Tag Archives: poetry

Perfect Pairing is Hands On

There are so many ways to think about what we do and how we do things. Today’s perfectly paired Picture Books look at one important tool that we all share: our hands!

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Whose Hands Are These? A Community Helper Guessing Book

Author: Miranda Paul

Illustrator: Luciana Navarra Powell

Publisher/Date: Lerner Publishing Group/2016

Ages: 4-9

Themes: hands; rhyming; concept book; helping occupations; non-fiction

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

If your hands can mix and mash, what job might you have? What if your hands reach, wrench, yank, and crank? The hands in this book–and the people attached to them–do all sorts of helpful work. And together, these helpers make their community a safe and fun place to live. As you read, keep an eye out for community members who make repeat appearances! Can you guess all the jobs based on the actions of these busy hands?

Read a review at The Grog.

 

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With My Hands: Poems About Making Things

Author: Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

Illustrators: Lou Fancher & Steve Johnson 

Publisher/Date: Clarion Books/2018

Ages: 4-7

Themes: hands; poetry; art; creativity

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

For young makers and artists, brief, lively poems illustrated by a NYT bestselling duo celebrate the pleasures of working with your hands.
Building, baking, folding, drawing, shaping . . . making something with your own hands is a special, personal experience. Taking an idea from your imagination and turning it into something real is satisfying and makes the maker proud.
With My Hands is an inspiring invitation to tap into creativity and enjoy the hands-on energy that comes from making things.

Read a review at Enjoy and Embrace Learning.

I paired these books because…Who knows the answer? Hands up! Yep, the hands have it! Looking at their hands, Paul explores community helpers in a question-and-answer format that will engage young readers. VanDerwater encourages creativity in With My Hands, a collection of 26 poems that celebrate the joy of being a maker and making such things as a birdhouse or boat. How will you use your hands to help others and be a creator?

PPBF – Bookjoy Wordjoy

Before National Hispanic Heritage Month draws to a close, I want to share a recently published book of poetry that bridges languages and celebrates the power of words to bring joy to all.

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Title: Bookjoy Wordjoy

Written By: Pat Mora

Illustrated By: Raul Colón

Publisher/Date: Lee & Low Books Inc./2018

Suitable for Ages: 6-12 (or younger)

Themes/Topics: reading; writing; poetry; multicultural

Opening:

Books and Me

We belong/ together,/ books and me,/ like toast and jelly/ o queso y tortillas./ Delicious! ¡Delicioso!/ Like flowers and bees,/ birds and trees,/ books and me.

Brief Synopsis: In a series of 14 poems, Mora explores the joys of reading and writing.

Links to Resources:

  • Mora defines “bookjoy” as the “fun of reading” in her “Welcome” to Bookjoy Wordjoy; share a book you enjoy with a friend or family member;
  • Wordjoy is the “fun of listening to words, combining words, and playing with words – the fun of writing”, Mora explains in the “Welcome”. Think of the words you enjoy hearing or speaking aloud. Try to combine them in a fun, silly or serious poem;
  • Mora is a founder of a literacy initiative called “Children’s Day, Book Day, in Spanish, El día de los niños, el día de los libros, [which] is a year-long commitment to celebrating all our children and to motivating them and their families to be readers, essential in our democracy”; check out the Día resources;
  • Discover Mora’s tips to create a bookjoy family.

Why I Like this Book:

This is a fun book to read aloud and share in the home, library or classroom. As Mora reveals in an acrostic poem entitled “Wordjoy”, it’s “música” she hears when she reads and writes. And it’s her love of words, reading and writing that fill this book with the joy that leaps from each page.

In a poem entitled “Writing Secrets”, Mora shares tips to encourage children of all ages and abilities to think about their own unique experiences, write and revise what they’ve written, and then share their stories with “family and friends.” In “Jazzy Duet/Dueto de jazz”, she follows each English line with its Spanish translation, which, I think, will help English or Spanish speakers learn the other language and find beauty in it: Play/ Juega/ with sounds./ con sonidos.

