April 19 – Banana Day

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About the Holiday

It seems people are somewhat split on this most appealing holiday—is it a day for enjoying the tasty tropical fruit or a day for goofing off? Why not do both?! Bananas offer plenty of nutrition and flavor in their own tidy, take-along package, and they’ve been the subject of humorous skits as long as people have been tossing the peels to the ground. Today, grab a bunch and head out to have some fun at a park, playground, shoreline, or even back deck near you!  

Bananas in My Ears: A Collection of Nonsense Stories, Poems, Riddles, and Rhymes

Written by Michael Rosen | Illustrated by Quentin Blake

 

Things may go from the ridiculous to the sublime or from the sublime to the ridiculous, but the rhymes, stories, poems, and jokes in this collection are both ridiculous and sublime. Divided into four sections—The Breakfast Book, The Seaside Book, The Doctor Book, and The Bedtime Book—these bite-sized tales will nibble at your funny bone.

Each book includes six to seven short pieces that humorously reveal the inner workings of familial and community relationships. Recurring titles “What if…,” “Things We Say,” and “Nat and Anna” sibling stories tie the books together. The tone for Bananas in My Ears is set with aplomb in the very first offering, “Breakfast Time,” which reveals the chaos of early morning with its spilled milk, banging trash cans, pets on the table, school clothes ruined, and “I think I’m going crazy!” shenanigans. 

“What If…” (Breakfast Book) combines kids’ natural penchant for rhyming with their unbounded imagination and a bit of stream-of-consciousness to boot. Just as a little boy is to bite into a piece of toast, he has this thought: “What if / a piece of toast turned into a piece of ghost / just as you were eating it / and you thought you were going to sink your / teeth into a lovely crunchy piece of hot toast / and butter and instead this cold wet feeling / jumps into your mouth / going, / ‘Whoooooooooooooooooooo!’ / right down into your stomach…”

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Image copyright Quentin Blake, text copyright Michael Rosen, 2012. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Adding speech bubbles and expressive art to commonly used phrases in “Things We Say” transforms throw-off lines like “My hair’s a mess,” “Look what I found,” “You can’t lie there all morning,” and “Now what seems to be the trouble?” into self-deprecating humor all can relate to.

Four stories of Nat and his older sister Anna zero in on particular moments that illuminate the sibling relationship, At once opposed and in sync, Nat and Anna negotiate moments in which Anna is put in charge of watching Nat at breakfast with topsy-turvy results; a frightening story that Anna tells Nat about jellyfish somehow backfires; a trip to the doctor turns into a competition about future professions; and a “who’s-on-first” type banter allows Anna to enjoy some alone time.

“Three Girls” is a clever take on outwitting-an-ogre tales. Three girls walking on the beach come across a cave. One girl goes in and “sees a pile of gold sitting on the rocks, so she thinks, ‘Yippee, gold, all for me!’ And she steps forward to pick it up and a great big voice booms out ‘I’m the ghost of Captain Cox. All that gold stays on the rocks.’” Afraid, she runs out of the cave. The second girl is braver. She enters the cave, sees the gold, hears the same booming voice and is also chased away. Undeterred, the third girl walks into the cave, sees the gold, and hears the booming voice of Captain Cox. Instead of running away, however, she says, “‘I don’t care. I’m the ghost of Davy Crocket, and all that gold goes in my pocket.’” With her treasure secured she hightails it out to join her friends.

Among other fun stories in this volume are: “These Two Children,” with a lively recitation of familiar bedtime routines; “Fooling Around,” that offers light rhymes on children’s names; and another “What If” (the Breakfast Book) that will have kids cracking up —“What if / hard-boiled eggs turned into hard-boiled legs / just when your dad was eating his egg / and he says, / ‘Hey, what’s this?’…”

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Image copyright Quentin Blake, text copyright Michael Rosen, 2012. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Michael Rosen understands, as kids do, that sometimes nonsense makes perfect sense and that even the commonplace is quite absurd when you think about it. This collection of witticisms is sure to resonate with children. Just hand a child this book and get ready for giggles—and, oh yes, adults will chuckle too.

