National Poetry Month: Jack Prelutsky

Happy Monday! And yes, it *is* Monday. I double-checked. On this Monday, we’re going to start with the grand-daddy of kid’s poetry, Jack Prelutsky. In fact, he was the first-ever Children’s Poet Laureate! If you want to find poems that are fun, accessible, and will get kids interested, then he’s the man to turn to. He’s got *over 70* different books out, and I’m not ashamed to say that I have a fair amount of them sitting next to me on my dining room table at the moment. So let’s dive in and discuss a few of my favorites!

We’ll start with my All Time Favorite of his – Awful Ogre’s Awful Day. Sadly, that happens to be the one title I can no longer find in my house (two kids – sometimes that happens). However, it is a great one to have in a classroom library, and can be used for a large variety of things. I used it to discuss: kindness, how everyone is different, science (ogres are partial to some *very* gross things), and – of course – writing, both poetry and not. Plus, it’s just a very fun book to read, with some words that will challenge the stronger students and will help the less-strong learn. I’m attaching a short video I found online to show you just a little more about this fabulous book.

Purchasing link: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780060774592

Another favorite of mine – and my kids – is Hooray for Diffendoofer Day. The cool thing about this title is that it was originally started by Dr. Seuss, who did not end up finishing it. Jack Prelutsky and Lane Smith did the honors – and it’s really well done. One of the reasons I love it so is that it addresses – horror of horrors! – STANDARDIZED TESTING. But it does it in a way that’s fun, and it helps kids (and teachers and parents) to see that testing is not something to fret over, and most times, kids know more than they think they do. AND, it celebrates ALL members of the school – from the school nurse, to the custodian, to the cooks. It really is an excellent title for ALL school classrooms, and would be a fun way to prepare for testing, and a fun way to celebrate the end of testing. Here’s a great video of a read-aloud:

Purchasing link: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780679890089

However, the all-time favorite in our house is Scranimals. It is 100% pure fun in a book package. The names of the animals are great, and this book lends itself SO WELL to classrooms as well. Write about *your* island – where it is, and what might be found there. Create your own animal/fruit hybrid, and based on the characteristics of the two things, tell us about it. Geography, writing, science…so many fun lesson plans can be created around this title. I couldn’t find a read-aloud for it, and I was going to do one myself but couldn’t figure out a setup that would work (tips welcome!), so I found this short video. Trust me when I say this book really is a good one.

Purchase link: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780060753689

Now, while these are MY top three, Jack Prelutsky has SO MANY MORE BOOKS. Just in my home library, I’ve also got It’s Raining Pigs & Noodles (https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780060763909), Monday’s Troll (https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780688096441), Rhymes Around the Year: Dog Days – another AWESOME one for classrooms (harder to find and will take some searching), and My Parents Think I’m Sleeping (https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780060537227).

I hope you’ll take a look at some of these titles – they’re great for classrooms for sure, but they’re also simply JUST FUN TO READ. And that’s what gets (and keeps) a kid’s attention. So hooray for Jack Prelutsky and all of his amazing titles. Do YOU have a favorite Prelutsky title you’d like to share?

NOTE: The links attached to titles all go to indiebound.org. I make no money off of any purchases – I simply want to encourage more people to buy from an indie, especially during these difficult times. They – and their employees – REALLY need our support!

Happy Friday, everyone! I don’t know about you, but it currently feels like March 64th to me. Like March is just going to bend space and time and COVID-19 will just always be “March”. BUT! Enough of that! Today is #FeelGoodFriday, and we’re going to focus on news stories today, because tomorrow is #NationalHugANewspersonDay. And I don’t know about you, but reporters these days are doing their best to keep us informed during one of the most trying periods in our history. So today’s stories will have a news angle of some sort, and while I don’t recommend you ACTUALLY accost a newsperson (#socialdistancing) (also: assault?), please feel free to Tweet, email, write a letter, call…whatever it is you do…to let them know their efforts are appreciated. ESPECIALLY since many are putting themselves in the line of fire (whatever the fire happens to be that day) to make sure we stay informed – and all this while news offices are cutting staff and closing up shop far too regularly. So without further ado – here are your #FeelGoodFriday moments!

For our first story, I’m 100% certain we can all relate to one degree or another. Who among us these days hasn’t accidentally turned on a filter or posted something to the wrong page or – HORRORS! – hit “Reply All” instead of just “Reply”? Well, sometimes, those mistakes take a more amusing turn than others, as this poor weatherman learned.

For this next one, we go to my favorite Silver Fox, Anderson Cooper. And because we could ALL use a laugh (or a few giggles) these days – just try not to laugh once he gets started. It really is contagious.

