Lee Bennett Hopkins, please

Poetry Friday percolates perfectly at READING TO THE CORE this week.

It is a good week at Bookseedstudio.
With permission from generous educator and poet,
Lee Bennett Hopkins,
some of his words on poetry are here today.

Also gathered today are
three recent poetry links,
important to me. They appear after
the words from LBH.

Lee Bennett Hopkins, briefly, on the Poet, on Poetry

A poet is, in the narrowest sense, a maker of verses.
A poet is also imaginative in thought, expressive in
language, and graceful in form.

Good poetry is imaginative. It deals with emotion and has
significance beyond the act of creation. It uses figurative
language, yet is compact in thought and expression. Good
poetry has an element of beauty and truth which appears
unstable outside of the poem.

Poetry both predates and transcends the written word.
It is the rhythmic expression of imaginative thoughts
about our world and its people. –
Lee Bennett Hopkins

I will dwell with those thoughts this weekend.

The awards for the winner and honor books
in the 2016 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award for Children
were given this week at Penn State.
The Honor Books are
MY SENECA VILLAGE by Marilyn Nelson
HYPNOTIZE A TIGER by Calef Brown
with Winner,
ENCHANTED AIR by magical poet Margarita Engle.
These winning titles shine like moonbeams on my reading list.

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Three links, promised above, are

A Sept. 19, 2016 online celebration of LBH,
where he shares a bit about his 2017
title due from Lee & Low.

A septercet poem, attempted. The
septercet is a classy form
originated by wondrous Jane Yolen.

An explainer of the septercet form,
as covered at TODAY’s LITTLE DITTY,
treasured blog that is celebrating
septercet creator Jane Yolen
this very month. Look sharp,
the septercet challenge is offered
near the end of the informative
post.

This very week here in Florida,
I presented assemblies
to about 80 attentive
4th graders & also to their pals,
about 100 attentive 5th graders.
I snuck in a little poetry appreciation,
too, although the talk was about
non-fiction research
& writing, of the
non-poetry flavor.

Finally, here I am back at Poetry Friday.
Yes, a good week.

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Pete’s Dragon, August 2016 movie

Pete’s Dragon, yes!

 

 

The whys:

I left the movie wanting to
climb a tree.

A key part of the plot is that
a child reads & rereads & rereads….
a specific picture book that is very important to him.

Music & lyrics sound as if they are
from a mighty fine acoustical concert.

Legends & myths are some of my
favorite literary tropes.

Respect for imagination, forests & loyalty that is deserving, are to be appreciated.

The child actor, Oakes Fegley, is exceptional.

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So, too are the special effects to make
the facial expressions of Elliot (the dragon)
seem real.

All the key actors are quite spiffy in
their roles. It’s cool to see
Robert Redford comfortable in his
good-lookin’ older guy skin as a
neighborhood storyteller.

Wood whittling. Not a lot, so get there
on time.

I award a nest of green pixie dust
to the creative maker, David Lowery. Bravo!

This was a movie I was too busy to see.
But when I read this  USA TODAY feature, I was motivated to get myself into the theater.

 

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.

 

Workshop Friday/MLK Jr. Weekend

I prowl around for prompts.

And so I found inspiration in HEART TO HEART, edited by Jan Greenberg.

This collection of visual art features  poems created by writers who feel a connection to a work of art.   When I paged to  Faith Ringgold’s art and  Angela Johnson’s poem, “From Above” I felt a tingle. Angela’s poem is inspired by Faith Ringgold picture book, TAR BEACH, a favorite I pulled right off my shelf. I turned  to the starry night, rooftop image in the poem, and  luxuriated in reading both the poet’s words and the artist’s words, seeing the artist’s images, and then I reread the whole story.

Next I pulled from my shelves other titles, centering on the theme of honoring good stories featuring African-Americans, both in fiction and non-fiction genres.

Thus arrived my recent Friday workshop for writers I collect with regularly.

We each selected a  book rich with images. Then we each selected a work of art within that picture book. And then we started a  poem, with the artwork as catalyst.

The title that pulled me to it centers on a theme involving slavery and emancipation that I haven’t seen much about.  The story is WALKING HOME TO ROSIE LEE by A. LaFaye, an author whose historical fiction is a valued staple on my shelves. And we are colleagues, through the Hollins University MFA Children’s Lit. program.  This picture book is illustrated by Keith D. Shepherd. I selected a ROSIE LEE scene where the child character finds his mother. This unfolds in the confusion following Emancipation, when many families searched tirelessly to re-create as whole as possible, their families that had been harshly separated by slavery.

“A Pie So Sweet” by Jan Godown Annino

I remember the exact smell when I found Mama

Walking for days and days, I didn’t find much sweetness in that air

until a lady set a pie out on a window

but the breeze must have decided to carry the scent of those fresh hot blueberries the other way

because I didn’t smell anything

Still, I came down that big hill, closer to  the bottom and that big hotel

until I saw her eyes still sweet gray like a kitten

and a scarf at her neck still covering something not sweet –

the scar from when she tried to run for Freedom and they brought her back by dragging her

but she survived that

Now came this day

It’s Freedom Day

The end of my walking to find Mama, baker of sweet pies

It was the pie that found me my Mama

A pie so sweet

Workshop Friday books:

Mama Miti  Donna Jo Napoli/Kadir Nelson

Aunt Harriet’s Underground Railroad in the Sky    Faith Ringgold

Planting The Trees of Kenya Claire A. Nivola

Tar Beach  Faith Ringgold

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice  Philip Hoose

Walking Home to Rosie Lee     A LaFaye/ Keith D. Shepherd

Martin’s Big Words           Doreen Rappaport/Bryan Collier

Always My Dad    Sharon Dennis Wyeth/Raul Colon

SIT-IN   Andrea Davis Pinkney/Brian Pinkney

The Story of Ruby Bridges  Robert Coles/George Ford

The catalytic book is HEART TO HEART, edited by Jan Greenberg.

Update: Bookseedstudio is proud to direct you to the

THE KING CENTER IMAGING PROJECT

3 A’s

APALACHICOLA. AUGUSTINE, ST. & the ALA

Collecting here, 3 A+ events. PLUS Happy National Day on Writing.

APALACHICOLA, up first. My husband caught a redfish! From shore.

JACK RUDLOE

Everyone caught on, to the idea that Apalachicola, Florida, tucked with salt into the river and bay and estuary of the same name, is a mighty fine place to hold a Florida literary festival.

It is a delight to walk inside tberestored Ormond House, where my hubby & I once stayed overnight during the life it led as a stately B & B. It was also equally grand to stroll into the beautiful restoration work-in-progress Raney House & imagine voices of times past.

It even much more cause for delight to be presenting at the restored Fry- Conter House & see a child-height book case. And to realize that this displays, like peacock feathers, large colorful illustrated books. And to understand that this bookcase is like at least 30 given to regional children via a mighty fine program. Celebrated at “Autumn-Authors in Apalachicola.”

This mission of the Franklin County/Apalachicola outpost of the national program, Bring Me a Book, is reason to walk with a spring in your step. The best books given to those wee readers who need it most. The furniture to help keep books tidy and to show appreciation

67 Commerce Street

for the treasure. A piece of furniture that doubly serves as perfect picture frame, to showcase the picture book cover art.  Furniture that helps the offenders serving prison time locally, who craft the bookcases for young minds. What better place to learn about this synergistic effort, than the historic Fry Conter House, restored, answering to the name, Apalachicola Museum of Art.

The festival is the beneficiary of so much effort from Apalachicola’s Head Reader Caty Greene, who writes with great style . Thanks be also to Dale Julian, maven of Downtown Books & Purl, plus other workers & doers.

HISTORIC ST. AUGUSTINE

SO on the other coast, know about the Florida Heritage Book Awards, where I was fortunate to meet Lucy Anne Hurston.  I treasure her book, about her aunt, the multi-accomplished author Ms. Zora, who I denote here as an anthropologist. It  is important to underscore her work in the field, as armor against the idea of Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott,  to dissuade bright minds from concentrating their studies in this field of endeavor.

