Thursday, January 27, 2011

Snow poetry

The drive to work was absolutely beautiful this morning.  The trees were loaded with snow and the stark white against the very dark gray or black of bare branches was awesome - especially since the sun was shining.

All that winter beauty reminded me of a haiku I once read:

How many million / flakes will it take to make a / snow day tomorrow?

Or how about this one?

Icicles dangle / begging to be broken off / for a short sword fight.

Both of these haiku, sticking to the traditional lines of 5 syllables, 7 syllables and 5 syllables, were written by Bob Raczka, and can be found in his book, Guyku : a year of haiku for boys.   Raczka and his partner in rhyme, illustrator Pete H. Reynolds, have a website for all the guys - and gals - who appreciate short verse.  Write your own haiku, guyku or galku, about snow and ice or about school or winter or waiting for spring - or anything at all!! Haiku is fun and simple.  Write one today.  There's no school.

One of my favorite winter poems is "The Cremation of Sam McGee" by Robert Service, the story of a prospector who freezes along the shores of a frozen lake.  Before he dies Sam McGee begs his buddy to cremate him so that finally, Sam will be warm again.  The friend tries to fulfill Sam's dying request.  Service's rhyme and rhthmn makes this a clever poem that is haunting as well.  You can find the poem in the book Scary stories illustrated by Barry Moser.  "The Cremation of Sam McGee" is a poem that begs to be read out loud.

Douglas Florian, Jack Prelutsky, Robert Frost, Jane Yolen, all these authors have written poems about winter, its beauty, its problems, how much fun snow and ice can be.  Check the sidebar for some other poetry about the coldest season of the year.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Picture Book Awards

Last week, the American Library Association announced the winners of the Caldecott Medal, given to the illustrator of a picture book  published in America.  The winner for 2011 is Erin E Stead for her illustration of A Sick Day for Amos McGee, written by Philip C. Stead.  The illustrations have a textured, handmade look, almost old-fashioned in feel.  The story is delightful.  Check the book out today.

Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein won Caldecott Honor status.  This story of a father trying to read bedtime stories to his little one is hilarious.  The little chicken interrupts every story to warn the players of upcoming dangers and to change the endings.

Dave the Potter : artist, poet, slave written by Laban Carrick Hill and illustrated by Bryan Collier was the other Caldecott Honor book for 2011.  This picture book biography covers the life of an African-American slave who was renowned for his beautiful pottery and his moving poetry.  This book is perfect for Black History Month and for anyone who appreciates art.

For a list of past Caldecott winners, click here.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Award winners!

The Newbery and Caldecott awards were announced last week to great fanfare at the Annual Winter Meeting of the American Library Association.

Moon over Manifest, a first novel by author Clare Vanderpool, won the Newbery award for 2011, given to the best book published for children in America.  In 1936, Abilene Tucker is sent to Manifest, Kansas, to stay with her father's old friends.  There she finds keepsakes that lead her and two new friends - and eventually the whole town - on a quest to solve a mystery that is 18 years old.  Vanderpool's writing is refreshing and the time period, characters and story will keep readers involved and intrigued.

The Newbery Honor books for 2011 were Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm;  Heart of a Samurai by Magi Preus and One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia.

All four of these books fall into the category of historical fiction but the writing is fresh and current and young readers will enjoy the escapades and adventures that the main characters experience.  Heart of a Samurai is particularly interesting since it is based on the true story of the first Japanese citizen to ever visit America, a teen shipwreck survivor named Manjiro.  Manjiro's adventures on whaling ships, then in Massachusetts in the 1840s, in the gold fields of California and eventually at home in Japan are fascinating and based in fact.

Those of us old enough the remember the 1960's hate to admit but that time period is now part of history.  In One Crazy Summer, three sisters visit their estranged mother over the summer of 1968, and they find a woman dedicated to civil rights, poetry, printing and the Black Panthers. 

Jennifer L. Holm's Turtle in Pardise takes place in the Key West of 1935.  Turtle is sent to live with her cousins in Key West while her mother works as a housekeeper.  The children run their own baby-sitting business, search for treasure and make Turtle part of their wild family. 
Next post will talk about the Caldecott winners.  There are some surprises and some delights among the winners of the Cadecott awards.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

YA titles

When the library first received David Whitley's The Midnight Charter, I read the first and last chapters. (I sometimes do this, to get a feel for the books.  I don't recommend this as a habit.) The last chapter only posed more questions, making the book very appealing.  Here's the set up.  In the city of Agora, everything has a price; lives, emotions, time, even compliments.  Every transaction is sealed with a contract and the contracts are all stored in the Registry Office.  Two teens work for Dr. Theophilus and his grandfather, Count Stelli, the Great Astrologer, in Count Stelli's tower.  When Count Stelli bans his grandson from the tower, Lily trades places with Mark and goes into the city with Dr. Theophilus.  Mark stays behind and is trained to be the next great astrologer of Agora.  Neither teen knows that their individual choices are being watched closely by the Director of the Registry.   Mark allows himself to led deeper and deeper into the contractual world of Agora.  Lily works against those endless contracts and starts a charitable shelter for debtors, the lowest of the low in Agora.

Whitley's descriptions of the different ends of Agoran society are lavish and complete.  The ways that people's lives are controlled by the contracts they sign create a labyrinth of deception. Secret societies, murder, theft, chicanery, treachery - it's all in The Midnight Charter.  Read this atmospheric - almost nightmarish - fantasy/adventure.  The book is suitable for teens through adults.