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Thematic Reading List: Monsters!

Jabberwocky
Written by Lewis Carroll
Illustrated by Graeme Base
Harry N. Abrams, 1989
32 pages

Graeme Base's take on this classic poem is eye-poppingly good. His pop-up book rendition of Jabberwocky fire-breathes new life into the old tale. The paper cut-out are layered three times, each time with new imagery and scene. This triple-imagery creates not only more complex imagery, but also more layering to the poem, as it were. Base's vision of the Jabberwocky seems more absurd than scary, but, seeing as this is a children's book, that's probably a good idea. That said, with bulging eyes and a huge orange beak, with sharp white fangs and repitalian claws, Base does in fact create a monster. But alas: we forgot the language! I forgot how lively and interesting, how sound based and folly based is his language. It's a treat for the ears:

 

 

 

'Twas briilig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were teh borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The fruminous Bandersnatch!"

 

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Monday, October 28, 2013

From the Family Days Video Booth: Part 2

On September 28th, the Poetry Center opened its doors to celebrate the first Family Days of the Fall 2013 season.

For this "Pre-historic" themed Family Days, we welcomed a hoard of young time travelers, who took poetry into their own hands with a variety of fun and exciting activities: they  tapped out poetry on vintage typewriters, molded ancient fossil impressions, made early paper out of iron age materials, jammed at a stone age dance party, and added their voices to live songs and storytelling groups. They re-energized with snacks and dove right back in to our dress-up boxes, our bucket of leaves and petals, and our stacks of poetry.

We caught a few of these rare adventurers on camera as they passed through a curtain of vines and entered our video booth staffed by UA Honors students enrolled in a service learning course in partnership with the Poetry Center. Take a peek at one of the videos from our past Family Days! We'll be sure to post more of these videos, as we gear up for our next Family Days on Saturday, October 26th!

Looking to time travel at the Poetry Center? Join us at the next Family Days for "Ancient Civilizations" coming up on October 26th!!

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Monday, October 14, 2013

Micro-Book Review: Skippyjon Jones

Skippyjon Jones
Judy Schachner
Dulton Children’s Books, 2003
32 pages

Judy Schachner’s Skippyjon Jones might be one of the most delightful children’s stories I’ve read in the past year. The story cinematically comes to life on the page. The narrative surprises you, takes you on Skippy’s make-believe adventures, which are wildly playful and push the boundaries of play and imagination. With Skippyjon, there’s no telling just how crazy and fun the journey might be.

What’s most notable about this story is the attention to language, particularly in the form of its bilingual narrative. When Skippyjon jumps into his closet, he jumps into another world. In this story, it’s Mexico. And in this story, he is a Siamese cat, but by the power of his imagination, he transforms into a Chihuahua! When he travels down a long, dusty road in Mexico, he comes across a "mysterioso band of Chihuahuas” called the Chimichangos. Skippyjon renames himself El Skippito, and when he approaches the pack of dogs, they ask him:

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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Thematic Reading List: Lil' Critters

Crickwing
Written and Illustrated by Janell Cannon
HMH Books for Young Readers, 2005
48 pages

What happens when a crooked-winged cockroach, who moonlights as a skilled sculptor, gets bullied? Anything. Written by popular children’s author and illustrator, Janell Cannon, who’s famous for her book Stellaluna, Crickwing follows the journey of a little cockroach-fellow by the same name, who finds himself getting bullied by animals larger than him. In his angst, he starts to pick on animals—a colony of leaf-cutter ants, to be exact—who are smaller than him. This is a great book to read when discussing themes like bullying and friendship with youth. In addition to a strong and captivating story, Cannon’s artwork is absolutely breathtaking. She creates such tactile images in her art—the monkey's fur actually seems soft to the touch; the green tree leaves look like they’re covered with a mossy fuzz. Youth and adults alike will be charmed by this story and its incredible illustrations.

 

 

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Interview with 2013 Poetry Out Loud State Champion: Cassandra Valadez

The Poetry Out Loud season is right around the corner! Poetry Out Loud is a national program for high school teachers and students, which seeks to foster the next generation of literary readers by capitalizing on the latest trends in poetry – recitation and performance. The deadline for teachers to register their schools is October 18, 2013. With this in mind, Wordplay asked Matthew J. Conley--poet and teacher--to interview last Spring's 2013 Arizona Poetry Out Loud State Champion. A recent graduate of Sunnyside High School, after winning state, Cassandra represented Arizona at the Poetry Out Loud National Competition in Washington, D.C. Matthew J. Conley worked closely with Cassandra, coaching her from the school competition all the way to Nationals. Check out Matthew’s inspiring interview with Cassandra below. Enjoy!

MC: What was it like representing the state of Arizona at a national poetry competition?

CV: It was a complete pleasure. On the bus headed to the auditorium, I kept thinking about all the Arizona competitors, the time that they spent and passion they gave, and it was so awesome to be representing them. In Washington D.C., I received many text messages from my family, as well as random texts from people who were watching back home. I had just seen the article in the Arizona Daily Star, and I felt VERY connected to everyone. It was an honor, but a bittersweet one too, now that I’m moving to Oregon to go to college. If I could have one more year in Arizona Poetry Out Loud, I’d take it!

