105 Ways to Give a Book

Poem in My Pocket Day

Before I sent the fourth grader to school today, I called her over to select a poem.
“It’s Poem in My Pocket Day, so we have to find a poem for you to carry around,” I said. “We don’t have much time to copy it, so it will have to be short.”

She narrowed her eyes at me. “Are you making this up or is this a real day?”
We found a very short poem that we both liked for its Springtime feel. I wrote it out quickly, stuffed it in her back pocket, and sent her on her way. I’ll be curious to find out if she did share it with anyone. From Poetry Speaks to Children, my favorite can’t-recommend-it-enough poetry book, here’s Emanuel di Pasquale’s “The Sun Has a Tail”:
The sun has a tail
that reaches under the earth
and tickles seeds.
That’s what grandmother
once told me.
She says things grow
in laughter.
What am I carrying in my pocket? I was going to go with a favorite, “Our Deepest Fear.” (Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.) But I saw a new poem at Gotta Book and it just feels right for the day. And shorter. So I’m carrying this one, from April Halprin Wayland. (First, read the title of the poem, and the poet’s name. Be clear. Now completely disappear.) April is part of a new blog, TeachingAuthors, as one of six children’s authors who also teach writing. Love the concept and the site looks great. Don’t miss it.

Announcing: Booklights

Do you think Jen Robinson will be ticked off if I just steal her announcement? I don’t think so, because she really is as nice as she seems on her blog. She’s also a good friend and can tell by my introduction that I’m having a bit of a stress surge. Of course, some things that she wrote won’t work because either they don’t sound like me — or they actually mention me, like in the third person. I’m not generally prone to doing that. So I’ll take the basics and play around.

BooklightsI am delighted super-psyched to announce the launch of a new children’s book blog from PBS Parents, Booklights. Pam Coughlan (MotherReader), Jen Robinson (Jen Robinson’s Book Page), Susan Kusel (Wizards Wireless), and I will be working with Gina Montefusco from PBS, along with various guest contributors, to bring literacy smart-ass comments and reading content to the PBS Parents audience. The goal of Booklights, in line with the goals that Susan, Pam, and Jen have for our their personal blogs, is to help people to inspire a love of reading in children. (I’m in blogging for the money.)

Currently we’re in “soft launch” mode, which means that PBS won’t be announcing the blog anywhere until next week. But I wanted you, my loyal blog readers peeps, to be the first to know that the long-discussed “blog for PBS” has finally come to fruition actually happened, even though you thought I was making it up. We have some introductory posts and lists of favorite picture books now available. (If you could bring yourself to comment on them, then I won’t look like such a loser in front of the SuperSisters.)

I am thrilled jazzed to be working with Gina, Pam, Jen, and Susan on this project. I’ll be sharing children’s literacy and kidlitosphere news off-the-cuff book reviews at Booklights, along with posts about books and encouraging young readers random nonsense from my head that may be book-related. But not to worry, I’ll still be blogging as usual at Jen Robinson’s Book Page MotherReader. I do hope pretty much insist that you take a few minutes to check out the new blog, and that you’ll consider adding it to you promote it shamelessly and add it to your regular blog reading. We all welcome your feedback and comments! (Unless you’re going to say something bad, in which case only Jen welcomes your feedback and comments.)

ABC Storytime: R is for... (Take Two)

Thanks to all the folks who contributed suggestions for the letter R storytime. I was so blown out last week that I didn’t even get back to post the final version until today, but it’s a good one.

The Letter R

Book: Duck? Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, or Rabbit Ears, by Amber Stewart

Fingerplay: “Five Little Rabbits”
Five little rabbits sitting by the door.
One hopped away, and then there were four.

Four little rabbits moved under a tree.
One hopped away, and then there were three.

Three little rabbits drinking morning dew.
One hopped away, and then there were two.

Two little rabbits resting in the sun.
One hopped away, and then there was one.

One little rabbit isn’t any fun.
He hopped away to find the others,
and then there were none.
Book: Rattletrap Car, by Phyllis Root

Book: Rain Drop Splash, by Alvin Tresselt

Song: “Rain, Rain Go Away”
Rain, rain, go away.
Come again another day.
Little Rosa wants to play.
Rain, rain go away. (Repeat with other names.)
Book: Ruby the Copy Cat, by Peggy Rathman or Ruby’s Wish, by Shirin Yim

Song: “Ram Sam Sam”
A ram sam sam
A ram sam sam
Guli, guli, guli, guli, guli
Ram sam sam...
Book: Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed, by Mo Willems

Alternate Books: Miss Rumphius, by Barbara Cooney; Hello, Robots, by Bob Staake; How to Hide a Crocodile and Other Reptiles, by Ruth Heller; Red Sled, by Patricia Thomas

ABC Storytime: R is for...

R is for... runcible spoon? Reaganomics? Rogaine? I don’t know. Apparently I never did a storytime for the letter R, and I don’t have any quick thoughts now. Sure, there are tons of books with Read or Reading in the title, but which ones are good and not preachy?

In any case, if I don’t want to run late to work — sorry, run later than usual — I’ve got to leave the letter R to you, my blog readers. Please, help me out.

The Letter R

Effin’ Earth Day

So, what did you do for Earth Day?

Did you, for instance, agree to chaperone a seventh grade field trip to a local nature park, only to find out that instead of leisurely strolling through the woods while trained experts pointed out trees, you would be running eight twenty-minute sessions on an experiment about run-off that involved a city and country scenario with sponges as plant life and food dye as pollution and plastic animals to stand in for real animals who make pollution in the form of poo, which you would either have to encourage these seventh graders to realize on their own or to say it for them despite the giggles and/or the studied looks of disinterest that middle schoolers do so well, and all the while you are sitting on a damp fallen tree as the temperature drops to darn near chilly and the instructor keeps coming by with severe weather instructions, you know, just in case?

Did you do anything like that for Earth Day? No?

Then I win.

Smiles to Go

Smiles to GoJerry Spinelli seems to operate on levels of “Off.” There’s Stargirl Off, where the character is unusual but everything around her seems pretty normal. There’s Loser Off, where you’re looking in on a life from some odd, detached viewpoint. Then there’s Eggs Off, where elements of the book make you feel like you must not be getting the point.

Smiles to Go is an Eggs Off kind of book. It starts with the least useful jacketflap notes ever:
“What is stargazer, skateboarder, chess champ, pepperoni pizza eater, older brother, sister hater, best friend, first kisser, science geek, control freak, Will Tuppence so afraid of in this great big universe? Jerry Spinelli knows.”
Well, I wish he’d tell me because I read the book and I’m still not sure. Will seems to be afraid of the destruction of the universe in a time so far past our own time that it is unfathomable. He sees flashes of light, like the flash of the proton going out of existence — but whether he really sees them is unclear. It’s kind of a coming-of-age story, kind of a sibling story, kind of a feeling-insignificant story, with a touch of the surreal.

I don’t know that I’m the right person for this book. And I think that there is a right person. I’d be curious to see what others took away from it. Anyone?

Storm Clouds and Easter Egg Cats

Every storm passes by eventually.

Storm CloudWell, unless it’s one of those little cartoon clouds which hover above an unfortunate woman as she tries to dodge the storm. She escapes briefly into the first beautiful day of this spring, and then BAM! Lightning strikes in the form of water dripping down the side of the house while the dishwasher is running. Like that’s not going to be a huge problem.

It’s possible I’ve even infected other members of my family. How else to explain my seventh-grade daughter’s Improv group’s first Theatresports competition? Her school has had two practices, compared with the other ten teams that have run year-long. In the first round, her team went second, so she didn’t have any time to get a sense of the action. In the third round, her team went first — in a game that they didn’t even know. Now that’s real improv. My daughter actually did pretty well in that scene, taking control and committing to the role. But come on — ten teams, three rounds, and her team goes second and first in two of them? Am I wearing some kind of metaphysical “kick me” sign?

But then there are moments when your white cat rolls around in the dust on the sidewalk — except this particular dust happens to be chalk dust...

And all seems right with the world, however briefly.

I’m not in the mood for a Nonfiction Monday posting today. It seems I’ve got some plumbing issues to address. But I’ll point you to host Mommy’s Favorite Children’s Books for some great books of the nonfiction kind.

