PB 10 for 10: Follow Your Heart

“Never lose your curiosity about everything
in the universe–
it can take you to places you never
thought possible!”

~ Sue Hendrickson ~

Thank you to Cathy Mere and Mandy Robek for creating and curating this celebration of picture books. Please be sure to visit Cathy’s blog, Reflect and Refine to read all the lists contributed to this labor of love. It is teachers like them, and others in this community, who will keep the gift of stories alive for years to come.

Coming up with a theme for this year’s PB 10 for 10 celebration was difficult. There were several new picture books that I loved, but at first I didn’t see an obvious connection between them. As I read and reread, though, patterns began to emerge. A path presented itself, and I followed. Each book I’ve chosen to share this year involves a journey or exploration. Some of these journeys cross the globe, others plumb the soul, some do both. All enlarge our imagination.

My Heart Is a Compass, written and illustrated by Deborah Marcero (Little, Brown, 2018), was my starting point this year. I have always loved maps, so this book appealed to me immediately. Maps show us the way, help us know we’re not alone and we don’t always have to rely on our own wits to help us find the path. In one way or another, these books may help readers find their way–even if it’s encouragement that sometimes we have to create our own paths and that’s okay, maybe even essential. They also help us understand that wherever we are on our path, someone else has been in a similar spot before, maybe are in a similar spot right now. How we respond and react to the spot we’re in is what matters. Getting love and giving love makes the journey so much easier.

Rose is on a quest: “Her heart was set on discovering something that had never been found…” Marcero’s rich language and evocative illustrations carry us along on this journey. Rose’s flights of imagination are distinguished from “real life” by use of a gorgeous blue that reminds me of cyanotypes. Her maps are worth poring over; a scientifically correct sky map is also filled with fancy–including “big dreams,” “empty thoughts,” and “first lines of poems” as well as a “brainstorm.” Close observers will recognize features of Rose’s journey covering the floor of her room before she embarks on her travels. This book will inspire readers to explore their own inner worlds. It is also a perfect choice to pair with Georgia Heard’s Heart Maps, (Heinemann, 2017).

How to Read a Book, by Kwame Alexander with illustrations by Melissa Sweet (Harper, 2019) is a love letter to the joys of reading. Alexander encourages readers not to rush: “Your eyes need time to taste. Your soul needs room to bloom.” This is advice we all should heed. Sweet’s illustrations of “watercolor, gouache, mixed media, handmade and vintage papers, found objects including old book covers, and a paint can lid” (and at least one map) add layers of meaning and wonder that will keep readers coming back to this book again and again. A Teacher’s Guide is available here.

                                   

Poetree, by Shauna LaVoy Reynolds, illustrated by Shahrzad Maydani (New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2019) stars a dreamer and poet named Sylvia. The book begins with Sylvia writing a poem about spring. She “…tied her poem to a birch tree…hoping that it didn’t count as littering if it made the world more splendid.” Poetry brings two children together and helps them move past the misunderstanding at the center of the story. Reynolds sneaks in sly humor adult readers will appreciate: characters are named Sylvia and Walt, a dog named Shel, and a teacher, Ms. Oliver. There is also a nod to Joyce Kilmer: “I never thought that I would see/such lovely poems from a tree…” Maydani’s graphite pencil and watercolor illustrations of soft greens and yellows (is that Amy Krouse Rosenthal‘s yellow umbrella?) add to the overall gentleness and love of this book.

Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré, by Anika Aldamuy Denise, illustrated by Paola Escobar; (Harper, 2019) is a lovely biography of Pura Belpré, the first Latina librarian in New York City. When Belpré first traveled to New York, “words travel[ed] with her” and libraries were “ripe for planting seed of the cuentos she carrie[d].” This metaphor of a garden of stories is carried throughout the book and is echoed in Escobars gorgeous digital illustrations. The words she brought from Puerto Rico took root and “grew shoots into the open air of possibility, (emphasis mine) have become a lush landscape…” Her legacy is honored through the Pura Belpré Award. A select bibliography is included, as well as suggestions for further reading and a brief description of Pura Belpre’s own stories. A teaching guide is available here

                             

The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown, by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Sarah Jacoby (New York: Blazer + Bray, 2019) is, like its subject, an unconventional biography. Barnett gets to the heart of the matter quickly, though: “The important thing about Margaret Wise Brown is that she wrote books.” (p. 2) The truth is that Margaret Wise Brown had something to say and she didn’t let anyone stop her from saying it. The information Barnett includes underscores the fact that writers are real people. He includes possible origins of her stories: ”When Margaret Wise Brown was six or seven and she lived in a house next to the woods, she kept many pets.” (p. 7) Barnett asks thought-provoking questions, including “Isn’t it important that children’s books contain the things children think of and the things children do, even if those things seem strange?” These expand the range of who will appreciate this book. He also highlights important truths: “…in real lives and good stories the patterns are hard to see, because the truth is never made of straight lines” and “She believed children deserve important books.” (emphasis mine). Jacoby “used watercolor, Nupastel, and Photoshop magic to create the illustrations for this book” that give them a dreaminess we want to step into. Read and interview with Mac Barnett and Sarah Jacoby about the creation of this book here.

