Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A Book and a Pool

What more do you need on a warm Memorial Day Weekend besides a book and a pool. Today I was teaching (yes, school is still in session) my students how to do a "Heart Map" using Georgia Heard's idea of "Where Poetry Hides." If you're not familiar, it's sort of a brainstorming map of possible poems. One of the things I put on my Heart Map was that I read a book a day (or more) as a kid. Yes, I lived where there was no cable TV. I grew up in Thailand, and at the time there was no English programming on TV and the Thai programming was lacking. So, I didn't watch TV. I read books. Well, I played outside a lot, but after it got dark, I read. I might one day write a poem about my book-a-day habit. I wish I could still do a book a day now.

This weekend I parked myself in front of the pool at my mother-in-law's house with a glass of icy Diet Dr. Pepper and a book. When I wasn't reading by the pool, I read in the car. While I didn't get everything in my bag read, I still got a lot accomplished.

Here's a few highlights:

The Essential 55 by Ron Clark
I recently heard Ron Clark speak at an education alumni event at Roanoke College, my alma mater. Ron Clark is a Disney Teacher of the Year. He is a very inspirational teacher and speaker. After hearing him speak, I wanted to read this book. It's a quick read that outlines his rules for his classroom. He's a tough teacher, but the high expectations have made him and his students achieve great things.

London Calling by Edward Bloor
I was on the waiting list at the library for this book, so I was thrilled when it came in right before my trip. Edward Bloor is a masterful storyteller. This is sort of a time-travel book. Martin is hating his private school life. After a fight with a rich classmate, he requests to do his schooling via independent study. He spends a lot of his time sleeping and researching. In his dreams he travels to World War II London during the Blitz through an old radio. Martin finds his purpose in life through these dreams. I loved the twists and turns of this book and how the layers of story weaved together. If you are a historical fiction fan or an Edward Bloor fan, read this one.

Awakening the Heart by Georgia Heard
If you love poetry, teach poetry, or write poetry, I would recommend this book. Of course, it's geared toward teachers of poetry, but I always learn a lot from it as a poet myself.

St. Dale by Sharyn McCrumb
Okay, I'm not a NASCAR fan, and I wouldn't know Jeff Gordon or Ward Burton if they came up and introduced themselves to me. But I read this book because I've heard Sharyn McCrumb talk about this book twice. The book is patterned after Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. It's a story of a pilgrimage of Dale Earnhardt fans to visit southern racetracks and other Earnhardt points of interest. When Sharyn spoke at the Southwest Virginia Writer's Workshop she emphasized that novelists' job is to make the reader care about the story through the characters. I don't care about NASCAR and probably never will, but I am truly engaged in this story because I care about the characters in the story. It's not a book I thought I'd read, but I tried it anyway. It's told like only Sharyn McCrumb could tell it. I'm hooked, but not finished yet.

So, all in all, it was a pretty good weekend of reading. I can't wait for the summer. I will be back in Thailand. And although there is TV there now, I am going to stay away from it. I will be reliving my childhood and reading a book a day. Now, if only I could do something about the weight limit on the airplane. They just don't understand how much books weigh!!!

Gloria Houston Gives Back

I've been out of town at my mother-in-laws for the last five days, so I managed only to get one post while I was there. She has dreadful dial-up, so it took forever just to post for Poetry Friday. You don't realize how nice cable internet is until you have to deal with dial-up. Ugh!

I promised a week ago that I would talk about Gloria Houston, who presented at the Southwest Virginia Writer's Workshop. She spoke on "Introducing Creative Writing Into the Schools". She talked not only about teaching writing, but she also spoke about being a writer and her books.

One of the best things I learned from her about teaching writing is explaining to kids the difference between "narrative" and "story". Gloria Houston defines "story" as a problem with a driving force. In other words, it has a PLOT. A "narrative", on the other hand, is a recounting of events of a person's life. It's event, event, event. There isn't a problem to be solved. As a teacher I see all of kinds of stories that kids write. Most of them are narratives. It's one event after another. I often call these "bed to bed" stories because we hear everything a kid did from the time they woke up until the time they went to bed. Unfortunately, these don't make for very exciting stories. However, Gloria Houston defines them and sees value in these types of stories. Her own narrative, My Great-Aunt Arizona is, by her definition, a narrative. She says one student defined narrative using My Great-Aunt Arizona as an example, "One thing after another happens, and then she dies."