Most of the poems appear opposite Colón’s full-page, watercolor and Prismacolor pencil illustrations that capture the exuberant joy of Mora’s poetry.

A Note about Craft:

Bookjoy Wordjoy is a compilation of 14 poems about the joys of reading and writing. I love how the poems differ but follow this theme. As readers and creators, I think it’s important to consider how reading and creating inform each other.

Mora is a Latina of Mexican heritage and Colón was born and lived as a child in Puerto Rico. From Spanish words sprinkled through the poetry to Colón’s inspiration from “the works of some Central American artists, including Rufino Tamayo”, Latinx heritage flows through the pages.

Visit Mora’s website to see more of her many books. Read a recent interview with Colón in Publishers Weekly and see a recent interview with Mora and Colón about Bookjoy Wordjoy.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me

Happy Book Birthday to today’s Perfect Picture Book! While all book birthdays are happy occasions, today’s book birthday is particularly special as we celebrate the pairing of an award-winning children’s author and poet hailing from the United States with a preeminent illustrator hailing from Iran. Thanks to the generosity of the publisher, Tiny Owl Publishing, I received an advance copy that I’ve read and reread, including to my own pup (he loved it, too!).

Thinker_9781910328330-768x1074Title: Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me

Written By: Eloise Greenfield

Illustrated By: Ehsan Abdollahi

Publisher/date: Tiny Owl Publishing/April 2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: dogs; poetry; communication; #WNDB

Opening:

Naming Me

They brought me from the neighbour’s house

and put me on the floor,

they talked about their love for me,

and I thought, “More! More! More!”

Brief Synopsis: A collection of discreet poems that tells the story of Thinker, a dog who writes and recites poetry, and Jace, a young poet, as the pair bond over poetry and ultimately enjoy a memorable Pets Day at school.

Links to Resources:

  • Can your pet talk? Explore the different ways animals communicate;
  • Enjoy more dog-themed poetry;
  • Follow Greenfield’s lead and write “a poem or two”;
  • Although I’ve never met a poetry-writing dog, some dogs enjoy being read to, including therapy dogs who visit libraries and encourage children to read aloud to them. Learn more about library dogs;
  • Make tissue-paper collages, similar to those created by Abdollahi.

Why I Like this Book:

Told in a series of 16 free verse and rhymed poems, primarily from the point of view of Thinker, Thinker explores what it means to be part of a family and be appreciated for one’s talents within that family, and how we can share our unique talents with the wider community, too.

Thinker is an engaging story with a kid-relatable problem: Jace doesn’t want his poetic dog to show off his unique skills in school because Jace doesn’t want other children to consider him weird. But being quiet is difficult for Thinker. He questions,

Who am I, if I’m
not myself?
Who am I?

Only by being himself and sharing the poetry in his heart is Thinker happy. Indeed, who are we, if we can’t be ourselves and express the joy and music in our hearts, in our own unique ways, too. Jace learns this important lesson. He also realizes that others admire Thinker’s poetry and that other pets have unique talents. But you’ll have to read Thinker to discover what those talents are.

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Ehsan Abdollahi from Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me

Thinker also celebrates communication: the cross-species communication of the two poetry-loving friends and the cross-cultural communication between the poet’s words and the illustrator’s images. United by a love of children’s literature, the renowned American poet Greenfield shares her lyrical words and the talented Iranian illustrator Abdollahi shares his colorful, handmade, hand-coloured collaged illustrations to create a wonderful reading experience that owes its beauty to the unique talents of its creators.  Thinker’s smaller, just-right-for-younger-hands size will appeal to kids. The retro feel of the illustrations is an additional plus, especially as Thinker features a family of color, living  an everyday life with a twist – a poetic dog in their home.

