Tuesday, May 24, 2011


by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Nancy Doniger
Roaring Brook, 2011

Tuesdays with Morzant:
A Book Review by Morzant the Alien
(An Extraterrestrial Attempts to Write Earth-Style Poetry)

Since I began my studies of Earth literature several authors have encouraged me to attempt writing creatively. Unlike Earth literature, virtually all Zeentonian literature is based on mathematical equations. I pride myself on my mathematical abilities; however, even on my home planet I never attempted a creative endeavor such as writing a novel. For that reason, and because I feel my studies of Earth literature are in their infancy, the notion of writing any style of novel overwhelms me. Still, it’s impossible to ignore the impact experimentation with creative writing would have on my studies of Earth literature. Furthermore, the question of whether a Zeentonian can write creatively without employing differential equations or axiomatic geometry has gripped my curiosity.

A scientist devises small-scale experiments to understand larger, more universal trends. If I apply the same methodology to determining my aptitude for creative writing, I find I needn’t write a novel, or even a short story. Poetry is the ideal medium for my purposes. In addition to being a scaled-down creative writing format relative to a novel, poetry encompasses a wide range of forms, both structured and uncontrolled. These diverse forms offer a wide range of experiment possibilities.

I have determined that trying to write poems in the unusual poetry form presented in LEMONADE, AND OTHER POEMS SQUEEZED FROM A SINGLE WORD will be an appropriate initiation to this offshoot of my studies of Earth literature. The book is comprised of poems that are comprised of words that are comprised solely of the letters contained in the original word. The resulting combination of words illuminates the original word in an imaginative way. The form’s restrictive format appeals to my appreciation for rules and its strict limitations will narrow my creative focus to help reduce the likelihood of my becoming inundated with divergent ideas.

Experiment 808.1: Am I a Poet and I Just Don’t Know It?
Date: May 24, 2011
Subject: Morzant the Alien
(experiment preparation, execution, and report by Morzant)

Attempt #1: Selected a favorite word.


Resultant Poetic Configuration:


As required, I restricted myself to the use of letters within “research.” The three words do relate to the selected word, but does this arrangement of three words qualify as a poem? This arrangement lacks concrete imagery. Were the talented artist of LEMONADE, AND OTHER POEMS SQUEEZED FROM A SINGLE WORD called upon to provide a lively and expressive illustration for this “poem” such as the ones she created for LEMONADE, I believe she would be hard-pressed to settle on a specific graphic representation.

Attempt #2: Selected another word.


Resultant Poetic Configuration:


Perhaps a more successful attempt, but it still exudes a certain vagueness. When I read it, I don’t feel the sense of wonder and wholeness I experience when reading Bob Raczka’s poems.

Attempt #3: Considered the possibility that I’m overthinking the process. Looked out the window and selected the word that represents what I first saw.


Resultant Poetic Configuration:


What does that even mean? Am I allowed to add punctuation? This is more difficult than I imagined.

Threw pencil across the lab in frustration. Woke Mortimer from his nap. Sent him to make me a potentially inspirational pumpernickel smoothie.

Attempt #4: Tried again after ingesting a delicious pumpernickel smoothie.


Resultant Poetic Configuration:



Pumpernickel smoothies do not provide significant creative writing impetus. They are, however, quite delicious.

Attempt #5: Programmed computer to produce a poem using a classic Zeentonian literary equation.


Resultant Poetic Configuration:


Initial studies suggest Zeentonian literary equations are not an effective means for producing this type of poetry.

Attempt #6: Selected the name of a friend.


Resultant Poetic Configuration:


Perhaps sufficient if Bigfoot wore boots. He does not.

Attempt #7: Considered that I needed more letters with which to work and selected the name of another friend.

Norman the Half-Invisible Turtle

Resultant Poetic Configuration:



I believe this result reflects the spirit of the exercise; however, I arrived at it using dubious means. This result must be disqualified from the experiment.

Attempt #8: Selected a Zeentionian word.


Resultant Poetic Configuration:


I’m actually quite pleased with this result, but it’s meaning will not resonate with Earth readers unfamiliar with the vicious, fleet-footed chimstourgney. Regretably, this result cannot not be used to support the supposition that an extraterrestrial can write creatively in a style commensurate with Earth writers.

Conclusion: If I’m a poet, I still don’t know it. Further experimentation necessary.

Auxiliary Conclusion: Bob Raczka is a talented poet.

Notes Regarding Future Poetry Experimentation:
• Try a poetry format with less rigid rules.

