Friday, June 6, 2014

Spotlight on Sylvia Vardell & Janet Wong + DMC Challenge


JANET WONG and SYLVIA VARDELL

Sylvia Vardell is a professor in the School of Library and Information Studies at Texas Woman’s University. She has published extensively, including five books on literature for children and over 100 journal articles. Her current work focuses on poetry for children, including a regular blog, Poetry for Children. She is also the regular “Everyday Poetry” columnist for ALA's BookLinks magazine and the 2014 recipient of the ALA Scholastic Library Publishing Award.

Janet Wong is a graduate of Yale Law School and former lawyer who switched careers and became a children’s poet. Her dramatic career change has been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CNN’s Paula Zahn Show, and Radical Sabbatical. She is the author of 30 books for children and teens on a wide variety of subjects, including writing and revision, dumpster diving, diversity, and chess.


Together, they are the creative forces behind  

Launched in August 2012, this series has already been adopted by hundreds of school districts nationwide.  

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1937057682?ie=UTF8&openid.assoc_handle=amzn_associates_us&aToken=5|gkS8u1tPmtcc64RCuynpSymy3x4gyKTxY2sa2cNOG0NVaYAyJ2tl3JYDMz4Ms1%2FYgcA75zqcXG%2F6NW0rNss146EuwlTz5nLMqAeP2bk9wTgcnq14uZ6V9Sg5mmUq7624dZK9E14%2B0D0WPeJmMCNDDYZWsgZHGl2NfxvhXvgXt10DS3W3breIEKH4HMox4P3aPYiPXqyiDr8o8yGTos291NF3i8SfPaVB&openid.claimed_id=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2Fap%2Fid%2Famzn1.account.AHW52WHUD6PDT555TVMHAUDKFXLA&openid.identity=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2Fap%2Fid%2Famzn1.account.AHW52WHUD6PDT555TVMHAUDKFXLA&openid.mode=id_res&openid.ns=http%3A%2F%2Fspecs.openid.net%2Fauth%2F2.0&openid.op_endpoint=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2Fap%2Fsignin&openid.response_nonce=2014-02-24T19%3A25%3A05Z-1915169667622895910&openid.return_to=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2Fgp%2Fproduct%2F1937057682%3Fie%3DUTF8&openid.signed=assoc_handle%2CaToken%2Cclaimed_id%2Cidentity%2Cmode%2Cns%2Cop_endpoint%2Cresponse_nonce%2Creturn_to%2Cns.pape%2Cpape.auth_policies%2Cpape.auth_time%2Csigned&openid.ns.pape=http%3A%2F%2Fspecs.openid.net%2Fextensions%2Fpape%2F1.0&openid.pape.auth_policies=http%3A%2F%2Fschemas.openid.net%2Fpape%2Fpolicies%2F2007%2F06%2Fnone&openid.pape.auth_time=2014-02-24T19%3A25%3A05Z&openid.sig=K7VtJzHXgsWMJVW5F1877oY%2BEL3CIEiFO0tpycBAO20%3D&serial=    http://www.amazon.com/Poetry-Friday-Anthology-Middle-Edition/dp/193705778X/ref=pd_sim_b_1?ie=UTF8&refRID=19DW092D9V57RTM3DV9Z    http://www.amazon.com/Poetry-Friday-Anthology-TEKS-version/dp/1937057739/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1393270059&sr=1-2&keywords=poetry+friday+anthology+teks
http://www.amazon.com/Poetry-Friday-Anthology-Middle-Edition/dp/1937057879/ref=pd_sim_b_3?ie=UTF8&refRID=1AQN4DKPNKTXTJH752R3    http://www.amazon.com/Poetry-Friday-Anthology-Science-Teachers/dp/1937057976/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1401670703&sr=1-1&keywords=poetry+friday+anthology+for+science

 

In the United States, June is typically when school doors are flung open and a stream of exuberant children (plus a few wearied teachers and administrators) pour into the world singing, "School's out! Summer's here!" So why choose this month to feature the Vardell/Wong dynamic duo and their marvelous classroom resources?  Planning ahead, people, planning ahead.

Pomelo Books, February 2014
ISBN 978-1937057978
Purchase this book and the others in
The Poetry Friday Anthology Series
on Amazon.com.
Educators really can't go wrong by including the THE POETRY FRIDAY ANTHOLOGY FOR SCIENCE in their curriculum. As a parent, I have already suggested it to the powers that be in our own local school system.

Part poetry and part teaching strategies, this most recent addition to The Poetry Friday Anthology Series caters to those who already love poetry with 218 brand new poems they'll enjoy (with the added bonus of rich science content) as well as to those who aren't yet comfortable with poetry, by providing simple "Take 5" steps to share each poem and guidance on how to approach the science content. Supplement with the new child-friendly student editions and you'll have an even more interactive experience!

