Monday, December 24, 2018

Love, Light, Life, and Hope

View of Bethlehem
patrick brennan [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Tonight we'll sing "O Little Town of Bethlehem." These words from that song have always stood out to me, "The hopes and fears of all the years/ Are met in thee tonight."

We all have hopes, and most of us have fears. Things don't go the way we want them to, and more things are out of our control than not.

But tonight, Christians around the world celebrate Love, Light, Life, and Hope being born into the world for everyone. Every one.

Whether or not you are a Jesus follower, who couldn't use some Love, Light, Life, and Hope?

Another song about Bethlehem touches me with these words:
"The heart is tired at Bethlehem,
No human dream unbroken stands;
Yet here God comes..."

Listen and take hope!

Monday, December 3, 2018

Merry Bookmas!

I love giving Christmas gifts, especially books--even to myself! If you need some holiday cheer, look no further than these two treats, one for kids and one for adults.

First, for the kids (or kids at heart), Elise Parsley brings us another funny Magnolia adventure in If You Ever Want to Bring a Pirate to Meet Santa, DON'T!. Yes, despite her dad's insistence that pirates are on the Naughty List, Magnolia brings the pirate. Kids and grownups alike will delight at pirate talk and behavior (the illustrations are hilarious, both in their action and characters' expressions) as the pirate and Magnolia wait in line to see Santa. The stand-off between pirate and Santa lead to an unexpected ending, with an unexpected transformation of Santa. And does the pirate remain on the Naughty List? Read the book to find out. (But my recommendation--if you want to avoid making a scene at the mall--is to follow the advice in the title.)

Elise held the attention of her large audience of kids and adults with a drawing demonstration at the book launch at our local Barnes & Noble. She also read the book and provided swag (including a pirate tattoo!) that kids loved.

For adults, I recommend A Very Merry Murder, the third in the Professor Prather cozy mystery series by Mary Angela. Set on a campus in a small Midwest town, Emmaline Prather again finds herself delaying semester grading; getting to know her neighbor, Mrs. Gunderson; attempting Christmas baking, and looking forward to a university-sponsored concert that includes her friend and fellow faculty member, Lennie. (Or is he more than a friend? Hmm....) Everything is holly jolly at the B&B where the musicians are staying until one of them is found dead. As in the previous two books, Emmaline's imagination runs wild at motives and suspects. (Or is she onto something?) She finds herself in mortal danger as her hunches lead closer to the truth. (There! Now you have to read it to find out the rest!)

Mary Angela gave a reading and presentation at our local Barnes & Noble recently. I enjoyed hearing the basis for the novel, learning more about the characters, and getting a clue about book number 4. 

What new Christmas books are you reading?

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

We Are Grateful

This week in the United States, we emphasize giving thanks. Many of us realize that we should give thanks year 'round, not for only one day. That is the premise behind Traci Sorrell's new award-winning picture book, We Are Grateful. This book was just named a National Council of Teachers of English Orbis Pictus Honor Book (non-fiction award) for 2019!

Sorrell and illustrator Frané Lessac take us through a year with Cherokee people, showing us the things for which they are grateful, teaching Cherokee words along the way. This focus gives us non-Cherokees a peek into a different culture, leading to conversations about similarities and differences. The colorful artwork shows modern Cherokee people, not caricatures or stereotypes of long-ago Native Americans.  I am grateful for We Are Grateful!

This book makes me think of my own  heritage. My great-grandparents came from Denmark, and my grandma spoke Danish with her women friends throughout her life. When I was a little girl, I asked Grandma to teach me something in Danish. "Tak," she said. "That means 'Thanks.'"  There's no better word she could have taught me. Since then, I have learned "thanks" in several languages, an important word to know and an important emotion to express.

Enjoy the book trailer:

Have a happy Thanksgiving Day, and remember to say "thanks," "tak," or "otsaliheliga" throughout the year!

Monday, November 12, 2018

Scarlet's Magic Paintbrush

In the fall, trees look as if they have been painted with a magic paintbrush.  Just a couple of weeks ago, the leaves on our deciduous trees blazed gold and red. 

