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Life Story: Vicki Lansky

Vicki Lansky

Our thought go out to the family of Vicki Lansky, first author and co-founder of Meadowbrook Press.

How to Write New Year's Resolutions

How to Write New Year's Resolutions

by Bruce Lansky

If you read Bridget Jones's Diary, you know it starts out with her New Year's resolutions: lists of things she will and won't do. I'd reprint them all, but it would take too much time and effort to get the reprint rights, so I'll just serve up a smattering of my favorites: 

I Will Not 

Waste money on exotic underwear since pointless as have no boyfriend. 
Fall for any of the following: alcoholics, workaholics, commitment phobics, chauvinists, freeloaders, perverts. 
Have crushes on men, but instead form relationships based on mature assessment of character. 

I Will 

Go to gym three times a week not merely to buy sandwich. 
Learn to program video. 
Give all clothes which have not worn for two years or more to homeless. 
Not go out every night but stay in and read books and listen to classical music. 

Interestingly, the publisher of Bridget Jones's Diary put some of her resolutions on the back cover of the book to promote it: 

Meet Bridget Jones--a 30-something Singleton who is certain she would have all the answers if she could: 

  a. lose 7 pounds
  b. stop smoking
  c. develop Inner Poise

And the studio that distributed the movie used her resolutions on the poster promoting the movie. Surely, I'm not the only person who was struck by the comic brilliance of Bridget's resolutions, but I'm probably one of the few who see them as delicious examples of list poems. 

If this is isn't your first PoetryTeachers.com "poetry lesson," you already know my take on list poems--they're just about the easiest way to get kids (or adults) writing poetry. Writing a list poem is fairly easy. All you have to do is make a list, using parallel structure throughout. What makes some list poems better than others is that the better ones: 

  • make sense 
  • "go somewhere" (that is, begin somewhere and end somewhere else) 
  • include humor or some other feeling, if possible 

Notice that Bridget Jones's resolutions not only make sense, they go somewhere--that is, they cover what she won't do and what she will do. Reading them, you can quickly grasp that she's a desperate Singleton who doesn't have a boyfriend and is trying to get her act together so she might be able to attract one in the future. And, they're funny--they give you a sense of just how unlikely it is that she'll succeed with any of her resolutions. 

Now that you know how much I love Bridget (if you haven't read the book or seen the movie, I suggest you do so at your earliest convenience), and know how much I like list poems, consider this opportunity: Have your class write list poems when they get back to school in January after their holiday vacations. The theme can be their New Year's resolutions or that old chestnut "What I Did Over Winter Vacation." 

Here's my quick take on both of those themes: 

My New Year's Resolutions 

Turn off "Stranger Things" when I'm supposed to be studying for speling test. 
Don't stay home with a "stomach ache" the day of speling test. 
Don't express mock surprise when I flunk speling. 
Don't fake my father's signature on the report card. 
Or, at very least, learn how to spel his first name correctly.

"Resolutions"

Resolutions by Linda Knaus

© copyright Linda Knaus with permission of its publisher Meadowbrook Press.

"Santa Got Stuck in the Chimney"

Santa Got Stuck in the Chimney by Kenn Nesbitt

© copyright Kenn Nesbitt with permission of its publisher Meadowbrook Press.

Library Journal Review

Picture of Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the NewbornPregnancy, Childbiirth, and the Newborn was reviewed in last month's Libary Journal.

“VERDICT: Readers considering having a baby or who are already pregnant will find this a valuable resource. - Barbara Lundanis, Longmont Public Library, Colorado”

Available from these retailers

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A Bad Case of Sneezes

A Bad Case of Sneezes by Bruce LanskyLast night I had the sneezes.
I was really very ill.
My mother called the doctor
who prescribed a purple pill.

At eight o’clock I went to bed.
My mom turned out the light.
I used up one whole box of Kleenex
sneezing through the night.

I sneezed my brains out in my bed.
I didn’t get much rest.
So that’s the reason, teacher,
that I flunked the spelling test.

Text © Bruce Lansky with permission of its publisher Meadowbrook Press. Illustration © Stephen Carpenter.

Turkey Treats

Picture of The Children's Busy Book

What you'll need: 

One 15-ounce package prepared pie crusts
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
Turkey-shaped cookie cutter

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 450ºF. Unfold the piecrusts on wax paper. Let your child cut shapes from the pastry with the cookie cutter. Mix the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle the mixture over the shapes. Transfer them to an ungreased baking sheet and bake them for 8–10 minutes. Remove them from the baking sheet and let them cool on a wire rack.

