Poetry Friday: Carole Boston Weatherford


Today will be an exciting day at my school. One of my fifth grade classes will have a SKYPE interview with Carole Boston Weatherford, author of Birmingham, 1963. In honor of the fiftieth anniversary of this event, Weatherford has offered SKYPE visit around the country.

So in honor of her visit with us and an upcoming interview with me, I am sharing just one poem from Birmingham, 1963.

The history of 1963 Birmingham is depicted in evocative words from a ten year old narrator. Many lines start with, “The year I was ten…” Which add a rhythm to the story.
Black and white photos from the various events in Birmingham intensify the narrative.


The last pages of the book feature four poems about the four girls who lost their lives on September 15, 1963. Here’s one:

Addie Mae Collins

Who sold her mama’s handmade aprons
And pot holders door-to-door after school.
Who drew portraits, pitched underhand,
Like hopscotch and bright colors,
And wore her short hair pressed and curled.
The seventh of eight children
Who was the peacemaker
When her brothers and sisters argued.
Addie Mae, who sang in the choir
And starched a white dress for church.

Please return on November 13 for an interview with Carole Boston Weatherford and on November 15 for one of her poems.

Poetry Friday is at Teacher Dance. Thank you, Linda.

Happy poetry.
Happy reading.



Celebrate: Five Star Things About the Week


It’s been a lazy Saturday in Oregon. I am just now getting to writing this post. What I love about Saturdays is taking the time to reflect on the week.

1. Becoming word collectors like Max in Max’s Word by Kate Banks. These third graders are using dictionaries to find words.


2. Related to word collecting this from a fourth grader:
4th Grader: “MsMac, I didn’t know reindeer were real. (pointing to the reindeer picture in the book).”
Me: “Yes, they are. what did you think?”
4th Grader: “I thought it was just a Christmas thing.”

3. Second week of PreK Read and Play. Singing ‘The Bubble Song’ and having bubbles really helped. I even video taped for a baseline.

4. A very productive meeting with my principal regarding the new evaluation process. Feeling settled in what my focused evaluation will be this year.

5. Time with my friend Shirley. Until she retired, we co-directed the annual school plays. She retired about four years ago. Sadly, for the last two years she’s battled brain cancer. It’s not good. But I celebrate time to see her yesterday.


More celebrations can be found at Ruth Ayres Writes.

Happy Reading.

Five Star Things About the Week

Five Star Things About the Week

1. Growing professionally. This week I began meeting with PreK children and their families for story time. This has been a program in our building for the last ten years. The funding was cut last spring. I share the duties with the Family and Community Resource Room Facilitator. We had four families attend on Wednesday for a story and crafts/play time.

2. Shelving project. Our EVERBODY section is in need of an update. Since the school opened in 1972, the Everybody books have had a spine label of ‘E’ for Everybody and the first letter of the author’s last name. This is a shelving nightmare. I have a fabulous volunteer/former librarian colleague who comes in about once a week. So this is one of her projects.


3. Chance and Lisa. Every Tuesday, Chance and Lisa come to the school. Students come down for an opportunity to read to them. Everyone loves Chance, he’s so mellow and Lisa is so encouraging with the readers.


4. Reading during check out. Not everyone returns their library book on library day. So I have bins of books for students to pick out a book and read while others are selecting their new books. When they finish, they can read as well. Students can choose to read with someone or read to self.

5. This explanation from a first grader as to what ‘plan’ and ‘hatch’ mean: “You can hatch a plan in your brain (child is pointing to brain) like a bird hatches from an egg.”

Have a great week.
Happy reading.


Poetry Friday: Orbweavers


1395806_10202169207335019_1693743537_nFrom my front yard last evening

abdomen crosses
silk spinners
autumn webs
invisible garden threads
the fabric of fall

~Jone Rush MacCulloch, 2013


Welcome to Merely Day by Day( http://merelydaybyday.blogspot.com/2013/10/dont-miss-it-poetry-friday-is-here.html) for hosting Poetry Friday. I have no clue why I can’t link.  Thank you, Cathy.

Happy Reading.

Happy Poetry.


CYBILS: 48 Hours Left


Are you still wondering about poetry books to nominate for the CYBILS? Here are a few from Sylvia Vardell’s Sneak Peek 2013:

Face Bug: Poems by J. Patrick Lewis
Sea Star Wishes: Poems from the Coast by Eric Ode
What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms & Blessings by Joyce Sidman
Poetry for Young People: African American Poetry
Neighbors: The Yard Critters Too by George held
Cowboy Up! Ride the Navajo Rodeo by Nancy Bo Flood
Yes! We Are Latinos by Alma Flor Ada

Only 48 hours left to nominate a book. Go HERE.

Happy Reading.

Five Star Things About The Week

Thank you Colby of Sharpread for writing a reflection post each week. I love this idea. In fact, I share 7 kicks with the kickers at 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast each Sunday. In a time where education is intense, full of demands, and at time exhausting, reflecting on the good is important.

We are Silver Star so here are five star things about the week beginning October 7, 2013.

1.A very successful first Family Library Night. Once a month the library is open to families at night. We offer pizza and water at a low cost and have an activity. This Tuesday we had over 25 families attend.


2. Kids in the library during recess. I love have students in the ‘family room of the school’ as I refer to the library.. These students were so engaged in some quiet games I couldn’t resist this pic.


3.Helping another fifth grader through her realization that she’s never finished a book and she’s reading basically at third grade. She’s smart, plays hockey, and I was able to provide her with some book choices at her level. She will get there! I know it.

4.Hosting Mortimer yesterday here at Check It Out and sharing a poem by Kelly Fineman.


5.Spending the day with other teacher librarian colleagues. Yesterday was teacher in-service day. What a joy to gather with job alike colleagues. Had a great conversations about vocabulary, give students time to read, and the changing nature of our jobs.


Happy Reading

Poetry Friday: Mortimer with a Kelly Fineman Poem


Mortimer has hopped all the way from Irene Latham’s Live Your Poem blog to be with us today. Thank you, Irene for inviting me to host Mortimer!

Here’s How-to-Hop, “Mortimer Minute” style!
1.Answer 3 questions. Pick one question from the previous Hopper. Add two of your own. Keep it short, please! This is a Blog Hop, not a Blog Long Jump. This is The Mortimer Minute—not The Mortimer Millennium!
2. Invite friends. Invite 1-2 bloggers who love children’s poetry to follow you. They can be writers, teachers, librarians, or just-plain-old-poetry-lovers.
3. Say thank you. In your own post, link to The Previous Hopper. Then keep The Mortimer Minute going: let us know who your Hoppers are and when they plan to post their own Mortimer Minute.

Mortimer has selected the following question from Irene:

Mortimer: Funny poems or beautiful ones?
JRM: I love both but I like writing beautiful poems more. I love writing haiku and pantuoms.

Mortimer: I noticed you are involved with the CYBILS. How are the CYBILS nominations coming along?
JRM: people have until October 15, 2013 to nominate books. I think we have some good nominations but we can use more. Last year we had over 30 titles nominated in poetry.
We currently have just over 20 books. So please go nominate a great poetry book published this year HERE.

Mortimer: What do you love most about poetry?
JRM: I love how immediate poetry can be. Poems capture so much in such few words. Reluctant writers can be successful when writing poems. I love to create group poems with students when starting poems. I love their thinking in how to arrange poems.

This year I am finding poems to pair with the books I read such as Kelly Fineman’s poem ‘Sea Jelly’ with the book Down, Down, Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea By Steve Jenkins.

Sea Jelly
by Kelly Ramsdell Fineman

It’s not made of jelly; it isn’t a fish.
Mostly it drifts, but can move with a swish.
It doesn’t have lungs or a brain; most can’t see.
It captures its dinner tentacularly.
Named after a Gorgon who turned men to stone,
It’s best if you leave this Medusa alone.


Mortimer is off to visit Linda Baie at Teacher Dance. Linda has been and is a CYBILs Poetry panelist for round 2. She’s a long time teacher of middle school students at an independent school for the gifted in Denver, Colorado. She has recently moved from the classroom and moved into the part-time position of literacy coach for the 8-14 year age group. She has a son and son-in-law, a daughter and daughter-in-law, one grandson and two granddaughters.  If there is any passion it is reading, writing and being outdoors. She just returned from a Highlights Foundation workshop for poetry writing, and blogs at TeacherDance

Poetry Friday is at Laura Purdie Salas. Thanks, Laura.


Thank you for visiting Mortimer. I’d have you visit my house but Buster the doxie would chase you.
Happy Poetry.
Happy Friday.


Interview with Kelly Fineman

Today, I am Interviewing Kelly Fineman, poet  and CYBILS’ panelist for round one in poetry.  Last year her poem ‘Sea Jelly’ was published in National Geographic’s Book of Animal Poetry, a CYBIL’s poetry finalist.

National Geographic book of animal poetry

Your Reading Life

MsMac: What books are on your night stand?
KF: Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir by Beth Kephart

See You at Harry’s by Jo Knowles

The Seduction of the Crimson Rose by Lauren Willig (re-read)

Feng Shui Your Life by Jayme Barrett

MsMac: Wheres your favorite reading spot?
KF: On the cheetah print chaise lounge in my living room, or on the leather sofa in my sweetheart’s living room, or on the deck at my house or the patio at his. But I love to read, and can read anywhere.

Your Writing Life

MsMac: What does a day of work look like for you? What is your favorite time of day to write?
KF: I am working hard to create habits so that I have a “typical” day of work, but it varies by day. Most days of the week, I start by reviewing emails and social media, then move into a before-lunch work session. At least three days a week, I have afternoon work sessions as well. On Tuesdays, I meet my friend and writing partner, Angela De Groot, at a local Panera’s for shared writing time, which is always inspirational and fun. My favorite time of day to write is probably the morning, although I am not an early starter.        

MsMac: Writing the first draft or revising? Which is your favorite?
KF: Ooh – tough question. Writing the first draft is so satisfying, because it’s creating something out of nothing, but revising is also satisfying because it polishes what’s there, pares off the extraneous stuff, and adds in what’s missing. Both can be frustrating and triumphant, but I think the pleasure in getting something “right” means that revision wins out for me by a whisker.

MsMac: What does your writing space look like?
KF: I am in the midst of straddling two living spaces just now. At my house, I write sitting at my dining room table, because the area gets lots of natural light and has lovely views out the back sliding doors and front picture window.

At my sweetheart’s house, I sometimes write in his current office, which has the benefit of a water fountain located just outside the window, which makes a lovely, soothing noise as I work, and sometimes in the living room, which has a gorgeous view of the back yard.

MsMac: What is your current project?
KF: I have just finished up revisions on a young adult poetry collection, and am working on a new collection of poems for middle graders.

MsMac: Ooh, yound adult poetry, sounds interesting. What might readers find you doing when youre not writing?
KF: They might find me meditating or doing tai chi, or reading (of course!), or baking or cooking.

MsMac: How has writing poetry informed you as a person?
KF: Talk about a tough question! I can’t tell you for sure whether writing poetry makes me more aware of phrases, incidents or images that inspire new work, or vice versa, but I do know that I find inspiration all around me on a pretty regular basis.

MsMac: Why is poetry important?
KF: I could probably write you a dissertation on this one. It’s important for children – and should be used far more widely in schools than it is – because the poetic devices used, whether it be rhyme or metre or alliteration or assonance or just the concrete imagery and excellent, specific word choice that is commonplace in poetry, help kids to process information in different ways. Rhyming, metrical poetry is processed in the same section of the brain as music, which allows some kids to process or memorize the information contained more easily.

Poetry is important in general, though, because it allows people to process information free from the boundaries of precise logic, although precise language is usually involved. It allows a reader to experience an emotion or action vicariously, and through a far different lens than is available in other forms of writing. Startling juxtapositions are not only allowed, but encouraged, and the use of rich metaphor opens up interesting and unexpected associations.

Just for Fun

MsMac: Dark chocolate or milk chocolate?
KF: Yes!

MsMac: Coffee or tea?
Also yes! (But I drink far more tea than coffee, though I have both most days.)

MsMac: Dance: funky chicken or the tango?
KF: Well, I can DO the funky chicken, so I’ll go with that.

MsMac: Favorite Quote

KF: Asking me for a favorite anything is useless, really, because I stink at picking favorite anythings. Here’s one that I like a lot, from Neil Gaiman’s poem (now a picture book), “Instructions”: “Trust dreams. Trust your heart, and trust your story.” From “Instructions”, by Neil Gaiman: “Trust dreams. Trust your heart, and trust your story.”

Check back tomorrow when I share her poem, ‘Sea Jelly.’

Happy Reading


Poetry Friday: Original Haiku


Fall is definitely in the air. We had our first major storm last weekend. Thinking haiku this week

red leaves
turn on the tree

Now is the time to nominate your favorite children’s and YA poetry book for the CYBILS Award. It’s our eighth year!

Need some ideas? Hop over to Poet! Poet! Anastasia has some suggestions. Or visit Sylvia Vardell at Poetry For Children who has a great list of poetry books as well.

Important to remember that novels in verse belong in either in middle grade or YA fiction. Beautiful single poems with illustrations belong in fiction picture books. We want poetry collections by a single poet or collections by several poets.

Time is short. Hurry over to the CYBILS to nominate. Time is short! The window is open October 1 through October 15.

Poetry Friday is hosted by Dori Reads. Hop on over.
Which reminds me, stop by next week for a Mortimer Minute. I was invited by Irene to host Mortimer next week.


Happy Poetry.
Happy Reading.


Today’s the Day! Nominate Your Favorite Poetry Book For the CYBILS

Now is the time to nominate your favorite children’s and YA poetry book for the CYBILS Award. It’s our eighth year!

Need some ideas? Hop over to Poet! Poet! Anastasia has some suggestions. Or visit Sylvia Vardell at Poetry For Children who has a great list of poetry books as well.

Important to remember that novels in verse belong in either in middle grade or YA fiction. Beautiful single poems with illustrations belong in fiction picture books. We want poetry collections by a single poet or collections by several poets.

Time is short. Hurry over to the CYBILS to nominate. Time is short! The window is open October 1 through October 15.

Happy nominating.
Happy reading.