Poetry Friday: Song of the Tree Frogs

“Song of the Tree Frogs”
by David L. Harrison

At the edge of night
the sun pulls down
its soothing shade
and peepers creeping
from leafy covers
tune up to sing.

Who will start
this evening’s song
with fluted notes
that serenade the night?

Someone begins,
the same song
his ancestors sang,
and the forest fills
with an urgent chorus.

Read the rest here.

A recent visitor to my sister’s screen house.

Please be sure to visit my dear friend Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche for the Poetry Friday Roundup and to wish her a happy birthday!


#PB10for10: Celebrating Nature

“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of
the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”
~ Rachel Carson ~

Thank you to Cathy Mere and Mandy Robek for creating and curating this celebration of picture books. You can read all the lists contributed to this labor of love here. It is teachers like them, and others in this community, who will keep the gift of stories alive for years to come.

There was a story on NPR recently about how science teachers are dealing with push back from students because of fake news. I wasn’t surprised to hear that climate change was a controversial topic, but I was shocked when one teacher said that students were challenging him about the Earth being round. How is such a view even possible? The more I thought about this, the more I began to wonder if such skepticism for long-established scientific facts is related to the decrease in the amount of time kids spend outdoors. Much has been written about “nature deficit disorder,” a term coined in 2005 by Richard Louv in his 2005 book, Last Child in the Woods. I’m sure there are many skeptics about Louv’s theory, but too many students tell me they spend entire weekends inside for me to doubt his theory.

I know reading books is no substitute for spending time outside, but these 10 books should whet anyone’s appetite for sunshine (or moonshine) and fresh air. After all, as Henry David Thoreau once said “we can never have enough of nature.”

1. What Are You Waiting For? by Scott Menchin, illustrated by Matt Phelan (A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, 2017)


2. Round by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo (Houghton Mifflin Harcort, 2017)

3. Tidy, written and illustrated by Emily Gravett (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2017; first published in Great Britain, 2016)


4. Now, by Antoinette Portis (A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, 2017)

5. And Then Comes Summer, by Tom Brenner, illustrated by Jaime Kim (Candlewick Press, 2017)


6. A River, written & illustrated by Marc Martin (Chronicle Books, 2017; first published in Australia in 2015)

7. This Beautiful Day, by Richard Jackson, illustrated by Suzy Lee (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2017)


8. A Perfect Day, by Lane Smith (Roaring Brook Press, 2017)

9. Another Way to Climb a Tree, by Liz Garton Scanlon (A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, 2017)


10. The Specific Ocean, by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Katty Maurey (Kids Can Press, 2015)

My previous Picture Book 10 for 10 lists:

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

Slice of Life: Root Beer Floats

Yesterday was National Root Beer Float Day. I love that there is a National day for almost everything, and I was especially happy to have an excuse to make a root beer float. When we were little, my sister and I spent a lot of time with our grandmother, especially during the summer. Her house was surrounded by shady maple trees that kept us cool, but on sweltering afternoons, nothing beat the heat like a root beer float.

Grandma had tall pink plastic tumblers that were reserved for these warm-weather treats. Joanie and I got them from the cupboard while Grandma took the ice cream from the freezer and the cans of root beer from the fridge. She scooped two precise balls of Sealtest vanilla into each cup. Then she slowly poured in the root beer, trying to prevent streams of bubbly foam from erupting over the rim.

We sat together at the kitchen table and sipped as the icebergs of softening ice cream dissolved into crystal-coated blobs. We laughed at the foamy mustaches on our upper lips. Grandma never threw anything away, so we used long-handled, red plastic spoons from Carvel’s to scoop out the last remnants of the ice cream from the bottom of the cup, savoring the creamy blend of sweet and sharp flavors, the perfect antidote for a hot summer day.

Those plastic tumblers are long gone, and I don’t think Sealtest Ice Cream is even made anymore, but that didn’t stop me from savoring a root beer float yesterday. It was just as delicious as I remembered.

Thank you also to StaceyBetsyBeth, KathleenDeb, Melanie, and Lanny 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: An Avian Tanka

My week has been filled with birds. (If you’re a frequent reader, you might be asking yourself, “What else is new?”) At the beginning of the week, I made may way to a new Audubon Center near my home for an early morning bird walk. Then I finished Mozart’s Starling (which I wrote about here). I really loved this book. Haupt ends by deftly weaving the threads of her starling Carmen, Mozart, and artists of every stripe into a reflection on the nature of creativity. “And what is this wild summons?” Haupt asks. “To listen with changed ears and sing back what we hear.”

Inspired by these words, here is a tanka filled with the sounds from my week.

As the last stars fade,
robins and cardinals sense
dawn’s approaching warmth.
Trills and cheeps float from treetops
chasing away night’s shadows.

© Catherine Flynn, 2017

by John James Audubon [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Please be sure to visit Donna Smith at Mainely Write for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: Metamorphosis

How often do we go down rabbit holes in search of one thing, only to come out on the other side with something else altogether? Maybe not as often as we should.

This week I’m reading Lyanda Lynn Haupt’s captivating book, Mozart’s Starling. (Little, Brown, 2017). At one point, she quotes French poet Paul Éluard: “There is another world, but it is in this one.” This idea launches Haupt into a rumination on wonder. Did you know the root of “wonder” is an Old English word, wundrian that means “to be affected by one’s own astonishment”? Isn’t that lovely? Haupt ends this brief passage with this: “For us, the song of the world so often rises in places we had not thought to look.” These are the words of a poet.

Curious about her, I discovered that Haupt “is a naturalist, eco-philosopher, and speaker whose writing is at the forefront of the movement to connect people with nature in their everyday lives.”

But no poetry.

Back to Paul Éluard. The Poetry Foundation has two of Éluard’s poems, but neither of them really appealed to me. What did catch me eye was the poem of the day by Linda Pastan. Pastan is a favorite, so I clicked on the link to find this:

“At the Air and Space Museum”
by Linda Pastan

When I was
nearly six my

opened his magic

doctor bag:

tongue depressors fastened by
a rubber

one flick

Read the rest here.

Even before I finished reading, I could feel my own poem taking shape. The ideas in this poem had been floating around my brain for the last month or so, but hadn’t settled on a form.


When I was
nearly ten

I taught myself
to embroider:

clutched a needle threaded
with magenta yarn

looped chains of stitches
tentative and uneven

until a form emerged:
butterfly wings.

© Catherine Flynn, 2017

Thank you for following me down the rabbit hole! Please be sure to visit my friend and critique group partner, Linda Mitchell, at A Word Edgewise for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: Summer Surprise

We haven’t filled our bird feeders for months because we don’t want bears wandering through our yard, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still bringing us beauty and inspiration. I found this lovely visitor tucked into a corner that doesn’t get mowed. What better form than a Fibonacci for a poem about a sunflower?

seed, long
grows summer surprise:
one blossoming, buttery sun.

© Catherine Flynn, 2017

Please be sure to visit Katie at The Logonauts for the Poetry Friday Roundup!

Poetry Friday: Healing Hands

Happy National Macaroni and Cheese Day! Last week, Tabatha Yeatts, today’s PF Roundup hostess, suggested we celebrate this delectable dish in verse. Coincidentally, I had just read Rita Dove’s prompt, “Your Mother’s Kitchen” in The Practice of Poetry. Dove directs writers to include “the oven… and also something green.”  My draft deviates from the instructions slightly by not including “something dead,” and not having a female relation “walk into the kitchen during the course of the poem.” My sister doesn’t like to cook and wouldn’t have been anywhere near the kitchen while my mother was cooking!

Healing Hands

My mother’s hands
were healing hands.
After standing all day
helping doctors stitch
broken bodies back together,
she came home to
tend and mend us.

When she was seven,
my sister suffered
from chronic strep.
Soft and smooth
on her raw throat,
my mother’s macaroni and cheese
was all she’d eat.

In the kitchen, my mother
gathered milk, butter, and cheese.
Velveeta was the cheese of choice.
She took the foil-wrapped
brick from its bright yellow box,
diced it into chunks.
Standing in front
of the avocado green stove,
she whisked the mornay sauce,
stirred until the liquid
was smooth and golden,
then poured it over
steaming macaroni
waiting in a pyrex dish.
Into the oven it went,
where it transformed into a
creamy, bubbling concoction.

To this day,
whenever I see a box of Velveeta,
I can taste the macaroni and cheese
my mother used to make
with her healing hands.

© Catherine Flynn, 2017

Of course I had to make a batch, just to make sure I had the details right. 😉