Monday, March 19, 2018


Wow, it's been a while since I posted for a Movie Monday -- not because we haven't seen any movies. We have! Bunches! There just hasn't been one I've loved enough to blog about. I mean, the whole Oscar season came and went, and I just felt meh about the nominated movies. Which makes me double happy to be blogging today about a movie that made me think and feel and that we're still talking about days later: TEMPLE GRANDIN, starring Claire Danes.

Originally a 2010 TV movie, it tells the story of Temple, who has autism, and how she learned to use the gifts of autism to make important changes -- and a place for herself -- in the animal husbandry industry.

The message of the movie is a timely one: "different, not less."

I loved how determined Temple was, how truly herself she was. And because I happen to love someone who happens to be on the spectrum, I could relate. I've seen this coexistence of brilliance and struggle. I've wondered so many times, what to do? How to help?

The movie shows us that the best thing we can do is love each other, let people be exactly who they are -- while also encouraging and pushing them to be their best selves. This is not just a gift to give people with autism, but how we can love anyone and everyone in the world.

Pretty inspirational... and now I've got to read Temple Grandin's books. (I've read a number of her articles over the years, but not her books.) Must remedy! Meanwhile, here's Temple giving an amazing TED talk.

Friday, March 16, 2018

HIDDEN CITY: Poems of Urban Wildlife by Sarah Grace Tuttle

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit lovely Linda at TeacherDance for Roundup.

It's my pleasure to share with you today HIDDEN CITY: Poems of Urban Wildlife by Sarah Grace Tuttle, illustrated by Amy Schimler-Safford (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers).

Big congratulations to Sarah on her debut! How exciting. (Also: Sarah gave me permission to share that she goes by "Sarah" in real life, but is using her full name "Sarah Grace Tuttle" for her books to distinguish herself from other Sarah Tuttles and also to honor the "spitfire" great-grandmother she was named after!)

HIDDEN CITY is a collection of little snapshots/celebration of life in the city. It's free verse with lots of movement and sound -- Red-winged blackbird goes “Twee! Twee!” Inchworm “drops!/ dangles/ drops!/dangles” Crickets “chreet...chreet!” The book moves through the seasons across a wide variety of cityscapes and includes a wide variety of life... plants, mammals, birds, and insects.

Here are two excerpts... and then, please keep reading to learn Sarah's answers to three simple prompts!

Bat Breakfast
by Sarah Grace Tuttle

By a glowing street lamp
little brown bats
with a
And a
And a hasty
For moths
drawn by the light.

Falcon Fledge
by Sarah Grace Tuttle

A peregrine falcon
six weeks old
teeters thirty-two stories above
busy sidewalks and a traffic jam.
She clutces the edge of her nest,
bobs her head,
and then
flap! Flap-flap flaps her wings
And fumble-flies down
to a roof across the street:
first flight.
And now, here's Sarah!

Sarah Grace Tuttle
The difficult: Picking which birds to include in Hidden City was extremely difficult! There are many, many city birds that I love, but I decided early on that I wanted the poems to have an even distribution of species diversity. So, I was elated when I saw that Amy’s illustrations included many more of my favorite birds than I could in my writing.

The delicious: Hidden City has been many years in the making. Throughout the course of the book’s development, I’ve watched Urban Ecology become a more accepted and popular scientific discipline, and the movement to recognize, value and foster nature in cities pick up ever-growing speed. It is delicious to me that, in a small way,Hidden City is a part of tha­t movement.

The unexpected: Writing is a very solitary process in many ways, so it has been a joyous surprise to see the ways in which Hidden City has added community to my life. From leading me to seek out additional ways to interact with nature in my area, to sparking fascinating conversations and true friendships… all areas of my life have been enriched by the process of creating this book.
Thank you, Sarah!! So pleased and proud for your very first book of children's poetry. May there be many more! xo

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Books Have Helped Me

I recently read OVERHEARD IN A TOWER BLOCK: Poems by Joseph Coelho, illustrated by Kate Milner. This book has garnered some critical acclaim in the UK, so I wanted to check it out. It's a series of poems, all about growing up in a housing project -- which can be gritty and difficult, but also with beautiful moments. These poems all stand alone, which I appreciate! Here's one I can relate to completely:

Books Have Helped Me
by Joseph Coelho

Books have more images between their words
than any smart phone could hold.
More flavours than a thousand jelly beans.
More lives for you to live
than any computer game.

