Sunday, July 5, 2015


People who regularly read my blog will be surprised to see a book that features cats because they know I'm a dog person, but this one's too good to pass up!

Miss Hazeltine opens a home for shy and fearful cats and soon has many companions, including Crumb, the most fearful cat of all. Miss Hazeltine teaches her new friends all kinds of lessons- Bird Basics, Climbing Up and Climbing Down, Scary Noises, Meeting New Friends, Pouncing, and the hardest lesson of all- How Not to Fear the Broom. Crumb doesn't participate in these lessons, instead, he spends most of his time hiding in pitch black places. One day though, Miss Hazeltine sets out to get more milk for the cats. On the way home, she falls into a ditch and hurts her ankle. It's up to Crumb, to lead Miss Hazeltine's band of timid cats, armed with the broom, to save her!

A terrific read aloud for the beginning of the year. An engaging story, not too long, great language, terrific illustrations by Birgitta Sif. You could also use it for discussions on bravery or growth mindset or character change.  This dog lover thoroughly enjoyed MISS HAZELTINE'S HOME FOR SHY AND FEARFUL CATS!

Friday, July 3, 2015


Fourth of July seems like a perfect time to share Bob Raczka's newest book, PRESIDENTIAL MISADVENTURES.  This time, Raczka, author of LEMONADE and SANTA CLAUSES, has turned his attention to all things presidential, writing a clerihew (four lines, focused on a person, person's name mentioned in first line, AABB rhyme scheme) with a little known fact about each person. One that fits my life perfectly, given that I started a book reorganizing project this week…

"Book collector Millard Fillmore
Owned a ton but wanted still more
Believing that books make us less barbarian
Millard became the first White House librarian." 

And given that my Spanish efforts are limping along…

Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Hoover
were known as eavesdropping disapprovers
To keep folks from listening to what they said
They spoke not in English but Chinese instead.

Illustrations are black and white, almost political cartoon style. An author's note in the front explains the history of the clerihew, then author's notes in the back give a little more background about each poem. 

These would be fun to try as part of a multi-genre research project. 

Donna at MAINELY WRITE is hosting POETRY FRIDAY today. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015


When I go to baby showers, I usually try to bring a sibling present as well. Here are three new books I'll be wrapping in the not too distant future.

Farmer Brown and his crew are back. There's a new addition to the farmyard, Baby Duck, who charms everyone with his silly antics, until it's time to go to sleep, that is!

Review copy provided by publisher
Gwendolyn Grace, an alligator in a pink tutu, just wants to play. The new baby is asleep though, and Mother Alligator needs her to be quiet. Gwendolyn Grace needs to know exactly how quiet…

Review copy provided by publisher
Little Miss, from Rosenthal's PLANT A KISS is back. And is going to be a big sis! Rosenthal's rhyming text and Peter Reynolds' illustrations, convey the joys and irritations of siblinghood.
Sleep. Fuss. Eat.
Drool. Drool. 
So not cool.
Cry. Cry.
Little Miss marches into the room
Do not despair-- I'll help care!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015


A good part of anything, my dad always told me, is just showing up.
Even when you are tired.
Even when you are not the best on the team.
Or even when you don't feel like it.
You just show up.
Again and again and again.

And that's pretty much how I have approached parenting.
I'm not that good at it.
I'm not a domestic goddess.
I'm not that organized.
I haven't read that many parenting books.
But I showed up.
Again and again and again.

I showed up at the every day stuff.
Dinner and homework and stories every night.
Laundry and doctors' appointments.
Buying underwear and socks.
Birthday parties.
I showed up.
Again and again and again.

I showed up at school stuff.
Open houses.
Music programs.
Parent teacher conferences.
And IEP meetings.
Discipline meetings.
Projects and summer reading assignments.
I showed up.
Again and again and again.

I showed up at sports stuff.
I sat through a million practices.
Seven-on-seven tournaments
All day track meets.
Games we won and games we lost.
I made a million pans of spaghetti.
And scrubbed dishes at team dinners.
I showed up.
Again and again and again.

And now my son is in the hospital.
This weekend he was saying some really scary stuff.
And I was terrified.
I called the police
and they transported them for a mental health hold.
I sat with him in the Emergency Room.
And for 14 hours on Monday.
I went this morning and he wanted me to leave.
He is mad, mad, mad.
"Why did you call the police?
There's nothing wrong.
I'm going home."
He jumped out of bed
Yanked the tubes out of his arms.
The nurses called security
and sedated him.
Told me they thought
he might sleep
if we left him alone.
So I did.

But my son has been abandoned by one mom.
And he's not going to be abandoned by me.
So tonight I went back.
I stopped and got a cookies and creme milkshake
and took it up there.
He was sitting up in bed when I got there.
"Why did you come?" he asked.

"Because you are my son.
And I love you."

"I want you to go,"
he said after about five minutes.
"I don't want you here."
And so I left.

But I will go again in the morning.
because if nothing else.
I am a person
who shows up.

Monday, June 29, 2015

NICKEL BAY NICK by Dean Pitchford

This summer, I'm trying to catch up on the books, especially middle grade and YA novels, that I missed during the school year. One of the books on my list was NICKEL BAY NICK, winner of this year's CYBILS middle grade novels. After finishing it this weekend, I can't believe this book has not gotten more attention from my blogging and book loving friends. It's terrific.

Sam Brattle, the eleven-year-old narrator, lives with his father, a bakery owner, in Nickel Bay, a town that's dying. Sam's father was the town football star, but Sam, who had a heart transplant when he was three, is an under-sized, pasty skinned kid, who can't do sports at all. He has been befriended by Jaxon and Ivy, two eighth graders who eat lunch in an area for kids with health issues. The two entertain themselves by committing acts of shoplifting and vandalism, and Sam has joined them in their antics.

When the book opens, it's Christmas, but Sam is not having a good one. The bakery is struggling and Sam's father only has money for the essentials- things like socks and underwear. Sam has been looking forward to a trip to see his mother, who left to seek her fortune as a singer, but he's just learned that trip is not happening, because his mother, recently married, does not think it's a good time for him to visit. In his anger, Sam vandalizes an abandoned train station, then attempts to hide from police by climbing a tree in a wealthy neighbor's yard. Sam's fall from the tree causes major property damage, and he's pressed into working in the old man's house.

Mr. Wells, it seems, has secrets of his own. For the past several years, the town has been visited by a unknown benefactor known as Nickel Bay (Saint) Nick. Nick distributes hundred dollar bills in the weeks before Christmas. This year, though, Nick hadn't show up, and on his first day of work, Sam learns that it's because Mr. Wells, a retired government CIA type guy and also the secret benefactor, has a broken leg and was unable to pass out money He wants Nick to help him with his red, green and white missions in the twelve days after Christmas.

A likeable main character, some intrigue, lots of feel good. I'm thinking this would be a good end of November, beginning of December read aloud in fourth or fifth grade, maybe followed by some pay it forward kind of deeds to start the new year in January. It's set at Christmas, but the major emphasis is really the choices people make and the good all of us can put into the world.

I loved it!

Saturday, June 27, 2015


Think I have just found a perfect read aloud to recommend to fifth and sixth grade teachers. Trent is a sixth grader, just starting middle school.  In many ways, he's a typical sixth grader, the middle child in a family of three boys. His mother and father are divorced, and Trent lives with his mother, but sees his father three night a week and every other weekend. His father has a new wife and a new baby. Trent likes sports, but school, not so much.

In one way, Trent is not a typical middle schooler. He's killed a classmate. During his fifth grade year, in a pickup hockey game, Trent hit Jared Richards in the chest with a puck. Jared had an undetected heart defect and the hit killed him. Trent is overcome with guilt and sadness, which often comes out as rage.

Because of the incident, Trent has basically been ostracized by other students in his small town. Just before middle school starts, he is befriended by Fallon Little, a girl with a mysterious scar on her face. At first, Trent resists Fallon's attempts, but soon he discovers that she really is a terrific friend, interesting and lots of fun to boot.

There is so much to love about this book. I love Graff's characters- Trent, Fallon, his mom, his older brother, Aaron, who tries to be the man and take care of his mom and younger brothers, his younger brother, Doug- full of pranks that never quite come off and of course, Fallon. I love the possibilities for conversations- friends, divorce, step parents, grief. And of course, I love the story.

I can't wait to share this book with teachers and kids.

