April 17 – National Haiku Poetry Day and Interview with Amy Losak

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About the Holiday

Small things are amazing—and surprising! We all know good things come in small packages, and just look at the wisdom, humor, and capacity for love of children. The same goes for haiku—the smallest form of poetry in size but never in impact. During National Poetry Month, today is set aside to especially celebrate the haiku. The simple 5-7-5 rule that we all learn in school doesn’t begin to define the complexity of these three-line beauties that distill the world into little nuggets that make readers see life in amazing and surprising ways.

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.

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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.

Meet Sydell Rosenberg and her daughter, Amy Losak

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Sydell Rosenberg and her daughter Amy enjoying the park n 1961.

SYDELL ROSENBERG (1929-1996) lived, wrote and taught in New York City. Syd was a charter member of the Haiku Society of America in 1968 and served as HSA’s Secretary in 1975. Her short poems – notably haiku and senryu – as well as other poetry, were published in various magazines and anthologies. Syd received her M.A. in English as a Second Language from Hunter College in 1972. It was Syd’s dream to publish a book of haiku for children.

Compiled by her daughter, Amy Losak, H is for Haiku is the fulfilment of the late poet Sydell Rosenberg’s dream to write a book of poetry for children. I was excited to talk with Amy about her mother, her journey with H is for Haiku, and her own poetry.

Can you talk a little about your mother and her love for haiku and senryu?

Sydell Rosenberg was a New York City teacher (various grades; substitute, English, literacy; and also adult ESL). I think Syd Rosenberg “discovered” haiku and senryu in the early-to-mid 1960s. How she may have stumbled upon these poetic forms, I wish I knew. Mom always was a writer – short stories, poetry, literary and word puzzles, and more. Syd wrote in English and in Spanish and translated literature from and into Spanish too. In her early 20s, she published a racy novel, “Strange Circle,” under a male pseudonym, Gale Sydney (a reversal of the initials of her maiden name, Sydell Gasnick). This was in the early 1950s! This potboiler sold a respectable number of copies. In fact, “Strange Circle” is still floating around online.

In the 1960s, as a still-young wife and mother, perhaps she was restless and searching for a challenging format to test her talents and reflect, or give credence to, her singular way of viewing the world around her. Syd was a native New Yorker who loved nature and found marvels in mundane moments. Perhaps the lucid qualities of haiku and senryu, with their concise yet intense focus on such things, gave her—paradoxically—the amplitude she wanted to express her vision and ideas.

What is the difference between the two forms?

I’m no expert on haiku and senryu. Poets spend years studying and they labor over their work. These are difficult forms to write well. Like any creative art, it takes practice. It seems as though the definitions can get “in the weeds”—and then there are some poets who don’t get too “hung up” on the distinctions. Here are topline definitions from the Haiku Society of America, and readers can go to this Haiku Society of America page for more details:

The Haiku Foundation also is a great source of information, and there are many other fine resources in books, online and in social media.

HAIKU: A haiku is a short poem that uses imagistic language to convey the essence of an experience of nature or the season intuitively linked to the human condition.

SENRYU: A senryu is a poem, structurally similar to haiku, that highlights the foibles of human nature, usually in a humorous or satiric way.

Were the poems in H is for Haiku originally written as an alphabet-inspired collection?

Yes, some of the poems in H Is for Haiku were in one (or more, possibly) alphabet-themed manuscripts I located among mom’s many materials. And some were previously published in journals decades ago.

It was Syd’s lifelong dream to publish a book of haiku for children. Can you talk about the journey you’ve taken with H Is for Haiku?

Mom was submitting at least one of her kids’ poetry manuscripts (I’m not sure how many she created, and I don’t think they were all haiku) to publishers since the 1980s. My fuzzy memory tells me she may have submitted as far back as the 1970s. This has been a long and zigzagging timeline, by any measure.

