Saturday, March 21, 2015

World Poetry Day 2015 is today!

Today is World Poetry Day!
To celebrate I am posting a few links to poems that I've come across the past week.

The first one is "Light in the Fig Root" by Lori DeSanti (featured at Words Dance).I've been discovering more and more of Lori's work in literary journals and I like her style.

The second is by Matt Rasmussen, winner of the 2012 Walt Whitman Award for his poetry collection titled Black Aperature. I happened upon his work accidentally while doing a search for something else. This poem speaks to me because a few months ago I lost someone dear to me due to suicide. This is the poem "Aperature".

The third is a poem I was introduced to in elementary school and one of the reasons I became interested in poetry. Here is Carl Sandburg's "Fog". It showed me how poetry often looks at things from a different perspective.

And lastly, I want to say that if you are like me and like both poetry and writing for children, you might get a kick out of the work that has been posted recently in the March Madness Poetry competition this year. Participants are given assigned words and must write a poem for children. Poets compete in several rounds until a final winner is chosen based on votes. I've been reading and voting (and enjoying a few laughs as well because many of these are humorous poems) and you can take part in the voting process, too. If there is a child in you who likes to smile and giggle, head on over to the Think, Kid, Think! site.

Oooooh, and I almost forgot. Have you heard some cafes around the world are offering a free coffee to people who hand in one of their poems? Yes, it's true. Get more information here:

Coffee or no coffee, I wish you a perfectly poetic day.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Short Note for Today

Two of my writing friends are currently competing in the March Madness Poetry contest. I met Rj through Poetic Asides years ago. Her work often utilizes clever word play and her rhyming is spot on. Dean Damon just took part in the PB14:14 blog challenge which I just finished posting about and he also frequents a few other sites I take part in.

Please show them some support and vote for their poems so they can move to the next round. You don't need to register. Just click the voting circle at the bottom of the posts. IMPORTANT NOTE: voting is today only, so get to it! (pretty please)

Here are the links:


Friday, February 27, 2015

PB14:14 - Day 14!!!!!!!

Today is the last day of the Picture Book 14:14 which is organized each year by Christie Wright Wild. Be sure to check out her blog Write Wild. Not only can you find links to other PB14:14 posts but throughout the year Christie blogs about picture books, gives helpful advice for writers, posts about agents, discusses website management, and holds contests. In addition to all that, she's a really nice person. A round of applause for Christie for being our awesome PB14:14 hostess.   YAY, CHRISTIE!!!!! Thank you.

And now onto today's book:

Title: Spoon
Author: Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Illustrator: Scott Magoon
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Year: 2009
Word Count: 391
Top 10 Element: conflict

As far as the top ten element for picture books goes, I could have chosen character since the book is written from Spoon's point of view. I could also have picked beginnings and ending because Spoon feels one way at the beginning and the opposite at the end. I also could have chosen them, pattern, or dialogue. This book has used almost all ten elements effectively. But there is no rhyme.

So why did I pick conflict? There are two types of conflict in a book. The physical: it snows so much that you can't go out the door (Blizzard), character is sick and can't do his job (A Sick Dday for Amos Mcgee), character being chased by hungry dragon (Dragon Dinner) OR it can be emotional: character misses friend who moved away, character is afraid of the dark, character lacks confidence, etc. and needs to revolve the internal conflict. This book revolves around the latter, and I think it is very important for children to have books like this. (I also believe children should have a wide variety of books--fairy tales, humor, rhyme, non-fiction, character development stories, and ones that just plain entertain.)

When I first saw this book with the simple title Spoon and a basic illustration on the cover, I didn't think it was going to be a good book. Boy, was I wrong. I love this book. At the beginning of the story we meet Spoon and his family. On this day Spoon is feeling a bit down. He thinks all his friend have it better than he does. They get to do all the cool things. Knife get to cut things and spread things. Fork gets to twirl spaghetti and speer all sorts of things. And everybody loves Chopstick(s). This is a "the green is always greener" kind of story. Except that we all know the grass isn't always greener on the other side. In fact, while Spoon is lamenting his boring life, his friends are all discussing how lucky Spoon is. Knife says "Everyone's so serious with me. No one's ever allowed to be silly with me like they are with spoon." Fork mentions how he never gets to measure things like spoon does. And Chopstick(s) think Spoon is so super cool because he gets to do things alone. Soon Spoon comes to realize that it's not so bad being a spoon.

I like the message of the story but the kicker for me is the subtle humor in the book --for instance, his Aunt Silver being so proper or spoon going stir-crazy. The younger children might not pick up on the humor in those lines but older kids and parents do. And a good picture book has elements that appeal to both crowds. I especially love when Spoon can't sleep and his parents tell him to come into bed with them. His mom says, "Come, Spoon." And then they spoon. Sweet and silly at the same time. Also, there aren't many picture books where a spoon is the main character and original and/or quirky is usually a hit with me.

