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  • Writer's pictureCharles Waters


Hello my poetic peeps the world over.

Happy to have reached the big 4 -0 with Poetry Time blog postings. Looking forward to more in the future!

What better way to celebrate the 40th blog post then to have a book party for the release of my first book CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? Poems of Race, Mistakes and Friendship!

KIRKUS calls the book in their starred review, "A brave and touching protrayal worthy of sharing in classrooms across America."

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY said in their starred review, "The poems delicately demonstrate the complexity of identity and the power of communication to build friendships."

BOOKLIST chimed in by saying, "Young readers searching for means to have difficult, emotional, and engaged discussions about race will find an enlightening resource in Irene and Charles’ explorations."

THE HORN BOOK MAGAZINE stated, "This volume would make an excellent read-aloud or a launch pad for collaborative classroom writing."

Here are other articles about the book from Shelf Awareness. Jessica Smith, here and here.

As part of the cover reveal in September, Irene thought it would be a good idea to include something about ourselves in each other's cover reveal post, some extra info to make it not just a cover release, but something informative and entertaining. We decided on a variation of the game "Two Truths and a Lie" where we write each write about ourselves and you have to guess which is the truth and which is not. We've decided to expand it a little to include one more.

We sent each other such a wealth of information that we decided to parse in out for the cover reveal and the book release!

So once again, here is "Three Truths and a Lie" starring Irene Latham!

1. Irene had little exposure to other cultures while growing up.

2. Irene has two mischievous older brothers who once set fire to a pasture across the street.

3. Whenever something bad happens in the world, Irene talks to her father about it.

Which are the truths and which is not? Found out below.

Wait for it ......

Wait for it ......

1. FALSE: As a child Irene lived for 2 ½ years in Saudi Arabia. Most of that time was spent living in an Arab neighborhood. Her family traveled worldwide before returning to the States, and Irene credits this experience as fostering her interest in and love for other cultures.

2. TRUE: Irene's brothers had lots of adventures, and she's lucky to have survived many of them! She credits those brothers as helping to make her the strong woman she is today. Here she is with her older brothers Stan & Ken (and snake) in Thailand.

3. While Irene's father is no longer living, she still talks to him about the bad stuff. And the place she is most likely to find him – and peace – is outdoors, in nature. This is Irene and her father at Yosemite National Park in 2013.

Just like in my previous blog post, here is a poem from the book written by Irene. Enjoy!


I want ruby shoes

with heels to click

me to another land.

or glass slippers

to make a dancer

out of me.

but Mama says

shoes should be

sensible -----

plain white

or solid black

to go with everything.

So that's what we buy.

When I show Patty Jean,

she gives me

her rainbow socks

and a pair of purple


When I look down,

I can't believe

those feet belong to me.

© Irene Latham 2018 all rights reserved.

I've been busy getting my author presentation ready because I'll be in Seattle and Mercer Island, WA from January 21 - 27th as part of the Multicultural Children's Literature Celebration. I'll be doing fourteen assemblies and multiple writing workshop at various schools as well as one Seattle Town Hall interview at the Northwest African-American Museum on behalf of CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? Poems of Race, Mistakes and Friendship. I'll be interviewed by writer and activist, Reagan Jackson of Young Women Empowered. For those of you who live in the area, you can purchase tickets to the event by clicking here.

Thank you, Dr. Jeana Hrepich and Dr. Christie Kaaland of Antioch University for inviting me to participate!

In other news, AASL (American Association of School Librarians) and NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) were both big successes! For one, I finally met Irene and we had a long, exciting book signings, met a wealth of educators from all over America, had immersive conversations during the librarian dinner that our publisher, Lerner, threw for us, heard snatches of positive chat from other book loving folk in and around both convention centers.

My poem, "Putting in the Work" appears in the book POEMS ARE TEACHERS: How Studying Poetry Strengthens Writing in All Genres by my pal, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater. What an enriching, vital book for teachers and students. Thanks for the invite, Amy!

What's the book about?

From the Heinemann website:

“Poems wake us up, keep us company, and remind us that our world is big and small,” Amy Ludwig VanDerwater explains in Poems Are Teachers. “And too, poems teach us how to write. Anything.”

This is a practical book designed for every classroom teacher. Each lesson exploration includes three poems, one by a contemporary adult poet and two by students in grades 2 through 8, which serve as models to illustrate how poetry teaches writers to:

• find ideas

• choose perspective and point of view

• structure texts

• play with language

• craft beginnings and endings

• choose titles.

