Saturday, November 30, 2013


Discover. Play. Build.

Ruth Ayres started "Celebrate This Week" about two months ago, as a way of helping people remember all the rich blessings of their week. This week I'm celebrating these two…

I'm celebrating successful navigation through the airport
and a safe trip home from Arizona.
(ok, so there was that one phone call about how you get from Terminal 3 to Terminal 4 
in the Phoenix airport, but they found the shuttle and so we will just ignore it).
Should I mention that they are so grown up 
that I hardly recognized the two young men coming toward me
across the airport?

I'm celebrating 
sitting in the back seat
all weekend 
listening to my two guys
best friends talking about 
football and music and girlfriends and life

This week
I'm celebrating 
that for the first time in several years
both boys both accompanied me to my sister's house
for a holiday dinner with my sister and her family and my mom.
Holidays have not always held happy memories for my guys
and they often refuse to participate or withdraw
but this year they went without protests, 
and sat at the table all the way through dessert,
and even conversed a little.
I'm celebrating the growth and healing 
that has taken place
over the last ten years. 

This week
I'm celebrating
a three hour math tutoring session
with one son
School is hard for him
and he probably is not going to pass algebra
again this semester
I'm celebrating his perseverance
his willingness
to try again and again
that huge old heart
that hasn't given up
after two years
the dreams that keep him
in school 
when it would be so much easier 
just to quit. 

I'm celebrating
 that my guys
are trying to overcome past mistakes
and  make better choices
it's hard at home
where many of their friends 
expect them to participate 
in the same poor choices
that they used to make
my boys committed to each other
that they were not going to do those things
last night they went out together
split up and somehow got separated
had a heated phone conversation
a two hour raised voice discussion at home
I listened from my bedroom
as they pounded the table 
and discussed and reconciled
I'm celebrating their commitment
and huge loyalty
to each other. 

This week
I'm celebrating
growth toward adulthood.
More thank you's,
and "Can I carry that for you?"
and cleaning up after themselves
and getting up at a reasonable time
and being ready for things
when I ask them to be ready 
Even a few unprompted "I love you's."

This week I'm celebrating 
the privilege
of being a mom.

Thursday, November 28, 2013


Happy Thanksgiving! 
Poetry Friday is here! 

I'm not a shopper and will stay as far away from shopping centers and malls as I possibly can tomorrow. When I do shop though, books, and especially poetry books, will definitely be at the top of my shopping list.  Some poetry books I will be giving as gifts this year…

I love Caroline Kennedy's POEMS TO LEARN BY HEART. A perfect collection for a family or for a young teacher or a teacher who doesn't have much poetry or a teacher who loves poetry. 

This collection by students in the Denver Public Schools would be perfect for any of my young poetry writing friends. Or for the teachers of those friends…

STRIPES OF ALL TYPES, perfect for preschool and primary grade animal lovers. 

In PUG AND OTHER ANIMAL POEMS, one of my favorite poets, Valerie Worth, combines with one of my favorite illustrators, Steve Jenkins.

A couple of new favorites by J. Patrick Lewis, one serious and one less so…


And I definitely couldn't leave out Marilyn Singer's latest…

Also love Joyce Sidman's newest…

And then two for my dog-loving friends... 


Leave your links in the comments section and I will publish them throughout the day.


A really quiet poetry Friday, I'm thinking people were probably spending time with family, or recovering from Thursday's festivities, or maybe shopping…

Those hardy, poetry loving souls that did participate celebrated the extraordinary we so often miss in the ordinary.

·      April and her fellow bloggers at Teaching Writers, have been writing Thank-u’s, a really clever haiku that I wish I had started on November 1st (note to self for 2014). Read April’s, then click the link to read the rest. 

·      Anastasia celebrates Emily Dickinson, queen of __________. (I’m not giving away her surprise, you need to go read her original haiku). Very clever!

·      At Author’s Amok, Laura Shovan invites us to celebrate the ordinary with a quiet walk along a stream with “Travelling” by William Wordsworth.

·      At Bildungsroman, Little Willow has posted Carl Sandburg’s “Sketch,” another poem that celebrates quiet moments.

·      Margaret Simon celebrates an ordinary Thanksgiving, This turkey roasting, the warmth of the fire, this place where I am always loved,” with an original poem.

·      Tabatha Yeatts celebrates fortitude with Edgar Guest’s “Equipment.” Be sure to give yourself two or three minutes to watch the poem being performed.

·      Linda Baie, posting for the 600th time today (CONGRATULATIONS LINDA!), celebrates a poetic week at NCTE, where it sounds like she connected with lots of bloggers and poets.

·      And then, as it so often seems to do, poetry inspired poetry. Betsy read Linda’s post, then wrote an original poem, “Poetry is Eternal.”

·      Tara, Linda’s roommate at NCTE, recaps the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children, which was given to Joyce Sidman. Tara summarizes that session, then reviews Joyce’s latest book: WHAT THE HEART KNOWS: CHANTS, CHARMS AND BLESSINGS. Tara’s favorite poem seems perfect for Black Friday. 

·      At NCTE, Catherine attended “Keeping Poetry at Our Core” by Georgia Heard, Linda Rief, and Tom Romano. In today’s post, she summarizes some really big thinking by Georgia. I an’t wait to share Georgia’s questions with the teachers at my school.

·      Diane Mayr drove down to NCTE (heaven to have the conference an hour away from your house!), then celebrated meeting up with poetry partner, Laura Purdie Salas, by sharing her monthly favorites from a year of 15-word-poems (Laura publishes that challenge ever week).

·      Over at Year of Reading, Mary Lee, probably exhausted from a week in Boston, celebrates with Meredith Holmes’ “Ode to My Bed.”

·      And then of course, on Thanksgiving weekend, have to mention food! Michelle H. Barnes is celebrating my favorite part of Thanksgiving- leftovers! Be ready to write a five word ditty while you are over there.

·      At “There is No Such Thing as a God-Forsaken Town,” Ruth, who writes odes with eighth graders every November, shares Pablo Neruda’s “Ode to an Onion.” I guarantee that you will never look at an onion in the same way!

A few folks welcomed visiting poets…

·      Robyn Hood Black brings us haiku from Dave Russo, a poet from the great state of North Carolina.

·      The November/December theme at Gathering Books is “Goddesses, Fairies, Spirit Stars and Celestial Beings.” Today’s visitor (not sure which on of the aforementioned categories she falls into) is Neyrisa del Carmen Guevara, a poet and professor from the University of Santo Tomas in the Philippines.

And finally, our Canadian friend, Violet Nesdoly, has an original poem, “Black Friday Blues,” that confirms my original feelings about why I do not celebrate that “holiday.”

Julie Larios offered a Saturday morning Entry that is just to good to omit. Head over to The Drift Record and read "The World is in Pencil" by Todd Boss. Wow! Love this image of a creator!

P.S. Whenever I host Poetry Friday, I worry that I will forget someone, or leave someone out. If I did, it's total unintentional-- shoot me an email ( and I will rectify the situation immediately.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


 A quick pre-Thanksgiving post from my CYBILS nonfiction stack. The Pinkneys, who wrote SIT-IN, which is one of my all time favorite civil rights picture books, have done it again, with a book that captures the friendship of Martin Luther King and Mahalia Jackson.

"They were each born with the gift of the gospel."

Martin SPOKE the gospel
            PRAYED the gospel
            SOUGHT the gospel
            TAUGHT the gospel

Mahalia SANG the gospel
              WORKED the gospel
              LED the gospel
              SPREAD the gospel

The book focuses on the March in Washington. Martin could not speak until he could get the crowd quieted. Mahalia stepped forward and sang, then said, "Tell them about your dream, Martin." That's when MLK gave his famous speech.

