Poetry Friday: “Cadence” by Margaret Wise Brown



There is music I have heard

Sharper than the song of bird

Sweeter still while still unheard

There beyond the inner ear.

Softer than the sounds I hear

Softer than the ocean’s swell

In the caverns of a shell,

Tinier than cutting wings

Of flying birds and little things,

Like a cat’s paw in the night

Or a rabbit’s frozen fright.

This is the music I have heard

In the cadence of the word

Not spoken yet

And not yet heard.

by Margaret Wise Brown

I discovered this poem on a bookmark in a book that someone at school was weeding out of their collection. I knew Margaret Wise Brown from her classics Goodnight Moon, The Runaway Bunny, and The Important Book, but I wasn’t familiar with this poem. It first appeared in Nibble, Nibble, a collection of 25 poems which was first published in 1959 with illustrations by Leonard Weisgard. Wendell Minor created new illustrations for “Cadence” and four other poems from the original collection in 2007.

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Brown was a pioneer in children’s literature and wrote hundreds of books. You can learn more about her life and work here. Leonard S. Marcus published a biography, Margaret Wise Brown: Awakened by the Moon (HarperCollins), in 1999 and Over the Moon: An Imaginary Interview with Margaret Wise Brown in the May/June 2010 of The Horn Book.


My favorite quote from this interview reveals Brown’s prescient wisdom about the lives of children.

“In this modern world where activity is stressed almost to the point of mania, quietness as a childhood need is too often overlooked. Yet a child’s need for quietness is the same today as it has always been–it may even be greater–for quietness is an essential part of all awareness. In quiet times and sleepy times a child can dwell in thoughts of his own, and in songs and stories of his own.”

We all need time to be lost in our thoughts, time to listen for those words “Not spoken yet/And not yet heard.”

Be sure to stop by Teaching Young Writers for today’s round up. Thank you, Betsy, for hosting!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? Picture Book Pairs


Last week my school held its spring book fair. I have loved book fairs for as long as I can remember. All those new books, beckoning, begging to be picked up and read. This year I found some real treasures.

Three Hens and a Peacock (Peachtree, 2011) by Lester Laminack and illustrated by Henry Cole, was the first to catch my eye. This is the story of an interloper in the hen house and how he upsets the routines of life on Tuckers’ farm. By the end, life is back to normal, and the everyone has learned a lesson about not trying to change who they are.

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This book reminded me of Just Plain Fancy (Bantam Books, 1990), by Patricia Polacco. Polacco’s story is set on an Amish farm, where the unexpected guest arrives in the form of an egg. Two little girls have the responsibility for caring for the hens, and when they find the unusual egg, they add it to one of the nests in the hen house. Imagine their surprise when they realize that this bird is no hen!

Pairing these books would be a good way to address CCSS Anchor Standard 9: “Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.”  This work begins in Kindergarten by having children “compare and contrast the adventures and experiences of characters in familiar stories” with prompting and support.

Actually, all of the books I found at the book fair could be used to meet this standard. How Do You Hug a Porcupine? (Simon & Schuster, 2011) by Laurie Isop and illustrated by Gwen Millward, answers this very prickly question. The boy who wants to attempt this, shown scratching his head on the cover, tries several very creative ways to protect himself from the porcupine’s quills. This book is a perfect mentor text for young writers. They could come up with their own solutions to this problem, or they could pose a similar question to answer.

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This book initially got my attention because several of my students had just finished reading The Hug, by Sharon Fear. This book is part of the Fountas & Pinnell Leveled Literacy Intervention series and is published by Heinemann. There are several stories about the main character, Moosling, in this series. Moosling is a loveable moose who gets himself into one predicament after another. In The Hug, Little Pins needs a hug so his good friend Moosling figures out how to give him one.


Speaking of moose, Kelly Bingham’s Z is for Moose (Greenwillow, 2012) has gotten all kinds of good press, but somehow I hadn’t read it yet. Hilariously illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky, this book is a must-read. The book trailer is just as funny as the book.

I would pair this book with Q is for Duck: An Alphabet Guessing Game (Clarion Books, 2005) by Mary Elting & Michael Folsom with pictures by Jack Kent, for more mixed up alphabet fun.


What treasures did you find at the book fair this year?

Be sure to visit Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts to find out what others are reading today.

