Seven Kinds of Wonderful: Adrian Fogelin & SOME KIND OF MAGIC + giveaway

Award-winning author & my pal, Adrian Fogelin’s new novel is SOME KIND OF MAGIC.
It is released April 1.
The magic of knowing an author is that you can peek at not only the Work-in-Progress. But you also hold
the Advanced Readers Copy in your eager hands.

To help celebrate this neighborhood story, which visits characters Jemmie & Cass, from Adrian’s ground-breaking
1st novel, CROSSING JORDAN, I’m sharing seven kinds of wonderful things connected to this novel & the author:

Warning: a highly personal list. After reading SOME KIND OF MAGIC, your 7s will depart from this – perhaps.

1. Set in my town – Tallahassee, Florida

2. Features a 6-year-old boy & a fedora – two favorite topics of mine, younger readers & hats

3. Features Cass & Jemmie, their friendship is one I love

4. Adrian employs the word “plinky”

5. An adult character’s name is Paul, which is the American version of my hubby’s name, Paolo.

6. The neighborhood pals have a cool hangout place that isn’t a mall, arcade or boardwalk/sidewalk.

7. KIRKUS (professional, well-regarded review service) agrees with me: “A fine, complex tale of family, friends and magic.”

Over at the seven kinds of wonderful GROUP BLOG, Adrian shares her own 7s.
Plus that’s where I’m giving away a copy of this new one.
And there are some lovely author & publisher links.
Please go have a visit!.

poem for Roasted Oysters + more

Poem for Roasted Oysters

I don’t eat oysters

O! No- I don’t

How is it that one





c. Jan Godown Annino

Well, anyone knows that it is food that makes or breaks an occasion.

The food was fabulous and hosts/servers/chefs were wonderful –

at the 2015 Authors in Apalach festival of books, readers & writers.


Apalachicola Municipal Library

Caty Green, Library Queen of the municipality of Apalachicola,

seen somewhere in this post on the sidewalk with an author at the

village’s 2015 Mardi Gras event,

convened about 20 or so scribes including the cookbook maven

Joyce LaFraye and also Janis Owens, originator of so many great Southern tales

such as My Brother Michael.


Susan Cerulean,
whose new one, COMING TO PASS, will be featured at a cafe event in Apalachicola April 24
overseen by Downtown Books & Purl, led a panel with Mary Jane Ryals and Faith Eides.




Adrian Fogelin rustled up a panel featuring Kim Cross Teter, Leslee Horner,

Mary-Lois Sanders, Perky Granger, Vickie Spray & myself. I
vote Perky for Best Author First Name of the panel.

Adrian’s SOME KIND OF MAGIC, her new middle grade novel,

found a lively launch at this event & it was seven kinds of

wonderful that a local student purchased the first copy of it.


Children’s books panelist & Nashville author Kim Teter’s ISABELLA’s LIBRETTO came home with me,
autographed, & I intend to mention it on a future Bookseedstudio post because already in chapter
one, I’m hooked.

River Jordan (other Best First Name of the Event) & Elizabeth Stuckey-French, Judy Conklin, Jane Doerfer, Olivia DeBelle,
& Dawn Radford were wonderful participants, even though they weren’t on the children’s books panel.

I was happy to see local bookseller Dale Julian of Downtown Books & Purl
handling event purchases again, which benefit the Apalachicola Municipal Library.
Susan Wolfe of Forgotten Coast Used and Out of Print Books, added to the bookish aura.


News was announced – I learned that Tallahassee force of nature Prissy Elrod
sold her memoir FAR FROM THE ORDINARY for a movie deal to Lucky Dog Filmworks.

Go & get your memoir written – all you stragglers. Hope Prissy’s story can film on site in Tally.

I read it right after I came away with my signed copy & it’s a page-turner.



At #Authors in Apalach, the book tables were set against lovely scenic paintings,

& art & books were all arrayed around the locally famous Apalachicola Trading Canoe, said to be the longest

such historic commerce canoe in all of Florida (created circa 1750-1800). This 52-foot boat

is the 1st-floor centerpiece of an 1836 historic brick-walled warehouse, now the Center for History, Culture & Art.

This totally intact boat set the tone for thoughtful conversation about the 106-mile long Apalachicola River

& estuary system, which requires constant vigilance to maintain the water quality necessary

to support the region’s vast web of life in the air, on land and in water, especially for those

water residents we eat the most – shrimp, fish and oysters. Fox squirrels and fox can

mosey further into the Apalachicola National Forest, but those salty little

guys have no where else to go.


Apalachicola Trading Canoe (circa 1750-1800)

credit: Apalachicola Center for History, Culture & Art



My husband cast his hook at favorite area spots & noshed, especially on the roasted Apalachicola oysters, created by attorney Donna Duncan, posing just before the city’s Friday night musical events kicked up in the street around the corner. She is one of my hubby’s favorite former students. Donna’s oyster recipe co-maker, who we enjoyed meeting, was John Solomon. The Duncan-Solomon Chamber of Commerce cooking team earlier took 3rd place for their Authors in Apalach-presented tricky* recipe, in a contest of the Apalachicola Volunteer Fire Department’s Oyster Cook-Off & they won 1st place for a unique oyster pot pie.

Thinking it was something else, I ate an ostreidae because Duncan-Solomon dressed it in broiled bacon and savory spinach & I didn’t know it was an oyster until later – that’s how their morsel *tricked me.

In non-food news, Paolo watched my Seminole Indian patchwork at the book table as I dashed upstairs to the airy top-floor room, where the sunny view of the blue sky -blue water dock, across from our location at 86 Water Street looked inviting. Writing tips from authors were noted by constant scribblers in attendance from points far and near.

Love, Apalachicola
It is clear that Apalachicola loves books, readers, literature, writers & fresh seafood eaters, fun times & all their accompanying fisher folk, café-goers & cottage-dwellers. And we love Apalachicola, back.

The night before we sat on bales of hay set out along Market Street & enjoyed great live music, spotting our pal Caroline & waved at folks we met, earlier in the day down by the bay.






A package landed in our big, black mailbox here in the steamy state


                                       “where the alligator wallows”

                                                         -Sue Hardy-Dawson


That perfect line appears with the other perfect lines of a poem from this crisp new book,

which flew to me in recent weeks from the land where a poet for children could name

an exquisite piece of discovery,


“St. Ninian’s Isle, Shetland, 1958”

-Chrissie Gittins


The book is LET IN THE STARS, New Poetry for Children, edited by Mandy Coe.


Skin prickles

I am still first-reading and re-reading through, skipping around. Although every poet &

poem isn’t in my pores yet, I want to be your tip-off to this prize collection.

Cramming for a book festival out of town & with reading/writing ahead of it in the queue, I report on this book without looking up the authors or artists to know more about them. Not important. Skin prickles tickle my arm as I read LET IN THE STARS; this make me feel it will add multitudes of pleasure to any reader or writer’s bookshelf.

Just like big Puffin collections such as Book of Utterly Brilliant Poetry, Twentieth-Century Collection of Verse and the equally valuable Oxford Book of Poetry For Children, brought me to children’s poets of the UK beyond Spike Milligan, A.A. Milne & Roald Dahl, (some of the latter would be Benjamin Zephaniah, Jackie Kay, & John Agard, for starters) this 86-page small & potent volume is not only entertaining, but also a sky bridge to a galaxy of poets new to me. I am telling myself I was smart to order it:


An extra snap

There is an extra snap in each of these pieces. The black and white spot art and color illustrations also convey the respect afforded the young readers. This tone is set with opener poem, “High Achievers,” by Kate O’Neill, taking place during a steep climb and that zip continues for 78 contributions to the closing 3 couplets from Matt Goodfellow in “With the Waterfalls,” which makes me feel I’m reading Robert Louis Stevenson. A mighty fine collection, this is.

“Cycle” follows a child who is inventively relentless about continuing a journey that begins on a bicycle of seven wheels:

“…I’ll travel on a chestnut mule

            When the mule begins to tire

            I’ll tiptoe on a tight wire

            When the wire starts to snap

            I’ll go by tube and mind the gap…”

                                    - Hannah Meiklejohn, from “Cycle”


            “End of the Day” in short order sums up:

“…the sea slops

in the moon’s bucket

the sun’s penny drops.

– Anthony Watts

That is a moment I’ve seen but haven’t been able to write.


Crocodiles to poignant hills

I feel the aim is to please readers ages nine and up, but the voracious page turner age seven and eight will chuckle and jolt with recognition about besting the low expectations of grown-ups. Even younger students can enjoy having read to them several long or short pieces, including, “Invitation,” by Louise Greig about a crocodile, and “Little Red Bug,” from Sneha Susan Shibu.

Louise Greig also contributed poignant pieces, including, “I am going off to be a hill,” producing skin prickles. Greig returns me to the buttercup, daisy & sheep that will never line up like that again. Prickly loveliness, that poem.

I know quite well, one of the non-UK poets here. New poets writing for children all over the world via the WWW could submit their works for a contest that turned into this book and so not every contributor is from the UK. It was published by The Manchester Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University.

When I am done absorbing every poem, I hope I am forgiven if my friend- poet’s pieces are my favorite. I will share about those three pieces in a separate future post.

For now, let the collection sing us out with a few lines from a clever riddle, “lol” by Heather F. Reid

             Lots of laughs,

            lots of love,

            lots of librarians,

            linger over lunch?

                        -Heather F. Reid



Letters of light, this collection is.

The online collection of bloggers known as POETRY Friday is sent well on its way today by Robyn Campbell.



Make Way for Winter Walking

unnamedPoem below dusted the keyboard lightly after a flurry of false starts. (Appreciations to Carol Varsalona’s, Winter Whispers prompt)

( In icy snow and hot sand land, Poetry Friday links up weather zones, via Cathy Mere at


Make Way for Winter Walking 

by Jan Godown Annino

In my snow white winter meadow

paved with petals of a plant

that peeks,

then peaks in winter

hear the whispers of real weather –

winter in far Boston town


Dear one near the river Charles

hails from the simple winter –

winter of the warmer weather

snow white petals of camellia

blanketing the ground


Her beloved city slumbers

smothered in white snow blanket

and across the Charles River

silent ducklings poke from snow clothes


Make way for winter walking

©2015 Jan Godown Annino


Happy Valentine’s weekend to the dear one of this poem & to my Dear One & only.



Children of many cultures, celebrate! #ReadYourWorld

Welcome to the party. The vibrant Children’s Literature Community is celebrating Multicultural Children’s Books Day!

On Twitter we are at #ReadYourWorld.

For Jan. 27,  a world of attention lights upon what many editors and writers focus on all along the year – books for children ages pre-school through 12, which illuminate ideas of creativity, fun, friendship, dedication to justice, love, and peace among the many cultures of the World and especially among  children.


To see some of the Multicultural Day leaders, please check out below. I share here from a possible 300 books or perhaps 3,000 in the universe – who knows how many with these values, there are? Certainly a higher number than decades back, but there is wide room for more.




            The Hawaiian Hiatus of Herkimer Street by Desirae Foston, collects a community where neighbors are so in synch with each other and their pets, that they dream of a vacation together. This 15-page story with short text on color block art pages, is narrated by an unnamed child. Neighbors lift off in a home-sewn giant balloon. Adventures ensue. Surfboards and tropical flowers appear in this tall tale, which names a real NYC street. (Book sent by publisher.) Visit an author interview by Valerie Budayr and link to an audio connection.


While I have your attention I can’t resist sharing the stage with some previously celebrated multicultural titles & also pointing out a couple more.



Poetry for Young People by Langston Hughes is a visit to music-making, work days and community celebrations from one of the country’s most important writers. The 26 story poems, songs of accomplishment at home and out in the world, are edited for grades six and above, by David Roessel & Arnold Rampersad. The illustrator is the late Benny Andrews, of Georgia, a celebrated artist who provided a folkloric style for this book. (My book purchase.)



Crossing Jordan, by Adrian Fogelin, sets the stage for two middle school neighbors – Cass, who lives in the fixer-upper, working class neighborhood of a southern town, and a newcomer this summer, Jemmie. Crossing Jordan is the first novel in linked storytelling from this award-winning author; others include the forthcoming Some Kind of Magic.  Despite parental anxiety and outright hostility, about the girls being from different races, the two discover with exuberance, sweat and joy, what they have in common. This is an International Reading Association Notable Book for a Global Society Honor Book and it won many state awards & other distinctions. (My book purchase.)



             MALALA/IQBAL by Jeanette Winter is a flip-the-book-over concept design to package two separate, but chillingly similar, stories together. It tells the activism of two children in Pakistan.

Future Nobel peace prize winner Malala Yousafzai is only 11 as she starts to speak up against the Taliban, advocating education for girls. Instead of agreeing with her, the Taliban shoots her in the head and neck, on a private van, en route to school. She survived. And the world will benefit from her leadership the rest of her life.

The poignant story of Iqbal Masih is shockingly, lesser known. With this potent picture book thousands of children will know that this boy was only 4 years old when he was chained to a factory loom, to make carpets. When a new law said factories couldn’t abuse children this way, he becomes a child-activist, telling children in carpet factories all over Pakistan that they are free. Iqbal’s life is threatened but he doesn’t stop spreading the good news. He is only 12 when riding his bicycle one day, he is shot and killed. (Borrowed from LeRoy Collins Leon County Public Library.)


Although I haven’t seen Last Stop on Market Street, written by Matt De La Pena and illustrated by Christian Robinson, I’d like to share this link to a New York Journal of Books review by Janice Floyd Durante, who offers a website that exemplifies Multicultural Children’s Book Day values. I would also like to shine a star on The Brown Bookshelf, a thorough source for a long time.

Bookseedstudio blogger Jan Godown Annino is the author of the multicultural story, She Sang Promise: The Story of Betty Mae Jumper, Seminole Tribal Leader, illustrated by Lisa Desimini, with a letter to children by Moses Jumper, Jr. , an ALA/Amelia Bloomer Top Ten Title.  But wait, there’s more!

The important nuts & bolts….

For more on Multicultural Children’s Book Day celebration’s sponsors/leadership visit 

First Books’ Virtual Book Drive, Children’s Book Council


Wisdom Tales Press, Daybreak Press Global BookshopSatya House,,   Author Stephen Hodges and the Magic Poof, Junior Library GuildCapstone Publishing, Lee and Low Books,  The Omnibus Publishing; Double Dutch Dolls, Bliss Group Books, Snuggle with Picture Books Publishing,  Rainbow Books, Author FeliciaCapers,   Chronicle Books   Muslim Writers Publishing & ,East West Discovery Press.



Africa to America, All Done Monkey, The Educators Spin on It, Growing Book by Book, Kid World Citizen, Many Smiles, Multicultural Kid Blogs & Sprouts Bookshelf which are all beautifully linked together at Pragmatic Mom, the blog of this event’s co-creator, Mia Wenjen.

Valarie Budayar, of Jump Into A Book, is also the co-creator.

Brava, to each of you!


Marilyn Nelson + Jerry Pinkney Make Music

Poetry Friday is arranged wonderfully today by Irene Latham at Live Your Poem.

Wanting poetry with a bit of swing for readers who swing, I noted a few. I came up singing with a big (90 pages!) hardcover picture book of musical poems from 1940s segregation times, Sweethearts of Rhythm.

It is from a potent creative team – Coretta Scott King Honor Book author Marilyn Nelson, holder of the Frost Medal & countless honors. The art is by Jerry Pinkney, also a King recipient & winner of the Caldecott, among many other honors.

The book is about a band.

The International Sweethearts of Rhythm.

Each musician who performed in this history-making, interracial, all-woman musical group that eventually performed in post-war Europe, endured hardship to create their successful troupe.

So a surprise of this melodic, thoughtful & lovely gallery of words and paintings is the voice.  Instead of writing each poem in the voice of the accomplished woman artist, the musical instruments stir to life with Marilyn Nelson’s sharp attention, as she conducts the opening poem:

                    “With a twilight velvet musky tone

                   as the pawnshop door is locked

                   an ancient tenor saxophone spins off a riff of talk.”

The women pounded, tooted, blared, sang & drummed swing music. They coped with Jim Crow laws on their cross-country bus tours. They performed before sold-out, wildly approving audiences that were primarily all-black. The band members’ heritage was African-American, Chinese-American, Native-American – Puerto Rican & Caucasian, too.




 “Traversing the United States

performing one-nighters, traveling thousands of miles in a year:

The gals had a mission, expressible only in tones.

My gal could quote Satchmo so people stopped dancing to cheer.”


The above is the voice of a trumpet expertly played by legendary Sweethearts band member Ernestine “Tiny” Davis, who also sang. I found this expectedly lively clip.

The audiences responded so joyfully, the fans included an admiring Louis Armstrong, who reportedly offered Ms. Davis a huge salary to ditch the women and join his troupe. She declined.

The gals come across as you would expect for a lyrical, energized group – so dang fabulous. I would love to talk with someone who saw them blare forth in top form. And Hollywood, let’s see them in a movie.

I’ll close out with lines from another poem in this important collection, which innovative music educators along with poem-teachers in classrooms may want to chart for their, oh, let’s say, grade four through college students.

This poem voice is the baritone sax of band member Willie Mae Wong speaking:

   “She lugged me, like a grown-up-sized infant, from place to place

     (Her strength was XL, though she was a 2 petite).

      Carrying her handbag, her suitcase, and me in my case,

     She trip-tripped around on dainty high-heeled feet.


      Should I apologize if we “only” made people dance?

      That one is alive is an adequate reason to sing!

      Must beauty apologize for simple elegance?

      Shoot, we didn’t need a “philosophy” to swing!

If you are looking for more on the poet conductor who delivered this concert- in- words, Marilyn Nelson (A Wreath for Emmett Till and many other titles) is interviewed about this book with Jerry Pinkey, by Janelle Mathis.

note: Due to my schedule I’m writing & posting this on Jan. 15, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, which we begin commemorating today rather than await the official holiday on Monday.





























Silly Me

Poetry Friday is arrayed beautifully today by Tabatha Yeatts.


In anguished times we nest in joy –

welcoming babies, nurturing the toddling ones,

helping kiddos in our own vibrant circles & seeing that other

young ones who cross our paths feel secure.

Despite. Still. In the face of.


With this week’s events in Paris, I renew my pledge to freedom of speech, bread & butter theme in my years as a community journalist. While at the same time I will visit a favorite school & my story time circle this Friday for laughs with Kindergarten and First Grader sprites who should be allowed to be spritely. The best way I can do this is with my traveling hand puppet, Book Bear & with books that make children laugh out loud.

With awful timing, a long-planned piece about silly book titles ran on Jan. 7, 2015. It begins:



Silly Me

by Jan Godown Annino

There was a young woman said, ‘Howww..,”

my mother would sing in the kitchen.

My aunt would chime in with,

can I flee from this horrible cowww?”

And my other aunt would trill,

Shall I sit on a stile and continue to smile…”

so that my mother would finish,

which would frighten the heart of the cowww?”

thereby completing their own particular cracked

take on Edward Lear’s rhyme.

Aunts Singing Chants

This trio left me in stitches, ladies in flowery ruffled kitchen aprons, cutting up meat and veggies, cutting up in words and songs. (Not that the gals couldn’t argue stridently but that’s a different genre of story…)

The ladies performed Lear, Lewis Carroll, Gelette Burgess & the words of others with a knack for nonsense. Their impromptu silly making at holidays, directly lopes to my seeking out fun poems and hilarious picture books to read with BookPALS.


Now, the rest of the story

The article just quoted was published just before the magazine staffers and police guarding Charlie Weekly (named for the Peanuts character Charlie Brown, from the reports I’ve read) in Paris lost their lives this week in a terrorist attack.

I invite you to read “Silly Me” at Group Blog, a cooperative of readers and writers of children’s stories, organized last year by an innovative public school librarian, Todd Burleson.

I wish my readers happiness in each day.

New Year New Day 2015

New Year New Day 2015 

by Jan Godown Annino

Pairs of coots, licorice gumdrops on the surface

Great blue herons, statues ready to spike fish (frogs, snakes…)

Black anhingas tend wings, arched in pine tree branches


Watch animals

Read poems

Make notes


My handsome returns from a marsh path, with sightings to report

If we had opened a fortune cookie the night before

it could have read: You will be rewarded for seeking joy in Nature

©Jan Godown Annino


Now we are back, after dark, from a wildlife refuge that lures us down a spindle road in marsh and through ponds to the saltwater coast. Earlier on Day One, 2015, we welcomed young friends in for Italian cookies.

The night before, plunging into NYE we had laughed and clapped in front of a wide stage, with a friend our age, as national & state & local foibles paraded  through a comedy cast who we knew.

After this fine fuss I feel celebratory and exhilaratory about the year ahead of work, the writing work. So I hope these lines from poet Alexis Rotella, who put them in “Purple,” feels like a gift to you, as they have become to me.  With my appreciations for your poem-sharing & story telling that buoyed me in 2014.

from Purple by Alexis Rotella

“In second grade Mr. Barta

said draw anything:

he didn’t care what.

I left my paper blank

and when he came around

to my desk

my heart beat like a tom tom.

He touched my head

with his big hand

and in a soft voice said

the snowfall

how clean

and white

and beautiful

© Alexis Rotella

STEP LIGHTLY: POEMS FOR THE JOURNEY, which is one of the poetry books I like to travel with, especially to a wildlife refuge, is how I learned of Alexis Rotella, through one of my favorite poets, Nancy Willard, who collected the volume.

If you meandered here via Poetry Friday, or even if you didn’t, you’ll be well-rewarded with a toggle over to the nourishing Miss Rumphious Effect, today’s host.



Hobbit – Tuesday Trees

It’s hard to scratch the surface on the ferny forest of tree titles available to young readers that celebrate that most woody of Hobbit-land evoking entities.


But, as someone who leafed through her chapter book pages in a dogwood tree during aboreal child days, I’ve liked planting this list.  Climb a favorite branch, if you’re in a temperate climate, & take a peek.

NUTS TO YOU text & art by Lois Ehlert

THE BUSY TREE text by Jennifer Ward, artwork by Lisa Falkenstern

CHERRY TREE text by Ruskin Bond & artwork from Allan Eitzen

PLANTING THE TREES OF KENYA – text & artwork by Claire A. Nivola

POETREES poems & artwork by Douglas Florian

THE GREAT KAPOK TREE text & artwork by Lynne Cherry

THE CURIOUS GARDEN text & artwork by Peter Brown

THE MONEY TREE text by Sarah Stewart & artwork by David Small

STUCK text & artwork by Oliver Jeffers

TREE-RING CIRCUS, text & artwork by Adam Rex

WE PLANTED a TREE text by Diane Muldrow & artwork by Bob Staake

WELCOME TO THE GREEN HOUSE text by Jane Yolen & artwork by Laura Reagan

CELEBRITREES text & by Margi Preus & artwork by Rebecca Gibbon

THIS IS THE TREE text by Miriam Moss & artwork by Adrienne Kennaway

THE OAK INSIDE THE ACORN text by Max Lucado & artwork by George Angelini

THE KISSING HAND text by Audrey Penn & artwork by Ruth Harper/Nancy Leak (because of where Chester ends up….)

LINNEA IN MONET’S GARDEN – text by Christina Bjork, artwork by Lena Anderson

thumbnail.aspx            The Giving Tree (Shel Silverstein) & The Lorax (Dr. Seuss) are two famous books for young readers about trees.

After experiencing the good fortune of spending time under and around the ethereal Lichgate Oak at this event, I visited trees in lesser-known books where trees are central to the story, or are characters, for young readers.

Some picture books listed are favorites I returned to & others are new to me & perhaps to you. I hope you’ve enjoyed this no -particular -order offering.

Imaginary acorns to those who add a title/comment.

This article is part of Bookseedstudio’s Tuesday Trees, where Jan roots for the proliferation and longevity of our saplings and also for their mature elders, even if they aren’t alders. It is inspired by our community-wide project to celebrate arbors.  

For more on the lovely fishing net tree at the top of this column, please see this previous Bookseedstudio column.

Merry Sea Gull, Merry Crow

If the white stuff on your ground comes from sand,

as happens here in North Florida, that’s a fair-weather trade.

We recently pulled lemons from our Meyer citrus tree.

Because we can do that we won’t be brushing snow off our red cedar.


No sticking out a tongue to catch snowflakes. Nor – making snow angels, riding the sled, making snowballs, snow forts or, snow families with coal eyes grabbed from the scuttle next to our pot bellied stove. No, no, no rushing to the window to call dibs on the first feathery flurries, as I remember from my woodsy, across-from-a-dairy farm Quakertown, New Jersey early child winter days.  Our daughter, who grew up in the 1990s in Florida, missed out on most of that & our Christmas visits up nawth didn’t make up for it – now she catches up, with Boston winters…

But O, thank you poets, who take us everywhere – to deserts,craggy volcanic islands, to rice paddy shores. And of course, into snowy days.

I share some snow-set lines of a favorite poet queen, Kathi Appelt, which she gifted to young readers with lovely illustrations by Jon Goodell, in the sweetly celebratory, MERRY CHRISTMAS, MERRY CROW. Along with THE SNOWFLAKE SISTERS by an equally favorite poet king, J. Patrick Lewis (illustrated by Lisa Desimini), these books top my picture book stack for sharing when I read in K and 1st grade.

(If your snowflakes dropped you in here for Poetry Friday, it is collected this time, with my appreciation, by Anastasia at BookTalking. We join the poem story, finding Kathy’s crow to be a busy avian…)


copyright Kathi Appelt & Jon Goodell

copyright Kathi Appelt & Jon Goodell

Merry Christmas,

Merry Crow

by Kathy Appelt

A button here

A feather there

A crow can find things anywhere!

A strand of tinsel

Twigs and twine

Berries from a twisty vine…

(The crow cruises in the village where shadowed buildings are night-lit and people are out & about…)

…Up and down the snowy streets

 Jangly tags

A tiny wheel

A luscious curl of orange peel…

 I know that isn’t enough so please listen here for the clue that you’ll want to know and to a treat of a reading of it. I hope you can find MERRY CHRISTMAS, MERRY CROW in your public library or school room, or home library, or local bookstore – it’s a treasure. Looks mighty fine in ribbon & wrap.

I am thankful for the Poetry Friday community & wish everyone lots of  Happy Holly Days & Happy Holidaze. Prepare to be dazzled in this season of peace & love.

~ j a n


November evokes warm good feelings and smiles. It’s my anniversary month with my hubby who made my heart melt because he was game enough to put on a silly wig and dress up with me for Halloween with friends who also did the favor of dressing up & reciting original scary tales or poems or reading favorite traditional spoofy pieces. It carried me into November the way I like it to be – a full month of giving thanks, not just on the significant Nov 27.

For several years, where I’m a volunteer picture book reader in a school I love, I’ve shared poems that are written about thanks and thanks-giving,  from authors of First Peoples/Native American/American Indian heritage.

Some of the resources I turn to are:

THE CIRCLE OF THANKS: Native American Poems and Songs of Thanksgiving told by Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki) with pictures by Murv Jacobs


THE EARTH UNDER SKY BEAR’S FEET: Native American Poems of the Land, collected and told by Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki), and illustrated by Thomas Locker

ENDURING WISDOM, Sayings from Native Americans, selected by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve, with paintings by Snythia Saint James.

Each is beautifully illustrated and look like jewels, sitting open on the top of a child-height bookcase.

Additionally Joseph Bruchac features original poems at his site. Further, I find materials that expand on the topic, from these four resources, previously mentioned on this Bookseedstudio site.

Many poems for children speak to a keen awareness of animals, trees and plants, land, or the Earth itself, rivers, lakes and sky, particularly during what Joseph Bruchac calls, “the living night.”

Because we are anticipating the homecoming of our daughter for Thanksgiving, which she hasn’t been able to celebrate with us for many years, I especially relate to these lines, from THE CIRCLE OF THANKS:

“As I play my drum

I look around me

and I see my people.

And my people are dancing

in a circle about me

and my people, they are beautiful.”

(Micmac, Northeast Coast)

copyright Joseph Bruchac

I am thankful for poets, for teachers, for the children’s literature community, for Poetry Friday creators, and for every breath I take. And of course, for my Family.



First Peoples Month

sb_sys_medias_media_key_757First Peoples Month: Kid Lit Heroes

by Jan Godown Annino

If you are around young readers who could benefit from some myth-busting about the heritage & culture of North America’s first peoples – and isn’t that every kiddo? – I’ve found some accessible, expert resources.

The creators of the four sites here deserve hero status for more than one reason.

Notably, in their forging ahead with an important unsung job, the pushback sent their way surprised me when I first came across it in researching a book for kiddos. Since it’s thought that there are thousands of misconceptions about the hundreds of Native tribes in the Americas, it’s a bit of a gulp, to grasp why some folks, even writers intent in interpreting a First Peoples story for students, don’t want to catch up to speed.

Here then, I would like share a selection of the many sturdy groups & individuals, who tirelessly make the effort to send out a nuanced, more complete, message of North American tribes’ culture & history.

National Museum of the American Indian

Our family’s favorite history museum.

Not just because of the sublime recipes & meals we savor in front of the mesmerizing waterfall wall. But it’s true that sometimes we head to the cafeteria first, before visiting galleries in this building that is itself a work of art.

I treasure the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) for its celebration of living artists, for a vibrant sense of humor & an emphasis on how enrolled tribe members live in the moment, today. The pull-out drawers of artifacts are also mesmerizing.

And I have been fortunate to listen to Kevin Gover (Pawnee), the esteemed director, speak in the museum auditorium and also in the entry atrium, as a rainbow pierced a sky window.

Your older students who are artists and members of Tribes should know about NMAI opportunities.

If you take away one lesson from the museum website, where the collection is available to view online, or from a visit in person, I hope it is that every library and school reference shelf deserves to hold the NMAI title, DO ALL INDIANS LIVE IN TIPIS?

“Are dream catchers an authentic tradition?”

“Do successful casino tribes help out poor tribes?”

“What is a Tom-Tom drum?”

“Why is there still poverty on some reservations?”

This isn’t a book that shies away from interesting questions. Or from a chuckle.

Your students’ reports will be enhanced by their reading of the evocative Qs and As. And your responses in family conversations or class discussions will shine as a result of lessons gleaned. NMAI is a Smithsonian-affiliate & located on the Nation’s Mall close to the U.S. Capitol.


American Indian Library Association

An affiliate of the American Library Association, this group is most publicly known for deciding the annual American Indian Youth Literature Award.

So of course that list is a guide to collection building for your home shelf or school or public library. The site also offers valuable research links. Also, you may want to let any tribe-affiliated student or adult you know, who is thinking about library service, about this site’s scholarship links and student membership opportunities.


American Indians in Children’s Literature


Dr. Debbie Reese may be the most important children’s literature specialist writing on kids’ books that deal with depictions of tribe history, culture, & individual tribes or members’ characteristics. Her site is American Indians in Children’s Literature.

The stories written for young readers by non-Natives are usually intended to supply information by way of telling an entertaining story. Yet Dr. Reese shares how easy it is to misrepresent, misinterpret or simplify complex details. Her site offers links to quality literature from those valued primary sources, that is, created by literary & visual artists who are enrolled members of Tribes or who have proven deep connections to the topics, such as longtime residency with tribal peoples.

I felt fortunate to meet Dr. Reese (Nambe Pueblo, Upper Village/Yates Family) at an American Library Association national conference, where we were each appreciating a storytelling panel hosted by noted author Tim Tingle (Choctaw). She is a literacy advocacy hero



When I was writing for children about Seminole Tribe of Florida elected leader Betty Mae Tiger Jumper, who was also a newspaper editor, a memoirist & a visual artist working in fabric/textiles, I wanted to attend one of Oyate’s workshops. But they were held in California & I couldn’t get there from way east in Florida. If you are in easy distance of an Oyate presentation, you’ll want to sign up. In the meantime we can all visit comprehensive titles list & website & order books from Oyate.

This non-profit organization co-founded by the poet and librarian Doris Seale (Santee/Cree/Abenaki) provides important reference books, such as THANKSGIVING, A NATIVE PERSPECTIVE and also, HOW TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE, A GUIDE TO EVALUATING CHILDREN’S BOOKS FOR ANTI-INDIAN BIAS.


Owl Bee Thinking of Owl-o-ween

Owl Bee Thinking of Owl-o-ween

Whole universes of poets and their poems from countries afar,
and originating from our own states just up the road,

who I don’t yet know,

became an obvious missing part of my education when I sat in a graduate poetry seminar that I devoured at a green little place tucked into Virginia hills,

Hollins summer children’s literature program.

In moments after the first class, the student in the next seat
started a litany:

“Onct they was a little girl…”

She had begun an obscure-to-everyone else verse that ended…

“And the Gobble-uns’ll git you

Ef you


And so I joined in on James Whitcomb Riley’s old piece, finding not only
a kindred gobblin spirit in the student, Regge, but also a memory.

Riley’s poem became an annual Halloween spine-tingler, my mother’s performance of
The Hoosier Poet’s classic cautionary poem-story, “Little Orphant Annie,” meant Halloween had arrived. She rose up high as a Gobblin and shrunk down low as a meek orphant sent up to bed at night





And I was a mite lil’ deliciously scared girl by the time she completed her unique recitation/performance/thriller. Reading the poem today I see that she edited, embellished & pronounced as suited her acting temperament at the time, as any creative would. She was a baby when Riley was still living, so he was truly her childhood poet as her mother loved his work too.

And that’s why Riley’s verses about autumn became one of the standards of my October child days. Years later when we learned that my father’s older cousin, who we knew as Aunt Kay, grew up across the street from the Riley Lockerbie Square home in Indianapolis, his poetry developed a larger patina in the family lore.

You may find some the many picture book versions of his poems as he was also known as The Children’s Poet.

They are beautifully presented in this blog, Sing Books With Emily. Appreciations more than Emily can have known when she put it together, for this Riley article that includes an uncommon silent movie of the poet. Any one of the girls in this black and white historic movie clip could be my “Aunt Kay.” Did you see all the hair bows?

Since this is Halloween Week, how about timely books you may want to add to your annual Stack-O-Ween titles?

James Whitcomb Riley

The Gobble-uns’ll Get You (1975 ) (cover is above) Riley’s poem illustrated by Joel Schick or another version to covet,  illustrated by Diane Stanley.


Illustrated by  Diane Stanley

Illustrated by
Diane Stanley


Lee Bennett Hopkins

RAGGED SHADOWS, Poems of Halloween Night, is a collectible, illustrated by Giles Laroche. “Somewhere/ in the black-cat dark,/ Halloween begins.” With historic scenes from Salem, Massachusetts in a cut-paper format & titles such as “Skeleton Key” from Alice Schertle, these 14 poems, created by favorites, including Nancy Willard and  Barbara Juster Esbensen this collection lurks in the pumpkin’s light.


Mary Ann Hoberman

YOU READ TO ME, I’LL READ TO YOU from Mary Ann Hoberman, illustrated by Michael Emberley. Such a team, their fourth “read to me” partnership. Zombies, ghouls,ogres, knights and even a dinosaur join witches & others for Halloween season delights.


by Mary Ann Hoberman & Michael Emberley

by Mary Ann Hoberman & Michael Emberley




Annette Simon

Annette Simon’s inventive, ROBOT ZOMBIE FRANKENSTEIN!
Recently I popped into Annette’s home bookshop on the Florida east coast. And busy artist and creator that she is, she was not in residence but her books were appropriately on display. I enjoyed a shop tour from Nora & found several delights, including a prominent perch for one of my poet faves, Naomi Shihab Nye represented by her POEMS FOR GIRLS.

Written & illustrated by Annette Simon

Written & illustrated by Annette Simon

Appreications to Jama’s Alphabet Soup for this lovely look at Annette’s first picture book  from 2012, & you’ll want to read all the way to the book trailer, I think!

Tara Lazar

The Monstore has a secret place in the back that … well, bring gummy worms that you can buy in the store & find out yourself. Hope monster  is a fun word for you. This silly skip-a-beat book, is from creative  Tara Lazar who is thanked (or cursed!) every November for the inventive & p0pular kids’ writer/illustrator game that I’ll be playing for my second year, known as PiBoIdMo Picture Book Idea Month.

written by Tara Lazar & illustrated by James Burks

written by Tara Lazar & illustrated by James Burks

Owl Moon 

I think of this title every fall & you may recall the scary scene where the large owl flies at the father & daughter. It’s a Caldecott winner illustrated by John Schoenherr & written by the wonderful talent, Jane Yolen.


Finally, here are some of my past Halloween title posts here

at Bookseedstudio.


written and illustrated by Lisa Desimini

And if you think it’s

pronounced Boo-seedstudio this time of year,

you are correct.


Next blog up:

November is First Peoples/ American Indian/Native American Month.
Where to Learn What We Should Want & Need To Know About This Topic? Early, on a weekday in November I hope you’ll come back for a visit.

POETrees & an OCTOBER POETry Day

c. 2010 Douglas Florian POETREES

c. 2010 Douglas Florian POETREES

POETREES is an arbor picture book illustrated & written by Douglas Florian.

It cascades with leaves, trunks, roots and tree canopies.

As is delightfully typical with this poet, invented words are seeded to be found among the pages. One is “glossatree,” in the handy reference section.

POETRESS brings me to some exciting non-native woody towers that can flourish in South Florida that I miss occasionally here in North Florida,

where our chill winter & soil aren’t welcoming.  Some lines  from “Banyan” by Douglas Florian are –

 One thousand pillar roots spread wide,



                                    and roots in chorus

It’s not a tree –

It’s a forest!

C. 2010, all rights reserved, Douglas Florian

For more on POETREES, see Jama’s Alphabet Soup, March 12, 2010


On a different poetry topic,  my pal in the blogosphere, Suzy Leopold

reminds me of  the utterly wonderful

National Poetry Day. In October? Not April!

 It’s put on by our partners across the pond.

Makes me want to #thinkofapoem

Also, please know that today’s Poetry Friday roundup is tastefully hosted by the aforementioned, Jama’s Alpahbet Soup.


Silliness from Shel

Anyone in Florida or other coastal spaces, or inlanders yearning to return to summer beaches, may enjoy lending their ears to the punny poems by gifted artist & creative, Shel Silverstein, in Underwater Land.


“He sole it to a loan shark” & other silliness stirs the sand.


And  I’m  already planning our Halloween Meal, so here is a cutely creepy Shel video poem from You Tube celebrating his ditty, Man-Eating Plant & also, a page for his Halloween poetry.


I’m feeling creative in notebooks & at the keyboard. A few words from Shel  about that:

                                “Put something silly in the world

                                     That ain’t been there before.”


And with Labor Day fresh in mind & thinking of freedom, I consider how the poet’s absurd lines create calls for censorship, from a librarian’s post on YouTube.

Here are Shel links, at the site & also at his publisher’s place. He was born in Illinois in 1930 and died in Florida in 1999.


If you are here via the good graces of splendid POETRY FRIDAY, or even if you are not, please visit this week’s talented host LAURA PURDIE SALAS, for her post & also, for links to others posting.

