Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Book Love: WILD IN THE STREETS (Giveaway!)

We're celebrating a book birthday!

Congratulations to Marilyn Singer on her latest nonfiction poetry picture book, Wild in the Streets: 20 Poems of City Animals (Quarto Publishing, 2019), which has just been released into the urban wilderness TODAY!

Concrete, glass, tarmac, steel—
who'd imagine they'd appeal
to creatures that once lived
          in forests, caves, on prairies, rocks?
How did they land on city blocks,
under bridges, on rooftops
in playgrounds and drains
          (even in our houses, perhaps when it rains)?
What do they eat? Where do they sleep?
Who are these beings, beloved or reviled?
What wildlife can possibly flourish
          where life's no longer wild?
© 2019 Marilyn Singer, from WILD IN THE STREETS. All rights reserved.

This gorgeous and fascinating book tells the compelling stories of animals who have found homes in urban landscapes across the world. Some of them might be closer than you think! Humans may have built towns and cities, but we aren’t the only ones who live in them. Given the smallest chance—a park, a garden, a window box, a basement, a subway tunnel, a bridge—wildlife manages to survive in the city.

From the pythons traveling Singapore's sewers to the monkeys living in India's temples, from hyenas that roam the ancient Ethiopian walled city of Harar and river crabs who reside under ancient ruins in the center of Rome, to wild boars who wander the streets of Berlin, or, closer to home, coyotes who thrive in major cities like Chicago (and a slew of North American suburbs, including my own in Florida!), each colorfully illustrated spread of Wild in the Streets buzzes with city life and animal activity. The stories of these animals, foreign and familiar, are told through various poetry forms (described at the back of the book) and accompanied by informational text. Some poems are comical, some poignant, but all of them help the reader see the world in a different way.

Now I realize that the thought of a book about living with wild animals might give some readers pause (paws?), so as a precautionary measure, I thought I'd share . . .

5 easy ways to help make this book feel welcome 
in your neighborhood.

All words and pictures used in this post are from WILD IN THE STREETS, copyright © 2019 by Marilyn Singer and Gordy Wright. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, an imprint of The Quarto Group, Beverly, MA.
1. Pay your respects.

From Wild in the Streets, text © 2019 by Marilyn Singer, illustration © 2019 by Gordy Wright. Click image to enlarge.

2. Give flowers. 

From Wild in the Streets, text © 2019 by Marilyn Singer, illustration © 2019 by Gordy Wright. Click image to enlarge.

3. Invite it to dinner.

From Wild in the Streets, text © 2019 by Marilyn Singer, illustration © 2019 by Gordy Wright. Click image to enlarge.

4. Offer it the best seat.

From Wild in the Streets, text © 2019 by Marilyn Singer, illustration © 2019 by Gordy Wright. Click image to enlarge.

5. Sing its praises.

From Wild in the Streets, text © 2019 by Marilyn Singer, illustration © 2019 by Gordy Wright. Click image to enlarge.

And one more, if you can manage it—
throw a "welcome to the neighborhood" party!

I hope you'll make WILD IN THE STREETS feel welcome in YOUR classroom, home, or library!

Purchase a copy at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, or via Indiebound.org 

or . . .

Leave a comment below for a chance to win a copy of Wild in the Streets: 20 Poems of City Animals courtesy of Quarto Publishing. Alternatively, you may send an email to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com with the subject "WILD giveaway." Entries must be received by Tuesday, September 24, 2019. The winner will be selected randomly and announced on Friday, September 27th.

We're still meeting and greeting over at this month's padlet! New additions include all-about-me acrostic poems by Jone Rush MacCulloch, Sherry Howard, Michelle Kogan, Angelique Pacheco, Mindy Beth Gars Dolandis, and Janet Clare Fagal. Stay tuned for next week's end-of-month wrap-up celebration!

At this week's Poetry Friday roundup, Linda Baie reveals the cover and a few thoughts about a wonderful new book coming in February from Irene Latham and Charles Waters. You'll find that and many more poetry offerings at TeacherDance.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

A DMC Meet and Greet

"Shadow meets Mirror" by Markus Koller

The wise and illustrious ditty master, Dr. Seuss, once wrote, "There is no one alive who is youer than you."  So true! And thanks to Jane Whittingham's DMC challenge for September, I've been having the best time hobnobbing with the "all-about-me" acrostics that have found their way onto the padlet so far. All back-to-school open houses and PTA meet and greets should be this much fun! Wouldn't it be great to see what a classroom of students might come up with?

I've learned about your dreams—

Cheriee is an aging dreamer
Hoping for a healthy planet
Even when the news is dire, she
Resists despair, revelling in nature, but
Is afraid of spiders,
Entrancing as they may seem to
Everyone else
                    © Cheriee Weichel, 2019

and aspirations,

Lost in thoughts
Imagination whirling
Next poem, book, task
Determines the days
Accomplishments appreciated

Undecided, but always
                     © Linda Baie, 2019

your writing strategies—
Linda likes to pen poetry
Iambic and non-rhyming schemes
Noting word syllable counts
Drafts and revisions – look out!
Anyone’s fair game for her themes

                    © Linda Mitchell, 2019

Just a writer and a poet
Always  jotting notes and such.
Never tires of seeking whimsy
In kind words that move and touch.
Ever writing, ever writing, ever writing.

                    © Janie Lazo, 2019

and culinary preferences,
Joyce adores 
Olives, roti, miso soup and 
Yearns to taste
Cultural meals that don’t include
                    © Joyce Ray, 2019

Cindy eats handfuls of cherry tomatoes.
In her garden she digs up potatoes.
Never resists a good mystery book.
Doesn't ever desire to cook.
Yearns for dark chocolate to be totally calorie free.

                    © Cindy Breedlove, 2019

your inclinations toward travel—
Doing whatever I can to
Accrue more funds to
Venture forward again and again
In a quest to explore
Distant (and not so distant) lands.

                    © David McMullin, 2019

Kathleen is
A lady who likes to
Travel to different countries 
Having already been to all 50 states.
Loves reading and writing poetry,
Especially haiku,
Even if she doesn’t quite get all the 
                    © Kathleen Mazurowski, 2019

and the ways you find your bliss at home,
Can perch for hours in her backyard
Oasis―observing, listening, communing―picture taking;
Reveling in the buzziness of bees and antics of squirrels, all
Yielding as much joy as flowers of sun and glories of morning.
Can perch for hours in her backyard
Oasis, oblivious of time―totally immersed.
Re-energized. Inspired. Amused . . . by
Robins sparring for equal time at the bath. 
And bunny rabbits nibbling greens they should not.
Day to day seeds      soon to be poems-pics-books
One-of-a-kind flowering, the Cory-can way.
                    © Cory Corrado, 2019

and I can't wait to be introduced to many more of your all-about-me acrostics over the coming days! Post 'em HERE.

Laura Purdie Salas is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup at Writing the World for Kids. Congratulations are in order for the release of her latest nonfiction rhyming picture book—Snack, Snooze, Skedaddle! Be sure to enter her giveaway for a signed, personalized copy.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Reader Spotlight: Jane Whittingham + DMC Challenge


On her website, Jane Whittingham describes herself as "a Canadian picture book author, children’s librarian, book lover and cat lady." In Poetry Friday circles, she is fondly recognized as the "Raincity Librarian"—the title of her blog before she changed it over to "Jane Whittingham: Author and Librarian." She hasn't been making Poetry Friday rounds lately, but there's good reason for that. Fortunately for me, she helped me out with this interview before the stork arrived!

Courtesy Jane Whittingham
Jane considers herself pretty lucky to be a children's librarian—visiting and connecting with kids and families at local schools, neighborhood houses and community groups, delivering professional development events for early childhood educators, planning and facilitating fun programs kids programs like writing and book clubs and craft afternoons, and delivering baby story times. She actually gets paid to read and surround herself with amazing children's books! Besides that, she's passionate about early literacy, diverse and inclusive children's books, and travel, which allows her to explore and experience different cultures.

As far as her writing goes, Jane enjoys penning stories about imaginative beings, whether they are children or animals. She has three picture books published by Pajama Press over the last couple years: Wild One, A Good Day for Ducks, and Queenie Quail Can't Keep Up.

A few months ago she claimed her superpower was being the "queen of procrastination," but with three books and a new baby? Somehow I doubt it. When asked about a book that everyone should read, she said that she couldn't recommend just one: "as a librarian it's my job to get to know my patrons' needs and preferences, and then help them find just the right books for them to read." Okay, we'll give her a pass on the book recommendation... for now. In the meantime, I highly recommend you read this interview with Jane Whittingham!

Jane's five favorites:

Favorite color:
Blue—the color of the ocean and the wide open sky.

Favorite word:
Desafortunadamente—Spanish for "unfortunately". I remember learning this word in high school Spanish class and immediately falling in love with the way it rolls off the tongue so elegantly. Spanish is such a beautiful language!

Favorite movie:
It's so hard to choose, but I'd have to say it's a tie between Jurassic Park and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. I just love me some classic Steven Spielberg!

Favorite food:
SUSHI. There's such an incredible variety of flavors and textures, and I appreciate the emphasis on fresh, quality ingredients served with great care and deceptive simplicity.

Favorite vacation spot:
Japan—my partner and I have traveled this island nation from tip to tip on three separate occasions, and we're already planning our next visit!

Traveling in Japan, courtesy Jane Whittingham

What is poetry?
Poetry is whatever you choose to make of it.

Why do you write?
I write because I enjoy the mental stimulation, the way poetry challenges my creative brain. I don't write because I feel some innate need in my soul, I simply write because I enjoy it, because it's fun and helps me express myself and connect with others. Growing up I used to think I couldn't ever be a "real" writer because I didn't "suffer" enough—poetry always seemed to be about angst and "depth" and drug-addled English poets wasting away from consumption. I like to write silly little ditties about birds and the weather and tea, how could I ever be a poet?! But as I've grown older and hopefully a bit wiser I've come to realize that poetry, and any other kind of writing, for that matter, really is about what you make of it, and there's no such thing as a "real" writer or a "real" poet. We are all poets and storytellers!

Describe three of your writing habits.
I like to brainstorm my ideas on paper—there's something particularly inspiring I find about being able to scribble my thoughts down on paper, crossing things out, drawing arrows linking different ideas, and creating a messy but beautiful first draft.

I write when and where I want to—I don't have a writing schedule, and simply fit writing in when I can around my busy life.

I like to write with a hot cup of tea close at hand. :)

Neighborhood "goings-on" (Jane Whittingham)

When you're feeling stuck, what gets your creativity flowing?
Whenever I'm feeling burnt out, frustrated, or in a rut, I can always count on a walk in the fresh air to help clear my mind and refresh my spirit. I am most inspired by nature—walking around my neighborhood, listening and watching and observing all the goings-on around me. And walking has always been one of my favorite stress-relievers. It works just as well at breaking through a creative block as it does soothing an irritated soul.

What is the best advice you've ever gotten?
When I first started out as a librarian and was feeling nervous about delivering a program, a now-retired library supervisor of mine always used to say "did any babies die?" It might sound pretty dramatic, but what she meant of course was to step back and look at a situation from a bigger perspective. So, if I submit a poem to a journal and it gets rejected, if I read a poem to an audience and they don't get it, really, what's the worst that can happen? Nobody is going to die, so stop worrying so much and just go for it!

What is the best advice you can give?
Go for it! Honestly, I spent so much of my youth worrying about what others would think of my work, too afraid to share my writing with anyone for fear that they wouldn't like it, wouldn't "get" it, would make fun of it or think it too silly or superficial to be "real". To which I now say BAH HUMBUG. Write what makes you happy, and to heck with what other people think. That's what's so great about the internet, and about communities like this one—you can connect with so many amazing fellow creatives who are happy to welcome you into the poetry fold, whatever you choose to write about, and who will say nice things even after you've written your tenth poem about cats or tea or the rain. ;-)

Is there anything else you'd like to mention?
My most recent picture book, Queenie Quail Can't Keep Up, was released in March of this year, and I'm really proud of how beautifully the book turned out. The idea of writing about quails was inspired by my late and deeply, deeply missed father, who loved watching the little quail families that hurried and scurried through his backyard, so I'm so glad that I had the opportunity to share this story, and share a little piece of him with the world.

What have you chosen as this month's ditty challenge?

Write an all-about-me acrostic poem.

The challenge is a simple one—use the letters in your name as the starting point to create a little ditty all about you! I love doing this one at the beginning of a new series of workshops because it's a great icebreaker, allowing kids to share as much about themselves with their peers as they feel comfortable. I've also had kids express delight at the idea of writing a poem about themselves—"a poem about me?" 

Like I once did, many kids feel that poems have to be about serious things and are delighted to discover that they themselves are worth writing about, too!

As an example,

Jane is a girl who loves
Apples and sushi, but
Never, not ever
Eats gross Brussels sprouts!

Haha! What do you think, readers?

Seems to me like we've got a tasty little ditty challenge to start off the school year!

You'll find the padlet embedded below. Add your all-about-me acrostic poem at any point during the month or scroll through to check out what others are contributing.


By posting on the padlet, you are also granting me permission to feature your poem on Today's Little Ditty.  I'm not sure how often I'll be featuring poems from reader challenges, but I want to keep my options open. :)

If you have not participated in a challenge before, please send me an email at TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com so that I can contact you, if necessary.

In the lower right corner of the padlet you'll see a pink dot with a plus sign. Click on it to open a text box. I find it works best to type your title on the title line and paste the rest of your poem where it says "Write something...". Single click outside the text box when finished. This board is moderated to prevent spam. Once your poem is approved, it will appear publicly.

Remember to include your name as author of any work that you post!

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.

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.

If you prefer to open this padlet in a new tab, click HERE.

Made with Padlet

Please join me in thanking Jane for being with us today! I love her effervescence, her silly sense of humor, her go-getter attitude, and especially this spot-on advice: "Write what makes you happy, and to heck with what other people think."

If you would like to be featured in a future reader spotlight, I invite you to complete this form.

You'll find last week's wrap-up celebration of poems inspired by song lyrics HERE. Feel free to continue adding to the poetry playlist it if you'd like.

Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong are welcoming the new school year with a sweet poem about gratitude, information about the upcoming IBBY conference, and this week's Poetry Friday roundup. You'll find it all at Poetry for Children.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Friday, August 30, 2019

August DMC Wrap-Up Celebration

Rodrigo Soldon Souza

“Without music, life would be a mistake.”  – Friedrich Nietzsche

At the beginning of this month, Jesse Anna Bornemann challenged us to write a poem inspired by words in a song:
Pick a Beatles song (or, if you're not a Beatles fan, a song by your favorite band), write down as many words from the song as you can, then compose a poem that uses at least three words from your list. Don't tell us the song that inspired your poem—see if we can guess!
And so we began...

gerald murphy

one foot in front of the other...

Newtown grafitti

until we arrived at our own unique concert of poetry.

Leonid Knyshov

Grab a seat on the giant boombox and enjoy the playlist! (I hate to admit it, but our compilation might even be better than some of the mix tapes I recorded off the radio in high school.) See how you do with guessing the songs our poems were based on, but if you have trouble, I've included an answer key below the padlet.

Scroll through the poems below or CLICK HERE to open a new tab. 

Made with Padlet


You can click on any of the songs to hear them, but the ones that are marked "video" have interesting visual content.

Amazing Grace — video
"Grace" by Donna JT Smith

Any Dream Will Do
from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
"Any Emoji Will Do" by Helen Zax

Appreciate (Paul McCartney) — video
"You Light Up Our Day!" by Michelle Kogan

Blackbird (The Beatles) — classic video
"Broken Record" by Margaret Simon

Bridge Over Troubled Water (Simon and Garfunkel)
"I'm on Your Side" by Donna JT Smith

Father and Son (Cat Stevens) — classic video
"Old and Wise" by Cory Corrado

Fixing a Hole (The Beatles)
"What?" by Linda Mitchell

Hello, Goodbye (The Beatles) — classic video
"Condo, mangrove" by J. G. Annino

Here Comes the Sun (The Beatles)
"Dream" by Sydney O'Neill
"sweet darling" by Carol Varsalona

I Got Plenty of Nothin from Porgy and Bess
"The Choice" by Juanita Havill

I Hope You Dance (Lee Ann Womack) — video
"Dance" by Sherry Howard

I'll Follow the Sun (The Beatles)
"I Dream of Strawberry Fields Forever" by Angelique Pacheco

Imagine (John Lennon) — classic video
"A Tanka" by Dianne Moritz

Let It Be (The Beatles)
"Let memories light our darkest hours" by Madeleine Kuderick
"Words" by Kathleen Mazurowski
"Mother Mary" by Sandie Vaisnoras

Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (The Beatles)
"Kaleidoscope Skies" by Kay Jernigan McGriff

