Late Spring & Early Summer Reading

Well, I finally updated my reading log and was surprised how long it has been since I last did so.

These few months have included some great reads.

First of all, I’ve been doing a reread of Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief series, starting with (what else?), The Thief. I have now read through The King of Attolia and am chomping at the bit to get some stuff out of the way so I can reach the bookshelf where sits the next book. I knew I loved this series, but I had forgotten just how excellent it is. The main character is skilled, unpredictable, and so very human! I will not say more.

Coincidentally, well not really coincidentally, I ‘ve read two books by Gillian Bradshaw and loved them both: Horses of Heaven and Render Unto Caesar. The first is set in the farthest eastern reaches of Alexander the Great’s empire shortly after his death and the other in Rome shortly after it became an empire. Both were fascinating. The plots and main characters were completely different from each other, and yet both novels were hard to put down.

So get thee to the library, and fast! (These aren’t the newest books.) Then crawl into a lovely, horrifying, richly exotic time capsule and read to your heart’s delight.

Philip Reeve’s Here Lies Arthur: A Story about Stories

Yesterday I finished reading Philip Reeve’s Here Lies Arthur.

I wasn’t sure when I started reading this novel that I would finish it. (Yes, I have finally learned to stop reading books I am not enjoying.) The portrayal of Arthur is very different than what one usually encounters, and I love that traditional image of a noble Arthur. However the main character, Gwyna, was interesting and Reeve’s crafting of descriptions quite intriguing, so I stuck with it. Here, for example, is a description of a setting:

“I remembered a villa in the hills, a Roman-ish place with…plump red cattle grazing the pastureland. Gorse popping in the sunshine as we rode to it along a white track, dust clouding from our horses’ hooves like smoke, and a hawk pinned on the sky high up.”

That hawk, pinned on the sky is one of many captivating images. What was not captivating was Reeve’s tendency to spread items of a series that should be separated by commas in one sentence out into a string of sentence fragments instead. It was clearly not done to create a singular effect, but rather his style throughout the novel.

When writing about Gwyna’s experiences in first person point of view, the tale is gripping. However, when Reeve shifts to Gwyna describing what has happened during scenes where she was not present, I found the narration jarring and a bit awkward.

What really grabbed me and kept me reading was Gwyna’s experiences and the thread that wove from the beginning of the novel to end. The title may say this is a book about King Arthur, but in truth it is a story about stories–how stories can color reality, refashion history, comfort, inspire, and enchant. Myrddin is the grand story weaver, but Gwyna proves herself a deft apprentice who would make her master proud.

Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve: A Story about Stories

My Best Christmas Read, So Far, December 2020

Every December I love to read some Christmas novels. Last night I just finished my favorite so far, No Room at the Inn by Melody Carlson. This was a novella with fun characters, plenty of Christmas chaos, and a beautiful theme. If you’re looking for something to read in this last week or so before, Christmas, I would highly recommend it.

My Best Christmas Read, So Far, December 2020

My Favorite Reads from May 2020: Let Yourself Read

My Favorite Reads from May 2020, Hello Friends!

While I continue to experience cancer treatment exhaustion, I’ve learned a good lesson in coming to terms with the depression this was causing: let yourself read. While I at last surrendered to this good idea in April, I’ve read some particularly enjoyable books in May.

Here are my three favorite books read this month. (I enjoyed them nearly equally so I’ll just present them alphabetically by author):

The Thorn and the Blossom by Theodora Goss

One of My Favorite Reads from May 2020; Debby Zigenis Lowery's Literate LivesOne enchanting romance. Two lovers keeping secrets. And a uniquely crafted book that binds their stories forever.

When Evelyn Morgan walked into the village bookstore, she didn’t know she would meet the love of her life. When Brendan Thorne handed her a medieval romance, he didn’t know it would change the course of his future. It was almost as if they were the cursed lovers in the old book itself . . .