Students will learn how to replicate the craft techniques found in poetry to strengthen all writing, from fiction to opinion, from personal narrative to information. “Poets arrange words and phrases just as prose writers do, simply in tighter spaces,” Amy argues. “In the tight space of poetry, readers can identify writing techniques after reading one page, not thirty pages.”

Went to the New Black Power! Exhibition at the New York Public Library's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. From their website:

Black Power! will invite visitors to delve deeper into the heterogeneous and ideologically diverse global movement that shaped black consciousness and built an immense legacy of community organizing and advocacy that continues to resonate in the United States of America and around the world today. Visitors will also confront misconceptions and truths about the Black Power movement.

Black Power! serves as another touchstone in the Schomburg’s “Black Power 50” focus, a yearlong examination into the 50th anniversary of the Black Power movement. Stokely Carmichael and fellow Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) worker Willie Ricks introduced Black Power as a concept in June 1966.

In February 2016, the Schomburg launched “Black Power 50” with a two-part digital exhibition in partnership with Google Cultural Institute. The Schomburg has since released the new exhibition’s catalog Black Power 50 and hosted a series of public programs featuring conversations with leaders of the Black Power movement such as Kathleen Cleaver, Bobby Seale, and Iris Morales, and Black Arts Movement luminaries Nikki Giovanni, Askia Touré, and Sonia Sanchez, among many others.

While I had a pretty good knowledge of the Black Panthers and their work through the years, this exhibit went into such detail I learned more and more about their journey. These free exhibitions at different New York Library branches that I go to always leaves me feeling enriched.

Read-a-Poem or R.A.P. My rallying cry to bring children’s poetry to every human being in the world continues rolling along. Not every book I mention has to be about children’s poetry, but that’s the main thrust. I have read:

READ, READ, READ by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater. Illustrated by Ryan O'Rourke.

FLASHLIGHT NIGHT by Matt Forrest Esenwine. Illustrated by Fred Koehler.

MY DADDY RULES THE WORLD: Poems About Dads poems and illustrations by Hope Anita Smith.

MOTHER POEMS words and pictures by Hope Anita Smith.

BRAVO! Poems About Amazing Hispanics by Margarita Engle. Illustrated by Rafael Lopez.

A NEW SCHOOL YEAR: Poems in Six Voices by Sally Derby. Illustrated by Mika Song.

THUNDER UNDERGROUND by Jane Yolen. Illustrated by Jose Masse.

SCHOMBURG: The Man Who Built A Library by Carole Boston Weatherford. Illustrated by Eric Velasquez.


LOCOMOTION by Jacqueline Woodson.


TOFU QUILT by Ching Yueng Russell.


RIDICHOLAS NICHOLAS: More Animal Poems by J. Patrick Lewis. Pictures by Victoria Chess.


I LOVE DOGS by Barney Saltzberg.

I LOVE CATS by Barney Saltzberg.

OPPOSITES by Sandra Boynton.

MOO, BAA, LA, LA, LA! by Sandra Boynton.

JAZZ BABY by Carole Boston Weatherford. Illustrated by Laura Freeman.

UNDER MY HOOD I HAVE A HAT by Karla Kuskin. Illustrated by Fumi Kosaka.

POLAR BEAR, POLAR BEAR, WHAT DO YOU HEAR? by Bill Martin, Jr. Illustrated by Eric Carle.

BROWN BEAR, BROWN BEAR, WHAT DO YOU SEE? by Bill Martin, Jr. Illustrated by Eric Carle.

JAMBERRY written and illustrated by Bruce Degen.

THANK YOU, MR. FALKER by Patricia Polacco.

I leave you with my poem from POEMS ARE TEACHERS. Enjoy. :-)


Pop hurt his ankle while helping build

a new house on the other end of town.

“I twisted it, I guess.” He said. It took all

my strength to get his work boot off.

Pop’s ankle was the color of nightfall,

his foot had ballooned to twice its size.

When Mom said, “Honey, please go to the hospital.”

He whispered, “We don’t have insurance.”

Few hours later he woke up, muttered,

“Time to go to my next job.” Me and Mom

helped him put on his boot, afterwards

we were all covered in so much sweat

it looked like we’d come out of a rainstorm.

Mom pleaded, “Honey, take the night off, please?”

He shook his head. “Money doesn’t fall

from the sky, you go out there and earn it.”

Every time my friends ask me why I

never complain about anything …

I don't say a word.

© Charles Waters 2017 all rights reserved.

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