Sunday, September 30, 2007

Hey You! Have a poem!

Hey You! Poems to Skyscrapers, Mosquitoes, and Other Fun Things
Selected by Paul B. Janeczko
HarperCollins, 2007

Hey You! Is a collection of poems of address. That’s how Paul Janeczko referred to them when he spoke about this book this summer at Hollins. Each poem is speaking to something. For example, there are poems written to dust, sneakers, mosquitoes, a maggot on an apple, the moon, and more. Poets the likes of George Ella Lyon, J. Patrick Lewis, X.J. Kennedy, Douglas Florian, Karla Kuskin, Nikki Grimes, Kristine O’Connell George, and Naomi Shihab Nye all have poems featured in this collection.

In celebration of the poem of address, I wrote a poem in the spirit of the season.

Pale Pumpkin
You lie in wait
in a desolate field
only a few of you left.
The orange fellows are all gone.
But you,
the lone white pumpkin,
still remain,
waiting to be cut from your vine,
adopted by a family
who will proudly put you on display.

You are exactly what I’ve been looking for,
A gourd like no other---

Come light up on my porch.

--Marcie Flinchum Atkins

Saturday, September 29, 2007

What I've Been Reading--August and September


Picture Books (I read about 50 more than this as bedtime stories, but these are just some of the ones I wrote down).

Max's Words by Kate Banks
Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late by Mo Willems (my review here)
Once Upon a Time, The End (Asleep in 60 Seconds) by Geoffrey Kloske and Barry Blitt (my review here)

Hey You! Poems to Skycrapers, Mosquitoes, and Other Fun Things selected by Paul Janeczko
Dogku by Andrew Clements
Dirty Laundry Pile: Poems in Different Voices selected by Paul Janeczko

Middle Grade
The Neddiad by Daniel Pinkwater
No Talking by Andrew Clements
The Big House by Carolyn Coman

Young Adult
The Minister's Daughter by Julie Hearn
Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

Picture Perfect by Jodi Picoult
Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult
Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult
Once Around the Track by Sharyn McCrumb
Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier


Picture Books
(Once again, I read about 50 more than is listed here, but I only wrote a few down that I read for JUST me--the others I read over and over again with my daughter and we both enjoyed them).

The Memory String by Eve Bunting
Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-Ins by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Jerome Lagarrigue
Bubba and Beau Meet the Relatives by Kathi Appelt
Duck and Goose by Tad Hills
He Came with the Couch by David Slonim
Love and Roast Chicken: A Trickster Tale from the Andes by Barbara Knutson
Mrs. Watson Wants Your Teeth by Alison McGhee
Russell and the Lost Treasure by Rob Scotton
Three Pebbles and a Song by Eileen Spinelli

Middle Grade
The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree by Lauren Tarshis
Firegirl by Tony Abbott
Jack Plank Tells Tales by Natalie Babbitt
Eggs by Jerry Spinelli
On the Wings of Heroes by Richard Peck

This is Just to Say by Joyce Sidman

Young Adult
The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt
Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson

The Pact by Jodi Picoult
Perfect Match by Jodi Picoult
Second Glance by Jodi Picoult
Waiting for Daisy by Peggy Orenstein

100th Post--I give you poetry

This is my 100th post. I thought I'd get to my 100th post much faster, but being out of the country all summer slowed my posting WAY down.

Here is a poem I wrote reminiscing about Thailand.

Feet don’t belong in shoes
They wriggle free
Naked and happy

Feet get trapped
smothered beneath socks
wrapped like mummies
begging for liberty

My feet want to be there.

--Marcie Flinchum Atkins

Haiku--Umbrellas in Thailand

umbrellas open
the colors dance together
soaking up the sun
--Marcie Flinchum Atkins

Friday, September 28, 2007

Poetry Friday--This is Just to Say

This is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness
By Joyce Sidman
Illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski
Houghton Mifflin, 2007

William Carlos Williams inspires a lot of new poems. His poems are used by Miss Stretchberry in Sharon Creech’s Love that Dog. Nancie Atwell uses Williams’ poems as good models for her students in her writing workshops. And it turns out, that Mr. Williams inspired another book—This is Just to Say. His poem, “This is Just to Say” was the catalyst for this particular book by the same title.

Joyce Sidman uses the idea of students writing poems of forgiveness to someone. Each poem is written by a fictional student who is asking forgiveness of someone else. The first part of the book contains the poems of forgiveness. The second part of the book includes the responses. The recipients of the first poems write poems in return.

The poems of apology run the gamut of the small things to the real, big, heart-wrenching things. And it’s so much like real life. Sometimes we feel horrible about even the little things and sometimes the much bigger things weigh on our consciences. I can’t wait to do this with my students on a “Poetry Friday.”

I loved this book of poems because it truly feels like an anthology written by different poets. All of the poets have different emotions and styles. But they were all written by one poet—Joyce Sidman. The illustrations also make this poetry collection come alive. Zagarenski’s playful people and mixed media illustrations help create the feeling of different poets’ voices.

I leave you with the poem that started it all:

This is Just to Say
By William Carlos Williams

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold.

Poetry Friday Roundup is over at AmoXcalli

Thursday, September 27, 2007

He Came with the Couch

Chronicle Books, 2005
This picture book with the Jim Henson-esque creature on the couch, is one of our favorite bedtime stories. I got it from the library because it was one of the Virginia Readers' Choice selections for the primary level. After two nights of reading this, my three-year-old daughter said, "That's my favorite book. We have to buy that one." I must admit, I have said that myself if I find a favorite book that I want to read over and over again. Those are the books I want to buy for her collection.
The illustrations are simple, but with wonderful, bold colors and a fascinating little blue guy that looks like a Muppet. In fact, this book is dedicated to Jim Henson.
Sophie's family needs a new couch, so they scavenge every yard sale and garage sale to no avail. They finally find what they are looking for at a 24 Hour Rummage Sale. The only problem is that it has a blue creature on it. They wonder why he won't get off the couch. Finally, they call in the doctor who claims that he has "upholsterosis" and that he needs to get out more. So they take the couch and the creature on family vacations and he stays stationary.
One day Sophie falls out of the tree and the creature shoves the couch out the window just in time to save Sophie from a horrible fall. He then becomes part of the family.
This is a "keeper". I think my daughter might find a copy of this in under the tree this year for Christmas.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Fishing Haiku

I took this photo at Sherando Lake State Park in August when we went camping for my daughter's birthday. She went fishing for the first time at this lake.

a lonely log sits
placed by an angry angler
stuck in the mud

--by Marcie Flinchum Atkins

Pass the Pronunciation Guide Please

Every wonder how to say those hard to pronounce favorite authors' names like Jon Scieszka, David Wiesner, Paul Janeczko, or Avi? Check out this article at the Horn Book. I will add one of my own. Han Nolan, YA writer, is pronounced Han (like hand without the d), not Han (like Hans Solo). She has been one my professors at Hollins in the past and people often mispronounce her name.

Thanks to my new Cybils colleague, Nikki Tate at Work in Progress, for the link.

Cybils 2007

I am very excited to be a part of the Cybils this year. I am going to be on the nominating panel for the Fiction Picture Books category. Beginning October 1 the nominating will begin. Start thinking about your favorite books of 2007 now. Thanks to the Cybils team for allowing me to be a part of this. Stay tuned for more blogging to come about the books I'm reading....

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Self-Service Library

I was very surprised yesterday when I did one of my many runs to the library during a week's time. I collected my books on hold from the self-service bookshelf (this used to be behind the counter), scooped up a few books for my daughter for bedtime reading, and headed to the desk. The librarian informed me that I was welcome to try the self-service check out system. I am a big self-service kind of gal. I always do self-service at the grocery store when I can because I usually run on high-speed all of the time. The less I have the wait, the better.

I ran my books under the little scanner and headed out the door. No waiting, no stamping due dates. I was in and out. There are many days when I wait in a long line to check out books. This will alleviate some of the congestion. While I think this is a marvelous service, and I, myself, will use it almost 100% of the time, I will miss my conversations with the librarians. I may have to jump in the old-fashioned line every now and then for my chat about books--and for my daughter to get her animal stamp on her hand (it's the only way I can convince her to leave the library).

After my self-checkout at the library, I headed to Kroger where I purchased mozzarella cheese through the self-checkout line too. I think the library is better--its machine doesn't ask for money.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Could You? Would You? Questions

7-Imp is featuring the art of Trudy White. Her book Could You? Would You? is the prize for a contest. To enter the contest, you have to answer these questions. Here it goes:

How would someone find you in a crowd?
That would be by listening to my daughter. She's three and loud. Not the screaming kind of loud, but the loud kind of talking. My husband and I never have trouble finding each other if we get separated in a store. The one who has our daughter just waits for the other one to find them after listening for a nanosecond.

If your house had a secret room, what would be in there?
It would have a comfy, oversized chair with ottoman on which to read overlooking an amazing view. It would have Butterfinger bites and Diet Dr. Pepper on ice with a lemon slice. It would have a bookshelf of books I haven't but can't wait to sink my eyes into.

Where do you like to walk to from your house?
I love to walk to Kroger to pick up a few last minute ingredients for dinner. I also like to walk to the park with my daughter.

How will you change as you grow up?
I hope I will care less about having things be perfect and concentrate on what really matters--fulfilling my dreams of being a writer and spending time with my family.

What sort of animal would you like to be?
I think I would like to be a cat. I would like to sleep a lot, be petted occasionally, and annoy the dog.

Head on over to 7-Imp, leave your comment, and post your answers.

Ruby Lu, Brave and True

Ruby Lu, Brave and True

by Lenore Look

Illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf

Atheneum, 2004

I first picked up this book because I'm trying to read through the Virginia Readers' Choice Books and decide which ones I'll read aloud to my class this year. Ruby Lu made the cut. She will be read aloud, just as soon as I finish Jack Plank Tells Tales (not on the Virginia Readers' choice list, but I thought my class would love it).

Ruby Lu is an American Born Chinese girl who doesn't speak Chinese. She can't talk to her grandparents in Chinese, but she insists that she still communicates with them. She goes to Chinese school on Saturdays and gets into many adventures or mishaps with her brother, Oscar.

What I loved most about this book is the spunk and vivaciousness of Ruby Lu. She is an unforgettable character along the lines of Moxy Maxwell, Clementine, and Ida B. If you like books with spunky girl characters, this is one you'll want to read. It's an easy chapter book, and would be good for a child who wants to read a chapter book but also wants a fun, quick read. It would also be a good book to make a connection for another child who lives within the bicultural experience.

I loved the book for it's pure simple story, but I can't wait to use it as a mentor text also. For my writers, I want to show them how Lenore Look uses simple, short sentences to create a rhythm. She also has wonderful descriptions that aren't lengthy and she uses fun figurative language. My favorite: "Ruby could feel herself getting warm. Drums pounded inside her chest. Her hands balled into fists. Then she felt absolutely hot. She was hotter than popcorn. Then she popped." (p. 45).

I also love the voice of Ruby Lu. Even though this book is not told in first person, Ruby Lu's voice is loud and clear. I plan to use it along with Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little and Ida B when I read good examples of stories with VOICE.

Even better, Lenore Look has another Ruby Lu book already out. Ruby Lu, Empress of Everything came out last year and will be in paperback next week.

Friday, September 14, 2007

5 Good Things I Did for Myself This Week

I am at the end of the second week in this school year, so I always feel like I've run a marathon by the end of September, but as I get older, I'm learning my limits and how to better take care of myself.

Here are 5 Good Things I Did for Myself This Week:
1) Took 2 naps last weekend. I was terribly exhausted and very sick with a sinus/allergy issue. Instead of checking off all the millions of things on my to do lists, I took a nap on Saturday and Sunday. My body needed it and thanked me all week. :)
2) I read a LOT. I spent every evening reading and reading some more. I left most of my schoolwork at school and read through 5 middle grade novels. I will be taking a trip to the library tomorrow to get through my books on hold.
3) I turned off the TV. That's right. I didn't watch TV in the evenings at all. I was so proud of myself. I love to read, but at the beginning of the year, most of the time, I'm too tired to do any reading. I usually drift off to sleep. But I didn't watch any TV, so little mindless vegging did NOT take place this week.
4) I wrote! Yes, I actually did some writing this week, which I am glad to be back in the swing of things. I have lots of ideas overflowing in my writer's notebook, but now I just need to get my B.I.C. (butt in chair) to put all of those ideas into meaningful context.
5) I have been working on Poetry Friday for my kids at school. Okay this is for someone else--my fourth graders--by I must confess, I think I enjoy this as much as they do. I love Poetry Friday on the blogs, so I'm doing it in my classroom. I am reading poetry every Friday and kids are making their own poetry anthology. Every Friday they either write their own poem or illustrate someone else's. One of the special ed. teachers asked if she could come in for Poetry Friday--of course, bring anyone, I said. :)

Poetry Friday--Haiku from Thailand

My family and I spent the summer in Thailand visiting my parents and reminiscing about my time spent there as a child. One thing I never noticed as a child was how beautiful the plants are there. I guess until I started to plant my own garden, plants weren't all that important to me. I am in the middle of writing poetry based on experiences there, but right now we'll start with some haiku inspired by the beautiful flora there.

lone lotus tiptoes

out of the water, to the sky

a splash of pink

--by Marcie Flinchum Atkins

Today's Poetry Friday roundup is at HipWriterMama

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Remembering September 11th

September 11, 2001 affected me in such a way that I can't go by this day without thinking about how I felt on that day. It was just like it happened yesterday. My husband was working just outside the Capitol building on that day and I remember the fear that beseiged me when I didn't hear from him for hours. I was teaching 3rd grade at the time. We were told NOT to turn on the TVs for fear of terrifying the little ones. While I heard from my husband that afternoon after he was able to get to a land line, my heart broke for so many who wouldn't be so lucky. Everything changed on that day. I remember how my students the next day had so many questions.

