February 12 – It’s National Haiku Writing Month

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About the Holiday

Great things come in small packages, right? Just look at your incredible kids! It’s the same with poetry! The haiku may be the smallest form of poetry, but its three little lines contain enormous heart and insight. Traditionally written with nature themes, haiku now touches on every subject. Poets the world over have designated February as National Haiku Writing Month—also known as NaHaiWriMo. The challenge is to write one haiku a day with a goal to improve their art and share their work. To celebrate this month, try your hand at writing haiku and introduce your littlest readers to these little verses.

H is for Haiku: A Treasury of Haiku from A to Z

Written by Sydell Rosenberg | Illustrated by Sawsan Chalabi

 

In her lovely and delightfully whimsical poems, Sydell Rosenberg holds moments in the palms of her hands, letting readers immerse themselves in the tender, humorous, and wistful flashes of a day before they shift, evolve, or fade away. H is for Haiku begins, appropriately, with Adventure and its dreamy memory for a worn-out kitten as he slumbers.

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Image copyright Sawsan Chalabi, 2018, text copyright Sydell Rosenberg, 2018. Courtesy of Penny Candy Books.

The journey continues as readers meander along a city sidewalk and see a “Boy on a mailbox / perched like a solitary bird / watching the sunset.” Walking on, readers peek into car backseats, queue for ice-cream on a sweaty summer day, and visit a barbershop where you always ask for Xavier. Down country lanes, you’ll spy a pale moon, turn the heads of sunflowers, share bike rides and car rides, and watch as “Munching on acorns / a squirrel sweeps up sunbeams / with her transparent tail.”

Rosenberg’s studied eye for connections makes her poems especially enchanting. Leaves and flowers, birds and insects, rain and thunder interact with those in their midst, adorning hair, scurrying away, playing musical backup, meeting danger, and creating transformations like the one at Y: “Yesterday’s cool rain / left this flat puddle smoothing / the wrinkled leaves.” A trip to the fish market is infused with humor, and an optical illusion makes you look twice at the flamingos in a pond.

Even in her observations of the routine, Rosenberg remind readers that there is music and poetry in common actions. For example, at U we hear: “Up and down the block / homeowners mate the covers / of gusted trash cans.” As a teacher sits grading papers to close out the book, readers can’t be faulted for wishing our alphabet had a few more letters.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-h-is-for-haiku-recorders

Image copyright Sawsan Chalabi, 2018, text copyright Sydell Rosenberg, 2018. Courtesy of Penny Candy Books.

As a teacher Sydell Rosenberg was attuned to the spirit of children, and her sophisticated and fun haiku are particularly accessible for young readers. Touching on a wide range of subjects, Rosenberg invites kids to look and look again. Her keen observations and lilting imagery will inspire them to do just that.

Sawsan Chalabi’s charmingly quirky illustrations and stylized lettering present each poem with dash and personality that will enchant kids. Her delicately lined drawings are infused with vibrancy from a gorgeous color palette. Just like Rosenberg’s haiku, Chalabi’s pages are animated with a love for life that will resonate with kids—and adults.

H is for Haiku would make a terrific gift for poetry lovers and a wonderful addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 11 (and up)

Penny Candy Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-0998799971

Discover more about Sawsan Chalabi and view a portfolio of her work on her website.

Read an interview about Sydell Rosenberg with her daughter Amy Losak, who compiled H is for Haiku and brought it to publication.

Haiku Poetry Day Activity

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Haiku Wall Art

 

The haiku you write deserves to be shared with others! With this easy craft you can display your poem in style.

Supplies

  • Colorful heavy stock paper, 2 or three colors
  • Ribbon
  • Glue or glue dots, or double-sided tape
  • Dowel or wire for hanging
  • Paint to paint the dowel (optional)

Directions

  1. Write a haiku and print the lines on colored paper
  2. Cut the lines apart, making the first and third line shorter than the second line
  3. Glue or tape the lines to the ribbon, leaving about a half inch between them
  4. To make the hangers, fold the tops of the ribbon over and glue or tape it closed
  5. If using a dowel to hold the poem, you can paint it to match or contrast with the paper
  6. Hang the poem from a dowel or wire

 

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You can find H is for Haiku at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Penny Candy Books

Picture Book Review

 

 

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February 6 – It’s Black History Month

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About the Holiday

Black History Month, also known as National African American History Month, celebrates the achievements and contributions of African Americans in United States History. Originally a week-long observance commemorating the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln on February 12 and Frederick Douglass on February 14,  Black History Month was officially established in 1976 by then president Gerald Ford. The holiday is now celebrated across the country with special events and commemorations in schools, churches, and community centers.

