Bella & Bean by Rebecca Kai Dotlich

Back in April I was lucky enough to have coffee with Kathi Appelt, who was in the area for a school visit.  We had a great time talking about books, writing, and blogging.  Before parting ways, Kathi told me she had a book I absolutely must read.  She said she knew I would love Bella & Bean by Rebecca Kai Dotlich.  I wrote down the title and promised to look for it.  Of course, I promptly forgot about all of this in the chaos that is the end of the school year.

Last week I was at a district meeting and was thrilled when the supervisor pulled out Bella & Bean for a read-aloud!  Of course, I immediately remembered Kathi’s recommendation (and then felt bad for forgetting!).  After listening to the story, I was hooked.  Kathi was 100% right- I loved it!  I can not wait to share this book with my students this year.  

Bella and Bean are best friends.  Bella is a writer- a poet- always playing with words and concentrating on her writing.  She begins each day ready to sit at her window-side desk, writing about the beauty around her.  her best friend Bean is outgoing, fun, and hands-on.  She’s always trying to get Bella to put her writing aside to come and play by the pond.  All day long Bean pokes her head through the window of Bella’s house and tries to get her attention.  She shows Bella her new hat, shows off her “cute toes”, and tries to convince Bella to think of the word “Bean” if she is concentrating on words.  Bean is adorable and I wanted to run off with her!  The illustrations by Aileen Leijten are precious and you just want to dive into the book with Bean.


But Bella will not be distracted.  She even gets grumpy with Bean!

 

I don’t have time for hats, Bean,’ said Bella. ‘I’m writing new poems…I can’t think about rivers and moons when you are talking about hats,’ said Bella.”

Bella perseveres through the distractions and is rewarded- her poems are stunning!    

But what about Bean?  And their friendship?  I won’t spoil the ending for you because it is absolutely perfect.  I admit I couldn’t wait to find out what happened while we were being read to!  I will just tell you to get this book ASAP.

I can not wait to use this picture book in my 6th grade classroom this upcoming year.  There are so many ways I foresee using it.  Of course, it will be wonderful during our poetry unit.  Bella’s poems are not only wonderful but her methods and wordplay will inspire many students.  It will be a great mentor text for my 6th graders.  One of my favorite lines says, 

“The sky poured stars like sugar…”

How gorgeous is that?  I love it!  I can already see Bella inspiring many of my writers.  She certainly inspired me.

Bella & Bean is also a window into the writing process.  I think I will start our writing workshop this year with this book.  What a wonderful way to introduce my students to the workshop we will be a part of during the year.  

But the story is not just about writing.  It’s beautiful on so many levels.  It’s also about friendship and tolerance.  It’s about taking time to live life, not just watch it go by.  It’s about being disciplined but also having fun.  It’s about opposites attracting. Due to the multi-layered text, this book is perfect for kids of all ages, from preschool to high school.  In fact, the adults at my meeting all fell in love with it!  There is no age limit on this one.  And anyone who aspires to be a writer can’t help but be inspired by  Bella & Bean.  Be sure to pick this up for your classroom library!  And maybe even for your teacher library. ;)

Poetry Friday

My students handed in their multi-genre poetry anthologies this week and I am enjoying reading them.  One of the requirements was to include at least three “choice” pieces- poems, songs, quotes, short excerpts from memoirs and stories, etc.  One of my students included the following poem and it really tugged at my heartstrings.

POEM OF A NEGLECTED DOG

I wish someone would tell me
What it is I have done wrong,
And why I must be chained outside
And left alone so long.

They seemed so glad to have me
When I came here as a pup,
There were so many things we’d do
While I was growing up.

The master said he’d train me
As a companion and a friend,
The mistress said she’d never fear
To be alone again.

The children said they’d feed me
And brush me everyday,
They’d play with me and walk me
If I would only stay.

But now the master hasn’t time
The mistress says I shed,
She won’t allow me in the house
Not even to be fed.

The children never walk me
They always say, “not now!”,
I do wish I could please them
Can someone tell me how?

All I had, you see, was love
I wish someone would explain
Just why the said they wanted mine
And then left it on a chain……

Author Unknown

Poetry Friday

One of my students rushed into our classroom earlier this week, a huge smile on her face.  She raced over to my desk and announced that she had awesome news to tell me.  

“Last night I was reading and the doorbell rang.  My mom made me get it, and I was so annoyed at her.  So I opened the door and my brother’s girlfriend was on the porch with a weird look on her face.  She kept smiling and the looking around.  I was about to ask her what she was doing at my house when my brother stepped onto the porch!  He surprised us and got to come home for a few days!”

