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Congratulations to Jacqueline Woodson whose book, Brown Girl Dreaming, was just named a finalist for the National Book Award. You know how much I love this book and already featured Jacqueline in a Poet to Poet interview with Carole Boston Weatherford. But did I mention that I also find it so intriguing that a memoir-in-verse is getting all this recognition? I think that’s wonderful! And I loved how Jacqueline said, “This is how memory comes to me -- In small moments with all of this white space around them.” That seems to be true for many poets and I thought it might be interesting to gather a list of other memoirs told in poem or verse form.
For example, have you seen Marilyn Nelson’s latest book, How I Discovered Poetry? It’s a memoir in 50 sonnets! And it’s a perfect partner to Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming in its exploration of family, identity, racism, and writing. Don’t miss it! Plus, I hear that Margarita Engle will be publishing her own memoir in verse next year (2015). Can’t wait!
It’s also interesting to explore how memoir is adapted for other poetic perspectives. Naomi Shihab Nye wove autobiographical poems and passages alongside science-themed entries in her evocative, Honeybee (Greenwillow, 2008). Carole Boston Weatherford created a fictional verse memoir to tell the first-person life story of the legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday in Becoming Billie Holiday (Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press, 2008).
And for a comic twist, look for Bobbi Katz’s engaging, mock memoir with the most beautiful retro cover and scrapbook-like interior perfect for Halloween sharing, The Monsterologist; A Memoir in Rhyme (Sterling, 2009). Or for younger readers, another mock memoir presented as if written in a student notebook by Gary Crew, Troy Thompson’s Excellent Peotry [sic] (Kane/Miller, 2003). Hilarious!
And any look at memoir merits a discussion of biography, autobiography, and history captured through poetry. For example, J. Patrick Lewis and Jane Yolen create a vivid biography in poems for artist Marc Chagall in Self Portrait with Seven Fingers: A Life of Marc Chagall in Verse (Creative Editions, 2011). Gorgeous Chagall art included!
Writers Guadalupe Garcia McCall and Thanhha Lai wrote award-winning novels in verse that were largely autobiographical and truly compelling:
Guadalupe Garcia McCall's Under the Mesquite (Lee & Low, 2011).
Thanhha Lai's Inside Out and Back Again (HarperCollins, 2011).
And let’s not neglect novels in verse that are grounded in true stories and historical events like:
Allan Wolf's The Watch That Ends the Night; Voices from the Titanic (Candlewick, 2011)
In honor of Teen Read Week (Oct. 12-18), I’d like to promote this year’s selection of poetry for young adults. As usual, I find that about a third of each year’s list of poetry published for young people targets the teen audience and most of those are novels in verse. That’s true once again this year. I would also add that you’ll find some of the most risk-taking and inventive writing here, by a diverse crop of writers, too. I’ve written about many of the titles below in previous postings, but here’s a round up of all the teen poetry this year, as far as I know. And of course, many of the poetry books that target children (ages 0-12) are also eminently suitable for tweens and teens. That’s one of the things I love about poetry, in particular, that poetry is so little age-bound or limited by grade level or readability. So be sure to look at ALL the poetry published for young people available here. 1.Alexander, Kwame. 2014. The Crossover. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Twin 12 year old boy protagonists love playing basketball and are growing up-- and maybe apart-- as they cope with middle school, girls, and the expectations of their parents. Teacher’s guide here. 2.Brown, Skila. 2014. Caminar. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
*Set in Guatemala in 1981 when conflicts between Communist soldiers and guerilla fighters were at a crossroads, the love of a mother for her son is a beautiful thread throughout this powerful story of war, courage, and survival. Poet to Poet interview here. 3.Crowe, Chris. 2014. Death Coming Up the Hill. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
*It's a historical novel in verse about a teenage boy who is navigating high school, first love, and parental conflict during the Vietnam War and it highlights issues of conflict, resistance, and racism. It's built entirely upon haiku poems with a total of 16,592 syllables, one syllable as a tribute to each soldier's death in 1968 during the Vietnam War, the year with the highest casualties during the war. Poet to Poet interview here. 4.Engle, Margarita. 2014. Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
*From the young “silver people” whose backbreaking labor built the Panama Canal to the denizens of the endangered rain forest itself, this novel in verse tells the story of one of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken. Teacher’s guide here. 5.Frank, Lucy. 2014. Two Girls Staring at the Ceiling. New York: Schwartz & Wade.
*“This novel-in-verse—at once literary and emotionally gripping—follows the unfolding friendship between two very different teenage girls who share a hospital room and an illness." 6.Heppermann, Christine. 2013. Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty. New York: HarperCollins/Greenwillow.
*”In fifty poems, Christine Heppermann confronts society head on. Using fairy tale characters and tropes, Poisoned Apples explores how girls are taught to think about themselves, their bodies, and their friends. The poems range from contemporary retellings to first-person accounts set within the original tales, and from deadly funny to deadly serious.” 7.High, Linda Oatman. 2014. Otherwise. Costa Mesa, CA: Saddleback.
*A love story set “in a near-future United States, unisex gender presentation becomes mandated by law.” 8.High, Linda Oatman. 2014. Teeny Little Grief Machines. Costa Mesa, CA: Saddleback.
*“When her semi-friends start bullying her… Lexi can't handle school any more. Lexi breaks down and the new counselor calls in the hospital - Lexi has a rehabilitating stay in the mental health ward. Suddenly, she is reborn.” 9.Holt, K. A. 2014. Rhyme Schemer. San Francisco: Chronicle.
*”Rhyme Schemer is a touching and hilarious middle-grade novel in verse about one seventh grader's journey from bully-er to bully-ee, as he learns about friendship, family, and the influence that words can have on people's lives.” 10.Hopkins, Ellen. 2014. Rumble. New York: Margaret K. McElderry/Simon & Schuster.
*“Rumble explores bullying and suicide in a story that explores the worth of forgiveness and reconciliation.” 11.Kuderick, Madeleine. 2014. Kiss of Broken Glass. New York: HarperTeen.
*“When fifteen-year-old Kenna is found cutting herself in the school bathroom, she is sent to a facility for a mandatory psychiatric watch. There Kenna meets other kids like her—her roommate, Donya, who's there for her fifth time; the birdlike Skylar; and Jag, a boy cute enough to make her forget her problems . . . for a moment.” 12.Lewis, J. Patrick and Lyon, George Ella. 2014. Voices from the March: Washington, D.C., 1963. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press.
*This poetry collection focuses specifically on the march on Washington, D.C. on August 28, 1963, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. Six fictional characters tell their tales on this historic day in cycles of linked of poems alongside the perspectives of historic figures and other march participants for a rich tapestry of multiple points of view.” Teacher’s Guide here. 13.Nagai, Mariko. 2014. Dust of Eden. Chicago: Whitman.
*"'We lived under a sky so blue in Idaho right near the towns of Hunt and Eden but we were not welcomed there.' In early 1942, thirteen-year-old Mina Masako Tagawa and her Japanese-American family are sent from their home in Seattle to an internment camp in Idaho. What do you do when your home country treats you like an enemy?" Poet to Poet interview here. 14.Pattou, Edith. 2014. Ghosting. Skyscape.
*”On a hot summer night in a midwestern town, a high school teenage prank goes horrifically awry. Alcohol, guns, and a dare. Within minutes, as events collide, innocents becomes victims—with tragic outcomes altering lives forever, a grisly and unfortunate scenario all too familiar from current real-life headlines.” 15.Phillips, Linda. 2014. Crazy. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
*Laura is a typical fifteen-year-old growing up in the 1960s, navigating her way through classes, friendships, and even a new romance. But she’s carrying around a secret: her mother is suffering from a mental illness.” 16.Winters, Ben H. 2014. Literally Disturbed #3: More Tales to Keep You Up at Night. New York: Penguin/Price Stern Sloan.
*”Ben H. Winters continues to scare readers in this collection of 30 creepy rhyming stories about the things that haunt your nightmares!” 17.Woodson, Jacqueline. 2014. Brown Girl Dreaming. New York: Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin. *Woodson’s poetic memoir reflects her dual upbringing in her extended family in South Carolina and in New York City, growing up African American in the 1960’s and 1970’s, experiencing difficulty with reading, but a passion for words, stories, and writing. Poet to Poet interview here. 18.Yolen, Jane. 2014. Sister Fox’s Field Guide to the WritingLife. Papaveria Press.
*”Jane Yolen brings us this delightful new collection of poems on the art and craft of writing. Sometimes whimsical, often amusing, and always a wonder and a delight.” 19.Nelson, Marilyn. 2014. How I Discovered Poetry. Ill. by Hadley Hooper. New York: Dial.