If you are new to Poetry Friday, when you comment at her blog,  pls. tell her Bookseedstudio sent you.

JoAnn Early Macken

DownloadedFileA storm that rolled in the day our daughter recently

winged back home, made me think of poet



This gentle prose poem is an appreciation

of finding shelter in a storm, to then watch it in wonder.

A mother and daughter consider the small creatures

who live outdoors as they make their path from

a hill of daffodils,

to their own cozy nest to watch and wait out the weather.

It is illustrated by Susan Gaber in a way that

transports the reader inside veils of rain.


I’m sharing these raindrop lines:

They burst from the cloud

skipping and leaping and laughing out loud

They spin and they tumble.

They bounce on the breeze

They dance to the tune of the world in the trees

2010 JoAnn Early Macken, “Waiting Out The Storm”


You can learn more about JoAnn Early Macken, who

I met through Teaching Authors, at JoAnn’s web site pages.

And in your visit to JoAnn’s site, be sure to look at her, WRITE A POEM

information. This is about her book that I was fortunate to win

more than a year ago.

And also, please check back for one of my favorite rain images

from a few years past, of our gal, appreciating

cascades of drops. It’s not handy at the moment but I expect

to locate it soon.


Mindful that this week’s Poetry Friday gathering, collected at NO WATER RIVER

by Renee La Tulippe arrives the day after Sept. 11 memorials, I offer

JoAnn’s poetry lines, above, as a way of honoring quiet sweet moments in life that

our protectors endeavor to make continuous for us all.


Peace to you this week & always.



Diane Ackerman by Poetry Light

Poetry Friday is hosted this week at AUTHOR AMOK!


For the high school, or even advanced middle grade poet,

today’s PF post here at Bookseedstudio suggests  that

lines from some of Diane Ackerman’s poems, which speak

to doubts about creative ability, can rock their world.



a Diane Ackerman poetry collection,

new to me, that was a surprise find this summer,

are about what happened after Sergei

Rachmaninoff heard his first symphony played.

The poet tells us he rushed from the concert hall in shame.

He deeply felt he had created an awful,

imperfect work.


From Diane Ackerman’s ORIGAMI BRIDGES

“We cannot know all the sounds

Dahl and he exchanged,

but rubbing one word against another,

Dahl gradually restored

Sergei’s confidence. History tells

that Dahl used affirmations

and auto-suggestion:

“You will compose again.”

You will write a piano concerto.”

“You will write with great facility.”

Repeated until the words saturated

his gift from head to fingers.”

copyright, all rights reserved 2002



These lines are from Diane A’s, “Rachmaninoff’s Psychiastrist,”

which lifts me up . Two more lines:

“In truth, nothing can kill a gift,

but it may become anemic…”

I love the way the poet kindles “…rubbing one word against the other..”

& I have to say that every verse of this poem is layered with her signature

devotion to what words can say.


Here are more of Diane Ackerman’s poems at

Poetry Foundation.

Here is Sergei Rachmaninoff in a 1929 recording of

just a segment of Piano Concerto No. 2, written after his

help from Dr. Dahl.

And here is Rachmaninoff’s playing of the entire concerto:

And, it was my mother’s favorite so I was fortunate to hear it

as much as I heard, “Old MacDonald Had a Farm.”



Flora & Ulysses



Gladiola. Caramel. Spiral.

Of the words and terms that evoke a relaxed feeling

for me, many can’t mean the same thing to you.

For example, the names of my husband and daughter,

my first childhood kitty, Wacky, my mother’s sister, Lily,

and the places on Earth where I felt one with the universe.

But one of my charmed words may be yours:

                            P   O   E  T  R  Y

So, I invoke this word to talk about the book I brought home from my

wunnerful public library. It is the 2013 novel for young readers,

FLORA & ULYSSES: The Illuminated Adeventures. I knew it won the 2014

Newbery. I had read it was about a girl and a squirrel. But I had not read it.

Imagine my summer reading surprise to see in it that a lively character, on page 82,

quotes with good effect:


“You, sent out beyond your recall,

go to the limits of your longing.

Embody me.

Flare up like flame

and make big shadows I can move in.”


This is from Ranier Maria Rilke.

As I scrunched further into the comfy sofa, racing through page after page, I found that in this always switching-around tale, a story that produces in me laughs out loud,  readers discover that faith & hope & love = poetry. Or something. Or, they can equal poetry. That depends on you. The way certain words can be your charmed words.

Kate D. gives the story delicious made up words, vigorous real words, charmed words, airborne moments & every poem tucked inside is fine to read. Flora is a self-proclaimed cynic who is immershed in the world of comic books about a superhero. And then the story leaps on four paws from there.

I expect the best with this author but still, I feel charmed to read a story once again that leaves no question why she steps out so well as our country’s Ambassador for Children’s Literature. She is like a matter-of-fact big sister in speaking to children & the link below is especially demonstrates how she takes her readers seriously, but always offers a smile.

KATE!, a view from across The Pond

Rilke/the poem, “Go To The Limits of Your Longing”  from which DiCamillo quotes:

Illustrator K.G. Campbell who is all over the place in the best illustrated books:

Finally, you likely have arrived here through POETRY FRIDAY. A little nook of the Kidlitosphere. Today’s host is  CHECK IT OUT & I invite you to

take a trip to the West Coast & visit the host, Jone. Many thanks.  `  j a n






I met Enola Holmes!

If you know children’s mystery series, especially ones that riff on the BBC-loved Sherlock Holmes canon, you know Enola Holmes. She is Sherlock’s younger, brilliant sister.

And she is the creation of an American writer, Nancy Springer.




Enola loves to ride bikes, uncode secret messages & fool her much-older brother, who she admires a great deal,

despite the distance he keeps from her. Enola is also the alter ego of young Nancy Springer, originally of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

She began writing as a young mother and pastor’s wife. Much later she divorced and moved to North Florida with her second husband.

She has said in social media that an alligator keeps her from swimming in her pond, where she  fishes. Sounds just like North Florida to me.

When she spoke in Tallahassee this month, I felt fortunate to have books autographed by her for gifting (not only THE CASE OF THE MISSING

MARQUIS,  Enola Holmes Mystery #1, but also copies of ROWAN HOOD, Outlaw Girl of Sherwood Forest and winner of the Edgar Allen Poe Award.)



Nancy Springer’s conversation with Tallahassee writers and editors was punctuated with a lot of laughs, due to

her conversational storytelling. Her comments were geared toward those writing suspense for adults. Her new novel

is DARK LIES. Due to the breadth of her life’s work, 50-plus books, & her engaging manner, I scribbled many notes.

Here are a few to share:

“The night shift” is when Nancy Springer writes. This means her mind ruminates as she sleeps. At the start of her

day, she writes before other activities, allowing the fresh night’s thoughts to help her storytelling. She said that she wouldn’t be

effective if she tried to write at night when she is tired out from the day’s events.


She is compelled to create active characters. “Meek, docile characters don’t do anything.”


If a writer needs to add a nasty character to a story, “A six-year-old is an ideal nasty character, or a dog, or a fairy.”


She advises that a difficult character should always have something to care for, such as a dog.


“Do bad things to your main character. Challenge them with danger, distress, dismay.”


The main character should have memorable quirks.


Be alert to the expectations you set up. “If your reader sees a girl drawing a horse in her class notebook in the beginning,

your story has to have horses in it.”


Once, only once, she outlined a novel. When she was finished with the outline she felt she had finished her interest in the story.


She uses everything she can from real life, in her novels. For example, a narcissistic dance partner she had is the

catalyst for a forthcoming novel’s character. She reads widely in nonfiction, especially quirky nonfiction, and loves to research

extensively, especially for a novel set historically.

She is a fun, irreverent person who loves coloring books as an adult because she was denied them as a

child. And she openly shares that writing as a young mother saved her emotional life. Plus she is a poet,

the author of MUSIC OF THEIR HOOVES: Poems About Horses.



For more on the refreshing Nancy Springer and her many adventures & awards, this should be a good link.

(note: if there are glitches in this or the previous post, I’m working on them. I suspect my mac took a rare-

to-me virus, only recently discovered…)










Ubutu, the facts and the heart


UBUTU “These are the important things in life.”

From Kathy Erskine, author of MOCKINGBIRD & the forthcoming THE BADGER KNIGHT

Originally posted on Kathyerskine's Blog:

scan0143 - Version 2August 26 is a bittersweet day.  My fifth book will publish (sweet) but 18 years ago to the day I lost my mother.  She was warm and wise, witty and fun, brave and beautiful.  And she’s the one who inspired me to pursue a writing career although she never knew it.  While she was proud that I became a lawyer and would always be able to take care of myself, I think she would’ve loved to read my books (whose mother doesn’t?) and been a proud supporter (like my sister, who has already ordered 30 copies of The Badger Knight for friends, whether they want it or not).

My mother was an excellent writer herself and I think dreamed of writing the Great American Novel but ran out of time.  Growing up, homework was our responsibility but she couldn’t help looking at papers we wrote with a critical eye.  Like a…

View original 518 more words



by Jan Godown Annino

more time immersed in water

meals made without cooking them

less care with my looks

pared schedules





c.  Jan Godown Annino

This summer I’m in the water more than usual, but also,

working with deadlines I didn’t expect.

Below, I’m sharing lines from a poem that feels suited to my writer self, from a poem which I have long-admired by Naomi Shihab Nye, a poet who I have long-admired for more than this one poem.

After her poem, “The Art of Disappearing,” I share links to more about her and also, short poetry from Nye’s students.

The Art of Disappearing

by Naomi Shihab Nye

….When someone you haven’t seen in ten years

appears at the door,

don’t start singing him all your new songs.

You will never catch up.

Walk around feeling like a leaf.

Know you could tumble any second.

Then decide what to do with your time.

c. Naomi Shihab Nye

For more please see Naomi Shihab Nye

and also, American Academy of Poets

Fourteen years ago Nye brought students to publication in

SALTING THE OCEAN, 100 Poems by Young Poets, 

with perfect illustrations from Ashley Bryan.

If you remember family kerfluffles (usually the grownups) in tight summer quarters, this untitled one from then-student Amy S. A. is for you:

Untitled by Amy S.A.

The sky looks like the ocean.

The flowers smell like perfume.

But nobody’s happy.

c. 2000 Amy S.A.


That should be enough to help the grouchiest cottage-sharing grump

want to go sniff the roses.


Here is an excerpt of one by Karen A.L. from the same collection, in case your summer is sailing away too fast.  


by Karen A.L.

Where does my free time go?

Does it fly off like a shooting star?

What if I don’t use it?

Does it feel neglected?

Or does it understand?

Is it all-encompassing?

Or know give-and-take?

Does it keep an alarm?….

c. 2000 Karen A.L.

POETRY FRIDAY  swims along this week, watched over by Reflections on the Teche.

Nelson Mandela by J. Patrick Lewis

copyright KADIR NELSON

copyright KADIR NELSON


July 18th is a day for Mr. Nelson Mandela, who said,


“It is within your hands to make of our world, a better world for all.”


Thank you, Anastasia Suen & POETRY FRIDAY & J. Patrick Lewis.

The J. Patrick Lewis poem gives me goose bumps, especially at one line:

Nelson Mandela International Day poem by J. Patrick Lewis.


Here is more on Mr. Mandela, Nobel winning peace maker:

And here is even more, from his Foundation:

And finally, from Alicia Lewis Murray, (I don’t know if there is a Lewis-Lewis connection..)  here is a look at Mr. Mandela from the perspective of children’s books:

The artwork here is from KADIR NELSON’s exceptional book, NELSON MANDELA as displayed with Alicia’s article.


Collecting poets : William Jay Smith

copyright 2014

copyright 2014

Collecting poems & poets: William Jay Smith


I’ve known one person with a hat box of printed poems she collected from here & there.

Magazines, mainly, but also plucked from church bulletins, found on post cards, and in newspapers, back when newspapers printed poems. The collector was my amazing mother, a secretary at Rockefeller Center, Victory Garden newspaper editor in WW II, agricultural census taker, country weekly editor & when I came along, agricultural features writer. She snipped & secured her poems inside the covers of books or slipped them into her many Bibles. James Whitcomb Riley, Robert Frost & Edna St. Vincent Millay were among her finds.


copyright 2014

copyright 2014


I like to think there are still poem collectors busy at their hobby, such as my mother was. Saving and snipping, keeping & curating individual poems. Her collected poems frequently illuminated nature, patriotism & death. A published collection I read that came close to what she did was put together by Caroline Kennedy, about her famous mother’s favorite poems.

I think the fun thing to do in collecting individual poems from hither & yon, is to find a topic so unlikely, the chase lasts long & the reward of finding a poem on that topic is more thunderous.

I did not find any William Jay Smith poems when I sifted through her treasures after she died. Smith is one of those esteemed creatives who is better known today for a title he held, than for individual poems. His selection as the first poet laureate was such a brand new thing in 1968, his title was poetry consultant to the Library of Congress before the more poetical laureate was added.

