Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Happy Poetry Month to you all! Back when I was taking children’s lit classes at U of O, taught by Barbara Kiefer, we would have a little party at the end of the term. Sometimes we would go to someone’s house for snacks and drinks; sometimes it would be chocolate and poetry in class. One of the poems Barbara recited for us in class has become something I have ingested (along with the associated chocolate) and made part of my cellular structure. And here it is:

homage to my hips, by Lucille Clifton

these hips are big hips
they need space to move around in.
they don't fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don't like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips
are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top

It’s amazing that 26 letters arranged in certain patterns has the ability to change the way one sees the world, isn’t it? I love that there isn’t a period at the end of the poem – it infers that these hips have a lot more to do in this world, so get on with it.

This month is made for poetry, so pull one out, carry it with you, share it with a friend. April 29 is Pocket Poetry Day, and School Library Journal has a number of poems printed in the shape of pockets all ready to be cut out and handed around.


Well, not all the books in this newsletter are going to be poetry related, but this one, Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature’s Survivors, by Caldecott Honor book winners Joyce Sidman and Beckie Prange really needs to be recognized, not just because it’s a cool poetry book, but because it’s a cool SCIENCE poetry book!

The definition of "ubiquitous" is something that is, or seems to be, everywhere at the same time. This is a book of some of the creatures that became the 1 percent to survive extinction, everything from bacteria to human, beetles to coyote, all discussed via poetry with a more prosaic description on the page. Very cool, very lesson plannable, it is one of those books you will keep referring to. And it’s got great endpages with a very different kind of timeline. You will enjoy holding it while you read, too, because the cover has great texture. Please, if you are adding to your science library, make sure you take a look at Ubiquitous. Ages 5 and all the way up! (Houghton Mifflin. $17.00. Available now.)

Kid vs. Squid, by Greg van Eekhout, is one of those books that most preteen boys will love. It is the story of Thatcher Hill, a boy whose summer job is working in a museum of oddities, dusting and cleaning the shrunken heads and mermaid tails: BORING! Until a girl steals one of the artifacts, plunging him deep in an adventure filled with the denizens of the lost Atlantis. Funny, fast paced, adventurous; it’s got mythology, pathos, and mystery- I laughed out loud and can’t wait to pass it along to readers who are finally ready to move on from Wimpy Kid. Ages 8 (proficient readers) and up. (Bloomsbury. $16.99. May 2010.)

I LOVED Jennifer Holm’s new book, Turtle in Paradise. I think Jennifer does the best job of putting the reader right in the story, surrounding you with the history of the time she’s writing about and with details about the characters that really let you bond with them, without making those the point of the story. They unroll and fill in the blanks as you get to know the people in the book.

The time: 1935, the place: Key West, Florida. Her mother has just sent 11 year-old Turtle to live with relatives she has never met in far away Key West, just about as far as a girl can go without leaving the shores of the United States. A bunch of boy cousins, a close knit community, a few encounters with a writer no one’s ever read, and her world changes in amazing ways. It is funny and sad, full of adventure and treasure, and I want everyone to read it. Like Our Only May Amelia (a book based right here in the Pacific Northwest), Turtle’s story is based on one of Jenny’s ancestors, her great-grandmother’s immigration story. Ages 10 and up. (Random House. $16.99. Available May 25, 2010).

Sorta Like a Rock Star, by Matthew Quick, is a wonderful book about hope and joy. Amber’s mom and she have been living in the school bus Mom drives ever since the boyfriend kicked them out of his house. Amber knows it’s only for a while, that her mom is trying to save enough money to rent them a place, but it’s hard. So Amber does what she does best, she spreads hope and optimism to everyone she knows, making the world a little better just by being in it.

When something horrible happens to her little family and she begins to lose her sense of joy in the world, she becomes unsure that there are any real reasons to be happy. An encounter with a Viet Nam Vet at the dog park, a man who never interacts with anyone except his dog, allows her to confide in him and this helps both of them. He teaches her how to write haiku, to think about what’s happening in her life in small pieces and to write about it in 17 syllables, and she gives him a reason to get up every day. Along the way, we see how important one person can be to all the other lives they are a part of.

Quite a touching book, there’s a lot of humor and a lot of sadness, not to mention all that haiku! This will be a really good book to add to the lesson plan lists for National Poetry Month. Ages 12 and up. (Little Brown. $16.99. May 2010.)

I think everyone may have already read this but I’ve only just gotten to it: Evermore, by Alyson Noel. What a book! Book one in The Immortals series, it is all about a girl named Ever who, after a horrible accident that killed her entire family, can hear everyone’s thoughts. She has gone way out of her way to keep from touching or talking to her classmates, filling her ears and head with loud music. The only time the voices in her head stop is when new hunky mystery boy Damen Auguste comes to her school. When he comes near, all the voices go away and a deep calm settles over her.

But wait! Who is Damen Auguste? Why does she feel compelled to spend her life with him? How can he get such good grades and never go to school? Evermore was a great summer book, fun, romantic, one of those supernatural romance books that we all want when the weather warms up a bit. I think there are 4 books in the series so far (the fourth one is either newly out or coming soon), this is the only one I’ve read, and I am sending it off to my nieces- I think they will really like it, too. Ages 12 and up. (St. Martin’s Griffin. $9.95. Available now.)

Melissa Marr has written this great series which includes Wicked Lovely, Ink Exchange, and Fragile Eternity. I know I wrote about Wicked Lovely a few years ago but have just finished the third book, Fragile Eternity, and the fourth one, Radiant Shadows, is on its way!

If you are fans of books about fairies, and not the fairies of your childhood, you really need to read this tidy stack of books. They are romantic and funny, taut with suspense, very well thought out, well-written and just darned good!

There is something about the fairies in Aislinn’s world…they are close to the world we know, able to cross back and forth across the barrier between Faerie and earth, and they know something big is on its way. Aislinn, a girl who grew up human, and who has a really hunky boyfriend named Seth, has recently become the Summer Queen. Trying to balance a life of boyfriend, school, and faerie politics is beginning to take its toll. Her King, who has been searching for his queen for years, is pressuring her to be his partner in all things and War is on the horizon. What is an almost-girl to do?

Radiant Shadows is the fourth of five books in the series. Settle in, read slowly, if you can, and enjoy the ride. Ages 12 and up. (HarperCollins. $16.99. Due May 1, 2010.)

I have also just finished Elizabeth George’s new book, This Body of Death, and it was GREAT! I am a big fan of her Detective Lynley books and was so excited to read this newest one. Filled with her trademark psychological suspense, Lynley and Havers are back, dealing with a new boss, learning how to work together again, and dealing with the past.

I don’t know if you have read any of her books before, but you should start with the first one so you have that whole big series to enjoy. Her books give you whole characters to revel in, people with faults and flaws, but people you can really root for. Barbara Havers is one of my favorite characters: she is unkempt, detail driven, and has troubles in her life that many of us can identify with.

Give Elizabeth George a try, most of her Lynley books are in paperback, and if you come to the store, we may be able to find you a used one to get you started. If you like police procedurals, great plots and characters, interesting psychological backgrounds, smart writing, you will really enjoy her work. AND she is coming to Third Place Books on Thursday, April 22, at 7 pm. Come early for a piece of cake and a cup of coffee, hear her speak, meet her and get your book(s) signed, go home and read. A perfect evening.

Her books are intense (sometimes there is gruesomeness and horrible things happen) and we usually recommend them for adults. Some older teens and young adults have read and loved them. This Body of Death is available now. (HarperCollins. $28.99.)

Well, it’s time to stop writing and get this sent off to you. I have to brush my hair and teeth and go to work.

Head on out to your locally owned, independent bookshop and let me know what you’re reading! If you live a ways from what would be your local bookstore, call them! They would be happy to mail you your books in a timely fashion and you get the added joy of knowing that your purchase helps support your school, your streets, and maybe even the unemployed guy down the street.

Thanks, everyone!


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