This next one is an honorable mention, because it’s not done by an actual reporter. However, it’s definitely a tribute to those who do it on the regular. And it’s a *heartwarming* tribute, with some sweet moments, and some funny ones too. If you haven’t seen it, do watch. It’s wonderful – and I hope he does more!

We’re going to finish off, however, with Mr. Andrew Cotter, a sports commentator for the BBC. If you haven’t seen this, you must. And if you *have*? It’s ABSOLUTELY worth another watch.

So there you have it – another #FeelGoodFriday post! I’d love to hear about anything you saw or heard lately that really either gave you the feels or made you laugh. And remember – we’re all in this together, so #StayHome and #StaySafe – and always remember to be kind. We can never know what one person may be dealing with under their curtain of calm.

National Poetry Month: Introduction

April is National Poetry Month, and I was super excited to be working on a display for the store before COVID-19 happened. But…here we are. Since that display will no longer be happening, I’ve decided that I’m going to highlight some of *my* favorite poetry books here on the blog throughout the month. BUT there’s a catch. Many of my favorites are books for the younger set. See, I have my degree in Elementary Education, and there were two things I emphasized during my training and while I was in classrooms – using technology in the classrooms in new ways, and using poetry to help teach. And since I’m an equal opportunity reader (as in – I will read just about anything for just about any age group), many of these titles (though not all) will be for that Elementary Education age-range. And here’s why: I firmly believe that if we can get kids interested in poetry at a young age, before they’ve had a chance to absorb the “poetry sucks” mindset, it can open new doors to them. Being able to read and analyze poetry – even just to appreciate it – is *extremely* helpful for reading and analyzing OTHER works and texts as they get older.

So with that being said, I plan to share some of my favorite authors and books – and maybe even a little about what I did with them in my classroom. I hope you’ll tag along for the ride, because I promise you that even as adults – you will enjoy at least a few of these books. And, not all of them will be children’s poems or titles – there is at least one YA book I have firmly in mind, and of course, some classics deserve to be mentioned as well. Like I said – I’m an equal opportunity reader 😉

With that said, it seems fitting to start us off with a classic poem read aloud by a classic gentleman. A poem that will be instantly recognizable to so, so many people – many of whom will be able to name the author easily.

I present to you The Raven, by Edgar Allen Poe, as read aloud by Christopher Lee.

Review: Science Comics Crows – Genius Birds

I have been a HUGE Science Comics fan since I laid my hands on my first one – which happened to be a hardcover of the Bat version. I loved it so much, I recommended it to the buyer at Powell’s PDX to help bulk up the nonfiction section in the kid’s room – which was SORELY lacking. We ended up getting new ones as they came out, and these fun and fascinating titles became one of the kid’s room top sellers – from the time we got our first copies, until the day the store closed due to COVID-19. I was particularly excited about the Crows edition coming out, because I think crows are pretty much just amazing. This book absolutely reinforces my excitement, both about the series, *and* about crows.

In this one, a crow releases a friendly, neighborhood dog from his yard and they go looking for delicious treats. Along the way, the crow explains: crow brains, food, tools, families, and more. Even for someone who knows a decent amount about crows, there was new information and neat facts about how crows learn, different tests they’ve taken part in, and their problem-solving skills.

It’s a fascinating look at these fascinating creatures that far too many see simply as pests. Crows, and other corvids, are truly unique in the bird world – and are much more like us than many understand. This book is a great way for humans of ALL ages to learn about them, and come to understand them just a little bit more.

The Science Comics as a whole are generally very well done, with a great balance between text and pictures. I’ve recommended them to people of all ages, FOR all ages – they’re excellent for beginning readers who can use the pictures to start understanding the words being read to them, all the way up to adults. Just about every employee at the store had their favorite one, and we’ve had adult customers purchase them for themselves based on their fields of study. I cannot recommend them enough, and the cool thing is that they tend to release about three a year, keeping readers excited for more. All libraries – school and city – should have copies of these excellent titles, and it’s a great way to get kids interested in nonfiction and leave them wanting to learn more!

Pupper Picture Day

Some days right now, it’s just…tiring…to function. The emotional toll that COVID-19 takes can be pretty high. Some days, I’m feeling SUPER motivated…and other days, sitting on the couch with a game or a book is pretty much the best I can do. At times, even finding a book I want to read is a challenge. So today, rather than working on a long blog post, I’m just going to share a cute picture of one of my foster pups.

