Monthly Archives: June 2018

Poetry Friday: Takedown Launch

Michelle Kogan is hosting Poetry Friday this week. Stop by Michelle’s blog to join the poetry party.

Greetings and salutations, friends. Happy Poetry Friday!

This week, I’m celebrating the launch of my second book for children, TAKEDOWN. (Read a review at the Nerdy Book Club.)

I think of this novel as a friendship story set in the world of youth wrestling.It’s told by two sixth graders: Mikayla, who wants to be a wrestler like her older brothers — until their coach says a girl won’t cut it on his team; and Lev, who is determined to beat his nemesis and make it to the state wrestling championship. Neither one of them is happy when they end up on the same team … as training partners.

The book covers the story of their season, how Mickey and Lev learn to work together.

Though this book is written in prose, its genesis began with poetic sketches.

Wrestling sketches from 2010!

I used to sit with my notebook at my son’s wrestling practices and tournaments, writing down what I observed. I couldn’t *not* include some poetry, so I gave my wrestling notebook to Lev. When he needs some downtime between matches, you’ll find him sitting at the top of the bleachers with a notebook in his lap and a pen in his hand, writing.

Lev has a handful of poems in the book. Here is one that came out of those early poetic sketches. Wrestling season is in the winter. Athletes often spend one or both days of their weekend at tournaments, arriving for weigh-ins before first light, and leaving (if they wrestle well) as the sun sets. This is Lev’s draft of a poem he’s working on for school.

Wrestlers Are Vampires
By Laura Shovan, from TAKEDOWN

Wrestlers are vampires.
Gyms are their caves.
They shut the doors,
stay locked inside,
and don’t come out
until day submits to night.
Wrestlers are vampires.
They never see the sun.
They push your face
into the mat until
your nose oozes blood.
They crush you flat,
break you down, bury you.

If you’re local to the Baltimore/DC area, I hope to see you at the book launch event this Sunday, 12 pm. The Ivy Bookshop is hosting.  Launch details and the address are here. We’ve got something really special planned.

10% off both books if you buy one, donate one.

Don’t know anything about wrestling? We’ve got you covered! Young athletes from Beat the Streets Baltimore will be on-hand to give a wrestling demonstration. We’re running a “Buy a Book/Donate a Book to Beat the Streets” program, so kids at Beat the Streets summer camps will receive a copy of the book.

Because food is very important to wrestlers, we’re going to have Lev and Mickey’s favorite tournament day treats: Twizzlers and donuts. ASL interpretation will be provided.

Thanks for all of your support during this book’s progress, Poetry Friday friends. It’s been two years since I first shared a poem from TAKEDOWN, which was not even a complete draft! You can read “Tournament Rap” here.

A Gallery of Poems

It’s time to say goodbye to Northfield Elementary, friends. Last week was our poetry celebration and tomorrow is the last day of school.

Our third grade poets wrote list poems based on a model from Naomi Shihab Nye, odes to their favorite places, and retold fairy tales. At the celebration, I get to see the polished, revised poems for the first time. Some of them have such wonderful accompanying artwork that I had to share. So the final post from this year’s residency will be a poetry art gallery!

Click each image to read the poem.

Words in My Room — List poem by Ashley

Ode to a Water Drop — by Michael

Words in My Violin Case — List poem by Yuval

Ode to Watercolor — by A. J.

I hope your summer is filled with poetry and fun! Look for a new post soon with details about the launch event for my new book, TAKEDOWN.

Posts in the “Poems from the Northfield Third Grade” 2018 series:
Poetry Friday List Poem Lesson
A Garden of Words: 3rd Grade List Poems
The Pool Is the Capital of My Summer: Odes to Place
Third Grade Odes from Northfield E.S.
Fractured Fairy Tale Poems
Poetry Friday: Once Upon a Time
A Gallery of Poems


Poetry Friday: Once Upon a Time

Karen Edminsten is hosting the Poetry Friday round-up this week. Stop by her blog for poetry news, reviews, and original poems from around the kidlitosphere.

Hi, Poetry Friday friends. Welcome back to my series of posts from Northfield Elementary’s third grade poetry residency.

It’s day two of our fractured fairy tale poems. In the last post, I described the beginning of our workshop. Today’s I’m sharing the brainstorming worksheet I use for this lesson. The key to this poem is really digging into secondary character’s point of view. If the prince could tell his version of “Cinderella” — how might the story be different? How does he feel about the events of the fairy tale?

The third grade poets had a lot of fun thinking about which fairy tale characters were itching to tell their side of things. Much like a persona poem, this exercise taps into many children’s sense of empathy — understanding and resonating with someone else’s situation and emotions.

As you will see, the students really got into the voices of these characters!

Poet: Christopher

The Wrong Beans

One upon a time, in a far, far land
there was a wizard who was the fox
in most fairy tales.

He was a trickster.
He finds someone, someone special,
and pranks them with his plan.
“I’m the real villain everyone should fear.”

Then this, “Jack was in front of me
and I gave him the beans of death.

I walked home, proud
until I realized, I gave the boy
the wrong beans, the beans that the boy
would just plant.

Then, Jack got famous
for the mistake I made. I’m so mad!

I hate Jack! I hate him so much.
If I ever see him, I’ll curse him,
curse him better than I did before.”

Poet: Mouniksai 

Brick House

Ha! Those little pigs!
They thought they could stay safe just by building with twigs.

They built as fast as they do in Fortnite.
Then the straw house got destroyed during the night.

Then came the sticks.
Oh, those poor little pigs.

Then came me,
as strong as could be.

Because of my owner and I.

Those pigs came begging to let them in.
So, of course, we let them in.

The wolf came.
His breath also came.

It smelled
horrible and terrible.

I can see why those houses died, but I am stronger
because of my owner and I. And I’m boss.

Poet: Sophia 

I Never Liked Cinderella

I never liked Cinderella.
My dad wanted me to marry her, not me!
It was NOT my decision!
In my mind, I actually thought her stepsister
was quite pretty.
I didn’t get the glass slipper.
My dad pushed me to and down the stairs.
And I hurt myself even MORE
when I tripped over the glass shoe thingy.
I said I would arrest
whoever the shoe belonged to, but noooo!
The news got it all wrong!
I didn’t want to marry her!
But when my dad said he was proud
of what he thought was my decision
I didn’t want to let my father down.

Poet: Grayson 

One Fine Day 

One fine day
my first day on the job
I’m feeling stressed.

Someone was calling my name.
“Hunter! Hunter!

My grandma is
being eaten by a wolf.”

Okay. Um…
um… um.

I did not
bring my gun.

Ugh. This is
the worst day of my life!

Actually, do I ever bring
my fun? Never mind that!

I’d never had
someone eaten by

a wolf.

Let me run
back to the office!

Poet: William

Jack and the Beanstalk Poem
from Jack’s Mom’s Point of View

He gave someone our cow.
Planted beans in our yard.
I wonder how this day
could get any worse.
I wish I could ground him
and make him get rid
of that ugly beanstalk mess.
I won’t let him play
or have any fun.
I’ll make him do the dishes
and all of my chores.

Poet: Justin

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time there was a mom
who sent her son out to sell a cow for money.
After a long time, she got mad.
“Fifty days later, Jack still isn’t back!” she screamed.
She was mad. She went out to find him.
Later, she found him in a fight with a giant.
“What the heck did he do?” she thought.
She screamed up the huge beanstalk,
“Jack, get down here!”
Then Jack came with a ton of gold.
“Okay, let’s go,” said Jack.
“We’re rich!” the mom screamed.
Jack was grounded for a month,
but they were rich.

Poet: Carter 

“The Story of Hansel and Gretel” by The Candy House

One day in the forest,
I was just sitting there
minding my own business.
And then out of nowhere,
two kids walked out of the forest
and their names were Hansel and Gretel.
They see me and I see them.
Then they ran up and started to eat me.
I was as in pain as a person dying
from getting his skin ripped off.
I was in pain so bad, I rang the doorbell.
And the witch that owned me
came out and told them to come in.
So they came in, but I did not know
what happened. But when Hansel
and Gretel came out, they were fat
and the which died in my cook burner.

Thanks to the Northfield teachers and families for permission to share the third graders’ poems online.