I gnashed my teeth over missing  Ms. Lucy Anne Hurston’s presentation due entirely to my own fault of yapping with folks at the wrong time & not keeping track of the flow of things, but am not missing the chance to dwell in her book. It is a beauty of design, research & information. Please read it & enjoy the pull -out fascimile manuscripts, letters, notes & what have you, shared so generously in SPEAK SO YOU CAN SPEAK AGAIN: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston. It is from Lucy Anne Hurston and the estate of Zora Neale Hurston. It helps a reader understand Mz. Zora’s hurculean accomplisments in an up-close way. You will tingle. The Christmas cards she drew and sent are priceless, along with everything else, including singed papers recovered when workmen cleared out her home after her death. This is a museum between covers, what it would take a researcher a lifetime to accumulate, in one treasure box of a book. Find an interview with Lucy Anne Hurston here. The book contains a CD with Zora Neale Hurston excerpts.

SPEAK SO YOU CAN SPEAK AGAIN: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston by Lucy Anne Hurston and the Estate of Zora Neale Hurston

Next on the agenda, reuniting with parts of my past  – both at the conference and offsite in a home visit to a friend of days ago who with her devoted hubby, is busy raising a new set of young readers whilst watching the family teen readers spread their wings.  First up, esteemed University of Florida History professor emeritus Dr. Michael Gannon, who I enjoyed visiting with at a head banquet table. He is the prolific author of many manner of in-depth history books. Most easily consumed for novices to the peninsular topic is FLORIDA: A SHORT HISTORY.  A bonus is the CD twinned with this book; you hear his broadcaster voice, which is how I first came to know him, interviewing him as a student reporter, about his radio days past in St. Augustine.  Likewise it was an old times moment with a newsroom pal from days back, Randy White. The prolific creator of the famous derring-do character of the world, Doc Ford, introduced me to the talented pianist and chanteuse Wendy Webb, who creates a quite wonderful treasure trove of music.

It was a pleasure to spend time at the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Society table.

And to be finely hosted at my presentation by author Jane R. Wood, creator of an inventive middle grade novel series with history as its rich backdrop. Jane also whips us non-business type authors into shape with the publishing tips seminar she presents with her creative colleague Frances Keiser.

Whilst there for my presentation on Betty Mae Tiger Jumper and SHE SANG PROMISE, the picture book biography illustrated by Lisa Desimini,  I found my way to some uncommon views of the Ancient City (ongoing research for SCENIC DRIVING FLORIDA heritage travel guide, now in the 3rd ed.)

The plaque that  commemorates an courageous event that never should have happened. Thank you to writing colleague David Nolan, who I also missed seeing there with my yapping  & thanks to whoever else is responsible for this historic marker being in place today.  Having known about the harsh response to those toiling in the cause of Civil Rights – may their memories always be upheld –  I didn’t before inform myself exactly where the infamous pool incident unfolded. Now I know & I can more readily steer pals to a commercial site that holds this history- the Hilton, at city bayfront, near the lovely Bridge of Lions. Walk in, as parking is a bear.

A MOMENT for CALDECOTT

Tipped off by a  I also found my way through neighborhoods to the St. Augustine gravesite of Randoph Caldecott – gates closed. While a writer never needs a reason to return to the atmospheric & lovely St. Augustine, if one is required, that visit is part of my to-do list, next St. Augustine jaunt.

THE ALA –  not in Florida, again

WE hopped, skipped & jumped over to New Orleans & the colossal conference of some of the key upholders of our First Amendment, the folks of the American Library Association.

Most daily events were held in a building 1 and 1/3  mile long.  I learned this description at the spiffy early bird orientation, where I also found a cheerful publisher’s representative who knew of  the rural Cherryville to Quakertown, N.J. region, where I played in woods and fields as a beginning reader of comic books.

And there was almost an entire round table of enthusiastic USF information and library studies students playing the ice-breaker bingo game there, too. And well they should have been there as the esteemed professor, Dr. Henrietta Smith, former NYC children’s librarian, and longtime USF stalwart was honored at this ALA with the Virginia Hamilton Practioner Award for lifetime service award for her outstanding contributions to the library world through many decades.

Events glittered throughout at least 5 other venues, including the co-headquarters.

This Marriott at 555 Canal Street turned out to be a hotel filled with accommodating staff. (I hope you are reading this, Mr. Bill Marriott, who is a blogger of sorts – give that property an award.) My family & I were tickled to live on what turned out to be like a club floor, with the 2 pools & a giant deck & also, a room- with- a- view bend & stretch room all just steps away from our large, corner-view room. But of all the fine physical aspects of the hotel, we loved best the quiet of our room & the grand views from two picture windows. Well done, staff.

c. all rights reserved

To feel the geography of the region, we immediately headed to the mighty, muddy Mississippi River.

We crossed over to the community of Algiers on the no-frills public ferry as walk-ons. The commuter boats are said to have churned along on this route since 1827. We enjoyed a walk along the levee & gazed at a giant sculpture of mega-talent Louis Armstrong, commanding a big levee. We decided to dine on lip-smacking Creole dishes from the delicious kitchen of The Dry Dock Cafe, where we also bought a gift certificate for Paolo’s pal, (who was out of town) who was the gem of a person who tipped us off to this gem of a side trip. Our ferry ride back was ever better, as it was darker and thus, we enjoyed our approach to a lit riverfront view. We expect to linger longer in atmospheric Algiers on our next New Orleans’ visit.

c. all rights reserved

Next day, it was time to hop the red, Canal Street electric car (the one that says museums and NOT the one that takes you to a cemetery) & head to the enormous city park, with its miniature choo-choo train, carousel, sculpture garden, swans, boat rides & for our purpose – the New Orleans Museum of Art. Inside we learned about Edward Degas’ months living with & painting family, in New Orleans & we enjoyed his oil of his sister-in-law, who was blind.

We also were thrilled to see the exhibit of famous shoulder pins of the first woman who worked as the U.S. Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright. Not frippery say careful curator notes, which quote world leaders on how they assessed her shoulder pins (wasp or bee for tense times) to denote the mood of Madame Secretary.

We moved through galleries of Fabregre gems, viewed more astounding paintings from a variety of periods, saw sculpture, glassware, drawings, photography & installations. It was almost too much for the eyes & neurons to take in, but fortunately the legendary Brennan’s restaurant dynasty operates a stylish cafe on site & sit & sup on its aqua sofa facing a giant picture window over the city park, we composed our overloaded eyeballs.

I found Florida here. A finely made example of longshirt of the 1930s, created in lasting detail by a Seminole Indian fabric artist, who made it as everyday clothing for a man to wear in South Florida. I delight in having at hand in Bookseedstudio some of this sort of art in fabric  – a few pieces of modern Seminole Tribe of Florida patchwork.

c. all rights reserved

My favorite single object d’art at NOMA was the giant- format photograph of a retired NYPD officer. This sturdy individual lived in the museum with other retired of New York’s finest, 24/7. The now iconic image, by a talent who will remain unidentified here until I find my notes, was taken at the front of the lobby grand staircase to the second floor galleries. No NOMA art was lost after the August 28,2005 hell of water and wind that was Katrina, I was told. Many thanks to the Museum for hiring the art guards and to the NYPD retiree crew who lived with the art.

As I expected, response to the catastropic disaster wove itself with dignity and thought, through the ALA events.

For those who don’t follow this organization, you should know that it was one of the first groups to NOT cancel an already planned 2006 conference, when many booked convention groups were understandably uncertain about meeting in the devastated region.  And I heard more than once, that New Orleans will always & forever to eternity hold the ALA in high esteem bordering on love, for that.

The first panel I selected  was on the recovery of library service along the coast in Louisiana & Mississippi, following Hurricane Katrina (and also, Rita, the hurricane that followed Katrina.)

