Poetry Friday – Spring

From the young author of Dear Cook, comes Dear Brownshirt, an ode to spring….
Dear Brownshirt,
horsetails on the river bank
baby horsetails
daddy horsetails
green fuzz on the weeping willows
white, yellow & pink buds
white, yellow & pink bugs
yellow & pink on the river bank
green grass & horsetails
fish in the river
glub glub glub glub glub

Poetry Friday – Crickenburg Kids Write Nasty Poems

At last!
Here it is, folks, real kid poems from Crickenburg kids. That’s right these kids are from the town that’s the setting for my book Qwikpick. I had a ball talking to these kids (and playing penny basketball with a few of them). Here are some highlights from the Qwikpick Instant Poetry Contest. remember they had about 2 minutes to write a “haiku.”
Cati wrote one that really builds to a climax, then keeps going:
Once I tasted a Jolly Rancher and
it smelled like poop? I ate it and
after I threw up in my dog’s food
and he ate it.
Mikayla’s poem really creates a picture of kids laughing their behinds of at another kid:
The worst thing I’ve ever smelled
is the mud that my cousin fell in
but it wasn’t really mud.
In this one, Isaas has written Ms. Rumphius’ challenge for the week:” a poem that directly addressed someone or something:”
Oh poop oh poop
how you lay in the toilet setting
in a puddle of brown you stink
so very badly that
you put upon my face a very
horrible frown
Emily was working the similes like Joey Pigza:
It was like a hot bowl of poop chili with a side of molded bread.
It was like a drink of chocolate lemonade with gym sock dripping of sweat.
It was like a burnt hot dog with horse relish and cole slaw.
Here’s one by someone’s whose name I can’t read. It may be for the best that it’s anonymous. To me this one really proves my point: poetry can do anything.
I farted and threw up
on zombie/ the zombie pooped
his pants twice.

School visit = more nasty poems

Here’s a shot of the kids at Roanoke Catholic School…
… They read my book out loud in class. Look how happy they are! Maybe you should read Qwikpick to your class, too!
Here’s a few of their poems for my Qwikpick Instant Poetry Contest. Just like the kids in my book, The Qwikpick Adventure Society, the kids are challenged to make a “smell with words.” But they only got  1/2 minutes.
These were a little prose-ish, but the kids made up for that in grossness, inappropriateness and crudity. Good job, kids!
Here’s one by a girl who was a little Marilla-ish:
“I went to the store
and I saw someone fart
it was a big one.”
And one by a friendly boy named Larry:
“The worst thing is smell.
The worst thing is dirty !!
Like you!”
One of the best images (smell-image, that is) came from Jordan in a poem about dog poop:
“It smells real bad. It also smells like brussel sprouts dipped in salsa.”
The winner, Blake, was only one syllable off from a haiku, which is pretty good for 1 1/2 minutes:
If you smell somebody
who ate burriotos and beans
run for your life now!

Poetry Friday – Dear Cook Poet returns!

At last, I’ve got another kid poem from the author of “Dear Cook.” Said author has just learned how to rhyme and actually composed the poem on his own. (whereas “Dear Cook” was a letter that read like a poem.)
Tick Tock
North Pole Express

Poetry Friday – Kid Poetry Video – Qwikpick Instant Poetry Contest

qwkcovertiny1.jpgIn my book, The Qwikpick Adventure Society, the three kid heroes find a lot of odd ways to fight off boredom — origami contests, listening to 70s music, playing Penny Basketball, eating expired beef jerky and, yes, writing poetry about the smell of the sludge fountain at the sewage treatment plant.This last item, I’ve discovered, is a great hook for getting kids excited about my book and poetry, too.Some might turn up their noses at my methods, but I’ve gotten kids shouting, screaming and generally going nuts for poetry. As you can see in these two videos featuring clips from a library reading and a school visit: The Short Version. The Longer Version.

Keep reading for more details and some really gross kid poems….

Continue reading

Poetry Friday – Sweet Daisy’s Nasty Poem

As promised, here are some highlights from a Qwikpick Instant Poetry Contest held at a rural library in SW Virginia.

Warning: Gross stuff lies ahead! I use my book to show kids how words and, especially poetry, can make expereinces vivid. I read the kids the haikus from my book that the characters wrote after seeing the Sludge Fountain in person.

Then I challenge them to write a poem in two minutes titled “The Worst Thing I Ever Smelled.”

Sweet Little Daisy stole the show, but I was also very happy that two of the librarians joined in this time. (And they got the syllable counts right!)

Here’s a grisly one from Daphne the Librarian:

“A dead deer on the

highway rotting in the sun

been there for some time.”

Not funny, but a fact of life in these parts where roadkill is common.

Remember this great kid?


Here’s his poem. (lightly edited) You’ll note he went slightly over the syllable count for a haiku, but his spelling more than makes up for that…

Poop and Sewer Sludge

by Maverick

When I smell poop poop / sewer sludge

 it smells/ so bad that it makes / my heart budge!

I smell gases. A million / square!

It smells/ so bad that I got / to swear!

I run/ right out of that / porta pody.

Then/ I smell so / bad that it / kills everybody!

But the winner and grand champion was Daisy. She won for the title alone, really.

Here she is with her mother helping her write the poem…


And here is the poem…



I smelled this poot

And it was very yucky.

Cece and Sam tag-team to entertain entire Elem. School

Wow, what a day!

Cece and I did our respective song and dances for grades k-5. Cece took the younger half, I took the older. We did three shows each. (Mine were about 45 minutes each.)

The Instant Poetry Contest was a huge hit.


Here’s a shot of some third grade poets in action…

By the end of the day I had a huge stack of about 100 gross kid poems. It was wild to see kids cheering and yelling about poetry! ( I hope I got a video that will show this.)

Since I have more that I’ll ever be able to use on Poetry Friday, I’ll go ahead and share one here:

“My Grandpa Joe”

My Grandpa Joe likes to show me his feet. A lot.

I think that they stink. A lot.

They smell like gross meatlof and dead rats,

also they have lot of, um, pimples.”

After I did the 5th grade show, the principal very nicely asked me not to use the word “poop” anymore. That’s tough when the book is all about kids searching for the legendary Fountain of Poop and the part I read out loud is the part about them finding the fountain and the smells that go with it. I did my best to follow the rules, but a few “poops” may have slipped out.

Cece held a couple of yodeling contests and taught tons of kids how to draw Sock Monkey and Froggie. I think the school (and the local bookstore) made a fortune selling stuffed sock monkeys. If only we could get a cut of that action!

A great day for both of us! It’s so weird how you can have a store booksigning that is so slow and then another time you can have a horde of kids clawing each other to get a bookmark.

Potty Humorist on the road…


I drove a long way for a small crowd at a rural library today .. but boy was it worth it!

(Tom A. is my real name, by the way. Around here I use it for appearances to try to draw from my newspaper readership base. (Good luck with that.))

We had a blast! Or at least I did.

True, I didn’t sell a lot of books, but Cece pointed out that every family unit there took one home. (I’m referring to The Qwikpick Adventure Society, of course.)
The Instant Poetry Contest generated some crazy gross stuff, including smelly poems from two of the librarians! And a hilariously terse but nasty poem from a sweet little girl named Daisy. I’ll have to save all of that for poetry Friday, of course.
Also in the audience was a real live Sewage Professional! And, judging by his revolting poem and other writings, a fine wordsmith as well. And here’s a photo of his son. Don’t tell me this kid is not a TRUE Qwikpicker:


I like to pull out some books from the library shelves that I can encourage the kids to read:


(That’s Prince Jen, Dear Mr. Henshaw, Pinkwater’s 5 Novels, A Day No Pigs Would Die and the ubiquitous Hugo Cabret. Next time, I’m going to add Millicent Min since the above pictured kid asked me why all the books were about boys.)

Sometimes I feel like I’m getting to the point where these sorts of wonderful experiences are outweighing the heartaches.

With more shows on Thursday for all the 3-5 graders at a Roanoke school and then a B&N signing on Saturday, followed by another signing at Blacksburg’s wonderful Easy Chair Bookstore this is really a great time for me. Yeeha!

review: Dear Mr. Henshaw

Last night I read Dear Mr. Henshaw in one sitting.

You may know that I’ve long been a big Cleary fan. I think Ramona is just so kungfu perfect.

But Mr. Henshaw is a very different sort of a book and I loved it, too. Man, I never realized that Cleary was dropping this sort of stuff back in 1983. You could put it alongside the freshest modern kid-lit and it would still shine.

 At first I was all “can she really tell a good story through these letters to a famous artist?”

Then in one of the early letters, you sense that the kid’s father isn’t around and you know there’s a story here. And it’s an amazing story. Tangled and grown up and nuanced, yet all poured out in a boy’s stream of con writing. A story that becomes extremely real through just the tiniest details: The kid needs a dad to show him how to rig up a lunchbox alarm, for instance.

But the big question with this sort of a novel is — will it all add up to something? Yes, it does! And it’s well worth it. 

I do regret that the finale of the book was illustrated, though. That was a moment that the reader needed to experience in his own mind, without a picture.

Cece Bell’s menu drawings


Thought you might get a kick out of Cece’s drawing on the back of a Country Cooking menu. The items in the picture were requested by the same kid that wrote that “Dear Cook“poem I used for Poetry Friday a while back.

On the front of the menu, there’s a truck hauling a star…

Cece has done some great menu art in the past. I need to raid her mother’s refrigerator door and scan more some in…

Furthermore, if you’re ever driving through Virginia, Country Cookin’ is a small chain of nice kid-friendly restaurants with a salad bar. Salad bars are scarce in these parts, folks.