Poetry Friday: Meeting up with Debjani Chatterjee

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Let's Celebrate! Festival Poems from Around the World. edited by Debjani Chatterjee and Brian D'Arcy (Frances Lincoln, 2011)I was in Sheffield (UK) yesterday and met up with Debjani Chatterjee and her husband, fellow-poet Brian D’Arcy, which was definitely something to celebrate – so for today’s Poetry Friday, I turn to the recent book they edited together, Let’s Celebrate! Festival Poems from Around the World, imaginatively illustrated by Shirin Adl (Frances Lincoln, 2011). And since the joyous Jewish festival of Purim falls this weekend, here’s the beginning of “Three Loud Cheers for Esther: A Poem for Purim” written by Debjani and Brian:

Listen to the tale of Esther:
The story of a savvy queen
Who became her people’s saviour.
Let’s hear: ‘three loud cheers for Esther!

Stamp your feet and shake your gregger…’

The whole poem evokes a traditional Purim spiel, reflected also in Shirin’s illustration in the book, which shows a young audience enjoying a puppet play, greggers and hamentaschen in hand, for, as we learn in the backmatter information About the Festivals, “Home-made rattles called greggers are shaken to drown out Hamen’s name whenever it is mentioned.  Poppy-seed cakes called hamentaschen or ‘Haman’s ears’ are eaten.”

Let’s Celebrate! is a wonderful gathering of poems, bringing together a whole world of festivals, so I was delighted to hear that a second anthology, this time about children playing around the world, is nearing completion. I’ll definitely be keeping my eye open for it and I’ll keep you posted!

It was lovely to catch up with Debjani and to meet Brian – thank you, both.

Poet Debjani Chatterjee and Marjorie Coughlan (PaperTigers) in SheffieldPaperTigers

Debjani shared with me some of the beautiful poster poems she had created as part of a community mother-daughter poetry project with Roshni Sheffield Asian Women’s Resource Centre. She is also very  involved in running a local cancer support group called The Healing Word, and you can read some of her powerful poetry about her own cancer journey in her Dare to Dream collection, and in this issue of Poetry Express, the journal of Survivors’ Poetry, which promotes poetry by survivors of mental distress (Debjani is its patron).  Debjani is also a noted translator of poetry – do read these “Eight Poems by Five Bengali Poets” and her prize-winning translation of some of Bangladesh’s national poet Kazi Nazrul Islam’s work.  You can find out more about Debjani and her many books of poetry and children’s stories on her website.

This week’s Poetry Friday is hosted by Sheri Doyle – head on over… And Happy Purim!

Poetry Friday: Iguanas in the Snow and Other Winter Poems by Francisco X. Alarcón, illustrated by Christina Gonzalez

Friday, January 11th, 2013

This week seemed to fly by and I can hardly believe that Friday is upon us and it is time to celebrate Poetry Friday! For those who may not be familiar with the concept, at the end of the week many children’s book aficionados and bloggers often use their sites to contribute favorite poems or chat about something poetical in an event called Poetry Friday. The features can be original poems, reviews of poetry books, reviews of poetic picture books, links to poems at copyright protected sites, thoughts about poetry, song lyrics and  more.  One blog rounds up all the posts on the subject, so that poetry aficionados can read more posts on a favorite subject. The list of blogs scheduled to host  Poetry Friday in 2013 can be found here and you can delve into our PaperTigers’ Poetry Friday time vault here.

For this week’s Poetry Friday contribution I’d like to highlight one of my favorite children’s poetry books: Iguanas in the Snow and Other Winter Poems / Iguanas en la nieve y otros poemas de invierno by Francisco X. Alarcón, illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez (Children’s Book Press/Lee and Low Books, 2001). If the winter days in your neck of the woods are depressingly short, dark and gloomy, get hold of a copy of Iguanas in the Snow and prepare to have your spirit restored. You’ll immediately be taken to a wintery world of bright, engaging colors that looks to be just as magical as the long, golden days of summer are. Celebrate winter with a Mexican American family in Nothern California and witness their joy as they frolic in the snow, an experience that reminds the author of the iguanas playing by his grandmother’s house in Mexico. Celebrate life in a city where people are bridges to each other and children sing poetry in two languages. Be dazzled by the promise of seedling redwoods—like all children—destined to be the ancestors of tomorrow. This book was a well deserved winner of the 2002 Pura Belpré Award Honor Book for Narrative and can be read online on the International Children’s Digital Library  website by clicking here.

Iguanas in the Snow
what fun
to see snow
for the first time

on the Sierra Nevada
all dressed in white
like a bride

get out of
Papa’s car
in a hurry

touch the wet
snow with our
bare fingers

and throw
at each other

what a ride
to slide
down slopes

on top
of black
inner tubes

together with
brothers and sisters
cousins and uncles

all sporting
green jackets
and pants

in a sale at
the army surplus

“Ha! ha! ha!”
Mama laughs
and says with joy

“we look like
happy iguanas
in the snow”

This week’s Poetry Friday is being hosted by No Water River

Poetry Friday: I Saw a Peacock with a Fiery Tail, illustrated by Ramsingh Urveti

Friday, December 7th, 2012

Illustrated by Ramsingh Urveti, designed by Jonathan Yamakami,
I Saw a Peacock with a Fiery Tail
Tara Books, 2011.

Ages: 8+

The glorious blue and intriguing cut-outs on the cover of this truly stunning book just beg you to pick it up and explore its pages.  As you open the book, the feathered (or is it fiery?) eye leaves the peacock’s head behind, and you have to keep on turning until you find the whole bird.  From then on, each page reveals a half-line of the anonymous seventeenth-century English nonsense/puzzle poem that makes up the text.  The clever cut-outs mean you can read the poem in two ways – in its original tricky layout that offers a surreal, perplexing view of all the amazing things that “I saw,” or the more logical sequence created by joining the second half of the former line to the first half of the latter:

I saw a peacock with a fiery tail
I saw a blazing comet drop down hail
I saw a cloud… [you can read the whole poem here]

The secret is in the lack of punctuation throughout and the poem would make a fun punctuation task for younger children to work out – but the poem offers much more than a school exercise and is a delight for people of all ages to ponder the essence of poetry.  Joined here with Ramsingh Urveti’s combination of black on white and white on black art influenced by his Gond roots, and Jonathan Yamakami’s imaginative book design, I Saw a Peacock with a Fiery Tale is a veritable feast for any poetry lover.

This is Urveti’s first solo book but he was a contributor to Tara Books’ much loved The Nightlife of Trees (New Horizons Award 2008).  Here, his artwork is extraordinary in the way it manages to convey all the twists and turns of the poem whether puzzling or logical.  He incorporates the recurring “I saw” inventively throughout.  The ebb and flow of the different scales alluded to, from a mighty oak to a tiny ant, are reflected in the intensity of the patterns that at times seem to froth from the page.  The book’s physical design is full of surprises right to the end: and this is a very physical book.  In the age of the e-book, this is an oasis for anyone who loves the physicality of the book.  If you think you know just the person you’d like to give it to, you might have to get hold of two copies – this is one of those books that would otherwise be impossible to give away!

This week’s Poetry Friday is hosted by Robyn Hood Black at Read, Write, Howl – head on over.

Poetry Friday ~ PaperTigers 10th Anniversary: My Top Ten Picks by Sally Ito

Friday, November 9th, 2012

[Time is running out to enter our Tenth Anniversary Draw – the deadline is tomorrow – so if you haven’t already, take a look here for the chance to win some fantastic prizes for you or your school or library]

Sally Ito is a poet, editor and translator living in Winnipeg, Canada, where she also teaches Creative Writing; she is currently writer.  Sally was  a book reviewer and contributor to the PaperTigers blog until earlier this year and wrote many of our contributions to Poetry Friday during that time (which is why we decided to post Sally’s selection on a Poetry Friday day!).  So we are delighted to welcome her back with her Top Ten list of favourite books, encountered through her work with PaperTigers.

As a prelude, do listen to Sally reading the title poem from her collection Alert to Glory (Turnstone Press, 2011) in the video below.

My Top Ten Picks by Sally Ito

When I joined the Paper Tigers blog contributor team in 2008, the thing I was most excited about was getting to read and review great multicultural books for kids.  What I discovered was a plethora of wonderful books that reflected who I was culturally and who my community was, culturally, as well.  From my short time with PaperTigers, these are my ten picks of multicultural books for kids.  It’s a little Japan-heavy, I realize but I hope you indulge my bias!

Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan (Allen & Unwin, 2008) – I found this quirky picture book amazing and it was an inspiration for me when I was teaching to take my creative writing students out into our immediate neighborhood (an historic district called The Exchange) in Winnipeg to see what we could make of our environment in a creative way.

Naomi’s Tree by Joy Kogawa, illustrated by Ruth Ohi (Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 2008).  This book is about a cherry tree and a Japanese Canadian girl who grew up with it and was separated from it by the circumstances of the Second World War.  This book was a personal favorite since the author’s history reflects my own family’s in Canada.

Granny’s Giant Bannock by Brenda Isabel Wastasecoot, illustrated by Kimberly McKay-Fleming (Pemmican, 2008).  This is one hilarious book about a Cree-speaking grandmother and her grandson Larf who accidentally bakes a giant bannock by misunderstanding his grandmother’s instructions on how to make the doughy confection from scratch.

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit by Nahoko Uehashi, illustrated by Yuko Shimizu, translated by Cathy Hirano (Scholastic, 2009).  This book is a translation of a popular fantasy series that was also made into a TV series.  The story is set in early imperial Japan and features a woman warrior named Balsa who protects the son of the emperor, Chagum, as he carries within him a spirit from another dimension who must lodge in a human host in order to survive.

The Song of the Cicada by Shizue Ukaji.  This is a Japanese book, yet untranslated into English, that I discovered while living in Japan in 2011.  It’s an Ainu folktale illustrated with textile creations made by Ukaji herself.  It’s the story of a woman who prophesies disaster – namely a tsunami – to her people and what becomes of her as a result.  A timely read for the year I was visiting the country.

The Fox’s Window and Other Stories by Naoko Awa, translated by Toshiya Kamei.  This is a collection of short stories spanning a career of writing by Japanese author Naoko Awa.  Magical, enchanting and absorbing are the words I’d use to describe these stories, which have also been referred to as ‘modern fairytales.’

David’s Trip to Paraguay by Miriam Rudolph.  A bilingual book with German and English text, this story is about a young Mennonite boy named David who travels to Paraguay from Canada in the late 1920s.  Rudolph, an artist, charts the arduous journey with vivid and colorful illustrations of the things David sees on the trip.

Gifts: Poems for Parents edited by Rhea Tregebov (Sumach Press, 2002).  We say we read to our children for their sake, but it’s just as true that we read to feed ourselves, too.  Poetry is a kind of bread for the soul, and this particular treasury of poems by Canadians really fed me as a poet and a parent.

Bifocal by Deborah Ellis and Eric Walters.  This is one book I read in part with my son, who later went on to have the book assigned to him for his English class in junior high school.  It’s about two teenagers – Haroon and Jay – who have to negotiate their cultural identities during a tense lockdown situation at their high school.

Aya by Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie.  I started covering graphic novels for PaperTigers a few years ago as I felt this was a developing trend in books for young people.  And this book was one of my favorites!  Aya is about a young woman growing up in Cote D’Ivoire, looking to become a medical student, but whose life is inevitably shaped and influenced by those around her with less lofty goals than her.

This week’s Poetry Friday is hosted by Ed at Think Kid, Think – head on over.

Poetry Friday: PaperTigers 10th Anniversary Top 10 Multicultural Children’s Poetry Books selected by Janet Wong

Friday, October 19th, 2012

Second up in our Top-10 series in celebration of PaperTigers’ 10th Anniversary, we are delighted to welcome poet Janet Wong with her choice of multicultural poetry books.  Janet is herself the acclaimed author of an impressive list of poetry collections and fiction for all ages of young people, including Twist: Yoga PoemsNight Garden: Poems from the World of Dreams and Knock on Wood: Poems about Superstitions, all stunningly illustrated by Julie Paschkis; Homegrown House illustrated by E. B. Lewis; and the middle-grade free-verse Minn and Jake novels.

Recently, Janet has embraced e-publishing with several collections of her own poetry, including Once Upon a Tiger and Declaration of Interdependence: Poems for an Election Year. She has also collaborated with Sylvia Vardell on three PoetryTagTime e-collections of poetry. You can read Janet’s thoughts about e-publishing here, and also my 2008 interview with her here.

I love that Janet has selected one book for each year of PaperTigers – which has also made me chuckle, since the list is actually now 11. You may have noticed that Deborah Ellis’  Top 10 also had eleven titles, grouping two books together.  Could this be a theme?  Perhaps, a bit like a Baker’s Dozen, a Reader’s 10 actually equals 11?!


Top 10: Multicultural Poetry Picks (2002-2012) by Janet Wong

Picking my top ten multicultural poetry books of the past decade was pretty difficult; but I managed to stick to my goal and to limit myself to only one title published in each of the ten years of the existence of PaperTigers. Here are ten books for young people that I love, some collections and some novels in verse. Please look for them at your library—and give them as gifts to your library if you can’t find them there. Read from these books aloud, a few pages now and then, when you have time. A poem is a perfect 5-minute pick-me-up, like a snack for the mind.

2002:   19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East by Naomi Shihab Nye

2003:   Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson

2004:   Under the Breadfruit Tree by Monica Gunning, illustrated by Fabricio Vanden Broeck

2005:   A Wreath for Emmett Till by Marilyn Nelson, illustrated by Philippe Lardy

2006:   Thanks a Million by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera

2007:   Tap Dancing on the Roof by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Istvan Banyai

2008:   Becoming Billie Holiday by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Floyd Cooper

2009:   Yum! MmMm! Que Rico! by Pat Mora, illustrated by Rafael Lopez

2010:   Amazing Faces collected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Chris Soentpiet

2011:   Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall

2012:   The Wild Book by Margarita Engle


This week’s Poetry Friday is hosted by Irene Latham at Live Your Poem – Irene has a group zoo poem on offer today so head on over.

And P.S. We’ve just launched our own Facebook Page – PaperTigers: Books + Water – do visit us.



Poetry Friday: Billy Collins Action Poetry – “Now and Then” animated by Eun-Ha Paek

Friday, October 12th, 2012

On Wednesday we launched our 10th Anniversary celebrations – and we hope you’ll join us for some special features over the coming month. One of our new features is a catch-up Gallery of Eun-Ha Paek’s artwork (we first featured her in our early days back in 2002).  Eun-Ha is not only our web designer but she is also an artist, and she often combines her two talents to create very special digital animations. While researching her work for our feature, I came across this beautiful animation of the deceptively simple poem “Now and Then” that forms part of Billy Collins Action Poetry:

Billy Collins has given a TED talk about the Action Poetry project that includes viewings of some of them (plus a bonus original poem that I loved – anyone with teenage children, daughters especially, will empathise!).

This week’s Poetry Friday is hosted by Betsy at Teaching Young Writers.

Poetry Friday is Here – Welcome!

Friday, September 28th, 2012

Hello and welcome to this week’s Poetry Friday.  I will update this post with your posts throughout the day – in the meantime, please leave your links in the Comments below.

