Apr 25, 2014

POETRY FRIDAY: Celebrating the Incredible Jack Prelutsky

Thanks to Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference for hosting Poetry Friday today! 
On this final Friday of National Poetry Month 2104, I’d like to salute the amazingly talented children’s poet Jack Prelutsky. Born in 1940 and named the first U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate in 2006, Prelutsky has published over 70 books of poetry. One of my favorites when I was a kid was THE NEW KID ON THE BLOCK, published in 1984. This same book is on my bookshelf today, and my boys enjoy reading it as much as I did!
One of the most interesting facts about Mr. Prelutsky is that he hasn’t always been a fan of poetry. Here is what he has to say on his Scholastic author page:
There was a time when I couldn't stand poetry! In grade school, I had a teacher who left me with the impression that poetry was the literary equivalent of liver. I was told that it was good for me, but I wasn't convinced.”
To read the rest, click here.

While it is sad to discover that a teacher (!!!) turned Mr. Prelutsky off of poetry at a young age, it is incredibly encouraging to know that someone who once disliked poetry could ultimately become such a master of this art form. When I talk to kids about writing, my #1 goal is to communicate that writing is FUN, and Prelutsky’s playful, intelligent, and engaging poetry proves my point!  
On Thursday I shared one of my favorite Prelutsky poems with fifth graders during our Poem in Your Pocket Day activity. “Bleezer’s Ice Cream” is a funny list poem about an ice cream store with some very unusual flavors. As I told the kids, if there is one poem I’ve read that I wish I had written, this one is it! Here are the first several lines of the poem:
Bleezer's Ice Cream
by Jack Prelutsky  
I am Ebenezer Bleezer,
there are flavors in my freezer
you have never seen before,
twenty-eight divine creations
too delicious to resist,
why not do yourself a favor,
try the flavors on my list:
For the rest of this poem, click here.
For more Prelutsky poems, visit the "poetry" page of his website here. I especially love "A Centipede Was Thirsty!"

Mr. Prelutsky is also a collector of frogs AND he's a talented musician! To listen to some of his musical creations (also from his website), click here.
For more about Jack Prelutsky, you can start at the main page of his fabulous website here. Take some time to read a Prelutsky poem today--you'll be glad you did! Happy Friday, and Happy Writing!

Apr 23, 2014

Poem in Your Pocket Day is Thursday, April 24, 2014!

This is just a short post to remind everyone that tomorrow, Thursday, April 24, is Poem in Your Pocket Day 2014! Poem in Your Pocket Day was first celebrated in April 2002, when New York City incorporated it into the city’s National Poetry Month Celebration. Since then, this literary “holiday” has taken off, and now Poem in Your Pocket Day is celebrated each April in classrooms, cities, libraries, and bookstores nationwide. The idea is simple—choose a favorite poem, or compose one of your own, and carry it in your pocket for the day. Share it with friends, colleagues, family, etc., to spread the joy that poetry brings into our world every day!
For fabulous resources for celebrating Poem in Your Pocket Day, visit the Academy of American Poets website here.

Here are a few more of my favorite poetry resources:
Children’s author Beatrice Schenk de Regniers wrote a sweet poem about carrying a poem in your pocket. Here is the first stanza of her poem:

Keep A Poem In Your Pocket
By Beatrice Schenk de Regniers
Keep a poem in your pocket
And a picture in your head
And you'll never feel lonely
At night when you're in bed.
To read the rest of this poem, click here. 
Have a happy Poem in Your Pocket Day, and Happy Writing!

Apr 21, 2014

Seeds of Inspiration

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting the school where I taught third grade for several years BC (Before Children ☺). Although it doesn’t feel like it, almost 12 years have passed since we moved from Florida to Texas. Very pregnant with twins and relieved that my husband would no longer have to travel, I moved on with tears and sadness but also with a distracted eye towards an exciting future. Texas was (mostly) a fun adventure, and now our family is back in the Carolinas. Life has moved on and my boys are headed to middle school in a few short months. But when I walked through the gates of “my school” last week, it felt like I was returning after a long vacation—certainly not 12 amazing, action-packed years!

I know this goes back to people and relationships; my friends and colleagues at this school blessed me in so many ways over the years. My teaching partner, especially, helped me through some tough times and showed me what a difference a truly fabulous teacher can make in the lives of children. (I could say much more, but this would get really long—just know that this lady is one of the most incredible teachers EVER!) As I walked through the halls, memories popped up all over the place and I marveled, over and over, about the fluidity of time.
Peeking into classrooms and finding myself in the role of an objective observer, I also recognized many little details from my writing; the way a classroom is laid out, the covered walkway to the music room, the hum of busy kids packing up after a fun day at school. There are some elements from my teaching days that I’ve intentionally sprinkled throughout my writing—a fun experiment my class did each year, the inflection of third graders’ speech, funny conversations with kids, super teachers and engaged students. But what I didn’t fully realize until last week is how much the sense of place and contentment and “fun learning” at this special school has seeped into my writing. It’s not necessarily something I can put my finger on, but I know it’s there—when I summon a “School” in my mind, this school environment is what my characters experience!
I’ve always known that writing reflects an author’s experiences and memories, often without the author realizing it, but to come face-to face with this was lots of fun and very special. By no means is this the exact same school in my chapter books—this one is modern and bright and my fictional school is an old brick building that sprawls every which way (much like the elementary school I attended, now that I think about it…). But it was great fun to see the seeds that were planted so many years ago and to acknowledge how they have blossomed into ideas for setting, characters, story, and mood. With a little more tending and pruning, I hope to grow a published book series one day soon! ☺
What seeds of inspiration can you acknowledge in your writing?

