Friday, March 27, 2020

Put on Your Red Shoes and... WRITE! WRITE! WRITE!

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit beautiful Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference for Roundup.

It's been a quiet-ish week around here, filled with a number of home improvement projects like putting in some azaleas, touching up the paint on the outdoor furniture, wiping away the pollen, wiping away the pollen, wiping away the pollen...
Today I am thrilled to welcome one of the dearest children's poets ever Amy Ludwig VanDerwater in celebration of her new book WRITE! WRITE! WRITE!, illus. by Ryan O'Rourke, published by Boyds Mills and Kane. Is there any more generous poet among us than AmyLV? She has such a wonderful way of speaking directly to children exactly on their level, so all her books are musts for me. And now, please welcome Amy, who was kind enough to come on over and respond to a few simple prompts as they relate to this latest project. Welcome, Amy!

The delicious: 
AmyLV: It is delicious to have a second book with the same illustrator. I adore Ryan O’Rourke’s art: his child expressions and textures and small details and bright colors and the way he plays with light on the page. Those pen and pencil butterflies and dragonflies delight me. I love that we have two books together, and I think of them as brother and sister books.

Beautiful Amy!
The difficult: 
AmyLV: This is the last book that my friend and mentor, Lee Bennett Hopkins, will ever see of mine. His death last August still surprises me, and I will always be grateful to him for his generosity. I hear Lee’s voice when I revise, and I hope I always will.

The unexpected:
AmyLV: Sometimes people share their favorite poem in a newly released book. I have read several such comments about Write! Write! Write!, and I have been tickled to find there are many different favorites. It is my hope that many people will find a poem in this book that matches their experience of writing.
Anything else:
AmyLV: Here is the book trailer I commissioned film student Patrick Krum to make. When I watch this, I imagine each of the book characters  jumping off the page!
Thank you, Amy! Want to know my favorite poem in the book? It's "The Pen."

The Pen
In a town, there is a house.
In the house, there is a room.

And in the room, there is a boy.
And in his hand, he holds a pen.

And in the pen swirl drops of ink.
They lead the boy to write and think.

And when he reads, the boy can see,
the pen has set his stories free.

It could be you.
It could be me.

(Pens are magical, you see.)

- Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
Magical, indeed! And now... because Amy inspires me, I, too, will write about writing for my latest ArtSpeak! RED poem. Enjoy!

When I write to you,
I put on my red shoes

Instead of I am fine,
I write:
                  I am divine!

Instead of I miss you,
I confess:
                  you are my bliss.

When you read my letter,
do you
                put on your red shoes, 

- Irene Latham

Friday, March 20, 2020

A (red) Poppy Poem for Comfort and Cheer

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Michelle Kogan for Roundup.

The way I deal with stress is kind of a closing-in -- think turtle or snail. Which means limiting screen time especially. However, when I have popped my head out, it's been wonderful to find so many people in our community offering virtual learning during this time when kids are at home. What a great way to give to the world!

I also found some good book-news: THE CAT MAN OF ALEPPO, which I wrote with Karim Shamsi-Basha, illustrations by Yuko Shimizu, coming next month from Penguin has earned its 4th starred review! ★ ★ ★ 

We're delighted and hopeful this means many readers will discover Alaa and be inspired by his good works. Plus... cats! Lots and lots of cats. :)

And... DICTIONARY FOR A BETTER WORLD, which I wrote with Charles Waters, illustrations by Mehrdokht Amini, released last month from Lerner has been selected by Naomi Shihab Nye as the Young People's Poet Laureate Book Pick for April. YAY! What an honor... we couldn't be more encouraged, especially during these challenging times.

And now for the latest installment of ArtSpeak: RED.  Like many of us, I have been compelled to return to old comforts this past week... which led me to write after "Red Poppies" by Mary Cassatt. Enjoy!

Boy in Poppy Field

So many poppies
under the sun –
so many poppies,
but I only want one.

This tiny poppy
that's broken, drowsy –
this tiny trampled poppy
who's probably feeling
a little bit lousy.

I lift it from its web
of thick, dead grass.
I gaze into its wide, bright eye –
Little poppy, I promise you:
this, too, shall pass.

- Irene Latham

Friday, March 13, 2020

Another (red) Summer Poem

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Matt at Radio, Rhythm and Rhyme for Roundup.

This week has included the cancellation of 4 major book events I was so looking forward to! Strange times... wishing everyone health and good humor as we navigate these days.

The week also brought to our home this amazing sunrise:

And this wonderful bit of mail: first finished copy of NINE
(which, yes, measures 9 in. x 9 in.!)

As for my ArtSpeak! Red project, I do have a new poem for you! I don't know why my brain is stuck on summer, but it most certainly is... read on!

Still Life with Summer

a plate of tomatoes
for morning
to ripen

- Irene Latham


Monday, March 9, 2020

"Nine Lives" poem from NINE: A Book of Nonet Poems, coming June 9!

Hello and Happy March 9. Did you know 9 is my favorite number? Want to know why?

Well. It's because I wrote this book called NINE: A Book of Nonet Poems, illus. by Amy Huntington, coming from Charlesbridge June 9.  This book is for 9 year olds and 99 year olds and anyone who remembers the wonder of age 9 or imagines the fun of age 9. Even the trim size of the book is a celebration of nine, as it measures 9 inches by 9 inches. Cool, huh?

If TLA happens as planned, I will be introducing the book to the world at Sylvia Vardell's Poetry Roundup, along with poets Vikram Madan (more on Vikram and his book A HATFUL OF DRAGON soon!), Carole Boston Weatherford, and others! I'm excited!

For today, I'd like to share the "Nine Lives" page. Didn't Amy do an amazing job?? And look: for the accountants among us... how many dogs do you see? How many "r"s in the last word of the poem? :)

Check back on the 9th of the coming months for more about this fun project. Thank you for reading!

Friday, March 6, 2020

Summer On My Mind

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Sloth Reads for Roundup.

So... this week I spent wonderful hours with retired teachers in Blount County, Alabama and also with students at Mt. Laurel Elementary. This weekend I will be visiting Camden and Gee's Bend, as well as sharing MEET MISS FANCY Monroeville Literary Festival, in yes, Monroeville, Alabama, home of one Harper Lee! I'm excited!

Yes, I've got a new ArtSpeak: RED poem for you! This one has a summer theme, and that's probably because the weather in these parts has made a shift toward warm with high daily temps around 70 degrees. Bring on the flip flops. YAY!

Late June Afternoon

Curious clouds
are first
            to whisper

Blue waves
are first
            to sigh

Summer-drunk ducks
are first
            to splash

Red boats
are first
            to fly.

- Irene Latham

Monday, March 2, 2020

David L. Harrison Puts His "Best Words Forward" in AFTER DARK

Today it's my pleasure to welcome David L. Harrison, in celebration of his latest book for kids AFTER DARK: Poems About Nocturnal Creatures, illustrations by Stephanie Laberis (Boyds Mills and Kane/WordSong). You may have seen something about this book already as part of the blog tour David and the publisher put together.

As my regular readers know, I have a tradition of giving book creators 4 simple prompts and asking them to respond specifically about the current project. I'm delighted to offer David's responses below. The italicized/bold bits are the bits that particularly resonate with me. Enjoy! 

The delicious:

DH: When we look at a body of water, we wonder what’s going on below the surface where we can’t see. In the same way, I look into the night and try to imagine what creatures are out and about and what they might be up to. Mysteries of the dark abound. For about as long as I can remember they have beckoned to me, stirred my imagination, made me need to know more. When I was six years old camping in a tent with my parents beside a mountain lake in Arizona, I lay on my cot in the dark electrified by the sounds of bears down the lane banging on metal trash cans after a free meal. In third grade I draped a sheet over our back yard clothesline, lighted it from within, and marveled at the insects and bats that appeared out of the dark to dart and swoop around me. Today when a raccoon runs across my roof at night or my headlights startle a possum scurrying off the road or I spot a fox hurry/sniffing along a lake bank, I immediately want to know the rest of their stories. Writing this book was the result of my curiosity. Unraveling each story, forming each poem, was, for me, delicious. 

The difficult:

DH: In Egypt 3,000 years ago, a fact was that bees came from the tears of the sun god Ra. What makes any book based on fact difficult is making sure the facts are as true as current knowledge allows. I come with two degrees in zoology, dozens of nonfiction books, and a lifetime of observing animals, but for a book like AFTER DARK, experts on specific animals were called upon to critique my work and offer additional facts and insights. In all there were fifteen authorities who looked at the writing or illustrations to help make sure we were getting it right. For these I was grateful. The difficulty in writing books for young readers isn’t the writing itself, although that’s important, or in finding ways to make the material appealing, although that’s important, too; it’s in making sure the writer provides readers with the truth. Children believe in us. They trust us. If we get it wrong, they get it wrong. It’s a responsibility the writer carries with him/her throughout a project like this one.

The unexpected:

DH: I’ve written about most of these animals in previous books and poems so in some ways it was like greeting old friends. But a writer always begins from scratch as though he is meeting his subjects for the first time. Facts DO change. I’ve written three published books about caves but I started a fourth one recently and approached it as though I knew nothing about my caves. In the case of AFTER DARK, I had two nice surprises during the time I spent preparing to write the book. One was about male porcupines. I didn’t realize how vocal they can be or how viciously they fight during the mating season to determine which male will win the right to approach a female. If there’s anything I’d rather not see coming toward me more than a porcupine, it would be an angry, lovesick porcupine spoiling for a fight! The other surprise was that armadillos can walk under water. Most of the armadillos I’ve seen were dead ones beside the highway. I hadn’t read about their mastery underwater and that was a fact I took pleasure in learning and passing along to my readers. 

Anything else:

DH: At times I fear that poetry attracts more poets than readers. Somehow we have to entice busy children to slow down long enough to read a poem, roll it around in their heads for a moment, and decide to like it -- even though they might rather be reading another book in an unending series of action figures. That’s why poets need to put our best words forward. We need to provide a varied menu, rich in imagery, quick to capture interest, seasoned with surprises and, yes, sometimes even humor. Kirkus has given AFTER DARK a good review, and my favorite part is this: “Twenty-one animals who live by the light of the moon get profiled in Harrison's poems, written in a variety of forms, some rhymed and most not. . . a fine collection of poetical odes to a nicely diverse group of nighttime fauna." Yay. Someone noticed!

Thank you, David, so much for sharing yourself with us today. CONGRATULATIONS!!