Archives: Poetry Friday

Laura’s Bookshelf: The Frame-up

This week’s Poetry Friday host is Jone at Check It Out. She’s got big news about the Cybil Award for Poetry!

Happy Poetry Friday! Thanks for visiting the Poe House with me last week. I pulled a random name from the comments and Jama Rattigan is the winner of the Poe Keepsake Journal. Congratulations, Jama!

Before I get to this week’s post, I want to thank Arnold Adoff and the Virginia Hamilton Conference. Last week, I learned that my debut novel, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, was named the Arnold Adoff Poetry Award for New Voices honor book. “Surprised” is an understatement! It is a huge honor and I’m so grateful for the recognition. Please do visit the full list of award-winners. There are some phenomenal books among the 2018 awardees.

It’s been over a year since I started keeping a personal bullet journal. (If you’re not familiar with bullet journals, start with this post.)

Inspired by my educator friends, one of the new things I’m trying with my 2018 journal is tracking my reading. I’ve kept track via Goodreads before, but charting books is allowing me to take a close look at my genre preferences and how many children’s novels I read, versus YA or adult.

So far, it looks like this:

I am very excited about my most recent read.

Wendy McLeod MacKnight’s The Frame-up is about  boy who — spending the summer with his art-gallery-director father — discovers a great secret. Paintings are alive!

Let’s say you are a portrait. You keep all of the memories of your living person (the subject of the portrait) until the moment the painting is finished.

From that point on, you become your own entity, keeping quiet and still during the day, so museum goers won’t guess the truth. At night, you visit friends and neighbors in other paintings. And by visit, I mean going into a painting of a pub to drink and dance with your buddies or, if you’re a child, hopping into a seascape with a soothing pier for you to walk around. If that seascape is so soothing that you fall asleep in the painting — the wrong painting — no worries … as long as you’re back in your own picture by the time the museum opens.

But let’s say the gallery director’s son, Sargent Singer, happens to come along to the gallery one night and notice that your portrait frame is empty. And then what if he spots you, fast asleep on a pier, in the wrong painting?

This middle grade contemporary fantasy will be available in June. Pre-order now from Indiebound.

This is how The Frame-up opens. The painting that Sargent catches is that of a girl about his age, Mona Dunn. (You can view William Orpen’s Mona Dunn here.) The two of them spark a secret friendship, chock-full of adventures and mishaps.

How serendipitous that I’d have a chance to read the ARC right now, when our February Poetry Project is in the midst of writing in response to art! I know that members of this group are going to love how vividly MacKnight imagines the personalities of several paintings — all found at the real-life Beaverbrook Art Gallery in New Brunswick, Canada.

It’s also a super fun book. The climax (involving nefarious goings-on at the gallery) is exciting, both in our world, and in the world of the paintings. And the resolution? It totally tugged at my art-strings. (Get it?)

I went back to the first February Poetry Project, looking for a poem to pair with Wendy’s book. The theme that year was vintage post cards.

Many of those poems were portraits of the people pictured on the cards, but only one imagined that the people in the image are awake, thinking beings.

Luckily, this poem is a good fit for Valentine’s Week.

Cartoon Boy Meets Cartoon Girl
By Laura Shovan

You have no lips to kiss or speak.
I have no ears to listen.
Let me lean on this picket fence,
watch you hover
over a loop of jump rope,
your braids drawn up
by bat-winged ribbons.
You cannot see my baseball cap
or read my cautious expression.
Your lashes fell a moment before
the cartoonist imagined us.
But I will wait. The next panel,
with your fluttering lids, must come.
The artist — would he leave us
forever like this?

Sadly, these two are frozen in their art, unable to move or communicate. They’d much prefer being in the wonderful world of The Frame-up. Find the original post with this postcard and poem at Author Amok.

A Visit to Poe House

Sally Murphy is hosting the Poetry Friday round up today. Head down under to find all of this week’s links!

Poets, do you have a bucket list? A list of things you want to do before you — for example — turn 49?

My family and I have lived in the Baltimore suburbs for over 18 years. And for 18 years, we’ve talked about going to visit the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum in Baltimore.

I fell in love with Poe’s poetry and stories when I was in middle school. Not only was he the father of horror writing, Sherlock Holmes would not exist without Poe’s detective stories. (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle borrowed mercilessly from Poe’s story, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.”) Then my children read him in middle school and my youngest became a Poe fan too. It’s kind of hard not to love this Dark Romantic author, whose poem “The Raven” was adopted by Baltimore’s pro football team. (We are the only NFL team whose name has literary roots.)

Finally, FINALLY!, we did it.

Last Saturday, my husband, 18-year-old, and I headed out to find the tiny little row-house on Amity Street where Poe lived with his aunt Maria Clemm and her daughter, his cousin (later, wife) Virginia for three years.

We paid our $5 each in a front room, then headed into what would have been the kitchen. Dark. Small! No natural light. (There would have been a door, the friendly guide said, but it led to the alley and the outhouse.) There would have been a little cook-stove, not a full fireplace big enough for a cooking pot. This — we learned — was an area of the city where itinerant families lived. The Clemm family didn’t have a lot of furniture or clothing. They were poor.

Sitting room on second floor (with those steep stairs!)

You cannot believe how narrow the stairs are. I imagined how claustrophobic this house must have been, with three and sometimes more people living here. Did the compressed space influence Poe’s writing?

The second floor is a sitting room with a fireplace. A highlight for me was this wooden box, a travel writing desk that belonged to Poe.

Poet’s travel writing desk. The museum keeps a list of works Poe is believed to have composed in this house.








Peeking into the bedroom from the top of the stairs. I can’t imagine climbing up here every day.

Another impossibly tight flight of stairs went up to the bedroom. They couldn’t have all slept here! Visiting the house gave me a new appreciation for how difficult Poe’s life must have been.


I couldn’t leave without buying you a souvenir. Check out this Edgar Allan Poe Keepsake Journal. I’m giving it away to one lucky reader. Leave a comment on this post and you’ll be entered in a random drawing.

I brought back a souvenir.









Instead of posting my favorite Poe poem (“Alone”) today, I’ve got another surprise. Have you heard Sarah Jarosz musical rendition of “Annabelle Lee”?  When I hear this poem sung, I can’t help but think of young Virginia, who died of tuberculosis at age 24.


Poetry Friday: Come Like Shadows

Carol Varsalona is hosting Poetry Friday this week. Visit Beyond Literacy Link for the PF round-up and for Carol’s Winter Wonderland gallery.

Happy Poetry Friday! January is hobbling to its frigid, icy end. It’s been a cold month in Maryland, as the blue hues of my temperature scarf will attest.

The annual February Poetry Project members are warming up for our month of daily writing. This year’s project theme is “Ekphrastic at Home.” Each day, a member of the group will share a piece of art that they own or keep on display at home.

Today’s warm-up prompt is one of three paintings I own by my grandmother, Joy Dickson. A New Yorker, child of a German Jewish engineer and his Romanian wife, Joy was destined to be a concert violinist. While studying at Julliard, she met my grandfather, a percussionist who had moved to the U.S. from France as a young child. His name was Charles Dickson. They married, struggled to start a business together, had three children (my father was the eldest). I don’t know whether she completed her degree at Julliard, but Joy never picked up a violin again.

Still, my grandmother had a creative spirit. At some point, she took classes at Parsons School of Design. I remember her always in the midst of a project. There was the large loom taking up space in her living room, a fabric made of wool and tree bark half-woven on its strings. There was a trio of monarch butterflies from her print-making class, a found-wood sculpture she signed with the pseudonym “Jandelay” so she could ask for — and get — the honest opinions of family members on her work. There was the Thanksgiving we found out she’d gone to clown college. (She was a hobo clown.)

