Thursday, December 22, 2022

Winter Poem Swap Treasures

Happy Poetry Friday! Today I'm thrilled to share the wonderful winter poem and gifts I received from my Poem Swap partner. First though, a HUGE thank you to Tabatha Yeatts for coordinating the Winter Poem Swap. You'll find Tabatha's blog here.  

I'm relatively new to the Winter Poem Swap--this is only the second time I've participated. This year, I was paired with Tricia Stohr-Hunt. Tricia is a professor at the University of Richmond, where she prepares future teachers. At her blog, The Miss Rumphius Effect, she writes about "children's literature, poetry, and issues related to teaching children and their future teachers."

For the swap, Tricia sent an envelope filled with marvelous treasures, including two notebooks and a bag of sweet-smelling scented soaps!

It wasn't until I read Tricia's note inside the lovely "Book Leaf" bearing a George Kingsley quote that I discovered she had made both of the notebooks! The small folded notebook with the beautiful butterfly design on the front contains pockets--they held the poem she'd sent plus a series of prompts to inspire my own poems. The second journal is meant to hold those new poems. 

Here's a peek inside the folded notebook:

What a terrific idea! I'm looking forward to trying the prompts in the new year--almost all of them are for forms I've never written before. 

And it was obvious from the poem Tricia sent that she'd done her homework. We've never met, but she knew of my math background. She labeled her poem accordingly:

Holiday Poem Swap 2022
To: Carmela (a fellow math lover)

A Mathematical Pi Poem.

In case you aren't familiar with this form, the number of syllables per line in a pi poem must equal the numbers in pi up to that point. For example, in a 3-line pi poem (often called a pi-ku or π-ku because it has the same number of lines as a haiku), the syllables per line equal 3, 1, 4, to represent the first three digits of π: 3.14. Since pi is infinite, there’s no limit to the number of lines in a pi poem. The longest  I've ever written contains eight lines. Tricia's Mathematical Pi Poem is 36 lines long and is quite splendid!  (If you have difficulty reading the poem in the photo below, you should be able to click on the image to enlarge.) 

I love everything about this poem, and I especially connected with these lines:

There is wonder in
how the world
arranges itself.
Mathematicians across time
find universal delight in
the perfect arrangement of
lines in a plane, or in quadratic

I also love the last stanza (which cleverly follows a blank line to represent the digit 0):

Where will
beauty find you? It sure finds
me in the mystery of math.

I'm so grateful for this opportunity to get to know Tricia a bit. She definitely feels like a kindred spirit.  In addition to loving math's mysteries, I'm intrigued by the intersections between math and poetry. And Tricia's pi poem is a marvelous example of that!

December has been an exceptionally gray month here in the Chicago area. Receiving the envelope of treasures from Tricia really brightened my day, week, and month! And the gifts will also brighten the New Year as I put them to use. Thank you, Tricia!

If you'd like to read the poem I sent Tricia, you can find it in her post here. I hope you'll also check out this week's Poetry Friday roundup being hosted by Irene Latham at Live Your Poem.

I wish all of you, our TeachingAuthors readers, a blessed and happy holiday season. Esther will be back on January 6 with a special book giveaway to kick off the New Year! 


Thursday, December 15, 2022

Oh! Oh! Oh!


Remember that old marching song:

99 bottles of beer on the wall

99 bottles of beer

Take one down, and pass it around,

98 bottles of beer on the wall.

Its repetitive melody helps you find your rhythm when hiking trails or jumping ropes. It’s an ear worm that keeps you steady when the task at hand seems monumentally tedious. It diverts your attention from the monotony to the goal. That’s what I feel when I revise. When I finish a first draft, breathing a sigh of relief and accomplishment, I move on to the first revision. Only to discover another plot hole. A character acts out of character. First person slips into third person. Or worse, the history is wrong.


You know what? I hate beer. And this particular morning, after a week of finals, I’m not liking revision. It’s hard, hard, hard work.

Indeed. Instead of spending all those hours writing, typing, outlining, researching, deleting, cutting, pasting, I could bake a pie. I could learn a new hobby, learn to sky dive and jump off a cliff, plant another garden, or two, or three…


 True enough, I have enough gardens. Besides, it’s cold outside. And I have enough hobbies, which mostly centers on books and more books. And I haven’t had a baking oven for over a decade.  And sky diving? What?

Besides, this character, for all her flaws, is getting really interesting. If I could just…

Fine. Back to work.

By the way, wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday.

O yea, speaking of which, I should tell you:

I now have an agent! Sarah N. Fisk is an Associate Literary Agent in the Tobias Literary Agency! I am immensely honored to be working with Sarah!

 As the saying goes: watch this space!

-- Bobbi Miller

Friday, December 2, 2022

4- and 5-Year Olds Share Their Favorite Books

As I’ve stated before, one of the most magical things about teaching young children is the new perspective one gets from the authentic point of view of a child when that child allows you in for a peek.  As both a kidlit author and a teacher, I wondered what my 4- and 5-year-old students would say if I asked them, “What is your favorite book?” I was curious about how their insights were different than my own adult point of view.  So, in a true Reggio-Inspired teaching approach I documented verbatim what they said (as I do every day).  

I wanted to  hear from the age group I often write for. I wanted to understand how they truly connect with the literature that is read to them since most are not yet independent readers. I wanted to know what engaged them and stayed in their memories and why. 

It started very simply.  I asked them, “What is your favorite book?” I wasn’t even sure if they would be able to name any. I wasn’t sure if they had the context to name titles like adults do, having had a much broader experience reading. 

I started by modeling what I meant. I picked a book that has been my favorite for years.  It’s not a current title so I wondered if any of my students had ever had it read to them.  It’s a much longer book than the current 500 -700 word stories. It was written during a different time.

“My favorite book is The Velveteen Rabbit,” I stated, reminding them not to pick mine and to pick their own.  

Here are the delightful recommendations from the Transitional Kindergarten/Kindergarten students.

Lydia – I like the silver one with the golden.  It’s about…don’t touch the golden one.  The name of the story…You Have To Do The Page.  God is inside. Heaven and God is inside the book.

Hazel – I like the book that’s not for reading. (What’s the name of it?) I don’t know. (What’s it about?) Animals finding things.

Emma – I brought a chameleon book that I really like.

Archer – I like a book at my house that’s called, My Heart Is My Love Feelings.

Lilly – My favorite book at my house is called, Bible. And I read it at night with my bear and my mom. And then, it’s called Two Bibles In Love.

Arianna – My favorite book is Water Protectors.  I like it so much that I want to look at it right now.

Abe – My favorite book is your book, Hello, Little One. But first, my baby brother got that book. But today, I’m going to get that book after school.

Vivian – I have four favorites.  One of them is Zeena’s book.  I like your book. The second one is Olive the Other Reindeer.  When I went to Wendy’s for Thanksgiving, she had it.  She’s not a kid.  She’s a grown up.  My third one is We Are Water Protectors. And the fourth one is No Voice Too Small.

Jacob – My favorite book is Find Spot cause one of them are a lion.

Rowan – I have a favorite book at my house called, Octopus Alone.  So, it’s two seahorses trying to think that the octopus is having fun and wants to play.  And the seahorses play along with the octopus, but the octopus wants alone time.  And then, it went into the dark, dark sea.  And then it changed, camouflage. And the seahorses tried to find it. And that’s it.

Isaac – The Red Book because it’s my dad’s favorite book and he wants me to read it to our class.

Patrick – It’s my Number Blocks book.  Lift the flaps book and the book that…it’s called Number Blocks Big Numbers.  And that’s not all. The last thing I need to tell you is that I have two new ones coming out. And also, I still have work on the second one.  The first one is done.  But the first one wasn’t done today.  I think that it was done a year or two ago. And that’s all.

Mari – The Room On The Broom because it has witches and I like witches.

Alexa – The Bunny.  It always hop around.

Olivia – I have two.  I like all dinosaur books.  I love all dinosaur books.  And, I also like Wing Of Fire.  I have two books of them.  One is about a Black Fire Dragon and the other one is about an Orange Fire Dragon.

Willie – My favorite is No Voice Too Small because the author that we met named Keila, wrote that book.  I like Water Protectors because they protect the water and they don’t want the water to get higher because the Black Snake will suck up the water and poison the land.

As I read over the documentation, I was struck by a theme that emerged. The books that held meaning for many of my students were those with relational connections.  Books that were read with parents. Books that were owned by friends. Books that came from home. Books that were read with their first teacher. Books that were written by authors that the students had personal connections with. The books had meaning because the context in which they were introduced had specific meaning for these young children.

After exploring this theme and engaging in discourse with my friend and longtime critique partner, Andrea J. Loney, I discovered that I too had a relationship with my favorite children’s book, The Velveteen Rabbit. Not only was I touched by the story.  I had directed the play years ago for the Burbank Civic Light Opera.  Of all the picture books that I have read in my lifetime (hundreds I’m sure), it is the one that has lodged in my memory and stands out as my favorite.  My relationship to the story goes well beyond the random reading of a book I read long ago. It is a story that is grounded for me in warm personal memories and relationships with members of the Burbank Civic Light Opera.

