Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Green Poetry

In honor of Earth Day and Poetry Month, check out these anthologies of green-minded poems:

The Earth is Painted Green, A Garden of Poems About Our Planet: This colorfully illustrated volume, arranged in sections focusing on planting, growing, seasons, and the risk to the land, contains poems by both contemporary (Zolotow, McCord, Merriam) and classic (Sandburg, Roethke) poets. Ages 3 and up.

Other Goose: Recycled Rhymes for Our Fragile Times : 22 new-fangled Mother Goose rhymes with an environmental twist. Jack and Jill “fetch” bottled water because of pollution. Little Miss Muffet chokes on second-hand smoke. The poems are humorous, but the underlying message is one of deep concern for the preservation of our planet. Ages 8 and up.

River of Words : Young Poets and Artists On the Nature of Things : edited by Pamela Michael. This inspiring volume, a collection of poetry and art from over 100 children ages six to seventeen, is sponsored River of Words, a nonprofit organization that encourages children to learn about the environment by studying local watersheds. Ages 6 and up.

All the Wild Wonders, Poems of Our Earth: With poems about the sun, trees, water and animals, the 30 poets in this anthology celebrate the beauty of the wild and warn of the danger that threatens the environment. Ages 6 and up.

The Tree That Time Built: A Celebration of Nature, Science, and Imagination: edited by Mary Ann Hoberman and Linda Winston. This collection of over 100 poems celebrates both the facts and the mysteries of the natural world. Includes an audio CD featuring readings of 44 poems. Ages 8 and up.

Mother Earth, Father Sky : edited by Jane Yolen. This diverse collection of 40 nature poems includes works by Christina Rossetti, N. Scott Momaday, the Teton Sioux people and even Jane Yolen herself. The poems are organized into sections titled "Celebrate the Earth," "Sacrifice the Earth" and "Save the Earth." Ages 6 and up.

Toad By the Road: by Joanne Ryder. In this collection of poems, Ryder traces the life cycle of toads through the seasons. The toads speak for themselves, describing the wonder of catching flies with sticky tongues, molting dead skin, and fooling predators by playing dead. Readers gain a new appreciation for these amazing, but endangered amphibians.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Green Poems for Poetry Month!

Not only is April Earth Month, it's also National Poetry Month. to celebrate, here are a few of my favorite green-minded poems:

The first is painted on my daughter's wall and is our family mantra:

Hurt No Living Thing

Hurt no living thing:

Ladybird, nor butterfly,

Nor moth with dusty wind,

Nor cricket chirping cheerily,

Nor grasshopper so light of leap,

Nor dancing gnat, nor beetle fat,

Nor harmless worms that creep.

-Christina Rossetti

The second perfectly sums up my feelings about plastic, especially plastic toys!

A Prayer for a Carpenter

About most subjects

I am quite elastic,

But I cannot stand

A world of plastic.

Plastic flowers, plastic tables,

Plastic window, plastic door,

Plastic, plastic,

I abhor.

When I die,

And if I'm good,

I pray that heaven

be built of wood.

-Louis Phillips

The third is typical, brilliantly witty Ogden Nash:

Song Of the Open Road

I think that I shall never see,

A billboard lovely as a tree.

Perhaps, unless the billboards fall,

I'll never see a tree at all.

-Odgen Nash

Do you have a favorite poem that celebrates the earth? Leave a comment and tell me about it!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Earth Month Challenge!

In my estimation, April is the greenest month. She's joking, you think, as you look out at the bare trees and brown grass. It may be April 1st, but I'm not fooling. With John Muir's birthday (April 21st), Earth Day (April 22nd), and Arbor Day (April 29th), what other month has so many opportunities to celebrate environmental stewardship?

This year, instead of waiting until Earth Day to think green, my family is designating the entire month of April as Earth Month. Each day, we're going to make conscious decisions to lighten our footprint on the planet. Whether its walking to school, spending an evening without television, or waiting to run an errand until we have several reasons to head in that direction, we're going to try to think of each action we take in terms of how it affects the earth. My hope is that, with practice, some of our deliberate choices will become natural habits.

You can join the Earth Month Challenge too! It's easy. Just commit yourself to making at least one green decision everyday. Better yet, share your earth-friendly ideas by leaving a comment on this blog.

It's April... Think Green!

Friday, March 25, 2011

One Pelican at a Time Book Giveaway Winner!

Thank you to everyone for the insightful comments on my interview with author Nancy Stewart. Thank you, Nancy, for your generous donation of a signed copy of your debut picture book, One Pelican at a Time . And congratulations to Katie, the randomly chosen recipient of that book. Katie had this to say in her comment:

I love reading author interviews. Thanks to both of you for share. I am so glad someone wrote a children's book about the oil spill and I am excited to hear this is a series.
katie mills giorgio

Enjoy your new book, Katie!
More author interviews and book giveaways to come!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Book Giveaway and Green Guest of the Month: Nancy Stewart, Author of One Pelican at a Time

This month I had the honor to interview St. Louis-area author Nancy Stewart. Nancy’s recently released picture book, On Pelican at a Time, is the first title in a new eco-conscious series about Bella and Britt, two friends who love living by the beach. In One Pelican at a Time, the two heroines embark on an adventure to save an old pelican after the Horizon Deepwater Spill of 2010.

***Book Giveaway: Leave a comment at the end of this interview for a chance to win a signed copy of One Pelican at a Time.

What inspired you to write One Pelican at a Time?

My husband and I bought a condo on the water in Clearwater Beach, Florida, three years ago. Although I didn’t know it would, that decision had a profound effect on me. I watched the marine life on our daily walks and quickly grew to love it all, particularly the brown pelicans. And then the spill occurred. I had already written two other books in the Bella and Britt series, Sea Turtle Summer and Bella Saves the Beach. My publisher, Lynda Burch at Guardian Angel Publishing, and I thought a book on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill demanded to be written. And so I wrote it.

Can you share some of the highlights on your path to publication?

I was one of those kids who wrote a lot, loved English Literature and composition classes and had an ongoing love affair with words. I didn’t begin writing with a view to publication, though, until about five years ago. I was teaching Children’s and Young Adult Literature to university students and remembered how much I enjoyed picture books. My first books were just that, first books. I began querying way too early and wondered why my books weren’t snatched up. Now when I look back, it’s abundantly clear to me why they weren’t! I joined SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) and became involved, both locally and nationally. I knew I needed more of a platform to be taken seriously, so I not only did a web site but started blogging. That has made such a difference to me professionally. Blogging, particularly, has forced me to write daily for adults and not just for kids. No one is more surprised than I that people from many countries, including Russia, Indonesia and South Korea, are now following.

What do you hope One Pelican at a Time will impart to your readers?

My hope is that children will read this book and want to know more about an oil spill and why it happens. I hope they will discuss this with their parents and teachers and begin to wonder, “What can I do to be sure such a terrible thing never happens again?” I hope children and their caregivers will be more proactive about nurturing the area in which they live. I hope they will lead by example. Is that a tall order for Pelican? Probably. But someone has to start somewhere. It may as well be Britt, Bella and the old crooked beak pelican.

What do you think is the long term prognosis for the Gulf?

It’s interesting you ask this question. Just this week, my publisher, Linda Burch, emailed me about not only oil washing ashore where they are in the Florida panhandle, but a large oil slick on the water can be seen as well. Because it’s out of the news, there seems to be no immediacy about the spill anymore. If this spill is not addressed continuously and with utmost vigor, it will still be an unmitigated disaster. From my research on the gulf devastation, I’ll modestly quote Sir Winston Churchill who said, “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

How has writing One Pelican at a Time inspired you to do things in your own life to become more eco-conscious?

Before writing this series, I tried to be eco-conscious by doing such things as re-using plastic bags and never using pesticides of any kind in my garden (which I still do.) Since the books, I find myself doing things that I know many of us are doing: using economical light bulbs and turning them off when leaving a room, turning off water while brushing teeth, being more careful with the house temperature and using eco-friendly cleaning and washday products. But it’s also a state of mind, isn’t it? It’s an omnipresent pledge to look after our planet in whatever ways we can and to always be aware of fulfilling that pledge as we live our daily lives.

What can your readers look forward to next?

The next two books in the Bella and Britt series, Sea Turtle Summer and Bella Saves the Beach, will be published by Guardian Angel Publishing during this year. I’ve had many people request a manatee or dolphin book featuring the girls, so that’s in my thoughts at the present. Wherever my muse takes me, though, the girls and their pursuit of justice for our planet will always be dear to my heart.

Thank you, Nancy! One Pelican at a Time definitely shows that even little hands can make a big difference to the environment!

