Poetry Friday: Birds on a Wire Plus a Student Extra

My assistant part times at the public library.  Recently she brough in Birds on a Wireby J. Patrick Lewis and Paul J. Janeczko. 

“Thought maybe you would like to see this,”  she said.  What a fun, fun, fun book.  Through renga, a type of haiku in which one poet writes most of the poem and the other poet responds, the day in the life of an American village is portrayed.

And the book zigs and zags through the countryside, with the lines linking to one another like railroad cars.  Examples:

in the blizzard
of apple blossoms,
a road edged in white
   old spotted hound
   stops to sniff

birds on a wire
in failing light turn home
to oak and elm
  park trees become noisemakers
  until the flock  of screeches stills

The illustrations by Gary Lippincott complement the text in a way that makes you want to visit this village.

And this from a student.  Handed to me earlier this week:

Looking at a Baby

I look at a baby, into its eyes and all I see is curiosity.
Its hands folded as if holding a preciosu treasure.
So fragile like a glass doll.
So soft like a pillow filled with pure white feathers.

I look and wonder what is happening in the little brain
no bigger than two nut sized fists out together.
I look and imagine what the sweet little baby could possibly thinking.

Is she wondering why everyone around  is big like giants
and ony her the size of a magical dwarf?
Or is she thinking and is making music of her own?
Filled with oohs and ahhs.

Looking at a baby is like a show where there is no need pay or applause.
Where everything is understanding and magical
just like in the land of Neverland.

–Sofiya, 5th grade

Poetry Friday is rounded up today by Adventures in Daily Living.  Thank you

Nonfiction Monday:Flip, Float, Fly Seeds on the Move

The earlier sunrises and tulips and daffodils peeking through the soil, makes me think of spring. Thinking of spring makes me thing of seeds.  And what better book to feature than Flip, Float, Fly Seeds on the Move by Joann Early Macken and illustrated by Pam Paparone.

Do you wonder about seeds?  How they move about the world?  Like last spring, there was a single yellow tulip in my garden bed. A tulip that I did not plant.  How did it get there?

Macken’s book explores the many ways seeds are transported in this world.  Some seeds fly on the wind, others cling to some one’s socks, and some are carried by water.  The text is poetic:

“A wild oat sees curls up in the sun like a comma.  The seed straightens out when it rains. Wiggle! Jump! One way, then the other.  It works its way into the ground.”

Macken uses onomatopoeia that fully illustrates how the seeds move.

Paprone’s illustrations show the bigger picture with circular insets depicting a close-up of the seeds. The acrylic paintings are a great complement to the text.

Flip, Float, Fly Seeds on the Move is an excellent choice for the budding young gardeners and botanists.


Title: Flip, Float, Fly Seeds on the Move
Author: Joann Early Macken
Date Published: 2008
Pages: unpaged
Grade: K-5
Publisher: Holiday House
ISBN: 978-0-8234-2043-8
Source of Book: Publisher sent for CYBILS consideration.

Please visit here for more nofiction books.

By the way, I am listening to the ALA Book awards just heard that several books I have reviewed were honor selections: A River of Words(Caldecott Honor), Wolf Snail (Geisel Honor), What to Do About Alice, March On (I think this was a video award).  Yay!

Happy Reading. 


Poetry Friday: All About the Inauguration

Do you know of Elizabeth Alexander?  She is the poet creating the inauguration poem for President Brarack Obama.  I caught a glimpse on about her on the news this week and decided to share her work as well as the previous inaugural poets with the students.  

I have been reading the book March On! by Christine King Farris to students this week in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday.  And what struck me about Elizabeth Alexander is that she there with her parents (after all, she was just a wee baby)  at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963.

Well, I have needed further investigation about this person who will be the fourth poet to deliver a poem at an inauguration. I discovered her website here.  She has a brief statement about being selected to write a poem for the president-elect.   Love this:

Words matter. Language matters. We live in and express ourselves with language, and that is how we communicate and move through the world in community….The distillation of language in poetry, its precision, can help us see sharply in the midst of many conundrums…Poetry is not meant to cheer; rather, poetry challenges, and moves us towards transformation. Language distilled and artfully arranged shifts our experience of the words – and the worldviews – we live in…”

And I found a poem about John Cotrane to share with students:

John Col
                            “I reach from pain to music great enough to
                                           bring me back”
                                                            –Michael S. Harper
                             “trane’s horn had words in it”
                                                             –A.B. Spellman

John Col

trane’s”Central Park

West” from the first

the point where 

this is not enough

untested pain

imagined shred-

ding of my heart

The rest can be found here

And with all poems inaugural here is

Robert Frost’s poem for President John Kennedy (1961)

Maya Angelou’s poem for President Clinton (1993)

Miller William’s poem for President Clinton (1997)




Between reading the various inaugural poems (the other three) and talking about Martin Luther King,Jr. this week and preparing students for President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration, the week has been one that has found me teary at times.  I have found myself deeply reflective of the cultural and social changes in our country.  I look at the “quilt of students” (to paraphrase Christine Farris King) and think, this was not how it looked for me as a child.

On Tuesday, I will be listening intently to the words of this poet.  I will be listening to see how her words help to transform us as a nation. It will be quite the day.

Happy Reading.  Karen Edmisten is hosting Poetry Friday.


Nonfiction Monday: Martin Luther King, Jr.

Two books on the topic of Martin Luther King, Jr. were presented to the CYBILS NFP Book committee.  Both  are slices of life from this larger than life person.

March On! The Day My Brother Martin Changed the Worldby Christine King Farris looks at that the events of August 28, 1963. Known as the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom”, 250,000 marchers descended upon Washington Mall.  It was during this event that Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream Speech”.  Farris’ book brings readers into that day and London Ladd’s illustrations provides great visuals for the texts.  Last week when I was reading this book to students, gasps could be heard as I showed the illustration of the people on the mall.    March On! is a great compliment to Farris’ earlier book, My Brother, Martin which highlights his childhood.  I was surprised to learned that Christin King Farris was not in Washington, D.C. on the day of this powerful speech.  The book read as if she was recounting her experience on that day.  She includes an author’s note following the story.

As Good as Anybody Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Amazing March Toward Freedon by  Richard Michelson tells about another part of Martin Luther KIng, Jr.’s life.  Have you ever heard of  Abraham Joshua Heschel? I had not until this book.  His life journey parallelled Marting Luther King, Jr.’s journey.  Having known persecution as a Jew living in Europe, Heschel was happy to come to the aid of King when he asked for “all of God’s children to walk.”  A timeline is included at the end of the book. 

This year,  the work of Martin Luther King, Jr seem to be having a significant impact on me.  I teared up ion a couple spots while reading both books.  I am sure this is due to November’s election.  I found myself looking into the faces of many students and realizing just how much our country has moved forward (and yet, I know it is not enough).

Both books will work really well for older elementary students.  Those students who have the basic information about King and are now ready to delve into specific events of his life.

As always, Anastasia Suen is heading up Nonfiction Monday.  How will you honor the work of Martin Luther King, Jr. this weekend?  For me, I will donate blood.

Happy Reading.

Poetry Friday: William Stafford

January is the month in which William Stafford was born. (January 17, 1914 to be exact). There is an event at Annie Bloom’s Books next Tuesday, I hope to go. There will be selected readers and then audience participation.  I am considering this poem to read aloud.  “How These Words Happen” from his book, The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems.

How These Words Happen

In winter, in the dark hours, when others
were asleep, I found these words and put them
together by their appetites and respect for
each other.  In stillness, they jostled.  The traded
meanings while pretending to have only one.

Monstrous alliances never dreamed of before
began,  Sometimes they lost.  Never again
do they separate the world.  They are
together.  They have a fidelity that no
purpose of pretense can ever break.

And all this happens like magic to the words
in those dark hours when others sleep.

Such an inspiration and an amazing person who’s presence is still felt after being gone sixteen years.

Anastasia Suen rounds up Poetry Friday. Thank you, Anastasia!

Happy Reading.

MsMac (hoping her words will arrange themselves in the dark)

Who’s Reading What

 I recently interviewed the library media specialists in our district about what they planned to read over the winter break.  The following titles could be found at their homes:

No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War IIby Doris Kearns Goodwin

 Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution–and How It Can Renew America by Thomas L. Friedman.