In his colorful pen and ink drawings the inimitable Quentin Blake enlivens each piece with rakish kids, wide-eyed parents, sloppy messes, bouncing, jumping joy, and all the silliness that contributes to having a great day. “An accident waiting to happen” doesn’t begin to describe the bedlam ensuing in “What Happens Next?” as each character and object is set up to play their part in an oh-so-human game of dominoes. Kids will love seeing themselves and the world around them so candidly drawn, and adults will appreciate the whimsical sophistication of the same.

Ages 5 and up

Candlewick Press, 2012 | ISBN 978-0763662486

Banana Day Activity

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Banana Banana Bread recipe, courtesy of allrecipes.com.

Banana Banana Bread

 

How can you go wrong with a recipe that includes so many bananas they have to be listed twice in the name? You can’t! This simple, yet delicious banana bread from Allrecipes satisfies the munchies at breakfast or snack time! Try it toasted—you’ll be sure to cheer B-A-N-A-N-A-S! Click here to begin enjoying Allrecipes Banana Banana Bread.

Picture Book Review

April 17 – International Haiku Poetry Day

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About the Holiday

We all know about the 5-7-5 rule of haiku poetry: the first line contains 5 syllables, the second line consists of 7 syllables, and the third line follows with 5 syllables. It seems easy as we count off the sounds on our fingers while we compose and say them. But haiku poems are so much more than the sum of their syllables. In those tiny nuggets of language are poignant emotions, unique observations of nature, and life’s wisdom. To celebrate today, read some haiku from the masters—or try your hand at this beautiful form of poetry.

Hi, Koo! A Year of Seasons

By Jon J Muth

 

Jon J Muth’s beloved Zen panda, Koo, tumbles into a year of poignant, funny, and surprising kid-inspired moments in this lighthearted and spirited collections of haiku. As Hi, Koo opens, the gentle panda reaches for a golden, falling leaf that seems to be racing others as they softly plummet to earth. With his paw stretched into the air, Koo wonders, “Autumn, / are you dreaming / of new clothes?”

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Image and text copyright Jon J Muth, 2014, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

As autumn turns blustery and rainy, Koo strolls outside with his umbrella, taking time to spin and twirl and recreate an iconic pose of joy on a lamp post before returning home. Koo licks his lips remembering his day: “Dance through cold rain / then go home / to hot soup.”

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Image and text copyright Jon J Muth, 2014, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

With winter come snow and mysteries and irresistible impishness. Rising from the piles of white fluff, a traffic sign is a tempting target: “snowball hits the stop sign / Heart beats faster / are we in trouble?” The storm leaves snowbanks hip-high on Koo—but smaller creatures? “In the snow / this cat vanishes / Just ears…and twitching tail.”

Winter’s early nightfalls and dusting snow showers invite quiet play and contemplation as “shadows getting Long / snowfall flutters around / the outside lamps.”

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Image and text copyright Jon J Muth, 2014, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

Finally, warm weather soothes the sky, bringing “New leaves / new grass new sky! / spring.” The reawaking world inspires long walks in the lush forest, complete with food for the mind and little friends: “Reading aloud / a favorite book / an audience of sparrows.” But sometimes a step goes wrong, triggering a twinge of remorse that sensitive readers will recognize: “killing a bug / afterward / feeling alone and Sad.”

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Image and text copyright Jon J Muth, 2014, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

Summer ousts all remnants of the coolness of spring, offering gleeful freedom both day and night. The deep,  inky skies provide a backdrop to “Tiny lights / garden full of blinking stars / fireflies.” On a trip to the shore, even the sea becomes a playmate: “Water catches / every thrown stone / skip-skip splash!”

As autumn promises to roll around again, it is time to ponder another year. Just you “becoming so quiet / Zero sound / only breath.”

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Image and text copyright Jon J Muth, 2014, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

In his introductory Author’s Note, Jon J Muth discusses the haiku form, which originated in Japan and “was made up of seventeen sound parts called on—divided into three lines with five, then seven, then five on. He reveals that English syllables and on are not equal and that haiku directly translated into English are often shorter than the 5-7-5 lines we are used to. In Hi, Koo! Muth employs this looser structure, capturing an instant in time “using sensory images.”

