Monday, July 25, 2016

The Trees Stand Shining (Monday Poem)

At the edge of the world
It is growing light.
The trees stand shining.
I like it.
It is growing light.

from the Papago 
The Trees Stand Shining: Poetry of the North American Indians, selected by Hettie Jones, illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker, 1993, Dial Books

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Ancestors (Monday Poem)

by Michael Hettich

watch us from behind the scree
and trifles of our lives. You think you're alone
in your moment?  they ask---the way a leaf shivers
without a breeze, or a breath is inhaled
where there is no body. We call that the wind.
But the ancestors watch us like the dark beyond daylight
makes the wild animals move through the trees
until we can't see them. Until they have no names.
You might call them birds, but the ancestors are never birds.
Maybe stones or grasses. Wildflowers. Forgotten words.
Now someone says softly the wild birds are going
extinct, the warblers and thrushes that migrate
thousands of miles. Or the way summer fragrance
covers the scent of things falling back to the earth
as the ancestors did, long ago, living here
although we refuse to acknowledge them, pretending
our muscles and minds and hearts are our own
and everything lives only now.

from Systems of Vanishing, by Michael Hettich, 2014, University of Tampa Press

Monday, July 11, 2016

Boats (Monday Poem)

by Alberto Blanco
translated by Judith Infante

A poem is a boat built of wood
and made by your own hands:
it's fragile, it's small,
but it can carry you as far
as the wind wants.

A poem is a boat built of wood
to drift with the flow,
until you come to a remote island
and decide to live there

A poem is a paper boat
made of your own words:
everything in your life fits
in the spaces formed by its folds
and its colors.

A poem is a paper boat 
to set sailing across
the lake of your days
and the nighttime pond
of your fondest dreams.

A boy is a small boat made of wood:
his oars are his hands,
the sails, his mind.

A girl is a small boat made of paper;
her shape is half a star
and her reflection the other part.

Life is a boat built of wood
sheltered by a dream .  . . . 
but it's the water too, where it floats,
and wind that sweeps it along,
and imagination that propels it.

Life is a paper boat . . .
but it's also a sad garden
and scarred crystals in a small lake
that reflect our globe
with all its shadows.

from The Tree is Older Than You Are: A Bilingual Gathering of Poems & Stories from Mexico with Paintings by Mexican Artists,
Selected by Naomi Shihab Nye, 1995, Simon & Schuster

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

America's Birthday is a Celebration of Diversity (FAMILY magazine reviews)

Summertime and our nation’s birthday bring together books that feature the infinite variations of cultures and traditions that mingle to strengthen the freedoms we share. These freedoms and the choices we decide make our country strongest when we include each other in, emphasizing what draws us together, and valuing what makes us most remarkable. Happy Birthday to us!! 

My Freedom Trip: 
A Child’s Escape from North Korea 
by Frances Park and Ginger Park
Illustrations by Debra Reid Jenkins 
            A small Korean girl, Soo, escapes in the middle of the night with Mr. Han, a guide. They travel by train, climbing through the woods, and up a mountain, to cross a river, where her father waits. Footsteps in the woods signal danger from soldiers on patrol. 
            Her mother remains behind. “Less people means less danger of being captured,” her father tells her before he leaves. When it is Soo’s turn, her mother tells her, “Be brave, Soo!” 
            Glowing oil paintings capture the intensity of the threat Soo’s family feels. She longs for her mother, as she and the guide hide in the bushes away from the moonlit night. Despite their care, a soldier with a gun confronts them as they near the river. Mr. Han must go back, but the guard allows Soo to cross to freedom where her father is waiting, waving from across the blue water. 
            Despite the sad ending – Soo never sees her mother again – this solemn tale of quiet bravery is mesmerizing. The universal need for freedom and the independence we celebrate this month lend power to this story. This story is an excellent beginning for a conversation about the heroic experiences of many immigrants to our cherished country. (A paragraph at the beginning and end bookend the story with a brief explanation of the setting and aftermath.)

Boyds Mills Press, $18.95
Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 3   

Chik Chak Shabbat by Mara Rockliff 
Illustrated by Kyrsten Brooker
            This wonderful story celebrates multicultural America, with the pleasures of good neighbors and friends. Every week the neighbors in Goldie’s apartment building smell the fragrance of the cholent (stew) she makes beginning on Friday afternoon. Vegetables, dried beans and barley simmer in a broth until Saturday supper. Then Goldie invites everyone in for Jewish Shabbat.
            Gathered around the table they discuss what makes cholent so delicious: The Italian neighbor says tomatoes. Barley, suggests the neighbor from Korea.  The family from India believes it’s the potatoes. But the Latino family agrees it’s the beans. However, for Goldie, “the taste of cholent is . . . Shabbat!”
            One week, when Goldie is too sick to prepare cholent, each neighbor brings something to the table: Indian potato curry, Korean barley tea, Italian tomato pizza, Spanish beans and rice. Combined with their concern for Goldie the usual splendid meal becomes superb.
            Brooker’s oil paint and collage illustrations are humorous and detailed. Distinctive characteristics showcase the individuals. The food traditions shared around this warmly welcoming table strengthen the loving bonds while highlighting the differences. A recipe for cholent is included: a stew that cannot be hurried, chik chak.

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

Red, White, and Boom! by Lee Wardlaw
Illustrated by Huy Voun Lee
            If you’re looking for a perfect book to give youngsters a taste of Fourth of July celebrations, choose this! The flag colors are central in Wardlaw and Lee’s joyful rhyming picture book. 
Detailed collages of people at a parade, picnicking on the beach, and watching fireworks span the generations. This story poem is a fine representation of the cultural variety in gatherings across our country. Cut-paper patterns bounce with energy and vivid textures.
Readers and listeners can hear the match as rhythmic words and pictures combine: “Shoulder seat/Thumping beat/July 4th drums down the street!” And as the day continues: “Shoulder seat/Seagull fleet/July 4th with sandy feet!” Until the fireworks conclude the day: “Rockets wing/Crackle, sing/Burst and zoom/Red, white, boom!” This delightful picture book is a rainbow commemoration of our country’s heritage of freedom.
Henry Holt, $16.99 
Interest Level: Pre-Kindergarten – Grade 2

Time to Pray by Maha Addasi 
Arabic Translation by Nuha Albitar
Illustrated by Ned Gannon
            During her first night visiting her grandmother, in an unnamed Middle Eastern country, Yasmin hears the call to prayer. Her understanding of a few Islamic customs increases as the story continues. Especially highlighted are the five daily prayer times. Teta makes prayer clothes for her granddaughter, buys her a prayer rug, and takes her to the mosque.
            The oil paintings, in warm golden tints, show lovely geometric designs and Arabic architecture. Regional cultural characteristics in the illustrations are thoughtfully chosen. Carefully woven with a heartfelt family story, together they engage readers and listeners.
When she returns home to her family, Yasmin finds a surprise gift from Teta to help with her prayers. A translation in beautiful Arabic script is paired with the English text on each page. An explanation of Prayer Times is included at the end. Especially during this time in our nation’s history, this story offers beginning understandings of family and freedom.

Boyds Mills Press, $17.95 
Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 3

My Shoes and I by Reni Colato Lainez
Illustrated by Fabricio Vanden Broeck
            With his father, Mario leaves home in El Salvador to reunite with his mother, who sent him new shoes from the United States. He is confident that his shoes will take him across three countries.
            They walk, ride buses, climb mountains, and cross a river on their trip north. There are many difficulties on the way: hungry dogs eat their food, Papa loses his wallet. Mario’s shoes get dirty and muddy, a nail tears a hole; even a rainstorm drenches them. Yet, each time he takes care of his shoes, singing a familiar Hispanic nursery rhyme parents use to comfort a hurt child: “Sana, sana, colita de rana…” (The poem and its English translation are included at the back.)
            On the book’s cover, title page, and at the back, as well as at each page turn, the shoes are the main focus. Weathered backgrounds strengthen the intensity of brilliantly colored illustrations. The authentic emotional power of the story is highlighted by the encouragement the boy repeats, “my shoes and I keep going.” And by the determination and courage highlighted in the artwork by dramatic details of city and countryside.
            This timely tale gives readers a poignant sense of both the hardships and adaptability of those who must uproot their lives in their search for freedom. 

Boyds Mills Press, $16.95 
Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 3

Monday, July 4, 2016

Things (Monday Poem)

by Eloise Greenfield

Went to the corner
Walked in the store
Bought me some candy
Ain't got it no more
Ain't got it no more

Went to the beach
Played on the shore
Built me a sandhouse
Ain't got it no more
Ain't got it no more

Went to the kitchen
Lay down on the floor
Made me a poem
Still got it
Still got it

from Honey, I Love: and other love poems, by Eloise Greenfield, illustrations by Diane and Leo Dillon