Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sioux Code Talkers of World War II by Author Andrea Page

I'm excited to bring you news about this debut book by Andrea Page. I was fortunate to win it in an online contest. As soon as I heard of it, I realized its importance to the people of my state. We've heard about code talkers from other Native American tribes, but not about the people who live where I do. That said, anyone interested in WWII or Native American issues will find this book of interest. 

Author Andrea Page, a relative of Sioux Code Talker Sioux John Bear King, sets the stage by giving an account of Sioux culture and history. She goes on to tell how Sioux men chosen to be code talkers were part of the US Army's efforts in winning battles in WWII's Pacific Theater. Her excellent writing lets the reader see the irony of a government that once punished the Sioux for speaking their language now using that language to win a war. Page's thorough research includes photos and transcripts of some of the messages Sioux Code Talkers sent and received. Complete with summary bio information about each of the featured Code Talkers, a bibliography, and index, this book adds new material to the WWII canon. Written as juvenile nonfiction, this book would appeal to adults as well as young people.

I was especially impressed to learn that this book was 2 decades in the making, from the time she learned about John King Bear's service through years of primary document research and interviews to the writing itself. Ta da! At last, a book was born!

Hear more about the writing of the book from Andrea and her mother:

Andrea is making a trip back to "Siouxland" that includes a talk at Siouxland Libraries:
If you're in the area, come out and meet Andrea!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

First Times by Charles Ghigna

There's a first time for everything, so the saying goes! For example, this is the first time a publisher has sent me an unsolicited Advanced Reader Copy. I was elated because I so admire Charles Ghigna's work.

His upcoming book, First Times, illustrated by Lori Joy Smith, celebrates the many firsts that preschool children experience. The rhyming text makes reading aloud fun, and the cartoonish illustrations are just right for the preschool set. Even the font design helps tell the story. This is a happy book, people!

It begins:
First times are fun times!
   From summer to spring.
My first slide down the slide
   My first swing on the swing.

I read this book to my 4-year-old granddaughter. We talked about her "firsts" as we went along, including sliding, swinging, personal care, getting dressed, going shopping. These are everyday things that we grownups take for granted, but shouldn't. Some of these firsts she remembered, some she didn't, and some she still looks forward to. For example, she's always liked books, but she doesn't remember this one:

First Times is a wonderful family book about growing up and being proud of every achievement.  I highly recommend it. Orca Book Publishers will release it in late October, but you can preorder from the publisher or any bookseller.

Charles is also known as Father Goose, a nickname first given to him by the children he visits at schools. He says he writes in a "tree house," which is really the attic of his home.
Here's a little more about Charles from Father Goose himself: 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Long May She Wave: Happy Independence Day!

Sure, we've all heard of Betsy Ross, but did you know that a girl named Caroline helped sew the flag that flew over Fort McHenry, the flag that Francis Scott Key wrote about in his poem, "The Star-Spangled Banner"? 

Using phrases from the poem that became the United States' national anthem, author Kristen Fulton  tells readers about this little-known part of history. This picture book and its design is great for all ages. Young children can grasp the ideas from the text in big font and the pictures, block prints by Holly Berry that emphasize the flag . Older children will appreciate all of the book's text and understand the importance of a little girl in history. (And maybe be inspired by that.) Still older readers will appreciate this new look into history and the information Fulton provides in her Author's Note in the back of the book.

Fulton's writing captures the suspense and importance of the battle from Caroline's point of view. This is an especially wonderful book for Flag Day (June 14) or the 4th of July. 

Take a peek inside the book by viewing the video.

Thank you, Caroline, and thank you, Kristen and Holly for this look into history. Indeed, long may she wave!  

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.


“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:
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.
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, the site of the Academy of American Poets. Learn more about pantoums here. Enjoy Nancy's poem, and try writing one yourself!


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.

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.


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.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Contentment, Earth Day: National Poetry Month

Once again, I'm calling on Nancy Keck. This time, she's helping us celebrate Earth Day.

What will you do to treasure life today? What is contentment to you? Leave a comment below if you like, and here's to Earth, "our island home." 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Feast of Life: National Poetry Month

Today's guest poet is Nancy Keck from Colorado. She is a retired Developmental Reading faculty at Western Colorado Community College, has written poetry for years, and belongs to Women Writing for a Change in Western Colorado.

   Feast on My Life

I want to feast on my life, to savor each of the many blessings that fill it now.
            The orange scented blessings of our three daughters,
             mothers themselves, so beautiful and so brave!
             The salty scented blessings of the little ones, three two-year-olds in our blended family,
                 each one a tornado of energy
                 each one a unique gift of love.
And the two babies whose soft skin, like the flesh of a pear, guides us to caress them.
I want to feast on the surprise that is my new husband,
                 learning to trust again has been slow and difficult for me,
                 but he is constant.
      A gardener, he tastes of dirt and honey, tomatoes and chocolate.

I want to luxuriate in stroking the soft coats of my huskies and gaze into the gentle brown eyes of my
lab-mix, Murphy.
    My dogs are my dearest companions
                urging me out to walk along the Colorado River,
                they leap, run and play joyfully in the sunshine.
I want to feast on my life         
              on all its honeyed sweetness    
              and sour sadness
   for this savory banquet is all mine.                                     