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Micro-Book Review: Baya, Baya, Lulla-by-a

Baya, Baya, Lulla-by-a
By Megan McDonald
Illustrated by Vera Rosenberry
Atheneum, 2003
32 pages

Set in India, amidst the monsoon rains, not so unlike Tucson, Baya, Baya, Lulla-by-a is a beautifully poetic and rhythmic lullaby. The language is meant to be sung, to lull youngins to bed. I couldn’t help thinking, in a sentimental way, that this is the kind of story that I’d love to read to my own kids one day. The story is full of onomatopoeia, with the sounds of a wise man saying, “pani, pani,” the sounds of the sun-yellow baby bird singing, “Chiri-ya! Chiri-ya!” and the sounds of a mother rocking her choti ladki to sleep with “Baya, baby, lulla-by-a.” The story is also filled with great similes and metaphors: “She sings to you morning after morning, like a sleepy cricket. Kira, kira. Your heart answers, a small drum. Dholak, dholak.” One page dazzles in alliteration: “Baya bird flits, flutters, flies among leafy shadows. Collects green grasses, weaves a nest swishhh swishhh, strand by strand by willowy strand.”

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Micro-Book Review: Button Up!

Button Up!
by Alice Schertle
Illustrated by Petra Mathers
HMH Books for Young Readers, 2009
40 pages

Button Up! opens with a question on the inside flap of the book jacket cover: “Do the clothes in your closet have a life all their own?” Through poetry, this book aims to answer those questions. Each piece of clothing, each shoe, each pair of underwear is linked to one child, usually in some alliterative sense:

--Bertie’s Shoelaces
--Violet’s Hiking Hat
--The Song of Harvey’s Galoshes
--Emily’s Undies
--Bob’s Bicycle Helmet

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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

My Name Is...

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet," Juliet famously asks in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. And yet, we have these names. We're branded with names. Names we keep. Names we shift into nicknames. Names we discard. Names that we re-name, giving ourselves new names. Names are kind of funny, when you think about it. They're kind of serious when you think about it, too.

My full, complete, legal name is Allison Marie Leach. My parents named me Allison because they wanted to give me a name similar to my paternal grandmother's, which is Aldora. Her name was formed in a combination of her parents' names. Her Dad's name was "Al" and her Mom's name was "Dora."                   Al + Dora = Aldora. My wonderful grandmother. I love this story.

Aldora's nickname, dubbed by my older sister, Mary, is Gong-Gong Strawberry. She was given this moniker because she and my Grandpa grew strawberries in their green backyard in Missouri. And Gong-Gong? Who can explain. I don't even think Mary can recall. It was a name that she invented when she was a toddler; it was a name that was easier to say than "Grandma," or perhaps she just thought it more interesting and original. I tend to think the latter.

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Monday, September 16, 2013

Micro-Book Review: Sonora Beautiful

Sonora Beautiful
by Lucille Clifton
Illustrated by Michael Garland
E P Dutton, 1981
22 pages

Written by one of the sassiest voices in poetry—Lucille Clifton—comes the delightful novella, Sonora Beautiful. The voice is strong and angsty and delightful. (You can hear excerpts from the novella read by Clifton herself at the Poetry Center in 1983 here on Voca). The title character, Sonora, is our narrator who leads us through her so-called life. She opens with: “Some mornings I wake up and I am real ugly. I’m not joking. My face is all broken out. My ears are waving like wings. My legs and arms have shrunk or something. My clothes fall off me like off a stick,” (5). Not only is the voice strong and poetic and repeats the funny phrase “I’m not joking” throughout, but the language is also fresh and lively with metaphor and simile. After Sonora makes these comments, her Mom assures Sonora, “Oh, stop. You are beautiful, Sonora. Beautiful.”

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Monday, September 9, 2013

Micro-Book Review: Everybody Needs a Rock

Everybody Needs a Rock
By Byrd Baylor
Illustrated by Peter Parnall
Atheneum, 1974
32 pages

My older sister Mary had a rock collection as a child. Even as she proudly showed me these rocks, which ranged from tiny, shiny pebbles to medium-sized quartz filled gems, I never quite understood her fascination with collecting these objects. Then I grew up and married a man who likes to collect rocks, too. In fact, one of his favorite books—Annals of the Former World by John McPhee—is a book all about rocks and the history of rocks. Even still, I can’t quite understand his fascination with rocks, either. I mean, I like rocks, I guess. I think mountains and the rocks that they consist of are beautiful. Living in the Southwest, I often come across incredible rock formations like Bryce Canyon’s orange steeple hoodoos and the Chiricahuas’ big, balancing rocks, and the orange, Flintstone boulders on your way to the Pinaleño Mountains. I find the huge, expansive rocks, the rocks that combine to make mountains beyond mountains, absolutely breathtaking. But the tiny rocks—those rocks that you find on hikes—yes, I look at them, but I have no interest in picking them up, as my sister did, as my husband does, and collecting them. I guess partly it’s because I hate having to pick up each individual, teeny-tiny rock off of his desk, each time I dust it. I have a miniature collection—another collection that some may find perplexing—and told him that he should put his miniature rocks within my miniature collection, which is actually just a printer’s drawer, flipped right-side up on a wall, so that it resembles a frame with tiny room boxes. He agreed on this, and now our collections have found homes within homes, a compromise of sorts, a marriage of minds, a way of melding our eccentric collections together. This makes me happy.

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Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Arizona Board of Regents