Posts in the “Poems from the Northfield Third Grade” 2018 series:
Poetry Friday List Poem Lesson
A Garden of Words: 3rd Grade List Poems
The Pool Is the Capital of My Summer: Odes to Place
Third Grade Odes from Northfield E.S.
Fractured Fairy Tale Poems
Poetry Friday: Once Upon a Time
A Gallery of Poems

Fractured Fairy Tale Poems

Hello, poetry friends! Welcome back to Northfield Elementary School.

Today, the third graders are sharing some of their fractured fairy tale poems. This is an exercise in point of view.

We started the workshop by gathering in groups, each assigned to a classic fairy tale. The students brainstormed a list of characters in, for example, Jack and the Beanstalk — characters who never get to tell their side of the story.

Marilyn Singer’s MIRROR MIRROR is a must-have for your children’s poetry shelf. More info here.

Our model poem for this workshop was “Bears in the News,” from Marilyn Singer’s wonderful book of reverso poems, Mirror Mirror. The students were awed by this form! You can read Marilyn’s description of the form here.

From there, our imaginations were off and running. As you can see, the poets had a lot of fun getting into their retellings and the voices of their characters.

Poet: Ben

The Three Little Pigs

The wolf is looking for building supplies
to build his house. He is happy
that he will be able to build his house
and guilty that he destroyed the pigs houses.
He will help rebuild them a house.
The pigs become his friends and neighbors.


Poet: Nico


A long, long climb
by a guy named Jack.
He weighs a ton
like an anvil in a pack.
If I could,
I would make him fall down.
He would go far
but hit the ground.
Unfortunately, I can’t.
I’m just a beanstalk.
I’m frozen still.
I can’t even talk.
So he got off me.
Wait. He’s got an ax.
He’s chopping me.
Get off. I’m not a tree.


Poet: Ethan

The Wizard

Once upon a time
I’m not a real wizard.
They think I am.
I don’t want to lie
about who I am.
I’m not scientific.
They think I am terrific.
Just why do I lie.
Yes, I will confess.
It makes so much sense.


Everyone in Ms. Zimmer’s class was *wowed* when Julia stood up and sang her retelling of Mary Had a Little Lamb.

Poet: Julia

Revenge of the Little Lamb

Please get your hands off me
hands off me
hands off me.
Please get your hands off me
or else I will bite you.

I will follow you to school
you to school
you to school.
I will follow you to school
to trash your classroom.

I am trashing your classroom
your classroom
your classroom.
I am trashing your classroom
then going to the cafeteria.

I am in the cafeteria
the cafeteria
the cafeteria.
I am in the cafeteria
and eating all your food.

Revenge is sweet. It really is.


Poet: Ellis

A Tiny Human Boy

I was sleeping when my wife
let in a tiny human boy.
He was about three feet tall
and I out-matched him 50 to 1.
He found the family vault
and started looting it.
My wife was nowhere near
enough to stop them.
But when he was getting coins out,
he dropped one to the floor
and if anything can wake me up
it’s money. I chased him
across my yard and he climbed down
a small beanstalk.
But when I was halfway down
he cut it and I fell all the way down
and I died. But then in giant heaven
I launched missiles
and killed all the humans.

Thanks once again to the Northfield community for allowing me to publish the third graders’ poems.

Posts in the “Poems from the Northfield Third Grade” 2018 series:
Poetry Friday List Poem Lesson
A Garden of Words: 3rd Grade List Poems
The Pool Is the Capital of My Summer: Odes to Place
Third Grade Odes from Northfield E.S.
Fractured Fairy Tale Poems
Poetry Friday: Once Upon a Time
A Gallery of Poems

Third Grade Odes from Northfield E.S.

Tomorrow is the poetry celebration at Northfield Elementary School. The student poets are welcoming family and friends for a reading and poetry tour of the five third grade classrooms.

I’ve been doing an elementary school workshop on odes for many years. This time around, I swapped out my usual model poem and got these poets writing odes to a favorite place. The mentor for this workshop is “Harlem Is the Capital of My World,” from Tony Medina’s wonderful picture book/verse biography of Langston Hughes, LOVE TO LANGSTON. You can find the poem and links related to this lesson at my last post.

The first two poems I’m sharing today use the mentor text as a scaffold, keeping some of the rhythm and structure, but focusing on a topic of the poets’ choosing.