*”Looking back on her childhood in the 1950s, Newbery Honor winner and National Book Award finalist Marilyn Nelson tells the story of her development as an artist and young woman through fifty eye-opening poems.” Be sure to seek out all these intriguing, diverse works and buy them now, plus multiple copies for your library. And if I missed any YA titles, please let me know!
Of course I hope you'll look for last year's book, The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School, a NCTE Poetry Notable, with poems by 70+ poets and "Take 5" mini-lessons for every poem. And check out the other poetry books published in recent years-- you'll find new links to comprehensive lists in the sidebar of this blog.
Here's another installment in my "Poet to Poet" series of interviews between poets who write for young people. This time, Helen Frost interviews Chris Crowe about his new book just published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Death Coming Up the Hill. It's a historical novel in verse about a teenage boy who is navigating high school, first love, and parental conflict during the Vietnam War and it highlights issues of conflict, resistance, and racism. It's built entirely upon haiku poems with a total of 16,592 syllables, one syllable as a tribute to each soldier's death in 1968 during the Vietnam War, the year with the highest casualties during the war. Isn't that astonishing all by itself? Here's the opening entry for this compelling book:
Week Fifteen: 204
There's something tidy
in seventeen syllables,
a haiku neatness
that leaves craters of
meaning between the lines but
what matters most. I
don't have the time or the space
to write more, so I'll
write what needs to be
remembered and leave it to
you to fill in the
gaps if you feel like
it. In 1968,
sixteen thousand five
American soldiers died
in Vietnam, and
one syllable to each soul
as I record my
own losses suffered
in 1968, a
year like no other.
As I'm sure you know, Helen Frosthas created a body of poetry for young people that has already garnered several of the most prestigious literary awards, including a Printz honor for Keesha's House. In her carefully crafted novels in poems, she even invents new poetic forms and uses existing forms in very creative ways. That impressive repertoire includes: Keesha's House, Spinning through the Universe (Room 214: A Year in Poems), The Braid, Diamond Willow, Crossing Stones, Hidden, Salt, and the poem picture books, Step Gently Out and Monarch and Milkweed.
Chris Crowe is a fellow professor like myself, but has also authored books for young people, including the historical novel, Mississippi Trial, 1955 and a companion book of nonfiction, Getting Away with Murder: The True Story of the Emmett Till Case, as well as the picture book, Just as Good: How Larry Doby Changed America's Game and many professional books. His new book, Death Coming Up the Hill is his first venture into publishing poetry and it's an interesting story about how this story and this form emerged.
Chris, before I ask my three questions, could you give a little background about your work in general terms, and talk a little about what was new territory for you in Death Coming Up the Hill?
My work for YA readers has been primarily historical, so 1968 is nothing new for me; however, this book is less focused on African American and/or civil rights history than some of my other books. What is new is writing in verse. I never aspired to write a novel in verse, and I've never considered myself any kind of poet (though I do claim the title of being the best Bad poet in my English department). I do admire poetry and poets because poetry is such a demanding and exacting art form, a form I've never felt that I had any particular talent for.
I have to say that you do exhibit considerable talent for poetry in this book. Sorry if it makes you lose your Best Bad Poet status. I'd like to ask a personal question regarding the historical background of the book. I remember the late 60's and early 70's as such an important time. Could you share some of your memories of those years, particularly in relation to the war in Vietnam and the peace movement?
I was a high school freshman in Tempe, Arizona, during the 1967-68 school year, so I have some memories of that era, but let's face it, I was a freshman, a knucklehead who was only vaguely aware of what was happening in the wider world. But in those days, even an out-of-touch knucklehead knew about Vietnam. The evening news almost always had some segment relating to the war or protests about the war, and some of my older brothers' friends got drafted---or enlisted---and were shipped over to Vietnam. In the summer of 1969, I landed a job digging sprinkler trenches for a new hotel going up in Tempe, and the other guy working there had recently returned from 'Nam. He was the first person I'd ever met who had really been there, fighting in the jungles, dealing with Army bureaucracy, fearing for his life every day. He had plenty of stories to tell---and this was after all the news of the My Lai Massacre broke---and he gave me a first-hand education about the war. But even with that, I was still pretty much a self-absorbed teenager who didn't pay a lot of attention to national and world events. The peace movement was a different story. My dad was a patriotic, flag-waving WWII veteran, and he was firmly "My country, right or wrong." He couldn't abide hippies, peaceniks, or anyone who protested the war. My siblings and I all knew where he stood when it came to student protests and/or anti-war protests.