Poetry Friday: Don’t Give Up

This week my continual bad timing is wearing me down. Yesterday at work I went into a measured diatribe at our staff meeting about the unfairness of new scheduling norms for part-time employees, knowing that if these guidelines are put into place, I will not be able to take a job back at the library that I love. A position, I should say, that I chose in order to reduce my hours for a few years, but that put me on the chopping block when budget cuts came. Also, an important deal may fall through because someone else beat me to it, after the first bit of real luck — preparation meets opportunity — I can remember having. Of course, there’s the taxes, where I lose money in the only year a deduction isn’t allowed. Today, the last straw was finding that I immediately threw out the receipt — when I never toss receipts — for a broken birthday present. And that’s this week.

Yesterday, at Facebook, I asked why I am out of sync with the universe. My friend suggested a conversation with the creator of said universe. A beautiful statement, but how to have the dialogue when I’m feeling so closed and unquiet? Maybe start with poetry, particularly from Inspiration Peak.
Don’t Give Up
by Ron Atchison

Listen closely and you can hear them...
the great spirits of every tribe
the ones who were here before us.
Listen to what they are saying.
There is one who calls himself Gandhi
and another who calls himself King.
They know that the way is not easy.
There is a woman named Teresa.
and many who are simply known as
Grandmothers and Grandfathers
and all of them whisper into our ear...
“Don’t give up,” they tell us...
“Don’t become cynical...”
“Take one more step...”
“There is a reason...”
I know that my struggles aren’t those of Gandhi, King and Mother Teresa. But it doesn’t hurt to have a reminder that there is a reason — or that one should listen closely.

Poetry Friday is hosted today at Becky’s Book Reviews. Also, Wild Rose Reader has been doing an amazing job of rounding up the week in poetry, including interviews, reviews, quotes, and poems. It’s a wonderful resource for weekend reading.

Words on Taxes

After a last-minute investigation fueled by incredulous disbelief, it does appear that 2008 is the one year in a five-year span where there is no credit provided for energy-efficient home improvements. Of course, that was the year we installed our expensive energy-efficient air handling system. My general bad timing streak continues. Wahoo!

But if I won’t be richer, at least I’ve had a few laughs. (Actually, that could be the motto for my life.) As I skimmed IRS publications to find some answers, I found instead some great categories in the areas of “Other Income”:
Bribes. If you receive a bribe, include it in your income.

Gambling winnings. You must include your gambling winnings in your income on Form 1040, line 21. If you itemize your deductions on Schedule A (Form 1040), you can deduct gambling losses you had during the year, but only up to the amount of your winnings.

Stolen property. If you steal property, you must report its fair market value in your income in the year you steal it unless in the same year, you return it to its rightful owner.
So don’t forget to declare your bribes and stolen property. I’m going to investigate the deduction for gambling losses for next time. I believe that records are involved, and that’s not a strong area in Vegas.

On my Las Vegas story, the votes came in for 3, 8, and 9. However, I’ve found the few people who’ve asked me about my trip want to know where we stayed, if we won any money, and if we saw any shows. My new short version is based on that assumption:
“We had a fantastic time. We stayed at the five-star Bellagio hotel for $109 a night, showing that even Vegas is feeling the recession. We saw and lost money in pretty much every fancy casino on the Strip. (But not a lot of money.) We went to a comedy club, a magic show, and Blue Man Group, all with discount tickets. It was a great trip.”
But for you, my blogging friends:
“We learned that the places look much closer together on the map, and I have the blisters to prove it. I found that if you argue long enough with the timeshare people, they will call security. But if you try sometimes, you just might find that you get what you need — and a comped lunch.”
Some here have expressed an interest in the timeshare story that involved security. It is a good story, but as the business in question resolved the issue — eventually — I won’t use their name.

On the first day of our trip, we successfully skirted several timeshare salesmen. But I couldn’t resist the call of two Blue Man Group tickets for $35. We booked an appointment for the next morning. That day we walked to the office — farther than we remembered — and waited for an additional thirty minutes in the office before the manager told us that they had overbooked. He could reschedule us for later that day or return our deposit for the tickets. We objected, saying that we had met our obligation by being there, and waiting half an hour while other customers who came in later were taken before us. (We don’t know why.) We wanted our tickets. The manager didn’t want to give us the tickets unless we took the tour. We asked to call his manager, and he gave us a number in Florida. We continued to state our case and requested a copy of the contract for our lawyer. As a new couple came in, we suggested that they might better spend their time elsewhere, which is when the assistant manager offered to have Security escort us out of the building. The manager returned to the room with no better offer, we left a message at the Florida number, and Security — in the form of a short, middle-aged man — came to escort us out of the building.

