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September 2008

Poetry Friday: Homeschoolers & Poetry, at the Poetry Foundation

Happy Poetry Friday, everyone. I hope you'll scoot over to the Poetry Foundation's online edition and read "Home Appreciation," an article I wrote about the joyful approach several homeschooling families take to poetry. You'll get a armload of recommendations for books to seek out, too. As a public-school mom, I've learned a lot from the homeschooling bunch. And even more verse talk can be found on Friday morning at Charlotte's Library; Charlotte is rounding up all the kid-lit blog posts on poetry.

And, again, that link is 1-800 "Home Appreciation," by Susan Thomsen, at the Poetry Foundation.

Thursday Afternoon Coffee Break, 8.28.08

Current UK children's laureate Michael Rosen says, "Give children books, not SATs," at the Independent.

The Children's Book Council of Australia announced the books of the year earlier this month. And there is controversy about the picture book winner, Matt Ottley's Requiem for a Beast, a graphic novel for young adults. (2nd link via CBC, Canada's public radio.)

Interested in being a judge or panelist for the Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards (a.k.a., the Cybils)? Details here.

Children's literature bloggers are organizing a big meet-up in Portland, Oregon, at the end of September. Portland Kidlit has the scoop.

End-of-Summer Reading List at Our House

In the last several weeks we've been canoeing, kayaking, swimming, watching cartoons, and reading books. Here are a few titles that our 4th grader liked. (4th grade, as of today! I can't believe it.)

Katie Loves the Kittens, a picture book by John Himmelman. Katie the dog is over-enthused about her family's new arrivals. She keeps scaring them when she doesn't mean to. We could relate to her funny struggles with self-control.

Sisters of Scituate Light, by Stephen Krensky, with illustrations by Stacey Schuett. One of Junior's favorite books of the summer, this nonfiction picture book (for kids six and older) tells how two Massachusetts girls saved their town from a British raid during the War of 1812.

Discovering SuperCroc, by Pamela Rushby.  Fossils/paleontology/"giant beasts," in National Geographic's Science Chapters series.

Pirates! Raiders of the High Seas,
a DK Reader by Christopher Maynard. Easily read in one sitting.

Turtle Summer: A Journal for My Daughter, by Mary Alice Monroe, with photographs by Barbara J. Bergwerf. Winner of the ASPCA's Henry Bergh Children's Book Award, this nonfiction picture book about loggerhead sea turtle conservation is a must for beach lovers. The close mother-daughter relationship depicted in the book is heartwarming.

The Scrambled States of America Talent Show. A nutty followup to the nutty Scrambled States of America, Laurie Keller's picture book for children seven and older shows a raucous geography pageant.

About Habitats: Wetlands, a short nonfiction picture book by Cathryn P. Sill, with watercolor paintings by John Sill. A simple introduction to the concept of wetlands, with a sentence or two per spread. In small type at the bottom of the page are things to look for in the full-page watercolor illustrations. The Sills have a whole "About" series on various animals, too.

Sendak on "Margaret Wise Brown: Awakened by the Moon"

"More than a finely etched, honest portrait of an artist, Margaret Wise Brown: Awakened by the Moon is an exciting, fast-paced glimpse into the very beginnings of the golden age of children's book publishing in America. Leonard Marcus has cut through the smog of indifference and condescension that has bedeviled the lives and careers of everyone seriously involved in producing art for children, and has restored Brown to her rightful place as both pioneer and poet."

—Maurice Sendak

That's the blurb on the back of the hardback edition (Beacon Press, 1992) of Leonard Marcus's biography of Brown, which I'm currently reading. By the time the HarperCollins Perennial paperback came out in 1999, the last sentence in Sendak's quotation had been shortened to "Leonard Marcus has restored Brown to her rightful place as both pioneer and poet," with no mention of smog, indifference, or condescension, etc. The difference is interesting, isn't it?

On the Books, with Susan Taylor Brown

Susan Taylor Brown is the author of a number of books for children, including Hugging the Rock (Tricycle Press, 2006). Newly issued in paperback, the middle-grade novel in verse was chosen by the American Library Association for the "Notables" list and cited by the Bank Street College of Education as one of the best children's books of the year.

 I asked Susan, who also blogs at Susan Writes, to tell us about what's she's reading these days.

What I'm reading depends on what room I happen to be in at the moment. We just got a new dog so upstairs next to the bed is a big stack of dog books. Dog Is My Co-Pilot: Great Writers on the World's Oldest Friendship, by the editors of The Bark,  is currently at the top of that pile. As I work on training a new puppy, it's good for me to read of other dog/human relationships, their struggles, and hopefully their successes.

In my office I am reading for research on a current book project. Tending the Wild, by M. Kat Anderson, is a fascinating book about Native American's uses of California's natural resources. California Native Americans were amazing environmental stewards, and I am learning so much about native plants and wildlife from this book.

I always keep a few of my favorite verse novels with me in the car. They're perfect for when I am on my lunch hour or know I will be stuck in line. Right now I am rereading One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies, by Sonya Sones. This is probably the 5th or 6th time I've read this book. I start off rereading with the intent to study the way Sonya puts words together, but the father/daughter relationship gets me every time and I forget to study and just kick back and enjoy the satisfying story.

And let's face it, a lot of reading gets done in the bathroom. (Please don't tell me I'm the only one who will admit to that.) This week's bathroom book is The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within by Stephen Fry. The book is jam-packed with poetry lessons on everything—meter, rhythm, poetic forms, you name it. There are a lot of how-to write and understand poetry books out there, but Fry's sense of humor really helps the lessons stick with me after I close the book.

In some breaking news, Hugging the Rock was just named to the 2009 California Middle School Collection by the California Readers organization. Congratulations, Susan!

Previously in Chicken Spaghetti's "On the Books" series:

Marc Tyler Nobleman (Boys of Steel)
Betsy Howie (The Block Mess Monster)

Carnival of Children's Literature: The Beach Edition, August 2008

Welcome to the beach party. Surf's up, y'all! It's still summer, and let's see who's in the swim at the August Carnival of Children's Literature. But, first, an announcement from the lifeguard: next month's carnival takes place on September 21st at Jenny's Wonderland of Books. Submission details here.

Okay, so bring on the waves!

IMG_1148 Stephanie salutes the mighty Captain in All Hail Captain Underpants at Throwing Marshmallows, and Sarah N. brings a bunch of cool Picture Books About the Beach in her tote bag, at In Need Of Chocolate.

Over there under a beach umbrella, Rebecca Reid considers Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, along with Seth Lerer's new book, Children's Literature: A Reader's History from Aesop to Harry Potter, at Rebecca Reads. Sonja Cole has a video camera, and screens Video Wednesday: Sara Pennypacker and Clementine at Kid Lit Kit.

Who's that setting up the picnic table? Jama Rattigan—and she's chatting with Tanita Davis about Tanita's excellent new YA novel, A La Carte. The Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast bloggers arrive with pimiento-cheese sandwiches, Moosewood takeout, and an interview of Suzy Lee, author and illustrator of Wave, a wordless picture book.

Chiming in from the West Coast, Eva Mitnick reports on SCBWI - Los Angeles 2008 at Book Addiction. (SCBWI stands for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.)

Becky is busy stocking the beach house with lots of titles from Starcross (at Becky's Book Reviews) to Oliver Finds His Way (at Young Readers), and Sherry Early presents Canada Day: Reading Through Canada at Semicolon, while Susan Gaissert reminds everyone that Little Women Live On at The Expanding Life.

Even though it's still warm out, GrrlScientist gives us a reason to look forward to December: Harry Potter's The Tales of Beedle the Bard to Be Published, at Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted).

IMG_1072 Fiona Veitch Smith takes a break from sand-castle building to ask What makes a good children's book? at The Crafty Writer, and to mull over Children's Literature and the Quest for the Divine, at Fiona Veitch Smith. Karen Mikolainis wonders about What to bring to a "no gifts" children's birthday party? at Mommy's Favorite Children's Books.

Aahz stops by to talk about Harry Potter and the Marketing Mania Meltdown at Philaahzophy, and
Patricia Twitchell tells a story, The Adventures of Penny Pincher: Penny Pincher Helps Patricia with Her Gardening, at Just Bears and Stuff.

IMG_0810 That was fun! If you'd like to see more pictures, I hope you'll visit Sherwood Island 365, my new blog of photos taken at a state park on the Long Island Sound. Watch out for jellyfish, though.

