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March 2008
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May 2008

Poetry Friday: Josephine Jacobsen

After coming across a couple of poems by Josephine Jacobsen in The Oxford Book of American Poetry, I've wanted to read more. Here is the beginning of "The Birthday Party," which is also online at the Poetry Foundation.

"The Birthday Party"

The sounds are the sea, breaking out of sight,
and down the green slope the children’s voices
that celebrate the fact of being eight.

One too few chairs are for desperate forces:
when the music hushes, the children drop
into their arms, except for one caught by choices.

Read the rest here.

Musical chairs was a staple of birthday parties of my childhood; I haven't seen it around lately, though. The game was both exciting and dreadful. Dreadful, because it taps into children's fears of being left out. Exciting, because of the possibility of winning, of course, and in musical chairs, you inevitably sat on someone else, to great hilarity. Jacobsen even uses the term "scary fun" to describe the action. The poem moves on from the  game, and focuses on the sea, contrasting its constant rhythms with the children's one brief moment, "the fact of being eight." Jacobsen writes,

Onto the pitted sand comes highwater mark.
Waves older than eight begin a retreat;
they will come, the children gone, the slope dark.

Even though it's about a celebration, Jacobsen's poem is bittersweet, and definitely told from a grown-up's point of view, not a child's. I know the perfect image to go with it: a photograph by Tina Barney of a children's party at the beach. When I first saw the large-format picture, it took me a while to realize that the camera's focus was not on the kids, but on the adults behind them, cocktails in hand—and one step closer to the sea, now that I think about it.

Around the children's literature blogs, you'll find more poetry talk today. The roundup of posts is over at a wrung sponge.

Wednesday Book Notes, 4.09

A new edition of The Edge of the Forest, an online journal about children's books, is up. If you're interested in contributing to the May and June issues, the details are at the blog Big A, little a.

Recently announced prizes in the world of children's literature include the 2008 Hans Christian Andersen Awards,  and the 2008 Lacapa Spirit Prize, honoring "great books...that best embody the spirit of the peoples, culture and natural landscape of the Southwest." (news via Educating Alice and American Indians in Children's Literature) 

Diary of a Wimpy Kid being compared to H. Potter? The Philadelphia Inquirer has the scoop.

The 48 Hour Book Challenge, a kid-book readathon (for grown-ups) organized by blogger MotherReader, is now set to take place June 6th-8th. See this post for more information.

Operation Teen Book Drop is happening on April 17th. In association with a number of publishers,  the Readergirlz online reading community for teenage girls and the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) are coordinating the effort to put 10,000 books into pediatric hospitals.

"Pale Male: Citizen Hawk of New York City"

Janet Schulman's book tells the true story of Pale Male and his mate(s), red-tailed hawks who choose to build their nest on a fancy apartment building in New York. Situated just across the street from the fertile hunting grounds of Central Park (with its ample supply of pigeons and such), the nest is celebrated by city bird-watchers and detested by building residents.  The ensuing bird-related goings-on make an exciting picture book, and young readers have a fine avian protagonist to cheer for. Meilo So's detailed watercolor illustrations bring out the beauty of the birds, the park, and the city itself.

Central Park is actually a birding hotspot, particularly during migration season. That's now! If you're in the area, check the web site of New York City Audubon, and sign up for a morning walk. There's also a city Birdathon on May 10th; several bird-watching pros will provide instruction for beginners. Details at NYCA.

Another touching picture book about New York birds is Mateo Pericoli's True Story of Stellina, about a small finch found by the author-illustrator's wife.

On Mondays children's book author Anastasia Suen rounds up posts on nonfiction books for kids; fly over to her blog Picture Book of the Day for today's edition.

Pale Male: Citizen Hawk of New York City
written by Janet Schulman; illustrated by Meilo So
Knopf, 2008
ISBN-13: 9780375845581
for readers aged 6 to 10

Poetry Friday: Cowboy Songs for Kids

Singing cowboy songs is a good way to start the morning. Head over yonder to the Diamond R Ranch web site to sing along with "I Love to Ride My Pony." How can you resist a song with the lyrics "Yippee-yi, yippee-yay, yippee-yoho!"? I couldn't. Children will also find online exhibits, games, coloring pages, and recipes there. (And if the kiddos are still in the mood for western songs, track down "Always Your Pal, Gene Autry," a fun CD much loved in these parts a while back. Oh, and Asleep at the Wheel's Tribute to the Music of Bob Wills & the Texas Playboys.)

The Diamond R Ranch is part of the online home of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, in Oklahoma City. The museum sponsors the annual Western Heritage Awards; the latest winner in the "juvenile book" category was Journey to San Jacinto, a novel for 8 to 12 year olds by Melodie A. Cuate. Southern Living said, “To teach kids history, try time travel. Cuate, a veteran schoolteacher, spins the tale of a seventh-grader Hannah, her brother Nick, and her friend Jackie. They are intrigued by a mysterious trunk belonging to Hannah’s new history teacher. When they open it, something magical happens, and they travel back in time to the Alamo, where the famous siege is underway.”

Stop by the corral at Becky's Book Reviews for a roundup of other blog posts on poetry and related matters.  

New Poetry Books, Grown-ups' Edition

In addition to Mark Doty's recently released Fire to Fire, I've been on the lookout for new books of poetry., the online home of the Academy of American Poets, rounds up quite a few that I look forward to reading. (I added bookstore links; some are not out yet.) If you've liked/loved/loathed any mentioned here or on the longer list at, I hope you'll leave a comment; word of mouth is often the best recommendation. The ones that caught my eye are the following:

Shadow Architect, by Emily Warn (Copper Canyon Press, October). Warn is the editor of the Poetry Foundation's web site.

Colosseum, by Katie Ford (Graywolf Press, June). The poems of a displaced New Orleanian deal with the aftermath of Katrina, according to the description.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, by Simon Armitage (W.W. Norton, on shelves now). A new translation of the Arthurian epic that "liberate[s] Gawain from academia," as the Telegraph put it.

Fidelity: Poems, by Grace Paley (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, October). Her last collection.

The Lily Poems, by Liz Rosenberg (Bright Hill Press, spring). Read an excerpt, "Learning to Speak," from the collection of "love poems for an adopted daughter, a tribute to hope and to family." Kidlit folks may recognize the name; Rosenberg is also a children's and young-adult book author and writes book reviews for the Boston Globe.

The Kingdom of Ordinary Time, by Marie Howe (W.W. Norton, on shelves).  Excerpt: "After the Movie."

The Bad Wife Handbook, by Rachel Zucker (Wesleyan University Press, on shelves now). I just liked the title and the "darkly comic" part of the blurb.

Elizabeth Bishop: Poems, Prose, and Letters (Library of America, on shelves now). I loved Bishop's book of letters, One Art; I assume they're the ones collected here. Also, if you've never read Dana Gioia's reminiscence of taking Bishop's poetry class in college, try to find the 9/15/86 issue of The New Yorker. 

Australia's 2008 "Book of the Year" Contenders

9781876288792 The Children's Book Council of Australia presnts its short list for "book of the year" in various categories. The winners will be announced on August 15th.

I added links for the books available on U.S. Amazon. Some have American publication dates later this year.

Older Readers [young adults]

  • Pharoah: The Boy Who Conquered the Nile, by Jackie French
  • Marty's Shadow, by John Heffernan
  • Black Water, by David Metzenthen
  • Leaving Barrumbi, by Leonie Norrington

Younger Readers [9-12 year olds]

  • Sixth Grade Style Queen (Not!), by Sherryl Clark; Elissa Christian, illustrator
  • The Shaggy Gully Times, by Jackie French; Bruce Whatley, illustrator
  • Amelia Dee and the Peacock Lamp, by Odo Hirsch
  • Winning the World Cup, by David Metzenthen; Stephen Axelsen, illustrator

Early Childhood

  • Shhh! Little Mouse, by Pamela Allen
  • Cat, by Mike Dumbleton; Craig Smith, illustrator
  • The Night Garden, by Elise Hurst

Picture Book of the Year [some are for mature readers]

  • The Peasant Prince, illustrated by Anne Spudvilas; Li Cunxin, author
  • You and Me: Our Place, illustrated by Dee Huxley; Leonie Norrington, author
  • Requiem for a Beast, by Matt Ottley
  • Dust, by Colin Thompson, et al.

Eve Pownall Award for Information Books

  • Australia's Deadly and Dangerous Animals, by Michael Cermak
  • Girl Stuff: Your Full-on Guide to the Teen Years, by Kaz Cooke
  • Kokoda Track: 101 Days, by Peter Macinnis
  • The Antarctica Book: Living in the Freezer, by Mark Norman
  • Parsley Rabbit's Book about Books, by Frances Watts; David Legge, illustrator
  • Ned Kelly's Jerilderie Letter, by Carole Wilkinson; Dean Jones, illustrator

The CBCA cites many other notable books in each category.

Hat tip to Oz's Judith Ridge for reporting the news of the awards on the Child_lit listserv.

Image from Working Title Press.