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Grand Slam

16 Apr

I wish I could be in kid in Mr. Ward’s poetry class. He is a teacher in Nikki Grimes’  Between the Lines, known for his open-mic poetry readings and boys vs. girls poetry slam.

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Publisher’s Summary: Darrian dreams of writing for the New York Times. To hone his skills and learn more about the power of words, he enrolls in Mr. Ward’s class, known for its open-mic poetry readings and boys vs. girls poetry slam. Everyone in class has something important to say, and in sharing their poetry, they learn that they all face challenges and have a story to tell—whether it’s about health problems, aging out of foster care, being bullied for religious beliefs, or having to take on too much responsibility because of an addicted parent. As Darrian and his classmates get to know one another through poetry, they bond over the shared experiences and truth that emerge from their writing, despite their private struggles and outward differences.

The novel in verse is narrated in multiple voices that alternate with Darrian’s. There are some tough issues in the book  but nothing, that would keep it out of my 6th grade classroom. It is definitely written for kids as there is a feel good ending and lots of hope for this group of high school kids.

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12 Apr

We are almost half way through National Poetry Month and I haven’t said much about poetry this month. It’s time to change that.

If you haven’t read The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo you should.

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Publisher’s Summary: Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about.

With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself. So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out. But she still can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

 

From the cover – where we see the words in on and around Xiomara – to the story itself, I was hooked. As we follow Xiomara’s journey as a poet, we encounter issues about how we raise girls, religion, traditional parenting styles, and body image. There are some mature themes here around those topics, but they are all handled honestly. Xiomara wrestles with things all girls wrestle with.

A novel in verse, by a poet, about a poet, it is definitely worth reading. Or, better yet, listen to the audiobook, read by the author, who is amazing. Not all authors can pull of their own audiobook, but Acevedo is a performing poet and knows the heart of her book!

If you’d like to see a sample of Acevedo at work, check out this performance of her poem “Hair”.

The second day is the hardest

3 Apr

The first day back
You are energized –
New month
New start
New unit
New stories about
Spring Break exploits.
There is a joy,
An excitement
In the air.

The second day is harder
You are tired
From the day before
From starting a new unit
From the kids’ renewed energy
And their old behaviors –
You didn’t miss those!
There is a fatigue,
Exhaustion,
In the air.

From the third day,
It gets better.
Established routines
Favorite units
Taught to fresh faces
Still a lot to do,
But sliding towards summer
There is an energy
A hope,
In the air.

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Ode to Dandelions

30 Mar

I saw these dandelions (Scientific nameTaraxacum) on a walk. As I said the Latin name, the rhythm of O Tannebaum popped into my head. A new song was born.

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Taraxacum, Taraxacum,
How yellow are thy petals.
Taraxacum, Taraxacum,
How lovely are thy petals.
Your leaves are green and edible
Your roots grow deep – incredible!
Taraxacum, Taraxacum,
How yellow are thy petals.

Taraxacum, Taraxacum,
How yellow are thy petals.
Taraxacum, Taraxacum,
How yellow are thy petals.
You’re often called a noxious weed
Your seeds fly far – that’s guaranteed!
Taraxacum, Taraxacum,
How yellow are thy petals.

Taraxacum, Taraxacum,
How yellow are thy petals.
Taraxacum, Taraxacum,
How yellow are thy petals.
Kids turn you into crowns and chains
Then return home covered in stains!
Taraxacum, Taraxacum,
How yellow are thy petals.

Senior moments

28 Mar

At 53, I was the youngest of the three women who met for lunch yesterday. We meet a couple of times a year for lunch and it is always a fun time for catching up but yesterday’s get together could have been a stanza from Billy Collins’ poem “Forgetfulness”.

“Wait,” I interrupted at one point. “When did they get a divorce?” About 10 years ago apparently. Did I forget that, or did I never know? I have no idea.

The whole meal was punctuated with expressions of forgetfulness.

“It’s on the tip of my tongue.”

“I don’t remember the name…”

“Oh, what’s that word?”

“It just slipped my mind,”

“My mind just went blank. What was I saying?”

What will we have to talk about when we are all in our 80s and 90s? I have no idea.

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Spring Break

26 Mar

Spring Break is
staying up late Sunday night
and waking up
Monday morning
after the dog
whose needs must be met.

Spring Break is
a cup of coffee followed by
a pot of tea
left of the burner
to stay warm all day.

Spring Break is
watching the neighbors
climb into cars,
walk to the bus stop,
going to work
while you stay home.

Spring Break is
joy at the graded papers
left at school
so I can read and knit
and walk the dog
to my own drummer.