Although most of his considerable work is for adults, Smith also collected children’s poems into books, such as LAUGHING TIME, as you would expect, it’s a trove of nonsense verse. I got lucky in a used bookshop & discovered a volume of a handful of his children’s poems, AROUND MY ROOM, delightfully illustrated by Erik Blegvad.

AROUND MY ROOM   William Jay Smith, with illustrator Erik Blegvad

William Jay Smith, with illustrator Erik Blegvad

Now, if you were collecting poems on a theme, how far would you have to go to find a poem on toasters? Or on dragons? And if a poem collector wants  a poem that incorporates a toasters & dragons, here is one not many people know, but they should.


The Toaster

A silver-scaled Dragon with jaws flaming read

Sits at my elbow and toasts my bread.

I hand him fat slices, and then, one by one,

He hands them back when he sees they are done.

_ from AROUND MY ROOM by William Jay Smith


I am indebted to the Wyndham Robertson Library at Hollins University for introducing me to Smith, one of the university’s esteemed past-faculty, via a curated wall display of his work.







If your are reading this via the lyrical group of online poet fans, Poetry Friday, it is my hope that your own poems are destined for such a publication. Write on, write on….


Dad’s Days

Advice shared by my father -

Live as close to your work as possible

Never go to bed angry at anybody

Think pleasant thoughts

Grow vegetables & flowers

Look up at the night sky

Stand at the shore & think about who & what are on the other shore

Doubt what leaders, including preachers, say – look at what they do

Reading history is a better use of time than reading novels

copyright 2014

copyright 2014

  I think of his holding me under the night sky to watch a satellite pass by, helping me plant my first cherry tomatoes, carving me a letter opener & other gentle moments. 

My dear Dad died in the mid- 1970s. He arrived in the world the same year that the brothers Orville & Wilbur flew into history at Kitty Hawk, 1903. If you are low on your U.S. history time line of obscure cultural details & who isn’t –  this was also the same year that this limerick, which he never ceased to delight in reciting, is thought to have reached a vogue (WHAT HAPPENED WHEN/Gorton Carruth) –  


There once was a man from Nantucket

Who kept all his cash in a bucket

But his daughter named Nan

Ran away with a man

And as for the bucket - Nantucket!  


After salt-water fishing & intensive vegetable & flower gardening, including his prize-winning gladiolas, beloved pastimes of my dear Dad included reading non-fiction accounts of history, especially the ancient wars, the religions & cultures. He held a lifelong fascination with the Ethiopian emperor Haile Salassie.


His job as “Sarge” in the segregated military led him away from his racial prejudices. He said many times as I grew up, “The black recruits worked 10 times harder than the white boys & if I had to go off to war & I could choose, I would choose black soldiers first.”

Few people active in my life today knew him. And fewer still can spin me a yarn about him from the good ol’ days. But just in time for the sweet/bittersweet sequential slew of holidays that help me conjure up good memories of him

Memorial Day

His June birthday

Father’s Day

July 4th

Labor Day

Veteran’s Day  


on a sunny day in mid-May just a few weeks back, I opened our big black postal mailbox to find a cheerful yellow envelop with a card inside -


“Have I told you how very much I liked your Dad? He was so supportive after my Dad died. ….Once he took me with him to help set up fireworks in Princeton for the 4th of July….” The story kindly shared about this adventure is likely from the 1940s, well before I was born & involves my dear Dad & the locally famous Iorio Family with whom my father was pals. This surprise gift of a fun memory keeps me humming in what is now Florida’s Good Ol’ Summertime. I expect to pull the card out at bedside years hence, when I am in my 90s & reread (or, have it read to me…) when I want a moment of cheer.

DSCN6751 Dad lamented that he was too young to go to fight in World War I & too old to fight in WW II. But he wasn’t too old to shake a metal bed frame at 4 .a.m. in barracks at Fort Dix. N.J. (Camp Dix in 1917, near Wrightstown & almost named Camp 13) to cheerily greet raw recruits

Get off your a * * & on your feet

Your mama’s gone & I ain’t sweet  


He relished the call-and-response drill, which, among other rich history or origin, has the story/legend of  Private Willie Duckworth & his cadence, a marching sing-song famously associated in military folklore with a soldier marching in segregated drill on Long Island at Fort Slocum. I hasten to add that Private Duckworth’s clean lyrics didn’t remain that way as they spread through the service branches.  

As a kid Dad marched me, to my delight, with safe rhymes for child ears & I always remember the close -

Sound off! one two

Sound off! three four

Sound off, one two three four

one two three four!  


At times in my drill of writing, if I am finished with a piece  & able to write THE END, I also silently repeat the Sound off close. Won’t mean anything to you, but remembering that is a mighty fine shiver.

As a decommissioned Army warrant officer, Dad, who, was also a frequently lauded community blood donor, became a leader in the American Legion. In my rural child days at Quakertown N.J.’s cozy Fourth of July parades & then in longer patriotic tributes in the county seat, Flemington, N.J., I delighted in seeing him in military uniform. He marched beside the flag honor guard at the head of our holiday parades. It was on the sidelines of these parades where I learned to stand up & put hand over heart as the ruffle of drums approached, with the grand U.S. Flag, next marching by.


In the way children figure things, in my mind the entire parade was my father’s parade, because after all, he was the Leader. And with both my mother and father involved to various extents in local weekly newspapers, I was raised to understand that our patriotism celebrated not only the military victory in WWII, but it also included a fierce pride about the First Amendment.


Recently I learned that the Legion grounds, plus the building he helped to have constructed, as commander of his post, had been valued for the American Legion at $2..2 million in Flemington, N.J.


Well done, dear Dad, good &  faithful, U.S. servant.DSCN6743          

Poet characters

ZURI Jackson is a junior poet character who writes:

Danitra’s scared of pigeons. I promised not to tell.

Then I opened my big mouth and out the secret fell.

I tried to shove it right back in, though it was much too late.

I told her I was sorry, but Danitra didn’t wait.

lines from “The Secret” in MEET DANITRA BROWN by Nikki Grimes.




My, how I like it that this Zuri, lively child, is eager for the world to know about her buddy, Danitra Brown. And I like it that Zuri shares their foibles, with abandon. And  what introspections the two city girls trade.

A boy said Zuri has toothpick legs & he called out Danitra for her “big and thick and round” eyeglasses. (Since both accusations fit child days of yours truly, my heartmelt happened with the Zuri poem these moments are in,”Coke-bottle Brown.”)

But even more, I like it that Zuri expresses all her vibrant ideas through her own poetry, which tumbles through the entire picture book like a downspout gushing on a sidewalk.

Extra treat –  warm oil wash illustrations by artist Floyd Cooper  are expectedly poetic.   You’ll be wanting more of Danitra, especially her school events, and country days, so look into  her subsequent poetry picture books, also by the poet brings her to us, Nikki Grimes: DANITRA BROWN, CLASS CLOWN &  DANITRA BROWN LEAVES TOWN. They are, to borrow a word from junior poet Danitra, splendiferous.


Lucky to meet

Zuri, Ratchet, Jack

poets who





in words on the page

Their names collected




There is room for more. Send along a word about the character, title, author please to JGAoffice at gmaildot com

Let me know your name if that’s unclear from your email so I can properly thank you.

Citation: Poetry Characters/Bookseedstudio © Jan Godown Annino.

Green Poetry

Kermit’s green is a color that surrounds us here in North Florida so you would think it is hard to miss. But guess what – don’t we all experience how that which is familiar, can become less special?

But, Ho! Visitors from the parched West arrive. And they play in our nature’s backyard. And so we play, too. And it’s like feeling the world anew with the sensory overload of a healthy toddler.

“Green! It’s so green here,” they marvel, these green-seeking, water-wanting folks. And they are right, thank them. Through their eyes my hubby & I see our gorgeous green world, again. And in celebration, I’m sharing the color green from three poets writing for children.


THE GREAT BIG GREEN by Peggy Gifford, with illustrations from my friend Lisa Desimini, is the newest book.


“The thing is,

the thing is green.

And the green is,

the green is green.

And by green I mean



I mean

dragon green

anaconda green

electric-eel green

green-iguanas-in-the-sun green.”

c. 2014 Peggy Gifford

c. Lisa Desimini and Peggy Gifford

c. Lisa Desimini and Peggy Gifford



I like the way Peggy dips into the hues and presents  tints of greens not always covered in books about colors for children. The surprise riddle that runs through this picture book is fun to test whether you & the kiddos can solve this one. I think you will!

Lisa provides a note about the scanning of her own skin, photos & other materials for the mixed media collages, including green marble from the Emerald Isle, Ireland.

The spectrum of inventive green art & word imagery of THE GREAT BIG GREEN make this a mighty fine addition to any colorful bookshelf for young readers.


WELCOME TO THE GREEN HOUSE by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Laura Regan is the first book about the tropical rainforest (as opposed to our U.S. Pacific NW rainforest) that our family spent time with when our college age daughter was a toddler. It’s a challenge to pick just a few lines to share but here goes:


“…where the slow, green-coated sloth

and the quick-fingered capuchin

make their slow-quick ways

from room to room

in the green house,

in the dark green,

light green,

bright green,

copper green,

blue green,

ever-new green house.”

c.1993 Jane Yolen


My signed copy is on the To Mail shelf, as it was won just this week, here.

But the claimant didn’t have a chance yet to come forward with a postal address so if that continues, I may become fortunate & move it back to my permanent poetry pile.


c. Jane Yolen and Laura Regan

c. Jane Yolen and Laura Regan


HAILSTONES & HALIBUT BONES by Mary O’Neill with illustrations by John Wallner (Leonard Weisgard created art for the very first edition) is the standard against which I think about books on color for children. We received this modern classic (with a storylife of its own as a multimodal way of sharing color with sightless or low-vision children) as a family gift from writer/editor Susan Cerulean when my hubby & I were new to parenting. At the time I didn’t fully appreciate how this sophisticated yet accessible book would work wonders. It’s a book to have read to you, with your eyes closed, as each color is represented in a Mary O’Neill poem through the feeling it can create.

HAILSTONES & HALIBUT BONES is a deft, deep & delicious collection of poems about colors. I know I haven’t seen every childrens’ book on all the colors, but I’m guessing that if I did, HH&B would sill rank with as my personal best.


Here is Mary O’Neill on, “What is Green?”


“Green is the grass

And the leaves of trees

Green is the smell

Of a country breeze.

Green is lettuce

And sometimes the sea

When green is a feeling

You pronounce it N.V.

Green is a coolness

You get in the shade

Of the tall old woods

Where the moss is made.”

c. 1961 Mary O’Neill

c. Mary O'Neill and John Wallner

c. Mary O’Neill and John Wallner


“Green Poetry” article citation: Bookseedstudio/Jan Godown Annino April 11, 2014

c. all rights reserved


Answering questions

Kathy Halsey, a retired librarian who is writing for children, wants to know:

Q: What is your writing process?

Q: What are you currently working on?

Q: And so forth.


all rights reserved

all rights reserved


First, thank you for your career, Kathy, matching books to readers.

And thank you for your 2nd career, as a writer.

Back to the first. You likely answered ga-zillions of queries from anxious writers, seeking, for example an obscure local cookbook/history about Michigan maple sugaring via inter-library loan, from upper/lost/outer beautiful Michigan. Writers are also thankful for that. (Note to local taxpayers, support your library when it wants to continue the inter-library loan service, please.)

More  A:


Here is what should be, but is not always, on hand:

Cat, to do the typing

A deadline

Good health, rested body, peaceful mind

Fair trade (no child slave labor) organic dark chocolate, early a.m. only

Guayaki yerba mate (my hubby introduced it when he returned from Argentina), also a.m. only

An idea that I think about day & night & in my dreams & during conversations about movies & while I’m eating & walking & on & on. This is crucial.

The information I find to go with that idea.


Look at that.  Very little, to get me going.

I write in a rainbow of genres. For children, poetry, picture story book, concept book (like ABCs) illustrated non-fiction, fiction in chapter book & middle grade. For adults, magazine pieces, chapter contributions to non-fiction books, my own travel guides, poetry, & mystery stories.

So let’s narrow the mass down to a bit about how I wrote the newest book, SHE SANG PROMISE.

And this will also help me answer the pressing question of a school librarian from Winnetka IL, about the process for writing this specific book.

My newest book is an illustrated story from the life of a Native American leader who became a national figure with her achievements, including a presidential appointment. But she primarily made headlines in her home state, Florida.

And for kids, it was important to research one of her career oddities – she wrestled alligators. In the late 1940s, before reality teevee. For very little money.

I needed:


Local/regional/Tribe histories

A good oral history library

An understanding of events during the time span 1920s-1980s

My subject’s memoir & other publications

Old photographs/information about period clothing

Site visits to subject’s house/reservation/museums

My subject’s permission to tell her story to children (required by the publisher, but something I desire, anyhow)

Copy of her storytelling video

Details of her adult achievements

Observation of alligators & of people wrestling them

The story of her world took place significantly outdoors, so I needed notes about the flora & fauna & geography & weather of her child days.

I needed to begin lining up expert readers, to review my manuscript.

And I probably needed a few other things, which I am forgetting, here.



When I amassed shelves & binders & paper files of materials, including my subject’s newspaper articles & columns, because she edited her tribe’s paper, I began to write.

It was clunky.

So I did what any writer does. I turned to the editor for this project.

And bless her. She sent me lovely illustrated biographies. And then she gave me titles of others, to go look up.


In the second group, I found one that lit a fire under me & is still a favorite, when I read it in school.

It was created by Jacqueline Briggs Martin & Mary Azarian.

I get prickles on my arm when I remember first holding the powder blue cover, fringed with snowflakes. This wood-cut-assisted beauty is one of the best picture books I know about a real, but lesser-known, individual of our planet (that is the sort of person I am drawn to write about. ) The book  is SNOWFLAKE BENTLEY, a Caldecott winner.

And that book about a boy in Vermont obsessed with snowflakes, was a portal into feeling that I could pick my way along the path of  the story of a girl who grew up in subtropical Florida, keeping all manner of wild & domestic creatures as pets in her own informal hot-climate, outdoors zoo. Very different children, geography & life paths.

But the SNOWFLAKE BENTLEY team’s excellent storytelling in words & pictures inspired me.


By Jacqueline Briggs Martin, Artwork by Mary Azarian

By Jacqueline Briggs Martin, Artwork by Mary Azarian

Yet, I was still not writing something to send my editor.

How to begin it ? How to begin it?

When I disliked a ga-zillion first pages, I turned to something that has always amused me since my child days when I created a little cartoon character, Beanie. And that is, doodling. And so I doodled loopy loop shapes. And then on another page, after a few shapes took shape, I dropped the pad. I was unhappy. I looked up & saw on my wall, a map of Florida. The state where my subject was from. And I picked up the pad & began to draw an outline of the state of Florida. I began in the far northwest in the Panhandle. When my thick fat dark pencil reached the southeast part of the state, words appearing from who knows where  – the stars? the swamp?  engaged my neurons: “Think of a gigantic place at the end of land…”

And that was it. I was off and running.

Because I had amassed information on aspects of the world of Betty Mae Tiger Jumper, my subject, pieces of her life that would be kid magnets, I just kept on & on with the writing. Then, because I had written too much, my editor & the editor above her, helped me squeeze out duplications, of which there were umpteen-many.

O! there were many. But they got gone.

The story is told in chronological order, assisted with luscious artwork from Lisa Desimini, a letter to children from the subject’s son, and notes of further information for older children, parents, librarians & teachers.

Kirkus said: “Short poetic stanzas join jewel-toned illustrations to sing the satisfying story of Betty Mae Tiger Jumper.”

It is an American Library Association Top Ten Amelia Bloomer book (a list of titles about exemplary girls and women), it is selected by the National Council on the Social Studies &  it won the Florida Book Awards gold medal. The full title is SHE SANG PROMISE: The Story of Betty Mae Jumper, Seminole Tribal Leader.  It is part of the Accelerated Reader program & its listed on several library/history archives as a reference on Native American topics.

By Jan Godown Annino and Lisa Desimini

By Jan Godown Annino and Lisa Desimini


Q: What is your current project?


A:  A few in the cooker. This year so far I sent several poems for children to a university publisher’s contest & also submitted to an independent publisher, a 3,400-word mystery short story for adults. Another illustrated biography that I enjoyed researching is finished, not contracted, being read. I recently had fun writing a picture book based on my revision of a children’s folksong that has cool present-day ties, & I finished poems of whimsey, on a theme, for kiddos. A third new picture book manuscript is also almost ready to send out. If any of those see a green light I will  switch off from my zippy novel-in-progress for middle grade, & revise the previous project (s). Much as I love the current story & main character set in the 1960s in Florida, I hope for the temporary interruption via the working with-an-editor phase, of one of the “finished” pieces.

Thanks so very much for these Qs Kathy. And good luck with your contributions to the mighty fine new blog, GROG.

















A young poet in character

The poet Naomi Shihab Nye edited the poetry anthology SALTING THE OCEAN, which is afloat with the vibrant writings of young poets. Like Nye, I think that attention paid to young poet voices can build peace, provide future strong leaders and just make any poet’s day.

If you agree, Poetry Out Loud,  is a brilliant program you may want to run out & connect with. I volunteered with POL recently & hope to help out more, next time around.

In the 1950s in my state, Florida, a Putlizer-Prize winning author thought about a young poet.

In doing so, the author created a character not seen often then. An elementary-age poet character. If you know of a recent (within 3 years or forthcoming) picture book or illustrated book (not YA, which pays tribute to teen poet charactersoften enough) for children that features a elementary age character who is a poet, I would like to know for my list.

In the meantime, young poet Calpurnia is a character to consider. She is inspired by her dog, to write poetry:


My dog’s name is Buggy-horse

         Of course.


Our young poet further writes:


Lovely day,

Come what may.

         If I did not love

                           my mother

                                    and my father


         I would run away.


                           it is a running-away

         Kind of day.



With the birds chit-chittering outside my open window


With the two kinds of azalea in the yard (native & exotic) nodding pink petals on the March breeze


With my Western cousins having just swept through town on their way home, enticing us with video of their kayak adventures among manatees, alligators and living whelks


feels like

a running-away day.

I can’t run.

Why –

just been away in Boston & then immediately after, Central Florida

hosting a critique meeting soon

have 3 essay deadlines

And mostly, my writing deserves this keyboard time.

But – if you are north of Garden Zone 8 &  your winter has lasted longer than usual this year, is it time for your running-away day?

I hope so, remembering the advice of one of my favorite writers for children, Cynthia Rylant, who said that instead of reading an interview with her online, a writer should probably go and play.


Did you guess the adult creator of the young poet who was inspired by her dog?

It is Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, in THE SECRET RIVER.

Timeless, lovely story, in each of its two editions:


THE SECRET RIVER  by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, illustrated by Leonard Weisgard

by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, illustrated by Leonard Weisgard



THE SECRET RIVER by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings illustrated by  Leo & Diane Dillon

THE SECRET RIVER by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
illustrated by
Leo & Diane Dillon






This time of year big black refrigerators of the woods, bears, still slumber in the United States.

Bear specialists tell us that here in Florida, they don’t enter a true hibernation.

A few published poems of mine are about black bears. That is fitting as these wild, grub and berry eaters and I have met up three times unexpectedly. I’m not looking for any more crossing of paths, except in literature.

When I pick up a poetry collection that is new to me, as I have with Lucille Clifton’s evocative BLESSING THE BOATS, I am drawn to any poem story that employs themes in my world, such as the Ursus topic.

BLESSING’s poem, “imagining bear” is dedicated to Alonzo Moore,  Sr., by Lucille Clifton.

In part, it reads:

imagine him too tall and too wide

for the entrance to the parlor  

imagine his hide gruff; the hair on him

grizzled even to his own hand  

imagine his odor surrounding him

rank and bittersweet as bark  

I am struck by this on a rainy Wednesday morning. An idea I ponder is how fur-bearing animals don’t catch colds, develop bronchitis, from routine soakings in the wild.  (Manatees can develop pneumonia.)

A character I have summoned and have put on an island is someone who I think of in bear metaphors.

Clifton’s bear and my bears,  new character and in poems  (Milkweed Editions, the one & two with The Journal of Florida Literature) aren’t the Orlando bears most associated with my state, the theme world entertainers.

Although, tenderly handling the ragged bear hand puppet that survived my childhood, I found a muse to bring me bear poems for little children.

In sober poems, bears frighten. They are prowlers.

As Clifton writes:

imagine his growl filling the wind  

Here is a review that does justice to Lucille Clifton’s BLESSING THE BOATS.


When I made a trip from Florida to visit a newsgal pal, Deborah, who lived in New York City in the 1980s, one day I arranged to ride a bus to one of the city’s most fascinating neighborhoods, Harlem.

Harlem is connected to Florida in many ways but especially because Zora Neale Hurston, James Weldon Johnson, Augusta Savage and other talented cultural icons we share about with our kiddos in school, home & at the library, went from Florida to NYC & then onward in their great careers.

At that time, the only place

for them to be

in NYC

was Harlem.

Our Harlem tour was mighty fine. I have news of a new tour, with these introductory words by poet Carole Boston Weatherford:

                                                Sugar Hill Sugar Hill

                                                Where life is sweet

                                               And the neighbors smile

                                                   At all they greet!

The is from a rhyming tribute to a part of Harlem, Sugar Hill elegantly portrayed in images by artist R. Gregory Christie.

Both the poet and illustrator have earned a block full of children’s literature awards.  Not only have I given some of their books as gifts, but I was also fortunate to hear Ms. Weatherford read her poetry once.

If you are like me, you’ll want to read more of the rhymes. Until you can find this brand new picture book, here are some of Christie sketches for SUGAR HILL, HARLEM’S HISTORIC NEIGHBORHOOD, through the courtesy of the artist and, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  Hope you book your tour.

Arnold Adoff’s LOVE LETTERS

It’s Valentine Time & Poetry Friday on Feb. 14, 2014,  all together in one big cookie.

For young readers in Kindergarten it will be lovely to share some verses from the picture book, LOVE LETTERS, by poet Arnold Adoff.

I will read the verses I know will get giggles, first.

But I think I will close the book with one for those minutes in school (or life) where we need a lift.

Dear Self:




How am I?




Fine I am: because

I am my

number one valentine.




~ Arnold Adoff

Arnold Adoff’s spacing is more poetic than I have represented above; my apologies because my keyboarding isn’t duplicating it.

Here is a previous Bookseedstudio post on the lovely LOVE LETTERS book, which shows off  images from the book’s artist,

a pal of mine in creative projects, Lisa Desimini:

Here at home my bizee hubby & I began celebrating Valentine’s Day last night.

We laughed for nearly two hours during the SPAMALOT musical.

I hope everyone finds a way to LOVEALOT, LAUGHALOT or even LIKEALOT.

There is more goodness at POETRY FRIDAY. hosted by TeacherDance.

Copyright © 2008-2014 · all rights reserved · Jan Godown Annino

© copyright Bookseedstudio Jan GodownAnnino

© copyright Bookseedstudio
Jan GodownAnnino

Asteroids, sheep, flower

I love where we live but this afternoon I have a strong urge to build a rocket and land it at the Morgan Library,

where our family has enjoyed hours among the giant rooms and manuscripts. Today I would dwell with materials curated by  Christine Nelson, about THE LITTLE PRINCE.

Since I won’t be doing that I’m pleased there are keystrokes and pixels to take me on a tour about how this book that enchanted me years ago and has not lost any charm, came to be.  The disappearance of the aviator /author/illustrator who gave his life while fighting against the Nazis is also covered. As are his New York City locales during his creation of the manuscript.

Maybe you will want to head to these starry Saint-Exupery sites  with me. THE LITTLE PRINCE appeared in

U.S.A.bookstores (1943) before arriving in his native France (1946.)



THE NEW YORK TIMES – In His Footsteps

THE NEW YORK TIMES – 70 Years On, Magic Concocted in NYC

Angel Island

Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty were important to  my family, where stories were told about my mother’s Irish and Danish relatives landing on U.S.A. shores.

As a Jersey gal for the first stretch of my child days, images of the outstretched arm and golden lamp were more tangible than other U.S.A. icons, say, for example, Mount Rushmore, or the Golden Gate Bridge.

Our collective U.S.A. heritage includes another immigration station, Angel Island. It is this Western shore processing area that a book including poems translated by Evans Chen, for ages 7-12, now visits. The historic poems by immigrants are presented by the noted non-fiction researcher/writer for young readers, Russell Freedman. I am grateful to know about it, through two librarians, known as The Nonfiction Detectives.

Listen up:

“For more than twenty days I fed on wind and tasted waves.

With luck, I arrived safely in the United States.

I thought I could land in a few days.

How was I to know that I would become a prisoner

                                                                             suffering in this wooden building?”


As The Nonfiction Detectives explains, poetry on forgotten walls led to this book. It was only through the interest of a California park ranger, Alexander Weiss, who discovered the priceless expressions and alerted the Asian community to rally to save the works, that the wider world now can know of them through this book.

The immigrants’ journey across the Pacific is covered in non-poetry text, along with the role of Angel Island. The RF trademark,  historic black and white documentary photographs, are counterpoint to some of the immigrants’ saved poems. Unique.



Poetry Friday

Today is Friday, PoetryFriday! (Poetry Friday links are below)

Today, among the three or four mighty fine books I’ll have time to read in school as a BookPALS volunteer to five classes, I’ll share this favorite:


This is a fun calendar book from Ashley Wolff.  I am lucky to have met both Ms. Wolff & also, her sweet Lucy of times ago, who was the real model for many an Ashley Wolff book.  Each month brings us the pup, Lucy, in her first year of life.

The children I read to are keen to see how tiny Lucy is pictured  in January, compared to how big she has grown, romping in December’s snowy poem.  Much as they will shoot up there, in 2014, eh?

My favorite poem is August,  for a finicky feline reason:

“When Lucy goes out walking

In August’s muggy heat,

The neighbor cats all scatter

Up and down the street.

To and fro

Where’d they go?

In August’s mugggy heat.”

-Ashley Wolff

The art for this poem include orange kitties. So of course I am sure they are our Ginger cat.