Books have helped me.

I've read about characters
who have laughed, cried and sighed like me.

Characters who have battled
monsters larger than any I could imagine.

Characters who have travelled distances longer
than there are miles between me and the sun.

When I thumb through a book
their pages whisper to me
that I'll be all right.

And here's one more, for those of us who love getting/sending snailmail:

When Your Letters Came
by Joseph Coelho

When your letters came...
I stuck the stamps in my scrapbook,
sent my dreams to a secret shore.

A place imagined from each tiny image:
peeled palm trees,
grand ships and heroes,
a magical land

where you sat under a sticky sky,
writing promises
in sun-faded ink.

Want more? Click to see/hear the author reading his poem "The Watchers" on vimeo.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Alabama Report

Wow, last week was some kind of week! It was my great pleasure to welcome Charles Waters to Alabama, where we shared time with readers and writers and good folks of all kinds!

me (wearing my Roll Tide
 sweater!) with Ludelphia
and Paige Miller
Our first stop was Tuscaloosa/T-town/The University of Alabama. While I am an Auburn fan (!), I did earn a graduate degree from Alabama... and I DO like elephants... and I have never had anything but good times in Tuscaloosa!

This time I was pleased and grateful to work again with the ever-inspiring Paige Miller of the Women and Gender Resource Center and Jamie Naidoo of the Library Sciences department -- and also new President of ALSC! (I know, it was like being in the presence of royalty! Except without all the bowing and such. Jamie is one of the nicest, smartest people on the planet.)

I was thrilled to share LEAVING GEE'S BEND with the brown bag lunch crowd, and then later that evening to join Charles in introducing CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR?
I never get tired of watching Charles perform his poems!
Isn't this THE BEST?!
The next day we had an amazing day at Shades Mountain Elementary School in Hoover, Alabama. This visit was arranged by Ann Marie Corgill who not only is a fabulous teacher, but is just one of the best humans ever. And I'm not the only one who thinks so: she's a former Alabama Teacher of the Year! I was moved to tears more than once interacting with these precious kids and reading their poems and art... which Charles and I are in the process of getting on display in our Padlet gallery. (Do take a look... more pieces added all the time!) Meanwhile, check out this amazing Sound Wave art! The kids read and recorded our poem "Dear Mrs. Vandenberg," used software to create the soundwave, then made it into art! Isn't that brilliant?!

Charles Waters, Irene Latham, Pat(ty Jean) Weaver
Next up was the SCBWI Writing and Illustrating for Kids conference. Many thanks to the slew of volunteers who made it happen! It started with a signing during which Charles and I were able to present a little about the book -- after which, the bookseller apologetically announced he'd sold out of our books! A good problem to have, right? Also: Linda Sue Park bought our book!!!! Amazing, right? :) We also got a pic of me, Charles, and the real-life Patty Jean (who appears in the book!). Fun. I'm so grateful to friends who came out to support us... a thousand thank yous!!

One of the best parts of the weekend was (finally!) introducing Charles to my family, and my family to Charles! Here he is with two of my most precious:
my bodyguards :)
And finally: check out this adorable video!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

New Picture Books to Celebrate Family and Home

I've got quite a busy week ahead, full of all kinds of wonderment, so I thought I would leave you with a pair of books! And if you haven't already signed up, there are just a few spots left for this year's Progressive Poem! Sign up here. Now, the books:

MEET MY FAMILY! Animal Babies and Their Families by Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman (Millbrook/Lerner)


A PLACE TO START A FAMILY:  Poems About Creatures that Build by David L. Harrison, illustrated by Giles Laroche (Charlesbridge)
I love MEET MY FAMILY! for the way it includes a ton of nonfiction info -- and yet ultimately is about celebrating ALL families, whatever they look like. A variety of animal babies tell us something about their families, like "My parents both take care of me" (tundra swan cygnets) and "I've never met my dad" (raccoon kits). Even adopted kids are represented, which pleases me, as the big sister of three adopted siblings.

This book is a great example of "layers" -- rhyming text! additional nonfiction prose! animal baby names! global! words in different languages! inclusivity/acceptance! If you are looking to write nonfiction picture books, this is a great mentor. Plus it's just plain adorable and will leave you smarter -- and happier about the world.

A PLACE TO START A FAMILY contains poems about animal architects and is divided into sections: Builders Underground, On Land, In Water, In Air -- plus a bonus poem about "A Different Kind of Builder" (Sun Coral).

My favorite is the stork poem, in part, because as a kid I loved THE WHEEL ON THE SCHOOL by Meindert DeJong, which features storks building their nest (on the wheel on the school). This fascinated me -- still does. And now here is David Harrison's poem:

White Stork

When high on chimney top you nest,
legend tells us those who dwell
within the house are surely blessed.

How old your nest no one can tell,
you keep it in such good repair.
Your ancestors placed it well.

With sturdy sticks they built it there,
where now you cast your lucky spell
and raise your baby storks with care.

- David L. Harrison

Back matter includes additional info about each animal builder and "Learn More!" links.

Here's the text related to the above poem:

"White Stork (Ciconia ciconia)

Folklore says that storks bring good luck and deliver babies, but the only babies they deal with hatch from the eggs they lay in enormous nests on rooftops, church spires, and other high places. Some nests are used for many generations of storks and can be seven feel across and ten feet deep. Both parents take care of the chicks until they leave the nest, which happens when they are about two months old. Juveniles aren't very colorful, but adults are nearly four feet all, with brown eyes, a red bill and legs, a white body, black wing tips and wings that stretch up to seven feet from tip to top."

I hope you'll give these a read!

Monday, March 5, 2018

Alabama Friends, Hope to See You This Week!

March 7, noon: University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa, AL), Women and Gender Resource Center, brown bag lunch talk: "The Power of Quilting: Connecting Women Across Cultures"

March 7, 6:00-7:30 pm, University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa, AL), Gorgas Library, room 205:
"Writing about Race, Mistakes, and Friendship" with Charles Waters
 (my co-author who is visiting from New York City!). Book signing to follow.

March 9, Homewood Library (Homewood, AL), 3:30-5:30 Meet amazing authors! Be inspired!

Charles and I will be joining a slew of other children's book authors and illustrators for an SCBWI reading and signing.

...and... this is not a public event, but Charles and I are excited to be visiting Shades Mountain Elementary in Hoover.... and I will be introducing Charles to friends, family and the real-life Patty Jean (who makes an appearance in CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR?). It's going to be fun!

Friday, March 2, 2018

2018 Progressive Poem - Sign Up Here!

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Renee at No Water River for Roundup.

I do have a poem from the book SHAKING THINGS UP to share with you today in honor of National Women's History Month, but first:

It's that time again! National Poetry Month (April) will soon be upon us, which means it is time again to sign up for our annual KIDLITOSPHERE PROGRESSIVE POEM. This year -- our 7th year! -- our goal is to again create a poem for kids (because last year was awesome!), and lovely Liz Steinglass will be launching our first line! The rest is up to all of YOU! I invite you to choose your day in comments, and I will update the calendar below as we go along.

Here's how it works: Poetry Friday Friends and other poetry lovers are invited to join in a community writing experience during National Poetry Month (April).

What is it? a poem that travels daily from blog to blog, with each host adding a line, beginning April 1. Anyone who wants to join in the fun can sign up below. First come, first served. If you are new to the Progressive Poem, please include your email and blog url in comments -or- send via email: irene (at) irenelatham (dot) com.

