TeachingBooks Virtual Book Tour

The TeachingBooks Virtual Book Tour is your opportunity to learn from and build personal connections with extraordinary book creators and their brand-new titles. Included in all Virtual Book Tour posts are original interviews with authors and illustrators, lesson plans, an activity designed for young people, and much more!

Welcome Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong

Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong on Things We Do

In this post, we feature Sylvia Vardell, a professor and poetry advocate, and award-winning poet Janet Wong. Their previous, acclaimed poetry anthologies for young people include Hop To It. You can hear them speak about their new poetry anthology, Things We Do, and try their “invitation to imagine” activity. You’ll also find other resources to explore. Thanks for joining us, and let us know what you think in the comments below!

Sylvia Vardell, Janet Wong, and the cover of Things We Do.

Things We Do

  • Edited by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong
  • Published by Pomelo Books
  • Release date: October 15, 2021

What things do we love to do? In this book, you’ll find poems from A to Z, featuring action words and photos that will make kids eager to CLAP, DANCE, JUMP, LAUGH, WAVE, ZOOM, and more as you read the playful selections.

The poets in this book are a diverse and eclectic blend of established and new writers: Beth Brody, Joseph Bruchac, Jen Bryant, Mary E. Cronin, Linda A. Dryfhout, Margarita Engle, Janet Clare Fagal, Marilyn Garcia, Nikki Grimes, Carol Labuzzetta, Marty Lapointe-Malchik, Grace Lin, Molly Lorenz, Jone Rush MacCulloch, Pat Mora, Linda Sue Park, Moe Phillips, Jack Prelutsky, Janice Scully, Linda Kulp Trout, Padma Venkatraman, Leslie Stall Widener, Carole Boston Weatherford, Janet Wong, Jane Yolen, and Helen Kemp Zax. In addition to writing, their varied backgrounds include careers as teachers, librarians, lawyers, health care workers, scientists, film producers, artists, and more.

This poetry anthology can be shared by families at home or by teachers in classrooms, and parents, caregivers, and educators will find useful tips and resources to help make learning even more fun. This book will also be a favorite resource in an ELL classroom.

Explore Things We Do

Listen to Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong talking with TeachingBooks about creating Things We Do. You can click the player below or experience the recording on TeachingBooks, where you can read along as you listen, and also translate the text to another language.

Invitation to Imagine

TeachingBooks asks each author or illustrator on our Virtual Book Tour to share a writing prompt, a drawing exercise, or just an interesting question to spark curiosity and creativity. Enjoy the following activity contributed by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong.

Imagination Activity with Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong

Below are three photos that appear with poems in Things We Do, for the words JUMP, OPEN, and YAWN.

Write a poem about each of these photos. Use the word (JUMP, OPEN, or YAWN) as the title and also in your poem. Then look at the poems written by these 3 poets:

“JUMP” by Molly Lorenz 

“OPEN” by Linda Kulp Trout 

“YAWN” by Leslie Stall Widener 

Your poems are probably very different from these poems. That’s one of the neat things about poetry. There are many different ways to write about the same thing. You can rhyme—or not. You can use repetition (repeating words)—or not. You can make your poem sound like a song with a strong rhythm—or not. Anything goes! 

An interior spread from Things We Do, edited by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, showing a picture of a young girl jumping rope next to the poem, "Jump," by Molly Lorenz.

“Jump” by Molly Lorenz

Jump like a cricket.

A lemur or squirrel.

A whale out of water.

A boy or a girl

Jump into a puddle.

Jump over a log.

A crack in the sidewalk.

A rainbow or frog.






An interior spread from Things We Do, edited by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, showing a picture of a young girl holding the handle to a large door next to the poem, "Open," by Linda Kulp Trout.

“Open” by Linda Kulp Trout

I race my brother

Down the sidewalk to the library,

each of us wanting to be first to go inside.

I’m way ahead, almost there,

when I see a white-haired lady,

bag of books in one hand

cane in the other.

I stop—

wait to open the door for her.

My brother charges by.

I don’t mind.

I could’ve been first—but instead,

I chose to be kind.

An interior spread from Things We Do, edited by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, showing a picture of a young girl yawning next to the poem, "Yawn," by Leslie Stall Widener.

“Yawn” by Leslie Stall Widener

Three mothers chat,

with babies in cradleboards

worn on their backs.

Brown eyes peek out

of three round faces

with rosy cheeks.

They shut their eyes,

mouths open wide.

Nothing I can do.

I yawn, too.

Finish This Sentence . . . with Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong

As part of our Virtual Book Tour, TeachingBooks asks authors and illustrators to complete short sentence prompts. Enjoy Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong’s responses.

“I hope that my book encourages kids to think about…”

I hope that my book may encourage kids (or teens) to think about the heroes in our own families—and to take photos of them and write poems about them and make them the stars of our own books.—Janet Wong

“A surprising thing that helps me work is…”

A surprising thing that helps me work is having my dog, Wilby, sit beside me while I write. I don’t work at a desk. I sit on my couch with my dog next to me for hours on end. But in between writing and typing on my laptop computer is a lot of petting and tussling with him— the perfect writing break. —Sylvia Vardell

Thank you!

To wrap up this Virtual Book Tour, we thank Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell for signing a book for all of us.

The title page of Things We Do signed by the editors, Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong.

More Connections to Sylvia Vardell, Janet Wong, and Things We Do

Explore all of the titles featured in the TeachingBooks Virtual Book Tour: one link with author interviews, lesson plans, activities, and more!

All other text and images are courtesy of Sylvia Vardell, Janet Wong, and Pomelo Books and may not be used without expressed written consent.

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5 Responses to Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong on Things We Do

  1. Linda December 15, 2021 at 7:50 am #

    There are so many great ways to use THINGS WE DO. Not only can the poems and photographs inspire children to write their own poems, they open the door to conversations about kindness, diversity, creativity, imagination and more. I love the idea of children comparing their poems to the those in the book. This could lead to discussions about point of view, word choice, inferences, and finding ideas to write about. A parent who is homeschooling her kindergartner told me they read one poem every day right before lunch. It becomes the focus of their lunch conversation. THINGS TO DO is gorgeous! The print is easy to read, and children of all ages will find something to love on every page.

  2. Marilyn Garcia December 15, 2021 at 8:41 am #

    Great interview! Every time I look at this book I see more and more ways to use it for instruction and for reading pleasure.

  3. Carol Labuzzetta December 15, 2021 at 10:42 am #

    Thank you for providing this thorough review of the book, Things We Do! Working with Janet and Sylvia on this anthology was a very positive experience. They are both generous and consummate professionals. It made my first experience with being edited and published very worthwhile. I wish both of them, and the book, only the best!

  4. Leslie Widener December 15, 2021 at 3:04 pm #

    Great article! I’m honored to be included

  5. Molly December 17, 2021 at 7:30 pm #

    A great book to teach poetry…the photographs are appealing and enhance the poems, and I love the alphabetical aspect.

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