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Life on the Deckle Edge

Poetry Friday: And the Crowd Goes Wild! with Carol-Ann Hoyte and Heidi Bee Roemer

Carol-Ann Hoyte, left, Heidi Bee Roemer, and illustration by Kevin Sylvester
Curious about the upcoming sports-themed anthology, just in time for the Olympics, from poets Carol-Ann Hoyte and Heidi Bee Roemer ? Me, too! The collection will feature dozens of poems from emerging and familiar names alike, along with lively illustrations by Kevin Sylvester. It will be available as a paperback and also as an e-book.

After And the Crowd Goes Wild! was featured on Sylvia Vardell’s wonderful Poetry for Children blog, I asked these two poetic go-getters if they’d share a little more here for our final Poetry Friday post of National Poetry Month. They kindly obliged.

(For the Poetry For Children post, click here. You’ll find an interview by graduate student Abby Hancock and the poem “Pianoball” by Jocelyn Shipley.)

Let’s start with a poem from the collection:

Sore Sport

It stinks that the ref blew the call,
And you’re sore ‘cuz you took a bad fall.
    Well ponder this, fella,
    As your bruises turn yella,
For one day, try being the ball.

-- M Sullivan (United States)



Clever, eh? Now let’s go behind the scenes with the editors. How did you two meet, and how did you decide to create a poetry collection together?

HEIDI: Carol-Ann sparked the idea of creating a sports poetry anthology. To my great delight, she invited me to be co-editor on the project. We became acquainted through cyberspace; our communication has been almost solely by email. Believe it or not, to date we’ve only talked on the phone twice!

This collection promises to have something for everybody. Why was it important to you all to include sports experiences from all over the world?

CAROL-ANN: The Olympics inspired me to create this book so I wanted to embrace the event's spirit by bringing poets from around the globe together. The worldwide exploration of the theme is significant as it offers fresh perspectives into familiar sports, introduces readers to unknown sports and expands their knowledge of less-familiar sports, exposes them to different varieties of the English language, and conveys subtle clues as to which sports are popular in certain countries.

It’s wonderful to see that you’ll be highlighting Paralympics and Special Olympics athletes. Was your vision inclusive from the beginning, or did it grow and evolve as you worked on the project?

HEIDI: Priscila Uppal’s Winter Sport: Poems (2010) inspired me. I learned that the early Olympic Games (1912 to 1948) included five art categories: architecture, literature, music, painting and sculpture. From her book I also gained new insight about aboriginal sports and sports for disabled athletes. Yes, our intention from the get-go was to include poems about Special Olympians and Paralympians; Priscila's writings simply confirmed that these athletes’ tales of inspiration and courage needed to be represented in our collection. In addition, I’m honored that Priscila, poet-in-residence for the 2010 Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Games, wrote the foreword for And the Crowd Goes Wild!

CAROL-ANN: I had initially envisioned an anthology aimed at readers aged 5 to 12. But then we received so many stellar, sophisticated poems which we felt would be most accessible and relevant to as well as appreciated by older elementary school children. As a result, we opted to narrow our target audience to 8- to 12-year-old children. Heidi also recommended that the collection feature a wide range of poetic forms so as to strengthen it, enhance its appeal, and heighten its marketability. As a result of following her recommendation, we ended up with a collection which features 20 different poetic forms.


What are some of your favorite sports or themes included in the collection? (I know – all of them! But pretty please give us a sneak peek….)

HEIDI: The inspirational poems about athletes with disabilities hold a special place in my heart. From Laura Purdie Salas’ roundel, readers learn about goalball, an official sport of the Paralympic Games designed for visually impaired athletes. Michelle Schaub penned a mono-meter poem about a courageous paraplegic who soars downhill at breathless speed on a mono-ski. Kimberly Douglas Hancock’s heartwarming verse in honor of her young nephew focuses on the winning attitude of special needs athletes, while Carmela Martino’s “At the Chicago Marathon” reveals the poet’s admiration of Richard Whitehead, a Paralympic runner born without legs.

CAROL-ANN: Patricia Cooley (U.S.) pays tribute to chess with her clever and dramatic poem "The King's Gambit." I am thrilled to feature this piece in the collection because I view chess as a truly international sport. While visiting other countries you might have trouble locating people who speak English but when abroad you’ll always be sure to find folks who know how to play chess. I am excited that children will “hear” how the English language “sounds” as it is spoken by poets living in other countries.

There are two poems which stand out for me because of their clever and surprising juxtaposition. Heather Delabre presents a dialogue between a football player and ballet dancer in her two-voice poem“The Master Dance." Jocelyn Shipley presents a youngster who tells of her desire to play baseball with her friends as she reluctantly practices playing the piano in “Pianoball.”


