Monthly Archives: June 2012

Natasha Trethewey in My Classroom

Natasha Trethewey was my school’s artist-in-residence in 2007 and so I am absolutely delighted that she has just been named the 19th US Poet Laureate. I can’t imagine a better choice. Congratulations, Natasha!

Here’s a slightly updated version of what I wrote about her work with my students that year:

On Wednesday my class had a truly magical hour with poet Natasha Trethewey who is at our school this year as a visiting artist. Aware of Natasha’s interest in history and primary source documents, I asked her if she would be interested in building on my students’ work with Sarah Margru Kinson, a child on the Amistad. She was.

And so Natasha came and, after leading the class in a close reading of several of Elizabeth Alexander’s Amistad poems from her collection American Sublime, guided them into creating a group poem of their own. After she left, the inspired children created individual Amistad poems and then presented them as collages.  Natasha returned to hear the children present the poems.

Here’s the poem we wrote together:

Margru

What I remember of home is this:

green – green mangoes, green snakes, green bananas:
brown – my mother, my father, myself, the tree
trunks, the brown earth, the color of my language,
Mende,
the only language I had
to describe these things.

Often I think of
how I came to be here:

my father pawning me, waving goodbye,
his face crumpled, tightened, looking
away from me.

I felt my captor’s white, cold hand
tighten around my wrist as if
he were a solid ghost taking me away.

Now I wish to see again
the green rice fields,
my father’s brown face,
clouds in the sky —
the only white things,

to hear someone speaking my language,
someone saying

Margru.

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Filed under Africa, Amistad, In the Classroom, Poetry

SLJ’s Day of Dialogue

Yesterday I attended School Library Journal‘s Day of Dialog, a day-long Book Expo pre-conference.  It was outstanding. My thanks and congratulations to all involved especially SLJ’s uber-organizer Luann Toth.  Below is a brief recap of the day.  You can also get a sense of it by checking out tweets from me and many others who attended here.

First up was keynote speaker and our current National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, the one and only Walter Dean Myers who spoke as passionately as only he can about the importance of reading in young people’s lives.  More about Walter’s talk here with a video of it here.

Next was a panel, “Minding the Reading Gap: How to Keep Middle School Readers Engaged” moderated by Jennifer Hubert Swan (who complained at one point that she wasn’t able to twitter the great comments so I tried to on her behalf).  Joan Bauer, Eoin Colfer, Sharon Creech, James Dasher, and Rebecca Stead were all funny, smart, and thought-provoking.  More about this excellent panel here.

After a break there was “Pushing the Picture Book Envelope” moderated by Betsy Bird with Mac Barnett, D. B. Johnson, Jon Klassen, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, and Tom Lichtenheld.  They too were incredibly witty, smart, and showed some very entertaining visuals. More about what was said and shown here.

After a informative session of publisher’s highlighting their forthcoming books was lunch and speaker Libba Bray who was as interesting and funny and engaging as only she can be. We were all given ARCs of her new book,  The Diviners, and I can’t wait to read it.

Next was “Dynamic Nonfiction fro Kids and Teens’ moderated by Susan Marston, editorial director at Junior Library Guild,  and featuring Marc Aronson, Candace Fleming, Sue Macy, and Brenda Murray (who edits Scholastic nonfiction).   It was lively, smart (as were all the panels yesterday), and provoking. More here.

After another informative session of publishers offering us highlights of forthcoming titles we came to the final panel of the day, “Stellar Debuts” moderated by Jenny Brown and featuring J. Anderson Coats (The Wicked and the Just)Emily Danforth (The Miseducation of Cameron Post), R. J. Palacio (Wonder), and Ellis Weiner (The Templeton Twins Have an Idea). Fascinating stuff!  More here.

The day ended with food, drink, and book signing.

Congratulations again to all involved!

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Lemony Snicket’s Childhood…

as he tells it in a new series out this fall.  I’m hoping to perhaps snag a copy of the first volume, “Who Could That Be at This Hour?” this week at BEA, but if not I will have to be satisfied* with the first chapter which you can read this week over at the Guardian.

*Actually I’m not. Satisfied that is.  The first chapter takes off with a bang and I want to read more. Now.

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A Singing and Dancing Charlie Headed to Broadway

A musical on Chaplin now heading for Broadway originated a the La Jolla Playhouse as “Limelight.”  I have to admit I was put off by that title as Chaplin’s film of the same name is one about the decline of a clown in late life.  They’ve just announced that a veteran of other musicals, Rob McClure will be playing the title role which he originated at La Jolla.  Here’s a video from that production. (I have to say that it is a bit strange to see an iconic silent character singing and talking!)

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