|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.
|Pomelo Books, February 2014|
Purchase this book and the others in
The Poetry Friday Anthology Series
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!]
JW: Everything salty and fat.
SV: Whatever Janet orders!
JW: Depends for what. Black for clothes because I can eat double.
|Photo: David Eickhoff|
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.)
SV: A toss-up between the cello and the oboe.
JW: Bing! the sound of my Inbox when I'm expecting good news.
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.
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.
Now I hope you'll join Carol at Carol's Corner for this week's Poetry Friday roundup.