Flora & Ulysses

 

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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

http://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/2014/jul/29/kate-dicamillo-flora-and-ulysses-guardian-childrens-fiction-book-prize-2014

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

http://www.onbeing.org/program/wild-love-world/feature/go-limits-your-longing/1448

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

http://www.goodreadswithronna.com/2013/10/25/interview-k-g-campbell-illustrator-flora-ulysses/

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

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

JUNIOR POETS LIST

Lucky to meet

Zuri, Ratchet, Jack

poets who

hope

cry

laugh

love

in words on the page

Their names collected

on

JUNOR POETS page.

 

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

real

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

A:

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:

WRITING PROCESS I

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:

Interviews

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.

 

WRITING PROCESS II

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?

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.

         Because

                           it is a running-away

         Kind of day.

from THE SECRET RIVER

 

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

It

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

THE SECRET RIVER
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

 

 

 

 

SUGAR HILL

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.

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:

WHEN LUCY GOES OUT WALKING.

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.