As a writer, I find that things without plot don't seem to sell. Sure, there are the famous authors who seem to get things sold because they already have made a name for themselves. But as a new writer, I doubt that my first published book will be a narrative. I'm sure it will be a story with a plot--a driving force--that propels the reader through the book. I've written many narratives and in every writing class I've ever taken encouraged me to develop the plot more. So evidently, plot sells.

Gloria Houston also gave biographies of people as examples of narrative. SOME biographies are narratives with "event, event, event, and then they die". However, I think some of the best biographies for kids are written with plot. There is some sort of driving force in that person's story to make someone want to write a biography about them. For example, I just read a great picture book biography called Henry's Freedom Box by Ellen Levine about Henry Brown, a slave who mailed himself to freedom. That book has a plot with a problem, building tension, and solution. I think it makes it much more interesting than a traditional biography. The difference between that book and typical biography is that Levine doesn't try to do a "birth to death" story. She focuses on the thing that Henry Brown is known for and builds her story around that. (** The commentary about Henry Brown is my personal thoughts--not anything that Gloria Houston said in her talk).

Gloria Houston has written a book for writers and for teachers of writing. It goes into the Narrative vs. Story more and it also goes into teaching kids a structure for writing. I bought How Writing Works last weekend, and plan to read through it soon. It's written in textbook format though, unlike some writers (like Ralph Fletcher, Jane Yolen, etc) who give you writing advice in a narrative format, but it's full of lots of information.

Gloria Houston's most famous book is The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree illustrated by Barbara Cooney. Gloria Houston wrote this Appalachian story set in a North Carolina town. Many of the towns in North Carolina near where this book was set began to lose their jobs and the towns were devastated. Gloria Houston gave up the marketing rights to her book to help rebuild the town of Spruce Pine, NC. That town is known as the Home of the Perfect Christmas Tree. They have a store that sells products made by local artisans. This town has benefited from Houston's generosity. It employs people directly and indirectly through the tourism that has been generated because of this project. They will even send you a catalog of the crafts made by the artisans. Some of it is beautiful artwork or items that make an appearance in the story (like the angel). Kudos to Gloria! I can't wait to visit Spruce Pine, NC to support the efforts there. Items made by artisans in Spruce Pine caught the eye of Laura Bush and were featured in the White House Christmas tree decorations in 2006, and Southern Living's December 2007 issue will be featuring this effort as well.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Poetry from My Multicultural Life

This week I read A Suitcase Full of Seaweed by Janet Wong. Her poems show how her life is such a mix of cultures—Korean from her mother, Chinese from her father, American from herself. Even though I’m not Korean or Chinese, Wong’s poems were me. They were my story of feeling like I belonged to many cultures. I am very much American, but I cannot ignore where I’ve been and how those cultures are so much a part of me.

I read this collection of poems that illustrates so well how one person can feel like they are a part of so many cultures, feeling connected, but yet not truly 100% a part of any one particular culture. I am American, but I was raised overseas in Thailand and also went to boarding school in Malaysia. My best friends were Americans who grew up in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, India, Nepal, Hong Kong. I also had friends who were Chinese, Indian, Ethiopian, South American, Swedish, British, and Australian who were also growing up out of their “native” culture and living in Thailand and Malaysia. We all shared one thing—we were TCKs (third culture kids). We had a “passport” country, but we didn’t necessarily feel a part of that culture—at least not totally. And we had a country that we lived in, but we weren’t FROM there, so we felt a part of it—but not totally.

My favorite poem in this collection is "A Suitcase Full of Seaweed." It talks about how her grandmother carried seaweed to America. This is also the story of my life. While I've never carried seaweed to America in my suitcase, I have been known to carry just about everything else from Thailand to America--favorite pens, journals, packaged food, spices, cookware. There are some things you just have to bring back!

