Thursday, February 21, 2019

Countdown 2979 Days to the Moon

Happy Poetry Friday

Find today's Poetry Friday round-up at Life on the Deckle Edge with Robin. She's creative in all kinds of ways (see her arsty letters etsy shop too!)...especially with words. 

Thanks to a snow day, I got to cuddle up with an amazing book, Countdown 2979 Days to the Moon by Suzanne Slade (Peachtree, 2018). 

I stumbled across Countdown by accident at the National Book Festival this past summer. I was with writer buddies walking around the crowded convention center, overwhelmed by all the choices and decided to stop for a rest at the Young Adult reading stage. 

Suzanne was talking about her book. Her enthusiasm for this nonfiction science story hooked me. I leaned in for a better listen. Then, I heard her say that the book is in verse. Well! That's something I want to know more about. I was so taken with Suzanne as a scientist and author and images from the book she shared that I bought a copy from the huge table of books on sale.

I don't think I can write just one account of how this book has impacted me. I need to break it down into how this book affected me as a reader, Teacher-Librarian and writer.


I thought I knew some stuff about the space program. But, wow! Did I learn lots more. I love how this story begins with President Kennedy's proclamation and sets the clock ticking. There is no turning away from disappointments and failures...such as the deaths of astronauts Grissom, White and Chaffee in 1967. However, there are triumphs to celebrate too. 

I was caught holding my breath for each mission as they were incremental steps toward landing on the moon. I appreciated what is typically considered back-matter in a MG nonfiction book punctuating each chapter so I could process important details. Where astronauts went to school, how old they were at the time of their mission...if they are still living or not became important to me as I followed the Apollo journeys. Carefully selected photos from thousands, no doubt, complimented each interesting fact.

From Countdown

Verse made this story accessible. Countdown was not a dense tome of reading. It is not a picture book that talks down to an audience. Countdown is the real deal for information and story.


Like most grown-ups on earth, I compete for kid's attention. For some, time with a traditional book with pages is a tough sell. I cheer every time I come across a captivating MG nonfiction such as Countdown. Kids really do love nonfiction when given the chance to enjoy it in a high quality book. Ms. Slade trusts the readers to follow their curiosity through her story. I like that.

Countdown is carefully crafted. Illustrations by Thomas Gonzalez are so finely made that one has to look closely to determine if they are paintings, photographs or a blend. The artwork really does make the reader feel like they are with NASA.

There is a ton of great science as part of the story. Words such as lunar, earth rise, Langrenus Crater, Sea of Tranquility, pitch, roll, yaw, many more. This book is stellar for building my own background information.

I appreciate a Countdown Teacher Guide with activities for this book which is considered one of the Best Children's Books of 2018 by Smithsonian's Air & Space.

Countdown pairs well with many other books...I'll pair this title with these books currently in my middle school library: 

  • Astronaut-Aquanaut by Jennifer Swanson (National Geographic Kids, 2018)
  • Apollo 8: The Mission That Changed Everything by Martin Sendler (Candlewick, 2018)
  • Our Moon by Elaine Scott (Clarion 2016)
  • Almost Astronauts by Tonya Lee Stone (Candlewick, 2009)
  • Endurance: My Year in Space and How I Got There by Scott Kelly (Crown Books 2018)

From Countdown


As a poet, I love the moment poetry is enjoying, especially in middle grade nonfiction. The opportunity to get to the heart of emotions in the Apollo missions was perfect for poetry. There was no shortage of figurative language. 

Enjoy these words from Countdown as as writing prompts. I bet you can launch your own poems about space exploration or many other topics.

squawk box

Thanks to ANOTHER snow day....I can post early and enjoy early Poetry Friday postings too. Yay!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

LOVE is...

Guess What?

I was going to skip Poetry Friday. Seriously. It's been a busy week. I've not been feeling very energetic....I got home late tonight (Thursday evening) and I was sure that skipping one Poetry Friday would be no big deal.

And, literally turning into my driveway at 7:20 pm I thought I heard my kid's 1st grade teacher's voice on the car radio. Three of my children had the same first grade teacher and I am delighted by that. Miss Stephens is the most amazing teacher you can imagine. She's an author and champion of writing. My kids who are fixing to leave high school STILL tell Miss Stephens stories. She is much beloved by our family.

Books by Ann Marie Stephens

Did I hear Miss Stephens on NPR?!

Sure enough, I came in the house and, Miss Stephen WAS on NPR. Her facebook page said so! She happens to be a friend of author/poet/publisher Kwame Alexander who recently challenged teachers across the US to ask students to fill in this blank...

L O V E    I S . . .

Kwame Alexander then used collected responses to create an original poem which you can hear on at the link to the Morning Edition show for 2/14/19.

Miss Stephens not only took his challenge. But, she made the challenge work in an interesting way. Listen in for how she did that and got the most amazing responses to Love is...

I invited students at my school to define love too. They did in all kinds of silly, serious, emotional, dark, fun ways on paper hearts from weeded books.