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Voices in the Air

23 Mar

downloadI picked up an advanced readers copy of Naomi Shihab Nye’s Voices in the Air when I was at the ALA Midwinter Conference in Denver. I’ve been reading it at school, during independent reading time. Lovely poems reflecting on a variety of  artists, writers, poets, historical figures, and ordinary people.

I heard her speak a number of years ago at a conference. She was wonderfully dynamic and gave us advice I have tried to follow: write three lines everyday.

Imagine my delight when, Sunday night, I was listening to On Being on the radio and Naomi Shihab Nye was the guest. She read and talked about her poetry and her view of the world. Here are some of the bits I gleaned from the program.

  1. You are living in a poem.
  2. Very rarely do you hear anyone say they write things down and feel worse.
  3. Talking about poetry is also talking about how we move through the world.
  4. You have to write things down as they come to you.
  5. When you write things down, you find out what you notice.
  6. You listen to yourself when you go back and look at what you wrote.
  7. Consider reading your children awake when they get older.

If you read nothing else today, read Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem, “Kindness”.

 

Ogden Nash in my kitchen

19 Mar

One of the poems my dad recited was “Reflections On Ice-Breaking” by Ogden Nash.

Candy
Is Dandy
But liquor
Is quicker.

It wasn’t until I was older that I really understood what sort of ice-breaking Mr. Nash meant.

He did however write a number of other reflections and other short poems on rather mundane objects. There are an inordinate number of poems about fruit and vegetables. Here’s one about parsley.

Further Reflections on Parsley

Parsley
Is gharsley.

Looking in my fridge and around my kitchen, I wrote these poems inspired by Ogden Nash.

Cilantro
Some people find your soapy taste
Reminiscent of toxic waste
I enjoy your cleansing flavor
Sad so many feel disfavor.

 

Avocado
Overpriced;
Delicious sliced.

 

Carrots
Carrot sticks:
Salad’s quick fix.

 

Mandarin Orange
A few slices
Suffices.

 

Bananas
Green
are obscene.

Yellow
are good fellows.

Spotted
have rotted.

 

Kale
Hail, kale
You taste stale.

Lean green
You taste clean.

Food fad
You taste bad.

Kale chips
Apocalypse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I finally opened the windows

12 Mar

I finally opened the windows
The Spring really seemed to be here.
I finally opened the windows –
The air was so fresh and so clear.
I aired out the kitchen and bathroom,
And I aired out my stuffy bedroom.
My whole house was freed from its wintery gloom
Since I finally opened the windows

I finally opened the windows
It was such a beautiful day.
I finally opened the windows
And banished the winter away.
I opened the curtains and raised up the blinds,
Shook out the cobwebs stuck fast in my mind
And saw all the wonders that Nature designed
Since I finally opened the windows.

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What a week! Booktalks 2/19-23

23 Feb

Today is the only “normal” day this week.

No school Monday because of Washington’s birthday (aka President’s Day)

Tuesday, we arrived at school at our normal time but dismissed at noon. No book talk.

Wednesday was a snow day.

Thursday we had a 2-hour delay. The roads were clear, once I got off my street AND, I had time for a book talk. I shared Like Water on Stone a novel in verse by Dana Walrath.

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Publisher’s Summary:  It is 1914, and the Ottoman Empire is crumbling into violence.

Beyond Anatolia, in the Armenian Highlands, Shahen Donabedian dreams of going to New York. Sosi, his twin sister, never wants to leave her home, especially now that she is in love. At first, only Papa, who counts Turks and Kurds among his closest friends, stands in Shahen’s way. But when the Ottoman pashas set in motion their plans to eliminate all Armenians, neither twin has a choice.
After a horrifying attack leaves them orphaned, they flee into the mountains, carrying their little sister, Mariam. But the children are not alone. An eagle watches over them as they run at night and hide each day, making their way across mountain ridges and rivers red with blood.

Today, Friday,  I will book talk a new book to my classroom library, One Amazing Elephant by Linda Oatman High.

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Publisher’s Summary:  A poignant middle grade animal story from talented author Linda Oatman High that will appeal to fans of Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan. In this heartwarming novel, a girl and an elephant face the same devastating loss—and slowly realize that they share the same powerful love.

Twelve-year-old Lily Pruitt loves her grandparents, but she doesn’t love the circus—and the circus is their life. She’s perfectly happy to stay with her father, away from her neglectful mother and her grandfather’s beloved elephant, Queenie Grace.

Then Grandpa Bill dies, and both Lily and Queenie Grace are devastated. When Lily travels to Florida for the funeral, she keeps her distance from the elephant. But the two are mourning the same man—and form a bond born of loss. And when Queenie Grace faces danger, Lily must come up with a plan to help save her friend.

 

 

Randy Ribay

YA author, teacher, nerd

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