Yep, this book is a winner. Go out and read it. The author also has written books called Fork and Chopsticks, but I haven't read those yet. If you've read them all, please tell me which one is your favorite.

And if you haven't read spoon, you can hear a class of first-graders reading it at the following youTube link:

Also, the link to other day 14 posts is:

Thursday, February 26, 2015

PB14:14 - Day 13: This is Not my Hat

Wow, the Picture Book 14:14 challenge is almost over. How did we get to day 13 already? I wish we had more time, especially so I can read more of the other posts. I commented faithfully up until around day 8 and then my schedule got hectic and I've not been able to read many. I planned on reading and commenting on every post and now have a lot of catching up to do. Lately all I can do is post my review. Speaking of which...

here it my day 13 book.     

Title: This is Not My Hat
Author: Jon Klassen
Illustrator: Jon Klassen
Publisher: Candlewick
Year: 2012
Word Count: 196 (if I counted correctly, which is iffy as I am half asleep)
Top 10 Element: word play

If you like Klassen's earlier book I Want My Hat Back, then you might like this one as well. It has the same humor in it. Whereas in I Want My Hat Back the story centers on a bear searching for his hat, this story turns that concept around. Now the narrator is not the victim of the crime but the thief. When a small fish steals the little blue bowler hat of a big sleeping fish, he's not worried at all. He's sure he'll get away with it.

lThe fun part of the story is that the pictures and the words contradict each other. While the small fish tells us he's got a plan and it's working perfectly, the illustrations show the big fish following behind him. Usually we think of word play in a picture book as alliteration or silly puns or onomatopoeia. However, this type of humor is also considered word play, and children get a kick out of it. 

In the end the big fish does get his hat back. The fate of the little fish? That is left open-ended, so you can speculate what happened. Perhaps he got "a good talking to" when they were in the thick of the sea weed (or pond vegetation). Perhaps the little fish scurried off so fast when he noticed he'd been caught that the hat fell from head and that was that. Or maybe he became dinner. It's interesting to ask children what they think happened. Some of them come up with very interesting tales.

Some people say the book promotes stealing. Uh, really? (you can read the 30 one-star reviews at Amazon for examples of this and other complaints about the book... though the 213 five-star reviews totally tip the scale here) You know me. I always say its all in how you use the book. This book can actually teach children that just because they think they can get away with something, that doesn't mean they should try it. Wrong is wrong. And I think humor makes them actively think as well.

I was introduced to this book at a SCBWI conference last year. Since I don't have the book and my library doesn't have it either, I don't have a picture of the cover to post. BUT I checked youTube and someone has a video of it being read. To see it clink the link below.

And if you aren't familiar with I Want My Hat Back (or even if you are) you can listen to someone reading it at the following link. I especially love the turtle's voice.  :-)

Which of the two books do you prefer? This is Not My Hat or I Want My Hat Back? Let me know in the comments section.

to read other PB14:14 picture book reviews for day 13, here's the link:

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

PB14:14 - Day 12 - Yucky Worms

Welcome to Day 12 of the Picture Book 14:14. We're almost finished with the challenge, and I've written about 13 books so far (yesterday I did a "two for Tuesday" post). Thirteen books into it I realize I have not blogged about any non-fiction books. Sooooooooo...

today's book is:

Title: Yucky Worms: Read and Wonder
Author: Vivian French
Illustrator: Jessica Ahlberg
Publisher: Candlewick
Year: 2012
Word Count:749+ (word count not including the worm commentary in speech bubbles, sidebars with information, and back material on how to be a wormologist)
Top 10 Element: dialogue

Summary: Instead of this book just listing facts and pictures, the information is presented as a story. It begins One day when I was in Grandma's garden, Grandma dug up a slimy, slithery, wiggly worm. "Yuck," I said. "Throw it away!" But, of course, his grandmother doesn't. Through dialogue between the two, children learn how to tell which end is which on a worm, what worms eat, etc.

Sound boring? Not really, and children will especially love all the information about casts. Do you know what casts are? Casts are


And seriously, what kid doesn't get the laughs and giggles when it comes to poop. Children also learn the dangers of being a worm, how to trick worms into coming out of the soil, and lots of cool facts. Did you know that worms have bristles in their muscles. The bristles help them move. There are also looks of cool comments from the worms in speech bubbles within the illustrations and back material on being a "wormologist".

I know boys will love this book. Girls? I don't know. I know I would have enjoyed it as a child. Would you like it? Find out for yourself. I found a video (by mrssworley's channel on YouTube) of someone reading it.

