"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Tuesday, August 4, 2020


Over ten years ago I attended a school library conference in Portland, Oregon. The last session of the day, which was poorly attended, was with Naomi Shihab Nye who writes poetry for middle grade and YA students. If you have never been to an event where poets read their own works, you are missing a rare and wondrous time. Since that I've kept my eye on the published works by this accomplished poet and I've enjoyed them immensely. I just learned that she is now the the 2019-2021 Young People's Poet Laureate. Knowing this makes me happy...she'll be sure to get poetry into more students hands.

Cast Away: Poems for Our Time is a collection of poems on a theme: trash and trash collection. Nye is a "dedicated trash collector, reuser, and recycler." The last few pages of the book are dedicated to 'Ideas for writing, recycling, and reclaiming.' After reading the poems where she writes about her finds I am ready to pick up some gloves and trash pick-er-upper thingy and start cleaning up my city. Who knows what treasures one mind find and feel good about doing something needed.

I read poems aloud to my husband as we prepared for bed one night. Both of us found the poems to be bright and funny. "Who Do You Think You Are" is a poem about a teenage Nye throwing a half-full soda pop can back into a car from which the passenger had just chucked it out. Soda droplets flew. "You lost something?" / She looked stunned. Green light. / I jumped back into my car and zoomed.

In "Not a Bagel But..." Nye describes seeing a coffee cup lid rolling down the street on its side which reminds her of a poem she read in high school, "The Bagel" by David Ignatow. In that poem the chaser of the bagel becomes the bagel at least in metaphor which made him feel happy. Her poem continues, This helped me in high school. / Despite high school, we might still be happy. / I did not become a plastic lid / but I felt so happy for  / an image from a poem which can / stay with you your life. This image of inspirations we have hung onto throughout life is a powerful one for me and may, hopefully, be a message for children to not scoff at the messages they learn in school.

The poem that brought us the biggest laugh was "Happy Day". Here Nye is describing her delight that an ugly building in her community is getting a face lift and a cleaning. We always knew something beautiful was under there / and guess what else? Seventeen truckloads of pigeon droppings / were carted away from the roof and windowsills. / Seventeen truckloads! Can you imagine? I bet students would enjoy the imagery here, too. I makes me laugh to even think about it.

I highly recommend this collection. We all need to find ways to change our worlds for the better. Here is a place to start.



  1. Sounds like very interesting poetry!

  2. These sound like my kind of poems: uplifting, fun, and practical.


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