Monday Musing: Week 4



Poetry Friday: Student Poetry and A Winner


Thanks to  Jan at Bookseedstudio for hosting today.  Well, I’m waiting for permissions to feature some poems from one of the CBYBILS Poetry books that got away.  So today I have more poetry from Mr.Yates’ fourth grade.  These poems are from December

WINNER, WINNER, BOOK DINNER:  Congrats ERIN VARLEY. You won the READ! READ! READ! by Amy Vanderwater. Please email me: macrush53 AT yahoo DOT com.

Snowflakes are going down in a fall
They fall on the chorus as they call
People are getting presents here and there
People see a big Christmas tree so they go to the mall

©Ileini D, 4th grade

The white cloak is called snow
They move around like they’re in a blow
They’re moving around like they’re dancing everywhere
They go down the street to see Santa, ho!!!

©Ileini D, 4th grade


Dogs bark at a frozen tree       
As people unwrap their presents in a glee    
They’re loved ones come to visit them   
Then everyone comes and starts to hug me!!!

©Ileini D, 4th grade


My Three Piece Connected Poem


Coming home from getting a tree…
Over the hills, I go
Over the hills covered with snow
Over the river to the town
Now that is home I know.

Almost there…

I have a blanket in the back
Way down low on the bottom rack
I bought it just to keep me warm
Because it feels like I’m getting smacked!

When the town is in clear view…

Snowflakes falling all over town
slipping sliding everybody rushing round
There’s an icy chill in the air
Looks like this winter is really going to pound!

© Channing B.


Poetry Friday: Featuring READ! READ! READ! by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater


Welcome to the first Friday of the 2018 Poetry Friday series.  Visit   Catherine at Reading to the Core for a complete line up of all things poetry.

On Monday, the announcement for the CYBILS Poetry finalists was made.  We had forty books to select our seven finalists.  It’s always difficult.  There is so much good poetry in the world.

So between now and February 14, I plan to feature a CYBILS Poetry books that didn’t make the finalist list in what I like to call, “the ones that got away.”

First up is READ! READ! READ! by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater.

When you work in a school library, books that have poems about reading catch your eye.  Vanderwater’s newest collection does just that.  It pulled this reader in with a memory of eating cereal and reading the box with her poem, “Cereal Box.”

From cereal boxes to the sports page to a simple birthday card to pretending to be a bookmark between the bedsheets, playful poems fill the pages.  It reminds readers that poetry can be found anywhere we read and that we read everywhere. O’Rouke’s  detailed and color-filled pages compliment the text.

Before we hit the table of contents, readers encounter this fabulous gem.  I plan to share it with my Poetry Rocks group.


make letters.
make words.
make stories
that fly like  birds
from pages
in your book
to branches
In your brain
where they sing
into your soul
like soothing
summer rain.

Another favorite poem that I will be sharing with the after-school group is:

An Open Book

An open book
will help you find
an open heart
an open mind
inside yourself
if you’re inclined.
An open book
will make you kind.

(Just this morning in class, fifth graders an I talked about why “Be kind.” should be part of our school’s code of conduct:  Be Safe, be respectful, and be responsible.  To me when “be Kind” is listed it becomes more intentional.  I have some students who feel it goes with respect.)

A Fib response to these two poems:

sings on the pages
winter’s voice loud in the stillness.
©jone rush macculloch

Author: Amy Ludwig Vanderwater
Illustrator: Ryan O’Rourke
Published: 2017
Pages: 32
Reading Level: K and Up
Publisher: Wordsong
ISBN: 978-1-59078-975-9
Source: Sent by the publisher


Do you wish that you had a copy of READ! READ! READ! ?  You can. One lucky winner will get a copy.  Please leave a comment.  I will select a winner next Thursday and announce on Friday, January 12, 2018.

Announcement! Announcement! Announcement! 2017 CYBILS Poetry Finalists!


Welcome to 2018 and the CYBILS Poetry Finalists.  But first a big SHOUT OUT to these fine panelists who debated and read almost forty poetry titles.

Round 1
Sandy Brehl

Unpacking the Power of Picture Books

@PBWorkshop @SandyBrehl

Janeane Davis

Janeane’s World


Nancy Bo Flood

The Pirate Tree

Irene Latham

Live Your Poem


Tricia Stohr-Hunt

The Miss Rumphius Effect


Bridget Wilson

What Is Bridget Reading?


And now the blurbs:

Miguel’s Brave Knight: Young Cervantes and his Dream of Don Quixote by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Raúl Colón. Peachtree Publishers

In this poetic celebration of the power of imagination, we meet young Miguel Cervantes years before he creates his unforgettable hero Don Quixote. As a child Miguel copes with the constant chaos in his life by escaping to the world of dreams where he meets a brave knight/ who will ride out on/ a strong horse/ and right/ all the wrongs/ of this confusing/ world. Readers, too, will find comfort and hope through these gentle poems that are beautifully paired with Raúl Colón’s watercolor and pen-and-ink illustrations. Back matter includes notes from both author and illustrator, as well as historical, biographical, and cultural notes.

– Irene Latham, Live Your Poem


I’m Just No Good At Rhyming and Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups

Written by Chris Harris (without William Shakespeare)

Illustrated by Lane Smith

As the title and credits indicate, this single-author poetry collection is a full-out assault on any presumptions about poetry being stuffy or dull or needing to rhyme. Despite the title, most of these independent-but-related poems are tightly and cleverly rhymed with a compelling meter, packing a wallop with wordplay, irony, twists, turns, and puzzlers.  Following the index of poems by title, Harris provides an “outdex” of titles that didn’t make the cut. From the jacket to the flap text to the casing to the dedication to the pagination-author note, Harris uses every element of a book and every device you can imagine (and some you can’t) to snag readers’ attention and reel us in, laughing and befuddled too much to object.

Individual poems take on many forms, including dialogue and interaction with Lane Smith’s wonderfully wacky illustrations. Harris avoids self-indulgence, instead of otreading a fine line between meta-referenced book elements and direct address to the reader. He wrings humor and reflection from every word on the page, including font size, color, and placement, ranging from slapstick guffaws to sophisticated lines that are richer after rereading. None are harmed in the making of his comedy, and he even provides a few tender moments, like this:

The Child’s Farewell: A hug and a kiss,/ You’re the one that I’ll miss./ Oh, how I wish you could stay.

The Parent’s Response: A kiss and a hug,/I’ll miss your mug./ I love you—now have a great day.

Comparisons to Silverstein and Prelutsky are not exaggerations, and this book will find fans across ages and for decades to come.

Sandy Brehl


One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance

by Nikki Grimes

Bloomsbury USA

Nominated by: Becky L.

Taking inspiration from noted and lesser-known poets of the Harlem Renaissance, Grimes uses the Golden Shovel form to transform striking lines or entire poems into new creations that riff on contemporary themes, such as hopes and dreams, bullying, racial identity, poverty, injustice, and more. In the opening poem, Grimes asks “Can I really find/ fuel for the future/ in the past?” The answer is a resounding yes. Arranged thematically, original poems of the Harlem Renaissance precede the new poems, with the words of the original poems carefully highlighted as the last word in each line. Working within the strict demands of the form, Grimes has crafted beautifully relevant poems that speak with honesty and encouragement to young people impacted by racial bias and discrimination. In the concluding poem, Grimes leaves readers on a hopeful note with the words “I know life will be rough,/ but we’ve got the stuff’ to make it.” The poems are accompanied by illustrations created by fifteen artists of color, including Christopher Myers, Sean Qualls, Javaka Steptoe, and the author herself. Back matter includes poet and artist biographies, as well as sources.

Tricia Stohr-Hunt

The Miss Rumphius Effect



Fresh-Picked Poetry A Day at the Farmer’s Market
By Michelle Schaub
Illustrated by Amy Huntington
Charlesbridge Publishing

Nominated by Jeff

Hooray, hooray. Today is market day.  The urban farmers’ market comes alive in Michelle Schaub’s poems.  Readers learn who to see,  what’s delicious to eat, as well as discovering how the produce gets to the market.  Schaub also captures the fun things at the market such as music, sharpening knives, and the delicious aromas.

Readers who love to recite poems will enjoy these poems for their cadence and rhythm.

One of my favorite poems in the book is “Delightful Bites” which shares the smells of the spices and sweetness in a concrete poem.

Another poem, “Wild Dreams in Two Voices”  details playful language for the: Green Zebra Tomato and the “Dinosaur Kale”.

Schaub’s playful language and rhyme is spot on. Huntington’s watercolors and detail bring the farmer’s market alive on the pages. Her artwork begins with playful endpapers of veggies and begins right at the farm with a two-page spread on the dedication page Included is resources for a day at the farmers’ market.

Readers of all ages will return to this book time and again.

Jone Rush MacCulloch
Check It Out


Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets by Kwame Alexander with Chris Colderley and Marjorie Wentworth, illustrated by Ekua Holmes

Candlewick Press

Nominated by Bridget Wilson

The authors honor twenty poets in this celebration of poets and poetry. The collection has three parts: Got Style?, In Your Shoes, and Thank You. The authors use the poets’ rhythms, impersonate them, and finally respond to them and their poetry. The poems are all different stylistically and beg to be read aloud. The featured poets are from different eras, countries, and cultures. The “About the Poets Being Celebrated” section includes short biographies as well as a list identifying the eras and countries that the poets are from. Holmes’ paper collage illustrations are bright, colorful, and full of texture. Out of Wonder is a great way to introduce children to these famous poets.

Alexander says it best in his preface: “Enjoy the poems. We hope to use them as stepping-stones to wonder, leading you to write, to read the works of the poets being celebrated in this book, to seek out more about their lives and their work, or to simply read and explore more poetry. At the very least, maybe you can memorize one or two. We wonder how you will wonder.”

-Bridget Wilson



David Elliott

HMH Books for Young Readers

Nominated by: Sarah Sammis

David Elliot’s telling of the myth of the Minotaur takes the familiar story and puts them in a fun and exciting format that children will find accessible. The language is modern and a bit rough at times, but is quite appropriate for middle school readers. Readers will enjoy the pacing and the fact that each character’s thoughts, ideas, and points of view are laid out separately and thus easily identifiable. By creating one poem for each character’s point of view, emotion, and part in the story the Elliott makes tell the story bite-sized chunks that encourage readers to stay for an entire meal aka to continue reading to see how the story ends. The language and vocabulary are relatable and yet elevated at the same time.

Interestingly, the poems may tend to remind readers of Aesop’s fables because each poem can stand on its own and provide a lesson to readers.  At the same time, the vocabulary, pacing, and story will put parents and teachers in the mind of Shakespearean plays. This book would serve as a nice introduction to reading Shakespearean plays in school for students.  

The book ends with a discussion of the Minotaur myth and of the poetic form used by the author. The author tells readers why the language, pacing, and vocabulary of each character was chosen. It would be a good idea for readers to check out this section before the reading the book. All in all, this was a good telling of the myth of the Minotaur that adults and children will enjoy.

Janeane Davis
Janeane’s World


Keep a Pocket In Your Poem,

Classic Poems and Playful Parodies

written and selected by J.Patrick Lewis and illustrated by Johanna Wright

Wordsong, an imprint of Highlights, 2017

Nominated by: Jone MacCulloch

This delightful mixture of old and new, thoughtful and playful poems will engage readers of any age.  Some make us smile; some make us laugh; others make us sigh with reflection.  One example, first the “old” poem:  “The toad! It looks like it could belch a cloud” by Issa; then the “new” parody created by J. Patrick Lewis:  “The tiger! It looks like the sun has been put behind bars.”   This collection and the illustrations offer a mix of humor, wisdom, and whimsy.  The poems will definitely tickle one’s funny bone (“Stopping by Fridge on a Hungry Evening) and also introduce or remind readers of favorite classics (“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”). For anyone teaching poetry this collection offers an easy invitation to write one’s own parody.

Nancy Bo Flood

For the rest of the CYBILS Finalists, visit the CYBILS.


Poetry Friday: Using Robert Frost as a Mentor

IMG_1077Poetry Friday is hosted by  Buffy’s Blog today.  Thanks, Buffy.

A fourth-grade teacher recalled to me his experience in fourth grade with “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost.  This week he used the poem with his fourth graders.  Here are some of their poems.

Over the hill, I go to find a bunch of snow
As I went up the hill away the snow blows
When I came back down the hill
The floor was icy cold!

When I woke up there were lots of presents under the tree
Then I opened up a present and I got a key
I had a surprise on my face
Everyone started to laugh at me!

It was a bright white key
And I could hardly see
Then I looked outside and there was snow
Then I ran outside and I fell on my knee

©Marcella C, 4th grade

The Years

The lake that appears every year,
The snow, the ice, the frost right here!
Whose cabin that lives miles and miles
I smile and enjoy, The windows are clear!


Oh, the years that pass by,
I cry “Oh why, oh why!”
The years perish day by day,
So I remember the years and grab my sleigh!


The snow that flies very
Cold, Bold, it delicate flow,
Here, there, there
Who owns snow, I don’t know! But here it is!

©Jeremy, 4th grade



Candy Canes

Though candy canes do not glow
They walk down the streets and say hello
We watch to see if Santa comes
People laugh and eat us like snow

That is why they are such a show
They just keep saying no
Jumping in people’s hot cocoa
They just need to go

They just decide to go to the mall
They mess up thing and start to bawl
Then we have a big fight
Then the candy canes give a call

©Emma, 4th grade

There will be some more next week.

Poetry Friday: Featuring Michelle H. Barnes


Terrific poetry can be found at Lisa at Steps and Staircases.  She has a neat visual project with poems invitation.


Today, I have Michelle H. Barnes visiting me to answer a few questions regarding THE BEST OF TODAY’S LITTLE DITTY: 2016 (Volume 2).

JRM: What inspired you to create your Best of TLD volumes?

MHB: Over the years, I’ve received a number of comments about how this or that wrap-up celebration would make a great published collection. I, too, felt that many of the poems deserved to be published, so I took those comments to heart! More than anything, I am inspired by the TLD community. These “best of” anthologies are my way of saying thank you.

JRM: What is the most difficult of the artistic process in creating the volumes?

MHB: If you ask anyone on the ditty committee (yourself included, I imagine), they might say that the most difficult part of the process is deciding which poems should make it into these collections. The same goes for me. I relish my role as a cheerleader on the blog, but once I put on my editor’s hat I need to think about practical considerations like poem length, space available, and the best mix of poems to represent each challenge. These choices are never easy, but even more difficult when it means that someone will be left out of the book who I would have loved to include.

JRM: What surprised you about publishing these volumes?

MHB: What surprised me most was the willingness of people to get involved in the process and grant me permission to publish their work. This includes Michelle Kogan’s and Teresa Robeson’s custom artwork. I’m very sensitive to writers and artists not being appropriately compensated, but the reality is that I don’t make a lot of money from these volumes. I feel grateful just to break even after contributor copies, so the generosity of my creative colleagues is very much appreciated!

JRM: It takes time and organization to serve as publisher and designer of these volumes.  How does your family help support you in the endeavors?  Plus, you teach, correct?  

MHB: It does take a lot of time and organization. Thankfully organization comes naturally to me. Time, unfortunately, does not. It takes six months to put a Best of Today’s Little Ditty volume together, and that includes the support of many people helping me along the way—my ditty committee, cover artist, and Renée LaTulippe who functions as my proofreader and go-to for editorial advice and assistance. If I didn’t have all that help, clearly the process would take longer. While my family doesn’t help directly, they certainly put up with a lot of extra work hours and a fair share of complaining about feeling overwhelmed. They’ve also become quite good at fending for themselves for dinner! I don’t teach full time, so teaching falls into the same category as personal writing, parenting obligations, and family time. When it comes to fitting everything in, we make time for the things we care about. I don’t know of any other way.

JRM:  You’ve shepherded many of our poems to be published in the Best of TLD.  When might we see your own book of poetry published?

MHB:  Ha! I sure hope one day, Jone. I established Today’s Little Ditty in 2013 to dedicate myself to the writing profession, find a support community, and make career connections. Ironically, other than blog posts, sometimes the only writing I find time for during the course of a month is one poem in response to my own DMC challenge!  Don’t get me wrong, TLD has been a marvelous investment of love, time, and effort, but I’d like to find a way to focus more attention on my own writing again. It’s taking me awhile to figure out the correct balance, but I think I’m getting close. In the meantime, you can find my poems in magazines, journals, and anthologies, including One Minute till Bedtime (Little, Brown), Here We Go and The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations (Pomelo Books), and forthcoming collections from National Geographic and Charlesbridge. (For a more complete listing, visit my webpage:


French Twist

Mom wore her hair in a French twist.
A practical carefree style for a nurse
who put patients first and fashion last
with her family sandwiched in between.

A practical carefree style for a nurse.
She worked nights while dad worked days
with her family sandwiched in between.
She slept during the day with everyone at school.

She worked nights while dad worked days.
Mom found time for a weekly ritual.
She slept during the day with everyone at school,
then drove to the beauty parlor on Main Street.

Mom found time for a weekly ritual,
a tiny treat she afforded herself,
a drive to the beauty parlor on Main Street
to get her hair washed, dried, and set.

A tiny treat she afforded herself,
she who put patients first and fashion last,
to get her hair washed, dried, and set.
Mom wore her hair in a French twist.

                    © Jone Rush MacCulloch