Monday, August 20, 2018


Recently our electrician-son, who is in and out of people's houses on a regular basis, said he's been seeing the same book on nightstands and coffee tables and kitchen counters: CRAZY RICH ASIANS by Kevin Kwan. He thought for sure I'd read it, and he wanted to know what was so good about it.

Well. Not only had I not read it, I'd not even heard of it! So when I looked it up and found out it was quite a big thing, and with a movie adaptation coming very soon, well, I was like, I gotta get on that! I went to my library to put myself on the HOLD line, and found out I was number 166. (!)

Y'all probably all know this, but I didn't: the book came out in 2013. And yes, I know a movie adaptation can bring people back to a book. But. 166!! Anyhow, needless to say, I haven't yet read it, or the rest of the trilogy. But I will. Especially after seeing the delightful movie.

I loved this movie. It made me smile A LOT. And cry some. And I learned a lot about Chinese culture, and what it means to be Chinese-American, and how the crazy rich party like it's 1999! Beautiful scenes from Singapore -- there was a wedding scene so breathtakingly beautiful -- and how can you not root for Nick and Rachel? I love them and want them together forever and ever!

Here's the thing I love best about the movie: it's happy. Yes, there are struggles, but it has a happy ending. Hopeful romantic me really appreciates movies that dare to be happy! AND, I felt like I was whisked into another culture, another way of life. I saw another face of prejudice. My world widened.

And now I REALLY can't wait to read the book, so I went ahead and bought a copy. :)

Would love to hear others' thoughts about the books or the movie! xo

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Magical, Mystical MISSISSIPPI BOOK FESTIVAL, this Weekend!

Charles Waters and I are so very excited to be presenting this weekend at Mississippi Book Festival in Jackson!

It was my great fortune to present on a Picture Book panel back in 2016 for FRESH DELICIOUS. Yes it was August-muggy-HOT. But. What a grand, well organized festival!

And this year not only will Charles and I be part of the Picture This! panel, but we'll also be presenting to 1500 school kids on Friday. 1500 kids -- who will each receive a copy of CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR: Poems of Race, Mistakes and Friendship.

Isn't that amazing and generous and wonderful? And talk about an author's dream! We're delighted and honored. And excited to meet these young readers as well as a slew of other authors like Jessmyn Ward and Angie Thomas and Augusta Scattergood and Rick Bragg and and and... y'all, Mississippi don't play. This is a serious-good line-up of authors and events!

Did I say, excited? Yep. Hope to see you there!

Monday, August 13, 2018

For the Love of Lighthouses

Pensacola Light
I've long enjoyed visiting lighthouses, and last week we were able to visit a the one located in Pensacola, FL, at the Naval Air Station.

Please note: if you want to visit this lighthouse, Google Maps will likely take you to the wrong entrance. They only allow visitors to the lighthouse to enter at the West gate. (Yes, we found this out the hard way!)

There's a small museum located on the grounds near the lighthouse as well as a gift shop, where I found MIND THE LIGHT, KATIE: The History of Thirty-Three Female Lighthouse Keepers by Mary Louise Clifford and J. Candace Clifford. Fascinating stories! And then I found the US Lighthouse Society webpage which features a slew of lighthouse poems. Check them out! I especially enjoyed "The Lighthouse Keeper's White-Mouse" by John Ciardi, which is imaginative, adorable kid-fare.

And now here is a tour of the lighthouse:

view of the Gulf,
inside the grounds,
just past the parking lot

climbing the stairs - all 177 of them

People coming down have
the right-of-way, and people
coming up have to wait in the center
of the staircase for them to pass.

view from a window... it was a HOT
day, so any breeze was welcome

view of my flip-flops on window
 ledge -- visitors are required to
wear shoes with backs, or else go
barefoot (for safety) -- so I carried
my shoes up with me to wear
on the sure-to-be-HOT outside

the light! (still operating -- we
had to be careful of our heads
so we didn't crash into it!)

the north view

the crew - none of my guys
are all that fond of heights!

Friday, August 3, 2018

Reinventing August

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit the irrepressible Mary Lee at A Year of Reading for Roundup.

So... it's August! How'd that happen?

Around here I've been working to reinvent August, as for me it is often the doldrums of one kind or another... But no more! I've decided this August will be AWESOME.

coming to you live, from my front porch...
If you are interested in the creative process, specifically where ideas come from -- and some words about how I spent my summer vacation -- be sure to visit my post today over at Smack Dab in the Middle, which includes a link to the announcement for one of my forthcoming books! (I love when the announcement is posted, so I can finally talk about a book that's dear to me!)

Meanwhile, I've been reading A LOT (currently FATAL THRONE by M.T. Anderson, Jennifer Donnelly, Candace Fleming, Stephanie Hemphill, Deborah Hopkinson, Linda Sue Park and Lisa Ann Sandell. What a team, right?) and writing (a new project far to damp and fluttery to talk about just yet).

Did I say, AWESOME? Yep.

Also awesome: Charles Waters and I will be presenting in August at Mississippi Book Festival! And CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? has been selected as a 2018 Book All Young Georgians Should Read. We're so honored and delighted!

Now for a pair of poems that actually appeared in Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong's THE POETRY FRIDAY ANTHOLOGY FOR SCIENCE, but they are on my mind today because it is raining as I type this... and many an August in Alabama has been seized by drought. So kind of on topic, at least in my mind! Thanks so much for reading.

Riddle for a Dry Day

Sun without rain
day in, day out.
Grass browns, ground frowns.
I am a...


Riddle for a Wet Day

I overwhelm and overflow
with raging waves and sheets of mud.
I leave behind disease and sludge.

I am an unexpected... 


- Irene Latham

Thursday, August 2, 2018

The Return of Nakedness

July 2018 view
Hello and welcome to Spiritual Journey Thursday. Today we are gathering at Pat's place, Writer on a Horse, to talk about "returning," as Pat has returned to her blog and writing, and she's asked us to think about returning seasonal things -- what in nature do we look forward to the return of? (That sentence feels awfully awkward... sorry!)

With summer winding down, my thoughts have turned to fall. I look forward to the return of colorful leaves and pumpkin-hay bale displays and campfire evenings with a quilt around my shoulders. This will be our first fall living full-time at the lake, so we're pretty excited! I really look forward to that day (like the one I'll never forget from last year) when suddenly, all the leaves have dropped, and the lake is stark and bare and beautiful.

[pic TK --- probably around first of November!]

And that interests me, about myself, about my life -- that it's not the brilliant color I am most looking forward to, but to the bare-ness, the nakedness. Here is a poem I wrote about it a few years ago.

And isn't this such a great metaphor for the spiritual life? Sometimes the most vibrant, connected, meaningful, grace-filled moments we can experience are actually when we are most still and revealed and naked... I find that's also the place where the best poems live... so yes, much to look forward to! Meanwhile I am savoring each moment of summer. Thank you for reading, and happy day to all.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Learning to Paint Sunflowers

One of the things I have loved about our move to the lake has been getting involved with the Lady Lakers. In anticipation of the community work we'll be doing this fall, the group decided to focus on "fun" for the summer. We started with an outing to Two Amigos in Oneonta, where, among other things, I got to know my tablemates a bit better, and Carolyn got to don the sombrero in celebration of her (85th) birthday! Thanks to Connie for sharing the pics.

check out Susan's very large
margarita :)

The Birthday Girl!

Lady Lakers!
We also gathered for a painting class (with delicious finger foods, too, of course), which was a great learning experience for me! We each had 11 x 14 canvases, and we were using acrylics. Judy Ritter served as our instructor for "Dance of the Sunflowers." (you can see the "model" piece at the above link)

see those squiggles?
I learned so much about painting!

1. The focal point of the painting will be where the darkest spot meets the lightest spot.

2. Use A LOT of paint. Be bold, not tentative!

3. Do not mix more than 3 colors - or your results will be "muddy."

4. Adding "squiggles" will add movement to the painting. (I really loved the squiggly parts!)

It was incredible how unique and beautiful everyone's painting was, even though we were imitating the same piece of Judy's work. Not sure if it's a left-handed thing or a "got to be different" thing, but the orientation of our model piece didn't resonate with me, so I turned it upside down and painted mine that way. :)
Carolyn, Irene, Cathryn, Connie, Susan, Allie, Grace

After I got home I decided to work on improving my canvas... I've got no wall space, and it's all about learning, right? So why not?... using paint I had at home, I brought my petals down around the seed pods on each of the smaller blooms. I learned it just didn't pop, because I didn't have the same paint colors! AND THEN... I painted over the entire canvas - a nice soft blue - to try something else. Maybe even another sunflower, I'm not sure yet. I got sidetracked with a fall quilting project. More on that soon! :)

Friday, July 27, 2018

TWO BY TWO by debut author Lisa Lowe Stauffer

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit beautiful Catherine at Reading to the Core for Roundup.

I'm delighted to share with you today a brand new poetic board book that's extra special, because it's a DEBUT! Yay! Congratulations to my fellow SCBWI Breezer and all-around lovely person Lisa Lowe Stauffer for the release of her first children's book.

TWO BY TWO is a board book with illustrations by Angelika Scudamore, brought to us by Zonderkidz, and if I recall, it's been about 8 years in the making! (This book biz is sure not for the give-up type, is it?!)

Here's Lisa responding to a few quick prompts. Welcome, Lisa!

The delicious: Holding an actual book in my hands and knowing my words will be a part of the lives of children.

The difficult: I’ve had an exceptionally slow path to publication. I started writing novels for children 20 years ago, threw myself into poetry at a retreat 8 years ago, wrote this poem 6 years ago, and had the book sell 2 years ago. Having friends who kept encouraging me has made all the difference.

The unexpected: TWO BY TWO is a short poem — 151 words. I was surprised at how nearly everyone along the publication route wanted to jump in to change a word here and there, often without any understanding of why I chose the word(s) I had on the page. 

Lisa at her desk.
And I was surprised at how often I needed to let those words be changed to achieve the book sale. (Not complaining: Many of the changes made it better.) Now, though, when I read TWO BY TWO aloud, I have to peek at certain lines to make sure I’m reading what’s on the page instead of saying what I originally wrote.

Anything else: Having a book that features monkeys gave me an opening to do some social media beyond the usual “buy my book” posts. I took two monkey finger puppets to Greece on a recent vacation. My premise is that the monkeys are taking a vacation before “their” book comes out. For the 40 days leading up to the publication date I’ve posted
2 little monkeys in Greece!
photos of them in Greece on Twitter and Facebook using the hashtags #Monkeys2 and #TwoByTwo. If you’d like to see these, on Twitter I’m at @LisaLStauffer and on Facebook, @AuthorLisaLoweStauffer. I’ll continue posting monkey photos once the book is launched, and take these little guys to readings.

Adorable, right? Those little monkeys seem to be having a pretty good time in Greece. :) So many thanks to Lisa for stopping by. Readers, be sure to share TWO BY TWO with some young readers in your life!

Also: I immediate wanted to get to know these little monkeys better... what are there names? what are they like? What if *I* had two little monkeys? And so I put it in a wee poem. Enjoy!
2 monkey selfie

A Tale of Two Monkeys

If I had two little monkeys
I'd name this Squash and Blossom.
They'd ride to school on my shoulders,
and at recess we'd play It and Possum.

Squash and Blossom would have their own room
where I'd read to them thousands of pages.
I'd plant banana trees for them to feast in,
and never, not once, put them in cages.

If I had a Squash and a Blossom
you'd just about never see me.
I'd disappear in that jungle room for days...
Two little monkeys sure can keep a girl busy!

- Irene Latham

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Learning About AWEtism

While in Chattanooga we ate at
Southern Star restaurant, where we found
inspiring quotes on all the tables!
This past weekend we attended for the 2nd annual Southeast Adult Autism Symposium. It's a day dedicated to the needs of adults with autism and is attended by adults with autism, their families, caregivers, public service groups and anyone interested in learning more and supporting the needs of this special population. Hats off to creator/director Scott Kramer and all the faculty/volunteers who made this a great day!

We attended sessions on employment anxiety and safety for Aspies (who are generally wallflowers and easy to pluck!) and independent living. We learned about resources for adults with autism in Alabama (not much), Georgia (growing) and Tennessee (amazing!). Seriously, I don't think there's a better place in the country for adults with autism to live than in Tennessee.

Here's a link to a favorite resource shared, and I think everyone should read it:
  10 Tips on How to Communicate with Autistic People

Other things we heard about and discussed was learning how to translate the language between NTs (neuro-typicals) and ASD (autism spectrum disorder) individuals. Just like with any other language translations, that takes time. Let's all take that time, shall we? *What looks like an attitude problem is usually a communication issue.*

We heard a lot about self-advocacy and the pros and cons of discloser. We learned about predators of this community and the particular vulnerability of women on the autism spectrum.

And we learned the story of 2 wolves within you. Which one do you feed?

Friday, July 20, 2018

Summer Summer Summer! Poetry

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit the ever-kind and inspiring Heidi at my juicy little universe for Roundup.

I am away from my desk but wanted to pop in with a fun summer something from earlier this week:

little sis and Paul
I was honored and delighted when librarian-friend Paige Bentley-Flannery in Sisters, Oregon asked me to send along a poem for her summer library group to enjoy...  and enjoy they did!

You can read the poem -- which I wrote after my little sister experienced some fear of swimming in the lake... and for Rebecca Herzog, as part of Summer Poem Swap, because Becky likes horror/creepy lit, and this was the best I could do. :) --

and see pics of the activities and art and poetry the kids and Paige created at the ALSC blog.

AND... I will leave you with a lake pic from our son's visit earlier this week:

Eric's sunset swim
Just looking at that pic fills me with peace. Thanks so much for reading!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

HOPE IN THE HOLLER by Lisa Lewis Tyre

Last year at AASL in Phoenix and then later at NCTE in St. Louis, someone mentioned the dearth of books for children that portray families living in poverty.

I thought instantly of HOW TO STEAL A DOG by Barbara O'Connor, because that family is living in a car. It's a wonderful story, full of heart and humor and goodness, as I've come to expect from Ms. O'Connor.

And now I have a new middle grade title to recommend: HOPE IN THE HOLLER (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2018) by Lisa Lewis Tyre. Readers, you will love Wavie and the gang. (Samantha Rose? Um... not so much.) This book is one of my faves of 2018!

Sign found in Virginia that inspired
the name of Wavie's home.
Lisa lives in Georgia, so we are in the same region of SCBWI, and our paths have crossed a number of times as we've both pursued our kidlit author dreams. She's smart and kind and lovely. So it doesn't surprise me at all that I love this new offering from Lisa. It's a beautiful book that yes, just happens to be set in a trailer park in what the kids call "Convict Holler" in Kentucky. And today Lisa is here to answer a few quick prompts.

Readers, please welcome Lisa!

The difficult: Believing that I could do it! My first book was done on my time schedule, but HOPE was under contract based on just three finished chapters. I was stressed that I couldn’t get it done. Sleeping was very difficult. I prayed a LOT.

The delicious: I’ve had such lovely feedback from readers, and nice reviews (2 starred). The School Library Journal review took my breath away - definitely delicious.  You never know how readers are going to feel about your work so hearing from people that they enjoyed it, or that it touched them means so much.

Lisa touching a $70 MILLION
 horse in Kentucky!
The unexpected: I didn’t know Kentucky well, even though I’m from right across the border in Tennessee and lived there briefly while in 1st grade. What a beautiful state! I have fallen head over heels with it. I’m so happy I used the small towns and hollers as inspiration for my setting.

Anything else: I’m an adoptive mom; I’ve been a foster-mom. It was wonderful to enter Wavie’s world and explore the different ways we become family and the hopes of mothers for their children.
Big thanks to Lisa for stopping by -- and for delivering this beauty of a book to the world. Don't miss it! xo

Friday, July 13, 2018

Racism in Children's Poetry

not the version, I got --
mine is the 1961
"Platt &  Munk Classic"
Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Sylvia at Poetry for Children for Roundup. I look forward to reading everyone's posts today!

Last month when I was in Memphis, we shopped at a used/new bookshop called Burke's Books, and I brought home a beautifully illustrated version of A CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES by Robert Louis Stevenson.

This is not a book I recall from my childhood, but I do know a few of Stevenson's poems, like "My Shadow" and "The Swing."

Many of the poems are simple and delightful, like one I will share below called "Summer Sun." But there are other not-so-sweet poems, like "Foreign Children," which is flat-out racist. The poem is bookended with this stanza:

"Little Indian, Sioux or Crow,
Little frosty Eskimo,
Little Turk or Japanee,
O! don't you wish that you were me?"

The middle of the poem talks about how these "other" children live, and how

"Such a life is very fine,
But it's not so nice as mine:"

So NOT the message we want to send any child!

It reminds me of the recent name change of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award. I grew up on the Little House books and love them to this day. BUT. These books require some discussion with today's reader -- a discussion that might include ways these attitudes are wrong and how this kind of language is inappropriate and also how the fact that we are aware now of its wrongness and inappropriateness shows how far we've come as a society.

Also, part of the discussion might be in how to "take what you like and leave the rest." How can we still honor/support/love these authors and/or their works in spite of these things? For I will always love the Little House books. I will still recommend them to others. Just as I will recommend Robert Louis Stevenson's "My Shadow."

But now I feel I need to say more -- and I will, as I am doing here today. No one need wish s/he were anyone but exactly him or herself. People live DIFFERENT lives, not better or worse. All humans are equal and should be treated as the valuable, precious gifts that they are.

It helps me to look at these people and their words as historical artifacts. We can learn something from them. We can learn about ourselves.

And now, on a happier note, the aforementioned lovely "Summer Sun:"

Summer Sun
 by Robert Louis Stevenson

Great is the sun, and wide he goes
Through empty heaven without repose;
And in the blue and glowing days
More thick than rain he showers his rays

Though closer still the blinds we pull
To keep the shady parlor cool,
Yet he will find a chink or two
To slip his golden fingers through.

The dusty attic spider-clad
He, through the keyhole, maketh glad;
And through the broken edge of tiles,
Into the laddered hayloft smiles.

Meantime his golden face around
He bares to all the garden ground,
And sheds a warm and glittering look
Among the ivy's inmost nook.

Above the hills, along the blue,
Round the bright air with footing true,
To please the child, to paint the rose,
The gardener of the World, he goes.

Thanks so much for reading!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018


 Last week Paul and I took a quick jaunt down to Camden and Gee's Bend for a program arranged by Alabama Folklife Association. It was great to get away! We especially enjoyed visiting one of my favorite shops ever: Black Belt Treasures, where there are lots of quilts and other folk art created by Black Belt artisans.

I also got to take Paul to Gainesridge Dinner Club, where you can enjoy black bottom pie, which is listed as one of the 100 Things to Eat Before you Die. (We also had key lime pie, and Paul said it was the best he's ever had!)

selfie in front of Gainesridge

 In the morning we drove over to Gee's Bend -- drove over, because the ferry is currently closed as it's being converted to all electric. Y'all, this is a big deal! When it's completed in August, it will be one of only 2 all-electric ferries in the world! I can't wait to come back and ride it. :)

The workshop was held at the Gee's Bend ferry terminal, and while I have been there a number of times, I never noticed in the yard parked an older version of the ferry! How have I missed this?! It's not the chain ferry from LEAVING GEE'S BEND, but it's close.

 The workshop was conducted by Tinnie and Minnie Pettway (sisters!) of That's Sew Gee's Bend, who helped us make potholders in the Gee's Bend style. Tinnie was the very first quilter I got to know in Gee's Bend, so it was a great pleasure to see her again.

 But the best part? Watching Paul put in his very first stitches on his own potholder! Minnie came over and got Paul set up, and then he went to town. I was super impressed with his tight, even stitches... especially as I opted for machine stitching both for the piecing and the quilting. Not Paul! He did it old-school. Fun!

On our way out, we stopped in at Mary Margaret Pettway's house where Marlene had her quilts out in glorious display. She told us stories behind many of the quilts, and we walked away with this one:
 Don't you love the bright pinks and blues? Also, you can't tell from the pic, but the brown fabric is actually a velvet, so it's got a lovely texture. We love it!

Finally, here's a pic of the potholder I made. I got the award for finishing first. Ha! (There's a reason our son Andrew calls me Speedy Irene-y. :)

I'll be going back to Camden/Gee's Bend later this year, just as soon as the great Mary Ann Pettway has completed the quilt I've commissioned... and maybe to talk with a book club that's reading LEAVING GEE'S BEND. I can't wait!

Monday, July 9, 2018


This past weekend we watched GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN, not to be confused with CHRISTOPHER ROBIN (with Ewan McGregor) coming from Disney next month.

This film centers on A.A. Milne and how he came to create Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh and all the fine friends in the Hundred Acre Wood. It depicts him as suffering from PTSD after serving in WWI, in a marriage with Daphne, who in one moment is essential in pushing him forward in his writing, and in the next abandoning him and their son, the real Christopher Robin, whom they called "Billy Moon."

For starters, I did not know Christopher Robin was based on Milne's son. I also didn't really understand the context of the books, and how important they were as a source of happiness and healing after the War. England NEEDED Winnie the Pooh!

And the movie kind of broke my heart. I have to know now how much of it is true, because I was completely sucked into Billy Moon's world, his heartache, and how what started out as innocent father-son playtime in the woods turned into interviews and appearances and FAME. Unwanted fame, for Billy. What he wanted was time with his father, and his mother -- and they were mostly absent. Thank goodness for Nou, his nanny, who seems to have been the anchor in Billy's life. I can't wait to learn more!

I'm also very curious now to see how Disney handles Christopher Robin in this new movie coming in August. How much of the movie is real, how much invented? I'm excited to find out!

Finally, I'd like to share the poem that first made A.A. Milne famous: "Vespers." According to the movie, it was his wife who sent it in for publication.

by A.A. Milne

Little Boy kneels at the foot of the bed,
Droops on the little hands little gold head.
Hush! Hush! Whisper who dares!
Christopher Robin is saying his prayers.

God bless Mummy. I know that's right.
Wasn't it fun in the bath to-night?
The cold's so cold, and the hot's so hot.
Oh! God bless Daddy - I quite forgot.

If I open my fingers a little bit more,
I can see Nanny's dressing-gown on the door.
It's a beautiful blue, but it hasn't a hood.
Oh! God bless Nanny and make her good.

Mine has a hood, and I lie in bed,
And pull the hood right over my head,
And I shut my eyes, and I curl up small,
And nobody knows that I'm there at all.

Oh! Thank you, God, for a lovely day.
And what was the other I had to say?
I said "Bless Daddy," so what can it be?
Oh! Now I remember it. God bless Me.

Little Boy kneels at the foot of the bed,
Droops on the little hands little gold head.
Hush! Hush! Whisper who dares!
Christopher Robin is saying his prayers.

Friday, July 6, 2018

The Lost Words

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect for Roundup.
I am away from my desk yet again (O, Summer!), but I wanted to share with you two things:

1. a podcast with me and Charles Waters and  Matthew C. Winner, where we talk the writing process and CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? Matthew was a fun host with great questions... lots to love here.

2. a gorgeous book of poems I've recently discovered: THE LOST WORDS by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris (House of Anansi, 2017). I learned about this book in an article in which one of my literary heroes Geraldine McCaughrean (who wrote THE WHITE DARKNESS) was talking about how kids are smart, and they deserve rich language in children's literature. The book she cited as an example? THE LOST WORDS. So right away I secured myself a copy. (It's published in the UK, not US, but you can find used copies online.)

Here's the publisher's description of the book:
In 2007, when a new edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary -- widely used in schools around the world -- was published, a sharp-eyed reader soon noticed that around forty common words concerning nature had been dropped. Apparently they were no longer being used enough by children to merit their place in the dictionary. The list of these "lost words" included acorn, adder, bluebell, dandelion, fern, heron, kingfisher, newt, otter, and willow. Among the words taking their place were attachment, blog, broadband, bullet-point, cut-and-paste, and voice-mail. The news of these substitutions -- the outdoor and natural being displaced by the indoor and virtual -- became seen by many as a powerful sign of the growing gulf between childhood and the natural world.
Ten years later, Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris set out to make a "spell book" that will conjure back twenty of these lost words, and the beings they name, from acorn to wren. By the magic of word and paint, they sought to summon these words again into the voices, stories, and dreams of children and adults alike, and to celebrate the wonder and importance of everyday nature. The Lost Words is that book -- a work that has already cast its extraordinary spell on hundreds of thousands of people and begun a grass-roots movement to re-wild childhood across Britain, Europe, and North America.

And oh boy, what a treat this book is! Rich language? YES. The book is oversized for one, and there was no skimping on the art, that's for sure. The poems are all about wildlife of one kind or another, and they are presented in alphabetical order. All of the poems are a variation on the acrostic: instead of the first letter of each line spelling out the poem's subject, the first letter of each stanza does that. Which allows the poet a great deal more freedom! I have never been a fan of acrostic poems, but these I do like, very much! Here are two favorite examples:


I am ivy, a real high-flyer.

Via bark and stone I scale tree and spire.

You call me ground-cover; I say sky-wire.

An example of a poem that has changed the way I look at ivy... forever!


Kingfisher: the colour-giver, fire-bringer, flame-flicker,
  river's quiver.

Ink-black bill, orange throat, and a quick blue
   back-gleaming feather-stream.

Neat and still it sits on the snag of a stick, until with . . .

Gold-flare, wing-fan, whipcrack the kingfisher -
   zingfisher, singfisher! -

Flashes down too fast to follow, quick and quicker
   carves its hollow

In the water, slings its arrow superswift to swallow

Stickleback or shrimp or minnow.

Halcyon is its other name - also ripple-calmer,

Evening angler, weather-teller, rainbringer and

Rainbow bird - that sets the stream alight with burn
and glitter!

I mean, what a glittery poem for a glitterbird! Such a celebration of language, and of the bird, too.

And just for fun, I decided to write a poem in this style, about the skunk my husband photographed last week:


Stealthy as moonlight (and as predictable),
    you saunter past blackberry brambles,
    all regal swagger and peaceful gaze -- you, O

Keeper of night --
    you wear your stripe like a scar,
    just part of who you are.

Unfazed by fox, you rough your fluff,
    release a warning scent
    before lifting your tail in a blaze of battle . . .

No need to spray when wily fox turns tail,
    leaps to safety (anything to avoid being musked)
    while you forage for frogs and mushrooms.

Kingdom of kudzu awaits your return,
    soon welcomes you back to greentree hollow
    where you curl into a furrow to nap away daylight hours.

- Irene Latham