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Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Find more links to reading children’s literature at Jen Vincent’s blog.

How often does one follow a book from its idea to formation? I have been privileged to know Nancy Rust and Carol Stubbs, co-authors of Andrew Higgins and the Boats That Landed Victory in World War II. Nancy and Carol started our local branch of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). We meet monthly, so I heard about this book from its beginning and was privileged to read multiple drafts. I never imagined the illustrations, however, to be as stunning as the ones from Brock Nicol.

If you ever plan a trip to New Orleans, the World War II museum is a must see. The Higgins Boats are amazing structures. It’s difficult to believe they can actually float. Not only do they float, but they are credited for winning the war.

Andrew Higgins as a child; illustration by Brock Nicol.

Nancy and Carol’s book follows Andrew Higgins from his childhood in Nebraska where his imagination led him to wonder. He did not stick with school, so he became a soldier, truck driver, lumber jack, as he struggled to find his passion.

Through his lumber business, Andrew experienced the difficulty of maneuvering boats through cypress swamps. His mind started working on a design to navigate more easily and quickly. He studied different types of water dwellers, from a Cajun pirogue to a blue whale and spoonbill. He was able to make boats better and faster.

One little known aspect of Andrew Higgins’ character was his commitment to hiring women and men of all races and paying equal pay for equal work. This book highlights the compassion and creativity of a man of history with engaging text and impressive illustrations.

If you are interested in hearing more about this new book, tune into the World War II Museum Young Readers Author Talk on July 22 at 11:00 AM Central. Click here to register.

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Find more links to reading children’s literature at Jen Vincent’s blog.

Would you like some wickedly wacky poetry in your life? Reach for Vikram Madan’s book A Hatful of Dragons. I won this hilarious book on Matt Forrest Esenwine’s blog

Reminiscent of Shel Silverstein, I can imagine my students falling into this book of poetry. I love books that help us to see poetry as something fun, fun to read, and fun to write. Vikram Madan plays with language in a unique way: “A hatful of babies? Will leave you crawled! A hatful of barbers? Could shave your head bald! A hatful of dragons???”

The best, though, is the fill-in-the-blank poem. With 7 choices you can fill in 1 blank 7 different ways and you can have 7 different poems, but you have 12 lists of 7 words to choose from. It becomes an exponential number of poems possible. 13.8 billion! Kids will have a blast with this!

Page from A Hatful of Dragons shows the whimsical illustrations that accompany the poems.

All Because You Matter came to me from Scholastic. The release date is Fall 2020. Written by Tami Charles and illustrated by Bryan Collier, this book should be in every early learning classroom. The colors in the illustrations are magnificent. The text is lyrical and poetic.

“They say that matter
is all things
that make up the universe:
energy,
stars,
space…

If that’s the case,
then you, dear child, matter.”

Tami Charles, All Because You Matter

Tamir Charles writes in her Author’s Note that she will not raise her son to walk in fear. Without answers for fixing racial injustice, she begins with this book…”a loving tribute to the greatness that lives within my beautiful, brown-hued, brown-eyes boy and within all children, of all colors, everywhere…YOU MATTER!”

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Irene at Live your Poem! She is gathering a celebration of poet Nikki Grimes.

If memory serves me correctly, I first learned of Nikki Grimes’ work when I bought this book, Words with Wings, at the recommendation of a colleague who knew of my passion for poetry and novels in verse. I brought it home with me this summer for inspiration for writing my own novel-in-verse. Who knows if that will come to fruition, but when I opened the book, this is what I saw:

“May your dreams take flight,” Nikki Grimes.

How’s that for messages from the universe?

Today, Poetry Friday is celebrating Nikki Grimes. I’ve had the privilege to see her at NCTE a few times. Last year, I sat at her table for the Children’s Literature Luncheon where each one of us received a singed copy of Ordinary Hazards, her memoir in verse. I’ve read and listened to this book and have used it as inspiration for my students, too.

I use Nikki’s poetry time and time again to inspire writing with my students. In Words with Wings, there are a number of poems that begin with “Say”. One of them is Butterfly.

from Words with Wings by Nikki Grimes, 2013 Wordsong

Last month I was creating instructional videos for an open channel station that was airing teacher-made videos for students learning at home. I created one around this poem. In doing so, I created a draft of a poem of my own as a model for writing “after Nikki Grimes.”

Margaret Simon, draft

Poets like Nikki give children courage to be writers. Her gentle way of writing the truth echoes in the hearts of young people. If you are looking for a model poem for young writers, turn to Nikki Grimes. Her next book release is exciting to me. Legacy: golden shovel poems inspired by words of Harlem Renaissance Women Poets. It releases in January, 2021. I hope by then I’ll see Nikki again and add another signed book to my collection.

Instructional video on Say Butterfly by Nikki Grimes.

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Jama at Jama’s Alphabet Soup.

Today, I’d like to introduce Laura Purdie Salas’s new book Secrets of the Loon. Released in early May, this book is different in design from her others, yet still holds her amazing poetic voice. Beautifully designed with photographs by Chuck Dayton, Laura takes us on a journey with newborn loon, Moon Loon.

Loons do not live in the deep south. My experience is with wood ducks. Wood ducks will lay a clutch of a dozen or so eggs, while loons only lay two. But I gather that their survival rate is better because the baby loon will ride on its parent’s back to escape danger. On the bayou, wood ducks are prey to birds, alligators, and snakes. I’m not sure of the survival percentage, but it can’t be that great, or we would have wood ducks everywhere.

Secrets of the Loon is written in rhyming verse. I didn’t notice this at first. Other poetic elements jumped out at me; repetition, onomatopoeia, and imagery together create a delightful tour of the lake.

Secrets of the Loon, Minnesota Historical Society Press (5/1/20)
ISBN: 9781681341583

These rocky shores, with trees tipped in gold.
These ripples and currents, fishy and cold.
This dazzling sky, a vivid blue dome.
This spruce-scented bay offers comfort.
It’s home.

Laura Purdie Salas, Secrets of the Loon

Being unfamiliar with loons, I also enjoyed reading the back matter of More Loon Secrets. I hope one day I will see a loon in real life. But for now, Laura’s book takes me to a beautiful lake full of natural sights and sounds.

For more about Laura and Classroom Connections, visit Today’s Little Ditty.

Lagniappe (a little something extra) today is a video I saw on CNN’s Five Things to Know page. Believe me, it was the best thing there. One of my favorite hymns to sing. I first sang Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring in my high school choir. That is why I remember it so well. Ah, youth…

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What a pleasure to take part in the After Dark blog tour. After Dark is a picture book of amazing illustrations by Stephanie Laberis and intriguing poems by David Harrison. Publication date is tomorrow, Feb. 25th. Read more about David and his many books here.

David L. Harrison

David’s poems explore the lives of nocturnal animals. In the end pages you can find more information about each animal. With my students, I started with the end pages. I asked them to select two animals they were interested in. We read the facts and then the poem. “Look for ways the poet wove the facts in with poetic language.” We noticed elements like rhyming, slant rhyme, alliteration, repetition, and others.

This reading and talking piqued our interest in finding out more. I gave students the option to select the same animal or another one to research using Wonderopolis.

Breighlynn wanted to learn more about songbirds. Earlier in the week we had discussed allusion and at the beginning of the month, we read about Maya Angelou. I love seeing all of these lessons come together in Breighlynn’s poem.

The song of a songbird
the morning alarm.
Their vibrant colors
just like a rainbow.
The smallest of birds
 make the loudest of songs.
Now,
I know why the caged bird sings.

Breighlynn, 4th grade

After reading this David Harrison poem about the gray wolf, A.J. wrote a poem contrasting wolves to dogs.

Wolves,
never tamed,
they can’t be blamed.

Dogs,
youngly trained,
though restrained.

Wolves,
running free,
free as can be.

Dogs,
fun won’t end,
with man’s best friend.

A. J. , 6th grade

One of my students asked what was the word for animals who are awake during the day. On a Wonderopolis page, we discovered the word diurnal. In the poem, No Fooling (about the raccoon), David uses assonance, creating slant rhyme. I decided to try out this element in my own poem: Where do Birds Go at Night?

Where Do Birds Go at Night?

At first light, I hear their chatter
flitting about our courtyard feeder.

But once the air of dawn is gone,
I wonder where the birds have flown.

Most birds are diurnal
living their life all day,
but where do they go
once the sun goes down?
Only nocturnal birds hang around.

Some birds find a hole big enough to squeeze in.
Others, like the heron, want some mud to wade in.
Flocks of blackbirds roost in bunches
finding their nighttime safety in numbers.

Every time you go to sleep,
wonder where the birds may be.

Margaret Simon, draft 2020

This post is part of a blog tour. The publisher has offered a free book for comments on this post. I will draw at random from commenters and post the winner’s name on Friday, Feb. 28th on my Poetry Friday post. Please leave a comment by Thursday, Feb. 27th. Winner must live in the continental U.S.

Check out other posts to hear more about this book.

Writing and Illustrating
Beyond Literacy Link
Read, Learn, and be Happy
Poetry for Children
Teacher Dance
Michelle Kogan
Salt City Verse

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Joining the link up for It’s Monday, What are you Reading? At Teach Mentor Texts.

I’m a member of our local (as well as national) SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). In this organization, I am able to meet some wonderful authors. A few years ago I met Leslie Helakoski at ALA or NCTE, not sure which, and found out that her mother lives in our area, and she dances to Cajun and Zydeco music. Turns out, I know her mother from our dancing circle. Small world.

Leslie was involved with the SCBWI in her home state of Michigan. Well, lucky us, she is now splitting her time between the two states, Michigan and Louisiana. She has taught a few picture book workshops in our area, and I greatly admire her talent. Not to mention, she is a very nice person, too.

Leslie’s latest release is as sweet a story as she is. Are Your Stars Like My Stars? is a picture book about colors. No, it’s a book about friendship. No, it’s a book about diversity. All in one, Leslie’s rhyming verse asks the question, “Is your blue like my blue?” Leading us to see through the eyes of a child that we can all see things differently, and that is the best thing of all.

With engaging art from Heidi Woodward Sheffield, any child will be entranced by the coloring book collage style.

Do you splash in a puddle
when the world is washed clean?
Are the leaves fresh and bright?

Is your green…
… like my green?

Leslie Helakoski

You can find out more about Leslie’s books here. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram, @helakoskibooks. If you are in Lafayette, LA on Saturday, January 25th, come by Barnes and Noble and get a personal signed copy.

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I am linking up today to It’s Monday, What are you Reading on Jen Vincent’s site, Teach Mentor Texts. Click on the image to find more blog Kidlit reviews.

With new grandsons to read aloud to, I have taken an interest in books that have rhythmic, poetic language. The words have to go quickly as Leo’s favorite part is turning the page. Buffy Silverman’s new release is just this kind of book. With quick rhyming verse, she takes us through a snow-melting day.

In my part of the world, South Louisiana, we do not get much snow. Yet, we have chickadees at the feeder all winter long. With lively and sharp photographs and bouncing, rhythmic language, we can learn about places that have a distinct seasonal change. Grand sons can point to the cardinal swooping, the rabbits bouncing, and the foxes pouncing.

On a Snow-Melting Day releases on February 4th, 2020. Hop into a delightful book on a marsh mucking, duck dapping day.

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Poetry Friday posts are all gathered by Bridget at wee words for wee ones.

Last weekend at NCTE I had a conversation with Laura Shovan and Chris Barton about novels-in-verse. We discussed briefly how novels-in-verse should be poetry rather than prose written to look like poetry. 

On my long travel day to NCTE, I read Margarita Engle’s novel-in-verse Soaring Earth. Margarita is a poet. Her novel reads like poems with the backdrop of her life experiences from late teen years to adulthood. In each verse, she was processing who she was and who she wanted to be. She rejects then embraces the culture of her life. She has to leave herself to find herself, and it’s all written in beautiful language of poetry. 