I love, love, love the design of this book.  Everything from the fonts and colors to the illustrations is perfect. Certain words, words of power are larger, and in a different font and color, and lend to the poetic feel of the book.   Brian Pinkney's illustrations convey the feeling of moving along a route toward a goal, I especially love the page where Marin is speaking in Washington, DC, and Pinkney elected to turn the book sideways to convey the size of the crowd. In "Painting Parallels" in the back of the book, Brian Pinkney talks about some of the decisions he made about the art, weaving words into his illustrations, an image of a dove on almost every (maybe every?) page, his decision to use blue and green for the Martin and read and orange for Mahalia and then purples and magentas for the two of them. I loved seeing into the illustrator's head in this way.

Other back page material is also really helpful. There is a a two-page spread, "His Words, Her Song" that tells more about the March on Washington, as well as a timeline. There is a list of other books to read, and "discography" by Mahalia Jackson.

Here's an interview of the author and illustrator team.

Definitely one you will want to own. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Tomorrow night my guys come home.
I can't wait to head to the airport
Can't wait to see
those gorgeous guys
And give them great big hugs.
And yet I must confess 
a little trepidation. 

for my guys
are sometimes
really hard. 

I am remembering
 our first Thanksgiving.
I dressed my sons in matching sweaters.
We went to my mom's house
Took pictures
of our six month old family.
Watched parades
Played board games
ate turkey and pumpkin pie
My sons entertained everyone
by singing a shark song
they had learned at daycare.
We seemed so ordinary.

I wish I had known
that my boys expected
deep fried turkey
sweet potato pie
cornbread and honey
and I gave them 
roasted turkey
pumpkin pie
and crescent rolls
maybe I am glad 
I did not understand
the complexity 
of fitting together
two very different families

Maybe bigger
I wish I had understood
that holidays
for kids who have never had holidays
Can be really, really hard.

I wish I had understood
that some kids remember
drunken brawls
unfilled promises
fear and sadness
those kids, my kids,
 grieve for a family 
that never 

And so tonight
I can't wait to see my guys
And yet I steel myself
because I know 

for my guys
are sometimes
really hard.

Monday, November 25, 2013


I really wanted to be at NCTE in Boston this weekend. Since I wasn't, I drowned my sorrows by reading. I finished an adult novel for book club, then read two chapter books that I have been wanting to read since last summer.

ORPHAN TRAIN by Christina Baker Kline is an adult book (but could easily be read by a middle school reader). Seventeen-year-old Molly is growing up in the foster care system in Maine. When she steals a copy of JANE EYRE from the library, she is sentenced to fifty hours of community service with Vivian, a 91-year-old woman who needs her attic cleaned. Molly doesn't expect to enjoy the experience, but soon discovers that she and Vivian, who was part of the Orphan Train from New York to Minnesota as a young girl, have much in common. Alternating chapters tell the two women's stories.

COUNTING BY 7's is a story about another orphan. Willow Chance is a very gifted (genius) twelve-year-old, who finds herself an orphan after her parents are killed in a car accident. Through a series of "chance" encounters, she is taken in by Pattie, a Vietnamese woman who lives in a garage behind a nail salon, and her two teenagers, Mai and Quang-Ha. Willow and Quang-Ha are both under the care of a less than competent school counselor, Dell, who also becomes part of the Willow's extended family, as does Jairo, a taxi driver. Sloane has done an amazing job knitting together the lives of these quirky characters; I cried at the end of this story.
Last night, I read ELEANOR AND PARK, another story about a brave young woman, growing up on her own. Eleanor is in high school. She's overweight, has a mop of red curls, and wears Goodwill clothes that never quite fit. When the book opens, Eleanor has just moved back in with her family- her mom, an abusive stepfather, and four younger siblings (who are all sharing a bedroom). On the bus to school, Eleanor begins a relationship with Park, a Korean boy who has a loving family, but never quite feels like he fits in either. A teenage love story with a shocking ending. I can think of so many middle schoolers who need this book.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


 I love books about readers! Here are two from my stack of CYBILS Nonfiction Nominees.

"Thomas Jefferson learned to read. And then, he never stopped. 
He sat and he read. 
He walked and he read. and then, lying in bed,
 instead of sleeping, he read. "

So begins Barb Rosenstock's picture book biography, THOMAS JEFFERSON BUILDS A LIBRARY. Rosenstock traces Jefferson's love of books and reading from childhood (he supposedly read every book in his father's library before he was six), through his long political career. While he was president, Jefferson helped build the nation's Library of Congress,  then, after more than three thousand books were lost when British soldier burned them in 1814, he donated his extensive personal library to create the Library of Congress in Washington D.C.  

Rosenstock's text (which would be a great mentor text for teaching about voice in nonfiction) is hugely complemented by John O'Brien's illustrations; I really can't understand why I'm not seeing this book on Caldedcott lists. Very, very clever- there are books everywhere! The title page, for example, is a Library of Congress, made of out of books. On another page, Jefferson is astride a horse, with a book saddle.  Interesting facts and quotes are contained in book-shaped sidenotes and inserts on each page.

Another reading related biography, MISS MOORE THOUGHT OTHERWISE, details the life of Anne Carroll Moore, the woman who created the New York City Public Library's Children's Department. Anne Carroll Moore, grew up in LImerick Maine, where libraries included some books for older boys, not many for girls or young children. Moore moved to New York to attend the Pratt Institute's Library School, then became the librarian at the Pratt Free Library, where they had a children's room. Eventually, she was asked to take on the children's rooms for all libraries in New York City. Moore set an example for children's libraries across the country-William Howard Taft attended the dedication, and people like Theodore Geisel came to read at special events. Debby Atwell's gorgeous, brightly colored folk-artish kind of paintings add much to this story.

Saturday, November 23, 2013



Discover. Play. Build.

About six weeks ago, Ruth Ayres launched Celebrate Saturday. It's a fun way to review the week and after you will want to head over to Ruth's blog and read more celebrations.

I've been a teeny bit, OK, actually more than a teeny bit, sad for the last couple of weeks. Everyone has been posting about NCTE 2013, held this weekend in Boston.

And even though NCTE is one of my favorite, favorite conferences, I'm not there. With two kids in college, out of state conferences are just not a possibility.  I am sad about missing all of the great sessions. I'm sad about missing the rich conversations. And I'm saddest of all about not seeing dear friends.

I decided, then, to celebrate this weekend by reconnecting with a dear friend.

Cyrene was one of the first people I met when I moved to New Hampshire. A former middle school teacher, Cyrene was a year ahead of me in the doctoral program. She and her husband Jim sort of adopted me, and made me part of their family for the four years I spent in New Hampshire.

Cyrene was one of my biggest cheerleaders during my years at UNH. She responded to one pagers, helped me hammer out the chapters of my dissertation, shared syllabi from courses she had taught. When I turned in the last edit of my dissertation, we celebrated by riding the Matterhorn at IRA.

Cyrene and Jim were avid Patriots fans. I spent many a Sunday afternoon in their family room, cheering for their favorite team. I lost more than one bet when the Broncos played the Patriots. Cyrene and Jim have a cabin on an island in New Hampshire and they introduced me to the joys of island life.

When I moved back to Colorado, Cyrene and I met every year at NCTE. Usually, I'd work on Thursday morning, then jet off to the conference, eager to see my favorite roomie. We'd  share dinners and sessions, stay up late exchanging book titles and family photos. And there would always be Saturday morning oatmeal with Don and Betty Graves.

When I adopted the boys, Cyrene and Jim celebrated by sending a box of Christmas ornaments for our first tree. That year at NCTE, Cyrene and I shopped for silly stocking stuffers (bodily fluids and embarassments figured prominently).

The last three or four years I have not gone to NCTE and somehow, Cyrene and I have kind of lost touch. I have been thinking about my dear friend all week. This morning I decided I would celebrate by sending her an email. I'm hoping the address that I have is accurate, and we will be able to reconnect.

Because today I'm celebrating dear friends…

Sunday, November 17, 2013


A new book by two of my favorite Colorado authors? I'm definitely in!

MY FIRST DAY by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page is a collection of interesting facts about how more than 20 animals spend their first day. The Darwin Frog spends its first days inside a special pouch in the father's throat. The wood duck jumps out of its nest in a tree, falls a long way, then paddles after its mother. A baby sea otter dozes on its mama's belly while she floats in the waves. A california sea lion calls back and forth to its mama until she and the mama can recognize each other's voices and she won't get lost. A Mexican free tailed bat's mother recognizes its call and scent from millions other bats. The baby manatee's mama lifts it to the surface for its first breath, but within an hour it's swimming and breathing on its own.

Of course, the reader falls in love with Jenkins signature collage illustrations. Three pages of endnotes have tiny thumbnails and five or six more facts about each animal.

Thinking this would be a perfect sibling gift for a family with a new baby!

And then another favorite author/illustrator, has a gorgeous new book for the just-beginning-to-actually-read-the actual text set. WHAT AM I? WHERE AM I? is a riddle book. Each section of the book begins with a circular picture of part of an animal and the question, "What am I?" The reader makes a guess, then turns the page to see a two-page spread of the full animal, with the text, "I am a ________. Where am I?"  The reader turns the page again and sees, "I am in a ________."

A great nonfiction text for beginning readers. Classic detailed, watercolor Lewin illustrations. Great introduction to habitat vocabulary (grassland, tundra, forest). Another sure winner!

Saturday, November 16, 2013


Discover. Play. Build.

YIKES! I almost forgot about celebrating today. One of the reasons I forgot is because I was reading a great book, one of my favorite genre, historical fiction. ORPHAN TRAIN is two stories, woven together. Molly is a seventeen-year-old girl who has grown up in the foster care system. In trouble for stealing a book from the library, she gets assigned to do community service cleaning an attic for a 91- year-old woman named Vivian. Molly soon discovers that Vivian was orphaned in a fire, and rode an orphan train from New York to Minnesota. It's a great story and one that I could definitely celebrate.

That's not what I'm celebrating though. I'm reading the book for book club next Friday, and book club is what I'm celebrating tonight. My book club has been together for a long, long time, more than 15 years. We started out with seven or eight people (it's been so long I can't exactly remember). I think the first book we read was MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL. We've been meeting, pretty much once a month, ever since.

That's a lot of books, but maybe more importantly, it's a whole lot of living. When Karen got married, we had our own rehearsal dinner, buying the ugliest bridesmaids' dresses we could find at the Goodwill, and then surprising Karen by wearing them to dinner at a fancy restaurant. We celebrated with Terri when she was married for the first time at age 50. We had a Hello Kitty sleepover at a hotel when Val moved to Iowa. When I surprised book club by announcing that I had decided to adopt, they quickly took on the role of the "Book Aunties," bringing casseroles and babysitting and providing moral support.

We've celebrated a lot of losses too. We've struggled together through hard jobs and bad bosses. We've all lost parents- my dad and Karen and Terri's mom to cancer, Brenna's dad to Alzheimers. We've watched dreams die. And through out all, we have been together.

Those gals- Karen, Laura, Brenna, Terri, and Val (from three thousand miles away) are my home girls.

And tonight, I'm celebrating more than twenty years of reading and friendship.

Friday, November 15, 2013


Photo by Jonathan Zander, found on Wikimedia Commons
Once or twice a week, Parker J. Palmer posts a poem on his Facebook page. And somehow, almost every time, they are poems that speak to something deep within my soul. I go back and reread them again and again.

David Whyte is a poet that shows up a lot in Palmer's post. And finally I got curious enough that I googled Whyte and went to his website. He's published a lot, and he speaks a lot, and maybe I have read other things by him, and just don't know it, but he has definitely jumped onto my list of favorite poets, right up there with Mary Oliver and Billy Collins.

On his home page, I found a poem I absolutely loved. It's not very long, and I couldn't figure out how to share a part of it. I probably used too much, and I didn't do it justice here, at all. Please take a minute and go to his website and read the poem.

"The Lightest Touch"

Good poetry begins
with the lightest touch…

then like a hand in the dark
it arrests the whole body…

you can feel Lazarus
deep inside
even the laziest, most deathly afraid
part of you
lift up his hands and walk toward the light.

Read the rest of this incredible poem here.

And then, in what seems like an incredible act of generosity, Whyte has a page with links to 13 more poems. Here are parts of two I loved. 


Imagine the confines of a long grey corridor
just before immigration at Washington Dulles
airport. Imagine two Ethiopian women amid
a sea of familiar international plastic blandness,
entering America for the first time…

Imagine a sharp plexi-glass turn left and suddenly
before them, in biblical astonishment, like a vertical
red sea churning, like the waters barring Moses from
The Promised Land, like Jacob standing before the ladder,
a moving escalator, a mode of rising, a form of ascension,
a way to go up they'd never seen before, its steel grey
interlocking invitation on and up to who knows what,
bringing them and everyone behind them, to a bemused,
complete, and utter standstill

So that you saw it for the first time as they saw it
and for what it was, a grated river of lifting steel,
an involuntary, moving ascension into who knows what.
An incredible surprise…

David Whyte

Read the rest of the poem here.

Second Sight

Sometimes, you need the ocean light,
    and colors you've never seen before
        painted through an evening sky.
Sometimes you need your God
    to be a simple invitation,
        not a telling word of wisdom.
Read the rest of the poem here.

Visit David Whyte's website here. Poke around a little while- there are beautiful poems and words hidden on almost every page. Your spirit will feel better after you do.

Jama is hosting Poetry Friday today. You will want to drop by for more delicious offerings.

Thursday, November 14, 2013


FROG SONG is a magical, musical, melodic, tribute to frogs.
"Frogs have a song for trees, bogs, burrows, and logs. When frogs have enough moisture to keep gooey eggs, squirmy tadpoles, and hoppity adults from drying out they can sing almost anywhere. CROAK! RIBBIT! BZZT! PLONK! BRACK! THRUM-RUM!"
After that introduction, each two page spread focuses on a different and unusual frog from all over the world.
"In Chile, the Darwin's frog sings in the beech forest. Chirp-Chweet! The male guards 30 eggs in the damp leaves for three weeks. When the tadpoles wiggle, he scoops them into his mouth. SLURP! They slither into his vocal sacs, where he keeps them safe and moist for seven weeks. Then he gives a big yawn and little froglets pop out. "
I could see kids poring over this book with an atlas or globe right beside them.

I'm not even sure where to begin to talk  about Gennady Spirin's illustrations. They are so lifelike and detailed you almost feel like you are looking at photographs. I wonder if Spiring might do illustrations for scientific journals. And I'm not at all surprised to have seen this book on more than one Mock Caldecott list. Think it's definitely a contender.

A two page spread in the back gives a photo, range, size, and a quick fact about each frog. Another page describes "Frogs in Trouble."

FROG SONG could be used in a unit on animals, or adaptation, or protecting the earth. It could be used in a nonfiction study of  text structure. Or in writing for voice.

Or it could simply be read and reread and enjoyed, because it's wonderful!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


As a CYBILS judge, I get to read lots of terrific books. As a nonfiction judge, I learn lots of new and interesting things. By the time the CYBILS judging is over, my mind will be bursting with trivia. Did you know, for instance, that the sea otter has over one million hairs per inch, the densest hair of any animal on the planet? I didn't know that, or at least I didn't know it until this weekend.

I also get to learn about lots of fascinating people. This weekend I read A SPLASH OF RED, Jen Bryant's newest book (she also wrote RIVER OF WORDS, about William Carlos Williams). Pippin was an African American artist, born in 1888. As a child, he loved to draw; some of his first "real" art supplies came from winning a contest when he was nine or ten. Pippin's father abandoned his family  when the boy was a young teen, and Horace dropped out of school to support his family. Shot in the arm during World War I, he could no longer draw as he previously had, so he found a new way, using a charcoal and a hot poker, and old house paint he found in alleys. Later he was discovered by Andrew Wyeth.

