Thursday, April 30, 2020

"All Kinds of Kids" by Elizabeth Steinglass

Here's another in my mini movie series-- this one created by Ashley M. featuring the poem "All Kinds of Kids" by Elizabeth Steinglass from Great Morning: Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud (Pomelo Books, 2018). Enjoy! 

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

"The Library" by Sara Holbrook

Here's another installment in my poetry mini movie series. This one is created by Kayla P. featuring the poem "The Library" by Sara Holbrook from The Poetry Friday Anthology (Pomelo Books, 2012). Enjoy! Don't forget that you can still use many resources from your local library ONLINE! 

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

"Stop! Let's Read" by Kristy Dempsey

Here's another installment in my poetry mini movie series. This one is created by Kristina W. featuring the poem "Stop! Let's Read" by Kristy Dempsey from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations (Pomelo Books, 2015). Enjoy! There's plenty of time to read right now and just what we need to ESCAPE! 

Monday, April 27, 2020

"Let's Pledge Between Us" by Janet Wong

Here's another mini poem movie--this one is created by Elaine A. featuring the poem "Let's Pledge Between Us" by Janet Wong from Great Morning: Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud (Pomelo Books, 2018). Click on the link below.

"Let's Pledge Between Us" by Janet Wong

Sunday, April 26, 2020

"Food Fest" by Heidi Bee Roemer

Here's another mini movie created by my lovely graduate students in bringing poetry to life. This one is made by Felicia T. featuring the poem "Food Fest" by Heidi Bee Roemer from Great Morning: Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud (Pomelo Books, 2018). Enjoy! 

"Food Fest" by Heidi Bee Roemer

Saturday, April 25, 2020

"A Phone is Not a Friend" by Carole Boston Weatherford

Here's another mini movie in my series of poetry videos made by my amazing graduate students. This one is created by Mary R. featuring the poem "A Phone is Not a Friend" by Carole Boston Weatherford from Great Morning: Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud (Pomelo Books, 2018). Enjoy! Right now, our phones are a great way to CONNECT with our friends! 

Friday, April 24, 2020

"I Wish" by Toon Tellegen

I'd like to pause to feature a very interesting collection of poetry and art that came my way this spring: I Wish by Toon Tellegen, illustrated with portraits by Ingrid Godon, published by Elsewhere Editions. This is one of those rare birds: an international book of poetry translated from Dutch by David Colmer that is accessible and fascinating for readers here in the U.S. (and other English-speaking countries).

Elsewhere Editions, a publisher of international, translated picture books from around the world, notes: "An art object as much as a delightful picture book, with laid and vellum pages I Wish uncovers a gallery of portraits inspired by old-fashioned photographs – faces staring out at us with the serious, veiled expressions of a bygone time. Paintings of earnest children, solemn men and women, and persnickety babes speak through Toon Tellegen’s peculiarly affecting poetry. The poems present a glittering kaleidoscope of wishes, from imagined feats of heroism to reciprocated love."

Award-winning Dutch children's author Toon Tellegen offers 33 imaginative prose-poems opening with the statement "I wish" inspired by the luminous, old-fashioned portraits created by Ingrid Godon in this beautiful volume for thoughtful young readers. An exhibit of these portraits by Godon was set to appear at a gallery in New York this spring. "Like dozens of confessions poured from the page, the writing presents a glittering kaleidoscope of wishes, from imagined feats of heroism to reciprocated human love." 

About the author: Toon Tellegen is a Dutch writer and poet who published his first collection of stories for children in 1984 and has published more than twenty collections of poetry to date. In 2001, his book Raptors (Raafvogels), translated into English by Judith Wilkinson, won the British Poetry Society's Popescu Prize for European Poetry in Translation. Tellegen was also awarded the Theo Thijssen Prize and the Constantijn Huygens Prize for his entire body of work. 

About the translator: David Colmer translates Dutch literature and is a four-time winner of the David Reid Poetry Translation Prize. He received the 2009 Biennial NSW Premier, a PEN Translation Prize, and an International Dublin Literary Award. 

About the artist: Ingrid Godon is a Dutch children's book illustrator and artist. Her first illustrated book, Wachten op Matroos, was published in 2000 accompanying André Sollie's poetry. Her illustrations stand out for their poetic, sensitive depictions of people and places. When Ik Wou (I Wish) was launched in 2011, it was nominated for the Deutsche Jugendliteraturpreis award. 

This book is such a fascinating combination of art and ekphrastic poetry with a weird, yet child-like sensibility. Here's one of my favorite poems from this collection. See what you think!

Kirkus noted: "This Dutch import pairs portraits with poetry to articulate wrenching individualism, yearning, humor, desires, and pathos... This probing psychological journey makes for an exciting exploration in empathy." 

Now head on over to Wondering and Wandering where Christie is hosting our Poetry Friday gathering. See you there!

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Guest post: Anne Meeker Watson

I'm happy to share my blog space with another friend and colleague-- and near-relative! Anne Meeker Watson is a music therapist and early childhood expert who has created a full of music and play to help children learn and practice skills for social-emotional development, language, and literacy. So much of it is poetry-adjacent with its songs, picture books, music videos, and instructional strategies.

Anne writes:
I create songs that I make into  illustrated picture books. Each book has its own personality, as I utilize the art of six different illustrators. I want children to be able to interact with a variety of styles of art as they sing my songs. Each book targets an early learning skill. (Shhhh. Don’t tell the children we are trying to teach them something. We only want to think they are having fun.)

One of my favorites of my 20 books (and counting – I cannot help myself!) is called SURPRISE KID. The song and book were inspired by a friend of mine who taught music at an elementary school. She had to take early retirement because she was injured by a second grader in her classroom who escalated and hit her with a white board. She sustained a traumatic brain injury. The book is dedicated to her, and to every young child who needs to learn to calm their bodies and calm the way they feel. 

I figured having a super hero with the special power of self-calming would be a great idea. My illustrator insisted that we have three super heroes, so that every child could recognize themselves in one of these three precious characters.

When COVID “hit the fan” and early childhood professionals were charged with planning distance learning for their young children, I began to see the re-emergence of worksheets, white boards ("let’s write our numbers and letters while looking at our teacher on a computer”) and flashcards to accomplish this goal. This made me weep into my glass of Cabernet and bag of double stuffed Oreos. (I am dealing with my stress really appropriately over here.) I decided to start giving away anything and everything I had created to help. Phil and I donated 800 SURPRISE KID books in one day. Then I produced a little SING.PLAY.LOVE. “party” with a dance, song and read-aloud of the SURPRISE KID book. I also created a page on my website so parents could go download the songs. 
*The “Party” is here.
*The music video is here if you want a quick peek at SURPRISE KID.
*The accompanying resources for my “Party” can be found here.
*My blog with regular features is here.

I would love you to share my “party” and my songs/books/support with anyone who could use it. Music, poetry and cyber hugging help!

Sylvia: Thanks for sharing, Anne, and for all your work helping our youngest learn and grow and cope-- especially now. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

"Field Day Fun" by Elizabeth Steinglass

Here's another in my mini movie series created by graduate students working in the field. This one is by Jaylen R. featuring the poem "Field Day Fun" by Elizabeth Steinglass from Great Morning: Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud (Pomelo Books, 2018). Enjoy! Here's hoping we can gathering for outdoor "field days" again very soon! 

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

"Summer Reading" by Janet Wong

Here's another mini movie-- this one is created by Elizabeth L. featuring the poem "Summer Reading" by Janet Wong from Great Morning: Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud (Pomelo Books, 2018). Enjoy! 

Monday, April 20, 2020

"Time for Lunch" by Caroline Starr Rose

Here's another mini movie in my poetry video series. This one is created by Natalie S. featuring the poem "Time for Lunch" by Caroline Starr Rose" from Great Morning: Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud (Pomelo Books, 2018). Enjoy! 

Sunday, April 19, 2020

"When You Arrived" by Liz Garton Scanlon

Here's another mini movie to celebrate poetry. This one is created by my graduate student Jessica S. featuring the poem "When You Arrived" by Liz Garton Scanlon from Great Morning: Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud (Pomelo Books, 2018). Enjoy! 

Saturday, April 18, 2020

"Secret Worlds" by Margarita Engle

Here's another mini movie-- this one is created by Sarah M. featuring the poem "Secret Worlds" by Margarita Engle from Great Morning: Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud (Pomelo Books, 2018). Enjoy! 

Friday, April 17, 2020

Guest post: Patrice Vecchione

Patrice Vecchione is an author, poet, artist and teacher. She edited one of my favorite poetry anthologies from last year: Ink Knows No Borders: Poems of the Immigrant and Refugee Experience. Some of her other poetry anthologies include: Truth and LiesRevenge and Forgiveness, and Faith and Doubt and other works focused on teaching and writing include The Knot Untied, Writing and the Spiritual Life: Finding Your Voice by Looking Within, Territory of Wind. She has taught poetry and creative writing for many years with her writing program The Heart of the Word: Poetry and the Imagination. Here she writes about her newest book:

My Shouting, Shattered, Whispering Voice: A Poetry Writing Resource for Speaking In and Speaking Out. 
(New York: Seven Stories/Triangle Square, 2020)

I'm so happy to feature her "back story" on the writing of her new book here below. Welcome, Patrice! 

How My Shouting, Shattered, Whispering Voice Came to Be

Before a single word of each of my three nonfiction books touched paper, I've first lived their content, but none more so than My Shouting, Shattered, Whispering Voice: A Guide to Writing Poetry & Speaking Your Truth

When I was a colicky newborn, my mother began reciting poems, telling stories and singing songs to me while rocking me to sleep. Not, of course, that I have a conscious memory of those first days. But I do remember being a little girl on a Manhattan park swing, listening to my mother as she pushed me from behind while reciting Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Swing.” Whenever I recite one of many poems she gave me, it’s my mother’s voice I hear in my head. “How do you like to go up in the air, up in the air so blue?” she’d nearly sing, and time after time, right when she got to the word “air,” she’d have taken me there, up into its blue expanse.

In elementary school, the first book I bought with my own money was A Quartet of Poems, a Puffin paperback that, though falling apart, is still in my library. During my difficult middle and high school years and young adulthood, when my mother no longer recited poems to me, still that magical, transformative artform was part and parcel of my days. No longer Stevenson nor Milne nor Eleanor Farjeon, but May Swenson, William Stafford, Theodore Roethke, Basho and Buson, then Anne Sexton, Maxine Kumin, Pablo Neruda, Federico García Lorca, and so it went from there. The more poems I read, the more there were to read!

During high school I began writing them myself. As I say in My Shouting, Shattered, Whispering Voice: “One morning during her first year of high school, wearing the brown felt hat with the beaded sunburst on the front (the hat she wore even to bed), her long hair falling down the length of her back, she walked out of class, giving no reason… Pulling out a small notebook and a chewed-up pencil from the back pocket of her jeans, the girl began to write. Unlike the dread and drudgery that came with classroom writing, this was nearly effortless. It was as if the poem were writing her.” 

Writing poems was the intimate, honest way I talked to myself; it’s how I discovered what I truly felt and thought without risking that my mother, father or a teacher would tell me I’d gotten it wrong. Writing them was how I was able to make a distinction between myself and my dis-functional family. And more. When I wrote a poem, I made something tangible from the intangible, and in doing so I made myself real, and sometimes what I made gave me a sense of beauty and pride.

Shortly after high school, I got it in my head that because of how much reading and writing poems served me, doing so might support others, and so I taught myself how to teach poetry by volunteering for a year at an elementary school. I’ve been writing and teaching in schools and leading writing workshops for children and adults for over 40 years. More than once, poetry has saved my life, and I’ve witnessed its powers of transformation in my students, so how could I ever do anything else?

I’m not sure, did My Shouting, Shattered, Whispering Voice start to come into being when I was born or when I began writing poems or the day I walked into that first classroom with a passel of poems in hand and stood before a group of eager students?

Sylvia: Thanks so much for taking the time to give us a glimpse "behind the curtain," Patrice. This is a tremendous resource for us-- especially right now when we can all use a bit more guidance. Now head on over to Molly's blog, Nix the Comfort Zone, where she is collecting all our lovely Poetry Friday musings. Take care and stay healthy, everyone! 

Thursday, April 16, 2020

"Scary Territory" by Janet Wong

Here's another mini movie-- this one is created by Jessica A. featuring the poem "Scary Territory" by Janet Wong from Great Morning: Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud (Pomelo Books, 2018). Enjoy! 

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Guest post: Marjorie Maddox

I'm hosting a guest today-- poet and teacher Marjorie Maddox. She has a new book that debuts today and is chock-full of great teaching strategies accompanied by example poems. Perfect for teens and young adults. Want to know more? Take it away, Marjorie...

Inside Out:
Why Writing Poetry Helps You Read Poetry
and Why Both Help You Experience the World
by Marjorie Hafer Maddox

Ready for some fun? Step into the world of poetry and you step into your life and the lives of others. Slide into the lives and experiences of others and you saunter into a wide-open world of observation and insight. And in this many-faceted universe of sparkling details, there are poems. 

And more poems. 

And even more waiting to be written and read, available to circle you back to your life, and the lives of others, and that sometimes hard, often beautiful, always thought-provoking real and imaginative abode we call home.

But first, step inside, take a look around, rearrange the furniture of words, pull up a stanza or two, and settle in. Lounge with alliteration. Chit-chat with personification. Shift around the puzzle pieces of a sestina.

Now, like any good host, invite in your friends, students, or children. This, I would argue, is the best way to experience and share the joys of writing and reading poetry—from inside the poem. To understand the home of a poet’s creation, step into that home. But don’t stop there. Take up your own tools—pen, pencil, or keyboard—and begin creating. Feel with your mind (and fingers!) the energy of breakthrough, the trial-and-error of revision, the exhilaration of playful work that is the house of writing.

Yes, playful! Quite simply, my years of playing with words are the foundation for Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems with Insider Exercises. I want to pass on that sense of play to others. Many young people grow up with a love of language, but others are fearful of or intimidated by writing. Inside Out is about getting to know the poem and its possibilities. Here’s the opening piece:

How to See a Poem 

Close your eyes. 
What swims behind your lids
lights imagination. 

Sometimes you’ll recognize flecks 
of what is or what was. 
Sometimes specks of speculation 

will filter in, or fine strands of Never-Never Land
will land in the inner world of mind.
Just keep not 

looking into what’s expected
until you’re free to see
with vision that’s beyond 

the ordinary.

Inside Out also is about trying on the perspectives of other people (or things): “a prince, a pauper, a piece of popcorn,/a philosophical panda, a paranoid piano…Cleopatra…the president of Mars” (“Dramatic Monologue). It is about knowing, through writing, the power and delight of puns, rhyme, onomatopoeia, line and stanza breaks, and simile and metaphor. And it is about discovering HOW to write a sonnet, triolet, clerihew, sestina, or villanelle through a poem that IS a sonnet, triolet, clerihew, sestina, or villanelle.

How to Write a Villanelle 

To write a villanelle, think like a bird
that soars and swoops in seven different ways
and sings a song that you’ve already heard, 

returning to its favorite branch to perch. 
Become a sparrow—light, and quick, and gray— 
to write a villanelle. Think how the bird 

salutes you every morning undeterred
from trilling what it always wants to say
within its favorite song, the one you’ve heard 

so many times you suddenly are stirred
to listen closer still, to find the way
to write a villanelle, just like a bird 

that flits across your vision in a blur
and leaves the sound of beauty in its trail, 
still singing songs that you’ve already heard. 

Next time you want to fly away on words, 
remember what we talked about this day. 
To write a villanelle, think like a bird
that sings a song that you’ve already heard.

For me—as a poet, as a creative writing professor, and as a frequent visiting author at schools—the play of poetry occurs when I’m writing, yes, but also when—with primary, secondary, and university young poets, I’m sparing with puns, soaring on a sonnet, or romping through meter. Thus, Inside Out, also includes nine interactive writing exercises, tested over many years in classrooms and school visits. (Plus, there’s a helpful glossary of poetic terms.)

Geared toward MG and YA poets (and their teachers and parents), these activities encourage introspection and collaboration, allowing young authors the freedom to experiment with poetry’s “fun bag of tricks” while addressing a wide range of topics. After all, poetry’s great gifts to the world are observation and empathy, allowing us to express our own experiences, as well as to better understand the similar (or very different) experiences of others. 

All those details, all those lives, all those different ways—through poetry—to discover our world…. and have fun doing so—that’s how this book came to be. 

Please join me in this exciting adventure of writing and reading poetry—from the inside out!

My web site:

Sylvia: Thank you, Marjorie, for this enticing glimpse! What a gift for young writers and teachers, everywhere.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

"Your Teacher: by Joseph Bruchac

Here's another mini movie created by Erin M. featuring the poem "Your Teacher" by Joseph Bruchac from Great Morning: Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud (Pomelo Books, 2018). Enjoy! 

Monday, April 13, 2020

"Let's Go" by Merry Bradshaw

Here's another mini movie created by Erika G. featuring the poem "Let's Go" by Merry Bradshaw from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations (Pomelo Books, 2015). Enjoy! 

Sunday, April 12, 2020

"Photo Op" by Linda Sue Park

Here's another mini movie created by Nicole F. featuring the poem "Photo Op" by Linda Sue Park from The Poetry Friday Anthology (Pomelo Books, 2012). Enjoy! 

Saturday, April 11, 2020

"Recess" by Avis Harley

Here's another mini movie created by MacKenzie F. featuring the poem "Recess" by Avis Harley from The Poetry Friday Anthology (Pomelo Books, 2012). Enjoy! 

Friday, April 10, 2020

Guest post: Jacqueline Jules

I'm pleased to host another guest post today. Poet and author Jacqueline Jules has a brand new book out this month full of poems focused on sports and activities that kids will surely respond to, Tag Your Dreams: Poems of Play and Persistence (Whitman, 2020). Take it away, Jackie:

Jacqueline writes:
Tag Your Dreams: Poems of Play and Persistence was released by Albert Whitman on April 1, 2020. From baseball, basketball, and football to double-dutch, mini-golf, and turning a cartwheel, these poems look at facing fears, dreaming big, and never giving up. 

Backstory from Jacqueline Jules
Tag Your Dreams was a collection written bit by bit over the last twenty years. I was inspired to write “At Bat” in the mid 1990’s when I was a baseball mom, watching my sons and their teammates go up to the plate after striking out. Their courage to keep trying inning after inning struck me as a metaphor for how one should live life.

Forget wrong decisions
returning in silence
to sulk on the bench. 
That was last time
and the time before. 

The first draft of “At Bat” was scribbled in a notebook while sitting in a lawn chair at my youngest son’s Little League game. I was happy with the body of the poem, but not sure about the ending. Was “I’ll keep my eye on the ball and send fear sailing over the fence” better? Or was “send doubt sailing over the fence” better?  

Back then, as now, I did poetry workshops in classrooms. I decided as part of one of my poetry workshops to let a class vote on the best ending for my poem, “At Bat.” The students chose “send fear sailing over the fence” and I’ve been happy with the last line ever since.

Several poems in Tag Your Dreams were regularly shared in poetry workshops with students. My school district has a wonderful program called Pick a Poet in which working poets are invited into individual classrooms to discuss their process and provide writing prompts. My most popular workshop was called “Get Active: Writing Poems About Sports.” I offered my own original poems as writing models. Poems on basketball, volleyball, hockey, and skiing described topics the students were familiar with. This background knowledge helped them identify the metaphors and literary devices I used in my work. 

Each time I offered my sports poetry workshop, I was so pleased by the student response, I promised myself I would write enough poems to have a thematic collection. Years went by. I wrote a poem called “Running Back” about watching football with my sons. It was published in The Poetry Friday Anthology (Pomelo Books, 2012). Then I wrote another poem about running just before a rainstorm that was published in The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School (Pomelo Books, 2013). I wrote more poems which were published in 2016 by YARN Magazine. One by one, the poems emerged until I finally had almost enough for a collection. That’s when I sat down and actively researched sports I had not already written about so I would have a well-rounded collection. I love finding metaphors in everyday life, particularly ones that represent perseverance. It is not easy to keep reaching for a goal. Trying again after a loss is the secret to success not only in sports, but in life. Writing the poems in Tag Your Dreams helped me handle disappointment in my own life. Many of these poems were personal pep talks. I used the imagery of getting up after falling on a mat or off of a bike, to encourage myself to move forward when I felt discouraged. The poems in Tag Your Dreams describe being active and discovering both physical and personal strengths. I hope young readers will be inspired to reach for their own goals as they read these poems. 

Be well! Be active!

Sylvia: Thank you, Jackie, for sharing this "back story" with us. I've never been much of an athlete myself, although I am an excellent walker! But I agree that sports can be a terrific outlet and release for us all. 