Mom’s poetry was well-anthologized in a variety of media over several decades (including classic texts such as The Haiku Anthology, The Haiku Handbook, The Teachers & Writers Handbook of Poetic Forms, among others). Syd was a teacher, and she had this desire to publish a poetry picture book, preferably a haiku A-B-C reader. I think she wanted kids to illustrate it, although she also had illustrators she liked in mind (in one old cover letter I found, she mentions Arnold Lobel).

After her sudden death in October of 1996, her family promised to try and publish her dream book. But it wasn’t until around 2011 that I knuckled down—and even then, the process of collecting and organizing some of her work was, to be frank, tortuous. But I managed to curate a good compilation.

In the meantime, I spearheaded other projects to revive some of her work for today’s audiences, especially children. For example, I’ve been in a partnership for several years with a terrific nonprofit arts education organization in NY, Arts for All which brings a variety of arts programs into public schools. Teaching artists have used mom’s “word-picture” haiku to convey the basics of painting, drawing and collage; music; and theater to young students.

In 2015, I finally started to send out her manuscript to publishers that didn’t require agents. In 2016, I connected with the wonderful Penny Candy Books, thanks to a poet and teacher, Aubrie Cox Warner. Penny Candy’s Chad Reynolds and Alexis Orgera have been such a joy; and Sawsan Chalabi’s dynamic illustrations vividly augment the gentle playfulness in mom’s poems.

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Syd was a charter member of the Haiku Society of America. Can you talk about her work with the HSA?

 HSA celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Syd attended the founding meeting in October of 1968. She also served as HSA secretary in 1975 and twice on committees for HSA’s Merit Book Awards “for excellence in published haiku, translation and criticism.” Of course, mom’s work was published in HSA’s beautiful journal, Frogpond, and a good number of other journals and publications, including (but not limited to) Modern Haiku, Wind Chimes, and Haiku West. HSA memorialized Syd by reading some of her work shortly after her death in 1996. In addition, Frogpond published a lovely memorial page in its December 1996 issue. It also published one of her posthumous haiku in a 1997 issue. Her first published haiku in a journal was in 1967 in American Haiku (although I believe she may have published haiku even earlier, in the poetry column of a now-defunct newspaper).

HSA and all things haiku—and writing overall—were important, even essential, components of her life. Creative expression was aa important to her as breathing.

The haiku in H Is for Haiku have such a wonderful sense of active observation and eye for personality and fun. Do you remember this as a quality of your mom while you were growing up?

Yes! Mom had a playful, offbeat, and I think an innate optimistic spirit. Mom was a “knowledge-adventurer.” Her intellect sometimes had an almost childlike quality. She tried to instill this expansive sense of curiosity in my brother Nathan and me. I have come to realize that mom looked forward to each new day as jam-packed with the possibilities for new experiences. And she sought them out for herself and her family.

I read that you also write poetry. Can you share a little about your work?

I’m a beginner as a poet. I think I always will be, and I’m fine with this. There’s a lot to learn.

I especially enjoy the process of trying to write haiku and senryu. It allows me to “be in the moment” and dial down distracting “chatter” that can bombard and dull my senses. Some of my work has been published. I’m slowly improving.

Thanks to social media, I find inspiration in the work of other poets today, especially haiku and senryu poets (and others, as well). There’s so much great poetry out there! I also have learned to find “bits” of inspiration in my daily life. Our pixilated cats, for example, were a wellspring of inspiration! And New York City, of course, offers an inexhaustible supply of both small and big moments. Even something as routine as my bus commute can sometimes trigger “slices” of awareness that lead to a short poem. Or I will be walking to the bagel shop for an iced coffee, and something out of nowhere—the peep of a sparrow in a forsythia bush, a squashed pine cone on the pavement—will draw my attention. Maybe this “haiku moment” will result in a poem. Or maybe not, but I’m still richer because of these “slivers” of experience.

And mom, it turns out, has had more of an influence on me that either one of us could have imagined. Syd’s spirit resonates today. I like to think she would be pleased with this book. And of course, kids and their parents!

