Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Month Ahead

Hard for me to believe, but, to misquote the good Dr. Seuss, "tomorrow is April! It's practically here!"

Starting tomorrow, you'll get a new poem/poet combination every day, but that won't be all (I hope!). There will be other poetry news, other posts, and who knows what else popping up as the month goes on. I'm looking forward to it, and I'm so glad to see so many folks coming by already to check out the fun.

I hope you'll all jump into the comments section of the poems and let us know what you're thinking. And if you have any questions or ideas during the month, you can also feel free to e-mail me.

There's also a lot more going on in the Kidlitosphere this month. Such as...

  • Tricia Stohr-Hunt will interview 30 children's poets. The Poetry Makers list is stellar! Tricia and I have some overlap, too, and that should be pretty fun.

  • Lee Wind shares GLBTQ Teen Poetry.

  • Jone MacCulloch shares Thirty Days, Thirty Students, Thirty Poems. Original poems by students. Jone will also again offer the Poetry Postcard Project where original student poems are sent out on decorated postcards. Request yours now.

  • Check out Mary Lee Hahn's daily poems about teaching each day in April. Also at A Year of Reading, Franki will review poetry books & share Poetry Month activities.

  • Jama Rattigan is posting original poems & favorite recipes by some of the Poetry Friday regulars (including me!).

  • Irene Latham will give away a favorite poetry anthology each poetry Friday during April.

  • Laura Salas will post a children's poem per day from a poetry book she loves.

  • Sylvia Vardell will be inviting poets to play Poetry Tag by offering a poem for readers to enjoy, then "tag" a fellow poet who then shares her/his own poem that is connected to the previous poem.

    New original poems every day by a lot of wonderful folks:

  • Susan Taylor Brown

  • Mary Lee Hahn

  • Andromeda Jazmon

  • Irene Latham

  • Jone MacCulloch

  • Elizabeth Moore

  • April Halprin Wayland (one of last year's 30 Poets/30 Days poets!)

  • It's gonna be a great month, indeed. There's more come up here real soon, but now I gotta book. See you in April!

    Tuesday, March 30, 2010

    Blockhead!!! (The Life of Fibonacci)

    How excited was I to find out that there was a biography of Fibonacci coming out for kids? VERY. Ever since Fibs went viral, I've gotten lots of questions about Fibonacci here and done research of my own... but nothing like what's gone into Joseph D'Agnese's book (with truly wonderful illustrations by John O'Brien, examples of which dot this post). So it not only filled a need for me but was also was the type of book I knew I'd've loved as a kid.

    When I saw that it was called Blockhead: the Life of Fibonacci and then later read the story of its journey to print, I became kinda swoony fanboy about it. And I knew... just knew... I had to ask the author some questions. So I did, and better still, he answered them! So now you get not only my huge fandom, but also much more. Here then are my questions, and Joe D'Agnese's answers....

    What led you to write the story of Fibonacci for kids rather than adults? I mean, I’d’ve read this as a kid or adult… but what pushed you that way?

    Two things pushed me to do this book for kids. I first learned about the Fibonacci Sequence when I was working as an editor for a 5th- and 6th-grade children's educational math magazine called Scholastic DynaMath. Every couple of years at DynaMath, it's time to do an article on the Fibonacci Sequence. But these articles were always short and they didn't allow me much room to tell everything I was learning about Leonardo the man. I thought a picture book was an obvious choice. After all, the sequence is inherently visual, and the medieval setting is rich and visual too. 
    The second thing that pushed me to write for kids is my own innumeracy. I'm not a mathematician, and one really needs to be a number theorist to write an adult book about Fibonacci's contributions to mathematics. By the way, I think my illustrator, John O'Brien, did an amazing job with making Fibonacci's world come to life. Part of the fun of reading the book is looking for all the little Fibonacci objects that John hid in the artwork. How two guys from New Jersey ended up bringing a medieval Italian mathematician to life is probably the book's biggest mystery!

