Friday, October 30, 2015

costumed for a bloggiversary

I've been blogging here at my juicy little universe for 7 YEARS this month.  I thought of doing A Thing to celebrate back in September, but by the time October 15 rolled around these plans and even the momentous event itself escaped me.  (We have officially reached the stage where the kids have more obligations and events than their moms.)

not quite my costume, but you get the idea
So today I'll just remark that for at least 5 of those 8 Halloweens, I've gone to school dressed as Mother Nature, or more specifically Lady Autumn.  I wondered whether I should make a change now that I'm in 2nd grade, but I just love the deep green velour dress with its texture and sweep, and I adore how the colorful paper leaves look pinned or taped against its background, just like the changed trees stand in contrast, both mellow and sharp, with those still staunchly chlorophylled.

I went looking for a poem to match my wonder every October at this color scheme and was dismayed by the length and complexity of every suggested poem I found at the Poetry Foundation (but it was very late).  And then I remembered this:

"Autumn time:
days get cool, it's back to school.
It's Autumn time:
the world turns golden brown...
Mother Earth's about to change her gown.

She loves to change her season;
It's Mother Earth's routine.
Green to brown, brown to white
white back into green--
she changes clothes
and puts on something clean.

And she has reasons
for changing seasons--
You have to change to grow;
You have to change to grow."

- "Mother Earth's Routine," from the album Mother Earth

Tom Chapin and John Forster do it again and provide the perfectly detailed simplicity I'm looking for.  Thanks, guys!


The roundup today is with Jone at Check It Out, we think!  See you there.

Friday, October 16, 2015


busybusybusy | Sandra Boynton
as sung by Kevin Kline on Philadelphia Chickens (2002)

very, very busy
and we’ve got a lot to do
and we haven’t got a minute
to explain it all to you
for on SundayMondayTuesday
there are people we must see
and on WednesdayThursdayFriday
we’re as busy as can be
with our most important meetings
and our most important calls
and we have to do so many things
and post them on the walls.

we have to hurry to the south
and then we hurry north
and we’re talking every minute
as we hurry back and forth
and we have to hurry to the east
and then we hurry west
and we’re talking every minute
and we don’t have time to rest
and we have to do it faster
or it never will be done
and we have no time for listening
or anything that’s fun.
we have to hurry to the left
and then we hurry right
and we're talking every minute
as we hurry day and night
and we have to have our lunches
that we don't have time to chew
and we have to order many things
in gray and navy blue
but we think supplies are limited
and restrictions may apply
so we'll call the operator
to make sure he's standing by

we have to hurry far away
and then we hurry near
and we have to hurry everywhere
and be both there and here
and we have to send out messages
by e-mail, phone, and fax
and we’re talking every minute
and we really can’t relax
and we think there is a reason
to be running neck-and-neck
and it must be quite important
but we don’t have time to check.
And if not, well--
what the heck.


'Nough said.  Roundup today is with Amy at The Poem Farm.  Be sure to take a break and stop in.

Friday, October 9, 2015

leave 'em hanging

"...finally arrived at Grandmother's door."

and that's the end of
part 1.  tonight, while you're waiting
to fall asleep, you

may find Little Red
lifting the latch of your dreams.
all the better to

be continued

HM 2015 (c)

The Diamond Miners are in the midst of comparing points of view in different versions of well-known folktales--you can guess which one we're exploring this week.  We read slowly, we stop and start, stop and restart, check for comprehension ("BING!"), break the story into Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.  I'm finding that at the accomplished age of seven, children are susceptible to relying on what they already know and are prone to "unhearing" new information.  That's why Lon Po Po has been so gripping--familiar but different, and what's a gingko nut?

From an Education Week article on how we pose our questions to support deep interpretation: "teachers often read through a chapter or text selection completely before starting a discussion....As part of the training course, they are learning to plan stopping points where the text is ambiguous and launch questions that get students thinking about what is going on. "We want to teach kids to not just start at the beginning and read all the way through," Matsumura said. "A good reader is thinking about what they are reading as they are going through."" Well, duh.

But my goal is "never a duh moment."  I can't assume that even the high flyers in my class are coordinating all the moving parts that deep comprehension depends upon. We teachers and writers do it easily, but precisely BECAUSE we are skilled and effective literacy practitioners, it can be hard for us to slow down enough to elucidate this "behind the scenes" thinking we are doing as we read.

So again, there is no way I can get through 6-8 texts in a week, and the ones we do spend precious time with better be really good.  So thanks, Trina Schart Hyman, for Little Red Riding Hood, and thanks, Ed Young for Lon Po Po, and thanks  Wilhelmina Harper for The make us want to work hard to be deeper readers.

The roundup today is with Laura at her spiffy new-look blog at Writing the World for Kids--go lift the latch on her door and see what's hiding inside!

Friday, October 2, 2015

welcome to the diversiverse! poetry friday edition

Happy October to all! Whatever your race, creed or color, whatever your gender, age or orientation, whatever your nation, neighborhood or internet access point--your voice is welcome here.

