Friday, October 31, 2008
Consider printing out a few copies and doing a reading with your co-workers or family.
I'd give them (and yourself) some time to read it over a bit before you do.
Or, you could read it out loud all by yourself.
Use your best witch's voice.
Get into it.
Deliciously disgusting --
so much fun --
and absolutely brilliant.
Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire, burn; and cauldron, bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg, and howlet's wing,--
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire, burn; and caldron, bubble.
Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,
Witch's mummy, maw and gulf
Of the ravin'd salt-sea shark,
Root of hemlock digg'd i' the dark,
Liver of blaspheming Jew,
Gall of goat, and slips of yew
Sliver'd in the moon's eclipse,
Nose of Turk, and Tartar's lips,
Finger of birth-strangl'd babe
Ditch-deliver'd by a drab,--
Make the gruel thick and slab:
Add thereto a tiger's chaudron,
For the ingredients of our caldron.
Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire, burn; and caldron, bubble.
Cool it with a baboon's blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.
-- William Shakespeare
For a bit about the history of Halloween (the Celtic new year called Samhain -- pronounced Sow-in by most modern-day speakers) see Halloween History.
Note: This week's Poetry Friday Round-Up is at Poetry for Children--put your hand in the bag and pick a poetry treat!
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Apparently, one of her students is afraid of witches. His mother has insisted that no books featuring a witch character be read to the class. There'll be no Piggie Pie! in that classroom this year. Margie Palatini's Gritch the Witch is going to have to find some other group of kids to delight. That's too bad. Gritch just may have helped that child deal with his witch issues.
I know this mother is well-intentioned, but I don't believe she is doing her little one any favors by screening out the witches. I think that we give our personal demons great power when we close our eyes, cover our ears, and run screaming from them. Face your fears, I say!
In my opinion, when we over-validate a child's fearful reaction, we are telling that child s/he needs to be afraid. S/he needs to be very afraid. That mother could easily turn the fear switch "off" and empower her son. All she needs is a lap and a few thoughtfully chosen picture books. She could start with Tomie dePaola's Strega Nona, and follow up with Julia Donaldson's Room on the Broom. Even though it doesn't feature a witch, I'd recommend reading Linda Williams's The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything. Talk about facing your fears! That old woman is chased through the darkening woods by clomping shoes, wiggling pants, a shaking shirt, two clapping white gloves, one nodding black hat, and a pumpkin head. They scared the hell out of her, but she dealt with it. "I am not afraid of you!" With those simple yet powerful words she took control of the fearsome pumpkin head and his disembodied accessories. She directed them to assemble themselves into a scarecrow in her garden. What a completely satisfying ending!
Unless this mother rethinks her approach, this little guy is doomed to live in fear. He'll never get to that satisfying ending, because he isn't allowed to read the book. It has been placed out of his reach.
Now that's scary.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Don't write about Man, write about a man
-- E.B. White
Writing simply means no dependent clauses, no dangling things, no flashbacks, and keeping the subject near the predicate. We throw in as many fresh words as we can get away with. Simple, short sentences don't always work. You have to do tricks with pacing, alternate long sentences with short, to keep it vital and alive.
-- Theodor Seuss Geisel
Never use the passive when you can use the active.
Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
-- George Orwell
Get black on white.
-- Guy de Maupassant
A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.
-- Thomas Mann
The first discipline is the realization that there is a discipline – that all art begins and ends with discipline – that any art is first and foremost a craft.
-- Archibald MacLeish
The adjective is the enemy of the noun.
There is but one art . . . to omit. O' if I knew how to omit I would ask no other knowledge. A man who knew how to omit would make an Iliad of a daily paper.
-- Robert Louis Stevenson
If you keep working, inspiration comes.
-- Alexander Calder
The more particular, the more specific you are, the more universal you are.
-- Nancy Hale
Follow the accident, fear the fixed plan – that is the rule.
-- John Fowles
Don't say the old lady screamed – bring her on and let her scream.
-- Mark Twain
Friday, October 24, 2008
Until I was thirteen years old, I lived in Skokie, Illinois. Skokie has a really large Jewish population, and I had lots of Jewish friends who helped me appreciate their religion and culture -- and food. I was raised a Methodist, growing up in the shadow of St. Lambert's church . My best friend was Catholic, and often told me I'd be going to h - e- double hockey sticks for not being Catholic. I didn't believe her. The mysteries of these very different religions made for an interesting childhood.
My brothers and I would encounter nuns gliding along in their habits on their way to church or back to their home. Even at that age, it seemed unfair to me that the nuns had to walk so far from their church while the priests lived right 'on campus'.
Even today, nuns remain an enigma to me. Friends have told me stories of their amazing brutality and great kindnesses. I imagine a nun will figure in one of my books some day.
Until then, I offer up these two views by Maxine Kumin, who was -- for a time -- New Hampshire's Poet Laureate and former Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress back in the 1980s. Thankfully they're now called Poet Laureates.
THE NUNS OF CHILDHOOD: TWO VIEWS
by Maxine Kumin
O where are they now, your harridan nuns
who thumped on young heads with a metal thimble
and punished with rulers your upturned palms:
three smacks for failing in long division,
one more to instill the meaning of humble.
As the twig is bent, said your harridan nuns.
Once, a visiting bishop, serene
at the close of a Mass through which he had shambled,
smiled upon you with upturned palms.
"Because this is my feast day," he ended,
"You may all have a free afternoon." In the scramble
of whistles and cheers one harridan nun,
fiercest of all the parochial coven,
Sister Pascala, without preamble
raged, "I protest!" and rapping on palms
at random, had bodily to be restrained.
O God's perfect servant is kneeling on brambles
wherever they sent her, your harridan nun,
enthroned as a symbol with upturned palms.
O where are they now, my darling nuns
whose heads were shaved under snowy wimples,
who rustled drily inside their gowns,
disciples of Oxydol, starch and bluing,
their backyard clothesline a pious example?
They have flapped out of sight, my darling nuns.
Seamless as fish, made all of one skin,
their language secret, these gentle vestals
were wedded to Christ inside their gowns.
O Mother Superior Rosarine
on whose lap the privileged visitor lolled
-- I at age four with my darling nuns,
with Sister Elizabeth, Sister Ann,
am offered to Jesus, the Jewish child-
next-door, who worships your ample black gown,
your eyebrows as thick as mustachioed twins,
your rimless glasses, your ring of pale gold --
who can have stolen my darling nuns?
Who rustles drily inside my gown?
Monday, October 20, 2008
The internet is a great place to find out more about how children's writers work. You can find answers to your questions, connect with other writers, learn about great children's books to read, and so much more.
Here are a few sites I feel are worth a look:
Friday, October 17, 2008
October 16, 2008
Past eleven – day is done
Red Sox can’t score even one.
What an ending to the season
Has the Curse returned? we reason.
All this feels just too familiar.
Tampa’s champagne’s getting chillier.
Fenway faithful’ve started leaving.
Diehards stay, but clearly grieving.
Wait – Pedroia comes alive
Papi hits a trademark drive
J.D.’s homer shrinks the gap
Wake up, Pa, no time to nap!
Just past midnight, cheers arise
“Sox live on!” the Nation cries.
Coco says a silent prayer
Joined by Sox fans everywhere.
Off to bed, the night is short
Stay tuned for the next report!
Other Sox fans are more consistently poetic than I am:
Enjoy! And get some sleep.
Note: This week's Poetry Friday Round-Up is hosted by Becky's Book Reviews.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Friday, October 10, 2008
I'm glad that I teach preschool. Reciting simple rhymes and singing songs are expected parts of the curriculum. What many people don't know, is that little children are capable of so much more. My students have happily memorized Robert Frost's Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening and Emily Dickinson's A Bird Came Down the Walk. A few years ago, a mother of one of my kindergarten students told me she was moved to tears when she realized that her 5-year old was softly reciting Stopping By Woods to himself as they drove through a light snow. I bet that poem will still be with him when he's an old man.
Mur got me thinking about poems I've been carrying around for decades. Many of them came from Sister Genevieve St. Joseph. Barberries is one. (I tried unsuccessfully to search out the author.) A Bird Came Down the Walk by Emily Dickinson is another. I'd have to say my favorite, however, is a snippet of a much larger work. It's the first twelve lines of The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer.
Whan that aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of march hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
Tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the ram his halve cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open ye
(so priketh hem nature in hir corages);
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages ...
I had to memorize it for an English class my sophomore year in college. I spent hours in the language lab, gigantic headphones gripping my skull, trying to nail the pronunciation. There were probably 50 of us enrolled in the class. Guess who was the only person the professor randomly picked to recite. I achieved the pinnacle of panic when I heard my name called, which was really very silly because I nailed it. I owned Geoffrey Chaucer that day. Still do.
Today's Poetry Friday Round-Up host is Picture Book of the Day.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Today was a great day for this teaching writer. It was the first Show-and-Tell day of the school year. Here at Hogarth we call it "Sharing Day," and I'm always curious to see what comes through the door, especially the books. Each month, I can count on at least one or two books being in the treasure trove.
Today 3-year old Arthur brought in one of those search-for-the-hidden pictures books in the Where's Waldo vein, except it tied in with the Disney movie Cars. 4-year old Hayden brought in When I'm Big by Sam McBratney, which I read to the class. They liked it just fine, but were more interested in finding pictures of Lightning McQueen in the Cars book. (How do you compete with Disney and the mass merchandising of Cars?)
The thing that really caught my eye was a globe. Mounted in a highly polished stainless steel (I think) base, the different countries were fashioned from mother-of-pearl, jade, and God knows what other kinds of stone. It was fantastic. One of a kind. I asked Brady, the 3-year old who brought it in, to tell us about it. He immediately spun the globe and found South Korea. "That's where I was born!" He searched out another spot and planted his little 3-year old finger. "That's New Zealand!" I'm not sure what special meaning New Zealand holds for him, but I hope to find out. Another 3-year old, Dev, had shared a dohl drum from India, so we searched out India on the beautiful globe.
I asked Brady if he'd like to tell us anything else before we moved onto the picture John was going to share, and he immediately gave the globe a final spin. Without even having to hunt for it, he jabbed his finger onto Spain. "This is where Ferdinand lives!"
I was flabbergasted. Ferdinand! One of my favorite picture book characters of all time! The fact that this barely 3-year old boy could find Ferdinand's home on the globe speaks to the power of the picture book. (And the power of involved, loving parents.) This little guy connected so strongly with Munro Leaf's classic story of peace and the strength of the individual, that when he was learning about important places in the world, he wanted to learn where Ferdinand lives.
I'll be reading The Story of Ferdinand to my students tomorrow. I can't wait. I really need to thank Brady.
Friday, October 3, 2008
This week's Poetry Friday Round-Up is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Lots of good poetry to check out!