Morning Has Broken (Cat Stevens) —video
"Contemplation" by Linda Baie

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da (The Beatles)
"Our Yard" by Catherine Flynn

The Rainbow Connection from The Muppet Movie — video
"The Show Must Go On" by Michelle Heidenrich Barnes

Somewhere Over the Rainbow from The Wizard of Oz — classic video
"Somewhere Under the Rainbow" by Mindy Gars Dolandis

Strawberry Fields Forever (The Beatles) — classic video
"I Dream of Strawberry Fields Forever" by Angelique Pacheco

What Does the Fox Say (Ylvis) — video
"What Does the Foreman Say" by Heidi Bee Roemer

While My Guitar Gently Weeps (The Beatles) — *MUST SEE* video
"I Dream of Strawberry Fields Forever" by Angelique Pacheco

Yesterday (The Beatles) — classic video
"Believe" by Molly Hogan
"I Dream of Strawberry Fields Forever" by Angelique Pacheco

Many thanks to everyone who contributed poems to this month's challenge, and especially to orchestrator Jesse Anna Bornemann who kept us tapping our toes AND our keyboards and pencils!

Inspired to write your own poem inspired by song lyrics? 

Visit Jesse's spotlight interview for instructions and then click on the pink dot with the plus sign to add your poem to the padlet. While there aren't many days left in August, I'll be leaving this padlet open indefinitely, so feel free to add to it at any time.

Note for Friday, August 30: I'm on the road, so if you add your poem to the padlet today, it may take me a while to approve and add it to today's post.

Stay tuned for a new reader spotlight next Friday, September 6th.

Join Aussie children's author and poet Kathryn Apel for this week's Poetry Friday roundup!

Friday, August 23, 2019

DMC: "The Show Must Go On" by Michelle Heidenrich Barnes

Darrell Miller

Today I'm contributing to a collective celebration of the life and work of Lee Bennett Hopkins with an original poem inspired by a line from one of Lee's poems.

Thomas Hawk
The Merry-Go-Round Horse
    by Lee Bennett Hopkins

The merry-go-round
       horse has a tear in its eye
left by the spring rain.

From The Sky is Full of Song (Harper & Row, 1983)

The Show Must Go On
          for Lee, by Michelle Heidenrich Barnes

The carousel horse
has a tear in its eye.
No fairy floss wants to be spun.
Flowers are wilting,

curtains are drawn,
jugglers say they are done.

The dreamers felt helpless,
chose not to believe it—
"It's just an illusion!" they cried.
But words had collected,
trembling in corners,
afraid that The Muse had died.

They hoped for a rainbow—
a sign or a vision
of what their future might be,
when along came a child
who picked up a poem
and eagerly started to read.

My poem was also inspired by Jesse Anna Bornemann's ditty challenge to use selected words from a well-known song. And because I'm not very good at keeping secrets, here's the song that helped to inspire my words. Feel free to sing along with Kermit. It might make you feel better—it did for me.

The winner of last week's giveaway for a signed copy of Once Upon a Twisted Tale, by Gayle C. Krause, illustrated by Caroline O'Neal (Clear Fork/Spork, 2019) is...

MARGARET SIMON Congratulations, Margaret!

Only one week to go for this month's challenge to write a poem inspired by song lyrics. Click HERE for full instructions, and to post your poem for the challenge. Don't miss the new contributions this week by Donna JT Smith, Cory Corrado, Kathleen Mazurowski, Carol Varsalona, and Molly Hogan; and join us next Friday for a rockin' end-of-month wrap-up celebration!

For more tributes to Lee Bennett Hopkins, visit this week's celebration of his life, words, and works, hosted by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater at The Poem Farm. #DearOneLBH

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Classroom Connections with Gayle Krause (Giveaway!)

"I believe in once-upon-a-time, I believe in happily ever after."
– Lee Bennett Hopkins, from "Storyteller (For Augusta Baker)"

In his poem "Storyteller (For Augusta Baker)" from Jumping Off Library Shelves (WordSong, 2015), Lee Bennett Hopkins writes about the powerful impact stories can have on a child's life. Whether read at home, in the classroom, or at library storytime, a good fairy tale can engage girls and boys like nothing else! Needless to say, I think Lee would approve of the poetry collection being featured in today's Classroom Connections post—Once Upon a Twisted Tale, by Gayle C. Krause.

