt Whitman, here is a “mashup” of two of their poems meshed into one: “I, Too” and “I Hear America Singing.”

I, too, sing America.
I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear;

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen

When company comes,

But I laugh,

And eat well,

And grow strong.

I'll be at the table

When company comes.

Nobody'll dare

Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"



They'll see how beautiful I am

And be ashamed—

I, too, sing America.
I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear;
Those of mechanics—each one singing his, as it should be, blithe and strong;

The carpenter singing his, as he measures his plank or beam,

The mason singing his, as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work;

The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat—the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck;
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench—the hatter singing as he stands;
The wood-cutter’s song—the ploughboy’s, on his way in the morning, or at the noon intermission, or at sundown;

The delicious singing of the mother—or of the young wife at work—or of the girl sewing or washing—Each singing what belongs to her, and to none else;

The day what belongs to the day—At night, the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,

Singing, with open mouths, their strong melodious songs.

I, too, am America.

Thank you, Langston and Walt. Langston’s words are in brown and Walt’s are in green. FYI. What do you think? Is this poetry sacrilege? Or new and innovative? I’m not sure…

Join the rest of the Poetry Friday Round Up at The Simple and The Ordinary.

Picture credit: Me at 5, attending kindergarten in Germany