#Fiction Friday: #Micropoetry from the Book

mormoni

Children were like little Christs,
for every spirit child of God the Father
that was brought into the world
brought their parents
one little footstep closer to heaven.
It was one thing to accept the Mormon gospel
for oneself–
that was regular interest–
but to duplicate oneself through procreation–
that was compound interest.

Caitlin would’ve been fascinated by the seance–
she, who’d always wanted to witness an exorcism,
but this, this was religious fanaticism,
or what she would call crucifixation–
an obsession with Jesus & His gruesome death.

David never tended our gardens,
& so everything grew a bit wild—
like the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
Our careworn home showed signs of neglect,
but there was a regality about it
that said something about the owners—
like those who held onto the Old South
on crumbling plantations.

We had the newest television
but watched movies from 40 or more years ago.
David had the newest computer
but wrote most of his notes with a fountain pen
on an old desk.
We lived in the South
but on our walls were pictures of New England’s
covered bridges in the fall.
We were the essence of existing
beyond the constraints of time & space.

Caitlin was the dove,
& the rest of us were like crows,
feasting on each other.
All through school,
I’d avoided offers of friendship–
counting the hours
like I numbered the stars
till I would be home with David again.

The Great Book Review Project

What I call “The Great Book Review Project of 2019” has been a grueling one.  I almost made it to the finish line before the official summer season ended, but I knew this would happen once I went back to school.  Though it’s been a fun challenge, I don’t think I’ll do it again, as the books I’ve chosen myself have a far better track record.  However, this process did expose me to books I wouldn’t have read otherwise. 

My biggest complaint?  When the message gets in the way of the story.  

Adults often want to teach⁠.  I had an early childhood education teacher who basically said if a book wasn’t nonfiction, it was a waste of time (for me, as a fiction writer, that was a sleight of hand across the face)⁠; she liked to “learn something from what she read.”  Reading fiction is a valuable way to spend one’s time; here is just a sample of what you get from doing so:  https://medium.com/@farrtom/the-real-world-benefits-of-reading-fiction-ccc7d8ab3f62

There were 7-10 books I didn’t end up reviewing, only because they were wordless picture books (I wasn’t quite sure what to do with those), they weren’t available at the library, or I didn’t feel I could give it a fair review because of the subject matter.  There was one that was so horrible (it promoted violence) that I didn’t even want to give it space on my blog. 

So even though I didn’t always enjoy the books (and neither did my daughter), I loved coming up with suggested activities to accompany the books.  This Christmas break (maybe), I will collect all of them and pick out my favorites, rechecking out the best books and completing the activities. This summer, we’ve just been grinding it out, trying to keep up with reading through them fast enough to get the next ones we have on hold. 

Interestingly, months after I completed this challenge, I would end up enrolling a “Literacy for Emergent Learners” class as an elective.  (Basically, I’m learning how to teach kindergartners and first-graders how to read; it’s worth it if I can just teach my own not only how to read but how to love books.)  I don’t have any desire to be a teacher (I’m way too shy for that); that is why tutoring is more my scene.  However, I do believe that taking this class will help me learn how to write for children, which is totally my scene.  

Reading is one of life’s greatest pleasures.  It is something we can do privately without any fancy electronics.  I’ve always liked to say that books are greater than TV because all stories on screen have to first be written.  With the advent of YouTube, not so much anymore, but the great plays, films, shows, speeches, and songs must have talented writers. 

Writers matter.

Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #499: Parent

Untitled

Food Processors

Their parents had grown up eating squirrel & possum,
or “tree rats” & “tree hangers”⁠—
anything that couldn’t get away fast enough.
Their children had grown up eating hamburger & liver from the grocery store,
turned into casseroles or smothered with onions to mask the odor
washed down with milk delivered by the Dairy Don Juans.
But their children’s children enjoyed
all-natural lobster & gluten-free madeleines
served with organic water,
showing that as food became fancier,
foodies became softer.

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 499

Book Review: The Wall in the Middle of the Book

Wall

As part of my Post-K Summer Reading Boot Camp:
https://sarahleastories.com/2019/06/08/post-k-summer-reading-boot-camp-2019

Take away the painfully obvious reference to Trump’s wall, and what do you have?  A dull story. 

This is another classic case of the message getting in the way of the telling.

The book has a fair amount of negative white space, which is a good thing.  However, what is there isn’t much; The Wall reads like a Dick and Jane basal reader, and the illustrations are ho-hum (or fee-fi-fo-fum).

That said, using the physical structure of the actual book to serve as the brick wall in the middle of the book is clever and the best part of it.

As I read this, I found myself not enjoying the story but rather trying to figure out what the author meant when the large (and typically scary) animals on the other side (who are trying to climb over the wall) freak out over a mouse, instantly making these rotund, exotic animals (who are more or less indigenous to the African continent) less scary.

The missing brick, for me, represented that no matter how good a firewall (or a border wall <cough, cough>) is, there is always a way around it (or under it, etc.).

About halfway through, the little knight is proclaiming how safe his side of the wall is while his side turns more and more treacherous the higher he climbs up the wall.  The animals disappear, and now there is a giant (seemingly scary) ogre on the other side.  However, the boy is so focused on how safe his side is and how unsafe the other side is that he doesn’t notice the dangers on his side until it’s almost too late, and the ogre saves him.

My take?  The water levels rising below the little knight with a shark ready to make a snack out of him represent global warming and Americans involved with child trafficking. 

The other side of the wall is portrayed as downright “fantastic”⁠—where ogres are lifeguards and wild animals are herbivorous and there is only imagined danger.  Apparently, people risk their lives to go to the little knight’s side because it’s so good on their side and not on his, and drug cartels are a myth.  I don’t blame anyone for wanting to escape from that.

The Wall in the Middle of the Book is not a terrible book; it’s not just a terribly interesting one.

Suggested activity: Most every child has an activity table (horizontal surface); let them have a wall (vertical surface) to mess up. Put up a whiteboard wall or paint a chalkboard one.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37969835-the-wall-in-the-middle-of-the-book

Book Review: Let the Children March

March

As part of my Post-K Summer Reading Boot Camp:
https://sarahleastories.com/2019/06/08/post-k-summer-reading-boot-camp-2019

What I liked about this book is that it uses all of its real estate (a historical timeline with children holding up cards like protest signs is printed inside the cover; it was clever and visually appealing).

The illustrations capture that time period perfectly with its retro colors.  Let the Children March opens with a child’s-eye view of a chain link fence supporting a White Only sign.

Even though it is stated that Dr. King is in a church, a Bible passage that Dr. King also used should have been included (though I can understand the author wanting this book to appeal to more than just Christians, as equality is an issue that should transcend religion).  The page of Dr. King in profile behind the microphone with his Bible on the pulpit was a powerful image and a wonderful likeness. 

This book contains some of the best children’s illustrations I’ve seen, as so much depth of emotion is conveyed in the faces of the main characters.  

I can understand why the adults feel like they don’t have the freedom to march–as exercising that freedom would come with consequences⁠—out of fear of losing their livelihoods.  You’re told you have these rights, but if you exercise them, there are dire consequences.  No one should have to choose between their jobs and their freedom.  

March showed the fearlessness of children⁠—children who were able to do what their parents could not.  They represented an almost innocent sacrifice, though it is stated that Dr. King did not like children being put in harm’s way.  It is heartbreaking that children had to fight for what adults should have been able to fight for them rather than just be children, learning to read and playing with their friends.  How frightening it must have been to march towards the unknown, knowing only that it was filled with angry people who were much bigger than you.  

The aerial shot of the children surrounded by hate in the form of angry dogs and rushing water made my throat catch.  The policeman with the hat over his eyes, pulling the curtain on the windows to his soul as he pushed a little girl by the neck and locked these young children into a jail cell was chilling. 

Children need to see that Dr. King promoted non-violence as the news prefers to cover only violent protesters.  It would’ve been nice to include the song lyrics to the songs of freedom.

“For they are doing a job for not only themselves, but for all of America and for all mankind,” Dr. King says.  I think this was an important quote to include because what is not good for a certain group of citizens cannot be good for any citizen, as it promotes feelings of disenfranchisement and stirs unrest.  

The juxtaposition of the white parents whose children sat safely between them in the comfort of their own home, watching the television where this ugliness was not a part of their world but something they saw on TV with the black parents being separated from theirs, not knowing what might happen to them, struck a chord.  I could just feel love and relief emanating from the black parents who held their children in their arms as if they never wanted to let them go, contrasting this tableau with the white parents who didn’t have to hold onto their children so tightly, knowing that they would never be targeted because of their racial make-up.

I greatly admire these (fictitious but based on truth) followers of Dr. King, for it must have taken an amazing amount of grace for them not to become violent back; they gave their enemies no ammunition for treating them like non-persons.   

The last picture shows children in the park (bringing it back to the beginning), black and white, playing together; it was never the children who minded⁠—it was only some (not all) adults who wished for the races to remain separate.  

Let the Children March is a beautiful book that will help any child “walk in another’s shoes.”

Suggested activity: Read Dr. King’s most famous speech, but if you can, listen to it in his own voice. It’s all the difference between reading someone else’s poem to yourself and listening to the poet who wrote it, speak it.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32510367-let-the-children-march

#Micropoetry Monday: The Lighter Side

samuel-67197_1920

When the displaced homemaker
met the desperate ex-housewife,
they cooked up a plan
in the cafeteria’s kitchen
to get a new man;
Ms. baked him,
after which the Mrs. iced him,
& then they tore him in half.

When the 2 couch potatoes wed,
they turned into a bowl of lumpy mash.
When they had their small fry,
they realized they needed to set a better example,
so they drank beta-carotene smoothies every morning,
turning them into the far less palatable sweet potato.

For 10 years,
Messy Wheeler had been
“as cute as a button,”
but when her little sister, Fussy,
who was “cuter than a buttonhole,”
was born,
Messy,
to make her case,
said that you could have a button
without a buttonhole,
but not the other way around,
for buttonholes had no
functional or decorative value.

Book Review: Bowwow Powwow

BowWow

As part of my Post-K Summer Reading Boot Camp:
https://sarahleastories.com/2019/06/08/post-k-summer-reading-boot-camp-2019

The only redeeming value of Bowwow Powwow was the title, with its nod to ablaut reduplication (https://www.rd.com/culture/ablaut-reduplication/).

I can understand why the author would make this book bilingual—if it was only published in the Ojibwe language, few would buy it, so including the English translation was smart.  

It has been said that in 100 years, the only languages that will be around will be English, Spanish, and Mandarin, which I think is a shame, for I do believe it is important to preserve languages (like animal species, trees, art, etc.), especially in this world that is becoming increasingly homogenized.  

The illustrations were awful—flat, without nuance, and downright creepy—all had a darkness to them and the people looked like something out of a cheap comic book.

The humanoid dogs and cats—wearing human clothing, marching, and playing the drum—was extremely creepy; closer representations to nature would’ve been appreciated.  And what was up with all the sunglasses when it was dark out? Was it to mask the windows of their souls? 

Though those who have an interest in Native American customs would probably give this book a look, especially those who are a part of the Ojibwe heritage, but there isn’t a story here; rather, the nonfiction portions would’ve been better rewritten as a passage in a World Book Encyclopedia or Encyclopedia Britannica, sans the illustrations.

I generally come up with a suggested activity related to the book, but when I hate a book this much, I just don’t have it in me to do that.  

Highly not recommended.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39665297-bowwow-powwow