Tuesday, May 23, 2017

DMC: "A Perfect Storm" by David McMullin




A PERFECT STORM

The weatherman's predictions are unclear.
I venture forth with pencil in hand.
Balmy prose are expected, but I prepare for inclement choices.
My umbrella is a well researched outline.
Writing is a breeze.
Idea clouds swirl above.
The sky opens up.
Lightning strikes.
I throw aside my umbrella, letting myself be drenched in inspiration.
Words flood my mind.
A flurry of letters pelt my paper.
Drifts of pages accumulate by my side.
Then,
As quickly as it came, the storm gives way to clear blue.
All is still except one fresh draft.
A draft carrying with it the promise of sunny skies.


© 2017 David McMullin. All rights reserved.


Click HERE to read this month's interview with Melissa Manlove, Senior Editor at Chronicle Books. Her DMC challenge is to write a poem that explores how writing (or a book) is like something else.

Post your poem on our May 2017 padlet. While some contributions will be featured as daily ditties this month, all contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration this Friday, May 26th. Two lucky participants will win a book published by Chronicle earlier this year: LOVING VS. VIRGINIA by Patricia Hruby Powell, illustrated by Shadra Strickland, or LOVE IS by Diane Adams, illustrated by Claire Keane.





Monday, May 22, 2017

DMC: "A Season of Poems — a Quartet" by Jane Baskwill




A SEASON OF POEMS—A QUARTET

Poems in Winter

Poems in Winter are
Slow to rise,
When storms rattle the window panes,
And wind whistles through cracks,
They shiver and shake and hide undercover,
Not wanting to come out,
Not willing to leave their nest,
Until lured by the snap-crackling of a promise,
Drawn to the warming intoxication of the hearth,
Cold hearts melt as icy fingers thaw,
They curl up by the fire momentarily,
Poems in Winter

Make good kindling.

Poems in Spring

Poems in spring are hopeful,
They start as small shoots to be nurtured
And protected from the whims of nature,
Some germinating too early,
Catching the gardener unaware,
Some awakening from a winter’s rest
Only to die from joyful pruning,
Some growing rapidly,
Taking over their assigned space,
And spreading into others’,
Forcing their presence,
In need of shaping, tending, taming,
They seek attention, consideration, celebration,
Poems in Spring
Rejuvenate the spirit.


Poems in Summer

Poems in Summer
Are a procrastinator’s dream,
They lie about on porches or swings,
Or in the shade of a tree, dozing,
With their eyes closed against the brilliance of day,
When summer breezes blow,
They drift into neighbour’s gardens,
Waiting for someone else to find them,
Caring not for the woes of the world,
Nor if they should live beyond today,
Poems in Summer
Are lazy.


Poems in Fall

Poems in Fall
Explode with colour and embrace their calling,
They drop from leaf-laden trees
Without care or misgiving,
Coming to rest with joy and abandon
They are propelled along pathways and old railway beds,
Moving briskly with stalwart determination,
They gather in piles and heaps, on stoops and verandas,
Impatiently demanding to be,
Poems in Fall
Have an urgency.



© 2017 Jane Baskwill. All rights reserved.


Click HERE to read this month's interview with Melissa Manlove, Senior Editor at Chronicle Books. Her DMC challenge is to write a poem that explores how writing (or a book) is like something else.

Post your poem on our May 2017 padlet. While some contributions will be featured as daily ditties this month, all contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration this Friday, May 26th. Two lucky participants will win a book published by Chronicle earlier this year: LOVING VS. VIRGINIA by Patricia Hruby Powell, illustrated by Shadra Strickland, or LOVE IS by Diane Adams, illustrated by Claire Keane.






Thursday, May 18, 2017

Book Love: TOO MANY FRIENDS (Giveaway!)


KATHRYN APEL

Today I'm singing the praises of an Australian children's poet and author whose books we don't see enough of here in the States. That's going to have to change.

Kathryn Apel (Kat to those of us who follow her blog) is a born-and-bred farm girl who’s scared of cows. She lives with her husband and two sons among the gum trees, cattle and kangaroos on a Queensland grazing property, and is the author of five books for children, including three novels in verse.


Kat loves pumping poetry because she can flex her muscles across other genres, to bend (and break) writing rules. She also teaches part-time and shares her passion for words at schools and festivals. There's lots to explore at Kat's website, including information about her books, kid's stuff, kidlit tips, useful links, and a "whisker of poetry."

Order paper copies via the publisher
or the Kindle edition via Amazon.com.
Watch the trailer HERE.
Too Many Friends (UQP, 2017) is Kat's latest novel in verse for young readers. It tells the story of a Tahnee, a second grader who prides herself on having lots of friends, and who loves to spend time with them all... even the ones who can be bossy. But sometimes she gets frustrated. She feels pushed and pulled in too many directions and doesn't understand why her friends can't get along with each other. Tahnee's efforts to strike a balance and keep the peace—to be inclusive, thoughtful, and understanding in and outside of the classroom—make her an ideal role model. Although she recognizes faults, she chooses to celebrate strengths instead, and she shows readers how to be a good friend in a way that's not preachy or show-offish.

For me, reading this novel brought back a flood of memories from my own kids' early years in Sydney. But even without the first-hand memories, there's much to be gained by reading this book. The fact that American children may not be familiar with honey crackles, or know that fairy floss is another name for cotton candy, or have played pass the parcel at birthday parties, won't stop them from identifying with the characters. Besides, there's great value in children (and adults) gaining insight into what it's like living in another part of the world, don't you think? We live in a global society; why not introduce our children to their "neighbours"?

In Australia, my little ones were proud
to wear their school uniforms.
My son was Tahnee's age when we left Australia to return to the US. Although their transition to the Florida school system wasn't perfect, when it came to friendship, there were few differences between these two cultures from opposite sides of the planet. Slightly older children will relate to Too Many Friends, as well. When my daughter was in fourth grade, she had her first run in with what it's like to have... and then lose the attention of a close friend she'd had since first grade, a friend who suddenly became popular.  It wasn't fun—there were many hurt feelings. But to be fair, the popular girl never asked to be "fought over."

The push and pull of friendship is something young readers will relate to no matter where they call home. I can so easily see this book being read aloud in the classroom to help navigate playground dramas, learn what it means to be a good friend, and discover how to get along with others regardless of whether or not they are friends. My children may have missed out on Miss Darling's classroom, but if you'd like to bring Tahnee and her friends into your classroom, check out the additional resources at Kat's website, including downloadable Teachers' Notes and activity suggestions.

For now, though, please help me welcome Kathryn Apel to the TLD classroom!


Thanks so much for joining us, Kat!

Tell us a little about your experience of writing TOO MANY FRIENDS. What drew you to the story and why did you choose a novel in verse format?

A friend was sharing her mother-heart, about her young daughter who was perpetually wearing herself ragged trying to always be a good friend and meet the needs of all her friends, so that her friends were almost a burden for the little girl to bear.

I’m sure at some stage we’ve all looked at the popular kids and wished a little, but I’d never considered that lots of friends could be a ‘difficult' thing. I wrote a note on my phone; ‘a story about too many friends’ … and started writing it soon after. The words flowed. I think I’d finished my first draft in under a month. The editing process was also so much quicker/easier than my previous verse novels. (Just as well, since we had an unscheduled and exciting holiday opportunity in the middle of that.) I think writing this one from the teacher-heart, as opposed to the mother-heart, perhaps enabled this… and all those wonderful years in the classroom!

It was always going to be a verse novel. I’m finding it hard not to write in verse these days. Partly because words seem to have more resonance in the verse novel format—like they’re buffed and polished and warmed to a golden glow, and there's nowhere for superfluous words to hide. But also because the stories that I’m needing to tell are stories that have heart, and the verse novel seems to be the right way to engage readers in those stories.


In the United States, novels in verse are on the rise, while children's poetry collections seem to be less marketable. What is your overall sense of the children's poetry and verse novel markets in Australia?

*Snap!*

It is so hard to get poetry published in Australia! But as you’ve noted in terms of America, there is a growing number of publishers who are taking on verse novels here—which is, of course, a good thing! My publisher, University of Queensland Press (UQP), has long been a champion of the verse novel, publishing Steven Herrick’s collection of novels in verse and Margarita Engle’s Silver People amongst others—including my three.

Kat makes some new friends at a recent book event.


How is poetry viewed in the Australian educational system? Is it embraced, or is it more like here in the States, where teachers are generally uncomfortable teaching poetry?

Funnily enough, I was surprised by your questions/comments about poetry in education, because for as long as I’ve been involved in Poetry Friday, I’ve (a little jealously/yearningly) had this really lovely, rosy view on poetry in America. But apparently Poetry Friday isn’t an accurate reflection on the education system and its approach to poetry as a whole?

What is it that shakes up our confidence with poetry! Kids are drawn like magnets to rhythm and rhyme. What happens along the way, to turn poetry into ‘the baddie’?

Because yes, in Australia poetry is also seen as an intimidating subject. People worry that they don’t really ‘get’ what the poem is about. Or the curriculum requirements make the analysis of poetry arduous, not magical. Or the poems studied don’t relate to kids of today. It’s about right and wrong answers, not joyful word play and experimentation.

More and more I’m realising that poetry is not about one right meaning. It’s about how it makes you feel—when your heart skips… or lurches—and the feel of the wordplay rolling around in your mouth. It’s about creativity and discipline, wordplay and writing muscle, engaging and enabling a wide range of abilities.

I keep hoping that this giant penny will drop—people will realise that poetry is such a HUGE and diverse genre, and there really is a form of poetry for every person and every occasion. Just because one form doesn’t resonate, another one will! You may not love all forms of poetry—and that’s okay! You can still enjoy poetry! :)


In a blog post, you describe TOO MANY FRIENDS as your "most joyous book." How did writing it compare to your previous novels in verse? Was there anything that particularly caught you by surprise?

Bully on the Bus follows the story of Leroy, a small boy who is bullied throughout the book, on his school bus. There is sadness and anxiety throughout the book, and whilst Leroy is ultimately empowered, that’s towards the end of the book. It's an important story, very much a story from the heart, and I love what it has the potential to do for kids who are being bullied—but there are more tears than laughs in that book.






Similarly, On Track deals with sibling rivalry, self-doubt and imperfect bodies. As one brother’s story takes a turn for the better, the other’s takes a twist for the worse. There are light moments throughout, but there is also a lot of the angst that comes with those themes.
  

Too Many Friends is about a sweet, caring girl who just wants to please—and constantly tries to find ways to be a friend to everyone. (Perhaps my biggest ‘problem’ with this book (through the editorial process) was getting rid of excess ‘smile’s. :) ) Yes, there are points of conflict—and there are moments that catch your heart—but Tahnee’s story is mostly a joyous story.


Please share a favorite selection from TOO MANY FRIENDS and tell us why it's meaningful to you.

So many of the activities in Tahnee’s classroom are things I’ve done with classes I’ve taught, and collage picture books are up there are as one of my favourites!

(Click images to enlarge.)


From Too Many Friends by Kathryn Apel (UQP, 2017), used by permission of the author.

One of the best parts of the project is that buzz of energy and enthusiasm as ideas and edits bounce around the room—kids engaged and enthused with a purposeful real-world project.

Sometimes, with all the standardised assessments and increasing curriculum demands, that joy of shared teaching and learning is squeezed out of classrooms. A teacher’s passion counts for everything within the classroom! If Too Many Friends helps to validate or reignite that passion and enthusiasm—for kids and teachers—that would be a beautiful thing!


What's coming up next for you?

There are works in the pipeline that I can’t yet discuss… but can’t wait until I can share!

In terms of current works in progress, I have a number underway, including something a little different, for me: a historical verse novel for middle grade/young adult, inspired by our recent trip to Antarctica. So amongst the fun of new book release and all that involves, I have also been delving deep into research. And thanks to different posts from Poetry Friday members, I’ve jumped in at different story points to play with some of the poetic forms I’ve seen on the rounds. I’ve not approached a story quite like that before, but I’m having lots of fun! And so far it’s been working. So not only is the historical genre new for me, but so too are many of the poetry forms.


Sounds exciting, Kat! Keep us posted. And thanks for traveling all the way here to be with us today. :)

Thank you so much for having me visit, Michelle. Today’s Little Ditty is like a virtual playground and gym rolled into one. You do a great thing here!


Speaking of great things . . .



Since it's not so easy to grab a copy of Too Many Friends at your local US bookstore, I'm giving away the copy I was sent by University of Queensland Press to one lucky reader of today's blog post! All you need to do to enter the giveaway is leave a comment below or email me at TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com. Make sure you do so no later than Tuesday, May 23rd. The winner, selected randomly, will be announced next Friday.


I sure am enjoying the wide variety of poems for Melissa Manlove's challenge to write about how writing (or a book) is like something else! This week's featured ditties included poems by Jesse Anna Bornemann, Diane Mayr, Elizabeth Steinglass, and Irene Latham. Linda Mitchell is sharing hers at A Word Edgewise today. Post your contribution on our May 2017 padlet to be included in next week's wrap-up celebration!



Join Kiesha at Whispers from the Ridge to discover everyday gifts and explore this week's Poetry Friday roundup.







DMC: "Fishing for a Reader" by Irene Latham




FISHING FOR A READER

A good book
hooks
with a sharp first line.

Its plot wiggles
and pulls and surprises.

Its characters are bait
that wait
for you to bite.

A good book 
reels you in

with glistening language
and a splash
of style.

It soaks you with memories
and new discoveries.

A good book 
holds steady
through The End

and then 
it lures you in again.

© 2017 Irene Latham. All rights reserved.


Click to enlarge.


Click HERE to read this month's interview with Melissa Manlove, Senior Editor at Chronicle Books. Her DMC challenge is to write a poem that explores how writing (or a book) is like something else.

Post your poem on our May 2017 padlet. While some contributions will be featured as daily ditties this month, all contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration on Friday, May 26th. Two lucky participants will win a book published by Chronicle earlier this year: LOVING VS. VIRGINIA by Patricia Hruby Powell, illustrated by Shadra Strickland, or LOVE IS by Diane Adams, illustrated by Claire Keane.





Wednesday, May 17, 2017

DMC: "The Act of Writing" by Elizabeth Steinglass




THE ACT OF WRITING

You let go
of your trapeze.
You’re flying
over everything—
the crowd, the clowns,
the dancing dogs.
It all looks different
from above,
but now you’re wondering
where’s the bar
you’re supposed to grab?
Can you get from here to there,
flip and twist through open air
with nothing more
than words?
Will the people down below
follow your rise, your rhyme, your spin,
feel the fear, the awe, you feel?
Or will you fall?
Will you land on your back
on a web of string,
bounce up high and find your feet,
and climb the ladder
once again?

© 2017 Elizabeth Steinglass. All rights reserved.



Click HERE to read this month's interview with Melissa Manlove, Senior Editor at Chronicle Books. Her DMC challenge is to write a poem that explores how writing (or a book) is like something else.

Post your poem on our May 2017 padlet. While some contributions will be featured as daily ditties this month, all contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration on Friday, May 26th. Two lucky participants will win a book published by Chronicle earlier this year: LOVING VS. VIRGINIA by Patricia Hruby Powell, illustrated by Shadra Strickland, or LOVE IS by Diane Adams, illustrated by Claire Keane.






Tuesday, May 16, 2017

DMC: "Nasal Passages [to Writing]" by Diane Mayr




NASAL PASSAGES [TO WRITING]

There are times when
a steady drip, drip, drip
yields nothing of merit.
Other times a tickle leads
the writer to think that
soon to spring forth will
be metaphors and similes
and only the right words.
Sadly, a probing pinky
cannot detach them.
The best writing comes
as an unexpected sneeze.
In surprise is liberation.
Words fly with nothing
to hold them back.
Air passages cleared,
words are wiped up,
finally caught on paper.
The writer breathes. 


© 2017 Diane Mayr. All rights reserved.


Click HERE to read this month's interview with Melissa Manlove, Senior Editor at Chronicle Books. Her DMC challenge is to write a poem that explores how writing (or a book) is like something else.

Post your poem on our May 2017 padlet. While some contributions will be featured as daily ditties this month, all contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration on Friday, May 26th. Two lucky participants will win a book published by Chronicle earlier this year: LOVING VS. VIRGINIA by Patricia Hruby Powell, illustrated by Shadra Strickland, or LOVE IS by Diane Adams, illustrated by Claire Keane.





Monday, May 15, 2017

DMC: "Alphabet Coaching" by Jesse Anna Bornemann




ALPHABET COACHING

Excuse me, please! I’m eager to
Address all 26 of you.
I think that I heard someone say
You’d like to form a poem today?
There’s little doubt you’re each endowed
With stellar skills! You should be proud!
I’m not here to suppress your style
But, rather, to enhance it while
I teach you to work as a group.
A lithe and lovely letter-troupe!
First, some warm-ups . . . take your time.
Maybe make a simple rhyme?
Nice job! (Or, I mean, could be worse.)
Now, can you stretch into a verse?
That’s it! Oh, wait – you missed a beat.
No, you don’t have two left feet!
I’d never say that. I’m impressed!
Fine, I can see why you’re stressed.
But stress is needed. Rhythm too.
Don’t choke now. There’s work to do!
So, that’s it? Our session’s done?
I thought that we were having fun.
An artist must stick to her craft!
What if we call this our first draft?

© 2017 Jesse Anna Bornemann. All rights reserved.



Click HERE to read this month's interview with Melissa Manlove, Senior Editor at Chronicle Books. Her DMC challenge is to write a poem that explores how writing (or a book) is like something else.

Post your poem on our May 2017 padlet. While some contributions will be featured as daily ditties this month, all contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration on Friday, May 26th. Two lucky participants will win a book published by Chronicle earlier this year: LOVING VS. VIRGINIA by Patricia Hruby Powell, illustrated by Shadra Strickland, or LOVE IS by Diane Adams, illustrated by Claire Keane.






Thursday, May 11, 2017

DMC: "Waiting World" by M. H. Barnes



Lupin Light: sunrise at Lake Tekapo, by Chris Gin


WAITING WORLD

To read is not like folding socks,
it's like a folding chair
you carry to the garden
to taste the fragrant air.

To write is not like counting words
or seconds on a clock,
it's packing up a picnic lunch
and going for a walk.

A poem doesn't live within 
the confines of a room.
You step inside its waiting world
to watch its sunrise bloom.

© 2017 Michelle Heidenrich Barnes. All rights reserved.



Click HERE to read last week's interview with Melissa Manlove, Senior Editor at Chronicle Books.

Her DMC challenge:

Write a poem that explores how writing (or a book) is like something else.




If you'd like to participate, post your poem on our May 2017 padlet. Other comparison poems featured this week were by Margaret Simon, Brenda Davis Harsham, Jessica Bigi, and Angelique Pacheco. All contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration on Friday, May 26th, and two lucky participants will win either LOVING VS. VIRGINIA by Patricia Hruby Powell, illustrated by Shadra Strickland, or LOVE IS by Diane Adams, illustrated by Claire Keane, both published by Chronicle Books earlier this year.





Check out what's blooming at A Teaching Life. Love's in the air and the Poetry Friday roundup is ripe for picking. Thanks, Tara!





DMC: "Book Immersion" by Angelique Pacheco




BOOK IMMERSION

She dips her toe in the freezing water,
A small ripple makes its way yonder.
She climbs in gingerly at first
Then dives right in, with a burst.
She languishes and plays,
She envisions mental plays.
Indulging her fantasies,
Her imagination sings.
When it’s all over she sadly climbs out,
Remembering fondly, what the book was about.

© 2017 Angelique Pacheco. All rights reserved.



Click HERE to read this month's interview with Melissa Manlove, Senior Editor at Chronicle Books. Her DMC challenge is to write a poem that explores how writing (or a book) is like something else.

Post your poem on our May 2017 padlet. While some contributions will be featured as daily ditties this month, all contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration on Friday, May 26th. Two lucky participants will win a book published by Chronicle earlier this year: LOVING VS. VIRGINIA by Patricia Hruby Powell, illustrated by Shadra Strickland, or LOVE IS by Diane Adams, illustrated by Claire Keane.






Wednesday, May 10, 2017

DMC: "Books Are Fly Traps of Knowledge" by Jessica Bigi




BOOKS ARE FLY TRAPS 
OF KNOWLEDGE

Each blank page
is sticky and gluey,
trapping each word
that the writer creates.
We the readers,
buzzing like curious flies,
becoming glued to the
pages of imaginings.

© 2017 Jessica Bigi. All rights reserved.



Click HERE to read this month's interview with Melissa Manlove, Senior Editor at Chronicle Books. Her DMC challenge is to write a poem that explores how writing (or a book) is like something else.

Post your poem on our May 2017 padlet. While some contributions will be featured as daily ditties this month, all contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration on Friday, May 26th. Two lucky participants will win a book published by Chronicle earlier this year: LOVING VS. VIRGINIA by Patricia Hruby Powell, illustrated by Shadra Strickland, or LOVE IS by Diane Adams, illustrated by Claire Keane.





Tuesday, May 9, 2017

DMC: "A Recipe for Poetry" by Brenda Davis Harsham




A RECIPE FOR POETRY

Preheat the oven.
            Set a deadline.
Measure flour, sugar, eggs.
            Sift emotions, moments, images.
Set mixer to medium.
            Swirl words, rearrange, refine, redefine.
Do not overmix.
            Avoid tunnel vision.
Insert cupcake papers.
            Framework and structure help it rise.
Fill papers to three-quarters. Do not overfill.
            Long division, slice away excess.
Bake.
            Wait. Garden. Paint sunflowers. Play Vivaldi.
Cool.
            Start a new project. Do counter-stretches.
Frost.
            Help the original idea shine.
Top with imagination: sprinkles, sugars, monkey smiles.
             Add jazz, pizzazz, razzle-dazzle.
Taste.
            Take the words inside.
Share.
            Sing them, slam them, ping them, fan them.
Repeat.

© 2017 Brenda Davis Harsham. All rights reserved.



Click HERE to read this month's interview with Melissa Manlove, Senior Editor at Chronicle Books. Her DMC challenge is to write a poem that explores how writing (or a book) is like something else.

Post your poem on our May 2017 padlet. While some contributions will be featured as daily ditties this month, all contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration on Friday, May 26th. Two lucky participants will win a book published by Chronicle earlier this year: LOVING VS. VIRGINIA by Patricia Hruby Powell, illustrated by Shadra Strickland, or LOVE IS by Diane Adams, illustrated by Claire Keane.






Monday, May 8, 2017

DMC: "Writing is" by Margaret Simon





WRITING IS

Writing is
        hearing the birds
                wake up the morning.

Writing is
           the time between sleeping and waking
                      hypnagogic, semi-dreamy.

Writing is
          a butterfly emerging
                          then flying quickly away.

Writing is
            hosta poking through the soil
                  announcing spring’s arrival.

Writing is
          elusive
                    and present—
                              time changing time.

© 2017 Margaret Simon. All rights reserved.



Click HERE to read this month's interview with Melissa Manlove, Senior Editor at Chronicle Books. Her DMC challenge is to write a poem that explores how writing (or a book) is like something else.

Post your poem on our May 2017 padlet. While some contributions will be featured as daily ditties this month, all contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration on Friday, May 26th. Two lucky participants will win a book published by Chronicle earlier this year: LOVING VS. VIRGINIA by Patricia Hruby Powell, illustrated by Shadra Strickland, or LOVE IS by Diane Adams, illustrated by Claire Keane.






Thursday, May 4, 2017

Spotlight on Melissa Manlove + DMC Challenge

MELISSA MANLOVE

Melissa Manlove is a Senior Editor at Chronicle Books in San Francisco. She has been with Chronicle for 13 years and has 17 years of children’s bookselling experience. Her acquisitions tend to be for all ages in nonfiction; ages 0-8 for fiction.

Here is a small sampling of books she has edited in recent years:

Browse the entire Chronicle Books catalog HERE.

When acquiring, Melissa looks for fresh takes on familiar topics as well as the new and unusual. An effective approach and strong, graceful writing are important to her, and her attraction to the music of language means that she doesn't shy away from poetry. She has worked with J. Patrick Lewis, Kenn Nesbitt, Marilyn Singer, Patricia Hruby Powell, and Elaine Magliaro, among others. Although Chronicle Books is currently open to unsolicited submissions, Melissa points out that poetry is a tough sell these days and Chronicle's list is not a large one.

I first became aware of Melissa Manlove in 2012, with the release of Kate Coomb's Water Sings Blue and this wonderful interview by Steven Withrow. I used that interview as a jumping off point for a few of my own questions today. Another worthwhile place to visit is the Chronicle Books blog, where Melissa posts occasionally about the craft of writing. This article about Kate Messner's Over and Under the Snow describes how using poetic devices is one of a few essential components for any successful picture book manuscript.

Melissa also has a couple posts at Chronicle's blog that give you a feel for her fun-loving personality, but I think you'll get a sense of that right here. That, and how smart and passionate she is about publishing books for children.

So shall we get started? Bring on the five favorites!


Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman
Favorite childhood memory:
I remember, in preschool, being asked what I was going to be when I grew up, and answering in perfect confidence, “Wonder Woman.” That’s sounded like the right answer to me ever since.

Favorite children's author:
This is an impossible question, but Russell Hoban, Maurice Sendak, and Astrid Lindgren were among my favorites growing up.

Favorite subject in school: English

Favorite food: tea and chocolate

Favorite smell: freesia


What is it about children’s books that drives you to do what you do?

Books made my own childhood vastly richer.
There is nothing like finding yourself in a book to convince you that you are—and should be—a hero.
"Superhero" by Marionberries
And there’s lots of evidence that books make a tremendous difference to children—the more they read the better they do in school, the longer they stay in school, the more compassionate they’ll be, the more money they’ll make in their lives, the better their children will do in school, the longer they will live. 


Reading makes us better citizens, in the marketplace, the jury box, the voting booth. Reading changes the world.