Muth’s verses will delight readers with their wisdom, wit, and winks to fleeting childhood ideas and actions that tend to be remembered long afterward—even into adulthood. Muth’s lovely watercolors—snapshots in various perspectives—tenderly depict the magical moments that make up a child’s year.

Ages 4 – 8

Scholastic Press, 2014 | ISBN 978-0545166683

International Haiku Poetry Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bookworm-bookmark

Friendly Bookworm Bookmark

 

If you love to read and write, you might think of yourself as a bookworm! Here’s a printable Friendly Bookworm Bookmark to keep you company while you read and mark your page when you have to be away.

Picture Book Review

April 6 – It’s National Poetry Month

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About the Holiday

National Poetry Month was established in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets to highlight the achievements of poets, past and present; to promote the reading and writing of poetry in schools and by individuals; and to encourage people to discover the joys poetry can bring all year round. Poetry Month is now celebrated in April in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain, with other countries holding their own events during other times of the year.

A Song About Myself: A Poem by John Keats

Written by John Keats | Illustrated by Chris Raschka

 

1

“There was a naughty Boy, / A naughty boy was he, / He would not stop at home, / He could  not quiet be—” So this adventurous boy packed his knapsack with “a Book / Full of vowels / And a shirt / With some towels—” He added a comb and a brush, a cap to protect himself both day and night, and an extra pair of stockings for when the old ones got threadbare. With his knapsack buckled on tight, the little boy headed North

2

“There was a naughty Boy, / A naughty boy was he, / For nothing would he do / But scribble poetry—” With ink stand and pen he ran away “to the mountains / And fountains / And ghostes / And Postes / And witches / And ditches.” In the winter he wrote with his coat on, not fearing contracting gout; and when the weather was warm, he abandoned his coat while he captured the charm of the North.

3

“There was a naughty Boy, / A naughty boy was he, / He kept little fishes / In washing tubs three.” Not fearing the maid’s or his granny’s displeasure, this mischievous boy would rise with the sun “And go / By hook or crook / To the brook” to catch minnows “The size / of a nice / Little Baby’s / Little fingers—” These tiny darters swam in his bucket—“A Kettle / Of Fish a pretty Kettle / A Kettle!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-song-about-myself-to-the-mountains

Copyright Chris Raschka, courtesy of Candlewick, 2017

4

“There was a naughty Boy, / A naughty boy was he, / He ran away to Scotland / The people for to see— / Then he found / That the ground / Was as hard, / That a yard / Was as long, / That a song / Was as merry,… /…That a door / Was as wooden / As in England—” Which made him think. “So he stood in his shoes / And he wonder’d, / He wonder’d / He stood in his shoes / And he wonder’d.”

In an Illustrator’s Note, Chris Raschka reveals that John Keats—one of the greatest romantic poets—wrote this poem in a letter to his sister, Fanny, while he was walking through Scotland on a tour that he imagined would inspire “the grand poetry that he knew was inside him.”

This quirky poem that follows the travails and travels of a little boy filled with wanderlust, a gift for writing, and insight beyond his years is a perfect match for Chris Raschka’s art. Topsy-turvy perspectives, vivid colors, and evocative and action-packed vignettes beautifully represent the boy’s “naughtiness” and precocious imagination. As he dashes across the yard, his house—red capped and with a mustache-shaped lintel over the door—seems to watch through window eyes; the boy’s mighty pen stands taller than he is; and ghosts, witches, castles, and fountains are framed in the hills that he passes on his journey. Bold swatches of yellow, green, and red that split the pages in half serve as directional arrows, roads, and verse dividers while also leading readers to the book’s final wisdom.

Kids will find it fun to explore the endpapers that present a bird’s-eye-view of the expanse from Scotland to New York over “Much Water.”

A Song About Myself: A Poem by John Keats is a joyous treat that celebrates the whimsy of childhood and the wonders of the imagination. For poetry lovers or those who enjoy a good story, this book would make a charming gift or addition to home bookshelves.

