Monday, May 29, 2017

Dreams (Monday Poem)

by Langston Hughes

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field 
Frozen with snow.

From The Dream Keeper and other poems by Langston Hughes
1932, Knopf

Monday, May 22, 2017

19 Varieties of Gazelle (Monday Poem)

by Naomi Shihab Nye

A gash of movement
a spring of flight.

She saw them then
she did not see them.

The elegance of the gazelle
caught in her breath.

The next thing could have been weeping.

Rustic brown, a subtle spotted hue.

For years the Arab poets used “gazelle”
to signify grace,
but when faced with a meadow of leaping gazelle
there were no words.

Does one gazelle prefer another
of her kind?

They soared like history
above an empty page.

Nearby, giant tortoises
were kissing.

What else had we seen in our lives?
Nothing better than 19 varieties of gazelle
running free at the wildlife sanctuary . . .

“Don’t bother to go there,”
said a man at our hotel.
“It’s too far.”

But we were on a small sandy island,
nothing was far!

We had hiked among stony ruins
to the Tree of Life.
We had photographed a sign that said
KEEP TO THE PATH in English and Arabic.

Where is the path?
Please tell me.
Does a gazelle have a path?
Is the whole air the path of the gazelle?

The sun was a hot hand on our heads.

Human beings have voices
what have they done for us?

There is no gazelle
in today’s headline.

The next thing could have been weeping . . .
Since when is a gazelle
wiser than people?

Gentle gazelle
dipping her head
into a pool of sliver grass.

From 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East 
by Naomi Shihab Nye
2005, HarperTempest

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Key Lime (Monday Poem)

by Campbell McGrath

Curiously yellow hand-grenade
of flavor; Molotov cocktail
for a revolution against the bland.

From Florida Poems by Campbell McGrath
2002, HarperCollins

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Ever-Constant Sea (Monday Poem)

by Rod McKuen

Once upon a time
loving set me free.
Free as any bird who ever heard
the wind blow in the trees.

After love had gone
I had merely me
and my only friend
the ever-constant sea.

We’ve been through it all
my old friend and me.
Summertime and fall have shown us all
the world there is to see.

So, if I love again
if love is good to me
I’ll share it with my friend
the ever-constant sea.

From Listen to the Warm by Rod McKuen
1967, Random House

Thursday, May 4, 2017

It's Fun to Say, "It's Mother's Day!" (FAMILY magazine reviews)

Although these Mother’s Day books have been on the scene since the late 1980’s, the collective delight from both children and adults in the sharing of these well-told, much-loved, beautifully written, and enchantingly illustrated stories seems never to fade away. The enduring appeal of these captivating tales is not lessened by their focus on our beloved mothers. Have fun sharing with your own beloved young ones.

The Mother’s Day Mice 
by Eve Bunting 
illustrated by Jan Brett
            Illustrator Brett dresses her characteristically appealing small animals in colorful clothing to balance author Bunting’s lively story, set on a cool early spring morning. Three brave mouse brothers set out to find the finest gifts for their mother. Their search is a dangerous one: readers see a hidden snake, a prowling fox and a swooping owl.
            The underbrush, ferns and toadstools appear large, painted skillfully to suggest a mouse’s perspective. The ripe red strawberry is large enough that Middle Mouse sets it down to take a rest. The dandelion fluff ball looms over Biggest Mouse.
            Littlest Mouse wants to get honeysuckle from the cottage where cat (midnight black with a menacing, brilliant red mouth) lies yawning. But Littlest changes his plan when he hears someone playing “Twinkle Little Star” on the piano inside. Ultimately, his gift, a song they all can sing together, is the most surprising.
            This tender story is sweet, but not syrupy. Its carefully detailed illustrations, expressive language, and the animated pleasure of the mice that delight in their thoughtful gifts make this tuneful tale an utterly satisfying picture book to share.

Clarion, $5.95 (paperback) $15.95 (hardcover)
Interest Level: Pre-School – Grade 2

Hazel’s Amazing Mother by Rosemary Wells
            Author-illustrator Wells timeless animal characters are cuddly, but still get into trouble. Hazel, the title character, is a young badger who makes a wrong turn during an errand. Three bullies, led by Doris, a large beaver, surround her and her doll, Eleanor. They knock the stuffing out of poor Eleanor, and ride the doll carriage down the hill. It splashes into the pond.
            When Hazel calls, “Mother, I need you!” the magical part of the story is set in motion. Wells’ whimsical ink and watercolor illustrations pop with color and action. Hazel wears a bright yellow shirt that makes her stand out on each page. As the bullies tease her, the sky darkens with a raincloud.
            Hazel’s mother is blown by the wind and rain across town, grasping a picnic blanket. She arrives in time to direct the bullies’ clean up.
            As the chastened bullies complete the tidying, the sun comes out and the clouds slip away. Hazel’s mother finishes the repairs on Eleanor, and they enjoy their picnic before returning home. Love powers this fantasy for young children, charming Mother and child pairs who read this cheerful picture book, daydreaming imaginative rescues of their own.

Penguin, $5.99 (paperback) $16.00 (hardcover)
Interest Level: Pre-Kindergarten – Grade 1

Koala Lou by Mem Fox, illustrated by Pamela Loft
            In this surprising tale, with animal characters familiar in Australia, author Fox creates a captivating book as a gift to her native country. A baby koala, loved by all (including an emu and a platypus), is loved most by her mother. “Koala Lou, I DO love you!” her mother says, again and again.
            But, as new siblings are born, her mother gets busier, and doesn’t “have the time to tell Koala Lou that she loved her. Although of course she did.”
            Koala Lou decides to enter the Bush Olympics and “compete in the gum tree climbing event.” When she wins, she imagines her mother will “fling her arms around her neck and say again, ‘Koala Lou, I DO love you!’”
            Lofts uses a bright palette, snuggly animals, and energetic movement in her illustrations. Each double-page spread is loosely arranged within a frame, although parts of the painting escape from the edges and spill across into the text. This dramatic method ties the reader intimately to the tale.
            Koala Lou begins training; jogging, lifting weights, doing push-ups; even hanging from a branch with one claw. And, of course, climbing the tallest tree she can find. “Over and over and over again.”
            Yet, in spite of her planning, and training and hoping, Koala Lou comes in second. She goes and hides, crying her heart out. When she creeps back home, her mother is waiting for her: she flings her arms around her neck, and says the words Koala Lou has been longing to hear. This warm-hearted ending to a universal wish is a memorable conclusion.
Harcourt, $7.99 (paperback) $17.99 (hardcover)
Interest Level: Junior Kindergarten – Grade 1

Monday, May 1, 2017

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: 
the poems and drawings of Shel Silverstein
1995, HarperCollins