Tid Bits

Children’s author Cynthia Leitich Smith is back up and running on Blogger — phew!! — and her new baby Tantalize has hit the shelves! 

Visit her and take a peek at the fun interview we did together a couple of weeks ago, too.

The 11th Carnival of Children’s Literature is up at Mother Reader. My January piece on Empty Baskets is included, as is a lot of other rich reading.

Mary Lee, over at A Year in Reading took my utensil post from a few weeks ago and ran with it! She’s got egg slicers, chopsticks and whisks, oh my! 

There are also strong posts by both Mary Lee and Franki on the whole Newbery issue. (I especially love, “Teaching is not for sissies!”)

What took my little family so long to plunge into the world of BabyMouse?
Elder daughter read this graphic-novel-for-girls three times within the first week, each time with more vivid expression and hilarity! 

I’ve never totally understood the format, which probably qualifies me as a square, but my husband is a major TinTin fan and I think I may become a convert now that we’re all up in arms about Felicia Furrypaws over here. 

All for now…

Poetry Friday — Mary Oliver

And speaking of “noticers”, a belated Valentine goes out to Mary Oliver – 
beloved poet, queen of noticing.

Oliver sees “great hands of light…” and “clear pebbles of rain…” and “the broken cupboard of the clam…”
She asks, “How does any of us live in this world?”
She asks, “What is the name of the deep breath I would take over and over for all of us?”
She asks the fire to “put on its red hat and sing …”
Her poems pay attention to mushrooms and geese and the tongues of toads, to music and to stars. 

They behold, she beholds:

How blue is the sea, how blue is the sky,
how blue and tiny and redeemable everything is, even you…

The Noticers

Yesterday, the mail brought a packet of appreciations from 50-some kindergartners I visited with recently. We’d spent a morning reading A Sock is a Pocket and exploring my Writer’s Vest, (a.k.a. khaki fishing vest stuffed with pens, shells, tea bags and other little trappings of the trade).
Each time I share this book, there’s a moment when kids get it, the whole pocket-metaphor thing. And when they do, they practically have to sit on their hands to keep from levitating with ideas.
I love when that happens, partly because that’s how the writing of this manuscript was for me. Once the concept stuck in my craw, I could not look at socks or bowls or caves or breaths in the same old way. Everything became a vessel for something else. I swear to you, it’s an addictive little game, kind of like UNO only you don’t need a deck of cards.
One of the teachers, whose note accompanied the childrens’ yesterday, wrote, “They could not stop thinking about pockets all day!” She added a half-smiley face and a “thank you” tinged with tiredness and the teensiest bit of irony, like I’d introduced them to pure-sugar pixie sticks or something.
But really, there is nothing more gratifying than when kids are at their most uninhibited – both energized and attentive – so completely connected to their experience that you can almost see new synapses being clicked on.
I think it is this wakefulness that we’re most afraid of losing to standardization – and rightly so. Kids need to be players, co-creators, in their own learning. And when they are, they come up with gems like these:
Your body is a pocket for your bones.
A tree is a pocket for a scared cat.
The past is a pocket for a dragon.
Fresh, vivid metaphor. From kindergartners, mind you.
There’s been an awful lot of discussion in this country lately about who are the “deciders.” But it seems to me there is something more fundamental than decision-making. First, there is awareness, perception, taking note. Before any dotted lines are signed or buttons pushed, there is (there should be) a time for absorption, for paying very close attention

I’m making it a habit to ask kids like these kindergartners to be good “noticers,” because I think if they are – if we all are – the decision-making will become a little more organic, a little more intuitive, a little more right.


Cynsations Displaced

In a dark cyber-twist on things, KidLit champion Cynthia Leitich Smith has been blocked out of blogger right before the debut of her new novel Tantalize hits the shelves. Is that a bum rap, or what? 

For those of you who like to keep up on all her news, views and interviews, she’s currently “guest blogging” at Greg Leitich Smith’s site

which is syndicated for Live Journal at

Today, there’s a good interview up with Marian Hale, author of the new Dark Water Rising (Henry Holt, 2006). 
I like what she says about the importance of loving what you do, even the revision parts:

Look at each revision as another chance to bring more clarity, to make some part of your story touch your reader more deeply and hopefully linger long after your book is back on the shelf.”

Makes it all seem like less of a slog when you put it that way, doesn’t it?

Poetry Friday: Skipping Rope

This morning I picked up a new jump-rope for my youngest, as a birthday surprise.
She turns six in just a few days, which makes her old enough to skip, hop and jump; count past 100 ; and rhyme in time. All of which makes me trip over the lump in my throat.
There’s just something about six that is so… kid-like. Y’know?
She moves around these days in a mighty body. She plunks her feet on her handlebars and steers her bike downhill. She performs acrobats on her bunkbed ladder. At school, her only disappointment is when a swing isn’t available at recess.
Meanwhile, clever witticisms burst forth like little exhales. Her dad and sister and I are her happy, captive audience and granted, we’re biased, but she’s funny!
Thus, the jump-rope – the perfect synthesis of physical vigor and brainy vim.
Here are a few skipping rope rhymes to get her started. She can make up the rest herself. Sigh.
Red hot pepper 
in the pot –
gotta get over 
what the leader’s got.
10… 20… 30… 40 …..
Two little dickie birds sittin’ on the wall
One named Peter, one named Paul
Fly away, Peter, fly away, Paul
Don’t you come back ’till your birthday’s called 
Fly away, fly away, fly away all.
Raspberry, strawberry, apple jam tart.
Tell me the name of your sweet heart.
A… B… C…
Ice-cream soda, lemonade punch.
What is the name of your honeybunch?
A… B… C…
I might just have to give that rope a whirl myself. 
See if I can get all the way to W, in honor of the birthday girl. 
Happy Birthday, Honeybunch.