Here's today's link to read other participants' day 11 picture book reviews:

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

PB14:14 - Day 11: Dragons Love Tacos and My Dad's a Dragon Catcher

Since we are in the second week of the Picture Book 14:14 challenge, I thought I'd do a "Two for Tuesday" post. But watch out! Both of the books have to do with...


The first one is:
Title: Dragons Love Tacos
Author: Adam Rubin
Illustrator: Daniel Salmieri
Publisher:  Dial Books
Year: 2012
Word Count: approx. 550
Top 10 Element: theme

Summary: What do you do when you want to lure a bunch of dragons to your party? That's simple. Just serve tacos. Everyone knows that dragons love tacos. Beef tacos, chicken tacos, big tacos, small tacos, the crunchier the better. Make sure you have lots and lots of tacos. But skip the hot salsa because when dragons eat spicy things there will be trouble. See when happens when a boy makes the mistake of not reading the fine print on the mild salsa jar that reads now with spicy jalapeños peppers.

I've heard a few parents say they weren't completely sold on this on, but their kids found it to be hilarious. I guess I am a kid at heart because I thought it was pretty funny. I also liked that the dragons help fix things in the end.

I found a youTube video for you to watch:

Since I have already reviewed Dragon Dinner by Susannah Corbett (see that post HERE), I had to find another dragon book to tell you about. While doing a search on Amazon, I came across this little-known book (at least I'd never heard of it and it has no reviews yet). Of course, I couldn't order the book and get it all in one day so I did another search and was lucky to find a video of the author reading it. I love her New Zealand accent and how she reads the story in an animated way. The children love both her and the story.

Title: My Dad's a Dragon Catcher
Author: Tanya Batt
Illustrator: Helen Bacon
Publisher:  Reading Alive
Year: 2012
Word Count: approximately 500 
Top 10 Element: dialogue

When children in his class are telling about the cool jobs their dads have, Toby doesn't know what to say. He doesn't have a father who is an actor or a pilot dad who takes him places. His dad spends a lot of time sitting around the house drawing in his notebook, but he couldn't say that. That's not very exciting, he thinks. So instead he blurts out, "My dad is a dragon catcher." That's where the tale begins and it grows and grows from there. Then his teacher announces that all father/grandfathers are invited to come to class and talk about their jobs. Of course, everyone wants a dragon catcher to come to class. Now what will Toby do?

The tale is told in dialogue between Toby and his friends and Toby and his father. I like that the dialogue is "real", just the way a child or father would speak. I also like the details Toby creates about different types of dragons and how to catch them. Eventually, the truth comes out but with a bit of a twist at the end.

To buy this book, visit this page on Amazon.

If you want to hear the book first (and get a bit of a sneak peek at the illustrations) go to this video.

To see other day 11 posts from PB14:14 participants, use the link below.

Monday, February 23, 2015

PB14:14 - Day 10: Hooray for Fall!

The book I am reviewing for day 10 of the Picture Book 14:14 challenge is a sweet book I found at our local library. They only have about 40 picture books in English, some old, some new, but I was lucky to find this gem.

Title: Hooray for Fall!

Author/Illustrator: Kazuo Iwamura

Year/Publisher:  English translation 2009 in USA, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand
by North-South Book, Inc., an imprint of NordSüd Verlag AG, Switzerland (original first pub. in Japan, 1984 under the title Makkana Seetaa)

Word Count: approx. 475

Top 10 Element(s): theme

Summary: Three little squirrels return home after a day of gathering nuts to find their mother busy knitting. They are curious about what she is making but are told they'll have to wait until she's finished. Mama knits through the night, and the next morning three bright red sweaters are ready to be worn. The children go outside to play. They come across several animals preparing (birds planning their trip south before winter, bear eating large quantity of persimmons to hold him over during the upcoming hibernation), and they see many signs of autumn.

I simply adore this book. The illustrations are so sweet. The information about autumn is woven into the story beautifully. There is a pattern of things being red-- red mushrooms, red leaves, red berries, red sun-- and they often reflect back to themselves.


they compare a group of red mushrooms to their family

(after seeing the berries have turned from green to red) "Winter is coming so they changed their clothes, just like us."

after seeing red leaves they realize things change color because winter is approaching "Everything turns red, just like our sweaters!"

But my favorite part is when they see the setting sun. "The sky is on fire!" Mack shouted. And sure enough up in the sky was a great red glow. "Let's climb up to the treetop and see what it is," said Mack. Then when you turn the page there is a beautiful two-page spread. On the left side the children are on the trunk and branches of a very tall tree gazing at the giant, glowing red sun which is front and center on the right page.

If you can get your hands on this, either at the library or at the bookstore, open it up and read it. Or purchase it at Amazon. I think you'll enjoy it.

To see more day 10 book reviews by other PB14:14 participants here's the link: