Friday, February 11, 2011

Happy Birthday - Jane Yolen

Birthdays come and birthdays go... but a February birthday, well, that's something extra special.  Who was born in February?  
     Lots of folks, famous and infamous.  My sister Joy, who turns 82 on February 13th (she was the subject of one of my very first blogs).  Lincoln.  Washington.  Clark Gable.  Langston Hughes.  Cindy Crawford.  Larry the Cable Guy.  Tina Louise (Ginger!).  Sarah Palin.  Mark Spitz.  Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Ida Lupino (For all you movie buffs).  Jim Backus (The millionaire).  Longfellow.  Bernadette Peters.  Dinah Shore (golf, anyone?).  Johnny Cash.  Carrot Top (really?).  Judy Blume.  Oh, and there's me, on February 20th!
     But I can't let February zip by without wishing one of my favorite authors the happiest of birthdays.  Today is Jane Yolen's Birthday!  Of all the people born in February, I owe her more than gratitude.  I owe her a standing ovation.  Without her dedication to story, and language, and children, my teaching life wouldn't be as rich or as  blessed.  So, I chose to wish Jane "Happy Birthday" with a little blog tribute.  As I reread my older posts, I noticed that I've blogged about her several times (12/9/10, 10/12/10, 8/10/10, 8/17/1010/14/09), but wanted to once again thank her!
     Today, I read All Those Secrets of the World to my students in celebration of her birthday.  As I shared, I found several emails tucked safely inside (correspondence between Ms. Yolen and me from 2002).  I was having trouble finding copies of All Those Secrets of the World and Before the Storm and I emailed to ask her about the availability (subject line:  A search, A request, A frustration).  She graciously offered to send me a copy of both books stating, "Cover price, and I will take care of the postage.  Autograph is free!"  As I read the emails to my students, they were in awe, "You emailed Jane Yolen and she ANSWERED!"  It was the beginning of a wonderful read at the beginning of writer's workshop.  We did a memory write after I read the book.  Several students wrote wonderful pieces.
     Tucked inside was the memory write I wrote about our daughter, Anneke, on January 27, 2003, it read:  "I remember the day you were born.  You came swimming out of your mother with arms and elbows flying.  And we were so happy.  We had our little girl and you were beautiful.  You cried until your mom held you close and the sound of her voice made you stop and look and listen.  We both stared at you and couldn't believe how perfect you were, how absolutely lovely your skin was, and how soft and cuddly you were... we were amazed!"  Anneke is now 20.
     Today I wrote:  "Oompah, pah!  Oompah, pah!  I miss tuba sounds floating through the house.  The tuba has paved the path for more eclectic noise--that of an electric guitar.  Instead of John Phillip Sousa, now all I hear reverberating through the house is AC/DC, Metallica, and periodically, The News Boys.  
     I long for those innocent days when Jens's musical career was more about playing marches in bass clef rather than raucous strumming of the bass itself!"
     "Turn down the bass!"  I yell up the stairs.  But he doesn't listen (can he hear?).  Oompah, pah has transformed into "Drrrrerrr, drreeereee, drreee, derreee!"  The back beat has changed in clarity--with the hidden tune that of "Seek and Destroy" rather than "Ode to Joy!"
     In the concert band, I could always hear Jens.  His "oompahs" holding the beat of each piece, each song.  His cheeks puffed as he filled the twisted labyrinth of the tuba with air.  In  the rock band, all I see is head shaking, all I hear are riffs, and all I understand are the mumbled versions of what was once someone's poetry.  
     Screaming has replaced clarity for these old ears.  BUT, what hasn't changed is the love Jens finds in his music.  That's the joy!"
     So, I must thank Jane Yolen, for giving me the nudge to write about my own children.  When I have my students do a "memory" write (really to build and strengthen our writing muscle), they briefly jot possible thoughts in their notebooks as I read the story.  I give them a few minutes to chat with a friend to "get their writing out into the air." Then together, we spend 10 minutes in our notebooks, jotting fodder for future work.  Today was such a day.
      And, so again... Happy Birthday, Ms. Yolen!  Happy Birthday to you!

By the way... it was a tough job narrowing down from so many titles, but here are my favorite Jane Yolen books.  Which ones do you love?



  1. I love "Owl Moon" and have had it autographed by Jan twice, many years apart!

  2. I love Owl Moon, too. It's a favorite book box read for my little guys. Snow Snow is a new favorite of mine. I drool over Jane Yolen's word choice.