Saturday, March 31, 2018

Feathered Fan: A Read, Discuss, Do! Craft

DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE by Laura Sassi, and illustrated by Rebecca Gerlings, is an adorable rhyming story about a diva who learns to accept help graciously. If you haven't read it yet, head out to your local library or book store and grab a copy! While you're out, stop at the craft store to get some feathers so you can make a fancy feathered fan with your kiddos. Unless you're like me and just happen to have some feathery fun stashed in the craft box!


DISCUSS: What does it mean to be a diva? Does being a diva affect Delores's behavior in a negative or positive way? Have you ever acted like a "diva" before?

DO: Make a fan like the one Diva Delores uses in the book.

You will need:

  • paper plate
  • feathers
  • scissors
  • marker or crayon
  • glue 
  • ruler (optional)


Cut the paper plate in half, then cut the curved part of the plate off. You should have a nearly perfect half-circle that lays flat. 

Mark the center of the straight edge (use a ruler if you want to be precise). Cut at a slight angle from the center to the outer edge of the plate to create the fan shape. With a marker or crayon, draw a semi-circle at the edge where the point is. Color that in. 

Draw lines from the center to the outer edge of the fan, using a ruler if necessary to keep the lines straight. 

Flip the fan over. Run a generous line of glue near the curved edge. Glue the feathers on, being sure that the tops of the feathers stick far out past the edge of the plate. Let it dry and--voila!--you have feathered fan, perfect for any diva! 

Use this fan to act out parts of the story, then save it in the dress-up box for a rainy day. Have fun!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

TOP TEN Verse Novels for Middle Grade Readers

With National Poetry Month coming in another two weeks, I thought it would be a good time to write a TOP TEN list of my favorite middle grade verse novels!

Verse novels are one of my favorite things to read. And to write! There's something especially special about verse novels written for middle-graders. They are so honest, often raw. They can be simple in form, yet complicated and/or tragic at their heart.

Narrowing this list down to ten was challenging, as I've read so many truly wonderful books written in this form. But these are the ones that stick in my heart the strongest. If you see any on this list that you haven't read, take National Poetry Month as an excuse to add them to your reading list!

LOVE THAT DOG by Sharon Creech

One of my favorite books of all time. This book is beautifully simple, heartfelt, moving, and a little bit tragic.

HATE THAT CAT by Sharon Creech

The sequel to LOVE THAT DOG (and my son's favorite of the two). Every bit as lovely, with a hopefully and heartwarming story about a boy and a cat.

HEARTBEAT by Sharon Creech

Another by Sharon Creech. What can I say? She's a genius!

FORGET ME NOT by Ellie Terry

A beautiful story about a girl with Tourette's syndrome trying to adjust to a new school, and the friendship she develops with the boy who lives in her apartment building.

GONE FISHING by Tamera Will Kissinger

A wonderful family/sibling story about a boy who is annoyed that his sister is coming along on the father-son fishing trip. Told in a variety of different poetic forms.

OUT OF THE DUST by Karen Hesse

Gut-wrenchingly tragic, yet hopeful at the same time. Gorgeous poems throughout. This is the first verse novel I ever read, and I was instantly in love.


A bullying story turned on its head! The main character in this story is the bully, and it's fascinating to see what drives him and how he changes. Cool "blackout" poems throughout the book.

THE CROSSOVER by Kwame Alexander

Family, middle school, sibling rivalry, basketball! Kwame's verse is irresistible throughout this un-put-downable book!

BOOKED by Kwame Alexander

Another wonderful sports and family (and school) story told in brilliant verse.

RED BUTTERFLY by A. L. Sonnichsen

Get ready to cry when you read this one. It's the story of a little girl in China, who was abandoned as a baby and is being raised by an elderly American woman.

Do you have a favorite verse novel that didn't make my top ten? I'd love to hear about it!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Verse novel review: BULL by David Elliott

by David Elliott
Young Adult verse novel
HMH Books for Young Readers

I have always believed there should be more diversity in verse novels. By that I don't mean the characters or settings (although that is good too, of course), but diversity in the types of stories told in the verse format. Verse novels often deal with difficult issues such as heartbreak, death, abuse, broken families, bullying, illness, and even slavery. They are most often realistic stories set in a familiar world or one we can read about in history books. Though they occasionally touch on the paranormal (like in Lisa Schroeder's I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME or Carolee Dean's FORGET ME NOT) it is rare to find a verse novel that ventures outside of the real world.

So, when I stumbled onto BULL by David Elliott while searching "verse novels" on my local library's catalog, I was intrigued. And after reading the jacket flap copy, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it!

See for yourself:

Minos thought he could
Pull a fast one
On me,
God of the sea!
But I'm the last one
On whom you
Should try such a thing.
The nerve of that guy.
The balls. The audacity.
I got capacity!
Depths! Darkness! Delphic power!
So his sweet little plan
Went big time sour
And his wife had a son
Born with horns and a muzzle
Who ended up
In an underground puzzle.
What is it with you mortals?
You just can't seem to learn:
If you play with fire, babies,
You're gonna get burned.

Told in several shifting points of view, BULL is a reimagined version of the greek myth Theseus and the Minotaur, told in poems that are an exciting mix of shocking, humorous, and heart-wrenching. As a verse novel, it is a daring breath of fresh air.

Though BULL, like many verse novels, is a quick read and could appeal to many reluctant readers, I would reserve this one for teens older than 13. Some of its language and imagery make it inappropriate for younger verse novel fans. So pick it up for a teen in your life, or maybe even for yourself. And prepare to see the verse novel in a whole new light!