Monday, December 31, 2012

MAY B- Caroline Starr Rose

Mavis Elizabeth Betterly (better known as May B.)
 is about twelve years old.
Growing up in a soddy 
on the plains of Kansas.
May wants to be a teacher
but is struggling to learn to read.
Her father hires her out
to Mr. and Mrs. Oblinger.
Drives her the fifteen miles
out onto the prairie
promises he will be back
to pick her up at Christmas…

A debut novel
told in verse
Would be great for a unit on
the Westward Movement
or life on the prairie.
Could be paired with
the Little House books
or Sarah Plain and Tall.

A quick and compelling read.

Sunday, December 30, 2012


Ok, I'm just going to be honest. I did not expect to like this book. I thought SPLENDORS AND GLOOMS was fantasy, and I chose it as my #bookgapchallenge read for vacation. I thought it was fantasy, and it was, but just a little. It was really more Elizabethan fiction/mystery.

I started "reading" SPLENDORS AND GLOOMS on audiobook in the car. I'm not a big audiobook person,  (unless I'm going on a trip), but somehow, when I reserved this book, I accidentally reserved the audio version. When I discovered what I had done, I decided I might as well just take the audio version. That day, however, I also happened across the print version in the new books section of the library.

 The woman who reads SPLENDORS AND GLOOMS on the audiotape is a British actress, and she is really, really good. I'm not one of those people who can do different accents, and hearing her voice helped me get into the spirit of the book. I've long said that kids need to hear books read aloud, and I'm a huge advocate of "jumpstarting" kids by reading a chapter or two aloud, to help a reader who's struggling get the author's voice into their heads. I think that's exactly what Davina Nelson (I think that's her name) did for me with this book.

SPLENDORS AND GLOOMS is one of those books where the reader has to hold on to a lot of different pieces. The forward to the book is a section of a poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley.
And others came…Desires and Adorations,
Wingéd Persuasions, and veiled Destines,
Splendours and Glooms, and glimmering Incarnations,
Of Hopes and Fears, and Twilight Fantasies
And then the reader is taken to the bedroom of a very old, very ill woman, named Cassandra. Cassandra is a witch who has a powerful, and yet somehow evil,  fire opal necklace. From there, one travels to the streets of London in 1860, and meets Clara Wintermute, a wealthy young woman whose family has suffered a terrible loss in a cholera epidemic. Clara is celebrating her 12th birthday, and has invited a marionette troupe to perform at her party. The puppeteer, Gaspare Grisini, is assisted by two urchins, Lizzie Rose, who has lost her parents to cholera, and Parsefall, a rough little guy rescued from the workhouses of England. The night of her birthday party, Clara disappears. It's up to Lizzie Rose and Parsefall to discover where she has gone…

Schlitz does a masterful job of keeping the reader guessing. Where has Clara gone? Can Lizzie Rose and Parsefall rescue her? Is Cassandra good or evil? And what about Grisini? Who is he? And how are Cassandra and Grisini linked? What is the power of the necklace? This is a book where even a pretty sophisticated reader has to be on her toes, or she will miss something important.

I didn't expect to like this book. I'm really glad I challenged myself to read it, because I ended up loving it.

Thursday, December 27, 2012


Welcome to Poetry Friday!

It's the last Poetry Friday of 2012
and I'm honored to host 
from cold and snowy Denver.

Seems like it should be a time 
for deep profundity
or great levity
or the reviewing of resolutions.

Leave your poems, (deeply profound or otherwise) 
in the comments 
and I will round them up periodically 
throughout the day tomorrow.

"Questions Before Dark"
Day ends, and before sleep
when the sky dies down, consider
your altered state: has this day
changed you?  Are the corners
sharper or rounded off?  Did you
live with death?  Make decisions
that quieted?  Find one clear word
that fit? 
Jeanne Lohmann

Read the rest of the poem here.

 Mary Lee needs people to sign up to host the Poetry Friday Roundup in June 2013.  You can sign up here.
Just spent a couple of hours compiling the morning's offerings. What gifts people have brought to us.