• Write in a different location than the lab—is there a connection between successful creative writing and location?

• Find out what type of smoothie, if any, Bob Raczka drinks while writing.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


by Lee Wardlaw, illustrated by Eugene Yelchin

Henry Holt, 2011

A Book Review by

Lenny the Levitating Puppy

You know how cats are mysterious? And remember when I pretended to be a cat while I read CAT SECRETS by Jef Czekaj so that I could find out the secrets cats keep? Remember how I didn’t find out any cat secrets?

Good news! I found out a cat secret while reading WON TON: A CAT TALE TOLD IN HAIKU. Just like other cats, the cat in this book is mysterious. You can tell he’s mysterious by the picture of him on the cover. You can tell by the way he looks sideways that he has secret inner thoughts. But they aren’t sneaky secret inner thoughts. They’re special secret inner thoughts. They’re special thoughts because they’re poems. They’re a special type of poem called senryu. Senryu is a special type of haiku. I won’t explain those special types of poems to you right now because I’m too excited to tell you my good news.

Look what I discovered by myself.

I took the word “poem” and spelled it backwards.


Do you see what I see?

How about now, without the “P” at the end?


What if I add one extra letter?


MEOW! You know what this means, right?

Cats are poets! Just like the cat in WON TON: A CAT TALE TOLD IN HAIKU who has secret inner poem thoughts!

Remember how the cat looks mysterious on the cover because he’s looking sideways? He looks sideways a lot in the book because he’s thinking a lot of secret thoughts. His thoughts are about being lonely at the animal shelter and being afraid when he goes to a new home with Boy. When he gets there, he’s careful not to like it too much. He already ended up at the shelter once, so he’s probably afraid it could happen again. I think that’s why he acts like he’s not interested in playing or in the food Boy gives him. And at first he isn’t ready to share his real name with Boy after Boy names him Won Ton. Poor cat.

In the next part of the book he acts like a cat. He has cat breath. He throws up in a shoe. He scratches furniture and knocks over a lamp. Maybe he got in trouble for being a cat before, but he doesn’t this time so he starts to relax and enjoy being a cat again. He finally admits he wants to play. He feels like Boy’s home is his home. He defends his yard from intruders.

Even though the cat’s secret poem thoughts are short, when you read them you learn a lot about him and how he feels. Some of the poem thoughts are sad. A lot of them are funny. I like the pictures in the book, too. One picture that makes me laugh is of the cat in a pink dress and hat. Poor cat.

At the end of the book the cat loves and trusts Boy. He decides to share his real name with Boy. If you read this book and get to know the cat, maybe he’ll share his real name with you, too.

When I read CAT SECRETS I pretended to be a cat by meowing and purring. Now I will pretend to be a cat by thinking poem thoughts. Here are two poems I thought up:

My Senryu About The Cat

First, lonely and scared.

Later, lucky. You find love.

A happy ending.

My Senryu About Me

I have a secret.

Please don’t tell anybody.

I like cats. A lot.


If you spell the author’s name backwards you get “eel.” I haven’t found out the connection between cats and eels yet. When I do, I’ll report back here.

P.S. again

If you spell the title of this book backwards you get “not now.” That’s the opposite of when you should read this book. Read this book right now!

Monday, May 16, 2011


by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

Houghton Mifflin, 2010

A Book Review by

Violet the Telekinetic Puppy

I’m Violet and I’m a girl puppy who likes a book called GUYKU. GUYKU is a book with lots of haiku poems about stuff boy people do outside in the spring and summer and fall and winter. Haiku is a kind of poem that has three lines and each line has a certain number of syllables and if you don’t know what a syllable is I will try to explain a syllable to you. I will try to explain a syllable to you by comparing a syllable to something else and the something else I will compare a syllable to is a tail wag.

A tail wag is when a tail goes back and then when a tail goes forth. If a tail wags back and then forth that is two tail wags. Sometimes I wag my tail back and forth when I am happy and sometimes I wag my tail back and forth when I am curious and there are other times when I wag my tail back and forth but I will tell you more about that another time. Right now I want to tell you about syllables and about how syllables help us count parts of a word and about how a tail wag is like a syllable.

Here is a picture of how a tail wag is like a syllable:

Now it is time to wag tails. Imagine I am saying a word and that the word I am saying is “frisbee” and for each part of the word “frisbee” I wag my tail once.

fris bee = wag wag

If each tail wag is one syllable then the word “frisbee” has two syllables.