I received a copy of A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks from Sterling Children’s Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m excited to be partnering with Sterling in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks

Written by Alice Faye Duncan | Illustrated by Xia Gordon

 

“SING a song for Gwendolyn Brooks. / Sing it loud—a Chicago blues.” This remarkable biography of the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet opens with these soaring lines which introduce eight-year-old Gwendolyn who, seeing a flower in the midst of the city, wonders how it will grow. Already she was observing the world with insight and originality.  “Her head is filled with snappy rhymes. / She writes her poems in dime store journals.” Even something as “simple” as a clock does not escape Gwendolyn’s consideration. In The Busy Clock she writes, in part: “Clock, clock tell the time, / Tell the time to me. / Magic, patient instrument, / That is never free.”

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Image copyright Xia Gordon, 2019, text copyright Alice Faye Duncan, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Out in the neighborhood, she stands quietly and watches the other kids laughing and playing—girls jumping rope and boys playing basketball. Gwendolyn’s father is a janitor and her mother stays at home with her and her brother, who is also her best friend. Gwen spends her time sitting on her porch, looking and listening to the sounds and the conversations of the neighborhood women and men. The “children call Gwen—‘ol’ stuck-up heifer!’”

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Image copyright Xia Gordon, 2019, text copyright Alice Faye Duncan, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

“SING a song for Gwendolyn Brooks. / Her mother believes. / Her father believes. / But sometimes—Gwendolyn doubts her radiance, / When jarring, crashing, discordant words, / Splotch and splatter her notebook paper.” And what does Gwen do with these poems that just don’t work? She buries them under the snowball bush in the backyard. Once, unbelieving, a teacher accuses Gwendolyn of plagiarism. Her mother takes her daughter back to school, and there on the spot, she composes a poetic answer to the charges: Forgive and Forget. It makes Gwen feel proud, she believes in herself and feels the sun shining on her.

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Image copyright Xia Gordon, 2019, text copyright Alice Faye Duncan, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

During the Great Depression, when jobs and money are scarce, Gwendolyn’s “parents are wise and see her light.” They give her time to write and she hones her words and her craft through draft after draft. With each completed poem, Gwen’s confidence grows. The Chicago Defender publishes some of Gwendolyn’s poems, and now she has an audience. Her parents believe that one day their daughter will be a famous poet.

Soon, Gwendolyn finds her way to a group of poets who meet in a South Side community center. She studies under Inez Stark and meets Henry Blakely, who will become her husband. She enters her poems in contests and wins first place over and over. When she and Henry move into their own two-room apartment, Henry goes to work, leaving Gwendolyn to translate the neighborhood into poetry that she types “in a crowded corner.”

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Image copyright Xia Gordon, 2019, text copyright Alice Faye Duncan, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Readers swarm to buy her books. “Gwen paints poems with paintbrush words, / And Gwen takes home a Pulitzer Prize.” Henry and their son celebrate, and Gwen’s parents “…cry tears of joy. / They praise her shine.” For they had always known and had “…Planted love and watered it. / Gwendolyn believed. / She found her light. / And— / A furious flower / GREW!”

An extensive Author’s Note detailing more about the life of Gwendolyn Brooks and her work as well as a timeline and suggested readings follow the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-song-for-gwendolyn-brooks-pulitzer

Image copyright Xia Gordon, 2019, text copyright Alice Faye Duncan, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

With her own sterling verses, Alice Faye Duncan celebrates the life of Gwendolyn Brooks—the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize for Literature—taking readers to the Chicago neighborhoods that informed and inspired Brooks’ ideas and the words and rhythms with which she defined them. Along an arc that takes Gwendolyn from a child contemplating the potential of a flower to becoming that blossom herself, Duncan pays tribute to those who recognized Gwen’s genius and helped her fulfill her talent. For readers who themselves may be poets, writers, or other types of artists, Duncan’s beautifully crafted phrases about the artistic process of revision are inspirational and welcome. Standing side-by-side with Duncan’s storytelling are four of Brooks’ poems—The Busy Clock, Forgive and Forget, Ambition, and the children of the poor—Sonnet #2. From cover to cover, Duncan’s book sings with Gwendolyn Brooks’ positivity, confidence, uniqueness, and love for life that made her a unique voice for her time and always.

