Thursday, January 5, 2017

Poetry Friday 1/6/17

I feel like the recess bell just rang. It’s Poetry Friday! I rush out into the playground over at Teacher Dance for some fun. Thank you, Linda Baie, for hosting. 

My mother was a sewer, a seamstress, and a certified tailor. She didn’t just sew fabric well. She created high-quality, extraordinarily precise textiles for her wardrobe, our family and many people that paid her for her work.

I once saw Mom take an antique size eight wedding gown and alter it to a today’s size twenty-two….using tea to stain the new fabric to match the aged fabric of the antique gown.
My mom was a miracle worker with fabric and thread.

I recently read Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science by Jeannine Atkins (Simon & Schuster 2016) with a mind to review it. However, novels-in-verse slow me down as a reader. It’s because I’m slowing down to examine the stitches, seams and detail. Jeannine is a genius with words and a page.

When I felt ready to share my thoughts about Finding Wonders, I turned to Doraine Bennet’s Poetry Friday post with interview questions and answers from Jeannine on Finding Wonders.
I started clicking on the links in Doraine’s post that led to Jeannine’s blog, Views from a Window Seat, and teacher resources and writing prompts.

And then, I simply went off the path. I started responding to the writing prompts – just as an exercise I thought. There’s a historical figure without a large body of written record left that fascinates me. Why not start there? I fell down rabbit holes of research. I now have several bits of phrases and scratches and scribbles that I think maybe someday might become something? That’s the thing that Jeannine shows and Doraine reinforces. One doesn’t sit down say, now, I will write a novel in verse. One has to trek through rabbit holes and stay off the path before getting down to business.

I’m still studying the seams of Finding Wonders, admiring the high-quality and precision of Jeannine’s work. I’d love to be on the inside of her creative writing classes, crit-group, or editor’s chats.  I don’t want to just pick-up and read another or any old novel in verse. I want to read and write to the level of Finding Wonders.

Getting back on the path to an actual review……

Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science is a superb book about three young women at the bridge between childhood and womanhood but decided to pause and look over the side.

The observations of Maria Sibylla Merian, Mary Anning and Maria Mitchell led each young woman to respond to what she saw in ways that today we call science and art….these pioneers are our ste-A-m foremothers.

The verse will draw you in….though at first I questioned…how are these prose-y looking pages verse? They are. There are stanzas and line breaks to guide and wow. The figurative language is unique and thought provoking. The details and wonders readers to ponder are infinite.

There is a strong, luminous silken thread that connects the women in their lives to each other and to us. That’s the genius of Jeannine’s stitching that I admire most.

This is not simply a book for girls. As a middle school librarian, I can sell this book as a fast read to all students, teachers and staff members knowing full well they will come away with a learning wrapped up in beautiful words. I can also see Finding Wonders as a beautiful Father’s Day gift as each one of the women depicted had nurturing relationships with fathers.

As a poet, reader and a researcher, I say this book should come with a warning for the like-minded. Finding Wonders will slow you down. The novel will increase your curiosities and desires to dig, seek, sketch your way to new understandings—live a poetic process.

Thank you, Jeannine, for writing such a lovely and thoughtful novel. Thank you Doraine for asking questions and sharing the answers.  I have enjoyed learning…and look forward to more.

For more creativity related to Finding Wonders see Amy Vanderwater over at The Poem Farm.


  1. Thanks for this very thoughtful review. It makes me want to take the time to read the book. I adore novels in verse and agree, they slow you down, in the best possible way.

  2. This book has all the markings of a future gift for my daughter. What a great review. I hope to read such a great review of a book of mine one day. We must never stop dreaming and looking at the stars.

  3. Jeannine is masterful, indeed. Thank you for this "wonder"ful, thoughtful review, Linda! (I'm lucky to call Jeannine, and Doraine, friends - two human beings who just make this world better.)
    I love how you put into words that reading a verse novel, for a writer especially, can actually slow us down! So much to savor.
    Happy New Year!

  4. I loved this book, and really all of Jeannine's writing and books. You've written a beautiful review and reflection of your time spent with the book and her words, Linda. I imagine you've found it, but a few years ago Jeannine collected some of her blog writing into a book, same title as her blog. I re-read it every once in a while, or just pieces of it again. I love also hearing your story of your own "rabbit hole" that's leading into some big adventure. That's great! Happy Writing, and Reading!

  5. Reading these bits and pieces of the book, it does feel like you are finding wonders. I love how the verses your shared captures this small moments, this bits and pieces that speak so much. I love that bit about the mustard seed sown into the dress. As a reader, i enjoy it when writers take time to zoom in into this tiny details.
    thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book and some verses from it.


  6. I'm in awe of the paths your mind takes, and the ways in which you tried everythingng together! What a thoughtful, and thought-provoking, review of what sounds like a pretty magical book.

  7. Beautiful post, Linda. Your mother sounds like a fascinating person! I'm looking forward to reading Jeannine's new book this year.

    I am one of the admins of a verse novelists group on Facebook. Let me know if you'd like to join!

  8. Reading your review makes me want to rush out to buy this book and then sit and savor every word. Then I want to give it to my daughter who is beginning her career in scince.

  9. I like "slowing down to examine the stitches, seams and detail." Jeannine is a great person to learn from. Your mom sounds amazing! I love people who are meticulous with their craft, be it poetry or textile art.

  10. Linda, thanks for such a careful reading of Finding Wonders, checking the stitches, finding the main strands. I love your look at your mother's art -- you know I'm a fan of drawing from stitchery for metaphors! So much to read within a well made dress. And thanks to the rest of the readers here for your enthusiasm. Verse novels are interesting as you may suggest them, as you note, for a fast read, but slowing down does bring more.

  11. Linda, you have me captivated with the route you took to wonder and dig deeper into the art of verse novels. I met Jeannine at NCTE and kept running into her which was wonderful. Her book sounds fascinating so thank you for providing a thorough and thoughtful review. I'm glad that you liked the photo of the huge sculpture of a tailor in NYC's fashion district that I sent you. It should remind you of our mother's talents. Have a great weekend.

  12. Quite an intriguing post, Linda! I have been wanting to read a novel in verse, so I am so happy to have these words of wisdom. Happy new year to you!

  13. An enticing review! I read her other novel in verse about 3 women, Borrowed Names. It was delightful. Thanks for sharing your inspiration and journey -- pursue and develop that manuscript!

  14. I loved reading your favorite lines, Linda. This whole book is so stunning, isn't it? Jeannine IS a stitcher, and the comparison to your mother is beautiful. So many of my pages are folded down in this volume. I will have to buy another to give to my hubby science teacher for Father's Day! (Such a perfect idea!) xx

  15. So enjoyed this meander with you, Linda! Your thoughts interspersed with favorite lines is a gift in itself. (I would so read a verse novel by you... so get to work! *grin*). If you haven't read it, you'd probably enjoy Jeannine's memoir (View from a Window Seat), which takes one inside her creative process. It too is a lovely read.

  16. Guess it is time for me to get a book or two of Jeannine's. I've only read excerpts of books in verse, and I've liked them. I've just never read a whole one. Thanks for your up-close look at the fabric.

  17. I am reading Finding Wonders today and love it as much as you do! Your comparison of your mother's fine stitching and Jeannine's fine wordsmithing is perfect. I missed Doraine's post, but will be sure to read it next. Looking forward to reading more about what lured you down a rabbit hole!

  18. Great review, Linda! I liked the way you wove bits of the book's text throughout.

  19. Thank YOU for writing such a lovely review!


Friendly, positive comments and feedback are always welcome here. Please let me know I'm not just whistling in the dark!