Picturing America: Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Art, by Hudson Talbott (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House, 2018) takes us on another journey of discovery. Like many immigrants, when Thomas Cole and his family arrived in the US in 1818, they didn’t have much. Through hard work and sacrifice, Thomas discovered that “he had something to say and he was on his way to find it.” This book not only provides a brief introduction to the birth of the Hudson River School of painting, it helps children understand we all have something to say. Finding out what that something is and how best to express it is the journey of our life, it’s what gives our life meaning. Over the course of his life, Cole realized “he simply wanted to show what it meant to be human.”

    .     

In The Word Collector (Orchard Books, 2018), Peter H. Reynolds extolls the joy and power of words. We learn about Jerome and his passion for words: “Words he heard…words he saw…words he read.” Jerome uses his words in poems and songs, and ultimately, shares all his words. After all, isn’t that words are for? This book will inspire word collectors of all ages. Resources are available here.

 

When Sue Found Sue: Sue Hendrickson Discovers Her T. Rex, by Toni Buzzeo, illustrated by Diana Sudyka. (New York: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2019) This biography is a celebration of curiosity, exploration of the natural world, and following your dreams. “Sue Hendrickson was born to find things.” Buzzeo tells the story of how Sue’s whole life lead to the moment in 1990 when she discovered “the world’s largest, most complete, best preserved, Tyrannosaurus rex fossil discovered so far.” Named in honor of her discoverer, “Sue” is now on display in Chicago’s Field Museum. A Teacher’s Guide is available here.

                    .  

What is Given from the Heart, by Patricia C. McKissack, illustrated by April Harrison (New York: Schwartz & Wade Books, 2019) is the “final, magnificent picture book from three-time Coretta Scott King Award winner and Newbery Honor author Patricia McKissack.” James Otis and his mother have had “a rough few months.” When a neighbor’s home is destroyed by fire, James Otis’s church rallies to help them. But he can’t imagine how he and his mother can help when they “aine got nothing ourselves.” After much searching and consideration, James Otis finds exactly the right gift for his neighbor. Harrison’s mixed media illustrations add depth to the emotions of James Otis, his mother, and their neighbors.

We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga, by Traci Sorell, illustrated by Frané Lessac. (Charlesbridge, 2018) This book honors the Cherokee Nation’s tradition of otsaliheliga, an expression of gratitude that “is a reminder to celebrate our blessings and reflect on struggles–daily, throughout the year, and across the seasons.” A loving depiction of Cherokee culture, this is exactly the book we need right now: a reminder to be grateful for our family, our friends, and the many gifts of the earth.  

I am grateful for these books, their creators and the publishers who bring them into the world and make it a more beautiful place.

Note: I am editing my original post to include concerns about Home Is a Window. My original post included this paragraph about this book:

Home is a Window, by Stephanie Parsley Ledyard with illustrations by Chris Sasaki (New York: Near Porter Books/Holiday House, 2019) is an ode to the comfort of what is familiar: a favorite blanket or chair, a daily routine, a color. It also celebrates the fact that home isn’t necessarily a physical place; rather, it’s a feeling you have because of “the people gathered near.” This creative, comforting book is a perfect launching point for students to create their own definitions of home.

Cathy Mere also included this book on her list, but removed it after a reader raised “some concerns over the images in the text.” Cathy shared this link to CrazyQuiltEdi explaining her concerns about the images of several characters. 

My previous #PB 10 for 10 posts:

2017: Celebrating Nature
2016: Feeding Our Imaginations
2015: Poetry Picture Books
2014: Friendship Favorites
2013: Jane Yolen Picture Books
2012: Wordless Picture Books

 

Poetry Friday: Found Haiku

My friend and critique group partner, Linda Mitchell, was in the “spotlight” at Michelle Heidenrich Barnes’s blog, Today’s Little Ditty, last week. Linda challenged Poetry Friday friends to “create a ‘found haiku’ from “an interesting article.” This challenge appealed to me immediately and I found two article in last weekend’s New York Times that had potential. The first article is “Kids Need a Digital Detox: A Ball,” by Nellie Bowles.

digital detox:
playing with blocks and painting
live fully present

Perfect advice, don’t you think?

