Friday, October 17, 2014


There are so many ways to tell a story. In FRIDA, Carmen T. Bernier-Grand weaves together a series of biographical poems to capture the life of Mexican-born artist, Frida Kahlo. Kahlo had a difficult life- a childhood bout of polio, a crippling bus accident at age 18, marriage, then divorce, then remarriage to Diego Rivera, four miscarriages, spinal surgery that left her wheelchair bound, and then the amputation of her leg-- and yet she lived with strength, pride, and even joy. ¡Viva la vida/ (Long live life!) was her personal battle cry.

The book includes 26 poems, illustrated with Kahlo's artwork. Back matter consists of a biography, a timeline, and a bibliography. A terrific mentor text for middle or high school students attempting to write biographies or autobiographies.

"Hummingbird Wings"

I am a wounded hummingbird
caged in my room for nine months
with polio, crippling polio

Warm towels soaked in walnut water
ease the pain in my leg,
a thin, drying twig.

I hide in the walnut wardrobe
put on a white sock,
another on top
and another
Is the right leg as fat as the other?
The cage opens. 
Now I have wings.


Wednesday, August 21, 1920

Coyoacán- Today the marriage
between an elephant and a dove
took place in a civil ceremony 
in the ancient hall.
The twenty-two-year-old bride
Frida Kahlo wor
a Tehuana peasant dress
and a rebozo created by the people
for the people.
The forty-three-year-old,
bulky groom Diego Rivera,
sported a peacock feather
in his Stetson hat,
a wide leather belt,
huge minuer's shoes,
and paint-stained pants,
that looked as if he had slept in them
for a week.

My barren landscapes show my barren self
I have lost three children. 

Four arrows in my heart
to remind Diego how his shots have made me bleed.

Shooting pains in my hip,
Shooting pains in my foot,
Shooting pains in my spine.

I am not sick.
I am broken.
But I am happy to be alive. 

Michelle Barnes is hosting Poetry Friday today. Head over there for a Halloween poetry challenge!

Saturday, October 11, 2014


If more teachers included the story part of history, I'm pretty sure a lot more kids would be interested in history. That's definitely true with tonight's CYBILS read, HE HAS SHOT THE PRESIDENT by Don Brown. Brown tells the story not only of the day President Lincoln was shot and the subsequent manhunt for John Wilkes Booth. It's the richness of the story that captures the reader's attention.

I know kids all the way through high school are going to love the story of how Lincoln's death was one of three planned assassinations for that evening. They are going to be fascinated by how four soldiers carried Lincoln's long and almost lifeless body across the street to Peterson's Rooming House, then laid it diagonally across a bed. They will love reading about how John Wilkes Booth was locked inside a tobacco barn, which was then set on fire after he refused to come out. And how people filed past Lincoln's coffin in New York City for 25 hours straight, and yet only a small portion of the half million people waiting actually got to see the body. Or of how city leaders tried to stop African Americans from participating in the funeral procession back to the train station, and the Secretary of State had to issue a decree.

So many rich stories. So much history. I love that this book is one in a series of five (so far). I hope there will be lots more!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Poetry Friday

 The beginning of the school year. I love, love, love my job. I love working with teachers. Seeing how the kids have grown. New pencils and new dreams. And I hate, hate, hate the crazy busy-ness. No time to read. To write. To breathe. In the midst of it all, this poem from Parker J. Palmer's blog.

"Love Wants to Know How"

Autumn comes with its riot of death,
its clarion bells of color,
drives the living green to ground
even as it thins the veil between worlds.
The visible and invisible walk now together
with arms outstretched over fields
where workers hasten to the harvest
none may divide against itself.

So where are you in this?
How long do you loiter
between the said and unsaid,
the done and undone,
between the half and true rhyme
of a life answering a life?

Geese mark the sky with dark wedges,
call with harsh tongues
to what thrives at the margins
of all we so reluctantly receive.
Go now,
quickly and with great force,
toward what burns in your dreams
at the dying of the year.

Who can say?
Perhaps you reap the whirlwind,
perhaps the harvest--
but is it ever enough to not know
the bonds and bounds of what will one day
forsake you for the grave?


Poetry Friday is at Laura Purdie Salas' WRITING THE WORLD FOR KIDS. Head over there to read some poems from Laura's newest book (I can't wait to own this one!) and lots of other terrific offerings!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

CYBILS judge!

 I'm really excited to be a first round judge for the CYBILS Elementary/Middle Grade nonfiction awards! I have been a CYBILS judge for about five years and absolutely know two things:
1) I will read lots of great new books!
2) I will meet lots of terrific people!

Other nonfiction judges include:

First Round

Second Round
 Nominations begin October 1st! You have about ten days to start picking your books!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


The empty nest thing has been an adjustment.
Now, almost 15 months later, I'm still trying to remember who I was.
And what I used to do before after dinner homework and sports practices and team meals.
It's really easy to fill up every minute with work.
Because I love my work.
And it really doesn't feel like work.
At the same time, I don't want my whole life to be about work.
And so last night, I left before five (at least an hour before my typical time).
Went home and fed the dogs.
And walked Star.
(Boo is a princess. And princesses don't walk on leashes.
They just supervise life from their princess bed thrones).
And then I went to a meeting.

Community Bible Study.
Before I had the boys, I did several different small group Bible studies.
And I loved being part of a small group
and studying God's word.
But in the last ten years there just hasn't been time.
Or someone to watch the boys if I went out in the evenings.
But now there are no boys to watch.
No uniforms to wash.
No algebra homework to check.
And it's time to start a new phase.

I was really nervous.
Even though I spend my days interacting with people
I'm basically an introvert.
Who would be happy to go home, walk the dog
and then sit on the couch doing schoolwork
for two or three more hours before bed.

But last night I made myself
get in my car and go.
All the way there I debated turning around.
Traffic was terrible
and it took 45 minutes
to make what should have been a 15 minute drive,
It would have been easy to make a right turn
and head back the way I had just come. 
I need a haircut
and I considered doing that instead.
Even when I drove into the parking lot
and turned off the car
I considered not getting out.
Just going back to my nice safe couch
and my kinda new life. 

But I made myself walk in
and fill out the registration
then sit down in the auditorium.
Forced myself not to leave before the small group time
was surprised to discover that most of the women are about my age
most are single- divorced, widowed, or never married.
A few have children. Several dog moms.
A CPA. A retired nurse turned coffee shop owner.
An administrative assistant or two.
A doctor who has recently scaled back her practice
to spend more time with her high school aged sons.
I wondered about the possibility of new friendships.
Thought about who I might like to know better.

It's time to start figuring out what I want this new phase of life to include. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Poetry Friday

This is our first official week back to school. I've spent the week leading professional development and helping teachers prepare their classrooms. Each classroom has to have a beautiful library! And each classroom has to have a great read aloud for the first day of school! And baskets of  sure-to-grab-even-the-most-reluctant-reader's-attention on every table! And poetry, of course there must be poetry that first day! 

Kalli Dakos is a teacher/poet I have loved for many, many years. I stumbled across her first book, IF YOU'RE NOT HERE PLEASE RAISE YOUR HAND, shortly after it came out. The poem I'm sharing today comes from PUT YOUR EYES UP HERE! I think my favorite Kalli Dakos' book, just because it's a guaranteed kid pleaser is THERE'S A FUNERAL IN THE BATHROOM. I love to cruise by one of those "pretend readers" desks on the first day of school and just slyly slide it onto the corner, then wait to see what happens. Here's a poem I might use the first day of school.

"Introducing a new ME"

There’s a new ME this year,
An on-time ME,
A clean-desk ME,
A first-to-hand-in-assignments ME,
A listens-in-class-to-the-teacher ME,
A teacher’s-pet-for-the-first-time-in-my-life ME,
An-always-willing-to-be-good-and help-out ME,
A dead-serious-get-the-work-done-and-hand-it-in
Before-it’s-due ME.
The problem is
The new ME
Is not like ME
At all.

Kali Dakos

Kalli has a PDF of ten back-to-school poems on her website!

Another poem I will probably use that first week is "Now" by Prince Redcloud

I might also use Judith Viorst's poem, "The First Day of School."

Irene Latham has a whole bunch of great poems at the Poetry Friday roundup!

Monday, August 18, 2014


Here's a book for writers' workshop. Or storyteller's workshop. Or to add to your basket on bullying. Or just to read aloud, because kids are going to love it. Missy, who you may remember from MISS BROOKS LOVES BOOKS (AND I DON'T) is a little girl who loves to go to her school's library story each morning. Unfortunately, along the way, she has to pass the home of Billy Toomey, the neighborhood bully, who steals her hat and teases and just generally makes Missy's life miserable.

After one such morning, Missy arrives at school to discover that a power outage has forced Miss Brooks to turn story hour into story telling hour. Miss Brooks teaches the children about the elements of story- characters, setting, events, and satisfying conclusion. At first, Missy is reluctant to tell a story, but then she uses her story to solve the real life bully problem in her life!

One you will definitely want to own!