Friday, August 7, 2015

Book Launch Fun for Elise Parsley, Magnolia, and her Alligator

Raise your hand if you're the kind of person who likes to go to restaurants on their opening nights or camp out on the sidewalk to buy concert tickets. Notice? My hand is not going up. I do not need to be the first for any of that stuff, until--

Elise Parsley's first picture book, If You Ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School, Don't! launched at our local Barnes & Noble in July. By the time I got there, the children's area was mobbed and all her books were sold out!

As you can see, Elise was pretty pleased. I borrowed a friend's book for the picture! (And disregard the inaccurate date on the photo. This really did happen on July 7.)

Before I got there, Elise gave a reading and drawing demonstration. Here's an upset Magnolia:

Since then, I've gotten my own copy of the book signed by the author. A fun fact is that the publisher created a font based on Elise's handwriting! Watch for more titles featuring Magnolia. What will she try next?

Here's more about the book: 

If you ever want to go to a book launch, do!  It will make the author happy and could be a way to make new friends, as you stand in the crowd, abuzz about the book. 

Have you attended any kind of debut or premiere? How did you like it?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Time Flies!

(Image by Celestine Chua, Creative Commons License

I haven't been here for awhile! Yes, I missed you, and I'm sure you've been busy with this and that, just as I have been. Have you thought about how sometimes time zooms by and other times it crawls? And overall, our human time on earth is just a blip!

One thing I've been doing since I was last here is immersing myself in picture books. You know how much I love them if you've read my book for librarians & teachers, Teach Writing to Older Readers Using Picture Books. And I felt the need to learn what's currently being published.

One fascinating picture book about time was originally published in Portugal in 2008 and made it to this country in 2015 thanks to Enchanted Lion books--The World in a Second by Isabel Minhos Martins and illustrated by Bernardo P. Carvalho

Though reviews bill this book as being for ages 4-8, the style and concept are appropriate for older children and even adults. "While you turn the pages of this book, the world doesn't stop...." And the book shows what happens around the world while you are turning the book's pages. Each spread could be a story unto itself. Visual clues let the reader know where the scene is taking place. The final page shows the locations and times referenced in the book. This is the kind of book that expands one's thinking and sparks wondering about time, other people, other places, and the world around us.

A lilting book for younger readers, By Day, By Night by Amy Gibson and illustrated by Meilo So shows us how alike we are no matter where we live. We all wake up in the morning and go about our various ways of making a living and spending time with friends and families. The illustrations show people of various cultures throughout the day, working, playing, making friends, learning, experiencing life, until it's bedtime--and then another day begins.

If you'd like to be more philosophical about time, here's an article about an experiment that proves time does not exist.

Still, we measure time, both as individuals and as a society. One thing we know--it goes by.

How do you measure time?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Celebrate! Poem in Your Pocket Day, National Poetry Month, or Anything at All!

If you look, you can always find something to celebrate. I thought I'd wrap up National Poetry Month by featuring the brand-new Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations, compiled by Sylvia Vardell & Janet Wong, published by Pomelo Books

It contains 156 poems for holidays throughout the year by children's poets you've heard of, such as Kenn Nesbitt, Eric Ode, Jane Yolen, David L. Harrison, J. Patrick Lewis, Nikki Grimes, Joyce Sidman, Laura Purdie Salas, and many others! It also includes poems by some not-so-well known poets, including me! I'm thrilled to be in this amazing company!

And here is my celebration poem for International Friendship Day:

Pomelo published a student edition (shown) with poems in English and Spanish and a teacher/librarian version that includes activities, literature connections, standards alignment, and tips for teaching and using poetry with children.

Continue the year 'round celebrating with the following book of poetry and artwork representing the four seasons.

The poems were selected by Paul B. Janeczko, who was featured in my previous blog post. Poems include old and new, familiar and unfamiliar, by poets such as Carl Sandburg, William Carlos Williams, Ted Kooser, and Alice Schertle. In keeping with the book's subtitle, the poems are indeed very short. Melissa Sweet's mixed media illustrations add to the festivities.

Finally, we close National Poetry Month with Poem in Your Pocket Day on April 30. What poem is in your pocket? What poem would you give others for their pockets? 

Keep a poem in your pocket and celebrate, because every day is precious.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

A History of Poetry in 50 Objects: Happy National Poetry Month

How has language changed through time? How have human lives changed, as we've greeted new inventions and deemed others obsolete? And how could those concepts be shown in a picture book poetry collection?

Only Paul Janeczko would tackle such a project so successfully! For The Death of the Hat, Janeczko chose 50 poems from the Early Middle Ages to the present. His introduction briefly explains society and language in each time period, which makes this book a great companion to history and language classes. You'll find some favorites here, as well as poems you may never have seen before. For more on how and why Janeczko chose these poems, see this interview from Kirkus.

Thanks to Chris Raschka's artwork, even the old favorites feel new, as he puts his fresh interpretation on the pages. 

Though published and cataloged in libraries as a book for children, all ages will find this book a delight.

Janeczko tells us in the introduction that he has more than 1,500 poetry books, which makes me feel not so odd, after all. I have a lot, but not that many! Here are some of mine. Do you recognize any? What do your poetry shelves look like?

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Poetry Found Him: Pablo Neruda: National Poetry Month

“It was at that age
that poetry came in search of me.” 

Pablo Neruda, Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair

Poetry found Pablo Neruda, born Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto, at an early age--an age where his father opposed Neftali's poetry writing and politics, but Neftali published his first poems as a teenager under his real name. To escape his father's disapproval, by the time he was 20, he wrote under the name for which he gained universal fame--"the greatest poet of the 20th century in any language," according to novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Not only was he wildly popular as a poet, he became a diplomat and ambassador for his native country, Chile. 

Here are some of his well-known lines:

“Then love knew it was called love. 
And when I lifted my eyes to your name, 
suddenly your heart showed me my way” 

“To feel the love of people whom we love is a fire that feeds our life.” 

“And one by one the nights between our separated cities are joined to the night that unites us."

“Laughter is the language of the soul.” 

“Love is the mystery of water and a star.” 

Pam Muñoz Ryan's fictional biography of Neruda's boyhood and coming of age shows young readers how Neruda overcame his father's opposition and followed his dream. Written in heartfelt poetic prose, The Dreamer, illustrated by Peter Sís, encourages young people to be who they are and use the talents they are given. 

The back matter explains fact and fiction and includes some of Neruda's poetry.

And finally, a caution:

Advice to a Young Woman with Bad Judgment in Men

Pablo Neruda and Shakespeare,
E Barrett Browning and Keats,
Elvis (Costello & Presley)
Wrote of love and its infinite sweets

And its cruelty and heartache and cheating,
Its pain, sure to last evermore.
With such a great love in your life, girl,
Why wouldn’t you show him the door?

He wooed you with promises plenty,
“Red wine for red lips,” so he said.
Not quite the Khayyam--still you bought it--
The words going straight to your head.

Now Nazareth, Joan Jett, and Petty
Sing love’s truer tale to you.
Watch out for poets, my darlin’,
Or they’ll get the better of you.

~Jane Heitman Healy ©2010

Saturday, March 21, 2015

What’s Your Superpower? (Part 2)

My last post featured brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, a coming-of-age memoir in verse. In this book, we learn that Woodson discovers that her “brilliance” is telling stories. We encounter a similar theme in a different memoir for young people that, like Woodson’s book, has earned many awards. A 2015 Newbery Honor Book, El Deafo by Cece Bell is often referred to as a “graphic novel” in consumer reviews. It is, however, a graphic memoir--non-fiction.

When Bell becomes deaf at an early age, she must learn to cope not only with her deafness, but others’ reactions to it. Making true friends is hard, and teasing and bullying sadden, anger, and frustrate her until she takes a bully’s name for her, “El Deafo,” and embraces it as her superpower. What a great way to turn something intended as bad into something good!

You’ll have to read the book to find out how that works out. Read my young friend Haley's review to whet your appetite:

“This touching graphic novel uses bunnies as characters to show how the main character (Cece) is deaf.  This was very clever to help express how different she feels.  This story not only tells about how she learns to deal with her disability but also how she goes through elementary school.  She has the same friend problems as any elementary kid! But she handles them by going into her own creative world where she helps others.  El Deafo has its ups and downs but you'll want to read it to the end!” ~ Haley, 8th grade 

If you aren't sure what your superpower is, see what kinds of programs your public library offers this summer and get your whole family involved. Some libraries across the country are using the theme of heroes and superheroes. Maybe participating will help you find your superpower!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

What’s Your Brilliance? (Part 1)

The dust is settling on the book awards season, and winners’ covers proclaim their awards. I was fortunate to get my hands on two very popular titles for young people. While they are completely different, they have one theme in common—a young person’s discovering what’s special about  themselves. Here are my reflections on the first book:

brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson has been awarded the 2014 National Book Award—Young People’s Literature, the 2015 Newbery, a 2015 Coretta Scott King Honor, an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Work—Youth/Teens, and others. Why all the accolades? And what can I possibly add to the many more learned reviews that have already been written?

-brown girl dreaming has historical significance. It is a coming-of-age memoir written in free verse about growing up in the 1960s and ‘70s partly in the North and partly in the South. These were historic times in the Civil Rights Movement, and this book shows what a young girl thought about living in those times in those places. How to behave in certain places to avoid trouble—or should you go ahead and make trouble?
“At the fabric store, we are not Colored
or Negro. We are not thieves or shameful
or something to be hidden away.
At the fabric store, we’re just people.” (from “the fabric store,” p. 90-91)

By Unknown or not provided (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 -It is a book about who we are as family, and the ways family influences our identity. Aunts, uncles, brothers, sister, mother, father, and grandparents all played a part in making Woodson who she is today. Especially poignant is Woodson’s love for her maternal grandfather, expressed throughout the book, as in “sometimes, no words are needed:”
 “…My head against/my grandfather’s arm,
a blanket around us as we sit on the front porch swing.
Its whine like a song.”

-It is a book about finding one’s unique gift and figuring out what to do with it. Woodson’s brother could sing. Woodson’s sister was brilliant. Fortunately for us, Woodson found her gift in writing.
“I want to catch words one day. I want to hold them
then blow gently, watch them float
right out of my hands” (from “gifted,” p. 169).

The free verse format makes for easy reading that I want to read over and over again. On learning to write her name at age 3:
Will the words end, I ask
whenever I remember to.
Nope, my sister says, all of five years old now,
and promising me

infinity.” (from “the beginning,” p. 62-63)

Indian Girl Child 4970
By Biswarup Ganguly (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Like any life, there is stuggle and triumph, joy and sorrow.
“Maybe, I am thinking, there is something hidden
like this, in all of us. A small gift from the universe
waiting to be discovered” (from “hope onstage,” p. 233).

Woodson’s words are sure to help other young people—of any color—look for and find their own brilliance.

For more about Woodson, here's an NPR interview.

(Stay tuned for Part 2)