Thursday, May 14, 2020

Classroom Connections with Laura Purdie Salas (Giveaway!)

I'm so pleased to welcome Laura Purdie Salas back to Today's Little Ditty! After her conspicuous omission from my Classroom Connections extravaganza for National Poetry Month in 2019, I'm finally able to feature her in a Classroom Connections post this year. Of course when I interviewed her (a couple months ago), the pandemic was not yet in full lockdown mode, but I think you'll find her classroom suggestions adaptable to distance learning as well.


Secrets of the Loon

Laura Purdie Salas, Author (rhyming text)
Chuck Dayton, Author (back matter) and Photographer

Minnesota Historical Society Press
(April 28, 2020)
ISBN: 978-1681341583

For grades K-4

Purchase online via the publisher
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During her first summer with her parents and brother in the northland, Moon Loon has a lot to learn. Mom and Dad teach essential lessons, like how to catch and eat fish and how to avoid becoming a snack for snapping turtles. Moon Loon also discovers her secret skills, like how to float, how to dive, and—eventually—how to fly. This is a tale of wilderness, family, and independence.


Text copyright © 2020 by Laura Purdie Salas. Photographs copyright © 2020 by Chuck Dayton.
From SECRETS OF THE LOON (Minnesota Historical Society Press).

Summer wears sunshine or fog,
       soft and gray.
and skips by so quickly,
while Moon grows each day.

Eventually, Father's back
       runs out of space,
so the chicks each tuck under
       a one-wing embrace.
© 2020 Laura Purdie Salas. All rights reserved.


Former teacher Laura Purdie Salas believes reading small picture books and poems can have a huge impact on your life. She has written more than 130 books for kids, including Lion of the Sky (NCTE Notable, Kirkus Best Books, and Parents Magazine Best Books of the Year), the Can Be… series (Bank Street Best Books, IRA Teachers’ Choice), and BookSpeak! (Minnesota Book Award, NCTE Notable). Laura shares inspiration and practical tips with educators about poetry, nonfiction, and more at


Why is bringing poetry into the classroom important?

Poetry in the classroom is crucial for SO many reasons. A few of my favorites are:

•    Rhyming texts help with prediction and fluency.
•    Poetry can tackle deep, emotional topics in short, unintimidating texts.
•    Poetry is great for close reading. So many important details packed into so few words!

How might your book be incorporated into an educational curriculum?

It fits perfectly into a life cycle unit. It also has great links to units on:

•    migration
•    independence
•    animal adaptations
•    food webs

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

Yes! One day when you have indoor recess and the kids are antsy, go to and download this sheet: Lead your students through walking, paddling, diving, swimming, and paddling like a loon. Talk about differences between loons and people. The loon’s feet are waaaaaay far back on its body, making walking very difficult. It’s why loons hardly spend any time at all on land. Giving students a chance to act like loons will highlight how loons’ specific body traits (heavy bones, for example) affect their movements. And for a giggle, watch the book trailer at and let kids try wailing like a loon!

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

Read rhyming AND non-rhyming poetry with your students. I love verse (obviously), but non-rhyming poetry is equally valuable, and it will serve as a valuable mentor as students work on writing their own poems.

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

I can’t tell you how many times, after an author visit when I’ve written poetry with students, a teacher has expressed surprise. They will tell me “he never participates,” or “that’s the first writing she has ever shared.” One of the most special moments I recall was when a (third-grade, I think) student wrote a poem about his mom, who had passed away not long before that. He stayed behind to share the poem with me. Having a small, safe place to put overwhelming emotions—that is one of the most important gifts poetry gives us.


Twitter: @LauraPSalas
Instagram: LauraPSalas
E-letter for educators:

Look for Laura's first fully fiction picture book from Amazon/Two Lions this August. It's called  Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten and is about a kitty who finds school to be too loud, too crowded, too bright—just too much!

For more about Laura Purdie Salas at Today's Little Ditty, you can read our Spotlight ON interview (featuring Water Can Be...), my Book Love review (featuring A Rock Can Be...) and browse through a smattering of other posts, including poetry and writer resources, HERE.

Please join me in thanking Laura for divulging her secrets about how poetry, and specifically Secrets of the Loon, can be used in the classroom. Many thanks also to Minnesota Historical Society Press for offering a copy to one lucky Today's Little Ditty reader! To enter, leave a comment below or send an email with the subject "Loon Giveaway" to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com by Tuesday, May 19th. The winner will be selected randomly and announced next Friday, May 22nd.

Click HERE to read more posts in the TLD Classroom Connections series.

I sure am glad this month has an extra Friday, because our padlet is chock full of wonderful poems and I need the extra week to feature as many of them as possible! Keep 'em coming! This week's daily ditties included poems by Keri Collins Lewis, Karen Eastlund, Diane Mayr, and Janet Clare Fagal. Don't forget that you can also post your poems on Twitter with the hashtag #PoemsofPresence. And if you're already posting poems on Twitter, please make sure to share 1-3 of your favorites here at some point during the month.

Speaking of favorites, what could be better than Jama Rattigan hosting the Poetry Friday roundup on National Chocolate Chip Day?!  Hello. You don't have to tell me twice. See you at Jama's Alphabet Soup! And I'm not the only one who posted about Secrets of the Loon today. Click HERE for Margaret Simon's review at Reflections on the Teche.


  1. Good Morning Michelle and Laura,
    How fun to see a review of this book...that photo of the baby loon with its chubbiness spread out all about on the lake just makes me smile. I really look forward to getting my hands on this book for all the reasons Laura mentioned about classroom connections. I teach older children...and some of them didn't get or never got quite a big enough dose of the perks of poetry. I couldn't agree more with Laura's assessments of the value of poetry. It just works with kids (and adults but don't tell them).
    I have been having a blast with poems of presence on twitter. Writing in community has been good for my soul. Thank you for the base to work from.

    1. Thanks very much, Linda! Yes, the baby loon photos are the best!

  2. The Poetry Friday cosmos is working with us again, Michelle. I posted about Laura's book today, too. I went back and put a link into my post to this one. Laura's book has been sitting and waiting for me to write about it. I love it so much. I hope to share it with students someday. (Don't enter me in the giveaway.)

  3. When the library opens once again I will definitely put in an order request for Secrets of the Loon. It looks like a winner!

  4. Don't put me in the giveaway, Michelle. I have this wonderful book & still need to share it! I loved reading from Laura about the teacher comments that showed her impact on students' writing poetry. That is wonderful! Thanks for the review, a best book this year!

    1. Thanks, Linda :>) Those teacher comments are always my favorite!

  5. Looks lovely. I wonder how Laura came to publish with Minnesota Historical Society Press. Do you know, Michelle?

    1. Thanks, Ann! You can read about how that happened here:

    2. Ann, the answer is in this terrific interview:

    3. Haha, Michelle! Also, more details about the writing process of it here:

  6. Thanks for this feature. Love Laura's comment about the boy who stayed behind to share the poem he'd written about his mom.

  7. This is a beautiful book. I heard Laura read it at the Book Birthday party. The photos are delightful. I hope it will sell well. In our town on a Finger Lake I know summer residents and visitors will love it, too. I will share and hope we'll be able to open this summer.
    Janet Clare F.

  8. I love this new book by Laura. The poetry and photos are stunning. Thanks. And there is so many great poems on the Padlet this month.

  9. I can't wait to see this book in real life! And Laura is truly a force for good in the world of poetry in the classroom! Thank you for featuring her!

  10. My summer vacations MUST include loons, so I will have to get this book and share it with my grandchildren. Thanks for showcasing it... I downloaded the activity sheet... good stuff!

  11. Happy to see Laura's "Secrets of the Loon" here on your blog Michelle, and how special to hear about the students responses to Laura's school workshops! I'm looking forward to her new picture book, "Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten," the title alone has pulled me in… I have Laura's "Loon" book already in my hot little hands, so need to add me to your list. Thank you both!

  12. So much goodness in Laura's books and classroom resources. Thanks for shining the spotlight on her, Michelle. 'Secrets of the Loon' looks like a fabulous read. :)