A Note about Craft:

Greenfield includes poems in Thinker that switch between the points of view of Thinker and Jace. In “Two Poets Talking”, Jace and Thinker even hold a conversation through their poetry.

Greenfield includes many free verse poems and also some that rhyme.  There’s a short Haiku and the 89-year young poet even ends Thinker with “Thinker’s Rap.” I hope when I reach Greenfield’s age, I’m still writing and embracing new forms of expression.

Greenfield is the author of 47 books for children, and has received many awards, including the 2018 Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement and the Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children from the National Council of Teachers of English. Read Greenfield’s essay  about how Thinker began. See also a 2007 interview by Don Tate in The Brown Bookshelf.

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         Eloise Greenfield by Ehsan Abdollahi

Abdollahi is a noted Iranian illustrator, who illustrated, among other works, When I Coloured in the World (Ahmadreza Ahmadi, Tiny Owl Publishing, 2015) and A Bottle of Happiness (Pippa Goodheart, Tiny Owl Publishing, 2017). Read an interview with him here.

Thinker is not yet available in the US, but you can order it from the Book Depository, that ships for free worldwide.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – A Rainbow in My Pocket

Continuing the celebration of poetry for National Poetry Month, I’m so happy to feature a poetic picture book that was published April 2016 in English and that I received from the publisher when I visited London last month. Poem in Your Pocket Day is coming up on April 26th (as I was reminded when I visited the poets.org website and checked out their 30 ways to celebrate national poetry month). You’ll see below that the young girl in today’s Perfect Picture Book is set to celebrate – writing a poem each day to keep in her pocket.

9781910328125-768x767Title: A Rainbow in My Pocket

Written By: Ali Seidabadi

Illustrated By: Hoda Haddadi

Translated By: Azita Rassi

Publisher/date: Tiny Owl Publishing Ltd/ 2016 (first published in Persian, Ofogh Publications/2007)

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: poetry; #ReadYourWorld; curiosity

Opening:

If you can’t
Fit the Rainbow
In your pocket,
Instead
Make your dreams
So big
You can put
What you like
Inside them!

I’ll write
My dreams,
My wishes,
And my thoughts
On a small piece of paper
And put it in my pocket.
I feel the rainbow
Rising from my pocket.

Brief Synopsis: A young girl shares her observations, hopes, and dreams by writing a poem each day and storing the paper in her pocket.

Links to Resources:

  • Discover Iran, home of the author and illustrator;
  • Write about or draw a picture of something you like or wish to have or do;
  • Keep a journal to write down your thoughts each day;
  • View the book trailer here.

Why I Like this Book:

A Rainbow in My Pocket is a happy, hopeful collection of whimsical observations about the little things in life, questions about nature, and musings about more universal themes. The young, unnamed narrator records her of-the-moment thoughts each day and shares them as distinct free-verse poems with the reader. They range from the everyday experience of waiting for a favorite dress to be washed, dried and ready to wear, dreaming about a hat her mother hasn’t bought her yet, to wondering why ants “queue in such a neat line.” Similarly, she wonders why the sky is blue, as a bird “in a smoky city” answers, “why isn’t the sky blue?”

Like curious young children everywhere, the narrator’s mind flits between small, everyday observations to more thought-provoking ideas. I couldn’t help thinking of that phrase, “out of the mouths of babes” as I read,

I wish people
Would talk using only nice words –
Poetry,
Songs,
Not use harsh words
That prod
And poke you.

I think all of us share this wish, as we encourage our children to let their minds wander, to ponder and question both everyday happenings and big, universal ideas, and to hope for a future as magical as a rainbow following a rain shower.

Seidabadi’s short, lyrical verses are paired well with Haddadi’s colorfully dreamy, mixed- media collages. Haddadi leaves plenty of white space, too, to let readers’ minds wander and wonder.

