Monday, June 30, 2014


All I can say about CROSSOVER, by Kwame Alexander, is man, oh man, do I wish I had had this book a few years ago, when my boys were in middle school. CROSSOVER is a novel in verse, the story of two basketball playing brothers, twins, Josh and Jordan. Their dad is Chuck, (Da Man) Bell, a former European league champion. Their mom is the assistant principal at the school the boys attend.

The novel follows the boys through a basketball season and through a season of life in the family. When the book opens, the boys and their dad are serious, super serious, about basketball. But then Jordan finds a girlfriend and his focus changes. Josh is a little hurt that Jordan isn't spending as much time with him, and that comes out in lots of "brotherly angerish ways." (We have lived this story at our house!)

Kids from fifth grade all the way through middle school are going to love the rap-type poems. Can't wait to pass it off to some of my middle school, "I don't read" guys! Perfect!

In the car, I've been listening to SARAH'S KEY by Tatiana De Rosnay, which I thought was fairly new, until I went to look for a cover for this review, then I discovered it's been out quite a while, so long, in fact, that it is already a movie. SARAH'S KEY is a Holocaust novel,  about the Vel d'Hiv Roundup, in which thousands of Jewish families were arrested, held at the Vélodrome d'Hiver outside the city, then transported to Auschwitz. The story is told in alternating chapters- one featuring Sarah Starzynski, a Polish girl living in Paris, whose family is part of the roundup, and the other about Julia Jarmond, an American journalist, married to a Frenchman, and assigned to cover the sixtieth anniversary of the roundup.  Julia discovers that her life and Sarah's are linked through a tragic secret. This is another sad, sad part of the Holocaust that I knew nothing about. The audiobook is really well done.

Friday, June 27, 2014


This is a picture I found, not one I took

I've spent most of the last ten days trying to get a rental property ready to sell. The last tenant did quite a bit of damage, plus the house is about twenty years old, so it needs a lot of repairs before it can go on the market. I've been making phone calls, gathering estimates, meeting with handymen, etc., etc. I'm not good at that kind of stuff, at all, so it's been a pretty stressful couple of weeks. I'm longing for beach time or at least a little breathing room…


I go down to the edge of the sea.
How everything shines in the morning light!
The cusp of the whelk,
the broken cupboard of the clam,
the opened, blue mussels…
First you figure out what each one means by itself,
the jingle, the periwinkle, the scallop
       full of moonlight.

Then you begin, slowly, to read the whole story.
Mary Oliver
Source: Poetry (August 2003).

Read the rest of the poem here

Buffy Silverman has the Poetry Friday roundup this week.

Monday, June 23, 2014


A couple of weeks ago, I read a review of ABSOLUTELY ALMOST somewhere. It sounded interesting, so I immediately put it on hold at the library. It came in this weekend. Interestingly,  ABOLUTELY ALMOST had its own little publicity campaign on Facebook and Twitter. I was glad, then, that I had already reserved it, because I bet it would be hard to get now.

When the book opens, ten-year-old Albie has just been kicked out of an exclusive New York City prep school, because he simply isn't able to perform at the required academic level. Enrolled in the public school in his neighborhood, Albie discovers he still is not smart enough. He is required to go to "Math Club" (remedial math) every day. He can't pass the spelling tests. His only friend is a girl named Betsy, who stutters.  And his parents and grandfather are all over him because he isn't meeting their expectations.  At the same time, Albie is a really good kid, a kind and caring kid. His babysitter, Calista, is the first person to point that out to him.

ABSOLUTELY ALMOST is a quick read. The chapters are short, mostly not more than a couple of pages, so it would be a great book for a kid who wasn't a super strong reader. At the same time, it's a really, really good story, with lots to talk and think about. 

