Andrea Cheng is the author of several critically-acclaimed books for young readers. Her most recent novel, Etched in Clay, tells the story in verse of Dave the Potter, an enslaved man, poet, and master craftsperson whose jars (many of which are inscribed with his poetry and writings) are among the most sought-after pieces of Edgefield pottery. Etched in Clay recently won the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award.
When I heard an NPR review of Leonard Todd’s book, Carolina Clay, I knew that Dave’s was a story I wanted to tell. And from the start, I knew that I wanted to tell it in verse. Readers often ask me why. I didn’t make this decision consciously, but subconsciously, I think there were reasons.
The evidence of Dave’s life is fragmentary: pots and shards and bills of sale. This means that each small piece of evidence stands for something more, something much larger than the object itself. For example, the first bill of sale shows that Harvey Drake purchased a teenage boy for six hundred dollars. He was “country born” with “good teeth” and “a straight back. “ (Etched in Clay, p. 7) There is so much sorrow in these few words. A person is being evaluated and then sold like an animal. After a quick transaction, he becomes the property of someone else. The only way I know to allow a reader to feel this sorrow is through the intensity of a poem.
We hope you all had a peaceful holiday season filled with delicious food, friends & family, and some quiet time with a good book. We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled blogging next week, but meanwhile, they’re forecasting 5-8 inches of snow here in the New York area tonight. Obviously, that means one thing:
In preparation, I thought I’d put together a list of my five favorite books to cuddle up with during snow days:
Jaclyn DeForge, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching first and second grade in the South Bronx, and went on to become a literacy coach and earn her Masters of Science in Teaching. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators.
Over the past fewweeks, I’ve been talking talked the importance of looking at the standards horizontally as well as vertically, and in today’s post, I’m going to do just that as I walk you through what effective close reading questioning can look like, unpacking one strand at a time using texts of varying complexities. On the docket for today:
Reading Standards for Literature K-3, Craft and Structure, Strand 4
In Kindergarten, the strand reads:Ask and answer questions about unknown words in a text.
Look at the poem “Pencil Talk.” Which words were tricky for you to sound out? Did you come across any words where you weren’t sure what they meant?***What does the word scratch mean? Bonus: What does the poet mean when she writes “Pencils can talk…but we can’t!“
In this excerpt from her 2012 Pura Belpré acceptance speech, Under the Mesquiteauthor Guadalupe Garcia McCall shares how writing the book helped her heal and brought her closer to her father:
My life with my mother was full of love and acceptance. I was blessed to be her daughter, even if for a little while. That’s why I wanted Under the Mesquite to be a true reflection of her nature. I wanted it to do what she did best—to nurture young people’s dreams, to give them the courage and strength to pursue those dreams. Writing Mesquite was both wonderful and painful. For in the process of writing this book, I pulled out and dusted off memories I had set aside, memories I had tucked into deep crevices in my heart, put away for fear of losing them. I am glad they are written down now. My mother lives because this book exists. It is her nurturing spirit that resides in these pages, her wisdom, her love, and I am so happy to be able to share her with you.
Congratulations to Juan Felipe Herrera, who has just been appointed California poet laureate! Herrera is the author of 28 volumes of poetry and other works, including several award-winning children’s books.
In celebration of our new book A Full Moon is Rising, we’re having ourselves a little contest! A Full Moon is Rising, by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by Julia Cairns, shows readers how people across the globe celebrate the full moon. Take a peek: