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 look at 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 easy 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 clever word-twisting 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 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!


  1. Really looking forward to reading this book!

  2. Laura does have a gift for word play. I love the poems you chose to share- each exceptional its own way. I'm looking forward to reading the entire collection.

    1. Thank you for coming by so many of the blog posts, Kimberly!

  3. I love how all the everyday things a child can see come to life in surprising and inventive ways. I have 2 little one I know will love this gem. Thanks Heidi and Laura! And Boyds Mill !!!!

  4. I love how you focused on Laura's amazing skill of word play. This is one I aspire to. So much fun in "I'm a hoop. I'm a loop. I unwind and flow." My students and I had a great time writing our own, but your post makes me want to do it all over again.

    1. I love how she did that, too, Margaret! Totally different from the interviews. I also really loved your own post and poems. Thank you, both of you!

  5. This is a wonderful blog post, Heidi. It is focused, provides good examples of your points, and connects to an important aspect of writing: word play.

  6. I thoroughly enjoyed this review. Your laser eyes catch things that I didn't notice right away--accessibility of the poems for 2nd grade people in the fancy wordwork and play. You've taught me some things about reviewing. AND, this books look perfect for some special young people in my life. I love the imaginations brought to life by these beautiful illustrations!


Thanks for joining in the wild rumpus!