IMWAYR: Spreading Love & Warmth


The arrival of a new baby brings joy and always inspires me to break out my knitting needles. So it was this past weekend when my niece and her husband welcomed their third child, Vera. As I was putting the finishing touches on a frilly hat, I began thinking about picture books that spread the happiness a hand-knit gift brings.

Shall I Knit You a Hat (Macmillan, 2004) by Kate Klise and illustrated by M. Sarah Klise begins with Mother Rabbit hearing the news of “a blizzard moving this way.” She immediately knits a hat to keep Little Rabbit’s ears warm. Kind-hearted Little Rabbit loves his hat so much he asks Mother Rabbit to make hats for all their friends.


The theme of spreading love and warmth through hand-knitted hats is extended to sweaters for all, including animals, houses, and trees, in Mac Barnett’s Extra Yarn (Blazer + Bray, 2012). Hidden in the simplicity of this Caldecott Honor book, illustrated by Jon Klassen, are deep ideas about generosity and the true worth of a loving spirit.


Much to the dismay of his captain, Ned, the Knitting Pirate, by Diana Murray and illustrated by Leslie Lammle (Macmillan, 2016), loves to knit. But when an sea monster attacks their ship, Ned’s hand-knit “blanket with the jolly roger crest” comforts the angry beast and saves the day.


These books share a sense of love and comfort that we sorely need right now. They are perfect read-alouds for inspiring generosity in young children.

My knitting also inspired this #haikuforhealing, part of Mary Lee Hahn’s December haiku project.

loops of spun softness
slip off quicksilver needles
cozy hat blossoms

© Catherine Flynn, 2016

Please be sure to visit Jen Vincent at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee Moye of Unleashing Readers for more book recommendations.

Poetry Friday: A Hidden Nest


Since Natalie Babbitt’s death at the end of October, I’ve been thinking about her lovely book, The Search for Delicious. (More about that here.) I’ve been keeping an eye out for “those commonplace marvels which [the world] spreads so carelessly before us everyday.” This morning, I noticed this “commonplace marvel” in the apple tree in my front yard:

fallen leaves reveal
robin’s hidden nest, holding
the promise of spring

© Catherine Flynn, 2016


 Please be sure to visit Bridgit Magee at Wee Words for Wee Ones for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Slice of Life: Purpose and Passion


“The purpose of knowledge is to appreciate wonders even more.”
Richard Feynman

(A few weeks ago, the theme of Margaret Simon’s #Digilit Sunday was PURPOSE.  Since then, I’ve been jotting ideas and working to clearly articulate my thoughts around this topic.)

In the Prologue of The Search for Delicious, Natalie Babbitt refers to “those commonplace marvels which [the world] spreads so carelessly before us everyday.” When I taught third grade, I read this book to my students every year. Babbitt’s magical tale of mythical creatures and human folly was a perennial favorite. The story of Galen’s quest for the elusive definition of delicious is nothing less than a metaphor for the quest for knowledge of any kind.

Helping children be attuned to these marvels and to be filled with a sense of wonder about the world has always been at the heart of my teaching. I want to help my students learn to be enchanted with the world around them. In my classroom, as often as possible, routines are woven into our days that nurture this ability. Such seemingly prosaic objects as dried sunflower heads, birds’ nests, and seashells become treasures to marvel over. I want my students to understand that they are explorers, and that the world is full of mysteries waiting to be uncovered.

So every book I read, every lesson or activity I teach is chosen or designed to lay out these wonders and enchant students. Enchant them so they grow a love of the world and become better stewards of our planet. I want them to look at the moon and see a peach nodding off, its eye at half-mast. Or hear music in the rattle of dried out bamboo as a woodpecker prospects for his breakfast.

I want to enchant them so they grow a love of words, and come alive as readers and writers. I want them to read and write with joy, in a way that allows them to deepen their understanding of themselves. I want them to find a book that holds up a mirror and lets them know they’re not alone. Someone else understands them and loves them, warts and all. I want them to read books that will open windows and help them discover truths about others, and the world around them. I want them to set out each day searching for, finding, and loving the possibilities in themselves and in one another.

That is my purpose. That is my passion.

Thank you to StaceyDanaBetsyBeth, KathleenDeb, Melanie, and Lisa for creating this community and providing this space for teachers and others to share their stories each Tuesday. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

Poetry Friday: The Moon’s Wondrous Tale


“Soon as the evening shades prevail,
The moon takes up the wondrous tale.”

 ~ Joseph Addison ~


The moon has always fascinated me. Each day, I notice its passage through its eternal journey around the earth. I feel as if my day isn’t complete if I haven’t greeted my old friend. This month, the mystery of the moon has offered me a welcome distraction from the turmoil of our world. I wrote these haiku in response to the mood of the moon throughout the month.


in the crisp gloaming,
a sliver of moon winks through
shadowy branches


music fills the night;
each note carried on a beam
of silver moonlight


at dawn, a ghost moon
floats above purple hills;
not ready for sleep


eyelid at half mast,
tonight the moon is a
drowsy peach

© Catherine Flynn, 2016

Please be sure to visit Carol Wilcox at Carol’s Corner for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: “A Sliver of Liver”


This afternoon, while her mother was having her conference with her teacher, a first grade student came into my room to say hello. We chatted for a few minutes, then she looked around and said, “It’s kind of messy in here.” Out of the mouths of babes, right? I told her I agreed, it was kind of messy. But the mess is really organized chaos on top of shelves and shelves of books. I have a terrible time getting rid of books. And even though I did manage to shed a few when I moved into a smaller space over the summer, I still have a lot of books. Is that really such a bad thing?


I don’t think so. Because so many of those books are treasures that are now out of print. Including Poem Stew, “a feast of hilarious poems about food” selected by Kenneth Cole and published by HarperCollins in 1981. This book was a favorite of my third graders, but I don’t use it too much anymore as I work mostly with first graders. This year, I see a group of fourth grade students and needed a poem for them with -er endings. And I found just what I was looking for in my well-worn copy of Cole’s rib-tickling collection.

“A Sliver of Liver”
by Myra Cohn Livingston

O sliver of liver,
Get lost! Go away!
You tremble and quiver
O sliver of liver–
You set me a-shiver
And spoil my day–
O sliver of liver,
Get lost! Go away!

Of course the kids loved this. When one girl said she wouldn’t eat liver if her mother served it for dinner, another student immediately noticed that “dinner” had an -er ending. Then they were off, thinking of other words and coming up with ideas with their own foods they wish would “Get lost!” They’ll be writing poems about these foods next week. Stay tuned for the results!

Please be sure to visit Brenda Davis Harsham at Friendly Fairy Tales for the Poetry Friday Roundup.


Poetry Friday: “All of These People”


“…all real unity commences
In consciousness of differences”

W.H. Auden

What is there to say at the end of a week such a this?  We turn to poets and find solace in their words. We turn to each other and find comfort in this space.

Krista Tippet recently interviewed Michael Longley, a Northern Irish poet whose work has sought “to reassert the liveliness of ordinary things, precisely in the face of what is hardest and most broken in life and society.”

Living in Northern Ireland throughout the years known as “the Troubles”, Longley has much to teach us as we come to terms with the results of this week’s election. I will keep his wise words in my heart as I go about my work in the coming months:

“And good art, good poems is making people more human, making them more intelligent, making them more sensitive and emotionally pure than they might otherwise be.”

“All of These People”
by Michael Longley

Who was it who suggested that the opposite of war
Is not so much peace as civilization? He knew
Our assassinated Catholic greengrocer who died
At Christmas in the arms of our Methodist minister,
And our ice-cream man who continuing requiem
Is the twenty-one flavours children have by heart.
Our cobbler mends shoes for everybody; our butcher
Blends into his best sausages leeks, garlic, honey;
Our cornershop sells everything from bread to kindling.

Who can bring peace to people who are not civilized?
All of these people, alive or dead, are civilized.

Listen to Michael Longley read his poem here.

Please be sure to visit Jama Rattigan at Jama’s Alphabet Soup for the Poetry Friday Roundup.