2 Jane at Raincity Librarian
4 Michelle at Today's Little Ditty
5 Jan at bookseedstudio
6 Irene at Live Your Poem
7 Linda at TeacherDance
8 Janet F. at Live Your Poem
11 Brenda at Friendly Fairy Tales
12 Carol at Beyond LiteracyLink
13 Linda at A Word Edgewise
15 Donna at Mainely Write
16 Sarah at Sarah Grace Tuttle
18 Christie at Wondering and Wandering
19 Michelle at Michelle Kogan
20 Linda at Write Time
23 Amy at The Poem Farm
24 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
26 Renee at No Water River
27 Buffy at Buffy's Blog
28 Kat at Kat's Whiskers
29 April at Teaching Authors
30 Doraine at Dori Reads
Now for a look at SHAKING THINGS UP: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World by Susan Hood, illustrated by 13 Extraordinary Women (Harper). This book features all sorts of women who were changemakers of one kind or another -- and the illustrations are inspired and inspiring. Favorites of mine are the Malala by Selina Alko and Frida Kahlo by Erin K. Robinson.

The poem I'd like to share with you today is about "Annette Kellerman, Champion Athlete and Inventor of the Modern Swimsuit." Here is the quote included with the illustration: "I want to swim. And I can't swim wearing more stuff than you hang on a clothes line."

Ha - Annette was a practical gal! I like that. Question for our Aussie poets: is Annette well known in Australia?
art by Emily Winfield Martin

Here's more about here, as printed beneath the poem:

"Australian Annette Kellerman (1886-1975) wore braces on her legs as a child, possibly due to rickets. Her doctor suggested swimming to strengthen her leg muscles. She went on to win world records, perform daredevil diving stunts, and star in silent films, popularizing a new one-piece bathing suit and ushering in a new age of athleticism for women."

Now I am not particularly athletic, but I DO like to wear what I like to wear -- which is often skirts and dresses. And I am all for anything that helps a woman be more exactly herself.

Here's the poem:

Turning the Tide
by Susan Hood

There once was a mermaid queen,
lovely and lithesome and lean,
who swam afternoons
without pantaloons --
her swimsuit was deemed obscene!

The lady was quickly arrested.
Unafraid, she calmly protested:
Who can swim fifty laps
wearing corsets and caps?
Her statement could not be contested.

She streamlined the suit of the day
and invented our water ballet.
By changing the fashions
she fueled swimming passions
as women made waves in the spray.
Now why does this make me think of Michelle at Today's Little Ditty? :) Happy day to all!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Facing the Music with Karen Eastlund

Hello and Happy Spiritual Journey Thursday! Today it is my pleasure to welcome Karen, who is guest-posting on the topic of MUSIC. After her post I will add my comments... and you will find a place to leave your link!

Welcome, Karen!
"I have always loved music, but had only dabbled in it over the years. Now, with retirement time available, I decided to dig in. Wouldn’t this be fun?

I chose my choir director and friend as my piano teacher. He is absolutely dedicated to music. I knew I could work with him. Then lessons began and it became clear that I would have serious work ahead of me.

This past lesson I had worked very hard over a challenging piece. I went into the lesson somewhat apprehensive, and offered a shaky rendition. Although carefully worded, my teacher’s message was clear: I may have been well prepared technically, but I was not making music. Ouch… It hurt, but I knew it was true.

We all have times when we need to face hard truths, but do we face them? Do we accept responsibility when we mess up? Do we ask forgiveness when we’ve been mean or stingy? Have we been careful to examine the truth? Do we focus on our own faults or do we pick on others?

Karen's grands
For Christians, this is the season of Lent. It is a time of preparation for Easter, of self-examination, repentance, prayer and atonement. The music during this season is often minor, and the hymns point us to the torment of Holy Week. Are we willing to face this music?