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From the portrait of Gwendolyn Brooks that graces the title page and throughout the book, Xia Gordon’s distinctive artwork creates a masterpiece of motion and stillness that mirrors Brooks’ penchant for watching and listening to the sounds and sights that filled her mind and ultimately her notebooks. Downy swoops of violets, pinks, browns, and grays provide backdrops to images of Gwendolyn as a young girl and an adult rendered in lines that show her as down to earth but soaring in her thoughts. Her intelligence and spark shine through on every page. Gwendolyn’s parents appear often, always watchful and supportive. Her friends, her husband, her son, and her readers also populate the pages, giving the book an embracing warmth.

A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks is a must for school, classroom, and public library collections, and for children who are discovering their talents and the parents who nurture them, the book would be an inspirational and invaluable addition to home bookshelves.

Ages 4 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1454930884

Discover more about Alice Faye Duncan and her books on her website.

To learn more about Xia Gordon, her books, and her art, visit her website.

A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Sterling Children’s Books in this Instagram giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks written by Alice Faye Duncan | illustrated by Xia Gordon

It takes just these two steps to enter:

A winner will be chosen on February 12.

Giveaway open to US addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts 

Prizing provided by Sterling Children’s Books.

Black History Month Activity

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My Writing Journal

 

With this easy craft, kids can make a journal that will reflect their personality and inspire them to jot down ideas for poems or stories. 

Supplies

  • Two 9-inch by 6-inch pieces of foam or heavy paper
  • Plain or lined 8½ by 11 paper, as many pieces as you’d like
  • Twine or ribbon
  • Foam letters and objects, stickers, play jewels, or other decorations
  • Small scissor, paper hole puncher, or other instrument to make a hole through the foam and paper

Directions

  1. Fold the plain or lined 8½ by 11 paper in half
  2. Place the paper between the sheets of foam
  3. Make a hole through the foam covers and paper near the top and bottom for the twine to tie the journal together
  4. Slip the twine or ribbon through the holes and tie the journal together
  5. Decorate the cover
  6. Start writing!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-song-for-gwendolyn-brooks-cover

You can find A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Indiebound

Picture Book Review

February 1 – National Freedom Day

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About the Holiday

National Freedom Day commemorates February 1, 1865, the day President Abraham Lincoln signed a joint U.S. House of Representatives and Senate resolution that outlawed slavery. This resolution became the 13th Amendment to the Constitution on December 6, 1865. Major Richard Robert Wright Sr., a former slave, founded the National Freedom Day Association and was instrumental in creating a formal national day of remembrance. The first celebration of National Freedom Day took place in 1942, and in 1947, a year after Wright’s death, the U.S. Congress passed a bill marking February 1 as National Freedom Day. The proclamation was signed into law on June 30, 1948 by President Harry S Truman. The holiday led to Black History Day, which was later expanded to Black History Month.

Lift Every Voice and Sing: A Celebration of the African American National Anthem

Written by James Weldon Johnson | Illustrated by Elizabeth Catlett

 

It has been 120 years since James Weldon Johnson, a principal at Stanton Elementary School in Jacksonville, Florida, wrote a poem to be used in the school’s commemoration ceremony of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. His brother, composer John Rosamond Johnson, set the poem to music. On February 12, 1900, five hundred students performed the song. From that celebration, the song spread, gaining in popularity throughout the South and then throughout the country.

In 1949 the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People adopted Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing as the official African American anthem. The song continues to inspire as it is sung and heard in churches and schools and during times of celebration and protest.

This new edition of Lift Every Voice and Sing brings together Johnson’s stirring poem with stunning black-and-white linocuts by Harlem Renaissance artist Elizabeth Catlett, who created them in the 1940s as part of a series of artworks focusing on black women.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lift-every-voice-and-sing-guitar

Image copyright Elizabeth Catlett, 1993, text by John Weldon Johnson. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

The book opens with these joyful lines punctuated with powerful images. On the first page a woman strums a guitar while beside her there is the image—perhaps it’s a memory or the subject of her song—of a black man being attacked by a klansman while a cross burns nearby. On the second page is a picture of Sojourner Truth with her left hand on a lectern that holds a Bible and her right, index finger extended, pointing skyward. In her eyes there is sadness and confidence and knowledge. “Lift ev’ry voice and sing / Till earth and heaven ring, / Ring with the harmonies of Liberty; // Let our rejoicing rise / High as the listening skies, / Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.”

The poem continues with the exhortation to sing with the faith and hope learned from the past and present. A linocut of black women sitting on a bus behind the “colored only” sign, created by Catlett in 1946, is compelling for its truth and foresight, especially when paired with these lines. But knowing there was still much to do, Johnson encouraged his listeners: “Facing the rising sun of our new day begun / Let us march on till victory is won.” On the left-hand page Harriett Tubman points the way to freedom for escaping slaves—one couple carrying their belongings and their baby—along the Underground Railroad.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lift-every-voice-and-sing-bus

Image copyright Elizabeth Catlett, 1993, text by John Weldon Johnson. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

The song remembers the “stony road” and the “chastening rod” and also the “steady beat…” of “weary feet” that have brought them to a place for which their forefathers died. Johnson sees a brighter future, and Catlett’s linocut of Phyllis Wheatley, a child when she became a slave, writing one of her poems while three women chained together step into the light her example showed. Catlett’s original caption for this piece read: “I’m Phyllis Wheatley. I proved intellectual equality in the midst of slavery.”

The poem then goes on to appeal to God, “who has brought us thus far on the way” to keep them in the right path and in His hand so that “…may we forever stand. True to our GOD, True to our native land.”

Author/illustrator Ashley Bryan—a Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Award winner for Freedom Over Me—provides a poignant Foreword. A short description of the project Elizabeth Catlett undertook after winning a Julius Rosenwald Foundation grant and her original captions for each linocut included in the book as well as the music for Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing follow the text.

An emotionally moving presentation of James Weldon Johnson and John Rosamond Johnson’s poem and song, Lift Every Voice and Sing: A Celebration of the African American National Anthem would make a beautiful thought-provoking and inspirational addition to school, home, and public library collections.

Ages 6 – 12 and up

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1681199559

You can learn more about James Weldon Johnson and read several of his poems on the Poetry Foundation website.

To learn more about Elizabeth Catlett and view some of her artwork, visit the Artnet website.

Discover more about Ashley Bryan, his art, and his writing, visit the Ashley Bryan Center website.

National Freedom Day Activity

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Freedom Stone

 

Freedom is a precious right—one that can be represented in different ways by each person. For today’s activity use a brick, paving stone, large stone, or molded plaster of Paris and decorate it with a picture or design that means freedom to you. Then put it in a special place—in a garden, near your front or back door, in your room, or in another spot—where it will remind you of freedom’s gifts.

Supplies

  • Brick, paving stone, large stone, plaster of Paris
  • Paint
  • Plastic gems, bead, or other small objects
  • Strong glue or other adhesive
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Create a design that shows what freedom means to you or an object that represents freedom to you
  2. Paint your stone with the design, let dry
  3. Add gems, beads, or other objects
  4. Display your Freedom Stone

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lift-every-voice-and-sing-cover

You can find Lift Every Voice and Sing at these booksellers

Amazon | Bloomsbury | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 3 – Random Acts of Poetry Day

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About the Holiday

Are you a poet? Most likely! Inside all of us are poignant moments that tug at our hearts, funny memories that make us laugh, and questions that beg for answers. All of these things are the seeds of poetry! Let these seeds grow by writing down your thoughts. Your ideas don’t have to rhyme or be made up of fancy words to be a poem. Today’s holiday encourages people to publicly share their poetry by grabbing a piece of chalk and writing poems on sidewalks or walls, picking up a pen and composing on paper, or sharing on social media. Rather read poetry than write? Go for it! Find a new or favorite collection of poetry and enjoy! For more ideas on how to celebrate Random Acts of Poetry Day visit Writer’s Digest.

I received a copy of Poetree from Red Deer Press to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be partnering with Red Deer Press in a giveaway of Poetree. See details below.

Poetree

Written by Caroline Pignat | Illustrated by François Thisdale

 

In Caroline Pignat’s remarkable acrostic poems, readers glean fresh insight into the wonderous life of trees as they germinate, thrive, prosper, and even propagate their own legacy. Divided by season, the poems also metaphorically follow the stages of human life from Spring’s youth to Winter’s old age. Pignat offers six poems for each season, which is introduced by a rhyming couplet.

Exquisite, evocative images – leaves described as “Emerald flags” and “Vibrant bunting” and apples as “plump parcels,” – entice readers to look anew at trees, with their singular seeds, intricate foliage, and long-held histories.

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Image copyright François Thisdale, 2018, text copyright Caroline Pignat, 2018. Courtesy of Red Deer Press.

As a buried seed nudges its way upward in springtime, it is simultaneously:

Stretching up

  Higher

  Out

  Of darkness, yearning for

  The sky.”

And

Reaching down deep

  Out

  Of sight, anchoring in

  The

  Soil.”

During summer, the sapling grows stronger and mature trees “beckon buzzing bees” and offer strong support where:

Nature’s nursery keeps

  Each egg

  Safely

  Tucked ‘til mother’s return.”

In Fall it’s reaping time for farmers and for small, diligent creatures:

Nestled

  Underground, another harvest hides,

  Thanks to a busy

  Squirrel.”

As the weather turns cold and leaves fly away,

Brittle bark hugs the

 Aging tree at

 Rest as its sap

 Ebbs.”

But with the coming of spring, the cycle begins anew as once again there is “Amazing growth and wondrous deeds / now promised in these tiny seeds.”

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Image copyright François Thisdale, 2018, text copyright Caroline Pignat, 2018. Courtesy of Red Deer Press.

From the sepia-toned endpaper at the book’s opening—in which a boy carrying a hoe walks past a fog-enshrouded barn—through to the endpaper that closes the book and presents the boy’s home standing silent amid a wintry mix of snow and sleet, François Thisdale recreates the richly textured world of a farm in his double-spread, mixed-media masterpieces. In addition to interpreting the poems, each page gives readers much to see and talk about as life goes on above and underground. Birds, animals, and insects stop by to pluck a worm from the ground, sniff a tender seedling, gather powdery pollen, and prepare for, enjoy, or sleep through winter.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-poetree-mouse

Image copyright François Thisdale, 2018, text copyright Caroline Pignat, 2018. Courtesy of Red Deer Press.

As the seasons change, the boy—always shown in silhouette—matures, becoming an adult in summer, passing through middle age in fall, and growing older in winter. While most of the illustrations depict the natural world, two take children inside the farmhouse where an apple-raspberry pie waits in the cozy fall kitchen, and a nearly-finished puzzle is set up next to a warm radiator while a windy and moonlit night makes a “leafy canvas” of the curtain-less window. The final view of the now-old man walking away near the edge of the page and the last image of a straw hat nestled next to a hewn tree present poignant moments for discussion.

Ages 7 and up

Red Deer Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-0889954922

Discover more about Caroline Pignat and her books on her website.

To learn more about François Thisdale, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Poetree Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Red Deer Press in this giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Poetree, written by Caroline Pignat  | illustrated by François Thisdale
  • To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, October 3 – 9. Already a follower? Thanks! Just retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on October 10.

Giveaway open to US addresses only. | Prizing provided by Red Deer Press.

Random Acts of Poetry Day Activity

CPB - Plant Poem

Grow a Poem Craft

 

A poem often grows in your imagination like a beautiful plant—starting from the seed of an idea, breaking through your consciousness, and growing and blooming into full form. With this craft you can create a unique poem that is also an art piece!

Supplies

  • Printable Leaves Template, available here and on the blog post
  • Printable Flower Template, available here and on the blog post
  • Wooden dowel, ½-inch diameter, available in craft or hardware stores
  • Green ribbon
  • Green craft paint
  • Green paper if leaves will be preprinted
  • Colored paper if flowers will be preprinted
  • Flower pot or box
  • Oasis, clay, or dirt
  • Hole punch
  • Glue
  • Markers or pens for writing words
  • Crayons or colored pencils if children are to color leaves and flowers

Directions

  1. Paint the dowel green, let dry
  2. Print the leaves and flower templates
  3. Cut out the leaves and flowers
  4. Punch a hole in the bottom of the leaves or flowers
  5. Write words, phrases, or full sentences of your poem on the leaves and flowers (you can also write the poem after you have strung the leaves and flowers)
  6. String the leaves and flowers onto the green ribbon (if you want the poem to read from top to bottom string the words onto the ribbon in order from first to last)
  7. Attach the ribbon to the bottom of the pole with glue or tape
  8. Wrap the ribbon around the pole, leaving spaces between the ribbon
  9. Gently arrange the leaves and flowers so they stick out from the pole or look the way you want them to.
  10. Put oasis or clay in the flower pot or box
  11. Stick your poem pole in the pot
  12. Display your poem!

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You can find Poetree at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

September 29 – National Ghost Hunting Day

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About the Holiday

The idea for National Ghost Hunting Day was scared up by the folks at Haunted Travels as a kick off to the season of mystery, thrills, chills, and autumn festivals that culminates in Halloween on October 31. On the last Saturday in September the whole spooky business gets going at The ScareFest in Lexington, Kentucky, as ghost-hunting teams in the United States and worldwide simultaneously investigate paranormal phenomenon in various venues. Participants will be collecting evidence supporting their spectral theories with EMF meters, digital thermometers, handheld and static digital video cameras, audio recorders and computers. To learn more about this holiday and how you can join the fun, visit the National Ghost Hunt website.

Sleeping Bear Press sent me a copy of Mother Ghost to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be partnering with Sleeping Bear Press in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Mother Ghost: Nursery Rhymes for Little Monsters

Written by Rachel Kolar | Illustrated by Roland Garrigue

Can you feel it? The giddy excitement for Halloween is already beginning—and if your kids haven’t started thinking about ghouls and goblins and costumes yet, they will soon! This collection of nursery rhymes with a spooky flair is just the thing to share as the days quickly run to that kid-favorite night. The first poem is the invitation kids are waiting for: “Boys and girls, come trick-or-treat; / The moon is bright, the candy’s sweet. … / … Howl and cackle and shout and cheer / Because Halloween is finally here!”

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Image copyright Roland Garrigue, 2018, courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Kids all remember Mary and the wooly companion she took to school, but during this season she has a new friend. Can you guess who it is? See if you were you right: “Mary had a little ghost; / His face was white as cloud, / And everywhere that Mary went / He followed in his shroud….” How do Mary’s classmates react? How would you?

Back in the day, Miss Muffet may have been afraid of a spider, but not any longer. In fact: “Zombie Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet, / Eating her worms and dirt, / When along came a spider who sat down beside her— / And so she ate him for dessert.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mother-ghost-Mary-had-a-little-ghost

Image copyright Roland Garrigue, 2018, text copyright Rachel Kolar, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

If you ever wonder how Dr. Frankenstein accomplished his marvelous creation, this poem may answer your question: “Frankenstein had a marvelous mind, / And a marvelous mind had he;… / … His three new monsters all came to life / When they felt that electricity; / There’s none so fine as Frankenstein / And his marvelous monsters three!”

And how does all this happy haunting end? You’ll be glad to know that Wee Willie Werewolf will make sure that all little monsters make it home to bed.

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Image copyright Roland Garrigue, 2018, text copyright Rachel Kolar, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

These appropriately numbered thirteen verses are cleverly creepy takes on favorite nursery rhymes for little ghouls and booys. Grisly details, eerie backdrops, and plenty of skeletons, witches, spiders, bats, and monsters serve up super supernatural shivers and laughs for Halloween and beyond. A bit of literary fun can be had in comparing these poems to the original Mother Goose rhymes.

Deep purple skies shroud graveyards, gnarled trees, and haunted houses as wispy specters, sly skeletons, and toothy monsters run rampant through hill and dale. Each two-page illustration is a gloriously ghastly reimagining of Mother Goose with details that the zombie- and vampire-loving set will love to pore over.

Whether Rachel Kolar’s Mother Ghost is read in small bites or swallowed whole, kid’s will dig hearing these poems again and again. It’s a book that will resonate past Halloween, and would be a fun addition to home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363926

Discover more about Rachel Kolar and her writing for children and adults on her website.

Mother Ghost: Nursery Rhymes for Little Monsters Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Sleeping Bear Press in this giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Mother Ghost: Nursery Rhymes for Little Monsters written by Rachel Kolar | illustrated by Roland Garrigue

To be entered to win, just Follow Sleeping Bear Books on Twitter and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, September 29 – October 5. Already a follower of Sleeping Bear? Then just retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on October 6.

Giveaway open to US addresses only. | Prizing provided by Sleeping Bear Press.

National Ghost Hunting Day Activity

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Ghostly Coloring Pages 

 

You don’t have to go far to enjoy a bit of ghostly fun. Here are two printable coloring pages for you to enjoy!

Cute Ghost Coloring Page | Haunted Mansion Coloring Page

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You can find Mother Ghost: Nursery Rhymes for Little Monsters at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 1 – National No Rhyme (nor Reason) Day

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate a group of unsung members of the English vocabulary world—those words that are so unique in sound that they’ll never be invited to join a rhyming poem or be chosen to play in a rhyming picture book. Since these words may never find themselves in a funny birthday or holiday card or rounding out the lines of a celebratory song, someone thought they needed a day of their own, and today is it! Today, have fun with words, and remember that being last in line isn’t really the most important thing!

Nothing Rhymes with Orange

By Adam Rex

 

As the book opens, readers meet two smiling friends—an apple and a pear who ask the jaunty and rhyming question: “Who wouldn’t travel anywhere to get an apple or a pear?” A little purple fruit joins the fun with “And if a chum hands you a plum, be fair and share that tasty treat!” From the sidelines an orange watches in anticipation like a child waiting to leap into a twirling jump rope. When the banana and peach arrive, enjoying a beachside cabana, the orange takes the initiative and calls out, “Hey, are you guys going to need me for this book?”

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Copyright Adam Rex, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books

But the action continues with caped grapes and a kind of high-fiving dance party where all the cute fruit are cheering themselves on. The persistent orange peeks out from the background just to remind them that he’s there. As the fig admits that she’s not very big, the orange begins to catch on to the pattern of invitations, and his once-present grin begins to fade. With a shrug he acknowledges that “nothing rhymes with me, but…” he’d still like to be included.

If nearly getting sucker punched by a “peewee” kiwi’s “pucker punch” counts as being included, then the orange is front and center. But then a cantaloupe riding an antelope enters the scene with a dietary suggestion.”If you aren’t a fan of cantaloupe, then feed it to an antelope.” Not a fan of that rhyme? Well…the orange agrees with you, and he’s a little unsure about the quince on the next page too. But…back to the dance party, where all the newly introduced “cute fruit” are now cutting the rug.

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Copyright Adam Rex, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books

The produce seem to be losing control as they reach for rhymes. I mean, “you can keep them in a bowl or in a boot—fruit!” Really? Is it actually a good idea to eat out of a shoe? Poor Orange doesn’t “even know what that is.” Want a little philosophy with your fruit? Then try this on for size: “I think cherries are ‘the berries’ and a lychee is just peachy. Thus Spoke Zarathustra is a book by Friedrich Nietzsche.” Impressive!

That bit of nonsense just makes Orange mad, though. As Nietzsche throws his hands in the air and joins the festivities, Orange is nonplussed: “I don’t see why he’s in this poem and I’m not.” Good question! And now the banana again?! Didn’t he already have his turn? And the pear? Didn’t she get to lead the whole thing off? Maybe this is one of those circular plots…. Whoa! Here’s a twist—a wolf wants to take a bite of Pear. 

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Copyright Adam Rex, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books

But suddenly a transformation takes place that brings up some pretty deep questions: “then does that pear become a pearwolf when the moon is full and bright? Will the apple have to grapple with this pear with fangs and hair?” Now that the story has gone to the dark side, the orange decides he’s “glad he’s not part of it.” Yet, wait! A caped grape comes to the rescue, and Orange realizes that “this book is amazing.”

The cute fruit party is in full swing with a band, a singer, and a whole lot of dancing. The rhymes are coming fast and furious—some a bit better than others, according to Orange—and he decides to just hang out on the next page. There, though, as he stands alone and dejected and surrounded by lots of white space, Orange hears a cheery sound. It’s Apple with a welcoming rhyme: “But the fruit are feeling rotten, ‘cause there’s someone they’ve forgotten.” And while what Apple says next might not technically be a real word, it does the job with a little hip-hop beat: “It’s the orange. He’s really smorange. There’s no one quite as smorange as orange.”

This, of course, could go either way, so Orange asks for a little clarification and discovers that “smorange” means “totally awesome in every way.” And with that, the jam continues, with Smorange Orange out in front.

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Copyright Adam Rex, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books

Adam Rex’s cool, funny, and sophisticated riff uses the fact that the word orange has no rhyme to explore the ideas of exclusion and inclusion and show readers that there’s always a way to embrace others and make them feel good and part of the group. 

Rex has created very appealing characters in Orange and the others. Without a mean seed in their bodies, they’re just having fun and being a bit silly. In a very welcome plot turn, Apple and the other fruit recognize that Orange feels left out and come to him with a solution. Rex’s vivacious fruit are as cute as they think they are, and little Orange is endearing with his alternately easy smile and sad eyes. The addition of a dancing Friedrich Nietzsche is genius and will have both kids and adults laughing.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-nothing-rhymes-with-orange-apple-and-pear

Copyright Adam Rex, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books

Nothing Rhymes with Orange is a fantastic read-aloud for home and classroom story times. The book would be a much-asked-for favorite and would make a perfect gift or addition to home libraries.

Ages 5 – 8

Chronicle Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1452154435

You’ll have a blast exploring the world of Adam Rex on his website!

National No Rhyme (nor Rhyme) Day Activity

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Nothing Rhymes with . . . Word Search

 

Can you find the twenty-five English words that have no rhyme in this printable word search puzzle?

Nothing Rhymes with . . . Word Search PuzzleNothing Rhymes with . . . Word Search Solution

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You can find Nothing Rhymes with Orange at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 28 – National Bow Tie Day

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About the Holiday

We’ve all learned about the 30-year war in school, but I bet your teacher never mentioned that world-side use of the bow tie was one of the results. It seems the Croatian soldiers used a bow tie to close the collars of their shirts. The idea caught on, and, later, French tobacco magnate Pierre Lorillard wore a bow tie to a Tuxedo Club event. The black-and-white fashion statement gained popularity, and bow ties took off in all kinds of colorful, wacky, and iconic ways.

Bow-Tie Pasta: Acrostic Poems

Written by Brian P. Cleary | Illustrated by Andy Rowland

 

Acrostics are special nuggets of information or creativity formed by using the letters of a word to begin each new sentence. Writing poems in acrostic style takes thought and ingenuity—and that’s just what Brian P. Cleary offers in his twenty-seven poems that tackle all kinds of subjects, from pirates to spiders to sharks, from holidays to colors to food, and from people to places to things.

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Image copyright Andy Rowland, 2015, text copyright Brian P. Cleary, 2015. Courtesy of Millbrook Press.

Bow-Tie Pasta riffs on the wearable and edible types of bow ties and comes to a conclusion we can all digest: “Blue gingham / Orange striped / White formal / Tartan plaid / Irish shamrocks / Embroidered stars / Polka dots / Argyle / Silky yellow / Tweed / Awful tasting.”

In Piano, a boy wistfully watches a parade go by: “Parading down Main Street / Is a sea of red-uniformed players of flute / And clarinet and drum / Navigating their way through confetti and applause / Only wish that I could march with my instrument.”

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Image copyright Andy Rowland, 2015, text copyright Brian P. Cleary, 2015. Courtesy of Millbrook Press.

A Rainy Day inspires another clever verse: Reading in a cozy nook / Asking for another book / I made cookies by the sheet / Next they cool. I dunk and eat. / Yo-yo, board games, watch the rain, / Draw a face inside each pane. / Afterwards I make s’mores. / Yes, I love the great indoors.”

Fish aficionados may want to heed the warning in Piranha: Peering into my aquarium, / I spy the fish with two rows of / Razor-sharp teeth. / As he swims towards my tapping finger / Near the top of the tank’s glass, / He serves as a reminder that there / Are some pets you should never pet.

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Image copyright Andy Rowland, 2015, text copyright Brian P. Cleary, 2015. Courtesy of Millbrook Press.

For those who like their poems non-fiction, Triceratops reveals some fascinating facts about this prehistoric favorite: Two hard horns and a third soft one that’s / Really a snout made from soft proteins. / Inside its mouth: 200 to 800 teeth. / Can you imagine the dentist appointments? / Extinct, so none are living. / Rumored to be a slow walker. / Ate only plants. / T. rex wanted to have it for lunch. / Older than your parents and even your teacher! / Popular in dinosaur movies. / Seen last alive: 65 million years ago.

Just waiting for kids are more acrostics about some of their favorite things, such as fire trucks, snack time, lacrosse, Halloween, giggling, the library, and jokes. There’s even an acrostic poem explaining what acrostic poems are!

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Image copyright Andy Rowland, 2015, text copyright Brian P. Cleary, 2015. Courtesy of Millbrook Press.

Brian P. Cleary’s supple wit and word play turn words into poems and poems into new ways of looking at his subjects. Young readers will laugh at his observations and juxtapositions and be tempted to try writing an acrostic poem of their own.

Andy Rowland accompanies each poem with bright, amusing illustrations that highlight the humor and “ah-ha!” moments of the verses. A boy tries to chew down the contents of a plate piled high with cloth bow ties of every color and pattern, a triceratops visits the dentist, kids go trick or treating with an green alien, the state of Kansas stretches out like a patchwork quilt, and a boy and girl toast marshmallows on a rainy day. Along the way readers also meet a wiener dog sporting a bun and ketchup, a toothy shark, and a rather sly spider.

For kids who love poetry and humor Bow-Tie Pasta: Acrostic Poems is a winner. The book is also perfect for classroom poetry units and fun library story times.

Ages 6 – 10

Millbrook Press, 2015 | ISBN 978-1467781077

Have a blast exploring all the nooks and crannies of Brian P. Cleary’s website!

Learn more about Andy Rowland on his website!

National Bow Tie Day Activity

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Colorful Bow Ties

 

Bow ties come in all colors and patterns. Here is a printable Colorful Bow Ties page for you to decorate! You can then use your bow ties to play the game below!

Alternate Match the Bow Ties Game:

  1. Print two sheets of the Colorful Bow Ties page
  2. Color the bow ties to make matching pairs
  3. Cut the bow ties into separate cards
  4. Turn them face down and scramble them
  5. Turn one of the cards over and try to find its match. If the two ties are not the same, turn them face down and try again
  6. Keep playing until all the bow ties have been matched.

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You can find Bow-Tie Pasta: Acrostic Poetry at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review