Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Promise of Trees



The Promise is an amazing first-person fable by nature writer Nicola Davies about the importance of keeping a promise and how having a positive purpose can change one's life. The illustrations by Laura Carlin enhance the text, as they change from black and white to color as the main character's promise is fulfilled. Change does not happen overnight; patience is required. The underlying message of "if you don't like it, change it" empowers readers of all ages, and encourages all of us to leave a positive legacy. 

My favorite line from the book: "I held a forest in my arms, and my heart was changed." 

This picture book will be most appreciated by older children through adults. In fact, it is on the reading list for my church women's reading program in the Social Action category.

(photo taken at McCrory Gardens in Brookings, SD)

This tale of hope and environmentalism was inspired by Jean Giono's 1953 story, L’homme qui plantait des arbres, (The Man Who Planted Trees.)  I don't read French, but I have seen the video and recommend it to you. 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Bully Behavior: National Poetry Month


Carmen Graber teaches poetry to her 8th graders, and they share their poems aloud. She writes and shares along with her students. This one stunned them. You'll see why.

Pinball (for my 8th grade students) 
by Carmen Graber

Words shoot out of mouths
Like a pinball launching from the starting chute.
The words ricochet off the hallway walls
Bruising and battering unsuspecting students.
Points can be scored for claiming
“She is my friend”
“I am just joking and having fun”
“He doesn’t mind”
You score extra points
If you light up
A student’s fear and
Make him or her feel insecure.
Be careful though,
You don’t want to cause the game to tilt!
You are racking up the points;
But then the teacher comes out
With a look of scorn
And tells you
“knock it off-get to class”
Your fun is destroyed-
This round is finished.
But not to fret.
Another round is waiting in the chute.
This time when you launch,
The rules have changed.
The flippers turn into hands
Which slap the back of someone’s neck.
It’s a game you say.
No harm done.
But the marks are there
This time more evident than the words
But both are destructive.
There are pieces of students
Splattered on the walls
Trampled under foot,
Lost in the commotion.
Until that teacher comes over again
“keep your hands and your words to yourself”
And this time you hear
“game over”
But only till the game resets

And you start another round.

Here are some anti-bullying resources: Stop Bullying Stomp Out Bullying, and the program used in our local schools, Olweus. And a list of books for kids with an anti-bullying theme.

Bullying is not a game. Pinball is!


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Teddy Bear Loyalty: National Poetry Month




Many children have toys or blankets that give them comfort and act as a friend when there's no one else around. I had a Raggedy Ann that I wore to shreds. Here's a poem from Carmen Graber, reminiscing about her teddy bear.

Random Thoughts of Teddy

Teddy was my best friend
Not an original name for a teddy bear
But, hey
I was only 3 years old.
Keeper of my secrets,
Sharerer of my tea
at afternoon tea parties.
Protector of my nights
when shadows turn frightening.
Then we both had to go to the hospital:
Teddy to get more stuffing in his neck
And to fix his nose where I bit him.
Me to have my eyes fixed-
No, not to get my tonsils taken out like everyone else.
Patches over both eyes,
Sleeping in a bed with sides up like a crib.
I couldn’t see it,
But I heard the rasp of the railing
As it was pulled upward until it clicked.
And the doctor saying
“it won’t hurt”
As he ripped the patches off.
Kicked him in the shin.
That will teach him to tell a lie.
Grandma Lil gave me a white cat;
Not a real one-mom would never allow that.
Didn’t need Teddy as much when I got home.
He got stuck between the wall and the bed,
His new stuffing all scrunched up funny.
Then we moved to a new house.
Where was Teddy?

Did he get packed?
I have read stories about dogs that walk for miles
Just to find their owners.
Could Teddy do that too?
Not to worry-Teddy is here.
Best friends again.

Went to visit Grandma Lil
Took Teddy and the white cat
When we got home, only the white cat was in my bag.
Grandma Lil said not to worry
Teddy was with her
She would mail him to me.
How would he breathe?
Would she put holes in the box?
Would he be afraid in the dark?
Finally he arrived-at the big stone building-
The box had my name on it.
Never so happy to see my best friend Teddy.
I will never let you out of my sight again.
Then came junior high
Roller skates, boys, new friends.
Don’t know when Teddy got lost.
Asked my mom-she didn't know-
"Look in the closet in the basement".
Got distracted-forgot to look.
Went to college,
Got a job and place of my own.
I haven’t thought about Teddy for a long, long time.

Now I am old and I wish Teddy was here.

What toy do you remember fondly? What memories does that conjure up? Do you still have that toy? Please share in the comments below.

Carmen's poem reminded me of this famous rhyme for kids:

Friday, April 28, 2017

Exploring Fragile: National Poetry Month



Most of us have times in our lives when we feel fragile. Some of those are more serious and life-altering than others. Today I'm pleased to introduce Carmen Graber, 8th grade language arts teacher and poet.

Fragile

“easily broken, shattered, or damaged”
never would I have used this word
in conjunction with me or my life.
But one phone call
one word - cancer-
broke my soul
shattered my reality
damaged my world.
I collapse;
my breath stolen from me.
Gasps of fear
bursting colors of emotions
explosions of words and questions.
I feel broken, shattered and damaged:
fragile.
How can I go on?
Can I go on?
How can I face others?
How can I let them see me as fragile?
A whisper of air
A tremor of strength
A flow of love.
The ultimate showing of trust-
allow those you love to see you vulnerable - fragile.
A hug, a hand, a word-
not from pity,
but from love, concern, and hope.
I am not alone.
I am not broken.
I am not shattered.
I am not damaged.
I AM NOT FRAGILE!
Together, we are stronger than cancer!


~carmen graber

How would you define "fragile" for yourself? How has poetry or art helped you overcome your fragility? Feel free to leave a comment for Carmen below and share this poem with anyone who is feeling fragile. Thank you, Carmen, for allowing me to post your powerful poem.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Poem in Your Pocket Day: National Poetry Month


Today's the day! Poem in Your Pocket Day! If you need one, here is the original by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers, ready to cut out and put in your pocket and hand to someone who needs one. I have participated and been surprised at how happy people have been to receive a poem for their pockets! 

I hope you enjoyed Emily Arrow's "Poem in Your Pocket" video above. I got to meet her last fall at the Plum Creek Children's Literacy Festival, and she is just as much fun as you would expect. She signed my copy of her first CD, and she recently released "Storytime Singalong, V.2."



What poem is in your pocket today? Did you share it with someone? What was the reaction? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Of Lightning Bugs and Children: National Poetry Month



Today's poem by Nancy Keck is written in an elegant form, the pantoum. Writing one requires some planning, as it has a set pattern. "The modern pantoum is a poem of any length, composed of four-line stanzas in which the second and fourth lines of each stanza serve as the first and third lines of the next stanza. The last line of a pantoum is often the same as the first," says Poets.org, the site of the Academy of American Poets. Learn more about pantoums here. Enjoy Nancy's poem, and try writing one yourself!

Lights

I
My grandchildren are lights
Little lightning bugs flashing in the dark
Their futures ahead of them
Glowing with possibility.
May each one realize the gifts they have been given,
In the world today so easily can one’s light be quenched.
May each of my grandchildren dance in the light of their passions,
And may they always feel beloved.

II
Little lightning bugs flashing in the dark
May each one realize the gifts they have been given.
Glowing with possibility
In the world today so easily can one’s light be quenched.
May each of my grandchildren dance in the light of their passions
Their futures ahead of them,
And may they always feel beloved.
My grandchildren are lights.
  
Nancy E, Keck

March 27, 2017


What brings light to your world? If you're inclined, leave a comment below. Before you go, take in the beauty of this firefly video.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Memory, Dementia, and Poetry: National Poetry Month




Poetry and song can reflect the blossom of youth. I'm bringing back Elizabeth Healy for today's post. If you know elderly people, this poem may resonate with you.

Don

I watched him today
during the trivia time.
He couldn't answer--
No memory for details,
But then he went to the hymn sing.
I watched him sing along,
marveling at what he knew.
Those wonderful words of life
bringing amazing grace.
He goes to the garden alone
for a sweet hour of prayer,
and Jesus walks with him
and he talks with him.
Though in his chair
still, he is standing
on the promises of God.
In spite of everything
in his heart there rings a melody.

                   ~Elizabeth Healy

When my mom was in a nursing home, many residents with memory loss sang along to every word at hymn sings or sang along with entertainers who sang "the old songs." What is learned early seems to stick. That gives us ways to connect with people who find difficulty in remembering the now. It also gives them peace and comfort, as they remember their faith and their true, younger selves.

I'd like to call attention to Mind's Eye Poetry, which has the mission of using poetry as dementia therapy. Founder Molly Middleton Meyer says, "Through the use of poetry facilitation, I help my poet/patients access memories and imagination. I turn those memories and imaginings into poems using their ideas, phrases, words, and even non-verbal cues." See sample poems here.

Have you used poetry in this way? How does poetry comfort you? Please leave a comment below.