Fifty poems from established and emerging poets – from ten countries! How did you manage this feat logistically, and in such a timely way?

CAROL-ANN: We would have been pleased to feature poets from even more countries but unfortunately the material we received from six countries was not strong enough in content and/or writing quality to merit further consideration for inclusion in the anthology. I sought assistance from my network of children’s poets and other kidlit professionals to circulate the call for submissions. I also initiated contact with poetry organizations around the world to help do the same. The London 2012 Summer Olympics prompted me to complete the project in a timely matter. I wanted the collection to be released around the time of the Olympics so that we could tap into the energy and excitement of the event to promote our book.

What have been the greatest challenges and greatest rewards of becoming publishers?

HEIDI: Let’s just say I found tracking and logging in 300-plus poems a tad tedious. But unearthing a captivating, well-written poem in the cyberspace slush pile was a true spine-tingling delight, like a five-year old waking up on Christmas morning. Seeing the variety of perspectives on a single subject, sports, was astounding. I also enjoyed helping poets revise and polish their poems. Their zest for “story”, their humor, insightful musings, and skillful word-crafting amazed me. I hope our readers will find be captivated and inspired by the 50 poems presented in our collection.

CAROL-ANN: One challenge was attracting submissions from Europe and Asia. As I self-published the book, another challenge was dealing individually with several key tasks in the publishing process which have been divided among and handled by a handful of folks had I pursued the traditional publishing route. One unexpected though small challenge was having to explain to a few contributors why we had decided to not consider their work for the anthology. One reward is the knowledge of and pride in creating a poetry collection for children which differs from most of those currently being published.

Our book features a high proportion of emerging poets (as opposed to showcasing mainly high-profile poets) and offers an international treatment on a subject (compared to showcasing content crafted by poets living in only one country). Another reward is the success in demonstrating that a self-published book can possess top-notch quality in its writing, illustration, design, and production. One final reward is being able to donate a portion of royalties to Right to Play, an organization which enriches the lives of children through sport.


How has editing the poetry of others impacted your own writing?

HEIDI: As a writer, I’ve embraced this anonymous quote: “Poetry is a can of frozen orange concentrate. Add three cans water and you get prose.” In other words, when writing poetry less is more. Lee Bennett Hopkins brought that message home to me years ago when he surgically trimmed my 98-word poem to 12 words –and revealed a haiku “hidden” in my closing couplet, later included in one of his anthologies. Now working on the other side of the desk, I encouraged some of our poets to trim their words, to tinker, tweak, polish, pinch, and prune their poems—and they did so with remarkable results. As an editor, I am reminded that astute writers are willing word-crafters who can lasso an idea, wrestle words, images, and emotions to paper, and succinctly tie up the loose ends of a poem with a satisfying closing line that elicits a response from the reader.

Like athletes, nothing is more joyful to poets than knowing they’ve found their passion, learned the disciplines, overcome challenges, mastered their fears, tested their limits, and honed their skills, all the while keeping sight of their goals. Being a poet—or an athlete—is not for the faint-hearted, but for those who persist… and never give up on their dreams.


Great advice, Heidi! Thanks to both you and Carol-Ann for joining us, and wishes for wild success with the book.

Now, run, pole-vault, or doggie paddle over to The Opposite of Indifference, where Tabatha is rounding up more great poetry today.

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Poetry Friday: Jazzing up Poetry Month with Carole Boston Weatherford

Did you know that in addition to National Poetry Month, April is Jazz Appreciation Month? Click here for the Smithsonian website. Today, we’re combining the two!

While presenting a workshop at the Georgia Conference on Children’s Literature last month, I met the incredible Carole Boston Weatherford, New York Times bestselling author of dozens of books – poetry collections, picture books, and nonfiction. Trailing her is a long list of awards, including the North Carolina Award for Literature in 2010, the state’s highest civilian honor. Her books have garnered a Caldecott honor, an NAACP Image Award, Coretta Scott King Honors, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, the Jane Addams Children’s Literature Honor, a Golden Kite Honor, and the Jefferson Cup from Virginia Library Association, just to name a few.

But back to jazz and Poetry Month, today we’re taking a look BECOMING BILLIE HOLIDAY (illustrated by the amazing Floyd Cooper, Wordsong, 2008), which was a Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book and on many top lists. With starred reviews from Kirkus (“…A remarkable tribute well worthy of its subject”) and School Library Journal (…“Captivating”), the book is a fictional memoir – a collection of first-person poems chronicling the transformation of Eleanora Fagan (b. 1915) into the groundbreaking and iconic jazz singer Billie Holiday.