Since its release earlier this year,  there have been several terrific reviews and interviews shedding light on this wonderful resource.  (Thanks to Anastasia Suen for collecting many of them in one place!)  Today's spotlight interview will be, shall we say, a little different. My questions found Sylvia and Janet together, in a relaxed state of mind, enjoying their time at the recent IRA conference.  As a result, we can all benefit from their comfortable and spontaneous repartee.


Let's start off with some favorites to get to know you both better.   
[Note from Michelle: I only asked for five, but I think you'll be pleased that they got a bit carried away!]

Favorite food? 
JW: Everything salty and fat. 
SV: Whatever Janet orders!

Favorite color?
SV: Blue.
JW: Depends for what. Black for clothes because I can eat double.

Photo: David Eickhoff
Favorite smell?
SV: Gardenias.
JW: I used to love gardenias but last winter nine of my prize gardenia bushes died because of cold weather, so the smell of gardenias now makes me feel like a lazy gardener. (I should have covered them, poor dead gardenias.)

Favorite sound?
SV: A toss-up between the cello and the oboe.
JW: Bing! the sound of my Inbox when I'm expecting good news.

Favorite quote?

Eleanor Roosevelt


SV: "No one can intimidate you without your consent" by Eleanor Roosevelt. I also like "Women are like teabags. You never know how strong they are until they're in hot water."


Margaret K. McElderry




JW: "The problem with you, Janet, is you want to make a living from writing." –from my beloved Margaret McElderry (who was 93 years old at the time). It inspires me to work harder–which, I believe, she intended it to do.



Favorite pastime?
SV: Movies, hands-down! I see a hundred a year–and that's just in theaters.
JW to SV: How do you have time to read?! 
SV to JW: Movies just take two hours. 
JW: (skeptical face and long pause to grab another bite of Gulf shrimp) EATING.

Favorite children's poet?
SV: Janet Wong! (I'm not stupid.)
JW: Myra Cohn Livingston, my mentor. I was so lucky to be able to study with her in a Master Class that included Alice Schertle, April Halprin Wayland, Ann Whitford Paul, Deborah Chandra, Monica Gunning, Kristine O'Connell George, Tony Johnston, and several more. (You got in only when someone left or was "on leave." I took Ruth Bornstein's place; Sonya Sones took my place.)
  
Favorite children's book?
SV: THE DREAM KEEPER by Langston Hughes.
JW: Too hard a question! I can't answer it but I can tell you a favorite recent title: THE LIGHTNING DREAMER by Margarita Engle. So important, especially with the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement.

Favorite piece of clothing?
JW: I need to answer–for Sylvia. BRIGHT tights. If you ever see Sylvia in the fall or winter, you cannot miss her legs.
SV: And Janet's is her black vest, her James Bond vest.

Favorite country you'd like to visit?
SV: Peru. It's next on my list. Machu Picchu before I die!
JW: Japan--where I plan to eat alternating meals of ramen and sushi. 
SV: You've been to Japan, surely. 
JW: Only the airport. I want a school to invite me!!!

Who or what inspires you to be an advocate for children's poetry and what do you enjoy most about what you do? 
SV: Teachers and librarians!
JW: Yes, and the kids who hate poetry. I like to change their minds about it.

Where did the idea for THE POETRY FRIDAY ANTHOLOGY FOR SCIENCE come from and what do you hope educators and children will take away from your anthology?
JW: Loving science. I read an article that said: most girls decide by age 7 that they are not interested in science. I want to change this.
SV: Like poetry, kids love science until they come to school and we tell them that science is hard.

Please share a favorite selection from THE POETRY FRIDAY ANTHOLOGY FOR SCIENCE.
We'd love for you to show this poem by Alma Flor Ada– "I Will Be a Chemist" (and also the Spanish version):


If you could be any kind of scientist, what would you be and why?
SV: That's kind of a fun question! I'd either want to study birds or strange diseases.
JW: How about studying the strange diseases of birds?

If you had all the world's children in one room, what would you tell them?
SV: Well, obviously we'd read a poem to them– and then invite them to chant it along with us. Wouldn't it be amazing to hear all the world's children join in reading a poem aloud? 
JW: Ditto! And put that on YouTube. 

Finally, please tell us what you have chosen as this month's ditty challenge.
SV: We've had fun working with teachers and librarians in turning poems into movies. (And you can see why since I love movies so much.) We challenge your readers to take a favorite poem and then make a simple video that features the language and meaning of the poem.
JW: Try making a Poem Movie, like Chris A's rendition of "Old Water" by April Halprin Wayland, or Sherry D's clever take on "Scientific Inquiry" by Susan Blackaby. Or if making a one-minute Poem Movie is too much for you right now, how about trying a Poem Picture? Work with your favorite child-at-heart to make a quick collage!

