Poetry Friday: Interview with Laura Shovan

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Thanks to Catherine at Reading to the Core for hosting today.

Laura Shovan was interviewed at the CYBILS website earlier this week.  Here are follow-up questions for her.  These questions were generated from the CYBILS Poetry panel and judges.,

School closings like this don’t happen very often. Did you know of a school that was closing or where this idea come from?

School closings are quite common in Maryland. Schools here are part of large, county-wide systems. Boards of education will sometimes shift entire neighborhoods from one school to another to relieve overcrowding, or even close a school that’s below capacity. For example, in 2016, the year THE LAST FIFTH GRADE came out, a high school was closed in Carroll County, Maryland. There was a lot of push-back from the community and from families who wanted the school to stay open. Despite all the research that shows how important community involvement is in making a school feel welcoming and successful, community members are rarely consulted about such closings. They tend to be a financial decision.

How did you choose the character names and did you map out the characters and classroom dynamic in a visual way?

Some of the characters’ name have clues about their situation or personalities. One is Brianna Holmes (homophone for “homes”), whose family is temporarily living in motel. Another is Newt Mathews (the word “math” is embedded in his name), who prefers form poems where he can count out syllables. And the twins, Sloane and Sydney Costley, have the small word “cost” in their last name – a nod to the fact that they are somewhat wealthy.

I’m a visual person. I had my daughter’s fifth grade school photo taped inside my revision binder. Since I come from an education background, I had to make a seating chart. That helped me to see which characters might develop friendships … or tension. I also had a list of who lived in which neighborhoods, who rode the bus together, who lived close enough to the school to walk.
What choices did she have to make to keep each voice unique?

Giving each of the eighteen characters a unique voice was something I focused on during revisions. Instead of working on the book from the beginning to the end, I pulled out each character – one at a time – and only worked on that person’s poems. In that way, I could look at things like vocabulary, cadence, and formal elements. A free verse poem in Sloane’s voice, for example, will incorporate slang and have a lot of rhythms, to capture her attitude. A free verse poem in Norah’s voice will have longer lines and more descriptive language because Norah is more observant than Sloane.

Have you as a child or your children involved in a grassroots campaign?  

No. My family wasn’t very political when I was growing up. I don’t remember my parents talking about the Viet Nam war at all. I didn’t become politically active until I was an adult. My friends at All the Wonders recently did a post on this topic, featuring picture books.

What other books for children would you suggest if students want to learn more about becoming activists in their community?

There are many types of activism that are appropriate for children. I tend to like books about the Civil Rights movement of the 20th century and picture book biographies of civil rights activists. Three of my favorites are:

Andrea David Pinkney’s picture book SIT IN: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down

Debbie Levy’s WE SHALL OVERCOME: The Story of a Song.

Tony Medina’s LOVE TO LANGSTON, about Langston Hughes’ childhood.

Another great resource is this Nerdy Book Club list from 2014: Top 10 Picture Books for Activists 

What advice do you have for writers who are working on a novel in verse?

I hear from a lot of authors who love reading novels in verse. But because they don’t see themselves as poets, they’re afraid to give the form a try. My advice is to think about the poems as short monologues. In a novel in verse, the main character or characters take the stage and describe their thoughts, feelings, and a moment of change or realization. Poetic line breaks add rhythm to the character’s speaking voice. I think this is what makes the novel-in-verse form so well-suited for voice-driven books. The combination of monologue and rhythm helps the reader hear what the character sounds like.

Thank you, Laura, for your insight!

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Time for Student Poetry Postcards!  Sign-up HERE

 Happy Poetry.

Happy Friday.

Poetry Friday: The Poetry Love Edition

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Welcome to Poetry Friday.  I am so glad you’re here.  This week was Valentine’s Day and there was so much love, poetry love in the air.

First off, Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell sent copies of HERE WE GO, the latest  Poetry Friday Power Pack.

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Just this week, our Family Engagement Committee discussed how we can best help our students during the world today.  How can we raise the level of social justice and make them feel safe?  This is the perfect book to help students make some sense of the world.

There are many ways to approach this book; read the thirty-six poems like a story or use the poems as a springboard for writing.  The end of the book is chock full of resources for both students and adult. One the resources, Poetry Performance Tips, will be used with my Poetry Rocks group, grades 1 through 3.

Poetry Rocks worked on some “What If” poems after school today in groups.  We wrote as a quick write after reading Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem “Blue Bucket and Janet Wong’s response poems by Jenna and Ameera.

What if our teachers were gingerbread
instead of people
What if blueberries could talk
instead  of regular blueberries
What if our bodies could talk
instead  of our mouths talking
What if trees were sweet tarts
instead  of regular trees
What if our homes were gingerbread
instead  of normal homes
Then everything would be weird.

By Nevaeh, Amiah, Lauren
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What if we were ghosts
instead of people
What if we could join our friends on their journey
instead just reading them
What if we could go to a land of magic
instead of going to school
What if school was fun and exciting
instead of being boring
What if our homes were made of gingerbread
instead of wood
Then life would be cooler.

By Haylie, Macy, Ricky, Taylor
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What if I could change the laws
instead of going to school
What if I could eat cookies all day
instead of celery
What if chocolate
instead of tomatoes being food
What if everything was made of chocolate
instead of trees
What if there was no play
instead of school
Then I would be very sad.

By Bentley, Jazzlynn, Taryn, Charlie
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What if I could play on my PS 4
instead of dad saying no
What if school was one hundred miles away
instead of a shortcut to home
What if there dragons
instead of moose
What if you could just float in the world
instead of outer space
What if I lived in Texas without electricity
instead of Washington

By William
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What if I could teleport
instead of walk
What if there was no school
instead of school
What if school had only recess
instead of learning
What if the sea was filled with hot chocolate
instead  of salt water
What if there was no light
instead of light
That would be bad.

By Marcella, Ella, Gabe, Italy
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What if we had no homework
instead of homework
What if babies ruled the world
instead of crawling
What if humans were dogs
instead of humans
What if the world was made out of candy
instead of not being candy
Then that would be weird.

By Angel, Jazlyn, Eliza, Dakota

Next week due to the holiday and conference, we won’t have Poetry Rocks but I have challenged them to write their own “What If”poems. We’ll see what they write.  I wrote my own “What If” poem which is posted at Deowriter.

I am going purchase some copies for our library I have a fourth grade class fired up about social justice. Can’t wait to share. Do you want your own copy? I have five copies to give away.

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MORE POETRY LOVE!!

Congratulations to Laura Shovan for winning the CYBILS Poetry Award.

Happy Friday.

Happy Poetry.

Poetry Friday: CYBILS Poetry Finalists

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Thank you to Linda at Teacher Dance for hosting Poetry Friday.

ICYMI: On Sunday, January 1, 2017, the CYBILS’ finalists for Poetry were announced. 

I must tell you that this was perhaps one of the most difficult years to whittle forty titles in Poetry down to seven finalists.  There were SO many great books. So, so many.  I am proud of our committee: Joy Acey, Linda Baie, Carol Wilcox, Kortney Garrison, Sylvia Vardell, and Tricia Stohr-Hunt.  We came to consensus on the list that represents diversity and something for all ages.

And here are the finalists:

Booked
by Kwame Alexander
HMH Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: PragmaticMom

Nick Hall is a typical eighth grader who loves soccer and hates school. Unfortunately, he has a father who is a linguistics professor afflicted with chronic verbomania.* Nick’s father loves words so much that he has written a dictionary, Weird and Wonderful Words, which he is forcing Nick to read, one letter at a time. And of course, his father is much more interested in developing his son’s cognitive abilities than in supporting Nick’s passion for soccer.

Most of Nick’s problems are typical middle school dilemmas– boring classes, budding interest in a girl, and dealing with the school bullies, twins who steal Nick’s bike. And of course the book has a couple of caring adults- one of whom happens to be a former Grammy-winning rapper turned school librarian, Mr. MacDonald. Nick’s life takes an unexpected turn when his parents inform him they are separating and his mother is moving out of state to return to her first love, training horses.

What’s not typical about this book are Kwame Alexander’s poems. Alexander uses a variety of poetic forms- including free verse, acrostics, found poems, and many others. And thanks to Nick’s father, there’s tons of interesting and unusual vocabulary- codswalloped, limerence, cacchinate, to name a few.

A novel-in-verse that’s sure to engage even the most reluctant reader.

*a love of words

Carol Wilcox, Carol’s Corner

Fresh Delicious
by Irene Latham, illustrated by Mique Moriuchi
Wordsong
Nominated by: Linda Baie

Irene Latham’s poems and Mique Moriuchi’s illustrations bring to the reader one of the colorful pleasures of summer in this “fresh” and “delicious” poetry. Here we go into the farmer’s market, baskets on our arms. They might be filled with “a fleet of green submarines” (cucumbers), ” a “mountain of mice-sized swords” (okra) or “rows upon rows/of tiny noses” (corn on the cob). The poems open the senses to new ideas about fruits and vegetables found. They are mouth-watering to imagine through the words, with illustrations that show the animals shopping in the happiest of ways. In the poem Wild Honey, Irene writes that it makes “our tongues/buzz/with pleasure.” In this book of poetry, readers will do the same. Irene also shares recipes after the market shopping, just right for kids to help with the cooking.

Linda Baie, Teacher Dance

Garvey’s Choice
by Nikki Grimes
Wordsong
Nominated by: MissRumphius

A middle grade verse novel that strikes at the heart of early adolescent angst, Grimes has given us a heartfelt, realistic portrayal of what it means for a young person to navigate school, friendships and family life. Garvey, who is overweight and not the athlete his father hoped he would be, has dreams of his own. Written in tanka, Grimes’ short verses pack an emotional punch, sharing the highs and lows of Garvey’s journey to figure out who he is, while simultaneously making himself happy and his father proud. Father and son eventually find that connection, and I dare you not to tear up when they do. Grimes has a gift for getting to the heart of middle school angst and gives readers a boy they will love and won’t soon forget.

Tricia Stohr-Hunt, The Miss Rumphius Effect

Guess Who, Haiku
by Deanna Caswell, illustrated by Bob Shea
Harry N Abrams
Nominated by: Kortney Garrison

Guess Who, Haiku by Deanna Caswell is a fun introduction to the puzzle of poetry. Each spread presents a farm animal’s poem–a riddle in haiku form–on bright pages with simple, engaging illustrations by Bob Shea.

The familiar barnyard animals and the rhythm and rhyme of the repeating lines make this an excellent read-aloud. It’s the perfect book for groups of mixed age children at library storytime or at home. The youngest children will enjoy the riddles while older children will want to take up the writing challenge.

Deanna Caswell plays with language, and then invites her readers to join the fun! The delightful end matter continues the game and helps to answer the last, most surprising riddle of all.

Kotney Garrison, One Deep Drawer

The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary
by Laura Shovan
Wendy Lamb Books
Nominated by: Adrienne Gillespie

A teacher and her students work together to try to save their school from demolition in this novel in verse snapshot of one fifth grade class across a whole school year. Ms. Hill’s class of 18 students includes a mix of boys and girls, twins, Spanish speakers, children from a variety of cultural backgrounds, shy kids, leaders, friends, “frenemies,” all trying to express themselves through poetry. Each poem reflects an individual point of view that changes and grows over the year contributing to a complete narrative detailing their classroom dynamics as well as their struggle to take an active stand for their school. Shovan effectively employs 17 different forms of poems throughout this novel in verse including acrostic, concrete, diamante, epistolary, fib, found, free verse, haiku, limerick, list, narrative, ode, rap, rhyming, senryu, sonnet and tanka poems. This is an engaging school-based story in poems that can inspire young readers to become activists in their communities and to consider writing poetry as a vehicle for achieving some of their goals.

Sylvia Vardell, Poetry for Children

To Stay Alive: Mary Ann Graves and the Tragic Journey of the Donner Party
by Skila Brown
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Jonemac

Donner Party. This ill-fated party began their westward journey from Illinois to California in the spring of 1846. An ill advised detour proves deadly as less than half of the party actually survived.
Through the eyes of 19-year-old, Mary Ann Graves, readers travel on the trail with her family.
Skila’s poems match the mood of the party. In the beginning, they are light with a quick tempo. But as the travel slows, challenges surface along with danger, and so does the cadence and tone of Mary Ann’s voice. Readers are with her during that ominous snowstorm. when the entire party takes shelter and are forced into cannibalism to survive.
Skila captures a compelling story of adventure, despair and survival that readers will want to read again and again.

Jone Rush MacCulloch, Check It Out

When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons
by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by  Julie Morstad
Roaring Brook Press
Nominated by: Sara Ralph

When Green Becomes Tomatoes Poems for All Seasons by Julie Fogliano gently leads the reader through a year’s worth of journal entry poems to celebrate the seasons. Written without capitalization or punctuation, the poems take advantage of caesuras and spacing on the page to draw the reader through the poems. There is a Zen like/haiku feeling of discovery in the short poems.

These poems frolic in nature and provide fresh language for young ones just learning language and for jaded old timers who need new ways of seeing and discovering their environment.

Joy Acey, Poetry for Kids Joy

Stay tuned and wait for Valentine’s Day when our winner is revealed.  Until then I will be featuring books that were on my shortlist but were left behind.

Happy Friday.

Happy Poetry.

Poetry Friday: Gone Shopping by Nikki Grimes

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Thanks to  Linda at TeacherDance for hosting Poetry Friday today.

I was fortunate to hear Nikki Grimes at the recent Poetry Camp on writing verse novels.  Of course, her book, GARVEY’S CHOICE, has been nominated for the CYBILS Poetry Award.

DEAR TOMATO: An International Crop of Food and Agricultural Poems, edited by Carol-Ann Hoyte, photography by Norie Wasserman (CreateSpace, 2015) was one of the many books I purchased while at the conference.  In it, is a poem by Nikki Grimes.

Gone Shopping

Basket in tow,
I go to the garden,
reach for Eggplant,
ripe and regal
in her purple splendor,
sunlight bouncing off
her sating skin.
“She is too beautiful
for roasting,”
my eyes tell me.
I almost agree,
but then,
my stomach growls.

(used with permission from Carol-Ann Hoyte and Nikki Grimes)

I no longer have a garden but I remember the times I grew eggplant.  I love the deep royalty of color this plant produces.  I also love the ratotuille, eggplant casserole, and roasted eggplant that I make from this vegetable.  This poem has ignited a need to buy some eggplant and create a savory autumn dish.

Happy Friday.

Happy Poetry.

Poetry Friday: More Student Work

IMG_1077Poetry Friday is hosted by Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect.  I love that she’s gone old school with the links.

A few weeks ago I featured student poetry.  I walked by the fourth/fifth classroom and noticed the art and poems. I just had to share!

 

 

In further news:

  • The Poetry Section for the CYBILS has about thirty eight titles nominated.  Woohoo.
  • Go to Today’s Little Ditty as Michelle reveals the cover to The Best of TLD, 2014-2015.  I am thrilled to be in this collection.
  • Find out more about the Winter Poetry Swap at Tabatha Yeatts.  Always great fun!                                  WINTER POETRY SWAP.jpg

Wednesday’s Wonderings

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UPDATED!

So the CYBIL’s nomination window closes on Saturday, October 15. I wonder have you nominated anything yet?

Would you like some suggestions for Poetry? if so, see below:

  1. Burg, Ann. 2016. Unbound. Scholastic.
  2. Caswell, Deanna. 2016. Boo Haiku. Ill. by Bob Shea. Abrams Appleseed.
  3. Dooley, Sarah. 2016. Free Verse
  4. Lewis, J. Patrick. 2016. Kooky Crumbs: Poems in Praise of Dizzy Days
  5. Lin, Grace and McKneally, Ranida T. 2016. Our Food
  6. Powell, Patricia Hruby. 2016. Loving vs. Virginia: A Documentary Novel of the Landmark Civil Rights Case.

if you know of a poetry book publishd between Oct.16, 2015-Oct. 15, 2016 and it’s not nominated be sure to get to the CYBILs site.

Poetry Friday: The Late Edition with Be Glad Your Nose is on Your Face by Jack Pretlusky

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Poetry Friday was hosted by Violet with a fabulous recap of Poetry Camp.

On Thursday, I came home from school and after dinner instead of writing my posts (one for Deowriter), I fell asleep.  And Friday was just a busy day at school.  I can usually squeeze in the writing of the posts as I usually know what I’m going to post but that was not to be yesterday.

Oh, it’s been quite a week.  Attending Poetry Camp last weekend was one of the highlights of 2016.  Being in the company of almost forty poets left my heart full.  One of the best parts of the weekend, was listening to Jack Pretlusky who was the first Poet Laureate for Children.  He rarely performs anymore so it was a real treat.

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I was delighted to hear him perform the following poem.  Some of my Poetry Rocks kids have performed it.  I can’t wait to share the video with them.

Be Glad Your Nose Is on Your Face
Be glad your nose is on your face,
not pasted on some other place,
for if it were where it is not,
you might dislike your nose a lot.
Imagine if your precious nose
were sandwiched in between your toes,
that clearly would not be a treat,
for you’d be forced to smell your feet.
Your nose would be a source of dread
were it attached atop your head,
it soon would drive you to despair,
forever tickled by your hair.
The rest of the poem is HERE
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CYBILS Update:

Nominations for the CYBILS are open until next Saturday, October 15, 2016.  To date, Poetry has twenty plus nominations.  We’d love to have more!  Please nominate HERE.

Need some ideas?  Visit this post at Poetry for Children.  Happy nominating.

Happy Friday.

Happy Poetry.