Ages 6 – 10

Candlewick, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763650902

You can view a gallery of artwork by Chris Raschka on tumblr!

National Poetry Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-reading-bug-bookmark

I Have the Reading Bug Bookmark

 

If you love reading, then print out this I Have the Reading Bug Bookmark that can mark your page with style! For a sturdier bookmark, print on card stock or heavy paper.

Picture Book Review

March 21 – World Poetry Day

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About the Holiday

Sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), World Poetry Day celebrates one of the world’s oldest and most treasured forms of linguistic expression. On this day we honor the poets who translate physical beauty into words, expose social injustice in heartrending verse, and make us laugh with quirky juxtapositions. To celebrate the holiday, attend a poetry reading, revisit poems from your favorite author or discover a new writer, or pen a poem yourself!

enormous SMALLNESS: A Story of E. E. Cummings

Written by Matthew Burgess | Illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo

 

Hello! Welcome to 4 Patchin Place, the home of poet E. E. Cummings! This is where he wrote his poetry on a clackety typewriter, stopping only for tea poured out by the love of his life, Marion Moorehouse. How did he become a poet? That is an interesting story! E. E. was born Edward Estlin Cummings on October 14, 1894 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His house was full of extended family, a handyman, a maid, and several pets. From an early age he loved to translate the things he saw into words. “His first poem flew out of his mouth when he was only three: “‘Oh, my little / birdie, Oh / with his little / toe, toe, toe!’”

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Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, text copyright Matthew Burgess. Courtesy of Enchanted Lion Books

Estlin’s mother wrote down all the poems he told her and made a little book of them, titled “‘Estlin’s Original Poems.’” When he was six, he expressed his love of nature in a poem about trees, and when his mother asked him what else he saw, he “looked around as if his eyes were on tiptoes and when his heart jumped he said another poem: “‘On the chair is sitting / Daddy with his book. / Took it from the bookcase / Beaming in his look.’”

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Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, text copyright Matthew Burgess. Courtesy of Enchanted Lion Books

As he grew, Estlin was fascinated by the animals he saw at the circus and in the zoo. He drew pictures of them and wrote about them, using the words he loved so well—and even making up his own words. Estlin had a zest for life and for making life fun for himself and his little sister. During the summers, the family traveled to Joy Farm in New Hampshire, where Estlin swam, milked the cow, rode a donkey, and wandered through the fields and forest. His father had built him a little log cabin in the woods, and in the afternoons Estlin went there to draw and write. At home he also had a special place all his own. In an enormous tree his father built a tree house, complete with stove to keep him warm on cold days.

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Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, text copyright Matthew Burgess. Courtesy of matthewjohnburgess.com

Estlin had support for his writing at school too. His favorite teacher encouraged him saying, “anything is possible, / as long as you are true to yourself / and never give up, even when the world / seems to say, stop!” From his Uncle George, Estlin received a guide to writing poems. Estlin followed the rules in the book, penning poems nearly every day. When Estlin was 17 he attended Harvard College and began publishing his poems in the school’s magazines. While at Harvard, Estlin realized he had to follow his heart to be happy. He wanted to be like the new artists who were shaping the world—people like Gertrude Stein, Paul Cezanne, and Igor Stravinsky, “artists who were,” he once said, “challenging the way we think and see.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-enormous-smallness-paris

Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, text copyright Matthew Burgess. Courtesy of Enchanted Lion Books

After he graduated, Estlin returned home, but when he had saved enough money he moved to New York and fell in love with the city immediately. He and his friends took in everything new the city had to offer. Soon, however, the United States entered World War II. On April 17, 1917 Estlin volunteered to be an ambulance driver in France. Before he received his assignment, though, he had time to explore Paris. He was “bowled over by the museums, the ballet, and the colorful, crowded streets.” He enjoyed the city so much he returned often during his lifetime.

During the war, Estlin was mistaken for a spy and sent to prison for several months. After the war he wrote a book about his experiences titled The Enormous Room by E. E. Cummings. “The book was published and praised! Estlin was becoming E. E.!” A year later he published his first book of poetry—Tulips & Chimneys. In his poems he experimented with punctuation and using lower case letters instead of capitals.