This time of year brings many celebrations of family and traditions…

·      Tara celebrates her season of family traditions with Mary Oliver’s “Poem of the One World.”

And Mary Oliver fans can read "I Asked Percy How I Should Live My Life" at Miss Erin's blog

·      Fellow Denverite Linda captures a joyful Christmas moment with her granddaughter at Teacherdance.

·      Elaine Magliaro dedicates her original poem, “Things to Do if You are a Book” to her granddaughter

·      At Inside the Dog, Steve Peterson honors his grandfather with an original poem, “The Measure of a Life.”

·      Margaret is writing a series of poems in response to Christmas cards her father has created for the last nine years. I loved “Out of Egypt” during Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life on Tuesday. Today Margaret gifts us with a triolet, “Songs of Angels.”

·      Matt Forest Esenwine honors his wife with a special poem and provides blog readers with some information about the history of haiku and tanka.

·      Joy bakes up a fortune cookie haiku, and a challenge to try writing one of your own.

Lori Ann Grover has an original holiday haiku here.

·      Margaret is writing a series of poems in response to Christmas cards her father has created for the last nine years. I loved “Out of Egypt” during Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life on Tuesday. Today Margaret gifts us with a triolet, “Songs of Angels.”

·      At Bald Ego, Charles Ghigna brings us not one, not two, not three, but seven original poems from his boyhood in the South. The vivid detail in these poems reminds me of Don Graves’ BASEBALL, SNAKES, AND SUMMER SQUASH, which is one of my favorite books to use to draw poetry from children and adults.

Today’s postings also brought lots of poetry “gifts.”

·      Laura Shovan is gifting 44 lucky people with postcard poems for her 44th birthday in February. Today, she gifts all of us with “Speedway.”

·      At “The Opposite of Indifference,” Tabatha Yeatts shares both sweet and serious. Her “sweet” is a gift poem written for Tabatha by Robin Hood Black. The serious is sobering news about the plight of journalists around the world in 2012.

·      Robin Hood Black stopped by to say she has been buried in family, and is only sharing her poetry gift to Tabatha Yeatts.

·      At The Write Sisters, Diane Mayr gifts Mary Lee with an original birthday poem. 

Violet Nesdoly gifted children's author with "Wear a Scarf," a poem all you fashionistas out there will definitely want to read. 

·  Jone is gifting people with poetry books for her 26 Acts of Kindness. I don’t have 26 books, but I could definitely give away 26 poems. Hmmmm.

There are several gorgeous images from nature…

·   Matt Goodfellow journeys all the way from the UK to share two original poems, “Midnight Hare” and  “The Hill. Matt’s words evoke images of mystical, dark, evenings.

·   And more images from the natural world in Steve Withrow’s “Taunton River in December. ” Steve’s words make it easy to imagine the sound of those hungry geese honking for handouts.

And of course there are wishes, hopes, and dreams for the New Year…

·  At Growing Wild, Liz Steinglass shares an original New Year’s Poem, “This New Year.”

·   Mary Lee features Linda Pastan’s “Clock.” When I finish the first iteration of the roundup, I’ll be heading out to visit a friend and her new baby in the hospital. The friend is actually a young woman I have mentored since she was in second grade. She is now 22! Yikes!

·  At Drift Record, Julie Larios brings us “Blessed Illusion,” a perfect wish for the New Year.

·   At Bildingsroman, Little Willow posted D.H. Lawrence’s poignant, “A Passing Bell.”

·   At  Kurious Kitty’s Kurio Kabinet, Diane Mayr sends out the old year with Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Where Go the Boats?” Diane rings in the New Year with a haiku postcard exchange to celebrate  the coming of the New Year at Random Noodling

Friday evening (9:30 MST)
OK, I think I've got everyone (if I left anyone out, it was totally unintentional, just email me and I will fix it!), it's been a pretty quiet Poetry Friday. Think I'll end tonight's festivities with a found poem from Parker J. Palmer.