It may seem odd, but I need to hear the sadness. I need to feel the lows as well as the highs. I need to grapple with the truth about my life, about my piano playing, and about my faith story in order to grow.

We all have seasons in our spiritual lives, and those seasons vary in tone. I am very grateful for the nuances, even though I have to admit that life is not always fun. It requires work, and it requires us to search for the truth. My prayer for you is that you are able to face whatever music life is dishing up for you. I hope you can work through your sad times, and that you will come to a time of rejoicing.

Blessings to each of you!


P.S. - I was able to play duets with my grandkids yesterday. Sure, we made numerous mistakes, and maybe a connoisseur would not call it music, but I thought it was great fun."
Thank you, Karen! As a practicing cellist, music is an important part of my life. It challenges me, frustrates me, feeds me. I love practicing. I love how I feel when the music flows through me -- you really do use your whole body to play the cello. I love learning new ways to create the sound I'm seeking. Recently I've been learning a couple of Bach's Minuet's from Suzuki book 4. They are gorgeous -- and the first time for me to play a piece without accompaniment. Scary!

Sometimes my perfectionism gets in the way of my enjoyment of the cello. I can be really hard on myself. My teacher will say SHE is supposed to be the tough one, not me! I am learning to love my music, mistakes and all. Truly, I believe this is my life's journey: learning to love myself, dark spots smudges mishaps bad decisions and all. Which is really another way to say I am learning to let myself be human. Why is this so hard?

We're not the only one who love making music. On mine and Charles' recent visit to East Grand Rapids Middle School, I met several young cellists, one of who was nearly in the same place in the Suzuki books as me! I also met a young pianist named Hania, who gave me permission to share her lovely poem with all of you!

by Hania

can create such amazing
black and white
doesn't matter which key
you tackle
they all speak
and sing
in their own way
black and white keys
create magic
a story
on that one piano
one small portion
of the world
if black and white keys
create such amazing things
why can't we?
black and white

Thank you, Hania! SJT friends, please leave your links below!


Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Roll Call (after BLACK GIRL MAGIC by Mahogany L. Browne)

I've just been reading BLACK GIRL MAGIC: A Poem by Mahogany L. Browne, Art by Jess X. Snow (Roaring Brook Press). It's a small, gift-sized picture book that features a poem the author wrote to celebrate black lives, without ever saying "Black Lives Matter." In the back there's a Roll Call.

"Roll Call is an act of naming the people who brought you into the room. Roll call is an act of taking up space."

And it made me want to create my own Roll Call, of those that have made room for me and invited me into a conversation with the world. A list that I can come back to, add to, etc. Here is the start:

Abraham Amy Andrew April Barry Beryl Bob Bobbie Bonnie Carl Carol Charles Dan Daniel Donna Doraine Doshie Emon Eric Erin Evelyn Gary Hannah Janet Jeannine Jennifer Jerri Jim Joyce JuliAnna Kahlil Karen Kate Katherine Katrina Ken Kim Langston Laura Lee Lenora Linda Liz Lori Lynn Mary MicaJon Michelle Naomi Nelson Paige Pat Patty Paul Raymond Rebecca Robert Robyn Rosemary Ruth Sarah Seth Sharon Stacey Stephen Steve Sue Susan Suzanne Sylvia Terry Walter Winston

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Behold! These Lions

My 2018 One Little Word is Behold. When these lions roared, I could not ignore them. Thanks to Eric for capturing them so beautifully... proof that spring is on its way!

These lions
rouse drowsy forest

- Irene Latham

Friday, February 23, 2018

Poem for a Music Teacher

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Liz at Elizabeth Steinglass for Roundup.

I've been having one of those weeks where I feel like I've been running behind and running behind and running behind... lots going on in my writing life, which is lovely and inspiring, but also has me a little bit frazzled!

Anyhow, this too shall pass.

If you haven't added your Golden Shovel to my roundup of Golden Shovel poems, please do!

Also, check out this thoughtful, lovely write-up about CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? over at A Fuse 8 Production, by Betsy Bird. We are all learning, aren't we?

And here is my offering for today: a poem for a music teacher as it appears in SCHOOL PEOPLE, poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illus. by Ellen Shi, brought to us by the fine poetry-loving folks at WordSong/Boyds Mills Press.

This was my first LBH anthology to be included in - what an honor and thrill! I was especially excited when Lee told me my assignment was "music teacher." As many of you know, I actually HAVE a music teacher -- Laura Usiskin, who's an amazing cellist and teacher. I'm so grateful to be working with her!

AND I've had music teachers pretty much my whole life, what with the dozen or so years I took piano and the handful of years I was in choir... and the years my kids took piano and cello and percussion... and then, yes, surely, school music teachers, thought they are not quite clear in my mind.... my school memories are a bit of a blur because there were SO MANY SCHOOLS. (11 by the time I was 14! Thanks to my family moving so frequently.)

Anyhow, for me, music is JOY, and all the music teachers Ido remember have embodied that joy -- so I knew I wanted joy in my poem.

I'm not sure where the "rain" came from, though it IS the best music... or how I linked this poem with "She Walks in Beauty" by Lord Byron, but that's what happened. There's also a nod to Phantom of the Opera in there, which Lee caught right away. :)

Music Teacher
by Irene Latham

She walks in music, like morning rain:
drip-drop, pitter-patter, boot-stomp, splash!

And all that's best of noise and silence
meet in her flash-flood smile.

She doesn't say Hush or Stop or No-
she says, Yes! Louder! Sing, my angels, sing!

And so our hearts overflow,
symphonies river from our lips.

We walk in music like morning rain:
drip-drop, pitter-patter, boot-stomp, splash!


Thank you for reading! If you have a music teacher, do some boot-stomping and splashing with him or her today! xo

Thursday, February 22, 2018

A Roundup of Golden Shovel Poems in honor of Nikki Grimes' ONE LAST WORD

Congratulations to Nikki Grimes, author of this year's winner of the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award!

It was my pleasure to serve with other esteemed poetry people on the committee to select this award... what a lovely experience it was to talk books and poetry and language and art -- and it was tough, too!

One of the most challenging things about the process is comparing books for young readers to books for older readers... it forces one to set aside individual aesthetics and preferences and really look at each book as a package. We all agreed that ONE LAST WORD is one phenomenal package, filled with beauty, hope, art, and some powerful wordsmithing.

AND, in the year since this book's release, we've seen so many writing Golden Shovel poems! This was not something the committee was charged with recognizing, but it's definitely something I find noteworthy. Here are some links to some Golden Shovel poems by friends in the Poetry Friday community:

Margaret Simon's students using "A Letter in October" by Ted Kooser

more from Margaret and her students

a slew of Poetry Friday Friends at Laura Shovan's blog - Laura's poem is after "The Red Wheelbarrow" by William Carlos Williams

Holly Mueller's poem is after "The Summer Day" by Mary Oliver

Sara Lewis Holmes' poem uses "Pied Beauty" by Gerard Manly Hopkins (and also includes links to other Poetry Sisters' Golden Shovels)

Carmelo Martino over at Teaching Authors uses a poem by Gwendolyn Brooks (for other poems honoring Gwendolyn Brooks, see this anthology of Golden Shovels!)

Carol Varsalona uses a quote to create her Golden Shovel

Donna Smith writes after Rupert Brooke's "The Treasure"

Donna Smith uses a Theophrastus quote about time

Linda Mitchell after a photo caption on display at a super cool tiny museum about the Suquamish People of the Pacific Northwest. 