You came to children’s publishing after years as a bookseller. Even when you started at Chronicle, you continued to have an active presence at a children's bookstore doing puppet shows with your mother on weekends. What qualities do you possess as an editor that you can attribute to your bookselling experience?

Bookselling gives me a wide knowledge of the books in the marketplace now, an understanding of what books appeal to which shoppers, and a very useful sense of consumer behavior.


You’ve said that you “grew up on poetry.” Would you share a poem that’s meaningful to you, either from your childhood or as an adult?

I’m fond of Child Development by Billy Collins.



It’s a fine reminder that there’s little to truly grow out of, and what we should grow into is not dignity but humor.

Five years ago, you said it was a tragedy of our educational system that most students, once they reach junior high, are shoved from the playful poetry of childhood straight into more formal poetic forms:
It’s like taking a kindergartner’s Legos away and giving him an encyclopedia to play with. Who wouldn’t resent that? There’s no question there’s plenty of fun to be had with an encyclopedia or a sonnet, but there are a lot of other toys in the spectrum of English poetry. 
With the increasing popularity of novels in verse, I’m wondering if you still feel that way? From your perspective as a publisher, are you seeing any other signs of change?

I do still feel that way. And I think that common core, which I am a fan of in many ways, did a terrible disservice to poetry in the way it expects poetry to almost always be featured with stories and drama (and often offers the teacher the option of choosing stories instead of poetry) rather than insisting that poetry be an essential part of the English curriculum in all grades. Thank goodness for novels in verse! That is a bright spot. But my sense is that books of poetry (that aren’t novels) have gotten harder to publish.


Melissa Manlove at Chronicle Books, doing what she loves best.
What is one of your biggest job challenges? What about your job gives you the most satisfaction?

I suppose the biggest challenge is just the endless tide of email. Editing—thinking about text or art or the way a book will come together—is tremendously satisfying and constantly new.



Your books reflect eclectic interests, though I imagine there are common characteristics that you look for no matter the style or subject matter. Using your Spring 2017 titles as examples, can you give us an idea what some of these characteristics are? What specifically excites you about these books?

My spring list includes Balderdash!; Charlie & Mouse; Curious Constructions; Love Is; Mighty, Mighty Construction Site; Over and Under the Pond; and technically on our Fall 16 list but releasing this past February were Things to Do and Loving vs Virginia.

















This list of books does represent a wide range of ages and topics, fiction and nonfiction, prose and poetry. But each has a voice that is unusually well-suited to its topic, and an approach that I’m confident will invite its readers in. Of these, Things to Do, Loving vs Virginia, Love Is, and Mighty, Mighty Construction Site are in verse.


Find at Amazon, Barnes & Noble,
or via Indiebound.org.
Things to Do by Elaine Magliaro and illustrated by Catia Chen is a jewelbox of little poems describing a child’s day. Each is so evocative of point of view and the intense present-ness of childhood.

Read Jama Rattigan's extensive interview with Elaine Magliaro at Alphabet Soup.

Watch this feature on Catia Chen at the PBS NewsHour. 

Download the teacher guide HERE.

From THINGS TO DO by Elaine Magliaro, illustrated by Catia Chen (Chronicle Books, 2017) – click to enlarge.






















Find at Amazon, Barnes & Noble,
or via Indiebound.org.
Loving vs Virginia is a documentary novel in verse by Patricia Hruby Powell, with artwork by Shadra Strickland. It's about the historic civil rights case, and yet its voice is so humble and so human that it lets Richard and Mildred become real people, and their story become a love story—as it should be.

Read an interview with Patricia Hruby Powell at The Children's Book Review, and this review of Loving vs. Virginia by the Historical Novel Society.

Download the teacher guide HERE.

From LOVE VS. VIRGINIA by Patricia Hruby Powell, with artwork by Shadra Strickland (Chronicle Books, 2017) – click to enlarge.


























Find at Amazon, Barnes & Noble,
or via Indiebound.org.
Love Is by Diane Adams, illustrated by Claire Keane, is a simple and lovely tale of a girl who adopts a lost duckling. Many parents will see themselves in it, but it remains a story of growth and generosity that’s very true to children.

You'll find a lovely review of Love Is HERE.






From LOVE IS by Diane Adams, illustrated by Claire Keane (Chronicle Books, 2017) – click to enlarge.

























Find at Amazon, Barnes & Noble,
or via Indiebound.org.
Mighty Mighty Construction Site is the sequel to Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Dusky Rinker and Tom Lechtenheld. It's as full as the first one of the tremendous satisfaction of dirt, rhyme, big machines, and teamwork.

Read Publishers Weekly's starred review, and another glowing write-up from The Children's Book Review.

Download a teacher guide & activity kit HERE.
From MIGHTY, MIGHTY CONSTRUCTION SITE by Sherri Duskey Rinker & Tom Lichtenheld (Chronicle Books, 2017)


 

Whet our appetites. What are some books we can look forward to in the coming months from Chronicle?

This fall there will be the sequel to Charlie & Mouse by Laurel Snyder and Emily Hughes—Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy.

Coming October 3, 2017, available for pre-order.




There will also be the madcap 12 Sleighs of Christmas by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Jake Parker, in which Santa’s elves build a lot of hybrid sleighs (motorcycle sleighs, big rig sleighs, submarine sleighs) in an effort to improve on the classic.

Coming October 24, 2017, available for pre-order.

Give Me Back My Book! is an irrepressibly comic exploration of the parts of a book and the negotiations of friendship, by Travis Foster and Ethan Long.
 
Coming September 5, 2017, available for pre-order.


Herbert's First Halloween by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Steven Henry, is an endearing and empowering primer on Halloween (which is a fairly strange and unnerving holiday for the youngest children).

Coming August 1, 2017, available for pre-order.




Hidden Dangers is a nonfiction book by Lola M. Schaefer and illustrated by Tymn Armstrong. It's about some of the world’s most dangerous animals—and is also a seek-and-find challenge.

Coming August 1, 2017, available for pre-order.





Melissa Manlove, appreciating a good laugh since age 5.
If you had all the world’s children in one room, what would you tell them?

Oh gosh I don’t know. I would probably do something to make them laugh.

She might even read them a story!










Finally, please tell us what you have chosen as this month’s ditty challenge.

Write me a poem that explores how writing (or a book) is like something else. Convince me!


Oooh, I LOVE it!  

Please join me in thanking wonder-full Melissa for deflecting  
an onslaught of email bullets to be with us today!

Mattel's Wonder Woman Doll, by earldan


Not only that, she has generously donated not one, but two books for lucky DMC participants!


(Winners will be selected randomly at the end of the month.)


It's time, poets. 
Now go do what you do best . . .

A new journey to be started.

A new promise to be fulfilled.

A new page to be written.

Go forth unto this waiting world with pen in hand, 
all you young scribes,

the open book awaits.

Be creative.

Be adventurous.

Be original.

And above all else, be young.

For youth is your greatest weapon, your greatest tool.

Use it wisely.
                   —Wonder Woman, issue #62, Wonder Woman: War of the Gods, by George Pérez


HOW TO PARTICIPATE:

Post your poem that explores how writing (or a book) is like something else on our May 2017 padlet. Stop by any time during the month to add your work or to check out what others are contributing.

By posting on the padlet, you are granting me permission to share your poem on Today's Little Ditty.  Some poems will be featured as daily ditties, though authors may not be given advanced notice. Subscribe to the blog if you'd like to keep tabs. You can do that in the sidebar to the right where it says "Follow TLD by Email." As always, all of the poems will be included in a wrap-up celebration on the last Friday of the month—May 26 for our current challenge.

TEACHERS, it's great when students get involved! Ditty of the Month Club challenges are wonderful opportunities to learn about working poets and authors while having fun with poetry prompts. Thank you for spreading the word! For children under 13, please read my COPPA compliance statement in the sidebar to the right.

FIRST-TIMERS (those who have never contributed to a ditty challenge before), in addition to posting your work on the padlet, please send your name and email address to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com. That way I'll be able to contact you for possible inclusion in future Best of Today's Little Ditty anthologies.

BLOGGERS, thank you for publishing your poems on your own blogs– I love that!  Please let me know about it, so I can share your post! Also remember to include your poem (or a direct link to your post) on the padlet in order to be included in the wrap-up celebration and end-of-month giveaway.
                 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Thank you to everyone who contributed poems to last month's Ditty Potluck! I was delighted and humbled that so many of you came to my party. In fact, you might want to take another look at the poetry smorgasbord—we had about a half dozen late arrivals. Thank you to readers and writers alike for making TLD's birthday month so special!

Random.org has determined that a Best of Today's Little Ditty prize package goes to . . .

TERESA ROBESON
Congratulations, Teresa!



Jama Rattigan has a smile waiting for you at Alphabet Soup. Join her for a refreshing bite of gratitude and the Poetry Friday roundup.