A Flock of New Bird Books Take Flight

A Flock of New Bird Books Take Flight

Standing in the middle of Northampton, the day before spring equinox, I looked up at the sky just as a flock of geese were veering north. The forecast may have called for freezing rain and snow, but the geese knew otherwise. They knew winter was sinking, and spring was most certainly on the rise. I love birds for that. Their return to our feeders, their songs weaving through newly budded branches, their nests taking shape under the eaves of our porch – are all signs of spring. And this year, to our delight, a flock of new bird books has landed in our reading repertoire just as the first robins have returned to our yard. A perfect complement to bird watching, here are seven new bird books to share with your own little peeps.

Mama Built A Little Nest, written by Jennifer Ward and illustrated by Steve Jenkins, is just right for the youngest bird enthusiasts. Combining a playful four-line poem with a few lines of scientific facts, the picture book introduces a specific bird and the type of nest they make for their young. Includes the weaver bird, hummingbird, penguin, falcon, woodpecker, and more. A great creative nonfiction pick for wee learners.

  • Mama Built A Little Nest written by Jennifer Ward and illustrated by Steve Jenkins. Published by Beach Lane Books, 2014. ISBN: 978-1442421165

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Edible Books Connect Culinary Arts & Literature

The Edible Book: A Benefit for the Friends of the Forbes & Lilly Libraries

The Forbes and Lilly Libraries are holding their Edible Book event on Sunday, April 6th this year, an annual event that crosses culinary arts and language arts with creative free play!

If you could make a piece of art that describes your favorite book, what would it look like? If you created a food whose flavor matches your family’s favorite story, what would it taste like? And what do you think would happen if you combined your art piece with the book’s perfect flavor match? Create a real-life edible artistic masterpiece – just like you’ve imagined! – by participating in Forbes Library’s event, Edible Book Northampton!

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Black History Month: Six Featured New Titles Bring History Alive

Open Sesame: Kid Lit Musings and Review by Cheli Mennella

Five New Picks for Kids and One Just for Grown-Ups

In honor of Black History Month, I’ve selected five new kids’ books that bring history alive. Courageous individuals, unsung heroes, and influential, but little-known, events, reach through pages of text, photos, art, and poetry, and connect young readers to the struggles and achievements of the civil rights movement. And as a special addition this month, I have a book recommendation just for grown-ups, because I can’t help spreading the word about a wonderfully outrageous book related to abolitionist John Brown.

Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up To Become Malcolm X, written by his daughter, Ilyasah Shabazz, and illustrated by AG Ford, tells the story of Malcolm’s boyhood, with a special focus on his parents, Earl and Louise Little, who raised their children with love and “unstoppable optimism and faith.” The enchanted world of his mother’s garden and the stirring speeches of his father help shape Malcolm in his early years. When his father dies and Malcolm and his siblings become wards of the state, his upbringing helps forge an indomitable self-reliance, which carries him through difficult times, and eventually helps him become a zealous leader of equal rights. Lots of emotionally wrought text and rich-hued oil paintings throughout the book’s 48 pages create an intimate portrait of Malcolm’s boyhood. A good read for middle graders and beyond.

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Three Picture Books for the Year of the Horse

Oprn Drdsmr: Kid Lit Musings and Review by Cheli Mennella

Galloping into 2014: Three Picture Books for the Year of the Horse

As the Year of the Water Snake slithers away, the Lucky Chinese Year of the Wood Horse comes galloping in with the promise of victories, adventure, travel, fiery energy, decisive action, good fortune, and free-spirited independence. In searching for books to coincide with the marking of the new year, I discovered these three beautiful picture books that portray ancient China through folktale and fantasy and feature magnificent, powerful horses.

The Race for the Chinese Zodiac

The Race for the Chinese Zodiac comes to us by way of Australia, where it was first published in 2011. Candlewick released it here in the states this past November, perfectly timed for the lead up to Chinese New Year. Author Gabrielle Wang retells the ancient story of the race to become one of the twelve signs of the Chinese zodiac. When the Jade Emperor promises to name a year after the first twelve winners to cross the river, thirteen different animals accept the challenge. Each chooses their own method of crossing the river from swimming and flying to raft-building and log-floating. And each reveals their personality traits through competitive spirit, from being kind and supportive to selfish and deceitful.  The easy pacing and large print make for a good story time. And illustrations reminiscent of ancient China give the book visual appeal. Illustrator Sally Rippin used traditional Chinese ink on watercolor paper and also created linocut “chops,” or stamps, showing the Chinese character for each animal. Designer Regine Abos digitally dropped in the texture and color behind Rippin’s hand rendered illustrations to create a modernized vintage look.  Includes additional annotations on the zodiac years and symbols.