This is Nyx, a foster for Northwest Battle Buddies (https://stillmorewords.com/2020/02/13/it-starts-small-and-it-starts-with-us/). And she’s smart enough to get herself through the gate – UNLESS it latches behind her when she goes through it. Then she’s stuck…and *this* is what she does:

Smooshy Face

I typically don’t move fast enough to get a picture, and that explains why this one is…not the greatest. BUT I SUCCEEDED and that’s all that matters. 😉

I’d love to see pics of the pets keeping you company, and making you smile during all of this! And please remember – it’s ok to feel overwhelmed, anxious, confused, tired, angry – and every other emotion out there. Try to take time for yourself, and find someone to talk to if it starts to get to be too much. You are loved, and you are needed in this world.

Primer: Why Piracy is Bad

With all the stuff going around about piracy, here’s a quick primer on – yes – why it’s BAD.

So, Chuck Wendig, an author that I happen to enjoy on Twitter, recently tweeted this:

The reason this is problematic is because this website that NPR is promoting is sharing *copyrighted* works. And due to the pandemic, it’s a free-for-all until the…end of June, I think? There is literally no oversight, unless the authors happen to catch it. So here’s a little primer on why Piracy Is Bad.

#1 – It’s on *authors*, NOT publishers, to find piracy and try to stop it. Yep, you read that right. Even though the publishers have the time, money, and manpower, it’s on the authors to try and keep their stuff from being stolen. So they either need to take time out of their writing to search for pirated copies, or they need to hire someone to do it for them. Neither of which is ideal, considering MOST authors come nowhere near the earning power of, say, Stephen King or Chuck Wendig. In fact, a large chunk of authors write around their 40-hour-a-week jobs because they don’t make enough to have writing be a full-time proposition. So it’s on them to find the illegal uploads, and then file the onerous paperwork to try and have it taken down.

#2 – Speaking of that paperwork…it’s not per author. It’s PER TITLE. So, using Seanan McGuire as an example, Fantastic Fiction (https://www.fantasticfiction.com/m/seanan-mcguire/) shows that she has over 30 books. Her books tend to be pretty popular, and so they also tend to be pirated a fair amount. If she heads to any book-pirating website and finds, say, 15 of her titles on there? SHE HAS TO FILE A SEPARATE DOCUMENT FOR EACH AND EVERY TITLE. There is no “cease and desist” for an author as a whole. That…takes time. As is the way with legal documents, it’s not easy, nor it is painless. Now imagine doing that for every single pirating website – AND having to do it over and over again, because it’s only good until the next time someone uploads a book.

#3 – The majority of people illegally downloading titles are…not who you would think. I’m going to link to the Guardian article, which you can read at your leisure, but essentially? Most people pirating titles (and probably music too) are absolutely capable of paying for it. AND, most authors in my experience are SUPER generous about giving away titles to those who love their work and simply cannot buy it. See Also: “library”. (https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/nov/06/pirated-ebooks-threaten-future-of-serial-novels-warn-authors-maggie-stiefvater)

#4 – People are downloading more titles than you think. I’m kicking myself because I can’t find the *amazing* thread from a long while back that really went into numbers and details. Nor can I exactly remember who tweeted it. But here is an example, tweeted by one of my favorite authors, Rachel Caine, about one of my favorite series:

If you pay close attention to those numbers, you can see that as each title in the series came out, it was purchased *less* and downloaded *more*. At some point, publishers deem that unsustainable as well – leading them to cancel trilogies and series before their time. And this is an ESTABLISHED author. Now take a minute and imagine what this could do to a *debut* author, when their title is downloaded more than it’s purchased? THEY DON’T GET TO WRITE ANOTHER ONE. Publishing is a business – it may not be the best business model, but…that’s an argument for another day. If they’re losing money, they’re going to cut their losses – and that’s really what this comes down to.

#5, again from the esteemed Seanan McGuire (pay close attention to the 2nd tweet):

Authors will tell their readers, and anyone else who cares to pay attention, pre-release and first-week sales ARE URGENT. Another author that I absolutely *adore* is Kevin Hearne, and he addressed this quite well on his site (http://kevinhearne.com/how-you-help-authors-the-most/). But if you don’t want to click through, essentially the reasoning is this: Pre-orders and first-week sales are those most likely to get an author on the NYT Bestseller list – which opens the door for future titles. It also means booksellers are ordering more – which opens the door to new readers who may not be familiar. There’s more to it than that, and I urge you to read his excellent post, but that’s a very drastic distillation. Again, we can argue publishing’s business models another day, but the long and short of it is – piracy affects those numbers, which affects books sold and the likelihood of any *further* books coming.

