A Few Haiku for You

Look around outside. What do you see? A bird? A flower? A sunset? A tree? Each one would make a great haiku — for you!


The Japanese haiku, one of the oldest forms of poetry, teaches us much about the art and craft of poem-making. The entire poem consists of only three short lines, yet the haiku contains all the basic elements of poetry.


The haiku is understated and concise. It is lyrical and dramatic, poignant and precise, personal and universal. Sometimes it is witty. But always it is ethereal and timeless, as meaningful today as it was hundreds of years ago when Basho, Buson, Issa and the other masters of haiku first began exploring its potential as an art form.


Here are a few samples of my haiku. I hope you enjoy them. I followed the Japanese tradition of using seasonal imagery to portray the cyclical aspect of Time and Nature.


After reading through these, you may want to try writing some of your own.



Summer LYB1507_Cover


The cricket calls to

the meadow, each evening he

hears his echo sing.



Beyond fields of rice

shadows sway to moonlight’s breeze,

lithe bamboo dancers.



Listen, the forest

waits for summer’s final song,

the whippoorwill sings.



Fall LYB1412-cover



Shadows bow to the

setting sun, pray to the sky

for blessings of light.



Artist autumn comes,

paints her blush across each tree,

drops palette, and leaves.



Geese fly south pulling

over the mountaintops a

stone curtain of sky.



Winter LYB1611-cover


The last lullaby,

an owl cries out through the pines,

the north wind answers.



A sleeping doe stirs

beneath her blanket of dawn,

a new year rising.



The sea lion roars

across the far horizon,

storm clouds stalk the shore.



Spring CKT0605-cover-full


A field full of pale

parachutes, dandelions

adrift in the wind.



Ivory butterflies

perch on black branches,

the dogwood blossoms.



The cherry blossom

wakes, stretches, opens herself

to the morning sun.


 Charles Ghigna lives in a treehouse in the middle of Alabama. He served as poet-in-residence and chair of creative writing at the Alabama School of Fine Arts, instructor of creative writing at Samford University, poetry editor of English Journal for the National Council of Teachers of English, and a nationally syndicated poetry feature writer for Tribune Media Services. His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, Rolling Stone, The Village Voice and The Wall Street Journal. He is the author of more than 100 books from Random House, Disney, Hyperion, Scholastic, Simon & Schuster, Time Inc., Abrams, Boyds Mills Press, Charlesbridge, Capstone, Orca and other publishers. He speaks at schools, conferences, libraries, and literary events throughout the U.S. and overseas, and has read his poems at The Library of Congress, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the American Library in Paris, the American School in Paris, and the International Schools of South America. For more information, please visit website at FatherGoose.com

Poems About Poetry for National Poetry Month

Have you ever read a poem ABOUT poetry?

Have you ever written one?


All it takes is a metaphor (comparison) and your imagination!


Here are some poems with metaphors

that compare poems to lots of different things.



What’s a Poem?


A whisper,

A shout,

Thoughts turned

Inside out.


A laugh,

A sigh,

An echo

Passing by.


A rhythm,

A rhyme,

A moment

Caught in time.


A moon,

A star,

A glimpse

Of who you are.



A Poem is a Spider Web


A poem is a spider web

Spun with words of wonder,

Woven lace held in place

By whispers made of thunder.



A Poem is a Firefly


A poem is a firefly

Upon the summer wind.

Instead of shining where she goes,

She lights up where she’s been!



A Poem is a Rosebud


A poem is a morning rose,

A promise just begun,

A blossom new with fragrant dew

Unfurling in the sun.



A Poem is a Mirror


A poem is a mirror

Sitting on a shelf

Inviting you to come and view

Reflections of yourself.



A Poem is a Painting


A poem is a painting,

A masterpiece divine,

Hanging on display inside

The gallery of your mind.



A Poem is a Song


A poem is a song

Made of color,


A rainbow

Made of sound,


A painting

Made of memory,


A paradise




A Poem is a Play


A poem is a play

meant to delight.


A poem is a show

meant to excite.


A poem is a song

full of desire.


A poem is a sunset

meant to inspire.


A poem is a secret

shared with friends.


A poem is a promise

that never ends.



A Poem is a Busy Bee


A poem is a busy bee

Buzzing in your head.

His hive is full of hidden thoughts

Waiting to be said.


His honey comes from your ideas

That he makes into rhyme.

He flies around looking for

What goes on in your mind.


When it’s time to let him out

To make some poetry,

He gathers up your secret thoughts

And then he sets them free!



A Poem is a Little Path


A poem is a little path

That leads you through the trees.

It takes you to the cliffs and shores,

To anywhere you please.


Follow it and trust your way

With mind and heart as one,

And when the journey’s over,

You’ll find you’ve just begun.


Charles Ghigna – Father Goose® lives in a treehouse in the middle of Alabama. He served as poet-in-residence and chair of creative writing at the Alabama School of Fine Arts, and as a nationally syndicated feature writer for Tribune Media Services. He is the author of more than 100 award-winning books for children and adults from Random House, Disney, Hyperion, Scholastic, Simon & Schuster, Time Inc., Abrams, Charlesbridge, Capstone, Orca and other publishers. His poems appear in hundreds of magazines from The New Yorker and Harper’s to Cricket and Highlights. For more information, please visit his website at FatherGoose.com

YOU, Yes, YOU Should Read to Your Children

Two separate articles came through my inbox during the past few days. The first was the announcement of a new piece of technology called Aristotle which supposedly can understand the speech of very young children, allowing it to answer their questions and play simple games. The device will even read the child a bedtime stories, the announcement boasts, as if this is a good thing.


The second article is a scientific study which demonstrated that reading physical books to kids makes parents more affectionate. Other studies have shown that additional benefits of having parents or caregivers read aloud to children include increased brain development, stronger relationships between parent and child, and increased academic achievement for kids of all ages.


You probably didn’t need to think very hard to see the disconnect between these two articles.  What the tech world is envisioning for our kids and what science (and experience) is telling us kids actually need are, in this case, two different things. More than ever before, our kids need our physical presence, our time, our attention. And the perfect way to deliver all those things is by grabbing a book (or a magazine), settling down without any electronics, and reading to our kids. After all, with the amount of devices already taking over our lives and the ballooning number of minutes our kids already spend looking at screens and talking to Siri, do they really need another electronic voice firing off a story? I think we all know that what our kids need is the closeness, the discussion, and the affection that comes from reading together.


Our goal here at Cricket Media is to make reading aloud to your kids easier than ever. Our magazines come right to your mailbox…no need to even head to the library or bookstore each month for new stories. And right here on this blog, we’ve provided hundreds of free stories and articles for you to share with your kids. Let’s start the new year off right, with another free story, a sci-fi mystery called “Mercury’s Missing Mutt” (Part 1 and Part 2) by Kristin O’Donnell Tubb and illustrated by Michael McCabe, which appeared in SPIDER Magazine. For more stories like this delivered right to your mailbox, be sure to subscribe to SPIDER.

How to Stay in the Present

Last year around this time, I posted a blog about holiday shopping, or more accurately, holiday overspending. In it, I repeated some good advice that I got and still abide by:


When it comes to gifts, try the rule of four for your kids: one gift they want, one gift they need, one gift they wear, and one gift they read. This allows you to buy them useful, practical gifts that should have a longer shelf life, while still giving them something they want and helping you to maintain a budget.


This year, I’m trying even harder to subscribe to this rule with one exception – and I’ll get to that in a second. My reason for really sticking to the rule of four is that at the beginning of 2016, I established a budget. My kids are at an age where I feel it is really important to demonstrate responsible financial behavior. Modeling this behavior isn’t always easy, but it does give me the ability to blow off a request for the green Hatchimal by saying “Oh, we don’t have the money for that, it’s not in the budget.”


Sticking to the budget is especially difficult at this time of year. But actually it is more important than ever to keep to a budget at Christmas. If I cry “sorry, that’s not in the budget” all year long and then overload the Christmas tree, the kids will get a clear signal that no matter how tight your money is, it’s okay to blow a budget when it comes to holiday gifts. Staying consistent and modeling fiduciary discipline is an important lesson you can give your kids. (See, this is me adulting. Not only do I sound responsible, I use big words like “fiduciary” to do so!)


So when planning your budget work with the rule of four. But my exception to the rule is to shop experience gifts. Look for a class, a camp, a one-time adventure. Consider something for the season like ice-skating or snowboarding. A cooking class or a language class the whole family might enjoy. Art, glass blowing, 3-D modeling, crafting or dancing. Take a zip line adventure, play laser tag or paintball, or make that last gift a family vacation to someplace meaningful to the kids. Memories, skills, and knowledge will last way longer than any green Hatchimals will.


Cricket Media MagazinesEditor’s Note: A gift of Cricket Media children’s magazines won’t bust your budget and fits perfectly in the rule of four. We’ll let you decide which of the four categories it matches.


Cricket Media Mama booked a trip to Harry Potter world for Christmas because she’s all about the experience gifts. Now, she just has to figure out what to give her husband and kids since she’ll be gone.


What Do Origami and Elephants Have in Common?

The Story Behind the Origami


Originally, the folks at the Bronx Zoo set out to collect 35,000 elephants representing the heartbreaking number of 35,000 elephants (96 per day) killed each year for their ivory tusks. The overall goal of the initiative is to help gain a wider awareness of the elephant ivory trafficking crisis and encourage global advocacy and support. When the call went out to make and send origami elephants, the organizers of the campaign were overwhelmed. Origami elephants came in to the zoo from an incredibly diverse array of folders including a 109-year-old woman, students from a school for the deaf, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, libraries, and from participants in countries such as Kazakhstan and Egypt. While it isn’t possible for the zoo to show all 78,564 origami elephants, the current display will showcase a large portion of these works of art throughout the zoo’s regular holiday exhibit.


Are You Ready to Join the Fold?


To learn more about why the Bronx Zoo took on this project and to find out more about the 96 Elephants Campaign, visit www.96elephants.org or go to A New Guinness World Record For Elephants. Visiting the zoo is also a great way to support wildlife conservation. And in this season of giving, don’t forget to keep the elephants on your list of places to make a charitable donation.


CRICKET Magazine Loves Elephants


In honor of the new world record, we thought you might want to see a few of the CRICKET covers over the years that have featured elephants. It’s just a quick snapshot into how important these beautiful animals are to us a worldwide society and how we must work together to make sure our children and our children’s children have the opportunity to live in the same world as these magnificent creatures.


April 2009, Art by Jenny Reynish “Elephant Journey” Oil

April 2009, Art by Jenny Reynish “Elephant Journey” Oil


February 2003, Art by Chad Cameron Veld Amour Collage and acrylics and love

February 2003, Art by Chad Cameron “Veld Amour” Collage and acrylics and love


May/June 2016, Art by Poonam Mistry “The Drought is Over” Pen, paper, and Photoshop

May/June 2016, Art by Poonam Mistry “The Drought is Over”
Pen, paper, and Photoshop


April 2006, Art by Laini Taylor “Parade” Oil and collage

April 2006, Art by Laini Taylor “Parade” Oil and collage

Releaf: An Activity to Brighten Up Any Dreary Fall Day

Where I live, the ground this time of year is a mosaic of gold, red, brown, burgundy, and orange. So many pretty fall colors, so many fun leaf shapes. I wish I could keep autumn forever.


Viola! My wish is my command!


Fall Leaves ActivityThis was my favorite craft when I was a kid, and one of my favorite crafts to do with my kids now that I’m all grown up. It’s easy to do and the result is awesome. And the best part is that it involves going outside with your kids and paying attention to the world around you. Bring a bucket, bag, or even a wagon and collect the prettiest, most vibrant fall leaves you find.


  • Pick the prettiest autumn leaves and press them in a heavy book for a few days.
  • Place the pressed leaf in between two pieces of wax paper.
  • Run a warm iron over the wax paper for a few seconds.
  • Once the paper is cool, trim the waxed paper around the shape of the leaf
  • Add a hole for string, and hang it in your window.

The colors of the leaves will stay nice and vibrant, and if you hang a few of them, when the sun comes through, it looks like fall leaf stained glass.


If you want to get even more crafty, you can add some crayon shavings around the leaf before you iron it to add a tie dye effect in the background of the leaf. Try a couple of different crayon colors that would look nice with the leaf.


As fall starts to come to an end and the bleakness of winter approaches, it’s important to celebrate the beauty of nature anywhere you can find it.


[Editor’s Note: Cricket family magazines such as LADYBUG and SPIDER frequently contain innovative and easily doable crafts related to holidays, seasons, and just because. Don’t miss any of these amazing activities by subscribing to your favorite magazine today.]


Cricket Media Mama can’t wait for this year to pass after a polarizing election period, abject social injustice, the passing of some amazing musical talents, and an abysmal fantasy football season. The collage of hanging fall leaves in her window reminds her to hold on to the beauty of the world when she can because it, too, passes.

Introducing Your Sensitive Child to Ghost Stories

Halloween season is in full swing and ghosts, witches, zombies, monsters, and other scary creatures are everywhere. It seems like no matter where you go you are bound to see spooky decorations adorning store windows and private houses, grotesque costumes on display, and scary stories in the “featured” section of libraries and bookstores. Kids are naturally drawn to these stories…there is something really satisfying about being both scared and totally safe at the same time. But if your child is on the sensitive side, you may wonder when is the right time to pick up a book of spooky tales or head to the movie that is all about ghosts and goblins.


Experts will tell you that there is never any blanket correct answer for the question of when to expose your child to stories with darker themes – it really depends on how sensitive your child is. The experts do recommend introducing them at some point, however. Scary stories can often serve an important purpose; one you see reflected in the original versions of many fairy tales. These stories provide entertainment while helping kids through key developmental stages. You have only to look at the original versions of fairy tales to find insights into how to deal with common negative emotions or situations such as sibling rivalry, jealousy, or greed.


Parents Magazine agrees: “Take the tale of Hansel and Gretel: Children who are read this story can explore their emotions concerning abandonment while at the same time experience the vicarious thrill of fending for themselves and emerging victorious. The late Bruno Bettelheim, PhD deemed the tale particularly significant for kids around age 5, because that’s when they take their first real steps into the world and need reassurance that they’ll be all right.”


Scary stories aimed at children often teach the consequences of vital life rules such as “stay on the path,” “don’t talk to strangers,” “tell your parents where you are,” and “don’t invite vampires into your home” in a way that validates the importance of the rule without traumatizing them about the real world dangers around them.


Here are some tips for introducing scary stories to younger or more sensitive children:


  • Start with books that feature characters your child already knows such as Snoopy, Sesame Street, and the Berenstain Bears, so they are familiar and comfortable with how the characters behave in their world. Even small kids inherently know Sister Bear will emerge victorious from any scary situation from all the other stories they’ve read from the same series.
  • Make up your own stories and let your child help with the plot points. This will allow you to perfectly the tailor the story to exactly how scary your child wants it to be.
  • Give your children some control over the physical environment. If you are reading, let them hold the book so they can close it at any time they feel it’s getting to be too much. If you are watching a movie, let them hold the remote or the controls for the lights.
  • Seek out books or series that have positive endings where evil is defeated by good. This demonstrates the scary things in life can be overcome. If the ending is ambiguous, children may feel like the fictional horror could continue into their real lives.
  • There’s one room in your house that ghosts can’t go into, so always read ghost stories in the LIVING room.
  • Some children find movies to be scarier books, but for particularly imaginative kids, books offer the opportunity to add their own personal touch to the story, making them much more intense.
  • Start with “Not So Scary” stories and work up to true ghost tales. Look to your child to see if she/he is ready for more.
  • Be careful about venturing out to Halloween events with a spooky theme. Even seemingly innocuous celebrations can be intimidating for kids and slightly scary decorations can be much more terrifying in the dark.


As you can probably imagine, CRICKET, LADYBUG, SPIDER, and BABYBUG have been presenting not-too-spooky tales in their pages for many years. Back issues of these magazines are good source for stories for all ages. And click below for a free download of Witch Hollow by Mary Kay Morel, a spooky story from CRICKET Magazine, perfect for 9 to 14 year olds.  To be sure your child doesn’t miss any amazing stories (spooky or not) be sure to subscribe to CRICKET.


Witch Hollow - Cricket Magazine


Cricket Media Mama never liked horror stories as a little kid, but then she gruesome. Okay, that’s actually not true, she always loved horror stories. She just really wanted to use that joke.


Editor’s Note:   Download FREE printable Halloween cards and send some Cheer to Your Favorite Little Ghost or Goblin!


