Thursday, August 9, 2018

Review of Jazz Owls

Happy Poetry Friday Friends,

Thanks to our poet photographer friend for hosting this week's round-up at Nix the Comfort Zone.  Be sure to stop by for lots and lots of wonderful poetry offerings.

Come Monday, I will be back in middle school as a teacher-librarian. I enjoy work...and, I have LOVED summer. It's always an adjustment going back because this last week is the week to  read all those books I was going to read over the summer. Ack!

I read Jazz Owls: A Novel of the Zoot Suit Riots (Simon & Schuster 2018) by Young People's Poet Laureate, Margarita Engle.

Jazz Owls is a novel in verse and I love it!

As an educator and librarian for young people, I'm always looking for text that describes how situations other than those familiar feel. Jazz Owls does this wonderfully--and in exquisite verse.

First, there is a realistic cast of characters caught up in the Los Angeles riots (known as the Zoot Suit riots. But, I may never call them by that name again), the summer of 1943. As in other novels by Ms. Engle, each character holds an important piece of the whole story.

It's no surprise to today's readers that some voices in 1943 were listened to before others. First heard and protected were navy sailors training at the nearby base and about to be shipped off to the Pacific -- scared, nervous and looking for ways to vent it all. Also, police and newspaper writers looking for an angle to sell papers were important in the framing of this story.

Other voices were young Mexican-American women working in canning factories for little pay for long hours while being encouraged to also dance at USO Clubs in the evenings. After all, the troops should be kept happy, right? All of these people had families and neighbors that were a part of the fabric of their lives.

Meet Marisela, Lorena and their younger brother-chaperone Ray who work for the war effort by day and dance swing and jitterbug by night. Their older brother, Nico and their father are fighting World War II. Mama, Abuelita are with them on the Homefront.


I love feeling jazz-winged,
so this owl life is easy for me.
until early morning when my shift
at the cannery begins, right after a LONG journey
of clanging streetcar bells and SLEEPY smiles, all
those memories of dancing the jitterbug, Lindy Hop,
and jump blues, while adding my own swaying bit
of Latin-style swing rhythm!


DARK SIDE OF TOWN was the worst headline,
with words that made the rest of this city feel
like white people had received official
to fear
and hate
all of us


If you can't dance
with your neighbors,
you live in the wrong

Dance halls need musicians like  Manolito, a drummer, who hails from Cuba. These guys are being kept busy by the high demand for big band and swing. Everyone wants to feel alive so close to the thought of war and death.


I'm just one of hundreds of musicians
who arrive from New York, Memphis, Chicago,
Kansas City, Saint Louis, and from the steamy islands
of musica too, Cuba and Puerto Rico, drummers,
wearing our loose suits, the zoot shape
that drapes us to keep dance leaps smooth
and COOL in this HOT summer river
of JAZZ!

These beautiful young people get caught up in hysteria, violence and racism when navy recruits, fueled by newspaper angling, rushed streets looking for zoot-suiters to beat up. Chaos, injury, arrests and division ensue. 

Engle gets right to the truth of history with poetic images quickly and without mincing words.  Our young people can grasp this. After all, they are witnessing life now.

There is no happy ending, however, life does go on. There is an admirable reference list and  illustrations by Rudy Gutierrez who's work give layers of authenticity to the text. Artistic readers will be inspired immediately.

A few years ago, some seventh graders were looking for book information on Zoot Suits and the Zoot Suit (which should be more apply named Sailor) Riots. I wish I could have put this book in their hands. Now, I can. And, we can talk and the conversation about who we have been as Americans and who we need to be can continue. This book pairs perfectly with the movie (or snippets of the movie for classroom viewing), Swing Kids .

Thank you, Margarita Engle. You remain one of my writing and reading heroes. 

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Summer Poetry Sharing

Hello Friend and Happy Poetry Friday,

I do not know if there is anything quite as wonderful as the Summer Poetry Swap organized by Tabatha, host of The Opposite of Indifference.

When I arrived home from the beach I had two treasures waiting for me. I adore each and am grateful to have been in on this year's swap. If you think you might want to give it a try...definitely join the next one.