Oil on canvas, by Joy Dickson

Although she died nearly 15 years ago, I feel like my children have grown up around Joy because her art has always been a presence in our home. The piece I shared today, a portrait of her mother Rachel (known as Rose), was probably painted when Joy was in her teens or 20s.

It was an honor to Joy’s memory to read the poems everyone wrote in response to her painting today. Some people wrote about the deep connection between mother and daughter, as if they knew the story behind this portrait.

My own poem is a memory of the last words I heard my grandmother say. It was the summer of 2003, and she was doing hospice at my parents’ home in mountains.

Come Like Shadows

By Laura Shovan

We circled her like three witches,
stripped her clothes, the old
button-down shirt she favored
since my grandfather passed.
No one had heard her voice in days.
Her hair, once auburn, thick,
wrapped in a scarf to keep
the tumor out of sight. The shower
bubbled and when we three women
pushed her under its stream,
Joy said, “Wait a minute.”
She’d told me weeks before
she was ready for this, but
as the world rolled into shadow,
she clung to its fabric. My aunt
washed her hair and I held her,
and my mother held her. No eloquence
in her words – my grandmother’s last —
but what other demand
could she make as she leaned
out of the spray to plant
a kiss on my bare shoulder?


On Monday, I’m participating in a guest-post at Nerdy Book Club about distance reading groups. If you geek out about middle grade books, give it a read!

Currently reading: No One Waits for the Train, by Waqas Khwaja

Poetry Friday: Gingko

Happy Poetry Friday! Jan Godown Annino is putting on a poetry spread for us this week at Bookseedstudio.

This is a year of big transitions for my family. Our youngest turns 18 this week and is preparing to make the leap from high school to college. Shortly after that, Mr. S turns 50 and our eldest celebrates his 21st birthday.

(All of our birthdays, including Sam the dog’s, fall within five weeks. Mine is the last and — hard to believe — we are usually caked out by then.)

I am relying on long-term projects to sustain me in 2018. There are writing projects, of course. A new book is in the works, but my first goal is to finish the 2017 February Poetry Project prompts before February 2018’s new daily prompts begin.

27 down and 1 to go! More on that in a second.

I’m using nine colors in a variety of weights, but mostly sock yarn.

My second project combines knitting and science. A friend shared this pattern with me and I am in love. You pick yarn colors (9, 10, 15 — knitter’s choice) and create a chart of temperature ranges with corresponding colors. Over the course of the year, you chart the temperature (I’m doing daily highs), and knit a row or two in the corresponding color.

Instead of stockinette stitch — and after frogging a few false starts — I’m doing a K1, P1 rib.

I am having so much fun with this project! Here is the pattern at the Ravelry crochet and knitting site. It’s beginner friendly.

Back to poetry. When our children were small, we planted a tree for each of them not far from the kitchen window. Our eldest chose a gingko. Despite the cold weather, as evidenced by my knitting project, the tree is covered with little knobs. These will become buds in a few months.

As I work on the last few poems (late — so late!) from last year’s daily poetry project, it’s the ginkgo I see from my work space. And that’s how the tree found its way into this poem.

2/27/17 #10FoundWords prompt from Mary Lee Hahn
Source: “Could a Bumblebee Learn to Play Fetch? Probably”

10 Words: abilities, brain, decisions, fetch, flexibility, learn, memory, problem, puzzle, strategy

By Laura Shovan

The gingko tree’s ability is rest–
long months of buds capped
tight under winter scalps.
Green brains sleep there,
ready to make decisions
to become fan-shaped leaves
fetching sunlight and rain.
The tree sleeps on its problems–
draught, neglect—forms
strategies for next season.
To do: learn to be flexible
in the wind.
I like to think
memories are stored
in the gingko’s puzzling mazes
of would-be leaves, because
then it could be true for all of us.
In the place where old growth
breaks away, something new
is considering spring.


Currently reading: No One Waits for the Train, by Waqas Khwaja

Announcing the 6th Annual February Poetry Project

We’re kicking off a new year of poetry at Reading to the Core. Stop by Catherine’s blog for all of this week’s poetry links.

Happy 2018, poets and poetry lovers. Before you know it, February will be here.

That’s right. It’s almost time for our annual daily writing workout.

A little history: For four years, my blog hosted a community poetry project.

Last year, the project moved to a closed Facebook group to accommodate our growing community of about 60 poets.

  • The 2017 project theme, 10 Words Found in the News, helped us create beauty, humor, and satire in response to current events. This prompt worked so well that, when February was over, we continued to write 10 Words in the News poems throughout the year.

This year, we’re heading back to the project’s visual-prompt roots.

Find a full definition at the Poetry Foundation.

2018 Theme: Ekphrastic At-home

The theme of this year’s project is ekphrastic poetry (writing in response to works of art), but with a twist. Poet Ann Haman suggested that we write in response to art pieces owned by members of the group.

Beginning January 31, a group member will post a photograph of a work of art (loosely interpreted) from their home collection. Art pieces might include paintings, sculptures, kids’ creations, photographs, or beautiful oddities. There will be a sign-up in the group’s files for those who’d like to be in charge of a daily writing prompt.

Special thanks to Kip Rechea, a past participant who will be acting as a group moderator and providing some administrative help.

IMPORTANT NOTE FOR PROJECT NEWBIES: As always, the point of this exercise is to practice the habit of writing regularly, even if it’s just for one month. Members of the project post response poems the same day so that we can focus on generating ideas and giving positive feedback, rather than polishing for publication.

Interested in joining us? You can request to join the closed 6th Annual February Daily Poem Project here.

Laura’s Bookshelf: Finding Perfect

Hungry for more poetry? Diane Mayr at Random Noodling is the Poetry Friday host this week. Visit her blog for links to more poetry posts.

Happy Poetry Friday!

I recently added a line to my email signature. Along with my title (poet in the schools) and the titles of my children’s novels (The Last Fifth Grade, Takedown), you will now see “Currently reading: —” listed under my name.

Publicly sharing what I’m reading is a practice I learned from educator friends, a way of showing the children we teach that adults — like kids — read for school and for pleasure.

This week I finished a book I’ve been meaning to read for months, Elly Swartz’s  middle grade novel, FINDING PERFECT. It’s the story of middle schooler and slam poet Molly, who is experiencing a lot of turbulence in her life. Her parents are back together after a brief separation, but her mother has taken a year-long job in Canada. Molly, her father, and her siblings are struggling with this transition. Each handles missing Mom in a different way.

On the surface, Molly is the perfect kid: a good friend, great student, and talented poet. But her perfectionism is a coping mechanism, hiding her anxiety. As the stress caused by her mother’s absence deepens, Molly’s obsessive compulsive tics begin to impact her friendships, family, and sense of self.

FINDING PERFECT is a favorite of upper elementary and middle school educators and their students. The first person voice allows readers to get to know Molly when she’s feeling mainly like herself. We travel through the story with her, experiencing the way OCD and anxiety gradually weigh her down. This is a great book to prompt a conversation about empathy.

Here is the Goodreads blurb for FINDING PERFECT :

To Molly Nathans, perfect is:

• The number four
• The tip of a newly sharpened number two pencil
• A crisp, white pad of paper
• Her neatly aligned glass animal figurines

What’s not perfect is Molly’s mother leaving the family to take a faraway job with the promise to return in one year. Molly knows that promises are often broken, so she hatches a plan to bring her mother home: Win the Lakeville Middle School Slam Poetry Contest. The winner is honored at a fancy banquet with table cloths. Molly’s sure her mother would never miss that. Right…?

But as time goes on, writing and reciting slam poetry become harder. Actually, everything becomes harder as new habits appear, and counting, cleaning, and organizing are not enough to keep Molly’s world from spinning out of control. 

FINDING PERFECT is a great read for upper elementary through early high school.

Who will like it?

  • Kids who are interested in psychology and how people’s emotions work.
  • Kids who are experiencing a difficult separation.
  • Readers who enjoy friendship and family stories.

What will readers learn about?

  • Obsessive compulsive disorder. Swartz conducted extensive research for this novel. Resources are listed in the back.
  • The importance of reaching out to peers and adults during times of stress and anxiety. Some changes are too big to handle by yourself!
  • Empathy. Molly is a relatable character who explains why some people have nervous tics and compulsions.

The poem I’m pairing with FINDING PERFECT is “Perfection” by Naomi Katz. Lines two through four describe how Molly feels as she measures, with a ruler, the space between the glass animals collected on her shelf. As a whole, the poem reminds me of how Molly pressures herself to create the perfect slam poem for a school competition.

Naomi Katz

Always that passion in the human breast,
That restless passion for The Perfect Thing,
With its sifting, sorting, rule and measure-string,
And a terrible eye for the error manifest.
Yet, well for the sometime jewel emerged from the quest!
And well for the seldom ore with the mellow ring!
And well for the hunter whose diligent hands can bring
One easeful object to the great Unrest.

Slow is the process, infinitely slow
Up the tedious road with Perfection for its goal;

Read the rest at the Poetry Foundation.

Swartz has another middle grade novel coming out in January. You can read more about SMART COOKIE here.

(Elly and I have something important in common: Both of us are Beagle moms! And both of us worked our beloved Beagles into our second books.)

I hope you’re snuggling up with a book and some holiday cookies this weekend.


Currently reading: EXIT WEST by Mohsin Hamid


Poetry Friday: All Things Must Pass

Steps and Staircases is hosting Poetry Friday this week. Join us HERE for all of this week’s kidlit poetry posts.

Dear friends, when I’m feeling down I often turn to an old friend to help me settle my worries: George Harrison, fellow Pisces and my very favorite member of the Beatles.

My favorite albums are Let It Roll, Songs of George Harrison and Concert for George.

For Poetry Friday, I’m sharing one of George Harrison’s solo songs. The news out of Washington, DC and California has been so stressful. I’ve been sitting with the message of these lyrics today.

“All Things Must Pass”
George Harrison

Sunrise doesn’t last all morning
A cloudburst doesn’t last all day
Seems my love is up
And has left you with no warning
But it’s not always going
To be this grey

All things must pass
All things must pass away

Sunset doesn’t last all evening
A mind can blow those clouds away
After all this my love is up
And must be leaving
But it’s not always going
To be this grey

All things must pass
All things must pass away

All things must pass
None of life’s strings can last
So I must be on my way
And face another day

Read the rest here.

If you’ve never seen Martin Scorcese’s documentary about George Harrison’s life, Living in the Material World, it is phenomenal. Here is George’s demo for the song, from Scorcese’s film.

One more George recommendation! My favorite biography of George Harrison is HERE COMES THE SUN: The Spiritual and Musical Journey of George Harrison. Find it on Amazon.

Who is your favorite Beatle? And whose music is like a good friend holding your hand when you’re feeling down?

Poetry Friday: December Notes

It’s the first day of December, Poetry Friday friends. This week’s host is Mary Lee Hahn at A Year of Reading. Grab a cup of hot cocoa and head over to her blog, where you’ll find some poetry to warm you up.

I went searching for a December poem and came upon this beauty by Nancy McCleery. Last winter, we installed a small Lucite bird feeder on our kitchen window. Visitors include a cardinal family, chickadees, titmice, wrens, and (most fascinating to our dog, Sam) a squirrel. The images in this poem are striking, yet capture the quietness we can experience during a cold winter.

December Notes

By Nancy McCleery

The backyard is one white sheet
Where we read in the bird tracks

The songs we hear. Delicate
Sparrow, heavier cardinal,

Filigree threads of chickadee.
And wing patterns where one flew

Low, then up an away, gone
To the woods but calling out

Clearly its bright epigrams.