  • The Race for the Chinese Zodiac written by Gabrielle Wang, illustrated by Sally Rippin, with design by Regine Abos. Published by Candlewick, 2013. ISBN: 978-0763667788

Click here for more featured titles…

Four Picture Books to Capture the Magic of Snow

Oprn Drdsmr: Kid Lit Musings and Review by Cheli Mennella

Snowflakes Ahead!

“It’s snowflaking!” my youngest shouts every time the snow flies. There is such joy and wonder in his simple expression that I can’t help but turn my face to the sky to catch some of that magic. It’s the same magic that has called all my kids outside, bright and early, after that first snowfall, still in their jammies and wild bedhead, just to get their mittened hands on snow, to catch flakes on their tongue, to grab a sled and go barreling down the hill. Four new picture books capture a bit of that snowflake magic – the quiet, the impermanence, the beauty, the thrill. So when your rosy-cheeked children have returned from a world of winter white, have donned dry socks and are nestled in the warmth of family, share a story of snow. And remember, spring is just a season away.

Big Snow

Open SesameIn Big Snow, David awaits the coming of a winter storm, hoping for the first big snow of the season. He tries to help his mother with holiday housecleaning, but each task reminds him of snow, from the flour that goes into the cookie dough, to the suds in the bathtub, to the crisp, white sheets. His excited anticipation keeps drawing him outside to check the skies. When his mother tells him to take a nap, David dreams of a giant blizzard, with snow drifts piling up in the living room. He wakes to his Dad’s footfalls and the real storm in full swing. The straight-forward storyline and soft watercolor illustrations portray a tender and warm family life, while capturing the excitement and anticipation of the first big snow.

Big Snow written and illustrated by Jonathan Bean. Published by Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2013. ISBN: 978-0-374-30696-0

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Gratitudes and Graces: Book of Poetry, Prayers, & Songs of Thanks

Oprn Drdsmr: Kid Lit Musings and Review by Cheli Mennella

New Book Serves Up Gratitudes and Graces

Master Eckhart, who died almost seven hundred years ago said, “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is ‘thank you,’ it will be enough.” – From Giving Thanks: Poems, Prayers, and Praise Songs of Thanksgiving

Giving Thanks: Poems, Prayers, and Praise Songs of Thanksgiving is the newest collaboration between Katherine Paterson and Pamela Dalton. Paterson, a Newberry Medalist and author of some of the most beloved children’s books, including Bridge to Terabithia and Jacob Have I Loved, selected over 50 poems, prayers, and praise songs that reflect on the act of giving thanks.

The book is divided into four sections – “Gather Round The Table,” “A Celebration of Life,” “The Spirit Within,” and “Circle of Community” – and each section begins with Paterson’s personal reflections on being thankful. Universal principles of gratitude and joy are served up from across cultural and religious traditions, pulled from songs and spirituals, and echoed in the voices of people through the ages. A Vietnamese farmers’ prayer, an ancient haiku, a Shaker song, a Pueblo blessing, poems from Emily Dickinson and Wendell Berry, the words of Hildegard of Bingen and Martin Luther King Jr., are just some of the nuggets Paterson offers… Read the rest of this entry »

7 Literary Guides for Expanding Family Reading Time

Literary Guides for Expanding Family Reading Time

Our Reading Resource series was featured here on Hilltown Families this past summer, sharing downloadable guides of children’s literature from graduate students in the Integrated Learning teacher preparation program at Antioch University New England.

Looking for ways to enhance your family reading time? Hilltown Families has a wealth of resources for supporting families with kids of all ages in expanding the stories that they read together into deeper learning experiences.

Our series, Summer Reading Resource: Literary Guides for Expanding Family Reading Time, features teacher-written guides filled with lessons and activities to accompany some fantastic children’s books. Though the guides are designed to be used by educators, their contents can be easily adapted for use at home for parents looking to supplement their children’s learning. Within each guide, parents will find detailed outlines for activities and lessons to do after reading each story, as well as sets of discussion topics, suggestions for further reading with similar themes, and ideas for tying in math, science, social studies, art, and other topics into your work with the book.

The books included in the series include both picture and chapter books, and cover all of the ages and developmental capacities typically found in grades K-5, and can be divided into three categories…

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Railroads & Locomotives: Three Childrens Books About Trains

Oprn Drdsmr: Kid Lit Musings and Review by Cheli Mennella

All Aboard!

Coming down the tracks and headed straight into the hands of young enthusiasts, are three new picture books about trains. If you have little engineers in your life, the ones who sleep with trains under their pillows, who hear the whistle from miles away, who build tracks from one end of the house to the other, then check out these exciting books. Featuring both modern and vintage trains, and artwork that transports the reader to railroads near and far, these books will have train lovers wanting to climb aboard.

Locomotive is a lush work by award winning book creator, Brian Floca. From the moment you connect with the striking portrait of a regal locomotive on the cover, you are transported back through time, to the summer of 1869. End papers set the stage with an overview of the trans-continental railroad including a map, history, and small vignettes. Then the title page reveals another more personal layer to the story – a family photo, a railroad guide, and a telegram from Papa saying all is ready in California, come soon. From the beginning, the book has multiple dimensions: it is a fictional story of a mother and her two children boarding a steam train in Omaha, Nebraska, and riding the rails all the way across the country to San Francisco; and it is a nonfictional story of the trans-continental railroad, its history and landscape, of the steam locomotive herself, her mechanical wonders and the people who kept her and the railroads running. The large size of the book enhances its full sensory effect and is worthy of housing the story of the powerful locomotive. Lyrical, rhythmic text, with lettering that often changes in size and color to help tell the story, brings the whole experience to life. Illustrations done in watercolor, ink, acrylic, and gouache are often startling in their perspective and emotional renderings. Long notes and resources at the back provide more historical information, including how the trans-continental railroad impacted Native Americans. This is an incredible piece of work and a keeper for all railroad enthusiasts, no matter what their age.

  • Locomotive by Brian Floca. A Richard Jackson Book, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2013. ISBN: 978-1-4169-9415-2

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One Clover & A Bee: Poems for Autumn

Fall Changes—Poems for Outside & In

Fall is a great time for poetry. The season is bursting with vivid sights, sounds and smells. It’s wonderful to be outside, taking in the warm autumn colors that surround us and that late-day, slanting light that makes everything look like it’s dipped in honey.

The next time you’re enjoying the out-of-doors, bring this poem by Lilian Moore along. It’s an easy one for little kids to remember, and is fun for saying aloud and making into a game, because the poem breaks down the experience of crunching through dry leaves so     that     we     can     feel     every step.

Try saying it with your child as you walk, using the line breaks as a guide to where you should slow down and speed up.

New Sounds

by Lilian Moore

New sounds to
walk on
today,

dry
leaves
talking
in hoarse
whispers
under bare trees.

Indoors, many of us are also making transitions, starting school or other new routines, taking stock of the year ahead. When it’s time to pull out the sweaters and long pants, there might be some surprises…

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Pair of Fall Favorite Picture Books

Oprn Drdsmr: Kid Lit Musings and Review by Cheli Mennella

A Pair of Perennial Favorites

Here is a pair of picture books I particularly love reading in the fall. They are perennial favorites, books I come back to again and again. Just right for the younger set, though readers of any age will find powerful messages tucked into these small packages.

Here are stories that embody joy, wonder, and the deep truth of our inner nature, illustrated with lovely, emotive artwork, and spiced with two essential images of autumn – leaves and geese…

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Bedside Reading: A Collection of Five

Oprn Drdsmr: Kid Lit Musings and Review by Cheli Mennella

Bedside Reading

I always have a stack of books at my bedside – a wild assortment of fiction and nonfiction, with a handful of kids’ books thrown in the mix.  The current collection stars two picture books, a middle grade and a young adult novel, and a work of children’s nonfiction. They all captured my attention and praise, and I want to share them with you. Read one with your preschooler, or pass one off to your teen, or maybe even tuck one onto your bedside table (It’s okay, I won’t tell.)…

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Literary Guide for Astrid Lindgren’s “Ronia, The Robber’s Daughter”

Ronia, The Robber’s Daughter
by Astrid Lindgren

Our Summer Reading Resource series is coming to a close with our seventh and final installment, Astrid Lindgren’s Ronia, The Robber’s Daughter.

Originally written in Swedish, this a tale of adventure that shares themes with literary classics such as Romeo and Juliet and The Adventures of Robinhood. The story’s protagonist – Ronia – is, as the title states, the daughter of Matt, the fearsome leader of a band of robbers. Ronia is raised at her parents’ fort, the headquarters for Matt’s ring of bandits. Surrounding the fort is a vast, dense, and magical forest, which provides beautiful scenery and fodder for Ronia’s childhood adventures.

The major conflict within the story is centered around a friendship that Ronia develops with a boy named Birk, who is just about her age and is every bit as interested in exploring the forest as Ronia is herself…

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Literary Guide for Robert McCloskey’s “Make Way for Ducklings”

Make Way for Ducklings
by Robert McCloskey

Make Way for Ducklings, written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey, is our featured title this week in our Summer Reading Resource series.  Make Way for Ducklings tells the story of the Mallard family – made up of a mama duck, a papa duck, and eight little ducklings with silly rhyming names. After investigating New England’s rural landscape, the Mallards decide that the countryside is filled with too many threatening predators for their liking (and for the safety of their future ducklings). They settle, instead, in busy Boston, and hatch their eggs amongst skyscrapers and busy streets. Once the ducklings are born, readers travel throughout the city with them, experiencing all of the excitement that Boston has to offer from a duckling’s perspective, and discover – with the Mallards – that city life presents its own unique set of obstacles, just like country life. Their main problem? Cars won’t stop for the family to cross the street! Luckily, the Mallards find a friendly police officer to help them, which leads to citywide police escorts helping to ensure their safety…

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Literary Guide for Kevin Henkes’ “Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse”

Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse
by Kevin Henkes

This week as part of our Summer Reading Resource literary guide series, Kevin Henkes’ classic, Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse is featured. Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse, a silly yet meaningful story, is the tale of a young mouse who is quite enamored with some of her most favorite possessions and has trouble containing her excitement! Lilly, an elementary school student, brings her favorite purple plastic purse to school, filled with fancy movie star glasses and three big, shiny quarters. She is eager to show of her goodies with her classmates, but isn’t able to find a way of doing this that fits with the class routine and expectations. Unfortunately, her teacher (whom she normally loves) takes away her purse and its contents until the end of day, leaving Lilly frustrated and disappointed. She even draws a mean picture and puts it in her teacher’s bag in order to get back at him.

By the end of the story, Lilly has learned a few important lessons. Able to share her prized items the next day at school, she learns the proper etiquette for bringing things from home into the classroom. She also learns to apologize, and learns that in working to curb her excitement, she can avoid such situations in the future…

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Literary Guide for Kate Banks’ “Max’s Words”

Max’s Words
by Kate Banks

Learning words can be incredibly exciting for young children, especially those who are just beginning to read and are developing the skills to decode words on their own. Kate Banks’ book Max’s Words captures this time in life beautifully, and uses a boy’s enthusiasm for vocabulary to weave together a tale of collecting, autonomy, and developing self-confidence, and is the featured title this week in our Summer Reading Resource literary guide series. Young and old readers alike can enjoy the book, but it speaks in particular to early elementary-aged students, as they likely share similar experiences with the protagonist…

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Literary Guide for Roald Dahls’ “Danny the Champion of the World”

Danny the Champion of the World
by Roald Dahl

Beloved and quirky children’s writer Roald Dahl is known for his strange yet fascinating tales that capture the curiosity and imagination of kids of all ages. Dahl’s characters are often just on the verge of being unbelievable – they are balanced perfectly in between the real world and the realm of Dahl’s imagination. Each story creates a world for the reader that features a special kind of fantasy – the events that take place could never happen within the reader’s world, yet somehow they are not out of place within a similar context in the story.

Our Summer Reading Resource literary guide series continues this week with Danny the Champion of the World, one of many Roald Dahl classics. The story focuses on Danny and his father, an oddball pair who live in a gypsy wagon behind a combination gas station/repair shop. The two are often bullied by their wealthy (and snobby) neighbor Mr. Hazell, and their mutual dislike for the man leads to the pair hatching a plan to exact revenge upon him. However, in the process, Danny ends up learning one of his father’s biggest secrets – a secret that leads to Danny grappling with a challenging moral dilemma. In the end, the two beautifully execute a hilariously sneaky (yet morally questionable) endeavor that does, in fact, satisfy their desire to teach Mr. Hazell a lesson…

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One Clover & A Bee: Belle of Amherst

The Bee of Amherst

Emily Dickinson is one of our best-known poets, and many of us can probably conjure up a few of her most quoted lines. But while we know she’s important, I’m willing to bet that most of us also find her poems somewhat difficult. They’re so compact, so very personal, full of references that are difficult to grasp from our modern perspective.

As a result, when we’re first introduced to her work, sometimes the poems that are selected—because they seem more accessible—are also kind of…greeting card sweet (Please, no hate mail!). This is a shame, because when we take the time to read more of Dickinson’s work, we find an incredibly inventive, smart and passionate poet. She can even be quite funny. Hey, I named this column after her—so you know I’m a fan.

Therefore, on behalf of the Belle of Amherst, I offer a poem of hers that I think is a winner for families on all counts: it’s very accessible, but not at the expense of smart. It’s fun to say out loud, and not as twisty in its rhythms as some of her work. It is sweet, but not syrupy—more like refreshing, ice-cold, home-made lemonade on a hot summer day…

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Five Picture Books That Bubble And Splash

Oprn Drdsmr: Kid Lit Musings and Review by Cheli Mennella

Into The Blue
Five Picture Books That Bubble And Splash

On these steamy, hot summer days, there is nothing my family would rather do than jump into the blue. We gravitate to water, like playful otters, seeking out cool relief, as we splash and dive and kick and paddle. So when I found a handful of new picture books featuring watery landscapes, my kids were delighted to jump in, even though they knew they wouldn’t be getting wet.

Here’s a review of 5 picture books published this year that bubble and splash:

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Literary Guide for Mo Willems’ “City Dog, Country Frog”

City Dog, Country Frog
by Mo Willems

Our Summer Reading Resource literary guide series continues this week with Western Massachusetts author Mo Willems’ City Dog, Country Frog,  a beautiful tale of friendship throughout the seasons. The tale begins in the summer, when the weather is warm, plants are green, and flowers are in bloom. City Dog visits the country, where he meets Country Frog – a curious amphibian whose habits, games, and surroundings are quite different from those of City Dog. Nevertheless, the two become great friends, and they discover that they each have much to teach the other. City Dog visits Country Frog during each of the seasons, and their activities reflect the energy and aesthetic of the transformation of their surroundings. During the summer, they focus on fun and games in the warm sun, and in the fall they decide to play remembering games – an activity that allows them to think and reflect, and to take in the beauty of the fiery fall leaves and the still, crisp air. When winter comes, City Dog takes a visit to the snowy countryside only to discover that his froggy friend is nowhere to be found. He waits for him to appear, but to no avail – Country Frog is mysteriously gone. Once spring comes and the ground thaws, City Dog visits again. Country Frog doesn’t turn up, but City Dog makes a new friend, Country Chipmunk, and the clever ending implies that they two are about to embark on a journey of friendship that will reflect the changes in season just as beautifully as City Dog’s adventures with Country Frog did.

While the text is fairly simple – making it ideal for younger students – the themes presented within the story can be accessed by students of all ages…

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Literary Guide for Jane Yolen’s “Letting Swift River Go”

Letting Swift River Go
by Jane Yolen, Illustrated by Barbara Cooney

Our new Summer Reading Resource series will be featured here on Hilltown Families every week throughout the end of August, sharing downloadable guides of children’s literature from graduate students in the Integrated Learning teacher preparation program at Antioch University New England. Each literary guide pairs a featured book with suggestions for ways to help children expand their thinking, create connections to the text, and allow their literacy skills to grow. These guides contain outlines with discussion questions, art projects, outdoor adventures, and many other activities that are designed for use in classrooms but can very easily be adapted for use at home for supplemental education. Weekly featured titles will cover a wide variety of themes, lengths, and levels of difficulty – meaning there’s something for every family, and for every reader! Some are classics, some are lesser-known gems – but all of the books present potential for helping families build upon the stories that they read together.

Our first featured title is this series of literary guides is Letting Swift River Go by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Barbara Cooney…

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One Clover & A Bee: Story of Summer with E. E. Cummings

Take a Poem to the Beach

To kick off the summer, here’s a poem by E.E. Cummings. Cummings is known for his inventiveness—his play with language and form. That playfulness is usually most obvious in the capitalization (or lack of) and punctuation (seemingly random) in his poems, and kids love to see a grown-up breaking those rules.

———

maggie and milly and molly and may
by E. E. Cummings

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles, and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles: and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

[From "The Complete Poems: 1904-1962" by E. E. Cummings, Edited by George J. Firmage.]

———

In this poem the sense of play is also present in the parenthetical asides; they create an extra intimacy—I feel like the poet is speaking just to me, letting me into his confidence. Sort of like when you watch an episode of The Office (or a Shakespeare play), and the actors break out of character and speak directly to the camera/audience…

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Summer Reading List for Middle Schoolers

Oprn Drdsmr: Kid Lit Musings and Review by Cheli Mennella

A Dozen Quick Picks for Middle Grade Summer Reading

It’s summer! The perfect time to get away with a great book. Whether relaxing at the beach or the park, chilling in a tent or a hammock, traveling by car or plane, or even standing in line at the amusement park, here are a dozen quick picks for middle graders, all with the common thread of taking place during summer. These books are so good, some of you grown-ups may enjoy reading them as well…

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18 Story Books on Weather for Kids

Oprn Drdsmr: Kid Lit Musings and Review by Cheli Mennella

Reading the Wild Weather
Story Books for Kids

There’s a riotous energy this time of year: the mad leafing out of plants and trees, crazy bird song at dawn, unruly swarms of biting insects, the palpable freedom of school letting out for summer, and wild weather that can change from snow squalls to thunderstorms within hours. Those first spring storms are greeted with a mixture of excitement and nervousness in our home. Thunder and lightning, rain and wind, are full of edgy juxtapositions, scary and beautiful, exciting and terrifying, exquisite and destructive.

Nature’s power is clearly evident in weather phenomena, and often seems mysterious. But many weather events can be explained in scientific terms, and when packaged with pictures into the safe covers of a book, help kids understand the wild weather that impacts our lives.  Here’s a collection of kids’ books, mostly about riotous forms of stormy weather. I’ve included a short selection of nonfiction titles and a few picture books, starting with brand new work by award wining children’s book creator, Arthur Geisert…

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One Clover & A Bee: A Writing Challenge for Families

Big Ideas (in the Ordinary)

This month I invite you to take all of those lost imaginative ideas and share them by writing with your child! In fact, you could try a writing game where you just put a bunch of ordinary stuff from your house on a table, then challenge each other to write a poem that has all the stuff on the table in it… and, if you like, feel free to post your family’s writing here in the comments. I would love to see what you come up with!

I’ve noticed that often when we try to write, we get stuck because we think we need to write about “big” subjects. So we sit and chew on our pencil and stare into space and decide our lives just aren’t exciting enough for Art with a capital A. It’s really a shame, because lots of interesting, imaginative writing gets lost this way.

The poem I’ve chosen for this month’s column, “Today,” by Frank O’Hara, is a great antidote to this kind of inhibition. O’Hara was immersed in the New York art scene, and his poems reflect the exciting changes that were happening in the visual arts of the 1950’s. They’re colorful, irreverent, noisy, seemingly casual but secretly well-crafted.

But what I appreciate most about this poem (and others by O’Hara) is that it shows us that anything can be in art, and art can be about anything. Just by writing about it, by putting the ordinary stuff of our lives into a poem it becomes changed and celebrated. It becomes interesting.

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Little Free Library in Wilbraham

Little Free Library in Wilbraham Honors Neighbors & Remembers Tornado

Little Free Libraries are a way of promoting literacy and exchanging reading material. However they quickly become more than that. They provide a neighborhood with a way to share common interests and a place for ideas and people to meet. (Photo credit: Steve Fratoni)

Well, it is little, and it is a library, and, yes, it is free… so it must be a Little Free Library.

The first Little Free Library appeared in Hudson, Wisconsin in 2009 and now they can be found in every state and at least thirty-two countries. This one on Pomeroy Street in Wilbraham,  Massachusetts is the creation of Steve Fratoni in honor of his former neighbors Ted and Jane Gebeau. Ted and Jane started living on Pomeroy Street in 1947 when it was still just a dirt road through a field of strawberries and asparagus. Ted was instrumental in the founding of the Atheneum Society of Wilbraham and Jane was a librarian at the Town’s Library for over thirty years. Both were forced to move away in 2012 for health reasons. This Little Free Library represents their continued service to the Town and to their neighbors.

On a broad scale these Little Free Libraries are a way of promoting literacy and exchanging reading material. However they quickly become more than that. They provide a neighborhood with a way to share common interests and a place for ideas and people to meet.

Another aspect of community is the use of recycled building materials for the project. This library uses plywood scraps from a neighbor’s kitchen remodeling, wood from tornado broken trees, and lengths of ripped-up invasive Bittersweet vines.

So how does it work? If you see a book inside that interests you, take it, read it, and enjoy it. When your done return it to this library, or pass it on to a friend, or place it in any other Little Free Library (see list below). If you own a book that you have finished and think that others would like to read add that to the Library, too. Even better, write a few notes to tell others what you liked about the book.

(Photo credit: Steve Fratoni)

As for what kind of books are in this Little Free Library, that you will have to find out for yourself. It is something that changes from day to day and maybe even minute to minute. Since this Library opened during National Poetry Month, its first patrons will find poetry books ranging from a picture book of hand rhymes for children to the complete poems of Emily Dickinson among other fiction and non-fiction titles.

So don’t be frighten by this Little Free Library on Pomeroy Street, after all it is not really a house swept up in a tornado. Plus it is open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, to everyone who walks by.

- Submitted by Steve Fratoni


Other Little Free Libraries in Western MA include:

  • Easthampton: Located on the Man Rail Trail, west of Union Street, built by Williston Northampton School & the Manhan Rail Trail. Bruce Simons is the Steward.
  • Northampton: In the front yard of 82 Washington Ave.  Marjorie Senechal is the Steward.
  • Pittsfield: At the Pemble Farm Stand located at 787 Pecks Road. Caitlin Pemble is the Steward.
  • Russell: Located at 6 Blandford Stage Road. Bruce Miller is the Steward.
  • Williamstown: Located in the front yard on 74 Linden Street. Justin Adkins is the Steward.

Add your Little Free Library to the map at www.littlefreelibrary.org.

7 Children’s Books that Embody Peace

Oprn Drdsmr: Kid Lit Musings and Review by Cheli Mennella

Blessed are the Peacemakers

“If we are to teach real peace in this world, if we are to wage a real war against war, we shall have to start with the children.” – Gandhi

Now more than ever it seems imperative that we engage and embody and choose peace. From events that hit close to home like the Newtown tragedy and the Boston Marathon bombings, to our sisters and brothers all over the world who undergo daily violence, to the violent destruction of our very planet by over-consumption and abuse… it is essential to our future that we ignite change through peaceful means. To begin that process, it helps to know what peace is, what it feels like, what it looks like and tastes like and sounds like, and to make sure our children know too.

That is why I’ve chosen a new children’s book by award winning illustrator, Wendy Anderson Halperin, to share with you this month. The book is called Peace (Atheneum Books for Young Readers) and it unfolds around the central question of how can we, as individuals, create peace in the world.

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Edible Books: Creative Free Play in the Kitchen Meets Literature

What Happens When Creative Free Play in the Kitchen Meets Literature? EDIBLE BOOKS!

If you devour books, does that make you a bookworm?  Does your family sometimes seem to subsist on the sustenance of words alone, rather than actual food?  Creative book lovers rejoice, for the ultimate opportunity to show your love for books has arrived!

The Forbes and Lilly Libraries in Northampton & Florence are again holding The Edible Book, an annual fundraiser for the libraries that requests that rather than turn books into food (for brain cells!), library patrons turn food into books!  Just imagine – a pile of phyllo dough pages filled with grape jelly renderings of Harold and his purple crayon, or a caterpillar (who is very hungry) made out of lime peels munching his way through an array of snacks.  The possibilities are endless… and also delicious!

Check out this Edible Books Pinterest Board with images of edible books, and this video shot by Northampton TV from last year’s event and get inspired!

Edible Book is not unique to the Pioneer Valley - it celebrates the birthday of Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, author of The Physiology of Taste, an early 19th century meditation on food and taste.  In the style of Brillat-Savarin, spend some time meditating on food as a family in order to find creative ways to use it to represent your favorite reads!

This year’s Edible Book event will take place on Saturday, April 21st, 2013 at the Florence Community Center on Pine Street.  Between 2 and 4pm, entrants and spectators can view the many submissions.  Families who don’t create an edible book can stop by to see what others have created – they will be beautiful, wacky, and displays of creative free play in the kitchen!  Prizes will be awarded in many original categories (“sugar overload,” for example), and fun will be had by all!

 For more information, visit www.facebook.com/EdibleBookNorthampton, or contact Bonnie Burnham (413-584-7482, bonnieburnham@comcast.net).

It’s a Meltdown! Family Festival of Music, Books & More!

[2014 Meltdown happens Saturday, March 29th. Click here for deets!]

The River’s Family Music Meltdown & Book Bash!
Saturday, March 30th, 2013 • 10am-4pm
Smith Vocational School • Northampton, MA

New location this year for The River’s Family Music Meltdown & Book Bash: Smith Vocational School in Northampton, MA (80 Locust Street, aka Route 9, next to Cooley Dick).

Great family music. Nationally known authors reading from – and signing – their books. A circus. A bounce house. And baby animals! — If these are the kinds of things that will blow your kids’ minds, then you need to bring them to Meltdown: the River’s Family Music and Book Fest, this Saturday, March 30th from 10am-4pm at their new location, Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School in Northampton, MA!

Families can meet author Jarrett J. Krosoczka, and get the latest book in his Lunch Lady series weeks before it’s in stores… Or rock out to Brooklyn’s own Deedle Deedle Dees… Or check out the Hampshire Gymnastics demos and bounce in the bounce house. It’s like Woodstock for kids – without the yucky parts!

There will be three stages filled with music, authors and puppet shows. A food court featuring healthy food and great treats from local vendors. Arts and crafts, vendors, magic and more.

The line-up of musicians include Hey Dango,  Mister G,  Deedle Deedle Dees,  Sandra Velasquez,  Kira Willey,  RhymeZweLL, The Nields, Jay Mankita, Tom and Laurie, Daniel Hales and the frost heaves and Mariana Iranzi.  There will also be incredible children’s book authors, curated by local heroes Gina and Jarrett (“Lunch Lady”) Krosoczka, including, Angela DiTerlizzi, Matt McElligott, Judy Schachner & Tony DiTerlizzi.

The Meltdown is in a new location with plenty of parking – Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School, 80 Locust Street (Route 9), in Northampton, right next to Cooley Dickinson Hospital. Admission is free! All the details are at www.rivermeltdown.com.

Bad Girls: Sirens, Jezebels, Murderesses, Thieves & Other Female Villains

Open Sesame: Kid Lit Musings and Review by Cheli Mennella

New Book Portrays History’s Bad Girls with a Modern Twist

Sirens, Jezebels, Murderesses, Thieves, & Other Female VillainsDelilah. Cleopatra. Anne Bonney. Catherine the Great. Mata Hari. Bonnie Parker. Just a few of history’s bad girls. Or are they? Might they just be misunderstood girls? Smart, strong, outspoken girls? Or girls who are victims of bad circumstance?

In their new book, Bad Girls: Sirens, Jezebels, Murderesses, Thieves & Other Female Villains (Charlesbridge, 2013), authors Jane Yolen and Heidi E.Y. Stemple present two dozen female felons to their court of readers. Starting with ancient bad girls, Delilah, Jezebel, and Cleopatra, the book moves through history and around the world to include Bloody Mary, Tituba, and Madame Popova, and ends in the 20th century with gangster Virginia Hill. Each entry includes a portrait drawn in vintage hues and a crisply written short story about the bad girl’s dangerous life, offering up information, perspective, and context so readers can judge accordingly…

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One Clover & A Bee: Making a Fist

Behind All Our Questions: Yet Another Reason Poems Are Good For Us

I don’t know about you, but I don’t always know what I’m feeling. Or I have a general idea, but I’m not sure I understand it, or know what to do about it, or if there is anything to do about it.

I think for our kids, especially as they grow older, this is a fairly constant condition:  they’re trying to figure stuff out, and sometimes that stuff is pretty intense or complicated. And it doesn’t always help to have someone asking you what’s wrong because you don’t know what’s wrong and even if you do, you’re not sure you can put it into words or tell anyone.

Enter poetry.

Poetry doesn’t—shouldn’t, in my opinion—lecture, but it does have a way of reflecting the world back to us that reveals its/our deeper truth—whether that truth is beauty, joy, ugliness, grief or a confusing combination of all of the above!

I think the key to that mirror trick has to do with imagery: powerful poetry has a specificity about its imagery that goes right to the heart of things. It’s not easy to explain why an image can transport us this way, but somehow it does, and when that happens, when we can see and feel something so clearly, we feel seen as well. And understood, and hopefully, comforted.

So, this month I offer a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye for the older set. The Borges quote is a little heavy (and you should feel free to omit it), but I would say that most kids 11 and up can totally handle this poem, and that it will mean more and more to them as they get older.  Shihab Nye has written and edited many poetry books for children, and I love how she never underestimates their emotional intelligence.

I think this is a great poem to talk about with your child, a way to get at some of those big questions and strong feelings that can be so hard to untangle. Notice the key images here: those palm trees, the split melon, and finally, that small hand, clenching and unclenching.

Making a Fist
BY NAOMI SHIHAB NYE
    We forget that we are all dead men conversing with dead men.
—Jorge Luis Borges

For the first time, on the road north of Tampico,
I felt the life sliding out of me,
a drum in the desert, harder and harder to hear.
I was seven, I lay in the car
watching palm trees swirl a sickening pattern past the glass.
My stomach was a melon split wide inside my skin.

“How do you know if you are going to die?”
I begged my mother.
We had been traveling for days.
With strange confidence she answered,
“When you can no longer make a fist.”

Years later I smile to think of that journey,
the borders we must cross separately,
stamped with our unanswerable woes.
I who did not die, who am still living,
still lying in the backseat behind all my questions,
clenching and opening one small hand.

Naomi Shihab Nye, “Making a Fist” from Grape Leaves: A Century of Arab-American Poetry.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amy Dryansky

Amy’s the mother of two children who seem to enjoy poetry, for which she’s extremely grateful. Her first book, How I Got Lost So Close To Home, was published by Alice James Books and poems have appeared in a variety of anthologies and journals. She’s a former Associate at the Five College Women’s Studies Research Center at Mt. Holyoke College, where she looked at the impact of motherhood on the work of women poets. In addition to her life as a poet, Dryansky works for a land trust, teaches in at Hampshire College, leads workshops in the community and writes about what it’s like to navigate the territory of mother/poet/worker at her blog, Pokey Mama. Her second book, Grass Whistle, is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry in 2013.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Randen Pederson]

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