Saturday, November 21, 2015

Finding Beauty, Giving Thanks, Serving Others

Last Stop on Market Street written by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson is a lovely urban story about a boy who travels on the bus with his grandmother every Sunday after church. On the bus, CJ observes other riders and wishes out loud (aka "complains") to his grandmother.  In each case, she finds something beautiful and interesting in the situation, helping CJ--and us--see the world and people around us in a positive way. Nana demonstrates without preaching how--and why--to interact with strangers (keeping in mind all the stranger danger tips we know). The destination of the title's "last stop" is not given until the end (SPOILER ALERT), a soup kitchen.

This book is getting high praise from reviewers, including a nod for a possible Caldecott consideration. It resonates with me because of its themes. Our church participates in feeding the hungry at our city's Banquet

Why? "It's something you can do where you know you've made a difference," says our coordinator. Once a month, we serve breakfast at the downtown location and dinner at the Banquet West location. 

When CJ asks Nana why they serve at the soup kitchen, she reminds him that they get to know some interesting people. We have discovered that to be true, too. No breakfast is complete until we've heard a new joke from Ray. 

We have learned that most of the people who come to the Banquet are employed but may have to choose between paying rent and buying food. Some come because they are unable to work because of illness or injury. Some come for a warm meal and companionship in an otherwise lonely world. If you live in our area and want to join us, contact me for info. If you don't live in our area, consider helping out at a feeding ministry in your town.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Veterans Day: a Sweet Remembrance

On November 11, 2015, the United States observes Veterans Day to honor those who have served their country in the US military. Ceremonies, parades, reunions, and reminiscences will take place. Service in battles will be recalled, and while that is certainly of utmost importance, I'd like to draw attention to other important work of United States soldiers--that of humanitarian aid.

The children's book Candy Bomber tells the true story of US Air Force Lieutenant Gail Halvorsen and other troops and citizens during the Berlin Airlift. Michael O. Tunnell's  book is aimed at fourth-sixth graders, but adults would appreciate it and its many photos from those times. (Thank you, Linda Baie at TeacherDance for pointing this book out to me!)

Lt. Halvorsen became known to the children of West Berlin as "Uncle Wiggly Wings," or "Uncle Chocolate" after he saw destitute children who needed a sweet boost. In addition to air drops of food and other supplies, Lt. Halvorsen and others dropped parachutes containing candy. He'd "wiggle" his aircraft wings to let the children know it was him, and they would eagerly rush for the falling parachutes. Lt. Halvorsen became famous for his efforts, but it was not fame he sought. He merely wanted to help others, bringing them hope. See more at his website, and take time to hear Lt. Halvorsen tell about his mission:

The US military continues to provide humanitarian aid around the world. Here are just a few illustrations: News Photo 101022-M-9842K-158 - Victims of Super Typhoon Megi unload humanitarian aid supplies from a U.S. Marine Corps CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter in Divilacan Isabela province
(By English: Lance Cpl. John Kennicutt, U.S. Marine Corps ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
US Marines delivering supplies to the typhoon-stricken Philippines in October 2010

US Navy 100126-M-8605C-002 A Marine assigned to the Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine regiment, distributes humanitarian rations at an aid station near a landing zone in Leogane, Haiti
(By U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Bobbie A. Curtis [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
US Marines handing out supplies in Haiti, January 2010 News Photo 050514-A-1566H-055
(By English: Sgt. Arthur Hamilton, U.S. Army [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
US Army personnel handing out food and candy in Iraq, 2005

Thank you for your service, veterans.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Native American Day: Celebrating Oscar Howe, Native American Artist

This weekend marks a holiday known in some places as "Columbus Day," but from 1990 forward, in my state it is called "Native American Day." Since 2015 is the 100th birthday of South Dakota artist Oscar Howe, we have been celebrating him with a special exhibit of his work at the Washington Pavilion and a new book.

The Pavilion exhibit displayed works that spanned Howe's lifetime. The accompanying text explained Howe's groundbreaking importance. When his entries for an exhibition were rejected, he fired off a letter that shows his determination and individuality. See the text here. He would not be boxed into a style other than his own.

The Pavilion exhibit held special interest for us because a friend told us about how her family came to have an Oscar Howe original. Her father was then president of Dakota Weslyan College. Her parents did a lot of entertaining, with Howe sometimes among the guests. Her mother asked for a painting, and the next time he came to the house, he brought one with him. We were delighted to see the painting in this exhibit!

The book, Native American Master Artist: Oscar Howe, was written by teachers Lisa Vande Vegte Dresch and Lois Sayre, who admired his work and the personal traits that led to his success. Though written for children, adults can also learn more about Howe's life, personality, and artistry. Designed by Marnie Teppen, the book contains many of his works, beautifully reproduced and true to the original color--not something all printers can do successfully. The book also includes information about the Dakota people and photographs of Howe. For more about the book, see the FaceBook page.

Howe's work is still displayed in many places, including public buildings. Ten of his murals, done as WPA work in the 1940's, are displayed in the Scherr-Howe Arena in Mobridge. Here's a photo I took of the dome he painted in the Carnegie Research Center, Mitchell. The photo does not begin to capture the size, color, or design of the whole.

More of Howe's work can be seen here and in person at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, as well as other art galleries and museums.

His legacy lives on as his work and teaching continues to influence artists and art lovers.

I'll close with the question posed on page 37 of the book, "If you could meet Oscar Howe, what would you ask him?"

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Talk Like a Pirate, Hope Like a Father & Son

Aye, maties, it's Talk Like a Pirate Day! Shiver me timbers! You'll find some jolly good pirate books in your libraries and bookstores, but I wanted to tell you about this one.

My Father the Great Pirate by Davide Cali, illustrated by Maurizio A.C. Quarello, was published in Australia. I am thankful that my local library purchases items published elsewhere to give me a broader view of the world.

Well, who doesn't want to think that their father is great? And a great pirate? What's better than that? That's what son thinks when he hears his father tell tales of his journeys on the high seas. But then, something happens, and the boy finds out the truth. Is is father nothing better than a liar? How could the boy love this man? Then, something else happens, and we find out the father's ability to create a metaphor for his son--and himself. And when the final something happens, the son (and we readers) find out that sometimes metaphor is truth. 

The author's note at the end explains the history behind this story, which was inspired by real events--the post-WWII migration of Italian men who went to Belgium to work in coal mines. A tragic fire in one of the mines killed 262 miners in 1956. More than half of them were Italians.

This is a picture book for older readers, and it packs a wallop. In addition to learning about an incident in history, we see some amazing coping skills at work.

Take a look, and fair winds to ye! I'm shovin' off!

For more piratey pursuits, see this previous post

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.