Weatherford doesn’t shy away from the hard facts of Billie’s early life – rape, prostitution, drinking and marijuana use – but rounds out the darkness with the irrepressible voice and spirit of this singular talent. Most of the poems take their titles from Billie Holiday’s songs. Here is one which captures the struggle and emotion of her very early years (reprinted with permission from the author):

Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do

by Carole Boston Weatherford

At eleven, I had the body
of a grown woman,
the mouth of a sailor, and a temper
hot enough to fry an egg.

What I didn’t have
Was anyone to hug me,
To tuck me in at night,
Or kiss me hello and good-bye.

So I got noticed the only way
I knew – cursing and screaming
in the streets, picking fights
with anyone half as mad as me.

For me, the back
of a hand was better
than the back of a head,
better than being ignored.



She soon discovered that she had a voice, too – which could change her life. (And this voice had power that would reach far beyond her own life, particularly when she lent it to “Strange Fruit,” the 1930s poem-turned-song about racial injustice.)

In the book's afterword, Weatherford explains that she chose to end her account at a point of success for the 25-year old Lady Day – “before heroin and hard living took their toll.”

I’m thrilled to welcome this wonderful poet here today.

Thank you for joining us, Carole, to jazz up Poetry Month!

In my notes from your speech at the Georgia Children’s Literature conference, I scribbled down this quote: “Poetry is my first language as a writer.” You described how you wrote poetry as a child (and you share photos on your website of some early works!). Have you always thought of yourself as a poet?


Over the years, I have dabbled in photography, fashion design, sewing, needle arts, graphic design, bookmaking, painting, and of course writing. Writing, specifically poetry, was my first avenue of creative expression. But I didn't think of myself as poet as a child any more than I considered being an author. I had no clue about literary careers. But as poetic expression became more and more a part of my identity, I declared myself a poet. I was around 25 and had just written a poem entitled "I'm Made of Jazz." That poem had Billie in it too. I guess she was my muse even then.

I enjoyed hearing you discuss how BECOMING BILLIE HOLIDAY took a little coaxing from your muse. Could you share a little of the background of how you came to write it?

I have been under Billie's spell longer than I can remember. My father played her records, but I became a die-hard devotee at age 16 after seeing the biopic Lady Sings the Blues. In 2006, Billie enlisted me to write a young adult book about her. But I was afraid the book wouldn't appeal to teens, so I ditched the idea. Then, at Baltimore's Great Blacks in Wax Museum, an eighth grade girl who swooned at Billie's wax figure unknowingly green-lighted the project. When I seemed surprised that she'd heard of Lady Day, the girl told me, "She could sing!" As the girl moved on, it was almost as if Billie said, "I told you to write my book."

Why did you think poetry was the best vehicle to use to tell this story?

Billie had a gift for imbuing lyrics with intense emotion. In fact, she really pioneered vocal lyricism in the jazz idiom. What she did with lyrics, poetry does with language.

I’m amazed at the way you balanced presenting the facts of Billie Holiday’s experiences, which were often brutal and hard, with the joy that singing brought to her life (and to her fans and followers). Was this as difficult as I’m imagining, and was there something in your process that helped you pull it off?

As the poems poured out of me, it was almost if Billie were whispering and humming in my ear. She provided the soundtrack and her life story the scenes for the narrative. The process was a bit mystical, like channeling her.

What aspect of Billie Holiday’s personality did you most want to share with young readers?

I wanted to capture her mood when she first experienced music and fame. More than anything, I depicted her as I thought she would want to be remembered.

In your picture books, whether a story is told in prose or in poems, there’s an easy rhythm to the language. You’ve written that “jazz was the soundtrack” of your preschool years - how would you say jazz has influenced your writing – in any genre?

I love music, especially jazz, female vocalists and world music. But I rarely listen to music while writing, because for me creating a poem is like composing a melody. I need to hear the nascent verses in my head. I'd like to think I write jazz poetry. My poems make the vernacular voice sing and swing. But if I could sing, I wouldn't write.

Your words definitely sing. Thanks so much for visiting with us today – Happy Poetry AND Jazz Month!

For more, please visit Carole’s website and her great Billie Holiday blog.

For more poetry, sashay over to see what Diane’s rounding up at Random Noodling.
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Happy Haiku Day! and Playing Laser Tag over at Cathy C. Hall's blog


Howdy. Happy National Haiku Poetry Day!

I'm thrilled to be a guest on the blog of the fabulous, funny, fellow Georgia peach Cathy C. Hall today! Click here for the post, where we offer a taste of haiku humor in the form of a couple of senryu I've just had published in Prune Juice, and also for a behind-the-scenes look at my other (slightly weird) poem in THE ARROW FINDS ITS MARK, "Battling Beams." Some days you have to multi-task.

Thanks for inviting me to come play on your blog, Cathy!
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Poetry Friday: Laura Purdie Salas speaks about BOOKSPEAK

The fabulous Laura Purdie Salas is here! A prolific writer of poetry and nonfiction for children, and a busy blogger, Laura is a tireless voice for excellence in writing for kids.

Before we ask her a few questions (and read a NEVER-BEFORE-SEEN poem!), let’s take a look at one of her newest books, BOOKSPEAK – Poems About Books, illustrated with warmth and whimsy by Josée Bisaillon (Clarion Books, 2011). Some of its awards include being a Minnesota Book Award finalist, an NCTE Notable book, an Honor book for the inaugural Gelett Burgess Children’s Book Award, a White Ravens 2012 book, and a Librarians’ Choice book.

For a hint of the variety of flavors in this collection, let me share just a few lines from a few poems:

From “Skywriting”

Line after line of inky black birds
Forming the flocks that shift into words. ...



From ”Index”

P s s s t!
Hey, kid – yeah, you.
So you want some facts, huh?

Forget that pretty picture on the front cover –
don’t you know they lie?

And the Table of Contents?
That only tells you where each chapter starts!
Pretty vague, you know what I’m saying?
I can give you specifics. …



From ”Bookplate”


I’m not that kind of plate.

Write your name upon me.
I’m a paper love tattoo. …


From “I’ve Got This Covered”

I’m the first thing you see when you walk by a book.
My picture is shouting, “Please stop! Take a look!”



Okay, now is your appetite whetted for a colorful collection of poems celebrating all things book? Laura was kind enough to answer some behind-the-scenes questions about how THIS book came to be.

One amazing aspect of BOOKSPEAK is its range – you cover everything from the look of letters on a white page to how a book feels being checked out of the library, to plot, character, and even the index and cover! How did these poems come about, and when did you know you had a collection?

I didn’t! I was invited by Lee Bennett Hopkins to submit poems for his book-related anthology, I AM THE BOOK. I was on cloud 9, because combining poems and books—what could be better? And the chance to appear in one of Lee’s anthologies? Oh my gosh. I sent in 13 poems and was heartbroken when none was selected. He was very kind about it, of course. I relayed my sad story to my then-agent, Karen Klockner, who asked me to send the poems to her. She promptly submitted them to Jennifer Wingertzahn, my then-editor at Clarion (she acquired and edited STAMPEDE). To my surprise (and, to be honest, sort of to Karen’s surprise, as well), Jennifer acquired the collection. I kept saying, “But…[Lee is already doing an anthology on this topic], “but…” [the poems had already been rejected], “but…” [was it OK to do this when they came about because of someone else’s project?] They kept saying, “It’s OK. Breathe. Relax.” Lee was extremely gracious about my collection coming out, and of course I adore I AM THE BOOK and am happy to see many poet friends in there.

How did the final collection end up with 21 poems?

I started with 13, but they wanted more. I think I eventually had about 25, which Jennifer and the editor who took over the project, Daniel Nayeri, narrowed down to 21. I know offhand of at least three that got cut, “Why Aren’t All Books Happy?,” “Stellar Books,” and “Ocean Tales.”

Here’s the never-before-seen (oooh!) Stellar Books:

Stellar Books

Long-ago stars spark the sky
Books spill their tales in a day
Echoes of both light your way
Stories and stars never die

There were probably a few others that either got cut by the editor(s) or that I discarded along the way. I was sad to lose the above three, though. I really liked them. But I’ll share them online or submit them to other markets, when I have time (right).


I have a thing for star poems! Thanks so much for sharing that.

I’m guessing teachers love this book. Have you discovered any particularly fun ways students are interacting with the poems?


The one thing that has come up several times is classes having fun reading “The Middle’s Lament: A Poem for Three Voices” out loud. Which is exactly what I hoped they’d do with it. I’m hoping that BOOKSPEAK’s status as an NCTE Notable book (yay!) will give it more exposure, and that I’ll get to hear how teachers use it.

I do have a teaching guide and some parts-of-the-book worksheets on my website for teachers to use.


How do you think all your nonfiction writing experience informs your poetry, or vice-versa? Is your writing process different for different genres?

I think my nonfiction informs my poetry more than vice-versa. I love poetry with nonfiction content, using words and sounds to emphasize the meaning of what you want to say. It was really fun, though, to write actual nonfiction in verse in A LEAF CAN BE…. That was one case where it was vice-versa:>)

Congratulations on your recent publishing successes. (A LEAF CAN BE is just exquisite!) You are always frank on your blog about the joys and challenges of being a writer. Do you have any favorite nuggets of advice for aspiring children’s poets?

Thanks, Robyn! This IS a challenging career. I have all sorts of Poetic Pursuits essays on my site and each one covers some aspect of writing poetry for kids. My favorite basics regarding the mechanics, though, are:

1. Condense!

2. Don’t rhyme unless you have to.

3. Get rid of the filler words (a, the, etc.)

Great advice. Thanks for visiting, Laura!

