Monday, December 28, 2015

Sympathy (Monday Poem)

by Paul Laurence Dunbar

I know what the caged bird feels, alas!
When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;
When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,
And the river flows like a stream of glass:
When the first bird sings and the first bud pes,
And the faint perfume from its chalice steals--
I know what the caged bird feels!

I know why the caged bird beats his wing
Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;
For he must fly back to his perch and cling
When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;
And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars
And they pulse again with a keener sting--
I know why he beats his wing!

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me.
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,--
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart's deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings--
I know why the caged bird sings!

from Jump Back, Paul: The Life and Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar by Sally Derby, 2015, Candlewick Press

Monday, December 21, 2015

Disappointed (Monday Poem)

by Paul Laurence Dunbar

An old man planted and dug and tended,
Toiling in joy from dew to dew:
The Sun was kind and the rain befriended:
Fine grew his orchard and fair to view.
Then he said: "I will quiet my thrifty fears,
For here is fruit for my failing years."

But even then the storm-clouds gathered,
Swallowing up the azure sky;
The sweeping winds into white foam lathered
The placid breast of the bay, hard by;
Then the spirits that raged in the darkened air
Swept o'er his orchard and left it bare.

The old man stood in the rain, uncaring,
Viewing the place the storm had swept;
And then with a cry from his soul dispairing,
He bowed him down to the earth, and wept.
But a voice cried aloud from the driving rain:
Arise, old man, and plant again!"

from Jump Back, Paul: The Life and Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar by Sally Derby, 2015, Candlewick Press

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Sun Never Says (Monday Poem)

by Hafiz

Even after all this time,
the sun never says to the earth,
"You owe me."
Look what happens with a love like that.
It lights the whole sky.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Books for Festive Holiday Celebrations (FAMILY magazine reviews)

Making memories can be one treasured part of holiday preparations and celebrations. One important piece of holiday memory making is remembering what is best from previous holidays. Choose some favorite stories from the past and match them with some new stories -- like the books featured on this page -- to share with young ones most dear to you this season. Merry, merry!!

Miracle on 133rd Street by Sonia Manzano 
Illustrated by Marjorie Priceman
            It’s Christmas Eve and the roast is too big for the oven in Jose’s family apartment. Everything is too small; the Christmas tree, the oven, the apartment, Mama complains. She’s homesick for Puerto Rico. To make her laugh, Jose says, “We need a pizza oven!”
            Jose’s Papí thinks it’s “Not a bad idea!” So they box the roast and carry it downstairs, through the neighborhood and across the bridge to the Pizzeria. On the way, they meet up with neighbors in the building and on the street who are all having trouble getting into the Christmas spirit. Kids are fighting, grownups are sad (missing family), scared (of muggers), or worried about money.
            Ray from Regular Ray’s Pizzeria, is lonely because his customer’s only come for take-out. He let’s them use his oven for the roast. Then, when it’s ready, he accepts Papí’s invitation to join the family to share the roast to celebrate Christmas. On the way back, they meet the same people, who decide to accept Papí’s invitation. Everyone follows the “miraculous aroma” to Jose’s small apartment.
            The colorful gouache and ink illustrations are busy with energy and crowded with action. Both names and skin tones, suggest a variety of cultures. The expressive faces and body language in the artwork partner with lyrical text and well-placed dialog to create generous movement in the story.           
“It’s a miracle,” says Mama, greeting the two Jose’s at the door. It smells like Puerto Rico, home. Even more amazing --“this apartment is big enough to hold all our friends.” This is a warm and ultimately happy holiday storybook.
Atheneum Books, $17.99
Interest Level: Junior Kindergarten – Grade 4

The Best Parts of Christmas by Bethanie Deeney Murguia
            Fritz chooses the best tree for his family’s Christmas. He “knows the ornaments want to be close” not spread out, as his mama suggests. This leads him to discover that “almost anything can be an ornament!” So, the tree has a soccer ball, pawprint paintings from the dog, a teddy bear, and of course candy canes and gingerbread cookies all hung on its branches.
Pen and ink and watercolor feature the tree as the center of each double page spread, until the final page. Plenty of white space accents the tree with all its decorations and presents. Fritz knows that what happens around the tree - ornaments, presents, wishes, reading, naps – are the best parts of Christmas.
But, the tree loses its needles and is almost bare. And, although Fritz is NOT ready for Christmas to be over, Mama puts away the decorations and Papa takes the tree out.
The final page, set in Fritz’s bedroom, includes what he realizes. With a stick in a vase on a bedside table, “almost anything can be an ornament.” This delightful, cheery story offers a creative conclusion to a dilemma faced by many families with young children - how to end the holiday season without tears.

Candlewick Press, $14.99
Interest Level: Pre-Kindergarten – Grade 1

Baking Day at Grandma’s by Anika Denise 
Illustrated by Christopher Denise
            This rollicking, rhyming picture book is perfect preparation for holiday baking. Three little bears tramp through the snow to grandma’s house. Together, they create a perfect cold weather treat.
The team of Anika and Christopher Denise has created a playful, merry story. Lively language matches the glowing illustrations, created using Adobe Photoshop. Sensory text and dancing pictures remind readers that one of the joys of the season is time to spend with those we love.  

