Monday, June 29, 2009

Summer Rain Poem

This month has been the dampest, rainiest June that I can recall. I don’t think we’ve had more than five full days of sunshine so far—and today is the 29th! I usually appreciate a day of gentle rain in the midst of steamy, humid, blazing summer heat—but the weather here is getting on my nerves. It’s been one day of gray after another.

Today, I decided to post an old summer rain poem—one that I had written more than twenty years ago for a collection of seasonal poetry that I never published called Tasting the Sun.

Summer Rain Poem
by Elaine Magliaro

I like a quiet summer day
when clouds above are oyster gray
and rain falls softer than a sigh.
I stand out in the melting sky
cool water washing over me.
I’m a pearl all shimmery,
rough shell unhinged and opened wide
letting all the sea inside.

I’m hoping we’ll have some fair weather for the Fourth of July weekend!

Check out Tricia’s Poetry Stretch this week at The Miss Rumphius Effect: Monday Poetry Stretch - Acrostics.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Old Friends, Newlyweds, & A Poem

I was away in Maine late last week. My husband and I went up to the Ogunquit area to attend the wedding of the son of two of our best friends. The four of us have known each other for nearly fifty years. We met in high school. I met three of my other friends who attended the wedding in first grade! It was great to spend a couple of days celebrating a happy occasion with old friends.


Since I was away for Poetry Friday, I’m posting a poem today in honor of Meg and Hugh, the newlyweds.

Colors Passing through Us
by Marge Piercy

Purple as tulips in May, mauve
into lush velvet, purple
as the stain blackberries leave
on the lips, on the hands,
the purple of ripe grapes
sunlit and warm as flesh.

Every day I will give you a color,
like a new flower in a bud vase
on your desk. Every day
I will paint you, as women
color each other with henna
on hands and on feet.

Red as henna, as cinnamon,
as coals after the fire is banked,
the cardinal in the feeder,
the roses tumbling on the arbor
their weight bending the wood
the red of the syrup I make from petals.

You can read the rest of the poem here.

BTW, my husband and I will celebrate our 40th anniversary in July!

Mike & Me

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Grace Lin & Where the Mountain Meets the Moon Blog Tour

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
Written & illustrated by Grace Lin

Here’s the schedule for Grace's blog tour. Sorry I’m a day late!

Book Lists for Summer Reading 2009

Book Lists

From Reading Rockets

From the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

Articles from Reading Rockets

Sunday, June 21, 2009

OUT & ABOUT: June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day to my husband and to all the great dads of the world!

Cruising around the Kidlitosphere recently, I found the following posts and articles. I hope you find some interesting reading and book suggestions.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Poetry Book Review: Incredible Inventions Compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins

Incredible Inventions
Poems selected by lee Bennett Hopkins
Illustrated by Julia Sarcone-Roach
Greenwillow, 2009

Incredible Inventions is another fine poetry anthology compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins. What one may find surprising are the subjects written about in this book. Many of the poems aren’t about the kinds of things most kids typically think of as inventions—airplanes, microscopes, automobiles, computers, telephones, elevators. No, in this book, kids will find poems about “inventions” like jigsaw puzzles (1766), blue jeans (1873), drinking straws (1888), Fig Newton cookies (1891), popsicles (1905), band-aids (1920), kitty litter (1947), and modern athletic shoes (1964). That’s part of the fun and attraction of this new anthology. There’s a good possibility that this book could be used to spark children’s curiosity, to encourage them to look at everyday objects around them as inventions—and maybe even to wonder about who might have invented them and why.

Authors of the poems in this anthology include a number of well-known children’s poets—Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Kristine O’Connell George, Joan Bransfield Graham, J. Patrick Lewis, Ann Whitford Paul, Alice Schertle, and Marilyn Singer. There are also selections by some newer voices.