Thanks for having me here! Despite it being Friday the 13th, I feel lucky to be here!

P.S. There is scheduled to be a video of me reading “This Is the Book” from BOOKSPEAK over at today Katie Davis’s blog and one of my reading “Hydrophobiac” earlier this month at Renee LaTulippe’s No Water River blog . I do not like seeing recordings of myself, and I need to get better at reading poems aloud. So I’m sort of afraid to share those links.


Have no fear, Laura! You’re great on video, and you have so many wonderful things to share. Thank you for sharing so much here today! For more Laura, visit her website, and her blog.

Today I have the good luck to be featured on Laura Shovan's Author Amok blog, and next week, right here, we'll be jazzing things up with Carole Boston Weatherford!

Now, put BOOKSPEAK on order at your favorite library or bookstore, and then go see what everyone else is saying on this Poetry Friday. The Roundup today is hosted by the amazing Anastasia Suen at Booktalking. (Check out Anastasia’s contribution to the 2012 KidLit Progressive Poem yesterday, and keep following the mystery….)

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Poetry Friday: Nancy Raines Day brings us A IS FOR ALLIGUITAR

Fans of Nancy Raines Day’s wordplay are in for a treat. Her newest picture book, A IS FOR ALLIGUITAR - Musical Alphabeasts (Pelican Publishing, Spring 2012) is a unique abecedarium - chock-full of fun animal/instrument combinations.

Since Nancy’s first picture book, THE LION’S WHISKERS, appeared in 1995, she’s published half a dozen more. All have poetic language, and some of them rhyme, like her rollicking ON A WINDY NIGHT (Abrams) (see my blog post here) and DOUBLE THOSE WHEELS (Dutton).

In her new book, each letter of the alphabet comes to life in an unexpected way. The Illustrations by Herb Leonhard are colorful and full of expression and movement. (And what a challenge it must have been to visually create, say, a “harpoodle” or an “organutan.”) For insight into Leonhard’s process in bringing to life these “alphabeasts,” which involved traditional and digital painting techniques, see his comments here on Nancy’s website.

Here’s how the story starts:

Animals, instruments,
swing all around,
Mix - one for each letter -
now how do they sound?


Some of Nancy’s own favorite characters begin the adventure:

A
is for alliguitar,
who has his
own picks.

B
is for banjaguar,
who plays some
hot licks


Another of her favorite spreads is one I’m especially drawn to:

S
is for saxofox,
with velvet-toned
tail.

T
is for tromboa,
who really can
wail.


I’m swayin’ to the music, baby.

Nancy adds, “My fellow University of Michigan alumni friends get a kick out of the wolbourines.”

Before becoming a children’s author, Nancy wrote in some form or fashion throughout her life. As a child, she “published a newspaper written on leaves with ‘ink’ from squished berries and charged 25 cents in hickory nut money.”

I asked Nancy a couple of questions about this new book.

How did you get the idea for ALLIGUITAR?

“I was standing on the St. Simons (Georgia) pier, thinking about going to a reunion concert of the youth orchestra I played viola with in high school--all the different instruments and the people who played them. Some tourists on the pier were talking about just having seen an alligator in the water. So, while scanning the water for an alligator and thinking about instruments, my wires got crossed and I said "Alliguitar".

I wondered if I could come up with a combination like that for every letter of the alphabet. Mostly, I did it for my own entertainment. (Some people do crossword puzzles; I set myself these little challenges.) Then I wondered if I could put it all in rhyme, which--this time--came easily. It was a gift.


What fun! What was the most challenging part of the project?

The most challenging part was probably coming up with the animal/instrument combinations. Google was a big help for finding lists of animals and instruments that started with the right letter or sound. It also helped in trying to come up with scenarios to pair the two musical alphabeasts in the same stanza and spread. For instance, googling ibis and jackal, I discovered the Egyptians had two gods, one with the head of an ibis and another with the head of a jackal.

Those ancient Egyptians had some intriguing deities. Thanks for stopping in, Nancy!

Young readers will love the creative letter/instrument combinations that form each colorful "alphabeast" - and they will likely come up with their own! Learn more about Nancy and her work at her website.

And to fill your universe with more great poetry, click on over to visit Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe for this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup. [Next week, the Roundup will be HERE! :0) ]
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Poetry Friday: Dragony Delights

SIR MIKE, Scholastic, illustrations © David Murphy; dragon print ©Robyn Hood Black
SIR MIKE, my rhyming Rookie Reader from Scholastic (2005) features a boy preparing to fight what he’s sure is a dragon in his back yard, rustling in the bushes.
It begins:

I am Sir Mike.
I am a knight.