Philomel Books, $16.99
Interest Level: Pre-Kindergarten – Grade 1


More wonderful holiday book choices:

Certain Poor Shepherds: A Christmas Tale by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas
Illustrated by Jonathan Bartlett
Candlewick Press, $15.99
Interest Level: Grades 3-6

The Smallest Gift of Christmas by Peter Reynolds
Candlewick Press, $10
Interest Level: Pre-Kindergarten – Grade 2

Brother Giovanni’s Little Reward: How the Pretzel Was Born
by Anna Egan Smucker
Illustrated by Amanda Hall
Eerdmans Books, $17
Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 3

Monday, December 7, 2015

WILD GEESE (Monday Poem)

by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

from Wild Geese: Selected Poems  by Mary Oliver, 2004, Bloodaxe

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Ponds (Monday Poem)

by Mary Oliver

Every year
the lilies
are so perfect
I can hardly believe

their lapped light crowding
the black,
mid-summer ponds.
Nobody could count all of them--

the muskrats swimming
among the pads and the grasses
can reach out
their muscular arms and touch

only so many, they are that
rife and wild.
But what in this world
is perfect?

I bend closer and see
how this one is clearly lopsided--
and that one wears an orange blight--
and this one is a glossy cheek

half nibbled away--
and that one is a slumped purse
full of its own
unstoppable decay.

Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled--
to cast aside the weight of facts

and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking

into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing--
that the light is everything--that it is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and fading.  And I do.

Monday, November 23, 2015

New Morning (Monday Poem)

For this new morning and its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For every gift Your goodness sends,
we give You thanks.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, November 16, 2015

Magical Eraser (Monday Poem)

by Shel Silverstein

She wouldn't believe
This pencil has
A magical eraser.
She said I was a silly moo,
She said I was a liar too,
She dared me to prove that it was true,
And so what could I do --
I erased her!

from Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein, 1974, Harper & Row 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Men Who Thought Outside the Boundaries (FAMILY magazine reviews)

Biographies are doorways to the past. The picture book biographies included this month partner superb storytelling with exceptional paintings. The language used in these titles invites young people to explore the lives of memorable men.  And, these books depend on artwork instead of photographs to convey time, place and the nature of the individual.
You can talk with your child(ren) about the relationship between the story and the text – does one support the other? Or perhaps, does information in the story explain what is happening in the pictures? Possibly, do the paintings make the words more clear? In any case, does the story make sense of the individual’s life? And, do you want to discover more about these amazing people who lived on the edge of important change in their world? Enjoy!

Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America 
by Carole Boston Weatherford
Illustrations by Jamey Christoph
            When Gordon bought a used camera and taught himself to take pictures, his success took him to Washington, DC. There, his photos for the Farm Security Administration showed the “unfairness of segregation.” Later, he became the “first black staff photographer and writer” at famous LIFE magazine.           
            Christoph’s illustrations are an engaging mix of styles, mostly browns and sepia tones to match a past era. Full-page spreads show Parks as a young boy. Several pages scattered through the story are a selection of images - paintings of his photographs. Weatherford’s lyrical language and occasional poetically aligned text keep readers’ attention focused on this “Renaissance man.”
Parks’ most famous photo, “American Gothic,” is of Ella Watson, “a cleaning lady in the building” where he worked. She is standing in front of an American flag with a broom in one hand and a mop in the other. In this one revealing photo, Parks most clearly discloses the “African American struggle against racism and the contradiction between segregation and freedom.”
An Afterword, Author’s Note and several of Parks’ photos are included as back matter. The final words, referring to Watson, echo down the years, “You don’t have to hear her story to know her prayer.”

Albert Whitman, $16.99
Interest Level: Grades 1-3

Fur, Fins and Feathers: Abraham Dee Bartlett and the Invention of the Modern Zoo by Cassandre Maxwell
            As a tiny child, Abraham loved animals. He dreamed of working with living animals, and constantly read about them. As a young man he continued learning about animal anatomy from his work preparing exhibits at the Museum of Natural History. He became the superintendent of the zoo in mid-1800’s Britain.
            The cut-paper collage and mixed media illustrations provide color, depth and detail. Human and animal faces and bodies are expressively crafted. Text and pictures are matched seamlessly.
            Small stories about several animals and how “Papa” Bartlett cared for them, as a “pioneer in veterinary medicine,” demonstrate his love for the animals. He kept detailed records and prepared appropriate foods. He also built spaces and habitats to house the creatures. Additionally, Bartlett posted signs and explanations. This first labeling of animal exhibits in the zoo named the animals and shared information with visitors.
            A Time-Line, Author’s Note, and a brief bibliography are included at the end. Several notes are scattered across the inside front and back covers. This is an engaging book, and a charming story.

Eerdmans, $17.00
Interest Level: Grades 1-3

The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch 
by Chris Barton
Illustrated by Don Tate
            Although John Roy Lynch ‘s father was Irish, his mother was a slave. This meant John Roy and his brother were also slaves in the mid-1800’s United States. But their father, Pat, died before he could “buy” his family and treat them as free. John Roy and his family were sold. He worked as a house slave, and later as a cotton plantation slave. During the Civil War, when John Roy was sixteen years old, he bought a boat ride to freedom by selling a chicken to a Yankee soldier. He worked at several jobs until the war’s end.
            Although parts of this story are heavy with “harsh realities,” the mixed media, ink and gouache paintings are filled with light. In spite of angry faces, a battle scene, and slave being whipped, Lynch’s life is ultimately hopeful. He finds work in a photography studio. This unexpectedly offers him the chance to go to class by watching and listening from across the alley. He can hear the public school teacher through the windows.
            Lynch buys property, gets involved in the Republican club, and makes speeches. Visiting the new Mississippi governor, he recommends names to fill positions in the new state government. And gets appointed himself as a justice of the peace!
            Months later he is elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives, becoming the Speaker of the House at age 25 years. Shortly after that he is elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. He makes a passionate speech in support of the Civil Rights Bill. This bill becomes law! (Unfortunately, with no “means for enforcement.”)
            This is an amazing story, with a strong storyline and carefully researched, well-matched illustrations. Back matter includes: an Historical Note, a Timeline, an Author’s Note, an Illustrator’s Note, a list For Further Reading, and maps of the Reconstructed U.S, 1870.