The poetry and kidlit communities are caring and supportive. I’m grateful for all their encouragement over the years. And I’m grateful to my husband, Cliff, brother, Nathan; sister-in-law, Debbie; other loving family members; friends; colleagues, etc. So many terrific people! They’ve kept me going, and I can’t thank them enough.

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You can find H is for Haiku at these booksellers:

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

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

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April 7 – It’s National Poetry Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate poets and the poetry they create to illuminate our lives in new and often surprising ways. National Poetry Month is a world-wide event, bringing together tens of millions of poets, readers, teachers, librarians, booksellers, publishers, and other poetry lovers in readings, school visits, and special events. To celebrate, check out some events in your area and enjoy reading the work of your favorite—or a new—poet. You might even try writing your own poetry!

Read! Read! Read!

Written by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater | Illustrated by Ryan O’Rourke

 

In twenty-three poems Amy Ludwig Vanderwater takes readers on a journey of…Reading, from when a child first recognizes that those “squiggles / make letters. / Letters / make words. / Words / make stories / that fly like birds…” through the world they discover as they take in the printed word in all its forms.

In Pretending, a little girl remembers “tracing my fingers / under each letter/ I used to pretend / I could read to myself.” At the library she would “pull from the shelf– / a rainbow of rectangles.” For days, weeks, months, she practiced. “Learning to read / felt like / learning to fly. / And one day / I took off. / I was swooping / alone / over words / once confusing / but now / all my own.”

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Image copyright Ryan O’Rourke, 2017. Courtesy of WordSong Publishing.

Cereal Box and Sports Page are placed side by side like the brother and sister eating breakfast together. But which sibling is reading “Recipes. / Stories. / Jokes. / Weird facts….the box” and which is “Scanning scores / studying stats / …checking on my team?”  Children will discover that there aren’t many things the little boy in I Explore has not done as he reveals, “I have stood upon a moonscape. / I have witnessed peace and war. / I have ridden a wild horse. / I’m a reader. / I explore.”

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Image copyright Ryan O’Rourke, 2017. Courtesy of WordSong Publishing.

Reading doesn’t just inform you, it reforms you, as An Open Book explains: “An open book / will help you find / an open heart / an open mind / inside yourself / if you’re inclined. / An open book / will make you kind.” Or maybe all that reading can give a younger brother a moment of power when he uses new-found information. “At dinner I ask— / Do you know / how many pounds of skin / a person sheds by age seventy? / My sister puts down her fork. / No. / One hundred five. / Oh. / She will not look at me. / She will not pick up her fork. / I keep eating. / I love reading.”

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Image copyright Ryan O’Rourke, 2017. Courtesy of WordSong Publishing.

Reading comes in many forms, from Maps, which “…fold / into themselves / like perfect beetle wings.” to Road Signs, in which the alphabet was once “like a secret code / for grown-ups / splashed / on every sign.” There’s also the Internet for Googling Guinea Pigs, where an eager pet sitter can “read about treats. / Read about exercise. / Read about safe holding” before the class pet comes home for the weekend. A Birthday Card with a poem from Grandpa, a Magazine that “…comes / by mail / twelve times / each year,” and Sunday Morning with the comics, where a loyal fan can “know every character / know every name” all bring joy to avid readers.

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Image copyright Ryan O’Rourke, 2017, text copyright Amy Ludwig Vanderwater, 2017. Courtesy of WordSong Publishing.

For readers there may be no more exciting time than Late at Night when a little lie—“I cannot sleep”—is exposed as Mom “…reaches out to touch my lamp. / The bulb is warm. / My mom knows why” and a special bond is formed with a mom who can empathize. A final cozy image closes the book in I Am a Bookmark, where a nighttime reader compares himself to a bookmark “holding the page between dark and light.”

Along the way Amy Ludwig Vanderwater also explores Reading Time, a lyrical Word Collection, a Field Guide, the emotional effect of Stories, how reading can be like leading a Double Life, the benefits of a Book Dog, and the Forever connection between real people and characters in books.

