Posts Tagged ‘poetry’

Ladies and Gentlemen! Boys and Girls! Welcome to the Big Top!

In the center ring, behold the rotund Circus Chef as he pulls off the most amazing feat of all: feeding all the circus performers!

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I’ve never turned a cartwheel, and I’m dizzy in high places.
I couldn’t ever be a clown — I don’t make funny faces.

But put me in the kitchen, and I think you’ll be delighted.
Join us for a circus meal. Everyone’s invited.

I handle special orders and unusual suggestions.
And if you have an allergy, just come to me with questions.

Put me in the kitchen, where the coffee’s percolating.
I’ll mash and melt with pleasure. I can’t keep the circus waiting!

My days are long and sweaty, and the chaos never ends.
But still, I find I’m most content when cooking for my friends.


Don’t you love him already? For each picky palate, for each quirky personality, this chef aims to please.

For the Ringmaster who’s always on the go, a picnic of salami and mini baguette stashed in his top hat. For the homesick Ukrainian Strongman, babushka’s vushka recipe. And if you must feed a Juggler who likes to juggle (rather than eat) anything that’s round? A square meal, of course!


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Several years ago, in order to illustrate Monica Brown’s Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People (Henry Holt, 2011), Julie Paschkis immersed herself in Neruda’s poetry and took Spanish language classes.

She fell in love with Spanish, its sounds and structure. Already a lover of words, she found these new words both interesting and fascinating, so much so, that she incorporated them in her paintings to stunning effect. She had created her own brand of visual poetry inspired by Neruda’s words.

Her love affair with the language didn’t end with that book. As one thing can sometimes beautifully lead to another, Julie discovered that her unfamiliarity with Spanish freed her to write poetry. The fourteen free verse animal poems in Flutter & Hum/Aleteo y Zumbido (Henry Holt, 2015) were first written in Spanish, then translated by Julie into English. And as she did with the Neruda book, she added words inspired by the poems to her illustrations.

In this exquisite tapestry of three languages — Spanish, English, and Art — we are treated to Julie’s charming insights and observations of creatures inhabiting land, sea and air, inviting us to appreciate them in new and surprising ways. Did you ever wonder what a turtle might be hiding in her shell?

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The turtle hides
in her shell.
But maybe there is space,
a place
for hidden treasure.
Just for pleasure
she could put an emerald
and a ruby or two

When she walks
she listens to the rattle of the gemstones.
That is why she goes so slowly —
she doesn’t want to spill
her secrets.



La tortuga se esconde
en su caparazón.
Tal vez hay un vacío,
un espacio
para un tesoro escondido.
Sólo por gusto
la tortuga podría meter
una esmeralda y unos rubís

Cuando anda
escucha el traqueteo del tesoro.
Por eso ella anda lentamente —
para no deja caer
sus secretos.

And the snake? He writes “a slippery poem/with his body . . . He only knows one letter: ssssssssss.” There’s also a whale that dances “In a dazzle of bubbles.” Sheer delight!

The poems vary in mood from playful (a dog’s wagging tail “fans wild happiness/into the wild world”) to peaceful and evocative (“Out of the darkness/an owl hoots./An echo./The night train/is leaving”) to ethereal (“I am a fish in the sea of dreams”).

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I really love the CAT:

Fat cat
naps on a map.
When she gets up
s  h  e     s  t  r  e  t  c  h  e  s
from Arequipa to Zanzibar
and her belly bumps  Topolobampo.
Elastic cat.



La gata gorda
se duerme en un mapa.
Cuando se levanta
s e    e s t i r a
desde Arequipa hasta Zanzibar
y su barriga choca contra  Topolobampo.
La gata elástica.

Isn’t ‘Topolobampo’ the best word ever? Even if we didn’t know it’s a city in Mexico, we get a good sense of how the cat’s moving in that winsome alliterative line, so much fun to read aloud. Flutter and Hum truly celebrates words, languages, and instinctual creative expression. It certainly contributes to our appreciation of how and where poems might emerge, and it’s fun to imagine Julie playing with both Spanish and English and exploring some of the magical places in between.

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As someone who loves hand lettering, I fairly swooned over Julie’s gorgeous paintings. As words slither on long blades of grass, swirl in the ripples of pond water, ride atop the backs of crows (“crass/brash,” “craven/crooked,” “brujo/brusco”), float in clouds, adorn both halves of a juicy strawberry (“fresh, blush, ripe, giddy, gozo, julio, frivolo”), and stream in dark ocean waves (“nightfall, fill, flow, flung, luna, lustra, bunco, oscuro”), we hear these juicy words spark and sing, bask in their collective serenade, feel the heart quicken. Her careful choice of words, as well as how they are paired or juxtaposed, creates a new energy, another poetic revelation.

Readers will also enjoy the little touches of humor: the parrot is “cheery, cheeky, beaky,” the whale, “buoyant”/”oh boy,” and that irresistible cat,  “now/then,” “here/there.” Surprise gifts in the fine details, a veritable feast of words. Perfecto!

I know you’ll enjoy hearing more from Julie herself, and we thank her for visiting today, and for creating this treasure of a book. Perhaps the turtle should stash a copy in her shell? :)


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The Alphabet Soup Mini Library is now open.

Please help yourself to a yummy fig bar book compliments of the Teddy Town Bears. They made them especially for you to celebrate the recent release of Jumping Off Library Shelves (Wordsong, 2015), a very cool collection of 15 poems selected by master anthologist, author, poet, editor, educator and eternal hotTEA Lee Bennett Hopkins.

Two words make me instantly happy: LOVE and LIBRARY. They’re kind of synonymous in my mind, and truly, could any of us thrive without either one?

Wahiawa Library front entrance.

The public library in my small country hometown of Wahiawa, Hawai’i, was my safe haven while growing up — a true home away from home where I discovered the likes of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Lois Lenski, Louisa May Alcott, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Beverly Cleary, Eleanor Estes, and Sydney Taylor. It was a quiet place to think, read, dream, wonder, learn and imagine – a place where I could travel new roads, discover new worlds within the pages of a favorite book, the place where it first occurred to me that anything can happen, anything is possible.

Wahiawa Library Children’s Section

The poems in Jumping Off Library Shelves joyously celebrate the singular experiences that make any library a magical place, from the breathless anticipation of first entering “the sweet kingdom of story,” to getting one’s first library card, to cozily snuggling up with a good story, to basking in the power and privilege of choosing books and being transported and transformed. Who would not thrill at the prospect of so much knowledge, so many good stories right there for the taking?


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