VARIATION ON AN OLD RHYME by John Mole

VARIATION ON AN OLD RHYME by John Mole

This is the blackbird that wakes with a song.

This is the sun
That shines for the blackbird that wakes with a song.

This is the earth
That welcomes the sun
That shines for the blackbird that wakes with a song.

This is the snow that fell through the night
That covers the earth
That welcomes the sun
That shines for the blackbird that wakes with a song.

These are the children that cry with delight
That play in the snow that fell through the night
That covers the earth
That welcomes the sun
That shines for the blackbird that wakes with a song.

This is the wonderland of white
That surrounds the children that cry with delight
That play in the snow that fell through the night
That covers the earth
That welcomes the sun
That shines for the blackbird that wakes with a song.

This is the quarrel that started the fight
That stains the wonderland of white
That surrounds the children that cry with delight
That play in the snow that fell through the night
That covers the earth
That welcomes the sun
That shines on the blackbird that wakes with a song.

This is the wrong that none can put right
That caused the quarrel that started the fight
That stains the wonderland of white
That surrounds the children that cry with delight
That play in the snow that fell through the night
That covers the earth
That welcomes the sun
That shines for the blackbird that wakes with a song.

These are the nations in all their might
That suffer the wrong that none can put right
That caused the quarrel that started the fight
That stains the wonderland of white
That surrounds the children that cry with delight
That play in the snow that fell through the night
That covers the earth
That welcomes the sun
That shines for the blackbird that wakes with a song.

And this is the song that goes on in spite
Of all the nations in all their might
That  suffer the wrong that none can put right
That causes the quarrels that start every fight
That stains the wonderland of white
That surrounds the children that cry with delight
That play in the snow that fell through the night
That covers the earth
That welcomes the sun
That shines just the same on everyone.

Click here for a recording of John Mole reading this poem.

John Mole is a trained teacher, jazz clarinetist and poet, writing for adults and children. https://www.poetryarchive.org/poet/john-mole

 

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When Grandad Was a Penguin

In the new picture book When Grandad was a Penguin by Morag Hood, a child”s grandfather accidentally swaps places with a penguin during a visit to the local zoo.

This leads scenes of great comedy as the penguin tries to live in a house, use the toilet, and take tea with the family, who notice that Grandad now talks a lot about fishing, and spends a lot of time in the bathroom.

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“He talked a lot about fishing.”

When Grandad was a Penguin – Morag Hood – Pan Macmillan 2018

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Daft doodles

All language teachers draw a little, we have to. The Instagram page, Daft Doodles, is by one language teacher who is very good at it, Dave McClure. Enjoy.

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Solitude – A.A. Milne

For those moments when you just need to be alone.

I have a house where I go
When there’s too many people,
I have a house where I go
Where no one can be;
I have a house where I go,
Where nobody ever says “No”;
Where no one says anything- so
There is no one but me.

-from Now We Are Six by A.A. Milne Egmont

 

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Bookworm: A memoir of childhood reading

Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading by British journalist and author Lucy Mangan is an autobiography with a special focus on the books that she read as a child, and is now reading to her own young son. Lucy Mangan grew up in England in the 70’s and 80’s learning to understand the world with the help of Roald Dahl, Dr Seuss, and Enid Blyton, and journeys to Narnia, the places Where The Wild Things Are, and Wonderland. Parents, teachers and librarians will enjoy this book for its enthusiasm for reading, and for the portraits of authors like Eric Carle, Maurice Sendak, and CS Lewis, and of course their writing.

We learn for example that

“the Hungry Caterpillar’s life began when (the author) was using a hole punch on a stack of papers at his home. The little circles made him think of a bookworm and he created a story, using different-sized pages – a familiar device in Germany, where his family had moved when he was six – called A Week with Willi the Worm.”

Mangan tells us that Where the Wild Things Are was inspired by Maurice Sendak’s memory of visits by older relatives who

“couldn’t speak English and grabbed and twisted your face, and they though this was an affectionate thing to do’. He and his siblings formulated the theory that, as their mother’s cooking was so terrible, the relatives could well be planning to eat them instead.”

Bookworm is full of anecdotes like this that not only bring to life the books that Magan rad but their authors too: Roald Dahl, like his character Willi Wonka, loved chocolate and would pass around a red plastic box of Mars and KitKat at the end of every meal: Mary Norton, author of The Borrowers, was very short-sighted and spent her own life “with her nose squashed up to things”; the whole Narnia series stemmed from a picture C.S. Lewis saw as a child of a deer ‘carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood’. He carried this image in his mind for 25 years before starting on the story.

These stories arepowerful ammunition in the battle to encourage more reading, in ourselves let alone others. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Writing Life

In his book on the writing process, Draft No. 4, and his series of articles on the writing process for New Yorker magazine,  journalist and Princeton University writing teacher John McPhee describes: how he once lay on his back on a table for two weeks mentally composing an text before writing it; how he spent 18 months learning to be a journalist by writing short articles with comic headlines for Time Magazine’s ‘Miscellany’ section (example a story about a man who fell asleep riding a bicycle was called “Two Tired”); how he spent months writing 40,000 words on the subject of oranges, and then discarded 85% of it; and how he began to write 1,000 words on a new experimental aircraft and ended up publishing 55,000 over three months.

The point of these anecdotes is that writing, even for experts like McPhee is hard work, and the result is not always what was planned. In his article ‘Writing by Omission’ McPhee asks in particular how a writer  can come refine, and shorten, his work to a powerful core. The answer is to be brutal: McPhee quotes the renaissance sculptor Michelangelo: “Every block of stone has a statue inside it, and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it,” to cut away the stone and find the beauty inside it. We do this because ‘Less is More’, as Ernest Hemingway observed, saying that “The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.”

References – The Writing Life – McPhee’s articles on writing for the New Yorker

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Happy 200th birthday Frankenstein

“My name is Victor Frankenstein.”

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Boris Karloff

2018 is the 200th birthday of the world’s most famous monster, Frankenstein. The book by Mary Shelley was first published in 1818, but even in the early years the story was better known as a stage play than a book. And when cinema picked up the monstrous baby he became one of its best-known stars.

The story, like the monster itself, has been pulled apart and rebuilt. The famous cry of “It’s alive!!” was not in Mary Shelley’s book, but was added by the theatre. Mary Shelley herself re-wrote the story in later editions, to make it softer and to give Dr Frankenstein more regret at what he had done. “…..now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart.” 

Adaptations of the story for learners of English as a foreign language include:

But is Frankenstein appropriate for the classroom? The film director Guillermo Del Toro describes it as a perfect story for teenagers: “You don’t belong. You were brought to this world by people that don’t care for you and you are thrown into a world of pain and suffering, and tears and hunger. It’s an amazing book written by a teenage girl. It’s mind-blowing.” (quote from this fantastic BBC article on Frankenstein, which has the full story with clips from film and TV including the Henry Brothers’ favourites – The Munsters

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The Munsters

 

 

 

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