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Image copyright Ryan O’Rourke, 2017, text copyright Amy Ludwig Vanderwater, 2017. Courtesy of WordSong Publishing.

Amy Ludwig Vanderwater’s charming poems on the joys of a reading life will engage children just starting out on their own journeys or those who are better versed in this exceptional art. At once inspiring and homey, these poems open the vast world and the private pleasures of the written word. Vanderwater’s verses are in turn smooth, conversational, reflective, humorous, and fun to read aloud.

Ryan O’Rourke opens Read! Read! Read! with a beautiful image of squiggles turned letters turned words turned books that soar like birds over a young reader’s head. The image wonderfully carries readers into the rest of the book where fancies and facts enlighten young minds. O’Rourke’s imaginative interpretations of each poem enhance their effect and cleverly convey extended meanings and visual humor. 

For children who love poetry, reading, writing, and seeing the world through a lyrical lens, Read! Read! Read! would be a terrific choice for any story time or bedtime. The book would also be welcome in classrooms for teachers to dip into again and again.

Ages 5 – 10

WordSong, 2017 | ISBN 978-1590789759

Discover more about Amy Ludwig Vanderwater, her books, articles, and poetry on her website.

View a gallery of book, map, and editorial illustration by Ryan O’Rourke on his website.

National Poetry Month Activity

 

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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
  • 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

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.

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.

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!

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.

Picture Book Review

August 21 – Poet’s Day

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate poets—both those who are professionally published and those who compose poetry in their secret hearts. Poets bring clarity and new perspectives to life—like a little pinprick of light in a dark room. Whether you like long, epic poems, short, evocative verse, humorous poetry, or poetry set to music, take the opportunity today to enjoy some poetry—or write a bit of your own.

A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams

Written by Jen Bryant | Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

 

Willie Williams was just like the other boys in his neighborhood—well, almost. When the other boys went home after a day of playing, Willie took off for the woods and fields behind his house. “As he walked through the high grasses and along the soft dirt paths, Willie watched everything.” He liked to sit next to the Passaic River and listen to the rhythm of the water as it “went slipping and sliding over the smooth rocks, then poured in a torrent over the falls, then quieted again below.”

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2008, courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

But as Willie grew older, he didn’t have time for these leisurely pursuits. In high school, he was on the track team, attended lots of classes, and had even more homework. His was a rushed and hurried life. Except for in English class. There, when his teacher read poetry, he was taken back to the flow of the river. Each line created pictures in Willie’s mind.

One night, Willie began writing his own poems. He copied the English poets he had learned about in school, using structured beats and rhyming endings. But soon these rules began to frustrate Willie; they didn’t give him the freedom to fully express his thoughts. He wanted to write about what he saw nearby, the things he was familiar with. Things, he said, like “plums, wheelbarrows, and weeds, / fire engines, children, and trees— / things I see when I walk down my street / or look out my window.”

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2008, courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Willie began writing poems the way they came to him, with their own shape and sound. Writing this way made Willie feel free, and he filled notebook after notebook with poems. While Willie wished he could make a living as a poet, writing did not pay much, and he needed to be self-sufficient. Willie’s uncle had been a doctor, and Willie liked the idea of healing people. He wondered, though, if he could be a doctor and still write poetry.

When Willie graduated from high school, he went off to the university to study medicine. There he met the writers Ezra Pound and Hilda Doolittle and the artist Charles Demuth. Spending time with his new friends made his difficult studying easier. After college, Willie returned to his home town of Rutherford and opened his practice. He had so many patients that some people said he was “the busiest man in town.”

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2008, courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

No matter how busy he was, however, he found time to write. Sometimes he jotted lines and ideas on his prescription pads. Then, after his long days at work, Willie climbed to his attic room where he studied the notes he’d made and wrote poems late into the night.

A Timeline, Author’s Note, and Illustrators Note about William Carlos Williams follow the text. The endpapers present a selection of Williams’ poetry.

