nine cool things on a tuesday (stay home, save lives edition)

No doubt — this is a crazy, scary, sad, worrying time for everyone. Most of us are sheltering in place and trying our best to adjust to a new reality.

While we are not performing heroic deeds like all the frontline healthcare workers and first responders, grocery store employees and delivery drivers, we can all do our part by simply staying at home.

During tough times, I’m even more grateful for the artists, poets, writers, and musicians who make self-isolation more bearable by generously sharing their talents. What would we do without stories and poems to read, music and podcasts to listen to, movies to watch? Prime example of how healing the arts can be — a good reminder that all of us are in this together.

1. Uber-talented Vermont author/illustrator Ashley Wolff is featuring her border collie Rufus in a new series of “Stay Home, Save Lives” prints. She says this is her way of coping with the new reality and sharing solidarity. Pictured above is “We Are United States Strong.” Ashley also painted all 50 states and one territory.




Each signed, 11″ x 14″ print is made with archival inks on heavyweight 100% cotton watercolor paper. Visit her Etsy Shop or PM her on FB to order your state of choice (she will also personalize upon request).


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I Remember: Poems and Pictures of Heritage compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins

“Heritage makes us who we are. It is an essential, important part of us — our inherited traditions, beliefs, values, and achievements, and how we identify ourselves. Heritage also conjures up remembrances of family, events, travels, songs, celebrations, goals, and challenges. It is our past, our today, and our foundation to build on for the future.” ~ Lee Bennett Hopkins

Our beloved Lee Bennett Hopkins would have turned 82 on April 13, and it’s only too fitting that his birthday falls during National Poetry Month. We’re happy to honor his memory by sharing two poems from one of his final anthologies, I Remember: Poems and Pictures of Heritage (Lee & Low, 2019).

While it is still hard to believe he’s really gone, reading a collection as inspiring as this one is a lovely reminder that the light of his enduring legacy shines on.

I Remember features poem and art pairings by a diverse group of eminent American poets and artists, all of whom were inspired by vivid childhood memories that made lasting impressions on their lives.

Look at this amazing line-up:


Kwame Alexander * Jorge Tetl Argueta * Joseph Bruchac * Nick Bruel * Margarita Engle * Douglas Florian * Guadalupe Garcia McCall * Marilyn Nelson * G. Neri * Naomi Shihab Nye * Cynthia Leitich Smith * Carole Boston Weatherford * Janet S. Wong * Jane Yolen


Paula Barragán * Sawsan Chalabi * R. Gregory Christie * Julie Downing * David Kanietakeron Fadden * Insoo Kim * Rafael López * Janine Macbeth * Juliet Meńendez * Daniel Minter * Sean Qualls * Charlotte Riley-Webb * Jeanne Rorex Bridges * Simone Shin * Neil Walden * Michele Wood


Michele Wood’s art for Kwame Alexander’s “Here’s What I Remember”

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Savoring the “The Consolation of Apricots” by Diane Ackerman


Hello, Friends. I’m so glad you’re here today.

Hope you’re doing well despite these crazy, scary, unbelievably challenging times.

Please help yourself to a warm cuppa and a fresh-from-the-oven apricot scone while you savor Diane Ackerman’s sumptuous poem.



“Apricot Still Life” by Julie L’Heureux


by Diane Ackerman

Especially in early
when the sun
offers a thin
treacle of warmth,
I love to sit
and eat sense-
ravishing apricots.

Born on sun-
drenched trees in
the apricots have
flown the Atlantic
like small comets,
and I can taste
broiling North
Africa in their

between a peach
and a prayer,
they taste of well
and butterscotch
and dried apples
and desert
simooms and lust.

Sweet with a
twang of spice,
a ripe apricot is
small enough to
as two
Ambiguity is its

How to eat an
first warm its
continuous curve
in cupped hands,
holding it
as you might a
brandy snifter,

then caress the
velvety sheen
with one thumb,
and run your
over its nap,
which is shorter
than peach fuzz,
closer to chamois.

Tawny gold with a
blush on its
an apricot is the
color of shame
and dawn.
One should not
expect to drink
at mid-winter,
Boethius warned.

What could be
more thrilling
then ripe apricots
out of season,
a gush of taboo
to offset the
savage wistfulness
of early spring?

Always eat
apricots at
preferably while
sitting in a sunset
with valley lights
starting to flicker
and the lake
spangled like a

Then, while a trail
of bright ink
tattoos the sky,
notice how the sun
washes the earth
like a woman
pouring her gaze
along her lover’s
naked body,

each cell receiving
the tattoo of her
Wait for that
of arousal and
then sink your
teeth into the flesh
of an apricot.

~ from I Praise My Destroyer (Random House, 1998)


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2020 National Poetry Month Kidlitosphere Events Roundup


Happy April and Happy National Poetry Month!

It’s time once again to read, write, share, and simply indulge your love for poetry in every way.

Need some ideas? Visit for the full scoop on how you can participate, including 30 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month, Poem in Your Pocket Day (April 30, 2020), Poem-a-Day, and especially for students and teachers, the Dear Poet Project. Check the state-by-state listings to find poetry-related events near you.

Congratulations to tenth grader Samantha Aikman, who won the 2020 National Poetry Month Poster Contest for Students. Her winning artwork was selected by former U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera and award-winning cartoonist Alison Bechdel from among 10 finalists and 180 student submissions. Entries were to incorporate between 1-4 contiguous lines from U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo’s poem, “Remember.”



Click here to download a PDF, or to order your free copy.

Now, here’s a list of what some kidlit bloggers are doing. If you’re also celebrating Poetry Month with a special project or blog event, or know of anyone else who is, please leave a comment here or email me: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com, so I can add the information to this Roundup. Thanks, and have a beautiful, inspiring, uplifting, productive, and memorable April!




Hooray, it’s Progressive Poem time again! This year, Irene Latham has passed on the mantle to Margaret Simon (Reflections on the Teche), who’s recruited 30 poets for the ninth annual Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem. This is a wonderful community writing project where a poem travels daily from blog to blog, with each host adding a new line. Donna Smith will kick things off with the first line of this year’s children’s poem at Mainely Write on April 1. Here’s the full schedule of participating bloggers:



1 Donna Smith at Mainely Write
2 Irene Latham at Live Your Poem
3 Jone MacCulloch at Deo Writer
4 Liz Steinglass
5 Buffy Silverman
6 Kay McGriff at A Journey Through the Pages
7 Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core
8 Tara Smith at Going to Walden
9 Carol Varsalona at Beyond Literacy Link
10 Matt Forrest Esenwine at Radio, Rhythm, and Rhyme
11 Janet Fagel, hosted at Reflections on the Teche
12 Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise
13 Kat Apel at Kat Whiskers
14 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
15 Leigh Anne Eck at A Day in the Life
16 Linda Baie at Teacher Dance
17 Heidi Mordhorst at My Juicy Little Universe
18 Mary Lee Hahn at A Year of Reading
19 Tabatha at Opposite of Indifference
20 Rose Cappelli at Imagine the Possibilities
21 Janice Scully at Salt City Verse
22 Julieanne Harmatz at To Read, To Write, To Be
23 Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a God-forsaken Town
24 Christie Wyman at Wondering and Wandering
25 Amy at The Poem Farm
26 Dani Burtsfield at Doing the Work That Matters
27 Robyn Hood Black at Life on the Deckle Edge
29 Fran Haley at lit bits and pieces
30 Michelle Kogan




At Today’s Little Ditty, Michelle H. Barnes will be introducing a new series called, “Lessons from the Bookshelf,” where she takes an in-depth look at educational books about writing poetry. For April, Michelle will be focusing on MY SHOUTING, SHATTERED, WHISPERING VOICE: A Guide to Writing Poetry and Speaking Your Truth, by Patrice Vecchione (Seven Stories Press, March 31, 2020), and featuring three terrific exercises from the book over the course of the month.



If you’re a fan of picture book poetry collections, be sure to check in with Jena Benton at Of Tea and Mermaids. She’ll be featuring a different picture book each day with her commentary and a selected poem. I learned about some new-to-me books last year, so I’m looking forward to more. 🙂



Over at Deo Writer, Jone MacCulloch will be cooking up some delectable verses all month long with “Food, Family, Feasts.” Put on your best bibs and head over there for poems about food, food, food! Jone invites everyone to join her by writing their own food-related poems. I’m hungry!