If I see a dragon,
I might have to fight.


(By the way, a friend called to tell me there’s a new Nickelodeon show launching TODAY called MIKE THE KNIGHT, and she’s sure I should have gotten some royalties or something. The characters even favor each other! I only wish….)

Anyway, last night Kilough Elementary School here in Georgia invited me to come for an Author’s Night with a SIR MIKE and dragon theme. I spoke to students and families about writing, and then we all settled in for a viewing of HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON. An awesome evening! Great kids (some in PJs), gracious faculty and volunteers, and fun families.

All of this dragon-speak put me in the mind to share a dragon poem or two.
The first is a short, wonderful poem by X. J. Kennedy,

My Dragon
by X. J. Kennedy
(excerpt)

I have a purple dragon with
A long brass tail that clangs,
And anyone not nice to me
Soon feels his fiery fangs. …


Please read the rest here.

For a longer dragony frolic, enjoy Ogden Nash’s unlikely and cowardly hero, Custard - originally published in 1936.

THE TALE OF CUSTARD THE DRAGON
By Ogden Nash
Copyright Linell Nash Smith and Isabel Nash Eberstadt
(excerpt)

Belinda lived in a little white house,
With a little black kitten and a little gray mouse,
And a little yellow dog and a little red wagon,
And a realio, trulio, little pet dragon.

Now the name of the little black kitten was Ink,
And the little gray mouse, she called her Blink,
And the little yellow dog was sharp as Mustard,
But the dragon was a coward, and she called him Custard.

Custard the dragon had big sharp teeth,
And spikes on top of him and scales underneath,
Mouth like a fireplace, chimney for a nose,
And realio, trulio, daggers on his toes.

Belinda was as brave as a barrel full of bears,
And Ink and Blink chased lions down the stairs,
Mustard was as brave as a tiger in a rage,
But Custard cried for a nice safe cage. …


You can read the rest of this first adventure here or in one of the book editions.


For more adventures in poetry, check out the Poetry Friday Roundup hosted today by Karissa at
The Iris Chronicles.
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Poetry Friday is Here! A Web of Treasures…

Greetings! I’m thrilled to be hosting Poetry Friday today.

My Christmas gift this year, a really nice one, is a trip back to Honesdale, Pennsylvania, for another Highlights Founders Workshop in poetry. I’ll be attending Poetry for All in May (there are still a few spots available!) co-led by poet and friend Rebecca Kai Dotlich (click here, here and here for previous posts featuring Rebecca), David Harrison, and Eileen Spinelli.

You're looking at the picture and thinking, What does this have to do with spiders?

David Harrison has this wonderful poem in his collection, Bugs – Poems about Creeping Things, illustrated by Rob Shepperson (Wordsong, 2007):

spiderwebs

by David Harrison

Webs sparkle
on the lawn
like diamond
necklaces
at dawn.

Shiny droplets –
small oases –
beckon spiders
To their places.

Silently they
look and lurk.

Time now for
spider work.


(Used with permission from the author.)

And Eileen Spinelli has this wonderful picture book, Sophie’s Masterpiece, with gentle illustrations by Jane Dyer (Simon and Schuster, 2001).

Sophie was no ordinary house spider. Sophie was an artist.

The talented heroine has a hard time finding a place to live and create, however, as she is chased away from corner to corner of Beekman’s Boardinghouse.

By this time, many spider years had passed. Sophie was older. She only had energy to spin a few small things for herself… a tiny rose-patterned case for her pillow, eight colorful socks to keep herself warm.
But mostly she slept.


Until she meets someone who appreciates her and inspires her to create a very special gift - something that takes her all and becomes a loving legacy. I won’t spoil the story, but I will say my eyes were a bit misty by the end. And then, when I read the author’s note… okay, I cried.

In cultural traditions across the world, the spider represents creativity – a keeper of ancient wisdom, and sometimes a trickster. (And now you’re thinking of E. B. White’s Charlotte , aren’t you?)

Whatever your “spider work” is today, let it be inspired by a World Wide Web-ful of poetry. Include your link in the comments, and I’ll weave them all together throughout the day.

POETRY FRIDAY ROUNDUP:

Julie at The Drift Record is waking up with a cold snap and the poem, "Icicles," by Todd Boss.

Over at The Poem Farm, Amy
shares a terrific original poem, "Umbrella Path," inspired by Alix Martin's colorful painting in the collaborative SPARK 14.

Tabatha,at The Opposite of Indifference, explores poetry holiday and gift ideas (including a really cool ornament).

Myra chimes in that at Gathering Books, Iphigene discusses another Joel M. Toledo poem, "Learning to Swim" - beautiful and thought-provoking!

