Poetry Friday — Ode to Autumn

Yesterday’s Ode to Thanksgiving is perhaps a more proper ode (even though it starts off angry and critical) in that it directly addresses Autumn, and focuses narrowly on a single autumnal event: Thanksgiving.

This Ode to Autumn, on the other hand, is really only an ode because I say so in the title. Poet’s prerogative.

Here’s how the rest of the Poetry Sisters met the challenge of writing an Ode to Autumn:

Tricia @ The Miss Rumphius Effect
Tanita @ {fiction, instead of lies}
Sara @ Read Write Believe
Laura @ Laura Purdie Salas
Liz @ Liz Garton Scanlon
Kelly @ Kelly Ramsdell
Andi @ A Wrung Sponge

In December, we’ll be writing poems that feature bells. Join us! Ruth has this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup at There is no such thing as a God-forsaken town. Join us!

Franki’s Weekly Text Set–Talking Bubbles in Informational Books

Texts for this Text Set have been posted daily on Instagram. 

Follow @TextSets there to get daily updates!

Young writers love to use talking bubbles and to play around with humor and graphics in their writing. But there are a lot of craft moves that go along with doing that well. Young readers love informational books with humor and lots of text features but the format often makes it challenging to navigate without some instruction and practice. A focus on talking bubbles in informational text will help students focus in on a few ways talking bubbles can be used and how they enhance the book. By focusing in on this one small way talking bubbles are used effectively, readers and writers will approach them in new ways. This is a great mini-unit to do before winter break as it is focused and short but will also carry into other units later because of the close study of something so specific. And I am thinking most of these books are more in the category of informational than true nonfiction although the field of nonfiction is changing a bit.

There is so. much to learn about as readers and writers from this series. The format of the pages are filled with various text and features and navigating the page takes some intentionality. In The Truth About Bears, talking bubbles are used for both sharing important information AND to add side comments as humor. The author embeds both of these types of talking bubbles throughout the text. So you can’t ignore the talking bubbles and still get all of the information in the book. So much of the new information is being told to us by the animals themselves.

Arlo and Pips: King of the Birds is a great model for sharing information embedded in story. This entire story is told through a conversation between two birds. There is text other than talking bubbles but the dialogue tells most of the story with information embedded throughout. Sometimes the information is shared by one of the characters. At other times, we enjoy a story and realize we learned something about crows from the story. Lots of great craft moves in this one!

This is a favorite series for readers K-5. Such a fun way to share information. In each of these books, we get to know a bug or animal. We are introduced through text but the creature (The Cockroach in this example) interacts with us, the reader, thorough dialogue. It is a fun way to use dialogue and talking bubbles and this book makes this craft move visible for young writers so they can try it in their own writing. Since this is the 2nd book/series they will look at by author Elise Gravel, comparing what she does with dialogue would also be interesting.

There is a lot to study in Except Antarctica! The narrative is told through regular narrative and dialogue (and the talking bubbles are not actually in bubbles but talking is designated by a specific font which makes for a good discussion). The author uses these in a way to enhance the story, to give the characters personality. But not a lot of information happens in the dialogue–most happens in the main text. The humor is well done in this and children hoping to try humor can learn a lot from how this is done.

If you don’t know Look Up! Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard, it is one that reader could spend hours with. There is so much information packed into this gem of a book and each page is worth study. I like this one because talking bubbles are used for so many reasons and in so many ways. Creating a chart of the ways and reasons the writer embedded talking bubbles and how each impacts the reading would be a great study. Then writers can decide if any of these ways make sense for their own writing. The combination of humans and birds that talk in this books is also worth exploring.

This week’s books were linked at Bookelicious and/or  Cover to Cover Children’s Bookstore. If you are looking for a fabulous local children’s bookstore to support, Cover to Cover is an amazing one. We are lucky to have them in Central Ohio! If you don’t have an independent children’s bookstore in your town, check out Bookelicious. They are an online independent bookstore for children with an incredible curated collection. 

Poetry Friday: Dormancy

I’m endlessly fascinated by the intricacies of nature.

Black Swallowtails don’t migrate. The last brood of caterpillars to hatch sense the approach of fall: the length of the days shorten, and the weather begins to cool. These last caterpillars go into diapause before the pupa hardens into a chrysalis, producing their own form of antifreeze to prevent their cells from freezing. On the other end of winter, these butterflies who have overwintered in chrysalis emerge as the first generation of Black Swallowtail butterflies in the spring.

Carol has this week’s Poetry Friday roundup at Beyond LiteracyLink — AND the unveiling of her Bedecked in Autumn Gallery. With the Poetry Sisters’ challenge to write a ode to Autumn coming up next week, we’ll be celebrating Autumn for two weeks in a row!

Franki’s Weekly Text Set-Reading and Writing: Question and Answer Format

Texts for this Text Set have been posted daily on Instagram. 

Follow @TextSets there to get daily updates!

I was thinking about how much elementary students love the Who Would Win? series. I never really looked closely at it but when I did, I realized what a great mentor it is. There is more to each segment than I realized and there is lots there for both readers and writers. So I’ve started to take a look at other nonfiction books with a Question and Answer format, thinking critically about these books for both readers and writers. There is no set way a Q/A book is written so when we study them, we can learn so much about craft moves, layout, organization, etc. This week’s Text Set will take a look at informational books that have a Question/Answer format.

The Truth About…series is one of my favorite new nonfiction series. I discovered Whooo Knew? last year and was thrilled to see two more books in the series. Each of these books focuses on a different animal/living creature. Each two page spread answers a question about the topic such as “Do Dogs Sweat?”. The question is then answered in 2-3 short paragraphs followed by some extra details, photos and information. Each book also includes a glossary, extra information and an activity. This is a great series to begin a Q/A format study as they are very engaging, there is a lot to each page and there are a variety of access points for readers. And this author gives writers lots of new things to try!

These two books What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? and Lift-the-Flap Questions and Answers about Plastic give pages of questions on a topic. Even though the answers are quick, each page is worth studying for the ways the questions work together under a common topic. Part of writing good Q/A nonfiction is the ways in which the questions connect and fit under a bigger umbrella. These books are perfect to think more about that as both readers and writers. Sometimes I worry that kids love these books to just read facts but don’t do the deeper thinking of the umbrella ideas being shared. Both skills are so important. (Plus, what is more fun than a lift-the-flap informational book?)

I love the work of Nicholas St. Fleur (he does some kids informational infographic work in NY Times). His work is such a great mentor for the ways information can be organized to support reader understanding. His book. Did You Know ?Dinosaur is perfect to study… Young readers often love to spend lots of times with books like this but it is critical that we teach them how to navigate all that is on the page. As writers, thinking about ways to organize information on a 2 page spread is critical whether you are writing Q/A or some other format. Lots to learn from this one!

How Come? Every Kid’s Science Questions Explained gives readers and writers much longer answers to the questions posed. It’s important for our readers to see that most questions can’t be answered with a single sentence and this book helps to see how explanations give deep understanding to a concept. It will take stamina and strategy to read these and some would make great read aloud. As writers, there is lots to learn from these–great leads, solid explanations, intentional language and more. These are short texts that can also be used in small group work.

Writers are always trying to add humor to their books and this series by Jess Keating is a great model for thinking about ways to do that effectively. Keating shares so much interesting information but also embeds humor in a way that adds to the experience in Eat Your Rocks, Crocs and Set Your Alarm, Sloth.

This week’s books were linked at Bookelicious and/or  Cover to Cover Children’s Bookstore. If you are looking for a fabulous local children’s bookstore to support, Cover to Cover is an amazing one. We are lucky to have them in Central Ohio! If you don’t have an independent children’s bookstore in your town, check out Bookelicious. They are an online independent bookstore for children with an incredible curated collection. 

A #PoemPair for Poetry Friday

All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake
by Tiya Miles
Random House, 2021

FIRST THE BOOK
The embroidery on the cover caught my eye and the title pulled me in to read the jacket blurb. There I absorbed the lines that Ruth Middleton embroidered on a cotton sack that her great grandmother Rose filled with simple yet precious items to give to her daughter Ashley, Ruth’s grandmother, before Ashley was sold away at the age of nine from her mother to another slave owner.

“My great grandmother Rose
mother of Ashley gave her this sack when
she was sold at age 9 in South Carolina
it held a tattered dress 3 handfulls of
pecans a braid of Roses hair. Told her

It be filled with my Love always

she never saw her again
Ashley is my grandmother
Ruth Middleton
1921″

The historian Tiya Miles traces every bit of what can be known, as well as inferred, about this sack, its contents, and these three women. As she traces every lead, Miles comes back again and again to the tenacity and revolutionary love of Rose and other enslaved women whose perseverance through slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow segregation, and the Great Migration, is what has carried generations of Black families into the present.