I first "met" Gayle in 2013 when I was a newbie blogger making the Poetry Friday rounds. I remember my delight at winning a gift card for a poem I submitted to her blog The Storyteller's Scroll during National Poetry Month. Since then, her work has made a few appearances on Today's Little Ditty and in The Best of Today's Little Ditty, 2014-2015, as well!

Read on to find out more about Gayle and how her madcap collection of fractured fairy tales can be used to liven up any elementary school classroom.


Once Upon a Twisted Tale

Gayle C. Krause, Author
Caroline O'Neal, Illustrator

Clear Fork/Spork (June 18, 2019)
ISBN: 978-1950169047

For grades 1-4

Purchase at Amazon
Purchase at Barnes & Noble
Purchase via Indiebound.org


By the middle grades, children know the storylines of familiar fairy tales, which makes them all the funnier when they veer off in different directions. Good "fractured fairy tales" twist the child reader’s perspective on the story, showing other possibilities. From a frog, who thinks he’s Sleeping Beauty, to a cool-rappin’ fairy godmother who sends Cinderella to a Hip-Hop Ball, to a boy who waits beneath a stone bridge to fool trolls, Once Upon a Twisted Tale is a rollicking, rhyme-filled poetry collection that can be read for sheer amusement or used in a classroom to compare original tales to the twisted tales as per Language Arts requirements.



You've all heard of fairy tales,
that take place in enchanted dales,

or castles on a mountain, high,
or beanstalks climbing to the sky.

But in this book they are unique.
Just turn the page and take a peek.

These characters, right or wrong—
in stories where they don't belong.

A Frog Prince and a cinder maid.
An ogress with a lice-filled braid.

A Hip-Hop Princess at a ball,
Beast's magic mirror on a wall.

A wicked queen in snow-white mist.
Stories of the wrong one kissed.

A cookie charging through the wood,
eaten by Red Riding Hood.

Sleeping princess. Clever elf.
This book won't stay upon your shelf. 

You'll want to read one hundred times
these mixed up stories, told in rhymes.

Giant, witch, and nightingale
in "Once Upon a Twisted Tale."

 Text © 2019 Gayle C. Krause, ONCE UPON A TWISTED TALE, all rights reserved. 

Illustrations © 2019 Caroline O'Neal, ONCE UPON A TWISTED TALE, all rights reserved.


Gayle C. Krause writes rhyming picture books, and historical fiction and fantasy novels for middle grade and young adults. Raised in Scranton, Pennsylvania, the oldest girl on the block, she led the younger kids in creative dramatics, wilderness expeditions through fields, and fossil hunting in the shale piles left from the heyday of mining. Those early interactions led her to a career teaching preschoolers, young adults, and, as a Master Educator, prospective elementary teachers and early childhood educators at the secondary and post-secondary levels. Gayle is most comfortable in front of students, be they four years old or forty, and loves to teach children’s literature and enhance literacy skills in young readers.


Why is bringing poetry into the classroom important?


Children hear the rhythms and rhyme present in poems and reading fluency develops as poems are practiced and repeatedly read. Reading comprehension also results through discussions about meaning, connecting, and visualizing.
The princess acted cranky.
She hadn’t slept a wink.
She felt like she’d been sleeping
in the castle’s kitchen sink.


Poetry often contains words that rhyme for effect. Children can learn about phonics and letter sounds by listening for and locating rhyming words. Poetry builds vocabulary.
Be ye troll or be ye trow;
tell me what you do not know.
I have a question known to none.
The answer? There is only one.
Do not look shocked at my request.
I’m quite sincere. I do not jest.


When teachers break down poems, children learn how to follow a pattern and put words in a certain order. The simple patterns found in some poems are fun to follow and great places for children to start learning to write. Writing poetry is a transferable writing skill.
She'd fallen asleep in her cradle of ice
when a blundering prince woke her up in a trice.

Her eyes flashed open. She narrowed her sight.
She gave the prince a terrible fright.

"Excuse me, my Queen. It seems I now know,
in my confusion I've found the wrong Snow. 


