Children’s Book Winners for the NAACP Image Awards

Congratulations to Nikki Grimes and Brian Collier for their picture book biography on our new President,

Barack Obama: Son of Promise Child of Hope. It has earned honors for OUTSTANDING LITERARY WORK–CHILDREN

I had the wonderful opportunity to see the galley of this book last June while attending a writers’ workshop in Arkansas. Ms. Grimes visited one day and shared not only the book with us but also insights into how she writes poetry. It was a fantastic presentation.
To read more about Ms. Grimes poetry tips, visit my blog archives.
Nikki Giovanni’s poetry book, Hip Hop Speaks to Children, was awarded by NAACP for OUTSTANDING LITERARY WORK–POETRY. It also earned a spot on BOOKLIST’s TOP 10 ART BOOKS FOR YOUTH. Poetry Speaks to Children is another Sourcebooks publication that Ms. Giovanni contributed to as well. 

Acrostic Poetry for Cold Dogs and Hot Dogs

Holly, my dog, says it’s cold outside, so she’d rather stay inside.

A fun inside activity is writing ACROSTIC poems. They’re a breeze–and not an icy, cold breeze either.
Start with an easy acrostic using your first name. Write the letters vertically, one underneath the other. Here’s how Holly’s name would look:
Now, use each letter as the first letter for that line. Since we’re using Holly’s name, we’ll make the poem about her.
Happy all the time
Often takes naps
Likes to explore
Loves to eat treats
Yip-yaps at birds and squirrels
If you want a challenge, make the lines work together–like a mini-story.
Happy dogs, like Holly,
Often give other pets and people
Lots of slobbery
Licks–which are really doggie kisses–and they aren’t
Yucky at all!
And if you want a super-duper challenge, expand your ACROSTIC to more than one word. Try telling your poetic story using these words:



Have fun and stay warm!
For more adventures with pets, visit Mayra Calvani’s new blog:

A Presidential Book

Last night I stayed up to watch Barack Obama as he claimed his victory in the U. S. presidential race. I wanted to be a part of this important time in history. I was not disappointed. His speech was inspiring– hope-filled. A unifying speech for all of our people.

I had the great opportunity this June, while attending a writing workshop in Arkansas at Harding University, to meet Nikki Grimes and to see the galley version of a picture book biography that she had just completed. It was BARACK OBAMA: Son of Promise, Child of Hope
Ms. Grimes explained how she had been approached to write the book in a bit of a hurry–to be completed and ready for publication by September. She, of course, had many other works-in-progress demanding her time as well. Could she squeeze in one more book? A book that must be completed in three weeks time? 
Three weeks to research, write, edit, revise, and complete–in order to have the book submitted to the illustrator in time. 
Even though her other projects tugged her in the opposite direction, Ms. Grimes felt called to walk down President-elect Obama’s road. She would do the research. She would piece together word snapshots of his life, like a tenderly stitched quilt. She would help share his story with young readers, eager to learn of this remarkable man. I’m very glad she did.
Click on the link if you’d like to read Ms. Grimes’ tips for writing poetry.


It’s here! My poem, “Reaching for the Stars,” is on page 5 of the November issue of HIGHLIGHTS magazine. See–that’s me to the right, dancing for joy!

Melanie Hall created an enchanting illustration to help bring my words to life. Too cool! 

But don’t just take my word for it. Visit your local library or bookstore and see for yourself. And, of course, enjoy all the other great reading fun in the magazine as well. 

Exciting News!

I just found out THE GIRLS, a middle grade anthology with my short story, “The Emily Explosion,” is to be released on August 15! Blooming Tree Press is publishing the story collection. I’m so glad the book will be available as the new school year starts. What a great addition to a school or classroom library–or for your very own.

Here’s a quick look at what “The Emily Explosion” is about:

I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us – don’t tell
They’d banish us, you know.

Dee-Dee Tunley, a seventh grade literature loser, enjoys doodling much more than analyzing Emily Dickinson’s weird poems. However, when Dee-Dee is forced to do extra credit work on the above poem, she finds a connection with Emily and discovers they may both be somebodies rather than nobodies.

Have you ever felt like a nobody? What helped you realize you were really a somebody? I’d love to hear your story.
I adore Emily Dickinson’s poems. Who is your favorite poet???

Poetry Highlights from Nikki Grimes

On Friday, June 13, at Harding University I had the great privilege to listen to readings and teachings of poet and author, Nikki Grimes.
Ms. Grimes stated that as our world grows more complicated nothing can prepare a child for it like poetry.
She said poetry can be a message or a massage, depending on the words used in the poem. She takes a natural, organic approach to poetry and has been a lifelong student of it. Ms. Grimes said, “I’m a poet down to my soul.” She explained that a poem tells a story or paints a picture with as few words as possible. She directed us to tune into our senses and draw on the environment—to play with the words.
She told us to begin with a simple description of a subject and then play around with a couple of the phrases we had written. We were to use word tools, like a dictionary and thesaurus. And she cautioned us about using rhyme—it should only be included when used well and with intention. But she does like internal rhyme and uses it often.
She shared with us the galley of her picture book biography of Barack Obama, which is to be released in September of this year. Her poetic voice shaped the story of the senator’s life from childhood to his current Presidential election campaign.
Ms. Grimes read excerpts from her latest novel in verse, THE DARK SONS. The story parallels the lives of two boys, one modern (Sam) and one ancient (biblical Ishmael) She also read selections from two of her narrative poetry picture books, WHEN GORILLA GOES WALKING, and MEET DANITRA BROWN. Ms. Grimes explained that every poem in a narrative poetry book must be a complete poem in itself, but it must also add to the development of the story. And a novel in verse is more complicated than narrative poetry because it must have a more detailed plot, setting and time period.
Ms. Grimes wove the words of her poems with the skill of a master. She truly was an inspiration–a revelation, a celebration, pure jubilation! (And I hope she will forgive me for using these rhyming words to describe it all.)

