Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Award-winning poet and children's book author, Darren Sardelli, makes poetry fun and exciting for everyone. Featured in a dozen children's books in the U.S. and England, his poems can also be found in textbooks in the Netherlands, Germany, and Israel. Since 2004, he has visited over 200 elementary/middle schools and libraries, inspiring students, teachers, and parents to start writing poetry. He brings poetry to life in his visits by performing his funny poems for the audience, talking about the importance of writing down ideas and the wonderful things that can be done with them, showing students how to make a poem surprising, humorous, and exciting, helping them realize the amazing things they are capable of, and writing a funny poem with them in his workshops. His programs for Grades K to 8 are interactive, entertaining, inspirational, educational and fun. For more information, see the Balkin Buddies website.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
These are photos my husband took of the total lunar eclipse on 12/10/2010. Another won't occur on the winter solstice again until 2485. But this one was especially significant due to our now close location to the center of the galaxy. The galactic center will be directly aligned with our sun on December 21, 2012.
Friday, December 24, 2010
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Funny poet, Darren Sardelli, who has poems featured in anthologies such as PETER, PETER, PIZZA-EATER AND OTHER SILLY RHYMES and ROLLING IN THE AISLES: A COLLECTION OF FUNNY POEMS, as well as his new book, GALAXY PIZZA AND METEOR PIE, offered to share one of his recent poems with us, and it's one I especially appreciate, since I'm the chief cook, maid, and toy-provider for two such creatures:
I never put my things away.
I never dust my room.
I never fix the things I break.
I never use a broom.
I never take the garbage out.
I never buy the food.
I never get embarrassed
when a person sees me nude.
I never clean the table tops.
I never scrub the floors.
I never turn the TV off.
I never lock the doors.
I never wash the dinner plates.
I never say a word.
I never knew that life would be
so easy for a bird!
To the teachers and librarians out there, feel free to share this with your students and patrons.
And to the budding poets, if you’ve written a poem that is insisting it be read, Darren and I invite you to share it with us. We’ll post it on the Balkin Buddies blog.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
M.E. Kerr is writing a book called RECOVERING FROM LENORE and still running the Ashawagh Hall Writers' Workshop
I love hearing from writers about books they’re working on. M.E. Kerr, who has been credited as being among the first authors recognized as a YA writer, is also becoming a Kindle fan. Here’s what she had to say when I asked her what was new:
I'm finishing a book called RECOVERING FROM LENORE. It's set in the early 1950's in a Midwest sorority, with some scenes on Charles Street in Greenwich Village. In my spare time (my what?) I'm reading on my Kindle and despite my negative attitude before I bought it, I love it.
I'm also still at the helm of the Ashawagh Hall Writers' Workshop which I've been running for 28 years here in East Hampton, N.Y., and last week my smart, sweet, good-looking agent came to class and gave us a heads up on current publishing. That's Edward Necarsulmer IV from McIntosh & Otis.
If you have a question for M.E., just let us know!
Monday, December 20, 2010
News from Marshall Cavendish: Susan Pearson and Nancy Elizabeth Wallace have new titles; and Patricia Hermes, Carol Nevius & M.E. Kerr have new paperbacks coming out in Spring 2011
In January 2011, Marshall Cavendish will publish Susan Pearson’s witty, funny story shows that reading can be fun in HOW TO TEACH A SLUG TO READ, illustrated by David Slonim.
Another Marshall Cavendish book to watch for is Nancy Elizabeth Wallace’s POND WALK, which is a perfect introduction to environmental science and biology and features Wallace’s cut-paper artwork and photographs. There’s even a make-a-rock turtle craft activity kit included.
Marshall Cavendish will also publish paperback editions of old favorites, including Patricia Hermes’ EMMA DILEMMA AND THE TWO NANNIES, Carol Nevius’ KARATE HOUR, and, in their ongoing program of bringing back classic books, M.E. Kerr’s IF I LOVE YOU, AM I TRAPPED FOREVER?
All these titles have been added to the Balkin Buddies website and will be available this Spring.
Friday, December 17, 2010
Stephanie Calmenson, author of a number of books, including MAY I PET YOUR DOG? and ROSIE: A VISITING DOG'S STORY, did an online chat with a third grade class at P.S. 12 in Paterson, NJ on December 16, 2010, and the students' teacher had this to say about Stephanie:
"Our experience was so wonderful that I was brought to tears towards the end of our time with Ms. Calmenson. She is a phenomenal woman! She truly has a passion for teaching and for children.
I forwarded some questions to her before the interview. There were so many that we had to choose approximately 15 questions from a list of 27. She spent more than 30 minutes with us. The students were so excited as she called their names individually. It was quite affirming for each child to be invited to chat with her. We agreed that this would lend a special touch. She even recited her poem about popcorn for my students. What an extra-ordinary time we had!"
We invite you to visit the Balkin Buddies website (to learn more about Stephanie Calmenson's online chats, or feel free to contact Balkin Buddies through the Balkin Buddies blog.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
The Balkin Family house in 1947:
I recently found out that I share the same hometown with Jake Halpern, the author of the Dormia series. We both grew up in Buffalo, New York. I also recently read two articles he wrote about Buffalo, one in the New York Times Magazine, and the other in the New Yorker (go to http://www.jakehalpern.com/books/Finished%20Collection%20Piece.pdf if you're having trouble with the link). Jake’s a good writer, but I found it hard to read about what my old hometown has become, with freegans living in deserted houses and coke dealers-turned-bill collectors, not only because of my own memories of Buffalo, but family memories handed down, one story at a time, until even my niece can recite my grandfather's poetry, which was written in English with a little Gaelic thrown in.
Ironically, my grandparents left Ireland and moved to Buffalo to escape poverty. In the early 1900s, my grandfather, a grain handler, lived in Buffalo's First Ward, then the Second Ward, then bought our house in South Buffalo when there was only one or two houses on the road. Having grown up on a farm, he looked around at the empty lots, and decided to supplement his income by planting some crops and raising a few chickens. My mother grew up in that house and, because she had to take care of her invalid mother, when she married, she raised her family there, too. By the time my grandparents died and my mother inherited the house, other houses had been built where my grandfather had cultivated his crops. Some were two-family clapboard houses, others little monopoly-sized houses that eventually filled with as many as eight kids, plus the parents. By the time I came along, the chicken coop was empty and the neighborhood kids and I played in it. I left Buffalo for New York City in the late ‘70s to pursue a publishing career, but I used to visit my family once a year. By the ‘80s, the old family house was sitting on a pretty shabby street, but to my mother, it yet had the aura of earlier days, when family history was still being made. Those were the days when Cazenovia Park was a body of water; when my mother and her sister rolled back the rug to practice their dancing; when my brother and sister competed to collect the first eggs from the chicken coop and the winner was rewarded with breakfast with my grandfather; when kids played kickball in the street and shopped for penny candy at “Riv” – a little store on Riverview Place. My mother died in 2001, but her stories, and her father’s before her, and my brother’s and sisters’ and my own live on in the collective memory of the Balkin/Kelly/Claessen/Khajavi/Bevelacqua family.
The last time I went to Buffalo for a neighbor’s funeral, the guy who bought the house after my mother was gone had lost his job and subsequently the house, and the bank had boarded it up against vandals and squatters – and freegans, too, I guess. Many of the leaded glass windows were gone, the shoemaker tree had fallen and torn a hole through the roof, the driveway was crumbling, and the “side” yard, which was actually a second lot my grandfather had purchased with the house so that he wouldn’t have to look directly into the windows of future neighbors one day, had patchy, overgrown grass and my mother’s treasured flowers had deserted it. Since then, things have changed. Before it could be torn down to be turned into a parking lot, the house was bought by an Hispanic family and they’re fixing it up. Hopefully, they’ll be there for a long time. Hopefully, they’ll have a good future. But Buffalo hasn’t seen good times for many, many years. Some say its glory days ended when the Erie Canal was built; others say it was when the steel plant went away. At any rate, those days are long gone.
But my mother’s stories and my own memories are so vivid. I can almost picture my grandfather’s cornfield and hear the rooster crowing by the chicken coop; see my sister Margie jumping out the sun porch window on a dare; remember running downstairs from my family’s flat to the renters’ flat, where the McDonald girls lived so I could play with my best friend. If I listen hard, I can even hear the lilting brogue of my old neighbor Marty Breen when he came from down the street for a visit. The last time I heard my sister Mary’s remarkable laugh was in the family house, on the front porch, I think. She died in 1998, and I’ll never hear it again. On the street where I grew up, all the neighborhood kids are gone. Only a few of the parents, now elderly, remain. I knew when I first left Buffalo that things were already getting bad, but it’s still hard to see. It’s hard to go back, but back I go – to visit old friends and to recall old memories.
In some ways, ways I haven’t gone into here but the shadows of which can be seen in Jake Halpern’s articles, what happened to Buffalo was a precursor to what’s been happening to the rest of the country. I hope, at some point, Jake gets to write about what our hometown used to be like as well as what it’s become. There used to be glory days before they were gone. If new ones are to come along, maybe we need to go back and find out how we lost the old ones.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Raymond Bial and Elizabeth Cody Kimmel appear on the 2010 Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People
The following titles by Balkin Buddies authors appear on the 2010 Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People:
Boy on the Lion Throne, by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel
Ellis Island, by Raymond Bial
For a full list of the titles, the pdf is at
The selection committee chooses books that emphasize human relations, represent a diversity of groups, are sensitive to a broad range of cultural experiences, present an original theme or a fresh slant on a traditional topic, are of high literary quality, have a pleasing format and, where appropriate, include illustrations that enrich the text.
Please join us in congratulating Beth and Ray.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
MIRROR, MIRROR, by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Josée Masse, and published by Penguin Young Readers in March 2010, has been nominated for a Texas Bluebonnet Award and a Cybils Award.
Established in 1979 to encourage Texas children to read more books, explore a variety of current books, develop the power to discriminate, and identify their favorites, the winner is chosen by Texas students. Ten students who participate in the reading and voting (one from each TLA district) are selected to present the author with the award at the Texas Library Association Annual Conference's Bluebonnet Luncheon, which is usually held in April.
Established in 2006, the Cybils Awards are a series of book awards given by children's and young adult book bloggers. Books are nominated by the public in nine genres of children's and young adult literature (Easy Readers & Short Chapter Books, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Fiction Picture Books, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade Novels, Non-Fiction Middle Grade/Young Adult Books, Non-Fiction Picture Books, Poetry, and Young Adult Novels). A panel of judges chooses the award-winners, and panelists mubst active bloggers with a good deal of experience in children's and/or young adult literature.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Stockbridge, Mass. is all lit up for the season and Wendell Minor and Gordon Titcomb will be signing their new book, THE LAST TRAIN, at The Norman Rockwell Museum on Saturday, December 4, from 1-4 p.m. Live bluegrass music too... it should be fun!
A comical introduction to cause and effect for emergent readers, BARN STORM by Charles and Debra Ghigna and illustrated by Diane Greeneid, published by Random House, was published in September 2010. Based on an idea by Debra Ghigna, the book is a humorous tale about a twister hitting Alabama and was recently featured in an interview with Charles and Debra on a show called "Sugar and Spice," which aired as an ABC/TV presentation. To see the interview, go to http://www.abc3340.com/global/category.asp?c=189742&autoStart=true&topVideoCatNo=default&clipId=5190657&flvUri=&partnerclipid=.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
THE GREAT MIGRATION by Eloise Greenfield and illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist received a star review in HORN BOOK
Congratulations to Ms. Greenfield and Ms. Gilchrist on another excellent addition to children's book literature.