If you would like to dwell more in  poetry for children, please take time today or this weekend to visit:

Ashley Wolff

Teaching Authors

Poetry Friday – today hosted by Donna at Mainely Write.

Poetry Friday is a weekly community of readers and writers in children’s literature. They remember their own childhood joy in knowing poetry. And now they are passing it on.


Miracle Mail

Miracle Mail  from  Bookseedstudio/ Jan Godown Annino

The entryway basket brims with these.

December card with lighted trees,  Tucson, AZ

December card with lighted trees, Tucson, AZ

Every holiday card in the palm frond basket is plucked from our ginormous black box at the end of our driveway.

As a child on my appointed rounds, as I ambled in the scratchy fields and skimmed along the sides of dark woods,

a mile post I liked to spot was a mailbox.

They marked entrances to private lanes that snaked through lands where fox, deer and raccoon ate.

When I came upon one or a few boxes collecting road dust, nailed to a weathered wood platform jammed in the ground at the side of our  very Rural Free Delivery route, I thought of them as treasure boxes.

Unlike other country children who made sport of opening boxes to deposit a bubble gum wrapper or to pronounce a distant postmark like

Kalamazoo, I never dared open any mailbox but our own.

My mother raised me to respect the privacy of the U.S. Mail.  I watched how, when her name wasn’t on the address, she wouldn’t open an envelope or package delivered to our mailbox. This held true for 3rd class mail, such as a seed catalogue offering money tree plants and gladiolus bulbs.

My mother was a former big city news reporter with a stunning supply of worldly knowledge, who in my child days met deadlines from her home office as a country weekly agricultural writer. She taught me that it was a FEDERAL OFFENSE to take anything out of a mailbox  that wasn’t ours.  She was the only mother who somehow had the scoop that the mailbox was part of the vast U.S. Postal system and  woe to those who would tamper with the  sanctity of the U.S. Mail.  She did mention jail.


With her pledge of allegiance to the letter law, she delivered  a gift to this mailbox watcher.

What was in those secret mailboxes? Could I guess?

In my mind the mailbox of the family with the dairy herd and egg-laying chickens got letters complaining about the manure smell.

Maybe our neighbor the airline pilot got tissue paper envelopes with slices of red white and blue around the border, indicating Air Mail from Los Angeles where they made the movies or London where Mary Poppins lived.

And our famous neighbor around on the other side of the fields and ravine woods, by a branch of the Raritan River, the cartoonist, maybe he received boxes of brilliant colored inks and pens.

These far-off thoughts return to me after days away for Holidays, as I resume my appointed rounds past mailboxes in North Florida urban woods. Sidewalks and good pavement smooth my way, instead of having to navigate rutted side of the road ditches. But most mailboxes look a lot like those of my kid  years in New Jersey, in black or silver tones. Ours aren’t locked boxes, as are so many today.

During the holidays, at a resort where went to see some mighty fine clear salty waters that held gentle giants, the manatees,  a woman saw me my reading one morning as I luxuriated in a wonderful newspaper that I don’t hold in my hands often enough, The Tampa Bay Times (formerly known as the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times. when I was a cub reporter there, just a teen.)

“Any good news in it?” she asked in a voice that said she doubted that.

I looked up from the resort lobby sofa to find a smiling open face on a woman with a blonde ponytail, who I judged to be about 45.

I smiled back, silent.  I was deep into an article about a thoughtful couple who recently lived for a month using only candlelight after dark.

The smell of print newspapers is like perfume to me. I fished her out the food and feature sections. They are almost guaranteed to carry between the two of them, hundreds of items, small and larger than small, that are good news.  And that’s every day.  I went back to my reading & thinking, before the start of a busy family day.

“Guess there never is any good news,” she continued.

Of course I looked again.

She hadn’t picked up the sections I offered.

“Oh, there is good news in the paper every day, “ I said, pleasantly. I looked down to the sections on the sofa cushion that separated us.

The face that looked back said she didn’t buy that. So I mentioned club news and fun events in the parks and birthday announcements and parties to go to and charity successes and new recipes and Good Samaritan stories. A mailbox full of good news, if you read each piece.

“They always point out the bad,” she went on, ignoring my idea.

So I said, pleasantly, “Maybe it’s that people choose to remember the bad news. Or…” I looked at the languishing sections I had offered, ”…they don’t even read the good news.”  I went back to my reading. I saw her later, filling a to- go coffee in the lobby and wished her a good new year.

When I walk in my neighborhood I notice the flower beds and bikes left in the yard and cats snug against a warm back tire. Remembering F.R.D,

I also like to look at the mailboxes.

Good news # 1.  Almost every mailbox recently held a card of good cheer. Some mailboxes, like ours,  delivered MANY cards of good cheer:

Good news #2.  Isn’t an unlocked mailbox that it opened only by those entitled to, a daily miracle of  the mail? Send someone a treasured family photograph from the good old days, or a box of homemade cookies. Or mail a handmade bookmark, a crayon drawing, a postcard from vacation. Know that your postal mail won’t be tampered with, part of a social experiment that dates back to Ben Franklin (and the establishment of the U.S. Mail P.O. Department in 1792 following his becoming postmaster in 1775.)

Good news #3  If you live in a neighborhood where the mailboxes are locked up because the mail stands a large chance of being tampered with, know that there are still  hundreds, maybe thousands of zip codes (there are more than 42,000 U.S.A. zips according to Wikipedia) where the door to your old-fashioned mail box can hang ajar, even full frontal open, with contents vulnerable inside and yet the most human tampering that will be done is a gentle shoving of the door closed, by some neighbor, on her appointed rounds.

Happy postal mail, happy new year.

In the company of trees

Think of your strong images of trees.

Climbing? Jumping from them? Picking pears from low branches? I am fortunate to know days of those sports. Here are more leaves of this memory scrapbook –

Palms bowing down against the wet sluice of hurricanes.

Brown hairs of Resurrection Fern transforming to lime green after rain.

Morning glory vines traveling up a tree trunk, in purple bloom

Imagining the scattered community Champion trees of Florida & delighting in knowing the giant grove our trees across the state cumulatively contribute, to the national compilation.

An open air performance of my one-act play about visionary Laura Jepsen, under a live oak tree named Lichgate Oak, the tree that Laura Jepsen saved in Lichgate Park.

A bouquet of  shiny magnolia leaves, forevermore evergreen, to editor & writer Nancy Adams, who wrote a journal entry about memories of trees, which brought me to focus my thoughts beyond the annual Christmas tree hunt.

Closing with exuberant wishes for a great Christmas season & also with my photographs of three beloved Florida trees-

Fishing net and lights tree of Cedar Key

Doll tree at Dania/Hollywood of the Seminole Tribe of Florida

Beloved, legendary Lichgate Oak, Tallahassee . All photographs c. Jan Godown Annino


Gratitude in this latitude

Haiku poems offer the reader stories in three little lines.

For this time of gratitude, here  are Thankus,

Haiku poems of thanks. I am fortunate to know about

THANKUS from poet April Halprin Wayland.



Giving Thanks #1

by Jan Godown Annino

Run red hills and dale

Not found in Sarasota

We are like Georgia

"Betty Mae" by Pat

“Betty Mae” by Pat

Giving thanks #2

by Jan Godown Annino

A gift from grade school

Impressive alligator

Glad it is paper


I still like paper

I Still Like Paper

I am playing around with a parade of poems that might true up into a collection, one that has pieces for families & their young kiddos.

A poem that may not fit, because it is not silly enough,  but still, I like it,  is  “Thinking Cap.”

Thinking Cap

My aunts and mother loved poetry

They rhymed in time

About bugs

Like Emily’s bees

They recited verse from good to worse

Their performance tickled me

“The Quangle Wangle’s Hat”

by Edward Lear

Was one they held especially dear

They hooted at the way

Critters climbed the hat

And sat

And sat

Now when I feel unfunny

Or if I need some honey

I put on my thinking cap

And feel the memory –

Their performance of

That hat

That hat

- Jan Annino Godown

If you take poetry chapbooks along for travel reading you know they impress older folks, who begin to talk about poetry recitation/elocution/memorization assignments of their Youth. Here are two collections I keep close by on my shelves. And then I pick them up for travel around town or across the states.

Natasha Trethewey  NATIVE GUARD

“…jailors to those who still would have us slaves. They are cautious, dreading the sight of us…”

The biography of Sonia Sotomayer, a photographic history of Florida in the Great Depression & Jimmy Carter’s novel about the American Revolution are among my recent, non-poetry, bedside reads. So maybe it follows that in chapbooks I will migrate to ones that collect real & imagined memories of family & history.

Natasha Trethewey’s NATIVE GUARD marches into my heart with the news that in the Civil War, units formed up beginning in 1862 of black U.S. Army soldiers that would eventually guard Confederate  P.O.W.s  This tinderbox, combined with the author’s own Mississippi heritage of being born to a mixed-race couple at a time when that was illegal, helps form the drumbeat for a stark collection that references Faulkner, the Civil War Diary of Col. Nathan W. Daniels, Nina Simone, Winslow Homer & the murder of this poet’s mother when Natasha Trethewey was only 19. It is not easy to put down, unless it is to stare off  & think long & hard. NATIVE GUARD earned a 2007 Pulitzer Prize. And Trethewey was appointed U.S. Poet Laureate.

Nancy Willard  IN THE SALT MARSH

“My mother’s sisters knew the art

of telling tales, and lies so new

all those who heard them called them true”

Here in North Florida, the Gulf of Mexico coast curves like a dancer’s outstretched arm. A marsh grass shoreline evolves, not good for beach blankets. The rhythms of this Other Coast are described by Jack & Ann Rudloe, Susan Cerulean, Bruce Means & Ellie Whitney, among others.  Their non-fiction about this land dimples my bookshelf with a shallow curve, an echo of the treasured salt grass fringe. IN THE SALT MARSH, poems titled “Deer Skull,” “The Sandbar,” and “The Ladybugs,” could have been inspired from our region.  My favorites, “Houses,” (the fragment above) and “The Way She Left Us,” feel as if the poet is a relative who limned people I loved for these lines. Nancy Willard is from Michigan. She created a 1985 novel set in the 1940s that imagined baseball luminaries in an unusual game,  (before the A Field of Dreams movie arrived, adapted from Shoeless Joe.) Her writing has won the O. Henry Award, the Newbery Award, & the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award. She is a retired Vassar professor.  I found her through  children’s poetry & stories that she is beloved for, and continue to learn from her in her guides to writing (especially TELLING TIME), her adult poems, fiction, & her other magic, line drawings.

If you are still with me, when I came through recent astigmatism & cataract surgery (never better, thanks to a precision surgeon & staff) it was a soft notebook of thirsty, flecked, rag paper & a gaggle of pencils & pens that kept my ideas from racing away, before I could return to the glarish (is that a word? glare + garish) computer screen. So, I Still Like Paper, and think that I always will.

artwork c. Nancy Willard from an autograph on TELLING TIME

artwork c. Nancy Willard
from an autograph on TELLING TIME

Detour for the Sotomayor Kids


It runs in families, como una maldicion


The stories of Greek gods and heroes sustained me

that summer and beyond


In a room all closed up in glass

 a man stood breaking necks

one after another

and a machine plucked the feathers


Junior and I sat on the floor

surrounded by piles of books

like explorers at the base of Everest


The feeling of the poem

came through


in the music of Abuelita’s voice

and in the look of faraway longing

in the faces of her listeners


…in Abuelita’s

joyful generosity

her passion for life and poetry

her power to heal


Such strong women are no rarity in our culture

— found poetry, from MY BELOVED WORLD by Sonia Sotomayor, United States Supreme Court Justice

My favorite October read is about the only Supreme Court Justice who mixed supremely well with both the Fendi women of Italy and, the fiambrera women of Puerto Rico who packed lunchpails, fiambreras, for their families. What made the difference in the lives of Junior, and his big sister, Sonia? They were from the Bronx, once nicknamed Fort Apache, the sidewalks, playgrounds and school yards were so much a war zone during their childhoods.

Attend Dr. Barbara Heusel’s  outstanding book talk. Read the justice’s unflinching autobiography as an outsider at Princeton and Yale and a rookie prosecutor in New York City. Share with  younger readers  her story by Jonah Winter, with artwork from Edel Rodriguez,


Poetry Friday in October

Poetry Friday in October

It is easy in October

To forget the clover

Of the summertime shade

As the pumpkin candles flicker

And our steps are going quicker

Find a bit of bookade with the poetry of these days


Presenting a Poetry Friday collection of select  silly Halloween Read Alouds. enjoy!




The mystery is history

The mystery is history


About now in the school year a search is on.

Students round up a few likely suspects:

They probe into their past. And they

create a short script, or construct a table display

or write an essay about the object of their attention.

If they are passionate and well-informed and are favored

by the local, regional and state judges, they find

themselves in our nation’s capital for the National

History Day Fair.

A shake of the dance rattle  (traditional turtle shell or

modern day metal can) please, as I mention with

pride that this time around Betty Mae Tiger Jumper,

is highlighted as a worthy subject.

She receives a fine digital shout out directed at students:

Will students look closer at the woman who authorized me to

tell her story to younger readers?

