WE CAME TO AMERICA by Faith Ringgold (Knopf BYR; $17.99, Ages 5-8)
“We came to America Every color, race, and religion From every country in the world.”
This lovely lyrical stanza from We Came to America invites children to participate in Ringgold’s inspirational poem while reminding them of the journeys made to this country by many different people. From the indigenous peoples already here to those who came bound in chains, from those who fled hardships elsewhere to those who came by choice, it is their stories and creativity which makes America great. As the poem unfolds, children come to realize the scope of this country’s diversity and how it contributes to our success as a country.
The acrylic illustrations have all the rich colors and naivety of folk art, a hallmark of Ringgold’s art. Her familiar style is put to good use here, vividly complementing the theme and helping to interpret the poem. She paints a rich diversity of faces against the backdrop of the red white and blue.
While there is little reference to such events as slavery and anti-immigrant violence, this book is a welcome addition and can used across the curriculum with a variety of age groups. Share it with lower elementary students who are working on a family origins unit for Social Studies. Or pair it up with other resources such as Shaun Tan’s The Arrival, Mary Hoffman’s The Color of Home and Anne Sibley O’Brien’s I’m New Here, to help students gain a deeper sense of the immigration experience and the importance of immigration to this country’s growth. Introduce it to older students as they debate contemporary immigration policies. Share it to help heal recent political divisiveness.
“In spite of where we came from Or how or why we came, We are ALL Americans, just the same.”
Awards School library Journal Starred Review 2017 Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People
Sometimes it’s easy for a child to describe the work that their parents do for a living: firefighter, mail carrier, farmer. What can you say to describe that work when your father is a poet? Through the eyes and words of young Lesley, this charming book tells young readers what life is like as the child of poet Robert Frost from 1905 to 1909.
The dramatic opening spread shows the tiny Frost family debarking from a looming ocean liner onto a barren New York City dock. The parents and four children are clutching old-fashioned trunks and carpet bags, ready to begin an adventurous new life on a farm in New Hampshire.
As the story unfolds, the family works, plays and learns together while Frost struggles to earn a living as a poultry farmer. He tends to farm chores at midnight so he can read and write “in the hush of a sleeping household.” During the day the family picnics, hunts for flowers, and watches sunsets. At night they share stories, read, and stargaze. Through all the activity, Frost is a loving husband and father, teaching his children to observe the world with care and write down their thoughts, dreams and impressions.
A young reader need not be familiar with Frost’s work to appreciate his deep passion for poetry and words. Lovely excerpts from his poems are sprinkled carefully throughout, and twelve complete poems are contained in the back pages. The charming illustrations pace this book smoothly with warmth as well as detail, offering delightful glimpses into turn of the century life.
This book is a treasure to be savored slowly and repeatedly for all those who love the magic of beautiful words read aloud.
.- Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey
Where Obtained: I received a review copy from the publisher and received no other compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own. Disclosed in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
For fellow Californians, included is an evocative Haiku inspired by Bali Sardines from L.A. local, Joan Bransfield Graham:
Dancing through the waves, ballerinas of the blue — the ocean their stage.
You’ll also find poems from UCLA graduate and award winning poet, Janet S. Wong; Pulitzer Prize winning former U.S. Poet Laureate, Kay Ryan; Betsy Franco; and Kenn Nesbitt to name a few. Seeking poems about hamsters and honey bees? You’ll find ’em! Want to read about Roosters and Raccoons? They’re there, too. Eager for elephants? Look no further.
This treasury is really not just for 4-8 year-olds because the photographs are simply spectacular and ideally suited for each poem. I’m certain that even teens and adults will find themselves amazed at the variety of details, colors and moods conveyed in all 186 pages. Of course all the great poets are here to enjoy, and easy to find with the Poet Index: from Aiken to Sandburg, Frost to Madox Roberts, and Rosetti to Whitman. The helpful Subject Index, Title Index and First Line Index make this book indispensable for students. There’s also a super spread devoted to writing poems and another for resources, but the poems themselves are what we’re here for. Broken down into manageable sections, this collection divides the poems into an intro called Welcome to the World. This is followed by other sections called The Big Ones, The Little Ones, The Winged Ones, The Water Ones, The Strange Ones, The Noisy Ones, and a Final Thought in closing.
I have nothing but praise for this marvelous book that is not only an homage to the animal kingdom and its beauty but to every word used to describe it.
World Rat Day: Poems about Real Holidays You’ve Never Heard Of written by J. Patrick Lewis and illustrated by Anna Raff, (Candlewick Press; $15.99; ages 4 and up) is reviewed by Rita Zobayan.
Any concept that poetry is high culture and addresses only the topics of love and death flies out the window with World Rat Day: Poems about Real Holidays You’ve Never Heard Of. Featuring over 20 poems celebrating holidays as unusual as Happy Mew Year for Cats Day (January 2), Bat Appreciation Day (mark your calendars for April 17!) or International Cephalopod Awareness Day (October 8), this compilation is silly fun wrapped in verse.
If you’re in the mood to appreciate dragons—and let’s be honest, who isn’t?!—then don’t wait until January 16 to do so. Read along as we get an inside look at dragon dining etiquette with “Eight Table Manners for Dragons.”
At every meal, bow your head, fold your wings, and say, ‘Graze.’/Wait till someone screams, ‘Let’s heat!’/Don’t talk with people in your mouth./Never blow on your soup. That only makes it hotter./Don’t smoke./Never remove a hare from your food./Play with your food, but don’t let it run around screaming./Chew your food. Once.
Each poem has accompanying illustrations that portray the whimsy of the verses. The characters’ expressions are hilarious and the ink wash style presents the scenes perfectly. World Rat Day: Poems about Real Holidays You’ve Never Heard Of is a great way to start a youngster’s introduction into the world of poetry.
We Go Together!: A Curious Selection of Affectionate Verse by Calef Brown (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $9.99; ages 6 and up) is reviewed today by word lover Rita Zobayan.
Calef Brown mixes pithy diction with fantastical imagery in We Go Together!: A Curious Selection of Affectionate Verse. This 18 poem collection celebrates the quirks and intimacies of friendship, whether it is between boys, girls, animals, or even aliens! Fun words—scallywags, mirth makers, chorkle, concoct—are sprinkled throughout, making each poem a new adventure in language. Some poems use simple rhyme schemes that are easy for young readers to follow and read aloud.
Throughout the poems there is a kindness and hopefulness for the type of friendships we want for our children. “Because of You” captures the sentiment precisely:
I was once/a half-emptyer./Now I’m a half-fuller./Because of you—the together-puller./So if I should smile/and say something sunny,/don’t look at me funny/or act surprised./Because of you,/I’m optimized.
Simple and sweet. The sweetness of the poems is matched by the artistry of the illustrations. In Calef’s world, green aliens take tea, a dog in a hat rings doorbells, a kiwi floats high above the cityscape, and panda faces appear in the rain. Slightly odd and intriguing, the illustrations will draw in the reader and bring the words to life.
Perfect as a gift for a good friend, We Go Together!: A Curious Selection of Affectionate Verse is a pint-sized package (the books measures just about 6” on each side) that packs a lot of love.
Recently, when I attended the Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse Mother Daughter Book Party I met many wonderful local authors and found out about lots more fantastic kids’ books.
I also found out that there’s an Annual Writing Contest for Kids from Kane Miller Books inspired by their award-winning poetry collection Dare to Dream … Change the World ($15.99, Kane Miller, edited by Jill Corcoran with illustrations by J. Beth Jepson). What a thrill it was for me to have met several contributing authors and to now be able to spread the good word! So, parents, teachers, friends, please share this info with the budding poets in your life. Learn more by going now to www.daretodreamchangetheworld.com and while you’re there you can also buy a copy of this inspiring book about “people who invented something, stood for something, said something, defied the naysayers and not only changed their own lives, but also the lives of people all over the world.”
This contest’s deadline is April 30, 2013 so don’t wait until the last minute to enter.
The winner will receive $1500 worth of books for a school library of choice and if that’s not exciting enough, the top 30 entries will be published as an e-book!
WHO: For students in 3rd through 8th grade.
WHAT: Following the format of the book, students will write a biographical poem and non-fiction paragraph about someone who not only dreamed, but took action and made the world better.
Debbie Glade gets all bug-eyed about an enthralling kids’ book.
I absolutely love insects and cannot seem to read enough books about them! Step Gently Out($15.99, Candlewick Press, Ages 2 and up) is an uncomplicated, captivating and delightful book about bugs. The story is actually a lovely poem by Helen Frost, wonderfully complemented by Rick Lieder’s incredible photographs. You’ve never seen such close-ups and details of insects as these! Each photo features a different creature with a magically misty background of that insect’s habitat. Your child will enjoy taking his or her time to study each picture. In the back of the book you’ll find more information about each insect featured in the poem, making the story both poetic and educational.
I admire the way the author and photographer turn insects into something so beautiful. The book is an ideal way to introduce young children to the world of entomology. Step Gently Out would make a wonderful gift for any child.
Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature (Candlewick, $19.99, ages 3 and up) written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Mark Hearld, has been sitting on my coffee table for months now, begging me to write up my review of this incredible book about nature. With stunning paper-cut collage illustrations by Mark Hearld, Outside Your Window is a compendium of information, ideas, and even recipes related to the world outside our window.
The book is organized by season and Nicola Davies introduces each section with a brief description of what that season beholds. Each section includes a variety of poems describing various flora and fauna of the seasons, from the worms, to the birds, to the weather. Mark Hearld’s spectacular artwork appears in two-page spreads, and are not only colorful and creative, but full of details to keep your child (and yourself) enthralled in the descriptions of life scribed across each page. Davies’s writing, while accessible to children, is also informative and educational.
From the life cycle of a butterfly to the glowing nature of the stars in the night sky, Outside Your Window is brimming with knowledge to be gained about all things nature. But this is far from a simple book written in verse. Author and Biologist Nicola Davies also includes pieces such as “Five Reasons to Keep Chickens,” and “Making Compost”–real life examples that can be put into practice by the budding farmer or gardener. She even goes so far as to include recipes for such things as Berry Crumble to enjoy in Autumn, and seed cakes to make for the birds in Wintertime.
I adored this book from the moment I picked it up; it is a hearty book filled with beautiful images and illuminating poetry which you will love having in your library. The best part is, you can enjoy it with your child bit by bit, reading it as the seasons pass by outside your window, and putting into practice some of the suggestions for enjoying nature found in the book. Your child will be captivated by the lively illustrations, and you might even learn something you did not know about some obscure yet utterly fascinating fact of nature!
Today’s review comes courtesy of proud new mother Karen B. Estrada.
If you are a twin, know people who are twins, or are expecting twins, pick up a copy of Take Two! A Celebration of Twins by J. Patrick Lewis and Jane Yolen, and illustrated by Sophie Blackall. This amusing book is a compilation of 44 poems on all things twins. The cleverly titled sections (Twins in the Waiting Womb, Twinfants, How to Be One and Famous Twins) contain verses on the aspects of life that are particularly significant to twins— establishing identity, individual personality, looks, names, and so on. Both authors have experience with twins; Lewis is a twin and Yolen has many twin family members. Their experience and insight show in the topics of the poems, as the reader gets a sense of what it’s like to be a twin. Here’s an excerpt from a poem titled “Two’s a Crowd”:
If you never have a single moment/You can call your own,/Always being dubbed “the twin”/And never left alone,/You’ll understand the plight I’m in,/Wishing I were one…
The poems range from sentimental to tongue in cheek. Each poem is written with language and in a style that children can understand and enjoy. Sophie Blackall’s illustrations are bright, colorful and a touch mischievous, much like the poems themselves. Catching the details in her pictures is an enjoyable way to complement the reading of the poems. My daughters (not twins) and I had a good time looking at the different expressions and actions that Sophie Blackwell cleverly portrays.
Throughout the book are scientific and fun facts about twins. For example, did you know that conjoined twins occur in about 1 out of 400,000 twin births? The record holder for the highest number of twin births belongs to Mrs. Feodor Vassilyev, who birthed an astonishing 16 sets of twins in the 1700s.
Take Two!: A Celebration of Twins makes for a fun poetry read on a subject that holds much fascination, especially to children. Of course, if you’re going to give the book as a gift to twins, you might want to pick up a second copy.
Parents, how old were you when you wrote your first poem? This week make sure to tune into PBS KIDS‘Martha Speaks and Arthur for some exciting episodes. Teaming up with the Poetry Foundation for a super special week of reading, writing, and poetry episodes April 2-6, 2012 (please check your local listings for exact times), PBS KIDS may even get you waxing poetic!
PBS KIDS will feature former United States Poet Laureate Billy Collins and Inaugural Children’s Poet Laureate Jack Prelutsky. It just doesn’t get much better than that! Do you have a budding Shel Silverstein, Kenn Nesbitt, or Theodore Geisel at home? Have your youngsters create and publish their own poetry online with an all-new game, Martha’s Rhyme Time at pbskids.org/martha and Fern’s Poetry Club at pbskids.org/arthur.
“Martha Speaks and Arthur share a focus on literacy and actively encourage creativity and love of words,” says Carol Greenwald, Senior Executive Producer atWGBH. “Through this partnership with the Poetry Foundation, we hope to encourage and inspire the next generation of poetry readers and writers.”
“Children who are exposed to the joys of poetry at a young age are most likely to become lifelong readers of poetry as adults,” adds Stephanie Hlywak, Media Director of the Poetry Foundation. “How better to create a new generation of poetry lovers than to enlist the help of Martha, Arthur, Billy Collins, and Jack Prelutsky?”
Airing Monday, April 2, 2012, PBS KIDS will premiere the brand-new Martha Speaks episode “Billy Collins Speaks” (check local listings). In this episode, Billy Collins writes great poems about dogs, and Martha thinks she knows why. Obviously, the former poet laureate must be a canine himself! When Martha meets Billy Collins, she’s in for a few surprises…as is he. Tune in to learn words likepoem, poet, prose, imposter, and metaphor.
Then in the classic Arthur episode “I’m a Poet,” Arthur and his friends are challenged to write a poem for a contest—to be judged by inaugural Children’s Poet Laureate Jack Prelutsky. Though intimidated at first, everyone comes up with a poem that reflects his or her own unique approach.
Two new Martha Speaks episodes highlighting parts of speech and featuring a visit from the Bookbots air on PBS KIDS Tuesday and Wednesday, April 3-4, 2012 (check local listings). Additionally, past episodes of Arthur celebrating creative writing will air on PBS KIDS Tuesday-Friday, April 3-6, 2012 (check local listings).
New games highlight poetry and creative writing online at pbskids.org!
In Martha’s Rhyme Time, kids can create rhyming couplets for Martha to perform. Building each from six different sets of words, there are—mathematically speaking—a bazillion combinations to create. Kids also can customize the performance stage and create a printed version to color and stick on the fridge. And, of course, with Martha being Martha, she’ll introduce and explain many new vocabulary words along the way!
Fern’s Poetry Club
Fern’s Poetry Club is a long-running, popular poetry feature on the Arthur website that encourages children to write and share their poems online. Fern’s Poetry Club contains information to help kids understand what poetry is, a description of different types of poems, and tips for kids on how to write their own poems—plus an archive of poems submitted to the site over the past 10 years. To celebrate National Poetry Month, new features will be added, including poetry-related video clips from Arthur. Kids will now see Fern, Arthur, and all their friends enjoying this wonderful form of expression!
About the Poetry Foundation
The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture. It exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience. The Poetry Foundation seeks to be a leader in shaping a receptive climate for poetry by developing new audiences, creating new avenues for delivery, and encouraging new kinds of poetry through innovative partnerships, prizes, and programs. For more information, please visit www.poetryfoundation.org.
About PBS KIDS
PBS KIDS, the number one educational media brand for kids, offers all children the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television, online and community-based programs. Follow PBS KIDS on Twitter and Facebook.
Yay! I can finally review a book that makes it totally appropriate for me to post a photo of my own dog. Here’s Darwin, my gargantuan two-year-old chocolate standard poodle . . .
The Hound Dog’s Haiku: and Other Poems for Dog Lovers ($17.99, Candlewick Press, ages 6 and up), written by Michael J. Rosen and illustrated by Caldecott winner, Mary Azarian, is clever and oh, so charming. The book introduces 20 different breeds of pooches to children through darling illustrations and simple haikus. (I’m a haiku fanatic, so this aspect of the book really pleases me.) I love the fact that children can learn about a variety of breeds while getting a little lesson in poetry. In the back of the book are Notes for Dog Lovers, with explanations of the poems and information about each breed. This book would make a great gift for a dog-loving child. Just remember to also adopt a puppy to go along with the book.
Today’s review of a “Lindy just loves it” book, is The Missing Piece, by none other than regular contributor Lindy Michaels.
Of course, most of us know of the late Shel Silverstein’s classic, The Giving Tree, but The Missing Piece ($16.99, HarperCollins, all ages) is my favorite of his books. Now who of us doesn’t go through our lives, at one time or another, feeling like we are, indeed, missing something within ourselves?
“It was missing a piece. And it was not happy…”
IT, is a pac-manish (for lack of a better word)-looking creature who is on a quest. And it was exactly because of its missing piece that it could not roll along the path of life very quickly, which gave it time to… “talk to a worm or smell a flower…” always singing, “Oh, I’m lookin’ for my missin’ piece. I’m looking for my missin’ piece. Hi-dee-ho, here I go, lookin’ for my missin’ piece.” But all the while it desperately tried to fit different size pieces into itself so that it would feel complete. So that it would feel whole.
But it was not to be. One piece was too big, one too small, one too short, one too long. And then one day, a wonderful thing happened. It found that one special piece that fit absolutely perfectly. “And away it rolled and because it was now complete, it rolled faster and faster. So fast that it could not stop to talk to a worm or smell a flower…” It couldn’t even sing, any longer, since the piece fit so tightly. And so after much inner deliberation, “…it stopped rolling and set the piece down gently, and slowly rolled away.”
What a beautiful message this book imparts to children and adults alike. We think we are lacking somehow, so we go to great lengths to fill ourselves up, only to find that by filling what we think is a void within us, we end up losing the very things that are most important to us. A lesson for the ages, I do believe. Now my friends… go outside and talk to a worm!
When you think of Independence Day you may think of barbecues, beaches, fireworks, but this Fourth of July, consider the flag and its many uses. Iowa’s first poet laureate Marvin Bell has done just that in A Primer About The Flag($15.99, Candlewick Press, ages 4-8) and Chris Raschka has created the artwork to accompany this delightful romp (well poem actually) around the world of flags.
The book starts with bed & breakfast flags, seafaring flags, state flags and even little flags that say bang when they’re shot out in a fake gun.
Kids will love the variety of flags described and illustrated with whimsical words and drawings. Adults will acknowledge that flags are really everywhere and Bell and Raschka make those colorful waving pieces of fabric worth paying attention to.
Debbie Glade reviews an outstanding anthology of children’s writing that should not be missed.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Dancing with the Pen: A Collection of Today’s Best Youth Writing. It is an anthology of stories, essays and poems from more than 65 child writers across America and a few from abroad. There’s just something so honest and pure about stories and poems from a child or teen’s point of view. But don’t be mistaken, these are not amateurish writings; rather they are high quality written pieces from some very talented young writers. While reading the book, you’ll experience a gamut of emotions from laughter to tears and from surprise to awe. Some of the stories and poems are so wisely penned, I had to double check the ages of the writers in their short bios.
In order to understand the value of this book, you must get acquainted with the young editor, Dallas Woodburn. She founded Write On! Books Publishing in 2010 as an offshoot of her Write On! literacy organization that donates new books to underprivileged kids. Dallas recently received her BA in Creative Writing from USC and is now working on her Master’s in Fiction Writing at Perdue University. She has published more than 80 articles for national publications and is the author of two award-winning collections of short stories.
I applaud Ms. Woodburn for giving this group of writers a chance to express their unique voices and see their hard work published in black and white. Any vehicle that empowers our youth and encourages literacy must be celebrated. This book would be a great gift for a middle or high school student, a teacher, a writer or anyone else who just simply appreciates creative expression through the eyes of a child.
Debbie Glade, today’s guest reviewer, is the author, illustrator and voice talent of the award-winning children’s picture book The Travel Adventures of Lilly P Badilly: Costa Rica, published by Smart Poodle Publishing. She visits South Florida schools with her reading, writing and geography programs. For years, Debbie was a travel writer for luxury cruise lines. She writes parenting articles for various websites and is the Geography Awareness Editor for WanderingEducators.com. She blogs daily at smartpoodlepublishing.com.
April happens to be National Poetry Month and there are so many terrific poetry books available. However, not all kids love poetry. Maybe they’ve just been exposed to the wrong poems. Whether you seek humorous poems or those more serious, this selection offers something for everyone. A great starting point is A to Z Poetry For Kids written by SoCal college grad Kellan G. Peterson available at www.atozpoetryforkids.com. This helpful book introduces 26 different types of poems including many I had no idea existed!
For the younger set there’s Everybody Was A Baby Once and Other Poems by Alan Ahlberg and Bruce Ingman, Truckery Rhymes (Part of Jon Scieszka’s Trucktown), Arnold Lobel’s Odd Owls & Stout Pigs: A Book of Nonsense with color by Adrianne Lobel, Maybe I’ll Sleep in the Bathtub Tonight and Other Funny Bedtime Poems by Debbie Levy with illustrations by Stephanie Buscema, Countdown to Summer: a Poem for Every Day of the School Year, by J. Patrick Lewis and illustrated by Ethan Long, and Tighty Whitey Spider by Kenn Nesbitt.