A River of Words is an inspirational book for children who have creative ideas of their own and would make an excellent addition to classroom and home libraries.

From the title through to the end of her lyrical biography, Jen Bryant captures the flow of William Carlos Williams’ creative and scientific life, which was as purposeful and free as the river that inspired him. Young readers and would-be writers will find much encouragement and insight in Bryant’s story, which reveals that talent and day-to-day life not only can co-exist but can enrich each other. By showing how Williams broke free from the structures of the poetry he copied, Bryant also motivates children to find their own voice.

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2008, courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Melissa Sweet lends her distinctive collage style of illustration to this story, bringing to life the lines of and natural world reflected in Williams’ poetry. The busy-ness and business of Williams’ days are depicted in vibrant images of winding streets, classrooms, offices, and the outside world where he composed his uniquely revealing poems.

Ages 6 and up

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2008 | ISBN 978-0802853028

Learn more about Jen Bryant and her books on her website!

Discover more about Melissa Sweet, her books, and her art on her website!

Poet’s Day Activity

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

Grow Your Own 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 a piece of art!

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

July 8 – Savor the Comic, Unplug the Drama Day

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About the Holiday

With so much going on in our lives—at work and at home—it’s good to take a break for a laugh and a bit of relaxation. Savor the Comic, Unplug the Drama Day encourages people to get off the treadmill and treat themselves to their favorite fun activity!

7 Ate 9: The Untold Story

Written by Tara Lazar | Illustrated by Ross MacDonald

 

Private I was snoozing at his desk when 6 burst in saying he was being threatened by 7. Private I knew all about numbers—they were “always stuck in a problem.” He also knew that 7 was odd, so he asked 6 what was up. 6 said he’d heard 7 ate 9 and was now after him. The PI tried to explain about the usual order, but 6 wouldn’t hear it. Private I promised to “get to the root” of the story.

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Image copyright Ross MacDonald, courtesy of rossmacdonald.com

First on his list of witnesses was 8. She knew nothing, but fearing she was next in line, she took off her belt and fled the scene disguised as 0. PI wanted to think things through, so he went to Café Uno for a piece of Pi. The waitress, B, had heard the rumors that 7 ate 9 and confirmed that 9 hadn’t been seen in a while.

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Image copyright Ross MacDonald, courtesy of rossmacdonald.com

Next, the detective tracked down 11, 7’s best bud. 11 said 7 had to be innocent since he was on vacation. The whole case was not adding up. “If 7 was gone, where was 9?” On his way back to the office, Private I saw 6 crossing the street. Suddenly, he knew the score. He rushed back to the office where his client was “taking forty winks.” He grabbed 6 and turned him…upside down.” It was true—“6 was really 9!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-7-ate-9-the-untold-story-cafe-uno

Image copyright Ross MacDonald, courtesy of rossmacdonald.com

What was with all the deception? Why did 9 make up a story about 7? “‘Because 7 gets all the attention!” 9 wailed. “‘Lucky 7! Seven Wonders of the World! Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs!’” 9 also had plenty to say about 10, who thought he was so perfect. But Private I reminded his client that he had one of the best advantages around—nine lives! 9 saw the detective’s point.

Just then 7 showed up and, with no hard feelings, accepted 9’s apology. Still Private I wondered how he could be so happy after being framed. 7 said he was in seventh heaven from sailing the seven seas, and he shared his vacation photos with everyone. At last the case was solved, and Private I could return to the letter cases he preferred. Except for that call from 2…

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Image copyright Ross MacDonald, courtesy of rossmacdonald.com

Tara Lazar’s hilarious mathematical mystery adds up to a perfect reading experience for kids who love clever word play, puns, and, of course, numbers! Lazar takes a classic joke and develops it into an ingenious story with twists and turns, red herrings, mistaken identities, and surprising revelations that will keep kids laughing from beginning to end.

