Wednesday, March 25, 2015

When in Germany...

... buy German books!

Oh my goodness, I have so much to say about our trip across Austria, Germany and Switzerland! But I want to start with books. Here's where we shopped in Vienna, Austria (where they also speak German):

...and here is the children's bookshelf:

I chose  to carry home UNSER ZOO because it has pictures, which makes it much easier to translate. So far I've learned that a giraffe is a giraffe, a tiger is a tiger, a panda is a panda. But an hippo is a flusspferd, a penguine is a pinguine, and a leopard is a gepard. 

See? Picture books are awesome. :)

The Eric Carle book is going to take me a bit more time -- unless I cave and buy the English version!

Other highlights of my European adventure:

Neuschwanstein Castle (Germany), after which Walt Disney
modeled Cinderella's castle in Orlando!

fruit! chocolate! bread! art! and lots of dyed Easter eggs!

Heidelberg, Germany

...and so much more! I loved discovering it all with my niece JuliAnna (and the whole group), and I will be sharing more about this trip in the coming days. Meanwhile, as wonderful as travel is, is there anything better than coming home? I think not. Happy day, all!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Let Us Now Praise Old Things

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Laura at Author Amok for Roundup (and all sorts of other poetic goodness!). Big thanks to everyone who signed up for our 2015 Progressive Poem. Our roster is FULL! Poets who signed up, I will be in touch the last week of March with more information. So happy to have you join us -- it's going to be fun!

This week I had the great fortune to spend some time with my dear friend Pat in Cullman, Alabama, where we shopped the thrift stores and treated ourselves to lunch. We also visited Deb's Bookstore. And the whole day I was thinking how much I love old things. AND THEN, lo and behold, posted on the wall at one of the junk shops was a poem called "I Love Old Things" by Wilson MacDonald. 

Turns out Mr. MacDonald was a pretty prolific Canadian poet, so beloved, there's even a museum named after him! What joy to discover a new (old) poetic voice! And extra-appropriate, as I will soon travel to Austria, Germany and Switzerland to experience all sorts of old (new to me!) things! So here's the poem, with a shout-out to one Amy LV, who did that amazing series of Thrift Shop poems for National Poetry Month last year!:

by Wilson MacDonald

I love old things:
Streets of old cities
Crowded with ghosts
And banked with oranges,
Gay scarfs and shawls
That flow like red water.

I love old abbeys
With high, carved portals
And dim, cool corners
Where tired hearts pray:
I join them in the silence
And repair my soul.

I love old inns
Where floors creak eerily
And doors blow open
On windless nights,
Where heavy curtains
Dance a slow waltz.

I love old trees
That lift up their voices
High above the grasses.
They do not sing
At the light wind's bidding:
They chant alone to storms.

I love old china,
Knowing well the flavour
Of great, strong men
And fair, sweet women
Lurks at the rim
Of each deep brown bowl.

I love old books
Frayed from the searching
Of truth-hungry fingers:
Their warm, soft vellum
Leads me up through sorrow
Like a dear friend's hand.

I love old men
And old, dear women
who keep red cheeks
As the snows of winter
Keep the round red berry
Of the wintergreen.

I love old things:
Weather-beaten, worn things,
Cracked, broken, torn things,
The old sun, the old moon,
The old earth's face,
Old wine in dim flagons
Old ships and old wagons...
Old coin and old lace,
Rare old lace.

Friday, March 6, 2015

"Poem for Oprah Winfrey" + 2015 Progressive Poem Sign up!

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Please visit Robyn Campbell for Roundup.

So it's March. Still winter, doggone it. Though I must say, I am enjoying this School Lite schedule -- each week we've had late starts and a Snow Day or Ice Day or No-Snow Day. Like the rest of the country, I am really, really, really longing for sunshine and warm breezes. Bring it!

This week I discovered a post on Oprah Winfrey's website called "How to Write a Poem. Basically it's a list of 12 prompts, and then a shorter list of instructions about how to turn the raw list into a poem. Kind of like Paint-by-Numbers or Dot-to-Dot -- except with more opportunity for inspired splashes and U-turns.

Sample from my notebook:
1. 5 things you did today, in order: 
Answered the phone
put on fuzzy socks
turned up heat
put dog out
morning pages
poured cereal in bowl

2. name 3 colors real quick

You get the idea! So, I made my list, and below is the poem that emerged. I don't know what it means, if anything... but kind of a fun no-snow-day exercise. Try it and see!

Poem for Oprah Winfrey

Was it worth it?
You put on your fuzzy socks,
feed the swans as silver raindrops
pelt the once-cheery daffodils.
As you sing, so shall you shriek.
You're a fish thrashing a salt-slick
boat deck, hook sinking sinking
sunk. You'll feel better in the morning.
Slip out of your hyacinth slicker.
Kiss the pain. Whatever you do,

don't pick up the phone.

- Irene Latham

And now: It's that time again! National Poetry Month (April) will soon be upon us, which means it is time again to sign up for our annual KIDLITOSPHERE PROGRESSIVE POEM, I invite you to choose your day and add your information to this Google Spreadsheet!

ETA: ***Thank you, Beautiful Poets! Our 2015 is now FULL!***

Here's how it works:

Poetry Friday Friends and other poetry lovers are invited to join in a community writing experience during National Poetry Month (April).

What is it? a poem that travels daily from blog to blog, with each host adding a line, beginning April 1. Anyone who wants to join in the fun can sign up on the Google Spreadsheet!

Once we have a schedule, I will be send via email the HTML code to include in your post and/or sidebar so that readers might follow along/look back/look forward. And feel free to snag the above graphic!

Can't wait to see where our poem will take us this year! (To view poems from previous years, click on the Progressive Poem tab above.)
Happy Poetry Friday, everyone!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

#EveryBrilliantThing February Roundup

umbrella garden
This year I am keeping a virtual gratitude list, inspired by the play Every Brilliant Thing. Here's my post about it. And here's my February list:

Sunday afternoon siesta.
Live streaming when you can't be there. [Newbery Awards!]
When someone compliments my outfit.
Daily conversations with my father who is ill and lives 1500 miles away.
Mama's roast beef.
King cake.
Bumper stickers.
Morning conversations with Eric on the drive to school.
Mrs. Fattig. 3Rd Grade.
Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate brownie dough.
Books hand-picked for me by my father.
Skype visits.
Breakfast for supper.
Stuffed animals.
Cooking with an iron skillet.
Movie trailers.
#Oscars2015 pajama party.
This cookie from Whole Foods.
“A broken heart is an open heart.” -@jandynelson, I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN
Yesterday's no-Snow Day and today's snow-dusted delay.
Poetry Friday.
@billyjoel tonight at @philipsarena!

Friday, February 27, 2015

BLUE BIRDS by Caroline Starr Rose

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe for Roundup.

I'm excited to share with you BLUE BIRDS by Caroline Starr Rose. It's Caroline's second historical verse novel (first was MAY B.), and it is a lovely story of an unlikely friendship between English Alis and native Kimi in 1587 Lost Colony of Roanoke.

The book releases March 10, which is coming up shortly! I was lucky enough to score an ARC -- and now I am giving it away! Leave a comment to enter. Winner will be randomly drawn Sunday night (March 1).

Before I share a few excerpts from the book, you should know that Caroline and I have a few things in common: We love historical fiction. We both lived in Saudi Arabia. We share an editor. We've both written in voices of characters from cultures not our own. And more! Anything Caroline writes, I know I will savor and cherish and delight in.

So, first, allow me to share with you Caroline's responses to a few short prompts:

the difficult:

There are a lot of opinions and strong, strong feelings as to who has permission to write certain books. Im a non-Native American author. What gives me the right to try and speak for a thirteen-year-old Roanoke girl?

Im still not sure. But Ive been a girl. And I know how profoundly friendship can shape a person. Ive been in new cultural settings and have learned to see the foreign as familiar and the familiar as foreign. This answer wont be enough for some readers. I understand that. But Ive gone ahead and written BLUE BIRDS anyway.

the delicious:

BLUE BIRDS hinges on a forbidden friendship, and if thats not delicious, I dont know what is!
When I first started drafting, I thought the story would come from one character, Alis, my English girl. But the more time I spent in her world, the more I realized the story didnt belong to Alis alone.

Back in my teaching days, I loved to tell my students in order to most fully enjoy poetry, it must be seen and heard. A poet communicates with language, yes, but she also speaks to the reader through line breaks, stanza breaks, and the placement of words on a page.

My favorite passages in the book come from the poems Kimi and Alis share together. Here are two girls from two entirely different worlds, and yet they are drawn together. It was essential the structure of these dual-voice poems communicated as much as the words they contained.

the unexpected:

Having heard so much about the dreaded sophomore novel, I was relieved to sell a picture book between MAY B. and BLUE BIRDS. With an entirely different kind of book scheduled to release next, I felt freed up to set aside my worries of comparison between the two novels. But guess what? Though BLUE BIRDS sold a year and a half after my picture book, it will release four months before. Both novels are historicals written in verse. The comparisons will probably come. Im grateful, though, I was able to shut the door on this hangup during the creative process, that I could write without this burden in mind.

... and now, my favorite poem in the book. It's told in both girls' voices -- which makes it just about impossible to format on this blog! So I'm giving you a photograph instead:

Now, a favorite KIMI poem:

My mother and my aunts
work side by side,
their backs bend
as they tend the crops.

Like the corn,
a woman
spreads her roots wide,
like the bean,
a woman
settles her roots deep.

The English plans have been made plain:
Women mean they'll stay.

If we hope to rid ourselves of them,
push them from us
once and for all, 
we must do it
before their roots take hold.

- Caroline Starr Rose


Finally, one from ALIS:

All night,
our home is cuffed by violent winds
and waves of rain,
a hurricane.
This settlement will fly apart,
will be ripped like weeds,
until each board is stripped away.

This village is as fragile as an egg
unprotected in its nest.

I pray 
for peace
and silence,
for just an hour of rest.

- Caroline Starr Rose

Monday, February 23, 2015

Movie Monday: #OSCARS2015 Top 7 Moments

We were pretty excited when we cozied up in our pajamas last night to watch the annual Academy Awards show. Paul and I love going to the movies -- for nearly 25 years now we have kept a Saturday night date that more often than not, includes going to the movies. This year it seemed like we'd seen more nominated movies than usual, which made the show extra-fun. See all the winners here!

Here are my top 7 moments:

On the Red Carpet, Reese Witherspoon talking about her mission to produce films with strong parts for women... and her campaign for women actors to be asked about something other than what they're wearing.

J.K. Simmons, in his acceptance speech, urging viewers to call (not text!) their parents, to talk as long as those parents want to talk, if they are lucky enough to have parents on this planet.

Patricia Arquette, in her acceptance speech, calling for wage equality for women.

Neil Patrick Harris taking the stage ala Birdman only in his tidy (or is it "tighty" ?) whities.

Graham Moore, who won for Best Adapted Screenplay for THE IMITATION GAME, expressing his gratitude for life, urging young people to hang in there, and to "stay weird."

Common and John Legend and a stage full of people walking a Hollywood Edmund Pettus Bridge for an incredibly moving rendition of "Glory," which then won the award for Best Song.

Eddie Redmayne's boylike enthusiam when he won his award -- I mean, I felt just felt so happy watching him! And he deserved the award. Amazing performance in THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING.

And here's a little Bonus:

Creeper Moment of the Night: John Travolta and his big hands in inappropriate places. Come on, man.

Movie I want to see after watching the awards: STILL ALICE, with Julianne Moore's Oscar winning performance as a woman struggling with Alzheimer's.

What were your favorite moments??

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

To Tremble

Today's precept in 365 DAYS OF WONDER comes from Auguste Rodin:

"The main thing is to be moved, to love, to hope, to tremble, to live."


2 things that have made me tremble in the past 24 hours:

I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN by Jandy Nelson. More on this when I've finished the book!

...and the movie WHIPLASH. (Might be my favorite of Oscar Best Picture nominations, though it's very hard to rank! Probably should say it's my favorite
today.) It's about a young jazz drummer who wants to be great and his teacher who uses questionable/cruel methods to bring out that greatness. Husband's comment: "for a movie about drumming, there was a lot of blood." Can you imagine practicing so hard and so long, you make yourself bleed? I've been thinking a lot about the movie since I saw it, which, for me, is a good sign. I love movies that make me feel and think. Go see!

Friday, February 13, 2015

THE RED PENCIL by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illus. by Shane W. Evans

Hello, and happy Poetry Friday! Please visit Cathy at Merely Day by Day for Roundup.

I'm in with a favorite verse novel from 2014: THE RED PENCIL by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illus by Shane W. Evans. Set in Sudan, THE RED PENCIL is a verse novel that chronicles Amira's life before, during and after the Janjaweed attack her family's village.

Here are three poems I especially love:


When I draw, it's not me doing it.
It's my hand.
And my twig.
And my sparrow.

My hand
and my twig
and my sparrow
make the lines.

My hand and my twig
and my sparrow
do the dance
on the sand.

I never know
what my hand
and my twig
and my sparrow
             will create.

My hand
holds my twig.

But my twig goes
on its own.

My sparrow - that's what's inside me:


- Andrea Davis Pinkney
I am in love with this "sparrow." I think Amira and I share the same sparrow, actually. Beautiful thought!


Dando and I have a favorite game called
What Else Is Possible?

The only real rule for our game
is that answers to the question
What else is possible?
can only be good.

Dando goes first.

"If you wake to find your sandals gone, do you worry?"
Dando answers his own question.
This is how the game works.

He says,
"Worrying, that is a waste of time.
Better to ask, 'What else is possible?'"

Dando peels off his own sandal, waves it.

He insists, "Your sandals may not be gone at all,
only missing, while a generous hand mends
their worn edges."

Now it's my turn.
"If two days pass, then five, then seven,
and still no sandals, do you worry?"

I shake my head fast, ready to answer.

I tell Dando,
"It could be those generous mending hands
have stitched you a whole new pair of sandals."

"Made of gold!" Dando adds.
Dando wave both his sandals.

I wave my sandals, too,
one right, one left.

"Lift them high," Dando says. "High!
They are new, and glistening, our sandals."

What Else Is Possible?
is the game about looking at things
in shiny ways.

- Andrea Davis Pinkney
How brilliant is this for staying positive and being creative?? And it reminds me of a game I play with myself all the time as a writer when brainstorming analogies... What Else does it look like? What Else?

Of all the funny-bug letters I know,
the letter O
is my favorite shape.

Ya, O!


Ya, O!

- Andrea Davis Pinkney
I have never before thought about my favorite letter -- favorite word, yes -- but letter? And now I can't stop thinking about O. :)

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

3 Apps That Are Helping Me Learn to Play a Musical Instrument

Last month I started cello lessons.

Even though I took a few months of fiddle lessons in late 2014, the cello has humbled and challenged me in ways I didn't think possible.

Oh how confidently I called the teacher who once taught my son to play cello! I had been playing fiddle, after all... how hard could it be to switch to cello?

For those of you who missed my earlier musings on switching to cello, I just kept having this niggling feeling I picked the wrong instrument. I enjoyed the fiddle, but ultimately I chose it for convenience -- it's small enough to include easily in my travels.

But the cello. THE CELLO. Oh, my soul! That instrument speaks to me and always has. It's sound is deeper, moodier. More me.

After the first lesson, I wasn't sure I wanted to start over again. I practiced both fiddle and cello for two weeks.

It was too much. I couldn't get the bow hold for cello -- and it kept creeping into my bow hold for fiddle. I decided to put the fiddle away for a while and solely concentrate on the cello.

After the second lesson when my instructor had to manhandle the stiffness out of my wrists and constantly rearrange my hand on the bow, I wanted to cry in frustration.

But dadgumit, I still wanted to produce a beautiful sound out of the instrument! So I kept going. I ordered a CelloPhant to aid my grip and waited in desperation for it to arrive.

When it came, I experienced instant relief. My fingers relaxed. My hand eased. I practiced bow stroke on open strings and thought maybe maybe I could do this.

When I went back for my third lesson, my instructor and I celebrated. It was a breakthrough. I was on my way.

Since then I have discovered 3 (Android) apps that make my continued learning even more awesome:

1. Gstrings Tuner: oh my goodness, with what hesitation I first tuned those strings! But the tuner helped bunches. I DID IT. All on my own! FREE

2. Mobile Metronome: No more clunky machines on the tabletop. Just tap tap, and voila! FREE

3. Smart Voice recorder: one thing I learned from learning the fiddle was that it really helps me to play WITH music. Somehow I am forced to keep going instead of constantly correcting my fingers to get the best pitch. So at my lesson, my instructor plays the songs I am supposed to play, and I record them! It's brilliant. I can incorporate that into my practice time at home. I can feel my confidence building already. FREE

And so, now 4 lessons in, I am loving ye ol' cello. Nothing quite so humbling as learning an instrument when middle-aged. Never too late!!!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Because Scrapbooking IS Poetry

my sister & me
Every year the women in our family gather for a scrapbooking weekend. Actually, the womenfolk vary... the two who have been there every single year since 199-something are me and my sister. So yes, I am a long-time scrapbooker!

Once upon a time I used paper and stickers and double-sided tape. These days I go completely digital. In one weekend I am able to do my family scrapbook for the entire previous year! And a blog post, apparently. :) My sister still does it the old-fashioned way.. not as speedy, but her scrapbooks are GORGEOUS.)

Anyhow, I just wanted to pop in and say hello and happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Liz at Elizabeth Steinglass for Roundup!

Here is a tiny poem I found in my morning pages... about morning pages. (For those who missed it, I am currently doing Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way with a group here in Birmingham. Loving it!)

Monday, February 2, 2015

Movie Monday: FOXCATCHER

This past weekend Paul and I saw FOXCATCHER. Only after we'd seen it did I realize I'd been mistaken about it being nominated for Best Picture... while it did receive 5 nominations, Best Picture was not one of them! (Turns out, the movie I overlooked was WHIPLASH. So we still have that one and BIRDMAN to get to before the February 22nd Academy Awards.)

This movie surprised me. It is yet another based-on-a-true-story film (like other nominees AMERICAN SNIPER, THE IMITATION GAME & THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING) about John Du Pont and how he set up an Olympic wrestling training camp at his Pennsylvania home dubbed "Foxcatcher." I'm not much for wrestling, okay? But, history, yes. Relationships, yes. Fine films, yes.

I was immediately taken in by an early scene that shows the loving & also testy relationship between the Schultz brothers David and Mark. (Having 3 sons, this rings true to me. There is love, but there is always always a sense of competitiveness.) AND there is a scene nearer to the end of the movie that completely wrecked me. So much emotion. I was totally invested in these characters, these brothers, especially.

Now about Mr. Du Pont, and Steve Carrell's much-deserved nomination for Best Actor. What a creepy character Dupont was! I didn't know the true story before the movie, so everything was a surprise to me -- except it wasn't. Things happened that I just knew with a pit in the gut were going to happen. Oh, heartbreak and tragedy! Anyway, Carrell does an amazing job here. Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks so.

We'll see what happens Feb. 22. Meanwhile, Today is the Oscars of Children's Literature. What book will win the Newbery??? I'll be streaming the announcements to find out. :)

Saturday, January 31, 2015

#EveryBrilliantThing January Roundup

Trees in winter.
When we visited NYC this past December, we saw a wonderful play at the Barrow Street Theatre called Every Brilliant Thing, starring Jonny Donahoe.

Upon entering the cozy space, each of us was given a slip of paper. (Paul was also selected to play a role in the play... but that's a separate blog post!) Mine read "alcohol." Paul's was "rollercoasters." Daniel's was "peeing in the sea and no one knows." Andrew's was "tea and biscuits." And Eric's was "the color yellow." The main character in the play started a list of brilliant things to share with his depressed mother -- and later used the list himself as he faced his own depression.

So, basically, it's a gratitude list. Nothing like a little gratitude to pull one from a funk, right?

AND THEN... a friend of mine suggested keeping a Gratitude Jar for 2015, and then, at the end of the year, pulling out all the slips and reading them. I thought, hmmm, how 'bout a virtual jar, an Every Brilliant Thing Twitter list? I decided to post one Every Brilliant Thing for each day of 2015. I also use Instagram (which feeds to my Twitter) as a way to include photographs. To keep a nice record of my list as it builds, I'll be blogging a Roundup at the end of each month.

Here's January:

Lays Chocolate covered potato chips.
Pink shoelaces.
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton.
The sky – always different, always the same.
Ruby's neverending enthusiasm for the headless rubber chicken.
My fabric stash.
Fuzzy socks on a cold morning.
Stained glass windows.
Sunday morning Jazzercise.
Small notebooks for recording big ideas, thoughts, and feelings.
Trees in winter.
Baby pictures.
Bento box.
Chocolate milk.
Being the only one awake in the house on a dark, quiet morning.
Self-checkout at Walmart.
Dancing with Kyle Abraham & Otis Brown & ErBeeko (at the Carver Theatre).
Velcro poetry.
“The quality of life is in proportion, always, to the capacity for delight.” -Julia Cameron
Free books.
Being the last one out of bed.
Little boys in overalls exploring the world.
Proof that spring will come. [pic of daffodil shoots]
Decorating with cotton.
Tiny books.
Going to the movies with my husband on a random Friday afternoon.
Gel pens.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: Poems about Small Things, selected by Myra Cohn Livingston

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit passionate reader/teacher/poet Mr. Hankins for Roundup!

So. Anyone else out there shocked we're at the end of January?? I started The Artist's Way this month with a group of Birmingham artists, and I AM LOVING IT. Morning pages and artist dates, oh my! I'm learning lots about myself, that's for sure. In that spirit, I have written about where I am in my artist-writer's life over at Little Patuxent Review (should be up about mid-day). Spoiler: I am in a far different place than I was a dozen years ago! Thank you, LPR, for publishing my "Artichoke" poem and for inviting me to post.

I'm excited to move into February, my most favorite month of the year! I have a February birthday (as do many Poetry Friday friends! Yay, and Happy Almost Birthday Month!), so I pretty much celebrate all month long. Here's some of the festivities: scrapbook weekend with the womenfolk in my family, hubby taking me to see Billy Joel in concert, more cello lessons (yes! I have switched from fiddle to cello! Holy Bach, if I ever master the bow hold it will be a masterpiece!), more Artist's Way, more writing, blooming daffodils and forsythia, cheesecake (just thought of that -- I must be hungry) and who knows what else??

And now, for you, this last Poetry Friday of January: poems from the 1994 book ANIMAL VEGETABLE MINERAL: Poems about Small Things, selected by Myra Cohn Livingston. Enjoy!

The Snail 
by Langston Hughes

Little snail,
Dreaming you go.
Weather and rose
Is all you know.

Weather and rose
Is all you see,
Drinking the dewdrop's

Trees: The Seeds
Myra Cohn Livingston

We are
given light wings,
parachutes, downy legs
that we may be carried alof
by wind

and drop
where some kind mouse
will bury us in earth;
some squirrel will forget we are food,
leave us

to sprout
green shoots, to weave
rootlets, that we may eat
and drink and grow in time our own
small seeds

Invitation Standing
by Paul Blackburn

Bring a leaf to me
just a leaf just a
spring leaf, an
april leaf

Blue sky
never mind
Spring rain
never mind
Reach up and
take a leaf and
just come

Monday, January 26, 2015


In our quest to see all of the films nominated for Oscar's Best Picture award, we stood in line with everyone else this past weekend to see AMERICAN SNIPER.

I'm not much for war movies. Just not my thing -- I have to close my eyes a lot. (Totally my husband's thing, though!) That being said, Bradley Cooper was pretty amazing in this part. Perfect. An All-American hero, indeed. Who wouldn't want Chris Kyle as their husband, father, son, friend, comrade-in-arms? The true story behind the movie makes it all the more compelling -- especially when I don't know a single person whose life hasn't been touched in some way by these particular events as we've watched our loved ones suffer the horrible realities of PTSD and other emotional fallout, injury, lost limbs, paralysis... powerful, life-altering stuff. The ending of the movie is so, so perfect. We all moved out of that theater as one unified hushed cloud. Go see.

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL we were able to watch cozied up and in our pjs, thanks to HBO. It's imaginative and fun, even though it, too, is set during a fictitious war clearly modeled after WWII. It's chronicles the adventures of a concierge and his young protege, a lobby boy who in later life has come into possession of the Grand Budapest. It made me think of  Downton Abbey, because of the intimate glimpse into an area of service. Still, it didn't win my heart. Of all the nominated films we've seen, this one least engaged me. Maybe there's something I'm missing?? If you've seen it, I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Two to go: FOXCATCHER & BIRDMAN. Stay tuned!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Hurray for MultiCultural Children's Poetry Books! #ReadYourWorld

Hello, and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Tara at A Teaching Life for Roundup.

A few months ago I joined the MCCBD team in an effort to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but also to get more of these of books into classrooms and libraries. Look for a Roundup post coming January 27! Also join us for Multicultural Children's Book Day Twitter Party also on January 27, 9 pm EST. Use hashtag: #ReadYourWorld to win 10 book packages. :)

Lucky me, Lee and Low Books sent me three poetry titles to share!

More on these in a below! But first.....

Why? Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of
people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content.
Multicultural Children’s Book Day is a way to change all of that!

From the amazing co-creators of this unique event Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book/Audrey Press:

“The MCCBD team hopes to spread the word and raise awareness about the importance of diversity in children’s literature. Our young readers need to see themselves within the pages of a book and experience other cultures, languages, traditions and religions within the pages of a book."

What can you do? If you are a reader, parent, teacher, caregiver, librarian, or citzen of the world, we invite you to follow along the fun book reviews, author visits, event details through Pragmatic Mom's roundup and via our hashtag
(#ReadYourWorld) on Twitter and other social media.

and now, the BOOKS, the BOOKS:

Water Rolls, Water Rises El agua rueda, el agua sube by Pat Mora, illus. by Meilo So. A Cybils Finalist, this one beautifully explores water in all its many forms:

Water rises
into soft fog,
weaves down the street, strokes an old cat.

El agua sube
formando suave neblina
que ondula por la calle, acaricia a ungato viejo.

Filling deep wells,
water hums in the dark,
sloshes in buckets, quenches our thirst.

Llenando hondos pozos,
el agua susurra en la oscuridad,
salpica en baldes, nos apaga la sed.

The whole time I was reading this, I was thinking how great it would be to pair it with WATER CAN BE... by Laura Purdie Salas. What a celebration of water that would be!

Lend a Hand by John Frank, illus. by London Ladd. This one is a collection of poems all about service - how we can give in small and large ways. I've selected 2 to share with you. The first would be a great way to introduce students to the concept of "Pay it Forward."  The second can help students recognize ways they are already giving that they may not recognize -- plus it celebrates community and its subject is one of my most favorite things in the world! Read on!

No Charge
by John Frank

The woman in the shop
inspected my bike,
spinning the wheels
and testing the chain,
then took out a tool,
did some quick work,
and told me my ride
was now as good as new.
I reached into my pocket
and pulled out my money,
but she waved me off--
"No charge," she said.

On my way home
I stopped by the grocery store,
but before I went in
i helped a woman load
bags into her car.
She reached into her purse
to give me a tip,
but I shook my head.

"No charge," I said.


No Bounds
by John Frank

was always a chore,
till my grandmother
too me to her quilting club.
There I discovered
the simple marvel
of squares of cloth
sewn together by hand:
two squares by two squares
makes four,
three squares by three squares
makes nine,
the rhythm of a needle
making rhythms of shapes
to cover and comfort
a shivering child.

As I practiced my stitch,
I wondered aloud
if there should be a limiit
to how far quilts reach.

Yes and no, my grandmother said.
A warm spread
should have a maximum size ...
but the spread of warmth
should have no bounds.


Call Me Tree by Maya Christina Gonzalez celebrates in English and Spanish all the ways children are like trees... they start tiny then grow big and strong. Would be great paired with FOREST HAS A SONG by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater and OLD ELM SPEAKS by Kristine O'Connell George. You could extend this tree metaphor with students by asking them to choose a type of tree with which they most identify... for me that might be;;; palms that bend but don't break, redwoods that reach for an ocean they will never sea, birches that constantly shed their skin.... you get the idea. :)

My favorite spread says:

I reach
And I rise

Me extiendo
Y me elevo

Huge barrels and buckets and balloons of thanks to our sponsors:

Sponsorship details can be viewed  HERE.
Author Sponsors include Suzee Ramirez (Beautiful Rainbow World), Mac McGooshie (Lulu and the Very Big Meanies, illustrated by Alexis Hogwood), and Quentin Holmes (Real Street Kidz Multicultural Children’s Book Series)

Our CoHostsAfrica to America, All Done Monkey, The Educators’ Spin on It, 
Growing Book by Book, InCultural Parent, Kid World Citizen, Mama Smiles, 
Multicultural Kid Blogs, Sprout’s Bookshelf. More info on these wonderful folks here.

Thanks also to FIRST BOOK for donating multicultural children’s books through their channels during the week of the event. We want to help get diversity books into the hands of kids who most need it and now we have a way to do it! The Virtual Book Drive is LIVE and can be found HERE.

Finally, another collaborator is the Children’s Book Council (CBC) to highlight wonderful diverse books and authors on an ongoing basis all year.

Go out and read a Multicultural Children's Book Today! Hope to see you at the Tweet Up January 27! Remember: #ReadMyWorld. Happy weekend, Poetry Friday friends! xo

Monday, January 19, 2015


Whenever the Oscar nominations are announced, my husband and I set out to see as many as possible before the awards ceremony.

This year, of the 8 films nominated for Best Picture, we'd only seen three: BOYHOOD, THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING, and SELMA -- all of which we really enjoyed! So this week we started catching up with THE IMITATION GAME, the film that seemed to be on a fast track out of theaters, with only a few showtimes to choose from.

It's a biography of Alan Turing, who, during WWII, worked with Britain's MI6 to crack Enigma, a Nazi code that had been deemed "unbreakable." Though it's never named such in the movie, Turing exhibits many hallmarks of Aspberger's Syndrome. (There's some debate about whether or not these details were invented for the film or if Turing actually exhibited these traits.) AND he happens to be gay, which at the time was a crime. He's brilliant, and he struggles, and good things happen, and terrible things happen. Basically this is the guy who invented the first computer. It's a beautiful movie, and hubby and I both loved it.

There's been some talk about which of the two British biopics -- THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING about Stephen Hawking & this one about Turing -- is the better movie. I can't really answer the "better" question, but I do have a preference. If I had to see just one again, THE IMITATION GAME gets my vote.  But then, I have a soft spot for Aspies, fictional or no. :)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Welcome to the MLK edition of Poetry Friday Roundup!

Hello, and Happy Poetry Friday! Roundup is HERE!! I'm thrilled YOU are here to share it.

In honor of MLK Day, and because I've still got the movie SELMA on my mind, I'm sharing today from Cybils Finalist VOICES FROM THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON, Poems by J. Patrick Lewis and George Ella Lyon

One of my favorite voices in the book is a fictional character penned by J. Patrick Lewis:

Raymond Jarvis, 25
B.A. Degree in Business Administration
Out-of-Work Store Clerk
Amarillo, Texas


I watch my business administration degree
     secure a place for me in the unemployment line.

I watch my mother worry that her
     math-star son struggles to earn a living.

I watch the register fill
     till my boss's magic trick makes all
     the "petty cash" disappear.

I watch my paycheck shrink
     ten dollars a week till they fire me
     "for offending a lady in hardware, boy."

I watch my blister
      of a bungalow get splat-tattooed
     with a red, white, and blue swastika.

I watch the window
     and the rock sailing through the window
     with a promise.

I watch the moon
     as if the moon had any answers,
     her face hidden in a disgrace of clouds.

I watch my no-account savings account
     buy a cup of coffee and a heap of humiliation,
     and you ask me why I'm going to the March?

- J. Patrick Lewis

...and I also love this imagined voice from George Ella Lyon, whom, thrill of thrills, I got to meet this past November at NCTE!:

30, Hotel Maid
Nashville, Tennessee

A pause between speakers
and a man white as a pillowslip

asks where I came from,
how I go there. I say

Nashville, Tennessee. I took
a bus. That satisfies him.

He's from Kentucky. He drove.

But it would be truer to say
somebody sang me here.

If it wasn't for some old
woman, one of my greats,

humming, working
dark to dark, never giving

up, I wouldn't even be. She
kept the song of our blood

going. She carried me here.

- George Ella Lyon
and finally, a poem I found in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech delivered August 28, 1963, Washington, DC. I wrote it in the form of a letter, since he liked letters. All the words appear in order, kind of like blackout poetry. Fun!

Dear Martin,

Today injustice
still lives
in the corners
of our republic.
Yes, freedom
is awakening
of thirst.
Fresh storms
rise up
on the red hills,
heat exalted,
hope jangling
into faith –
we join hands,

          at last.

- Irene Latham

And NOW, the reason you're here: Please leave your link and visit the awesomeness that is Poetry Friday Roundup!