(To download, click on any of the images below.)

Halloween Printable Cards

Halloween Printable Cards

Printable You've Been Boo'd

Looking at Dinosaurs Through a Child’s Eyes

Every time I think about dinosaurs I feel the need to reread one of my daughter’s favorite books: Oh My Oh My Oh DINOSAURS! by children’s writer and artist extraordinaire Sandra Boynton. With simple pictures and just a few words of text, Boynton has captured exactly what makes dinosaurs so interesting to kids: they’re big, they’re spiny, they’re good…or maybe they’re bad, it doesn’t really matter because for the many toddlers and preschoolers who obsess about them, there is nothing more exciting, interesting, or fun to pronounce.


Adult often like to humor a child’s fascination with dinosaurs. We think it’s “cute” that our 3-year-old memorizes the complicated names of these creatures or that our 5-year-old can quote facts about them that would make a dinosaur expert proud. But it’s not cute at all. It’s important learning.  It’s perhaps a child’s first foray into thinking deeply about the natural world and it could spark a lifelong love of science that could lead to a career as a paleontologist, scientist, researcher, doctor, engineer, or any of a dozen other science-related fields.


So why do kids love dinosaurs so much? Some experts believe it is because while they may be big and scary, they are also extinct. To a child, this makes them akin to imaginary creatures such as unicorns or gryphons because you can paint them any way you want, give them any type of sound you want, and make them look any way you want and no one can say definitively that you are wrong.


Another benefit of being extinct may be that unlike tigers or hawks or gorillas, you can never see a real dinosaur in real life. This has the effect of making them feel “safer” to a child.


In my own experience with little kids and dinosaurs, I think the hugeness of their skeletons is a big selling point. You walk into that museum, you see that huge skeleton, and it is awe-inspiring. No wonder kids can’t take their eyes off of it. I feel the same way.


Looking at Dinosaurs Through a Child’s EyesA few years ago I worked with dinosaur experts Carl Mehling and Jason Brougham at the American Museum of Natural History in New York to write a book called Inside Dinosaurs. These two gentlemen are the wide-eyed preschool dinosaur lovers who never grew up. To them, dinosaurs seem as real as elephants or rhinos. Books about dinosaurs are an important part of a child’s library. From the aforementioned board book by Sandra Boynton to the nonfiction, dino-name-heavy books like the one I helped write, every child should have a chance to learn about these amazing creatures. Another great source of dino magic for kids are magazines. Magazines like CLICK and ASK have covered dinosaurs in their own unique way.  Check out our dinosaur theme pack or subscribe to your favorite magazine to make sure your child doesn’t miss a dinosaur-themed issue.


If your child is one of the millions who can’t get enough of these prehistoric creatures, count yourself lucky. Take this opportunity to go to a museum, read magazines or books about dinosaurs, and go fossil hunting right in your own town. But most of all, remember to not make light of your child’s fascination with these creatures. It could be the start of a lifelong love of science.


Bring the Outdoors In With Nature Magazines for Kids

It’s not always easy to get outside with your kids. Hot weather, cold weather, bugs, homework, activities, screen time, travel time, work time…there are a myriad of obstacles to really getting out there and introducing children to the wonders and beauty of the natural world. Personally, I’ve found that sometimes just the thought of how much planning it takes to get my family to go on a “simple” hiking trip is enough to keep us confined to a walk in our neighborhood.


But even though we don’t always make it to our closest National Parks, nature is still important to my family. We love to identify the trees, animals, and flowers we see around us. Deer are plentiful where we live, but that doesn’t mean we take them for granted. Watching a mother deer and her fawn cross the hiking path recently was an event my daughter talked about for days. The foxes, gophers, and chipmunks are like local celebrities. We don’t even mind the squirrels who chatter at us (and sometimes drop acorns on our heads). And when we once almost ran over a giant snapping turtle (check out the picture below!) crossing the road near us, we all spent some time researching these amazing creatures.


Nature: Cranky Turtle

This rather large and cranky snapping turtle was blocking the road near as I attempted to drive my daughter to school one day. It would not have done either of us any good to get any closer. Talk about a close call with nature!


Nature magazines for kids are a monthly infusion of just the sort of nature photos and information my family enjoys. A recent issue of MUSE Magazine, aimed at kids 9 to 14, was all about venomous animals. While these are not the type of animals you’d want to get too close to (did you know that there is a poison bird? Watch out for the hooded pitohuis if you ever go to the rain forest in Papua New Guinea), we enjoyed viewing these beautiful creatures and plant from afar. Kids ages 6 to 9 should check out ASK Magazine, which recently dedicated an entire issue to how animals stay healthy. We particularly enjoyed the article called “Wild Medicine” which discusses what wild animals do to keep themselves healthy. And preschoolers will love CLICK Magazine, which is constantly bringing nature from around the world directly to kids ages 3 to 6. Recent issues of CLICK have taken deep dives into topics such as the desert and why animals need sleep.


If your family is as difficult to get out the door and into nature as mine is, don’t despair. You can still discover plants, trees, animals, flowers, fish, clouds, rocks, and more in your mailbox every month. And on those glorious days when you do manage to make it out onto the hiking trails, the information your family learned from nature magazines for kids will help you enjoy your trip even more.


Dr. Strangedad or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Children’s Book

by Read Aloud Dad


We must clear up something from the very start.


Some kids will never love to read and it is useless to try to force them to love it.


We may try to plead with them, we may try to coax them, we can even threaten to starve them of Minecraft – still no one can force kids to love reading.


In fact, the best way to make a kid dislike reading is to continuously force individual books and magazines (that we want them to read) down their throats.


Yeah, like that is going to do the trick.


No way.


A parent’s motto should be to provide children with choice, choice, and then with even more choice of reading material.


Instead of choosing a book or magazine for your kids to read, provide them with two or three or fifteen.


Go crazy.


Go into the hundreds.


And then go more.


Flower Power


Let me rewind the clock back nine years ago, when my twins (girl and boy) were born.


Slowly as the months passed by, I came to realize that one of the most important tasks ahead of me was to help my kids fall in love with reading.


Like many other things in life, easy does it.


We must keep in mind that the true task of us as parents is not to ensure that a child learns to read well.


Correct reading is simple mechanics for most kids. They will get the hang of it.


But, do we just want them to lay a row of words down and then another, mechanically?


Is our goal to help them become bricklayers with words or a virtuoso of reading?


Do we want to have an orchid that grows … but ultimately does not flower?


No, no, no.


We must help our little orchids to bloom.


But it is not always easy.


The only way that kids can fall in love is if they are exposed to good books, quality magazines, and fun reading.


Remember, children are the pinnacle of evolution of life on our planet.


They are the newest, best, and most advanced creatures … ever to walk on this planet.


Let us treat them with the respect they deserve.


Our task is to provide the right environment, by reading to them every day and surrounding them with easily accessible, high quality reading materials.


Build a Reading Empire

“A goal without a plan, is just a wish


Love for reading grows like a delicate rainforest orchid from the tropics.


You cannot force an orchid to grow or flower, you just need to provide an environment without extremes and then orchids do the rest by themselves.


I knew that my kids would grow up with a love of reading if they were offered around-the-clock easy access to a wide choice of reading materials, topics, book formats, magazines… you name it.


Yep, easy, all-day access is the key.


I knew that if my kids did not handle books, throw books, leaf through books, read and re-read them early on in life, we would face an uphill battle later on.


Like Genghis Khan in a battle, start the fight against illiteracy by overwhelming the enemy.


Winning by numbers is part of Genghis Khan’s recipe for success.


Add books to your library, add magazines – build up your reading civilization at home.


We also need to take another page from Genghis Khan’s book.


Genghis Khan used to lead his troops into battle.


That is why we need to enter the reading ecosystem ourselves.


Instinctively I felt that if I grew to love children’s books and immersed myself in that world, that would be much better than worrying about the future of my children.


We must learn to stop worrying about our kids’ reading.


Instead, it is better to start loving children’s books together with our daughters and sons.


Celebrate your love of children’s books by reading together with them.


It requires no sacrifice on our part.


The best literature in the world is children’s literature.


It is a win-win situation for everyone


Let put this winning battle plan into action!


Read Aloud Dad is a Dad who is simply reading the best children’s books to his twins. Intrigued? Find out more about him by visiting his website, Read Aloud Dad.