Thursday, March 31, 2016

Poetry Week by Week: A National Poetry Month Celebration

National Poetry Month is nearly here again, so beginning April 1, this blog will be all about poetry! And this time, I am organized. I've got the whole thing planned out into four one-week chunks. And it's gonna be great!

So, here's the plan:

Beginning April 3, each week will be dedicated to celebrating a specific type of poetry. During each week, I will share favorite poems in each category, review at least one book, and invite guest poets to share their poems and/or inspiration with you.

But that's not all. There is also a CHALLENGE!

Originally I had planned to challenge myself to write at least one poem each day during April, and then choose one of those poems each week to share here on the blog. But I was afraid of failure. So instead, I challenged myself to write a few poems each week, according to the schedule below, and then post my favorite at the week's end (beginning on April 9).

Here is the schedule:

April 3 - 9: Concrete Poems

April 10 - 16: Animal Rhymes

April 17- 23: Free Verse

April 24 - 30: Haiku

I would love to have you join me in this challenge, which is all very informal. To play along, simply leave your poem in the comments at the end of each week! The only "rule" is that each poem should fit that week's category. Although, to be honest, if you end up inspired to write something else and want to share it, I won't complain!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Concerning Vomit and Decency (and Books)

"Don't go out that door. There's vomit!"

Those were the words directed at us as my family and I were leaving the mall recently.

We laughed and thanked the stranger for the warning, then took the other door. Looking to the left, I saw that, sure enough, there was a fairly fresh splattering of vomit on the sidewalk that one of us would have surely stepped in had it not been for the considerate warning of a complete stranger.

It made me smile to think that someone I didn't know would care about whether or not I stepped in a puddle of puke. And then I thought, What if people did that all the time? Not the puking, but the considering.

Imagine what a friendlier world it would be. Imagine the smiles shared, the doors held open, the traffic frustrations minimized, if only we would look beyond ourselves and really see our fellow human beings. If we stopped to think about how our actions or inactions affect those around us. If we cared enough to keep a complete stranger from ruining their shoes. Or forgetting their wallet. Or dropping a five dollar bill.

If we, though hopelessly flawed ourselves, could just be decent to each other. Consistently.

Can you imagine?

Books can help with that. I don't mean books that were written with the obvious agenda of pounding a moral lesson into our brains, but stories, true or imagined, about characters who work through their own flaws while struggling to overcome whatever problems come their way. It doesn't matter if that story is about a mouse who worries too much or a Hobbit carrying the one ring to Mordor. These stories explore what it means to be human, and they help us--and our children--to look at the world beyond our own little bubbles.

So read lots of stories to your children. But don't just stop there. Talk about the stories and the characters. Answer your children's questions, and ask your own. There are so many things for you to explore and discover in the books you share.

What books have helped you (and/or your children) see people a little differently?

Monday, March 14, 2016


I first heard about TEENY TINY TOADY, by Jill Esbaum, when I interviewed the illustrator, Keika Yamaguchi, back when WHAT ABOUT MOOSE? released. So, when I spotted it on the shelf at my local Barnes & Noble last week, I had to sit down and read it!

When Teeny's mother is snatched up and placed in a bucket, Teeny rushes home to tell her brothers and plan a rescue. But when her brawny brothers end up captives too, "Tiny Teeny, on her own" has to find a way to rescue them all.

This charming book is every bit as adorable as its cover. Told in active, bouncy rhyme, TEENY TINY TOADY is a lot of fun to read. There are a few spots where the meter feels inconsistent--a couple of them feel intentional, like when the toads "plip plip, ploop, ploop, plip ploop, PLOP!" into the bucket. But, Esbaum's use of language, alliteration, and onomatopoeia make up for the meter issues enough for me to place this book on my favorites shelf. And Yamaguchi's illustrations capture the tiny heroine's story perfectly (and adorably).

A fun (and did I say adorable?) addition to any home or classroom library!