Some while ago I was led to this post by Aarti Chapati, a Chicago reader who blogs at BookLust.  She has been hosting #Diversiverse for 3 years now, inviting bloggers to review books that contribute to the diversity of our shared body of literature.  She specializes in science fiction/fantasy but the event is for all genres.  I signed up right away and although I'm a couple of days ahead of her scheduled diversityfest, I wanted to take this hosting opportunity to highlight some of the good work that is being done to make children's literature diverse enough to allow every child to find a mirror between the covers of a book.

This link will take you to Aarti's compilation of all #diversiverse book reviews from previous years. At the bottom you'll find the spot to add your links.  Meanwhile, today is a regular school day for me, so this is going to be a self-rounding round-up and as usual, I won't get around to visiting everyone's post until the weekend.  Thanks for stopping by My Juicy Little Diversiverse this week!

I went looking for a book by an author of color to review, and found my way to this rather comprehensive and thought-provoking post by Betsy Bird of  Fuse#8 Productions at SLJ.  I've read the Nurture Shock book too, and one of the reasons I like teaching the youngest children is because of an opportunity to make an impact on their "inclusion" stance before their ideas of "us" and "them" are permanently established.

Our school system had last Wednesday off for Yom Kippur, but when my student Aini was absent on Thursday I remembered Eid Ul-Adha.  I taught Aini, who is Indonesian, in kindergarten so I know her family is Muslim.  During Morning Meeting on Friday she shared about going to a "big place like a soccer field to pray, boys in the front, girls in the back." I made a big point about how much Aini knows that many of us have never heard of and explained why.  Next it was Didi's turn to share.  He is a boy of few words and often passes up his turn to talk, but on this day he told us that his father went to pray too, at the mosque.  Well!  In a class of only 14, I have more Muslim than Jewish kids--that's a first for me at this school.

Image result for big red lollipopSo when I went to choose a new-to-me book for my #diversiverse review, I selected Big Red Lollipop by Pakistani-born Canadian Rukhsana Khan (Viking Penguin, 2010). This picture book for ages 4 and up is not primarily written to support conversations about race, religion or ethnicity (see my recent thoughts on stories that teach lessons).  In fact, it's an autobiographical story much more like A Birthday for Frances, about two siblings, a party and frustration, greed and jealousy--emotions that are just plain human.

However, these siblings, in their "regular" kid clothes, live in a "regular" house with their immigrant mother Ami, who wears a headscarf and asks, "What's a birthday party?"  (She also feeds the baby and works on her computer in the course of the book.) Ami gives her oldest daughter Rubina permission to attend the party as long as little sister Sana goes too, and of course Sana not only behaves embarrassingly at the party but eats Rubina's goodie-bag treat as well as her own--and then Rubina gets scolded for being greedy.  Oh, the unfairness!

"A really long time" passes and Sana is old enough to be invited to her first birthday party.   By now, the baby is old enough to demand to go to the party too--and Ami is set to make Sana take her, just as Rubina had to take Sana.  It's only fair.  But then Rubina intervenes, and the red lollipop of anger becomes a green lollipop of understanding between the sisters.

The first-person text is lively, full of authentic-sounding dialogue.  It skims right over that question about birthday parties ("It's when they celebrate the day they were born." "Why do they do that?" "They just do! Can I go?"), but a teacher or parent could slow down and help children investigate the information in both illustrations and text to get at the diversity agenda's best general question: the Identity Question.  Who are these characters?  What do we recognize as familiar and what do we notice as unfamiliar?  What might those unfamiliarities make us think about the characters?  What other information might each of us need to understand their words and actions?

These questions can apply to characters in any story, even (especially?) those in a culturally "normative" literary work.  That's the practice we want to develop as leader-readers--the practice of regularly investigating identity--all identities--rather than assuming that we know all there is to know at first glance.

Perhaps you know the We Need Diverse Books campaign, which took off in April 2014 "in response to the announcement of an all-white, all-male panel of children’s book authors at a major book and publishing convention. What began as a social media awareness campaign quickly grew into a global movement that demanded the attention of the publishing industry, the media, and readers everywhere."

I heard about it, of course, but it was later, by accident, that I learned it all started with my fellow soccer mom, Ellen Oh.  Our daughters play on the same school team, and as our closest neighbors there's a lot of shared driving. (The girls are often together, but the moms hardly ever are, which is how I failed to connect WNDB to Daisy's ride home.)  I am filled with admiration for the energy which kicked off this powerful campaign.

But what about poetry, you say?  Here's a place to start: a list of 10 Diverse Poetry Books compiled by What Do We Do All Day?  I see with delight that Iguanas in the Snow by Francisco X. Alarcon is front and center here--I have all four of his volumes of bilingual poetry and leave you today with this...

Para escribir poesia | Francisco X. Alarcon
primero tocar
oler y saborear
cada palabra
To Write Poetry | Francisco X. Alarcon
we must
first touch
smell and taste
every word

Again, thanks for joining Poetry Friday today, and enjoy these offerings...