Jen Bryant's story is paired with Melissa Sweet's art. A note in the back says that the two actually worked together on the book, which seems a fairly unusual process. Sweet embeds facts from the story, as well as quotes for the artist, into each illustration. "Pictures just come to my mind and I tell my heart to go ahead." Sweet made sure to include Pippin's trademark, "splash of red," onto each page. Her illustrations are playful and lively and lots of fun!

A fabulous collaboration by a terrific team!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


I'm a CYBILS judge.
And right now my life is full of books. 
I feel a little like the Arnold Lobel poem. 

Books to the ceiling, books to the sky.
My piles of books are a mile high.
How I love them!
How I need them!
I'll have a long beard by the time I read them.

Arnold Lobel

I love being Judge,
 I really do. 
But life tends to get a little crazy during this time.
There are piles of books
on every flat surface
every Saturday
I bring home another heaping pile of books. 
 I try to create some kind of order 
on my mantle.
Biographies in one pile.
Animals in another.
Transportation, still another.
And then a separate pile for dinosaurs. 
It's right next to the books about natural disasters
and kind of on top of the pile of electricity books 
that teeter precariously in front of the war books. 
 On Saturday afternoons
when I should be cleaning bathrooms
or mopping floors
or raking leaves   
I lose myself in nonfiction.
Piling my favorites in one corner
for rereading
the probably nots in another.  
My part of CYBILS is over on January 1st.
Thinking my bathrooms will really need cleaning by then.  

Monday, November 11, 2013


I know it's not baseball season, but  I have three baseball books at the top of my CYBILS stack today, so baseball it is. The first, BARBED WIRE BASEBALL, is about the Japanese Interment Camps during World War Two, so it kind of fits with Veteran's Day, right?

Kenichi "Zeni" Zenimura grew up in Hawaii. Although his parents wanted him to be a doctor or a lawyer, Zeni knew, from a very early age, that he wanted to play baseball. Zeni grew up, moved to California, and played baseball in the Fresno Nisei and Fresno Twilight Leagues. He even played in exhibition games against greats like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

In 1941, after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Zeni and his family were sent to an interment camp in Gila Bend, Arizona. Circumstances were bleak and it would have been easy to give up. Zeni refused to let his circumstances define him, however, instead choosing to build a baseball field and organizing 32 teams into three divisions, which played every day. 

This book would be terrific in a unit on World War Two, Japanese Americans, or perseverance. It would also be a perfect companion for one of my favorite historical picture books, BASEBALL SAVED US.  End notes include biographical information about Zeni, as well as author and illustrator's notes. 

Another book that could easily be used in a Social Studies class is Jonah Winters' and Terry Widener's YOU NEVER HEARD OF WILLIE MAYS. Mays, as most people know, was one of the first African Americans to play with the New York Giants. Winters' biography captures Mays' childhood in Birmingham, his years in the Negro League, and then his ascent to the majors, where he was Rookie of the Year, and is famous for a play known as "The Catch" in 1954. Embedded ticket-shaped insets throughout the book feature important baseball-related information. The holographic cover will grab kids' attention, but it doesn't begin to compare with Widener's gorgeous illustrations throughout the book. Endnotes include a glossary, and information about where the authors got their statistics.

BECOMING BABE RUTH is a biography by one of my favorite picture book authors and illustrators, Matt Tavares. The story begins in 1902, when George Herman Ruth's father, disgusted with his naughty and delinquent seven-year-old son, sends him to Saint Mary's Industrial School for Boys, There, Babe Ruth meets Father Matthias, a baseball playing priest, who guides and mentors young Ruth, and shapes him into a world class baseball player. This biography captures important details about Ruth's baseball career, but also includes lots of information about his lifelong relationship with Father Matthias and the Saint Mary's industrial school. Author's notes include pitching and hitting statistics.