Friday, June 28, 2013


Hello, and happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit one of the sweetest souls on the internet, Amy, at The Poem Farm for Roundup!

Today I am continuing my celebration of Valerie Worth with poems about household items. Previous posts include her poems about zoo animals and childhood play. (Not sure what next week's theme will be, but I intend to keep going with these lovely poems for a while yet. So inspiring!) Here we go...


Themselves, almost as if
They were people,
Some fat, some thin;
Settled comfortably
On their own seats,
Some even stretch out their arms

- Valerie Worth

Here is a pic of my favorite chair in the house. It once belonged to Paul's mother, Bobbie. I adored Bobbie and still miss her. A girl could not have asked for a better mother-in-law. She hand-picked this upholstery, and I love it for its color and pattern -- and in spite of the way our cats have abused it with their claws! Here is a close up of the fabric:


This clock
Has stopped,
Some gear
Or spring
Gone wrong -
Too tight,
Or cracked,
Or choked
With dust;
A year
has psed
Since last
it said
Ting  ting
or  tick
or  tock.

- Valerie Worth

They say due to cell phones and computers, clocks and watches aren't all that fashionable anymore. Who needs 'em? Oh, but I love them. Both clocks and watches. Here's a pic of one of my favorites on the house -- a favorite because it belonged to Paul's grandmother. (Same grandmother who taught me to quilt -- Ludelphia's namesake!) I think of her every time I walk through our foyer and check the time.

safety pin

Closed, it sleeps
On its side
The silver
Of some
Small fish;

Opened, it snaps
Its tail out
Like a thin
Shrimp, and looks
At the sharp
Point with a
Surprised eye.

- Valerie Worth

What seamstress does not have a healthy supply of safety pins?? And how fabulous is that image of safety pins as fish?! Love!


It starts
Out so well,
Its fresh
Gold straws
Cut square,
Flared wide,

But so often
Ends otherwise,
With weary
Wan bristles
All stubbed
To one side.

- Valerie Worth

Oh, to be a broom! Here's a pic of the one I keep perched by the front door to swat down dirt and webs and such. Weary and wan, indeed. :)

Thursday, June 27, 2013


So there are two 2013 books I love with the title GOLDEN BOY. One is by Tara Sullivan -- and it releases today! (thanks to Excellent Editor Stacey Barney at Putnam, I read it as an ARC); the other is by Abigail Tarttelin. Both are FANTASTIC.
While Tara's book is set in central Africa (including a trek across the Serengeti and a new home in Mwanza), Abigail's book is set in small-town UK. Tara's started as a MG and has been "aged up" to YA while Abigail's is marketed for adults. Both are about kids who feel, and are, different.

In Tara's book, Habo is an albino boy who is being hunted by poachers who want his parts for good luck medicine. In Abigail's book, Max is a perfect, popular, blonde 16 year old who happens to be intersex (the latest term for what I learned as "hermaphrodite"). These significant differences create identity and emotional and physical safety issues for each boy. There are family issues, too. And what I loved about both these books is how REAL and IMMEDIATE they felt. Both made me cry. Both I will read again. Both bring to light important topics.

Both, in fact, GOLDEN. Read for yourself!

Monday, June 24, 2013


photo contributed by Linda Baie
It's an airplane! It's a dolphin! It's Linda Baie's cloud pic, which she generously shared as part of my "sky" year.

For the record: I want to be just like Linda when I grow up. Is there a more generous, loving spirit on ye ol' internet?

And not only that: she also sent along a wonderful poem:

No Stamp Needed

Clouds are the sky mail
personally sent,
helping us create tales
of fanciful intent.

- Linda Baie. All rights reserved.

Thank you, Linda! If anyone else has sky/cloud pics to share, I would be delighted to include them here. Email me: irene at irenelatham dot com.

Friday, June 21, 2013


Happy Poetry Friday! Carol at Carol's Corner is our friendly Roundup host. Go see!

Last week I featured zoo animal poems by Valerie Worth. Today I want to focus on some of those simple childhood pleasures. Enjoy!


Marbles picked up
heavy by the handful
And held, weighed,
Hard, glossy,
Glassy, cold,
Then poured clicking,
Water-smooth, back
To their bag, seem
Treasure: round jewels,
Slithering gold.

- Valerie Worth

I still love marbles, though I was never much good at playing them. Mostly I liked collecting them in an old flower vase. They caught the light and were so cool... sensory magic and great food for the imagination.