The Thorn and the Blossom is a remarkable literary artifact: You can open the book in either direction to decide whether you’ll first read Brendan’s, or Evelyn’s account of the mysterious love affair. Choose a side, read it like a regular novel – and when you get to the end, you’ll find yourself at an all new beginning (From Goss’s website)

Convergence: Book One of The Blending by Sharon Green

One of My Favorite Reads from May 2020; Debby Zigenis Lowery's Literate Lives

Lorand is of Earth, a simple farmer called to the city. Tamrissa is Fire, sacrificing her home to escape an undesired marriage. Clarion is Air, an aristocrat flying free for the very first time, Spirit is the talent of Jovvi, the beautiful, sensous, and knowing ex-courtesan. And Vallant is Water, a sailor who aches to return to the sea.

As one, they must stand against the odious treachery of past masters–and confront a fearson depravity that hungers for their world. As one they must triumph…or as one they die (From paperback Convergence‘s back cover).

Sisters of Glass by Stephanie Hemphill

One of My Favorite Reads from May 2020; Debby Zigenis Lowery's Literate LivesMaria is the younger daughter of an esteemed family on the island of Murano, the traditional home for Venetian glassmakers. Though she longs to be a glassblower herself, glassblowing is not for daughters—that is her brother’s work. Maria has only one duty to perform for her family: before her father died, he insisted that she be married into the nobility, even though her older sister, Giovanna, should rightfully have that role. Not only is Giovanna older, she’s prettier, more graceful, and everyone loves her.
Maria would like nothing more than to allow her beautiful sister, who is far more able and willing to attract a noble husband, to take over this role for her. But they cannot circumvent their father’s wishes. And when a new young glassblower arrives to help the family business and Maria finds herself drawn to him, the web of conflicting emotions grows even more tangled (From the Penguin Random House website).
This third book is a teen/YA novel in verse, beautifully executed. It’s going on my book gift list for one of my granddaughters (Shh! don’t tell).
Unleashing the power of enjoyable reading to include daytime hours as well as evening was defintitely a turning point in pulling me out of depression back into a feeling of patience and peace (P.S. receiving my second-to-the-last maintenance treatment was icing on the cake. One more to go in July.)
Your Turn
Reading for pleasure is a critical part of a literate lifestyle. What books have you enjoyed recently? Please share in the comment box below. Let’s encourage one another!
*Title Image: Pixaby, https://pixabay.com/photos/food-drink-desktop-fruit-3121970/

Resources for Reading and Language Arts Learning in the Home

Resources for Reading and Language Arts Learning in the Home, https://literatelives.wordpress.com/Do you need resources to support your students’ or children’s literacy learning at home?

I know it’s a little late in the “Quarantine” to be posting this, however as I am still undergoing cancer maintenance treatment, my personal quarantine has been long-lasting. (I’ve been sick or being treated and recovering from that for nine months now with very little break between the clearing up of one issue and the onset of the next.) However, as I am at last experiencing a break in my long string of illnesses, I thought I’d get this up at last.

Reading and Language Arts Learning Resources:

Play With your Words Writing Prompts: let’s play with our words. Treat yourself to some time to sit down and write. Have fun with it. Invite your family (or class) to join you and share your results with each other. Not only will you continue to build your reading and writing skills, but you’ll learn new things about each other and bond as a family (or class) that writes together.

Reading Response Exercises: short prompts to help deepen students’ reading comprehension skills. Initially ntended to be done as written assignments these can also be used as discussion starters. Have fun talking about books!

Teacher’s File Drawer: here you will find some favorite Reading and Language Arts lessons and units I developed for my own students, scoring guidelines included in some.

While this is a trying time for everyone, I hope these resources provide you with some shared Reading and Language Arts fun.

Your Turn

What are some practices you have enjoyed using to nurture the literacy of students’ at home. Please share in the comment box below. Let’s encourage one another!

Beauty…

Beauty…Literate Lives.wordpress.com

Today I have been typing in quotes that I flagged from a variety of books. I came upon this one from C.S. Lewis, and it hit me again so powerfully, like the first time I read and flagged it, that I had to share it.

Here it is:

We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words—to be united with beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become a part of it. That is why we have peopled air and earth and water with gods and goddesses, and nymphs and elves—that, though we cannot, yet these projections can enjoy in themselves that beauty, grace, and power of which Nature is the image. That is why the poets tell us such lovely falsehoods. They talk as if the west wind could really sweep into a human soul; but it can’t. They tell us that “beauty born of murmuring sound” will pass into a human face, but it won’t. Or not yet. For if we take the imagery of Scripture seriously, if we believe that God will one day give us the Morning Star and cause us to put on the splendor of the sun, then we must surmise that both the ancient myths and modern poetry, so false as history, may be very near the truth as prophecy. At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the spendors we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumor that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in.                                                                                C.S. Lewis from The Weight of Glory

That is exactly how beauty hits me—the natural beauty of the world, or the beauty of a book, poem, painting, movie… It fills me with an ache to be a part of it, and to create something of beauty in response. It is what drives me to write. I have not worked on a daily basis, or even on a weekdays-only basis on my fiction and poetry for a very long time. I plan to once again resume the practice (hopefully blogging, as well) this fall.

Perhaps it would be a good idea to place this quote in my workspace.

Your Turn

Inspiration is a critical part of both a literate and creative lifestyle. What inspires you to do the literate or creative work that you do? Please share your thoughts in the comments box. Let’s encourage one another!

 

Dear Readers…

Confession time…

It is probably obvious that I have been struggling with blogging over the last few years.

Near full-time teaching (up until last June), combined with my own and family illnesses, a son’s near fatal injury, and my father’s death finally culminated in a diagnosis of Follicular Lymphoma last spring, March 2018.

Bad News, Good News

Of course the bad news of having cancer was that I have cancer.

However, the good news was that follicular lymphoma is one of the most survivable forms of cancer and, with treatment, most patients die of other causes.

The other good news was that my husband and I agreed it was time for me to retire from full-time work. Those of you who know me well, know I have been writing novels and short stories my entire adult life; I even got a few stories published with Cricket Magazine and a few other publishers of short works. Now, I thought, I can finish my novels and embark on an expanded writing career.

Nope

Crash! Through the late summer, fall, and winter, sinus infection followed sinus infection, cold followed cold, and asthma attack followed asthma attack. I felt so tired and discouraged, I both lacked the energy and didn’t trust myself to write a word of fiction, my first love.

Reading, Writing, & Counseling Changed My Life

Fortunately, our health plan covers counseling as part of its cancer treatment program. I cried and cried and cried through the first few appointments. I will spare you the gory details.

I talked about my life ranging from when I was a very small child to the present. Exasperated with myself for not just focusing on the cancer and how it was impacting my life here and now, I asked my wonderful counselor is this was normal. Do cancer patients often talk about their whole lives? It turns out we often do. Facing mortality, heck, just facing the big C stirs up a lot of stuff.

My counselor encouraged me to keep a hand-written journal (something I haven’t done in a very long time; I switched to digital journaling about the time I started this blog), so I did as instructed.

I researched articles about what I was feeling and experiencing, in an effort to understand myself—who I was and who I am becoming. Slowly the all the bits and pieces of my struggles started to fit into place.

Hope Reborn

Through this process I am beginning to reconnect to the creative person I have always been, but who has felt buried by the “slings and arrows of life” and my very own coping strategies for dealing with them.

I have been thinking about how these changes will impact Literate Lives. I confess, I have seriously considered shuttering it completely. However, as I heal both emotionally and physically I find I do not want to.

What I do want to do is connect more authentically and less “professionally.” Being a professional teacher has dominated my life for twenty years, and I am realizing, now I am retired from teaching, that this no longer needs to be so.

Yes, I will still blog on Reading and Language Arts topics. I am passionate about helping parents and teachers to nurturing young people’s love of reading and writing. However, it is likely these will share more of the stage with posts on the creative, inspiring, and fulfilling aspects of a reading, writing, and journaling life. (You will find the same mix on my Facebook page: Debby Zigenis-Lowery, Author.)

And, oh yes, I have finally got back to work on that novel I was trying to complete in the fall. I finished drafting the last chapter last month. Now, on to revision and editing.

My blog posts may not flow as regularly as they once did, but even when I’m not posting, I am thinking about you, my readers, making notes, and dreaming of where I will take us in the future.

Thank you for not giving up on me!

Your Turn

Reading and writing, creativity and inspiration will always be critical parts of my literate lifestyle. In the comment box below, please consider sharing the role they play in your life. Is this role evolving? How? Let’s encourage one another!

Happy National Poetry Month! Enjoy These Resources


Happy National Poetry Month! Enjoy These Resources: Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate Lives
This month I have dipped into the archives to gather the poetry prompts I have provided over the years. Whether you are a teacher, poet, or journal writer, enjoy these prompts. For the seasonal ones, like the first, you may need to make some independent choices. Be creative. Have fun. Rock your words!

autumn-metaphor-poemPlay With Your Words: An Autumn Metaphor Poem

Teachers and students alike are back in the classroom. No matter what grade level, literary devices are probably being taught or reviewed. Some key ones include metaphor and the use of sensory details. Craft this autumn metaphor poem to exercise these skills and capture the essence of autumn.

Farewell ’15: Write a Poem of Remembrance

Just think of a moment–this week, this month, maybe this season–that you’d like to hang onto. Your poem doesn’t have to rhyme or have a beat. However, if you love rhyme schemes and meter–play away!

“aab…” Poetry Mystery Form–Try It!

The basic unit of the form is a stanza consisting of a couplet (two rhyming lines) followed by a single unrhymed line.

Tree BlossomApril is National Poetry Month–A New Haiku

The Wonders of Haiku and what you may or may not already know about the form.

Play With Your Words: Three Minute Poems

Savor the turning of the season. Go outside. Write three three-minute poems.

130001114Vacation Poetry Inspiration: Mount Rainier National Park

I have just returned from a trip to Mount Rainier where every experience was fodder for a poem. If you are a writer, or you want to encourage your children’s literacy skills, take pen or pencil and notebooks on vacation and pause to write. Try these easy poetry forms: haiku, list poem, or concrete poem.

wooded path 7.13My Most Visited Writing Prompt Ever: The Essence of Summer Poetry Haiku

The graduation ceremonies are winding down, I haven’t had to wear socks for weeks, and this next Friday will be the last day of school. Go somewhere you love, soon, and write some summer haiku’s.

Write Your Life—In Short Form

I have recently adopted a short form of journaling—the haiku. Capture some snapshots of your life.

Who am I? Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt

It’s the beginning of another school year—time to get to know your students and to warm them up to writing by having them write about themselves. Thus, the “Who am I?” poem, a poetry template that uses the list poem format to write a description of self. Using the template, write your poem leaving one line of space between each stanza. Revise, edit, and share.

The Essence of Summer: Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt

Capture the essence of summer’s outdoor world by writing a haiku. Think about several of your outdoor experiences this summer. Choose an image to focus on in you haiku. The most simplistic American haiku form is the 5-7-5 pattern, but You can choose to vary your syllables and their spread over the three lines or reduce your haiku to the least number of syllables possible without losing its meaning.

The Essence of Summer: Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt Revisited

I found just the right words for summer at Mom’s, and even words for reentry into daily life when I got home. I’ll share them. Then, review the steps for the Essence of Summer haiku and write your memories or farewells to this sweet season, or perhaps your welcome to the new school year and fall. Includes, “Mom’s Hummingbird Feeder,” “Pinecrest,” and “Reentry.”

A Day in the Life…Narrative Play With Your Words Writing Prompt

Write a story, from the point-of-view of a possession you carry with you every day. Give your possession its own style. Have fun with this prompt.

Warning!!! Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt

Write a poem that both honors the spirit of summer and includes a health or safety warning. Have fun with it. If you’d like, make a poster and upload it. I’ll make sure it appears here on the blog as well as on my Pinterest board.

Summer is Fig Lang ExerciseSummer is—Figuratively Speaking: Play With Your Words Writing Prompt

Practice using figurative language. Complete the pre-write exercise then write a richly descriptive paragraph using sensory imagery and figurative language to describe summer.

Summer Dreams and Plans: Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt

Write a poem about your dreams and plans for the summer. Post includes instructions for brainstorming, drafting, and revising, and links to information about free verse and sound effects in writing.

Poetic Advice not Taken: Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt

Write a poem based on A.E. Housman’s “When I was 0ne-and-twenty. Focus on word choice, the sound and fluency of the poem, and of course on the concept of advice not taken.

A Pair of Quatrains/Play With Your Words Writing Prompt

How is your day? Write a pair of quatrains describing your April 20, 2012.

Poem a Day Challenge: Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt

April is National Poetry Month and Writer’s Digest is running a “poem a day” challenge. Day 1’s assignment? Write a communication poem.

Write about Your Favorite Song: Play With Your Words Writing Prompt

Write a short essay explaining the meaning of your favorite song. Practice using quotation marks and proper punctuation while doing this. Punctuating quotes examples included.

A Pre-write for a Poem: Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt

When writing a poem about an object, feeling, or idea it is challenging to find something new to say. However, a little pre-writing can provide you with a list of vivid associations and images to draw on that will make your poem uniquely your own. Decide on a topic for your poem and then follow these steps.

Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt: Musical Muse

Musical Muse: Freewrite to instrumental music then go back over what you’ve written and highlight what you like best. Use the highlighted bits, and add to them if you wish, to write a poem. Revise your poem for sound and share. Optional preschool activity included.

Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt: Datebook Poem

Datebook Poem: Write a poem in the form of date book entries representing your goals, hopes and or dreams for the coming year.

Write a Current Event Poem/Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt

Write a Current Event Poem: Find an article in a newspaper, news magazine or  news website. Write a poem inspired by what you read.

 Inner Landscape Poem: Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt

Inner Landscape Poem: For this month’s poetry prompt, you are to write a poem that describes the landscape inside you—in your mind, your heart, your spirit. Use sensory details. Show how this landscape relates to who you are. Revise, edit, and share.

Self-Metaphor Poem: Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt

The Self-Metaphor Poem is a poem that describes the inner and outer you. The Self-Metaphor Poem is composed of two parts. The first part details who we are in the world, and the second part consists of an extended metaphor for the person you are inside. Here’s how to write one.

A Summer Metaphor Poem: Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt

Happiness is a Warm Puppy, by Charles Schultz, is an example of a book based on a collection of metaphors. Collect your own metaphors to write a “Summer is…” metaphor poem.Look for a pattern in your collection. Select items that go well together to create a “Summer is…” poem.

Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt: I Hear America Singing

Read Walt Whitman’s “I Hear America Singing.” Write a free verse or structured poem celebrating something you love about life in the United States of America.

Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt: A Snapshot from Your Future

Imagine a “perfect moment” this summer. Write a poem in the past tense describing it as though it has already happened.Mom and Marie Capitola Edited

Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt: “A Picture of My Mother”

Find a picture of your mom. List a bunch of words or phrases you associate with this photo. Use your list to write a poem.

Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt: What Is…? Poems

Learn how to write a “What is…?” Poem, and write a poem that only you can write. Web or brainstorm topics, web or brainstorm descriptions, and write your poem.

Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt: List Poems to Capture Your Life

Writing a list poem is a good way to process your life. How to write a list poem: Choose a topic; brainstorm ideas that relate to the topic; choose the ones you want to use in the poem; decide the order in which you wish to present them; write your poem.

Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt #8—Farewell Poem

Write a Farewell poem. Characteristics of a Farewell poem are: It is written as though its audience is the person, place, or thing the author is saying good-bye to. It is written as a means of saying good-bye, be it permanently or only for a time to the subject about whom it is written.

Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt: Free Verse

Write a free verse poem. Use sound effects of poetry and line breaks for poetic effect.

Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt: Patterned Poem

Write a poem that plays off the pattern of a poem or song you like. Use the built-in repetitions of the model poem or song to establish the organizational framework for your poem.

Play with Your Words! Poetry Prompt: Poetry Poker

To play poetry poker, you need to collect words, and build yourself a “deck” of words. Shuffle your deck, draw cards from it, and use the words you drew to craft a poem.

Play with Your Words! Poetry Prompt: Six-Pack Poem

Using observation, recall, and note taking, craft a Six Pack Poem.

Your Turn

Playing with your words is a fun and critical part of a literate lifestyle.

Do you have a favorite poetry prompt? If so, please share it in the comment box below? Have you tried one of these prompts? Feel free to share that as well.

Together we can both celebrate  National Poetry Month and create a great resource list for each other and those who find us.

Don’t be shy; let’s encourage one another!

Get Ready for a Celebration: April is National Poetry Month

Get Ready for a Celebration: April is National Poetry Month; https://literatelives.wordpress.com/

 

National Poetry Month is almost here, a time to celebrate the beauty, wonder, and wild exuberance of words and poetic forms both for reading pleasure and personal expression.

How might you enjoy National Poetry Month?

There are many ways to savor poetry this month. Your first stop might be your own bookshelves. What about that little volume on friendship your best pal gave you? How about those dusty textbooks from college? If a few years have intervened since your last reading, you might encounter something completely new and unexpected, or long beloved. (Shakespeare’s Sonnets, anyone?)

Consider an outing to the library. National Poetry Month is when volumes of poetry are often on display. Pick out a few that appeal to you. Sit down and sample some random pages. Check out one that “speaks” to your imagination, interests, or (dare-I-say) soul. And don’t forget the children’s section….

I will never forget the day my Mom discovered Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends. She was a volunteer in my little sister’s elementary school library and brought the book home with her. When my brother and I got home, she told us we had to listen and read us a poem. I don’t remember which it was because we spent the rest of the afternoon passing the book around, reading, and roaring with laughter. (And please note, Silverstein is not the only author of humorous poetry, nor is the children’s section the only place you will find it. Talk to your librarian.)

Speaking of children, if you have any of your own or perhaps nephews, nieces, pupils… read poetry aloud to and with them. Children’s poetry covers an amazing range of subjects, and if you love long fiction, you can even select a novel in verse. (I just finished a great one, Blue Birds by Caroline Starr Rose.)

Young children especially love the bounce and swing of rhythm and rhyme. Read to them either from a collection of poems, nursery rhymes, or a picture book written in verse. (My all-time favorite rhyming read-aloud is Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat; and whether it is written in prose or not, Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are is pure poetry.) Either format is sure to delight. When done, get silly and have fun coming up with rhyming words together. This kind of verbal play is great for building pre-reading skills.

Got teens? Got lyrics? Rap is not the only form of music that is poetry based. Share with each other favorite lyrics from songs—rock, blues, show tunes, even. (They, too, are great for telling a story; I fell in love with Arthurian legend on the basis of the soundtrack for Camelot that my parents bought after seeing the play.) You don’t even have to sing; savor the magic of the spoken words alone.

Copy down or memorize favorite poems. I often have difficulty falling asleep, and just yesterday I remembered how soothing are the rhythms of “Sweet and Low” by Alfred Lord Tennyson, and “Wynken Blynken and Nod” by Eugene Fields. Maybe this poetry month I’ll memorize one, or both, and recite them to myself as I’m seeking to drift off to sleep.

If you find a line you love, or even a whole poem, post it somewhere it can be appreciated. Thanks to sticky notes we’re not limited to refrigerators and bulletin boards. Or, gift little snippets of poetry to loved ones or friends.

And Write

Write poems. There is such a wide range of poetic forms to play with. You do not have to be a Shakespeare and write sonnets. You do not even have to write poems with meter or rhyme. Free verse is truly free. What matters with this form is the distillation of experience into well-chosen words. You steer your reader through the poem with your word choices, line lengths, line breaks, strategic repetition, and the echoes of well-placed rhyme or alliteration, and more. With free verse, even punctuation is up for grabs. (Remember e e cummings?)

Write a list poem, a letter poem, an observation of whatever you see outside your window.

Write a haiku, an acrostic, a limerick, and you musicians, write a song!

Write and share, and read and write some more. There is no more varied form with which to celebrate language and life than that of a poem.

(Note for teachers—here’s an oldie but goodie article from Edutopia: “Encouraging a Love of Poetry”)

How I’m going to celebrate National Poetry Month

I will continue my practice of capturing moments from my life in poetic forms. I love haiku, free verse, and the rhythm and rhyme of quatrains and couplets.

I may pull down the volume of Christina Rossetti I purchased because I love the Christmas song “In the Bleak Midwinter,” which is based one of her poems, and continue reading wherever I left off.

Also, I love the poetry of many hymns. Maybe, in addition to my personal “lullabies” I mentioned above, I will try to memorize all the verses of a few favorites starting with “Be Thou My Vision.”

And I hope to enjoy some read-alouds and giggles with my grands.

Your Turn

Poetry is one of the oldest forms of literature and an amazing means to appreciate language and our world. What are you going to do to celebrate National Poetry Month? Please use the comment box below to respond. Let’s encourage one another!

A Fantasy Book Review: The House on Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson

Book Cover Blurb:

All twelve-year-old Marinka wants is a friend. A real friend. Not like her house with chicken legs. Sure, the house can play games like tag and hide-and-seek, but Marinka longs for a human companion. Someone she can talk to and share secrets with.
          But, that’s tough when your grandmother is a Yaga, a guardian who guides the dead into the afterlife. It’s even harder when you live in a house that wanders all over the world…carrying you with it. Worst of all, Marinka is being trained to be a Yaga. That means no school, no sports or music lessons, no parties—and no playmates that stick around for more than a day.
          So when Marinka stumbles across the chance to make a real friend, she breaks all the rules…with devastating consequences. Her beloved grandmother mysteriously disappears, and it’s up to Marinka to find her—even if it means making a dangerous journey to the afterlife….

Debby Zigenis-Lowery's; A Fantasy Book Review: The House on Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson

The Novel

I really loved Sophie Anderson’s The House on Chicken Legs, a middle grade, fantasy novel. Having retold several Russian Folk tales, as soon as I saw the title, I wanted to read this book; it did not disappoint.  Anderson, while faithful to folkloric Baba Yaga motifs, also manages to give them a twist and stand some on their heads, creating an original and mesmerizing tale.

I had only one issue with this book. SPOILER ALERT!!! Midway through the novel, the protagonist discovers she is dead. While this might not alarm some young readers, I was very disappointed because I bought the book, not only intending to read it, but to share it with my delightful, and also highly sensitive granddaughters. I will donate it to a local elementary school library instead

While I still enjoyed this novel immensely, and I’m sure many children would too, it did remind me how important it is to know the books and the young readers you hand them to. As children’s book critic, Amanda Craig said in The Guardian’sShould Children’s Books Have Happy Endings”:

I feel strongly that books for the young need to take into account their emotional vulnerability. They don’t have the defenses we do when reading…. Stories are, what Francis Spufford called, in The Child That Books Built ,” mood altering drugs.”

While I am absolutely not for censorship of children’s books (or any others), I do feel some concern about the darker themes that show up in middle grade fiction, which is directed to elementary and some middle school age children. Therefore, I applaud the commitment of teachers and librarians, and recommend family and friends, to find “the right book for the right child.”

Your Turn

Have you read any good fantasy novels lately? Have you read any that while intended for children, you would not recommend it for younger readers, or a subset of young readers? No matter which question you respond to, please share author names, titles, and a few words about them in the comment section below. Reading is a critical part of a literate lifestyle. Let’s encourage one another!