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Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, text copyright Matthew Burgess. Courtesy of matthewjohnburgess.com

Through his fanciful typography, E. E. “wanted his reader’s eyes to be on tiptoes too, seeing and reading poetry (inaway) that was new.” But some people didn’t understand or like his poetry; it was too strange and too small, they said. But E. E. knew he had to stay true to himself. He believed that “his poems were new and true” and “were his way of saying YES” to everything he loved. As time went on more and more people began to “see the beauty of E. E.’s poetry, and he became one of the most beloved poets in America.”

E. E. Cummings lived and worked at 4 Patchin Place for almost 40 years, but in his mind he would often return to his childhood home. He “could still see himself as a boy gazing out at the sunset”—a memory that he put into words: who are you,little i / (five or six years old) / peering from some high / window;at the gold / of November sunset / (and feeling:that if day has to become night / this is a beautiful way)”

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Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, text copyright Matthew Burgess. Courtesy of matthewjohnburgess.com

Simply put, Matthew Burgess’s enormous SMALLNESS: A Story of E. E. Cummings is a biography that will make you smile. Upbeat and full of the wonder and whimsy that influenced Estlin Cummings’ prodigious talent, the story encourages readers to always follow their heart. Burgess’s easy-going, conversational style invites kids along on the journey of Cumming’s life, stopping off at points that resonate with kids—early imaginary play, school, family vacations, home life, college, travel, and ultimate success. Seeing the support Cummings received throughout his life will inspire young readers just starting out on their own roads of discovery.

Kris Di Giacomo’s enchanting illustrations will immediately capture the imagination of readers. The playful quality of Cummings’ personality and poems is mirrored in each spread as a variety of children’s drawings and typography are sprinkled throughout. As six-year-old Estlin composes poems for his mother, he stands on tiptoe in his nightshirt surrounded by toys; he experiences life from rooftop and treetop and gazes into the night from his tree house; New York lights up with fireworks and the lights of Broadway; and his poems spring from the pages in their own inimitable way.

For children interested in writing, biographies, history, the arts, and the life of the imagination, enormous SMALLNESS: A Story of E. E. Cummings is a perfect choice for their home bookshelves.

A chronology of E. E. Cummings’ life, five poems, and an Author’s Note follow the text.

Ages 4 – 9

Enchanted Lion Publishing, 2015 | ISBN 978-1592701711

To learn more about Matthew Burgess, his books, and his poetry, visit his website!

View a gallery of illustration by Kris Di Giacomo on her website!

World Poetry Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-grow-a-poem-craft

 

 

Grow a Poem

 

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
  • Printable Flower Template
  • Wooden dowel, 36-inch-long, ½-inch diameter, available in craft or hardware stores
  • Green ribbon, 48 inches long
  • Green craft paint
  • Green paper for printing leaves (white paper if children would like to color the leaves)
  • Colored paper for printing flowers (white paper if children would like to color the flowers)
  • 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 leaf and flower templates
  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. Move 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!

Picture Book Review

February 7 – It’s Haiku Writing Month

The Maine Coon's Haiku and Other Poems for Cat Lovers by Michael J. Rosen and Lee White picture book review

About the Holiday

National Haiku Writing Month—also known as NaHaiWriMo—encourages poets and poetry lovers to write one haiku a day for the entire month of February. Why was February chosen for this literary challenge? Perhaps the fact that the haiku is the shortest form of poetry and February is the shortest form of month makes them natural allies. While a haiku may be short, it is full of emotion and impact, not unlike its host month. If you have haiku inside of you, write them down and share them with others!

The Maine Coon’s Haiku and Other Poems for Cat Lovers

Written by Michael J. Rosen | Illustrated by Lee White

 

Fortunately for poetry—and cat—lovers there are as many types of felines as there are ways to describe them. With wit and keen insight, this collection of haiku depicts the mystery, stealth, crouching, and curiosity of twenty breeds of cats.

The remains of a shredded plant elicits an unanswerable question in Ragdoll: “why today the cat / who sleeps beneath the ivy / halved the blameless hearts.”

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Image copyright Lee White, text copyright Michael J. Rosen. Courtesy of Candlewick Press

Any cat owner who finds vases or lamps overturned will appreciate Siamese: “a toppled lamp shade / moon moth must be here somewhere / batted from the dark.” It is commonly known that cats own their domain, a fact acknowledged in British Shorthair: “paws plant mud-daisies / along the polished hillside / parked on the cat’s street.”

In these lines felines become baseball players, gymnasts, ghosts, and mist, as in Bombay: “paired shadows prowling / in nightfall, but just two lights / pierce that darkness” and Norwegian Forest Cat: “caught among branches / fog descends the trunk headfirst / one foot at a time.”

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Image copyright Lee White, text copyright Michael J. Rosen. Courtesy of Candlewick Press

While the haiku form is necessarily rigid, the supple rhythms of Michael Rosen’s phrases perfectly capture the vast array of quirks, moves, attitudes, and friskiness that make cats such favorite pets. These poems are in turn sweet, spirited, and humorous—just like their subjects.

Lee White similarly highlights the bounding, creeping, prowling, and snoozing postures of all manner and colors of the breeds represented here. The Turkish Angora, stealthily creeping across a room, is painted as transparent as it leaps through the door, becoming more opaque as it reaches mid-page and disappearing from the edge of the book, leaving only its back end behind. The Abyssinian plunks its head and whole body across the open book on its owner’s lap, its eyes closed in dreamy sleep, and the Scottish Fold indomitably maintains its perch in the magnolia tree, determined not to fall like the raining petals.

Ages 5 and up (any cat lover will enjoy these poems)

Candlewick Press, 2015 | ISBN  978-0763664923

Get to know Michael J. Rosen and discover books for kids and adults, poems, videos, work for radio and TV, and more on his website!

View a beautiful gallery of artwork for books and personal illustration by Lee White on his website!

Haiku Writing Month Activity

CPB - Cat Bookmark (2)

Hang in there, Kitty! Bookmark

 

Do you love to read? Do you love to write? If you said yes to either or both of these questions, then here is a kitty that wants to hang out with you! 

Supplies

  • Printable Hang in there, Kitty! bookmark template
  • Card stock paper
  • Colored pencils, crayons, or markers
  • Scissors

Directions

  1. Print the Hang in there, Kitty! bookmark (printing on card stock will make a sturdier bookmark)
  2. Color the bookmark
  3. Cut around the toes of the front paws, leaving the top of the paws attached to make flaps that will hang over the page you want to mark

Picture Book Review

January 23 – National Pie Day

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About the Holiday

National Pie day is perfect for…well…pie! Whether you love fruity pies or meat pies, pies with lattice tops or crumble crusts this day is for you! There’s only one true way to celebrate—make or buy your favorite kind of pie and enjoy! 

Edgar Allan Poe’s Pie: Math Puzzlers in Classic Poems

Written by J. Patrick Lewis | Illustrated by Michael Slack

 

There’s something about poetry with its iambic pentameters, feet, meter, sonnets, couplets, and more countable qualities that just seems to lend itself to math. J. Patrick Lewis must have thought so too because he penned a clever volume of poems inspired by well-known verses. First up is Edgar Allan Poe’s Apple Pie, which is inspired by “The Raven” and begins: “Once upon a midnight rotten, / Cold, and rainy, I’d forgotten / All about the apple pie / Still cooling from the hour before.” But now, even though there is a “knocking, knocking…” at the door, the narrator takes up a knife and slices the night with a cutting question, only to hear the stranger’s mysterious clue “‘Never four!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-edgar-allan-poe's-apple-pie-hotdog

Image copyright Michael Slack, text copyright J. Patrick Lewis. Courtesty slackart.com

All the narrator of Emily Dickenson’s Telephone Book, inspired by “My Life Closed Twice Before its Close,” wants to do after napping is to find a certain phone number in her directory, but where is it? She knew where it was before she went to bed—in fact its “two opposing pages / that added up to 113— / Were smudged around the edges—” but now she’s so confused…. Can you help?