There is a nice variety of poetry contained between the covers of this anthology. John Sullivan’s poem about basketball tells about the sport during the different seasons in a series of four haiku (sweltering night/one player left alone on the court/alone with stars). There are shape poems and free verse. Many of the poems rhyme and are light-hearted in nature—like Brushes Rule by Constance Andrea Keremes. This poem is composed of ten couplets. This is how Keremes begins her poem:

Time was when fingers did the trick.
Pat this, part that, do it quick.

But hair’s no simple thing today.
You have to gel, highlight, spray.

You need a brush to get things right.
(A comb will only tug and bite.)

In Signal’s Lament, Alice Schertle speaks in the voice of a bored traffic signal who longs to “signal” drivers to stop, go, and slow down, with a more artistic palette of colors than red, green and yellow. It imagines doing its job with colors like magenta, maroon, aquamarine, cerulean blue, and cadmium orange. The signal tells us…

I may look like a pole, but I have the soul
Of an artist, a star, a flamingo!
And speaking of pink, that’s a winner, I think.
Add a touch of vermilion and BINGO!

In another mask poem, Maria Fleming’s Velcro sings its own praises while denigrating the quality of other fasteners:

I sneer at snaps,
the lowly lace.
They lack my lock,
my fierce embrace.

Just try to name
a greater gripper.

(Don’t even think
of saying zipper.)

Kids are sure get a kick out of Marilyn Singer’s In Here. Kitty, Kitty. It’s a poem about Edward Lowe, the inventor of Kitty Litter. Here’s the last stanza of the poem:

He wasn’t Edison or Whitney.
Still feline owners didn’t titter.
Oh, to think he banished stink
with tons and tons of Kitty Litter.

Ann Whitford Paul entices readers to think “outside the box” in Inside the Box, her poem about Crayola crayons. She ends it with this thought about using one’s imagination and creativity:

But who says a seed
must be brown?
A field of corn green?
A flat tire black?
As you take crayons
from their box
break out of your own box.

Turn your paper
into a whole new world.

The back matter of the book contains two or more paragraphs of information about each of the inventions and inventors written about in the poems. It also includes a timeline.

Julia Sarcone-Roach’s illustrations serve as an unimposing backdrop for the poems in this anthology. They add just the right touches of color, humor, and whimsy.

Incredible Inventions would be a wonderful anthology to have on hand in an elementary/middle grade classroom. It could be a great stepping off point for a unit on inventors and inventions.

Click here to have a “sneak peek” inside Incredible Inventions.

NOTE: You can read my review of Joyce Sidman’s book Eureka!: Poems about Inventors here: POETRY SATURDAY: Joyce Sidman, Part II

My Reviews of Other Poetry Anthologies Compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins

Lee Bennett Hopkins is the 15th winner of the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. Read about Lee and his work here. Read more about Lee at the following blog post written by Sylvia Vardell: More on LBH and the 2009 NCTE Poetry Award.


At Blue Rose Girls, I have Sunflakes, a children’s poem that was written by Frank Asch.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is at Carol’s Corner today.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Small Graces June Auction Is On!!!

This lovely Small Graces painting is on auction NOW!!!

Wouldn't you love to own an original painting by children's author and illustrator Grace Lin? All the proceeds from the Small Graces auctions will benefit The Foundation for Children's Books, a small non-profit organization in Boston that is making a big difference in the lives of young readers by bringing children's book authors and illustrators into under-served schools in the Greater Boston area for visits and residencies..

Small Graces June auction URL:

NOTE: Bidding closes Jun-19-09 16:53:53 PDT

Click here to learn more about the Small Graces auctions.

P. S. I was the lucky winner of this painting in the February auction!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon Stars Are Shining!

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, my friend Grace Lin’s newest book, has been garnering starred reviews—from Kirkus, Booklist, and School Library Journal. It has also been designated one of Booklist’s Top Ten Books for Youth SF/Fantasy. Yippee!