Reading this book made me rethink my poem “Persevere is a Word.” It seems trite now. Perhaps suitable for a motivational poster, but naively unaware of a deeper, more nuanced and historically-based version of perseverance.

AND NOW THE POEMPAIR

Persevere is a Word

Persevere is a long word:
four hundred years long,
the distance of the Middle Passage,
the length of a ship’s hold, packed with bodies chained together.

And although persevere 
contains none of the letters that spell luck,
privilege shines through from beginning to end.

The privilege of tracing a blood line
for generation after unbroken generation 
in an ancestral story of ascension

rather than a lineage that dead-ends
in the shackles of slavery,
in lives with trauma encoded in the DNA,
in the knowledge that one’s existence
is not predicated on bootstraps
or an innocuous insistence to try again 
or the blithe assertion to summon grit

but instead dependent on ancestors who persevered
surviving horrors unimaginably severe
family members inhumanely severed from each other
per their owners’ whim.

Persevere is a light word for some,
a chirpy motivational poster word.
For others it is a heavy word,
a how-dare-you-assume word,
a claim-my-humanity,
praise-the-ancestors,
lift-while-we-climb* word.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2021

*Angela Davis


Matt has this week’s Poetry Friday roundup at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme.


Franki’s Weekly Text Set: Indigenous People-Authentic Representations

Texts for this Text Set have been posted daily on Instagram.

Follow @TextSets there to get daily updates!

It is almost November and I’ve already seen horrible misrepresentations of Indigenous People as we near the Thanksgiving holiday. Our children learn harmful and incorrect stories of “Pilgrims and Indians” as early as preschool. Along with correct history, it is so important that our children learn about contemporary Indigenous People and see authentic representations in contemporary settings. This week’s text set focuses on books that feature lives of Indigenous people who are members of various nations today. I rely so much on the work of Dr. Debbie Reese and her blog American Indians in Children’s Literature and each of the books on this list have been reviewed on her blog. Please visit her blog to learn more about each of her books. And follow her daily on Twitter and commit to stop putting harmful misrepresentations of Indigenous People in front of our children.

We Are Still Here and Go Show the World are two books that have been instrumental for my own learning and two books that have helped me unlearn a great deal. Both books are both historical and contemporary. Both belong in every school and classroom library. We Are Still Here looks at history and helps us begin to unlearn and relearn what we thought we knew. And Go Show the World features several historic and modern-day Indigenous heroes. These are great for elementary age children as well as high school classrooms.

I love a good picture book biography and Sharice’s Big Voice and Mission to Space are two must-haves. Both tell the story of the impact of two heroes. The added bonus is that they are both autobiographies. Making sure we read biographies of present-day people making a difference is critical and making sure readers see a full and authentic representations of those people is just as critical.

Fry Bread has won so many awards! It is another modern day look at a Native American family and the ways Fry Bread bring family and friends together. Again, I love the connection between history and today as well as the diversity within the community shown in this book. Every detail of this book is brilliant–the end papers, the cover under the dust jacket, all of it!

A look at the tradition of the powwow, Bowwow Powwow is a must-have. This book packs so much information in while also seeing the powwow from a child’s eyes. The history and tradition of the powwow is embedded within a great story. This is another one that connects history to present-day.

First Laugh-Welcome Baby! is one of my new favorite books and this is one of the favorite celebrations I’ve learned about recently. In Navajo families, the first person to make a baby laugh, hosts a celebration. This book honors that celebration as well as the diversity within the family and community. The illustrations are incredible–so many details to notice.

This week’s books were linked at Bookelicious and/or  Cover to Cover Children’s Bookstore. If you are looking for a fabulous local children’s bookstore to support, Cover to Cover is an amazing one. We are lucky to have them in Central Ohio! If you don’t have an independent children’s bookstore in your town, check out Bookelicious. They are an online independent bookstore for children with an incredible curated collection. 

The Poetry Friday Roundup is HERE!

Linda Mitchell (@A Word Edgewise) gave the Inklings our challenge this month. She charged us with writing “a poem that includes the idea of percentage or percent. Percentages are all around us in recipes, prices, assessments, statistics. Include the idea of percentage in your poem in some way.”