Because she wrestled alligators, she grabs attention. For grade school

age,  a creative collaboration produced the gold medal, Florida Book

Awards title, She Sang Promise: The Story of Betty Mae Jumper.

It features a letter to readers from her son, Moses Jumper, Jr. and illustrations from Lisa Desimini, with  my text vetted by

the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

What pulls middle grade students in is that Betty Mae began

kindergarten at middle school age.

High school researchers may want to explore death threats

she survived, her election as the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s

first woman leader, her role in forming a four-tribe coalition

to speak with one voice. her appointment to a presidential


The 2014 national theme on rights and responsibilities is a smooth fit

for this trailblazer.

Brava! Betty Mae Tiger Jumper. Added to a list of

non-Native men and women who our nation’s students have presented

on, since at least 1974.


all images copyrighted by the author

PLUS – an additional resource from this site (any returning readers, apologies for the previous non-working link) is:

Reading by firefly light

Reading by firefly light

The lights of my childhood summers were sunset light, full moon light,

shore cottage porch light and then after we moved to Florida, phosphorescent


You may remember the glow of other summer lights- campfire light,

lantern light…

Because we are enjoying recurring deluges of rain this summer – welcome by

Paolo & me as we reap extra time & dimes, not watering our basil & such – I do miss

seeing the flicker of fire flies. So I mind-conjure fire fly light as a reading lumens.

My titles listed here, all done or recently begun, are all recommended.

Two beautiful picture books in a series, by teacher & writer Kate Messner, with under the sea artwork from Andy Rash, Sea Monster and the Bossy Fish, and,

Sea Monster’s First Day.

A non-fiction photo-illustrated historical look at Florida in  tough times, Florida

in the Great Depression, by Nick Wynne and Joeseph Kentsch.

J.K. Rowling’s secret not kept: The Cuckoo’s Calling, which I’ve just begun & am

page-turning, page-turning.

Summer of the Dragon, a non-fiction story and guide to a little-known Florida garden and how it grew big, by Don Goodman. And another Florida non-fiction guide by prolific author, Doug Alderson, The Great Florida Seminole Trail.

Heart of Palm evokes an undeveloped northeast Florida intracoastal zone, which I last loved reading about in Connie May Fowler’s first novel, River of Hidden Dreams, which meanders into an unspoiled jungle, after beginning in South Florida. The new newcomer, by first-time novelist Laura Lee Smith, is heart-wrenching & bound to launch her literary light. I would enjoy seeing Fowler interview Smith.

Artifact by Gigi Pandian, which, like the Rowling novel, is a mystery I’ve just begun. I find that my fingers, in cooperation with my avid eyes, are page-turning, page-turning

Diane Ackerman’s The Zookeeper’s Wife, a non-fiction visit with the extraordinary Zabinski Family. They worked with animals by profession and saved at least 300 people in Warsaw through their compassionate cunning, during the torture and attempt to annihilate Jews at the time of The Holocaust.

A Stopover in Venice, an art-intrigue novel by Kathryn Walker, which exquisitely extended to me the bright atmosphere of a stopover with Paolo in the history-whispering, water-dunked, jigsaw puzzle jewel box city. (I thank my college student daughter for introducing me to these last two titles.)

The Key West food critic series placed, appetizingly on my summer menu, Topped Chef, by Lucy Burdette, who provides a savory who-done-it, with recipes, too.

And Volume 4 of the story collection, knowonder! for families, drew me in with the hamster cover & kept me reading for the tale I know best, which follows a frequent flier, Lucinda, in  “The Tooth Fairy and The Sandman,” a fun read from Debra Katz.

Summer salads

Summer salads

We are full into summer.

It is fecund and tasty.

The last of three summer

presentations is upcoming soon.

And I’m happy to be at work with

the boost of pals in three writing


I’ll see you in September!

The images (C. copyrighted as is all material here)

are from summer fun – more trips to come!


May Days of Book Play

My cat isn’t literary.

He drapes his tube body of orange-ginger fur across my belly as I fall into the latest page turner (in this case a journal, The Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Journal of Florida Literature). And, I decide that the smile Ginger’s mouth makes, is from absorbing my joy in reading.

Each spring I am reminded that beginning readers are full of joy for reading.

These big readers and future writer pixies have  ways to let me know they are well-launched into becoming among the billions on the planet who will always love literature.

Always. Love. Literature.

I visit regularly all school year  in first grade. Their devoted teachers read to them in school. But literature comes alive even more,  if a real, live published writer visits and share excitement for the power of words.

Near  the end of the school  students I spend time with sent drawings & love letters. (below_

Fur first, In celebration of the literature world’s annual CHILDRENS’ BOOK WEEK our local library was very involved and listed.

As a salute to the high energy program that puts me in schools, BOOKPALS, please know about:

Now, some gems from a gigantic group of literary love letters, with creative spellings included.



“Book Bear Book Bear, come (com) out!”

With this, the child drew a purple Book Bear puppet, which I bring to each reading session. The bear puppet reads to his little pal, Kitty, while I read with the children.

“”Thank you for using the silly voices (voicees). When you use those voices (vosies), I would feeling a so good feeling.”

“Thank you for wearing costumes and for taking out book bear and kitty. “

“Thank you for reading funny books.”

“I love all the things you did for us! I love it when you wear costumes! And I love it when you helped us learn a lot this year!”

“Thank you for helping us learn more about reading. Because you read like an author.”

“When you read about the Dog Detective (Ditectiv) it was a good book. Thank you for using silly voices.”

“Thank you for all the wonderful books you read us but my favorite was Splat the Cat.”

“LOVE! books.”

“My favorite book is The Bed Book.”

“What I like about you you read good books.”

Their joy in the deliciousness of words tickles me.  I hope the children will enjoy a summer full of good words, because our  library system has such a fun summer-long program planned.

And  older siblings or grownups – please help young ones ride the bus, or walk or drive, to our wonderful main library and branches. Or perhaps they will be reading in their school’s summer camp. Or, even at home…. I know a neighborhood  in town that is lucky enough to have a grass-roots, kids, street library:


Six Images of Italy – after a once in a lifetime holiday

images c. Jan Godown Annino, all rights reserved

Dr. Seuss trees in RomeImage

The Coliseum cat, Nero, a friend of our fabulous night guide Federica from Dark Rome Tours.


The Vatican cat, who my daughter spied during the visit with our fabulous night guide Diamendo.


Comforting words in Italy, easing guilt for my poor Italian vocab.


On one of our night walks – Venice.


Dr. Seuss stairs to marvel over in Cinque Terre!


Now, my morning sip is a particular green tea.

I wrinkle my nose at most seafood (fresh stone crab claws & Gulf of Mexico fresh shrimp, excepted) or wild meats.

I snap whole grain spaghetti into the pot here at home & sprinkle soy or rice cheese for topping on my portion.

So why the big grin on my face following three weeks of cappuccino (even espresso) mornings in Italy? Followed later by real lunches complimented with heavy dinners (antipasti, first course of pasta, main course, side dish, dessert) that begin after 8 & nights that end at 2 a.m.?

I loved eating & traveling Italian style for three weeks, although the squid-ink black pasta I bought in our Siena, Italy grocery store will not darken my pot;   my Italian mother-in-law in Florida will have fun with that.

After this dreamstate anniversary, birthday, mother’s day, fathers day, Italian ferie, ferie, ferie (holiday, holiday, holiday) trip, my neurons are firing well, on Europe time.

Today I woke up at 2:30 a.m.  & have been working since 3:30 a.m.  still without a nap now at 7:30 p.m.  I’m reading blogs I’ve missed, checking in on facebook & seeing in gosh-wonderful print, a book I’ve enjoyed in workshop, my critique partner’s newly released novel from Turtle Cove Press

There’s a June deadline to pay attention to for an online journal article.

I’m cutting paper for my signature recycled bookmarks to give out at Monday’s panel on writing books at our local library.

And the next day I get gussied up & read lively picture books with one of my favorite first grades via BookPals, which I’m so proud to be part this week of in our 20th anniversary national celebration.

We are cosseted back at home with a healthy pasta salad from my dear friend, neighbor and critique partner, Ann. Our street is green, my roses are abloom in the front & back, my blueberries have so far stayed on the bush & the lemons are no longer pungent tiny flowers. They morphed into cute little green ovals while we were off in serious citrus land,  quenching thirst with fresh blood red orange juices, squeezed before our eyes in lively bars.

The cat is healthy, the longest lived aquarium fish is alive & I treated the red rat snake to a fine meal (details withheld.)

My travel doodles, meal notes, impressions of Italy are jotted. Ideas for writing poured out the last days before we left our borrowed Rome garden for own garden at home. I still feel as if I’m traveling, in my own city, even in my own yard, where I am,  Happy To Be Here.


The “p” in April is for ?

The P in April is for ?

We played a game in our family that involved verses.

When I was six, seven, eight, my Aunt Florence if she was visiting,

but more often my mother, would point to me.

Then began the count, out loud: “ 1, 2, 3….

By 10, I had to start saying a nursery rhyme or poem.

I never saw a purple cow

I never hope to see one…

Then it would be my turn to point to one of them and count,

“1,2, 3…”

O captain, my captain…”

Woodman spare that tree…”

The Owl and the Pussycat went to sea…” 

That Edward Lear ditty would be recited by Aunt Florence, who would give her other kidney in transplant to a cat if it would have prolonged the pampered life she provided her felines.

It would seem silly to the sisters, Florence, Marian and Lilly, to create only one month for poetry, when limericks, light verse & poetry, including patriotic ballads, filled a walloping large part of their world.

Today it might take a college poetry class to inveigle a young person to memorize a poem. But the gals finished their high school learning that poetry is meant to be heard. They carried their memorized recitations, declamations & elocutions with them, & shared them as portable nourishment all their days.

With the memories of those performances as part of my literary legacy, I was thrilled this month to visit a public school & find that a first grade teacher I’ve always suspected of being wildly creative, intends to lead her class in learning by heart one poem ( Shel Silverstein’s -“Sick.”) Not only will her wiggly ones be challenged to recite it, but they will also be asked to create their own list poem about sick days they have experienced & to create other responses.  If there is a National Poetry Foundation or Library of Congress poetry honor for school teachers, I want to nominate her.

Also in this poetry month I was surprised to hear writer Laura Lascarso asking me for a poem as we chatted together at our downtown spring festival.

I expected to send her one on a Florida topic that is to be published later this year in a small journal. But instead I found that the hard-worked farm across the road from me in my child years before Florida, sprang to mind. I wrote a new poem thinking of that farm; the result, not light verse, is “April is Open.” I invite you to read it and please leave a word or two about it on Laura’s site.

I started poetry month with the gift of a how-to book intended for younger writers, WRITE A POEM, by JoAnn Early Macken.

I wish Aunt Florence were around to appreciate like I do, the  lines:

Scratchy cat

looking for a rat

leaps to the window


I thank JoAnn Early Macken for this guide, which brings with it a plan, tools and model poems that are sure to lure words out of little ones and into the lines of poems . She shares with us that her verse above originally was this:

Scratchy cat

in the window sat

wearing a hat

looking for rats

and then she is patient in illuminating the substance of how & why the revised lines sound better. When I am done devouring her guide (I’ve read it once & I like to read books three times through if they are the kind to inhale,) I think WRITE A POEM is headed over to a certain first grade poetry palace.

Question answer: Although the P in April is for poetry, it is also for performance.

March on!

March on!

As a writer for the inaugural North America-wide celebration of

girl power, known forever now as


I’m here to say, who knew? Who knew the discovered details of

these overlooked lives,

& their stunning superior accomplishments? Who? Who?

Your writers did. Your anonymous, and sometimes,

famous, researching & writing

children’s writers, they knew. And generously, they share.

This classy site, as curated by children’s literature specialists, is a gift to receive.

It’s a free online basket of treasures that also includes commentary, essays &

reviews from our literature community’s top speakers.

Expect a few more topical words from me later in this glorious month.

The image?  The groovy and still saved after all this time, 2011 opening year bling, a megawatt magnet.


Creative juice


What makes the creative juice flow?

It can be walking in silence at the end of a fire drill line of kids who have their quiet fingers held up to their lips, walking with them out the school door on a drill, walking behind the boy who imagines with the other hand he is spraying water on the roof.

Or, it can be, while pushing against wind on the beach, looking out on the rough Atlantic Ocean and expansive sky to watch one tiny bird during a long time, making no progress against stiff wind.  But, still, the bird flaps.

Some times when I need a boost, facing the blank paper page or the white screen, I will turn to a book from a side table, or my shelves or maybe it’s on the floor.  And most often the book has images, not just words.

This month the go-go juice images burble from Mo Willems’


Daily on a looooooong journey, the young talent who would become an Emmy (for Sesame Street writing) and Caldecott-winner, kept a sketch diary. Right there – that dedication to a task,  it’s a model of the passion inherent in winners. He can’t keep from doodling with a purpose. And so daily on the trek, he collected one image that struck him the most & created a fast cartoon of it, with a line of notes.  I especially return to his quick record of the small boy in big Cairo who he saw watering a tree on a public street, as if it were his own.  Makes my heart melt.