Friday, April 22, 2022

13 Years Ago Today; Plus, Info on April Pulley Sayre's Celebration of Life

In addition to Earth Day and Poetry Friday, today happens to also be our TeachingAuthors' Blogiversary! So this is a special, unscheduled post to commemorate all three aspects of the day, and it contains a mix of joy and sadness. At the end of the post, I share an excerpt from a beautiful Earth Day book written and illustrated by April Pulley Sayre, and I provide information on how to live stream the celebration of April's life taking place tomorrow, April 23.

Hard to believe that we started this blog THIRTEEN years ago today! Four of us still blogging together here were part of that original team: April, Esther, Mary Ann and me. We've been blessed to connect with many wonderful fellow TeachingAuthors on this journey. I was especially touched a year ago when a number of current and former TeachingAuthors gathered in a surprise virtual meeting in honor of our 12th anniversary. Esther wrote about that fun event in this post.   

The TAs also surprised me that day with a basket of lovely flowers. I shared the following photo of it in my blog post from a year ago today:

I love houseplants but don't have much room for them, so I gave away several of those in the basket. I kept two, though. One, the peace lily, is hardly noticeable in the above photo--it's tucked at the back of the basket. But it grew quickly and I transplanted it to a larger pot. The lily recently bloomed for the second time, and the violet--one of my favorites--blooms regularly:

Like our TeachingAuthors team, these plants are gifts that keep on giving! I am so grateful to be part of this team.

And today, on Earth Day, I can't help thinking about my dear friend, April Pulley Sayre, and how grateful I am to have known her for over twenty years. Last November, I wrote of how devastating it was to lose her at such a young age. As I said in that post, her work lives on. 

Many of April's books celebrate nature and the gifts of our planet. Today, I want to share an excerpt from the end of her beautiful picture book Thank You, Earth: A Love Letter to Our Planet (Greenwillow Books), which came out last year:   

These words are especially poignant now that April's gone. 

If you like, you can watch a video of the book's amazing photo illustrations and listen as April reads the book herself here

Tomorrow, April 23, there will be a celebration of April's life held in South Bend, Indiana. Unfortunately, I'm unable to attend in person, but I plan to participate in the live stream. Here's the info April's husband, Jeff Sayre, posted on Facebook: 

     "With difficulty and great expense, I have managed to hire and coordinate with an event production crew to shoot and live stream the event. If you cannot attend in person, here is the link to use on Saturday morning. The stream will go live this Saturday, April 23, 2022 at 8:30 a.m. EDT (we are on east coast time). The event officially starts at 9:00 a.m. It will last two hours with a 20-minute intermission.
     This is not a Zoom broadcast. This is not a Facebook Live broadcast. It is better. However, it is not without the inherent vagaries of intermittent connectivity issues. So there is no guarantee that the event stream will be perfect and go without a hitch. For that reason, the event is also being recorded to be shared at a later date. This is the actual link. Yes, it uses a TinyURL.
      April Pulley Sayre Celebration live stream: ."

I know many in the kidlit community will be attending the event, and my thoughts will be with them, and especially with April's husband, Jeff.

Don't forget to check out this week's Poetry Friday round up hosted by Margaret at Reflections on the Teche.  


Friday, April 15, 2022

And the Nile flows from Poem to Picture Book...Coming to you from Cairo

Because I am in Cairo in this minute and because it is Poetry Month and Poetry Friday, it seems appropriate to flow into a poem by an Egyptian poet...

River Nile

behold how the River Nile generously flows

and hugs the banks with its gentile waves

it flows and smiles to the sun above

it flows as the blood inside a body

it flows as the breaths inside the lungs

it flows to greet farms and gardens

it flows and waters thirsty throats

it flows and waters flowers and trees

it flows and offers fish for food

it flows and floods the dry soil

it flows through a valley of its creation

it flows beside great pyramids and temples

it flows to crown a heavenly land

it says: ''take my waters and grow''

it says: ''let my immortal waters flow''

it says: ''within my surge life awakens''

omar ibrahim

(To go to the website that features this poem click here)

...and then flow into a preview of my upcoming picture book, Egyptian Lullaby. (If you're unable to see the video below, you can watch it online here.)

During my first visit to Cairo, my Aunt Zina said, "Once you drink from the Nile, you will always return."  She was right. over the past 40 years, I have returned over and over to visit my father and family.  Cairo is a part of my heart.  Her words were the inspiration for my upcoming picture book, Egyptian Lullaby, due out in April 2023 by Roaring Brook Press.  It is my love letter to Cairo and captures my own longings when I am away for too long from my family's homeland. (You can watch the following video here.)

It is a reminder to my daughter that she too has drunk from the Nile and maybe throughout her time, Egypt will beckon her back as well.

Time was lost during the pandemic lockdowns. We all lost something.  For me, I was robbed of the time I would have spent with my father and my aunt.  We were not able to return for those two years. They have both passed now.  My aunt in June and my father four weeks ago today. He passed before I could get back. 

But the mighty Nile reminds me that Cairo will always contain their hearts and spirits.  They will never be truly gone as long as the Nile continues to flow.

(You can also watch the above video here.)

Time is measured by humans, a human construct if you will.  From where I the Nile...time is in the the present...fleeting like the wind that billows in the sails of the boat that floats down the river. 

Through the city, is the street that leads to my father's apartment. My father, who passed away three weeks before I arrived here. A human lifetime. His was long by human standards but relatively short by other measures.  

And in the distance, are the Pyramids of Giza.  They have stood unchanged by time over many, many lifetimes...much like the Nile.  Time is relative. A construct of humans to measure our existence. It flows.

By Zeena M. Pliska

Author of 

Hello, Little One: A Monarch Butterfly Story illustrated by Fiona Halliday

Published May 12, 2020 Page Street Kids

Egyptian Lullaby illustrated by Hatem Aly

Published by Roaring Brook Press Due out April 2023

For more info about me click here

If you are unable to view the videos:

Friday, April 1, 2022

51 Poets on Being Imperfect ~ Middle School Poems

Howdy Campers ~ and happy Poetry Month 2022, Poetry Friday and April Fools Day! (my poem and the link to Poetry Friday are below) 

Carmela and I are excited to announce that our poems have been included in the poetry anthology, IMPERFECT II: Poems About Perspective: an anthology for middle schoolers, edited by the wonderful Tabatha Yeatts (History House Publishers, April 2022)

IMPERFECT II features poems by:
Robert Schechter * William Peery * Laura Mucha * Lisa Varchol Perron * Buffy Silverman * Heidi Mordhorst * Mary Lee Hahn * Mia Perron * Myrna Foster * Laura Purdie Salas * Tricia Torrible * April Halprin Wayland * Christy Mihaly * Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer * Diana Murray * Rebecca Gardyn Levington * Rochelle Burgess * Liz Garton Scanlon * Linda Kulp Trout * Alan J. Wright * Fran├žois Villon * Michelle Heidenrich Barnes * Linda Mitchell * Alana DeVito * Elisabeth Norton * Carmela Martino * Molly Hogan * Michelle Schaub * Laura Shovan * Catherine Flynn * Carl Sandburg * Abby Wooldridge * Sydney Dunlap * Marzieh Abbas * Donna JT Smith * Paul Laurence Dunbar * Suzy Levinson * Helen Kemp Zax * Kathleen McKinley Harris * Margaret Simon * Ella Wheeler Wilcox * Ruth Bowen Hersey * Diane Mayr * Mizuta Masahide * Michelle Kogan * Charles Ghigna * Jone Rush MacCulloch * Richard Schiffman * Tabatha Yeatts * Robyn Fohouo * Isaac Leib Perez

Look for Carmela's poem in this book, Backyard Dandelionsin her May 20, 2022 post.

Here's one of my poems in this collection: 

FINGERPRINT  by April Halprin Wayland 

There’s a tiger in my fingerprint.

And fret and tire and ping.

And maybe also ripening:

ignite and fire and ring.


On grey days there’s no tiger,

just pine, inept, infringe.

I cannot roar with pen or print

there’s only grief and only rip


But maybe also...

tiger grit.

poem (c) 2022 by April Halprin Wayland, from IMPERFECT II: Poems About Perspective ~ an anthology for middle schoolers, edited by Tabatha Yeatts (History House Publishers 2022)

This is an In One Word poem, a form I invented. (Does one really "invent" poetic forms?)

The word I repeat a lot to myself lately is “fingerprint”...which to me means that no one can say what I need to do to get through the hard times, to right a wrong; no one can tell me how to create or live my life. The hard work is this: I need to discover my own fingerprint. 

This applies to how many potato chips are okay and how many are too many, as well as who do I want to hang out with? Where do I want to put my energies? And what time do I need to go to bed tonight? (I'll probably to ignore my own advice on that one...)

I wish someone I trusted, someone I looked up to had taken me aside in the crowded hallway of Lincoln Middle School, looked me in the eyes, and helped me understand that there is no perfect way to live your life. 

The question for each of us is: what's your fingerprint?

And one more thing: Sylvia Vardell's blog highlights Pomelo Books' newest anthology--this time for younger kiddos--THINGS WE EAT, which features full-color photos of foods in alphabetical order accompanied by a poem. JUST published, it's already a A Children's Book Council Hot Off the Press Selection!

Here's mine in this beautifully presented collection:

Thank you, Heidi, at my juicy little universe for hosting PF this week!

posted with lots of love and a little bit of brain fog by April Halprin Wayland