I was not the only one wiping away a stray tear when a community speaker, a library trustee, mind you, broke up at the start of  sharing about the aftermath of that event. Everyone appreciated his honesty. And he forged on with his talk, much the way I imagine that the sturdy citizens of the Gulf communities did. We lucky attendees benefited from the heartfelt sharing in this conversation.  I would have more on this here, but as is my habit, I unexpectedly gifted some place along the way with my notes, so Memory serves here. Many thanks to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, for its philanthropy regarding the importance of Books, Library services & community connectivity.

GI-normous LIBRARY OF CONGRESS-MOBILE

After this, events

continued to glow,

each one somehow wonderful in a different way from the next.

A shelf of images of my days of delight in being at ALA,  with gratitude to my publisher, National Geographic, which brought out  the book that brought me here, with fabulous artist Lisa Desimini. It is She Sang Promise: The Story of Betty Mae Jumper, Seminole Tribal Leader.  I also applaud the dedicated folks over at the Amelia Bloomer Project of the Social Responsibilities Round Table of the American Library Association.

Some Amelia Bloomer Breakfast folks – part C for “clear image”

The best parts of my participation in the breakfast that celebrated the 2011 Amelia Bloomer Project Book List, besides being able to meet & thank the industrious committee members in person, were:

listening to Margarita Engle speak with eloquence about The Firefly Letters, which I love; & also,

meeting the energetic Olga Cossi,  who sharees the opposite side of a particular discussion topic with me but has my huge respect for her life achievements. I am glad to have her sign, Pemba Sherpa.

This goes without saying & will sound shamelessly self-promotional, but I offer my almost favorite photograph of the weekend, of artist extraordinaire Lisa Desimini, presenting at the AB Breakfast on a book I know & love well. One great image of Lisa signing books with a writer nearby her has temporarily disappeared from my files & I plan to contact photographer-daughter who is featured on a bench, below,  to retrieve a copy.

At a separate ALA event, meeting Donna Jo Napoli & having her sign multiple books of hers that I brought from home was quite the ticket.  I am an unabashed fan of  children’s authors who write in great ways.

Some of the Amelia Bloomer Breakfast folks – part B – “blurry image”

The photograph of 3 folks was taken at a festivity, to salute, via our wearing of gold paper laurel wreaths,  this book on Greek legends & myths by Donna Jo Napoli, with museum quality artwork from Christina Balit.  Congratulations Donna Jo!

On the right is Beth Olshewsky of the 2011 Amelia Bloomer Project committee, with (center) celebrated author Donna Jo Napoli & on left, your blogger

My exterior party shots are more adequate, though. Here are some  F & Gs of the Greek legend goodness, Treasury of Greek Mythology,  propped up in the NG pub. party site window by the energeticNG party elfs.

That big black truck cab? Above? Somehow it drove away from this part of the blog. No it’s not a truck character for a picture book. (Although should it be? The lines this beauty drew – just for climbs into the shiny cab and a unique photo op! And also for a visit with rare & fun exhibits inside.)  The Library of Congress  takes this show on the road to rural areas.

c. all rights reserved

Do you know books are benches? The lovely model attending her first ALA, worked part-time in a Florida library this summer.

Mary Fears, Civil War re-enactor

Amanda Cockrell, left with my own self

It was beyond joy to unexpectedly be able to hug my longtime writing colleague, Mary Fears, an expert researcher on slave genealogy, a workshop leader on Civil War re-enactoring, and the prolific author of several books, plus a featured actor in the independent film, Filling the Gap, from Essence of History. How great to run into folks you know well at ALA! Equally beloved is Amanda Cockrell, director of the grad. progran in children’s literature at Hollins University, Roanoke, Va, who stopped by the Nat. Geo booth when looked fuzzy – at least to the camera. Librarians were eager to know about Amanda’s  YA novel, What We Keep Is Not Always What Will Stay, from Flux,   at the round table event earlier that day.  Most wonderful was the chance to indulge in quality time with artist extraordinaire LISA DESIMINI, who is, even as I type, creating new wonderfulness for not only children’s authors but writers of adult fiction.