This recipe makes about 16 turkey treats.

© copyright Trish Kuffner from The Children's Busy Book with permission of its publisher Meadowbrook Press.

Girls to the Rescue Theater

Girls to the Rescue

Looking for some theater ideas for your classroom?  Clover Park High School in Lakewood, WA is rehearsing a one-act play based on a Girls to the Rescue story!  Read the article below then visit www.FictionTeachers.com for more ideas and stories for your class!

The plays are the thing for Clover Park High School Thespian - The Suburban Times


Available from these retailers

Amazon.com Barnes&Noble BN.com BAM! Books-a-Million IndieBound

Short Metaphorical Poems

Giggle Poetry

by Bruce Lansky

Most of my school visits include 4 or 5 writing workshops—usually with 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students. And since we usually write 3 to 6 poems in each of those sessions,
I wind up creating about 10 to 20 poems on every full-day school visit. Recently I have begun to include free-verse poems in the mix. This allows us to focus on ideas and words—without having to worry about rhythm and rhyme. I started experimenting with a new “genre” I invented called “Short Metaphorical Poems.” These poems usually involve a comparison between two things or ideas. Sometimes they use metaphors (e.g., “My Mother is My Alarm Clock”), sometimes they use similes (e.g., “The Moon is Like a Light Bulb”) and sometimes they use comparisons (e.g., “How to Tell if the Critter Who Sleeps in Your Bed is a Dog or Cat”).

When I write metrical poems with students, I usually spend about 2/3 of the time explaining and demonstrating where the rhyming words go, the difference between “true rhymes” (in which both the vowels and consonants rhyme—like nap and cap) and “near rhymes” (in which only the vowels rhyme—like nap and hat), the need for a consistent rhyme pattern, how to count “beats,” the difference between “beats” and “syllables” (usually there are two or three or four beats in each line and two or three times as many syllables), and the need for a consistent rhythm pattern.

I thought you might find it interesting to share a recent free-verse comparative poem I wrote with students I recently visited in Dallas and Wichita. I got the idea in a 5th grade workshop in McKinney, TX. While working on “The Moon is Like a Light Bulb,” a clever student suggested that because the moon reflects light from the sun, it is more like a mirror than a light bulb. At the end of the session, I asked the students to think about other comparisons they might want to write about. One suggested a comparison between dogs and cats.

I worked on that suggestion with other 5th grade students in McKinney, TX and with 4th and 5th grade students in Andover, KS. The students seemed to love the concept and couldn’t stop thinking about experiments that would demonstrate the difference. The challenge of writing a quasi-scientific, humorous poem about the difference between cats and dogs kept students’ hands up throughout the workshops.

(I should probably mention that students in my writing workshops usually spend more time revising lines of poetry we’ve just written than writing new lines of poetry. Often they would rather rewrite, or fix, the line of poetry we’ve just written than start work on the next new line of poetry. I think this may be one of the biggest lessons they learn: That rewriting poetry is as important and fun as writing down a fresh idea.

Maybe it was the fun of writing non-metrical poems; maybe it was the plunge into scientific thinking—but whatever it was, the students were fascinated*. After I got home I decided to fine-tune the poem for presentation on my Giggle Poetry Facebook page. Below is my second rewrite on the dog/cat comparison theme. You might want to show it to your children or students to see what other experiments they can come up with.

How to Tell If the Critter Who Sleeps On Your Bed is a Dog or Cat

Call the critter. If it runs to you and wants you to pet it, it’s a dog. If it looks at you as if you are crazy, it’s a cat.

Throw a tennis ball across the yard and say, “Fetch!” If the critter chases it, brings it back to you—all wet and gooey—and then wags its tail happily, it’s a dog. If the critter walks after the ball, sniffs it, and then walks away, it’s a cat.

Take your critter to the lake, then run into the water and yell, “Come!” If the critter follows you into the water it’s a dog. If the critter won’t go near the water, it’s a cat.

On the fourth of July, bring your critter to the parade. When the fire truck drives by, if the critter chases after it barking loudly, it’s a dog. If the critter runs home and hides under your bed, it’s a cat.

Pick the critter up and throw it onto your bed. If it lands safely on its feet, it’s a cat. If it crash lands on its back it’s a dog.

Now that you know if your critter is a cat or a dog, take good care of it so your parents don’t get so tired of feeding it they threaten to donate it to Goodwill.

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