More Great News!

I received a letter from HIGHLIGHTS for CHILDREN magazine today announcing the publication of my poem, “Reaching for the Stars,” in the November 2008 issue of their magazine.
How exciting!
I started writing this poem while at the Highlight’s Foundation Chautaugua Workshop in July 2005. My writer mentor for the week was David L. Harrison, a poet laureate from Missouri. It was during one of his presentations that the poem took shape.
So I offer a salute today to Mr. Harrison. I’m including some links below to a few online sites with information about him. Of course, he has a large number of books available either through bookstores or libraries. He writes not only poetry and stories for children but also nonfiction books as well.

By David L. Harrison

The article explains some of the rhythmic patterns used in poetry with examples by children. The author also offers suggestions for presenting the topic to students.


Brief highlights of Mr. Harrison’s writing career and education

“Fluency Fun: Kids Love the Sound of Words”

An interview with Mr. Harrison and examples of his poems

Children’s Poetry Day

Although today is the first day of SPRING, it has been rather rainy around these parts–as you can tell from Holly’s attire.

Today is also CHILDREN’S POETRY DAY. So I’ve found a spring poem and activity to accompany it. Since we’ve seen more rain than sunshine this spring, the poem I’ ve selected is A RAIN SONG by Evaleen Stein (1863-1923), a poet from Indiana. To learn more about Ms. Stein, click on this link sponsored by Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana:

by Evaleen Stein

Tinkle, tinkle,
Lightly fall
On the peach buds, pink and small;
Tip the tiny grass, and twinkle
On the clover, green and tall.

Tinkle, tinkle,–
Faster now,
Little rain-drops, smite and sprinkle
Cherry-bloom and apple-bough!
Pelt the elms, and show them how
You can dash!
And splash! splash! splash!
While the thunder rolls and mutters,
And the lightnings flash and flash!
Then eddy into curls
Of a million misty swirls,
And thread the air with silver, and embroider it with pearls!

To read the entire poem, click on this link at DLTK’S CRAFTS FOR KIDS:

And for a fun craft, try this bunny all dressed for the rainy spring weather–also from DLTK:

For more rainy day poems, I suggest Candice Leby’s book, SPLASH!: POEMS OF OUR WATERY WORLD. She has a great poem using the same theme as Ms. Stein’s above but with a very different feel called RAIN, DANCE!

Happy Spring!

A Morning with Constance Levy, Poet Extraordinaire

I had the great fortune to attend a workshop today given by Constance Levy, St. Louis’ own children’s poet guru. She spoke to OASIS reading tutors for the Rockwood School District on ways to interact with children using poetry.
“Poems don’t have to rhyme,” she said. “But they do need to flow and to have rhythm.” She explained that children should be encouraged to “write in a natural way.” She cautioned that teachers and tutors shouldn’t “squeeze the juice out of creativity” by restricting children’s poetry to a set subject or style.
“William Stafford (another Midwest poet) said a poem was ‘talk with a little luck in it’,” Ms. Levy said. She suggested reading several poems to children and asking them which one they liked best and why. Discuss with the children “who is talking in this poem, and who are they speaking to?”
Ms. Levy encouraged the OASIS tutors to help children take chances in poetry by using wild and crazy words–to have fun. And for elementary students, she talked about helping them learn “to break lines.” At school children are taught to write sentences and fill up each line, only breaking for paragraphs. But when writing poetry, the children must be re-taught to listen for phrasing and how to construct a poem.
Ms. Levy had all of us brainstorm for a few minutes on FOG, jotting down words and phrases which came to our minds. We were encouraged to be inventive, to think in colors and metaphors. To be open to the senses. Later after briefly discussing haikus, we were encouraged to try one–but not necessarily strictly limited to the 5, 7, 5 syllables in each of the three lines if that didn’t quite work for our poem.
Here is my morning haiku created with help from the earlier brainstorming session
A shrouded ghost mist
swallows me up as I walk
into its mystery.
Give yourself a treat and visit your local library where you’ll find copies of Constance Levy’s poetry books: A TREE PLACE,
To find out more about Ms. Levy, you may visit this biography link at Pennsylvania State University, compiled by Pam Goldberg.

Website Additions & a CONTEST

Greetings All!
Please pass the word around that I’ve added the following new treats to my website.
In the WRITINGS section, you’ll find:

BUGGY ALPHABETICS with illustrations by NIKKI SCHAEFER (www. This poem is an ABECEDARIAN–an alphabetical poem which uses the letters from A-Z for the first letter in every line. (

A DAY in TASMANIA with photos–taken from my travel journal over the holidays. (

In the TIPS FOR WRITERS section, you’ll find:
INTERVIEW with NIKKI SCHAEFER–the very talented author/illustrator soon to be joining the GAP team (

More RESOURCES — helpful websites for writers (

In the FOR TEACHERS & PARENTS section, you’ll find:
BOOK SUGGESTIONS for DIVERSITY–a quick list to help celebrate the uniqueness in each child. (

In the FOR KIDS section, you’ll find:
BE A NEWS REPORTER–an easy break-down of the 5 W’s and a link to a Weekly Reader page to start the young news hound on his/her story. (

SOLVE A MYSTERY–be the first to unravel the clues and answer the questions, and you’ll win a prize. (