Eerdmans, $17.00
Interest Level: Grades 2-3

Additional Fascinating Biographies:

The Streak: How Joe DiMaggio Became America’s Hero 
by Barb Rosenstock
Illustrated by Terry Widener
Calkins Creek, $16.95
Interest Level: Grades 1-3

The Cosmo Biography of Sun Ra 
by Chris Raschka
Candlewick Press, $15.99
Interest Level: Grades 2-3

Hello, I’m Johnny Cash 
by G. Neri
Illustrated by A.G. Ford
Candlewick Press, $16.99
Interest Level: Grades 2-3

Monday, November 9, 2015

Dancing Pants (Monday Poem)

by Shel Silverstein

And now for the Dancing Pants,
Doing their fabulous dance.
From the seat to the pleat
They will bounce to the beat,
With no legs inside them
And no feet beneath.
They'll whirl, and twirl, and jiggle and prance,
So just start the music
And give them a chance --
Let's have a big hand for the wonderful, marvelous,
Super sensational, utterly fabulous,
Talented Dancing Pants!

from Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein, 1974, Harper & Row 

Monday, November 2, 2015

TALK (Monday Poem)

by Terrance Hayes

like a nigger is what my white friend, M,
asked me, the two of us alone and shirtless
in the locker room, the bones beneath my skin

jutting like the prow of a small boat at sea,
the bones beneath his emitting a heat
that turned his chest red and if you're thinking

my knuckles knocked a few times
against his jaw or my fingers knotted
at his throat, you're wrong because I pretended

I didn't hear him, and when he didn't ask it again,
we slipped into our middle school uniforms
since it was November, the beginning

of basketball season, and jogged out
onto the court to play together
in that vision all Americans wish for

their children, and the point is we slipped
into our uniform harmony, and spit out Go Team!,
our hands stacked on and beneath the hands

of our teammates and that was as close
as I have come to passing for one
of the members of The Dream, my white friend

thinking I was so far from that word
that he could say it to me, which I guess
he could since I didn't let him taste the salt

and iron in the blood, I didn't teach him
what it's like to squint through a black eye,
and if I had I wonder if he would have grown

up to be the kind of white man who believes
all blacks are thugs or if he would have learned
to bite his tongue or let his belly be filled

by shame, but more importantly, would I be
the kind of black man who believes silence
is worth more than talk or that it can be

a kind of grace, though I'm not sure
that's the kind of black man I've become,
and in any case, M, wherever you are,

I'd just like to say I heard it, but let it go
because I was afraid to lose our friendship
or afraid we'd lose the game -- which we did anyway.

from Please Excuse This Poem: 100 New Poets for the Next Generation, edited by Brett Fletcher Lauer & Lynn Melnick, 2015, Viking

Monday, October 26, 2015

Mistakes (Monday Poem)

by Shane Book

The nightstick hooks under my armpits.
Don't fucking move, he yells again and yanks.
My chin grinds my chest, knees leave the ground
and then I'm pavement slammed. My mistake is

the cigarette. The way I walk. A smirk.
I should've dropped the smoke the moment flashing
red lights began to re-graffiti that
cinder-block wall. Before the gun led blue-

sleeved arms, face twisted pink, words corkscrewing
the night air: turn around, hands out slow, I
said slow -- from the car's dark insides.
My mistake is putting out a foot to stub

the cigarette, instead of kneeling right
away. I shouldn't wear these colors. If
I'd just said nothing. I said nothing. I
knelt, hands on head. Rubber gloves gripped my

right wrist, a clink, cold metal, and in two
rough moves he swung my right arm down, my left,
and clink, I was cuffed, and clicking sounds
cut into my wrists. My mistake is walking

the streets at dusk. My mistake is locking
eyes. Should have run. No I shouldn't. He paused.
Behind. His shadow crossed mine then not.,
mine then not, in the swinging squad car lights.

Now my ear's pressed to the street. Mashed condom
by my chin. I don't feel anything at first.
Smell tar, dog shit. Then the whole side of my
face burns. My tongue checks for loose teeth. A boot

on my back. Asphalt cold. At eye level:
the other boot, a crushed Coke can. He asks
me what I'm doing here. It's hard to breathe.

from Please Excuse This Poem: 100 New Poets for the Next Generation, edited by Brett Fletcher Lauer & Lynn Melnick, 2015, Viking

Monday, October 19, 2015

Clothes (Monday Poem)

by Jean Little

I like new clothes.
They seem brighter, smoother, shinier.
I move carefully in them.
I remember to hang them up.
I feel taller in them -- and prettier --
And I don't climb over barbed-wire fences.

I like old clothes too.
I don't think about them much.
They are part of me,
Going where I go, doing whatever I feel like doing.
They are less bother and more comfortable.
They don't expect me to be so tall;
They know my size exactly.

You know, it's a funny thing . . .
Friends are like clothes.

from Hey World, Here I Am! by Jean Little, 1986, HarperCollins

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Autumn Means Halloween and Wet, Windy Weather (FAMILY magazine reviews)

Ready or not, the season is changing! Shorter days plus longer nights, have already begun. Even in South Florida some leaves respond to the shifting light, dropping after their color lightens. Children’s chatter includes questions about costumes and candy for the approaching ghostly holiday. And in this collection of books included below are great stories, whether its hurricane season or simply fall. Have fun sharing these terrific tales with your favorite small person!

Marilyn’s Monster by Michelle Knudsen
Illustrated by Matt Phelan
            Some of Marilyn’s classmates have monsters. It’s the latest thing. But you can’t just go out and get one. “Your monster has to find you.”
            Marilyn is patient. But, as the story progresses, even the kids who didn’t have monsters get their monsters. Her brother says, ‘It probably . . . ran the other way” when it saw you.’
            She wants to go out and search for her monster. However, “that’s not the way it works.”
            Award-winning illustrator Phelan uses his distinctive watercolor style to partner best-selling author Knudsen’s surprising story about an unusual friendship. The mostly kindly, snugly-looking monsters (except for the one who keeps the bullies away from his boy) look kid-friendly with smiles and open-faces. They come in blues and greens, pinks and yellows - even with multiple eyes or snaggle teeth. The gray colors are saved for Marilyn’s dark and scary room at night.
            When Marilyn decides, at last, to look for her monster, her frustration after an unsuccessful search is a study in contrasts. Her angry face, and the loud dark words, “WHERE ARE YOU?” come from the midst of a bright field of wildflowers.
            The satisfying ending follows immediately after her brother’s comment, “It’s not supposed to work that way.” Marilyn’s response is simply a look and her thought; there are “a lot of different ways that things could work.”
            This very gentle reminder is a healthy recognition that not everything fits into a tidy box. And this is only part of what is confusing and exciting about a child’s experience of growing up.           

Candlewick Press, $15.99
Interest Level: Pre-Kindergarten – Grade 3

Just Itzy by Lana Krumwiede
Illustrated by Greg Pizzoli
            Everyone knows the Itzy Bitzy Spider song, right? Well this is the story of Itzy who decides on the first day of Spindergarten, that he will catch his own lunch. Doing this will prove he’s no longer a spiderling, like his brother Gutsy says. And maybe others will start to call him simply Itzy.
            Following Mr. Webster’s spinning lesson on the importance of “Location, location, location!” Itzy tries to remember to keep his eye on the fly. But a tuffet with a little girl eating curds and whey in “tricky surroundings” frightens away the fly.           
            Then, an old lady on the porch where Itzy spins his next web swallows the fly Itzy has his eye on. She swallows Itzy too! And well, you know the rest from another children’s book about the OLD LADY WHO SWALLOWED A FLY, right? When all the creatures get coughed out from Itzy wiggling inside this old lady, the fly gets away. Again!
            Award winner Pizzoli’s illustrations are bright and energetic. The spiders, creatures and people have clearly defined expressive faces and movements. The backgrounds are colorful and less distinct, serving to draw readers’ attention to the characters in action. Irresistible paintings are an engaging match with an ingenious story-line and skillfully crafted text.
            Itzy’s final effort at web making is interrupted to rescue a creature whose voice he hears coming from a waterspout. He stops making his web to climb up, but is washed down by a sudden rain shower. (Just like the song!!) Because it’s so slippery, he spins a ladder web and rescues his big brother Gutsy. Mr. Webster, the teacher, meets them at the bottom with congratulations on their successful achievements. And Gutsy even remembers to call his brother the preferred name, Itzy!!

Candlewick Press, $15.99
Interest Level: Junior Kindergarten – Grade 2

Say It! by Charlotte Zolotow, illustrated by Charlotte Voake
            A little girl and her mother are walking down the street. “Come on,” says the little one, “say it!” Her mother laughs, “It’s a wild, wondrous, dazzling day.” A black kitten scampers through the leaves. The two walkers watch a still pond shiver with colors as the wind begins again.
            “It’s magic. It’s a golden, shining, splendiferous day!” exults the mother in response to the child’s repeated request. “That’s not what I mean,” the girl says again. Even a dancing dog, a bubbling brook, smoke coming from the welcome home fire the father has made don’t produce the little one’s wished for words.
            Fuzzy watercolor paintings leap with color and movement. They bring the words to life, even as the words of the text create the energetic focus of the pictures.
Although this is clearly an autumn story – both text and illustrations evoke bright leafy colors and floating fuzzy milkweed seed clouds – it could be a love story for Valentine’s Day, or a Mother’s Day book. The story is gentle, yet the effect is tingling. The words the little girl has been begging for during the walk together all through this “golden windy day” are the dizzying three words we all want someone to say, “I love you!”

Candlewick Press, $15.99
Interest Level: Pre-Kindergarten – Kindergarten

More titles to try:

Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon by Kate DiCamillo
Illustrated by Chris Van Dusen
Candlewick Press, $12.99
Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 3

I Don’t Like Snakes by Nicola Davies
Illustrated by Luciano Lozano
Candlewick Press, $15.99
Interest Level: Junior Kindergarten – Grade 3


Monday, October 12, 2015

Misty (Monday Poem)

by Shirley Hughes

Mist in the morning,
Raw and nippy.
Leaves on the sidewalk,
Wet and slippy.
Sun on fire
Behind the trees,
Muddy boots,
Muddy knees.

Shop windows,
Lighted early.
Soaking grass,
Dewy, pearly,
Red, lemon,
Orange, and brown --
Silently, softly,
The leaves float down.

from Out and About: A First Book of Poems by Shirley Hughes, 2015, Candlewick

Monday, October 5, 2015

Midnight Frost (Monday Poem)

by Basho
translated by Robert Hass

Midnight frost --
I'd borrow
the scarecrow's shirt.

from The Death of the Hat: A Brief History of Poetry in 50 Objects, selected by Paul B. Janeczko, 2015, Candlewick

Monday, September 28, 2015

Coming Home (Monday Poem)

by Michael Rosen

Here's a house
Here's a door
Here's a ceiling
Here's a floor

Here's a wall
Here's the stairs
Here's a table
Here's the chairs

Here's a bowl
Here's a cup
Open your mouth
And drink it up.

from A Great Big Cuddle: Poems for the Very Young, by Michael Rosen, 2015, Candlewick Press 

Monday, September 21, 2015

A Slow Train, Getting Slower and Slower (Monday Poem)

by Michael Rosen

I'm a very, very, very slow train,
And I'm very, very late again.
I should be there at half past seven.
I won't be there till half past eleven.
You've never, ever seen
A train this slow.
Never, never, never, never,
Never, never, no.

from A Great Big Cuddle: Poems for the Very Young, by Michael Rosen, 2015, Candlewick Press 

Monday, September 14, 2015

What a Fandango! (Monday Poem)

by Michael Rosen

A mango ment a mango
And they started to tango
In the market not far from here.

Now we all do the tango
What a fandango!
In the market not far from here.

from A Great Big Cuddle: Poems for the Very Young, by Michael Rosen, 2015, Candlewick Press

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Bullies are a Pain (FAMILY magazine reviews)

Often at the start of the school year, bullying concerns surface. Here are a few stories to open up a conversation with your child about bullies. Below are a few suggestions from to keep in mind as you and your family prepare for a new year of school.
Parents, school staff, and other caring adults such as family members and friends have a role to play in preventing bullying. We can: 
  1. Help kids understand bullying. You can talk with your child/ren about what bullying is and how to stand up to it safely: suggest the use of humor and saying “Stop” directly and confidently. Walk away, if other actions don’t work. Tell kids bullying is unacceptable. Make sure kids know how to get help, especially by talking to a trusted adult, who can give comfort, support, and advice, even if they can’t solve the problem directly.

2.    Keep the lines of communication open. Check in with kids often. Listen to them. Know their friends, ask about school, and understand their concerns. Start conversations about daily life and feelings with questions like these:
·      What was one good thing that happened today? Any bad things?
·      What is lunchtime like at your school? Who do you sit with? What do you talk about?
·      What are you good at? What do you like best about yourself?
3.    Encourage kids to do what they love. Special activities, interests, and hobbies can boost confidence, help kids make friends, and protect them from bullying behavior.
4.    Model how to treat others with kindness and respect. Kids learn from adults’ actions. By treating others with kindness and respect, adults show the kids in their lives that there is no place for bullying. Even if it seems like they are not paying attention, kids are watching how adults manage stress and conflict, as well as how they treat their friends, colleagues, and families.
Take some time to enjoy a good book with your child/ren – these books provide an easy lead-in to a conversation about safety. Stories can help to create safe connections between caring adults and children. Be safe and have a great year!

by Jan De Kinder
            Published originally in Belgium, this quiet book is nevertheless a powerful story. A little girl, the narrator, points to a classmate’s red cheeks, and soon “It’s like magic” and the other children urge him to “Do it again!”
            “Leave me alone!” Tommy says and repeats. But another classmate, Paul, pushes. And the narrator realizes she wants it to stop. But she’s scared of Paul. “His tongue is as sharp as a knife.”
            Neutral colors make the reds pop, especially on the double page spread where a wolf image in red and black dominates the two small child figures. When a teacher asks, “Who saw what happened?” the narrator wants to speak. But it takes a second request from the teacher before the narrator raises her hand. Relief is clear in the brief words of the red text, “I’m not all on my own,” she thinks as others raise their hands and speak up.
            Some of the other children come to stand with the narrator who is later confronted by Paul’s predictable reaction. His face turns green like “a sour apple.” Pair this with the conclusion – the narrator and Tommy play soccer together - and the reader can imagine the teacher’s response. The expressive faces and body language of the pictures support the understated language of this story.