    I had always thought of Fibonacci only in terms of the sequence that now bears his name. But he was well known for so much beyond that, wasn’t he?
    Yes! Absolutely! He is recognized as one of the most important mathematicians of the western world during the middle ages. His contribution is a huge one: He helped import Hindu-Arabic numerals from the east to the west. That's the part of the story that fascinated me from the beginning. Here's this young boy growing up in Tuscany, where they use Roman numerals. And then his father, who is a customs official, takes him to Algeria, North Africa, to do accounting work, and lo and behold, the young Fibonacci discovers that the wise men of this land are using not I, II, III but 1, 2, 3. And they are using zero, and have an understanding of something called place value. Fibonacci quickly realizes the significance, the importance and efficacy of these numerals and shares them with the western world. I've read some of his writings and they are clearly the work of a brilliant, serious mind. 
    Some historians argue that were it not for Fibonacci's work, the economic thrust that drove the Renaissance would not have been possible. He showed the west how to do its books.
    Actuaries, stock traders, knitters, and others use the Fibonacci sequence, and there’s even a band named the Fibonaccis. Were there any great places you found Fibonacci or his numbers pop up?

    The wackiest thing I've ever heard is the cosmetic dentist who claimed to use the Fibonacci Sequence to create the perfect smile on his patients' faces. I myself have spent most of my time seeking out Fibonacci numbers in nature because I like to garden and I'm always astonished to see how often the Sequence pops up. 
    I think teachers and parents might have fun planting a Fibonacci Garden, where they plant flowers likely to produce flowers that grow in the sequence. And I would plant the garden in a spiral shape. Sunflowers could go in the center of the spiral because they are the tallest, and then you can work your way down to shorter plants. I haven't spotted Fibonacci in strange places. More like strange minds! In other words, I can't believe how many different types of people know a little about Fibonacci. Artists, illustrators, designers, web designers all seem to know him. But then so do a lot of engineers I've met. As do musicians, architects, photographers, and many others. If your work touches on some aspect of aesthetics, you probably know a little about Fibonacci.

    One of the most frequent questions I get in comments here is “Did Fibonacci have a wife and kids?” So I gotta know… can people find an answer to that in Blockhead (even if the answer is “no one knows”)?

    Well, you see, what happened was, Mr. and Mrs. Fibonacci had twins, and then they had triplets. After that, Mrs. F. refused to have more kids because she could see which way this was going. It was tough to have quints in the 13th century. But seriously, folks, the sad thing about the Fibonacci story is that we know very little about him. He wrote a one-paragraph autobiography in one of his books, and that's how we know about his early life, his father, and his travels. We do have his mathematical writings. And there is evidence that people in his hometown of Pisa regarded him as a learned and worthy man because there are records showing they paid him to perform work for the city. But after that, we know nothing more. We don't know when he was born, when he died, or if he ever had a family. 
    We do know that during his lifetime he never used the name Fibonacci. That name was coined by later mathematicians who experimented with the Sequence. In his day, Leonardo called himself Leonardo Pisano, aka Leonard of Pisa; or Leonardo, son of Bonaccio. He also had an odd nickname that he used in his writings: Bigollus. This probably means wanderer, dreamer, traveler, lazy good-for-nothing, etc. For my book, I interpreted this as "Blockhead." I think his neighbors were doing the typical Italian thing, gently teasing him for being an absent-minded prof. 

    Greg, I want to thank you for you having me visit, and thank you for presenting the world with the wonderful concept of Fibs. I'm sure that if Fibonacci were around, he'd warmly embrace the idea of poetry being used to celebrate the glory of numbers!

    And I want to thank Joe for taking the time to answer my questions (and making me laugh in the process, no less!) and for being tenacious enough to bring Fibonacci's story into print. I am thrilled this book is out in the world, and hope you are, too!

    Monday, March 29, 2010

    Kenn Nesbitt, the Tighty Whitey Spider, and More

    Kenn Nesbitt's poems have always made me laugh. In fact, I've been a fan since I stumbled onto his website, many moons ago (pre-GottaBook, even!). Also, Kenn was one of the poets in the inaugural 30 Poets/30 Days here last year and a big help in making the first year as successful as it was. So, I'm a fan on many levels.

    That said, his new book, The Tighty Whitey Spider (with illustrations by Ethan Long) would make me a fan even if I wasn't already one. I'm lucky because his publisher, Sourcebooks, got me a book early, so I've already read Whenever Yaks Play Basketball, I Like My Triangular Cat, and Toby the Snowboarding Doberman. Yup. I have. I've heard some of the audio tracks you can hear when you get the book, too, all performed by Kenn. And guess what? The poems, the audio, and the book make me laugh. Nuff said.

    You can judge for yourself, though. I'm gonna leave you with a poem that is in Tighty Whitey but debuted here at GottaBook last year: My Chicken's On the Internet.  Also, Kenn's last book, My Hippo Has the Hiccups is available as a freeeeeeee eBook until the end of National Poetry Month (or you can just enjoy it online at the same link). Go see if it makes you laugh, too. If it does, check out Tighty Whitey Spider if you want some more. I know I'm biased... but I think you'll end up agreeing with me anyway!

    My Chicken's On the Internet
    Kenn Nesbitt

    My chicken's on the Internet.
    She surfs the web all day.
    I've tried to stop her browsing
    but, so far, there's just no way.

    She jumps up on the mouse
    and then she flaps around like mad
    to click on every hyperlink
    and every pop-up ad.

    She plays all sorts of chicken games.
    She messages her folks.
    She watches chicken videos
    and forwards chicken jokes.

    She writes a blog for chickens
    and she uploads chicken pics.
    She visits chicken chat rooms
    where she clucks about her chicks.

    I wouldn't mind so much
    except my keyboard's now a wreck.
    She hasn't learned to type yet;
    she can only hunt and peck.

    © Kenn Nesbitt. All rights reserved.
    (originally posted here)

    Friday, March 26, 2010

    Pants - a poem about pants/a gift giving poem

    Gregory K.

    I saw my mother buy me pants
    With stripes in shades of green...
    And on one knee a bright red blob
    Shaped like a kidney bean.
    The pants have pockets 'round the waist
    With zippers in between.
    I think the guy who sewed the seams
    Lost hold of his machine.
    So when my mom gives me this "gift" -
    The ugliest I've seen -
    I'll smile and say, "You shouldn't have."
    And, boy, that's what I'll mean.

    Happy Poetry Friday to you! This week, the roundup is over at Julie Larios' Drift Record. You really oughta go check it out.

    And if you want to get all my poems (and only the poems) emailed to you for freeee as they hit the blog, enter your email address in the box below then click subscribe!

    Thursday, March 25, 2010

    Announcing the 2010 Edition of 30 Poets/30 Days!

    I'm incredibly excited to announce the 2010 edition of 30 Poets/30 Days, a celebration of children's poetry that will take place here at GottaBook throughout National Poetry Month.

    (There is now a 2011 edition of 30 Poets/30 Days!)

    Every day in April, I'll be posting a previously unpublished poem by a different poet. Here's the alphabetical list of who's going to be here this year:

    Francisco X. Alarcón, Kathi Appelt, Jorge Argueta, Brod Bagert, Carmen Bernier-Grand, Calef Brown, Joseph Bruchac, James Carter, Kurt Cyrus, Graham Denton, Ralph Fletcher, David L. Harrison, Georgia Heard, Alan Katz, Bobbi Katz, Arthur A. Levine, George Ella Lyon, Elaine Magliaro, Heidi Mordhorst, Walter Dean Myers, Laura Purdie Salas, Liz Garton Scanlon, Alice Schertle, Charles R. Smith Jr., Eileen Spinelli, Susan Marie Swanson, Charles Waters, Carole Boston Weatherford, Jacqueline Woodson, Tracie Vaughn Zimmer

    Did I mention I'm excited? This group has talent like nobody's business, and I'm thrilled and grateful they're here. They're going to give you a fabulous month of poetry, so I do hope you'll hang out and enjoy it.

