I Need More Poetry in My Life!

About a month ago, I listened to an NPR program with Kwame Alexander and Nikki Giovanni discussing how poetry can be a powerful tool in protesting. You can check that out here. Together, they inspired me to read more poetry, so off I marched to the library to pick up some of Nikki’s books. I am currently loving Nikki’s book of poetry A Good Cry: What We Learn from Tears and Laughter. Her poems in this book range from lighthearted to deeply moving. Folks, this woman has a gift.

I also decided to introduce more poetry to my 2-year-old (almost 3-year-old) daughter. I found this book, Read! Read! Read! By Amy Ludwig VanDerwater; illustrated by Ryan O’Rourke.


We found it on the “New Books” rack in the children’s book section of the library and decided to give it a read. I did not look too closely at it as I placed it in our book bag with the other books we had selected, but when we finally sat down to read it, my heart was warmed from page one. The poems in this book celebrate the power of books and emphasize the impact words have on our lives. Here is one of my favorites:


Double Life

A book gives you a double life.

It builds a treehouse in your head

a haven you can climb to

when you wish to get away.


A book will always be a friend

reaching out two wordy hands

offering enchanted lands.


You can be and go

who and where

you’ve never been.


The cover opens.

You are born.


Let your double life begin.


One of my other favorites from this book is “Stories.” This poem articulates how a book can teach us to process our emotions and that “…tears heal broken hearts.” This is a book that will be finding its way into our permanent home collection.

Do you love poetry? What are some of your favorites? We would love to hear from you! Email us at Teamfriendshippodcast@gmail.com and share your favorite poems and authors of poetry with us!

Post written by Lauren Keen 

Lauren’s Favorite Read-Aloud Books


Today is World Read Aloud Day! Below are just some (emphasis on some) of my favorite read-aloud books.

The Snowy Day 2 

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats – In this 1963 Caldecott winning book, we experience the joy of being a child waking up to a large snowfall!

lmno peas 

LMNO Peas and 123 Peas by Keith Baker and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault, illustrations by Lois Ehlert – Each of these books is great for introducing letters and numbers to your children. There are many fun craft projects and activities that you can pair with them. Just do a search online, and you will discover a plethora of ideas!

very hungry caterpillar

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle – Days of the week, counting, and making healthy choices: this book helps us teach our children all these important lessons! Combine this with Eric Carle’s beautiful illustrations and you get a read-aloud masterpiece.

The Mitten 

The Mitten by Jan Brett – I love Jan Brett’s illustrations! It is surprising to me that she has never won a Caldecott medal. This is a delightful book to teach children how to make predictions by using the clues in the illustrations. It is also a good lesson on why we should not wear white mittens to play in the snow.


Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss – Dr. Seuss’s books are excellent read-aloud books! Horton Hatches the Egg just happens to be my personal favorite. “An elephant’s faithful one-hundred percent!”

Bear Hunt 

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury – This is a fun book to have your children read with you. Have them repeat each line after you say it, or you can take turns saying the lines. Make it even more crazy by adding hand motions and making noises by clapping and patting your laps!

Curious George 

Curious George books by Margret and H. A. Rey – Children (and adults) can learn many lessons from this cute little monkey and his friends!

Animal Teeth 

What If You Had Animal Teeth? and What If You Had Animal Hair? By Sandra Markle, illustrated by Howard McWilliam – These books are a fun way to teach children about how animals’ teeth and hair play a role in their daily lives, and in some cases, their survival. The illustrations in these books are pretty awesome as well!

Creepy Carrots 

Creepy Carrots! By Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Peter Brown – Jasper Rabbit loves carrots! One might even say he is obsessed with them. One day, he begins to see carrots everywhere, and they are angry and scary! Are the carrots seeking revenge, or is Jasper just paranoid?

The Day the Crayons Quit 

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers – If you have never read this book, you need to. It is hilarious! In this picture book, we get a peek inside the minds of our crayons.

After the Fall 

After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again by Dan Santat – This book is so clever and inspiring! I did not see the ending of this book coming, and I was so pleased when I read the final page.  I would not be surprised if Dan earns another Caldecott medal for his work on this book.

Kissing Hand 

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn, illustrated by E. Harper and Nancy Leak – When I was teaching Pre-K, I would read this to my class every year on the first day of school. In this book, young Chester the Raccoon is heading to his very first day of school. Like most little ones, this is a very scary event as he has never been away from his momma for this long.

Each Kindness 

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis – There is a new girl at school. Not only is she different from everyone else, but no one will play with her or include her. This book teaches an important lesson on kindness, but not in the way we think it will.


Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena, illustrated by Christian Robinson – Observing the world around you, kindness, family, listening, community, and giving: these are all themes in this beautiful picture book. This book won the 2016 Newbery Medal as well as a Caldecott Honor award, and it is not hard to see why! Matt de la Pena and Christian Robinson did an amazing work with this book! I am excited that they are collaborating on another book, Carmella Full of Wishes which will be released in October of this year! Check out our review of this book on episode 3 of Team Friendship Reads the Newberys: https://teamfriendshippodcast.com/2016/12/14/3-last-stop-on-market-street/

Junie B. Jones 

Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park – When I was first introduced to Junie B. Jones (in high school), I immediately fell in love with her! Barbara Park wrote Junie B.’s voice the way a Kindergartener talks and thinks. Some would argue that this is the reason they do not read these books to their children, but I see it as an opportunity to introduce literary terms such as voice, dialect, and vernacular.

El Deafo 

El Deafo by Cece Bell – In this graphic novel, Cece Bell tells her own story of growing up deaf. She shares how she felt as she went through one change after another: a new neighborhood, a new school, and new friends. She tells of her internal battle between not wanting to draw attention to herself and voicing her feelings about the ways in which she wishes others would interact with her (and the ways in which she wishes they would not interact with her).

Amelia bedelia  Amelia Bedelia Apple Pie 

Amelia Bedelia books by Peggy Parish and Herman Parish – I grew up listening to the Amelia Bedelia books. These hilarious books teach children about idioms and figurative speech. If only Amelia Bedelia would learn to understand them! In the mid-1990s, Peggy Parish’s nephew Herman Parish took over writing the Amelia Bedelia series, and in 2009, he began the Young Amelia Bedelia books. Two of my favorites from this series are Amelia Bedelia’s First Apple Pie and Amelia Bedelia Makes a Friend.

Ballet Shoes 


Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild –This sweet book is the story of three girls who are rescued and adopted by a fossil collector. As their Great-Uncle Matthew (Gum for short) is away on his travels, the three girls are raised by Gum’s niece and the nanny who must find creative ways to educate them as there has been no word from Gum for many years, and the money is running out.

charlotte Web 

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White – This is a classic! I cannot read this book without crying!

Betsy Tacy 

Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace – These books were some of the very first books I read as a young child, and now I am reading them to my own daughter. We love reading about Betsy and Tacy’s carefree, imaginative days: flying over their neighborhood on a feather, playing with their homemade paper dolls, and riding home from school in a carriage with all the hot cocoa they could ever want and a horse that talks!


The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser – This book is delightful, lovely, and heart-melting! I recently read this book and decided to write a review. Check it out here: https://teamfriendshippodcast.com/2018/01/23/the-vanderbeekers-of-141st-street/


Wishtree by Katherine Applegate – Is it possible for a neighborhood to be united by an old tree? This is a book that everyone should read. I have said this before, and I will say it again here, “There is no reason for you to not read this book!”

Flora & Ulysses Cover 

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo – Oh, Kate! Once again you use your words to fill our hearts with emotion beyond what we think we are capable of feeling! Only our dear friend, Kate could take a cynical little girl and a squirrel with super-hero powers and teach us the importance of love, forgiveness, and home. This has been Team Friendship’s favorite Newbery book so far! Check out our review of it in episode 5 of Team Friendship Reads the Newberys: https://teamfriendshippodcast.com/2017/03/14/5-flora-ulysses-the-illuminated-adventures/

What are some of your favorite read-aloud books? We would love to hear from you! Send us an email at Teamfriendshippodcast@gmail.com!

Post written by Lauren Keen 

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street


 After seeing several of my friends on social media post about reading The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser, I decided this was a book I needed to purchase for myself and give it a read.  Now that I have read it, I can tell you that I am in agreement with my friends that this book is delightful, lovely, and heart-melting.  Glaser’s book tells the story of the Vanderbeeker family who inhabit the first floor of a Brownstone in Harlem, New York City.  At the beginning of the story, the reader—along with the five Vanderbeeker siblings—finds out that their curmudgeonly landlord Mr. Beiderman is not renewing their lease for the next year, and they will have to find another place to call home.  Isa, Jessie, Oliver, Hyacinth, and Laney feel a tinge of guilt upon hearing this news, as they believe this decision is because of them.  To quote the book, “Among the many people who had visited the Vanderbeeker household there was quite a bit of debate about what it was like, but general agreement about what it was NOT: calm, tidy, boring, predictable.”  Refusing to succumb to the Beiderman’s sentence, the five siblings decide to undertake the task of convincing him to change his mind by Christmas.  The only problem? They only have 4 and a half days to do it.

As the reader embarks on this mission with the Vanderbeeker children, we meet their lovely friends and neighbors along the way.  From their 3rd floor neighbors Miss Josie and Mr. Jeet to the Castlemans who own the neighborhood bakery, I felt the love and comradery of this little community nestled within such a huge city.  One of the things I love about New York City is the diversity: millions of people who bring diverse cultures, food, celebrations, and beauty to the city. It all comes together in a magnificent tapestry.  This is excellently reflected in Glaser’s book, and even the Vanderbeekers themselves, a biracial family, show us this beauty.

I went through several emotions as I read this book.  I felt angry for the Vanderbeekers.  I laughed at the quirks of each of the Vanderbeeker children, and I remembered having some of those same quirks when I was a child.  Ultimately, my heart was warmed by this book.  Many wonderful themes are woven throughout: the sense of community, the love of this family for each other and their neighborhood, forgiveness, humility, joy and sorrow, and kindness.  Each page brought out the emotions within, but after reading page 279, I found myself sitting in the puddle of my own heart.

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street is a lovely book for all ages to enjoy.  I would recommend this for a read-aloud book as it would be fun to read with your own family or with your classroom if you are a teacher.  This book gets five stars from me!  Thank you, Karina Yan Glaser for sharing the Vanderbeekers with us!  I look forward to reading more of their adventures!

Review written by Lauren Keen