All the Pretty Horsesby Comac McCarthy

 The Otherby David Guterson

 What Color is Your Parachute for Retirement by Richard Nelson Bolles

 Breathe: A Ghost Storyby Cliff McNish

 Knights of the Hill Country by Tim Tharp

 Hemingses of Monticello by Annette Gordon-Reed

 Crocodile on the Sandbank  and the rest of the series by Elizabeth Peters

 Unaccustomed Earthby Jhumpa Lahiri (mentioned by two people)

 Doppelgangerby David Stahler, Jr

 The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker

With all the snow, it was a good time to read.  What are you reading?  I just started listening to Magyk by Angie Sage.  I do not know what my problem was but I had a difficult time getting into both Time Travelers Wifeby Audrey Niffenegger and Suite Francaiseby Irene Nemirovsky and Sandra Smith.  So I put them aside for now. I have Brooklyn Bridge by Karen Hesse and Steinbeck’s Ghostby Lewis Buzbeeto read.

Happy Reading. What are you reading?




Tuesday Tidbits: Welcome 2009

The snow is all gone. The rain and wind are here!  I just read an email about the dismal state of affairs for education in Washington and am trying to stay focused and positive.

If this were Monday, I would be talking about the CYBILS Nonfiction Picture Books shortlist.  The first day back was rather wild so Nonfiction Monday did not get written.  I do want to share about the CYBILS and the process.

First:  My team: Tricia, Debbie, Beckie, Dave and led by Fiona were fabulous.  We seemed to work well together.  Our biggest challenged appeared to be getting copies of all the nominees. This brings me to my second point

Second: In fact, I received two books after our finalist list was sent in and I know another team member received books too late as well.  It is a shame that some nominees could not be fully considered.  I looked and looked within the public library systems and my own district for some of the new titles to no avail.  I hope the publishers will really consider sending nominees to the panel members next year in a timely manner.  The CYBILS does such a great job of promoting books.

For the past two years, I have served as a poetry judge which I loved doing. What I noticed about being on the panel to decide the shortlist for the NFP Books was less stress. I wonder if that is the way others feel.  It felt good to be able to nominate five -seven titles and not just say definitively, “This is THE one. This is the best!”  I mean they are all great books. 

I found for me drawn to books with engaging information for readers of all levels.  Kid appeal and saturated with information were two important criteria for me.  Almost all the books were filled with lots of information but some more than others really smacked of kid appeal, the kind of book that is likely to be on student hold lists.   The judges will have their work cut out for them as they decide CYBILS Award for the Nonfiction Picture book from the following list:

Astronaut Handbook, written and illustrated by Meghan McCarthy
         If any one book will spark the curiousity about becoming an astronaut, it it this book!  The illustrations are bold and engaging.  The text is written at a level that explains some pretty difficult concepts.  I thought immediately of a few students who are interest in the space field.

Duel!: Burr and Hamilton’s Deadly War of Words, written by Dennis
Brindell Fradin and illustrated by Larry Day
           I doubt that this title will stay on the shelves.  If a teacher doesn’t have it check out, it will be in the hands of students eager for information about some pretty famous characters of early America.

Fabulous Fishes, written and illustrated by Susan Stockdale
       Playful and yet nonfiction, the line-up begins now with Fabulous Fishes for those marine biology scientists.  The illustrations are spectacularly colorful.

Nic Bishop Frogs, written and photographed by Nic Bishop
        Anyone who has read Nic Bishop’s Spiders knows that he is brilliant behind the camera.  This new addition does not disappoint.  I am left wondering where to sign-up for photography classes by this author.

A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams, written by Jen
Bryant and illustrated by Melissa Sweet
    The story behind one of my favorite poets.  Bryant has made more of his poetry accessible to the younger students and Sweet’s illustrations are a major compliment to the text. I cannot wait until April to pair this with last year’s CYBILS for poetry: This is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness by Joyce Sidman.
Wanda GÃg: The Girl Who Lived to Draw, written and illustrated by Deborah
Kogan Ray
    This book charmed me with a quiet story of Wanda Gag who wrote Millions of Cats(always a favorite). The author pulled from Gag’s own journal entries to tell the story of a remarkable person.

Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa, written and
illustrated by Jeanette Winter
       I loved the illustrations in this story.  And Winter tells anincredible slice of life about 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner. Wangari Maathai.  In this time of environmental concerns, this story brings to the forefront the power of one person’s actions in the world.

So if you have not had an opportunity to read any of these, head to your own library and check them out.  You can also check out other finalists here.

Happy Reading.


Poetry Friday: A Poem for the New Year

A new year, a time to remember the importance of holding onto dreams

by Langston Hughes

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

A Year of Readingis hosting the Poetry Friday round-up. Thank you Mary Lee and Franki.

Happy New Year. Happy Reading.