Friday, November 27, 2020

Three 2020 Favorites To Keep us Keepin’ On!

I titled my very first 2020 TeachingAuthors post “One Writer’s Rx for 

Achieving 20/20 Vision in 2020!”

Look backward, I prescribed. Probe inward.  Press forward. Reach 

outward. Gaze upward.  And finally, continue onward

Eleven months later, I admit: despite those Unexpected Kodak 

Moments and Silver Linings COVID-19 revealed, my endeavors 

and I experienced somewhat of an ophthalmological jolt. 

Indeed my eyes seek refraction on a weekly basis.

Nevertheless, I still see Endless Possibilities.

So, I, for one, continue onward, ever-encouraged by this year’s 

hope-filled children’s books.

Here are three favorites that both inspired and enheartened me.

Consider them my gift to keep you, too, keepin’ on.

This Charlesbridge collection offers poetic verses in a variety of 

forms by award-winning poets, including Nikki Grimes, Carole 

Boston Weatherford, Janet Wong and G. Neri.  All together, the 

poems pay tribute to 14 young activists who “stepped up to make a 

real difference in the world, who opened hearts, challenged minds, 

and changed our world.” As the collection’s editor Lindsay H. Metcalf 

writes in the introductory poem “Amplify,” 

“No voice is too small

to solve a problem

that’s big.”

Jeanette Bradley’s beautiful illustrations bring each activist’s 

efforts to the pages. Accompanying biographies and inspirational 

quotes strengthen the book’s take-away for young readers - namely, 

the impact young people – and indeed, people of all ages, can have 

when they use their voice, small or not, to speak up and out.

2020 gifted me with young Heroes and Heroines aplenty, including 

Lauren Wolk’s Ellie from Echo Mountain and Jacqueline Woodson’s ZJ 

from Before the Ever After.  Ten-year old Delicious Nevaeh Roberts,

known as Della, however, and her older sister Suki, now hold a 

permanent place in my heart.

The flap copy for Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s Fighting Words (Dial) 

describes the two as, “.. sisters, linked by love and trauma, who must 

find their own voices before they can find their way back to each other.” 

Sexual abuse has finally found its way into middle grade fiction. The 

book’s dedication underscores its importance.

          “For any child who needs this story: You are never alone.”

In speaking their fighting words, their truth, their stories, Della and 

Suki not only model for young readers how they can do the same when 

push comes to shove. They give them the courage to do so.

The subtitle of author-illustrator Hannah Salyer’s debut picture book 

Packs (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) says it all: STRENGTH IN 


Yes, there are collective nouns galore gathering gorgeously-illustrated 

groups of animals, familiar and not so familiar to young readers. A 

flamboyance of flamingoes. An implausibility of wildebeest.

But it’s the underlying sentiment that’s truly gorgeous, especially since 

the “we” represents human beings, too.




                and pods.

Together, we are better.

The host of verbs available to humans and non-humans alike when they 

do all come together leaves me hopeful. Harvest. Speak.  Nurture.  

Work.  Sing.  Build. Dance.  Bask in the sun.  

     Pack’s ending words end my year-ending post perfectly.

All together…we are better!

Thanks to Carol’s Corner for hosting today’s Poetry Friday.

Here’s to Endless Possibilities whilst continuing onward in 2021!

Esther Hershenhorn


I’m currently seeking the perfect collective noun to describe the talented 

writers who appear within small ZOOM squares on my laptop’s screen 

when I remotely teach my Writing for Children workshops.

Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Alas, the collective nouns glory, marvel and blessing – which are so 

appropriate, are already taken by unicorns.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Do or Do Not: It's All Okay


Emma D. Dryden

Lordy I am so weary of 2020.  I am fatigued with the chaos, distressed about the pandemic, which has hit too close to home of late. 

As we at Teaching Authors continue to explore our favorite inspirations, I’ve written about all the ways I try to keep my head in the game. I continue to take classes, read craft books, and just read in general. Take walks. And garden. I also teach. But it can be dispiriting. I confess, there are moments  of late that I have no feel for my writing. Then I find myself feeling all sorts of convoluted messiness that I, as a working writer, should write some pages every day. And when I can’t, I feel like perhaps I never will again. 

Everyone knows Emma D. Dryden, whom I value as my own Dumbledore. Emma is a long-time indomitable presence in publishing. Working thirty years in the field, she was Vice President, Publisher of Atheneum Books for Young Readers and Margaret K. McElderry Books, imprints of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, a position she held until 2009 when she launched drydenbks

No one knows more than Emma the ups and downs that each writer faces in pursuit of their craft.

Recently, Emma sent this wisdom. This is my favorite quote of the entire year!  It seems so apropos for the struggles we as writers and teachers are facing during these trying times. I thought you may need to hear these encouraging words.

And, should you need more feelings good, here’s a video that comforts and inspires. From Brittany Howard, You Never Walk Alone.

By the way, how are you doing?

--Bobbi Miller

Friday, November 6, 2020

3 Favorite Books I Read this Year, Plus an Inspiring Song

Happy Poetry Friday! Today, instead of a poem, at the end of this post I'm sharing some song lyrics I've found especially inspiring during this challenging year. But first, I want to continue our end-of-the year series about a favorite book, poem, or quote we read in 2020.

Last week, Gwendolyn discussed as her favorite book, I See You, I See Myself: The Young Life of Jacob Lawrence, written by Deba Foxley Leach. (I've already added the title to my to-read list.) Unlike Gwen, I couldn't limit my favorites to just one title. I'm sharing three! The first two books are titles picked by the Not for Kids Only Book Club I'm a member of.

1. Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books). 

This book has won numerous awards, including a Newbery Honor, a Printz Honor, a Coretta Scott King Honor, and the Edgar Award Prize for Best Young Adult Fiction. Not only is Long Way Down a beautifully written novel in verse, this powerful book also deals with important issues that are especially relevant today.

2. Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk (Dutton Books for Young Readers).

This novel, set in Depression-era Maine, is a 2020 title featured on Anderson's Bookshops Mock Newbery list. Despite the historical setting, this story about coping with unemployment and hardship is also relevant these days. The writing is quite lyrical, so I wasn't surprised to learn Lauren Wolk is a poet as well as a novelist. 

3. What Is Poetry? The Essential Guide to Reading and Writing Poems by Michael Rosen (Candlewick Books). 

This engaging nonfiction book was first published in the U.K. in 2016, but wasn't released here in the U.S. until 2019 and I just discovered it recently. I'm still working my way through this one because I'm savoring and learning from each section. Michael Rosen includes many great tidbits in this book, such as the following:

"Poems are a midway point between poets and readers. The poet pours in one set of meanings. The reader picks up a poem and puts in another set of meanings, and the two meet somewhere in the middle. That's what reading a poem is all about. It's a conversation between two sets of thoughts: the poet's and the reader's."

In researching Rosen's book, I was surprised to learn the author contracted COVID-19 earlier this year and was hospitalized for three months. He talks a bit about his experience and ongoing health issues at the beginning of this video. I hope he eventually makes a complete recovery.   

Finally, as promised, I'd like to share some song lyrics that have inspired and encouraged me during these difficult times. They're written by Carrie Newcomer, a performer I discovered when someone shared this song with me earlier this year:

Excerpt from lyrics of "You Can Do This Hard Thing"
by Carrie Newcomer
Here we stand breathless  
And pressed in hard times.
Hearts hung like laundry
On backyard clothes lines.
Impossible just takes
A little more time.
From the muddy ground
Comes a green volunteer.
In a place we thought barren
New life appears.
Morning will come whistling
Some comforting tune,
For you.
You can do this hard thing. 
You can do this hard thing.
Its not easy I know, 
But I believe that its so.
You can do this hard thing. 
©2016 Carrie Newcomer  

It's hard to believe Newcomer released this song in 2016. "You Can Do This Hard Thing" feels like it could be an anthem for 2020. 
You can read the song's complete lyrics on this page of her website by clicking the cover of the album, The Beautiful Not Yet. And you can hear her perform the song below or on YouTube here.

Don't forget to check out this week's Poetry Friday round up at Susan Bruck's Soul Blossom Living.
Posted by Carmela Martino