Thanks, Chris. I'd love to talk with you in greater depth about that sometime, but there are two other things I'd like to touch on here. I loved the relationship between Ashe and Angela, refreshingly straight-forward, not angst-filled, yet still so authentic as a high school romance. Can you say something about that, and, if you like, relate it to your own life experience?
I was no Romeo in high school, but my first big crush unfolded as quickly as Ashe and Angela's. Some of my friends were much more experienced with girlfriends, and I never saw or heard that finding a girl required a very long or complicated courtship. I suppose what's most different about Angela and Ashe's relationship is that they turn out to be such soul mates. I see that as the luck of the draw or Fate or whatever it is that lines up such compatible matches. BTW, I met my wife in my 10th grade English class, and we started dating the next year. That kind of early and long-term relationship might have skewed the way I portrayed the relationship between A and A.
Thanks, Chris. I think that's a good relationship for YA readers to see in a book.
My last question is about the form you discovered that helped you tell the story. In your endnotes, you describe how the number 17 shapes the story--it's not at all arbitrary, and beautifully executed. I know how challenging that must have been. What did you discover about language as you worked so extensively in such a precise book-length form based on the traditional syllable count of haiku?
I discovered that language is complicated and various. Writing in haiku stanzas sometimes felt like writing with handcuffs on, especially when I had to make revisions to a key word or line. But in others ways, the narrow confines of 5-7-5 felt freeing and expansive. Once I settled into a routine of composing in fixed chunks, some creative gear clicked into place, and my writing really flowed. But that flow required me to pay careful attention to words, to rely on my trusty Roget's International Thesaurus, and to consider word choice more scrupulously than I have ever before. I also learned, because my editor demanded it, that I had to be consistent in my use of syllable count, that I could not cite poetic license when it was convenient---for example, counting 'camera' as a two-syllable word instead of three. This language demanded my full attention.
Again, I'd love to talk with you in more depth about this sometime. For now, let me just say that, like you, I have come to love editors and copyeditors who are willing to engage in syllable-counting, and hold us to the rules we set for ourselves.
Thanks, Sylvia, for initiating this conversation, and thank you, Chris, for these thoughtful responses to my questions, and for your beautiful and important book.
Sylvia: Thank you, Helen and Chris, for engaging in this fascinating conversation and for all your work for young people.
Now treat yourself to a stop at Jama's Alphabet Soup for our Poetry Friday gathering. See you there!
This time last week, I was attending the ALSC Institute in Oakland, California. It was a great event, well-organized by Nina Lindsay and her team, and full of super-librarians full of energy and enthusiasm and a bunch of great author talks. I was honored to present alongside the fabulous Janet Wong, Susan Blackaby, Alma Flor Ada, Isabelle Campoy, and Margarita Engle. Here are a few nuggets from our presentations on The Science of Poetry. Enjoy!
First up, we're so thrilled to be featured on the ALSC Blog. Thank you, Jill Hutchison, for your wonderful summary of our Thursday session here and to Karen Choy, for your lovely write up at the ALSC Blog here.
Alma Flor Ada, Susan Blackaby, Janet Wong, Isabelle Campoy
Margarita Engle, Susan Blackaby, Janet Wong
And here are a few short video clips of our poets reading their poetry aloud-- always a treat.
From The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science
From The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science
We also had heaps of bananas (to go with a banana poem) and heaps of giveaway cards and books like these (with downloadable printables available at PomeloBooks.com).
The next biennial ALSC Institute will be held in 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Can't wait!
YALSA, the young adult arm of ALA is having its YALSA Institute in November in Austin and I'll be there too presenting alongside: K. A. Holt, Sara Holbrook, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, Michael Salinger, Janet Wong, and Jacqueline Woodson. What a line up, right?! Come on by for our presentation on Sun., Nov. 16.
Congratulations to Jacqueline Woodson who just made the “2014 Longlist for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature” (again!) with her new book, Brown Girl Dreaming. Jacqueline was also kind enough to participate in my ongoing “Poet to Poet” interview series, too.
