Monday, March 18, 2019

psssst! wake up! it's THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT!

I'm so happy to be the next stop on the blog tour of my pal Laura Purdie Salas's latest book!  Welcome all to this little celebration of secret doings in the dark,
all rated G for General Audiences and G for GOOD.

Laura P. Salas, poet
Angela Matteson, illustrator

Through interviews, many bloggers on the tour have already shone some nighttime flashlight on the story of this book: the first inklings of the project in Laura's mind, the many ways she approached the individual poems, the collaboration with editor Rebecca Davis, and how the illustrator's choices joined with Laura's words to make a third, beautiful, surprising new thing.  Do go and visit some of the blogs listed above for the inside scoop!

For my part, I'll take a different view.  Let's talk about the LANGUAGE, shall we?  

In my view, Laura's genius in all her work is to take plain and simple words--the kind you find in a 2nd-grader's vocabulary--and play them in ways that consistently transcend the expected.  This makes her work both eas for its intended audience to read AND very helpful as model and mentor texts for young writers.

Look at "Empty Pocket," in which not even a whole pair of jeans but just one pocket has its midnight wish.  Laura takes spot, lot, do, you, chest, nest, blue and again you to craft a poem which is both fun to say and also carries a fair amount of wistful longing for company, for work that is real.  She doesn't slack and go with the most common meaning of lot--a lot--but turns an empty pocket into a "vacant lot" to go with "empty spot."  And in between the rhymes, we get two lines that are just wonderful:  "Come button, toothpick, pebble, gum...Come nickel, sticker, piece of string."  There's a whole lot of fancy wordwork going on here, but it's very, very accessible.

"Kleenex Makes a Perfect Landing" is even shorter and more dense with wordplay.  The poem is built on tight-light-kite and flute-parachute, but there's also clip-clutch, "billow like jellyfish" and (maybe not SO original, but in the context of the first-ever-poem-about-a-Kleenex-parachute, yes) "glide like a kite."  Again--there aren't a lot of fancy-clever tricks here, just straight up creativity forged with skill.

I'm including two more of my favorites below.  "A Hose Unwinds" could be a nice one to scaffold with elementary writers:  Can you brainstorm lots and lots of words related to a thing and then describe it--without naming it--in two rhyming lines?  These might come out like the riddles in Laura's other new book, LION OF THE SKY: HAIKU FOR ALL SEASONS. And once you and your students have used this book to inspire your own persona or mask poems, you can go to Laura's
IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT padlet to publish your work!

I love the little leap in "Spaghetti Tries to Fit In."  There are so many lesser ways to employ the use-shoes rhyme, but "I lace myself into your shoes" is a surprisingly robust aspiration for pasta, even if cooked al dente!

Do rush to get your hands on this book, including by commenting below to be entered into a drawing to win a copy of IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT (drawn at 5pm this Friday, March 22nd).   You're already a winner, though, because you can click here to get some goodies for use with your students!

Thanks to Boyds Mills Press for inviting me to participate in the blog tour and for providing the prize.  And of course, thanks to Laura for bringing this book into the world!