People who attend conferences are lavished with goodies – most that I collected will be divided up.

A HIGHLIGHTS bag went to a writer I’ve known forever who is multi-published by that wonderful magazine. A SCHOLASTIC bag went to a writer I’ve also known forever who is pubished by them. And my favorite book that I snared at 2011 ALA, Trickster, I asked to have inscribed for the AH-TAH-THI-KI Museum at the Big Cypress Reservation, Florida. And it resides there now, the Museum curator confirms.

Trickster from Fulcrum. All tales are written, or retold, by American Indian/Native American authors

A few more words or images about 2011 ALA in New Orleans.

This is from an artfully designed 2010 collection of stories and photographs, New Orleans, from Seattle’s Chin Music Press (Broken Levee Books imprint) & also available at the 2011 ALA:

“There are a series of bumper stickers…

New Orleans: Proud to Call It Home

New Orleans: Proud to Crawl Home

New Orleans: Proud to Swim Home…:

PLUS – I was happy to find books for sale nearly everywhere I looked in the city, such as this collection of alligator-themed tomes at the clever Jackson Square toy emporium,  Little Toy Shop and this much-appreciated shop, Crescent City Books.

You can be a librarian?

Next to families, teachers, medical folks/other first responders,  & farm folks

(make mine mostly organic farm folk, please – ’twas what my Dad did)

librarians are who I feel  keep our civilization perking along.

Librarians defend books against censorship –

in polite ways, which isn’t always easy to do.

They are the lead characters in many true stories of childhood hours

rescued from inept/inadequate families.

And of course in families where all functions as it should,

libraries are like the cherry on top of the sundae, or they are like the bookmark nestled between the pages of the book, or like the surprise little gift package of book-plates by the dinner plate at the family dinner hour,  or like the timely family visit to the library

puppet show or No. That’s wrong. Librarians ARE the library puppet show…

REQUIREMENTS TO BE A LIRARIAN

A master’s degree in library science is suggested for many important library careers, but my friend from Girl Scout parent days is happy at work in our town library, as an aide/assistant, connecting the right book to the right child.

I’d like to share something about another keen library worker.

Young Adult/ Middle Grade novelist Adrian Fogelin, who is an award-winner for many of her titles, such as THE REAL QUESTION, CROSSING JORDAN, SISTER SPIDER KNOWS ALL & many others, is in fact a Sunday afternoon neighborhood librarian.

Check out her one-of-a-kind check-out system. It  makes me want to stand up and cheer!

This sweet news is courtesy of Danielle Smith, who creates the blog, There’s a Book!.

And you’ll find a FUN sing-along video with it, too!

I hope you’ll be glad that you looked at these books.

If awards are handed out for under-the-radish, non-fadish, unofficial library work,

Adrian Fogelin is your nominee.

Note: April 11, 2011 is the beginning of annual National Library Week.

Suggest to your favorite politician that we can’t do without our librarians.

fatty legs


“My father pulled open the door, and I stepped past him.
I was inside a school for the first time in my whole life.”
******************************************************
Margaret (Olemaun) Pokiak- Fenton & Christy Jordan-Fenton, co-authors,
FATTY LEGS: A TRUE STORY
104 pages, Ooriginal illustrations, photographic scrapbook, afterword
2011 USBBY Outstanding International Books Honor List
***************************************************************************************************************