Those who think that “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” has no link to underwear possibly are not aware of Robert Frost’s Boxer Shorts, in which the lilt and the rhythm of the original are perfectly matched in a priceless, pricey puzzle that ends “My tightie whities look so sad. / My tightie whities look so sad.” How can you resist?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-edgar-allan-poe's-apple-pie-hippo

Image copyright Michael Slack, text copyright J. Patrick Lewis. Courtesty slackart.com

You may know about William Carlos Williams’s red wheelbarrow and where it stood, but what if that handy implement was replaced by a… “fifteen-inch square pizza” that is missing “nineteen and a half pieces”?! Well, there may not be any rainwater glaze, but it sure does make for a delicious arithmetic conundrum in William Carlos Williams’s Pizza.

You’re eating up these poems, aren’t you? Well, next come three poems in which termites, sharks, and a “hippo-po-tah-tum” do a bit of nibbling of their own. The fun multiplies in Ogden Nash’s Buggy Rugs, where 313 little wood chompers hide; in John Ciardi’s Shark Dentist, in which you’ll want to brace yourself for the ending; and in Shel Silverstein’s Hippo-po-tah-tum, which is fractionally frightening.

These seven poems are added to seven more, plus two pages full of “prose about the poets,” to equal one smart, tantalizing poetic brainteaser of a book!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-edgar-allan-poe's-apple-pie-shark

Image copyright Michael Slack, text copyright J. Patrick Lewis. Courtesty slackart.com

Patrick Lewis, who served as the US Children’s Poet Lauriat from 2011 to 2013, has honored 16 of the world’s most beloved poets the way kids love best—with humor. Adapting the original poem’s rhythm, rhyme scheme, and length with a dash of the ridiculous and a dose of numerical heft, Lewis has created poems that will have kids giggling while they ponder the answers to the lyrical math problems the verses pose. While arithmetic aficionados will gobble these poems up, there’s plenty for language arts lovers to sink their teeth into too. Each witty poem just begs to be compared to the original, which would make for a fun afternoon at home or lesson in the classroom. Admit it—aren’t you just the tiniest bit curious what Edward Lear’s “There was an Old Man with a Beard” has to do with an 80-foot hotdog?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-edgar-allan-poe's-pie-train

Image copyright Michael Slack Lewis, courtesty slackart.com

Michael Slack gets things off and running on the first spread, where a sharp-taloned blackbird stands over a knife that’s plunged into the center of a pie. While readers of Walt Whitman’s Web-Covered Shoe may wonder exactly how long the boot has been untouched, they’ll be more distracted by the number of eyes on two very fierce-looking spiders. And there may be nothing more diverting than the potbellied cowboy wearing only his tightie whities as he waits for his snowflake, flame, spaceship, and other uniquely decorated boxers to dry. Slack illustrates each poem with distinctive, vibrant images that ramp up the humor and give every page an individual look.

Answers to the math problems proposed are included with every poem, and brief biographies accompanied by tiny portraits, reveal information about the poets represented and their work.

Edgar Allan Poe’s Pie is a fantastic way to get kids interested in math and poetry. The brain ticklers, as well as the wonderful wordplay and illustrations, make this a book that should be on classroom shelves and would be welcome in home libraries too.

Ages 6 – 9

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, 2015 (paperback) | ISBN 978-0544456129

To learn more about J. Patrick Lewis, his books, and resources for kids and teachers, visit his website!

View a gallery of books, illustration, and other art by Michael Slack on his website!

National Pie Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cherry-pie-match

Mixed Up Cherry Pies Puzzle

 

Each winner of a poetry contest were supposed to get two identical pies, but they got mixed up! Can you find the matching pies in this printable Mixed Up Cherry Pies Puzzle and save the day?

Picture Book Review

January 12 – Poetry at Work Day

Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems by Bob Raczka picture book review

About the Holiday

Sometimes your work in school, in the office, outside, or at home inspires you to translate what you’re doing into writing. What better way to express the fun—and folly—of homework, room cleaning, report writing, lunchtime, tests, and all the work that makes up a day than in a poem?! To celebrate today’s holiday try to put the rhythms of your work into poetry! 

Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems

By Bob Raczka

 

When you envision a poem in your head, what do you see? A block of lines? A square or a rectangle? Well, sweep that image from your mind because in Bob Raczka’s Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems, verses become actions, objects, puzzles, and natural phenomena. Not only are the poems shaped to illustrate their theme, the titles use clever imagery as well.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-wet-cement-a-mix-of-concrete-poems-hopscotch

Text and image copyright Bob Raczka, courtesy of Roaring Brook Press

As you encounter the poem hanger you’ll see that “han” has broken away and is dangling from the hook of g in “ger.” The words of the poem itself are shaped like a hanger and contain a giggle-invoking twist: “I hang out in blue jeans and comfy old shirts. I hang out in blouses and long frilly skirts. I hang out in sport coats and sweaters and shawls. I even hang out with no clothes on at all!”

You might want to get your baseball mitt out before you read homer, in which the first line zooms straight as a pitch and the second—written backwards and at an upward angle—soars like a homerun hit: “The pitcher hurls his hummer toward the slugger squeezing lumber CRA / CK! The slugger slams the hummer toward the bleachers for a homer.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-wet-cement-a-mix-of-concrete-poems-takeoff

Text and image copyright Bob Raczka, courtesy of Roaring Brook Press

But don’t put that mitt away just yet! You may need to catch the o, which has escaped from the title p p-up. And if you’ve ever played t-ball, baseball, softball, or even wiffleball, you’ll cringe in recognition of this short but pointed poem.

The sky darkened by night in Dipper and by clouds in Lightning holds two poems expressing very different thoughts. In the title Dipper, the second p has floated to the top of the page where it hangs like a miniature reflection of the dipper-shaped poem, which reads: “Way down there on earth you hold firefly jars, filled up to their lids with light. Up here in the sky, I’m a vessel of stars, my brim overflowing with night.” In the title LIGHTNING, the L strikes the I to create the familiar jagged crack echoed in the shape of the verse: “from a bad mood sky, / tears, / then a jag- / ged slash- / ing flash of anger, / ear- / splitting, / obnoxious, / a cloud tantrum”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-wet-cement-a-mix-of-concrete-poems-eracer

Text and image copyright Bob Raczka, courtesy of Roaring Brook Press

Any writer will love poeTRY which is such a clever take on the word as well as the revision and editing process:

“poetry is about taking away the words you don’t need

poetry is taking away words you don’t need

poetry is words you need

poetry is words

try”

Put simply, Bob Raczka’s concrete poems will make you smile. Even more than that, you’ll find yourself wanting to carry this book around, saying “Look at this!” to everyone you meet. Raczka calls these poems “word paintings”—because a poet “uses words like colors to paint pictures inside your head.” If creativity is the talent to present the world in new and surprising ways, making connections that enhance life, then Wet Cement is creativity at its best!

Wet Cement: a Mix of Concrete Poems is one poetry book that belongs on your child’s bookshelf! The combination of subjects, expression, and images will make it an often-read favorite.

Ages 5 – 9 and up (adults will enjoy these poems as much as kids)

Roaring Brook Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-1626722361

Discover a full bookshelf of books by Bob Raczka on his website!

Poetry at Work Day Activity

CPB - Pocket Poem Craft

Pocket Poem Carrier

 

Choose a part of your school or work day and write a poem about it. You can even try writing a concrete poem to give more shape to your thoughts! Then make this pocket poem carrier so you can tote your favorite poem with you to show your friends and family—today and every day!

Supplies

  • An old pair of pants or shorts with back pockets
  • A decorative shoelace
  • Thread or fabric glue
  • Needle
  • Paper
  • Your favorite poem or a poem you write yourself
  • Pen

Directions

  1. Cut one back pocket out of an old pair of pants or shorts, including the back of the pocket
  2. Use the shoelace at its full length or cut to desired length
  3. Inside each edge of the pocket sew or glue the ends of the shoelace to make a strap
  4. Print your favorite poem on the paper
  5. Insert the poem into the pocket poem carrier
  6. Take your poem with you and share it with your friends!

Picture Book Review