The smile on her face could have lit up the room.  Her brother, her best friend, has been away at boot camp since last year.  She hasn’t seen him in months.  And he ships out in a couple of months.  Showing up to surprise her made this the best week of her life, she told me.

When I read this poem on Poem in Your Pocket Day, I immediately thought of my student.  She misses and worries about her brother every single day, and this poem captures that feeling so well.

MISSING
By Cynthia Cotten

My brother is a soldier

in a hot, dry,

sandy place.

He’s missing -

missing things like

baseball, barbecues,

fishing, French fries,

chocolate sodas,

flame-red maple trees,

blue jays,

and snow.

I’m missing, too -

missing

his read-out-loud voice,

his super-special

banana pancakes,

his scuffed up shoes

by the back door,

his big-bear

good night

hug.

There are people

with guns

in that land of sand

who want to shoot

my brother.

I hope

they miss him,

too.

AMERICA AT WAR POEMS Selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins Text copyright © 2008 

Poem in Your Pocket Day

How did you celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day?

In class today, I gave my kids a handout explaining what Poem in Your Pocket Day is and how is is celebrated in places like New York City.  On the bottom of the page I included six pocket-sized poems.  They had the option of cutting out one of those poems or using a poem of their choice to carry in their pocket for the rest of the day.  But that wasn’t the best part!

Their second task was to choose a poem they have read this month- or a poem they wrote.  Choosing their own poem took a little more bravery.  They copied that poem onto loose-leaf, decorated it, folded the page in half, and wrote the first line on the front.  Tonight, they had to drop that poem off somewhere in town where another person will find it.  Then they would write a 1-paragraph reflection about where they dropped the poem and why they chose that spot.  I can’t wait to hear where the poems ended up!  Before the end of the idea I heard the following ideas- the lobby at dance school, my sister’s soccer practice, my baseball game (in the dugout), my dad’s suit pocket, my mom’s work bag.  

Hopefully, today spread a little more poetry throughout our town. :)

So, how did you celebrate?

Poem a Day Challenge #2

Be sure to check out all of the poems at Two Writing Teachers!

Dune grass dancing in the summer breeze,

Salt in the air, on your skin, 

inhaled. exhaled.

Sun beating down on smooth sand

on smooth skin

heat. light.

Waves crashing on the shoreline

Summer.

Poem a Day Challenge #1

Over at Two Writing Teachers, Ruth and Stacey are hosting a Poem a Day Challenge.  My students are writing poetry in writing workshop and I want to follow their awesome example.  That means being brave and sharing my own poems!

While watching Oprah the other day, I was dumbfounded by her segment on the great landfill in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  I was inspired to write a poem using the Concerns about the World Door (Georgia Heard).  

 

Just because we don’t see it,

does that mean it isn’t there?  

Stretching

across the Pacific,

twice

the size of Texas…

A sea of garbage.  

An ocean of waste.

The briny deep now a slimy heap.

Fish entangled in plastic bags

plankton strangled by lack of space,

sea turtles choked by bottle caps.   

How do we live with ourselves?

How do we ignore it?

Chemicals spilled on the pavement fall into the sewers

run into our rivers

race to the ocean

and make their way into the skin, the gills, the lungs, the prey

of whales, fish, birds.

Cancer.

Our waste is cancerous.

What sickens the food chain 

cycles

cycles

cycles

back to us.

Eventually.

Who will step up and take responsibility for the clean-up,

before it’s too late?

 

 

A Mirror to Nature: Poems about Reflection by Jane Yolen

A Mirror to Nature: Poems About Reflection is Jane Yolen’s newest poetry book. The photographs in the book are absolutely stunning and are taken by Yolen’s son, Jason Stemple.

Each poem is based on a picture taken by Stemple and each picture is of a reflection in nature: seven wood storks with seven reflections, a frog sitting atop a floating bottle, a solitary cockle made less alone by its reflection. The poems are brief but powerful, describing the scene in each picture and digging deeper. One of my personal favorites is the frog on the the bottle, which Yolen points out is not biodegradable- yet the frog doesn’t know the difference between it and a log.

This is a gorgeous book, with full-page, full-color photographs. I shared it with my class today as a mentor for our observation door poetry and it was a big hit. The pictures drew a lot of “oohs” and “aahs” and the poems brought out laughs and sighs of agreement. A great book to share with students of all ages, this is a must-have for your poetry collection! It is also a great book to use for science/language arts connections, as each photograph is accompanied by a brief caption giving more information.

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