From our conversation, Andrea thoughtfully posed this question: “How is the story you’re writing, reinforcing and fostering those social emotional bonds between the adult reader and the child audience?”

As an author I will carry this question with me as I continue to write picture books as the evidence is strong that this is the secret sauce that makes picture books memorable for young children.  Maybe you will too!

By Zeena M. Pliska

Author of Hello, Little One: A Monarch Butterfly Story  Illustrated by Fiona Halliday

and  Coming April 18, 2023  Egyptian Lullaby  Illustrated by Hatem Aly

you can find me here

@zeenamar Instagram

@zeenamar1013  Twitter

@Zeena M. Pliska on Facebook

Andrea J. Loney is an award-winning author of picture books including CURVE & FLOW: THE ELEGANT VISION OF LA ARCHITECT PAUL R WILLIAMS, DOUBLE BASS BLUES, and BUNNYBEAR, as well as the new futuristic chapter book series ABBY IN ORBIT.

@andreajloney on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest

@author.andreajloney on Facebook

out now


ABBY IN ORBIT: BLAST OFF! (illus. Fuuji Takashi, Albert Whitman & Company)

ABBY IN ORBIT: SPACE RACE (illus. Fuuji Takashi, Albert Whitman & Company)

VIP: STACEY ABRAMS VOTING VISIONARY (illus. Shellene Rodney, HarperCollins)

DOUBLE BASS BLUES (illus. Rudy Gutierrez — Caldecott Honor Title, Penguin Random House Knopf)

BUNNYBEAR (illus. Carmen Saldana — ALA Rainbow List, Albert Whitman & Company)

TAKE A PICTURE OF ME, JAMES VAN DER ZEE! (illus. Keith Mallett -- 2014 New Voices Award Winner, NAACP Image Award Nominee, Lee & Low)

NO VOICE TOO SMALL: FOURTEEN YOUNG AMERICANS MAKING HISTORY Picture Book Anthology (illus. Jeanette Bradley, ed. Keila V. Dawson & Lindsay H. Metcalf, Charlesbridge)

coming soon— PRE ORDER

ABBY IN ORBIT: ALL SYSTEMS WHOA! (illus. Fuuji Takashi, Albert Whitman & Company April 1, 2023)

Friday, November 18, 2022

Wibble Wobble Boom!---Skating Away with a Picture Book Giveaway

I'm experiencing unusual, winter-like weather here in November. I am writing with a fire in the fireplace, George Winston's Winter playing in the background, coffee mug at hand. What better way to celebrate the publication of my new picture book, Wibble Wobble Boom! (Peachtree Publishing), available November 29th?

As you might guess from the adorable cover by Holly Sterling, Wibble Wobble Boom! is about learning to ice skate. Claire arrives for her first lesson with high-flying dreams of leaping and spinning, like the skaters she's seen on TV. How disappointing that the first skill she's taught, is how to fall safely! 

If you're a long time follower of this blog, you know my daughter Lily was a competitive figure skater from kindergarten through high school graduation. She spent every single weekday at the ice rink. And by default, so did I. Every. Single. Day. 

Lily chanced into figure skating. A kindergarten classmate invited her to a birthday party at the local ice rink. A birthday party is not a good time to introduce kindergartners to ice skating. The whole class stood wobbling on rental skates, afraid to step on the ice. While her friends whined about falling and being cold and couldn't we just go eat cake, my daredevil daughter and a couple of boys stepped on the ice. Clutching the side rails, they inched their way around. The next thing I knew, Lily had let go of the rails and was baby-gliding away from the boys. 

Lily continued her cautious way around the rink, arms straight out to her sides. The other kids had flopped on the spectator bench, whining that their feet hurt, they were cold, they wanted cake. The birthday girl's mom kept checking her watch, knowing that the party room wouldn't be open for another half hour. 

"This is fun!" Lily called to me. And took another lap around, a bit faster time. By the time she had finished a second trip, the birthday mom announced it was time for cake and presents. 

"Do I have to eat cake?" Lily asked me. "I want to stay here and skate." 

I told her she had to go eat cake but after that, she could come back and skate. 

And she did. 

For four hours. At the end of the session, her legs were so sore, I had to carry her out to the car. As I buckled her into her car seat she asked, "When can I come back?" 

Lily's first competition--1st grade

 Lily became a skater. I froze my behind off in rinks for the next 12 years. I learned to write with frozen fingers, surrounded by hoards of skaters and their families, chattering, screaming, or having hockey stick wars. I watched Lily master the Bunny Hop, spin and Mohawk. By high school, she was teaching her own Snowplow (beginner) classes. 

My mom put me on double runner skate blades when I was two. I thought that the whole point of skating was falling! I would fall on purpose...on my bottom...and yell "Boom!" extremely pleased with myself.

That memory came back to me as Lily taught her own students how to fall. I watched their little feet in those brown, battle-scarred rental skates, ankles wibbling and wobbling. I listened to them complain "Miss Lily, this isn't skating. I want to twirl. Teach me that." "My feet are tired. I wanna sit down." "I'm cold."

Lily would patiently explain that safety is the very first lesson in skating. Then they could learn everything else. Yes, your feet do hurt and you do feel cold. That's what happens if you want to skate. 

I like alliteration. As I observed those little Snowplows, I remembered a song from kindergarten... crickle crackle crickle crackle creak creak creak, the sound of walking on ice. Then my mind followed with wibble wobble boom. Skaters learning to fall. I remembered Lily's first skating lessons. While she never  complained about being cold or tired, she didn't like learning to fall...because she never fell. Her balance was that good. She disliked being made to fall, just to learn how to land on your butt. 

What if Lily had gone to that birthday party, expecting to sail across the ice like an Olympic medalist? What if...?

Once again, my daughter sparked a story, just as she had for First Grade Stinks and My Best Friend and A Tree for Emmy. 

Lily's last competition--senior year.

Children. The gift that keeps on giving.

Speaking of gifts, we're giving away a copy of Wibble Wobble Boom! Keep reading for entry instructions.

Posted by Mary Ann Rodman


We are giving away ONE autographed copy of Mary Ann's soon-to-be-released picture book, Wibble Wobble Boom! (Peachtree Publishing), which received a Starred review from Booklist

To enter the giveaway drawing, use the Rafflecopter widget below. (Note: if the widget doesn't appear, click on the link at the end of this post that says "a Rafflecopter giveaway" to enter.)

For the first time ever, you may enter via up to 4 options. The more options you choose, the better your odds!

If you choose option 3, you MUST leave a comment on TODAY’S blog post or on our TeachingAuthors Facebook page. If you haven’t already “liked” our Facebook page, please do so today!

If you prefer, you may submit your comment via email to: teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com.

Note: if you submit your comments via email or Facebook, YOU MUST STILL ENTER THE DRAWING VIA RAFFLECOPTER BELOW.  The giveaway ends December 1, 2022 and is open to US. Residents only.

If you’ve never entered a Rafflecopter giveaway, here’s info on how to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway. And a second article explains the difference between signing in with Facebook vs. with an email address.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, November 4, 2022

Celebrating a New Friendship-Themed Poetry Anthology

In honor of Poetry Friday, today I'm celebrating the recent release of What Is a Friend?, an anthology of ekphastic poems edited by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong and published by Pomelo Books.  I'm honored to have one of my poems, which I share below, in the collection. But first, a bit about this marvelous new book for ages 7 and up.

The fun sticker on the cover indicates the anthology is a Children's Book Council "Hot Off the Press" Selection for October 2022!

Here's the description of What Is a Friend? that appears on the Pomelo Books website:

To learn to be a good friend, kids need models of friendship. The 41 poems in this book guide us in reaching out, sharing ourselves, asking for help, giving support, and just having fun. These poems also show us that friends come in many forms; we can find them in our families, at school, on sports teams, through community service, on vacation, in pets, in nature - and even in ourselves.

The website also lists the contributors. I recognize many of their names, whether from Poetry Friday posts or other anthologies I've seen. But some of these poets are knew to me. I look forward to reading all their poems:

Many talented voices are represented in this book: Gail Aldous, Marcie Flinchum Atkins, Robyn Hood Black, Willeena Booker, Sandy Brehl, Carol Bullman, Kelly Conroy, Mary E. Cronin, Linda A. Dryfhout, Janet Clare Fagal, Karen Elise Finch, Nancy Bo Flood, Patricia J. Franz, Marilyn Garcia, Van G. Garrett, Theresa Gaughan, Sara Holbrook, Irene Latham, Rebecca Gardyn Levington, Molly Lorenz, Jone Rush MacCulloch, Carmela A. Martino, Guadalupe García McCall, Rochelle Melander, Heidi Mordhorst, Elisabeth Norton, Joan Riordan, Laura Purdie Salas, René Saldaña, Jr., Michael Salinger, Donna JT Smith, Anastasia Suen, Pamela Taylor, Linda Kulp Trout, Fernanda Valentino, Charles Waters, Vicki Wilke, Matthew Winter, Janet Wong, Helen Kemp Zax, and Sarah Ziman
As with the Pomelo Books "Things We . . ." series (Things We Do; Things We Eat; Things We Feel), 100% of the profits from sales of What Is a Friend? will be donated to the IBBY Children in Crisis Fund ( You may recall that my poem "Amazed" appears in Things We Feel, so I now have two poems in publications from Pomelo Books. I am officially a "Pomelo Poet," and I have the logo to prove it! 😀 

My poem in What Is a Friend? is called "Sidekicks." You can see it below alongside the photo that inspired it. Special thanks to Janet Wong for creating this great graphic!

The students in the above photo are practicing tae kwon do. I have to confess that I knew nothing about this martial art before attempting the poem. My early drafts were based on online research. After sharing some drafts with my critique group, I learned fellow member and poet Eileen Meyer had actually studied tae kwon do herself. Eileen's feedback was especially helpful to my revision process! (If you don't know Eileen, she is one of three poets making up the "Rhyme Doctors" team--read more on their website.)

I hope you'll check out this week's Poetry Friday roundup hosted by Heidi Mordhorst at my juicy little universe for links to more kidlit poetry. 

Happy Writing!

Friday, October 21, 2022

2 Mentor Poems to Try and Then Teach

Howdy Campers! Happy National Day on Writing (this week) and Happy Poetry Friday! My poem and the link to PF are below.

Today's topic? Anything I want to share with you. Hooray!  Let's dive in.

The UCLA Extension Writers' Program offers an Annual Instructor's Retreat. It's well-run and much-needed, connecting instructors from all over the world to share wisdom, teaching challenges and conundrums and more.

I wanted to share my love of mentor texts with fellow instructors. Here's my proposal:

A Mentor Poem Exercise That Changes Everything.

1) I'll share two poems

2) You'll write your own version of one of them.

3) Your mind will explode.

4) The End.

The Program Director thought it was funny, and I was given the go-ahead.

If the term is new to you, here is how an author on an episode of a podcast at the National Writing Project defines it (slightly paraphrased):

Mentor texts are pieces of literature that you — both teacher and student — can return to and reread for many different purposes. They are texts to be studied and imitated … Mentor texts help students to take risks and be different writers tomorrow than they are today. It helps them to try out new strategies and formats. They should be [texts] that students can relate to and can even read independently or with some support...And of course, a mentor text doesn’t have to be in the form of a book — a mentor text might be a poem, a newspaper article, song lyrics, comic strips, manuals, essays, picture books—almost anything.

In my session I offered attendees a choice. They could either riff off a long poem or a short prompt.

1) The long poem (I first read it on Alison McGhee's wonderful blog):

by Cathy Ross

If the moon came out only once a month
people would appreciate it more. They’d mark it
in their datebooks, take a walk by moonlight, notice
how their bedroom window framed its silver smile.
And if the moon came out just once a year,
it would be a holiday, with tinsel streamers
tied to lampposts, stores closing early
so no one has to work on lunar eve,
travelers rushing to get home by moon-night,
celebrations with champagne and cheese.
Folks would stay awake ’til dawn
to watch it turn transparent and slowly fade away.
And if the moon came out randomly,
the world would be on wide alert, never knowing
when it might appear, spotters scanning empty skies,
weathermen on TV giving odds—“a 10% chance
of moon tonight”—and when it suddenly began to rise,
everyone would cry “the moon is out,” crowds
would fill the streets, jostling and pointing,
night events would be canceled,
moon-closure signs posted on the doors.
And if the moon rose but once a century,
ascending luminous and lush on a long-awaited night,
all humans on the planet would gather
in huddled, whispering groups
to stare in awe, dazzled by its brilliance,
enchanted by its spell. Years later,
they would tell their children, “Yes, I saw it once.
Maybe you will live to see it too.”
But the moon is always with us,
an old familiar face, like the mantel clock,
so no one pays it much attention.
why not go outside and gaze up in wonder,
as if you’d never seen it before,
as if it were a miracle,
as if you had been waiting
all your life.

(Isn't that poem glorious?)

2) The short prompt: write a poem in which all events occur simultaneously.

All at once...

Here's an example:

At the very moment the phone rang
the meringue fell
the baby fell out of the swing
the earthquake toppled Tokyo
at that moment
I decided to leave him

~ author unknown

3) What the moon poem inspired me to write:

by April Halprin Wayland

If my sister came by only once a month
I would appreciate her more. I’d mark it
in my datebook, take a walk with her, notices
how her smile glowed like the moon.
And if my sister came by just once a year,
it would be a holiday, with tinsel streamers
tied to lampposts, stores closing early
so no one in our family would work on Sister Eve,
I’d rush to get home before she knocked,
we’d celebrate with non-alcoholic champagne and non-dairy cheese.
I’d stay awake ’til dawn
to watch as she left my house and disappeared down the road.
And if my sister came by randomly,
the world would be on wide alert, I would never know
when she might appear, friends would scan the skies for her plane, the internet for her arrival info
weatherpeople on TV would give odds—“a 10% chance
of your sister coming over tonight”—and when suddenly there was a knock (!)
everyone would cry “your sister’s here,” crowds
would fill the streets, jostling and pointing at us,
happy for us and envious we had a sister.
Night events would be canceled,
My Sister’s Here signs posted on my door.
And if my sister showed up but once a century,
ascending luminous from Southwest Airlines flight #274 on a long-awaited night,
all humans on the planet would gather by their screens
in huddled, whispering groups
to stare in awe, dazzled by her brilliance, my brilliance,
our love; enchanted by this spell of sisterhood. Years later,
they would tell their children, “Yes, I saw them together once.
Maybe you will live to see them, too.”
But my sister is always with me,
a beloved familiar taste, like stew, warm and full of comfort
which no one appreciates much.
I am outside and gaze up in wonder,
as if I’d never seen her before,
as if she were a miracle,
as if I had been waiting
all my life.

4) What the poem the prompt inspired me to write:

by April Halprin Wayland

At the very moment my hot cocoa spills in the car,
and its marshmallow lands in my wet lap --
a white island in a tsunami of hot, dark liquid --
a squirrel shoots across the street
and our dog jumps joyfully out of the open sunroof,
onto the asphalt.

That's when I know
that no one is an island,
we all need the love of a dog,
the thrill of the chase,
and a crossing guard
or green light
to watch over us.

both poems© 2022 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved

Now it's your turn: pick a poem, a picture book, song lyrics--anything--and write your version of it, focusing on a topic that's close to your heart. Or follow the prompt and write what I call an All At Once poem. 

Then pass the magic onto your students, kids, friends, or that guy wearing the Dodger cap at the drug store. 

Please join my next UCLA class, An Introduction to Picture Books for Absolute Beginners on November 19, 2022 from noon-3pm Pacific Time! Enrollment begins November 5th

Thank you, Bridget, for hosting this week's Poetry Friday at wee words for wee ones !

Posted by April Halprin Wayland, who has one more thing to say: 

Please vote. America needs you to. If you don’t know who to vote for, do some research. Ask one of your very smart friends, then, make an educated guess.  Don’t hand your vote to someone else by not voting. Your voice matters. So thank you for voting. Thank you for helping to save our democracy.

drawings© 2022 (If you use any of them, please credit April Halprin Wayland. Thank you!)

Friday, October 7, 2022

The One Book That Struck Me This Year… Like a Bolt of Lightning!

Consider today’s post the caboose, pulling up the rear of our 

summer train of themed blog posts about the one book that each

of us learned from this past year.

(Or in April’s case, the one book that changed her.)

Of course I’ve known from the get-go the book I’d be choosing, 

and the twist on our theme it demanded - i.e. the book that struck 

me like a bolt of lightning: My Own Lightning (Dutton, May, 

2022), Lauren Wolk’s sequel to the Newbery Honor Winner 

Wolf Hollow (Dutton, 2016). 

I leave the compelling and surprising plotlines of both books to 

future Readers. 

Suffice it to say, when I left 12-year-old Annabelle McBride in 

western Pennsylvania’s Wolf Hollow in 1946, her heart was heavy, 

weighed down with matters of truth-telling and justice and 

kindness, of personal responsibility “when doing right can go 

very wrong.”  She was telling her story first person, past tense, 

years after the action that showed her she mattered. She grabbed 

my heart and refused to let go.


So imagine my delight when she beckoned me again, this time at 

the start of summer of that very same year. Except now her spirit 

lay lowMight-have-beens and if-onlys distracted her, she shared. 

What-ifs consumed her. And just like that, in the blink of an eye, 

her world once more “tipped on its axis”! The lightning that struck 

her that stormy June day heightened her sensibilities, especially to 

emotions, and changed her outright. Or rather, eventually and for 

the better, outright and inward. Empathy has a way of setting 

straight misunderstandings, teaching us how to forgive, both 

others and ourselves. The story’s illumination of such Truths 

caused me to “fizzle and crackle” right along with Annabelle,

despite the difference in our ages, as if we were both still full 

of lightning. 

My own lightning, indeed.


Katherine Paterson superbly described the kind of magic Lauren 

Wolk conjures up.

     “What happens is a reciprocal gift between writer and reader:

       one heart in hiding reaching out to another.”

Each of Lauren Wolk’s “Book Daughters” as she calls them in this 

interview with Horn Book’s Roger Sutton, has gifted me 


Crow in Beyond the Bright Sea, a story set on the Elizabeth Islands 

off the coast of Woods Hole, Massachusetts in 1925.

Ellie in Echo Mountain, a story set in Maine in 1934. 

A fifth grader recently queried Ms. Wolk if she might write a story 

featuring all three of her young female characters, resurrecting a 

story idea she’d put aside. 

We Readers can only heartfully hope.

Thanks to Sarah Grace Tuttle for hosting today’s Poetry Friday. 

May a story strike
you soon!

Esther Hershenhorn

Friday, September 30, 2022

September Definito Poem Challenge

Happy Poetry Friday! I'm interrupting our current blog series to share my response to this month's Poetry Friday community challenge to write a definito poem. As Tanita Davis explained in her post introducing the challenge, a definito is a free verse poem of 8-12 lines (aimed at readers 8-12 years old) that highlights wordplay as it demonstrates the meaning of a less common word, which itself always ends the poem. Heidi Mordhorst created the form.

I found my "less common word" thanks to Linda Mitchell's blog post at the end of last month. In that post, Linda shared a link to a list of uncommon words on the Merriam-Webster online dictionary. What an intriguing list! You can see the word I chose in my definito below. (I'm also working on a longer free verse poem using the same word.)

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

I'm looking forward to checking out this week's Poetry Friday roundup hosted by Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference to see other definitos.

Be sure to check back here next week when Esther Hershenhorn wraps up our series on "One Book I Learned from Over the Past Year."

Happy writing!

Friday, September 16, 2022

Stories Don't End


 You may remember, I have a cat. His name is Apollo. I met him when he was six months old. He was staying at a rescue home at the time, and didn't like it. I didn’t want a cat, much less a rambunctious kitten. But he was quite persuasive. I never had a chance.

So Apollo took me home, where he met Comma. Comma took to him immediately. The three of us took great care of each other.

Some time ago, Comma had to leave us. He had always been small and sickly. Neither Apollo nor I wanted him to go, but Comma was the wisest of us, and knew better.

So, it was just me and Apollo, together. A family for many years. Not sure when or how it happened, actually, when one day he couldn’t walk as he once ran. He developed kidney disease, and diabetes. Then he told me it was time for him to leave. He missed Comma, too.

I argued, of course. But he could be quite persuasive.

On Sept. 1, Apollo joined Comma. We had been together for seventeen years. I’ve been quite discombobulated ever since, and couldn’t find a story to share.

As it happens, inspiration – or solace, whatever is needed in the moment – comes from this reminder how important your story is.

Thank you for reading.

-- Bobbi Miller

About the image: For more inspiration about A Mighty Girl, see their blog at A Mighty Girl.

Friday, September 2, 2022

No Voice Too Small

     When my daughter was little, she once asked me why I spent my time as an activist trying to save public education and not trying to stop global warming (as it was called at that time before it was expanded). Her logic was that education justice would not matter if we didn’t have a planet to live on. I paused for a moment before answering, not knowing the answer myself. And then I responded with my own logic. If education was lost, then we wouldn’t have a chance at saving the planet. Only through an educated global population could we begin to mitigate global warming. And so, I continued my work to struggle to maintain an equitable public education with my union and other organizations as well as working in my classroom to develop as a child-centered educator. I was sure I could be a part of positive change in my own little corner of the world.

     Years later, I still believe that losing public education for all would be a travesty, but I am beginning to see that it is undeniably time to actively work to mitigate climate change in a more focused way. Again, I feel like I can only work effectively on climate change in my own little corner of the world. And so, my path leads me back through education and to the very young people I am tasked with guiding.

     There was a moment when Greta Thunberg dominated the news cycle and my kindergarteners pre-Covid became intrigued by her work. This group of young 5-year-olds were interested in what global warming was, what caused it, and eventually they wondered what could be done. The energy of the group took on a life of its own that lead to questions about how to change policy specifically around climate change. We had a staffer from our state senator’s office come and talk about his job focusing on climate change bills. The students’ interest culminated in the writing of policy recommendations that I delivered to our city, state, and federal policy makers. It amazed me how much these young people thought deeply and expansively about such critical matters.

     My own experience with the powerful voices of very young people led me to the book that I learned from this year. No Voice Too Small: Fourteen Young Americans Making History edited by Lindsey H. Metcalf, Keila V. Dawson, and Jeanette Bradley and beautifully illustrated by Jeanette Bradley. The picture book combines very short biographies, illustrations, and poetry by 14 different poets to tell the stories of 14 young changemakers. The picture book is laid out in a way that educators from kindergarten to high school can utilize the stories of these young activists to engage other young activists. It’s just what the world needs now. 

See Book Trailer Here

My current students are especially drawn to the illustrations. I am especially drawn to the poetry that precedes the introduction of each new activist. My students engage with the stories especially  because they can relate to the children who are celebrated in the book. This year we have already begun recognizing power and the ability to speak out using this important piece of literature. This spring, this same team will launch their companion title, No World Too Big: Young People Fighting Global Climate Change. I am so moved by the first book, No Voice Too Small, that I am including them in a climate activism project that I am developing with my kindergarten class this year. 

     Building the conditions for climate activism to occur with young children, I am working with environmental organizations in Los Angeles to create field trips to natural habitats to build a foundation of environmental engagement. I am partnering with policy-makers to create policy engagement. I am anxiously anticipating the second book, No World Too Big and I have reached out to the authors of these books to create literary engagement. I am proud to know Keila and Jeanette through our Kidlit for Growing Minds group. I am hoping to create an event with a local, Los Angeles, independent bookstore, The Book Jewel, that brings together my current students and the creators when they launch their second book this coming spring. 

     I’m not sure what my young daughter had in mind when she questioned my methods, but I feel like have found my way to engage with the ongoing climate crisis. It is my hope that by bringing together organizations that can get children into nature, elected officials  who can demonstrate that young people can and should be able to access and influence policy making, and authors who can write about and inspire young people to tell their stories (which ultimately makes movements), I am doing my own part in my own little corner of the world. 

You can find out more about Kidlit For Growing Minds from our website, our BOOKTALK YouTube channel and our Twitter page. Find our books on our Bookshop Storefront.

Twitter: @ForGrowingMinds

By Zeena M. Pliska

Friday, August 19, 2022

Celebrating the THINGS WE FEEL Anthology

I'm excited to finally be able to post today and talk about the latest Pomelo Books anthology Things We Feel, edited by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong. The book just happens to include one of my poems! In honor of Poetry Friday, I share that poem at the end of this post along with a link to the Poetry Friday roundup.

Our current TeachingAuthors topic is "One Book I Learned from this Past Year." Things We Feel is especially appropriate to the topic because it was produced as part of a class I took from Sylvia and Janet: Anthologies 201, a four-part course on publishing an anthology for PreK-grade 2. 

My involvement with this book taught me a great deal. I learned not only from Sylvia and Janet's presentations, but also from the process of writing and selecting the poems. Not all the poems in the anthology were written by the students in our class, and we were allowed to participate in the selection of the poems written by outsiders. The project helped me better understand the variety of considerations when putting together a poetry anthology. As a result, I was able to look at my own poems more objectively. One of my biggest takeaways: An anthologist isn't only looking for the best poems, but poems that will be the best fit.

Things We Feel is the third in a series of alphabet anthologies. This book covers a variety of emotions, from A to Z, and is wonderfully illustrated with photographs of children dealing with each emotion. Things We Feel will be of great value to parents and teachers trying to help young children cope with and understand their feelings. Since my poem is "Amazed," it's the very first in the book. 😊  

As part of the Anthologies 201 class, we participated as a team in creating the following short video which could be used as a supplement to the book. (If the video doesn't play for some reason, you can also watch it here.) 

Things We Feel EMOTIONS promo from Pomelo Books on Vimeo.

As I mentioned, Things We Feel is the third in a series from Pomelo Books. Fellow TeachingAuthor April Halprin Wayland and former TeachingAuthor JoAnn Early Macken both contributed poems to Things We Eat, which came out earlier this year. See this blog post to read April's poem. And you can read JoAnn's poem on her website. The first book in the series, Things We Do, was released in 2021. All of the profits from sales of these books will be donated to the IBBY Children in Crisis Fund ( You can find buy links for all the books on the Pomelo Books website.

Now, as promised, I'll share my poem, "Amazed." Sylvia and Janet created a terrific graphic of the 2-page spread with the poem alongside the "amazing" photo that inspired it. However, I had to split the graphic into two for the poem to be legible here. So below you'll first see the photo, which appears on the left page of the spread, and then the poem. (If you'd like to see the whole graphic, check out my Tweet here.)



I encourage you to visit Marcie Flinchum Atkins's website to read the fun poem she wrote for the letter Z: "Zany."  You can also see Michelle Kogan's poem in the anthology on her blog post here. And Anastasia Suen shares not only her poem but a related downloadable activity on her website.

When you're done checking out the poems from Things We Feel, don't forget to visit the Poetry Friday roundup hosted by Dave on his blog, Leap of Dave
Happy writing!