Wednesday, November 14, 2018

They're Bold, Beautiful -- They're Picture Books about Amazing Women! #amreading

So I've been reading elementary and middle grade nonfiction for the Cybils, and oh what joy! So many wonderful titles! And I'm only about half-way through the lists. :) Today I'd like to share 5 books that introduce readers to bold women doing amazing work in whatever their field may be: fashion, music, education, sports and filmmaking... these women were determined and dared to be different. Prepare to be inspired!

Bloom: A Story of Fashion Designer Elsa Shiaparelli

Libba: The Magnificent Musical Life of Elizabeth Cotten

Midnight Teacher: Lilly Ann Granderson and Her Secret School

Girl Running: Bobbi Gibb and the Boston Marathon

Lights! Camera! Alice! The Thrilling True Adventures of the First Woman Filmmaker

Monday, November 12, 2018

AGNES at the Anniston Museum of Natural History

What joy for me and Agnes to present a storytime this past Saturday for Anniston Museum of Natural History! And wow, thanks to Sarah Burke and crew, it was a really lovely event.

There were sea-themed decorations.

... and a cozy spot to read to the kids.

There was a table for writing postcards.

...and a girl with more hearts than an octopus.
(those are hearts on her shirt!)
There was even an octopus-friend made by Matthew for me and Agnes to take home.
Matthew the boy
holding Matthew the octopus...
watch out world, this kid
may be a children's book illustrator
someday -- in between his work
in professional sports :)

 Octopus-sized hugs to everyone who came out! And to Sarah and the Anniston Museum of Natural History: keep doing what you're doing. What a gift to the community!

And you guys, that concludes The Great Southeastern Octopus Tour! So many thanks to Barb and Sarah at Blue Slip Media for helping to make it happen. An author couldn't ask for a better pr team. xo

Friday, November 9, 2018

A Tea Party Poem for Fancy Nancy

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

Okay, how many of you Poetry Friday-ers are fans of FANCY NANCY? As many of you know, I am the mom of three boys, and I don't recall ever reading a FANCY NANCY... until now.

The other day at a library used bookstore, I picked up FANCY NANCY: Poet, Extraordinaire by Jane O'Connor and Robin Preiss Glasser. 

It's adorable! On the first page, Nancy signs her name "Nancy Clancy" and notes, "My name rhymes, so I am naturally poetic." Ha! It includes Nancy's family members' favorite poems..nursery rhymes, poems that tell a story... and poems for a school poet-tree and acrostic poems... and a poetry club called Palace of Poetry, where the wall is decorated with these signs: 
"Poetry is superb!"
" Poetry is glorious!"
"Poetry is lyrical!" 

There's inspiration, and advice for writer's block and even an anthology of "Favorite Poems of Nancy M. Clancy," including poems by Jack Prelutsky, Arnold Lobel, Douglas Florian, and others. And on the final page, this:

"I wish I had a poem about a tea party, because I have tea parties all the time with my doll Marabelle Lavinia Chandelier. As soon as I find one I really like, I'll add it to my collection."

So, here is my tea party poem for Fancy Nancy. :)

Tea Party

Let's have a tea party!
We'll wear hats and lace.
We won't slurp or wiggle;
someone will say grace.

Our table might topple –
so many sweet treats!
Still, we'll nibble and sip,
never leave our seats.

Our best dolls will join us;
our teddy bears, too.
We'll converse like grown ups:
Hi. How do you do?”

Let's have a tea party!
Who needs hats and lace?
Everyone's invited.
We'll save you a place.

- Irene Latham

And finally... NCTE is NEXT WEEK! I look forward to seeing some Poetry Friday friends there. Here is my schedule. xo

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

My Gee's Bend Quilt

No book I've written has changed my life more than LEAVING GEE'S BEND. I've loved being an ambassador for the Gee's Bend quilters and the quilts, and am honored to have been a part of raising awareness about this tiny community of women who create works of art from their small, remote home in the bend of the Alabama River.

Gee's Bend quilt kit (I made this one.)
More than once I've been asked: "Do you own a Gee's Bend quilt?" And me, being very similar to the quilters, thought, well, no, I can make my own quilt. And so I did! I've made LOTS of quilts over the past 8 years. I even made one that was a Gee's Bend quilt kit -- and I love it!

But still, this little niggling voice kept reminding me that the best and truest way to honor an artist is to buy one of their works. And so then the question became: which quilter's work would I want? Which could I afford? After much consideration, I decided to commission Mary Ann Pettway to make me a quilt.

Mary Ann Pettway with my (!) quilt,
just before taking it off the wall
at Gee's Bend Quilters Collective
A word about Mary Ann: these days, she's really the face of the Gee's Bend quilters. She and China Pettway travel together a lot ---quilting and singing and teaching -- and they have been my guest at several events related to LEAVING GEE'S BEND. And I have really seen Mary Ann grow and develop as a quilter. NO ONE can put in tighter, more precise stitches than Mary Ann! And you can see her heart and imagination in her quilts -- yes, the vivid colors, and blocks and strips we've come to expect from the Gee's Bend quilters. And JOY. That's what I see in Mary Ann's work. So I was thrilled when Mary Ann agreed to create a quilt especially for me. We talked about colors and size, and I could tell she "got it," she knew just what I was looking for. And WOW, did Mary Ann deliver.

When I picked up my quilt, I was admiring the stitches. I asked Mary Ann, "how do you do it?"

"It's a gift," she said.

Yes. Yes it is. And I am so very grateful to be able to enjoy this quilt every single day. Thank you, Mary Ann!

"Going Up Without a Pocket"
by Mary Ann Pettway,
in its new home... with Maggie. :)

Monday, November 5, 2018

Movie Monday: LEAVE NO TRACE

One of my favorite movies lately we saw at home: LEAVE NO TRACE, based on the book MY ABANDONMENT by Peter Rock.

I loved the movie so much that I ordered the book. There are quite a lot of differences between the two! But I found something in each that changed me, and which I am still pondering.

The movie opens with a father of a teenage daughter living by choice in an Oregon park. Dad is a vet who appears to suffer from PTSD. And his choice to live away from people would be fine -- if not for the daughter, who, after 4 years in the park, is hungry for other relationships. I won't say what all happens in the movie, because I really hope you'll go see it for yourself. And I will just say one other thing about the ending: it slayed me. Absolutely, completely slayed me. I have thought about it a hundred times since I saw the movie. It has to do with acceptance -- letting people be who they are and loving them just that way. Really beautiful and touching.

The book also features a father and a teenage daughter living in an Oregon park. It is never said that Dad is a vet suffering from PTSD. And the ending is maybe about acceptance, but it's more about abandonment. Here are two quotes I adore:

"Every problem I have comes from believing something to be true that is not true."

"If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours. He will pass an invisible boundary. Don't forget this. Don't forget that thinking can get in the way. Forget the forgetting. We seek to forget ourselves, to be surprised and to do something without knowing how or why. The way of life is wonderful. It is by abandonment."

Which reminds me of "The Muse" by the Wood Brothers. "When thinking's the last thing that you ought to do..." Enjoy! 

Friday, November 2, 2018

A Trinket for Autumn

yes, I have a pack
of these cards. :)
Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Jama's Alphabet Soup, for what's sure to be a beautiful-delicious Roundup.

Octopus-sized hugs to everyone who helped me and Agnes celebrate #OctopusMonth. It was so much fun for me! And I learned even more about octopuses from all of you. Thank you!

Here is the padlet with all the links. And here are the poems featured this week:

octo-zeno by Margaret Simon
2 for Tuesday with octo-poems by Diane Mayr and Sarah Burns
"The Wondrous Octopus" by Catherine Flynn

In the mood for giving?
Please join me and Karim Shamsi-Basha in giving wordless picture books to Syrian kids living in an orphanage run by the Cat Man of Aleppo. Our goal is to give at least one book to each of the 68 children currently living there. Read this post for more information.

And now: I've got an Autumn poem for you today, as fall has finally arrived in Alabama!


The morns are meeker than they were,
The nuts are getting brown;
The berry's cheek is plumper,
The rose is out of town.

The maple wears a gayer scarf,
The field a scarlet gown.
Lest I should be old-fashioned,
I'll put a trinket on.

- Emily Dickinson

And here is my trinket, in honor of autumn and Emily... and Agnes! (Who knew octopuses could be so much fun?!)

selfie with octopus brooch!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Help Me Gather Wordless Picture Books for Syrian Kids

Hello November! It isn't often that Spiritual Journey Thursday falls on the first of the month, so that's "neat" (as my late father would say!). And today, our hostess Ramona at Pleasures from the Page has asked us to reflect on and write about the word "gather."

'Tis the season for gathering, of course. Most often this word conjures images of lively, crowded Rockwell paintings or holiday movie scenes -- which is not the kind of "gathering" a quiet person (in a family of quiet people) generally prefers! Our gatherings are small and simple -- which, in the movies, might look lonely or sad. NOT SO! It's just the way we like it.
"Freedom from Want"
Norman Rockwell

It reminds me of a movie scene, actually, and I cannot remember the name of the movie -- perhaps a reader can help? A young couple is in a restaurant looking over at an older couple who is sharing a meal without speaking. The younger man says something about how sad that is, two old people with nothing left to say to each other. The younger woman says, how beautiful that they can sit together after all these years and need no words at all.

It's all perspective, isn't it?

I would like to share two non-holiday things I am currently gathering:

1. Books! In addition to his support of animals, the Cat Man of Aleppo has recently opened an orphanage in the city of Aleppo. Currently there are 68 children living there. Karim Shamsi-Basha (my co-author for forthcoming CAT MAN OF ALEPPO picture book) and I were thinking about what we could give to those kids... and of course we thought, "books!"

But. Where does one in America find books printed in Arabic? How can we connect with and support these kids without sharing a language?

one of my favorite
wordless picture books
With WORDLESS PICTURE BOOKS, of course! So I am collecting wordless picture books, if anyone would like to donate one (or more!) to the cause. Karim (originally from Syria) will actually be traveling to Aleppo next spring, and he will deliver the books to the children. You may send books to:

PO Box 122
Oneonta, AL 35121

Please do share this with others you think might be interested. Thank you!

2. Leaves. As part of the Writing in the Wild session I am presenting at NCTE with Mary Lee Hahn, Heidi Mordhorst, Laura Purdie Salas & Margaret Simon, there will be an opportunity for attendees to use a jeweler's loupe and try the Private Eye method of inquiry using fall leaves. So, if you see me at NCTE and wonder why I'm holding a big bag of leaves -- well, that's why. :)