Friday, May 25, 2012

Poetry in My Life

I know, I know...April was National Poetry Month.  However, the power of poetry never ceases to amaze me, whether it is the obscure and moving poems of e.e. cummings, the poem about poems in Sharon Creech's Love That Dog, or the celebration of every day simplicities artfully crafted by William Carlos Williams.

The nose-picker in "Warning"
The gateway to poetry for many children is Shel Silverstein.  I totally get it.  He gives kids poems about picking your nose and forgetting to wear pants.  I have been reading Shel to my kids for a couple months now.  We've made our way through A Light in the Attic and we are currently devouring Where the Sidewalk Ends.  Today we read a couple of poems that I guess I forgot about.  The man had something to say, that is for sure.  "Snowman" took me by surprise the most.  Have you read this?  Man, I put it down and looked up to the other grown up in the room and asked, "Does that make you want to cry as much as it makes me want to?"  The nod and the frown confirmed my feelings.

On this Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial welcoming of summer, here is the poignant poem.  It is a reminder of all we get to witness in life, to never give up on your dreams, and to keep on keeping on...even when what you want the most seems impossible.


Twas the first day of springtime,
And the snowman stood alone
As the winter snows were melting
And the pine trees seemed to groan,
“Ah, you poor sad smiling snowman,
You’ll be melting by and by.”
Said the snowman,”What a pity,
For I’d like to see July.
Yes, I’d like to see July, and please don’t ask me why.
But I’d like to, yes I’d like to, oh I’d like to see July.

Chirped a robin just arriving,
“Seasons come and seasons go,
And the greatest ice crumble
When it’s flowers’ time to grow.
And as one thing is beginning
So another thing must die,
And there’s never been a snowman
Who has ever seen July.
No, they never see July, no matter how they try.
No, they never ever, never ever, never see July.”

But the snowman sniffed his carrot nose
And said, “At least I’ll try,”
And he bravely smiled his frosty smile
And blinked his coal black eye.
And there he stood and faced the sun
A blazin’ from the sky—
And I really cannot tell you
If he ever saw July.
Did he ever see July? You can guess as well as I
If he ever, if he never, if he ever saw July.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Happy (Belated) Mother's Day!!

Back in the day...  We used to choreograph dances
for my mom's gifts.  Little did she know...we had
costumes on under those nightgowns!
This Mother's Day I was a whopping 3,000 miles away from my mother.  It's too bad because she is amazing.  I spoke with her on the phone and she spent her Mother's Day in the garden, one of her favorite things to do.  If you are ever driving through Western New York you MUST take a side trip up the great big hill to my parent's house and see her garden, it is quite spectacular.

Me and Grandma McCullough (Mom's mom)
My mom was an amazing, amazing mother. She did all the things a good mother should do and then some.  However, I have seen my mother slip into a new role, one that has taken all of her amazing-ness and multiplied it by about a million.  She's a grandmother.  She has four stinkin' adorable grandkids and in the time she has been a grandmother she has shown these kids unconditional love like no other.  My nephew Josh loves French, the kids are all decked out in the most amazing knit clothing you have ever seen, and it's no secret why they all know how to toast with a martini glass (no need to be alarmed...she fills the glasses with juice.)

Me and Grandma Howe (Dad's mom)
I was blessed with two wonderful grandmothers.  My dad's mom, "Mamie," is a living legend among the family.  She is 90 years old, 91 this August, and that woman can still get down on the dance floor.  My mom's mom, Blanche, has made me the most beautiful quilt collection imaginable.  I only hope to have talent like that some day. I don't know anyone else who has a "Garden quilt" they take out when they sit in the park or go to the beach. I have one and it is well loved!

So in honor of Mother's Day, and is a little late, I am sharing two grandmother books with you!

Abuela, written by Arthur Dorros and illustrated by Elisa Kleven, tells of the adventures of a little girl and her Abuela, abuela is Spanish for grandmother.  As she and her grandmother walk throughout the city we get a glimpse into their special relationship.  The illustrations are a patchwork of brightly colored images that remind me of my own grandmother's quilts.  As the girl and her grandmother walk through gardens they take off in the girl's imagination and fly through the city.  They speak mostly Spanish together but the story is told from the girl's perspective, in English. Abuela reminds me a lot of Tar Beach by Faith Ringold.  This is a beautiful book to share with your own grandmother.

An illustration from Abuela

My Nana and Me by Irene Smalls is a book I've been carrying around for awhile.  In this book a little girl spends the day with her Nana.  They have a tea party, dance around, play hide-and-seek...y'know, stuff you do with your grandmother.  The words and illustrations seem to dance along with the story.  The water-based paints Johnson uses also give the story a magical touch.  At the end, everybody gets tucked in and rests after a long day.