We immediately went to the timeshare sellers’ booth and told the family there that we just got cheated out of our tickets — which promptly caused them to leave. The security guard told us we couldn’t do that. We quoted the First Amendment. He talked about property rights. We had now involved all of the salespeople in our discussion — and they didn’t like the idea that they were sending people to the appointments if there weren’t enough agents. One of them called to the office as we monopolized the rest of them — in essence, shutting down the sales booth. After the call to the manager got no results, one salesperson referred us to the partner casino to talk to the manager there.

At the casino, I calmly explained the situation. The manager there was very understanding, even if at first look he seemed like the kind of guy who could have roughed us up in a back room. He agreed that things were handled badly and wanted to make it right. He gave us an upgrade on our tickets and a comp lunch at the casino. While Bill filled out the official complaint form, I talked to the manager about his kids and yes, books. (I’m sending him some of my review copies this week in thanks.) In the end, we didn’t spend any more time fighting for what was due to us than we would have spent on the tour and fighting the high-pressure sales tactics. However, I think we’ll stay clear the next time someone asks us, “Seeing any shows while you’re in town?”

President Obama’s Storytime

President Obama read to children at the White House Easter event like a real storytime professional. In reading Where the Wild Things Are, he howled the terrible howl and showed the terrible claws. And he responded like a champ to the kid — and there’s one in every storytime — saying, “I can’t see!”

(Thanks to Lessons from the Tortoise and Well-Read Child for the links. You made my day.)

Nonfiction Monday: Dazzling Dragonflies

I have the perfect book for Nonfiction Monday and Poetry Month. In fact, I think it ties in pretty well with the upcoming Earth Day, too.

Dazzling DragonfliesDazzling Dragonflies, by Linda Glaser, is not brand-new, but I noticed it recently when the cover caught my eye. The book offers an almost-storybook treatment of the life cycle of a dragonfly, from egg to adult. If not actual poems, the words are poetic and lyrical. Mia Posada provides the beautiful illustrations, where collage-style dragonflies are mixed with watercolor backgrounds and drawings. Overall, a lovely book with lovely words.
Hello, flying dragonfly!
Amazing acrobatic insect —
flitting and floating here
and there.
You dip and dive and dart,
then zip!
For more nature books by Linda Glaser, visit her website. Find more ideas for Nonfiction Monday with today’s host, Abby (the) Librarian. Completely unrelated, but worth noting for this Monday, SLJ’s Battle of the (Kids’) Books is off and running. First to fall: Gaiman. Oh, that hurt!

(I should add my BoB Round 1 guesses. And they are guesses, since in almost every match I’ve read one — and only one — book. So: Octavian, Trouble (a freebie, since I just saw it), Chains, Tender Morsels, Frankie, Hunger Games, Graceling, and Nation.)

Vegas Baby

Why aren’t there picture books set in Las Vegas? I mean, New York toddlers have tons to choose from about their city. I think it’s time for a Vegas Baby or Baby Needs a New Pair of Shoes. (Hey, that is actually is a book.) With those huge, fanciful buildings, Vegas makes a great book setting. The porn cards on the sidewalks don’t need to be featured.

Yeah, I have Vegas on the mind after coming back from my trip. We had a fantastic time. But I’m having trouble with my short-version recap. I’ve done the full story — with photos — that you tell to people who care or who have to pretend to care. I’ve got that down. The mini-response, of course, is any near synonym of great. But then there is the difficult short version, for people who ask you when they have two minutes to spare, and you say, “It was great/fantastic/wild/surreal. We went/saw/did/stayed/learned/found ______, _____, and _______.”

I don’t know what to use for the blanks. So here are some highlights of our trip, and perhaps you can vote in the comments for your favorite three.
  1. We stayed at the five-star Bellagio hotel for $109 a night, so this recession thing may be real.
  2. We went to and lost money in pretty much every fancy casino on the Strip. (But not a lot of money.)
  3. We learned that the places look much closer together on the map, and I have the blisters to prove it.
  4. We saw the dolphin and lion habitat at the Mirage, but the exhibit was greatly enhanced by being able to sit down.
  5. I did play blackjack at three casinos, and ended $15 down at the really scuzzy one, which kinda figures.
  6. We found that the Strip is to Downtown as Whitney Houston is to Britney Spears (before Whitney got druggie).
  7. We went to a comedy club, a magic show, and Blue Man Group with discount tickets — not that it was easy.
  8. I found that if you argue long enough with the timeshare people, they will call security.
  9. We learned that if you try sometimes, you just might find that you get what you need — and a comped lunch.
  10. We did take the red-eye back, were delayed in NYC, and I went to work two hours after we landed.
Vote for your favorite three and that will be my new short-version Vegas story. It’s all in your hands now.

Poetry Friday: Packing

This week I was inspired to write a list poem in response to the weekly challenge of Miss Rumphius and based on my own upcoming weekend (well, weekend-ish) getaway to Las Vegas. This was one of the few poems I’ve written that I feel like I truly crafted. I started with a train-of-thought list based on my own packing. Since it felt too long, I culled out the least important parts and side notes. Then I liked the way the lines were forming a shape, so I worked within that structure, taking out or changing words to make it fit. Honestly, I can’t believe how much time I’ve put into this poem. “Um, yeah,” say you practiced poets. But it was a revelation to me that working on a poem can be such fun.


Start with
A carry-on bag
With a noticeable tag.
Black pants to dress up
The essential black T-shirt.
A jacket adds color or slims in black.
A cotton dress cut just above the knee
Easily goes from daytime to evening with
Comfortable heels and versatile accessories.
(Colorful bangles for day, silver chains for evening.)
Shorts and shirt to sleep in provide emergency clothes.
One interesting shirt that can start a barstool conversation.
Undergarments, socks, belts, extra shirt, and toiletries.
(Liquids in a plastic bag on top, for airport security.)
Two books of different styles, and the guidebook.
Don’t pack pinchy shoes, no matter how cute
No organizers, calendars or work numbers.
Leave behind preconceived notions about
sushi, planes, or talking to strangers.
Wear the really flattering jeans.
Slip on walking shoes.
(Black is best.)
And go.

You’ll find today’s Poetry Friday contributions hosted at ayuddha. Continued Poetry Month extravaganzas are at Check It Out, Gotta Book, Liz in Ink, Miss Rumphius, Pencil Talk, Poetry for Children, Read Write Believe, Susan Writes, Wild Rose Reader, Writing and Ruminating, A Wrung Sponge, and A Year of Reading. Whew!

ABC Storytime: Q is for...

Back with ABC Storytime. As always, feel free to name your favorite letter Q books in the comments.

The Letter Q

Book: Little Quack, by Lauren Thompson

Song: “Six Little Ducks”
Six little ducks that I once knew,
Fat ones, skinny ones, fair ones too.

Chorus: But the one little duck
with a feather in his back,
He led the others with a
Quack, quack, quack.
Quack, quack, quack!
Quack, quack, quack!
He led the others with a
Quack, quack, quack!

Down to the water they did go.
Wibble, wobble, wibble, wobble to and fro.

Home from the water they did come,
Wibble, wobble, wibble, wobble, ho-hum-hum.

(BTW, the tune is here.)
Book: Stella, Queen of the Snow, by Marie-Loise Gay

Nursery Rhyme: “The Queen of Hearts”
The Queen of Hearts,
She made some tarts,
All on a summer’s day;
The Knave of Hearts,
He stole the tarts,
And took them clean away
Book: Quiet! by Paul Bright

Song: “What Begins with Q?”
What begins with Q?
What begins with Q?
We all know.
We’ll tell you so.
What begins with Q?

Quack begins with Q…

Queen begins with Q…

Quiet begins with Q...

(This is song to the tune of “Farmer in the Dell” and can be used for any letter — but is probably never needed more than when you get to Q.)
Book: QPootle5, by Nick Butterworth

Alternate Books: I don’t know. You tell me.