The next article, “Letter of Recommendation: Dinghy Rowing,” by Heidi Julavits, made me want to go buy a dinghy. It was a joy to read and reread this exquisite piece of writing, finding just the right lines for this haiku.

Full confession: I did have to rearrange some phrases slightly to meet the 5-7-5 syllable count in both haiku.

Thank you, Linda and Michelle, for this fun challenge!

Please be sure to visit Jone MacCulloch at Deo Writer for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Slice of Life 19: By the Book

For the past two years, I’ve done a post modeled on the “By the Book” that runs each week in The New York Times Book Review. This column, subtitled “Writers on literature and the literary life,” interviews authors about what they’re currently reading, which books they love, and other interesting questions related to their reading. The column asks about a dozen questions, but my favorite is always the first: “What books are on your nightstand?”

I always have at least a dozen stacked by my bed and a dozen more by my desk. At the moment Sharon Creech’s new middle grade novel, Saving Winslow is at the top. Creech’s Newbery Award winning Walk Two Moons is one of my favorite books of all time, so I’m really looking forward to reading about “a sickly newborn mini donkey.”

I picked up Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters by Anne Boyd Rioux at the library last week. I’m only on the first chapter, but this book is already full of fascinating information about one of the most influential books in American literature.

A Primer for Poets and Readers of Poetry by Gregory Orr, who is a professor of English at the University of Virginia, is next. This book is pushing my writing and thinking about poetry in unexpected directions.

There is always at least one book that I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve never read. This year, it’s Opening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives by Peter H. Johnston. Johnston’s message, that through our language, we “construct the classroom worlds for our students and ourselves” and that “the worlds we construct offer opportunities and constraints” is a powerful one. If you haven’t read this book, find it and read it as soon as you can.

What books are on your nightstand?

Thank you to StaceyBetsyBethKathleenDebKelseyMelanie, and Lanny for creating this community and providing this space for teachers and others to share their stories every day in March and each Tuesday throughout the year. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

Poetry Friday: “Daybreak”

 

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been reading A Primer for Poets and Readers of Poetry, by Gregory Orr. In the Preface, Orr describes the book as “one poet’s informal exploration of language and self in relation to the impulse to write lyric poetry.” The book includes in-depth analysis of poems through different lenses, as well as prompts and exercises. I found the chapter “Lyric and Narrative: Two Fundamental Ordering Impulses” especially thought-provoking. Orr offers this fundamental distinction between the two:

The narrative poem is searching for something and won’t be happy (complete, unified) until it has found it. By contrast, the lyric poem has a different shape. It constellates around a single center. (p. 82)

Orr goes on to describe the shape a lyric poem as “that of a snowflake or crystal–an intense geometric concentration around a center.”

Isn’t that a wonderful image? As often happens, while searching for one poem, I found another. Although I’ve read and loved “Daybreak” by Galway Kinnell many times, this week I read it with a new appreciation for how Kinnell’s words “constellate around a single center.”

“Daybreak”
by Galway Kinnell

On the tidal mud, just before sunset,
dozens of starfishes
were creeping. It was
as though the mud were a sky
and enormous, imperfect stars
moved across it slowly
as the actual stars cross heaven.
All at once they stopped,
and as if they had simply
increased their receptivity
to gravity they sank down
into the mud; they faded down
into it and lay still; and by the time
pink of sunset broke across them
they were as invisible
as the true stars at daybreak.

 

Please be sure to visit Tara Smith at Going to Walden for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Slice of Life: 2019 Reading Goals

Resolutions really aren’t my thing. I’m much better at setting goals and working toward them. That way, I’m always making progress.

At school, we always challenge our students to, in the words of Lucy Calkins, “outgrow themselves as readers.” January is the perfect time to check our progress and set new goals. Knowing that many of our students need help choosing titles, we’ve adapted The Strand Book Store’s “Reads-olutions” (I know; I said I don’t like resolutions, but this is too catchy to pass up.) to guide them.

I always tell kids that these categories are only suggestions, and really, as long as they keep reading, they’re achieving their goal. I do share with them my reads-olutions (aka goals), and tell them that I almost never read every book I plan to, but always read many more that I didn’t know about when I made my list.

With that in mind, here are several titles I hope to read in 2019:

  • Book by a debut author (also covering Book with a one word title):
    Speechless by Adam P. Schmitt

  • A Newbery Award winner:
    Although I haven’t read every Newbery winner, I’ve read many of them. Kira-Kira, by Cynthia Kadohata is the most recent winner I haven’t read. Of course, if I haven’t read this year’s winner, I’ll add that to my list.

As always, I’ll continue to chip away at the mountains of books already scattered around my house, waiting to be read! Thanks to Betsy Bird for her fabulous blog, A Fuse 8 Production, and her incredible series, 31 Days/31 Lists. Many of these titles came from these posts. The Nerdy Book Club also has wonderful year-end lists if you need more suggestions.

What books are you looking forward to reading in 2019?

Thank you to StaceyBetsyBethKathleenDebKelseyMelanie, and Lanny for creating this community and providing this space for teachers and others to share their stories every Tuesday. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

Poetry Friday: Questions for the Author

Over the summer, all our students in grades five through eight read Restart, by Gordon Korman. The kids loved the book, and have had some amazing discussions about its characters and themes. Earlier this week, as a culminating event, we had a  Skype visit with Mr. Korman, who entertained us with stories and writing advice. Before our visit, the kids came up with many insightful questions. Their thoughtful wonderings inspired this poem. (Which was also inspired by Naomi Shihab Nye‘s ditty challenge for September on Michelle Heidenrich Barnes’s blog, Today’s Little Ditty.)

To the Author Of My Favorite Book:

What made you write this story?
What gave you this idea?
How did you find the just-right words
to show the way I feel?
Did you peek inside my diary,
or spy on me each day?

Were you ever lonely?
Were you ever blue?
Did someone ever write a book
that felt like a friend to you?

Do you think I can be happy
like the girl inside your book?
You made her come alive,
you gave me a new friend.
Please write more of her story
so our friendship never ends.

© Catherine Flynn, 2018

Please be sure to visit Carol Varsalona at Beyond Literacy Link for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Picture Book 10for10 & a Poem: Creative Imaginations

                    

“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”
Albert Einstein

For the seventh year, I am participating Picture Book 10for10, which is the brainchild of Cathy Mere of Reflect & Refine: Building a Learning Community and Mandy Robeck of Enjoy and Embrace Learning. During this annual event, now in its ninth year, teachers, librarians, and book lovers create lists of 10 essential picture books. Cathy and Mandy collect and share these lists, and everyone is richer because of their efforts. Be sure to visit their blogs to see their lists, and check out dozens of Picture Book 10 for 10 lists here. Thank you, Cathy and Mandy, for organizing this celebration of picture book love.

http://www.burningthroughpages.org/

When I taught third grade, we began the year with a reading unit called “Creative Imaginations.” (This was at the very start of my career, pre-workshop. Yes, it was in a basal; no, I didn’t hate it. In fact, I loved that unit, and so did my students. but that’s another post.) All the stories involved main characters who used their imaginations to brighten the world for themselves and the people around them. It was a perfect way to inspire my students to explore their own imaginations.

I was reminded of this unit earlier this summer when I came across Mabel and Sam at Home (Chronicle Books, 2018) by Linda Urban, illustrated by Hadley Hooper. Mabel and Sam have just moved into a new home. Everything is in disarray. Movers are carrying furniture. Their parents are busy unpacking. Mabel and Sam have to find a place where they’ll be out of the way. Mabel’s imagination and a cardboard box come the rescue and a day of adventure begins.

And so my theme for this year’s Picture Book 10for10 was born.

As it happens, there has been a bumper crop of picture books celebrating imaginative play and creativity over the past year, so it wasn’t too hard to put this list together. I’m going to begin, though, with my favorite from that old basal.

Roxaboxen, by Alice McLerran, illustrated by Barbara Cooney, was published in 1991. It tells the story of Roxaboxen, the imaginary town created by Marian, her sisters, and all the children of Yuma, Arizona at the beginning of the twentieth century. The children of Roxaboxen had great imaginations that fueled endless exciting adventures on their rocky hill. You can read more about Roxaboxen and the real Marian, McLerran’s mother, here.

Fast forward to the early twenty-first century. Technology is now pervasive in children’s lives, but doesn’t play much of a role in these books. The only “modern” gadget that the three brave explorers in Matt Forrest Esenwine & Fred Koehler’s Flashlight Night (Boyds Mills Press, 2017) is, you guessed it, a flashlight. That’s all they need for a night of exploring. In that glowing beam of light, the space beneath a porch becomes an Egyptian tomb and the backyard pool turns into the high seas. What other adventures await them out there in the dark?

                    

The main character of Beatrice Alemagna’s On a Magical Do-Nothing Day (Harper, 2017; first published in France in 2016) is not happy that he (she? you really can’t tell) and his mom are back “in the same cabin” with “the same rain,” while Dad is “back in the city.” Gameboy seems to be the only option, until Mom takes the game and sends the child outside. The day takes a turn for the worse when the game (retrieved from Mom’s hiding spot) is lost in the pond. With nothing else to do, the child begins to explore the forest. Suddenly, “the whole world seemed brand-new” and he ends up wondering “why hadn’t I done these things before today?”

In A Grain of Sand (Owlkids Books, 2017) by Sibylle Delacroix, the memory of a beach vacation sparks the imagination of a girl who is “as blue as they sea” when her family returns home. Finding a handful of sand in her shoe, she “plants” them. Before her eyes, a field of beach umbrellas to wave hello to the sun” is unfurled. She and her younger brother relive their seaside adventures until the day is done and the sandman claims the sand for its age-old task.

                        

Questions about the memories of an abandoned house are at the heart of A House that Once Was, written by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Lane Smith. Two explorers find a forgotten home “deep in the woods” and spend the day wandering through the silent rooms wondering about who lived here and “why did they leave here and where were they going?” These questions remain, even as the two return to “a house where our dinner is waiting.”

Finn, the main character in Ocean Meets Sky (Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018) by Terry and Eric Fan, is a dreamer and sailor who misses his recently deceased Grandfather. “To honor him, Finn built a boat.”  When the boat is finished, Finn is off on magical adventure that takes him to the moon and back. His journey helps him deal with his sadness and come to some very grown-up understandings about death and love.

                         

In Windows (Candlewick Press, 2017), written by Julia Denos and illustrated by E.B. Goodale, a curious boy is attentive to the world around him in “the almost night” as he walks his dog.  But he also wonders about the many and varied lives being lived in all the windows he passes. This book doesn’t fit this theme quite as neatly as the others, but the boy’s consideration of many different possible lives opens a window into empathy and acceptance of others.

Acceptance and understanding are also at the heart of Drawn Together (Disney/Hyperion, 2018), by Minh Lê, illustrated by Dan Santat. The book opens with a series of wordless panels and we see a boy who is clearly unhappy about spending time with his Grandfather, who doesn’t speak English. After a few failed attempts to have a conversation, the boy pulls his sketch book out of his backpack. This gets his grandfather’s attention. Soon the two are communicating through their drawings and discovering they have more in common than they thought.

               

Creativity and quick thinking save the day in Annemarie van Haeringen’s How to Knit a Monster (Clarion, 2018; first published in the Netherlands in 2014). Greta the goat “is a very, very good knitter” and is having fun knitting a heard of goats when Mrs. Sheep arrives to criticize Greta’s knitting skill. Chaos ensues. A sheep-gobbling wolf appears off the ends of Greta’s needles, followed by a tiger, then the monster of the title. All’s well that ends well, though, and Mrs. Sheep never criticizes Greta about her very creative knitting again.

There you have it. Nine very recent books and one old favorite that will take the children in your life everywhere and inspire them to dream up their own adventures.

Although Flashlight Night is a rhyming book, none of these books are books of poetry per se. They are, however, all quite poetic. So because it is Poetry Friday, I created a found poem using one line (with a few minor alterations) from each of these gorgeous books.

Is there anything to do around here?
Adventure lingers, stirs about.
She has an idea.
How about a crop of ice cream,
she daydreams happily.
Or explore an island of giant shells.

Some days become treasure-hunting days.
A window…says climb inside
and…fill me up with stories.
Tomorrow, we will explore and be bold
and build a new world that even words can’t describe.

Please be sure to visit my lovely friend Molly Hogan at Nix the Comfort Zone for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

If you’re curious, here are links to my previous PB10for 10 posts:

2017: Celebrating Nature

2016: Feeding Our Imaginations

2015: Poetry Picture Books 

2014: Friendship Favorites

2013: Picture Books by Jane Yolen 

2012: Wordless Picture Books

Finally, credit where credit is due! Here are the sources for my found poem, in order:

On a Magical Do-Nothing Day
Flashlight Night
How to Knit a Monster
A Grain of Sand
How to Knit a Monster
Ocean Meets Sky
Roxaboxen
The House that Once Was
Windows
Mabel and Sam at Home
Drawn Together