Margaret Pokiak-Fenton & Christy Jordan-Fenton Artwork by Liz Amini-Holmes

By forcing her to wear harsh red stockings that bag around the legs, a teacher makes Olemaun (OO-lee-mawn) who is also known as Margaret, stick out in the crowd. Others are given snug black hose to buffer the Arctic chill.
The girls discard traditional fur-and-hide warm boots & hand- crafted clothes, for a thin uniform –  jumpers, shirts, and shoes.
Taunting begins for Margaret at this residential Catholic school, with her new nickname: fatty legs.
Putting Margaret in scarlet stockings that stick out is one of the minor attempted shames in this memoir for ages 9-12, about leaving her Native family.
More chilling is a crescendo of crimes from the staff against a young spirit: refusal of an already delayed bathroom break;  refusal of playtime, while Margaret performs extra menial labor such as cleaning “honey buckets” that are nothing like their name.
It doesn’t spoil the story, one of the best 2010 non-fiction books I’ve read, to know that shame is attempted, not victorious.
This story is about a strong sprite who remembers her love of family & how that propels her to triumph over emotional sadism.
Further, it’s about recognizing an ally & it’s also about learning that what you think you want more than anything else, may disappoint when it’s attained.
The woman who experienced this schooling beginning at age eight, and her daughter-in-law who helped her craft the story,  deliver a sober account of the de-humanizing approach that was once standard in teaching outsider skills to Native, or First Peoples’, children.
The story is layered with humor & with cultural details of one childhood in one region in the Arctic part of the Northwest Territories, Canada.
It is an excellent book choice, not only for the quality of the real life storytelling but also for the many insights about the setting, people and experience Margaret endures.
A California artist LIz Amini-Holmes, gifts this book with strong images in folkloric style, which are a key element to the impact of this story saga. They detail a stark Inuvialuit (also Inuit) life, without a romanticized approach.
School scenes are also stark. Amini-Holmes’ striking portraits of Margaret, and also of the unbalanced Raven, Margarent’s name for a cruel nun, and Amini-Holmes’  contrasting images of a kind nun, Sister MacQuillan, known as the Swan, present a progression of dramatic events at school.  The palate makes the red stockings, and the ghost-white face of the mean nun, all the more striking.
At the end I stood up from my love seat reading perch and cheered for Margaret.
And frankly, I wanted to high-five Sister MacQuillan, although I also had this question:  As nun in charge, why didn’t she send the sadistic sister known as the Raven, packing back to Belgium?  Likely because Sister MacQuillan was dominated by priests who were in residence;  their depictions are similar to the Raven’s.
I find that Margaret’s spirit reminds me of Pippi Longstocking, Harriet The Spy, and other bright, independent heroines of the best children’s fiction – but the impact for the reader is that Fatty Legs packs a different power because it is real.
In the 1940s, Margaret, a real child, is isolated from her family with whom she had lived all her life in one room, in their hand-made igloo. The place that is supposed to “elevate” her into the ways of the outside world, emotionally and physically attacks her every day.
Here’s Margaret’s child-reasoning about her mind-battle with the Raven:
“I wasn’t sure what she meant to teach me, but I had something to teach her about the spirit of us Inuvialuit.”
The set-up for Margaret’s journey to the outsider world is her jealousy of her older half-sister, who has been to the school and can now read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Living on isolated Banks Island, we find a seven-year-old Margaret, season after season, begging to be sent away to school at the Mackenzie River Delta.
She finally leaves her settlement, where “the temperatures outside were cold enough to freeze bare skin in seconds.”
In her home world she had commanded her own dog sled, hunted with her father and she enjoyed the local food, such as muktuk, tiny cubes of whale blubber.
She knew almost no English. And she could read none of it.
A five-day boat ride away are the dormitories, a hospital and a church operated by priests and nuns.
Fatty Legs is written in a poetic style. I loved the imagery of birds – the mean teacher is a raven and the kind teacher who rescues Margaret at crucial moments, is a swan.
The children are plucked from their nests.
Mean girls at school who are from another Native group that is actually known to be unfriendly to Margaret’s people, are hatchlings.
This sort of cultural complexity is one of the many strengths of this story that transports us to a system not often covered well in children’s literature – the Native boarding school.
Fatty legs was issued late in 2010 and will surely gain more and more attention as devoted readers share the gold it holds.
Yay! for Oulemaun (Margaret)  Pokiak-Fenton.
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Kit Lit Celebrates Women’s History Month
You may also want to see Kid Lit Celebrates Women’s History month, (the March 6, 2011 post) about a book on a different child who also went away from her Native family because, like Oulemaun Margaret Pokiiak, she wanted to receive a formal education.