My poem was born during the drive home from Vermont. Our day in St. Albans and along the coast of Lake Champlain at Hathaway Point was fresh in my mind. As we burned up the miles through the Adirondacks, I wrote, looking up every few lines to take in the beauty of the fall foliage.

View from the summit of Aldis Hill, St. Albans, VT

Here’s how the rest of the Inklings interpreted Linda’s challenge:

Linda@A Word Edgewise
Heidi @my juicy little universe
Molly@Nix the Comfort Zone
Catherine@Reading to the Core
Margaret@Reflections on the Teche

And here’s what the rest of the Poetry Friday Community is up to this week!

Last reminder! Tomorrow is the deadline to join in the Winter Poem Swap!

More info here.


Franki’s Weekly Text Set: Writing About Important Places in Our Lives

Texts for this Text Set have been posted daily on Instagram. Follow @TextSets there to get daily updates!

Place is such an important idea in our reading and writing. For our elementary writers, learning various ways to capture all that you love about a place can support writing across units of study. This week’s Text Set will explore books that capture a specific place. These books can be studied as writers to discover new things to try as writers.

I always love starting any mini-cycle of study with wordless or nearly wordless picture books. Sidewalk Flowers and Wait! are similar in that they each follow a young child noticing the little things in a city/neighborhood. The idea of noticing those things that are worth noticing in a place, as writers is a good way to start this cycle.

The language in If Dominican Were a Color is amazing and the rhyming text works well. The thing I love best about this book is the way the author uses colors to describe so many things in the place she loves. The illustrations are amazing and there is so much to learn as a writer and as an artist in this one.

One way to share the joy of a place is to tell stories of the place. I love the book Marshfield Dreams as part of this study because Ralph Fletcher includes so many stories that give readers a sense of the place he grew up. I also love the map at the beginning of the book–this serves as a great mentor for writers –creating a map of a place is often a great way to think about ways to write about it.

Vamos! Let’s Cross the Bridge and My Two Border Towns are two new books about US/Mexico border towns that capture these cities in very different ways. Comparing two ways that two authors captured the joy and stories in different ways will invite great conversations about writing.

Saying goodbye to a place you love is always difficult. Both of these books capture the love of place and the feeling of loss in beautiful ways. Everything Naomi Loved make for an easier mini lesson because of its length, but Turtle of Oman is an incredible quiet read aloud for upper elementary students and almost any page can be studied as a writer. Pairing the two would be powerful.

This week’s books were linked at Bookelicious and/or  Cover to Cover Children’s Bookstore. If you are looking for a fabulous local children’s bookstore to support, Cover to Cover is an amazing one. We are lucky to have them in Central Ohio! If you don’t have an independent children’s bookstore in your town, check out Bookelicious. They are an online independent bookstore for children with an incredible curated collection. 

Poetry Friday: Word Play

The Poetry Sisters’ challenge for this month was to write Word Play poems, introduced to the Poetry Friday community in 2015 by Nikki Grimes as one of Michelle H. Barnes’ (Today’s Little Ditty) Ditty of the Month challenges. Laura Purdie Salas showed how the form might work in a classroom.

I have two poems this month. The first came about because of this conversation on FaceBook with Poetry Sister Kelly:

This second poem was written more in the style of Poetry Sister Laura’s “Freedom is a Word” (one of my all-time favorite poems of hers).

Don’t forget to join the Winter Poem swap…
if you’re so inclined. More info here.

Linda has this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup at TeacherDance, and check out how all the rest of the Poetry Sisters met this month’s challenge:

Tricia @ The Miss Rumphius Effect
Tanita @ {fiction, instead of lies}
Sara @ Read Write Believe
Laura @ Laura Purdie Salas
Liz @ Liz Garton Scanlon
Kelly @ Kelly Ramsdell
Andi @ A Wrung Sponge

You’re invited to join the Poetry Sisters’ challenge for the month of November! We’re writing an Ode to Autumn. An ode is a lyrical poem in the form of an address to a particular subject, often meant to be sung. Whether you choose an irregular ode with no set pattern or rhyme, or the ten-line, three-to-five stanza famed by Homer himself, we hope you’ll join us! You can share your offering with the rest of us on November 26th (the Friday after Thanksgiving, so plan ahead) in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.