Poetry can have a positive impact on the social and emotional learning of children.
Don’t cry.                          Sister,
I’m here.                           I’ll protect you.
We’ll find the path          as we go home
together,                           hand in hand—


Children have a natural curiosity to foster and encourage with poetry. It creates enchantment and wonder in a child’s mind. (especially if it deals with fantasy/fairytales as the subject matter.)
In this book it’s been told
of princes so bold
and maidens who hope and wait.
Of creatures who spy,
and spells gone awry,
now, you question their fairytale fate

How might your book be incorporated into an educational curriculum?

As a child, I loved fairytales. My favorite was The Twelve Dancing Princesses. I even owned a version in a Children’s Classics comic book. As a Master Educator, I taught Children’s Literature to prospective teachers at the secondary and post-secondary levels and encouraged my students to tell little-known fairytales through creative dramatics. As a children’s author, I love rhyme and the challenge of finding unique words that can be used alliteratively, while keeping a strong meter, and telling a story with no forced word, no reverse phrases, and a clever ending.

So, it wasn’t a far stretch to take the challenge of rhyming and my love of fairytales and weave them together in various poetry forms to write Once Upon a Twisted Tale. As a former teacher, I believe that this book is a treasure trove for the elementary classroom. It features a variety of poetry techniques such as: loop poetry, cleave poetry, Ghazal, haiku, couplet, and pantoum. I’ve developed a curriculum guide to accompany it, for those teachers who are interested. Contact me at info@GayleCKrause.com.

Can you suggest a specific classroom exercise related to your book?

1. Pre-reading exercises:
  • What can the child decipher from the cover? 
  • What do the colors and images suggest?
  • Where will this story take place? 
  • How many characters do you see?

2. While marketed for middle-grade children, preschool children are enamored with Caroline O’Neal’s whimsical watercolor illustrations. One three-year-old I met at a book signing loves to reread the book and make up fantastic stories for her mother through the illustrations.

© 2019 Caroline O'Neal, ONCE UPON A TWISTED TALE, all rights reserved.

What is a simple, practical tip for teachers when it comes to incorporating poetry in the classroom?

I’d suggest playing RHYME DETECTIVES.
  1. Read a rhyming picture book or a poem to the class.
  2. Have students clap when they hear a rhyming word.
  3. Stop reading and print the rhyming pair on index cards.
  4. Make a rhyme word pile.
  5. When the story or poem is finished, have student volunteers rediscover the rhyming word pairs.
  6. Have students create another rhyming pair from their words, making four.
  7. Print the full list of rhyming words for the class.
  8. Students can use these words to create an original poem.

Can you recount a specific instance of when poetry impacted a student or group of students in a positive way?

Just recently, as a guest speaker in an Early Childhood Education college class, I introduced the prospective teachers to Once Upon a Twisted Tale and offered them a simple exercise where they chose bits of colored paper from 3 different bags. One listed a fairytale character. The second offered an action. And the third offered a different fairytale character. 

I gave them time to create an “original fractured fairytale” and one of the students wrote a full rhyming text. I’m sure she will use that exercise in her own classroom.


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Look for Gayle's other rhyming picture book out this year, Daddy, Can You See the Moon? (Clear Fork/Spork, April 2019).

Please join me in thanking Gayle for participating in our Classroom Connections series and for offering a signed copy of Once Upon a Twisted Tale, plus the accompanying curriculum guide, to one lucky Today's Little Ditty reader! (US addresses only.)

To enter, leave a comment below or send an email with the subject "Twisted Tale" to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com by Tuesday, August 20th. In your comment, Gayle would love to hear your thoughts about the sampling of poems featured in this blog:
Tell me who the main fairytale character is and who you would like to see him/her paired with for a funny, rhyming redux. Maybe we can even come up with enough for a Twisted Tales, Volume II.
The winner will be selected randomly and announced next Friday, August 23rd.

Our padlet collection of song-lyric based poems has grown this week with new additions from Dianne Moritz, Madeleine Kuderick, Sydney O'Neill, Margaret Simon, and Mindy Gars Dolandis. I may even be getting better at guessing the songs... unless you guys are deliberately going easy on me! I haven't "officially" guessed more than a couple on the padlet, because I would love for others to play along too.

Today's Poetry Friday roundup at Wondering and Wandering includes a wonderful assortment of poems inspired by trees. While I had something else scheduled for today, if you're looking for more trees, I invite you to peruse our June 2015 wrap-up celebration of TREEHOUSE poems. Many thanks to Christie Wyman for hosting this week's roundup!