Happy Writing!

Apr 10, 2014

POETRY FRIDAY: Celebrating Christina Rossetti and National Poetry Month!

Thank you to Michelle at Today's Little Ditty for hosting Poetry Friday this week!
Be sure to stop by Michelle's fabulous blog and wish her a Happy Blog Birthday! 
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In celebration of National Poetry Month, I am focusing on my favorite poets during April’s Poetry Friday posts. Today, I’m looking at the poetry of Christina Rossetti, a nineteenth century British poet who exemplifies all things Victorian.

Rossetti’s poems have long held my imagination—my favorite (and her most famous) poem is “Goblin Market,” which begins like this:

MORNING and evening
Maids heard the goblins cry:
"Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:
Apples and quinces,
Lemons and oranges,
Plump unpecked cherries-
Melons and raspberries,
Bloom-down-cheeked peaches,
Swart-headed mulberries,
Wild free-born cranberries,
Crab-apples, dewberries,
Pine-apples, blackberries,
Apricots, strawberries--
All ripe together
In summer weather--
Morns that pass by,
Fair eves that fly;
Come buy, come buy...
To read the rest of this poem, click here.

It had been awhile since I’d read this entire poem, and reading it again I realized why Rossetti has always been one of my favorite poets—her imagery is exquisite, and she has a sharp, almost edgy manner of telling this particular tale. Those little goblins still creep me out, but I can’t stop reading!

Another favorite Rossetti poem of mine is also one of my favorite Christmas carols. Known to many people today as “In the Bleak Midwinter,” Rossetti’s “A Christmas Carol” is a beautiful poem celebrating the Christmas season and all that it symbolizes:

In the bleak mid-winter
   Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
   Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
   Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
   Long ago.
To read the rest of this poem, click here.

Rossetti also wrote poetry for children! SING-SONG, A NURSERY RHYME BOOK, is a book of children's poetry that Rossetti published in 1893. One of my favorites from this collection is:

If all were rain and never sun,
  No bow could span the hill;
If all were sun and never rain,
  There'd be no rainbow still.

Rossetti has some very serious poems in this collection, as well, exploring issues children commonly faced during the Victorian era. One of the more somber ones is:

A baby's cradle with no baby in it,
  A baby's grave where autumn leaves drop sere;
The sweet soul gathered home to Paradise,
  The body waiting here.
For the complete digital version of this book, click here.

I could continue on about Rossetti, but the best way to truly appreciate her poetry is to pick up a volume and submerge yourself into her world. You will be glad that you did!

Happy National Poetry Month, and Happy Writing!

Apr 3, 2014

POETRY FRIDAY: Celebrating Shel Silverstein and National Poetry Month!

Thanks to Amy at The Poem Farm for hosting this week's Poetry Friday Roundup!
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Since April is a time to celebrate all things poetry, I decided to focus on my favorite poets in my Poetry Friday posts this month. Today, I'm focusing on my #1 favorite poet of all time, Shel Silverstein. A man of many talents, Silverstein is best remembered for the books of silly, funny poems that he wrote and illustrated.  

This is the first Silverstein book I remember reading.

I don’t remember exactly when I heard my first Silverstein poem, but I know that I became a huge fan very early on. The silliness and playfulness of his poetry delighted me, and fed my fascination with words and how they all fit together. I read his books for fun—not because I had to read them for school. My boys love these same books now too, and it tickles me when they choose one of Silverstein's books over whatever MG or YA adventure book they are reading on their Kindles.

One of my favorite Silverstein poems is “How Not to Have to Dry the Dishes,” from A LIGHT IN THE ATTIC. This made me laugh as a child because I thought it was brilliant! As an adult I marvel at the childish logic Silverstein channels in this poem. I see NOW why I loved his poetry so much THEN, and it inspires me to be more intentionally “childlike” when I sit down to write.    
How Not to Have to Dry the Dishes
If you have to dry the dishes
(Such an awful, boring chore)
If you have to dry the dishes
(‘Stead of going to the store)
If you have to dry the dishes
And you drop one on the floor—
Maybe they won’t let you
Dry the dishes anymore.
I always loved this drawing by Silverstein!
Another favorite Silverstein poem of mine was (and still is) “Sick,” from WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS.

"I cannot go to school today,"
Said little Peggy Ann McKay.
"I have the measles and the mumps,
A gash, a rash and purple bumps.
My mouth is wet, my throat is dry,
I'm going blind in my right eye.
For the rest of this poem, click here. 
For more fabulous poems by Silverstein, check out the list of books on the official Shel Silverstein website here. And the website is celebrating National Poetry Month, too! Check out this post for great teaching resources. For a treasure trove of fun activities for teaching (and playing with!) Silverstein’s poetry, explore the main site, here

What is your favorite Silverstein poem?

Happy National Poetry Month, and Happy Writing!