I met yesterday with a high school friend. She grew up in Indonesia, carries an American passport, but has lived in Africa for the last several years. We were roommates in a boarding school in Malaysia. We have lived so much in the last 14 years since we graduated, and although a long time as passed, we are still very much bonded by those shared experiences. Here is my poem I wrote after visiting with my friend, inspired by Janet Wong.

I sit with an old friend
fused together by Asian memories

Flung into lives
worlds apart

Rebonding over rice
the food of our lives
raising rice babies
in a french fry nation

connected like a web
we overlap
fly away
and return
like years have never passed

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Brilliant Little Bugger

There is a brilliant short movie on You Tube that is about Copyright and Fair Use called "Fair(y) Use Tale" using Disney movies to make a point. Someone spent a lot of time to make this! Wow!

Thanks to Big A Little a for the link.

Monday, May 21, 2007

All Things Appalachia

At the writer's conference I went to on Saturday, most of the authors/speakers were in some way connected to Appalachian literature. The host of the conference has written a book about his hometown of Fries, Virginia.

Speaker, JoAnn Asbury, works at the Appalachian Regional Studies Center at Radford University. They put on a conference every year where they bring in Appalachian writers to speak and hold writing workshop. For more on the conference, click here.

Asbury is also a co-editor of The Handbook to Appalachia: An Introduction to the Region. It is a comprehensive, inexpensive book featuring essays and resources on Appalachia. This book sold out at the conference, so I'm going to order it this week.

Other Appalachian children's books mentioned were:
Marilou Awaikta's Rising Fawn and the Fire Mystery
Jeff Danial Marion's Hello, Crow (Out of Print)

I have not read either one, but I want to see if I can some copies from a library or an out of print book source.

Another great Appalachian book mentioned was Gloria Houston's The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree. I will be saying a lot about this book and it's wonderful impact in tomorrow's post.

Another FABULOUS and probably the best source of Appalachian Literature (especially information and lesson plans for kids Appalachian children's lit) is the APPLIT site connected through Ferrum College and run by Tina Hanlon (also a children's lit professor at Hollins). It is a very comprehensive site with many, many resources. This wasn't mentioned at the conference, but I have known about it for a while and think it is the definitive source for teachers and lovers of children's literature.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Internet Research Resources

As I mentioned in my previous post, I will be going over some of the highlights from the conference I attended on Saturday. The first speaker, was poet, April Asbury. She talked about doing research for your writing.

If you've ever done any writing, you know that even if you are writing fiction, you have to do a little bit of research. So...the internet is the first source we usually turn to these days. April recommended some sites that she uses.

These are some of the internet resources she mentioned:
1) College and university online collections--Instead of googling everything, first go to the online resources at your local university (or not so local if it's online)
2) Wikipedia--While a interesting source, it's not always accurate. If you are looking for pop culture (which is what I always do), then this might be a good place to start. Remember it's edited by anyone who is a user, so they may or may not know the right information. (Marcie's note: But if you are wondering what happened to your favorite newscaster, and no one is saying it on TV, check Wikipedia. Guaranteed, something--perhaps gossip--will be posted there).
3) Google Scholar--If you must google (and so many of us do), then go to Google Scholar first. It has links to journal articles and abstracts and can get you started in the right, reliable direction.
4) Dictionary.com--A good place for general reference including dictionary, thesaurus, encyclopedia, etc.
5) Online Entymology Dictionary--Great resource for looking up the origins of words. Particularly useful if you are writing historical fiction and want to know if a word was around at the time.
6) Bible Gateway--Searchable source for various versions and languages of the Bible.
7) Anthology of English Literature--Breaks down English Literature by time period and has a vast amount of resources that link to the writers' works.
8) Electronic Literature Foundation--You can read classic works online here.
9) The Modern Word--information about works and authors in modern literature
10) Grave Sites--Want to view graves of the dead of the famous or not so famous? Visit these sites.
Find a Grave
11) Local historical societies provide great resources for research. One of the local ones she mentioned, that I personally recommend because I've been there is The Salem Historical Society. Local historical societies are committed to preserving local history that might get lost otherwise.
12) American Civil War Collections--A service of the University of Virginia that actually has texts that have been put online (like letters, unpublished articles, etc). A great find for anyone doing research on the Civil War.