Jone is also sending out Student Poetry Postcards. Have you signed up yet? As she said, in this time of social distancing, this might be a good way to spread a little cheer. You can find the sign-up form here.



If you’re a fan of ekphrastic poetry, you must check out Random Noodling. Once again, Diane Mayr is featuring Ekphrastic April, where she writes an original cherita each day inspired by the work of a female artist. This feels like a double gift, because you not only get to see wonderful paintings, you’re also privy to Diane’s personal responses to these works.




photo by Harry W. Yeatts, Jr., logo by Elena Yeatts-Lonske


At The Opposite of Indifference, Tabatha Yeatts is sharing poetry based on the theme, “Things I Wish You Knew . . . “ with an emphasis on physical and mental health. The idea is to inform the reader about something that is outside their realm of experience, something that is maybe not that obvious. Tabatha issued an open call for submissions last month, so it will be interesting to see what the Poetry Friday community has written.



Robyn Hood Black’s special NPM project is called “I Pause for Poems.”  Each weekday in April, she’ll upload a short YouTube video of herself reading one of her published poems (will link or embed on her blog each day). On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays it will be a poem for children. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, it will be a haiku suitable for kids. It’s such a treat to hear poets read their own work. Can’t wait! Catch all the action at Life on the Deckle Edge, or if you prefer, zoom over to her YouTube channel.



Visit Amy Ludwig VanDerwater at The Poem Farm this month to Roll the Dice!  Here’s her description:

“For this year’s poetry project, I have decided to introduce the fun of random surprise. Every day, I will share one truth about poems. Each will be worded POEMS CAN… Every day, I will roll three word dice. Then:

  • I will write a poem inspired by one, two, or all three of the face-up words.
  • If a die rolls blank, I will not reroll it.
  • The month’s poems need not go together, though they may.

I welcome anyone who wishes to join me in writing from ROLL THE DICE!  Feel free to comment with your poem if you wish. Happy National Poetry Month to all.”

Those who comment will be entered into weekly drawings to win a copy of Amy’s book, POEMS ARE TEACHERS.



Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core will be featuring, “News from the Natural World”:

“On a recent episode of the Ted Talk Radio Hour, Enrico Ramirez Ruiz, an astrophysicist who describes himself as a “stellar mortician,” explained that “we are all atomically connected, fundamentally, universally.” My aim is to focus on some element of the natural world and find those connections, and within them, find tolerance and understanding.”

Check out her first poem, “Forest Snail,” inspired by “Lessons in Being Alone, from a Woodland Snail,” a recent episode of NPR’s podcast, “Short Wave.” I’m looking forward to what sounds like a lovely nature retreat! 🙂



Look for Christie Wyman’s, “Thoreaulyinspired” at her blog Wondering and Wandering:

Each day during April, I will write a poem-ish piece inspired by a word or phrase mined from the pages of Henry David Thoreau’s jewel-laden journals. I have left my challenge open so that the poems may take any form — haiku, free verse, borrowed line, blackout –and who knows which direction they will go in.

Here is her first poem, “I Heard the First Real Robin’s Song”:



View the post for a peek at her process. What a lovely idea for a poetry month project!



Linda Baie at TeacherDance will be sharing a poem and sketch each day with the theme of “Circles.”

A while ago I bought a small box of tiny round wood circles. I’ve been playing around with how I can use them for something, and am planning to use the theme of CIRCLES for poetry month, poems & small sketches.

What a novel idea! Linda has kicked things off with a dandelion haiku — click here for the post — and be sure to check back each day for more. 🙂



Kay McGriff at A Journey Through the Pages has challenged herself to write a poem each day, mostly inspired by prompts in Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge’s book, poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life With Words (2009). Check out her first poem, “Pandemic,” written for last month’s Ditty of the Month Challenge issued by Tabatha Yeatts.