This year, as every year, I decided to read 3 books around September 11th.

Yesterday, September 10th, I read The Man who Walked Between the Towers by Mordecai Gerstein. I love this book for the fact that I love unique things in history that I may not have ever heard of before. What's unique about this book is that it was published after September 11th, 2001, so the significance of Phillipe Petit walking on a tightrope between the towers is even more moving, since the Twin Towers are no longer there. Gerstein addresses that in the book too.

Today I read one of my favorite books, Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey by Maira Kalman. This book tells about an old fireboat that was left for scrap when a group decided to restore it to it's old glory. It's heyday was in 1931, but it was put into use on September 11, 2001 to help fight the fires. It is a story of heroes and the good people that helped out that day.

One of the things that really hit me this year was the fact that I have students who were 2 or 3 on September 11, 2001. Wow! They don't have any concept of how horrifying that day was. In fact I even had questions today like: Did the people MEAN to fly the plane into the towers? Did a lot of people die? I was stunned. These children were so small and protected from this event that they don't have the memory that the rest of us do.

Tomorrow I will read September 12th: We Knew Everything Would Be All Right Written and illustrated by H. Byron Masterson Elementary first graders. This book was part of Scholastic Kids are Authors award winner in 2002. While as adults,we knew that on September 12th the world had changed forever and it would probably NEVER be "all right" again, this is an honest story told by 6 year olds. They talk about the acts of patriotism shown around the world and how their routine had returned to some what normal, giving them a sense of safety. The sad thing is, I know many children who lost a parent didn't have that sense of safety.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Bedtime Books for the Bedtime-Resistant Toddler

My toddler LOVES to be read to before she goes to bed, but lately we read many books, and she STILL doesn't want to go to bed. My husband and I have been very bad parents. Reading book after book after book makes you want to scream sometimes (especially when it's the same books over and over again). On a recent trip to the library, I chose a whole stack of books, two of which specifically were about bedtime. Well, they were both a hoot. They had my daughter and I both laughing a whole lot about how the characters in the books didn't want to go to bed.

Bedtime book #1:

Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!
words and pictures by Mo Willems

Hyperion, 2006
What I loved about this book:

It's so simplistic. Let's face it, the pigeon books by Willems should take the prize for brevity and humor.

There is a human, male character at the beginning of the book that talks to the reader from the very beginning. He instructs the reader "don't let the pigeon stay up late." So the reader, in my case, the toddler actually gets to listen to the pigeon give all of his excuses of why he doesn't want to go to bed. And there are pages where the pigeon acts like the reader is talking to him and telling him he has to go to bed.

What a fun bedtime book! It make my toddler laugh at the pigeon who is doing the very same thing that the pigeon is doing!!

Bedtime book #2

by Geoffrey Kloske and Barry Blitt
Atheneum, 2005
This is another great bedtime story. It starts out with an introduction of sorts. A child wants story after story after story. The child doesn't want to go to bed. Finally, the father starts making the stories shorter and shorter and shorter, just to get through them. This is a collection of familiar stories, mostly fairy tales and familiar rhymes. The essence of the story is retained, but the stories are VERY brief. They are so brief, they are humorous.
What I loved:
I loved the fact that this proved I'm not the only parent who rushes through stories some nights just to get through them so my daughter will go to bed. I LOVE storytime and I LOVE to read wonderful picture books, but sometimes after I've read the same wonderful story for the 40th time that week, I want to get through it.
Stories that are abbreviated and make MOST hilarious include: Chicken Little, The TWO little pigs (HA! Even the number of characters is shortened), Princess Pea, The Little Red Hen, and many more.
At the end of some of the stories there is even a interjection or two to the listener--go to bed!! My favorite one is at the end of "Princess Pea." "Is there a pea under your bed? Then what's your excuse? Go to bed." It made my reluctant toddler laugh about going to bed. This book couldn't be more fun!
This was a library book we checked out, but we will be buying our own copy of this book. It's too funny not to have on hand when I really need to use it.
This book is also a 2007-2008 Virginia Readers' Choice selection for the primary age group.