Buffy Silverman using "Tree for All" by Irene Latham (from DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST)

Ruth Hersey writes after a line from Paul Simon

Heidi Mordhorst uses a line from "Making Peace" by Denise Levertov

Kay McGriff using Langston Hughes' "I Dream a World"

Mary Lee Hahn writes after Malvina Reynolds' song "Let it Be"

***Be sure to check out new poems created for Michelle's DMC  March 2018 Challenge here***

...and I know there are so many more! If you'd like your link included, please just share in comments, and I will add them in.
Meanwhile, thank you, Nikki, for this book and and all the ways it has inspired us! (More on how this book inspired ME very soon! :)

Also, big thanks to Lee for creating and supporting this annual award, which we learned isn't going anywhere. Thanks to Lee's generosity, it will continue to recognize and inspire poets for years and years to come!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Lake Dog

We have had a blast introducing Ruby to the lake... she is a born sailor! Remember The Sailor Dog by Margaret Wise Brown? It was definitely one of my childhood favorites. And now, our Ruby loves being on the fishing boat and can't stand it when we cruise off in the kayaks without her. (Inflatable kayak  + Ruby's claws = potential disaster.) 
We are excited to see how she reacts when we catch some fish while she's on board... she can be pretty excitable, soI think a flopping fish is really going to rock her world! I'll let you know. Meanwhile, we are enjoying a few warm, breezy days punctuated by flowering cherry trees and daffodils brightening hillsides and ditches. 
Spring is coming, yes it is!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Poems for President's Day

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Jone at Check it Out for Roundup.

Yesterday I shared the Michigan report, about last week's school visits in Grand Rapid's Michigan. Today I want to introduce you to a special student I met at Wealthy Elementary -- Skyler T.

Skyler presented Charles and I with hand-written copies of her poem "If I Were the President."
Skyler T. and me

It takes so much bravery to write something in the first place, but to SHARE it? With an author visiting your school? THAT takes moxie! Go, Skyler! I'm grateful to have permission to share her work with all of you. Thank you, Skyler and Principal Carlye Allen and Skyler's mom. :)

No matter how you feel about our current president -- or any of our former presidents -- haven't we all imagined at least once, what WE would do if WE were the president? Here's Skyler's poem, just in time for President's Day. Enjoy!

If I were the president
By Skyler T

If I were the president I would be so happy,
And when I travel to the white house guess what I would do,
I'd take a swim at the pool,
Then would take a shot at the bowling ally,
Next I would grow a tree of 100 dollar bills,
After that I would build a fountain for people to throw coins in,
and after dark I would colect all of that money,
Then I would have a sleep over with all of my friends,
we would jump on my bed,
untill we were dead!

Isn't that joy-filled and imaginative?! And, as it happens with poetry, Skyler's poem inspired me to write a poem:

Jumping on the Bed at the White House
- for Skyler T.

As my arms fly up
and my sister squeals,
I imagine the jumpers
who've jumped
here before:

wiggly Tad Lincoln
and FDR's terrier Fala;
the Bush twins,
and the Obama girls.

As we leap
and laugh and twirl,
it's as if there is
no war –

no sadness, no death.
Just me and my sister
in a soft-sheeted world.

- Irene Latham

Jumping on the bed at the White House... I am IN. As tragedies like the Broward County school shooting unfold around us, we need jumping-on-the-bed moments more than ever. My deepest sympathies to these families, and all of us, as we grieve. xo

The Michigan Report

Last week Charles and I had such a great time in snowy Michigan! Here's the welcome sign that made us feel... welcome!

Thanks to Charles for braving the weather to take the pictures. And thanks to East Grand Rapids Middle School for sharing the days with us. I loved meeting these eager educators and students! Big thanks to Principal Anthony Morey and teacher-poet Kim Doele for doing all the behind-the-scenes-work... SO much goes into an author visit. I'm always touched to be in the presence of those who are willing to do this work for the kids. That's what it's about. That's why we do this.

Here are a few of the many stand-out moments:

1. Driving down neighborhood streets on snowy pre-dawn days with blue-lit sky and trees arching over Lake Dr... for an Alabama gal, it was magical! I was enchanted by the snow pretty much the entire trip -- until I thought it might interfere with me getting home! Charles was kind enough to brush our car down each (cold!) morning, and now I've got snow-driving experience. :)

One of the many gingerbread houses we passed!