#6 – It affects bookstores, too – particularly indies. Yep, really. For every copy that is pirated, a copy isn’t purchased. Now, according to one article from 2017, e-book piracy costs over $315 MILLION in lost sales (https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/e-book-piracy-costs-publishers-315-million-in-lost-sales-300423534.html). It’s probably more these days, simply because technology has advanced – making it easier to steal via digital. But going with that number, and knowing that Amazon has a roughly a 50% of the book pie in total, that leaves over $157 million dollars to be divided up between other sources (Barnes & Noble, indies, etc.). Now, think of your local indie – or one you may be familiar with – and just IMAGINE what even 10% of that dollar amount would do?? Indies in particular run on the most paper-thin of margins, and $15+ million dollars would go A LONG WAY towards keeping their employees working, paying their people livable wages, including healthcare, and frankly – just keeping the lights on. And that is just *one* of the reasons why I, and 400+ of my co-workers, are currently out of work. Because margins are thin, and everything can negatively affect the bottom line.

This is what it comes down to, people – piracy is theft. It really doesn’t matter what mental gymnastics people try to do, it. is. stealing. And the worst part is – it’s not just stealing from the authors, which in and of itself is bad enough. It’s stealing from the readers, who lose a beloved set of characters because the publisher pulled the plus. Who lose an #ownvoices author because their first book didn’t have the sales it needed, so there will be no more. It’s stealing from the brick and mortar bookstores, who are on thin ice with Amazon a looming presence. From the indies who barely survive day-to-day, but are true neighborhood bulwarks, and who typically treat their employees very well. Piracy steals from us all, in ways large and small – and it’s up to us to stop it.

If you have the opportunity? Just…don’t. Buy it – new or used (and yes – most authors will tell you they love used bookstores). Borrow it from a friend. Get it from the library. Don’t steal it from all of us.

If you see it? Call it out. Name and shame. Let authors know if you see their works being pirated – if they don’t know, they can’t try to stop it. And again – they have to find the time to search all the sites, which can be prohibitive. Let the publishers know, and while you’re at it? Call them out for not being more proactive and handling something they should be handling in the first place. Buy from indies when you can – support them with your dollars, and let them know they are valued. But don’t take it from me – take it from Ms. McGuire again. As an author who experiences this regularly, she says it far better than I could (click on the image to read the whole thread – it’s worth the short amount of time):

Click to read the whole thread. It’s not long – but it’s important.

#FeelGoodFriday

Things are crazy and scary and each day often feels like at least a week, right? I can’t be the only one forgetting what day it even is at times…Which leads me to believe that #FeelGoodFriday is more important than ever. We all need to take that time and appreciate the little stuff, whether it happens to be something funny, or sweet, or a kindness done to another – the humanity in us calls out for good things. So – let’s get started!

This first item cracked me up, frankly. Particularly as someone who had a Roomba for *years*. I love to see how people are getting creative with their ideas during all of the time spent at home.

Ok – who among you grew up watching Reading Rainbow? I don’t know about you, but I idolize Levar Burton *not* from his Trekkie days, but from his Reading Rainbow days. And this entire thread of authors and people responding to help is GOLD. The cherry on top – nay, the whipped cream AND the cherry – is Neil Gaiman’s response. #BookTwitter is the BEST Twitter! (You can see the whole thread in the link below the image.)

https://twitter.com/levarburton/status/1242584883878219777

People have had to get…creative…about stuff they’re stuck with when weddings and other big events are forced to cancel. This one was a favorite. If you click on the image, you can see the other group of pics he posted, where the many MANY chocolate Lindt bunnies are lining up – 2 x 2, natch – to set sail.

One of my absolute favorite things about this craziness is how many organizations stepped up to help kids (and parents!) keep busy, continue learning, and simply be able to find the fun. A particular favorite of mine has been to watch the daily videos the Cincinnati Zoo is doing. They’re not terribly long, they’re fun and informative, they feature different animals every day, and they always have a great activity for the kids to do at the end that revolves around that day’s animal. Honestly, *I’M* the one in the household that is finding myself glued to my computer on the daily at 12pm on the dot.

The first daily video was…Fiona!

So – now I’m curious. What things have YOU found to take joy in this week? Big, little, or somewhere in between – share your joy and pass a little of that happiness along! And remember – please Be Kind To One Another, as Ellen always says. We need it now more than at any time in a very long time. Check on your neighbors, particularly the elderly. Facetime (or whatever) your friends. Form an online reading club. And remember – we’re all in this together, and kindness is key to helping the sense of despair we may sometimes feel.