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Interior spread from the text, as reproduced in Mirrors, Windows, Doors

A Note about Craft:

Seidabadi wrote A Rainbow in My Pocket from the first-person point of view. The narrator remains nameless, and even Haddadi’s evocative illustrations give no indication of her exact age or location. This combination, I believe, enables readers and listeners to share in the narrator’s thoughts, and, perhaps let their minds wander among ideas big and small. Likewise, there is no plot, per se. There is, however, movement among ideas, and between everyday questions & bigger picture dreams.

An End Note introduces the Iranian author and illustrator to Western readers.

See also an interview with Haddadi here, and view more illustrations on her Facebook page. In addition to other awards and recognition, Haddadi won the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award 2017 for best illustration of a picture book in the North American market for Drummer Girl, by Hiba Masood; illustrated by Hoda Hadadi (Daybreak Press, 2017).

Read an interview with Seidabadi here, a chat with him here, and visit his Facebook page.

Discover more books published by Tiny Owl Publishing Ltd, “an independent publishing company committed to producing beautiful, original books for children”, founded on the “belief that stories act as bridges – providing pathways to new experiences whilst connecting us to here and there”. They’ve published a number of books by Iranian authors and/or illustrators, including When I Coloured in the World, Alive Again,  A Bottle of Happinessand The Drum.

While not currently available in US book shops, A Rainbow in My Pocket is available through the Book Depository which ships for free to the US and around the world.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – The Drum

The moon and stars aligned last Saturday, and I was in London for the launch of today’s Perfect Picture Book. What fun to check out New Beacon Books, a north London bookstore that has specialized in African and Caribbean literature since 1966, and participate in the lively book launch, featuring dancing, stomping and clapping.

DWePGqhXkAAIwmU-1024x1005Title: The Drum

Written By: Ken Wilson-Max

Illustrated By: Catell Ronca

Publisher/date: Tiny Owl Publishing/2018

Suitable for Ages: 2-5

Themes/Topics: music; motion; diversity; poetry; self-expression

Opening:

This is the drum

This is the beat

Brief Synopsis: A diverse group of children enjoys moving to the beat of a drum.

Links to Resources:

  • Make a drum;
  • Listen to drum music;
  • Read about a young Cuban girl who wanted to play the drums in Margarita Engle’s Drum Dream Girl – music, especially the beat of drums, really is universal!

Why I Like this Book:

The drum takes center stage in the first in the Children Music Life series of picture books designed to get children moving and feeling the musical beat. With its diverse cast of characters, The Drum presents a lively celebration of how music unites peoples of different races, ethnicities, genders, ages and socioeconomic status.

I think children and adults will enjoy hearing, over and over again (as young children often ask for beloved books), Wilson-Max’s song-like text and following his prompts to move to the music. As I experienced at the book launch, even very young children were quick to repeat his poetic text, word for word, as they followed the prompts to clap hands, stomp feet, shake shoulders, and move their bodies. Best of all, it was clear that the message to “feel the drum in your heart” was heeded. I could easily envision kids, and maybe some adults, leaving the launch, or finishing a reading, and being inspired to beat on whatever drum-like surface they could find or make.

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Wilson-Max at the book launch

Ronca’s bright illustrations that seem to jump off the pages are the perfect accompaniment to Wilson-Max’s staccato text. With minimal backgrounds and a mixture of clothing styles, including many fabrics that could be African or Caribbean inspired, the focus is on the smiling faces and moving bodies of the diverse participants. As Ronca stated in a recent interview, “I wanted the colours to communicate life and make the visuals as striking as possible.” I think you’ll agree that she succeeded.

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Scene from The Drum

The Drum is a great addition to home, classroom and nursery school bookshelves, especially for those desiring to build a diverse library or teach listening and basic musical skills.

A Note about Craft:

With its low word count (about 80 words total), Wilson-Max’s staccato, poetic text mimics the beats of a drum and encourages repetition. This suits the subject matter of The Drum well, I believe, and brought to mind Baptiste Paul’s poetic language in The Field that, to my mind, mimicked the back and forth action of a soccer match. In addition, Wilson-Max’s short, rhythmic language is perfect for younger listeners, like those in nursery schools or music appreciation classes. It’s clear that he tailored his words not just to the subject matter but also to the young ages of his target listeners.

Visit Wilson-Max’s about.me site to learn more about him. See more of Ronca’s artwork on her website.

Tiny Owl Publishing Ltd  is an independent publishing company in the UK “committed to producing beautiful, original books for children”, and founded on the “belief that stories act as bridges – providing pathways to new experiences whilst connecting us to here and there.”

While not currently available in US book shops, The Drum is available through the Book Depository, which ships for free to the US and around the world.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – Somos como las nubes, We Are Like the Clouds

While I often gravitate towards books about migration, I feel particularly drawn to the topic now, as I am in the process of a complicated, multi-phase move that has lasted almost two months – so far! And while I have not fled a violent or poverty-stricken situation, I, too, have hopes that this next, hopefully-forever home will be better. As I choose what to bring, and what to donate, I can’t help but wonder how those who truly flee must feel, as they leave behind everything, or close to everything, and take only what they can carry. To those brave souls, the subject of today’s Perfect Picture Book:

9781554988501_1024x1024Title: Somos como las nubes We Are Like the Clouds

Written By: Jorge Argueta

Pictures By: Alfonso Ruano

Translated By: Elisa Amado

Publisher/date: Groundwood Books (House of Anansi Press)/2016

Suitable for Ages: 7-12

Themes/Topics: migration; poetry; bilingual (Spanish/English)

Opening:

Somos como las nubes

Elefantes, caballos, vaca, cuches,/ flores,/ballenas,/ pericos.

Somos como las nubes.

We Are Like the Clouds

Elephants, horses, cows, pigs,/ flowers,/ whales,/ parakeets.

We are like the clouds.

Brief Synopsis:

In this poetry collection, Argueta explores the hopes and fears that cause young people to leave Central America, the perils of the journey, and the arrival to the United States.

Links to Resources:

  • Argueta compares the young migrants to many animals and aspects of nature. What are you like? Why do you think the young migrants are like clouds?
  • Write a poem describing how you felt when you left somewhere and/or arrived someplace else;
  • Learn about Central America;
  • Learn more about why children flee Central America in a report by Unicef USA.

Why I Like this Book:

Somos como las nubes We Are Like the Clouds is a beautiful collection of poems that explore the feelings of the children who undertake the arduous journey from Central America to the United States, often on their own. In an Author’s Note, Argueta explains that he “wrote these poems based on my experiences of working with these young people in El Salvador as well as in the United States.” It’s clear that Argueta “gets it”. His images and analogies transport the readers, so that they, too, feel as if they’ve undertaken the odyssey that thousands of young migrants have undertaken to flee poverty and violence in search of a better life.

This is a wonderful collection to share in families and classrooms. As an added bonus, the Spanish and English texts face each other, rendering them useful in language classes, too. And while the poems can be read separately, they hang together to capture the experiences of those contemplating the journey, those left behind, the journey itself, and the life for those who make it to the US.

Ruano’s paintings range from realistic renderings of the migrants’ experiences to surrealistic, dream-like images. Many are full- or double-page spreads, drawing readers into the realities of the migrants’ lives.

A Note about Craft:

How does one capture the experiences of child migrants, often traveling alone, fleeing the threat of violence and gangs and/or extreme poverty? These are such difficult topics for adults to comprehend. How can a writer make these experiences accessible to children without causing nightmares or overwhelming fear? One way is to soften the blow via poetry, to utilize lyrical language and analogize to the natural world. By doing so, I think Argueta helps children, and adults, empathize with the young migrants in a way a straight telling of the journey perhaps would not.

Not surprisingly, Somos como las nubes We Are Like the Clouds is published by an independent, Canadian children’s publisher, Groundwood Books. On their website, they state, “we are not afraid of books that are difficult or potentially controversial; and we are particularly committed to publishing books for and about children whose experiences of the world are under-represented elsewhere.” In addition to many other “difficult-topic” books, they published Migrant and Two White Rabbits – both about different aspects of the migrant experience.

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This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – Miguel’s Brave Knight: Young Cervantes and His Dream of Don Quixote

My pick for today is not the tale of a refugee nor does it cast a spotlight on a place experiencing conflict. It does, however, shed light on the Spanish-language author equivalent to Shakespeare, and offer hope and insights to those experiencing personal and/or societal conflict or pain.  I hope you agree that it’s a Perfect Picture Book:

MiguelsBraveKnight_mainTitle: Miguel’s Brave Knight: Young Cervantes and His Dream of Don Quixote

Poems Written By: Margarita Engle

Illustrated By: Raúl Colón

Publisher/date: Peachtree Publishers/October 2017

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes/Topics: imagination; poetry; historical fiction; hope; resilience

Opening:

Happiness

When I close my eyes,

I ride up high

on a horse the color of moonrise!

But then I open my eyes,

and all I see is Papá, selling

the last of the horses from his stable—

Brief Synopsis: Through free-verse poetry, the life and dreams of young Miguel Cervantes are explored, offering a clue into what inspired the writing of Don Quixote, the first modern novel.

Links to Resources:

  • Check out the Teacher’s Guide, including a Vocabulary Puzzle Game, Windmill drawing activity, and poetry prompt;
  • An Author’s Note, Illustrator’s Note, Historical Note, Biographical Note, and “Don Quixote, a Cultural Icon” provide context;
  • Create your own windmill;
  • Young Cervantes was a dreamer. What do you imagine when you dream? Who are you and what do you do? Write a poem setting out these ideas (“When I dream…,” or “Sometimes I imagine…”, or, the prompt suggested in the Teacher’s Guide, “In my daydreams, I…”).

Why I Like this Book:

Miguel’s Brave Knight is a beautiful book – both the free verse poems exploring young Cervantes’ fears and dreams and the gorgeous water-colored pen and ink illustrations that accompany the text. While many children may not know firsthand the story of Don Quixote, I think they will be keen to learn more about this seminal book after reading Miguel’s Brave Knight.

In addition, by juxtaposing young Miguel’s family circumstances with his dreams and writing, I think Engle’s poems will speak to children who themselves are experiencing family or societal hardships firsthand. In “Hunger,” Engle writes, They even took our beds and plates./ Where will we sleep?/ How will we eat? Reading these words, I can’t help but picture children living in impoverished households with one or more caregiver incarcerated, those whose parents face deportation, and refugees. Thankfully, Engle also posits in “Comfort,” the spark of a story…/A tale about a brave knight/ who will ride out on/ a strong horse/ and right/ all the wrongs/ of this confusing/ world.

A Note about Craft:

Engle, the Young People’s Poet Laureate, wrote Miguel’s Brave Knight as a series of free verse poems, told from a first-person Point of View. I think this works well for a fictionalized biography (fiction, because Engle shares Cervantes’ thoughts and feelings), especially of an author.

In an Author’s Note, Engle shares that she visited the windmills of Spain as a teen with her family, grew up surrounded by the images of Don Quixote, and “wrote Miguel’s Brave Knight to show how the power of imagination can be a great source of comfort and hope in times of struggle and suffering.” What draws you to write or illustrate a story and what further themes can you pull from that story?

In Reading Picture Books with Children (Charlesbridge, 2015), Megan Dowd Lambert champions the whole book approach, and counsels that everything about a picture book can help tell the story. In Miguel’s Brave Knight, the endpapers are particularly relevant, and readers are treated to an imaginative surprise when they peek under the jacket cover.

Learn more about Margarita Engle and Raúl Colón. See my reviews of Engle’s All the Way to Havana and Bravo!: Poems about Amazing Hispanics.

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This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!