Monday, April 29, 2019

Classroom Connections with Helen Frost


Hello, I'm Here!

Helen Frost, Author
Rick Lieder, Illustrator

Candlewick Press (March 20, 2019)
ISBN: 978-0763698584

For PreK-2nd grade and up
(Also ideal to welcome a new baby!)

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A sandhill crane hatchling makes its first wobbly stand, then takes its first steps and meets its brother. With their parents close by, the two chicks flap their wings and begin to explore before enjoying treats of bugs and snails. Someday they will fly with the majestic cranes overhead, but for now, Mama’s soft feathers make a good place to rest. The rhyming text is paired with Rick Lieder’s beautiful photographs, with endnotes giving further information about sandhill cranes’ family life and migration.


From Hello, I’m Here!. Text copyright © 2019 by Helen Frost. Illustrations copyright © 2019 by Rick Lieder.
Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.


Read Helen Frost’s spotlight
interview on Today's Little Ditty HERE.

Helen Frost is the author of four previous collaborations with photographer Rick Lieder (Step Gently Out, Sweep Up the Sun, Among a Thousand Fireflies, and Wake Up!), as well as the picture book Monarch and Milkweed and nine novels-in-poems for early, middle grade, and young adult readers. Among her awards for her children’s writing are the Lee Bennett Hopkins Children’s Poetry Award, The William Allen White Award, the New York Historical Society Children’s Book Prize, and more than fifty nominations to state book awards. She recently traveled to Macheros, Mexico, to see the monarch butterflies in their over-wintering grounds. In the summertime she raises monarchs at home in Fort Wayne, Indiana.


Why is bringing poetry into the classroom important?

Do you have a few hours? This is a big, important question.

For early readers, or not-yet-readers, the rhythm and rhyme of poetry offer an important element of predictability as they are trying to figure out what a word, phrase, or sentence might be. For slightly older readers, the delight of playing with language, in either reading or writing, keeps students engaged, not only with language, but with whatever the poem is about. As students become aware of patterns in poetry, connections can be made with patterns they discover in math, science, art, dance, and music. Especially for middle and upper grade readers, poetry is a “heart-to-heart” reading experience, allowing students to feel closer to others. Poetry has great value throughout life, in adding depth and meaning to experience—an early exposure, at home or in school, is a gift that will stay with them.

How might your book be incorporated into an educational curriculum?

Learn more about sandhill cranes:

Science: Use as part of a lesson about migratory birds, or migration in general. For good starting points, see the above “All About Birds” website and Journey North:

Math: compare wingspans of different birds; calculate the distance between sandhill cranes’ winter and summer homes; estimate numbers of sandhill cranes in pictures such as this:

Art: make origami cranes (lots of instructions online)

Social studies: learn about traditions surrounding 1000 paper cranes, and share the story of Sadaku and the Paper Cranes (several good children’s books).

If you live near a sandhill crane migration, find another class on a different part of the migration and correspond with students in that class, to see when the cranes arrive and depart in different places, and in what approximate numbers.

Poetry: Using examples from the book, think about the sound of the rhyming couplets and write a rhyming couplet of your own.

For older children: write a riddle poem using one or more rhyming couplets.

For example:

It’s getting crowded inside this egg.
I can’t flap a wing or stretch out a leg.

could suggest:

It’s kind of smelly inside this shoe.
It’s hard to wiggle, so what should we do?
    answer: toes

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

It’s a very physical story-poem, which lends itself to dramatization.

Invite students to act it out, or create a dance of the story. If you have readers in your class, some students can be readers, while others are crane chicks and adults. One student can be the snapping turtle, others can be the cranes flying in the sky. (Send me a video! I promise not so share without permission.)

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

Have one or two (or ten or twenty) good poetry anthologies always at hand, and use any extra minutes to share a poem. No analysis, no lessons, just a reading and welcoming of any conversation that arises. Be sure students know that many poets who are included in anthologies also have books of their own, so if someone likes a poem, they can seek out more writing by that poet in the library.

A few recent anthologies that include my poems are:

The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog, Paul B. Janeczko, editor, Candlewick, 2019
The Poetry of US, J. Patrick Lewis, editor, National Geographic, 2018
The Book of Nature Poetry, J. Patrick Lewis, editor, National Geographic, 2015
One Minute till Bedtime, Kenn Nesbitt, editor, Little Brown and Company, 2016
Pet Crazy, Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, editors, Pomelo Books, 2017

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

This is about something very different than the kind of poetry that might be generated by Hello, I’m Here. I share it as a way of acknowledging that poetry and other kinds of writing have many different ways of influencing students of all ages, from the fun and playful to the deadly serious.

In 1998, as part of a community response to youth violence, I went into six high schools, five times each, to help 240 high school sophomores write about how they had been affected by violence. I compiled an anthology of 40 of the most poignant and well-written poems and stories. The book was titled Why Darkness Seems so Light

Fifteen years later, I received this email from a young woman who had been in one of the classes:

“i went to a higschool that you came to for this book i wrote something in  it that got put in the book is there a way to get a copy of it  again  would love to have one … i loved meetting you  thanks have a great day.”

She sent pictures of her husband and children, said that she was now doing well, and had forgiven the person she wrote about—her uncle, who had killed her aunt in her presence when she was six years old, by stabbing her 38 times. It was that specific number—38 times—that made her story so impossible to forget.

I did have some copies of the book and of course I sent one to her. In a few more email exchanges she told me how much that experience had meant to her:

“I want to thank you for what you did for  all of us in highschool i had no hope but you made me see that something good can come of something bad. … Thanks again for everything you   coming to our school had changed my life completly  and  i would not be where i am today if i had not written that story …”

I asked if it was the writing that meant so much, or if was the fact that I had chosen it for the anthology, and she replied:

“Writting the story was   I never shared that part of my life with anyone and it felt good to open up about what happened  i wanted to give the victims like me a voice you never know who this could happen to. When i wrote this i wanted people to see that there  is hope in bad situations. If my story touched or helped one person than it was worth it.”

I asked if I could share these emails and she gave me permission. I offer them here, exactly as I received them, as a tribute to all teachers and writers whose work impacts students. We may never hear from most students and readers, but I know absolutely that reading and writing, especially poetry, helps young people in profound ways.


Page for this book:

Rick Lieder’s website, with book trailer:

Facebook page for “Beautiful Picture Books” (Frost-Lieder collaborations):

Facebook page for Helen Frost:

Look for two more books forthcoming from Helen Frost:

Blue Daisy is a novel alternating voices in poems and prose, ideal for grades 1-3, with illustrations by Rob Shepperson (Holiday House, Winter 2020). It tells the story of two children and their relationship with a stray dog, as they make a big mistake and figure out what to do about it.

All He Knew is a novel-in-verse inspired by a true story, ideal for middle and high school, or sophisticated upper elementary (FSG/MacMillan, July, 2020). Set in the early 40’s, the story follows Henry, deaf and misdiagnosed as “unteachable,” as he is separated from all he knows at home and sent to live in an institution, where he meets Victor, a conscientious objector serving time as an attendant in the institution.

Many thanks to Helen for participating in our Classroom Connections series for National Poetry Month, and for offering three Frost-Lieder giveaways! One randomly selected TLD reader will receive a first edition of Hello, I’m Here, plus a copy of Sweep up the Sun. Two others will receive a hardcover copy of Sweep Up the Sun.

To enter, leave a comment below or send an email with the subject "Frost-Lieder Giveaway" to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com by tomorrow, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Winners will be announced on Thursday, May 2nd, so be sure to check back to see if you've won!

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Check out the other Classroom Connections posts and giveaways on offer this month by clicking the names below!

Digital art © 2018 by Miranda Barnes,
based on a line from "Ghazal" by Tracy K. Smith.


The best way to keep up with the Classroom Connections series is by subscribing to Today's Little Ditty via email, which you can do in the sidebar. I will also be announcing the posts on social media. Like me on Facebook and/or follow me on Twitter (also in the sidebar) to stay informed that way. Catch up with Classroom Connections posts you may have missed by clicking on the "It's time to INSPIRE" icon in the sidebar, or by visiting my "Poetry in the Classroom" board on Pinterest.


  1. Good Morning Helen and Michelle. I should have known to grab a tissue before reading something with Helen Frost. She just gets to my heart every time.
    In my experience (thankfully) whenever I feel like giving up this education "thing" or wondering if I've really made a difference I get some sort of communication from the universe to keep going -- not as dramatic as the young woman looking for the book from Helen. But, it's true that we really do touch others. I'm so grateful for this post and this new and beautiful book! Many congratulations. I wish the words and the photos much success.

  2. When we can impact one student as Helen has in her poignant story, everything is worth writing and sharing. It's a beautiful story. Helen, I think I've read all your books, including this new beautiful one and shared it recently. I've studied sandhill cranes several times through the years, live in Colorado so went north to Nebraska & to Southwest Colorado, was fortunate enough to see two whooping cranes in their flock long ago. I hope your book inspires many to write about the birds they love as well as to learn more about sandhill cranes. Thanks, Michelle, for bringing Helen's visit. No need to put me into the drawing.

  3. What a wonderful and inspiring story about poetry - and the beauty of nature. Thank you Helen and Michelle for another reminder of the power of words.

  4. I have loved every word I have read written by Helen Frost. I have to get this book! I thought her classroom exercises were so fun. Things like that make me miss teaching. Thanks for such a wonderful post. Now, I need to go get that book.

  5. Wow. What an incredible story! Thank you for reminding us the importance of giving students opportunities to share their stories. I love all of Helen's books, and can't wait to see Hello, I'm Here! Thank you for this incredible series, Michelle!

  6. I'm already in love with this book just from the little that was shared here. The activities are great! The student story is inspiring. Thanks!

  7. I know kids who will love this book. I am very moved by Helen's story about the student whose life was affected by her work with the hs kids whose lives had been affected by violence. Poets, poetry caring writers affect so many Bravo! Janet Clare F.