Love is...getting to be a part of the lives of kids I know at my school for the brief time I get to know them. Love is teachers having as much fun as students in the library and saying, "hey....what if we make Love is...a black out poem? (awwww, Ms. C. you rock!). Love is a Library Assistant who goes with an idea last minute by leafing through discarded books looking for Love is...illustrations to cut out into enough paper hearts to create a border for a large bulletin board. Love is the community of folks that were part of Love is... including you.

What a gift to behold this Valentines Day

So, here I am blogging. And, I really didn't think I had time. Isn't that grand?

Please visit Check it Out for this week's round-up of poetry love. Jone's holding a Cybils Award Party!

Thursday, February 7, 2019

National Kite Day - US

Happy Poetry Friday!

Thank you round-up champion, Laura Salas, Writing the World for Kids. Her original poem last week, Lunch in a Refugee Reception Center, is powerful. 

It's National Kite-Flying-Day! Aren't kites grand? My library partner, our assistant and I love kites so much that we spruced up our middle school library ceiling with kites from around the world. 

some of the kites in the library where I work

I went looking for a kite poem to share today. And, I found lots! Kites inspire poems. After looking at lots and lots, this one is a new favorite.

The Kite 

Today I watched a boy fly his kite.
It didn’t crackle in the wind – but
gave out a barely perceptible hum.

At a certain height, I’d swear I heard
it sing. He could make it climb in
any wind; could (read the rest here)

That ending..whoa, right?

In response, I looked up Kites at Wonderopolis --where I found some haiku neatly tucked into the non-fiction paragraphs.

no one knows for sure

who tied his hat to his head 
love of kite flying

young and old, fly kites
just for the pure joy of it
a favorite toy

(c) Linda Mitchell

This lovely photo was waiting just for this post in the Library of Congress Archives... its citation led me to check out A Children's Garden of Verses online:

Frissell, Toni, photographer. Toni Frissell's daughter Sidney as "The Wind" in A Child's Garden of Verses, Southhampton, Long Island. Photograph. Retrieved
from the Library of Congress, <>.
The Wind
By Robert Louis Stevenson

I saw you toss the kites on high
And blow the birds about the sky;
And all around I heard you pass,
Like ladies’ skirts across the grass—
      O wind, a-blowing all day long,
      O wind, that sings so loud a song!

I saw the different things you did,
But always you yourself you hid.
I felt you push, I heard you call,
I could not see yourself at all—
      O wind, a-blowing all day long,
      O wind, that sings so loud a song!

O you that are so strong and cold,
O blower, are you young or old?
Are you a beast of field and tree,
Or just a stronger child than me?
      O wind, a-blowing all day long,
      O wind, that sings so loud a song!

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Riffing on Aileen Fisher

Good Poetry Friday, Friend

Isn't it wonderful that poet extraordinaire, Tabatha, is hosting our round-up this week at: The Opposite of Indifference ? I learn something new and poetical every time I visit.

I've so enjoyed the History of American Poets series by Renee LaTulippe and Lee Bennett Hopkins at No Water River. Episode 2 was about poets of the 1930s.

Aileen Fisher is highlighted in this episode. I'm so taken by her poems, I decided to take her as mentor for my writing this week. Fisher's poetry is deceptively simple--manageable for kids but strong as any grownup's.

In the Spirit of Aileen Fisher...

By Linda Mitchell

From my highest height
I peer a long way down 
past my tummy
and my knees
to my feet on the ground.
Looking back up at me
ten toes wriggling free.

From my highest height
I ponder my toes
ten footsy-fingers
in a low front row
wave from furthest reach
of me to my messy hair
up in the balcony seats.

If you ever want
to break up boredom
and being barefooted
isn’t a problem
pull off your socks and shoes
wave hello to your toes
they can amuse you.

I read Kimberly Hutmacher's post last week, Poem Under Deconstruction with interest. She described how she takes a poem apart to look at its parts. And, she shared a poem by Aileen Fisher as an example. 

Weather is Full of the Nicest Sounds
By Aileen Fisher

Weather is full
of the nicest sounds:
it sings
and rustles
and pings
and pounds
and hums
and tinkles
and strums
and twangs
and whishes
and sprinkles
and splishes
and bangs
and mumbles
and grumbles
and rumbles
and flashes
I wonder
if thunder
frightens a bee,
a mouse in her house,
a bird in a tree,
a bear
or a hare
or a fish in the sea?
Not me!

In the Spirit of Aileen Fisher

A library is Full of Interesting Sounds
By Linda Mitchell

Book page turning makes a swish.
Mother's pointer-finger shows a shhh.

Legos click at a maker space
Curious mouse clicks through a database.

Checkout stations beep, beep, beep
A study group has fallen asleep 

                                                     -- zzzzz

Language learners call hola, hello!
meraba, bonjour,
salaam and ciao!

Librarians ask, may I help you?
Patrons ask a question or two.

Story time audience claps at The End
Romance book club is weeping again.

Poet fingers snap in the YA section
and tap on titles in shelves of Fiction.

In a place famous for quiet, I have found
a library is full of most interesting sounds.

Look at this beautiful handmade poetry post card from Christie Wyman. I love how her love of nature is so much a part of her poetry. Thank you, Christie!

Thursday, January 24, 2019

To A Daughter

Good Poetry Friday,

After this chilly week, it's good to snuggle up with blog posts of Poetry Friday friends. Thanks to Tara for hosting our round-up at Going to Walden (isn't that the most marvelous title of a blog?). 

Last weekend was our annual birthday palooza. One daughter turned eighteen and another daughter turned twenty. Ever since the girls entered our lives, the weekend closest to their birthdays have been events. Two cakes to bake, sometimes a shared party, presents and time being family. As they grow into the adult world, my mother's heart remembers simpler times and misses my little girls.

Linda Pastan's poem To a Daughter Leaving Home is a favorite. It brings up a longing in me. It became a mentor text to me in my writing this week.

To a Daughter Leaving Home
By, Linda Pastan

When I taught you at eight to ride
a bicycle, loping along beside you
as you wobbled away on two round
wheels, my own mouth rounding
in surprise when you pulled ahead down 
the curved path of the park,

I kept waiting
(read the rest ...)

A cake made with love by mom is always best

On a Daughter's Birthday
By, Linda Mitchell

When you were small
I didn’t want you to know
that I didn’t
always understand
your babbling.
It was
that I listen.
The intent in your tone
articulation of your little fingers
and stance of your
full of purpose.

I learned to respond,
I love you, 
a look of understanding
would pass between us
as it does
as you step out our door

car keys jingling like an old-time alarm clock
in the dark morning
a new day.

What a lucky poet am I to receive two more New Year post cards this week. They are just the ticket to chase my wistful thoughts of  growing children into new creativity. Thank you so much, Robyn and Kay. 

Live abundantly
With open hands, open hearts--
love shows the way.

(c) Kay McGriff

new year -
sea, fog surrenders
to sun

(c) Robyn Hood Black

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Poetry Friday Jan 18th

Good Poetry Friday Everyone,

This weeks round-up is hosted by Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect. Enjoy the links to lots and lots more poetry.

I'm not sure how many of my poetry friends know that some of my children came into my family by way of adoption from China. Since those days of growing my family I've been attracted to Asian literature--specifically Chinese literature. I collected lots of books, games, puzzles, DVDs when the kids were small. 

When I saw this reading challenge offered this week on twitter I joined it.

My goal is panda level (31-40 books). One of my kids is from very near the biggest panda sanctuary in it's fitting. I haven't started reading yet. But, I have some time this weekend. I would love your recommendations for reading of any level or genre that fits the challenge.

I am most fortunate to have received Happy New Year greetings in this year's Post Card Exchange hosted by Jone McCulloch. Each postcard represents the sender perfectly and reminds me of the benefits of belonging to this community. Thank you, everyone!  

I'm sharing my postcard treasures so that you can have the goodness too....
Mary Lee Hahn:

Michelle Kogan:
Irene Latham:

Diane Mayr:

Molly Hogan:
Jone Rush MacCulloch:

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Soaring Earth -- Book Review

Happy Poetry Friday!

This week's Poetry Friday Round-up is hosted by the energetic and prolific writer, Kat Apel. I love what Kat brings to the table. Fresh ideas, real experience with readers and writers and a dash of fun. Thanks so much for hosting this week, Kat.

I just finished reading Soaring Earth: A companion memoir to Enchanted Air by our Young People's Poet Laureate, Margarita Engle (Atheneum Books for Young Readers 2018). Check out Anansesem's cover reveal of the book and the author's writing goals that made it happen in the link below.

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Soaring Earth by Margarita Engle

I started reading slowly, with every intention of pacing myself. But, with most of Margarita's books, I got hooked....and read past my bedtime, again. 

The word that comes to mind as I read Soaring Earth is brave. 

Below are some of quotations from poems that made me feel a part of this memoir also. 

Magic, that.

p. 9
Reaching back into one's former self as an observer and recorder is brave. Margarita gives a glimpse into her life as a high school student in love with books and boys. Her intelligence and love of learning set her apart from many of her peers in a way that landed her at Berkeley as an extra-young freshman in  the nineteen-sixties. 


The era was not one to protect young people. So many were dying in Vietnam, protesting the war at home, trying to make sense of assassinations and unrest. Throughout it all, Margarita leans on Quaker strength and her curious mind to move forward, find friends, live a peaceful life. It was not easy. There were dangers. She had good fortune. She worked hard and persevered. She did not fall off the spinning earth.

p. 151

Beautiful cover art was created by Cuban American artist, Edel Rodriguez. I played with it a little bit in setting the quotations in it. It suits the book perfectly.

I sincerely hope Poetry Friday friends will make reading Soaring Earth a part of 2019. Its lovely poetry and incredible poetic memoir mentor text.