Laura Purdie Salas

writing the world for kids

Laura Purdie Salas

A Taste of Voices from the March on Washington

October 1, 2014

Here’s a poem by J. Patrick Lewis from the collection Voices from the March on Washington (Wordsong, 2014), which publishes TODAY! The collection contains poems by both Lewis and George Ella Lyon, and it’s a gripping, complex collection that puts you in the minds of numerous different characters/people at the time of the March. Lewis and Lyon show us not only the March, but people’s lives, in beautiful, multi-faceted detail. It features poems of various forms and moods, from numerous points of view. I shared one poem at the TeachingAuthors blog over the summer, and here’s another–enjoy its “wonder-thunder sound”! Happy Book Birthday, Voices from the March on Washington!

A. Philip Randolph

The gentleman loves the Marchers,
The Marchers love the street
Where heads and hands in heartland
Are meant to follow feet.

The gentleman loves the preacher
Whose wonder-thunder sound
Reverberates on hallowed
And on unhallowed ground.

The people love the gentleman
Whose presences parts the sea
Where white and rugged breakers
Batter equality.

–J. Patrick Lewis, all rights reserved


“Lioness, After the Hunt” [by Irene Latham]

September 30, 2014

I’ve been sharing a lot about me, me, me lately, so this week, I want to share poems from some books I’ve mentioned here before but want to remind you of.  First up is a poem from Dear Wandering Wildebeest, Irene Latham’s fabulous new poetry collection with Millbrook (yay, house-mate)! I shared a delightful poem as a sneak peek before the book was published, and now I want to remind you that the book is available (in case you’ve missed the many lovely posts about it in recent weeks on other kidlit blogs).

And I’m happy to say that if you’re going to NCTE in November, you can stop by the Lerner booth on Saturday from noon-1, and Irene and I will be signing WILDEBEEST and WATER CAN BE… And Lerner usually gives away the books! Hope to see you there.

Please forgive the lack of formatting below. The poem looks better in the book!

Lioness, After the Hunt

After the choosing,
after the chase,

after    rip

after first taste.

Lioness lifts,

past rhino,
past antelope.

She crouches,

savors favorite flavors,

and finally,

–Irene Latham, all rights reserved

Trying out the Sparkup Magical Reader

September 29, 2014

Last weekend, I tried out a new thingamajig called Sparkup: The Magical Book Reader, which lets you record any picture book for a kid to listen to with the book later. Have you tried anything like this? I know there are some services available (in fact, I wrote monster stories for one) that let you record a story for a loved one, but I haven’t tried any of them out. But I don’t think they work quite like this, as a device that attaches to any picture book you want. There’s a camera that records the way the page looks and matches your voice recording to go with it. So if a child looks at a page a long time, no problem. Your voice won’t go on until he turns the page. Or if she wants to go back and hear a previous page again, it recognizes the page and reads your words again. If this had been available when my girls were little, I’d have been all over it!

Anyway, I tried it out with Water Can Be… and loved it! (Well, I hate the sound of my recorded voice, but other than that…) I just read the text, but you can add in other things you want to say to your reader, like “Lily, remember when we went fishing and saw an otter?” Here’s part of Water.

Isn’t that cool? Am I the last person to hear about nifty technology like this?

Now, here’s the thing. I SO WISH this had a headphone jack, because I know teachers and reading specialists and other educators could really do neat things with this. Just sharing great books is, of course, the coolest thing of all. But you could also reach curriculum goals. If a student could listen to classroom books quietly, you could record the book and emphasize certain things, like:

  • Visual literacy: “Do you see the water on this page? Can you tell what season it is just by looking at the picture?”
  • Vocabulary: “Have you ever heard of the word welt? A welt is a red bump or rash on your skin.”
  • Fluency: “Did you notice my voice got louder as I read this page? That helps show you how excited this character is!” (And you could have kids record books for other kids, too!)
  • Connection to text: “Did you like this book? Did it remind you of anything in your own life?”

And I’m sure you can come up with more possibilities. So, I’m going to cross my fingers that the makers of Sparkup add headphone capability.

More details about the Sparkup: You can transfer the recordings to your computer, too, and email them, so if you had a long-distance loved one to read to, you could do it, as long as you both have a Sparkup. (You could check out the library book of books they own.) It holds around 50 picture books on the device, so you could have a whole library. And if you were ambitious, you could even have more than that stored on your computer and rotate them in and out. There’s also an option to download pre-recorded books, but I didn’t try that out. Meh. To me, the value of this is getting to read to your child when you’re not going to be there in person.

What’s Inside? and Poetry Friday Roundup!

September 25, 2014

Happy Poetry Friday!

I’m making this post live on Thursday night for all you early-birds. Please put your links in Mr. Linky at the bottom of the post. And also click on Mr. Linky to see and visit all of the other Poetry Friday posts. I look forward to visiting everyone’s posts today!

I’ve been sharing some poems from my new poetry collection for teachers called What’s Inside? Poems to Explore the Park. Thank you for your lovely comments on what I’ve shared so far. And here are links to those posts if you haven’t seen them.