Hooray for Grace!!!
Grace & Alvina Ling at the launch party for
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

Click on the links below to find out about last Saturday's launch party for Where the Mountain Meets the Moon--and to see more pictures of Grace, the Blue Rose Girls, and the people who attended the event at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Book Review: Sky Magic Compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins

Compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins
Illustrated by Mariusz Starwaski
Dutton Children’s Books, 2009

Sky Magic is a new poetry book compiled by anthologist extraordinaire Lee Bennett Hopkins. I have never counted the poetry books by Hopkins that I have in my collection—but I know they number in the dozens! Name a topic—and it’s likely you’ll find that Hopkins has edited a poetry anthology on the subject: war, famous people, museums, food, school, American history, the sea, animals, insects, geography, sports, weather, pets, space, science, math, holidays, inventions, books and reading, words and language, song and dance. I could go on and on and on.

Hopkins never disappoints poetry lovers like me with his anthologies—whether they are intended for the very youngest of children or for older kids. Sky Magic is definitely another fine compilation that elementary teachers will want to have on hand in the classroom—or available in their school libraries.

In addition to the fine poems included in Sky Magic, I'd like to note that the art by Mariusz Starwaski truly enhances the text and adds an almost ethereal dimension to the selections. I also want to comment on the thoughtful organization of the book. Hopkins arranged the poems he chose about the sun, moon, and stars in a lyrical progression that takes readers from the rising of the sun at dawn, to the setting of our "daystar" and arrival of the moon, to a night sky filled with stars.

I had read a few of the poems in Sky Magic in other collections and/or anthologies before—David McCord’s Orion, Ashley Bryan’s Song, and Carl Sandburg’s Stars. Most of the fourteen selections, however, were new to me. These poems include works written by Hopkins, Avis Harley, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Georgia Heard, Tony Johnston, and Alice Schertle.

The anthology opens with Sarah Hansen’s Rising, a poem in which the Sun rises/Tempting dawn/To break/Her golden crust, and ends with James Guthrie’s Last Song—in which we say a fond farewell to the Sun/Who has shone/All day/To the moon/Who has gone/Away…and To the milk-white/Silk-white/Lily-white Star.

Each poem in Sky Magic is a little gem of words that looks at objects in the heavens with wonder and imagination. In Sun, by Lyn Littlefield Hoopes, the sun speaks to us saying: I come to you/a diamond/on the morning dew. In Set, Sun, Hopkins tells the sun it’s time to go and Take/the/breath/of/day/away. Alice Schertle sets us to wondering about the moon in Who Found the Moon?. She wants to know who picked it up when it tumbled from the sky; who rubbed it with his thumb; who felt its silver coolness on his palm.

One of the most soothing and lyrical poems in the book is Ann Whitford Paul’s Moon’s Poem. Here’s an excerpt from it:

From Moon’s Poem
by Ann Whitford Paul

Moon’s poem
sings soft
round sounds of
breezes shushing
through the leaves,
slow rhythms of
spiders swaying,
snails scribbling…

Mariusz Starwaski’s paintings done mostly in shades of blue, purple, gold, and orange set the perfect artistic tone for this collection of poems about day and night…about the sun, moon, and stars...and about the sky canvas upon which nature paints them.

Sky Magic is indeed a lovely poetry anthology. I highly recommend it!

More about Sky Magic and Lee Bennett Hopkins
  • You can read Legends, Avis Harley’s poem from Sky Magic, here at Poetry for Children.

  • You can view two of Starwaski’s illustrations from Sky Magic here.

  • Check out Tricia’s Interview with Lee Bennett Hopkins at The Miss Rumphius Effect.


At Blue Rose Girls, I have a poem by J. Patrick Lewis entitled To a Frustrated Poet.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is at Critique de Mr. Chompchomp.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

An Original Fairy Tale Poem

Here is my submission for this week’s Monday Poetry Stretch - Spinning Tales at the Miss Rumphius Effect. I wrote the following poem in the form of a Q & A. It’s from an unpublished collection entitled Excerpts from the Fairy Tale Files. I did make a few changes to the poem this morning. (You can read more of the poems from the collection here.)

Q: Who was the nemesis of Baby Bear?

A: A girl with curly golden hair.

She ate his porridge, broke his chair,

And took his comforter. Beware!

She did the same thing twice before

To Baby Buck and Baby Boar.

Her parents thought her antics droll.

They let her keep the things she stole.

They let her stay up late at night.

They never taught her wrong from right.

Beware of Goldilocks, that brat—

Don’t let her near your habitat!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Book Review: What's Inside? by Giles Laroche

What’s Inside?: Fascinating Structures Around the World
Written & illustrated by
Giles Laroche
Houghton Mifflin, 2009

Recently, at an event sponsored by The Foundation for Children’s Books, I had an opportunity to speak with children’s author and illustrator Giles Laroche. Giles was there to talk about his newest publication, What’s Inside?, a book that takes a look at both the outsides and insides of different “fascinating” structures around the world. The structures Laroche writes about in his book include the Tomb of Tutankamun in Egypt, the Temple of Kukulcan on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, the Sakyamuni Pagoda in the Shanxi Province of China, the Alcazar Castle in Spain, the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, and the Sydney Opera House in Australia.
Giles with one of the illustrations from What's Inside?

Giles Laroche is well known for the intricate cut paper illustrations that he has created for his previously published children’s books: Down to the Sea in Ships, Bridges Are to Cross, What Do Wheels Do All Day?, Sacred Places, The Color Box, and Ragged Shadows—among others.

What readers will find between the covers of What’s Inside? is some of Giles’ most detailed and exceptional paper relief artwork that he has done to date. What’s Inside? is the kind of book one can savor…over and over again. It’s a nonfiction picture book for children in upper elementary grades, children who are interested in different types of buildings/architecture, and adults.

The Format of the Book: On the right-hand page, there is a large framed picture of a structure and a short paragraph of information—below which is printed the words WHAT’s INSIDE? or WHO’S INSIDE?. Turn the page and you will see an illustration of “what” or “who” is inside the structure. There is information about the "inside" of the structure in text below the picture. In a sidebar to the left of the illustration, there is additional information that provides the name of the structure; the structure’s location, size, and the materials from which it was made; the date of the construction; the structure today; and a little known fact about the structure. This is how Laroche begins his book:

At the end of a long underground passageway an archaeologist opens this sealed door. Leading to a series of hidden chambers, the door has not been opened in nearly three thousand years. (The illustration shows Howard Carter unsealing the entrance to King Tut’s tomb while two onlookers watch expectantly.)


In 1922, the archaeologist Howard Carter discovered King Tutankamun’s tomb, placed in underground vaults to survive the ages, its sole entry hidden from robbers.

Laroche goes on to tell about the treasures found inside the tomb, the Egyptians’ belief in the afterlife, and King Tutankamun’s ascent to the throne when he was just nine years old. In the sidebar, we read that the tomb was buried 25 feet underground, had four rooms that were 8-10 feet high—and that sealed boxes found in the tomb contained raisins, dates, nuts, watermelon seeds, cakes, bread, cereals, onions, and meat.

NOTE: In some cases, Laroche used double-page spreads because of the size of particular structures. For example, inside the Puerta del Sol (Gate of the Sun) or Blacksmith’s Gate in Spain, there lies the entire city of Toledo. He also created a two-page panoramic spread of Kuala Lampur to show how the Petronas Twin Towers “tower” above the other structures in the city.
Toledo, Castilla La Mancha, Spain

I found some of the most interesting information in the “Little Known Facts” sections. In these, I learned that the Parthenon was originally painted in shades of blue, ocher, and gold; that the Alcazar Castle in Spain served as the model for the castle at Disneyland; and that the design for the Petronas Towers was based on an Islamic geometric pattern symbolizing unity, harmony, stability, and rationality.

The Parthenon

In the back matter of the book, there is a Glossary of Architectural Terms. A tiny square illustration accompanies each term—which, I think, is a wonderful added feature. In this section, the author included brief descriptions of 26 terms, including acropolis, cupola, moat, pagoda, pediment, pentelic marble, sanctuary.
A red throne in the shape of a jaguar
is "what's inside" the Temple of Kukulcan

Giles Laroche’s newest book is a visual stunner. I suggest you get yourself a copy and find out what’s inside!

Interview with Giles Laroche

Elaine: What inspired you to write and illustrate this book?

Giles: My interest in and curiosity of places and structures is what inspired my work for this book. In turn I wanted to inspire and share those same interests with young readers, future builders, and travelers.

Elaine: What kind of research did you undertake and what types of resources did you use when gathering information for this book project?

Giles: I used a wide variety of sources for my research, mostly books of which I have thousands. I frequent three local libraries and have access to a vast library of books on architecture. My own journals, photos, sketches from my travels come into use and I do some research on the Internet as well. Feed back from architects I know and from people who have traveled to some of these places is very helpful too. In many cases I contacted the actual place to get additional information.

Elaine: How did you decide on the subjects you wrote about in the book?

Giles: I wanted to include culturally significant structures as well as those less well known all of which had an "inside” readers would be curious about. They are sometimes predictable, such as the barn or circus tent, or a surprise; the jaguar throne, or city of Toledo. I also kept in mind a variety of geographical locations and cultures. They are presented chronologically. I chose places I have been too, have yet to see, or perhaps will never see.

Elaine: How long did the book project take from inception to completion?
Giles: The entire project took three years. The first year on the text and sketches, the second year on the art and some text revision.

Elaine: Are there any new projects you have in mind or are working on at the present time?

Giles: I am currently at work on a new book that is also about places and buildings. More later.

Giles' studio in New Hampshire is part of a 230-year-old barn.

I would like to thank Giles Laroche for taking time to answer my questions and for allowing me to post images from his new book.

The Nonfiction Monday Roundup is at Charlotte’s Library this week.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon: The Launch Party

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

Yesterday, Grace had a wonderful—and well-attended—launch party for her new book Where the Mountain Meets the Moon at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Lots of parents came with their children—as did most of the Blue Rose Girls: Alvina, Libby, Anna, Meghan, and me.

At Porter Square Books
Grace & Alvina

After we Blue Rose Girls left the bookstore, we headed off to The Upstairs on the Square to celebrate the launch of Grace’s new book—and her birthday (although a bit belatedly.) It was great being with my blogging buddies to share in Grace’s success and to dine on delicious food!

At Upstairs on the Square
Libby & Anna

The Blue Rose Girls
Standing: Meghan, Libby, Anna, & Me
Sitting: Alvina & Grace

The official release date for Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is July 1st. You'll want to get yourself a copy. Not only is Grace's new book a wonderful story--the full color illustrations are gorgeous! Booklist rates it as one of the Top 10 SF/Fantasy Books for Youth (5/15/09 issue).

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Frogs and Toads All Sang: A Book of Poems by Arnold Lobel

The Frogs and Toads All Sang
Written & Illustrated by Arnold Lobel
Color by Adrianne Lobel
HarperCollins, 2009

Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad books certainly stand as the standard bearers for early readers. They are wonderfully written tales of friendship full of humor and warmth. The books are great for independent reading for young children. They are also outstanding books to read aloud.

I stopped by the Banbury Cross Children’s Book Shop a few days ago and was excited to find out that a book of frog and toad poems that was written and illustrated by Arnold Lobel many years ago had recently been published. The book, The Frogs and Toads All Sang, includes an introduction by Lobel’s daughter Adrianne. In the introduction, Adrianne explains how this book came into being. I won’t go into detail here—but I will tell you that its text and drawings were handmade into a book by Arnold Lobel and given as a gift to Crosby and George Bonsall. The book was bought in an estate auction by a man named Justin Schiller. The man contacted Adrianne in September 2008 to inform her of all the handmade books he had purchased that were created by her late father.

Adrianne writes about The Frogs and Toads All Sang: “I think that the poems and pictures are important in the grand arc of Arnold Lobel’s work. This was the first time he wrote about frogs and toads. Also, the exuberant vitality of the sketches is not representative of the kind of work he was doing for publication at the time.”

Adrianne says that she used her father’s preferred technique to color the sketches for this book. She also notes the following: “I hope in some small measure I have done well by him.”

In my opinion, Adrianne has done her father proud. The colored illustrations are a delight and certainly enhance this book of ten poems better than black and white sketches.

Updated to Add: Here’s a video from HarperCollins in which Adrianne Lobel talks about The Frogs and Toads All Sang, her father, and her process for coloring her father’s drawings. It includes images of some of the wonderful illustrations included in the book.

The Frogs and Toads All Sang may be a slim volume—but a super book of poems to share with very young children. It would also be a fine addition to a library collection in an early childhood classroom. How great to have The Frogs and Toads All Sang on hand in school or at home to share when reading the Frog and Toad stories.

About the Poems: Lobel proves himself an adept writer of light verse. His rhyming poems are rhythmic and scan well. There’s a sense of whimsy in these fanciful poems that tell about such things as a frog who bakes apple pies and sugar buns—and then eats them all herself; a toad who eats and eats all day long until it hurts; and a frog who decides to jump to the moon one June evening…and hits his destination in late July.

Here’s a poem from the book to give you a flavor of the verses that Lobel wrote many years ago:

Made for Toads

A sunny day
Is made for toads
To play and leap
Down dusty roads.
A rainy day is made for frogs
To swim in swamps
And under logs.
In weather gray
Or weather bright,
For some, the day
Will be just right.

Other poems in this collection include the following:

The Frogs and Toads All Sang is a poem about frogs and toads having a “dress up” party with paper lamps, lemonade, and an orchestra…and lots of dancing.

Polliwog School is a poem about tadpoles swimming to class where all they do is wiggle and squirm and giggle.

Bright Green Frog is a poem about a musical amphibian that fiddled waltzes on his violin, but what he really wanted was to play a clarinet.

There Was a Frog is a poem about a frog who has a car that he drives fast and far—but he never looks at traffic lights and never learned how to stop his vehicle.

Night is a poem in which two toads agree that they need clocks so that when they wake and there’s no light they’ll know that it’s nighttime.

A Toad Was Feeling is a poem about a toad who’s “sad and grumpy” because his skin “was rough and bumpy.” So he buys himself a soft, furry coat to wrap himself in.

I have little doubt that young admirers of the Frog and Toad series will enjoy this collection of poems and illustrations by Lobel. It is infused with the same sense of gentle humor that made Lobel's stories about two unforgettable amphibian friends such perennially popular books.

Updated to Add: Chance Find Leads to New Lobel Picture Books by Sue Corbett—Publishers Weekly, 5/28/2009

A Remembrance of Arnold Lobel
Frog and Toad Are Friends of Mine (From The Bulletin for the Center for Children’s Book—Gone But Not Forgotten: Arnold Lobel)

More Children’s Books about Frogs and Toads


At Blue Rose Girls, I have a poem about teaching written by Mary Ruefle entitled The Hand.

Sara Lewis Holmes has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Read Write Believe.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Poetry Stretch: Food Poems

I wrote/rewrote the following poems for Tricia’s Monday Poetry Stretch - Food Glorious Food!. You can read the Poetry Stretch results here.

Jelly Beans

Lemon, lime, and tangerine
Cherry, orange, wintergreen
Grape, vanilla, licorice
Any flavor that I wish
Sitting in my candy dish
Every color tastes delish!


A package
of pale potato moons…
thin slices of spuds
deep fried in fat
till crisp and golden
then sprinkled with salt—
a crunchy munchy snack
that talks back.


Candied cloud,
powdered puff of sweetness
toasted brown on a stick
until it oozes white lava


We pick through
quarts of blueberries
removing stems
shriveled fruit
tiny leaves
until we’re left with
a big bowl
of plump purple pearls
perfect for baking in a pie
that will ooze indigo juices
when sliced and served…
steaming the scent

of a Maine summer
through our kitchen

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

OUT & ABOUT: June 3, 2009

Here & There

Summer Reading for Children & Adults

One More Thing