Thursday, March 23, 2017

A Honey of a Memory Pillow

Honey-n-me
I have had many special pets in my life, but there is one that remains the most special of them all: a palomino Shetland pony named Honeysuckle Rose -- Honey, for short.

She was just six months old and no bigger than a German Shepherd when we packed her into the back seat of our car to bring her home. Oh, how I loved that pony! I was 11, and I spent so many hours out in the backyard grooming her and talking to her and loving her.

At the time we were living on Willie Rd. in Folsom, Louisiana, which is not known for its cold weather. But all the thoroughbred horses that lived on the farms in the area always sported blankets whenever the temps dropped below freezing, so I thought Honey should have a blanket, too. But where to find a blanket for such a small pony?!

a picture of me with my Christmas
loot (including Honey's blanket),
circa 1982
Enter my seamstress mother who is a genius at solving problems with fabric. When she was a teen active in 4-H, she had once made a blanket for her cow -- a blanket the cow couldn't shake. So she made one similar for Honey and gave it to me for Christmas.

I put it on Honey right away! And have this oh so distinct memory of a photograph of the two of us that day, on the back patio, Honey sporting her new blanket, and me patting her head. But. Maybe that photo doesn't actually exist, because I haven't been able to find it anywhere!

Fast-forward 35 years... I found the blanket in a box of keepsakes. My mom was shocked to learn I'd kept it all these years! On our scrapbook weekend, I brought it to my mom with a pillow form and a request: make this into a pillow. And  this is what she did:


Isn't it gorgeous! She used the red plaid lining as piping, and kept one of the straps operational! (I told you, she's a genius.) And here's what she monogrammed on the backside:

What a treasure! Thank you, Mama. Here a couple of other Honey-n-me pics, just for fun:




Tuesday, March 21, 2017

What I Learned About Books, Writing and Writers at UGA's Children's Book Festival

Wow, what a great festival! I loved meeting Georgia book-lovers, and the facilities at UGA were perfect! Here are some of the highlights:

1. Listening again to Natalie Lloyd talk about the magic of books. I heard Natalie speak last year at TLA, so I knew to expect bubbly inspiration -- and pics of her dog Biscuit -- and Natalie did not disappoint. I love what she shared about the impact of books on her own childhood, particularly THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE and THE BABYSITTER CLUB. You can definitely see these elements in Natalie's books! When she read the opening to A SNICKER OF MAGIC, I realized she did on page one what I've just been reading about in WIRED FOR STORY by Lisa Cron, which is to show the reader right away that something is amiss. This creates intrigue and the desire for the reader to read on! (Seriously, writers, you want this book. It's a life-changing book for me!)

2. Being reminded by international-spotlight author Kathryn White that it's important to create books that deal with tough issues, like in her book WHEN THEY FIGHT. It was inspired by her childhood experiences of her parents fighting, and in the book, it's BADGERS who are fighting -- which gives the reader some distance while still allowing them to relate... and to know they are not alone.

3. Talking about resilience and resistance with author Lois Ruby. Lois provided an amazing bibliography of historical titles that incorporate these two qualities. I LOVE these kind of books, and I was thrilled to hear about so many that I haven't yet read. So many good books to look forward to!

Duncan from the side, just like he draws
all his characters!
4. Getting a peak into Duncan Tonatuih's process. Duncan enjoys creating books about social justice issues, and he demonstrated how he uses photoshop to make his books. His style is distinctive in that he only ever shows one side of a character's face, and he draws stylized ears and feet and hands. He also uses a lot of texture that he scans from real life (hair, blue jeans, etc.) and "paints" digitally onto his sketch. Fascinating!

5. Listening to local-author spotlight Kelly Bingham and making a connection about how writing verse novels (and any poem) is like animation art: one quick moment to show emotion/story. I also was reminded of my days working at Disney (I worked at the travel agency for a semester in college... while Kelly was an animation artist/story director!) and also of Sesame Street when Kelly mentioned THERE'S A MONSTER AT THE END OF THIS BOOK being the inspiration for her book Z IS FOR MOOSE.