What if we spent 2013 
focusing more 
on our shared human condition 
than on our differences? 

What if we cultivated 
the capacity 
to feel for each other's losses 
and developed a deeper awareness 
of our mutual mortality? 

Surely we'd want to spend more time 
working with others 
to bring a better, 
more beautiful 
 into being...  

Parker J. Palmer

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


I'm always fussing at teachers about the benefits of read aloud. Read aloud acts as a commercial for books. Read aloud builds classroom community.  Read aloud puts the sound of standard English into kids' heads. And on and on and on. Yadda yadda yadda. The teachers in my building know that I love read aloud.

Some teachers/subjects, however, are a little harder sell than others. Take math, for instance. "I'm supposed to read aloud in math, Carol?" teachers say, wrinkling up their noses. "What exactly do you want me to read?"

Well, during the CYBILS judging, I found a perfect math read aloud. In EDGAR ALLAN POE'S PIE,  J. Patrick Lewis cleverly parodies fourteen classic poems, e.g. Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven," Edward Lear's "There was an Old Man with a Beard," and Robert Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," not to mention other classical poets like Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman,  A. A. Milne, Langston Hughes, and Lewis Carroll. Somehow, he manages to maintain the poet's form and rhythm, and squeeze a math problem, or two or three, into each poem.

"Edward Lear's Elephant With Hot Dog"
(inspired by "There Was an Old Man with a Beard")

When an elephant sat down to order
A half of a third of a quarter
Of an eighty-foot bun
And a frankfurter, on,
Was it longer than three feet, or shorter?

"William Carlos Williams's Pizza"

The fifteen-inch square pizza
with three-by-three inch slices
was so inviting

I couldn't resist
eating nineteen and a half of them

Forgive me, Flossie
you were hungry, too
i put the box back
in the refrigerator

beside the white chickens
how many pieces
of pizza were left?

The poems are a little tricky and lots of fun. Answers are upside down in the illustrations.  A two-page spread in the back gives a little information about the poets.

Absolutely perfect for a math lesson read aloud!

Monday, December 24, 2012


Most people are familiar with the Little Rock Nine, but far fewer know what happened in Little Rock, Arkansas, the year after that. Governor Faubus, determined to prevent integration of schools in his state, decreed that no high schools would open. And for a whole year they didn't. THE LIONS OF LITTLE ROCK, by Kristin Levine, tells the story of that year through the eyes of Marlee, a twelve-year-old girl.

Marlee is a shy, shy, shy. So shy that her older sister,  Judy, makes her promise that she will say five words on the first day of middle school. Marlee keeps her promise to her sister when Liz, a new girl in town, asks if she can sit with her in the cafeteria. Liz gradually coaxes Marlee out of her timidity by inviting her to work on a social studies presentation which they practice in front of the animals at the Little Rock Zoo.

The day of the presentation, Liz doesn't show up at school. Soon, the social studies teacher pulls Marlee out into the hall to tell her that Liz will not be returning. Liz, it seems, is a light-skinned black girl, pretending to be white, so that she can attend Marlee's all-white middle school. And in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1958, that just isn't done. Marlee, is determined to maintain the friendship that she and Liz have created. She doesn't realize that their friendship not only violates social mores of the time, but also places Liz, her family, and other members of their community in grave danger.

THE LIONS OF LITTLE ROCK is perfect for helping intermediate and middle school readers understand a really significant year during the early part of the Civil Rights movement. Levine has done a terrific job embedding a truckload of history within a really engaging story.

This would be an excellent January read aloud!

Sunday, December 23, 2012


Two terrific poets.
Epitaphs for thirty
Animals of land, sky and sea.
Very punny. 

"Chicken Crosses Over"
She never found the answer
to the age-old question,
Why did the chicken cross the ro--?

"Ciao, Cow"
This grave is peaceful,
the tombstone shaded,
but I'm not here,
I've been cream-ated. 

"Final Pound for a Hound"
Once he dug holes in the lawn;
now he's there himself

"Firefly's Final Flight"
Lights out.

Saturday, December 22, 2012


Last year, my fourth graders read a lot of poetry. And did a lot of science.  Some of the best poetry that they wrote integrated their love of poetry with their learning about science. As I think about that experience, I wonder how teachers might include more poetry into work in the content areas. I have been on the lookout for books that integrated poetry, science, and social studies.

This month, I came across I LAY MY STITCHES DOWN, a collection of approximately 15 poems, each told through the voice of a slave. The book was written by poet and quiltmaker, Cynthia Grady, who introduces the book, saying:
"Quiltmaking and poetry share similarities in craft. In one, color and shape are organized into an overall pattern; in the other, sound and structure create the pattern. Each poem in this collection is named for a traditional quiltblock and reflects a metaphorical patchwork of circumstances encounter by enslaved people in America…

To reflect the three layers of a quilt, I've engage three references in each poem: a biblical or spiritual reference, and a sewing or fiber arts reference in addition to the imagery the poem calls for…
Grady's poems capture a variety of voices, including field workers, slave children, runaways, a slave who has just been beaten and a mother who has just watched her daughter sold away.
Like a hyena on the hunt, you know,
he opportunistic, unspecialized.
The bounty hunter prowl the riverbank.
He use the wind to his advantage and
he listen: he watch intently. A slave
to greed, the hunter aine no match fo rthis
old pilgrim in the woods. He don't quite hear the owl that call my name to take me to
the water where the current runs less swit.
I wait-- then thread my way to freedomland.

Each morning after walking Little Miss
to school, we steal away beneath the oak
to piece together everything we hear.
The teacher catch us making letters in
the dirt with sticks one day. Her eyes go wide
and icy blue. She walk away. We fear'd
our backs would get the rawhide stich. Instead,
she twitch the curtain at the window, teach
her lessons loud and clear-- her voice, a prayer
with wings. It give us hope; it sing us home. 

Each two-page spread is organized in a similar fashion. The top portion of the left hand page displays the poem, titled after a quilt pattern, and set on a white background. A colorful quilted strip, in the pattern of the title, separates the poem from the bottom portion of the page, which contains historical information about slavery, or the song reference, or other information that might be helpful to the reader.

The right hand side of the page is a full-color oil painting by Michele Wood, who does an amazing job capturing the image contained in the words against a colorful background of quilts and patterns. I would love to have one of Wood's beautiful illustrations hanging in my living room.

Intermediate and adolescent readers might not understand this book, left to their own devices. However, it's definitely a book that could be read aloud and appreciated within the context of a unit on slavery or African American history. I know it's one I will be using with older readers.

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Prayer for Today

Rev. Rob Mossis, vicar of Christ the King Lutheran Church, 
at Sunday night's prayer vigil in Connecticut:

"We bring to you 20 new stars in the heavens, 
20 new saints, 
20 new angels. 

We bring to you 
those who risk their lives for us everyday not counting the cost, 
and we bring to you those who died, 
those who counsel,
 those who bless and embrace 
the confused and the broken. 

And now in this prayer, 
we bring to you ourselves, 
our questions, 
our doubts, 
our anger and our hearts, 
and we pray for the peace, 
the hope and the renewal of trust 
that can come only from a God 
who first conceived us in love 
and places a hand of compassion 
on each of our shoulders 
even in the most trying times. 

And so tonight for our community (and our country), 
a community (and a country) deeply pained, 
we ask you to heal our brokenness, 
to answer our questions, 
to replace our doubts with certainty, 
our anger with peace 
and our hurt with and healing…"

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Right now
I'm missing uniforms.
Those little colored t-shirts
with Denver Park and Rec on one sleeve
And  the name of a local insurance company
on the other.
I'm missing the uniform rainbow
Baby blue, maroon, green, orange
That marked our progression through the years.

 Right now
I'm missing uniforms
Basketball jerseys in
white, and black, and red,
hanging in the laundry room drying
the packed gym bag
that always went in the car first
on road trips to away tournaments
 checked and rechecked
"Are you SURE you have both jerseys- 
home and away?
You know you can't play if you don't have the jerseys."