Are you hungry? At her new blog, Book Buzz, Amy Zimmer-Merrill will be sharing a food poem + recipe every Friday:

To celebrate National Poetry Month, I’ve decided to write and share a poem each Friday (as part of Poetry Friday). I’ve recently read the book, Eat This Poem by Nicole Gulotta, where she shares a food related poem and then offers her thoughts on the poem, personal stories, and recipes inspired by the poem. It’s a delicious read and I’m trying many of  the recipes in my own kitchen.   Eat This Poem got me thinking about children’s poetry, food, and recipes that could be inspired by those poems. For the month of April, I will be writing my own poems about food and sharing a recipe or two to accompany my poem. I will also share other foodie published poems or books. I hope you’ll join me in this delicious feast of poetry goodness.



At Poetry for Children, poetry goddess Sylvia Vardell is featuring a variety of things this month, including guest posts for new, forthcoming poetry books, and mini movies created by her graduate students to bring individual poems to life. Grab your popcorn and enjoy!



Tricia Stohr-Hunt’s “Armchair Travelers” will feature photos, poems, and memories of some of the places she’s been fortunate enough to visit. In this time of hunkering down and staying home, this is a welcome opportunity for a virtual getaway. Her first stop: Cashiers Valley in Jackson County, North Carolina. Join her on this month-long journey at The Miss Rumphius Effect.



At her blog, fiction, instead of lies, Tanita S. Davis will be writing a haiku-a-day for NPM. During this time of universal existential dread, she’s going to “try very hard to find something new to see, or a new way to see it.” She encourages everyone “to try and really see things just now — things we should remember.”

Here’s a poem from her opening post:


can you see a smile
obscured by a folded mask?
look: my eyes smile back



Michelle Kogan is featuring daily poems paired with original art and/or photographs, with a focus on nature and climate endangered birds. Here’s her opening poem:



Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a God-forsaken Town will be sharing poems she’s “collected” on multiple open tabs on her desktop, along with some original poems. Check out this post for a more detailed description, and to read the very inspiring, “To All the Poets” by Andrew Peterson.



For her 11th consecutive year, Liz Garton Scanlon will be writing and sharing a haiku each day. She invites everyone to join her (sharing publicly is optional). You can follow along at her blog, on Facebook, or Twitter.. Look for these three hashtags (use them or not with your own haiku): #nationalpoetrymonth, #30daysofhaiku, #lizsharespoem.

Her first one:

Haiku 1
April 1, 2020

Volunteer daisies
spread like sun across the yard
Light can’t be contained




Mary Lee Hahn at A Year of Reading is writing a poem a day around the theme, “The Flipside.”

“So much about the world right now is scary and uncertain. That was always true, but it is in-our-faces true now. At the same time, there are amazing acts of generosity, compassion, connectedness, and creativity that are happening because of These Unprecedented Times. For myself, for my students, for my readers, I wanted to write poems this month that remind us what’s on the flipside of the scary uncertainty.”



Are you ready to play? Leigh Anne Eck at A Day in the Life is all about found poems this month:

“It is April, and I am joining many others in celebrating National Poetry Month. This month many people turn to their gardens and landscapes and play in the dirt. I’d rather do a little playing with words. This month I will be creating found poems by taking words, phrases, and lines from other texts and rearranging them into a “literary collage” with a whole new meaning.”

Sounds so fun and interesting!



Don’t forget the Water Poem Project, ongoing since March 22, 2020. It’s a community poetry project for kids created and organized by author, poet, and educator Laura Shovan. Participants receive a writing prompt every day for a month related to the theme of WATER. The goal is to write and share a newly drafted poem with the group every day.

Laura has also invited poet and author friends to create the writing prompts (she will post new prompts each evening at her blog). Prompts will also be shared across social media with the hashtag #WaterPoemProject.

Read this introductory post for all the details, which includes suggestions for posting response poems, sharing feedback, and information about curriculum standards (this project is recommended for Grade 3 and up).

This is a wonderful project to consider with so many schools closed and/or meeting online. It’s not too late to jump on board!