Next, join the rest of the Poetry Friday gathering at the Poem Farm where the lovely Amy Ludwig VanDerwater is hosting us all. Stay home, stay safe, and stay well, everyone! 

Thursday, April 09, 2020

"Look for the Helpers" by Michelle Heidenrich Barnes

Here's another mini movie created by Dominique D. featuring the poem "Look for the Helpers" by Michelle Heidenrich Barnes from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations (Pomelo Books, 2015). Enjoy! 

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

"Thankful" by Traci Sorell

Here's another mini movie created by Brittnee D. featuring the poem "Thankful" by Traci Sorell from Great Morning: Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud (Pomelo Books, 2018). Enjoy! 

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Guest post: Vikram Madan

Vikram Madan is an up-and-coming poet with a new book out this spring: A Hatful of Dragons. Vikram was born in India and lives in Seattle, started out as an engineer, and now is an artist and writer-- what transitions, right? I'm lucky to participate in a blog tour highlighting his new collection-- full of humorous, zany poetry sure to be a hit with kids! Here, Vikram share a look at how he got started writing poetry for kids-- honest, inspiring, and informative!

How this book came to be
I have been writing poetry and drawing cartoons since I was very young, but did not think of combining the two until I encountered Shel Silverstein’s work as an adult. 
My early forays with submitting my self-illustrated poems for publication met with universal rejection. At one point I even sent some work to Jack Prelutsky who liked it enough to introduce me to his editor, but she too demurred, saying that it was “too hard to publish an unknown poet”. These consistent rejections convinced me to eventually try self-publishing, resulting in my first poetry collection, ‘The Bubble Collector’(2013), at which point I learnt that distributing and marketing a book is much harder than writing it! 
By 2015, I had put together a second collection of poems (working title: ‘I Met a Man with Twenty Heads’) but was hesitant to self-publish again. Around that time I had a major mural project fall apart due to a contract disagreement (my ‘day job’ is ‘visual artist’) and I suddenly found myself with free time on my hands. I decided to use that time to try finding a literary agent. Between distributing a self-published book and querying agents, the latter seemed less painful!  
In the past, I had targeted agents randomly. This time I decided to be a little ‘smarter’. Every week Publisher’s Weekly sends out a Children’s Bookshelf newsletter. I started harvesting agent names from the ‘Rights Report’ section of the newsletter, with the assumption that agents placing books were both active and successful. I would then look up their submission policies and query anyone who did not explicitly refuse poetry submissions. 
After literally dozens and dozens of queries over a period of months, one agent, Rosemary Stimola at Stimola Literary Studios, expressed interest, liked the manuscript, and signed me on. It took Rosemary another year to find an interested editor, Rebecca Davis at Boyds Mills & Kane. Rebecca took the time to distill my 150-page manuscript into a chiseled 64-page proposal and by the time we signed a contract, it was already 2017. The book was scheduled for publication in 2020 and we started working on it in late 2018, at which point it took me a whole year to get the words and illustrations up to the high standards of my editors.
Looking back, if that mural project hadn’t fallen apart, or Rosemary not signed me on, I would have probably ended up self-publishing a poetry collection, but it would not have looked like, or even been half as fun as, ‘A Hatful of Dragons’. I am very grateful to Rosemary Stimola, Rebecca Davis, and Barbara Grzeslo (Art Director and Book Designer) at Boyds Mills & Kane for helping make this book what it is!   

Here, Vikram provides manuscript pages that show early and near-final versions of the book in process:

Next, here's Vikram performing one of the poems from A Hatful of Dragons, "Fifty Ukuleles"--- while playing a red ukulele and SINGING the poem (and I LOVE singing poems!):  

Sylvia: Thank you, Vikram, for sharing this fascinating back-story and art. We look forward to a "hatful" of hilarious poetry from you!

Monday, April 06, 2020

"School Bake Sale" by Elaine Magliaro

Here's another mini movie created by Emily C. featuring the poem "School Bake Sale" by Elaine Magliaro from Great Morning: Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud (Pomelo Books, 2018). Enjoy! 

Sunday, April 05, 2020

"Make a Joyful Noise" by B J Lee

Here's another mini movie created by Kathleen C. featuring the poem "Make a Joyful Noise" by B J Lee from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations (Pomelo Books, 2015). Enjoy! 

Saturday, April 04, 2020

"How to Make a Friend" by Jane Heitman Healy

Here's another mini movie created by Alex A. featuring the poem "How to Make a Friend" by Jane Heitman Healy from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations (Pomelo Books, 2015). Click on the link below:

"How to Make a Friend" by Jane Heitman Healy

Friday, April 03, 2020

Guest post: Nikki Grimes

Photo credit: Aaron Lemen
I'm so happy to share my blog space with another poet for a guest post! The award-winning poet Nikki Grimes has a new book out in May and I thought it would be lovely to get a bit of back-story on it. I love what she has to say about representation here and I think you will too. So, please welcome Nikki Grimes and her new book, Southwest Sunrise (Bloomsbury, 2020), illustrated by the amazing Wendell Minor.

Nikki's bio: "New York Times bestselling author Nikki Grimes is the recipient of the 2017 Children's Literature Legacy Award, the 2016 Virginia Hamilton Literary Award, and the 2006 NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. Her distinguished works include the much-honored books Garvey's Choice, ALA Notable book What is Goodbye?, Coretta Scott King Award winner Bronx Masquerade, and Coretta Scott King Author Honor books Jazmin's Notebook, Talkin' About Bessie, Dark Sons, Words with Wings, and The Road to Paris. Creator of the popular Meet Danitra Brown, Ms. Grimes lives in Corona, California."

Nikki writes:
Southwest Sunrise, my newest picture book, illustrated by Wendell Minor, is about to make its way into the world. I love how Kirkus closed its starred review of the book. "How glorious: a story about a black child experiencing the outdoors that is beautiful in every way." What's so special about that sentence is how it hints at my core reason for writing this book.

Too often, the children's books featuring black characters that make it through the publishing machine represent a single story. That story is set against an urban landscape, with a family that is either broken, dysfunctional, or both, and centers around some stereotypical socio-economic problem that the child must overcome, or be rescued from. In fact, such stories are often referred to as "problem books." Then there are, of course, slave narratives, black biographies, and books chronicling civil rights issues—all of which are important. That said, are they the only stories there are to tell? Do black children not have experiences outside of this narrow framework? Of course they do! There are black children from strong families with happy homes, children growing up in the suburbs, in rural areas, and gathering eggs on their family's farms. They call ranches home, live in beach cities, even overseas. And there are black children whose daily lives and imaginations are fueled by engagement with Nature. Where are those stories? It's high time we see more of them, and that's one of the reasons I wrote this book.

Southwest Sunrise is a story in poems about Jayden, a boy suddenly transplanted from New York City to the wide-open spaces of New Mexico. This move was his parent's idea, and Jayden's not too happy about leaving his friends, and his city, behind.

Too old to cry myself to sleep,
I hide behind my baseball cap,
close my eyes, and pout
all the way from New York
to New Mexico,
mad about moving to a place 
of shadows.
That's all I see when we land.

Why are we here?  
What's so great about
New Mexico?

Like it or not, this is Jayden's new home, so he takes the field guide his mother hands him at the breakfast table, and steps outside to explore.  

I shiver from the silence
unbroken by
the familiar sound of sirens—
but not for long.
A few yards down the road,
I pick up the mad chatter
of winged gossips
passing secrets
from one unfamiliar tree to another.
The guidebook calls them
piñon trees 
Little by little, Jayden discovers prehistoric looking lizards, flowers in flaming colors he's never seen, and unfamiliar species of birds like ravens, and magpies.

Someone should tell these
flying chatterboxes
magpies are beautiful
when their beaks are still,
when they sail on air
and write across the sky
with the long black tips
of their tails.

Jayden misses New York City's skyscrapers, but the red rock outcroppings all around show him that New Mexico has skyscrapers of its own.

What's so great about New Mexico? Read Southwest Sunrise and find out.

Sylvia: Thanks so much, Nikki, for sharing this glimpse of your new book. Living in Texas, I've been to New Mexico many times and I love it too-- especially the landscape. White Sands is one of my favorite places on the planet! Can't wait to get my hands on this book in May!

Next, head on over to My Juicy Little Universe where poet and teacher Heidi Mordhorst is hosting our Poetry Friday fun.