Thursday, November 27, 2014


Laramie River Road on the Roosevelt National Forest, CO. USDA Photo from Wikimedia Commons
Yep! You've found it! Poetry Friday is here!

My guys are home from college
it's the first time I have seen them in eleven months
 both of them are struggling
one realizing that his lifelong dreams of playing in the NFL
probably are not going to happen
and the other shipping his stuff home from college
with no plans of returning
and no idea what he wants to do next
and this week we have watched 
Ferguson unfold 
and I have not known what to say
to my precious chocolate-skinned sons
about the wrongness
of the world.   

But today I baked my first pumpkin pie ever
and cooked Thanksgiving dinner, 
then ate turkey  while listening to my man-children 
decry the evils of meat,
Why would you put something else's blood into your body?
My guys cleaned up the kitchen
without being asked
I supervised
and listened to more 
about the evils of meat-eating.
How could you eat the soul of another living being?  
And then they left
to go find friends
and probably engage in questionable activities
and I walked the dog 
on a sixty-degree 
November afternoon

And thought about 
how good our life 
actually is.

Today made me think of a poem Parker J. Palmer posted on Facebook earlier this week.

Praise Song
Barbara Crooker

Praise the light of late November,
the thin sunlight that goes deep in the bones.
Praise the crows chattering in the oak trees;
though they are clothed in night, they do not
despair. Praise what little there's left:
the small boats of milkweed pods, husks, hulls,
shells, the architecture of trees.

Read the rest of the poem here.

Leave your comment below. I have comment moderation so you won't see it until I release it, but I'll try to do it as quickly as I can.

Thanks for stopping by.
  • Robyn was the first to visit on Thursday evening. She's got a really fun idea for creating "micro found poetry ornaments." I may have to try this!
  • Laura Purdie Salas was the second early bird. Laura has an original cinquain, written in response to Sara Pennypacker's picture book, PIERRE IN LOVE. Laura's husband is having kidney stone surgery on Friday so we are sending lots of healing thoughts their way! 
  • Penny Klosterman and her nephew are back for Episode #7, a very clever take on leftover turkey! 
  • At Wee Words for Wee Ones, Bridget Magee has some original thoughts on Black Friday! 
  • For more thoughts on Black Friday (and before you head out to the mall),  stop by Sylvia Vardell's Poetry for Children
  • At THE POEM FARM, Amy Ludwig Vanderwater invites us into a moment at her Thanksgiving dinner table. And at her other blog, SHARING OUR NOTEBOOKS, she announces the winners of a giveaway. 
  • Diane Mayr wrote an original tanka, after seeing a starling "murmuration." Be sure to watch the accompanying youtube video- it's breathtaking!
  • Mary Lee also has an original poem, written after the first snow of the season. She'll be writing a haiku every day for the month of December, and invites us to join her at her poetry blog.
  • Carol Varsalona also describes the first snow of the season in an original poem, "Fall's Transition." You have until the end of next week to add your original poems and photographs to her finding fall collection.
  • Michelle Barnes has been hosting a monster haiku challenge all month. You have until Sunday to submit your haiku to be eligible to win a copy of Bob Raczka's new book, SANTA CLAUSES.  You can also enter the drawing simply by commenting on her blog today!
  • Fantasy lovers will want to be sure and stop by Gathering Books, where Iphigene is featuring a Tolkien ballad, "Far Over the Misty Mountain," performed on a Youtube video.  
  • Those of you who are NOT shopping today will enjoy Mary Ann Hoberman's picture book poem I LIKE OLD CLOTHES, featured this morning by Irene Latham. Be sure to take time to listen to Hoberman read her book. 


 Got any young doctors or scientists hanging around at your house? If so, Nicola Davies, TINY CREATURES: THE WORLD OF MICROBES is sure to delight!
You know about big animals
and you know about small animals…
(picture of a blue whale with men in a rowboat to show scale

but do you know that there are creatures so tiny
that millions could fit onto this ant's antenna?

So tiny that we'd have to make the ant's antenna
as big as a whale to show them to you?

The use of scale in this book is so clever-for example, the picture of a giant ant's antenna on the first page, then on another two page spread- a single drop of water can hold twenty million microbes, that's about the same as a the number of people in New York State  has a picture of apartment buildings with people's heads, or yet another, "a teaspoon of soil can have as many as billion microbes, that's the same as the number of people in the whole of India. I'd love to have the illustration from the India page hanging in my living room!

Davies goes on to explain some of the different jobs microbes play in the universe- how they decompost soil, wear down mountains and build up cliffs turn milk into yogurt, and make people sick and well. Emily Sutton's illustrations are detailed and perfect.

Read the NY Times review here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

SEA TURTLE SCIENTIST- Stephen R. Swinburne

I'm not surprised to discover that the SCIENTISTS IN THE FIELD series has several (at least four, I think) books on the CYBILS nonfiction list. Today's offering, SEA TURTLE SCIENTIST, follows Dr. Kimberly Stewart, the "turtle lady," in her efforts to save the sea turtles of Saint Kitts and Nevis. The reader follows Stewart in her midnight watches of enormous mama turtles crawling up onto the beach to lay eggs, and her digging of nests that have hatched. The book includes chapters on how the turtles hatch and begin their journey, how the community is working to save the turtles and interestingly, a chapter on a native from Saint Kitts, that used to hunt sea turtles, but now works with Stewart on her conservation effort. Swinburne presents the complexities of conservation- the local people depend on sea turtles for food and use the shells to make jewelery, which is a source of income.

