Friday, April 25, 2008

An Ode to National Poetry Month

Okay, I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a huge poetry fan... I'm sorry, but Emily Dickinson bores me to tears. But there are exceptions and I'm learning to enjoy it more. In college, I learned to appreciate Elizabeth Barrett Browning, one-time national poet laureate Billy Collins, and of course, Shakespeare. Those loves all came though, because of a professor who was so enthusiastic and passionate about poetry that her passion was contagious... and she made it fun! I ended up taking her multiple times as an English major. She'd do crazy things like have us do debates over which couple in a Shakespeare play was the more realistically in love couple... a debate complete with a gauntlet throwing challenge and a judges panel, and one time, I even played some dead king and laid on a table some classmates carried to the door.

I still remember a Shel Silverstein poem, One Sister for Sale, that I memorized in grade school because I felt it "adequately described my pain as the oft-mistreated younger sister" *halo ding* Silverstein and the first/current National Children's Poet Laureate, Jack Prelutsky have humorous child poetry down to an artform. They, like my professor, have made poetry accessible to everyone, not just people who have a little more artistic appreciation than I do. I know my best friend reads these two to her third grade class and gets requests for more and more. I'm trying to take that knowledge... that it's how something is presented sometimes (Is there interest/passion on the part of the parent/teacher/librarian?) that can bring a "dull" subject alive... and apply it. Tomorrow, I'll be doing a magnetic poetry program with the teens at the library to celebrate National Poetry Month. They get free lunch; they just have to provide the imagination, as we use those magnetic poetry kits and try to come up with the best (or funniest) immortal lines.

In a different context, as a Christian, I'm made in God's image. He is the Creator, so therefore, I (supposedly!) have some creativity inside me, as well. As He's been showing me that fact, I've come to embrace my inner poet (ha!)... simply as a means of expressing myself... feelings, joy in nature, whatever strikes me. No, I will not share! But all of these random thoughts... I think the common thread is that, whether it's poetry, God or something else, something has to become real, and more than just a concept to us, before we can truly see it's beauty and value. So try out some poetry ;)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

I Met Mo!!!

Yes, that Mo. Willems. Pigeon and Knuffle Bunny man. Only a few years into my professional career and I have met one of my favorite author/illustrators! And I may have been a little star struck (my friend Sam said I was a chicken), but I did actually speak with him! He was at the Kutztown Children's Literature Conference, along with Kate DiCamillo, Christopher Myers, and Eric Rohmann. They were each great, but Mo stole the show!

He gave a lot of food for thought (but in Mo Willems humor) about his role as author/illustrator and the audience's role as teachers/librarians. Other funny parts of his talk included a "readers theater" of Today I Will Fly, in which my friend thought he would get Mo-loving me up on stage by raising his own hand for me, but only succeeded in getting called on stage himself. When Mo was saying his work is about the story and the characters, not him, and so he gets his ego fed other ways... the one-time writer for Sesame Street then pointed out that Elmo is Spanish for "the Mo"! (He later clarified that no, he did not create Elmo.) He also taught the entire audience how to draw Pigeon. And during my one minute autograph session conversation with Mo, I shared that my four year olds loved the name Reginald von Hoobie Doobie from Edwina, the Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She was Extinct, and Mo shared that he uses the phrase "Hoobie Doobie" when he doesn't know the word for something. I'm going to start doing that ;)

All in all, pretty awesome day meeting people who work hard to bring quality work to children's literature. I love what I do :)

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Oh My Darling Clementine!

I finished the newest Clementine book, Clementine's Letter, in a little over an hour. Okay, so it's a 2nd-3rd grade reading level, but even so, I couldn't put this book down and I literally laughed out loud numerous times. I would expect nothing less from this crazy, yet lovable third grader! The first two books, Clementine and The Talented Clementine, set some high standards, but once again, Sara Pennypacker delivers!

The letter in question is one Clementine writes to "recommend" her teacher for a chance to study in Egypt for a year. The entire class is asked to write letters why their teacher should be chosen from the three finalists, to be read in front of the judges at the state building. Clementine, however, does not want her teacher to leave, especially since she and her teacher are finally "in sink". I don't want to ruin all the fun, so you'll have to read it to find out if her teacher wins or not. But honestly, the trip there is worth it! Laugh out loud moments in every chapter, throughout the chapter. It reminds me of all those crazy conversations I've had with younger patrons where they just say something completely off-topic or short-and-simple true. Clementine's relationship with her parents, friends, neighbors, and the three year old brother whom she calls a different vegetable name every day (because the only thing worse than being named after a fruit is being named after a vegetable!) are so real. And there is one particularly sweet storyline involving Clementine and her dad writing a story. That part of the plot not only gives a wonderful (and in today's society, truly hopeful) picture of parent-child relationship, but it sets up the lesson Clementine learns: think before you act.

This series is great for fans (of any age) who loved Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, or Lois Lowry's Gooney books. Clementine and Ramona Quimby would be best friends... or possibly worst enemies... since they are so much alike. And Marla Frazee's illustrations are perfect! Clementine is now one of my favorite book characters of all time!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

He's Baaaaaack!!

Everyone's favorite belligerent pigeon that is! Yes, the one that wanted to ride the bus, stay up late and found a hot dog. And after a marketing gimmick that kept the nation in suspense (slight exaggeration), it was finally announced on the pigeon's birthday/the day the book was released that the demanding bird now wants a puppy! Yes, a puppy. I called it. Well, my guess was "a pet", but this is close enough.

Willems is one of my favorites, so I love everything he does. Knuffle Bunny is my favorite, but this newest pigeon book is great, too! It's one one-liner after another... find out how the pigeon mistakes puppies and plants. (What, you don't?) How he's wanted one for so long (or since last Tuesday). Or what happens when the pigeon finally comes face to face with one of those furry slobbering canines. On the simplest level, these stories will make kids laugh out loud... okay, so even adults! Adults will get the added humor of just how much this pigeon sounds like one of their children. You don't want me to be happy, do you? Kids will be laughing, parents will be getting the implied humor and maybe, just maybe, kids will learn a lesson. If they can recognize the absurdity of some of the pigeon's arguments, well... it could happen! But above all, just a funny story! I'll definitely be trying to figure out how to use it in a storytime!

I picked up the new Clementine book, Clementine's Letter, by Sara Pennypacker today, too. I can't wait to finish the third in this series about the crazy heir to Ramona Quimby's throne!