    If you can't visit GottaBook every day, there are a number of other ways you can follow along:

    You can subscribe to GottaBook via email or your blog reader.

    You can join my poetry list, and get all the poems emailed out the day they hit my blog. Enter your email address below and click subscribe:

    And you can join the fun on Twitter. You can follow me there for links to the poems every day (and much more), or follow @30poets30days for purely poetry tweeting.

    Also, to check out more of the wonderfulness going on throughout the Kidlitosphere during National Poetry Month by checking out the KidLitosphere Central Poetry Month page. Among other highlights, Tricia has a whole new Poetry Makers series for us (including some overlap with the list above).

    A few additional thank yous are in order before I wrap up. First off, to all the poets who participated last year and kicked this event off in style, you have my never-ending gratitude. Thanks, too, to Bonnie Adamson for whipping me up enough logo designs to keep me happy for months and years. And finally, to all my blogging friends and all you blog readers - thanks for the support day after day and year after year. It's truly appreciated.

    Once again, I'm really looking forward to April. I hope you'll all come join the fun!

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010

    Tomorrow! I love ya, tomorrow....

    Why? Because tomorrow is when I'll be officially launching the 2010 edition of 30 Poets/30 Days. Am I excited? Oh, yes. And I hope that tomorrow, any of you who are excited will help me spread the word: it's fun, free, fabulous poetry for kids and their adults all month long!

    I'm also excited because Bonnie Adamson put together some logos for this year's event. I finally narrowed it down to two, figuring that was better than eight! I get to play with those tomorrow, too (Blogger willing, of course).

    See you all then, but I've gotta book - so much to do, so little time :-)

    Monday, March 22, 2010

    Applause! A Wimpy Kid Movie Moment

    Last Friday, I saw the movie of Diary of a Wimpy Kid... and experienced a moment sure to make any author happy. "And what was that moment, Greg?" I hear you ask.

    There was applause for the credit "Based on the book Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney."

    Yes, the crowd applauded for the author and his book - the only applause in the credits, in fact (and they are END credits at that).

    Maybe I'm reading into this, but my takeaway is that kids do bond with books and authors, not just with marketing. In fact, it wasn't commercials that filled the seats on Friday: it was a love of the books.

    The movie is not a cinematic masterpiece, but I don't think that was its goal. Instead, I think the filmmakers understood who was gonna see this movie and not only what they'd want from it but what they'd demand from it (and what they wouldn't tolerate). It didn't attempt to expand for a bigger audience ala The Lightning Thief because, frankly, that wouldn't have made any sense here. I hope it continues to draw an audience beyond opening weekend and prove that there is room for movies like this.

    Yes, Wimpy Kid is unique in that some 70,000,000 people have viewed parts of it over at Funbrain. But at the end of the day (or the end of the movie, really) the applause was for Jeff Kinney and his book.

    So author friends... keep that in mind as you're writing. You do connect with your readers. And some day, perhaps, that applause will be for you and your book.

    What a sweet sound that applause was, in oh so many ways!

    Thursday, March 18, 2010

    A Poetry Re-Issue: Air Guitar

    Gregory K.

    I bought myself an air guitar.
    You think I overpaid?
    Well, the guy who sold it to me said that it’s the best he’s played.

    It really is a beauty:
    Just one scratch and two small dings.
    I can’t wait for you to hear it... but I gotta buy some strings.

    (originally published here at Gottabook on April 16, 2006)

    The Poetry Friday roundup is at Some Novel Ideas today. You should go just to see the Piku that Stacy has posted there. Yes, I said Piku!

    And if you want to get all my poems (and only the poems) emailed to you for freeee as they hit the blog, enter your email address in the box below then click subscribe!

    Wednesday, March 17, 2010

    Tick, Tick, Tick

    I am really getting excited about 30 Poets/30 Days. It's two weeks away! I'd panic and stress, but the reality is that nothing can really go wrong - the goal is to share wnoderful poetry and that'll be accomplished thanks to the talented folks who are joining in. (Have I mentioned I've seen some of the poetry and that it's fantastic?)

    There's a ton going on throughout the Kidlitosphere in April, too, so I hope you'll all join in and help spread the word.

    Sunday, March 14, 2010

    Blogging a novel in verse....

    That's what poet, storyteller, author, teacher Steven Withrow is doing over at The Feather of Memory. And he's reading it aloud as he goes.

    I'm looking forward to seeing it unfold and love the idea of a novel in verse coming into my reader every now and then....

    Friday, March 12, 2010

    If It's Friday, It Must be Poetry

    Who's excited about National Poetry Month. Ooooh! Me! ME!!! I am really getting excited about this year's edition of 30 Poets/30 Days, kicking off April 1 right here. (Here's a link to last year's edition, for those unsure why I'm excited. All new poets and poetry this year... yay!).

    There's going to be a lot else going on in the Kidlitosphere, too, and we'll explore more nearer April. In the meantime, though...

    At Farm School, Becky has a fantastic post full of sources and ideas for National Poetry Month. Yow! You could spend all day here.

    Over at Semicolon, Sherry is asking for list-submissions so she can put together a list of the Top 100 Classic Poems of all time (in this case meaning poems no longer under copyright so she can print them all on the blog!). It's not children's poetry specific, I know, but I do so love top 100 lists. Send her what you got!

    And it's Poetry Friday, so why not head over to Becky's Book Reviews for the Roundup? Learn about The Spiney form of poetry. You know you want to....

    Thursday, March 11, 2010

    The Los Angeles Public Library Crisis - Time to Act!

    The Los Angeles Public Library, like many school and public library systems across the nation, is staring down the barrel of a possible budget cut. There are ways we can all help.

    Here is their Save the Library site.

    Please go check it out and see if there's anything you can do to help. Time is of the essence. Click over today.

    Sunday, March 07, 2010

    Sharing Stories: A Gift That Lasts a Lifetime

    When I was growing up, my father had one favorite book to read aloud to me: The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf (with illustrations by Robert Lawson). Well, actually, our copy was El Cuento de Ferdinando translated into Spanish by Pura Belpré, (with my father's re-translation back into English handwritten on each page by my mother).

    In my memory, this was my goodnight book off and on for many years, sometimes read in English and sometimes in Spanish (which I didn't and sadly still don't understand).

    In truth, I have no idea how many times I heard the story, but the words, the feeling, and the experience of sharing that time with my father all had an impact on me. A positive one.

    My father read other books, too, and shared stories from newspapers, magazines, and wherever else he found them. When I headed off to college, he emailed stories he'd find to me (and I emailed ones I'd find back to him).

    Later, I moved to Los Angeles, leaving my computer science degree unused to pursue my dream of being a screenwriter. Was that the influence of Ferdinand sending me off to find my own path? Perhaps. Certainly, my father smiled at the choice. Soon, I was writing stories... and my father was always one of my first readers.

    I have two boys of my own now. I love to read aloud to them. I share books and poems and stories snuggled on the couch and from the front of the car and huddled around my computer and shouted from across the room and, well, wherever we are and wherever we find stories. They already share back.

    I know research shows how important it is to read aloud to children. Literacy is so critical and that alone should be reason enough for dads (and moms) to read to their kids. But for me, the reasons to read aloud and share stories go deeper still.

    When you share stories, they became part of the way you communicate. My father and I could use stories to share what excited us, to learn and teach, to help decipher the world, to connect with each other even thousands of miles apart. Understanding stories helped broaden my world and has made my life richer.

    Best of all, though, sharing stories creates a bond, and a surprisingly strong one at that. And reading aloud with your child begins the process.

    I've been the volunteer librarian at my sons' school for five years now, and when I walk across campus, it's not at all unusual for a student to run up to me to tell me what they're reading or to share a story of their own. Even there, with me only reading to them once a week, story has created a connection. You can capture that at home. It isn't hard.

    Pick your favorite books or let your child pick. Read what excites you from a magazine or newspaper or read what you think might excite them. Be enthusiastic, no matter what you're reading (even when it's a book you can't believe they like), and show your child that you have the time for them, that you care what they like, that you are listening, and you are sharing.

    And remember, reading aloud is an experience... a shared moment... and not a race to the end of the story.

    By reading aloud, you will make a positive impact, often in ways you never even contemplated.

    You see, my father passed away about a dozen years ago. Yet to this day, when I see any copy of The Story of Ferdinand, not just my childhood copy which I still have, I can hear my father reading to me...

    And like Ferdinand himself, I am very happy.

    So share a story. Shape a future. Read aloud to your kids and give a gift that lasts a lifetime.

    (I'm proud to be a part of the kick off day of Share a Story - Shape a Future, a week-long reading and literacy related blog event. Click through to learn more and see links to some wonderful posts throughout the blogosphere.)

    The peek at the iPad book

    If you haven't seen the video of Penguin's demonstration of what they're doing on the iPad, you can head over to the Happy Accident and take a peek. And you should take a peek, as I think it puts to rest the argument that kids and e-books aren't likely to mix (not that that's ever been a valid argument).

    Is it a book? Does that matter? It's a path towards keeping kids reading, seems to me, and isn't likely to wipe out printed books. Still, the days of the simple PDF equivalent e-book are numbered, seems to me.

    As one of my favorite teachers used to say on his tests, "Feel free to discuss." Then it wasn't optional, though here it is!

    Friday, March 05, 2010

    Thank You! Thank You, Sam-I-Am! - a thank you poem

    Thank You! Thank You, Sam-I-Am!
    Gregory K.

    Would you like to learn to read?
         All books are dull. I see no need.

    All books are dull? No! Take a look –
    Green Eggs and Ham! Here, try this book.

    If you will let me be,
    I will try it. You will see.

    This book is great! I see the need -
    I understand why I should read!

    Now I will read books on a train
    And in a car and on a plane.
    And I will read while in a house
    And in a box and with a mouse.
    Now I will read books here and there.
    Yes, I will read books anywhere!

    I do so like Green Eggs and Ham!
    Thank you! Thank you, Sam-I-Am!

    This poem was actually inspired by a contest (and originally left as a comment in a slightly different form) at OPWFT. And since Tuesday was Dr. Seuss's birthday... call it a tribute and thanks to him, too.

    This week's Poetry Friday Roundup is over at (a fantastic resource as the roundup post itself will show!). Get thee hence!

    If you want to get all my new poems (and only the poems) emailed to you for freeee as they hit the blog, enter your email address in the box below then click subscribe!

    Wednesday, March 03, 2010

    Whether You Say "What? A Day?" or "What a Day!"...

    ... tomorrow, March 4th, is National Grammar Day!

    I'm particularly excited, because NGD was founded by Martha Brockenbrough... who I've actually heard talk about grammar (and laughed as I listened. She's funnnnny.). And on top of that... she also writes for kids! Another reason to support the day, I say.

    Tomorrow, I plan to punctuate my day with joy (and commas). And you? How will you celebrate?

    Monday, March 01, 2010

    30 Poets/30 Days - the 2010 Edition Tease

    31 days!!!! That's all the time that's left until National Poetry Month... and here at GottaBook, the kickoff of 30 Poets/30 Days - 2010!

    Last year was the inaugural 30 Poets event, and it was such fun for me that I'm doing it again.

    So where's the list of participating poets, you ask? Hey... I'm a tease - I'm not sharing yet. I can tell you it has some overlap with the fabulous Poetry Makers series at the Miss Rumphius Effect... and that it has lots of non-overlap, too.

    And I can definitely say it's a stellar list of amazing poets all, once again, sharing previously unpublished work - a different poem/poet every day in April - to celebrate the month.

    Stay tuned for more hints and announcements as the month goes on. And I hope you'll stick around - it's gonna be a poetry party!