From Jone Rush Macculloch, a poem embedded in one of her stunning bird photos.

morning walk
red winged blackbird sings
signals his place in the world
bringing unity

         (c) jone rush macculloch

From Iphigene....all the way from the Philippines.


Asked: "why are my eyes
not like yours~round
and blue?" I tell her, "you got my
nose though."

She'd measure our noses
with her thumb, press
Hers to mine

When the laugh dies down
I think of wombs--
the shape of it,
elongated spheres
holding life.

I think of hearts
the shape of it,
elongated spheres
holding life in it.

And maybe,
wombs and hearts
are interchangeable
where umbilical cords
become invisible.

Threads that bind--minding
not skin, not genes

only that beneath her
tiny ribs and my own

is a music that tells us
we are each other's own.

She pokes my arm
out of my thoughts 

looks at me with
black, questioning 

"But our noses can't be
alike," I trace her
nose and smile, "ah!
but our hearts will,

(c) Iphigene Daradar 2018

I am blessed beyond measure don't you agree?

Please visit Mary Lee Hahn who is hosting this week's Poetry Round-up at A Year of Reading and a pretty impressive blitz poem there. Thank you, Mary Lee!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Poetry Friday 7/27/18 Life's a Beach

Happy Poetry Friday Friends

Thank you to Catherine for hosting this week's mid-summer round-up at Reading to the Core. I'm having lots and lots of fun away from my writing desk this week having fun in the sun with lots of family.
(c) Linda Mitchell

I'm up to my photo-word shenanigans again

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Summer Sandwich

Hello Poetry Friday Poets,

I hope you are enjoying this summer and soaking up sunshine memories. 

Poet, writer of memoir and friend Heidi is graciously hosting this week's round up over at My Juicy Little Universe. Please stop by and say hello there.

On Sunday I received my first Summer Poetry Swap surprise from  Molly Hogan. The package is such a classic American taste of summer I want to share it with you.

When I opened the package I found a beautiful hand-made card with Molly's signature and stunning photography, a pot of home-made strawberry jam and of course, a poem.  

Strawberry Wishes
by Molly Hogan

I wish you strawberry blossoms
transforming to juicy rubies
beneath warm sun
and gentle rains

I wish you sticky red fingers
the imprint of straw on your knees
and the heady scent of berries
simmering on your stove

I wish you a strawberry summer
ripe with moments to preserve
a growing memory shelf
of glowing jars
filled with sustenance
and sweetness

And come winter
I wish you slow, peaceful moments
to savor a taste of preserves
and sweet summer memories

of a time when
the pace was languid and lovely
and the sun lay golden
on the fields.

The experience of opening the package and opening the jam and enjoying all of it has been out of this world wonderful. I'm grateful to Molly for her thoughtful swap surprise as well as Tabatha for arranging some summer fun. 

Strawberry Jam by Molly

I am away from my desk on Friday...I will catch up with Poetry Friday posts a little slower than most weeks. 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Celebrating Bayou Song

Happy Lucky Poetry Friday the 13th!

Many thanks to Sylvia Vardell for hosting this week's round-up at her blog, Poetry for Children

Today, I'm Snoopy-dancing over the publication of Bayou Song (Louisiana University Press 2018) by Margaret Simon.
Illustrations are by Anna Cantrell, photographs by Henry Cancienne. I'm in love with this book and I'm part of the growing momentum of praise for this gorgeous work.

Raise your hand if you know Margaret in any way. Oh, yeah, I SEE all those hands waving behind computer screens. 

Margaret is a tremendous friend of Poetry Friday. One of the biggest lessons I think I learn from her is the power of poetry friendship.

I asked Margaret some questions about Bayou Song recently, and I  hope you are as inspired to pick up a pen or drawing pencil as I have been after reading some of our conversation.

Linda: The word adventure pops up in your thoughts about writing this book. What is an early adventure in your life that you remember?

Linda: What does your reading history look like?

illustration by Anna Cantrell

Linda: Who do you hope to see reading Bayou Song?

illustration by Anna Cantrell

Linda:  What has early response to Bayou Song been?

Linda:  How does your work as a teacher influence Bayou Song?

illustration by Anna Cantrell

Linda: What have you learned from the process of creating this book?

illustration by Anna Cantrell

Linda: Do you creatively cross-train with other creative pursuits that support your writing/illustrating?

Linda: Give us a writing/drawing prompt from the book or a new prompt that will send us on a creative journey. 

I hope you'll paddle right out to purchase a copy of Bayou Song for yourself, a favorite teacher friend and a young reader...anyone that you would invite for a walk along the bayou.

Independent Book Store: Books Along the Teche or, at your familiar large online book (everything) store.

Upcoming reviews and information of Bayou Song are headed to our blogosphere. Have a peek at what these bloggers have to say:

Tuesday, July 17:
Laura Shovan 

Tuesday, July 24
Amanda Potts at Persistence and Pedagogy

Friday, July 27:
Carol Varsalona at Beyond LiteracyLink

Monday, July 30
Linda Baie at Teacher Dance

Friday, Aug. 3
Dani Burtsfield at Doing the Work That Matters

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Poetry Friday 7/6/18

Happy Hot Poetry Friday!

It seems like yesterday, I was feeling like winter would go on forever...and today is an experience in hot, Hotter, HOTTEST! 

Thank you to today's host of Poetry Friday links, Tricia at
The Miss Rumphius Effect

Allow me to introduce you to a Flamingo named Bob. You can read Bob's story in The Audubon Magazine's 2017 Summer issue and...or in a haiku account I extracted from the story and share below.

Doest, Jasper. “The Busy Life of Bob the Flamingo.” Audubon, Audubon, 6 July 2017,

Bob the flamingo
crashed into a window -- ouch!
rescued by Odette

Odette doctors birds
especially injured birds
Bob accepted help

Bob's charisma
enchanted children in schools
a popular guest

four foot tall pink birds
teach conservation ethics
to human fledglings

curious children
ask about feathers and food
doesn't bother Bob

a student carries
Bob to Odette's car--careful
kids and birds better 

Words found by Linda Mitchell

Photos by Jasper Doest

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Poetry Friday 6/22

It's Poetry Friday. Isn't that great? This week's round-up is hosted by painter-poet, Michelle at Moreart4all. She has a review of a new book I am in love with, Bayou Song, by our Poetry Friday friend, Margaret Simon. I cannot wait until everyone sees this gorgeous book!

This week was one of those weeks, you know?

It's summer--I'm having fun with some paper crafting and at the ice-cream place with my kids. I've stayed up late watching stupid TV and been reading books. 

But, I've also gotten caught up in the news cycle and too much social media. I found myself stressing out over a work in progress...and it's only the beginning of my assigned time to recharge my inner batteries. Hoo Boy!

It's time to breathe and find some balance. We creatives can take on more emotion than the average bear sometimes.

So, I gave myself a joy assignment.

*Remember the last time you felt joy?

*Do something that brings you joy

*Find joy

This poem brings me joy


are birds
that arrive
with books
and spring

the wind
and trees
page from my paper-craft journal
can you guess what my first written word was?

some words
are messengers
that come
from far away
from distant lands

for them
there are
no borders
only stars
moon and sun

some words
are familiar
like canaries
others are exotic
like the quetzal bird

some can stand
the cold
others migrate
with the sun
to the south

some words
they're difficult
to translate

and others
build nests
have chicks
warm them
feed them

teach them
how to fly
and one day
they go away
in flocks

the letters
on this page
are the prints
they leave
by the sea

Francisco X. Alarcon, "Words are Birds" from Laughing Tomatoes and Other Spring Poems. Copyright © 1997 by Francisco X. Alarcon.  Reprinted by permission of Lee & Low Books.
Source: Laughing Tomatoes and Other Spring Poems (Lee & Low Books, 1997)

PS: I didn't know that 6/23 is National Pink Day....but Sandra Boyton did and it makes me giggle.