The story of Stewart's work is interspersed with numerous (I counted at least ten) related articles, e.g. WIDECAST (a Caribbean organization that works to save sea turtles), sea turtle facts, a history of Saint Kitts, how sea turtles are killed, etc. Back matter includes a glossary, a selection on how to help sea turtles, another on how to adopt sea turtles, and a bibliography of books and websites for further reading. By the time I was finished reading, I had resolved to stop using plastic grocery bags and also to go on an eco-vacation to a turtle preserve.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


I love books that talk about how people work. 
And the grit that it takes to make something happen.
And how many "mistakes" have to happen before an invention is successful.

It makes sense, then, that I would love Elizabeth Rusch's newest book, THE NEXT WAVE: THE QUEST TO HARNESS THE POWER OF THE OCEANS, explores the work of three different teams, all working to harness the power of waves to generate energy for homes and businesses.
 First, Rusch takes into the lives of Mike Morrow and Mike Delos-Reyes, two kids who liked to take things apart. The two attended Oregon State University, where they invented a wave device for their senior project. Twenty years later, they dragged out their design and founded M3Wave, a company committed to harnessing the power of the ocean.

Annette von Jouanne is a professor at Oregon State University (she wasn't there when Morrow and Delos-Reyes attended). As an electrical engineer, she is concerned "about our heavy use of nonrenewable resources, how much we burned fossil fuels for energy, and all the pollution that they made). Rusch details Von Jouanne's team as they try, and fail, and adjust, and try again, over, and over and over. Finally, Rusch invites her readers to visit the work of a third company, Ocean Power Technology, which "might be the first in the water to provide real energy to real people."

THE NEXT WAVE is part of the SCIENTISTS IN THE FIELD series. Like other books in the series, the book not only includes terrific information, but it's also beautifully designed. Color photographs enhance the text on pretty much every page. There are numerous side bars and pull out articles, maps and diagrams, to build the readers' understanding of the topic.  End matter includes a glossary, carefully detailed sources and places where the reader can go for more information. 


My boys have been away at school
I have not seen them for eleven long months.
I have so looked forward to having them home.
To dishes in the kitchen sink.
Dirty socks on the floor in family room.
Endless noise. 

And yet this is a very hard week to parent.

For eleven years
I have loved my chocolate-skinned sons as best as I can.
Cooked and cleaned and driven.
Showed up at practices and games
Attended parent teacher conferences
and court room hearings
Claimed scriptures.
Cried and prayed.
Done without so they could have.
Over and over and over again.

And yet tonight.
I am not their mother.
We are not family. 

I am one of them.
The other.
The enemy.

I search for explanations.

I cannot imagine what it might have been like
to be that young police officer
in an urban neighborhood
on a hot summer night.
I do not know what really happened.
Why he would choose to point a gun
at a not-yet-man-child. 

And I cannot hope
to understand
the grand jury-
hours spent
listening to testimony
poring over documents
and photographs
to arrive at
a decision
that pleases no one
and can never bring back
a mother's fallen child.

I am left
sitting at the kitchen table
trying to find words
to explain injustice
to apologize 

to my chocolate-skinned sons.

Monday, November 24, 2014


Owen and Mzee? Balto? Keiko, the whale who starred in FREE WILLY? Smokey the Bear? Sea Biscuit?

You probably know all of these animals, but what about Binta Jua, the gorilla mom who picked up a little boy who somehow fell into the cage at Brookfield Zoo and carried him to her door, so none of the other gorillas could hurt him?

Or how about Pale Male, a red-tailed hawk that makes his home on Fifth Avenue, in New York City, and has fathered a hundred or more other urban dwellers?

Or what about the Tamworth Two, two hogs that fled the slaughterhouse and escaped into the woods of England in 1998?

These are only a few of the animals that are included in ANIMAL STORIES: NINETEEN TRUE TALES FROM THE ANIMAL KINGDOM by Jane Yolen and her three children, Heidi, Jason, and Adam Stemple. Each of the 19 narrative nonfiction stories included in the book is about a different animals, and is accompanied by a short nonfiction piece about the animal or a related topic. End pages include a brief synopsis of each story, a world map, a timeline, an authors' note, and resources for further reading. Each story also contains several full color illustrations, making the book more accessible to younger readers.

A great gift for an animal lover!

Monday, November 17, 2014


Our second graders do a unit on advocacy each year. I'm always on the lookout, then, for books about people who are advocates, especially in a way that children will understand. ALICE WATERS AND THE TRIP TO DELICIOUS, by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, author of SNOWFLAKE BENTLEY and more recently FARMER WILL ALLEN AND THE GROWING TABLE, definitely fits into that category.

Alice Waters spent part of her young adulthood in Europe, tasting yummy foods, then opened a restaurant, Chez Panisse. At the time most chefs were men. And most restaurants worried about finding good recipes, not good ingredients. Alice Waters changed all of that. She cooked with only the freshest ingredients and her restaurant became hugely popular.   Alice was the first woman to win the James Beard Chef of the year. She cooked for presidents and for the Dalai Lama.

But that wasn't enough for Alice. Every day as she packed her daughter's lunch, and as she drove by schools, she wondered whether children were having opportunities to taste fresh and delicious food. When the principal of a middle school contacted her, she paired with that school and the The Edible Schoolyard Project was born. Now there are Edible Schoolyards across the United States, because

Alice Waters is sure:
Kids who know good food,
who grow, gather, and share good food,
will care about the soil, care about farmers,
care about everyone having enough to eat.

Kids who get to Delicious can change the world. 

This is illustrator Haelin Choi's first picture book, and her playful illustrations capture the essence of the book. Back matter includes an afterword by Alice Waters (advice for kids about growing and eating food), an author's note, a list of resources for further research, and a bibliography.