Right now 
I'm missing uniforms
Yes, even hunting for uniforms
The slippery practice jersey
That seemed to be magnetically drawn
to the dark spaces behind the dryer
or the farthest corner of the closet
The blue webbed belts
and baseball socks
that always seemed to go AWOL 
on game days. 
The football mouthpieces
that I bought by the dozen.

Right now I'm missing uniforms
The fire-engine red jerseys
#15 and #26
standing shoulder to shoulder on the sidelines
The frantic search for my two favorite numbers
in the huddle
when a player got hurt 
and was laying on the field. 

Right now 
I'm missing uniforms
Silky black shooting shirts
Boys running out onto the court
banging chests
then serious
Shooting shirts peeled off
Wadded, tossed aside
To be gathered after game time.

Right now
I'm missing uniforms.

Monday, December 10, 2012


OK, so not a lot of time for writing this weekend, but I did get a little reading done last week. Aside from reading and rereading poetry for the CYBILS, here are the two novels I read last week…

SEE YOU AT HARRY'S has gotten lots and lots of great reviews this fall and it should get a lot more. The book is told through the eyes of Fern (named after Fern in CHARLOTTE'S WEB), who spends much of her life hanging out at the family's restaurant. Fern is the third of four children, and is often annoyed at having to babysit her younger brother, Charley (named for the Roald Dahl character), while the family works at the restaurant. I'm not going to say anymore, because I don't want to spoil it by giving away too much…

This is the sequel to BECAUSE OF MR. TERUPT. Kids who liked the first book will probably be excited that there is a second one. It felt pretty predictable, but kids will be excited, I think, to become reacquainted with old friends…

Not sure how much reading time there will be this week. Lots of night meetings. I have SPLENDOR AND GLOOMS checked out from the library…

You can see what other people are reading at TEACH MENTOR TEXTS.

Thursday, December 6, 2012


I am trying to remember where I first heard the poem, "Mice" by Rose Fyleman. Did my mom read it to me when I was a little girl? Or maybe I stumbled across the poem in a children's literature class in Virginia Westerberg's children's literature class in college. Was it a poem I read to my kindergarten class, that first year that I was a teacher? Truthfully, I can't remember, but I do know it's one I've always loved.

by Rose Fyleman
 I think mice are rather nice.
Their tails are long 
Their faces small, 
They haven't any 
Chins at all…
And no one seems
To like them much.

But I think mice 
Are nice. 

Read the rest of the poem here

Recently, Lois Ehlert made this much loved poem into picture book. Truthfully, I am not really a fan of mice, but Ehlert's torn paper collage mice, wandering through the house, creating their own art, are really, really fun. And preschool readers will be surprised to learn just who it is that thinks mice are rather nice.

MICE would be a perfect gift for any preschooler or beginning reader.

Robyn Hood Black is hosting POETRY FRIDAY this week. Stop by and check out her gorgeous fox poem.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


just like pretty much every other night
Star and I went for a walk. 
She loves to smell,
and me, well 
I am ashamed to admit
I am  an unashamed 
window peeper.
Especially at this time of year. 
I love looking at people's Christmas trees. 
It seems like there are a lot of white-light trees this year.
You know, the really fancy ones
that look like they could be in magazines. 

We will never have one of those trees.
We can't.
Where would we put the worn pink teapot
with the silver glitter
that my grandmother carried
all the way
from Marshall Fields in Chicago
to our living room in Colorado Springs
when I was ten years old?
It wouldn't look right
on one of those fancy white-light trees.

And where would we put the teacher ornaments? 
You know- all those apples
carefully picked from Hallmark shop orchards--
ceramic apples, metal apples, 
and the ones that ring 
every time the dog brushes against the tree.
And where would we put the pictures of 
former students
familiar faces with forgotten names 
in popsicle stick frames.
Where would those go 
on a fancy white-light tree?

We will never have one of those trees.
We can't.