I think I'm gonna have to buy this one!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


Summer 1985-
I have been teaching about five years.
In my "spare" time
I volunteer with Young Life,
a Christian organization
that works with high school.
The area director is from the Pacific Northwest
He has been to the Malibu Club
eight hours north of Vancouver
on the Princess Louise Inlet
many times
decides we should take a group of kids 
We head north early one morning
 two vanloads of kids
one pulling a luggage trailer
three drivers
we are planning to switch off
every few hours
until one woman announces,
"I really don't like long distance driving,"
and so two of us drive
twenty-five hours each way.
Two hours north of Denver
a lady runs a red light
bashes into the luggage trailer
destroys the back axle
I leave John with a few of the guys
and continue northward.
We miss a turn and make a two hour detour. 
He finally catches up with me in Seattle.
The kids have a great week
and pretty soon we forget
how hard the drive has been.

Summer 2014
Thirty years later.
I have been a teacher,
a graduate student
and a mom.
Now I am back to Young Life.
On Thursday, I leave for six days
of camp in California
We were going to ride a bus
but we have too many kids
(a really good problem!)
so early Thursday morning
I will load up a rental van
with five sixth grade girls
and we will head out for San Diego
Twenty hours of driving
Just me and my crew
The girls will see the beach
probably for the first time ever
then spend six amazing days at camp
Next Thursday
I will drive us home
Keep us in your prayers!

Saturday, June 7, 2014


Lots of celebrations in this this week's Poetry Friday posts!

Several people celebrated the 70th anniversary of D Day…

First, head to Catherine Flynn's blog, "Reading to the Core" (earlier today I mistakenly confused Catherine Flynn with Catherine Johnson- my apologies to both ladies!). Listen to actor Charles Durning's recital of "Carentan, O Carnetan," written by Louis Simpson, a soldier in WWII.  It made me cry. 

Mayer commemorates D  Day with Yvor Winters' stark, "Night of Battle" at Kurious Kitty's Kurio Kabinet, then move on to Random Noodling and read three original D Day poems from Diane's other website, Random Noodling. Diane also has a great Yvor Winters' quote about writing at Kurious K's Kwotes.

Jan Godown Annino honors her soldier dad with a beautiful post that combines poetry and memoir

Others celebrated the end of the school year…
My fellow Denver friend Linda Baie (who I met through kidlitosphere, but actually lives about ten minutes from me), but is celebrating the end of the school year with an original poem, "Outta Here!"

At the Poem Farm, Amy Ludwig Vanderwater not only has an original end of school poem,  "Last Day," but also shares a terrific guest post about themed student anthologies. I am soooo going to try this idea next year!

Laura Shovan (Author Amok) also features student poets. She's just finishing a residency at Northfield Elementary. This week's post features "Pocket Poems," but her posts includes ten more links to student poems.

Carol Varsalona, the very last poster this week, is wrapping up her school year with a post remembering her first year as a teacher.  She captures, I think, so many of our hopes and dreams!

And there were celebrations of other important days…
Greg Pincus celebrated a totally different holiday yesterday. Warning, his poem, Doughnuts Oh, Doughnuts! will make you crave "fried circles of yum" all day!

Greg needs to talk to Joy, who is also celebrating doughnuts at Poetry for Kids. Joy has been busy making Poetry Boxes, which seems like an idea with distinct possibilities for teachers.

Happy Anniversary to Tara, who is celebrating her 27th wedding anniversary with a new-to-me e.e. cummings poem, "love is more thicker than forget." 

Some posters celebrated books…
Children's author, Tamara Will Wissinger, and a ragtag band of cowboys are celebrating the release of their first poetry picture book, THIS OLD BAND with a book giveaway!  Congratulations, Tamara- definitely cause for a huge celebration!!

Liz Steinglass features an annotated list of ten new poetry titles she's planning to read this summer. First on the list is POETRY FRIDAY regular, Laura Purdie Salas' new book, WATER CAN BE…

 This week, Laura's post celebrates the natural world with  Joanne Lindens"Curly-leaf Pondweed," Linden's new book,  FIDDLEHEADS TO FIR TREES, looks like a book I definitely want to own!

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes puts the spotlight on Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong's POETRY FRIDAY SCIENCE ANTHOLOGY in an interview that made me laugh! I'd love to dine with any of these ladies any time!

April Halprin Wayland celebrates a brand new poetry book THE POEM THAT WILL NOT END: FUN WITH POETIC FORMS AND VOICES, by prolific poet, Joan Bransfield Graham, with an interview.

Almost every week, I read a post that makes me think, "Hey, that used to be one of my favorite books! Where is it?" This week it was Myra Garces Bascal's post of "Headstrong Boy," which she found in Naomi Shihab Nye's collection, THIS SAME SKY.

At No Water River, Renee LaTulippe and Lee Bennett Hopkins have their sixth post highlighting NCTE Poets. This week's poet is longtime favorite John Ciardi. Renee says, "This series isn’t about analyzing the poets and their work, but rather about preserving Lee’s personal recollections, insights, and memories of each of these amazing people."

Lorie Ann shared YOU MEAN THE WORLD TO ME, a perfect poetry book for young readers.  

There are celebrations of beaches… 
Violet Nesdoly has an original poem, "Walk the Beach," that makes this land-locked sea lover long for beach time.

I agree with Jama, who thinks Richard Michelson's book, S IS FOR SEAGLASS, would be a perfect companion to HAVE YOU BEEN TO THE BEACH LATELY?  Jama, ever the gourmet goddess has a really fun recipe for flip flop cookies. For those of you who are still teaching, this would be a perfect end-of-the-year treat!

and original poems celebrating other aspects of the natural world…
At Radio, Rhythm, and Rhyme, Matt Forrest Esenwine honors the moon with an interesting metaphor in his poem, "indecency,"which he describes as "definitely note for children

Lorie Ann Grover uses an original photograph as a jumping off point for writing haiku, "A Flowered Conjunction."

Jennifer Ward celebrates kale (yup, kale, as she says) with a poem about her experiences harvesting this vegetable as a young teenager. Even her "back story" is poetic…

Several members of the Poetry Friday community are celebrating significant life changes…

Charles Waters found time for a really meaty post, even though he's preparing for a move to New York.  His poem, "Sack Lunch," is featured in a really important article on the role of poetry in the Common Core. Charles links with Diane Mayr and Jane Hulstrunk, at a new-to-me website, Spark, which pairs writing and art. Charles ends his post with an original lullaby, "Dreamtime Boulevard."

Kelly Mogk isn't undergoing any significant life changes, (that I know of anyway), but I'm adding her link here because Stephen Burt'sTED talk, "Why We Need Poetry," seems like a perfect companion text to Charles' article about the role of poetry in CCSS.

Robin Hood Black, fresh from a move to South Carolina, offers news of a poetry contest. Her post made me want to go buy a bike.

Dori has opened a yoga studio, but assures us that she will be back to poetry very soon. Maybe you could read poetry at your yoga classes on Friday, Dori!

And then, as always seems to happen with poetry, there are some big life truths…

At Drift Record, Julie Larios has Wendell Berry's, "The Peace of Wild Things," an important reminder for all of us worriers in the crowd.

Mary Lee has another big life truth poem, "Sonnet I," by Phillip Britts.

I think Mary Lee must have talked to Margaret, whose original poem, "Picking Blueberries," reminds me to be still and savor those small and delicious moments

Little Willow shares a big truth from Marilyn Monroe. I think it would be interesting to juxtapose this poem against one of her blonde bombshell pictures, then write about it.

Karen Edmisten has had a  traumatic few days! She celebrates the wonder of connection with "From the Telephone," by Florence Ripley Mastin.

At, "There is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town," Ruth is slowing down after a busy school year. She shares excerpts from Australian poet, Mark Tredinnick's "Eclogues." You can listen to Mark read his work here.

Thanks so much for participating!
 If I left anyone out, it was purely accidental! 
Let me know and I will fix it immediately!

Thursday, June 5, 2014


Hurray! You found it! The Poetry Friday Roundup is here!

You've probably already been to Catherine Johnson's blog and discovered that we switched weeks. About two weeks ago, I was asked to accompany a group of sixty middle schoolers to San Diego. We'll spend a day at the beach, probably the first time for many of our inner city, never been out of Denver travellers, then head to Ramona, California for six days at a Young Life camp.  It probably won't be the most restful "vacation," but it will be a lot of fun! Because I won't have access to wifi while I'm at camp, Catherine graciously agreed to trade with me.

In honor of my upcoming adventure, it seemed a perfect day to choose a poem from one of my favorite summer poetry books, "Have You Been to the Beach Lately?" by Ralph Fletcher. You probably already know Ralph's work, but just in case he's new to you, he often chooses a theme, e.g. the beach, and then builds a series of poems around that theme. Each of the poems can stand alone, but they are also connected to each other, and tell a kind of a story. Have You Been to the Beach Lately? captures a not-quite-teen's beach trip.

“First Lullaby”

In the late afternoon
the sea breathes
onto the shore.

Lying on a towel
I feel the sand
still glowing
with the memory
of the day’s hottest sun.

The beach hushes
at this time of day
and it sounds like the
world’s first lullaby:
the low throaty waves
salty breeze in my ears,
and Mom humming.

Ralph Fletcher
in Have You Been to the Beach Lately?

After I return from camp, I’ll head to the mountains for a weekend with my book club. We’ll be there at the height of the wildflower season and will hopefully see lots of meadows that look like this one.  We’ll do a little hiking and a lot of laughing, and then probably some crying too, because the purpose of this trip is to say goodbye to our dear friend, Laura, who’s heading off for an exciting new job in Hong Kong and will be gone for the next two or three years.


Help wanted:  sturdy individuals
interested in grass-roots work
at a number of rugged locations
(cliffs, deserts, some tundra).
Good benefits. Must be strong
and adaptable, self-starter,
persistent, willing to relocate,
with no fear of high places
and no known allergies to bees.
 Ralph Fletcher

“Wildflowers” is from Ralph’s Blog, The Writer’s Desk, which you should definitely visit to read more of his poems. 

Thanks for stopping by today. Leave your comments below and I'll round them up several times throughout the day.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


I probably shouldn't admit it, but sometimes I read other people's Slices about family dinners and graduations and vacations with just a tinge of jealousy. My boys and I rarely have those times.

Instead, ours has been a long and bumpy road, marked by many, many detours.

"They let me use my debit card, even when I don't have money," announces my son about a week ago.

"They charge you for that, every time you use it."

"No they don't," he insists.

"Yes they do," I say, "it's called an overdraft."

I soon discover that my son has run up almost three hundred dollars in overdrafts. Eight dollar Taco Bell meals have 34 dollar overdraft charges.

He is surprised and angry. Defensive. Not at the bank, but at me.

I straighten out the situation. He promises never to do it again.

Two weeks later, he is $114 dollars in the hole again. I tell him that I am not fixing it. And he will have to figure something out.

He swears at me and hangs up, furious.

I do not call.

For more than a week, I do not hear from him. I mail a grocery card and a check for weekly living expenses, like laundry. I cannot put it in the bank, because it will be sucked up by the overdraft charges. I do not know how he will cash the check.

Finally, on Monday night he calls.

"I fixed it," he says.

"Really? How?" He has been looking for a job, and I am hoping he has been successful.

"I sold my Xbox."

The Xbox was a Christmas present. Both of my boys wanted the new Xbox. They were ridiculously expensive and  I couldn't afford them so they asked my mom and my sisters to give them gift cards. They combined all of the money and bought Xboxes.

"Really? To a teammate?"

No, no one has any money and that would have taken way too long. I just sold it back to Gamestop. They gave me $200."

My heart sinks. The Xbox cost three times that. It was only six months old. Game Stop probably sold it for $500.

But I stop myself from saying that.

He had a problem. he solved it. And for us, that has to be enough.

Ours is a bumpy road.

And the celebrations are small.

Today I celebrate small successes on bumpy roads.

Because that is what we have in our family.