Most of these sites (all but 3) were new to me. I have a dozen other research sites that I have on my bookmarked list. Maybe I'll share some of my faves another day...

Writer's Workshop Recap

I attended the First Annual Southwest Virginia Writer's Workshop at the Inn at Virginia Tech yesterday sponsored by H&H Services. I went into thinking it would be more about teaching writing, when in fact, it was more about writing itself. That was great for me because it provided me with some new motivation and some new resources.

Jerry Haynes, author of A Cotton Mill Town Christmas, was the sponsor, and first speaker who spoke about procrastination and getting through with the first book.

April Asbury, acclaimed poet, spoke about internet research resources.

Her mother, JoAnn Asbury, spoke about the Annual Highland Summer Conference.

Sharyn McCrumb talked about doing research for her books, writing compelling fiction, and tone.

Gloria Houston, author of The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree, talked about writing with children and about her writing.

Bill Brooks did a 3 hours writing workshop in the afternoon that took us through exercises and challenged us to keep writing.

This was a long day--8am-6:30pm on a Saturday, but it was well worth it. I learned lots of new things--I have a binder full of notes that I will be sharing over the next few days. I got to network with a few people that I had never met before, and I got some new books!

I bought:
St. Dale by Sharyn McCrumb
Once Around the Track by Sharyn McCrumb (available in a few weeks at bookstores)
** By the way, I know nothing about NASCAR, and I'm not a NASCAR fan, but Sharyn talked about fiction in such a compelling way, that I'm convinced it's not about NASCAR, but a good story. So I will try these books out for size.
I won My Great-Aunt Arizona by Gloria Houston as a door prize.
I also bought:
The audio recording of The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree read by Gloria Houston
How Writing Works: Imposing Organizational Structure Within the Writing Process (a writing text for teachers of writers and students of writing) by Gloria Houston

More to come on what I learned...

Thursday, May 17, 2007

An Afternoon with Nancy Ruth Patterson

In Virginia, our big Standards of Learning Tests are getting ready to be given. In teacherspeak that means stress, test booklets, signing your life away, and lots of little bubbles on answer sheets. Adding one more thing to an already hectic schedule this time of year is always difficult, but our local Roanoke Valley Reading Council always hosts a Spring Literacy Tea during the middle of May. Every year I wonder how I will fit it into my schedule, and every year, I’m so glad I did. This year was no exception. I spent a wonderful afternoon with other tired teachers who perked up with a little food and water provided by Roanoke College’s fabulous culinary team.

This year’s speaker was local author, Nancy Ruth Patterson. While most of us have heard her speak at various events around the area, Ms. Patterson gave us all new inspiration, which we desperately needed. A former teacher herself, Patterson knows what it’s like to wear our shoes.

She talked about how her editor was gentle with her in the beginning when she was a writer-in-progress. She tells how her editor mailed her a bunch of new books so she could see what was being published in children’s literature these days. Ms. Patterson read them quickly, and was thrilled to tell her editor that she had read them all. Her editor asked if she had read them as closely as she would want one of her readers to read her own books. She confessed she had not. She told her she must treat books like good friends, going back to them often.

I loved this! It was something I always tell my students (only in different words)—a good book is worth reading over and over again. When we read Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo, inevitably several students have read the book, and many more have seen the movie. I always say, “Great! You’ll love it even more the second (or third) time around.” I am firm believer in reading those faves over and over again.

Ms. Patterson also talked about all of her books and how the inspiration for each of them came from personal experiences. The Christmas Cup, a beloved Christmas story, is largely autobiographical.

The Shiniest Rock of All was inspired by a student who shared one of his own stories in her writing class about his fear of the first day of school. He was afraid to say his name—Robert—because he couldn’t pronounce his r’s.

When the local theater, Mill Mountain Theater, was conducting tryouts for The Christmas Cup, one child begged her NOT to cast her in a role unless she cast her sister too. This was the inspiration for A Simple Gift.

Her most recent book, The Winner’s Walk, started sprouted in her head when she heard a kid talking while she was swimming. He felt like he wasn’t very good at anything. His mom pointed to a poster in the pool area that said “You don’t have to be the best, you just have to try your best.” He said, “That’s what they say to losers.” A new story was born.

Beyond the fact that it was a lovely afternoon with an inspiring author, I felt like it was a push to keep writing. I have so many stories to tell, and I wonder if they will ever see the light of print. Nancy Ruth Patterson never dreamed her personal story, The Christmas Cup, would ever be published, let alone be made into a play, and become a Christmas traditional for many. Perhaps one of my very own stories, on the files of this very computer, will one day make it out into the world. We’ll see…

Poetry Friday--J. Patrick Lewis

J. Patrick Lewis has written a collection of poetry about African Americans called Freedom Like Sunlight: Praisesongs for Black Americans. Lewis wrote poems about thirteen famous African Americans who paved the way for civil rights. These biographical poems are about Arthur Ashe, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong, Martin Luther King, Jr., Leroy “Satchel” Paige, Rosa Parks, Langston Hughes, Jesse Owens, Marian Anderson, Malcolm X, Wilma Rudolph, Billie Holiday.

I love books that present facts or elements of nonfiction in an unusual way. These biographical poems would be great ways to introduce kids to these heroes. In fact, they might like them even more after they’ve learned a little bit about each person.

My favorite poem in the collection is the titled, “Baby Contralto” about Marian Anderson.

“She brushed
Her voice
Across the air
In colors
Not seen

In colors
And strong,
She brushed
The air…
And painted song.”

After reading through this collection, I had many picture book biographies come to mind. I would to like have students read the biographies and the poems and talk about writer’s craft and how two writers could share factual information in different ways. Some of the picture book biographies that I would love to use in conjunction with J. Patrick Lewis’ Freedom Like Sunlight include:

Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport
Rosa by Nikki Giovanni
When Marian Sang by Pam Munoz Ryan
Wilma Unlimited by Kathleen Krull
Love to Langston by Tony Medina
Only Passing Through: The Story of Sojourner Truth by Anne Rockwell
If I Only Had a Horn: Young Louis Armstrong by Roxanne Orgill

The back of the book has more information about each hero or heroine Lewis chose to portray through biographical poem. J. Patrick Lewis is always surprising. He writes serious, nonfiction poetry like Freedom Like Sunlight which really honors courageous people from history. He writes really funny poems like Wing Nuts: Screwy Haiku which is just a romp with fun haiku, but makes kids really think in a riddle-like fashion. In contrast, his more traditional haiku book Black Swan/White Crow illustrates his ability to write the nature haiku that is more like the Japanese traditional haiku. He writes poems really stretch kids’ grasp of words like in the book Once Upon a Tomb: Gravely Humorous Verses, a collection of funny epitaphs.

J. Patrick Lewis is always amazing me with his use of words. My new find: Freedom Like Sunlight is one I really can’t wait to share with my students since they have learned so much about the African Americans he celebrates in this book.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Crying my way through My Sister's Keeper

It has been a very long time since I cried through a book. I have cried for the last two nights at My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult. This book came upon my radar screen a couple of weeks ago when it won the Virginia Readers' Choice Award for the high school list. I had never heard of Jodi Picoult or this particular book by her. I must have been living under a rock. It's one of the serendipitous things. You never heard of it, then you do, then you notice it everywhere. They even have a CSI episode with a similar story line. Every store I have been to in the last two weeks, this book has been jumping off the shelves at me. I didn't buy because I was a skeptic. It is on the shelf with all of the other mass market paperbacks, and I usually steer far clear of those. But I checked it out from the local library. I wanted to see what the teens in Virginia saw in this book.

Once I got it, I was informed I only had it for a 2 week checkout. It moved to the top of my pile of things to read. Once I started, I couldn't put it down. Yes, I HAD to put it down because 1) I become so emotional, I couldn't read on, and 2) I had to sleep at some point.

This evening I started up again and read the last 50 pages. I cried some more, gut-wrenching cries.

This book is about Anna and Kate. Kate has a rare form of leukemia and Anna was conceived as a donor match for her. Anna's whole life has revolved around saving Kate. She has undergone numerous procedures to help put her sister back in remission, time and again. When she has to donate a kidney for a procedure that probably won't save her sister's life, she sues her parents for medical emancipation.