Where would we put the three brown angels
my friend Terri gave me
the first year
the boys and I were a family.
I can't remember which boy
dropped one and broke the wings off 
An hour after we got them.
And the old-fashioned ornaments 
sent from Maine
 by my friend Cyrene
to celebrate that same Christmas.
I cry every year when I open that box.
And then there's the plethora
of football and basketball and superhero ornaments-- 
they wouldn't quite work on one of those fancy trees either.

I guess, we can't have 
one of those fancy white-light trees.
Not yet anyway.

Sunday, December 2, 2012


The inauguration is only a little over a month away.  I'm thinking, then, that there will probably be lots of presidential conversations and read alouds happening in classrooms. If that's true, THE PRESIDENT'S STUCK IN THE BATHTUB is a book you will definitely want to own. STUCK IN THE BATHTUB is a collection of 43 poems, one about each president of the United States. The poem doesn't always highlight the most important aspect of the presidency, instead it highlights one interesting fact, e.g. George Washington slept in over 1000 places, but never slept at the White House, Franklin Pierce trimmed the first White House Christmas Tree, and John F. Kennedy was once mistaken for an elevator operator. Each poem is followed by a paragraph further explaining the situation. Here is Andrew Jackson's poem:
Spelling Be 
Andrew Jackson, some people claim,
was barely able to spell his own name
He was never the champ of a spelling bee,
never the one to spell "Miss-iss-ipp-i."
Yet he kept the Congress under his thumb,
He couldn't' spell rite, but he wasn't dum.
Susan Katz 
And then the accompanying information:
Andrew Jackson was one of the strongest presidents, using his forceful personality to expand the powers of the presidency. Though he couldn't master the spelling of even a simple word, this problem didn't disturb him…In fact, he's reported to have claimed that a person who could spell a word only one way lacked imagination."

Susan Katz has used a variety of genre- including list, couplets, and poems for two voices. The end material, "Presidential Notes and Quotes" is lots of fun too- it includes each president's name, dates he served, as well as dates he was born and died, a famous quote, a nickname, and a first. James Madison, for instance, was the first president to wear long trousers instead of knee britches. Theodore Roosevelt was the first president to ride in an automobile and fly in an airplane, and Jimmy Carter was the first president born in a hospital. Illustrations, by Robert Neubecker, best known for his WOW! CITY! series, are colorful and playful, almost cartoon like, perfect for this very fun volume of poetry.

Saturday, December 1, 2012


I considered titling this post, 'WHEN A CHILDREN'S POETRY BOOK BECOMES A COFFEE TABLE BOOK" because that's what I think about the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC POETRY BOOK. Not only is it a must have for your classroom library (and I'm pretty sure it's one of those I will re-buy every year, because I know that kids will wear it out), it's also a coffee table book. One that adults will pick up and enjoy. One that I will definitely be buying for Christmas presents.  It's absolutely perfect.

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC POETRY BOOK FOR CHILDREN contains over 200 poems. The poems are divided into sections: The Big Ones, The Little Ones, The Winged Ones, The Water Ones, The Strange Ones, The Quiet Ones, and The Noisy Ones.  Poets run the gamut from Robert Frost, Rudyard Kipling, Alfred Lord Tennyson to Valerie Worth, Jack Prelutsky, and J. Patrick Lewis. Each page, or two-page spread focuses on one animal. Sometimes there is one poem, and sometimes there are three or four. (When I put my teacher hat on, I can see kids comparing the poems, or choosing a subject and collecting three or four poems that they love).

The background for every page is one or two or three National Geographic photographs. And they are absolutely beautiful- so much so, that readers will want to make many trips through this book, some to savor the poetry, but probably just as many to enjoy the art.

J. Patrick Lewis has also done a fabulous job with the end material. There is a two-page spread about writing animal poems, and another two pages of resources for different types of poetry. There are also four different kinds of indexes- title, first line, author, and subject. You will definitely be able to find the poems you love quickly!

I'm buying this book for every reader I know this Christmas. It's sure to be a favorite!