37 Days at Sea: new MG verse novel

[#PoetryFriday is hosted today and all week by Margaret at REFLECTIONS on the TECHE!]

Ruthie Arons is a curious kid who has known recent horror, including Nazis brutally ransacking her beautiful home. Yet, she is still is a sprite who ponders all that crosses her path aboard the M.S. St. Louis, sailing from Germany to Cuba. Ruthie pranks passengers in an inventive way. She initiates shipboard friendships with all ages and cheers each of her parents as they fall ill. She is a companion to cherish.

Cover art by Kelly Murphy

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Q. I am a Ruthie Arons fan. Please share something of Ruthie’s arrival in your author-mind. Is it possible she is modeled on strong or fun-loving young girls you know today or in family history?

BK: I did not base Ruthie on any girl I know today. I did interview a St. Louis survivor in 2010 who had shown a lot of spunk and I had her in mind a bit.

Q. It’s clear that Ruthie not only admires her father, who becomes a shipboard leader on this troubled voyage. But also, Ruthie discovers the German captain is decent, too. She finds out that others of the crew don’t know the word, decency. Why is it important reveal the kindness of German Capt. Schroeder?

BK: Passengers of the St. Louis nominated Captain Gustav Schroeder for his Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center recognition as Righteous Among Nations. The captain was most decidedly not a Nazi and he truly cared about the passengers. One man I interviewed, who had been about ten years old on the ship, said the captain was “a peach.” I wanted to show that not all Germans were Nazis, not all Germans hailed Hitler, not all believed in or adhered to the Nazi ideology–at great risk to themselves.

 Q. Ruthie and her parents leave the MS St. Louis in Belgium knowing they will journey to England, after being turned away by Cuba and the United States. What do you think they experienced in England that we don’t see in the story? 

BK: Once in England, Ruthie’s father would have been interned on the Isle of Man as an enemy alien. In Germany, he was a Jew. In England, he was a German. Ruthie would have been evacuated out of London during the Blitz. So “safe haven” was only temporary.

 Q. In your acknowledgements, there is summary of what feels to me like years of perseverance in research, especially with your careful speaking to trip survivors found by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. How do you approach a survivor, who may not want to discuss such a time?

BK: I first contacted Scott Miller of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. He co-authored Refuge Denied: The St. Louis Passengers and the Holocaust. He gave me a list of survivors in the NJ-PA-NY area. I already knew that most of these people had been working with the museum as spokespeople about their experiences. I read as much as I could about the St. Louis experience before meeting with these survivors in their homes. The issue was not so much whether they wanted to talk. Rather, it was a challenge for me to get them to go beyond their usual spiel, to get underneath the narrative they typically shared so it would relate to kids. I learned so much from these people. Nothing fazed them, not a locked gate to their senior living community after 8 or a dishwasher that flooded the house while the family was away.

Q: Let’s speak about creating a story in verse. Is writing in verse something you’ve always gravitated to? What in your child days, career or study prepared you for writing poetry and especially a verse novel? What makes a story ideal to be presented in verse to young readers? And do you have preferred poetry forms to read or to write, other than free verse?

BK: I began writing poetry after I received my MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2006. When I first drafted this narrative about the St. Louis, it was middle-grade nonfiction. After hearing a panel at the 2012 Association of Writers & Writing Programs conference about historical sources and contemporary poetry, I rewrote the book as adult poetry in several voices. I workshopped and workshopped. Then I attended two Novel in Verse workshops at the Highlights Foundation and the story finally took shape as a fictionalized account with a single narrator for middle grade. I did take a post-graduate semester at Vermont in poetry with David Wojahn and read Holocaust poets in particular. What makes a story ideal to be presented in verse–that’s a great question. Trauma narratives lend themselves to verse treatment. I’ve also seen novels in verse feature many narrators which would be unwieldy in prose. I like to use certain repetitive forms at particular points of the narrative. For instance, I use villanelles at moments of great despair.

Q: Who are the poets you read frequently or especially feel drawn to? 

BK: I’m always learning about poets and their craft. I appreciate in particular Paul Celan, Miklos Radnoti, Wislawa Zymborska, Theodore Roethke, Dylan Thomas, and Elizabeth Bishop. I also like reading Nikki Grimes, Jacqueline Woodson, Richard Blanco, Mark Doty, and many others. I attend poetry readings on a regular basis and invest in literary journals.

 Q. Can we hope for another verse novel from you, now that your first is birthed? If so any early details?

BK: I do have a young adult biography in verse I’ll be able to talk about soon. That book, too, underwent a long process starting as nonfiction prose. I’ll just say it reflects the early Cold War period. My agent is shopping around a contemporary YA novel in verse, and I’m working on a new one–a narrative of a 16-year-old who had been a hidden child during World War II who comes to America in 1951 as an orphan to family she’s never known.

This is news I welcome, Barbara! Appreciations for your visit today. 37 Days at Sea leaves me feeling that this debut verse novelist is destined to add more beautiful words to my bookshelf and yours. And I would love to see this book be a movie. jga/Bookseedstudio

ALSO ~~~

Please know that one of children’s literature most-honored authors, Kathryn Erskine, writes of 37 Days at Sea that it is “a timely, compelling story of real-life refugees, seen through the eyes of a child, who is both innocent and wise.”

And further, Barbara is known to many for her notable p.b. bio limning a moment for Goldie, a schoolgirl in Milwaukee, who history came to know as Golda Meir, future elected Prime Minister of Israel.

See a book trailer for GOLDIE TAKES A STAND.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQ4qJh2Bup8

Barbara Krasner’s fascinating website is The Whole Megillah.

https://thewholemegillah.wordpress.com/author/thewholemegillah/

Pre-order 37 Days here

Lerner/Kar-Ben https://lernerbooks.com/shop/show/20730

Summer shorts

SUMMER SHORTS

Today’s Poetry Friday hoopla is parked at A WORD EDGEWISE, the creation of Poetry Friday public school teaching librarian-poet, Linda Mitchell.

~~~~

Logbook*/ Recently I learned from artist/author John Hendrix to create a logbook.

Heart map/ In winter I learned from artist/author Georgia Heard to create heart maps.

Novel/ Recently I sent to an esteemed big city book editor, my first verse novel, completing a promise I made in 2015 to a man now my dear friend, to memorialize his year-long Holocaust escape as a 6-year-old Jewish boy,  often hiding in plain view from Nazi soldiers. It is 44 poems on 50 pages, for Middle Grade. From this work:

“funny black hat Un nouveau beret!/ messy charcoal stick Entre un artiste!/ really really really stomp on grapes? Oui! Fouler les raisins!” c.JanGodownAnnino

Poem swap/ Recently I created a poem “The Glory Season” inspired by reading Thomas Lux (thanks to writing partner M.R. Street/TurtleCovePress) to send out as part of author/poet/educator Tabatha Yeatt’s  organized joy called Summer Poetry Swap. My first time on this picnic!

Young Authors  In recent weeks (enough with the recently already!) I was honored to be an invited teaching author at a local school’s Young Authors Conference. It is guided by debut author of DHALIA in BLOOM Susan Koehler, who is on the right.

Debut author Susan Koehler (far right.) Yellow pants on the left is me.

Appreciations for your time reading here, your comments & for the everlasting joy, nourishment & love that is Poetry Friday.     Happy Summer!

c. 2019JanGodownAnnino

Verse novels love persona poems

Creative Margaret hosts the Poetry drumming this week at
https://reflectionsontheteche.wordpress.com/

LOVE for persona poems

posted by J.G. Annino

I’ve been enjoying a stack of novels in
verse & they send me looking into what these engaging
creatures are all about.

A visit to poet/instructor/sweet Poetry Friday pal/Tuscany expert
Renee LaTulippe’s No Water Water poetry site,
led me to that site section of Post Index & the entry, Verse Novels.
Many nourishing details there! www.nowaterriver.com/

Then I toggled over to Michelle H. Barnes’
Today’s Little Ditty. In this month, May 2016,
Michelle, my poetry workshop pal/Poetry Friday guru & all-around
wonderful Florida colleague, features an interview with poet Laura Shovan about personal poems. Laura’s debut MG novel, which I featured here in my last post, is a novel in verse.
Laura asked for poems written in response to her writing prompt
and they appear daily on Today’s Little Ditty this month.
michellehbarnes.blogspot.com/

Did you know persona poems love verse novels and
of course, vice versa?

A persona poem lands

The shore at our part of the Gulf of Mexico is sand marsh. And that marsh and that shore make all the difference, in spring & fall.

For some birds, the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge is the first
landfall, after a punishing migratory haul across water.

And so it was that recently we ventured on an
old path at the St. Marks refuge. Old, but never before trod by us.
The grassy way was busy with plant & insect inhabitants,
but not with visiting uprights.

c.JanGodownAnnino

c.JanGodownAnnino


We admired everything, including water lilies opened to the sun
in still pools, the last pom pom bursts of purple thistle spikes
and assorted small yellow and orange beauties.

We found adult butterflies and juvenile grasshoppers.
When we met one critter I couldn’t identify & I wondered –
who are you?

Think
by J.G. Annino

Dear bird watcher,

Ah!
You saw a flash, pale yellow
I heard you – “What a pretty fellow>”
Do not think me here for show
I face treacherous miles to go

While you watch me on this thistle
Think – he had to stop and wet his whistle
Think – what other creatures has he seen
Think – what is his perch when humans dream

Flash!
I lift my wings – I’ve seen seeds
After drink and rest it’s food I need
While wings beat steady steady again
Go write a poem, be my friend

I must fly,
Bob, traveling bobolink

c. Jan Godown Annino 2016

c. JanGodownAnnino

c. JanGodownAnnino


Some after story
Bob O’Lincoln is the call some birders
attributed to this bird. Over long time that name
evolved to the lyrical way we say it today.
A tagged bobolink once traveled 12,000 miles in migration.
In a day a bobolink can fly up to 1,000 miles. Without a
suitcase! Bobolinks like rice fields, to glean the grains, such as
in Louisiana & South Carolina on their way to Canada or The North U.S.
Sources: Cornell Ornithology Lab online
Wikipedia
MyDictionary.com

A thank you chirp for bobolink identification of this photo –
which I took May 7, 2016 on our walk at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge –
trilled out to my birding/writing pal, dear/near neighbor, Ann Morrow.
And two chirps of thanks to Michelle H. Barnes of the always illuminating Today’s Little Ditty, & to Laura Shovan for the persona poem prompt.

Laura Shovan, April Halprin Wayland, Jame Richards

Happy Last Poetry Friday of National Poetry Month goodness!
Bloggers of the poetry party, are well-rounded up by the
talented Buffy Silverman at Buffy’s Blog
http://www.buffysblog.com/

My post here at Bookseedstudio
is about three novels in verse new to me, which
I recently devoured.

THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL by Laura Shovan
GIRL COMING IN FOR A LANDING by April Halprin Wayland
THREE RIVERS RISING by Jame Richards

Each of these stories look at love in an eloquent & moving way.
I admit my bias toward the first two. They float from the pen
& keyboards of two exceptionally talented Poetry Friday folks.
When our big black mailbox offered the third author’s novel,
and I began reading I decided I hope to know her, too.

THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL is a
fresh-born book I wish I could have read in my middle grade years when I moved far from one beloved school to an unknown district. The students in this class face the final days of their beloved school buidling, which is an old friend. I like how with humor & feeling Laura Shovan profiles the different & sometimes volatile personalities that make up a 5th grade class. Laura deftly brings them all together in their feelings for the old school. They want to keep it from being demolished. She crafts this effort with surprises & even musical riffs, for a charming debut novel about an entire classroom of kids.

Ideal readers are fans of stories involving
conflicts within a diverse, middle-class community
friendships within same
disagreement process with parents and school authority figures
exemplary teachers
student ingenuity
poetry
Favorite character voice
With 18 enjoyable narrators I will allow myself two – Gaby Vargas & Jason “Seuss” Chen
Favorite line (s)
“I wish we had school in the woods.” Ben Kidwell in “Dream School” poem.
“I love the dragonfly appearing on my paper.” Rachel Chieka Stein, “Japanese Painting”
“A stranger, a reader,
a poet, a brain?
Will you forget who I was
or stay just the same?” Edgar Lee Jones “Time Capsule Rap
Book bonus
perfect student portraits by Abigail Halpin
some students are in Zoo Creatures Band
end pages – poetry forms explained, prompts & poetry glossary, given
If you are a 60s fan, some fun references via a teacher

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It’s fitting that nourishing articles about the wonderful
THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
abound online, along with top reviews. Please see
Linda B at TeacherDance, Jama R at Alphabet Soup,
(4.21.16 edition) & a host of others.
Laura’s blog & website are http://www.laurashovan.com

GIRL COMING IN FOR A LANDING is school-set too, in the vibrant
voice of one middle grader who remains unnamed. Multiple poems from
the student narrator – about poems! – make me selfishly love this story. I expect to read some of them to my writer’s groups.
Ideal readers are fans of stories involving
challenges of the school year
young romance
the heart & soul of an emerging poet
exemplary teachers
family connections
poetry
Favorite line (s)
“…music is so amazing
it builds a nest of tears
in my throat.”
Book bonus
Elaine Clayton’s distinctive artwork, created for each of 100+ poems
Shakespeare’s Sonnet Number Twelve

images-1
April Halprin Wayland’s website is http://www.aprilwayland.com/
I first found my way to her titles through the nourishing blog, Teaching Authors, where April is a frequent contributor. http://www.TeachingAuthors.com/

THREE RIVERS RISING is a race for life, during the 1889 Johnstown, Ohio Flood. Events in days leading up to the break of an insufficiently engineered dam owned by wealthy men including Andrea Carnegie, are shared via the story of a budding romance. I liked being pulled into eddies created by the couple’s deceptions & joys. I was also swept into the story of the sensible & sad nurse, ministering to the flood victims. With multiple narrators and voices, the true love between Celestia & Peter make their poems poignant & powerful.
Ideal readers are fans of stories involving
actual disasters in times past
young romance
differences between the powerful & those without power
individual heroics
dysfunctional family dynamics
Favorite character
Peter
Favorite lines
“When will this hell of rain end?
I haven’t seen the stars in so long.” Peter
“Fun always knows where to find her.” Celestia
Book bonus
detailed South Fork Dam chronology, suggested readings
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Jame Richards lives in Connecticut & her blog is at http://jamerichards.blogspot.com

posted by J.G. Annino/Bookseedstudio