Jama serves up a poignant haibun by Penny Harter, "Moon-Seeking Soup," written after the death of her husband, William J. Higginson, in 2008 (both have made immeasurable contributions to the haiku world).

Heidi's in today at My Juicy Little Universe with some delightful poetry by her kindergarteners, and a discussion of their poetry collage projects.

Ruth brings us Keats and an original poem describing how a poem idea will not leave you alone at There is No Such Thing as a God-Forsaken Town.

Need a little romance today? Maria at A Poem a Day from the George Hail Library brings us Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning - and in the continuing series on sonnets, one from the latter you might not have read before.

Irene is caught up in the spirit of giving. She’s got a copy of Shel Silverstein’s EVERY THING ON IT for some lucky re-tweeter.

Join Laura today here for Janet Wong’s yoga poem, “Tree,” and here for her 15-words-or-less poem, also tree-related, and a photograph you just have to see for yourself.

Diane has an original poem, “Pie Town Family – 1940” inspired by a historical photograph, at “Random Noodling.

Her Kids of the Homefront Army features a poem about one reality of war, “Certain Advantages.”

And, Kurious Kitty is asking with Aileen Fisher, “Do Rabbits Have Christmas?” featuring one of the sparkly poems from the book, published five years after Fisher’s death.

K K’s Kwotes has a quote by Truman Capote.

Linda at TeacherDance helps us to remember those for whom the holidays are a lonely time, with “The Transparent Man” by Anthony Hecht.

How about some Ogden Nash? Sally’s got you covered at The Write Sisters with “Everybody Tells Me Everything.”

At Picture Books and Pirouettes, Kerry shares Doreen Cronin’s picture book, Wiggle, sure to get you moving this morning.

Debbie takes another look at giving with the poem “Altruism” by Molly Peacock.

Feeling a little batty? Join Joyce at Musings to enjoy thoughts about Randall Jarrell’s The Bat-Poet (and a few verses from the poetry).

Sally at Paper Tigers brings us Oh, Grow Up: Poems to Help You Survive Parents, Chores, School and Other Afflictions by Florence Parry Heide and daughter Roxanne Heide Pierce.

Check out The Stenhouse Blog for a reverse poem, “Framing My Future,” written by Rebecca, one of Kelly Gallagher’s students.

Mary Lee at A Year of Reading encourages us to “Have a _________ Day.” (You have to click to find out!)

At Dori Reads, Doraine shares a Tennyson poem that still perfectly captures difficult emotions.

Over at Wild Rose Reader, Elaine keeps the spirit of giving going with another terrific e-book from Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, Gift Tag, and a fun, original poem to fit the theme.

Brace yourself to face the animal life in a hoarder's home with Mandy's original poem at Write on the World.

David E. has a thought-provoking original poem, "how great?" - which he describes as "a found poem, a cross-out poem, a little bit of random poem." Check it out!

Lorie Ann at readergirlz also features the Gift Tag e-collection from Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, and shares her poem in it, "Tucked Between Branches." If you enjoyed/enjoy those little pudgy trolls as much as I did/do, you'll love it!

At All About the Books, Janet is all about Douglas Florian's wonderful volume, mammalabilia.

Shelley at Dust Bowl Poetry shares many different poems about families facing hard times.

Tara is celebrating libraries today with a couple of terrific poems and pictures. Go join the party at A Teaching Life.

Like a little moonshine with your Chicken Spaghetti? Susan has an original found poem and a review of Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine, and the Lawless Years of Prohibition by Karen Blumenthal.

Over at A Wrung Sponge, Andromeda (Andi) has a very clever idea for combining nature and learning to read! And, after my own heart, a haiku written on rocks. Really!

Mmmm... Smell cookies baking? Follow your nose to Twinkling Along and enjoy an original poem cooked up by Carlie. And some very cute pictures.

The talented Liz over at Liz in Ink is thankful for the change of seasons (brrr!) and offers "Relearning Winter" by Mark Svenvold.

If you're hosting family for a holiday meal, do check out Kelly's original "Holiday Dinner To-Do List" at Writing and Ruminating What would Martha Stewart make of it?

Joy has lots of fun holiday poems and prompts at her blog. Grab a mug of hot chocolate and head over!

Just in time for supper, Jone has a review of Katherine B. Hauth's What's For Dinner? over at Check It Out.

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Eric Rohmann's BONE DOG - more than a Halloween treat...

I've had the pleasure of hearing Caldecott medalist Eric Rohmann speak a couple of times, most recently at the fantastic Advanced Illustrators Highlights Foundation workshop last month. (See Sept. posts.)

In Honesdale, in addition to enjoying the incredibly fun relief printing workshop he offered, I chatted with him for a few moments about his new book, Bone Dog (Roaring Brook Press, 2011). The Highlights folks were gracious to provide a copy of the book for attendees, but I'd already brought one in my suitcase.