Poetry Friday: Naomi Shihab Nye

IMG_0745 Around here we're still reveling in summer, with lots of time outdoors and very little talk about back-to-school. If day camp at the Y went year-round, the 8 year old would move there happily. What's not to like about days given over to canoeing, gimp-braiding, swimming, rock collecting, and goofing around? Even the counselors in this little slice of heaven start water-bottle fights. Ah, the good life.

My choice for Poetry Friday is by Naomi Shihab Nye. I'm going use the lines "What better blessing than to move without hurry/under trees?" as my motto for the next couple of weeks.

"Last August Hours Before the Year 2000"

Spun silk of mercy,
long-limbed afternoon,
sun urging purple blossoms from baked stems.
What better blessing than to move without hurry
under trees?

Read the rest here.

Kelly Herold rounds up the other Poetry Friday posts today at the blog Big A, little a.

photo by N.T.

On the Books, with Betsy Howie

ImageDB.cgi  Welcome to "On the Books," a new series devoted to the timeless question, "Whatcha reading?"

Today's guest is author and playwright Betsy Howie, whose first picture book, The Block Mess Monster, was published in May. Illustrated by C.B. Decker, it's a funny story of a mom and daughter who view the disarray in the daughter's room as entirely different things. "The Block Mess Monster does not want me to put him away," the daughter states.  School Library Journal said, "There are many picture-book stories that urge youngsters to clean their room, but this perfect pairing of text and illustrations is irresistible."

Let's hear from Betsy:

What I'm reading... Mudbound, a novel (for adults) by Hillary Jordan.  Actually, I finished  it, last night at 1 a.m.  I didn't mean to keep reading but there wasn't really a choice with the characters behaving as badly as they were.  I had to finish it and see if there was any redemption.  It's a terrible story, beautifully written with incredibly compelling characters,set in the Mississippi Delta just after World War II.  My daughter's first-grade teacher recommended it to me, and I find it's always best to do what the teacher says... which is why we're also reading The Secret Garden, and thankfully, we're only on Chapter 15, so I still have something great to read tonight!


Previously in "On the Books"

Marc Tyler Nobleman (Boys of Steel)

8 Year Old Mulls Over College

Yesterday we drove down to the New York Botanical Garden to see the fabulous Henry Moore sculptures and other exhibits. As we passed Fordham University, which is across the street from the NYBG, Junior and his dad had the following conversation:

Dad: Junior, that's Fordham. It's a college. Maybe, when you're old enough for college, you'll go there. It's a good school.

Junior: Oh no I won't.

Dad: That's a long way off, anyway.


Junior: Maybe I'll go there. I saw a McDonald's, and I like McDonald's.


Flower and bee at the NYBG, by Junior:

Celebrity Chickens

Look who's on GalleyCat. Ain't she a beauty? The book-publishing blog has been running a series called Dog Days of Summer, and I hoped a chicken would be a nice addition. Thanks for including her, GalleyCat!

Here is a picture of both backyard chickens here at Chicken Spaghetti. They're sharing some corn on the cob. Lovey and her coop-mate, Fuzzy, have taken the summer off from egg-laying duties; it's been too hot and they cannot be bothered to earn their keep. They're more in the mood to look for bugs and worms.


Both chickens need a bath in the biggest way. Lovey sticks her crest of feathers into food, water, and watermelons and other snacks; it is definitely worse for the wear. I've never washed a chicken, so, of course, I turned to a book to tell me how. Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens spells it all out, but I can't imagine doing the following:

"If you're washing a crested bird, hold it upside down by the legs and dip the crest into the soapy water, keeping the bird's beak and eyes above water. Work suds into the topknot...

Readers, I'll keep you posted.

9780399245206L I was happy to read in The United Tweets of America, a new picture book by Hudson Talbott, that two of the fifty state birds are chickens: Delaware's Blue Hen Chicken and the Rhode Island Red. Talbott has taken a dry subject and turned it on its topknot, creating the funniest book I've read in ages. The author-illustrator presents the birds in a sort of Miss America pageant, and I laughed so hard at the Bay State's Black-Capped Chickadees dressed up as Pilgrims that my eight year old began to worry. "Mom, are you okay?" One of the buckle-hatted Pilgrim chickadees is saying, "Let us give thanks for our state dessert, Boston cream pie." As for the Rhode Island Red, Talbott writes that there's even a monument to the chicken. I have to see it.