Ross MacDonald’s personified numbers and visual jokes will entertain both young and adult readers. From the name on the detective agency’s door—Al F. Bet—to the “x”-shaped street sign at the corner of 2nd and 4th where 8 is found to the piece of Pi at Café Uno, MacDonald has filled the pages with riffs on language and mathematics that will delight kids. The bright colors and vintage-style illustrations recall the age of the classic hard-boiled detective, giving the book a distinctive personality.

7 Ate 9: The Untold Story is witty and wild and would make a wonderful addition to any child’s home library.

Ages 4 – 9

Disney-Hyperion, 2017 | ISBN 978-1484717790

Discover more about Tara Lazar and her books on her website!

Check out Ross MacDonald, his books, movie props, letterpress, and comics on his website!

You can count on loving this 7 Ate 9: The Untold Story book trailer!

Savor the Comic, Unplug the Drama Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-whale-of-a-laugh-coloring-page

Whale of a Laugh Coloring Page

 

Today is a perfect day to have some fun! Grab your pencils or markers and enjoy this printable Whale of a Laugh Coloring Page.

Picture Book Review

March 9 – It’s Read Aloud Month

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About the Holiday

From the moment babies are born, they are learning. Talking and reading aloud to babies from the very beginning are crucial parts of helping their developing brain learn language and improves literacy in the years to come. Reading aloud to babies and older children for only 15 minutes a day makes a tremendous and beneficial difference to their future. Make reading time a special time with your kids, and with so many wonderful books available—like today’s book—you’ll have as much fun as they do!

Rosa’s Very Big Job

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Sarah Vonthron-Laver

 

Rosa may be little, but she has big ideas about how to help. While Mama is out shopping for groceries for that night’s dinner, Rosa decides to surprise her by folding and putting away the laundry. The basket is piled high with fluffy dry clothes, sheets, and towels. Rosa watches her grandpa reading the newspaper. “‘Please help me, Grandpa!’” she says. She tugs on her grandpa’s hands, trying to pull him out of his chair. “‘Come on, Grandpa! Get up.”

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Image copyright Sarah Vonthron-Laver, text copyright Ellen Mayer, courtesy of Star Bright Books, starbrightbooks.com

Grandpa seems to have a little trouble managing: “‘It’s difficult to carry these enormous piles,’” he sighs. But Rosa knows that smaller armloads work better. Grandpa’s clothes come unfolded as he puts them in the drawer. “‘Be neat. Like me,” Rosa says, showing him her tidy stack. Poor Grandpa! He has to keep hanging up the same jacket over and over. “‘It’s difficult to keep this jacket from sliding off the hanger,” he says. Rosa has the answer: “‘Zip it up,’” she explains. “‘Then it stays on.’”

Grandpa sinks back into his chair. “‘You are terrific at doing laundry, Rosa. And I am exhausted,’” he says. But this is no time to quit—Rosa has big plans. As she steps into the now empty laundry basket, she exclaims, “‘Come on, Grandpa! Get in the boat. Help me sail back to there.’” Rosa points to the linen closet.

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Image copyright Sarah Vonthron-Laver, text copyright Ellen Mayer, courtesy of Star Bright Books, starbrightbooks.com

Suddenly, the floor swells with ocean waves teeming with fish. Grandpa channels his inner sailor as he holds aloft a sheet as a sail. As the wind billows and they come perilously close to the kitchen table, he says, “‘It’s difficult to sail around this enormous rock!’” Contemplating the rising sea, he exclaims, “‘It’s difficult to sail over this enormous wave!’”

There’s a dangerous storm ahead, warns Grandpa, “‘I can’t hold the sail in this strong wind.’” Rosa is there to help and grabs one side of the sheet. “‘Hold tight,’” she orders. “‘Use both hands.’” At last the seas die down and Grandpa is ready to steer the laundry basket back to port, but Rosa has a more entertaining thought. Spying a sock on the floor, Rosa wants to catch the “enormous fish.” Grandpa obliges and picks up a hangar for a fishing pole. He holds Rosa as she stretches out over the edge of the laundry basket to land her fish.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rosa's-very-big-job-sailing-with-sheet

Image copyright Sarah Vonthron-Laver, text copyright Ellen Mayer, courtesy of Star Bright Books, starbrightbooks.com

Just as Rosa nabs the fish, Mama comes home with her bags of groceries. She’s surprised to see that the laundry is not in the basket. Rosa runs to her and proudly explains, “‘We put all the laundry away. It was a very big job. We carried enormous piles. Grandpa dropped things. And I picked them up. It was very difficult for Grandpa. He got exhausted. But not me. I am terrific at laundry!’” Mama agrees that Rosa is a terrific helper. Then Rosa leads her mother to see the most surprising thing of all—the fish she has caught for dinner!

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In her series of Small Talk Books® Ellen Mayer presents exciting stories for preschoolers full of imagination and rich language learning. Rosa’s Very Big Job introduces Rosa, a sweet girl bubbling with enthusiasm and the desire to help. The close relationships between Rosa, her mother, and her grandpa promote cooperation as well as effective modeling of speech patterns and a way to introduce larger words in an organic manner through play and common chores. Rosa’s inventive idea to turn the laundry basket into a boat is delightfully enhanced by her grandpa’s willingness to share in the story and expand on it. Humor, cheerful banter, and the easy camaraderie between Rosa and Grandpa invite young readers to join in the fun as they build confidence in their language learning.

Sarah Vonthron-Laver depicts Rosa’s afternoon with her Grandpa with joy and the spirited energy young children bring to everything they do. Grandpa is happy to spend time with his granddaughter, yet shows honest feelings of tiredness and frustration that spur on the plot. The transition from doing laundry to using the basket as a boat is as seamless as a child’s imagination, and the way Rosa and her grandpa use household items to create “sails,” “rocks,” “fish,” and “fishing poles” will give readers great ideas for post-reading play. Bright colors, an adorable kitten, and familiar surroundings welcome young children into the world of reading and expanded vocabulary.

Rosa’s Very Big Job would be a welcome addition to a young child’s bookshelf, not only for its fun story that kids will want to hear again and again, but for its leap into imagination that kids will want to replicate.

Dr. Betty Bardige, an expert on young children’s language and literacy development, provides tips for parents, grandparents, and caregivers following the text.

Ages 2 – 6

Star Bright Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1595727497

Discover more about Ellen Mayer and her books as well as book-related activities and literacy initiatives she’s involved with on her website!

To read an interview with Ellen Mayer about her books and her work, click here!

Find Sarah Vonthron-Laver on Facebook!

Read Aloud Month Activity

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Original illustrations by Saran Vonthron-Laver, Copyrights © 2016 Star Bright Books. Paper dolls created by AislingArt and Celebrate Picture Books, copyrights © 2016

Rosa’s Very Big Job Paper Dolls

 

After you read the story, you can continue the fun with these Rosa and family paper dolls! Rosa loves helping out at home. She’s terrific at doing laundry – folding and putting away the family’s clothes, socks, and linens. You are terrific at helping too! Can you help Rosa, Mama, and Grandpa get dressed and ready for the day with these printable paper dolls? You’ll even find a laundry basket, socks, and Rosa’s sweet kitty to play with! 

Supplies

Printable Paper Dolls, Clothes, and Extras

  • Card stock paper and/or poster board
  • Scissors
  • Glue

Directions

  1. Print dolls on regular paper or card stock paper. Dolls printed on card stock paper may stand on their own with the supplied stand cross piece. For dolls printed on regular paper, you can cut the supplied stand templates from poster board or card stock and glue the dolls to the backing.
  2. Rosa’s kitty and the laundry basket can also be attached to the supplied template if needed
  3. Print clothes for each figure
  4. Color the blank clothes templates any way you’d like
  5. Cut out clothes and extra items
  6. Fit outfits onto dolls
  7. Make up your own stories about Rosa, Mama, and Grandpa!

Picture Book Review