Book people are so very fascinating, aren't they? And that was just the speakers.... I loved meeting so many teachers and librarians! The best thing I came home with was hope for this novel I have rewritten 548 times... (sorry to say that is only a slight exaggeration). But, YAY!

Friday, March 17, 2017

This Poem is Green

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit that sweet-singing Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge for Roundup.

I am away from my desk today, attending the Georgia Children's Book Festival, but I did want to pop in for St. Patrick's Day to share a green poem. :)

Also, if you haven't signed up for our 2017 Progressive Poem, there are just two slots left! Sign up here.

About St. Patrick's Day: I have never felt a particular affinity for the holiday, even though during the years we lived near New Orleans, participating in the St. Patrick's Day parade was a pretty big deal. All the guys would dress up in green-trimmed tuxedos and march through the streets kissing girls. We watched safely from a balcony -- yes, there was alcoholic beverages involved, and this is the Big Easy we're talking about... not the best place for a tween girl!

Anyhow, fast forward to last year, when I visited Bismarck, North Dakota for some sessions on One Little Word, but mostly to see my father. Not only did I find out we actually DO have Irish blood (something about a fiery red-headed great-grandmother?!), but someone also snapped what would turn out to be the last photo of me and my father together.


Isn't he adorable in his leprechaun hat? So now St. Patrick's Day fills me and empties me. I'm glad to be busy today.

And here is a poem, freshly written, green spots and all:

This Poem is Green

Green like a hillside
gowned in clover,
green like sea-washed glass.
It's pushing up through hardscrabble soil,
tender leaves unfurling
on a frosty March morning.
Each day it begins,
or begins again –
there is always something new to learn.
Sometimes it gets wobbly,
like now: it's queasy heart
squeezed by the tides
of opinion.
Sometimes it sees other poems
that are far better-dressed,
poems with wings,
and this poem grows even green-er.
What else is there to do then,
than retreat to the forest?
This poem knows to listen
to giants. It carried their wild songs
like DNA in each syllable,
it holds lost fathers and daughters
in its branches,
and when it breathes,
the sky tastes like salt.
See? This poem is so green
it's already turning blue.

- Irene Latham


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Children's Book Festival in Athens, GA!

veggie painting at COMO (Athens, GA) Oct. 2016
I am excited to be traveling today to the Children's Book Festival in Athens, Georgia. I am a Georgia peach, after all!

This is my first time to attend the festival, and I am delighted to be presenting once again my FRESH DELICIOUS program "Reading is Delicious: Fun, Fresh Programming for Kids." Among other things, we will be using jeweler's loupes to create analogies AND painting with asparagus. :)

I also have a new veggie book to share with the librarians: FRESH-PICKED POEMS: A Day at the Farmers' Market by Michelle Schaub. It was my good fortune to meet Michelle at Poetry Camp last summer, and she is a peach for sure! When I asked her about sharing a poem, she sent me "Pile Up," and added these comments: "I probably had the most fun writing this poem.  I got a little carried away playing up the alliteration and assonance when choosing words, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself in the process.  I also liked coming up with the twist, or maybe I should say "tumble" at the end."

Here is the poem:

Pile Up

Farmer Rick's meticulous
when setting up his stand.
He places all his items
into stacks precisely planned.
His cauliflower towers
take him eons to align.
His pyramids of peppers
show impeccable design.
No one sloppy heap of beets,
no single misplaced pea.
Each veggie castle he constructs
has perfect symmetry.
But when Miss Mallory arrives
Rick sports a wary smile -
she always picks her produce from
the bottom of the pile!

- Michelle Schaub

Isn't that fun?! Congratulations, Michelle!

Speaking of fun, the festivities in Athens also include an SCBWI sponsored "authors in your backyard" session, as well as a reception. I am excited to meet more Georgia educators, librarians and book-lovers -- and of course to see SCBWI friends!


Monday, March 13, 2017

Jazzing it Up with Poetry at Young Author's Conference (Mobile, AL)

This past Saturday it was my honor and privilege to be the speaker at the "Jazz it Up with Poetry" Young Author's Conference at West Regional Branch Library in Mobile, Alabama. This is an annual event sponsored by Mobile Public Library, Friends of the Mobile Public Library and Metro Mobile Reading Council. And It. Was. Amazing!

I met so many wonderful young authors and artists who shared their work with me in a lovely bound edition... of course I asked them to sign my book for me! And I met some fabulous adults, too, all of whom are dedicated to promoting the love of books. So much volunteer energy goes into an event like this, and I am grateful to have been a part of it.
Busy young authors just before my presentation!
One highlight was getting to see fellow Birmingham author-friend Chandra Sparks Splond and her daughter Jessica. Here is our selfie:


I talked about poetry and my other books and how making connections with readers has brought so much meaning to my life. I was thrilled when they gifted me with this t-shirt, which I will be wearing during April (National Poetry Month) for sure!


Check out these signatures from young authors... one in particular fills me with tenderness:



Big thanks to everyone involved, especially Nancy Anlage and Elizabeth Gillespie, for taking such good care of me and making me and Paul feel so very welcome. I'm in awe of the work you do -- what a gift to the community!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Sign Up Here for 2017 Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem!

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit lovely Michelle at Today's Little Ditty for Roundup.

I do have a poem to share with you today, but first:

It's that time again! National Poetry Month (April) will soon be upon us, which means it is time again to sign up for our annual KIDLITOSPHERE PROGRESSIVE POEM. This year -- our 6th year! -- our goal is to create a poem for kids, and Heidi Mordhorst will be launching our first line! The rest is up to all of YOU! I invite you to choose your day in comments, and I will update the calendar below as we go along.

ETA: Schedule for 2017 is FULL. Thank you!

Here's how it works:

Poetry Friday Friends and other poetry lovers are invited to join in a community writing experience during National Poetry Month (April).

What is it? a poem that travels daily from blog to blog, with each host adding a line, beginning April 1. Anyone who wants to join in the fun can sign up below. First come, first served. If you are new to the Progressive Poem, please include your email and blog url in comments -or- send via email: irene (at) irenelatham (dot) com. 

April
1 Heidi at my juicy little universe
2 Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference
3 Doraine at Dori Reads
4 Michelle at Today's Little Ditty
5 Diane at Random Noodling
6 Kat at Kat's Whiskers
7 Irene at Live Your Poem
8 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
9 Linda at TeacherDance
10 Penny at a penny and her jots
11 Ramona at Pleasures from the Page
12 Janet F. at Live Your Poem
13 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
14 Jan at Bookseedstudio
15 Brenda at Friendly Fairy Tales
16 Joy at Poetry for Kids Joy
17 Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect
18 Buffy at Buffy's Blog
19 Pat at Writer on a Horse
20 BJ at Blue Window
21 Donna at Mainely Write
22 Jone at Jone Ruch MacCulloch
23 Ruth at There is no such thing as a godforsaken town
24 Amy at The Poem Farm
25 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge
26 Renee at No Water River
27 Matt at Radio, Rhythm and Rhyme
28 Michelle at Michelle Kogan
29 Charles at Poetry Time
30 Laura Purdie Salas at Writing the World for Kids

Once we have a complete schedule, I will be send via email the HTML code to include in your post and/or sidebar so that readers might follow along/look back/look forward. And feel free to snag the above graphic!

Can't wait to see where our poem will take us this year! (To view poems from previous years, click on the Progressive Poem tab above.)

And now, a poem for you. I've just finished reading PIECING ME TOGETHER by Renee Watson. It's the story of Jade who is poor and black and attending a white private school in Portland as she navigates race and privilege and relationships on the road to success. And it ends with a poem by Jade's best friend Lee Lee:

Black Girls Rising
by Lee Lee Simmons

Our black bodies, sacred.
Our black bodies, holy.

Our bodies, our own.
Every smile a protest.
Each laugh a miracle.

Piece by piece we stitch ourselves back together.
This black girl tapestry, this black body
that gets dragged out of school desk, slammed onto linoleum floor,
tossed about at pool side, pulled over and pushed onto grass,
arrested never to return home,
shot on doorsteps, on sofas while sleeping
and dreaming of our next day.

Our bodies a quilt that tells stories of the middle passage,
of roots yanked and replanted.

Our bodies a mosaic of languages forgotten,
of freedom songs and moaned prayers.

Our bodies no longer
disregarded, objectified, scrutinized.

Our bodies, our own
Every smile a protest.
Each laugh a miracle.

Our bodies rising.
Our feet marking, legs dancing, our bellies birthing, hands raising,
our hearts healing, voices speaking up.

Our bodies so black, so beautiful.
Here, still.

Rising.
Rising.

- Renee Watson

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

An Abundance of Photographs

loose photos
When I chose Abundance as my 2017 One Little Word, I wasn't sure what it would mean in my life. I never really know where a OLW is going to take me. But Abundance has really been helping me take stock: what do I have? where can I cut? how can I give?

Last month I wrote about an Abundance of Notebooks. This month I've discovered my Abundance of Photographs.

an abundance of scrapbooks
I'm a historian, a memory-maker and a memory-keeper. I have always always loved photographs. And I come from a family of avid photographers: my father, my younger brother and my sister. We have each spent hours, days, weeks of our lives devoted to recording and preserving our experiences. We've gone through slides and snapshots and film. I, alone, have made dozens and dozens of scrapbooks. Reliving and remembering my life is almost as fun as the original experience!

photo ornaments
Why all this mad need to document? I don't know. It kind of goes against everything I am moving toward these days in my effort to be present for my life. When one has a camera trained on every experience, one is at least one lens away from actually being there. And why must the sunrise be captured on film, instead of simply enjoyed? I don't know.

I guess taking a photograph is one way to hold on to something, to preserve it. A way to go back, to experience the joy all over again.

photo collage
I have learned things from photographs. I have treasured the ones I have that include loved ones no longer on this planet. I have loved getting to know a younger ME in photographs. And I have loved sharing photographs with our children of themselves when they were wee. It's a way to say, see, there you are, a version of you, and that version still exists.

photos in frames
But I do wonder: what happens to all these photographs when I am gone? Who will care? And how sad that many of these faces will turn nameless, unknown?

And then I think: it's okay. There is enough time and space in the world for everyone. It's good and right that we should all move on.

I don't know what will happen to all my photographs, but I am sure that they have been a huge source of joy for me. And maybe not quite as necessary as they once were? Yes, I can feel myself trusting that these things, these experiences will continue to exist even without photographs as proof.

But still: is there anything more precious than a photograph?

a new father, my Papa, holding his
third child/firstborn baby girl - me

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Unexpected Magic of Author Visits

This past week it was my privilege to visit two local schools: Thompson Intermediate School in Alabaster, Alabama, where I shared time with 4th and 5th graders, and Berry Middle School in Hoover, Alabama, where I spoke with 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. Read all about it in the Hoover Sun! Attention local schools: I offer half-price visits to schools in the Birmingham metro-area who schedule visits one year in advance. Now booking for 2018! More details at the School Visits page of my website.

These are both big suburban schools, with 400-500 kids in each grade level, so in each case, I spoke to one grade-level at a time, in the gym. And It. Was. Awesome.

First, Thompson. This was librarian Christi King's first author visit, and wow, did she do a great job! She was even able to overcome a last minute book-ordering issue with grace and success. Everyone I met was so sweet -- these kids are getting a lot of love! I am so grateful to be even the tiniest part of that.

One of the best parts was lunching with a few students who asked me questions for a school newspaper article. These girls were so fun and savvy... I predict great things in their future!

And check out this cake for Dr. Seuss's birthday! (From Edgar's Bakery. It was delicious.)

Now for Berry Middle. Many authors are intimidated by middle schoolers. They are notoriously hard to engage. NOT THESE STUDENTS.
I loved my time with these kids, how we visited while signing books, and the great questions they asked during my sessions. What a great learning environment! And educators and parents, you know this doesn't just happen. It starts at the top! Thank you to principal Chris Robbins and especially to librarian Ginger Hewitt, who took such great care of me (reminding me to take a potty break, giving me a few minutes of down-time, etc...) and had things so well-organized, it was a dream.

A highlight of this visit was during the special lunch when students (and a teacher!) read their favorite parts from both LEAVING GEE'S BEND and DON'T FEED THE BOY. It's been a while since I wrote those books, so it was like hearing someone else's words... and I was touched by their choices... and also, unexpectedly, inspired.

I have struggled lately with new projects, and this made me feel like, yes, I can do this. I have done it before. And it just made me really want to hang in there, to give great kids like these a new, exciting reading experience. It's an honor to be a part of anyone's reading life. And it's a little bit magic: the magic of connection. Of people. Of hope and love and literature. I can't think of a better reason to write books.

Finally, here is a bonus gift from a sweet, talented 5th grader:

Thank you, Amelia! And thanks everyone so much for reading!


Friday, March 3, 2017

Billy Collins on How to Live Your Poem

Thanks to one Heidi Mordhorst, we are celebrating Billy Collins' 76th birthday (March 22) today. Be sure to visit Heidi at my juicy little universe for Roundup. Happy Poetry Friday, everyone... and to you, Billy! We actually met oh about ten years ago... remember?

Oh, before we get to Billy, I need to let everyone know that I will be posting the signup for our annual Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem next Friday, March 10. It's first-come, first-serve... I hope you'll join us in the collaborative fun!

An interviewer asked me recently, "What does it mean, to "live your poem?" I wish I'd thought to share this poem by Billy Collins, which shows us several ways to live a poem.


Japan by Billy Collins

Today I pass the time reading
a favorite haiku,
saying the few words over and over.

It feels like eating
the same small, perfect grape
again and again

I walk through the house reciting it
and leave its letters falling
through the air of every room.

I stand by the big silence of the piano and say it.
I say it in front of a painting of the sea.
I tap out its rhythm on an empty shelf.

I listen to myself saying it,
then I say it without listening,
then I hear it without saying it.

And when the dog looks up at me,
I kneel down on the floor
and whisper it into each of his long white ears.

It’s the one about the one-ton
temple bell
with the moth sleeping on the surface,

and every time I say it, I feel the excruciating
pressure of the moth
on the surface of the iron bell.

When I say it at the window,
the bell is the world
and I am the moth resting there.

When I say it into the mirror,
I am the heavy bell
and the moth is life with its papery wings.

And later, when I say it to you in the dark,
you are the bell,
and I am the tongue of the bell, ringing you,

and the moth has flown
from its line
and moves like a hinge in the air above our bed.'
---------------------- And for the curious (like me!), here is the aforementioned "favorite" haiku:



On the one ton temple bell

a moon-moth, folded into sleep,
sits still.


- Yosa Buson

Thursday, March 2, 2017

That Sweet Moon Language of Connection

Hello and welcome to this month's installment of Spiritual Journey FIRST Thursday, during which we are all writing about Doraine's 2017 One Little Word "Connection." Visit Dori Reads for the Roundup!

Right way, it's got me thinking about Kermit and Miss Piggy and their "Rainbow Connection." Here's a version with Kermit and Debbie Harry:

Someday we'll find it... I love how hopeful that is! And I think it's what I am looking for every time I write a poem or a story, or when I walk in the early mornings or when I pray: connection. Connection to the universe, to nature, to other people. To myself, to the mystery of living, to a higher power...

Here is a poem I adore by the Persian poem Hafiz:

With That Moon Language

Admit something:

Everyone you see, you say to them, "Love me."

Of course you do not do this out loud, otherwise
someone would call the cops.

Still, though, think about this, this great pull in us to connect.

Why not become the one who lives with a
full moon in each eye that is
always saying,

with that sweet moon language,
what every other eye in
this world is
dying to
hear?

----------------------
This reminds me of a conversation I had this past week with my 17 year old who this school year started at a new (giant) school where he knew no one... and this past week he started a new job, where he also knew no one. 

He said the girls working there looked really mean, and he was a little intimidated and wondering if they would even talk to him. But the one who looked the meanest ended up being the sweetest in terms of helping him learn the ropes. He said he realizes now that she's just shy -- just like he is. 

And that got us talking about how so few kids have reached out to him at school. They have their friend groups, and they just ignore him because they don't know him. 

What if HE was the one to reach out to them? How could we all change our lives if we just took that teeny-tiny risk? If WE were the ones to reach out first?

Today may I be the one to live with a full moon in each eye, telling the world and the people I meet how I love them.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

A Poem for Johnny Cash's Birthday

I share a birthday with Johnny Cash. And Buffalo Bill. Recently I read FOREVER WORDS: The Unknown Poems by Johnny Cash. I especially loved the handwritten bits included.

Here's the poem/song I'd like to share with you today. Happy birthday, Johnny! And Buffalo Bill! And me! :) We will be celebrating tonight with a La La Land themed Oscar-viewing party! :)




Let's Put it To Music
by Johnny Cash (1960s)

How do you feel about me
Now that you've learned to know me?
Why don't we both admit
That something is happening
And we would feel better if
We'd just tell each other
No need to keep it to ourselves
Let's put it to music
Let's put it to music
Let's sing about it
Laugh about it
Clap our hands
And shout about it
Let the whole world hear it
In a sweet, sweet melody
Let's put it to music, you and me

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Poems for Peace / Comfort Food Poems

Peace Postcards!
Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Karen Edmisten for Roundup. (While Karen is expecting snow, we've been enjoying super-warm weather! 77 degrees -- and the azaleas and tulip trees are in bloom!) I am posting early because I will be away from my desk tomorrow.

All this month I've been participating in the World Peace Poetry Postcard Project. That means I've been writing a poem a day and also receiving peace-full postcards. What a great project! Many thanks to Carla Shafer for organizing us. It's been fun and inspiring.
While I am not able to share the poems I've received without the senders' permission, I did want to share a few that I've written.... all these happen to be on the theme of comfort food. :)

Peace is a Sweet Potato Pie

cloud-topped
creamy sunshine
custard

scented with
a pinch of nutmeg
and allspice

it comes tucked
in a buttery,
flaky crust

to rest warm
and pillowy
on your tongue

it tastes
like gratitude

mmmmmmmmmm

- Irene Latham
(This poem was original titled "Peace is a Pumpkin Pie," after a photo, and I was thinking Thanksgiving, which explains the end... but then I realized the internal rhyme of "sweet" and "peace," and so I dumped the pumpkin for sweet potato!)

Peace in a Coffee Cup

Warm brown universe
frothed and creamed –
Welcome, it says.
Anything can happen,
anything can be!

- Irene Latham
(I'm actually a tea drinker, and really need to write a "Peace in a Tea Cup" poem... but I was working off a picture prompt.)

Like Peace for Chocolate

If only it came
foil-wrapped
with a creamy
center –

I'd take a bite
and you'd take a bite

and for an instant
all our struggles
and opinions,

our this-is-me-this-is-you
battlelines

would turn dark,
                bittersweet
                             milky

and then even that
would disappear

leaving our mouths
soft
and thick with
                         hope

- Irene Latham
(Someone asked me recently about my chocolate habit, so I'll share it here. I eat chocolate every day. I love those little Dove chocolates with the messages. My Valentine always gives me Godiva chocolates for Valentine's Day. I'll eat any sort, but if I was on a deserted island, just a nice piece of plain dark chocolate would be a dream! I'm also fond lately of Trader Joe's "no sugar added" dark chocolate bars. This doesn't mean "no sugar." It means exactly what it says: no sugar ADDED. Somehow this makes me feel better about eating it!)

What comfort food would you compare peace to?

Monday, February 20, 2017

Movie Monday: MOONLIGHT

For our last movie before next weekend's Oscar's ceremony, we ventured forth to the only theater (and the only showing that day) of MOONLIGHT -- a sure sign of a movie on it's way out of theaters. (Actually I guess they may have just brought it back due to Oscar noms, because you can already stream it on Amazon.)

Wow, did this movie surprise me! Yes, I'd heard the Oscar buzz. It's earned 8 nominations! And my friend Charles told me how much he'd enjoyed it... I guess when I heard the "coming of age black gay boy in Miami" logline, I just thought I knew what the story would be. And it WAS that story... but it was also more. I wasn't expecting to be so powerfully drawn into these characters and the Miami setting, with its beautiful beaches pressed up against its drug holes.

From a purely visual perspective, there are several really stunning (creative!) moments in the film... and several really emotional-for-me ones as well. I ached for Chiron and appreciated his loneliness and vulnerability and anger at every age. It kind of made me ache for all boys -- the posturing, the competitiveness, the near-constant tests of strength and manhood. I think it's tough to be a boy (gay or straight) in this world... having raised 3 of them, I know it's tough. I wouldn't want to be one; it's hard enough being their mother.

The movie is beautifully acted all around, and while it is not my pick for Best Picture, I definitely see why it was nominated. Go see for yourself! And maybe then watch BOYHOOD ? Lots to learn in both those movies about the experience of growing up boy.

And... speaking of boys... and children... and what marvels we all are... you might like my post that includes music and a great Pablo Casals quote over at Birmingham Cello Project!

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Tree is Older than You Are

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Jone (the poetry postcard queen!) at Check it Out for Roundup.

First, some congratulations are in order:
let's send up some balloons for Laura Shovan whose THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY won the Cybils Award for Poetry!! What a wonderful choice! And the 2017 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award goes to... SOMOS COM LAS NUBES/WE ARE LIKE THE CLOUDS by Jorge Argueta, illus. by Alfonso Ruano (Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press).  Here's a link to my earlier post on this book. Yay for happy poetry news!

And now, thanks to my sweet friend Sarah at Shine Memoirs, I've been reading THE TREE IS OLDER THAN YOU ARE: A Bilingual Gathering of Poems and Stories from Mexico with Paintings by Mexican Artists selected by Naomi Shihab Nye.

What a gorgeous book! I am in love with several of these poems and the artwork, too. One poet in particular, Homero Aridjis, caught my heart, so I have ordered one of his solo poetry books. More on this soon! I also discovered his daughter Chloe Aridjis is a novelist. Oh how the TBR stack grows! Meanwhile, please enjoy these selections.

2 of my baby spoons (recently discovered!)
Noche en la cocina

De su vaina salen los chicharos
rapidas sombras vedes
junto a una chuchara sola

- Homero Aridjis

Night in the Kitchen

Peas come out of their pods
quick green shadows
by a single spoon

(translated by Eliot Weinberger)



Gala and Granny Smith
Sitting on an Orange Plate
(photo by me!)
La manzana

Sabe a luz, a luz fria,
si, la manzana.
Que amanecida fruta
tan de manana!

- Jose Gorostoza

The Apple

Yes, the apple tastes of light,
cold light.
That's it, the apple!
What a lively fruit
so much like morning!

(translated by Joan Darby Norris and Judith Infante)



Fox Sparrow, courtesy of Bird Watcher's Digest
Si el gorrion perdiera sus alas

Si el gorrion perdiera sus alas
la casa su techo
y la mesa sus patas

si el aguila en la altura
y la mujer en la plaza
de pronto se deschicieran

si la ciudad con sus torres
y el volcan con sus hoyos
cayeran en un pozo

si los cominos
si los gatos si los ojos
perdieran para siempre el camino

si la Terra se precipitara
en u espacio negro

si no hubiera mas cuerpos
si no hubiera mas luz

el canot seguiria

- Homero Aridjis


Should the Sparrow Lose Its Wings

Should the sparrow lose its wings
the house its roof
and the table its legs

should the eagle in the skies
and the woman in the market
crumple into bits

should the city with its towers
and the volcano with its craters
fall into a well

should the roads
should the cats should the eyes
lose their way for always

should the Earth launch itself
into a black hole

should there be no more bodies
should there be no more light

the song would still sing

(translated by Martha Black Jordan)


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Everyone Matters.

Last year, after I fell in love with Newbery Honor-Award winning THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE, I set about to read everything else by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley -- who, incidentally is my Tennessee neighbor! -- which led me to her marvelous book JEFFERSON'S SONS: A Founding Father's Secret Sons.



I love this book. It features the stories of Beverly, Harriet, Maddy, and Eston -- whose father was Thomas Jefferson and mother was Sally Hemings. It's rich, heartfelt historical fiction full of truth and beauty and honesty. And how wise is this Sally?! Love her. And lucky me, at NCTE, I got to meet Kim and tell her in person how much I enjoyed the book. (see pic below)

Here are a few favorite passages from the book.

"A lot of things are true," said Mama, "but that doesn't mean we say them out loud."

"You matter, "mama repeated. "not because of whose son you are. Because of who you are. You're as important as every other human being that ever was or ever will be. Everyone matters. What that girl thinks of you, how she treats you, can't change the fine person that you are."

Mama took Beverly's hands. "Listen. Neither part of you is better not the black part or the white part. They're both what you are. But right now the white people make the laws in this country. They make the rules. It's easier to live like a white person here."

And here's me and Kim. (Good news: Kim says we'll soon get a sequel to THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE! It's coming in October and is titled THE WAR I FINALLY WON.)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

"The Ostrich in Love" by Arnold Lobel

Each year forValentine's Day, I like to share this favorite love story, which appears in the 1981 Caldecott Award-winning FABLES by Arnold Lobel. Enjoy! (And happy hearts-n-flowers... hug the ones you love! Thanks to my sweetheart, I'll be here savoring Godiva chocolates... mmmmmmmmmm)

The Ostrich in Love

On Sunday the Ostrich saw a young lady walking in the park. He fell in love with her at once. He followed behind her at a distance, putting his feet in the very places where she had stepped.

On Monday the Ostrich gathered violets as a gift to his beloved. He was too shy to give them to her. He left them at her door and ran away, but there was a great joy in his heart.

On Tuesday the Ostrich composed a song for his beloved. He sang it over and over. He thought it was the most beautiful music he had ever heard.

On Wednesday the Ostrich watched his beloved dining in a restaurant. He forgot to order supper for himself. He was too happy to be hungry.

On Thursday the Ostrich wrote a poem to his beloved. It was the first poem he had ever written, but he did not have the courage to read it to her.

On Friday the Ostrich bought a new suit of clothes. He fluffed his feathers, feeling fine and handsome. He hoped that his beloved might notice.

On Saturday the Ostrich dreamed that be was waltzing with his beloved in a great ballroom. He held her tightly as they whirled around and around to the music. He awoke feeling wonderfully alive.

On Sunday the Ostrich returned to the park. When he saw the young lady walking there, his heart fluttered wildly, but be said to himself, "Alas, it seems that I am much too shy for love. Perhaps another time will come. Yet, surely, this has been a week well spent."

Love can be its own reward