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River of Words: Images and Poetry in Praise of Water
Edited by Pamela Michael
HeyDay Books, 2003
Today in Tucson, we had an oven-like high of 113 degrees. I rode my bike in the middle of the day, the heat of the day (a mistake), and between shouts of OH-MY-GOSH and DANG-IT’S-HOT and YOU’VE-GOTTA-BE-KIDDING-ME, a desperate question branded my brain: When will the rains come?*
This is a question, a conversation that’s common among Tucsonans. In fact, a good chunk of us abandon the city in the summer. But for the die-hard (read: crazy), we withstand the abuse because we know that the monsoons are on their way.
In light of the recent heat wave, and in anticipation of the forthcoming monsoon season, I can’t think of a more fitting collection of poetry than River of Words: Images and Poetry in Praise of Water. This collection of poems and artwork, written and illustrated by youth, is an initiative through the River of Words® program, which “trains teachers, park rangers, youth leaders, and other educators around the world on ways to incorporate nature and the arts into their own work with children.” Co-founded by U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass and writer Pamela Michael, the organization promotes literacy, water-shed awareness, and the arts.
Lost & Found
by Shaun Tan
Arthur A. Levine Books, 2011
I first came across Shaun Tan’s bestselling Lost & Found when I was at The Harvard Bookstore in Boston. My co-worker’s good friend is the children’s book buyer for the store, and as we were wandering around the stacks, she playfully demanded, “You need to read this book.”
The front cover piqued my attention, grabbed my curiosity. What is that red, industrial looking machine on the cover? What kind of apocalyptic town is this story taking place? Then I flipped to the back cover. Who’s that girl carrying the metal box? Why is she surrounded in darkness? I had many questions. Luckily, the book provided answers. More than answers, Lost & Found does what great children’s literature should do: it presents challenging material to youth in a way that’s easily digestible. The book provides meditations on huge topics like depression, post colonialism, and apathy. Lost & Found is a collection of three stories: The Red Tree, The Lost Thing, and The Rabbits. The book takes these big topics and makes them easy to swallow with imagery and metaphors. In The Red Tree, dark imagery and a bleak urban landscape speak to a young girl’s depression and isolation. In The Lost Thing, a huge, red machine that’s lost in the city is paired up with a young boy, and we read into themes of displacement and friendship. In The Rabbits, a phalanx of rabbits invade a country and meditations on post colonialism arise.
Hi, everyone! Thank you so much for a wonderful Spring season on Wordplay. Thanks to our awesome contributors, we had some excellent posts this Spring: Recommended Reading lists, Reading Series in the Classroom posts, Book Reviews, Voca posts, Family Days writing, and so much more.
We'll see you back here in June 2013 for a whole new line-up of exciting posts and contributors.
See you soon!
The Wordplay Blog
For this month's Recommended Reading list, Alison Deming--Director of the Creative Writing Program and Creative Writing Professor at the University of Arizona--shares her recommended list of poems for youth. Enjoy!
Robert Louis Stevenson, A Child’s Garden of Verses
Among my favorite poems in this book are “Bed in Summer” and “My Shadow.”
This was my first poetry book as a child. It taught me how musical both language and thoughtfulness can be. Be not afraid of the archaic poeticisms. This book speaks to a child’s inner life.
This past Saturday, we celebrated our last Family Days of the Spring 2013 season at the Poetry Center! Check out some of the awesome writing, generated by students during our Poetry Joey's writing workshops this past weekend. And be sure to mark your calendars for Saturday, September 28th, the first Family Days of the Fall 2013 season!
Quiet as a flea
Quiet as a flea, quiet quiet as a bug on a tiny rug
A wall on a ball on a rolly-polly tolly
In California, I do warn you about the California scene
It will haunt you in your dreams forever and ever
Sneek the wall of windows or the wall of widows
Dad or mom of windows or dad or mom of widows
P.S. Was it 8 or 9 windows?
Window wall window wall through all your beautiful windows
Every day what do you see?
Through all your windows do you spy lots of cars on the rough road?
Tiny tiny little bug on your little little rug
This week, in continuation with our series, “The Reading Series in the Classroom,” we here at Wordplay will introduce your students to the writing of Carmen Giménez Smith. She will read at the Poetry Center on April 25th at 7 p.m., along with J. Michael Martínez and Roberto Tejada. Giménez Smith’s reading will be best suited for high school students, but her poetry also appeals to a K-8 audience. Please print and read her poem “Photo of a Girl on a Beach,” with your students, and then follow the writing prompts below. Hope to see you all at the Reading!
1. What words or images are most memorable to you in the poem?
2. Are there any lines or images that stick out to you as odd or quizzical?
3. Pick your favorite line and discuss it with a neighbor. Why did you pick the line?
4. At the end of the poem, there’s an interesting twist with narration. For most of the poem, the narrator is “I,” but by the end of the poem, the narrator shifts to “she.” Who, in your mind, is the girl on the beach? Is it the narrator or some other girl? Or do you have a different explanation?
5. Find a family photo when you go home tonight, and write a short imitation poem, based off of Carmen Giménez Smith’s “Photo of a Girl on a Beach.” For example, the title of your poem could be “Photo of a Grandpa at a Birthday Party.”
This week, in continuation with our series, “The Reading Series in the Classroom,” we here at Wordplay will introduce your students to the writing of Ilya Kaminsky. Kaminsky will read at the Poetry Center this Thursday, April 11th, at 7:00 p.m. Kaminksy’s reading will be best suited for high school students, but some of his poetry also appeals to a K-8 audience. Read Ilya Kaminsky’s poem “Her Husband Dreams,” which can be found here (scroll down to #5).
1. Kaminsky writes about “glass miniature horses on each street” as being “confusion as sweet as I can bear.” What does that mean to you? Have you ever felt that way?
2. Using Kaminsky’s glass miniature horses as an example, brainstorm some different types of material that evoke that “sweet confusion” feeling in you—for example:
ivory, teakwood, marble, velvet, pencil lead, grass, silk, obsidian, oak
Everyone suggests Shel Silverstein. My daughter, Zoe, 7, got her third copy for Christmas this year. You can’t go wrong with Where the Sidewalk Ends but everyone already knows that. Then, there are the books the kids love and ask me to read over and over like Goodnight Moon, Curious George and Panda Bear Panda Bear What Do You See? But I assume you have all those books memorized too.
The books I want to showcase are the books that I think play with language the best. I want to read books that make me say how did they do that? That make me wish I had written that. That let words linger on my tongue like butter and lemon. I want to read books to my kids in the same way I want to read books to myself. Because, wow. Words are awesome.
I picked up a copy of Owl Moon at Bookman’s for no reason except I like owls. I didn’t know that this book would make me and my daughter go walking in the night in the forest behind our house saying whoo whoo to the trees. But it did. The author, Jane Yolen, writes a poem that doesn’t seem like a poem because there’s adventure and story and owls but the way she uses linebreaks and repetition remind me every time I read it how poems work:
In honor of National Poetry Month, we here at Wordplay want to share with you some of our favorite poems, written by youth and their parents at the Tucson Festival of Books this past March. During the festival, the writers were given a variety of writing prompts. Check out these excerpts from the giant group poem written at the Festival of Books, about what the writers found in their pockets and purses.
Contents of My Pocket or Purse
My pocket has a set of keys in it that can unlock any door
Inside my pocket there is a goofy smile
Inside my pocket is my phone that my Mom gave me to call her if I get lost
Inside my pocket is a camera to take lots of pictures
Inside my pocket is a bean bag from Microsoft
A tattoo of a scorpion that is black and brown
And last of all is a orange lolly pop that says tiger pop
And a wind up bug that is green, blue, red, and grey.
Lately, I've been loving on Voca's search bar. If you haven't used it yet, do so now! When you type a word in, the Voca site searches for it in titles, names, and keywords -- basically anywhere you might find your chosen word. The word I chose was "home." I chose this word not really knowing what to expect because the word has such a broad meaning and a large span of images. But I was delighted by the new ways Voca and its poets encouraged me to think about “home," simply from the collection it pulled up under results.
A quick summary of what I found Voca to assign with "home": you can be home in your name, in a language, in body; you can find home in a writing form, in a dream house, in geography and the natural; home is food and sometimes the stars, often a title or just a word you’re trying to understand through a phone call to Mom.