Thursday, April 19, 2018

#PoetryBreak: How It Will Happen, When

Rob with our dog, Max. 

How It Will Happen, When
Dorianne Laux
There you are, exhausted from a night of crying, curled up on the couch,
the floor, at the foot of the bed, anywhere you fall you fall down crying,
half amazed at what the body is capable of, not believing you can cry
anymore. And there they are, his socks, his shirt, your underwear
and your winter gloves, all in a loose pile next to the bathroom door,
and you fall down again. Someday, years from now, things will be
different, the house clean for once, everything in its place, windows
shining, sun coming in easily now, sliding across the high shine of wax
on the wood floor. You’ll be peeling an orange or watching a bird
spring from the edge of the rooftop next door, noticing how,
for an instant, its body is stopped on the air, only a moment before
gathering the will to fly into the ruff at its wings and then doing it:
flying. You’ll be reading, and for a moment there will be a word
you don’t understand, a simple word like now or what or is
and you’ll ponder over it like a child discovering language.
Is you’ll say over and over until it begins to make sense, and that’s
when you’ll say it, for the first time, out loud: He’s dead. He’s not
coming back. And it will be the first time you believe it.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

10 New Picture Books That Made Me Smile (and Think)

Bruchac, Joseph. (2018). Chester Nez and the Unbreakable Code: A Navajo Code Talker's Story. Illustrated by Liz Amini-Holmes. Morton Grove, IL: Albert Whitman & Company. (Starred Kirkus review).

History is often hard to address largely because it is not one tone. Joseph Bruchac knows this. In his newest picture book biography, Bruchac tells a full story of how a Navajo boy forced to attend a boarding school learns that the language of home was not to be tolerated. He goes on to become an American hero who uses that first language during World War II to code classified messages and how his wartime experiences haunted him.  The illustrations are by Liz Amini-Holmes, an artist whose works I admire greatly. You can see more of her work here

On the Other Side of the Garden

Buitrago, Jairo. (2018). On the Other Side of the Garden. Illustrated by Rafael Yockteng. Translated from Spanish by Elisa Amado.Toronto, ON:  Groundwood Books.

Not your usual picture book. But then if you have read any of Jairo Buitrago's other books your know that already. I love how Isabel, the teller of this story, is able to let go of sorrow as she answers the call of an owl, a frog, and a mouse. Isabel reminds me that it isn't simply time that heals the heart. It's also curiosity. Rafael Yockteng's digital illustrations offer only a small bit of color set against the largely cadet blue tone. But those bits of color pop.

illustration by Rafael Yockteng from On the Other Side of the Garden.

Díaz, Junot. (2018).  Islandborn. Illustrated by Leo Espinosa. New York: Dial Books.

I loved Junot Díaz's books and short stories and couldn't wait until his debut picture book was published. It is a grand story. Like Lola, I came to America as an infant leaving my island (Ireland) behind before I could store memories.   Leo Espinosa's paintings are artful. I love how the illustrations suggest, rather than tell. This book is a jewel: story and images. Read it.

from Lola: Edición en español de ISLANDBORN.
Also available in Spanish: Lola: Edición en español de ISLANDBORN.

Image result for the street beneath my feet charlotte guillain
from The Street Beneath My Feet

Guillain, Charlotte. (2017). The Street Beneath My Feet. Illustrated by Yuval Zommer. Lake Forest, CA: words & pictures.

I poured over this book when I received it enjoying the journey to the center of the earth and back.  A visual treat and a fascinating look at what is beneath our feet.

The Funeral

James, Matt. (2018). The Funeral. Toronto, ON: Groundwood Books. (Starred Reviews by Kirkus, Booklist, School Library Journal & Publisher's Weekly)

I was a child when my grandmother died, not too young to not understand and yet still excited to see cousins and family. This story reminded me so much of the mixed feelings I had at that time.

from The Funeral

Light, Steve. (2018). Black Bird Yellow Sun. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.

The entire time I read this I was thinking of Wallace Stevens and how he would have loved this board book. Bold. Bold. Bold.

from The Word Collector

Reynolds, Peter H. (2018). The Word Collector. New York: Orchard Books.

Like Jerome, I have been collecting words most of my life, "stringing words together. Words" I had "not imagined being, side by side." If you love words and the many novel ways we join and unjoin words, this will be a treat.

Stein, David Ezra. (2018). Honey. New York: Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Books. (Starred Reviews by School Library Journal)

This is such a sweet story and I loved the jubilance that Bear has for honey. The illustrations give definition to the word, joy. Makes me wish that my 19-year-old son was 5 again.

Groundwood Logos Spine

from They Say Blue

Tamaki, Jillian. (2018). They Say Blue. Toronto, ON: Groundwood Books. (Starred Reviews by Booklist, School Library Journal & Publisher's Weekly)

Like the girl in this story, I too weigh what I have been told against what I observe. This picturebook is a celebration of color and the surreal.  Any book that begins and ends with crows is a book for me. Loved it.

from Thunder Underground

Yolen, Jane. (2018). Thunder Underground.  Illustrated by Josée Masse. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong.  (Starred Reviews by Kirkus & Publisher's Weekly)

21 poems about things that are under (I'd pair this with The Street Beneath My Feet). The poems (especially first and last) made me think well beyond the page.  My favorite poem was "Seeds." I love the brevity of it and how it connects writing and the shift from winter to spring. Just lovely. The mixed media illustrations work well against the poems.

Friday, April 13, 2018

8 Children's Picture Books about the Japanese Internment

Write to Me: Letters from Japanese American Children to the Librarian They Left Behind

Grady, Cyntyhia. (2018). Write to Me: Letters from Japanese American Children to the Librarian They Left Behind. Illustrated by Amiko Hirao. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge. (32 pp)

A Place Where Sunflowers Grow (English and Japanese Edition)

Lee-Tai, Amy. (2012). A Place Where Sunflowers Grow. Illustrated by Felicia Hoshino.  New York: Lee & Low Books. (Note: Book is a bilingual edition in English and Japanese730L, 32 pp)

Barbed Wire Baseball: How One Man Brought Hope to the Japanese Internment Camps of WWII

Moss, Marissa. (2016). Barbed Wire Baseball: How One Man Brought Hope to the Japanese Internment Camps of WWII. Illustrated by Yuko Shimizu. New York: Abrams Books for Young Readers. (800L, 48 pp.)

from Baseball Saved Us

Mochizuki, Ken. (1995). Baseball Saved Us. Illustrated by Don Lee. New York: Lee & Low Books. (550L. 30 pp.)


Mochizuki, Ken. (1995). El béisbol nos salvó. Illustrated by Don Lee. New York: Lee & Low Books. (550L, 32 pp.)

from Flowers From Mariko.

Noguchi, Rick  & Deneen Jenks. (2001). Flowers From Mariko. Illustrated by Michelle Reiko Kumata. New York: Lee & Low.  (32 pp. Level O Guided Reading)

Shigekawa, Marlene. (1993). Blue Jay in the Desert. Illustrated by Isao Kikuchi. Chicago, IL: Polychrome Publishing. (36 pp.)

The Bracelet

Uchida, Yoshiko. (1996). The Bracelet. Illustrated by Joanna Yardley. New York: Pufflin Books.  (710L) (32 pp)
Fish for Jimmy: Inspired by One Family's Experience in a Japanese American Internment Camp

Yamasaki, Katie. (2013). Fish for Jimmy: Inspired by One Family's Experience in a Japanese American Internment Camp. New York: Holiday House. (880L) (32 pp)

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

#PoetryBreak: won't you celebrate with me

Prayer (M.A. Reilly)

won't you celebrate with me

 - Lucille Clifton
won't you celebrate with me
what I have shaped into
a kind of life? I had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did I see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

Monday, April 9, 2018

#PoetryBreak: Bees

Woman with Bokeh (M.A. Reilly)


If not being (something)
is the same as being,

then I will live forever.
Round shadow inside
the sunflower’s


If I lived forever
would the present’s noose

be looser?

Moon shadow
made of angry bees,

confined. Come in.
Source: Poetry (June 2016)

Sunday, April 8, 2018


Windows in Plastic (M.A. Reilly)


by Dan Kraines

Finally, the winter subsides and the river melts
or, almost—snowing in April,
I could always drug myself, I know 
that would make the weeks a drift, 
instead of swaying between Mars and the moon,
days waiting for the end of days, mornings
spent in bed—the drill 
of the depressive who hates the sun
(but needs its light). Am I the billiard ball
spinning without contact straight
sunk into a pocket? The whole bar 
quiets. Pinned inside of a booth, 
against the wall, I’m screaming 
within myself, the snow
falling, thickly, whitening as it melts.

Published in Two Peach, an online Literary Magazine.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

#poetrybreak: Night of Voyeurs by Stuart Dybek

Voyeur (M.A. Reilly)

Night of Voyeurs

by Stuart Dybek
It’s more than silhouettes tonight,
every window in the city lit,
shades lifted, curtains open.
As one suspected, the dark buildings
full of lovers, undressing
beneath light bulbs, before mirrors.
Men & women, men & men, women & women, embracing.
Even the loners visible, flickered
by single candles, touching
places they’ve usually chosen to keep secret.
So much nakedness!
And the streets empty
except for the newsboys moving through shadows,
leafless trees snatching underclothes
out of wind, the El clattering
above the roofs
like a strip of blue movie.