RUM PUM PUM reviewed in Florida Literacy Journal

Hi everyone,

My thanks to NILE STANLEY, poet and Chair, Department of Childhood Education at University of North Florida, for reviewing, RUM PUM PUM in the latest issue of The Florida Literacy Journal. JANE YOLEN and I co-wrote the story, richly illustrated by ANJAN SARKAR, and published by Holiday House in 2020. Nile is a former editor of the Florida Reading Quarterly and founder and chair of the annual Poetry Olio of the Conference of the International Literacy Association.

In his review, he states, “This is a book that children will want to experience again and again. The book lends itself naturally to storytelling because the plot is engaging, simple, and fast-paced…I found the experiences of teaching the book to children equally satisfying through the techniques of visual storytelling, read aloud, and literary storytelling. I eagerly introduced the book to a large group of aged 3 to 5 preschoolers with a picture walk through the book.”

Thank you, Nile. I hope our paths will cross again one of these days, at a conference or elsewhere.

Partner poems and word from Nile Stanley

BULLETIN: Happy Birthday, Robin! I love you. Dad

BULLETIN: This in from our friend Nile Stanley: his poetry calendar for May. Thanks for sharing it, Nile.

The May Reading Calendar is a wonderful resource that is “just a click away” for teachers, librarians, parents, and children. Creator Nile Stanley has compiled a set of multimedia activities, hyperlinks to online lessons, games and videos that help children learn to read, to enjoy reading and to engage with the new literacies. Every day of each month contains an activity that children can do on their own, with siblings, or with guidance from a teacher or parent.

The May, 2011 calendar and previous months are available for free as a PDF file at  To view a document click on its name in black.

If the sound is not on when you open the PDF, click the sound control in upper left hand corner and be sure your speaker volume is on.

Hi everyone,

Day in and day out the most popular post I’ve done is the one I’m re-posting here today. It seems that most people like the idea of poems that feature more than one voice. The book I did with Tim Rasinski and Gay Fawcett (both of whom you’ve met as Featured Guests on my blog) continues to do well and I frequently read my poems from it when I visit schools.

At the International Reading Association conference in Orlando this Sunday, May 8. I’ll be part of an all-day institute. My topic is, “Poems for Multiple Voices — Writing and Performing.” On Monday, Tim Rasinski and I will co-present a demonstration of reading partner poems from our book. Anyway, here’s the repeat post. By the way, I chose a different poem this time.

Our new book

Our new book

You may have heard Tim Rasinski speak if you’ve attended conferences where reading fluency was discussed. He’s a professor at Kent State University and is one of our leading authorities on the subject. I have a new book out with Tim and another expert on reading fluency, Gay Fawcett, of Kent State and other universities.

The book, published by Scholastic Teaching Strategies, is called PARTNER POEMS FOR BUILDING FLUENCY, GRADES 4-6. I co-wrote the introduction and created 40 original multiple-voice poems. Let me correct that. My friend Terry Bond, teacher and former high school curriculum coordinator, co-wrote one, and two others were inspired by my one-upmanship conversations with my young friend Ryan Brinkerhoff, who was ten or twelve at the time. The other 37 were all mine! The idea is that children improve reading skills, including fluency, by sharing aloud poems for two or more voices.

If you have an interest in such a book, it’s now on the market. Confusingly, Scholastic has another book with an almost identical name with poems by Bobbi Katz. I don’t mind if you get her book too!

Here’s an example from our book. If you haven’t tried writing a poem for two voices, give it a whirl. It’s a great way to talk to yourself!

2 voices

What’s that green thing?

Brussels sprouts.

I don’t want no Brussels sprouts.

Come on, try some Brussels sprouts.

I don’t want no Brussels sprouts!

These are special Brussels sprouts.

I don’t want no Brussels sprouts!

Just one taste of Brussels sprouts.

If I taste these Brussels sprouts,
then can I have something else?


I hate these Brussels sprouts!

Here’s some yummy cottage cheese, pickled beets, cauliflower,
lima beans, and chicken liver.

Please pass the Brussels sprouts.
I don’t want no chicken liver.



BULLETIN: I discovered additional pictues of Charles Waters, who was featured yesterday in What Are the Pros Up To? scroll down one post to see some neat additional photos. You’re looking good, Charles!

BULLETIN: This just in from my friend, Dr. Nile Stanley (Nile the Crocodile). As always, Nile is out their promoting poetry. Thanks, Nile! April Reading Calendar (animated & sound) Nile, I’m sorry to be so slow. Traveling does that to me. David

Hi everyone,

As you may recall, Sandy Asher and I agreed to take off this month from our regular Tuesday chats about writing. We’re both hanging onto the last knot in our ropes so this seemed like our best option. We’ll be back, hopefully in May, but for now we’re busy elsewhere.

If you want to review our previous topics, you can go scroll down to the box with previous subjects and tags in red and click on WRITERS AT WORK.

You can also go to America Writes for Kids (  and read them by the month, which is easier.

Thanks for understanding.


November Poets, December Word, and Writers at Work, with Joan Carris

Hi everyone,

Today we have a lot to cover. First, I’m pleased to announce our two sets of monthly winners among the Word of the Month poets. I’ll begin with our Hall of Fame Poet who, this month, is Lisa Martino from Florida. Lisa’a winning poem is To Teach or Not to Teach the Classics. Second spot goes to Steven Withrow from Rhode Island for his poem, Best of a Bad Spell.

This month we have two categories of Young Poets: grades 3-7 and grades 8-12. Our Hall of Fame Young Poet, Grades 3-7 is Ella Foster from Ohio for her poem, Without a Word. Finishing in second place is Zack Safadi, also from Ohio, for his poem, The Hero.

Our Hall of Fame Young Poet, Grades 8-12 is La’ Joi Word from Florida for her poem, Thankful. In second place is Jacquanna Gillins from Florida, for her poem, Thanks.

Our panel of judges made their own selections and here are their results. Word of the Month Poet is Nile Stanley from Florida with his poem, “Words.” Nile, many thanks for lending your voice to the choir this month. I ought to give Gay Fawcett a special mention because you dedicated your poem to hers. Steven Withrow’s poem was the judges’s second choice.

Word of the Month Young Poet, Grades 3-7 is Zack Safadi for his poem, The Hero. Second place is a tie between Erin Fankhauser for “Partner,” and Emma Lavetter-Keidan for The Only Escape.

Word of the Month Young Poet, Grades 8-12 is Jacquanna Gillins for her poem, Thanks. Second place goes to Omar Teran for his poem, Thanks.

Congratulations to our honorees and to everyone who stepped forward to share their work this month. We’re grateful. Our judges encourage poets of all ages to take their time, think through what they want to say and how they want to say it, then revise and polish until the work is ready to be shared.

BULLETIN: I’ve worked much of the morning pulling together all the winning poems and have just posted them below Joan Carris. Sometimes people want to see the poems in one place. I have NOT proofed this work. Off to a meeting.

Are you ready for the December word? It is WEATHER. I expect that to give us plenty to write about!

This being Tuesday, it’s time for another segment of WRITERS AT WORK, the dialogue Sandy Asher and I started several weeks ago. If you’re following this one, we begin each month with an issue that writers face. We then take two turns each posting comments and suggestions. The topic for this month is Reality of Rejection. At the end of the month we’ve posted four brief articles on the subject and sometimes along the way we add pieces provided by other authors. That’s the case this month. November has five Tuesdays. Sandy and i have each written about Reality of Rejecton twice. We were delighted when an old friend and fellow writer, Joan Carris, joined us with these flashback comments about a previous subject: Obstacles ot Writing. So now it’s my pleasure to introduce Joan.

On Being Distracted

by Joan Carris

I have been writing something or other since 1976. My first writing assignment was a plea from the Unitarian church in Princeton for an original play celebrating the BiCentennial. Having no idea of how difficult that could be, I said YES. At the time our kids were 14, 9, and 6. “When I’m writing,” I told them, “don’t bother me unless you’re bleeding.”

I settled down at my typewriter with a ream of paper and rolled in the first pristine sheet. Instantly heard a terrified screaming outside my workroom window. I flew outdoors just in time to see our 6 year-old son hit the ground under the neighbor’s giant willow tree. He and I had a red-hot discussion right there. “But I stopped myself by grabbing a branch,” he said. “See? I’m hardly bleeding at all!”

That was the beginning of my distracted life as a writer. Over time I have managed to learn a little something about the craft—mainly that it is a heckuva lot harder than it should be. As Hawthorne wrote, “Easy reading is damned hard writing.” I believe it’s hard because we keep expecting more of ourselves. We intimidate ourselves, and then call it writer’s block.

Fran Lebowitz, an extremely funny essayist (Social Studies, 1981), was quoted in the online Writer’s Almanac as saying, “Most writers have a hard time writing. I have a harder time than most because I’m lazier than most…I would have made a perfect heiress.” She is now at work on a novel that was commissioned more than 20 years ago.
Okay, so writing IS HARD. Clearly we deserve not just a room of our own, as Virginia Woolf said, but some peace and quiet, dangit. The world should tiptoe away. It should, but it won’t. Some damn fool will ring your doorbell. Your back left molar will start throbbing. The cat will meow to be let in.

Real life and writing simply are not compatible. Life is always interrupting. I tend to feel lucky if it isn’t interrupting with an illness or a new litter of kittens. Long ago I decided that writers must become more devious. How? Try running away. Ask your church for permission to write in an empty classroom. Ask a friend if you can write at her place after she leaves for work. Some writers work at a public library table in a nearby town, not in their own library where people know them. I like the study carrels at our community college.

Most of the time, though, I write at home. I let the bloody distractions go on, run a fan for white noise, and force myself to focus. That’s easier with a good outline, by the way. In a long, lean period in my past, when I was the only one stoking my fire, I began talking to myself. I said, “This is who I am and this is what I do. Now shut up, Joan, and get to work.” I still tell myself that.
Recent books include Welcome To the Bed and Biscuit (2006), Wild Times at the Bed and Biscuit (2009), and Magic at the Bed and Biscuit (January 2011), all from Candlewick Press.



Word of the Month Poet:
I like to say them
like jitterbug, fudge and tangerine
I like to play them
Like hackysacks
Catching and bouncing them
Off my tongue
I like to weigh them
Like bittersweet and jumbo shrimp
Most of all
I like to devour them slowly
Savoring each sound
Word of the Month Poet, Runner-Up
Best of a Bad Spell
Losing the Williams Junior High School
spelling bee, on “eleemosynary,”
was, I now see, an act of charity.
Knowing the Latin root for “alms”
(could you use it in a sentence?)
guarantees no one a varsity letter.
Although it burned me that I flubbed
the double e’s, entreating the floor
for the proper etymology
before retreating to my seat
to small applause, conciliatory
(c-o-n-c-i-l-i-a-t-o-r-y, conciliatory),
Worse by far would have been
the booming backlash in homeroom
next morning, hearing my name
among the roster of brainiacs,
“loo-zer” in any language, certain
I’d perish (part of speech?) a virgin.
Copyright 2010 by Steven Withrow. All rights reserved.
Word of the Month Young Poet, Grades 3-7
6th grade
Maumee Valley Country Day
Toledo, Oh
Teacher: Jana Smith
The Hero
A battle against the human race,
We are the one to oppose,
She is the lone defender,
One versus 6.4 billion.
She embraces what we throw at her,
She is the lone warrior.
She shall not strike,
She shall not defend,
She shall wait for the end.
One day,
It shall all end,
It might take years till she decides it’s her time,
Or it could only take you the time to say a single word.
She is our worst nightmare,
She is our savior,
Our number one attack strategy,
We trash her,
We gas her out,
A way to dispose of her.
But the scary thing is,
Only few will live to be aware of this war,
Some may say they do,
But they don’t.
Even scarier than that,
Is when she shall meet her fate,
Her fate is ours as well.
She shall not strike,
She shall not defend,
She shall wait for the end.
She is Mother Earth.

Word of the Month Young Poet, Grades 3-7, Runner-Up Tie
Maumee Valley Country Day
Fifth Grade
Toledo, OH
Teacher: Nanette Valuck
The Only Escape
“Scritch, scratch, scritch, scratch”
My hand flies across the page,
Pouring from my mouth,
Spilling out my fingertips,
Settling on to the paper.
Each one with it’s own sharp taste,
The flavors wiz by going too fast to recapture
Each new flavor inspiring the next,
“Beep beep beep!”
A traffic jam as my hand becomes too slow
I force them to slow down as I sift through, trying to find the right one,
I scribble circle after circle,
Waiting for the ink to come,
But I know this is hopeless . . .
Suddenly reality grips me,
Ink stains cover my hands
I no longer taste the words
Only then is the pain renewed
Eating me away,
Tearing flesh from bone,
Words are the only escape.
I reach for a new pen,
“Scriiiiitch scratch screech!”
My hand slugs across the page
Syllable by syllable,
The flavors,
Subdued now,
But still there
After each flavor is finished I wish there was more
“Plunk, plunk.”
They come out too slow for my liking
I push myself trying to think of more,
But it is no use.
Why? Why? Why? I think to myself.
Word of the Month Young Poet, Grades 3-7, Runner-Up Tie
Maumee Valley Country Day
6th grade
Toledo, Oh
teacher: Jana Smith

I open the latch to your velvety case
I take off your silk blanket
I pull you deep into my arms
I take out your bow and begin playing
It’s like you are singing to me
I look up and down your wooden body;
each line makes you look like a tiger
you are ready
ready to pounce on that half note going into an eighth note
I push the bow back and fourth over your four metal strings
then, we play
we play the most beautiful sound ever imagined
like a waterfall
or the smoothest airplane landing that ever happened
This is how beautiful your sound is
You are my harmony
you are my melody
you are mine
There is a word for this
the most powerful word that there is
The two of us together are like a team
we keep pushing to win the Olympic gold metal
Then, our final turn,
we win,
we keep on playing our song,
as if there is nothing more in the world
just the two of us and our love

Word of the Month Young Poet, Grades 8-12

Crescent City Jr Sr High School
9th Grade
Teacher: Lisa Martino
Crescent City, FL
Thanks is a way of life
Thanks is a way of passion
I am thankful for things in my life
I remember when we all use to sit around
the table and give thanks
Thanks can go a long way
Thanks is a gift
Thanks comes around all the time

Word of the Month Young Poet, Grades 8-12, Runner-up
Crescent City Jr Sr High School
9th grade
Teacher: Lisa Martino
Crescent City, FL
Thanks is for people that receive.
People that don’t receive still say thanks.
I received something that no one wants,
I received something that no one likes.
Sorrow fills my gift.
No one cares what you get,
Unless it’s something they want.
Even though I don’t like my gift,
I still give thanks to the person
that is still giving those sad gifts.

Hall of Fame Poet
To Teach or Not to Teach the Classics
Should I delve blindness to the word of old
And open their minds anew
Should I continue on the course ahead
And connect them, unscathed newborn
Or inspire, muse, arouse sleeping wit
Entice all, magnetic lure
Do I assist them, relate, painless thought
With modern themes, common words
It’s an enigma, a challenge to me
Ancient deliberation
Or conspicuously apparent sound
Hall of Fame Poet Runner-Up

Hall of Fame Young Poet, Grades 3-7
Maumee Valley Country Day
Fifth Grade
Toledo, OH
Teacher: Nanette Valuck

Without a Word
Cries of laughter.
Joy was spread throughout the church.
Everyone was talking in hushed voices,
Yet all the sounds combing in my little head sounded as if
Every word a new little firework
Sent out on its journey through the sky.
She walks in everyone goes silent,
Her beautiful white gown flouncing as she appears,
So gracefully,
So silently,
So gently,
She takes a step forward,
My heart’s racing, another step
She walks down the aisle,
Her head raised as if she wasn’t afraid.
Maybe she wasn’t but I was.
As she takes another step
Her train floats over the petals I had softly strewn.
As she takes her last steps
She looks down at me and smiles.
Without a word she calms my heart.
Hall of Fame Young Poet, Grades 3-7, Runner-Up
Hall of Fame Young Poet, Grades 8-10:
Crescent City Jr Sr High School
10th Grade
Crescent City, FL
Teacher: Lisa Martino
Everyday I wake
I give thanks
To see the sun rise
I give thanks
For a family that is wise
I give thanks
Life, health, and strength
Nothing but thanks
To the one up above
Hall of Fame Young Poet, Grades 8-10 Runner-Up

Announcing upcoming guest: Gary Dulabaum

BULLETIN: Tomorrow I’ll post Poetry Tip #7: THE QUATRAIN. I hope you will find it useful.

On April 2, Nile Stanley appeared as my guest and one of those who commented on Nile’s fascinating contribution was Gary Dulabaum. I’ve met Gary and enjoyed his enormous talent as a writer, performer, musician, wit, and all-around charismatic personality so I asked if he would be my guest sometime when his schedule allows.Now I can tell you that Gary has agreed. It may be a while before we get him posted here on a Friday but I’m already looking forward to hosting him when he’s ready.

Don’t forget to vote for your selections for May Hall of Fame Poet and May Hall of Fame Young Poet. Polls close on May 30. Here’s the link: