Friday, June 05, 2009

Fresh starts for summer

For those of us who live and breathe by the school year, June marks the end of the academic year—and the beginning of summer school—for me. It’s a time to clear the decks, perhaps slow down a bit, and reflect. One of my favorite people, poet April Halprin Wayland, has written a new (not-poetry) picture book that encourages just such reflection. It’s about the upcoming Jewish holy day of Rosh Hashanah, focused on the cleansing ritual of “Tashlich.” It has the wonderful title of New Year at the Pier, illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch and published just this month by Dial. [Note: Rosh Hashanah will start on Saturday, the 19th of September and will continue for 2 days until Sunday, the 20th of September.] In the most lyrical language, she shares the worries of young Izzy who is struggling with his “I’m sorry” list of things he needs to apologize for.

I was reminded of the difficulties my own son had owning up to his mistakes and apologizing for them when he was little—such a tough lesson for all of us (and some people never learn it!). April's story moves quickly and conversationally through the process of this Tashlich ritual in language and examples that are so real and relevant (offending a sister, divulging a friend's secret) for readers of all ages.

I love books that reveal cultural and religious traditions to children in wonderful details that are relevant to their young lives. April’s New Year at the Pier reminds me of another gem (that is not-poetry by one of my favorite poets) by Janet Wong, This Next New Year, illustrated by Yangsook Choi (Frances Foster Books, 2000). Her book focuses on the lunar new year, but includes the same kinds of cleaning, cleansing, and preparatory activities—and gets kids involved.

I am also reminded of an old Girl Scout tradition at summer camp to write down something that is bothering or worrying you and then burn that slip of paper in the campfire at the end of camp, letting it go, and beginning again. Not a bad idea, any time of the year.

April’s Web site is also newly refurbished and full of wonderful links—including her new Teaching Authors collaboration with 5 other writers, which is such an excellent resource. You’ll also find some “extras” for New Year at the Pier here, including photos of April and friends celebrating Tashlich in California!

And for a poetry connection, I’d like to share one of April’s wonderful poems that is almost an ANTHEM for me and my blog—since I consider myself an evangelist for reading poetry OUT LOUD with kids. Enjoy!

by April Halprin Wayland

To begin,

tell the poet’s name

and the title

to your friend.

Savor every word—



read it one more time.

Now, take a breath—

and sigh.

Then think about the poet,

at her desk,

late at night,
picking up her pen to write—

and why.

And if you’ve never read April’s graphic novel-in-verse, Girl Coming in For a Landing (Knopf, 2002), be sure to put it on your summer reading list. (It even has a poem about underwear—a theme from last week!)

Sara Lewis Holmes has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Read Write Believe.

Posting (not poem) by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2009. All rights reserved.
Image credit:


Sara said...

I'm a fan of poetry aloud too! I love to feel the words on my tongue. Thanks for the update on April's website and the Teaching Authors blog.

April Halprin Wayland said...

YOU, Sylvia, are too cool. Thank you for this generous post!


Sylvia Vardell said...

Thanks again for hosting Poetry Friday, Sara. And thank YOU, April, for all your wonderful words-- and for allowing me to share them here.

Marinela said...

Sylvia,your blogs are really great!
Thanks for sharing!

Sylvia Vardell said...

Thanks, Marinela. I appreciate your kind words.

Katie @ said...

I remember that Girl Scout tradition. So true.

You know, of course, that we are all reading that poem out loud at our computers. I love how it slides across the tongue.

Sylvia Vardell said...

Hi, Katie-- great to connect with a fellow Girl Scout! And yes, that poem is gorgeous, isn't it? I so appreciate April allowing me to share it. It's so evocative!