I hope you all had a wonderful Mother's Day.  Whether you are a grandmother, a mom of grown-up kids like my mom, a brand new mom, or someone who is like a mom to someone...thanks for all you do! 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Farewell, Mr. Sendak

Sad news today: Maurice Sendak, beloved author and illustrator, has gone to the great wild rumpus beyond.  I hope we all remember reading Where The Wild Things Are as children, and pretending to be Max and the cast of wild things from time to time.   I remember being out-of-my-mind excited when I got to dress in the official wild thing costume, complete with giant head with horns, at the children's library where I worked, and sneaking up on the kids in the picture book section.  Best day on the job ever.

my mom and me

For a recent (hilarious) interview, check out this video that my friend Afton showed me last week-  (in 2 parts: 1 and 2) on the Colbert Report. 

To honor Mr. Sendak we are heading to our library now to pick up his latest book, Bumble-ardy.

What are your favorite Maurice Sendak books?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Thank You, Mr. Falker

This week celebrates two very important subjects in my life: teaching and children's books.  It is Teacher Appreciation Week all across the country and worldwide folks are celebrating Children's Book Week.  In honor of both, I bring you today Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco.

Kathy Dorr, a college professor of mine, first introduced this book to me.  She always read us the best children's books.  I actually cried when I heard this story.  It is an autobiographical tale of Patricia Polacco, the author and illustrator.  Patricia is dyslexic, disnumeric, and disgraphic...all huge barriers to learning how to read.  In the beginning of the book Trisha sits with her grandfather.  Keeping with tradition, he puts a little bit of honey on a book and says to Patricia, "Honey is sweet, and so is knowledge, but knowledge is like the bee that made that sweet honey, you have to chase it through the pages of a book."  She has waited for this moment her whole 5 years of life...the promise to read.

Trisha knows her family loves stories and books.  So she is excited when she begins school and has the opportunity to start chasing knowledge through books.  However, the words on the page don't look right and she can't make sense of it all.  She continues to struggle to read and the students in the class start to make fun of her.  One boy bullies her frequently and Mr. Falker, Trisha's teacher, takes notice.  One day, he finds Trisha cornered by the bully and comes to her rescue.  He has also realized she cannot read so he decides to help her.

"Honey is sweet, and so is knowledge..."

In real life, Patricia didn't learn to read until she was almost 14 years old.  Instead, she turned to drawing as a way of expressing herself.  These days, statistics tell us that a student not reading by 3rd grade has a tough future ahead of them.  However, Patricia Polacco grew up to become the author and illustrator of over 50 children's books.  What I love most about her books is that they are based on real stories.  Many of them are from her own life and her own family history.  They remind me of the family stories we used to tell around the dinner table.  If you haven't read one, definitely go find one as soon as you can.  I guarantee you will love the sweet taste of the words as you read them.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

May Days

I know I am a weeee bit late in posting upcoming events for May.  Better late than never?  This week, May 7 - 12, happens to be Children's Book Week.  Check out this link for all of your own local events and read lots and lots of books!

Here are some of the best upcoming events for you LA folk and Boston peeps.

Los Angeles

May 8
* Cornelia Funke, author of Inkspell, Inkheart, Thief Lord hosted by Children's Book World at school site.  If you contact Children's Book World they will give individuals information about attending.

May 9
* Tony DiTerlizzi, illustrator of The Spider and the Fly and The Spiderwick Chronicles will be at Mrs. Nelson's at 5 pm.  He is AWESOME!  If I could beat the LA traffic I would be there!

May 11
* Jon Klassen, author/illustrator of I Want My Hat Back, Extra Yarn, The House in the Trees hosted by  Children's Book World at a school site.  If you contact Children's Book World they will give individuals information about attending.

May 12
* Bonnie Verburg, author of The Kiss Box at Children's Book World. 10:30 am.
* Jennifer Bosworth speaks about her debut YA novel Struck at The Last Bookstore, 3 pm.
* Stories in the Garden with me and my crew! Micheltorena St. Garden, 12 - 1pm

May 22
* Cecil Castellucci, author of YA book The Year of the Beasts, at Skylight Books, 7:30 pm.

May 23
* Ashley Wolff, illustrator of Miss Bindergarten is promoting her new book Baby Bear Sees Blue at Mrs. Nelson's at 5 pm. 


May 7
* Adam Mansbach and Ricardo Cortes, authors of Go the F*** to Sleep, at Brookline Booksmith, 7 pm

May 8
* Erin Dionne, author of Models Don't Eat Chocolate, will be at Wellesley Books, 4 pm.

May 12
* Jef Czekaj, author of Hip and Hop Don't Stop and Yes, Yes, Yaul, and a visitor to my classroom, will be at Wellesley Books at 10 am.  Hilarity will ensue. 
* A panel of authors will be at Wellesley Books discussing how to get published as a children's book author!  3 pm - 5:30 pm.

May 19
* Jane Kohuth will read and host a sock hop all in celebration of her book Duck Sock Hop.  Wellesely Books, 3 pm.
* David Ercolini, illustrator of Not Inside This House! will host a storytime at The Eric Carle Museum, 2 pm.

May 29
* Somerville Public Library will be hosting a book club for kids.  This month they will discuss Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick.  Selznick is also known for his book The Invention of Hugo Cabret.
* Jesse Andrews, author of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, will be at the Cambridge Public (Main) Library, 4 pm.