What’s Inside This Cocoon?
Changing to Moth

What’s Inside This Egg? (question and answer poems)

What’s Inside This Bud?
Flowerful Flood

What’s Inside This Baseball?
Ninth-Inning Win!

Meet My Collaborator, Ed Spicer!

Now here’s one more couplet question for you:


What’s inside of this green river rush,

this overfilled, winter-chilled watery gush?


A Note from the Poet:

We think of so many things as one thing only. Like a forest is only trees, or a river is only water. So it’s fun to look more closely at something and find what else is there. Being a poet is like being a detective!

Where can you read the answering quatrain for this couplet? I’m so glad you asked;>) It’s in my new book:

What's Inside? Poems to Explore the Park // Poems by Laura Purdie Salas // Teacher Activities by Ed Spicer

What’s Inside? Poems to Explore the Park // Poems by Laura Purdie Salas // Teacher Activities by Ed Spicer

Besides my 15 pairs of What’s Inside poems, you also get all of Ed Spicer’s wonderful classroom activities and lots of tips from me on why poetry is important and how can share it in a no-stress way in your classroom. (As you can probably tell from the series title, all those auxiliary materials are meant to entice educators who don’t already love poetry–which is probably not you!) What’s Inside? is available on Kindle and in paperback (and if you buy the paperback, you get the Kindle e-book free). The Kindle version has color photos to supplement the poems, but they’re black and white in the paperback version.

I really hope you’ll enjoy my new series. This is an experiment for me, reaching out directly to educators. I’d be super grateful if you pass along word of it to your teacher/librarian/homeschool friends. And then, well, we’ll see what happens. My hope is that I can convert some poetry-no-way-ers to poetry-lovers!

Meanwhile, you can read more about the 30 Painless Classroom Poems series here. I’ll be releasing five more titles in the next couple of months, and I can’t wait to share more with you!

OK, thanks for reading–don’t forget to leave your link in THE TOP Mister Linky below! I don’t know why two Mister Linky icons are showing up–there’s only one link in my code! Sorry!

Please ignore the Mister Linky below this text. I’m having issues :>/

Scarecookies [15 words or less]

September 25, 2014

Photo: Laura Purdie Salas

Wake up your poetry brains with 15 Words or Less (guidelines here)!


Here’s a pic from the bakery. I love frosted cookies! But scarecrows…hmmm. I think I’ve seen too many horror movies/TV shows where a scarecrow comes to life. This image makes me think of:

1) The Wizard of Oz
2) Halloween costumes
3) scary cookies that come to life

And here’s my first draft, which I really had to cut, cut, cut to get down to 15 words. It brought back lots of memories of my daughters getting all dressed up in fancy costumes, only to have to cover all their bling with snow boots, parkas, gloves, and hats!

Halloween Costume Choices in Minnesota


(Clash with sweatpants and parkas)


(Can handle 20 layers)

–Laura Purdie Salas, all rights reserved

Now it’s your turn! Have fun and stick to 15 WORDS OR LESS!  (Title doesn’t count toward word count:>) 




Meet My Collaborator, Ed Spicer!

September 24, 2014

I’ve been sharing poems the past couple of weeks from What’s Inside? Poems to Explore the Park. I’ll be officially announcing the book later this week, but first, I want to introduce the fantastic educator who has written classroom activities to go with my poems.

Ed Spicer

Ed Spicer

When I first conceived of putting out a series of my poetry collections specifically for teachers, I knew I wanted teachers involved in the process. I visit a fair number of schools and have a sister who’s a 1st-grade teacher, but I’m not in the trenches. So I wanted super creative educators who could read my poems and then share ideas that other teachers could use to expand the experience across other content areas. In looking for different educators to write activities for 30 Painless Classroom Poems, I considered lots of things: classroom experience, involvement in educational organizations and committees, an online presence, and, most importantly, an ability to create varied, fresh ways for teachers to use my poems in the classroom. I hit the jackpot with Ed!  When I read the activities that he came up with, I was jumping around with excitement! And on a side note, I even got to meet Ed in person at ALA when he attended a Poetry Blast! Now, I’d like to introduce you to him.

Ed Spicer

From graduate students to kindergarten students, Ed Spicer is an educator with a wide variety of experiences during the last two decades. He spends most of his time with his first-grade students, but he also loves his high school book group, with whom he has worked for the last 14 years. Spicer has served on the Caldecott award committee, the Printz award committee, and many other committees with the American Library Association. He is a Cool Teacher winner in Michigan. Spicer writes a young adult book review column for the Michigan Reading Journal, and he has also published dozens of curriculum guides for Penguin, Random House, and Houghton Mifflin.

Friend him on Facebook:

Follow him on Twitter: @spicyreads

Visit his website:

Addendum from Laura Purdie Salas: Ed Spicer was too modest to bring this up, but here’s one of the reasons I was so thrilled to have him agree to write activities for What’s Inside.