                                                                                ~ Nancy E. Keck   April 2, 2012

Nancy's poem could be a response to Mary Oliver's "The Summer Day," which has the oft-quoted end lines: 
Tell me, what is it you plan to do 
with your one wild and precious life?

Readers, what do you feast on? Or how would you answer Oliver's question? Kindly leave a comment for Nancy below.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Happy International Haiku Day! National Poetry Month

In honor of  International Haiku Poetry Day, I’m pleased to present Amy Losak of Teaneck, NJ. Amy is—well, why don’t I let her introduce herself?

I am a highly experienced public relations professional specializing in healthcare. I have developed a love for writing short poetry, notably haiku and senryu, and have published them in Failed Haiku, Prune Juice, hedgerow, Under the Basho, the Asahi Haikuist Network and The Daily Haiku. I also expects my poems to be published this year in Newtown Literary, Modern Haiku and Pulse – Voices From the Heart of Medicine.

Wow! That’s a whole lotta haiku! What can you tell us about this day?

In April, National Poetry Month, April 17 is International Haiku Poetry Day, according to the Haiku Foundation.

How were you drawn to this poetic form?

I write haiku and senryu. I’m not very good, but I'm slowly improving as I continue to read the work of gifted haijin (haiku poets) and write them myself. I enjoy the process. I started on this unusual (for me) journey several years ago, thanks to my mom, Sydell Rosenberg (1929-1996), a charter member of the Haiku Society of America. HSA was established in NY in 1968 and next year, it will celebrate its 50th anniversary.


As a result of my efforts to revive and preserve some of her literary legacy, Syd's themed haiku and senryu picture book will be published by Penny Candy Books in spring of 2018. I also have a successful partnership with a New York nonprofit arts education organization, Arts For All. Mom's micro-poems are used in one Queens and one Bronx public school to teach the basics of painting, drawing and collage; and music and theater. They are like miniature stories in some ways, with characters and plots, and they are very visual.

Congratulations, Amy and Sydell! What a wonderful way to honor your mother’s memory and talent. 

What can you tell us about haiku? The economy but endlessly evocative qualities of haiku -- saying a lot with few words and in few lines; leaving things out so readers can "fill in" their own meanings -- is what makes this poetic form challenging, sometimes frustrating, and ultimately rewarding. For me, a haiku poem rarely occurs in a flash of inspiration -- a "Eureka" moment that needs no revision. A short haiku can take a long time to polish. And for me, it may never be "perfect." I am rarely satisfied with my work.

And I’ve learned that’s okay. Haiku is about more than craft and the end product put down on the page. Haiku impels me to slow down, take a breath, be in the moment and observe my surroundings, in order to capture my impressions and ideas succinctly. It is an act of both focus and flow. While writing haiku takes practice and discipline, it shouldn’t be intimidating. As we observe and write, it’s fine to allow ourselves to “play” too. 

A world of wonderful haiku are being written today. It truly is a global community.

If you want to learn more about haiku, a wealth of online and social media resources are at your fingertips. So I hope you will haiku, too. Enjoy!

Thank you, Amy, for your generosity in sharing your haiku and Sydell's, and for telling us more about this form of poetry! Amy also shared this picture of herself and her mother.

Readers, do you haiku? Please leave comments for Amy below.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

New Life, Giraffes, and Spring: National Poetry Month

You may be one of the thousands of people following the giraffecam at Animal Adventure Park in Harpersville, New York, awaiting the birth of April the Giraffe's baby. If so, you are cheering for the baby, born this morning:

My granddaughter's favorite animal is the giraffe, and we always make sure to see them at the zoo. I took the picture below at the Great Plains Zoo in Sioux Falls and wrote the poem after observing giraffe feeding at the Minnesota Zoo.

                                                          Feeding the Giraffe
                                                         (at the Minnesota Zoo)

                                                         A boy stands
                                                        on the deck,
                                                        level with the
                                                        giraffe’s neck
                                                        bestows a biscuit.
                                                        The giraffe
                                                        leans down,
                                                        with its
                                                        long tongue,
                                                        laps up
                                                        the treat.
                                                        As the boy
                                                        backs away,
                                                        the giraffe
                                                        watches him
                                                        with eyes like
                                                        bowls of brown velvet.

                                                        ~Jane Heitman Healy © 2013

(This poem previously appeared on David L. Harrison's Word of the Month site in July 2013.)

Here's to new life and spring!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Of Walls and Neighbors: National Poetry Month

Dry Stone wall building
(By TR001 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons)

Dave Healy is back with another poem, this time alluding to Robert Frost's famous "Mending Wall." 

Something There Is

If we build it will they come?
If we build it how high and long?

High enough to shut out the sun?
Long enough to enclose our fear?

Will one be enough?
Will it ever be enough?

Can a partition admit contrition?
Can we safely hedge our bets?

Who will watch o’er this rampart?
Who will help us unlearn long division?

Can we wall them out
without walling ourselves in?

When our progeny orbit this lonely planet
how many Great Walls will they see?

Hand me another brick.
I can still hear a heart beating.

Great wall of china-mutianyu 4
By Ahazan (own work by Ahazan) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Thanks, Dave. 

What do you think? Do good fences make good neighbors?

Hear Robert Frost read his poem: