Friday, January 13, 2017

#ReadYourWorld with HERE WE GO: A Poetry Friday Power Book by Sylvia Vardell & Janet Wong

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday on this fabulous Friday the 13th! (Unlucky? I think NOT.) Be sure to visit Keri at Keri Recommends for Roundup. Also, shout-out to our baby boy Eric, who turns 17 today!

For the past several years, it has been my privilege to be a participating blogger in Multicultural Children’s Book Day, now it its fourth year!

This year the celebration will be all over the blogosphere January 27. You will find my review below of HERE WE GO, a multicultural book provided by two of the most passionate and generous poetry people I know: Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell of Pomelo Books. HERE WE GO is also a Children's Book Council "Hot Off the Press” selection for January 2017. Woohoo! Win your own copy below! But first, some more information about this event!

Multicultural Children's Book Day was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. 

Our mission is to raise awareness on the ongoing need to include kid’s books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.

Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day holiday, the MCBD Team are on a mission to change all of that.

Current Sponsors:  MCBD 2017 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board. Platinum Sponsors include Scholastic, Barefoot Books and Broccoli. Other Medallion Level Sponsors include heavy-hitters like Author Carole P. Roman, Audrey Press, Candlewick Press,  Fathers Incorporated, KidLitTV, Capstone Young Readers, ChildsPlayUsa, Author Gayle Swift, Wisdom Tales Press, Lee& Low Books, The Pack-n-Go Girls, Live Oak Media, Author Charlotte Riggle, Chronicle Books and Pomelo Books

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also work tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.
MCBD Links to remember:
MCBD site:
Free Multicultural Books for Teachers:
Free Kindness Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators:

Free Diversity Book Lists and Activities for Teachers and Parents:
Don't you love all those diverse faces on the cover?! And that's just the beginning... the art continues throughout the interior as well. It's perfect for the book!

Like its predecessor YOU JUST WAIT, this is an interactive poetry book that includes a bunch of original poems by Janet Wong as well as a selection of "anchor" poems, many of which appear in previous books in the Poetry Friday Anthology series.

Anchor poems in HERE YOU GO are courtesy of some Poetry Friday friends, and other wonderful poets, including (in order of appearance) Naomi Shihab Nye, David Bowles, Carole Boston Weatherford, Kate Coombs, Margaret Simon, Eileen Spinelli, Ibtisam Barakat, Michelle Heidenrich Barnes, Joseph Bruchac, Renee M. LaTulippe, David L. Harrison and Robyn Hood Black.

HERE WE GO focuses on activism and how we can change our world. Readers meet four characters: David, Ameera, Jack and Jenna -- who are struggling with some timely issues, like being an immigrant; practicing a minority religion (Muslim); identity; what makes a family; what can we DO to make our world better? Each PowerPack provides a complete lesson -- a way into the material, poems to share, and an invitation to create one's own poem. The book is also a writing notebook, with space for young writers to include their responses.

And now, here's Janet Wong to answer a few questions for us!

IL: Welcome Janet! How did this book come to be?

JW: When Sylvia and I met together at NCTE in mid-November, we were despondent over the election. As bad as we felt, though, we knew that there were vulnerable children who felt even worse—and we wanted to create a book that would offer comfort and inspiration to them. We hope that HERE WE GO accomplishes this. We decided not to make explicit references to the election and instead to focus broadly on empathy, unity, and social change (in this case, fighting hunger).
IL: Wow, that's a book with a BIG idea! Did you encounter any difficulties or challenges?

JW: For me, a big challenge—but something that I wanted to do—was to put a “Trump supporter” in there. Jack’s dad never is described as a Trump supporter, but—pssst! you heard it here!—he is! I wanted to do this because I believe that Trump supporters were lumped together and dismissed as being all the same—and they’re not. We all have a friend, acquaintance, or family member who voted differently than we did; now is the time to get over it. In order for this country to move forward, I think we need to stop labeling each other as much as we do, and simply to come together as people. That’s what I’d like kids to take away from this book perhaps more than anything. Part of getting over it might require stepping into that person’s shoes or, as Naomi Shihab Nye describes in her poem “Blue Bucket” (the opening poem of the book, found below -- keep reading!), to carry "someone else’s bucket a while.”

IL: What are your hopes for the book?

JW: That HERE WE GO will find its way into the hands of 3rd graders who have been confused or fearful since the election and that it will give them comfort and security to read about kids like themselves: Muslim kids like Ameera, grandkids of immigrants like David, young feminists like Jenna. I also hope that teachers will read this book aloud to classrooms that include kids from conservative families; and when they hear this book, they might start to understand that what they're hearing at home isn’t the only way of thinking. And if my poem “Fake News” gets us ALL thinking more critically, what a much better place this will be!

Thank you, Janet! I think many of us have these same hopes for our children. Congratulations on the new book... and now let's take a peek inside!

The PowerPack I'd like to share with all of you today is the one that begins the book.
This spread introduces the pack!
 THEN we get this wonderfully thoughtful page to help open us up to find our poems... (including my answers to the "easy" ones. ;)
Imagine if the world were a little different or you were a little different. What would that be like? Choose one of the following questions and draw or doodle your response on the opposite page.

1. If you lived in a country at war, what would your life be like?
(my answer: I just wrote a whole middle grade novel about this! And I've also just written a series of poems set in Aleppo... bombs, dust, dead bodies, blood, missing parents, demolished buildings, trash everywhere, no bread, powdered milk, no electricity... it's pretty horrifying, and my heart breaks for those actually living it.)

2. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would that be?

3. If you could stay home and play all day, what would you choose to do?
(my answer: read! quilt! write poems! play cello! take a walk! cook - and EAT- good food!)

4. If you were the leader of your country, what one thing would you like to change?

5. If you didn't have a home, what would your life be like?
(my answer: there are quite a few books out lately about refugees. See this post.)

6. If you could change one thing about your family, what would that be?

7. If the whole world were listening, what would you like to say?
(my answer: Thank you. I love you. Forgive me. I forgive you.)
by Naomi Shihab Nye

What if, instead of war,
we shared our buckets
of wind and worry?
Tell me the story 
you carry there,
steeping in old pain
and future hope,
rich with fragrant
savory spices,
ginger, turmeric,
tarragon, find me
a spoon in one
of your pockets,
even if we don't
 speak the same language...

 you hold my bucket
a while, see what
the handle feels like,
and I hold yours,
and maybe both buckets
are empty and
we trade them forever...
Isn't that lovely? And here is the RESPONSE POEM:


In our writing journal this week
we are supposed to ask,
What if?

It can be something silly, like
What if
I could stay home and play all day?

Or something serious, like
What if 
I didn't even have a home?

Most kids are choosing a fun subject
and funny answers,
but I feel like taking a chance

and asking a hard question
even if I might not like my answer,
even if I might not have any answer at all.
- Janet Wong


What if -
instead of
this country and that country,
this state and that state,
these people and those people,
it was just
us here and us there?

What if?
- Janet Wong
I really love how accessible and timely this book is! I also love how it invites questions and doesn't demand answers. This is what it means to be a poet... to be open to the world, to play with words and to live in the questions. I hope you will include it in your reading and writing practice... also, toward the end of the book there are some great ideas for practical ways kids can start changing the world TODAY.

If you would like to win a copy of this book, Pomelo Books has generously donated FIVE copies to giveaway! Simply leave a comment by 11:59 pm Tuesday, January 31, 2017 answering one of the above JUST IMAGINE questions, and our cat Maggie will select the winners!
Happy day - go forth and #ReadYourWorld!


  1. Irene, what a gorgeous interesting and informative and full. I really appreciate your list of sponsors. They are the people I want in my world and the world of my children...including the library I tend. And, this is a book that I wish I could have written! The concept and the interactive activities are stunning. I simply must have this book in my life.
    If my country was at war
    I'd wonder if anyone was watching
    or hearing
    or understanding the help we need.
    When someone is sick or hurt
    they are the last in line
    to be able to speak up
    for themselves or the world.
    We need seers and listeners
    and carers to tend,
    speak up,
    put my world right again.
    If not me...
    Can it be you, friend?
    Someone I have not met
    but need so much?
    Yes, it is you.
    It is you.

    1. Linda, thank you for this beauty this morning! I am enamored of those last two lines especially. IT IS YOU. Thank you! And yes, you will love this book. xo

    2. What a BEAUTIFUL poem, Linda. Thank you for this--and your thoughtful words about our new book!

    3. Wow, Linda - what an inspired and inspiring poem.

    4. I want to print your poem and tape it into my copy of Here We Go! Thanks, Linda. Just right. It is you!

    5. Terrific response, Linda! I imagine you as a teacher writing with your students--and it makes me smile.

  2. Thanks so much for this lovely look at our new book and all your support. I especially appreciate your comment that HERE WE GO "invites questions and doesn't demand answers"-- YES! That is our hope. Wonderful to connect with you here and look forward to the year ahead-- through poetry! (And happy birthday to your son!)

    1. Thank you, Sylvia - thinking of your son as well. Congratulations on HERE WE GO! The world needs this book. xo

  3. Wow. This looks amazing. I love the deep ideas and fears written about so beautifully. And I adore your answer to #7. Thanks for sharing this new delight from Janet and Sylvia!

    1. Irene's #7 is a winner, isn't it? I saw your Tweet, Laura--thank you, and YES, we DO (want to change the world)!!!

  4. Incredible! I'm thrilled to also be a #MCBD cohost this year, and this sounds like a new must-have book. I love pushing my students through Poetry Friday (this week we're trying golden shovel poems inspired by One Last Word).

    My answer to #7 is that children have incredible insights and empathy. Let's make sure they all receive an education that helps them find their voice and find their place in the world while still maintaining that sense of hope and love for others.

    1. YES, Katie! What a great mission statement!!!

    2. Dear Katie, I, too, LOVE that mission statement! Go you and your students with those golden shovel poems! Ambitious! And thank you for helping spread the word about multicultural children's books. It's important. xo

  5. Thank you, Irene and Janet, for all the work you do (& Sylvia!) and for showcasing this important new work. I'm humbled to have a poem included. I also can't wait to get this into the hands of a certain third- grade teacher I know, who has a beautiful and diverse collection of smiling faces in her classroom!
    Speaking of our kids, Happy Birthday to Eric!

    1. Robyn, I loved seeing your poem included! That's one lucky 3rd grade teacher.... xo

  6. (PS - I'll be giving away a few copies in a few weeks, too, so you can skip my name in the giveaway hat. ;0). )

  7. You ask me to imagine if
    I didn't have a home -
    But what's a home?
    A big TV?
    A quilted bed?
    Warm water from a faucet?
    A ceiling overhead?
    Walls to surround?
    I have a place where
    I watch the world,
    I sleep with the winds,
    I bathe in running water from the skies
    The sun, moon and stars move in rhythm
    No walls hold me tight, but love surrounds me
    I may not have
    a house,
    but I always have
    a home.

    Donna JT Smith

    1. "I have a place where/ I watch the world" -- Donna, I love that so much! Thank you! xo

  8. Very nice, Donna--that will make a great mentor poem!

  9. I no longer have a classroom, but one granddaughter is in 2nd grade & they've been writing poetry along with Sharon Creech's Love That Dog & the poems/poets there. Isn't that great? This new book sounds wonderful, Janet & Sylvia. And Irene, thanks for the extra peek at it. I love "maybe
    you hold my bucket
    a while, see what
    the handle feels like,
    and I hold yours,

    examining points of view is so important. Off to purchase for my granddaughter's classroom!

    1. Forgot one response for you, this time to number five:
      "No home, only a car's backseat,
      cold at night, 7-11's a treat.
      Don't judge, it might be you,
      wishing for a front door too.

    2. Dear LInda, this poem kinda breaks my heart. It also reminds me of HOW TO STEAL A DOG by Barbara O'Connor. Why would we judge such a circumstance? Thank you for this poem, which is rich and thoughtful, as you are. xo

  10. Thank you for sharing this new title and I enjoyed the interview!
    If I could stay home and play all day - I would read, exercise, sew, try a new recipe and make a favorite recipe, walk my dogs, be with my girls.

    1. Mandy, I think you and I could have a very happy play date together! :) :) :)

    2. Mandy, you are a winner in the giveaway! Please email me your address asap and Pomelo Books will get it out to you!

  11. I definitely need a copy of this book, Irene - thanks for sharing a bit of it with us today!

    1. Hi Tara! I think you will find much to ponder in your own writing life (yes??) and also much to share with students. xo

  12. Thank you for sharing this book and the poems from it. I do want to check it out for myself. I answered #7 with a short poem:
    If I could say one thing
    to a listening world, I'd whisper
    Be kind to each other.

    1. Kay, thank you for this lovely short poem. I love the "listening world" and of course the message. Yes! xo

    2. Beautiful poem, Kay. Perfect for printing out and giving to people for an early celebration of "Poem In Your Pocket" Day (which we should celebrate many times all year long)!

  13. Sounds like an amazing book, Irene. Thanks for sharing this interview and getting us into its kind and generous spirit.

    1. Violet, you embody its "kind and generous spirit." Thank you! xo

  14. What a fantastic interview! I'm so excited to be participating with my blog for the first time this year!!

    1. Jane, so happy you are helping spread the word about multicultural children's books. Thank you! The world needs you! xo

  15. Sounds like an amazing book, created by amazing people. I like that they tried extra hard to include a Trump supporter. The passion shown last year shows how much people care about this country, even if they each have a different part of it that they prioritize or emphasize. Somehow we all have to set aside our differences and work together. This book is a great start toward doing that.

  16. I can't wait to dig in and read ALL of this book! Thanks for the fabulous peek!

  17. Your post offers so much food for thought and ways to go with our children who are dealing with our troubled times. Can't wait for this book!

    1. "For children who are dealing with our troubled times": EXACTLY, Julieanne! We hope you enjoy our book!

  18. I love the poems this post has already inspired, especially Linda's reminder that we all can be seers and carers and those who put the world right -- one person at a time! I can answer that my #3 is the same as Irene's except for "play cello" unless I was listening to Yo-Yo Ma play cello. xoxo

  19. Oh, Irene...and Janet and Sylvia...and each poem-maker and comment-maker--because of this book and these responses, the world is already beginning to crack open. In a good way.

    If I didn't have a home, I would curl into the soft curve of my dog..and he would put one heavy paw on my sleeping shoulder.

    (But I DO have a the Kidlitosphere!)
    (no need to include me in the drawing, Irene ~)


    1. Thank you for spreading the word about this great post on FB, April! I feel like we're all sharing the living room of this Kidlitosphere home that is full of dogs and cats and cookies and POETRY!

  20. Thanks, Irene, for a wonderful post, and Janet and Sylvia for putting another wonderful book in the hands of readers! Hmm...time to imagine. I will go big, and imagine life as a leader.

    If I were the leader of my town,
    my state,
    my country

    I would invite you and you and you
    to walk in the wilds

    to pause and watch
    a beetle, a butterfly,
    a bird

    and consider its home
    your home
    our home

    but I am only the leader
    of my pack of two
    so I walk with my hound

    and stop and notice
    and tell you the story
    of what I see

  21. You are such a lovely soul to share what you see.

  22. Kudos to Janet and Sylvia for once again compiling a must-have collection! Thanks to you both for your passion for poetry and this important topic. Thank you, Irene, for giving us this peek into Here We Go.

  23. So much good stuff packed into this wonderful post, Irene! (And in the comments, too!) Thank you for the MCBD info, and for this terrific introduction to HERE WE GO. I'm so honored to be a part of it. Janet and Sylvia impress the heck out of me, how they're always right on the pulse of where we are as a community, urging us in the direction we need to be headed. Amen to your imagining of #7 and happy birthday to your 17 y.o. baby, from me and my own year 2000 boy, Dylan. xo (Oh, and please don't include me in the drawing, I'll be holding my own soon.)

  24. HERE WE GO is such an important book for today. I'm late in reading this post, but so admire the spirit of inclusivity that this book will introduce to classrooms. And I am so happy to be one part of this poetry family!

  25. What a great review! So happy that it focuses on ACTIVISM! We need that so badly right now! Thanks for your support of Multicultural Children's Book Day too!

  26. Sounds like an awesome book that really makes poetry accessible to children! Thanks for reviewing and being part of Multicultural Children’s Book Day! #ReadYourWorld

  27. YES, this is a book that not only teaches poetry in a fun, accessible way, but also shows two sides of a coin where, perhaps, no one is wrong and no one is right but because we're looking at the same thing from a different lens.


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