In the Acknowledgements for her wonderful novel in verse Words with Wings, poet Nikki Grimes wrote: “I save my most heartfelt thanks for teacher Ed Spicer, who served as model for the teacher in my story. Ed regularly honors and nurtures the daydreamers who pass through his classroom by allowing them time to dream, and to capture their daydreams on paper. That was an inspiration to me and helped in the shaping of this story. It only seemed fitting to name my character after him. Thanks, Mr. Spicer!”

Here are just two of the 16 wonderful activities he contributed to What’s Inside? Poems to Explore the Park. Some relate to specific poems, while others are about close observation and  making predictions (two skills at the heart of reading–and writing–the poems in this collection!):

  • Take a jigsaw puzzle and remove one piece from the center. Have students look carefully at the pieces surrounding the missing piece. Ask students to generate a list of attributes that predict what will be on the missing piece. What colors? What shapes? To extend this activity for older students, remove all of the pieces except one and have students try to predict the subject of the puzzle. Add a piece or two at a time until the majority of students can figure out what is inside of the puzzle! Have students make the same list of attributes, revising as you continue. Obviously, a puzzle featuring things found at a park or outside in your area is best.
  • Obviously making sure that students do not have any dietary restrictions first, blindfold students and feed them various foods that have a surprise in the middle (a peanut M&M, a chocolate-covered cherry, an ice cube with a blueberry in the middle, etc.). Have students attempt to predict what is inside. Solicit parents to make really creative and unusual pairings, perhaps even choosing items that are often served at park picnics.

I love these! The activities are an invaluable component of What’s Inside? Poems to Explore the Park. I’m thrilled that educators will be able to use his terrific ideas to expand and extend sharing my poems with their students.

Ninth-Inning Win (a What’s Inside poem)

September 23, 2014

Hi, teachers! Here’s the answering quatrain to yesterday’s What’s Inside couplet!


Ninth-Inning Win


A bull’s-eye of cork helps you punish fast pitches—

and rubber and yarn add some bounce from within

all tucked below zippers of tight ruby stitches

This ball holds a breathtaking ninth-inning win!


A Note from the Poet:

Did you know that every Major League Baseball has 108 stitches? I love those little lines of red. They remind me of zippers, so I called them that, even though you can’t unzip them. And I used ruby instead of red for two reasons: 1) the line sounded better with two syllables there instead of one; and 2) since a ruby is a jewel, it makes me think of something valuable and important, not just everyday stuff like red.

What’s Inside This Baseball?

September 22, 2014

Hello, teachers! Here’s another couplet from my What’s Inside? Poems to Explore the Park project. Most of the poems in this collection, which I’ll be announcing on Friday, are about natural items, but there are some manmade items, too, like this baseball. Stay tuned tomorrow for the answering quatrain:>)


What’s inside of this quick, blurry spin?
This small soaring globe in its white leather skin?



A Note from the Poet:

I wanted a way to describe a baseball without just saying baseball. I think the interesting thing about a baseball is its movement, so I looked for ways to show that. “quick, blurry spin” and “small soaring globe” focus on a baseball in action. Because a baseball just sitting there is not all that interesting, in my opinion.





Poetry Friday – A Daughter Can Be…

September 18, 2014

Happy Poetry Friday! I don’t often write poems or verses for specific people. Well, I do, occasionally, but I don’t give it to them–I’m too self-conscious to do that. I’ve written poems for/about both my daughters but don’t think I’ve ever shared them. However, inspired by Renee LaTulippe’s lovely take on my Can Be… books last week, I decided to write a Can Be… poem for our younger daughter, Maddie, who left Wednesday for six months in Scotland. Six. Months. I also wrote her a letter sharing what specific memories I was thinking of as I wrote each line. Although many of the memories, like the way she wore her first communion dress when we went out to fancy dinners for years after her first communion, and the dress kept getting shorter and shorter on her, are, by now, family legend. Anyway, I gave her this laminated photo/poem to take with her.

This was so much fun–thank you, Renee, for inspiring me to actually share a poem written for someone I love. It doesn’t flow as smoothly as a Can Be… book would have to, but the memories it captures make up for that in this case.

Maddie Can Be...

Photo of Maddie by Dack Nehring Text by Laura Purdie Salas All rights reserved

Amy Ludwig VanDerwater (I love FOREST HAS A SONG!) has a really heartfelt poem on her blog, where she is hosting the Poetry Friday Roundup at The Poem Farm today. Enjoy:>)




Beads [15 words or less]

September 18, 2014

Photo: Laura Purdie Salas

Wake up your poetry brains with 15 Words or Less (guidelines here)!


Here’s a pic from a chandelier in our hotel on our recent drum corps trip to NY. This image makes me think of:

1) Bubbles in the sea
2) a super-fancy necklace (hey, anybody remember the Empress Carlotta (sp?) episode of the Dick Van Dyke show?)
3) fish eggs

And here’s my first draft:

Mermaid Tears

I miss you so much

My tears rise and grow legs

to pace the empty shore

–Laura Purdie Salas, all rights reserved

Now it’s your turn! Have fun and stick to 15 WORDS OR LESS!  (Title doesn’t count toward word count:>)