To learn more about Nancy and her books visit:


Enter to win an signed copy of One Pelican at a Time, follow these rules:

1. Post a comment to today's blog post by clicking the bold comment button at the bottom of this post. Tell why you'd like to win a copy of One Pelican at a Time.

2. Include contact information in your comment. If you are not a blogger, or your email address is not accessible from your online profile, please provide a valid email address in your comment. Note: THE LITTLE GREEN PEN cannot prevent spammers from accessing email addresses posted within comments, so please disguise your address by spelling out portions, such as the [at] and [dot].

3. Post your comment by 11 pm, Thursday March 24th. (The winner will be chosen at random and announced on Friday, March 25th.) Note: Winners automatically grant me permission to post their names on the LITTLE GREEN PEN website.

4. You must have a mailing address in the United States.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Seeds of Change Book Giveaway Winner!

Thank you to everyone for the insightful comments on my interview with author Jen Cullerton Johnson. Thank you, Jen, for your generous donation of a signed copy of your award-winning picture book, Seeds of Change. And congratulations to Michelle, the randomly chosen recipient of that book. Michelle had this to say in her comment:

"What a wonderful interview. Seeds of Change sounds like a fabulous book on many levels. "Green reads" are new to me and I love the concept. It is one thing to talk to my daughters about the environment, inspiring people, and great ideas, but having resources such as a book like Seeds of Change can make those messages so much more powerful. Thanks for bringing such beautiful art into the world!"

Now Michelle will have the inspiring story of Wanagari Maathai right at her fingertips to share with her daughters!

More author interviews and book giveaways to come!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Book Giveaway and Green Guest of the Month: Jen Cullerton Johnson, Planting the Seeds of Change

Recently, I had the honor to interview Chicago-area author, educator, and environmentalist, Jen Cullerton Johnson. Jen’s debut picture book biography, Seeds Of Change: Planting the Path to Peace, brings to life the story of Wangari Maathai, the first African woman and environmentalist to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

**At the end of this interview read how to enter to win a signed copy of Jen's new book. **

What inspired you to write “Seeds of Change?”

The life of Wangari Maathai inspires me. It still blows me away. I admire how she took two very important issues-- women's rights and the environment-- and found a solution through the Green Belts, a movement of women environmentalist who planted 30 millions trees in Kenya.

Today there are so many challenges to issues that sometimes we become overwhelmed and we give up. With Wangari, she really looked toward her community of young mothers to join in and help her. Wangari's story tells that although one person may have an idea, it is a community that bring the idea to fruition.

“Seeds of Change” recently won the 2011 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award for the illustrations by Sonia Lynn Sadler. How do you feel about this honor?

Sonia Lynn Sadler is a wonderful illustrator. Her work is bold and dramatic, engaging and hopeful. Every time I have a school visit or do a book reading, I always stop on the second to last page. Sonia Lynn Sanders placed important figures like Martin Luther King Jr and Barrack Obama coming out of Wangari's hand. This April, I will see some of Sonia's art up close when I attend the Newton Marasco Foundation that recently gave Seeds of Change an Honor.

You weave wonderful tree imagery into your story of Wangari Maathai- “Her mind was like a tree woven in rich soil, ready to grow.” “Like a sturdy tree against a mighty wind, her faith kept her strong.” I sense you have a strong connection to trees yourself. Do you have a favorite tree? What role do trees play in your life?

I think this is the loveliest question ever asked of me. Yes, I do have a favorite tree. I grew up in a very small town called Dune Acres. It is on the shores of Lake Michigan. The name of my street is Linden Lane. Linden trees are wonderful trees. They blossom with fruits and flowers which attract bees and chipmonks, mice, squirrels. Rabbits and voles eat the bark. I also like them for their leaves and sturdy trunk. I love them as I love all the trees around Lake Michigan like the Oak, Pine, Birch, and the Maple.

You’ve said that you admire Wangari Maathai because she is a “real life person doing something for the environment.” How has writing her story inspired you do things in your own life to help the environment?

Yeah. In a lot of ways I feel like I am an accidental environmentalist. Since I wrote the book and now do a lot of speaking on the connection between picture books and nature, I have adapted to new ideas like starting where I am at and reducing what I buy. A couple years ago, my son started a recycling program in our house. We have added a compost. Little by little we are moving in the right direction.

You’re a big advocate of “green literacy.” Can you explain what this is and what you are doing to support it?

Green Literacy is very similar to eco-literacy. Eco-literacy is a term coined by Michael K. Stone and it means there are certain bodies of knowledge a person must know in order to function as a eco-literate person.

Green Literacy takes into account eco-literacy but it uses literacy based techniques to talk about environmental issues. In other words, Green Literacy uses elements of story to spark conversations about the environment. Often times people want to make changes without changing their minds. Green Literacy allows students the opportunity to reflect, consider and dialogue through the use of literature so that when they do act, their action has meaning and is empowering.

What are some of your favorite “green reads?”

Well from the looks of your blog, I admire our local writers like Tim Magner and Pamela Todd. Both have wonderful books. I am re-reading Rachel Carson. Amazing women. I have a list of 100 + green reads if any reader would like it, please email me and I will be more than happy to send it.

Waangari Maathai said “protecting the environment is not just a pleasure, but also a duty.” How do you spread this message to your readers and students?

For me it is very important that students have the opportunity to think, consider and reflect on their environment before they take actions. Too many times people jump at change and the change is not long lasting. Once a child understands, action is meaningful and change is effective.

Learn more about Seeds Of Change and Jen's efforts to spread green literacy at her website:


Or better yet, learn from Jen in person! Jen will be teaching a Nature Writing Workshop at the Chicago Newberry Library, February 19-April 16th, 2011. (Sign up by February 12th.) More information at:


Enter to win an autographed copy of Seeds of Change by following these contest rules:

1. You must post a comment to today's blog post telling why you'd like to win a copy of Seeds of Change. Please mention if you are a teacher. Teacher's will be entered in an additional drawing to win a free SKYPE author's visit from Jen Cullerton Johnson AND a signed classroom copy of her book.

2. You must include contact information in your comment. If you are not a blogger, or your email address is not accessible from your online profile, you must provide a valid email address in your comment. If I don't have your email address, I won't be able to contact you. Note: THE LITTLE GREEN PEN cannot prevent spammers from accessing email addresses posted within comments, so please disguise your address by spelling out portions, such as the [at] and [dot].

3. You must post your comment by 11 pm (CST) Tuesdau, February 22, 2011. (The winner will be chosen at randon and announced on Wednesday, February 23th.) Note: Winners automatically grant me permission to post their names on the LITTLE GREEN PEN website.

4. You must have a mailing address in the United States.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Green Guest of the Month: Suzanne Slade, Making a Difference with Environmentally-Conscious Children’s Books

Chicago-area author Suzanne Slade has written over 80 books for children, many with nature and environmental themes. Her recent picture book, What’s the Difference? An Endangered Animal Subtraction Story, combines environmental awareness with math practice. I recently had the privilege of talking with Suzanne about What’s the Difference? and some of her upcoming nature-themed books.

Suzanne, What was your inspiration for creating “What’s the Difference?”

I've always been a big animal lover, and have been concerned about endangered animals for years, but after I finished an earlier book, What Can We Do About Endangered Animals, I was inspired to write What's the Difference? This 2010 picture book (published by Sylvan Dell, illustrated by Joan Waites) shows twelve gorgeous endangered animals in their natural habitats, and shares important information about how people are making a big difference by helping them.

This book contains a wealth of information about endangered animals. What was the research process like? What challenges did you encounter?

One of the biggest challenges I faced with this book was obtaining current information about the status of each animal, and how people can best help them. To make sure my facts were up-to-date and correct, I contacted several experts on various animals at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The illustrator's sketches were also reviewed by wildlife experts.

What do you hope What’s the Difference? will impart to its readers?

My goal is that children will gain a fuller understanding of how animals become threatened and endangered, and also realize that they can make a difference. For example, this book shares how one beautiful endangered butterfly, the Karner blue, was helped by children who planted wild lupine (a lovely purple flowering plant that Karner blues need to survive).

What can your readers look forward to next? Any new nature books in the works?

I'm very excited about my next book coming out with Sylvan Dell in fall, 2011 titled Multiply on the Fly. This multiplication book features all kinds of cool insects (did I mention I like bugs?) It is currently being illustrated by Erin Hunter, an amazing California artist who specializes in entomological and botanical illustrations (in other words, she draws great creatures and plants!)

Thanks, Suzanne for providing such wonderful eco-conscious books for young readers!

To learn more about Suzanne and her books, visit:


If you’d like to find out about her virtual author visits, check out her Skype-an-Author page:
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