Poet: Amelia 

My Room

My room is the center of my heart.
When I get home I hear
the hummingbirds outside my window
flying as fast as a cheetah runs.
And I touch my stuffed animals
then I remember how dreadful
I would be without them,
and I smell their lavender scent.
And smells like the forest,
right outside my house.
When I lay on my bed, I see my desk.
Without it, I would not get my homework done
and I would get suspended from school
and I would live alone on the street.
And when I get home from school,
I get out my hidden gummi bears.
Without them, I would starve to death.

The King of Beds.
The Duke of Stuffytown.
The Empress of Color.

My room is the center of my heart.


Poet: Joyce

My Favorite Place to Visit Is Italy

Wonderful scents wafting through the air.
Pizza and pasta smells delicious!

Busy city streets, cars’ horns honking.

Refreshing gelato on a warm sunny day,
chocolate, mint, and pistachio.
Gelato bursting with flavors.

Amazing ancient places, the Coliseum
and the statues of Michelangelo.

I feel the smooth marble
of the Bridge of Sighs. So shiny and nice.


In the next two poems, you’ll see some of the techniques we practiced with these odes: imagery of the five senses, using similes to create the feeling of celebration and praise typical of this poetic form, and some great hyperbole!

Poet: Advaith

Ode to a Tree

Oh, Tree, you give me shade,
you give me shelter, food,
a place to live.
You are a hero to fellow animals
and soon to become a book of fame
to us fellow humans.
Oh, Tree, you can truly
be anything, but in an origami form.
Whoosh! One of your leaves
flies away and becomes the first meal
of a newborn caterpillar.


Poet: Ryan

Ode to the Kitchen

The kitchen is my mouth’s heaven.
I taste an apple as sour and sweet
as a jumbo lollipop.
I hear chewing as loud as a lion’s roar.
I see a pan as big as an elephant.
I smell a lot of yummy things.
My kitchen smells
like a cotton candy dimension.
When I touch the glorious food in my kitchen,
my starving stomach feels relieved
that I’m about to take a bite
of my food (from the kitchen).

Poet: Dayna

The Creek Is the Vacation in My Dreams

The creek is the vacation in my dreams,
calm and fresh and sweet
like me.
The creek has soul.
It’s where friends explore
and everybody’s friendly to the community.
Where we be chillin’ and playin’
with algae gripping our legs
and rocks as big as boulders block our path.
The King of all Rivers.
The Duke of Fun.
The Empress of Adventures.
The creek is a batch of fun times
all packed together and protected
by friendship and pride.
The creek is where I relax,
where I splash and run.
My kind community
from the creek to Izzy’s house.
With swings and bridges,
spilling over with nature
and little fish.
Why, I fell in love with the creek
before I even got there.
Yeah, the creek is where I be–
where I could be me.
The creek is the vacation in my dreams.
Poet: Wendy

NYC Is the Vacation of My Life

NYC is the vacation of my life
cool and crowded and loud
like me

NYC has soul.
Where we be eating and meeting
with noisy streets stretched out
under our feet and streets braod
and spread like a red carpet for royalty.

NYC is a bowl of people
all packed together and protected
by New York citizens.

NYC is where I visit and stride
my best vacation
from the Statue of Liberty to
the Empire State Building with
cars and people
spilling over with pollution
and trash.

Why I fell in love with NYC
before I ever got here!

Yeah, NYC is where I be —
where I could be excited.

NYC is the vacation of my life.

Poet: Soham

Mt. Olympus Is the Capital of Greek Mythology

Mt. Olympus is the capital of Greek mythology
smell the smoke of fire, hotter than the sun.

In Mt. Olympus, the clanging of swords sound like
drums booming.

There it tastes like blood as tangy as lemons.

I can always feel Zeus’
everlasting thunderbolt.

Posts in the “Poems from the Northfield Third Grade” 2018 series:
Poetry Friday List Poem Lesson
A Garden of Words: 3rd Grade List Poems
The Pool Is the Capital of My Summer: Odes to Place
Third Grade Odes from Northfield E.S.
Fractured Fairy Tale Poems
Poetry Friday: Once Upon a Time
A Gallery of Poems