Margarita Engle, Soaring Earth


Currently I am reading White Rose by Kip Wilson. Once again, I put on the lens of a poet finding the elements of poetry as well as compelling story. Kip Wilson has successfully drawn me into the story of Sophie, a young adult resistor to Hitler’s Germany. The story takes me to the horrors of the early 40’s. I place myself into the shoes of a girl who knows it’s wrong to kill for any reason. She is keenly aware of what is happening in her country. She finds small joys, so we are not bombarded with terror. I am more than halfway through. I know what eventually happens, yet I keep reading. The lyrical rhythm of verse makes this incredible story a beautiful one.

February 20, 1943
A Golden Bridge

I have nothing
more to say,
Herr Mohr has nothing
more to ask,
and yet the next
time he summons
me, he throws
me a lifeline.

You can still save
yourself, Fraulein
Scholl.

Boom-boom,
boom-boom
.
A sliver of light enters
the room, and I’m certain
the entire world can hear
the pounding in my chest.

Tell me you were only
following your older
brother,

and I’ll recommend
setting you free.

My heart, beating
so confidently moments ago,
whimpers, withers, dies
but my voice gathers
courage:
Nein.

Kip Wilson, White Rose

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Published by Abingdon Press

 

When I first met Jake Owensby, he was being consecrated as the fourth Bishop of the Western Louisiana Diocese of the Episcopal Church in 2012. My first impression of him was presence.  It was a brief exchange, but I felt he was fully present and aware of me.

In his new book A Resurrection Shaped Life, Bishop Jake is fully present.  He reveals himself in true reality while showing us how to live with the realities through a relationship with Jesus.

When we repent, we admit that the sorrows, the losses, the wounds, the betrayals, and the regrets of our past have made us into someone we don’t want to be anymore. We die to that self and entrust ourselves to Jesus. From those shattered places in our lives, Christ brings new life; repentance is the beginning of our resurrection.

Reading Bishop Jake’s book was like being present with him, not in the way listening to a sermon would, but like sitting next to him listening and learning how to be a Christian in today’s world.  He accentuates Jesus’s plan for the world, a world of resurrection, in which love displaces fear, “where generosity eliminates deprivation and respect guards the dignity of all.”

Bishop Jake reminds us of who Jesus really is: committed to healing in the world.  Jesus suffered.  We suffer. God does not take away the pain or the suffering; however, through Jesus, we know that suffering is endured out of love and eventually leads to healing.  When we lead a resurrection-shaped life, we live in compassion with imagination and hope.

Jesus changes our mind about God. In Jesus, we see who we truly are as humans.  We are the beloved, not the blameworthy…we slowly begin to exchange our habit of blaming others for the habit of compassion.

Barbara Brown Taylor reminds un that new life starts in the dark. We must go through Good Friday to get to Easter. A Resurrection Shaped Life guides you through the darkness, by wading next to you and showing you the star.

I suggest following Bishop Jake’s blog: Looking for God in the Messy Places.

 

 

 

 

 

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference

 

What a thrill to be a part of this amazing collection of poems from all over our great country!  This honor was made possible by the connections I’ve made in Poetry Friday.  Because Amy Ludwig VanDerwater knows me, when J. Patrick Lewis was looking for a Louisiana children’s poet, she connected us.  The poem I wrote, “Louisiana Bayou Song” became the title poem of my first poetry book published by UL Press this summer.

I also know many of the poets included in the collection, and if you read more Poetry Friday posts, you will find them, too.  Today, Buffy Silverman’s post includes 4 poems from the book.  Last week, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater posted her poem “A Note from the Trail.”

Here’s Linda Kulp Trout’s poem about Helen Keller.  And Mary Lee has two poems included. Robyn Hood Black shared her poem, “Mural Compass.” If I find more, I will add the links into this post.

My poem sits on a two page spread that includes an amazing heron photograph and a heart-wrenching Katrina poem by the anthologist J. Patrick Lewis.  I feel I am sitting among my poet-heroes.

 

Louisiana Bayou Song

Sometimes on the bayou in Louisiana
a storm rolls in quickly–
Cypress trees
sway to the sound.

Sometimes on a quiet day
when the sun is high and hot
a heron happens by–
The bayou slows to the beat of his wading.

The song of the bayou
can be as fast and frenetic as a Zydeco two-step
or as soft and slow as a Cajun waltz–
The bayou sings a song to me.

Margaret Simon (c)

 

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