Saturday, December 15, 2012

Make Your Voice Heard

You want to make the world a better place.

You want the President to know what you think.


Sign a petition.

Or create a petition of your own.

Several gun control petitions were filed with the White House after the Newtown tragedy yesterday.

Make your voice heard.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Time to Work

Time to get to work.

Let's think up new "impossible" promises and ask our candidates to consider them during the next election.

While we're at it, let's convince the people we respect and admire to run for office. How about your school librarian? How about your soccer coach?

No homework? President Hollande of France has proposed that; let's make it happen here!

Longer school lunch periods and more nutritious lunches? Why not?

There's a lot we can do—together. It might have been a campaign slogan, but we can make it more.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

What Can You Do?

There are 3 days left until the election.

What can YOU do to help create the outcomes that you want?

For you, the most important part of the election might not be choosing our president. Maybe the most important part of the election to you is making sure that there is money for parks. Maybe it is getting your congressman re-elected because he has always taken care of the needs of your neighborhood. Maybe it is a marriage amendment. Maybe, for you, it's all about our judges.

Whatever your priorities, whatever your views . . . now is the time to MAKE THINGS HAPPEN.

Authors and Illustrators for Children is a political organization that my good friend April Halprin Wayland started in 2004 with fellow author Bruce Balan. They reached out to children's authors and illustrators all over the country and gathered us together to turn our individual voices into one great big loud political cheer. I really admire what April and Bruce did. They had a vision and worked to make things happen.

Please take a look at our group's website and, if you like what we're doing, share our link. Take a look at the impressive list of authors and illustrators; I'm sure that you'll find some of your favorites there. Just THREE more days until the election. Jump in!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Shoes and Socks and . . . Wait a Minute!

In my poem "How Do You Choose?" I joke that you can choose a President based on his shoes—and socks.

How Do You Choose?
by Janet Wong

Uncle Al once told me
you can judge a man
by his shoes.
Or shiny and slick?

But of course it's not enough
to look at shoes
when you're choosing
a president.


We need a close look
at the socks, too.

Thinking about all the undecided voters still out there, I decided this morning to search for "Romney socks." This great photo popped up. I thought: "Look at you, George Bush! And maybe Romney's not as square as everybody thinks?"

But then I looked a few images over and saw the same setting, with George Bush in his same purple socks and white turtleneck, Romney in his same suit and tie . . . but this time wearing serious all-black socks. They could be the same socks, but the stripes seem to show rather high on the foot (and not show in this photo). Wait a minute! What happened there?

Was Romney wearing striped socks and someone told him to change to "conservative socks" for the photo-op, or was he wearing the conservative socks until someone gave him the striped socks to wear for the photo-op?

I am seriously puzzled. Good thing I'm not an undecided voter!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Don't Be Scared - Share!

Wouldn't it be great if, in the week-long period before the election, everyone wore something that shared their choices with the world? If you find yourself too ashamed to wear a campaign t-shirt or button for your candidates, then maybe you need to ask yourself why you're voting for those people.

Go, Katy Perry!

Maybe you don't have any "election clothes." That's OK. Just ask your friends, your relatives, and your neighbors: "Who are you voting for?" I don't understand why some people think voting is a private matter. Elected officials have the power to affect our lives in huge ways. If you're going to vote for someone who might take my rights away, I'd like you to be brave enough to tell me why you're voting for that person. And if I'm voting for someone that you don't like, please give me a chance to change your mind. Don't be scared to talk about the election—share your views!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Swing States and the Electoral College

Now that the debates are over—thank goodness!—this is a great time to talk to kids about swing states and the electoral college. Politico has an easy-to-read map at their site:

Listening to the news, people have got to wonder if their vote doesn't really count unless they live in one of those swing states. Here are a couple of poems to get your discussion started!

Swing State
by Janet Wong

I heard them say on the TV
that we live in a swing state.

If we vote the right way
will our neighborhood
get a new playground?

Electoral Math
by Janet Wong

50,456,002 > 50,999,897?
100,455,899 = 538
270 = Winner!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

My Challenge to You

Kids--you DO have a voice! Honey Boo Boo told Jimmy Kimmel yesterday that she would vote for Barack Obama. I'll bet that thousands of voters will swing to Obama because of her endorsement.

My challenge to you: watch the debate between Romney and Obama tonight. Even if just for 5 minutes. Then talk about it with your parents or grandparents or aunts or uncles. I bet you'll have questions and comments about what you'll hear--and you might just swing their votes, too!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Discussion Question #11: Who Would You Want?

Who would be some of your ideal presidential (or VP) candidates? Why?

If Jon Stewart ran for President or VP, I would vote for him in a second. He's informed, he's smart, his heart is in the right place—and people listen to him.

And there are "regular people" that we all know who would make excellent elected officials, too. Here's a poem I wrote about that:

Land of the Free (Kick)
by Janet Wong

I do believe
beyond the shadow of a doubt
that I could vote for any
of twelve good men and women
to be president
if only they were willing
to have that job.
Brad and Angelina could job-share
and we'd be on top of the world.
Tebow: The Miracle President.
No one would mess with Oprah.
Or: how about my soccer coach?

With my soccer coach as president,
there would be no excuses.
Slack off and you'd have to do
fifty push-ups.
She could get Congress
playing together as a team.

God Bless America:
Land of the Free (Kick),
Home of the Brave!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Whole Team

Tonight (starting at 9pm ET) we have a chance to hear from the VP candidates, Joe Biden and Paul Ryan. While listening to them should be useful—especially since one of them could become President "in a heartbeat"—is the VP really the only one the President relies on when making a hard decision? Doesn't he consult a handful of people?

I think it would actually be more interesting for each side to be able to have 5 people up there Family Feud or Quizzo-style, discussing their answers in a huddle for one minute, and then having one person provide "the team answer." Here's my thinking:

The Whole Team
by Janet Wong

The way things are
we're just looking
at the star quarterback,
when everyone knows
he can't win alone.

I want to see
how the whole team plays
before I place my bet.

If you were running for President, who would you want on your dream team of advisers?

Monday, October 8, 2012

What's on YOUR Ballot?

My son attends college in Maine. Recently he said that he plans to vote in Maine this November instead of sending in an absentee ballot for NJ (where we live and where he is currently registered), because "my vote is more important in Maine." We talked about this and, yes, his vote probably is more important in Maine; there are issues on the Maine ballot that we don't have on the NJ ballot, such as gay marriage.

What's on your local ballot? What do the propositions mean? This is a great research question for your students. Most of us are focusing just on electing a president—but there's a lot more at stake!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Discussion Question #10: Who's the Winner?

It would be really awful if people woke up on Wednesday, November 7th, looked at the news, and said, "What happened? I thought my candidate was way ahead. I guess I should've gone to vote!"

Here's something to talk about (from the Voter's Journal and Discussion Guide in Declaration of Interdependence):

Predict the winner of the next presidential election. Will you be happy if you're right? If so, how can you help make it happen? If not, what can you do? 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Win a Book!

My good friend, blogger Elaine Magliaro, is a very political person--politically aware and also not shy about voicing her political concerns--so I was very relieved when she said she likes my election poems. (Elaine is one of those brutally-honest friends that you can trust to tell you that your outfit (or poem) is terrible.) Leave a comment about at Elaine's blog and you'll have a chance to win a free book!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The First Obama-Romney Debate

What do you remember from last night's first Obama-Romney debate? Do you remember WHAT they said, or just HOW they said it?

Mainly I remember thinking: "Would someone give Obama a cup of coffee, please?" (Wake up, Mr. President!)

And: "How about some chamomile tea to calm Romney down a bit?"

As far as substance, I'm sorry to say I didn't remember a whole lot--much of what was said seemed like infomercial talking rather than genuine communication. And I'm not sure that I trusted what was said. It would be really neat to have little frowning faces (or question marks) pop up over their heads every time they stretch the truth, wouldn't it?

Here's a poem that I wrote after one of the Republican debates earlier this election season. Use it as a start and revise it to reflect your own views about these debates!

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire
by Janet Wong

#1 says: 
That’s a lie.

#2 says: 
You can’t hide.

Don’t beat up on me.
The truth is just so . . .
complicated . . .
when you’re trying to get 
My mind is fogged up
kind of hazy . . .
I know you think
it sounds plain crazy
but I simply don’t remember.
Ask me again—

in December.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hello, Grandma?

Today is National Voter Registration Day!

All over the country, the League of Women Voters is hosting events to help people register to vote. Type in your zip code to find an event where you are—and register yourself or help people sign up! I finally got around to registering my mother to vote last week; I did it online and it took only 3 minutes. She's the least political person I know, but she's watched enough TV to conclude for herself that she wanted to vote because "Romney is not sincere." When she gets her absentee ballot, I'm going to go over it with her candidate by candidate and issue by issue and help her fill in her ballot.

Do you know people who might like to vote but need help voting? The first step is to get them registered. Do it today!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Discussion Question #9: The Tree Governor?

In my last post I asked you to imagine yourself as a dog wanting good promises from your local politicians. What if you were a tree? What would you want your governor to believe?

I googled "interesting laws about trees" and found all kinds of laws about trees: no climbing, no planting too close to a street, no cutting without a permit, plant one if you cut one, etc. I had hoped to find something a little more creative and inspiring. Maybe: get a property tax credit if you plant native trees that bats like (such as hickory). Or: public schools whose students spend one day a month pulling destructive vines down from trees in parks get . . . one more day of vacation each year!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Discussion Question #8: Woof!

If you were a dog, what kinds of promises would you want to hear from your mayor?

Yesterday I saw that public swimming pools in D.C. are open to dogs on the last day of swim season for the annual Doggy Day Swim. That's creative!

I wonder how it happened? Did someone just wake up one morning with this great idea and call city hall?

How can "regular people" like us make small things like this happen all over the country?

How about writing letters or emails to your candidates for city council and mayor and asking what they'll do to improve the lives of dogs in your town?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A More Perfect Union

Four years from now . . . What will you say if someone asks, "Are you better off?"

I hope we'll be able to say YES.

My last post was on "inspiration"—a challenge to us all to identify something inspiring in the political campaigns. Last night's speech by Bill Clinton certainly was inspiring, wasn't it? (Listen to the whole thing on YouTube or on a dozen different websites by googling "Bill Clinton DNC 2012 speech." It's long but you can fold laundry or wash dishes while you listen—I did both!) I still don't feel that I can list specific presidential campaign promises that inspire me, but that speech convinced me that things are better today than they were 4 years ago and will be even better 4 years from now. I'm eager to hear President Obama's speech tonight.

Back to inspiring promises: maybe it's not even necessary to be inspired by specific promises. When you get excited about your birthday, it's the whole thing that you look forward to; you don't separate out your excitement about the cake and the presents and the music and the friends. When Clinton ended his speech with a nod to our preamble—"a more perfect union"—I thought, "That is something I can look forward to!" Here's a little top-of-my-head poem inspired by that:

A More Perfect Union
by Janet Wong

Hard to say
what would make
a more perfect union

So many layers
to that answer

a more perfect onion:
that's easy

Would not make you cry
would not stink things up
would give you strength
would flavor your life

I guess
it's kind of the same way
with a more perfect union

Four years from now: a more perfect union! How's that for a goal?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Discussion Question #7: Inspiring

The Voter's Journal at the back of Declaration of Interdependence provides this prompt: Write a list of the most inspiring or sensible ideas you've heard from presidential candidates (official or unofficial) in this election.

Here we are, two months from the election date, and I'm very sad to say that I can't think of a single inspiring idea that I've heard from the mouths of Romney or Obama. But the Democratic National Convention is about to begin—and I'm sure I'll hear at least one inspiring thought there.

It would be inspiring for me to hear that a billion dollars will be poured into schools simply for the purpose of "increasing the joy of learning." Is that going to happen? (I doubt it)

It would be inspiring for me to hear that X million additional acres of land will be set aside for national parks next year. Will that happen? (probably not)

It would be inspiring for me to hear that our federal government will give tax breaks to corporations that  change their regular work week to 4 days x 8 hours/day; I truly believe that the biggest impediment to quality of life for many people is the lack of adequate time to relax. (dream on)

So: what WOULD be a realistic inspirational campaign promise?

Have you heard any?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

We the People

"We the People" is one of my own favorite poems in Declaration of Interdependence: Poems for an Election Year because I truly believe in the message, which is: Let kids vote! Here's the poem:

We the People

There's a crazy guy:

Scares kids on our street
kicks old dogs
pours oil down the drain
cusses loud about
hates "wasting money"
on schools

And he has the right to vote.

Then there's me, just fifteen:

I worry about war
watch the 6 o'clock news
raise money for the poor
plant trees in the park

But where's my vote?

I filled out forms
for Grandma, Mom,
and Aunty Lin
to get their ballots

And next month,
come election time,
I won't have a vote, no,
I'll have three:

Aunty Lin
and me--

We are
We the People.

My mother became a U.S. citizen in the 1970s but she has never voted in an election. When we'd ask her to vote, her answer was always, "No--if I vote, I know I'll get called for jury duty." So I stopped asking. Until last week. We were walking past a voter registration display and, out of impulse, I asked if she wanted to vote in November. Shocking me, she answered, "I would love to . . . but I don't know how." Well, that's easily solved: an absentee ballot. Thank goodness I asked!

Let's get kids asking their grandmothers, great-aunts, and neighbors if they need help voting. Wouldn't it be great if absentee ballot (or advance voting) parties became The Next Big Thing during the first week in November!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Discussion Question #6: Ridiculous

Write a list of the most ridiculous (or scariest or most impractical) ideas you've heard from presidential candidates (official and unofficial).

For instance, Newt Gingrich suggested that poor kids should be offered jobs as school custodians/janitors. One of my friends thinks this is a ridiculous, stupid idea. What do you think?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Buy X, get Y FREE!

I learned recently that there are still some free copies left to give away as part of Richard C. Owen's "buy X, get Y free" deal at Buy a copy of my Meet the Author book Before It Wriggles Away, and you'll get a free copy of Declaration of Interdependence sent to you with your order. Take a look here!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Thank you, Fellow Bloggers!

The poetry universe is rich in talented bloggers. I am thrilled that three of the best--Elaine Magliaro (Wild Rose Reader), Julie Larios (The Drift Record), and Sylvia Vardell (Poetry for Children) have embraced Declaration of Interdependence and written wonderful reviews of it. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Discussion Question #5: Possible Promises

Write a list of 10 possible things that you would want to do if you were president . . . and share one of those wonderful ideas here. Sometimes the line between possible and impossible is blurred--a millimeter (or a minute or a vote) can separate a silly dream from a very real accomplishment. If you're not sure whether your promise would be "possible" or "impossible," list it here--why not dream big?

Update [Oct 2012]: If you think "No Homework" is an impossible presidential promise, think again. French President Francois Hollande just proposed this very thing as part of his redesign of the French education system. If our leaders did this in the U.S., I think a lot of kids (and parents and teachers) would say: "Merci!"

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Discussion Question #4: Impossible Promises

Write a list of 10 impossible things that you would want to do if you were president . . . and share one of those crazy ideas here!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Discussion Question #3: How to Get Out the Vote?

What would you say to someone to convince him that his vote counts?

I wrote "The 2012 Iowa Caucus" (see my January 22 post) to show that every vote counts. The day after the caucus, Romney was found to have won by only 8 votes. I wondered how rotten the Santorum supporters must've felt--those who planned to go but didn't make it to the caucus because they were rushing or not feeling well or busy with dinner. I made up names and towns for these 8 voters so that they would seem more real. As it turned out, there was a miscount and Santorum won by a few dozen votes, but still: only a few dozen. I think this is a great example of "every vote counts"!

My new friend Leonard says we need to remind voters: a vote for the president is a vote for a Supreme Court judge who will make decisions affecting us for a very long time.

What could you say to someone to get them to vote?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Discussion Question #2: Ask A Voter

Here is Question #2 from the back of DECLARATION OF INTERDEPENDENCE (the Voter's Journal and Discussion Guide section). Ask around and please post what you find!

#2: Ask A Voter

Ask your grandparents, parents, another family member, or a neighbor about an election that was important to them . . . and post your notes here! 

One of my strongest memories of an election and a family member happened a few days after the Bush-Gore post-election chaos in 2000. My grandfather was in the hospital. The nurse was filling me in on his condition, saying he was clearly disoriented and "not entirely there"--saying this right in front of him. The example she gave of his confusion was, "He's watching the TV all day and he doesn't even know who the president is." She then shouted at him, "Mr. Wong, who is the president?" My grandfather stared blankly at me and mumbled, "Bush? Gore? Who IS it?" The nurse (oblivious to the hanging-chads controversy in Florida and the uncertain election results) said, triumphantly: "SEE!"

Monday, January 23, 2012

Your First Election

At the back of DECLARATION OF INTERDEPENDENCE there are a dozen questions to inspire readers to talk, argue, be silly, and write. I'll invite you to answer questions from that section by posting a comment here, OK? (These questions weren't in the "collector's edition e-book" but they're now in the revised e-book and will be in the paperback version that is coming out on Presidents' Day. But don't worry...I'll post all the discussion questions here.)


What is the first election you remember?

And WHAT do you remember about it?

Was it an election where you were a volunteer? An election you heard a lot about from your parents? A school election for student government or an election of a team captain?

Please tell!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Declaration of Interdependence Blog

Two weeks ago DECLARATION OF INTERDEPENDENCE: Poems for an Election Year came out, and I felt so clever because it contained a poem called "The 2012 Iowa Caucus" that mentioned Romney's win--by 8 votes. Friends asked, "How did you write that so fast?" 

As it turns out, I wrote that poem TOO fast. A few days ago the Iowa result was declared a "split decision" with Santorum 34 votes ahead (but no "winner" because the ballots from 8 precincts had been destroyed before the recount). Then, the next night, probably as a result of significant pressure from Santorum supporters, the Iowa GOP announced that Santorum indeed was the "winner" by 34 votes.

Here is my revision of that poem:

The 2012 Iowa Caucus

Adam from Adams was running late.
Black Hawk Betty had a date.
Cole from Carroll got stuck at work.
Decatur Dave’s dog went berserk.
Deb from Dubuque had a meal to prepare.
Linn’s Linn decided to help with a prayer.
Muscatine Mike said: “I’m just one.”
Sioux City’s Sue: “Losing’s no fun.”

Eight for Santorum stayed home Caucus Night.
And Romney won—by 8, all right. *

*Until someone saw the numbers and said,
“I know those numbers aren’t what I read
on the piece of paper we handed in.
Santorum had more. Um . . . let’s count again.”
Though ballots had been destroyed, long gone,
a partial recount was done. And Strawn,
the GOP boss, said the loss by 8
was a win by 34—no, wait—
not really a win: a “split decision,” a tie.
Santorum supporters questioned why
and the next night Strawn “clarified”;
poor Mitt Romney must have cried.

Oh, and: Adam from Adams (who ran late)
has quite a story. His long-distance mate
was blogging about voting for Stephen Colbert.
“You couldn’t,” he said. “His name wasn’t there!”
Adam’s wife said, “There was nobody finah
for Prez of the U.S. of South Carolina.”
Indeed she did vote for Colbert (or Cain)
and it wasn’t entirely a vote cast in vain:
for Stephen (as Herman) won 1 percent,
a tiny but audible vote of dissent.
Adam from Adams said, “This takes the cake—
when the best choice you have is only a fake.”