Told in varying viewpoints, we hear the story from Anna, Sara (the mother), Brian (the dad), Jesse (the very delinquent older brother), Campbell (the lawyer), Julia (the guardian at litem), and finally from Kate (the ill sister).

What I loved about this book? There was so much controversy! What would I do? How far would I go to save a family member? I think I would do anything. But Anna donates for 13 years before she says she's had enough. The beauty of the alternating viewpoints is that I never once took sides in this book. You might think that you would definitely side with Anna, the protagonist, who really wants medical emancipation. I wonder about the high school students who read and voted for this book. Do they pull for Anna through the whole book OR were they as torn apart as I was?

I couldn't side totally with Anna. I was rooting for her. But at the same time, my mother's heart broke. What would I do if I were the mother? Could I watch my child die when I knew that there was a possibility that her sister could save her? I don't know.

The book is honest! It opens up and shows family emotions and dynamics in a completely honest way. We all probably know families who have been torn apart by situations not unlike this one.

I loved this book because, even though I cried through most of it, it ended differently than I expected. I hated it and I loved it.

This book formed more questions than it answered. With stem cell research progressing rapidly, this is probably happening in real life and real people are having to make these very decisions.

Children's Books as Inspiration

Children's books inspire me to read more, write more, and encourage kids to do the same. Last week's Writer's Weekly featured an article by a librarian/writer who also things kids' books inspire her to write. You can read the article by Dawn Goldsmith here.

New Edge of the Forest

The May issue of The Edge of the Forest is up.

It includes book reviews of two of Candice Ransom's books in the Middle Grade book reviews section.

There is also a feature interview with Kerry Madden, author of Gentle's Holler. It is a fascinating interview. I first had the chance to hear Kerry Madden speak last year at Hollins University. She came to speak at the program. I bought Gentle's Holler, set in Maggie Valley, NC. Inspired by the setting, my family and I made a trip to Maggie Valley this fall. We explored Maggie Valley itself, some of the Great Smoky Mountains, rode on the Polar Express, and visited Asheville. What fun!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

John Lennon PB Biography

One of my favorite genres is picture book biographies. I really love authors who can take a person's life and really do it justice in a picture book--and I'm not talking about picture books for preschoolers. I'm talking about a picture book that gives the information about the person, but makes it appealing to older readers too. Sometimes picture book biographies can drag on and really they are chapter book biographies put in a picture book format.
But there are some picture book biographies that really stand out. They are visually appealing to many ages, they tell sufficient information about the individual, but make the words lyrical and appealing at the same time.

My new favorite picture book biography is John's Secret Dreams by Doreen Rappaport and illustrated by Bryan Collier. John's Secret Dreams tells the story of John Lennon's life from the time he was a little boy all the way to his death. The thing that I think makes this book stand out above a traditional biography or the traditional picture book biography are the quotes from his songs. Throughout the book as Rappaport tells about Lennon's life, she quotes parts of his songs. The lyrics flow with the text and really show how Lennon's songs were a reflection of his life.
My favorite part of the book, which shows how Rappaport really weaves the lyrics and his life story together is at the very end of the book:
"He dreamed about being sixty and being with Yoko.
Grow old along with me
The best is yet to be
When our time has come
We will be as one
That dream did not come true.
John Lennon was murdered when he was only forty years old."
This is a brilliantly crafted book. Bryan Collier's illustrations help bring the Rappaport's text, Lennon's lyrics, and Lennon's story to life.

The book includes author's and illustrator's notes, a timeline, selected discography (list of albums), and extensive bibliography.

Alice in Wonderland Dinnerware

Check this out: Alice in Wonderland Dinnerware. Fish's Eddy has Alice in Wonderland plates, glasses, trays, mugs, and a platter. And this is not your average Disney plastic kids' table duds. This is nice stuff.

My favorite is the square tray with the Cheshire Cat perched up in the tree and Alice looking up at him.

Thanks to Better Homes and Gardens for the link!

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Jamestown Books

The big 400th anniversary weekend of Jamestown this coming weekend May 11-13. In honor of this big celebration here in Virginia, I thought I would highlight a list of Jamestown books I've been compiling. I know this is not a comprehensive list. In fact, I have not included the majority of the nonfiction reference books for kids written about Jamestown. Most of the books on this list are historical fiction, with a few exceptions. Many of the nonfiction selections are narrative nonfiction. I'm always wanting to expand the list, so if I have forgotten your favorite books about Jamestown, please let me know.
Here are my codes:
PB--Picture Book
MG--Middle Grade
YA--Young Adult
Hi-Lo--High Interest, Lower Reading Level (good for struggling readers)
HF--historical fiction
Blood on the River: James Town 1607 by Elisa Lynn Carbone (MG, HF)
Jamestown Journey by Bentley Boyd (MG, graphic novel)
Jamestown: Journey Back in Time by Scott Reighard (YA, HF)
James Towne: Struggle for Survival by Marcia Sewall (Hi-Lo, HF)
On Their Own: A Journey to Jamestown by Marie Stone (MG, HF)
Two Chimneys by Mary Holmes (MG, HF)
What if You'd Been at Jamestown? by Ellen Keller (Hi-Lo, HF)
Who's Saying What at Jamestown, Thomas Savage? by Jean Fritz (MG, NF)

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Unsolved Mysteries

I just finished reading The Body of Christopher Creed by Carol Plum-Ucci. It was one of the books that Madeline over at Buried in the Slush Pile recommended in February for writers to read. I could not put it down. I am an avid Patricia Cornwell reader, and I love CSI, but I don't read a lot of kid mysteries, because Encyclopedia Brown is usually all I think of. But Plum-Ucci had me hanging from chapter to chapter.

Christopher Creed is one of those kids that annoys everyone. When Christopher Creed is reported missing, Torey Adams' life is turned upside down. Torey Adams has always had a perfect life--a nice house, his parents have good jobs, he has a beautiful girlfriend, and he plays football. When he and a neighbor start wondering what really happened to Christopher Creed, the tables turn on them.

This is a page-turner, and it didn't turn out at all like I expected. I had never heard of Plum-Ucci until Madeline mentioned her in her blog. As soon as I started the book, I heard another one of Plum-Ucci's books, The Night My Sister Went Missing, was a nominee for an Edgar Award for 2007. The Body of Christopher Creed was a 2001 Printz Honor Book. I've now become a big Plum-Ucci fan and plan to read her other books. If you can recommend other good YA mysteries, I'm taking recommendations.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Poetry Friday: Clerihews

I love poetic forms. I especially like to teach that ones that most teachers don’t teach—like clerihews. Clerihews are a form of poetry named after their inventor, Edmund Clerihew Bentley. Bentley was a British writer who wrote these clerihews during World War II about historical and literary figures.

So, what’s a clerihew anyway?
* It’s about a celebrity of someone famous.
* It pokes gentle fun at the person the poem is about.
* It’s funny.
* It’s a four line poem made up of two couplets (AABB)
* The lines are short and the first line ends with the person’s name.

I just got back from University of Virginia on a field trip. We saw the Poe room where Edgar Allen Poe stayed for a few months during his brief time at UVA. Here is a clerihew about him that I wrote:

Edgar Allan Poe
Wrote about ravens, we know
Mysterious and creepy
He kept readers from being sleepy

For more information about how to write clerihews, check out these kids’ books:
How to Write Poetry by Paul Janeczko
Poetry from A to Z: A Guide for Young Writers by Paul Janeczko
How to Write Haiku and Other Short Poems by Paul Janeczko

Here’s one by Paul Janeczko:

Harry Potter
Was a magical plotter
At Hogwarts he became a master
After many a goof and disaster.

For poems from the original clerihew master:

The Complete Clerihews of E. Clerihew Bentley by E.C. Bentley
The First Clerihews by E. Clerihew Bentley

* Both of these books are really hard to find. You will have to go to a out of print book source.

Here is an original clerihew by Bentley:

Lewis Carroll
Bought sumptuous apparel
And built an enormous palace
Out of the profits of Alice

Thursday, May 3, 2007