What a great challenge– a fantastic opportunity to keep those creative juices flowing into summer!  And to sweeten the deal, Sylvia and Janet have generously offered a complimentary copy of THE POETRY FRIDAY ANTHOLOGY FOR SCIENCE to one lucky participant chosen randomly at the end of the month.  Hooray!

Send your video or picture file to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com, or if you prefer, you may host it yourself online and just send me the link.  Obviously you may present your poem any way you like, but for ease of viewing collages on my blog, a portrait presentation works better than landscape. For children under 13 who would like to participate, please read my COPPA compliance statement located in the sidebar to the right.  Poem Movies and Poem Pictures may be published on this blog as daily ditties throughout the month, but all of them will be collected in one wrap-up post on Friday, June 27th.

Thank you, Janet and Sylvia– both for what you bring to the world of children's poetry and for the special fun you've brought to this interview!  What a pleasure it's been for me to feature you today and have another look at THE POETRY FRIDAY ANTHOLOGY FOR SCIENCE.

There's one more important piece of business to attend to before I sign off, and that is to announce the winner of last month's random giveaway.  There were a few last minute entries bringing the total number of participants to 25, and the total number of cinquains to 35!


Everyone who completed last month's challenge should consider themselves a winner; but among 42 giveaway entries, Random.org selected LINDA BAIE to receive a copy of WATER CAN BE..., by Laura Purdie Salas, illustrations by Violeta Dabija 

Congratulations, Linda!
 
Now I hope you'll join Carol at Carol's Corner for this week's Poetry Friday roundup.



53 comments:

  1. Oh, what a terrific interview! Janet and Sylvia are doing some of THE most important work in getting poetry into teachers' and kids' hands right now. And they are a hoot to boot! I love their books and their productivity and their commitment to getting things right in all the important ways. Thank you for sharing this interview. And...what a fun challenge. I confess I SO want someone to make a poem movie of one of my poems. But it is highly unlikely I will make one myself (being very slow with the tech stuff). Still, maybe I could at least make a little Animoto slideshow video. Hmmm...

    Thanks, Michelle and Janet and Sylvia!

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    1. And we so LOVE being able to showcase your poems in our anthologies, Laura! You think we should add "We are a HOOT to BOOT!" on our Pomelo Books website? Somehow I suspect that Dr. Vardell would not approve . . .

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    2. I hear you, Laura-- tech stuff is not my strong suit either. But thankfully, I have a 14 y.o. IT go-to guy (my son) who just gave me a quick iMovie overview!

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    3. I was checking out iMovie tonight too, Michelle! :) One question for Janet and Sylvia, who have made poem movies before: what guidelines do you follow in order to respect poem authors' copyright rights? Should we only use public domain poems? I had several poems in mind to work with, and then suddenly thought, "hmm, can I do this?" Thanks.

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    4. Monica: We contact our Poetry Friday Anthology poets to ask them for permission. If you want to use any poems that are not in the public domain, then an email request to the poet is best. Good question!

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  2. Michelle, Thank you for this wonderful interview! We all know of Sylvia and Janet's work so it's a special pleasure to get to know them a little better. And wow! what a great challenge for the month.

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    1. I feel just the same, Liz-- it was great that Sylvia and Janet had such fun with my questions! And now we get to have fun with their challenge.

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  3. Thanks, Michelle, for this lovely plug and a fun opportunity to mix it up with Janet! And thank you all for stopping by. Wishing you all a great summer-- and lots of poetry!

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    1. Totally my pleasure, Sylvia! Looking forward to helping you meet your movie quota this month. :)

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  4. These two partners in crime, the Poetry Goddesses, are definitely a hoot to boot! :) What a fun interview, and no, Janet's frequent mention of food did not escape me one little bit. And I share her enthusiasm for black. Now I need to get me some bright tights! :D

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    1. Jama: I think we need to host a FOOD AND BOOKS conference where people come for the day and just eat and eat and eat while we listen to all the great speakers read about . . . food. We will have an assortment of all the beautiful food creations that you've featured on your blog. And everyone will be required to wear black (or colorful tights). Spring 2015?

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  5. Clearly Sylvia and Janet have missed their second calling as a comic duo. I was expecting a rendition of "Who's On First" any minute!

    Thank you, Michelle, for featuring two of my favorite kidlit people in probably the best interview EVER. Hmm....a poem video. I really don't know if that's something I could handle...will have to think about it. ;)

    Does a poem video of my own PFAS poem count?

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    1. Absolutely, positively it counts! Bring it on, Renee LaTulippe!

