Linda Kulp Trout

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Poetry Friday

The Wise Woman and Her Secret

Schools were closed for two days this week due to snow and ice. I love these days because everything slows down. With the hectic schedules we all keep, it's a gift to have time to sit, look out the window and enjoy the view.

The brilliant poet, Eve Merriam, knew how important it is to take time to look closely at the world around us. In her book, The Wise Woman and Her Secret, she teaches us to do just that.

The story tells about a woman who was so wise, people from many villages to learn her secret. They believed that if the woman would reveal the secret of her wisdom, they would gain great fortunes. But, the wise woman tells them they must discover it for themselves. They begin their search but to no avail.

Little Jenny lags behind picking up pebbles, gazing at a spiderweb, and examining a tarnished penny. The others have no time for such things as they frantically continue their search. Only Jenny will find the wise woman's secret.

Eve Merriam's use of sensory language and literary elements (alliteration, simile, repetition, etc.) makes this book a great choice for teachers who use picture books to teach writing. There are so many wonderful images, a few of my favorite images include:
"Her eyes were bright as blackberries..."

"...dark hair that was streaked with white like patches of snow on the muddy spring ground."

"...they climbed and they clambered..."

"branches flowering and floating in summer..."

Linda Graves' enchanting illustrations paired with Eve Merriman's wonderful story makes Wise Woman and Her Secret a book readers of all ages will enjoy.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Street Love: A Review

Street Love is an emotion-packed YA novel. One of the main characters, Damien seems to have it made. He makes good grades, has avoided the lure of joining a gang, and has been accepted to Brown University. His parents have high hopes for his future.

Junice isn't so lucky. Her mother has just been sent to prision for drug possession, and her father has been out of the picture for a long time. Junice is worried that she and her little sister, Melissa, will be separated by the system. She is determined to break free from the world of her mother and grandmother.

Damien finds Junice irresistible. She is unlike anyone he has ever known. Junice is much more guarded with her heart, but eventually allows herself to fall in love. Their love must overcome seemingly impossible obstacles, and each one of them will have to make sacrifices if they are to have a life together.

The story is left open-ended. Will their love survive, or will Damien and Junice have a change of heart?

Steet Love has a very Shakespearean feel about it. In an essay about the novel, Myers said he originally wrote the entire novel in iambic pentameter and later added some rap elements to emulate adolescent street language. One thing I especially liked was the way each character's distintive voice came through. Damien's intelligence is shown in his use of Latin phrases; his friend Kevin speaks in more of a rap. Junice's voice is tough and street-wise.

My favorite verse is spoken by Ruby, Junice's grandmother who floats in and out of reality. Life hasn't been easy for Ruby. Hers' is the voice of the blues. Here's an excerpt

Ruby Ambers

Yeah, it's hard. baby
It's hard right down to the bone,
I said, Oh, it's hard baby
It's right down to the very bone
It's hard when you're a woman
and you find yourself all alone
I've been flapping and scrapping
And running from door to door
You know I've been flapping and scrapping, honey
Running from door to door
I ain't what I used to be, ain't really Miss Ruby

I recommend Street Love for high school and up.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Poetry Friday: Two Great Reads

Grow: A Novel in Verse

The events are told from twelve year old Kate's point of view, but Berneetha's determination to turn a vacant city lot into a community garden drives the plot.

One spring morning, Berneetha arrives at Kate’s house “looking like the Fourth of July” with her blue bandana, red hair, and white T-shirt. She is a big woman with a big dream.

Everyone thinks Berneetha is just a crazy lady with a purple house and thirteen cats. Even Kate isn’t convinced the garden is a good idea, but she loves Berneetha and agrees to help. Then Harlan, “a Gangsta wannabe” decides to join them. Each day, people pass by and watch as two misfit kids and an eccentric middle-aged lady work together to grow something beautiful. As the garden grows, so does Kate.

“I read that weeds
can be anything,
even beautiful flowers,
or beans growing in cornfields.
A weed is anything growing
where you don’t want it to grow.”

I enjoyed reading this quiet little book. The plot is predictable, but the lively characterization, poetic language, strong voice, and emotional twists make it a worthy read.

This would be an excellent book for teaching students to write a character sketch.
Although Berneetha is the most developed character, Kate and Harlan are dynamic characters students can relate to.

GROW by Juanita Havill is a quick read that I recommend for upper elementary students through adult.

Pizza, Pigs, and Poetry

As a writing teacher, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard my students say,” I don’t know what to write about.” Thanks to Jack Prelutsky’s new book, Pizza, Pigs, and Poetry, I have an answer.

If you haven’t read this book, you’re really missing out. Jack takes readers inside his head and shows how he uses ordinary, everyday experiences to create his poems. I loved reading his personal narratives about: his mother’s awful singing, the day he tacked his father’s underwear to the wall, finding a rat under his table at a restaurant, and many other hilarious experiences he has used to spark poems.

Another feature I like in the book, is that Jack explains how he often writes about the same topics (pigs, pizza, etc.) again and again. Many young writers feel that once they’ve written about a topic, they’re finished with it. Jack shows kids that many poems (or stories) can be written about the same topic.

Like Jack’s poetry, this book is light and fun. I plan to use it in my classroom to help kids discover that they really do have lots of good ideas waiting to be written.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Poetry Friday

We have been having a wintery mix here today. I stood outside looking at icicles hanging from the tree limbs, and there almost hidden among the branches was a tiny nest, empty and silent. Although the trees looked beautiful, I couldn't help wishing for spring.

this empty gray nest
once home to the sparrows' song
silently sleeps
cradled in winter's branches
awaits the music of spring

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Passing of the Year

I read poetry written for children every day. I want to read more poems aimed at an adult audience so I decided to make it one of my goals this year.

Until recently, the only Robert Service poem I knew was The Cremation of Sam McGee. As I searched for a poem for today's Poetry Friday, I found this one. I'm glad I did because it led me to read other fine poems by Service.

Do you see anyone you know in this poem?

The Passing of the Year
Robert W. Service

My glass is filled, my pipe is lit,
My den is all a cosy glow;
And snug before the fire I sit,
And wait to feel the old year go.
I dedicate to solemn thought
Amid my too-unthinking days,
This sober moment, sadly fraught
With much of blame, with little praise.

Old Year! upon the Stage of Time
You stand to bow your last adieu;
A moment, and the prompter's chime
Will ring the curtain down on you.
Your mien is sad, your step is slow;
You falter as a Sage in pain;
Yet turn, Old Year, before you go,
And face your audience again.

That sphinx-like face, remote, austere,
Let us all read, whate'er the cost:
O Maiden! why that bitter tear?
Is it for dear one you have lost?
Is it for fond illusion gone?
For trusted lover proved untrue?
O sweet girl-face, so sad, so wan
What hath the Old Year meant to you?

And you, O neighbour on my right
So sleek, so prosperously clad!
What see you in that aged wight
That makes your smile so gay and glad?
What opportunity unmissed?
What golden gain, what pride of place?
What splendid hope? O Optimist!
What read you in that withered face?

And You, deep shrinking in the gloom,
What find you in that filmy gaze?
What menace of a tragic doom?
What dark, condemning yesterdays?
What urge to crime, what evil done?
What cold, confronting shape of fear?
O haggard, haunted, hidden One
What see you in the dying year?

Read the rest of the poem here.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Explore. Dream. Discover.

Tomorrow is my birthday. Having a birthday at the same time a new year begins has its advantages. It's the perfect time to reflect on who I am and what I want my life to be. I'm not much of a risk taker, and change doesn't come easy for me. But life is all about change, and we have to take risks in order to stretch and grow. So as I hang the new calendar, make a wish and blow out the candles, I'm ready for another chance to do better than I did the year before. Another chance to find a balance between the things I must do and the things I dream of doing.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” -Mark Twain