After that tight
Choke of sock
And blunt
Weight of shoe,

The foot can feel
Clover's green

And the fine
Of gentle grass,

And the cool
Of the earth

- Valerie Worth

Really, is there any better thing than being a kid running barefoot? I have so many memories of wild days with my siblings through pasture and woods and wherever. And during any season. (Okay, it probably helps that we always lived in warm climates.) Shoes were not important. Freedom was.


The way
Jacks nest
Together in
The hand,

Or cupped
Two palms,
Jingled up

And thrown,
Land in a
Loose starry

Seems luxury
Without the
further bliss

Of their

- Valerie Worth

I have memories of playing jacks and hopscotch at school, all the way through 6th grade. I loved how it was a game you could just carry in your pocket, and during the day, when I was bored or daydream-y, I could reach in my pocket and finger the jacks.


Her eyes beam,
Full of sweet
Blue glass,

Her dainty
Shallow mouth
Curves pink;

Even when her clothes
Are lost, her curls
Left in knots,

Her smile
Remains the same,
I think.

- Valerie Worth

I was definitely a "baby doll" kind of girl. No barbies for me. My sister and I spent a lot of time playing house. (I made her be the Dad, so I could always be the Mom. Oh, Bossy Big Sister, that's me!) Sometimes we pretended to run a daycare in which one day, no one every came back to pick up their babies! So we had to take care of them all. It was awesome. :)


Such a
Box of
With the
Five senses,
The seven
Seas, the
Four winds
And corners,
All fitted
Exactly in.

- Valerie Worth

There has never been a time when I didn't love books. Box of tricks, indeed! And adventure and love and mystery... I'll leave you with a pic of wee me that would not have happened if my mother hadn't brought along my favorite book. (Apparently I was not all that fond of being photographed!)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


I first became aware of the picture book THE STAMP COLLECTOR by Jennifer Lanthier, illustrations by Fracois Thisdale, at Fay B. Kaigler Children's Book Festival when it was named an Ezra Jack Keats Honor Book. I was moved by Jennifer's speech and knew I needed the book.

Well... the bookseller was SOLD OUT. And life went on, as it does, and I forgot about the book. Until I was roadtripping with two wonderful children's authors Jo Kittinger and Heather Montgomery. We were talking about how it was a title and speech that really stood out to us. When I got home I ordered it.

Before it arrived (it took a while -- not sure why), the book won another award: the Crystal Kite, an SCBWI member's choice award. Then, finally, it was here and I read it and I loved it and knew I wanted to blog about it.

See, my father is a stamp collector. When the story says,

"In his dreams, the stamp is a kite, a paper jewel from the crown of a wise old king.
It holds a secret message; it is a clue to buried treasure.
The stamp is the key to another world - one that is new and full of adventure.
And stories."

... that could be my father talking.

When I was a teenager, my father gave me writing assignments. One time, he handed me an envelope addressed to Charles Lindbergh. The envelope's stamp was from Ireland. Papa said, "write a story about the letter that was once inside this envelope." Off I went on a new adventure.

This book is about connection and yearning and freedom, how stories matter and make us better humans.

It's also, somehow, about my father.

Read it!

Monday, June 17, 2013


"There were many skies. The sky was invaded by great white clouds, flat on the bottom but round and billowy on top. The sky was completely cloudless, of a blue quite shattering to the senses. The sky was a heavy, suffocating blanket of grey cloud, but without promise of rain. The sky was thinly overcast. The sky was dappled with small, white, fleecy clouds. The sky was streaked with high, thin clouds that looked like a cotton ball stretched a part. The sky was a featureless milky haze. The sky was a density of dark and blustery rain clouds that passed by without delivering rain. The sky was painted with a small number of flat clouds that looked like sandbars. The sky was a mere block to allow a visual effect on the horizon: sunlight flooding the ocean, the vertical edges of between light and shadow perfectly distinct. The sky was a distant black curtain of falling rain. The sky was many clouds at many levels, some thick and opaque, others looking like smoke. The sky was black and spitting on my smiling face. The sky was nothing but falling water, a ceaseless deluge that wrinkled and bloated my skin and froze me stiff." - Yann Martel, THE LIFE OF PI

Friday, June 14, 2013


So I've been writing short poems and reading for inspiration Valerie Worth's ALL THE SMALL POEMS AND FOURTEEN MORE, with illustrations by Natalie Babbitt. For the next few Poetry Fridays, I thought I would share a few on a theme. Today's theme is ZOO ANIMALS! Be sure and visit our Louisiana poet-friend Margaret at Reflections on the Teche for Roundup.


How lucky
To live
So high
The body,
At heaven's
in the eye;
While down
The neck's
Back, belly,
And legs
Take care
Of themselves,
Of the head's

- Valerie Worth

painting by Eric, 2nd grade


The tiger
Has swallowed
A black sun,

In his cold
Cage he
Carries it still:

Black flames
Flicker through
His fur,

Black rays roar
from the centers
Of his eyes.

- Valerie Worth

painting by Eric, 2nd grade



- Valerie Worth

photo by Irene, Birmingham Zoo

sea lions

The satin sea lions
Nudge each other
Toward the edge
Of the pool until
They fall like
Soft boulders
Into the water,
Sink down, slide
In swift circles,
Twist together
And apart, rise again
Snorting, climb
Up slapping
Their flippers on
The wet cement:
Someone said
That in all the zoo
Only the sea lions
Seem happy.

- Valerie Worth

(sorry, I don't have a sea lions painting or pic to share!)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


“Not that I'm a happy man, nor even an unhappy man,” he'd told her. “But happiness, unhappiness, are too trivial to matter. In such a place you become your own imagining. You feel nothing, or everything. You melt out into the sky.” 
 - MIDDLE AGE by Joyce Carol Oates

Monday, June 10, 2013


I was sitting at an intersection about a mile and a half from our home in the suburbs of Birmingham when I saw this sky. I thought, man, that would be a great picture, if not for all the stupid power lines. 

And then I thought, reframe: it's a great picture because of the not-so-stupid power lines.

And then I started thinking about other criss-cross-y things:

criss cross applesauce
the lattice on top of an apple pie
the veins on a leaf
palm lines

What does it make you think of?

Friday, June 7, 2013


Happy Poetry Friday! Don't forget to visit amazingly creative and inspiring Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference for Roundup.

1. For the first year ever, I am not on family vacation for the 48 Hour Book Challenge! My e-reader is loaded, and my nightstand is ready, starting with this one:

Sign up at Ms Yingling Reads.

2. Had a lovely time visiting Pat who pampered us, as ever. We visited the Wall, ate yummy vegetables and talked writing. Here's a pic of two of my favorite fellas on the Ranger:

3. Finished edits on DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST, my poetry collection for children to be released by Millbrook Press/Lerner in 2014. Special thanks to a very special poet-friend Jeannine who helped me spit and polish. Mwah!

4. Enjoyed corresponding with friends after putting out my email newsletter, in which I shared news about DON'T FEED THE BOY being selected to represent Alabama at the National Book Festival in Washington DC! I also got an invitation to Southern Festival of Books in October, so I'll be heading to Nashville as well. Thank you, friends, for reading! And if you're not on the list but want to be, sign up at my website.

5. Lots of exciting things going on next week, beginning with Alabama School Library Association's summer conference. I'm presenting a session on poetry and how to use The Poetry Friday Anthologies. Yippee!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


My father sent me this quote, from THE SHARKS OF LAKE NICARAGUA by Randy Wayne White:

"Adventure-travel is any activity used as a conduit to observe, share, enjoy, suffer, encounter, or experience that which is outside the boundaries of one’s own day-to-day life.  You don’t have to go to Thailand or Central America to be an adventurer-traveler, but you can.  And it’s probably better not to have a specific goal, but there are no requirements about that, either.  'Boundaries' is the operative word here; real, implied, or imagined, if your body or mind crosses a boundary, you are doing it."
                                                                         ~Randy Wayne White~

Are you an adventurer-traveler too?

Sunday, June 2, 2013


Aldridge Gardens is one of my favorite spots in the Birmingham metro area any time of the year. Add art and it approaches the divine.

Here's some of the natural art:

Hydrangeas, how I love thee!

And here's one of the displays where I found treasure:

That's right: upcycled journals! The artist takes the covers and even some of the pages from these books, adds plain white paper and binds with spiral. I bought a few to give as gifts. :) Here's a close-up of one I considered for myself:

But I wasn't there to buy for myself! Eric and I found things for every person on our list. And it was fun and inspiring and pretty much a perfect Saturday.