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Common milkweed, when broken, drips a milky sap. Likely this is how it earned its name. The caterpillars of the Monarch butterfly feasts on this particular plant. The nectar of Milkweed is precious. Anyone who has studied this butterfly knows that is is resilient.
Jerry Spinelli's Milkweed opens from the point of view of an orphaned boy on the streets of Warsaw at the dawn of World War II. The metaphorical connection between the title of the book and the resilient young protagonist is not lost on the reader: "Call me thief. Call me stupid. Call me Gypsy. Call me Jew. Call me one-eared Jack. I don't care. Empty-handed victims once told me who I was. Then Uri told me. Then an armband." Read on to discover how resiliency transforms this Monarch of a boy. In the process, you might plant some Milkweed and consider its connection to the story for your Section 5 project.
Three of the saddest three words are: out-of-print.
Perloo the Bold is a terrific fantasy tale for our Level two readers. I can't tell you how sad I was to learn this news! Immediately Memory Lane was flooded by my tears.
Five years ago...
Five years ago my son Søren was 10 and Perloo the Bold was a book in print. He identified with and was truly inspired by the reluctant hero, introverted scholar of this wonderful fantasy tale. The two hit it off from page one. Looking back, I did not have to encourage Søren to bring shape to his creative ideas, I simply had to provide the opportunity and the space for him to be creative. His little fimmaking experience inspired by this terrific story, was one of the moments in time that blossomed his unique individuality.
Section 5 of our integrated Literature and Writing Discovery Guides will help you establish a tradition of creativity.
If you elevate imagination, provide opportunities to generate creative work, and your children will celebrate accomplishments that stand the test of time.
Three more words (sad to read):
Perloo's been shelved!
Sad, but true.
While we will not discontinue selling our Perloo the Bold Guides, we will no longer be selling the books (you will certainly find this book in libraries, or second hand online for years to come). When we first received the news of the book going out-of-print. we stocked up. We even purchased as many gently used copies as we could find. But now, our supply is down to single digits. So, while supplies last, Perloo the Bold bundles will be sold for a mere $10 — a 50% markdown! So take your child on an incredible journey with Perloo and see where the path leads!
It is one of those moments where you realize you've lost something precious. You know the moment. Shoulders shrugging. Eyes remembering. Breathless.
Enter the bear. The bear who lost something precious.
The bear who lost his hat is at once endearing.
The bear whose emotional gesture does not change.
Does not change that is until his epiphany, "I HAVE SEEN MY HAT."
At which point he runs.
Runs to his treasured hat.
But this is not your typical illustrated story.
This tale is a tale with a twist.
A smart, thought provoking, hat-wearing twist.
The 2012 Theodore Seuss Geisel Honor book, I Want My Hat Back is a must read for children and grown ups too, but especially for wearers of hats.
And, when you are ready for the next hat book, you will want to read 2013 Caldecott Winner, This is Not My Hat, about a hat steeling fish.
And when you have completed these two enchanting hat books, you will have to wait for fall, when the trilogy is to be completed.
Sent from my iPad
I was drawn to this book because of its intriguing illustrations. Looking closer I realized its look was intriguing because it was crafted by the likes of Jon Klassen.
Think The Folk Keeper.
Now, think Coraline.
What happens when the hero of the story is an anxious child? One who cocoons beneath his covers each night and cannot commit to sleep until he’s recited his litany of gratitude—twice.
Add to this drama the fact the fragile protagonist has a brand new baby brother who is desperately ill.
What happens when that protagonist, once he’s finally drifted off to dreamland, encounters the queen-of-all-angel-wasps whose come to “save” the baby?
But for upper elementary and middle school level readers, this is a book worth reading to glean, among other treasures, its message of perseverance in the face of fragility is heartening.
The lexicon here is simple, but I found it deceptively and wondrously so.
“I knew I wouldn’t get back to sleep—didn’t even want to—so I pulled on jeans and a T-shirt and went outside to the backyard. It was early to be cool still, though you could feel the heat already clenched up in the earth and air, just waiting to unfurl” (70-71).
There is something magical about the way the author uses the words “clench” and “unfurl” to surprise the reader, to turn the tone of this statement.
And here too:
“I hated it when her eyes got wet. It made me scared. Like she wasn’t my mom any more but something fragile that might break” (41).
In two small sentences leading up to a third longer statement, we sense the drama of this family who is thin with worry for the sick baby. We readers are invited to experience the story’s main conflict through small turns in simple language. These three small sentences, all straight forward on the surface, demonstrate the inviting voice of this book. Here, the building of rhythm, the sensory information—those wet eyes—and, the last statement beginning with that awkward prepositional phrase, “Like she,” work together to give us a fresh understanding of a child responding to a mother’s tears.
While it is not likely The Nest, by Kenneth Oppel will make it to our Level 3 or 4 lineup in the near future, it is a recommended read for those interested in magical realism, especially for those who like the genre best when it is pushed toward the realm of science fiction or fantasy as this book pushes in both directions.
Are you following our Write it...! board on Pinterest? This images is all inspiration and puddles, perfect for February poetry.
Take a rainy day walk (imagine weather if climate does not permit) around your neck of the woods. Go people watching like this artist did. Write about a particular person or group you come across. What do you think that person’s backstory might be? Who are his/her friends? Where is he/she going? What does he/she hope for? What is he/she afraid of? Does that person call to mind certain memories, either childhood memories or recent experiences? Weave those memories into your narrative!
Bagpipes and Pajamas
Perhaps my craziest memory
is that of the man who sat in the quad
sometimes, playing bagpipes in his pajamas.
I don’t remember why he would do that—
perhaps I never knew. Perhaps
he was a transfer from Scotland,
and missed home while walking in the tangle
of graffitied metal of downtown warehouses.
Perhaps he always wanted to travel abroad,
and spent his nights drinking in the sound
of shafts of sunlight breaking through grey clouds
onto green hills: all I can recollect is his music
wafting around town at midnight some nights,
hearing those sweetly broken bagpipe
notes float out into the night,
starless with impenetrable smog.
“A capacity, and taste, for reading, gives access to whatever has already been discovered by others. It is the key, or one of the keys, to the already solved problems. And not only so. It gives a relish, and facility, for successfully pursuing the unsolved ones.” -Abraham Lincoln
Celebrate a birthday this month as you begin your year in books.
on the first Langston Hughes and Jerry Spinelli
on the fourth Paul O. Zelinsky
on the fifth David Wiener
on the seventh Laura Ingalls Wilder
on the tenth E.L. Konisgsburg
on the eleventh Jane Yolen
on the twelfth Abraham Lincoln
on the fourteenth Frederick Douglass
on the twenty-seventh Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
and, this year bing leap year, on the twenty-nineth, poet Howard Nemerov
When Leonardo Da Vinci died he left the world more than 6,000 pages of ideas.
Think revolving bridge, winged glider, or self-propelled car, and you will begin thinking like Leonardo.
Now, think colossal horse, and you will most certainly be moving in the direction of the Renaissance man. Most of us have heard of Da Vinci's Mona Lisa, but, Il Cavallo? Not so much.
So this past week, we gathered to learn more of this marvelous dreamer, and to be inspired by his prolific idea making. And after reading Leonardo's Horse by Jean Fritz (and ogling over the illustrations by Hudson Talbott), we got to work.
As I tried to imagine the complex engineering of the inner scaffolding, what Leonardo had to consider to create the clay model, let alone the bronze cast, I decided to focus our art making on the bones of sculpting. So from pipe cleaners, pom pons, yarn, and a lump of air drying clay we fashioned our horse.
And what a horse. It's not Leonardo. No. But it is certainly an inspired idea. And I imagine, this would make Leonardo smile. For he knew, better than most: "Art is never finished, only abandoned."
So here's what Karen Hesse knew to be true:
Once upon a time, in the summer of 1768, Captain James Cook sailed from England on H.M.S Endeavour, beginning a three-year voyage around the world on a secret mission to discover an unknown continent at the bottom of the globe. What is less known is that a boy by the name of Nicholas Young was a real live stowaway on that ship. Yep, eleven year old Nicholas Young really did stow away on Captain Cook's voyage around the world! And what did Captain Cook do when he discovered the stowaway? Well, he commissioned Nick into the Royal Navy, made him assistant to the ship's surgeon aboard the Endeavour. And, as if this is not enough, Nick was the first person on Captain Cook's ship to spot New Zealand and later explored Antarctica.
Karen Hesse took this little bundle of history and spun a fictional journal filled with hurricanes, warring natives, and disease, as Nick discovers new lands, incredible creatures, and lifelong friends.
Be adventurous: read Stowaway!
Begin the year immersed in the wonder of impossibility.
"Alice laughed. 'There's no use trying,' she said. 'One can't believe impossible things.'
I daresay you haven't had much practice,' said the Queen. 'When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
-From Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Celebrate a birthday this month as you begin your year in books.
on the third J R R Tolkien
on the fourth Jacob Grimm
on the fifth Lynne Cherry
on the twelfth Jack London
on the eighteenth A A Milne
on the thirty-first Rosemary Wells
on the twenty-seventh Lewis Carroll
and on the twenty-eighth Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice was first published
on the twenty-ninth Rosemary Wells
on the thirtieth Lloyd Alexander
Inspired by this Native Vermont image discovered while poking about on Pinterest, take inspiration from a food chain. Take inspiration from the “>”mathematical sign, from the chain of dominance in games such as rock-paper-scissors. Now, write a poem!
Rock Paper Scissors
Rock is greater than scissors,
Crushing is greater than slicing,
Stoic stone crumbles the sharp
Metal beaks of plastic cranes
Scissors are greater than paper,
Slicing is greater than folding,
Sharp metal beaks chew through
The crumpled skin of a dry lotus
Paper is greater than rock,
Folding is greater than crushing,
Long petals stretch their crumpled
Flesh over the face of stoic stone
I am the Martha Stewart generation—a young mom before the days of DIY, blogs, Handmade Nation, and Etsy (and email and cell phones for that matter). Crafting in those days was mostly the realm of groovy-hippie-types or country-calico-quilters. And although I had a certain appreciation for both asthetics, I didn't quite fit in anywhere on the maker's spectrum. All that changed when I first laid eyes on the premier issue of Living magazine. Everything about it ignited my graphic-designer-modernist tendencies; the sophisticated color palettes, the charmingly smart photo styling, the graphic play of patterns and materials, everything seemed perfect. And I wanted to make stuff like that!
I credit Martha for inspiring me to make things that I liked and that felt like "me". She brought both class and wit into handmade objects and she creating things with one's hands. making things with my hands is both a soul-nourishing and using my hands for more than just clicking and typing makes me feel human, creative, like I'm both giving and receiving. My daughter is now 17 and I'm not such a "young" mom any more but I still love to make things! I'v grown a lot and feel a lot less (self-imposed) pressure to make everything look so perfect and photoshoot ready.
So let's get to making:
These popsicle stick stars are my favorite—well suited for mass production, quick to put together, and infinitely customizable.
All you need are:
- popsicle sticks
- glue gun
The possibilities are limitless.
The Herdman kids lie, steal, smoke cigars, swear, and hit little kids. So no one is prepared when this outlaw family invades church one Sunday and decides to take over the annual Christmas pageant. Thanks to the Herdmans, the pageant is transformed into the most unusual anyone has seen and, just possibly, the best one ever.
What do Man with a hoe, by Jean-François Millet and Starbucks have in common?
Being an avid follower of Van Gogh (who created a drawing inspired by Millet's Man with a Hoe), I recognized at once Starbuck's nod to these great artists. Brilliant.
Millet was a thoughtful artist who cared deeply about the dignity of the commoner. As I stood in line waiting for my pumpkin-spiced latte, I whipped out my phone to consider Millet's wisdom via Google and consider why in the world Starbucks would echo his painting (a painting that I've stood before on many a trip to the Getty). This is what I discovered:
This: "Sometimes, in places where the land is sterile, you see figures hoeing and digging." "From time to time one raises himself and straightens his back, ...wiping his forehead with the back of his hand." 'Thou shalt eat thy bread in the sweat of thy brow.'"
And this: "Is this the jovial work some people would have us believe in?" "But nevertheless, to me it is true humanity and great poetry."
And this: "To tell the truth, the peasant subjects suit my temperament best; for I must confess, that the human side of art is what touches me most."
And then Van Gogh's voice chimed in: "I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people."
And I thought: Persona Poem, yes, yes, yes!
Personae, in Latin, this form of poetry is a terrific opportunity for pretending on the page. Several years ago, when I was teaching the feudal system and medieval art, I had children pretend to be stationed in various social roles and to create persona poems to help them explore daily life in medieval times. The persona poems were brought to life in a collection of short films.
So, what do Man with a hoe, by Jean-François Millet and Starbucks have in common?
For me, two words come to mind: Important Work.
This year at the Guild our persona poems will be inspired by Millet, Van Gogh, and yes, by Starbucks.