Read the rest at My Minnesota Notes.

Poetry Friday: Peanut Butter Cookies

Where are the poets hanging out this week? With the Rain City Librarian! You’ll find links to original poetry, book reviews, and more here.

It’s almost Thanksgiving, Poetry Friday fans. That means baking season is upon us. At our house, Mr. S is the cook. Baking – that’s my job.

I’m not usually adventurous when it comes to baking. However, when chili-infused dark chocolate bars hit the market, so did some kitchen inspiration. I came up with a spicy version of traditional peanut butter cookies. After a few test batches, I had a winner — a cookie that my family loves. Mr. S, who is a fan of all things spicy, says these cookies are addictive. (Recipe below.)

This year, I got brave and entered my cookies in the Baltimore Sun’s annual holiday cookie contest. They made the first cut, but were not selected to appear in the paper. However, I’m not crying into my cookie dough. It was  fun to take a chance on something that was creative, but not writing-related.

Since it’s Poetry Friday, I went searching for a poem to pair with the recipe and came across Edwin Romond’s wonderful “Peanut Butter Cookies” at Your Daily Poem. And since I’m reading Nikki Grimes book of Golden Shovel poems, ONE LAST WORD: WISDOM FROM THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE, I thought I’d attempt a Peanut Butter Cookie Golden Shovel poem. I also made this poem an acrostic. You’ll find both Edwin Romond’s poem and my Golden Shovel after the recipe.

Laura’s Spicy Peanut Butter Cookies
AKA PB and Bay Cookies

My version is regional, using two beloved Baltimore ingredients. I’ll include a standard option for those of you out of state who want to give these treats a try.



½ cup butter

½ cup chunky peanut butter (I use Smart Balance)

1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1 egg

1 cup crushed Utz potato chips, divided use (place between 2 paper towels, crush with rolling pin)

Standard option: Use potato chips of your choice

1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/8 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning, or to taste

Standard option: Chili powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon


¼ cup granulated sugar

3 tablespoons crushed potato chips

1/2 – 1 teaspoon Old Bay or chili powder


Pre-heat oven to 375. Grease 2-3 cookie sheets.

  1. Cream the butter and peanut butter.
  2. Cream in brown sugar, then beat in egg.
  3. Sift the flour and salt. Stir in with 2/3 cup of the crushed potato chips.

Dough will be stiff.

  1. Roll into balls. (I use a heaping tablespoon.)
  2. Roll the balls in the coating.
  3. Place about an inch apart on the cookie sheet. Press down on the top of each cookie with a fork, making a criss-cross design.
  4. Bake 9-12 minutes. Makes about 3 dozen cookies. Delicious eaten warm!

Let’s wash down those cookies with some poetry.

Peanut Butter Cookies

By Edwin Romond

My mother made them from memory
giving me my own memory of winter
in our kitchen, the salty aroma
of peanut butter cookies from the oven,
and the torture of waiting for them to cool
on the window sill overlooking Albert St.
in the Eisenhower 50s of my childhood.
I remember her mixing brown sugar,
butter, and spoons of Skippy. She never
checked a cookbook and they tasted
like no other cookies tasted. “I just know,”
she’d say if I asked her how she did this
then she’d wrap them in foil and sing
along with Perry Como on our radio.
They were as special as she was, a quiet
woman who took small joys in life
around the house. I know she knew
how much those cookies meant to me
for years later she apologized, as if
it were her fault, when a stroke at 80
erased the recipe from her mind.

Read the rest of the poem here. Have a tissue ready.

Golden Shovel: Cookie Acrostic

By Laura Shovan

Come to me, my
Oven-baked delight, mother
Of all comfort treats, home-made
Kick of sugar. My teeth — feel them
Inch along your edges, savoring bites from
Every crumble, until you’re a delicious memory.

These cookies, from All Recipes, resemble PB and Bays.