Which brings me to Melissa Stoller's debut picture book, Scarlet's Magic Paintbrush. Who wouldn't want a paintbrush that painted perfect pictures of whatever you commanded? Masterpieces made easy! That's what Scarlet had until she lost her paintbrush. Other paint brushes didn't contain the magic. Scarlet even tried improvising with cotton balls and sticks. What happens in the end is better than a magic paintbrush--Scarlet finds and embraces her own talent and style. Are the pictures as perfect as the magic paintbrush's? Yes, but in a different way. 

This book would be a confidence builder for any budding artist. The illustrations by Sandie Sonke show an eager Scarlet finding her own way with kid-desired paintings of unicorns, castles, and princes. See a sample of plot and pictures in this book trailer:

I blogged about Melissa's Enchanted Snow Globe chapter book series in January.  Watch for more in this series and more picture books to come! Meanwhile, apply your metaphorical paintbrush to life with your own special style and see what happens!

Monday, October 8, 2018

Happy Native American Day

In honor of Native American Day in South Dakota today, I offer these tidbits. The sculpture above stands over the Missouri River at Chamberlain. The sculpture is aptly called "Dignity." The back shows off her beautiful star quilt. At night it is lit and can be seen from the highway bridge across the river below.

To understand more, view this 2.5 minute video of  the sculpture's celebration: 

To hear more from the sculptor and see Dignity from other angles at different times of day, see this 2 minute video. 

And because I can't NOT talk about books, here are a couple of links to books for young people by and about Indigenous peoples: #IndigenousReads by Indigenous Writers and the American Indian Youth Literature Award. 

For an adult poetry read, please see this excerpt from "Whereas" by  Layli Long Soldier, an Oglala Lakota.

For interviews, oral history, and storytelling see the Wolakota Project.

Try learning a little Lakota by watching this Berenstain Bears Halloween clip!

In Lakota, there is no exact word for "goodbye." So I will leave you with Taƞyáƞ máni yo/ye! (Walk well.) Hear it and other farewell variations here

Monday, September 24, 2018

Celebrate the Seasons: Poetree

It's officially fall! We celebrate the changing seasons in many ways, and welcome fall with apple and pumpkin everything. We don our sweaters and sweatshirts and cheer our favorite football teams. We rustle through the fallen leaves and behold the beauty of the changing colors.

In Poetree, Caroline Pignat celebrates each season with sets of acrostic poems. From each vertical word come poetic words and phrases to describe it. For example:
Each spread is beautifully illustrated by Francois Thisdale. Don't you love the cover image where the tree trunk has a fountain pen nib as its root?

This book is a beautiful creative way to  help kids--and people of all ages--see the best in each season and try their own hand at acrostic poetry. Give it a try yourself! Leave an acrostic in the comments. Here's mine:

Frost is coming
Apples are ripe
Leaves change color
Let’s delight!

Monday, August 20, 2018

Back to School: Have a GREAT MORNING!

School starts this week here, and as a former teacher, I wish all students, teachers, staff, and administrators a GREAT MORNING! Fortunately, poetry queens Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong devised a way to make great mornings happen. Their latest anthology from Pomelo Books is aimed at elementary principals and teachers, but I think these poems are good for older students, too. The idea is that the school staff who do morning announcements include a poem from this book every day. What a great way to start the day!

The book is chock-full of short, school-related poems by some of the best children's poets today--Jane Yolen, Jack Prelutsky, Margarita Engle, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Eric Ode, Kenn Nesbitt, and many more, including Janet Wong herself, and me!

In addition to the poems, Sylvia and Janet have included information on how and why to use poetry, tips for using the book, and a whole section on teaching activities, using poetry at home, and other resources. It's so helpful for teachers and administrators who may not be comfortable or familiar with poetry. The book is designed to help help them dive right in!

My poem, "How to Make a Friend," is reprinted from The Poetry Anthology for Celebrations by Pomelo Books.

How about starting every day with a poem, whether you are in school or not?