I don't have an official interview to offer, but I do have to keep shouting out about how much I LOVE this book. Eric joked during that weekend about how it was standard procedure, when writing a picture book, to kill off a main character by the second or third spread. That's actually what he did in this touching (but not sentimental), humorous, heartfelt story about a boy and his dog.

Gus's beloved old dog, Ella, dies. He goes through the motions of daily activities but is grieving this loss.

"And when Halloween came around, Gus didn't feel like trick-or-treating. But he pulled on his costume and trudged out the door."

He's dressed as a skeleton, he is, and let's just say that as he makes his way home later, some real skeletons appear and they are up to no good. The text and illustrations cause just enough tension that a young reader will be wide-eyed and worried, but not terrified.

The skeleton characters are goofy and wicked and full of themselves, and the reader can sense that they might just be too big for their nonexistent britches.

I won't spoil the story by revealing how things are resolved, but Ella appears in a new form and helps to set things right, with a brilliant idea from Gus. (The book is called Bone Dog, after all - not really a spoiler there, is it?)

Some hilarious spreads ensue, followed by a satisfying ending. Not a "happily ever after," mind you, or something tidy and sweet - but something very rich and honest. Death is a heavy subject, and this book looks it straight in the eye - but with such fun, expressive illustrations and a wacky sense of humor that readers young and old will enjoy the tale.

To learn more about the book, click here for Eric's interview with Vicky Smith posted a few days ago on the Kirkus Reviews blog.

And to learn more about Eric, check out his brand new website.

With all the starred reviews for this one-of-a-kind book, my two cents' might not amount to much - but it's Halloween and I couldn't resist sharing my favorite recent picture book treat. Go dig it up! Read More 
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Celebrating Randolph Caldecott

© Robyn Hood BlackRandolph Caldecott's grave in Evergreen Cemetery, St. Augustine, Florida, and my quick sketch of it.
A couple of weeks ago, my family had a long weekend vacation in one of our favorite spots, and a place I remember fondly from growing up in Florida, St. Augustine.

Last time we were there, I met a delightful young children’s writer working at the Spanish Quarter (a living history complex) who shared this gem with me: Randolph Caldecott (1846-1886) is buried there. He had traveled to the climate in an attempt to improve his ailing health, but died soon after arriving, a month shy of his 40th birthday. The Caldecott Medal , given to “the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children” was first awarded in 1938.

On our previous trip, and again this time, I went to pay my respects at his grave. [This year I was particularly keen to go, since next weekend I’m heading up to a Highlights Founders Workshop
for illustrators. Yee-hi! I’ve been to one other – on poetry.]

Evergreen Cemetery is unassuming and off the beaten path, but peaceful and well maintained. My only real company both times included birds (woodpeckers, a hawk, and others) and squirrels and some lively Florida bugs.

The grave is maintained by the Friends of the Library of St. Johns County, Inc., and the Randolph Caldecott Society of America . A 2005 plaque on the grave reads: “…As a tribute to his life and art, this burial site is designated a Literary Landmark by Friends of Libraries USA.”

One of my favorite books is Randolph Caldecott’s Picture Books (Huntington Library Classics, 2007), which includes copies of nine of the works in the Library’s collection (songs and rhymes made into books), including The Three Jovial Huntsmen and The Diverting History of John Gilpin. I particularly like the note in the introduction that in Sing a Song for Sixpence, Caldecott “ didn’t want children to think that the maid had permanently lost her nose to the blackbird…,” and therefore he added a verse:

The Maid was in the Garden
Hanging out the Clothes-;
There came a little Blackbird,
And snapped off her Nose.
But there came a Jenny Wren
And popped it on again.


The book is beautifully bound with thick, creamy pages perfectly setting off the sepia line drawings and colored wood engravings which still seem fresh today.

Quoting from the Randolph Caldecott Society of America website:

A friend of Mr. Caldecott, Fredrick Locker-Lampson, summed up Randolph Caldecott's work with these words: "It seems to me that Caldecott's art was of a quality that appears about once in a century. It had delightful characteristics most happily blended. He had a delicate fancy, and humor was as racy as it was refined. He had a keen sense of beauty and to sum up all, he had charm."

For more delightful, racy, charming poetry, visit Irene for the Poetry Friday Roundup Read More 
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Celebrating Vicky Alvear Shecter's new book with Style...

Donna H. Bowman, me, a very cool Roman Soldier, Vicky Alvear Shecter, and Janice Hardy celebrate the launch of Vicky's CLEOPATRA'S MOON at the Little Shop of Stories.
Vicky Alvear Shecter's Launch Party at Little Shop of Stories was a classic BLAST. See post below...
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