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    2. Yes, send your PFAS poem video!! (As for us being a comic duo: Sylvia and I get punchy when we spend too much time together and we were already on Hour #9 when we sat down to answer these interview questions!)

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  6. So much fun to read this interview and see the interplay between Janet and Sylvia - a dynamic duo indeed!

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    1. I'm surprised their favorite pieces of clothing aren't their superhero capes. ;)

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  7. Sylvia and Janet are poetry passers, their kindness and encouragement are vital to great children's poetry reaching the masses. Thanks for the interview Michelle!

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    1. "Poetry passers"... yes. I like that, and so true! Thanks for stopping by, Charles.

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    2. Charles: you are always so gracious! We really are blessed to have so many generous people in our community of children's poets. I would bet that we have more sharing and support in our genre than any other!

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  8. Great interview, Michelle! Thanks for sending me the new links. I have added all of them to the PFA Science board on Pinterest.

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    1. You do us all a great service with your Pinterest boards, Anastasia!

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  9. Loved the interview with this entertaining duo. Great questions, Michelle!

    Violet N.

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  10. Long, final day of school Michelle. What a lovely interview. I'd love to have been there just watching! The anthologies are simply awesome. I've used them all & they have helped me in my work with teachers. I'll certainly try to do a movie for you, and loved Laura's challenge, & winning Water Can Be, another beauty of a poetry book! Thanks for all!

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    1. A lovely prize for a lovely person! Looking forward to your video this month, Linda.

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  11. This is just to say that I have been here and read your words, but surgery on both thumbs last Tuesday prevents me from typing a personalized comment. Forgive me -- copy/paste is the best I can do this week! :-)

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    1. Totally understandable, Mary Lee. Thanks for dropping by!

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  12. Great interview Michelle! I loved your questions, you really helped us get to know these two amazing ladies who are doing such important work in poetry! And made me laugh! I love this series, and I love that you featured a bilingual poems!

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    1. What a big ol' smile I've got on my face from one little ol' comment. Thanks Carol. :)

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  13. This was so much fun. I especially liked how Janet and Sylvia named favorite pieces of each other's clothing. They're so cute together!

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    1. I agree, it's those little details that made this interview so special.

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  14. Hello there Michelle, this is such a fantabulous interview - I love the energy, the short quick snappy responses - everything about it! Lovely! I really hope that our library gets copies of all the Poetry Friday anthologies - can't wait to get my hands on them.

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    1. Thanks so much, Myra. I hope your library gets copies too-- they're such wonderful resources!

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  15. Oh, so happy I got here, finally. I love this fab and fun interview with the fun dynamic poetry team of Wong and Vardell! They do so much for kids, for poetry, for poets, for teachers, for librarians, for friends and for those they do not know. Two of my favorite people, to boot! I was reading the gr. 4 PFA for Science today with a young girl (private teaching student) and we were having a blast. It led to so much interesting conversation. Think I should try a video! Thanks for the challenge, Michelle, Janet and Sylvia! It is fun to play! Janet F.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your experience with your student. I love to hear stories like that and I'm quite sure Janet and Sylvia do too! Play on!

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  16. Really fun interview. Thanks!

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it Rosi. Thanks for stopping by!

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  17. Thank you, Michelle, Janet, and Sylvia! I loved reading your creative interview questions and answers, and what a treat to see Alma's poem here. Oh, this challenge...videos have been on my mind, so I'm thinking, thinking.

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    1. Can't wait to see what you come up with, Tamera!

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  18. I was the lucky winner of a give away copy of the Poetry Friday Anthology for Science and was blown away. I think it belongs in every classroom. The poems lead students to wonder and ask questions and google. They want to know more.
    Love the challenge. I may participate even though I have an anthology, just for the fun of it.

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    1. I really hope you do participate, Margaret. When I read about the possibility of doing a collage, you're the first person I thought of. :)

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  19. Sorry I'm coming to Poetry Friday on Sunday evening! I've never made a film, but maybe I can put together a slideshow.

    You pulled together such interesting questions for your interview. Very impressive, my friend.

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    1. A slideshow would be great, Diane! But if you can't get around to that, you can always contribute one of your masterful haiga!

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  20. Congrats to Linda! That was a fun challenge - and amazing to read all those cinquains! Thanks for sharing the interview, too, of course - it was nice to get to know Janet & Sylvia a little better.

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  21. What fun to read this and see how Sylvia and Janet interacted with their responses. They are the new Dynamic Duo aren't they? I am constantly amazed by their energy. And hey, I'd like to see that YouTube video of all the children of the world chanting a poem. It's easy to believe that such an event would ripple out and change the world for the better, isn't it?

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  22. Wonderful interview, Michelle. I never liked science so anything that lifts its image is great with me.

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  23. Enoying my after-the-fact visit with these two Word Wonder Women! Thank you Michelle.

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