2. Presenting with Charles! After all our hard work creating the presentation, finally, we were able to share it with students. 6 times. In one day.

3. Meeting Gary D. Schmidt. I am a HUGE fan of Gary's work -- and I knew he lived near Grand Rapids. So, imagine my delight when Kim was able to set up a supper for us! We had a great time talking books and words and LIFE at a neat restaurant on (frozen) Lake Reeds called Rose's. Plus Gary signed my copy of OKAY FOR NOW, which happens to be my favorite of his novels.
Irene Latham, Gary D. Schmidt,
Kim Doele, Charles Waters

4. The analogies workshop with students, in which I introduced the Private Eye method using a jeweler's loupe. We wrote poems about the moon and our palms and lions... fun to hear these students' amazing ideas and images.

5. Sharing LEAVING GEE'S BEND with a special group of readers... they asked some really thoughtful questions!

6. The diversity group. Nothing I type here will do justice to our discussion with these students! So many good hearts, so many amazing poems! I was filled with hope after all the sharing in that room. We will be posting responses to our CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? Gallery very soon!
In the sharing circle...

student with "Talking Stick" reading
her poem while we all listened.
7. Presenting with Charles in front of the 811 (poetry!) section at the Wealthy Elementary Library. So many good titles!! And what great kids... I will introduce you to a special student tomorrow. :)

8. Being interviewed by the Wealthy Elementary video team... and doing The Yarn with Charles and Travis Jonker! Air date to be determined, but should be in the next month or two.

Young journalists!
9. Sharing boots (!) and rainbow shoelaces with one very loving and enthusiastic educator at Wealthy Elementary. #Startaconversation

10. Coming home full of poetry and light and happiness and gratitude! Even though Friday ended up being a snow day, my flights still went out as scheduled... and Charles and I were able to write across the table from one another, instead of across the country! :) To everyone who had a hand in this one... THANK YOU. I am here fairy-clapping. xo

Irene Latham, Kim Doele, Charles Waters

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

A Gallery of Poetry and Art Inspired by CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR?

Now that Charles and I have been able to share CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? with readers, we are pleased to offer a space to continue the conversation through art and poetry.

Yes, thanks to the wisdom of Poetry Friday poets, we have created a Padlet for teachers to share student work, found HERE.

Please share your words and art with us! 

If you've already created something, or whenever you do, we'd be glad to showcase it. In this way we can inspire each other, and together make the world a place where all may experience a sense of belonging. Thank you!

And now a sneak peek from our recent adventures in Grand Rapids, Michigan. So many thanks to the wonderful educators who hosted us... full report coming soon!

Irene Latham & Charles Waters presenting
at Wealthy Elementary (East Grand Rapids, Michigan)

Monday, February 12, 2018

After the (ALA Youth Media) Awards

Each year I cozy up with my computer to livestream the ALAYMA. For those of us who love children's books, it's better than Christmas! This year there was much to love... well done, committees!

Not a lot of poetry, though... LONG WAY DOWN by Jason Reynolds received by Newbery and CSK Honors, and MACY MACMILLAN, RAINBOW GODDESS by Shari Green got Schneider Family Award, and I think that's it ??

Jacqueline Woodson did received the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award (taking the baton from Nikki Grimes), but yeah, I think a slow year for poetry, at least in the awards department. Readers, do let me know if I missed a poetry title.

The two books I right away ordered from Amazon were the Newbery winner HELLO, UNIVERSE and the Sibert winner VINCENT & THEO: The Van Gogh Brothers, which I have reserved numerous times at my library and somehow still not read. Excited to catch up on these!

Also excited for PIECES OF ME by studio-sib Renee Watson (CSK winner and Newbery Honor), which is lovely and addresses systemic racism, and also the hair-themed CROWN: An Ode to the Fresh Cut... which I adore! Readers this is a good one to pair with CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? :)

What stood out to you about this year's awards?