Laura’s Boo!shelf: The Memory Trees

This week’s Poetry Friday hostess with the mostest is Irene Latham. You’ll find all of the links at Live Your Poem.

Big news, Poetry Friday friends! Today is the cover reveal for my latest middle grade novel, Takedown. This prose novel is about two middle school wrestlers, a boy and a girl, who are *not* happy when their coach makes them training partners. Curious? Stop by Nerdy Book Club for a sneak peek.

This month, I’m blogging about scary stories. The next book on my October Boo!shelf is Kali Wallace‘s just-published YA novel, The Memory Trees.

The Memory Trees is the story of 16-year-old Sorrow Lovegood, who has lived with her father and step-mother in Florida since she was eight years old. As the novel begins, Sorrow travels to rural Vermont, returning to the home and apple orchard the women in her family have owned and farmed for generations. She’s devoting this summer to reconciling with her mother. But Sorrow is also hoping to trigger her own memories of the death of her older sister, Patience, eight years ago.

The Memory Trees is an atmospheric mystery about two families (the Lovegoods and the Abramses) whose scuffles, hostilities, and secret friendships are woven into the stark Vermont landscape. Kali addresses issues of grief, mental illness, co-dependency, and Sorrow’s fight to uncover the mystery of her sister’s death.

The writing is absolutely gorgeous. Sorrow’s growth as she reconnects with her own history makes for a powerful story. Highly recommended!

The Memory Trees published this week, October 10. Here is the blurb from Goodreads:

The Memory Trees is a dark magical realism novel about a mysterious family legacy, a centuries-old feud, and a tragic loss that resurfaces when sixteen-year-old Sorrow returns to her mother’s family orchard for the summer.

Sorrow Lovegood’s life has been shaped by the stories of the women who came before her: brave, resilient women who settled long ago on a mercurial apple orchard in Vermont. The land has been passed down through generations, and Sorrow and her family take pride in its strange history. Their offbeat habits may be ridiculed by other townspeople—especially their neighbors, the Abrams family—but for the first eight years of her life, the orchard is Sorrow’s whole world. 

Then one winter night everything changes. Sorrow’s sister Patience is tragically killed. Their mother suffers a mental breakdown. Sorrow is sent to live with her dad in Miami, away from the only home she’s ever known.

Now sixteen, Sorrow’s memories of her life in Vermont are maddeningly hazy; even the details of her sister’s death are unclear. She returns to the orchard for the summer, determined to learn more about her troubled childhood and the family she left eight years ago. Why has her mother kept her distance over the years? What actually happened the night Patience died? Is the orchard trying to tell her something, or is she just imagining things?

The elements play an important role in Sorrow’s story. Fire and ice, heat and cold, familial warmth and long-frozen memories swirl and push and angle for control at the Lovegood homestead. That’s why I’m pairing Robert Frost’s “Fire and Ice” with The Memory Trees. Read the book, then let me know what you think of this pairing.

Fire and Ice
By Robert Frost

Some say the world will end in fire,   
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To know that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Kali Wallace studied geology and earned a PhD in geophysics before she realized she enjoyed inventing imaginary worlds more than she liked researching the real one. She is the author of the dark fantastical young adult novels Shallow Graves and The Memory Trees, and the upcoming middle grade fantasy novel City of Islands. Her short fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, F&SF, Asimov’s,, and other speculative fiction magazines. After spending most of her life in Colorado, she now lives in southern California.

I blogged about Kali’s debut novel, Shallow Graves, in 2015 (read that post here). It’s one of my favorite horror novels.

If you’d like to read more about Kali’s book, she’s on a blog tour. I enjoyed this “Halloween Reads” post about The Memory Trees. And she talked about the ups and downs of writing book 2 at Chuck Wendig’s blog. (So exciting! That’s one of my favorite blogs about writing.) I’ve enjoyed both of Kali’s books, so I can’t wait to read her middle grade novel.

See you next week. I’ll have another scary story to share.