Monday, May 30, 2016

Vocabulary Lesson (Monday Poem)

by Ann Wagner

We don't have wars.

We have
          preemptive strikes.

We don't have soldiers.

We have

          peace keepers

We don't have mistakes in combat.

We have

          friendly fire
          flawed intelligence.

And we don't have death.

We have

          loss of life
          collateral damage.

What we do have is

          a careful vocabulary.

from America at War: Poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Stephen Alcorn, 2008, Simon & Schuster

Monday, May 23, 2016

Untitled (Monday Poem)

by Karla Kuskin

So I picked out a book
on my own
from the shelf
and I started to read
on my own
to myself.
And nonsense and knowledge
came tumbling out,
whispering mysteries,
history's shout,
the wisdom of wizards,
the songs of the ages,
all wonders of wandering
wonderful pages.

from Moon, Have You Met My Mother? The collected poems of Karla Kuskin, illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier, 2003, HarperCollins

Monday, May 16, 2016

Untitled (Monday Poem)

by Karla Kuskin

Where do you get the idea for a poem?
Does it shake you awake?
Do you dream it asleep
or into your tiny tin head does it creep
and pop from your pen
when you are not aware
or leap from your pocket
or fall from your hair
or is it just silently
In a beat
in a breath
in a pause
in a cry
one unblinking eye
that stares from the dark
that is deep in your head
demanding attention
until it is written
until it is rotten
until it is anything else but forgotten
until it is read.

from Moon, Have You Met My Mother? The collected poems of Karla Kuskin, illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier, 2003, HarperCollins

Thursday, May 12, 2016

May is for Mothers (FAMILY magazine reviews)

Mothers (and fathers, for that matter) are our children’s most important teachers. The ones who read to their children, and share their love of books and reading, supply their offspring with the second most important ingredient for success as adults.    
          Ingredients for a child’s success:
1)    A parent who loves her/his child
2)    A parent who reads to her/his child
It’s actually true that children who love to read, often do not remember learning to read. This is because the child who has been read to usually begins to tell the stories s/he loves as if s/he were reading. S/he turns the pages, “reading” the words from memory. S/he knows these words; having heard them read and re-read.
            So, to all the moms (and dads!) who patiently read a story dozens of times, this may be boring to you, but it’s adored by a child who gets to hear the sound and rhythm of language again and again, developing an understanding of the dual treasures of time spent reading with a much loved parent. Try out any or all of these wonderful stories in honor of Mom. Happy Mother’s Day!

Sleepyheads by Sandra J. Howatt
Illustrated by Joyce Wan
            A crescent moon anchors both the story and each picture in this beautiful bedtime book. Illustrations with rounded shapes curve and comfort in seamless combination, with reassuring “s” sounds to lull little ones asleep. 
            Rhyming text steers readers through the moon-bright night. The featured animals are never named. But each one is called a “sleepyhead.” Such repetition quietly leads the child to name the creatures that inhabit this snuggly storybook.
            The pencil illustrations are colored digitally and, while it is nighttime, the darkness is warm and welcoming, not scary. The gentle invitation to “Look!” is used again and again. And, the light from stars and/or fireflies lights up each open page spread. It’s a comforting reminder that creatures and people all sleep under the same sky.
After following the rhymes and finding all the little ones “in houses and in barns,” the one still missing is “asleep in Mama’s arms!”
Beach Lane, $16.99 
Interest Level: Junior Kindergarten – Grade 1

Soon, by Timothy Knapman
Illustrated by Patrick Benson
            Raju, a baby elephant and his mother, begin an adventure when the morning is still dark and cold. His repeated question (different from the familiar, “Are we there yet?), “When can we go home again?” receives a patient response from his mother, “Soon.”
            Along this journey they encounter danger. First, they meet snapping crocodiles. Then, a snake comes slithering. And later, a prowling tiger roars toward them. Raju’s mother, however, knows exactly how to keep her little one safe. She “stamped her feet so hard, it made the ground tremble,” and she “blew her trunk so hard, it made the trees shake,” and finally she “reared up so high, she was as big as a giant.”
            When they come to the mountain, his mother tells Raju to hold on to her tail. At the top, the two share the beautiful view.
            Watercolor illustrations show sun-washed details. Face and body expressions are expertly matched with skillfully written text. Together, carefully crafted paintings smoothly blend the rhythmic flow of language with the subtle emphasis of repetitive phrases.
            Although the young elephant is tired and his feet hurt after returning home at dusk, Raju asks, “When can we do it all again?” Even the youngest children will know the answer.

Candlewick Press, $16.99 
Interest Level: Pre-School – Grade 1

Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation
by Edwidge Danticat, illustrations by Leslie Staub
            Saya’s Haitian mother is in jail because the “immigration police” arrested her at work. Papa writes letters to judges, the mayor and congresswoman, and newspapers and TV reporters. But, no one writes back. Every week Saya and Papa visit Mama “at Sunshine Correctional, a prison for women without papers.”
            Saya loves the Haitian stories her Mama tells her about the beautiful wosiyol, a nightingale with a sweet song (also Saya’s nickname). She misses Mama deeply. And, there is some comfort for Saya when cassette tapes come in the mail. She can listen to Mama’s voice telling stories and singing the nightingale’s song.
            After one sad time, Saya writes a story herself, to help relieve her sadness. When Papa mails what she has written, a newspaper reporter prints Saya’s story for people to read. As a result, others get involved, helping to change this family’s story.
Bright oil paintings convey a sense of island culture. Also, folk art touches - like blue and pink nightingales – easily combine dream symbols with images from daily life. And, the expressive face of Saya’s stuffed animal, a monkey, both comforts and accompanies her.
Miami author Danticat was herself an immigrant from Haiti as a child. She writes with tenderness and conviction of a family torn apart because of a need for “the right papers,” as Saya calls them. This is an important immigrant story for our time.

Dial, $17.99 Interest Level: Grade 1-3

Other Great Choices:

Henry Finds His Word by Lindsay Ward
Dial, $16.99  
Interest Level: Pre-School - Kindergarten

Monster Mama by Liz Rosenberg,
Illustrated by Stephen Gammell
Philomel, Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 2

Monday, May 9, 2016

Children (Monday Poem)

by Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, 1953, Alfred A. Knopf

Monday, May 2, 2016

Red Brocade (Monday Poem)

by Naomi Shihab Nye

The Arabs used to say,
When a stranger appears at your door,
feed him for three days
before asking who he is,
where he's come from,
where he's headed.
That way, he'll have strength
enough to answer.
Or, by then you'll be
such good friends
you don't care.

Let's go back to that.
Rice? Pine nuts?
Here, take the red brocade pillow.
My child will serve water
to your horse.

No, I was not busy when you came!
I was not preparing to be busy.
That's the armor everyone put on
to pretend they had a purpose
in the world.

I refuse to be claimed.
Your plate is waiting.
We will snip fresh mint
into your tea.

from 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East by Naomi Shihab Nye, 2005, HarperCollins