Eerdmans, $16
Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 2
(This book may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)

Bullies Never Win 
by Margery Cuyler 
illustrated by Arthur Howard
            Award-winning author Cuyler once again connects with children in this story about “worrier” Jessica’s experience with “perfect” Brenda’s belittling. Whenever Jessica excels, Brenda teases her -- about homework, kickball, her “toothpick” legs -- and won’t even include her at the lunch table. Alas, one day Jessica’s mom mistakenly packs Jessica’s lunch in her brother’s boy lunchbox. Brenda makes fun in front of the other kids. This humiliation is too much for Jessica.
            Comical pen and ink watercolors clearly display individuals’ feelings. White space is used skillfully to integrate text seamlessly with animated illustrations.           
            At lunch, Jessica sits with Anita and her friends, who sympathize with her about Brenda, “You should stand up to her.” Jessica’s mom listens and makes suggestions: “Have you told her how you feel?” “Why don’t you talk to Mr. Martin?” (the teacher). Jessica worries all night, imagining several possibilities of what to say, such as, “Your freckles look like pimples.”  At school, ignoring doesn’t work. Of course, when Jessica threatens to talk with the teacher, this brings the expected accusation of tattletale from Brenda.
Body language and text raise the tension as Jessica’s “heart begins to pound.” The image of Brenda sticking out her tongue looms large.
Ultimately, Jessica decides, “Enough was enough!” And stands up for herself.
Readers see Brenda’s face redden.  And Jessica, who on earlier pages seemed to shrink, walks with new confidence, out of the lunchroom.
Simon & Schuster, $17.99
Interest Level: Junior Kindergarten – Grade 2
(This book is available to purchase from local and online booksellers.)

Lucy and the Bully by Claire Alexander
            Lucy the lamb’s classmates like her drawings -- except Tommy, the bull. He knocks over her paints, stomps on her clay blackbird, breaks her pencils, and threatens her, “Don’t tell . . . or else!”
            Lucy doesn’t. But her mother notices Lucy looks sadder each day. Eventually after mom insists, Lucy explains. She’s terrified to hear her mother call the teacher.
            Sunlit colors identify a pleasant classroom and playground. Although, dark colors in the large double spread showing Lucy’ sleepless night, contrast with the active daytime school experiences. Faces and bodies of the animal characters give readers a good sense of their feelings.
            The next day, it’s Tommy who is sad. When Lucy notices his drawing of a hedgehog, and comments that she likes it, this makes it possible for him to apologize. It also subtly suggests that jealousy may have prompted him to torment her.
            A beginning Note to Parents and Teachers from a therapist at Northwestern University’s Family Institute briefly shares information. It offers tips for introducing difficult issues such as bullying, to help strengthen children’s feelings of safety.

Albert Whitman & Company, $16.99
Interest Level: Junior Kindergarten – Grade 2
(This book may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)

Here are a few more titles:

Henry and the Bully 
by Nancy Carlson
Viking, $15.99 (hardcover) $6.99 (paperback)
Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 3
(This book is available to purchase from local and online booksellers.)

The Three Bully Goats 
by Leslie Kimmelman 
illustrated by Will Terry
Albert Whitman & Company, $16.99
Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 3
(This book may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)

Thomas the TOADilly Terrible Bully 
by Janice Levy,
illustrated by Bill Slavin and Esperanca Melo
Eerdmans, $17
Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 2
(This book may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)

Monday, September 7, 2015

Lost (Monday Poem)

by Michael Rosen

One moment they were there and we were having fun.
Now they've disappeared, every single one.
I don't know where to go and I'm feeling rather scared.
I don't know where they are, it's not as if they cared.
I'm lost, I'm lost, I'm halfway up the stairs.
They've only go and left me, and nobody cares.
Help me, help me, someone. Can't you hear me shout?
Isn't anybody here who can come and help me out?
I'm alone and lonely and it's starting to get dark.
Where is everyone? Did they go to the park?
Are they in or out? Did they go up to town?
Do you think I should go upstairs? Or down?
I don't know, I don't know, anything at all.
I'm going to sit still now and just look at the wall.

from A Great Big Cuddle: Poems for the Very Young, by Michael Rosen, 2015, Candlewick Press

Monday, August 31, 2015

Wet (Monday Poem)

by Shirley Hughes

Dark clouds,
Rain again,
Rivers on the
Misted pane.
Wet umbrellas
In the street.
Running noses,
Damp feet.

from Out and About: A First Book of Poems by Shirley Hughes, 2015, Candlewick

Monday, August 24, 2015

Susannah and the Daisies (Monday Poem)

by Jean Little

I saw Susannah going slowly around the lawn,
Checking daisy after daisy with intense concentration,
But not picking any.

"What are you doing?" I finally asked.

"I'm trying to find one that'll end up at
'He loves me' before I pick it.
They're too pretty to pick by mistake," she said.

I went to help. It's trickier than you'd think.
It's hard to remember which petal you started with.

When she had one, I watched her solemnly
take off the petals one by one.
"He loves me . . . he loves me not . . . he loves me!"

"Who loves you?" I teased.

"My brother Marcus," she said.

from Hey World, Here I Am! by Jean Little, 1986, HarperCollins

Monday, August 17, 2015

Cartwheels (Monday Poem)

by Jean Little

I can't turn cartwheels. I've tried and tried.
I can start. I can get about halfway . . .
Then I buckle over somehow and collapse sideways.

I told Mother. "Practice," she advised.
I said I had. It didn't work. I just plain couldn't do them.

"Well, you can write poems," she said,
"And you're so good at Math . . . "
She went on and on and it was all very nice.
I appreciated it.

I still can't turn cartwheels.

from Hey World, Here I Am! by Jean Little, 1986, HarperCollins

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Soccer Stars (FAMILY magazine reviews)

Are you a soccer fan? This summer’s Women’s World Cup has featured many outstanding games and players. If your child is interested, remember to register to play in a local league. Remember too, there are wonderful storybooks about soccer to support an interest in playing and watching. Any of these titles will “kick up” your child’s interest. Yours too! Have a great time!

Winners Never Quit 
by Mia Hamm 
illustrated by Carol Thompson
            Mia loves playing soccer. But when she has trouble scoring a goal and her team is about to lose, Mia quits. She’d rather quit than lose.
But Mia’s brother and sisters won’t let her play the next time. “Quitters can’t play on my team,” her brother Garrett says. Mia stands on the sidelines, watching.
Watercolor paintings with lots of action show players involved in playing soccer games. Facial expressions exhibit anger, tears, cheering, shouting and much active play on the green soccer field.
When Mia is chosen to play the next time, and her shot on goal is caught, sister Lovdy predicts, “She’s going to quit.” But Mia decides that she doesn’t “hate losing as much as she” loves playing soccer. Playing is more important to Mia “than winning or losing because winners never quit.”
A note from the author, who is an Olympic Gold Medalist, Soccer World Cup champion, and US Soccer Player of the year, is at the end. Also, captioned photos of the author as a young girl and as a champion are included at the back.

HarperCollins, $6.99 (paperback) $17.99 (hardcover)
Interest Level: Junior Kindergarten – Grade 2
(This book is available to purchase from local and online booksellers.)

Happy Like Soccer 
by Maribeth Boelts 
illustrated by Lauren Castillo
            Soccer makes Sierra both happy and sad. She’s happy to make the team. Happy to have soccer shoes with flames. But, sad because her auntie works at a restaurant where it’s too busy on Saturdays for her to take off to watch Sierra play.
            The games are played away from Sierra’s neighborhood. She notices the other girls all have families cheering for them. Then, auntie’s boss asks her if she’d like to trade her shift, because he’s heard Sierra talking. But it rains and the final game is canceled. Rescheduling won’t help because “auntie’s boss won’t do two favors right in a row.”
            Ink and watercolor pictures show the contrast in neighborhoods from Sierra’s inner city row houses, to outside the city “where the buses don’t run.” Colorful red and white team uniforms contrast with the dark cloudy sky on the rainy Saturday, mirroring Sierra’s disappointment.
            But Sierra has an idea. She follows up Coach Marco’s question, is there anything she needs. She makes a scary phone call with her idea – could the make-up game be on a Monday in the vacant lot by her apartment? Coach Marco doesn’t promise, but agrees to “make some calls.”
            This is a sweet story that doesn’t require a goal to make a happy ending. It’s especially true, since Sierra solves her problem by taking action for her own idea!

Candlewick Press, $6.99 (paperback)
Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 3
(This book may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)

Betty Bunny Wants a Goal, by Michael B. Kaplan, illustrated by Stephane Jorisch
            Betty Bunny is excited about her first soccer game: “I am going to score ten goals!” Her family, including two brothers, a sister and parents, go to watch her play. But she does not score even one goal. Betty decides she hates soccer and will not play any more. Her cleats, uniform and ball all go in the trash. But her brothers and sister show up in her room to encourage her. And she digs out her uniform and plays the next game – still unsuccessful at making a goal.
            The pencil, ink, watercolor and gouache illustrations are cartoon-like and enhanced with lots of white space. The individual family members are rabbits with distinctive characteristics, accented by their clothing, posture and expressions. Bright and lively paintings show different animals playing on Betty’s soccer team.
            Finally, after a family discussion, Betty realizes she’s not very good. She and her older brother Bill practice together. The comment that “trying is important, but if you want to get good at something, you have to practice,” is the key to getting Betty her very first goal.

Dial, $16.99
Interest Level: Junior Kindergarten – Grade 1
(This book may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)

Try out these titles too!!

Soccer Hour, by Carol Nevius, illustrated by Bill Thomson
Cavendish Square Publishing, $16.99

Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 2
(This book may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)

Madlenka, Soccer Star, by Peter Sis
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $16.99
Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 3
(This book is available to borrow at Miami Dade Public Library: Main Branch, Arcola Lakes, West Dade Regional. Also, may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)

Kick It, Soccer by Bobbie Kalman and John Crossingham
Crabtree Publishing, $8.95 (paperback) $19.95 (hardcover)
Interest Level: Junior Kindergarten – Grade 3
(This book is available to borrow at Miami Dade Public Library: Naranja. Also, may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)

The Sock Thief by Ana Crespo, illustrated by Nana Gonzalez
Albert Whitman, $16.99
Interest Level: Junior Kindergarten - Grade 2
(This book may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)


Monday, August 10, 2015

Wind (Monday Poem)

by Shirley Hughes

I like the wind.
The soft, summer, gentle kind,
The gusty, blustery, fierce kind.
Ballooning out the curtains,
Blowing things about,
Wild and wilful everywhere.
I do like the wind.

from Out and About: A First Book of Poems by Shirley Hughes, 2015, Candlewick 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Helping (Monday Poem)

by Shel Silverstein

Agatha Fry, she made a pie,
And Christopher John helped bake it.
Christopher John, he mowed the lawn,
And Agatha Fry helped rake it.
Zachary Zugg took out the rug,
And Jennifer Joy helped shake it.
And Jennifer Joy, she made a toy,
And Zachary Zugg helped break it.

And some kind of help
Is the kind of help
That helping's all about.
And some kind of help
Is the kind of help
We all can do without.

from Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein, 1974, Harper & Row 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Toucan (Monday Poem)

by Shel Silverstein

Tell me who can
Catch a toucan?
Lou can.

Just how few can
Ride a toucan?
Two can.

What kind of goo can
Stick you to the toucan?
Glue can.

Who can write some
More about the toucan?
You can!

from Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein, 1974, Harper & Row

Monday, July 20, 2015

Invitation (Monday Poem)

by Shel Silverstein

If you are a dreamer, come in,
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer . . .
If you're a pretender, come sit by my fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in!

from Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein, 1974, Harper & Row

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Look Out! Pirates! (FAMILY magazine reviews)

Summer is for dreaming. Try out these books for firing up summertime imaginations. Watch out! You may find some treasure; new friends and new discoveries await you. Have fun!!

Tough Boris 
by Mem Fox
illustrated by Kathryn Brown
            Using an economy of words, celebrated author Fox, once more engages her readers in a tale filled with surprises. Greedy, fearless and tough, Boris von der Borch also has tender feelings. Readers learn about this later, as the story progresses in a list-like repeating poetic style.
            Colorful watercolors show Boris and his crew digging up treasure, which they split and bicker over. Along with a violin they discover. A stowaway boy steals back his own violin. Then, he must play it in a command performance for the assembled pirates.
Brief, irresistible text outlines Boris’ characteristics, and compares him with other pirates. When Boris’s parrot dies, the boy offers his violin case as a coffin, and plays for the funeral.
Not only does Boris cry when his parrot dies, but “All pirates cry.” When the boy is taken ashore at the end – with his beloved violin -- his is the last word, “And so do I.”
This title is wonderful for a variety of ages. Simple, short text appeals to the youngest of listeners. Accompanying pictures illuminate a secondary storyline. The parallel stories create an opportunity for readers, both young and older, to consider what might be under the surface, even for pirates.

Harcourt, $16 (hardcover) $7 (paperback) 
Interest Level: Pre Kindergarten – Grade 2   
(This book is available to purchase from local and online booksellers.)

How I Became a Pirate 
by Melinda Long 
illustrated by David Shannon
            Jeremy Jacob is building a sand castle, when a pirate ship arrives on the beach. He goes with them because they need a digger – they have “a chest of treasure to bury.” It will be ok, he thinks, as long as he’s back “in time for soccer practice the next day.”
From Braid Beard and his crew, Jeremy learns pirate manners and to speak pirate. He even tries to teach them to play soccer. He wants to be a pirate forever. Until -- he discovers what pirates DON’T do.
Caldecott award winning illustrator Shannon uses bright acrylics in his large hilarious paintings. Pirates with green teeth are featured, also an orange-beaked parrot, who is active on nearly every page with the pirates. The obligatory eye patches, headscarves, hats, treasure maps, and even the pirate flag are highlighted. Along with a peg leg pirate and another with a hook. Especially important is the enormous treasure chest, filled with crowns, jewels, gold bars, and coins.
Even before the storm breaks, readers learn with Jeremy: pirates don’t tuck in bed, read stories or give bedtime kisses. And when lightening splits the mast, no one even notices him. But Jeremy takes charge, with a solution for where to bury the treasure . . . And the final page double page spread shows him at soccer practice, still wearing the pirate scarf. And the team name printed on his shirt? PIRATES, of course!

Harcourt, $16.99 
Interest Level: Junior Kindergarten – Grade 3 
(This book is available to purchase from local and online booksellers.)

Edward and the Pirates by David McPhail
            This sequel to award-winning author McPhail’s Santa’s Book of Names, is also about Edward. Now that he can, Edward reads everything! As he’s reading, sometimes his imagination makes him feel like what he reads is real. It’s like he becomes part of the story, helping out Admiral Peary, Robin Hood and Joan of Arc.
            McPhail’s artistry shows both in his writing and in the accompanying illustrations. His choices of acrylics in darker colors lend themselves well to the shadows and lamp lit scenes his imagination produces.
            When Edward discovers an old dust-covered book, Lost Pirate Treasure, he reads until closing time at the library. Later that night he falls asleep, reading in bed -- pirates wake him, asking for the library book. They think it will tell where their treasure is buried. Edward refuses because it’s a library book and he’s responsible. They promise to share the treasure and threaten to make Edward walk the plank. Fortunately, Edward’s parents come to his (dream) rescue as Joan of Arc and Robin Hood.
            When everything is finally sorted out, Edward shows the pirates the book. But they admit, “We can’t read.” Ultimately, Edward reads the book to the pirates, who cluster around his bed. As the parents leave they admonish, “don’t stay up too late,” and “close the window when you leave.” In this perfect book about the power of imagination, is buried, like treasure, a tribute to the joy of reading.           

Little, Brown and Company $17 
Interest Level: Junior Kindergarten -Grade 3 
(This book is available to purchase from local and online booksellers.)

More Pirate Books:

Dirty Joe the Pirate: A True Story

by Bill Harley
illustrated by Jack E. Davis
HarperCollins, $17.99 
Interest Level: Junior Kindergarten – Grade 3 
(This book is available to purchase from local and online booksellers.)

Captain Beastlie’s Pirate Party 
by Lucy Coats 
illustrated by Chris Mould
Candlewick Press, $15.99 
Interest Level: Pre-Kindergarten – Grade 2 
(This book is available to purchase from local and online booksellers.)

Victricia Malicia 
by Carrie Clickard 
illustrated by Mark Meyers
Flashlight Press, $16.95 
Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 2 
(This book may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)