Poetry Friday: Love Calls Us To The Things Of This World



Love Calls Us To The Things Of This World

by Richard Wilbur

The eyes open to a cry of pulleys,
And spirited from sleep, the astounded
Hangs for a moment bodiless and
As false dawn.
Outside the open window
The morning air is all awash with

Read the rest of the poem here or listen to Richard Wilbur read his poem.

Be sure to visit Jama at Jama’s Alphabet Soup for the round up of Poetry Friday posts.

Poetry Friday: America the Beautiful


There’s a scene in the movie Peggy Sue Got Married where 43-year old Peggy Sue, played by Kathleen Turner, finds herself back in her high school home room singing either “America the Beautiful” or “The Star-Spangled Banner.” (I can’t remember which, and we no longer have a working VCR, so I can’t check.) She sings with such gusto that her friends look at her like she’s nuts. I’ve always found her passion inspiring.

I thought of this scene last night at a rehearsal for our town’s Memorial Day service next weekend. Every year for the past four or five years, I’ve sung with a group of other people in town at this and other occasions. I hadn’t practiced with them for a few months and I had forgotten not only how much fun we have, but also how moving the songs we sing are. Of course we sing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” We also sing “Battle Hymn of the Republic”, “God Bless America” and my favorite, “America the Beautiful.”

“America the Beautiful” was written by Katherine Lee Bates in 1893. Bates was an English professor at Wellesley College, and she was inspired to write her poem after a trip to Colorado.

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!

America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

Most people know only the first verse and chorus, which celebrates the beauty of the American landscape. The rest of the poem pays tribute to the Pilgrims and patriots who made the ideal of America possible and asks for God’s help in living up to the possibilities of our freedom. You can read it here (and learn more about Bates and her trip to Colorado). Although it had been sung to other tunes, Samuel Ward’s music, originally written in 1882, was added in 1910 and became the accepted version.


Several picture books have been created using Bates’s poem. Neil Waldman illustrated a version in 2002, and Wendell Minor’s interpretation of the poem was published in 2003. Anita Silvey featured this lovely book on her Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac last summer.


A stunning pop-up version was created by Robert Sabuda in 2004. In 2010, Katherine Lee Bates’s great, great, grandnephew, Chris Gall paired his unique vision with his relative’s famous verses. America the Beautiful: Together We Stand  is the most recent version, published just this year. This rendition is illustrated by a virtual who’s who of picture book illustrators. Quotes from presidents are paired with the lyrics and illustrations.


After 9/11, my school had an assembly to come together and mourn. The principal said a few words, but we mostly sang patriotic songs. I was shocked to discover that many of my students didn’t know the words to these songs. After that, I always included a song in the morning routine my classroom. This is one of the things I miss the most about not having my own classroom.

These songs are part of our cultural heritage. No matter what our politics, curriculum, or testing demands, we should be sharing these songs with our students every day.  Peggy Sue shouldn’t be the only one excited about singing them.

Slice of Life: The Gift of Books


“A book is a gift you can open again and again.” Garrison Keillor

This morning on her blog extraordinaire, A Fuse 8 Production, Betsy Bird announced a contest. The prize? “A hand-wrapped parcel from Sophie Blackall,” illustrator of Matthew Olshan’s just published The Mighty Lalouche (Schwartz & Wade, 2013). Take one look at the  photos on the post and you’ll understand that this will be a treasure. It made me want to wrap up a package and send it to someone! The rules for entering this contest? Just post a comment on Betsy’s blog telling her about the best present you ever received in the mail.

I’ve wracked my brain about this all day. I honestly don’t remember getting that many presents in the mail. I grew up in the same town where my grandparents and mother grew up, and my father grew up in the town next door. We were always together on gift giving occasions.  My mother certainly loved me, but she worked full time, so any care package sent when I was in college was most likely a check. (Which was greatly appreciated!)


So what was the best present I ever got in the mail? A book, of course! I had a great-aunt who lived on Long Island who didn’t always come to Connecticut for Christmas, so she must have mailed our gifts from time to time. She had an uncanny knack for always choosing the perfect book for me. The first book I remember getting was Little Bear when I was 3 or 4. I still have this book, and read it to my children. They loved it just as much as I did. One of the last books she ever gave me was Little Women when I was 12 or 13. I thought I was much too old for such a book. How wrong I was!


In between were other books, many of which I still have. But those are the two that stand out. What is best book you ever got as a present?

Thank you to Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers for hosting this weekly Slice of Life Challenge!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?


I feel like I’ve been trying to catch up with a backlog of journal articles, blogs, and newspapers all week. But I did manage to squeeze in a few books for fun.

Steam Train, Dream Train (Chronicle Books, 2013) is a lovely bedtime story by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld. A menagerie of zoo animals meet a steam train as it pulls into the station. They get right to work, loading the train with paint, sand, food and just about every toy imaginable. Once the train is loaded, the animals “settle in, and tuck in tight.” After it leaves the station, the final pages show a sleeping child with a toy train at the foot of the bed. Outside the window is a billowing cloud that looks suspiciously like a plume of smoke from a train. Although this is clearly aimed at the preschool set, I know a few Kindergarten and 1st grade boys who will love this book.

Watch the trailer here:

In If You Were a Chocolate Mustache (Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press, 2012), J. Patrick Lewis serves up more of his singular humor. Long poems, short poems, concrete poems, riddle poems, this collection has something for everyone. Matthew Cordell’s pen-and-ink drawings are the perfect complement for these madcap poems. This book is a must-have for elementary and middle grade classrooms.


Be sure to visit Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts to find out what others are reading today.

Poetry Friday: “Think Like a Tree”


At the beginning of Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Francie Nolan gazes at the tree in her yard and recalls lines of poetry learned in school:

This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,

Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,

Stand like the Druids of old… (From H.W. Longfellow’s Introduction to Evangeline)

To Francie, her tree is hope, for “no matter where its seed fell, it made a tree which struggled to reach the sky.”

I’ve been thinking about trees, and the hope they represent, this week. This might be because a piece of land I pass on my drive to work each day is being cleared and the most amazing tree has been revealed, not twenty feet from the road. It has a huge limb that grows almost perpendicular to the trunk before it arches up toward the sky, creating an inviting perch. Every day I want to stop my car and climb onto that seat.

I loved to climb trees when I was a kid. I loved being enfolded in their branches. My mother used to have a fit that I was too high, that I would fall and break my neck. I never did fall. Somewhere along the way I grew too old for climbing trees. But I’ve never stopped admiring their beauty, their resilience.

Trees nurture us in countless ways. They provide shade in summer and shelter in winter. Our air is purified by their leaves. They produce fruit and harbor bees and their honey. It’s no wonder that cultures throughout history have considered trees sacred and have worshiped them.

“Think Like a Tree,” by Karen I. Shragg captures the beauty and magic of trees and reminds us of their wisdom.

Soak up the sun

Affirm life’s magic

Be graceful in the wind

Stand tall after a storm…

Read the rest of this poem here.

Writers and poets have been celebrating trees for millennia. What is your favorite tree poem?

Be sure to visit Anastasia Suen’s Poetry Blog for today’s round up of poems.

Poetry Friday: Picture-Books in Winter


In case you haven’t heard, May is Get Caught Reading month. Sponsored by the Association of American Publishers since 1999, Get Caught Reading month is “a nationwide campaign to remind people of all ages how much fun it is to read.” You can find out more, including how to order the celebrity posters, here.

ImageTo celebrate, here is Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Picture-Books in Winter,”  a reminder that books allow us to experience any adventure imaginable, no matter what the season.

Picture-Books In Winter

Summer fading, winter comes–

Frosty mornings, tingling thumbs,

Window robins, winter rooks,

And the picture story-books.

Water now is turned to stone

Nurse and I can walk upon;

Still we find the flowing brooks

In the picture story-books.

All the pretty things put by,

Wait upon the children’s eye,

Sheep and shepherds, trees and crooks,

In the picture story-books.

We may see how all things are

Seas and cities, near and far,

And the flying fairies looks,

In the picture story-books.

How am I to sing your praise,

Happy chimney-corner days,

Sitting safe in nursery nooks,

Reading picture story-books?

by Robert Louis Stevenson

Pick up a book and have an adventure today!

You can learn more about Robert Louis Stevenson and read other poems from A Child’s Garden of Verses at Poets.org. Also, be sure to visit Liz Steinglass at her lovely blog for the round up of poems.