I’m a puppy, so let’s see how many tail wags “puppy” has:

pup py = wag wag

It takes two tail wags to say the word “puppy” just like it takes two tail wags to say the word “frisbee” so the word “puppy” has two syllables just like the word “frisbee” has two syllables.

I’m a puppy but I am also telekinetic so let’s see how many times I wag my tail for the word “telekinetic.”

tel e ki ne tic = wag wag wag wag wag

Five tails wags means the word “telekinetic” has five syllables.

Do you understand? I hope you understand because I tried hard to explain syllables to you by comparing them to tail wags and I hope I did a good job. If I did a good job that would make me happy and I would wag my tail.

In haiku the first line has five syllables and the second line has seven syllables and the third line has five syllables again and the fourth line has zero syllables because in haiku there are only three lines.

In tail wags a haiku would look like this:

wag wag wag wag wag

wag wag wag wag wag wag wag

wag wag wag wag wag

In Guyku all the poems are haiku and they are all about boys doing stuff like fishing and flying kites and climbing trees and skipping stones and looking at stars and roasting marshmallows and throwing snowballs. There aren’t any girls in this book. There is a dog in this book but because this book is called GUYKU I bet the dog is a boy. There is also a seagull and another bird who isn’t a seagull but I don’t know what kind of bird that bird is and a squirrel and a fish and I bet they are all boys. It’s okay that there aren’t any girls in this book because it is still really good. The poems are really good and they make you see ordinary things in a special way like when the boy and the dog who is probably also a boy are looking at the stars and they think the stars look like a connect-the-dot puzzle or the boy who thinks a melted snowman has a spring allergy and he thinks the snowman’s allergy made the snowman melt. By the way, it is a snowman who melts and not a snowwoman.

I like the poems a lot and I also like the pictures that go with each poem. My favorite picture is the boy who is fishing and he doesn’t want to use worms for bait so the worms are squiggling away and the worms are probably boy worms. And my other favorite is the boy who is thinking of jumping into a puddle to get his sister wet. I just remembered there is one girl in this book and the one girl in the book is the sister of the boy who might jump in the puddle to get her wet. I just remembered something else. There is a girl mosquito in this book. A boy tries to splat her. I have lots of other favorite pictures but I won’t tell you about all of them because you can see them for yourself when you read GUYKU and you can read GUYKU even if you are a girl person or a girl seagull or a girl other type of bird or a girl fish or a girl worm or a girl telekinetic puppy.

Here is a list of who will like this book:




The best part of this book is that it makes you want to try to write your own haiku. I wrote a haiku for spring and summer and fall and winter just like the author of GUYKU did but my haiku are not about boys. Here are my haiku:

My Spring Haiku

Rainy day odors:

wet grass, wet leaves, wet dirt (mud).

My nose is happy.

My Summer Haiku

It’s a sunny day.

Come out and play with me, Cat.

I won’t bite. Promise.

My Fall Haiku

I’m howling tonight

at the biscuit in the sky—

Yummy harvest moon.

My Winter Haiku

Bone, dead fish, or ball—

what’s hiding under the ice?

I’ll find out next spring.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

ARGUS (Picture Book)

by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Andréa Wesson

Candlewick, 2011

A Book Review by

Violet the Telekinetic Puppy

In case you’re curious, Argus isn’t really a baby chick.

I’m Violet and in case you’re curious, I’m not a baby chick either. I’m a telekinetic puppy who likes a picture book called ARGUS.

Argus is not a baby chick or a telekinetic puppy. Argus is a big, green creature who is cute. This book is called ARGUS but maybe it should be called ARGUS AND SALLY because this book is not just about a big, green creature named Argus who is cute. This book is also about a girl named Sally who is cute but who is not big or green or a creature.

In the book the cute girl Sally is at school. Sally’s class has a project and that project is to hatch eggs and to take care of the baby chicks who hatch out of the eggs. All the eggs are white and small and look like chicken eggs except for Sally’s egg that is big and green with spots and looks like a big, spotted not-a-chicken egg. Sally tells the teacher about the big, spotted egg and the teacher tells Sally not to make a big deal about how her egg is big and spotted.

Sally is also not supposed to make a big deal when a small, green creature who is cute hatches out of the big, spotted egg. The small, green creature who is cute is Argus. Argus doesn’t stay small long but he does stay cute. He grows and grows and grows. When Sally draws a picture of him she has to use two pieces of paper because Argus is so big.

The teacher is funny because she doesn’t think it is a big deal that Argus is a big, green creature. And it is funny when the teacher has to save the baby chicks when Argus tries to eat them and when the teacher has to save the kids when Argus tries to eat them. She stops Argus from eating anybody except maybe for some bugs so those parts are funny and not scary or sad unless you are a bug. Argus isn’t being mean when he tries to eat the baby chicks and the kids. He just doesn’t know better until the teacher teaches him to know better. She is a funny teacher but she is also a good teacher who is cute.

Sally gets sad because even though Argus is cute he’s not like the other baby chicks and Sally can’t hold him or pet his head and at recess Sally and Argus have to go to another part of the playground where Argus won’t cause problems. That makes Sally sad. But do you know what makes her even sadder? Argus goes missing and Sally gets so sad because she misses her big, green creature who is cute and she misses him because she loves him. But this book has a happy ending and I don’t like to tell endings but I think I’d better this time so you won’t worry. The happy ending is that Sally and her teacher and the rest of the class find Argus. When they find him he is looking for bugs to eat.

Argus always smiles and when you read ARGUS you will smile too because Argus is funny and cute. Only bugs won’t smile when reading this book but even bugs will probably smile that’s how good this book is.

Here is a list of who will like this book:

Readers who are not bugs except for some that are.

Readers who like fun drawings of fish and squid and dinosaurs.

The end. Good-bye.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Briar’s Journal (May 12 to May 31, 2011)

Dream Entry*
July 28, 2001

It’s spring and the ice has broken on the little orange juice pond behind the library. A pair of ducks paddle by my friends who are sitting in the grass along the pond’s edge. They are fishing—both the ducks and my friends. The ducks are diving down into the orange juice while my friends hold long branches with shoestrings tied to the ends. Morzant baits a hook with a Rice Krispies Treat.

Nobody is getting any bites and I’m feeling bored. Since I didn’t bring anything to read, I pass the time trying to guess where the ducks will resurface. One is under the orange juice so long that I start to worry. Then he waddles up from behind me.

“Pardon me,” he says as he wades back into the orange juice.

He dives under again. This time he reappears out of thin air behind Beverly. At that moment Beverly shouts, but not because of the teleporting duck.

“I’ve got one!” she says.

Something under the orange juice is pulling on her shoestring. Hard. Her branch makes a twanging sound as it bows. Beverly struggles to reel in her catch. Soon it’s on shore.

“It’s a keeper!” she says.

It’s not a fish at all, but a book. She doesn’t bother to wipe it off. She puts it, dripping with orange juice, into a backpack.

Soon all my other friends are shouting and pulling in their catches, too. This what they caught:

BIGFOOT’s catch:

I’LL BE THERE by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Little, Brown-Hachette
May 17, 2011

AWAKEN by Katie Kacvinsky
Houghton Mifflin
May 23, 2011

Scholastic Press-Scholastic, Inc.
May 24, 2011

by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin
Egmont USA
May 24, 2011

SPINNING OUT by David Stahler
May 25, 2011

Fitzhenry & Whiteside
May 31, 2011

MORZANT’s catch:

a rusty miscroscope

PENNY’s catch:

WRAPPED by Jennifer Bradbury
Atheneum-Simon & Schuster
May 24, 2011

NORMAN’s catch:

by Uma Krishnaswami, with illustrations by Abigail Halpin
Atheneum-Simon & Schuster
May 24, 2011

SAVING ARMPIT by Natalie Hyde
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
May 31, 2011

BEVERLY’s catch:

May 12, 2011

May 12, 2011

JUNONIA by Kevin Henkes
May 24, 2011

WILD WINGS by Gill Lewis,
with illustrations by Yuta Onoda
Atheneum-Simon & Schuster
May 24, 2011

OLIVER’s catch:

WOW! OCEAN! by Robert Neubecker
May 17, 2011

BLACKOUT by John Rocco
May 24, 2011

by Leslie McGuirk
Tricycle Press-Random House
May 24, 2011

LENNY’s catch:

EARTH TO CLUNK by Pam Smallcomb,
illustrated by Joe Berger
May 12, 2011

VIOLET’s catch:

BEAR AND ME by Max Kornell
May 12, 2011

APPLE PIE ABC by Alison Murray
May 31, 2011

* The dream entries from Briar’s journal contain premonitions of books that will be published in the future. Briar’s dream self foresees the books’ summaries and knows which will likely appeal to each of her friends. Briar always wakes up before she can see whether her friends will enjoy the books.