In honor of the mosaic of poetry that will make up the wonderful whole as created each week for Poetry Friday, I thought I’d highlight Jorge Luján’s gorgeous poem-turned-picture-book Sky Blue Accident/Accidente Celeste – beautifully translated by Elisa Amado and illustrated by Piet Grobler (Groundwood Books, 2007) (and the “beautifully” refers to both the translation and the illustrations, by the way).

Before the poem starts, two double-page spreads show a small boy cycling to school, at first concentrating hard on the task in hand and then being distracted by a bird in the sky…  And so:

Una mañana de brumas
me tropecé con el cielo
y a los pedazos caídos
los escondí e mi bolsillo.

Once on a misty morning
I crashed into the sky,
Then hid its broken pieces
In my pocket.

What follows is a joyous flight of imagination, as the child tries to show the pieces of sky to his teacher; and then all the children try and repair the hole in the sky by painting a new one, to get things back to normal (for without a complete sky “Lost clouds stumbled around/bumbling into corners,” – isn’t that a beautiful image? – and the moon is also behaving oddly…).  The boy then uses the fragments of the “real” sky to fill in the last remaining gaps.

The poem is a delight and Piet Grobler’s gorgeous illustrations are very clever as well as a joy to the eye – for they combine the flight of imagination in the poem (including a teacher who grows wings and flies out the window) with a school setting that has the boy drawing on his lined exercise paper; and there are also certain visual motifs that the reader catches up with eventually. You can see some pages from the Spanish edition on Jorge’s website.

So now we will see what kind of sky Poetry Friday brings us this week. Will it be cloudy, gray or blue – or maybe sparkly or rosy or velvet?  I can’t wait to find out… and if you have a moment on your hands while you’re here wondering too, do pause and watch this video of Jorge’s poem Tarde de Invierno/Winter Afternoon, illustrated my Mandana Sadat, and like Sky Blue Accident, beautifully translated by Elisa Amado and published by Groundwood Books (2006).  It’s still my favourite book video ever…

April at Teaching Authors is highlighting a book giveaway and interview with paranormal verse novel writer Carolee Dean, just in time for Halloween! Carolee shares a writing exercise and a poem from her spooky new verse novel, out on Oct. 2nd.

Renee features W B Yeats’ beautiful poem “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” at No Water River and, wait for it, has an interview withe the man himself!

Tabatha shares her own witty poem “What Changes?” ready for tomorrow’s  100,000 Poets for Change at Tabatha Yeatts: The Opposite of Indifference.

Amy Ludwig VanDerwater at The Poem Farm has a real treat in store, with her own poem (and sketch), “Leaf Planes” – and some visiting poets from Mrs Luft’s second grade class.

Laura Shoven at Author Amok is also getting ready for 100,000 Poets for Change and will be at tomorrow’s Baltimore Book Festival presenting a tribute to Lucille Clifton, who died in 2010.  “Clifton is a well-known poet, but most readers don’t realize that she was also a prolific children’s author.”  In her post today, Laura has an interview with Lucille’s daughter Alexia about her mother’s picture books.

Liz Steinglass at Growing Wild provides a splash of sunshine with her poem “Black-Eyed Susans”.

What does the National Geographic’s new anthology of animal poetry edited by J. Patrick Lewis have to do with buckeye candy?  Find out at NC Teacher Stuff where Jeff will reveal all…

… and Mary Lee is “on the same page” over at A Year of Reading – she has a proposal for the Book of Animal Poetry in light of 100,000 Poets for Change.

Tara at A Teaching Life has a poem “about finding happiness, however elusive it may be” – “Happiness” by Jane Kenyon.

Joanna continues her haiku series on endangered species with S-U today, over at Miss Marple’s Musings.  And if you haven’t seen A-R yet, I warn you, you’ll find yourself thoroughly distracted from doing anything else until you’ve caught up!

Robyn Hood Black says “”Hello to Fall with a few [beautiful] lines from Longfellow”

Diane Mayr offers her customary triple treat: “Dawn Revisited” by Rita Dove at Random Noodling; “a brand new book by Douglas Florian” (prepare to have your timber shivered) at Kurious Kitty; and she also quotes Florian at KK’s Kwotes.

Diane also asks if we are ready for some moon dancing – they certainly are at The Write Sister.

At Poetry for Kids Joy, Joy Acey introduces us to a work-in-progress that is definitely one to follow – a list poem introduction to children in each US state – Joy asks for suggestions and offers ideas for creating list poems in class.

Irene Latham contemplates journeys via “The Journey” by Mary Oliver at Live Your Poem – and I love the way she expresses it as “thinking about the journey, not just as writer, but as a human finding one’s voice”.

Jama has a delectable post over at Alphabet Soup,”a three-course meal” focusing on the wonderful “Poetry Friday Anthology” compiled by Poetry Friday’s very own (am I allowed to make that proprietorial kind of claim?!) Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong.   And she sends out birthday wishes to Janet for Sunday with one of her special trade-mark photographs.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JANET!

Linda Baie at Teacher Dance has written a moving poem for 100,000 Poets for Change, reflecting on war and the soldiers who serve, and their families who wait at home.

David Harrison sends out a call to all poets regarding a new feature on his blog: “Each Sunday I now showcase poems by other poets who e-mail their work to me by the Friday before. It’s an easy way to share the stage, and comments from readers have shown this to be a welcome opportunity. You’re all encouraged to check it out and consider joining the fun. If you send a poem, don’t forget to include any links you’d like to have posted with your work.”

David also introduces what he hopes will become another regular feature on his blog: Caption the Cartoon, with an especially created cartoon by Rob Shepperson.  Have a go!

And one more from David: his poem “What was That” from his anthology Goose Lake – and it also appears in the above-mentioned-and-acclaimed National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry edited by J. Patrick Lewis.

Jane Kenyon makes another appearance, thanks to Karen Edminston.

Doraine Bennett contemplates moments in the company of Margaret Atwood at Dori Reads.

Ben from The Small Nouns has lots of ideas for using persona poems in the classroom and highlights Nikki Giovanni’s “Quilts” as a mentor poem to inspire.

Matt Forrest Esenwine presents “something… a bit different” at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme – he sure does!

Donna shares an encounter between “Dog and Toad” at Mainely Write.

Sylvia Vardell takes us into pet poems for Week 5 of The Poetry Friday Anthology, with Jeannine Atkins’ “Good Dog! Bad Dog!”…

…and on her own Poetry for Children, Sylvia has a wonderful, in-depth post “about J. Patrick Lewis, his work, and a recent interview with him published in the September issue of Book Links” – including a couple of extra questions not found in the magazine.  A definite must-read!

At Check it Out, Jone highlights this year’s Poetry CYBILS panelists and reminds us to start getting our nominations in from 1st October – that’s Monday, folks!

Samuel Kent at i.droo.it has lots of witty poems for us to enjoy this week: “So Long Summertime” – a euphonious poem about the coming of fall; “Leaves” – wherein fall is fun for everyone but the trees; “I’m being chased by monkeys“– a problem for those bringing bananas to the zoo; “Flea Written” – where I consider the lacking literary skill of insects (and discuss rhyme scheme); and
Roly Poly Goalie” – where a Hippo is clearly cheating.

Anastasia Suen points to Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall over at Booktalking.

Catherine Johnson has a “fruity poem” – a wonderfully imaginative take on fallen fruit.

Violet Nesdoly‘s poem today is “a little one about autumn called ‘Shutting Down.'” – a gem, accompanied by a gorgeous photo.

At There Is No Such Thing as a God-forsaken Town Ruth shares a powerful and moving poem written by her friend Magalie Boyer following the Haitian earthquake.

Andromeda Jazmon shares Yusef Komunyakaa’ s intriguing “The Day I Saw Barack Obama Reading Derek Walcott’s Collected Poems”  at A Wrung Sponge.

Charles Ghigna takes us on a walk through “The Silent Forest” at Father Goose.

At Wild Rose Reader Elaine Magliaro shares some special moments withe her grand-daughter that inspired her “original mask poem titled ‘Busybody’ about a squirrel scavenging for food in autumn”.

Kort muses on “Antilamentation” by Dorianne Laux at One Deep Drawer.

Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect highlights a powerful poem on the theme of fairy-tales – “Reading the Brothers Grimm to Jenny” by Lisel Mueller.

In honor of Saturday’s KidLitCon gathering in New York, Mary Ann Scheuer turns the pages of the “wonderful” A Poem as Big as New York at Great Kids Books.

A close encounter with a dragon awaits you at On Point where Lorie Ann Glover has an original haiku…

… Meanwhile, at readertotz, Lorie Ann catches something new to me by the toe in “Eenie, Meenie, Miney, Mo”.

Join the feast at Gathering Books where Fats Suela has selected two poems that put poetry itself on the menu.

At The Drift Record, Julie Larios considers whether “whether a drawing (by the Maine artist John Whalley) can be a ‘poem'” – what do you think?

Betsy has an original poem “Fall Morning” at Teaching Young Writers, inspired by her morning commute to work.

At Mrs. Merrill’s Book Break, Amy is “celebrating libraries in honor of Library Card Sign Up Month . . . what better way to celebrate than to share poems about libraries”

Wow, what a rich round-up this Poetry Friday has gathered in.  Thank you, everybody; I’ve enjoyed reading all your posts and meeting some new blogs too.

Poetry Friday: International Peace Day

Friday, September 21st, 2012

Today is Peace Day.  It’s also a day of  Global Ceasefire.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all the fighting stopped for this one day.  It’s certainly something to aim for, and beyond.

This week with my Cub Scout Pack in Kirkbymoorside, UK, we thought about Peace and what a global ceasefire might mean.  We made peace cranes, thanks to Stone Bridge Press’ wonderful A Thousand Cranes: Origami Projects for Peace and Happiness (2011), adapted from a book by Florence Temko (1921-2009); and then we held a short vigil by candle-light (one of our Challenges in our Diamond Jubilee Challenge was silence: hard but ultimately rewarding).

We shared Lao Tzu’s wise poem from 2,500 years ago:

If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.
If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.

It is one of the prayers in the beautifully presented Let There be Peace: Prayers from Around the World, selected by Jeremy Brooks, illustrated by Jude Daly (Frances Lincoln, 2009).

People around the world will be pausing for a moment’s silence today at midday local time.  Let’s hope the guns stop firing too.

This week’s Poetry Friday host Renée LaTulippe has a bowl of Poetry Candy over at No Water River, so head on over…

Poetry Friday: The Poetry Friday Anthology compiled by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Author and educator Sylvia Vardell has just announced some exciting news on her blog Poetry for Children!  She and her friend/author Janet Wong have collaborated on another wonderful project:  The Poetry Friday Anthology.

The Poetry Friday Anthology is a new anthology of 218 original poems for children in kindergarten through fifth grade by 75 popular poets including J. Patrick Lewis, Jack Prelutsky, Jane Yolen, Margarita Engle, X. J. Kennedy, Kathi Appelt, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, Georgia Heard and Nikki Grimes and many more.

The book includes a poem a week for the whole school year (K-5) with curriculum connections provided for each poem, each week, each grade level. Just five minutes every “Poetry Friday” will reinforce key skills in reading and language arts such as rhyme, repetition, rhythm, alliteration, etc.

Thanks to the lovely blog world of the “kidlitosphere,” I’ve been a fan of “Poetry Friday” since the beginning (in 2006). The idea of pausing for poetry every Friday is so appealing to me, maybe because Friday has always been my favorite day of the week. I think it is a natural fit for busy teachers and librarians who can build on that Poetry Friday tradition by incorporating a weekly poetry break into their regular routines. That’s the first “hook” in our book– the idea of sharing a poem every Friday! (More often is even better, but Friday is the hook!)

The other hook is the call for connecting with the new Common Core standards (and in Texas where the Common Core was not adopted– don’t get me started– connecting with the TEKS, Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills). We’ve always had curricular standards of one kind or another, but poetry hasn’t always been an explicit component. It is now! Of course this worries me a bit as poetry may also be abused and butchered in the name of test preparation. But the challenge is to provide guidance in sharing poetry that respects the integrity of the poem, celebrating the pleasures of language, while reinforcing the necessary skills. That’s the second book “hook”– we’ve tied every poem in The Poetry Friday Anthology to the Common Core standards (and TEKS standards in Texas) for poetry.

This book is first and foremost a quality anthology of 218 original poems for children written by 75 of today’s most popular poets. Children in any state (or country) can enjoy, explore, and respond to these poems. However, we have also come to realize that educators, librarians, and parents are looking for guidance in how to share poetry with children and teach the skills within the curriculum as well. Thus, this book offers both. It’s part poetry collection and part professional resource guide— quality poetry plus curriculum-based suggestions for helping children enjoy and understand poetry more deeply.

You’ll find more information about the book at the PoetryFridayAnthology blog here. Our official launch date is Sept. 1 when we hope to offer an e-book version of the book as well– projectable and searchable! But the print version of the book is available NOW to help jumpstart the school year with poetry. I’ll also be posting a few nuggets from the book here in the near future– as well as more about our new joint publishing venture, Pomelo Books.

This week’s Poetry Friday is hosted by Dori Reads so head on over and see what treasures are in store.

Poetry Friday: The Young Inferno by John Agard, illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura

Friday, July 20th, 2012

Next week the UK organisation, the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education will announce this year’s winner of their CLPE Poetry Award.  One of the books on the shortlist is Goldilocks on CCTV by John Agard, illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura (Frances Lincoln, 2011) – I haven’t actually seen it yet, but I’m working on it, since they have already shown themselves to be a first-class creative partnership.  In fact, their previous collaboration, The Young Inferno won the CLPE Poetry Award in 2009.  I blogged about The Young Inferno a couple of years ago (and I refer you to that post for a longer overview) but it’s just come out in paperback, which gives me the perfect excuse to revisit it!

It’s Agard’s Canto 3 that resonates most with me at the moment – as the “Hoodie Hero” steps through the door of the Gate Cinema aka the entrance to Hell, into the unknown – wanting to go forward, but dreading what he is about to discover:


When I saw these words above a gate
I felt a sad and weird sensation.
‘Can we turn back?’ I said. ‘Is it too late?’

My teacher [Aesop] smiled and said, ‘This is Hell, my son.
What do you expect? A red carpet
and bunches of flowers that say Welcome?’

Then holding my hand, he whispered to me,
‘Nothing is more fearsome than your fear.
Just think of Hell as a scary movie.’

And with these words of encouragement
he led me down starless winding stairs.
I could hear voices coming from a basement.

Tantalising?  I hope so.  Just as would have been the case for Dante’s contemporary audience, this 21st-century update is filled with a blend of characters and stories (many from Aesop’s Fables) that will be both well-known and unfamiliar to today’s young readers.  Agard’s powerful, energetic verse and Satoshi Kitamura’s extraordinarily powerful illustrations together pack a rare punch. (Do take a look at our PaperTigers Gallery featuring some of Satoshi’s wonderful artwork) Now to seek out Goldilocks on CCTV

This week’s Poetry Friday is hosted by Tara at A Teaching Life, where the title of her post seems to fit perfectly with the style of The Young Inferno!  Head on over.