Friday, June 26, 2015


Taken by my friend and fellow teacher/blogger Patrick Allen in his backyard on Wednesday
The poems truly have been multiplying like rabbits all day. I think the deluge has finally stopped, so I'm ready to post the round up. There may be a few more additions later. And if I forgot anyone, let me know. I assure you, it was totally accidental…

First, thanks for all your kind words. We are fine-- totally safe, didn't have to evacuate, and didn't have a flooded basement, although many people did. It amazes me how the storms come and pound and rant for an hour, and then they over. A couple of hours after the storm on Wednesday, I walked the dog. There were lots of puddles, and mud, and broken trees and debris, but aside from that, the neighborhood was pretty much status quo.

And now onto the roundup…

Seems lots of us cannot stop thinking about the constant and ongoing racism in our country…

At Random Noodling, Diane Mayer breaks my mama heart with "Pastoral Politic," an original poem about racism. And on a maybe lighter note (although I also think this poem carries some pretty big truth), check out her review of SERIOUSLY FUNNY: Poems about love, death, religion, art, politics, sex and everything else at Kurious Kitty. Ouch.

Robyn Hood Black reviews BROWN GIRL DREAMING, a National Book Award winner from this year. If you haven't read Jacqueline Woodson's novel in verse, a memoir about growing up in the South and about becoming a writer, you need to pick it up immediately. Robyn lives an hour south of Charleston, the scene of last week's horrific shootings. Our hearts break with you…

Linda Baie returns from several weeks of travel to post Maya Angelou's "Human Family." I love the ending lines, "We are more alike my friends, than we are unalike," that Angelou repeats three times, maybe because she knows they need to take root in our hearts.

In my opening comments yesterday, I said that a lot of the adult poetry I read comes from hunting down poets I meet in Poetry Friday's posts. That was definitely true this week, when I read Pat Schneider's gorgeous, "How the Stars Came Down," on Karen Edmisten's blog. I want to share this poem with our middle schoolers, who I suspect have probably had similar experiences.

Kelly Fineman shares an original poem, 44, that she wrote in 2009, to celebrate the inauguration of Barack Obama. I agree with Kelly, her poem is perfect for the events, both horrible and wonderful, that have occurred in our country this week.

And could there be a better time for a professional development session on diversity? Sylvia Vardell is at ALA in San Francisco, where she and several others will be presenting, DIVERSITY DYNAMISM. She and her co-hosts have posted a bibliography of over fifty books on her blog today.

Another moment of peace at Gathering Books, where Fats Goula shares a beautiful multilingual (English, Hebrew, and Arabic) children's book, SHALOM, SALAAM, PEACE, by Howard I. Bogot.

Many of us are seeking solace in nature…
Amy Ludwig Vanderwater also celebrates nature in her latest original poem, "Delight." Listen to the first few lines and you will be rushing over to THE POEM FARM to read the rest! Nature does not have/a lost and found table/for summer feathers. 

Another one of our multi-talented friends and another Carol, she of the Varsalona variety, is currently compiling her "Spring Symphony," collected from a number of poets. Today she brings us four original art/poetry combinations inspired by a day trip to the beach.

At Year of Reading, the endlessly talented Mary Lee dusted off her sketchbook and found two poems waiting for her. She also has a recommendation for a book about drawing nature, NATURE ANATOMY, shared with her by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater, that sounds really terrific.

Brenda Davis Harsham draws on her garden to write "Daisies Dear." Her poem makes me want to run to the garden center to replace a few of the flowers that have taken a horrible beating this summer.

It's always a treat to hear a poet perform her work. Today Violet Nesdoly, a friend from the north, reads her poem, "Canadian Rivers." Be sure to stop by for a listen!

Ramona Behnke is vacationing in Idaho, but managed to steal away to create a peaceful snapshot of an evening outing.

Another peaceful moment at  Miss Rumphius Effect. Tricia has been reading Carl Sandburg recently. I'm going to read "Monotone" again the next time we have a pounding, blowing, thrashing storm like we have been experiencing the past few weeks in Colorado.

Ruth's offering, Adelstrop, by Edward Thomas presents another peaceful moment.

Lorie Ann Grover taught me a new form, senryu, with her original poem, "Riddance." In case you have never heard this word, a senryu is similar to haiku but focused on family members, relationships or feelings.

Some people are revisiting old favorites…

Make a cup of tea and find a comfortable corner to see Billy Collins interviewing Paul McCartney at Jama's place. And be sure to check out her pictoral essay-- it's beau-tea-ful!

Because of her thoughtful sharing and reflections, Kimberly, at I Write in Maine, helps me to reread T.S. Eliot, "The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock," which I think I last read in high school, through a whole new lens.

I found a similar theme in Emily Dickinson's "Much Madness is Divinest Sense," posted today at Bildungsroman. Do you ever wonder if the universe/God might be using poetry to speak to you directly?

Julieanne Harmatz heard Naomi Shihab Nye this week at Teachers' College Reading and Writing Project and was inspired to write an original poem, "Naming It." I have to agree with her- naming things through our writing is powerful. And I'm intrigued by using those tiny bits of time to build up big bits of writing. I had the privilege of wandering into a Naomi Shihab Nye reading at a tiny bookstore in San Antonio almost 20 years ago and have been a huge fan ever since.

At A Teaching Life, Tara also gifts us with several snippets of Naomi Shihab Nye's poetry, including, "How Do I Know When a Poem is Finished?"

There are lots of fun poetry activities/clubs/groups/swaps going on this summer…

You'll find many of your Poetry Friday friends over at Today's Little Ditty, where Michelle Heidenrich Barnes regularly hosts the Ditty of the Month Challenge. This month's challenge, based on Corey Rosen Schwartz's new book, WHAT ABOUT MOOSE?, was to write a poem about treehouses, with multi-syllable rhyming words. As an added bonus, this post includes a book giveaway!

Catherine was one of those treehouse poets. You can read her poem, "A Treehouse all Your Own," at Reading to the Core.

Some talented (and also very persistent) folks here at Poetry Friday. Keri is participating in a summer poetry swap and received a very special (and puzzling) poem gift in the mail last week from Donna.

After you read Donna's poem to Keri, you'll need to head over to Mainely Write, where your mind and heart will soar with the seagull poem that Keri wrote for Donna. You'll need to take a minute to check out Donna's collection of seagulls.

And then waltz over to Tabatha's blog (The Opposite of Indifference) and read "Dancing Margaret," written as a poetry swap gift to Margaret Simon.

Margaret, the recipient of Tabatha's gift poem, is "making" poetry with CLmooc. She started with a kind of acrostic with the letters in her name, and then "built" a poem from that. Another process that looks like it would be fun to try!

Cathy Mere has spent the last few weeks at the Columbus Area Writing Project at The Ohio State University. She's in today with a poem about revisiting her old stomping grounds.

And some not so fun stuff…
Poor Heidi Mordhorst is packing up her classroom and moving to a new grade, and still found time to write a poem. Those of us who are teachers (and keepers-- a term I much prefer to hoarders) can definitely sympathize. Who lives close enough to go help carry a few boxes?

There are some poems and poets for/by the younger set…
As someone who loves a few facts with my poetry, I was totally enthralled (ok and a little grossed out, "Lunchtime," by Leslie Bulion. And I cannot wait to get hold of Bulion's new book, RANDOM BODY PARTS, shared this week by Laura Purdie Salas, who is herself a master at combining facts and poetry.If you don't know Laura's books, A ROCK CAN BE, A LEAF CAN BE, WATER CAN BE, you definitely need to look for those books!

At Author Amok, Laura Shovan's third grade friends finished off the year with a poetry celebration, as well as some odes written in her honor. Terrific examples of what young poets can do (although I do wonder about returning poems covered with ink and slobber!)

Katie, at Logonauts, is also featuring a third grade poet, a very talented guy, who has written a memoir poem about fear. Wow! Katie invites readers to join a Google Group who will be reading Matt Renwick's book, DIGITAL STUDENT PORTFOLIOS. Definitely sounds interesting!

At Teaching Authors, April Halprin Wayland leaves readers breathless with Kalli Dakos' "Call the Periods, Call the Commas, a punctuation poem that I have loved for many years. She also has links to four other punctuation essays. I read "For the Love of the Comma" (love the idea of a comma as a speed bump to slow your reader down) and one about exclamation marks, which I tend to use way too often (but will not use here).

Penny Parker Klosterman, who blogs at A Great Nephew and a Great Aunt, has decided to invite a few friends to join in to her poetry fun. Today she has Rebecca Colby, author of THERE WAS A WEE LASSIE WHO SWALLOWED A MIDGIE and the upcoming IT'S RAINING BATS AND FROGS, writing along with her daughters, Sasha and Alanna. You do not want to read Sasha's poem if you do not have access to some Cadbury eggs (which are only sold in Colorado around Easter!).

Our cat-loving readers are sure to enjoy ITTY BITTY KITTY, a poetic picture book featured today at  readertotz.