Here’s what Carol Varsalona is doing at Beyond Literacy Link:

“For National Poetry Month, I am writing poems of hope each day in different formats and creating a gallery of artistic expressions to bring voice and the artistry of nature into focus. With the theme, Nature Nurtures, a gallery of artistic expressions and stories will evolve to heal troubled hearts and global lands during these challenging times. In addition, a padlet and Twitter hashtag, #NatureNurtures2020 have been created to hold inspirational digitals being sent from around the globe.

Come together as a global community to let your voices rise with hope and positivity as we fill social media with the glory of nature’s healing gifts. All families, educators, students, and community members are invited to join me in this creative endeavor. Student work can be created during remote learning writing or creative activities. All work must have your name and location at the bottom of a 450 px jpeg or png. Deadline: April 30th.”

To read Carol’s special invitation, click here, and her first Nature Nurtures installment is here.




Hooray! 30 Poets/30 Days is back at GottaBook! Some of you may remember when Greg Pincus first launched this NPM series back in 2009. The best part of Poetry Month was stopping by to see which poem and poet Greg was featuring each day. I learned about so many new-to-me poets and looked forward to the roster every year.

Greg took a little break, but now he’s back. Some of the poets he’s featuring for 2020 are:

Brod Bagert
Carmen Bernier-Grand
Rebecca Kai Dotlich
Douglas Florian
Charles Ghigna
Nikki Grimes
David L. Harrison
Kenn Nesbitt
Ann Whitford Paul
Greg Pincus
Bob Raczka
Adam Rex
Marilyn Singer
Charles Waters
April Halprin Wayland
Jane Yolen

There will be a mix of “never before seen” as well as previously published poems + additional treats. He kicked things off on April 1 with “Bigfoot” by Douglas Florian:

Check in with GottaBook every day for a new poetry fix!



Carol Varsalona (Beyond Literacy Link) shares that there will be an #NYEDChat on Twitter, on Monday, April 20, 2020, between 8-8:30 p.m. (EST). Guest moderators will be Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Georgia Heard.




Over at Teaching Authors, April Halprin Wayland offers a reflective post entitled, “Poetry in the Time of Covid-19.” She echoes what so many of us are feeling right now with her candid observations about how she’s coping and surviving creatively. Sometimes we all need “permission” for self care, in whatever form it may take. Her awesome poem, “Daddy Holds Your Hand,” is not to be missed.





Here at Alphabet Soup, we’ll continue to serve up tasty poems and reviews of new poetry books each Friday in April. Look for our three-book True Blue Giveaway on April 24!



Finally, don’t forget to check in with April’s Poetry Friday hosts to see what other bloggers are sharing in the kidlitosphere each week:



3    Heidi at my juicy little universe
10  Amy at The Poem Farm
17  Molly at Nix the Comfort Zone
24  Christie at Wondering and Wandering




♥️ I’ll continue to update this Roundup throughout April, so do check back! For your convenience, a link to this Roundup can be found in the sidebar of this blog.

Wishing you a thoroughly nourishing, inspiring, productive, interesting, and enlightening Poetry Month!


*Copyright © 2020 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

Whoo-ku Haiku: A Great Horned Owl Story by Maria Gianferrari and Jonathan Voss


Once in a great while, we’ll hear a “hoo-hoo-HOOOOO-hoo” coming from our woods in the middle of the night. OWL!

We’re always delighted by this rare sound, since the hooting is our only indication that there really are owls out there. Unlike all the other birds we commonly see (robins, woodpeckers, nuthatches, crows, bluebirds, chickadees, cardinals, wrens), our owly friends, by virtue of being nocturnal and mysterious, like to keep us guessing.

Since it’s pitch black outside (no streetlights), I’ve never actually seen any of the great horned owls that we like to assume are calling to us. They seem to enjoy being elusive, thereby heightening their allure.

Reading Whoo-ku Haiku: A Great Horned Owl Story, a new poetry picture book by Maria Gianferrari and Jonathan Voss (Putnam, 2020), gave me the perfect opportunity to learn more about these magnificent creatures.

I love the idea of a story told entirely in haiku, and Gianferrari brilliantly manages the challenging feat of creating an engaging, suspenseful narrative while imparting essential facts about the life cycle of the most common owl in North America.

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