Newsbee loves to read, but finds putting pen to paper harder than pollinating an artichoke. This month’s Picks are about characters that sense his struggle, but “Write On!” anyway. You’ll meet a girl petrified of poetry, a boy bent on making word lists and a tween determined to get the scoop on a breaking story in the Deep South. “Write On,” and remember, writing takes practice, practice, practice.

* * * * * * * * * * *

April is National Poetry Month, but composing a poem is pure Greek to Elinor in “A Poem in Your Pocket,” by Margaret McNamara. The little blonde, and the rest of Mr. Tiffin’s class, spend weeks preparing for an author visit by poet Emmy Crane on Poem in Your Pocket Day.

The students learn about metaphors and similes, read a variety of poems and keep a poetry journal. But Elinor’s journal pages are blank, and she’s worried she won’t be able to write a poem, rhyming or not.

Elinor tries to write at home and school, but nothing will come to her. When the big day arrives, and Ms. Crane makes her presentation, Elinor doesn’t have a poem in her pocket, but the rest of the kids do.

A heartfelt lesson arises from the poet’s visit, one that benefits writers of all ages in this delightful book illustrated by G. Brian Karas. He captures the emotion of elementary school in his cartoon-like paintings. Tips for budding poets are included at the end of this charming story.

* * * * * * * * * * *

As writers, we try to select the best words to convey meaning. A thesaurus helps with that. “The Right Word, Roget and His Thesaurus,” by Jen Bryant, is about a boy with a passion for words, who created a mighty tool many depend on today.

Born in Switzerland in 1779, Peter Mark Roget lost his father at an early age. His family moved a lot and “making friends was difficult. But books, Peter discovered, were also good friends.” Peter was only 8 when he began his word lists. His mother believed they were just “scribbles,” but Peter learned that words are “powerful things.”

At 19, Roget finished medical school, but was advised he was too young to be taken seriously as a doctor, so he taught and traveled. He continued to work on his lists when he did become a physician, publishing his first “big book for word lists” in 1805.

Roget was far from finished — he married, had children and added to his Thesaurus. He believed “everyone should be able to find the right word whenever they needed it.” Artist Melissa Sweet received a Caldecott Honor Award and Sibert Informational Book Medal for her illustrations in “The Right Word.”

* * * * * * * * * * *

Eleven-year-old Stella, an African-American girl from Bumblebee, N.C., has her trials in Sharon Draper’s book “Stella by Starlight.”

It’s 1932, and Stella’s town is like many in the south, a hot bed of hate, the KKK terrorizing their community. Signs on businesses read “Whites Only,” and Stella can’t even check out books at her public library.

This is agonizing for a reader with aspirations of becoming a writer, perhaps a newspaper reporter. Goodness knows Stella’s surrounded by print. Her home is papered in front pages and feature sections to keep the family’s home warm.

Though Stella is faced with discrimination, she has loving, courageous parents. Her father, an avid newspaper reader, is determined to vote, even if he risks harm from men in white hoods, carrying torches of fire.

To placate her fear, Stella turns to writing, putting her thoughts on paper, all the while doubting her ability to turn a good sentence, despite having her teacher tell her she’s “The best thinker in school.”

With encouragement and practice, Stella begins to see an improvement. Her story is based on Draper’s grandmother, who had to quit school at 15, but who “insisted on writing each night by the light of the moon.”

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.