ARBOR DAY: A Poem by James, age 7 and Art by Miss A.

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Earlier this week my adorable seven year old neighbor, James, reminded me that Arbor Day was just around the corner and that to celebrate, he planned to write a poem. It think he told me this because he knows I like to write too.  I told him I’d love to read the poem once he’d written it and Thursday after school I finally got the chance. “I’m going to read it over the loudspeaker at school tomorrow” he explained.

And that gave me an idea! With his mom’s permission, I asked James if he’d like to share it on my blog as well. He thought that sounded neat! And, to illustrate, Miss A. offered to let us use her newest art work – a stained- glass illustration of a cherry tree in bloom.  Now, without further ado, please enjoy this delightful collaboration between two young artists in celebration of trees!

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And now a bonus… an illustration by James as well!

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I think both the artist and the poet did a great job!  Happy Arbor Day to all!

GUEST POST: ZOOMA-ZOOMA-ZOOM! Onomatopoeia with Picture Book Author and Poet Elizabeth Upton

This week, coinciding with National Poetry Month, I am delighted to have picture book author and poet Elizabeth Upton as my guest.  I met Elizabeth at KidLitTV’s Live Stream Read Aloud event last month and had the pleasure of listening as she read aloud her delightful debut, MAXI THE LITTLE TAXI, illustrated by Henry Cole and published in 2016 by Scholastic.  It’s a fun and bouncy story with spot-on rhythm and rhyme.  It’s also full of wonderful poetic elements and I’m delighted that Elizabeth has agreed to pen this post on one of my favorites – onomatopoeia! Take it away, Elizabeth!

It’s an honor to be asked by Laura Sassi to be a guest blogger during Poetry Month. I love poetry. Happily, my poetry has been in three collections by the amazing Lee Bennett Hopkins. My picture book, MAXI THE LITTLE TAXI, features poetic elements including rhythm, rhyme, repetition and word play. I was thrilled when the School Library Journal review that said MAXI THE LITTLE TAXI “is filled with onomatopoeia and amusing details sure to delight young readers.” Onomatopoeia [on-uh-mat-uh-pee-uh], according to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, is “the naming of a thing or action by a vocal imitation of the sound associated with it (as buzz, hiss)”. Children love to imitate, so this aspect of poetry is very easy for them to access.

In my book, it’s Maxi’s first day of work and off he goes!

Max ZIPPED here.

He ZIPPED there.

He ZIPPED everywhere—

From the park, to the river,

And back to the square.

He ZOOMED up.

He ZOOMED down.

He ZOOMED all around town—

Splashing in every big puddle he found!

All over town Maxi gets filthy and he finally arrives at a carwash full of playful sounds. Onomatopoeia is one of the driving forces that keeps the story moving in a fun and engaging way.  For example, the spray at the car wash goes “pish-pish”, the scrubbers to “flip-flop”, and the suds go “blip-blop”.

I hope that adults enjoy the lyricism and onomatopoetic playfulness of this story as much as children do. When you’re done reading, you may want to engage in word play with the child in your life.

IMG_3152Car and Truck Onomatopoeia: Anyone who has seen children play with cars and trucks, has witnessed their innate ability to use onomatopoeia (honk, honk, beep, beep). When children naturally use onomatopoeia, adults can say, ”Oh my! That’s a fun sound! That’s sounds like a little poem.” Make sounds with the child.

Bath Time Onomatopoeia: Maxi the Little Taxi is a bath poem. When children play in the tub ask them to think of what sounds they hear. Ask: “What sound does the water make when you fill the tub? What sound do your feet make when you get in the water? What sound does is make when you use the soap? What sound does the drain make when the water goes down?” (Examples: Whoosh, plip plop, drip drop drip, rub a dub dub, gurgle gurgle.) Then say: “Let’s make a lot of bath noises all in a row to make a little poem!”

img_3853Rainy Day Onomatopoeia: A rainy day is the perfect time to play with onomatopoeia!  Ask: “What does the rain say when hits the roof? What does it sound like on the window, etc.  Let’s say those fun little sounds all in row and make a little poem.” ( Example: Drip drop..plippity plip,plicka plicka plick!)

Read more picture Books with Onomatopoeia. Type “Picture Books with Onomatopoeia” in your search bar and you will find many resources.

Thank you for reading my guest blog! I hope you enjoy reading Maxi the Little Taxi with the children in your lives and that you have fun nurturing their natural poetic sensibilities!

IMG_4008 (1)Elizabeth Upton is the author of Maxi the Little Taxi which was published by Scholastic Press in spring of 2016. Her poetry appears in the following collections by Lee Bennett Hopkins. 

Seasons, Margaret K. MacElderry Books (“Spring Sun” and “Summer Sun”)
Incredible Inventions, Greenwillow Books (“Ferris Wheel”)

Hamsters, Shells and Spelling Bees, Harper Collins [I Can Read! ] (“Show and Tell”)

For more information, please visit Elizabeth at Elizabethuptonauthor.com.

 

KINDERGARTEN POETRY MOMENT: How High Can a Cow Jump?

P1010023.JPGJust in time for National Poetry Month, I rediscovered this little treasure while paging through one of my old notebooks. It’s a perfect example, not only of seizing the moment, but of the power of poetry to spark not only conversation, but creativity!  ENJOY!

“How high can a cow jump?” my newly-minted five year old asks from the back of the car – all serious and deep in thought.

“Come again?” I ask.

“How high can a cow jump?” she repeats. “You know, COWS?” And she drags out the word C-O-W-S to make sure I really understand.

“They can’t,” I reply. “Cows can’t jump. They can moo and chew grass, and they sort of plunk along slowly, but they can’t jump.”

There’s a momentary quiet in the back and I can tell by my daughter’s squiggly brows that she’s perplexed. Finally, she says, in exasperation, “Then how did the cow jump over the moon?”

As we wait for the light to change, I consider the various ways I might answer this. “It’s just pretend,” I want to say, but this, I know, will be too abstract or her. She understands real versus make believe, in theory, but in practice she still gets scared during movies with cartoon characters. She also believes in fairies and Santa and so the distinction is still very fuzzy.

So instead, I say, “Come now, can a dish run? Can a spoon dance?”

My daughter giggles. “No!”

So I continue, “Can cats fiddle?”

“No!” she snorts between giggles.

“Do dogs laugh?” I ask.

By now, my daughter is hysterical. “Say more funny stuff!” she squeals.

So I do. “Do hamsters play flutes?” I ask. “Now your turn!”

My daughter explodes with laughter. Then she says, “No! Do fish dance ballet? Now your turn, Mommy.”

And so we continue, getting sillier and sillier with each passing car. As we head for home, it dawns on me that, as a poet and picture book author, this is exactly the kind of conversation I hope my writing will spark.  And I am reminded, once again, of the power of stories and poems, to spark – not only conversation – but creativity as well!

Happy National Poetry Month all!

TEACHING RESOURCE: Cricket Media Teacher Guides (plus a POEM inspired by Jennifer Cole Judd’s “March”!)

IMG_4122For her birthday, my daughter received a subscription to CRICKET® Magazine, an engagingly written and beautifully illustrated literary magazine for ages 9 – 14 that’s part of a larger family of magazines published by Cricket Media. Other magazines in the group include LADYBUG® Magazine, for ages 3 – 6, and SPIDER® Magazine, for ages 6 – 9. I’m a long-time fan of these magazines. Several of my poems have appeared within their pages, gorgeously illustrated.  With this subscription, however, I’ve had chance to appreciate these magazines from a new angle – that of educator and mom.

As a homeschool mom who seeks to engage my daughter with interesting lessons, as well as ones that align with the common core, I was delighted to discover that Cricket Media has created in-depth teacher guides for each of their magazines. Curious to see what they were like, I downloaded the Teacher’s Guide for the March 2017 issue of CRICKET® Magazine.

The March 2017 CRICKET® Magazine Teacher’s Guide is 26 pages long and includes directions for how to use the guide, a skills and standards overview, plus detailed lesson plans for each story/poem with lots of thoughtful questions relating to key ideas, text structure, various literary elements, vocabulary and more. Each lesson also includes ideas for writing extensions. This month, I’ve been incorporating one story/poem from the issue, along with the accompanying discussion and writing activities, into our weekly literature/language arts lessons.

Early last week, my daughter wrote her own personal narrative as an extension for the first story in the magazine, “Wishin’ Impossible”, and we ended the week with a lovely in-depth analysis and discussion of the poem, “March”, which is found on page 10 of the March issue.

IMG_4124The extra special thing about this particular poem is that I know the author!  Jennifer Cole Judd is not only a talented poet whose work appears regularly in children’s magazines, she is also the author of the delightful rhyming picture book, Circus Train, which was published in 2015 by Two Lions. After a thoughtful discussion of Jennifer’s metaphorical poem which compares March winds to a lion, Miss A. was inspired by to write her own poem.

Thank you, Cricket Media, for creating beautiful literary publications that inspire my reluctant reader to both read and write!  And thank you, Jennifer, for sharing your beautifuly written pieces with the world!

Now, in celebration of reading and writing, here’s Miss A.’s poem:

Enjoy!

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FINDING YOUR INNER POET

IMG_2762I grew up in a family of readers. Indeed, some of my earliest memories include sitting in my mother’s lap while she read to me from A.A. Milne’s When We Were Very Young. I loved the rhythmic rhyming sound of Milne’s poems and memorized several, quite by accident, because I asked my mother to read them to me so often. I’ve carried the rhyming beat of those poems with me ever since.

As soon as could hold a pencil and spell (sort of), I started writing poetry on my own. How do I know this? I know because my parents sent me a box full of papers and notebooks from my childhood including limericks, riddles, and silly rhyming snippets – all proof that I’ve loved playing with language for a very long time.

IMG_2766As an adult, I have continued to foster that love by educating myself on the intricacies of meter and rhyme, by reading the best children’s poetry out there, and by honing my own skills by writing, writing, writing!

Poetry, especially rhyming poetry, is harder than it might first appear because it’s not just about good rhyme.  It’s also about rhythm and keeping a consistent rhythm throughout a piece.

Do you have an inner poet somewhere deep inside, too?  Here are tips to help  you find him/her:

1. Write from the heart.  Have an idea for a poem? At this early point, don’t worry about perfecting the rhyme or meter. Simply enjoy the process of writing and see where your pen and imagination take you. Dabble with rhyme and meter, if you feel so inclined, but it’s better to have fresh ideas than tight, strained stanzas. Once you have written from the heart, then you can go back and creatively work on meter and rhyme.

2. Read, read, read! It will help your inner poet grow if you read poetry. There are many great children’s poets out there. You might enjoy exploring poet Renee LaTulippe’s Big List of Children’s Poets. Her website, No Water River, also includes children’s poets reading their works. This is a great way to hear poems read and to appreciate how seemingly efffortless the final version should sound. I also make a habit of checking out poetry anthologies and collections from the children’s poetry section of my library.  I do the same with rhyming picture books. As I read them, I analyse what makes them work and take notes for future reference.  

3. Pick a poem to model. This is a great exercise for broadening your poetic skills.  I love doing this when I have writer’s block or am between projects. First, I pick a poem that I like.  Maybe I’ll pick a limerick one week and something with couplets the next. Once I’ve picked my poem, I dissect it – examining each line, as well as the whole – to see how the poet put it together. I also make guesses as to why the author chose certain wording, or a certain theme.  Then I pick a topic and/or theme that is completely different and write my own poem using the form I’ve just studied.  I’ve learned A LOT this way!  Plus, it’s just plain fun and your inner poet will love it.

IMG_27634. Invest in several poet-friendly resources. Of course in this day and age, we poets have lots of free poetry- aiding resources at our finger tips. These include on-line rhyming dictionaries such as the one found at RhymeZone. This nifty resource includes not only rhyming options but can also serve as a thesaurus. Most computer dictionaries also have a thesaurus function. However, in my experience, nothing is quite as good as two old-fashioned resources that will forever be my bffs when it comes to writing poetry.  The first is Roget’s Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases. I have still have the 1982 edition I got when I was in junior high!  The second, I bought for my inner poet on my birthday in 2008.  It’s called The Complete Rhyming Dictionary, Revised. Edited by Clement Wood and revised by Ronald Bogus, it includes not just an exhaustive rhyming dictionary, but The Poet’s Craft Book  as well.

5. Finally, remember to HAVE FUN! There is joy in playing with words and it’s a real treat to carve out time to write. So, my last tip is to enjoy the process. I do! Happy writing, all!

Happy Mother’s Day: MY LITTLE ALARM CLOCK

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With Mother’s Day just around the corner, I thought it would be fun once again to celebrate with a poem of mine that originally appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul New Moms : 101 Inspirational Stories of Joy, Love, and Wonder (2011). Inspired by my first little alarm clock (I now have two and they aren’t so little anymore), I hope my poem fills you with a sense of the wonder (and exhaustion) of being a new mom. Happy Mother’s Day!

Little Alarm Clock

A BLOG BIRTHDAY! (And a Poem)

Happy blog birthdayIt’s hard to believe, but this month marks the start of my fifth year of blogging! Four years ago, I shyly and rather nervously took my first baby steps into the blogging world (and social media in general). What I have found is a wonderful community of people – writers, readers, parents, teachers – who share my love for picture books, poetry, and life!  Two picture books later (with more fun announcements on the horizon), I’m still loving connecting in this way. Thank you for reading my blog!

This year, I wanted to repost a favorite poem whose delightful illustration represents one of only two collaborative projects my mom and I ever got to do together. The first was working together to create the banner that graces this blog. I had the idea and she executed it with her charming sense of humor and design. The second is this illustrated poem. She passed away a mere seven months after this poem and illustration first appeared on my blog in April of 2013.

When I look at my mom’s illustration, I marvel at how we both drew on our shared memories in creating the final project. The boy in the poem was inspired by my son, pictured above at age three.  The little stool in the illustration was a gift given to him by his paternal grandparents (though the name has been changed in the illustration) and the little bear he holds was my bear. And the whole idea of him turning found objects into imaginative playthings still captures the essence of who he is!

Happy Monday, all!
Happy Birthday Illustration

Happy Birthday poem text

SPRING POEM: The Spelling Bee

Spelling bee picToday I am delighted to be sharing a favorite poem of mine as part of Rebecca Gomez’s POETRY WEEK BY WEEK: A National Poetry Month Celebration. Rebecca is author of Hensel and Gretel: Ninja Chicks (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, May 2016) co-written by Corey Rosen Schwarz and illustrated by Dan Santat as well as What About Moose? (Atheneum, June 2015) also co-written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and illustrated by Keika Yamaguchi. She also writes poems for children which have appeared in Highlights for Children and elsewhere. Each week during April she is celebrating a different variety of poetry.  Last week she celebrated concrete poems. This week’s focus is animal rhymes. My poem, “The Spelling Bee” is a whimsical look at a new kind of bug.  Please buzz on over for a peek!  Happy  rhyming!

10 Ways to Celebrate POETRY with your kids!

10 ways to celebrate poetry with your kids

Did you know April is National Poetry Month? Here are 10 ways to celebrate with your kids.

#1 Write/ illustrate a poem with your child.  Picture book author and poet, Penny Klostermann, runs a series on her blog in which a poet and child collaborate on a poem. My daughter and I even contributed a collaboration – an experience we will be both cherish for a lifetime. First, have fun together exploring the series.  Then, using the series as a model, either write a poem and have your child illustrate it, or let your child illustrate something and then write a poem based on the illustration. Don’t worry about perfection – just have fun celebrating poetry together!

#2 Participate in Poem in Your Pocket Day. Even littlest ones can enjoy the fun on April 21st as people all over the nation carry favorite poems in their pockets to read and share throughout the day.  Teachers should ask parents ahead of time to help their little one select a short, simple poem to tuck into their pocket and bring to class. Throughout the morning, pause to read and celebrate each child’s poem.   For more information check out the Academy of American Poets website

#3 Memorize a poem together.  I still remember the A.A. Milne poem “Disobedience” which my mother and I memorized when I was three. Actually, I’m not sure we even memorized it on purpose. I just wanted her to read it to me every night and pretty soon we were reciting it – just because we loved it so much. To hear it recited by Tom O’Bedlam, press here. Is there a poem you and your child love? Then consider memorizing it together.  (If you’ve been reading it to them a lot lately, they may surprise you by already knowing it by heart.) Have fun!

#4 Have a Chalk-A-Bration. On the last day of this and every month, copy or create a poem in chalk with your child on a sidewalk, driveway, or playground surface for others to enjoy. For more details, visit kindergarten teacher and chalk poem lover, Besty Hubbard,at her blog Teaching Young Writers.  

#5 Listen to poetry on the Highlights for Children’s Poetry Player. Follow up with an activity.  For samples of possible follow-up activities see my previous post on this wonderful resource.

#6 Hear your favorite children’s poets read their own work at No Water River.  Poet Renee LaTulippe has a lovely and growing video collection of authors reading samples of their poetry for kids. Each video segment is accompanied by an interview and extension activities. You can even find me reading my poem“Sir Ned”.  Enjoy!

#7 Sip tea and listen to poems at a “Poetry Teatime”. Visit Brave Writer for tips on hosting a successful teatime with little ones. Though geared to a homeschool setting, her tips for teatime can easily be adapted to any family setting. 

#8 Take a field trip… to the library!  Poetry collections are shelved separately from fiction and picturebooks. Ask the librarian (or better yet let your child ask the librarian) to direct you to the poetry section. Then spend some delightful time exploring the wonderful breadth and diversity in children’s poetry books. Check out your favorites to bring home.

#9 Play with words.  This is what poets do!  We play with sound and imagery.  Little ones love to do this too!  So, instill a love for poetry by playing rhyming games. Foster rhythm by stomping or clapping to to the beat of the words.  Play with onomotopeia by creating your own sound words and acting them out.  Have fun with alliteration by taking turns making fun and crazy lists of words that begin with the same sound.

#10 Bring poetry alive with free, ready-to-print poetry activities from Scholastic.   Activities include soccer poems, creepy crawly poems, weather poems and more.

Happy Celebrating!

 

 

MY LITTLE ALARM CLOCK: A Poem in Honor of Mother’s Day (and a GIVEAWAY!)

IMG_0358With Mother’s Day just around the corner, I thought it would be fun to celebrate with a poem of mine that originally appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul New Moms : 101 Inspirational Stories of Joy, Love, and Wonder (2011). Inspired by my first little alarm clock (I now have two and they aren’t so little anymore), I hope my poem fills you with a sense of the wonder (and exhaustion) of being a new mom.  And just for fun, I’m going to be giving away a FREE copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul New Moms.  Enter to win a signed copy for yourself, or for someone you know who expecting a new little clock, by leaving a comment at the end of the post. One entry per person. Happy Mother’s Day!

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My Little Alarm Clock

by 

Laura Sassi

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I used to awaken ahead of my clock

Rub eyes to the beat of its tickety-tock

Then reach for the spot to shut off its first beep

Before my clock jangled me up from my sleep.

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This pattern has changed since I got my new clock.

I simply adore its delightful tick-tock,

But now I have trouble awaking before

It rouses me up with its sweet little roar.

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The moment the morning birds make their first peeps

My clock comes alive with soft gurgles and beeps.

With motherly love I arrive at great speed

To tend to my new little clock’s every need.

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It’s true, I admit, since I got my new clock

I’m sometimes exhausted and can’t even talk.

To care for my timepiece keeps me on my toes,

Bedraggled and frazzled with no time to doze.

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My new little ticker is often quite wet

And gets all wound up if its needs are not met.

It jangles and beeps with a mind of its own

At dawn, noon, or dusk with a deafening tone.

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But even though sometimes its still hard to tell

Just why my alarm clock is ringing its bell,

Or waking me up in the dark of the night,

I still whisper thanks as I hold my clock tight.

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Although my old clock once allowed me to snooze,

That option no longer is one I can choose.

I still wouldn’t trade my new clock for the old

For the joy this clock brings is more precious than gold.

“My Little Alarm Clock” by Laura Sassi from Chicken Soup for the Soul
New Moms : 101 Inspirational Stories of Joy, Love, and Wonder, copyright 2011 by Laura Sassi, Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.

Don’t forget to enter the GIVEAWAY!  (Simply leave a comment. You must be at least 13 to enter. Contest ends Thursday, May 7th, 2015 at midnight EST. Winner will be announced Friday.