Jacqueline Woodson is the award winning author of many amazing novels for young adults (Miracle’s Boys, Hush, If You Come Softly) and for the middle grades (Last Summer with Maizon, Feathers) and picture books for children (The Other Side, Each Kindness, Coming on Home Soon, Show Way) and so many more including previous works that interweave poetry like Locomotion.
Carole Boston Weatherford
The lovely Carole Boston Weatherford is my poet interviewer. She is the author of many, many books of poetry and other genres including: The Sound that Jazz Makes, Sidewalk Chalk; Poems of the City, Remember the Bridge: Poems of a People, Dear Mr. Rosenwald, Birmingham, 1963, Becoming Billie Holiday, and many more. She is also the recipient of many awards including theLee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award and Lion and the Unicorn Award Honorfor Excellence in North AmericanPoetry for Birmingham, 1963. Here she asksJacqueline three great questions about Brown Girl Dreaming.
Carole: Why did you choose poetry for your memoir?
Jacqueline: This is how memory comes to me -- In small moments with all of this white space around them. I didn't think this memoir could be told any other way. It felt like it would be untrue to the story to try to write a straight narrative out of lyrical memory. Also, I felt this way best expressed what I was trying to say -- that words have always been coming to me, that I've always been trying to hold on to them, set them free, floating onto the pages. This form shows them floating, shows the words moving slowly across, down, over the page.
Carole: You allude to Langston Hughes in BGD. What other poets influenced you?
Jacqueline: There've been so many since my first encounter with Langston Hughes -- Gwendolyn Brooks, Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni was HUGE for me, Countee Cullen's INCIDENT, was a poem that haunted me and made me think about living as an African American in the United States. So many poets influenced me both politically and artistically.
Carole: How did the oral tradition contribute to your development as a writer?
Jacqueline: I think the fact that my family was always telling stories really helped me believe I could tell stories even if I couldn't read or write. Also, the history they held onto that wasn't written down, that was past down from generation to generation really gave me a strong sense of myself in the world and of the people who came before me. I love the fact that even though as enslaved people we weren't allowed to learn to read and write, that didn't stop us from telling our stories. That's amazing to me. And that really gave me a lot of faith in my own ability to tell stories.
Carole concludes: Although our upbringings were different there are some coincidences: a Caroline and a gardening printers in the family, storytelling kin, rural roots, handmade first books about nature (butterflies and trees), begging to wear afros, and birthdays a day apart (mine is Feb. 13). Because my father was a printer, I kind of consider publishing the family business. Do you think your grandfather’s career in printing in any way emboldened or destined you to seek publication?
And Jacqueline responds:
Huh -- I hadn't thought of that -- But yes, the fact that there were always words in some form in our lives, words became a part of me.
Thank you both for sharing so openly in my mutual admiration society!
The September issue of Book Links (companion to ALA's Booklist magazine) is out now and includes my article, "Poetry and Social Justice." I was honored to include an interview with poets, George Ella Lyon and J. Patrick Lewis, as well as their editor, Rebecca Davis, about their new book, Voices from the March. Here are several excerpts from the article and the interview, as well as some "extra" material, FYI.
Poetry and Social Justice: Honoring All Voices It’s been fifty years since the signing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, when discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin became against the law. It may be difficult for children today to imagine a world where such discrimination was a common practice, but it is important that we recognize the ongoing effects of such prejudice and pause to celebrate the progress we’ve made as a nation. That’s where literature can be especially powerful in capturing the pain of the past, the fight for justice, and our hopes for the future.
In my experiences working with children, I have found they are usually very aware of issues of justice and fair play, albeit in an often-narrow context. Ask them if they’ve ever stood at a store counter and watched all the grownups get attention while they wait and wait and wait, too shy or afraid to speak up. Or challenge them to think of a time at school or on the playground when they saw someone get picked on and they stood by and said nothing. We’ve probably all had an experience where we witnessed some level of injustice and were unsure or hesitant to respond. This can be a beginning point for a discussion of how justice on a societal scale evolves—and how our individual actions can contribute to the problem or to the solution.
Looking at history For example, these anthologies gathered by Lee Bennett Hopkins provide a panorama of U.S. history that offers a helpful context for framing discussion or can serve as reference tools for understanding key events in our country’s history.
Hopkins, Lee Bennett. 2000. My America: A Poetry Atlas of the United States.New York: Simon & Schuster.
Hopkins, Lee Bennett. 2008. America at War. New York: McElderry.
Hopkins, Lee Bennett. Ed. 1994. Hand in Hand: An American History through Poetry. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Hopkins, Lee Bennett. Ed. 1999. Lives: Poems about Famous Americans. New York: HarperCollins.
Hopkins, Lee Bennett. Ed. 2002. Home to Me: Poems Across America. New York: Orchard.
In addition, other comprehensive collections of poetry use the span of U.S. history to shape the selection and arrangement of poetry, including:
Meltzer, Milton. Ed. 2003. Hour of Freedom: American History in Poetry. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press.
Robb, Laura. Ed. 1997. Music and Drum: Voices of War and Peace, Hope and Dreams. New York: Philomel Books.
Siebert, Diane. 2006. Tour America: A Journey through Poems and Art. San Francisco: Chronicle.
Singer, Marilyn. 2013. Rutherford B., Who Was He?: Poems About Our Presidents. Ill. by John Hendrix. New York: Disney-Hyperion.
Whipple, Laura. Ed. 1994. Celebrating America: A Collection of Poems and Images of the American Spirit. New York: Philomel.
Invite students to work together to locate poems from any of these collections that address justice issues. They can read their selected poem aloud to the group and identify the issue as they perceive it, citing language from the poem to support their case. Make a chalkboard chart of these various issues (racial discrimination, gender discrimination, poverty, etc.) and note where each poem fits. Talk about how the poet approaches the topic using point of view, past or present time, specific examples, and so on.
Older students may be able to dig deeper into poetry that presents conflicts of the past. Collaborate with the history or social studies teacher to discuss poems from these works and place them in context on a historical timeline. Talk about how people of various backgrounds were treated, what role gender played in their struggles, and how they were able to prevail and be heard.
Alexander, Elizabeth and Nelson, Marilyn. 2007. Miss Crandall’s School for Young Ladies and Little Misses of Color. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong.
Bernier-Grand, Carmen T. 2004. César: Si, se puede! Yes, We Can! New York: Marshall Cavendish.
Engle, Margarita. 2006. The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano. New York: Henry Holt and Co.
Engle, Margarita. 2010. The Firefly Letters; A Suffragette's Journey to Cuba. Henry Holt.
Engle, Margarita. 2013. The Lightning Dreamer. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Engle, Margarita. 2014. Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Littlechild, George. 1993. This Land Is My Land. San Francisco, CA: Children’s Book Press.
McKissack, Patricia. 2011. Never Forgotten. Ill. by Leo and Diane Dillon. New York: Schwartz & Wade.
Nelson, Marilyn. 2009. Sweethearts of Rhythm; The Story of the Greatest All-Girl Swing Band in the World. New York: Dial.
Rampersad, Arnold and Blount, Marcellus (Eds). 2013. Poetry for Young People: African American Poetry (reissued, reillustrated). Ill. by Karen Barbour. New York: Sterling.
Weatherford, Carole Boston. 2002. Remember the Bridge: Poems of a People. New York: Philomel.
Connecting past and present
It is also important to point out that justice issues are not just in our past, but remain with us even now. Explore how people today experience injustice or empowerment in these poetry selections.
Ada, Alma Flor and Isabel F. Campoy. 2013. Yes! We Are Latinos. Ill. by David Diaz. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge.
Katz, Bobbi. 2000. We the People. New York: Greenwillow.
Myers, Walter Dean. 2011. We are America; A Tribute from the Heart. Ill. by Christopher Myers. New York: HarperCollins.
Wong, Janet. 2012. Declaration of Interdependence: Poems for an Election Year. PoetrySuitcase.
Invite students to find news articles that address a social justice issue and encourage them to create “black out” poems by drawing through all unwanted words in their news articles with a thick, black marker, so that the remaining words create a “justice” poem.
One Book: One Study It can also be meaningful to dig collectively into one book that addresses this timely topic. One powerful example worthy of group study is Voices from the March: Washington, D.C., 1963 by J. Patrick Lewis and George Ella Lyon. This poetry collection focuses specifically on the march on Washington, D.C. on August 28, 1963, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. Six fictional characters tell their tales on this historic day in cycles of linked of poems alongside the perspectives of historic figures and other march participants for a rich tapestry of multiple points of view. The authors and editor of this new work were kind enough to respond to several interview questions that provide helpful insight into the creation of this book and into the events that shaped the authors’ perspectives. The responses below are from George Ella Lyon (GEL), J. Patrick Lewis (JPL), and editor Rebecca Davis (RD).
BL: Where did the idea for this book come from? How did you decide to focus on the march of August 28, 1963, in particular?
George Ella Lyon
GEL: First, I wanted to write a book about Mary Travers, activist-singer of the folk group Peter, Paul and Mary. For many reasons, that impulse morphed into writing about Mary and Odetta and Joan Baez singing at the March on Washington. My idea was that I could explore how they became powerful young women who whose lives and voices intersected that day. For various reasons, that project didn’t take hold, but through my research I became fascinated with the March itself. I imagined something for older readers, a sprawling, multi-voiced book. Because I’m first of all a poet, and because the intensity of poetry fits the intensity of the day, I began writing poems. What happened was that on March 1st I flew to California to speak at The Charlotte S. Huck Literature Festival at the University of Redlands. Pat Lewis, whom I’d met briefly before, was also on the program, too, and we had a great time talking. As we were leaving for the airport, Pat asked if I wanted to collaborate on a collection of poems, perhaps focusing on famous women. I was thrilled with this possibility, but after I got home it occurred to me to suggest the March as our subject since I was already working in that direction. Typical of Pat, he took off with this idea and drafted five poems in the week between coming home from California’s job and traveling to another one in Boston. (Having already written several books connected with the Civil Rights movement, Pat had done much of the research that I was just beginning.)
BL: How did you decide who would write which poems on which topics from which points of view?
J. Patrick Lewis
GEL: We didn’t. We just let it unfold. I don’t think we ever discussed parceling out the poems.
JPL: Our respective visions carried us through. And not surprisingly, we found that we had not repeated each other’s evocations of our fictional “voices.”
GEL: When Rebecca (Davis, the editor) began working with us, we gained a third (gifted and tireless) eye who could look at the whole and help us see what worked, what was missing, and what we could do to make our vision more compelling.
BL to Rebecca Davis, Editor: What was your role in facilitating this project?
RD: I fell in love with this manuscript the first time I read it. As I read it, I kept finding myself involuntarily saying out loud "Wow" after this poem or that poem. It contained *so* many powerful poems.
I suggested to Pat and George Ella that they take some of the characters and develop their personal stories a bit further in the course of the manuscript, so that readers would see the impact that the experience of being part of the March had on these characters. I thought this might make what was already a personal and powerful manuscript even more personal and immediate.
In the final book, six of the characters have cycles of poems (ranging from four to eight poems each) that are braided amongst the chorus of voices in the manuscript. As the editor, I edited individual poems and also looked for balance in the collection as a whole. Part of the magic in this collection is in the many voices and points of view that it captures. The six characters--we've been referring to them as soloists in the chorus--couldn't take over the book; their individual melodies needed to blend in and harmonize with the whole.
It seemed to me, too, that an introduction was needed to help put the poems into historical perspective for young readers, and that it would be good to have back matter that would help readers sort the fact from the fiction in the story. We decided that it made sense to organize the back matter as a "Guide to the Voices," providing information about the historical figures who appear and/or are mentioned in the poems (under the heading "Historical Voices") and also listing the fictional characters (under the heading "Imagined Voices").
BL: What is the connection between poetry and social justice?
GEL: Poetry is spirit expressed in body: rhythm, sensation, thought, song. So while a lyric poem may be intimate, a heart-cry, it can also be addressed to the community. This happens especially in times of collective tragedy. I think of the poems posted near Ground Zero after 9/11. They were deeply personal, but they called out to be shared, to express trauma and grief and assure poets and readers that we are not alone. To claim a voice is in itself a form of activism.
JPL: I like to think that we are bearing witness, albeit in absentia, to Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Dream” speech and all that it entails.
CLASSROOM CONNECTIONS Setting the Scene Help students visualize the setting for the historic march on August 28, 1963, by showing images of Washington, D.C., especially the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and the Reflecting Pool in between the two. Look for the stunning picture book, Capital, by Lynn Curlee (Atheneum, 2003) or use images from online sources such as Washington.org, NationalMall.org, NPS.gov, or Google Maps.
Readers Theater and Voice Because Voices from the March: Washington, D.C., 1963 is rich with the perspectives of multiple characters, it begs to be performed “readers theater” style with individual students taking on a persona and reading those poems aloud as that character. Wearing a simple sign with their character’s name can be helpful and if simple props are available (hats, necklace, necktie, etc.) those can be fun visual aids, too. For an even more ambitious presentation, display a slideshow of images as a backdrop for the reading (and student volunteers can research images from that time period or that suit their characters; e.g., Lena Horne, Joan Baez, Coretta Scott King, Rosa Parks, Marian Anderson, Charlton Heston, Malcolm X all attended the march!) Record their readings using VoiceThread. Or look for audio and/or video recordings of performances and speeches from the march. For example, you can listen to (and watch) Dr. Martin Luther’s King speech at multiple locations, including YouTube.
Voices from the March: Washington, D.C., 1963 features these main parts: SIX SOLOISTS, fictional characters with multiple poems throughout the book
Annie Ross, a student at Spelman College for Women in Georgia
Raymond Jarvis, educated but unemployed, from Texas
Renée Newsome, a high school sophomore in Washington, D.C.
Dan Cantrell, a high school junior in Georgia
Emma Wallace, farm hand from Iowa
Ruby May Hollingsworth, a first grader from Arkansas
With many other characters popping up in other poems such as “Among the Marchers” and in many individual poems
HISTORIC FIGURES, a group of “real people” that became known as the “Big Six”
A. Philip Randolph
Whitney Moore Young Jr.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
+ Bayard Rustin, the March’s chief organizer of the march
Hearing actual voices reading can assist in discussing the title of the book and the concept of “voice” in poetry. Who is speaking? Whose point of view is represented? Why is it so important to be heard? How are the concepts of justice and voice linked? Connect this book with other works of poetry told from multiple perspectives such as Karen Hesse’s Witness (Scholastic, 2001) or Walter Dean Myers’ Here in Harlem (Holiday House, 2004). How would these works be different if told from a single point of view?
Music, Poetry and Form
Like poetry, music can play a pivotal role in expressing the dreams and hopes people have. Several specific songs are referenced in Voices from the March (e.g.,“Creed (Song),” “Pigs are Flyin’ (Song),” “Anthem for Rosa Parks,” “Ballad for Martin Luther King, Jr.”) and many musicians and performers were present at the march. Talk about how music influences movements, uniting people, rallying enthusiasm, sharing disappointments. Consult these resources to study the role of music throughout our history. Talk about what kinds of songs today capture students’ current concerns and hopes for the future.
Carawan, Candie and Guy. 1990. Sing for Freedom: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement Through Its Songs. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania: A Sing Out Publication.
Cohn, Amy L. Ed. 1993. From Sea to Shining Sea: A Treasury of American Folklore and Folk Songs. New York: Scholastic.
Rappaport, Doreen. 2006. Nobody Gonna Turn Me 'Round: Stories and Songs of the Civil Rights Movement. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
Stotts, Stuart. 2010. We Shall Overcome: A Song that Changed the World. Ill. by Terrance Cummings. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
This can also lead to a discussion of form in self-expression. Why does one person write a poem and another person writes a song and yet another person writes a news article or speech? What forms can students identify in the works of poetry they have consulted (free verse, anthems, ballads, shape poems, protest poetry, etc.) and which “speak” to them most deeply?
Other Related Works of Poetry
Link with other works of poetry that also address justice issues. For example, the poetry of Langston Hughes is mentioned in Voices from the March. Encourage students to seek out examples of his work such as his anthology, The Dream Keeper (Knopf, 2007), or picture book versions of single poems such as I, Too, Am America, illustrated by Bryan Collier (Simon & Schuster, 2012). Older students can explore the compelling poetry gathered by Gail Bush and Randy Meyer in Indivisible: Poems for Social Justice (Norwood House, 2013). Plus, Voices from the March co-author, J. Patrick Lewis has also authored additional poetry collections on this topic including:
Lewis, J. Patrick. 2013. When Thunder Comes: Poems for Civil Rights Leaders. San Francisco: Chronicle.
Lewis, J. Patrick. 2000. Freedom like Sunlight: Praisesongs for Black Americans. Mankato, MN: Creative Editions.
Lewis, J. Patrick. 2005. Heroes and She-roes: Poems of Amazing and Everyday Heroes. New York: Dial Books For Young Readers.
Lewis, J. Patrick. 2005. Vherses: A Celebration of Outstanding Women. Mankato: Creative Editions.
The Years 1963-1964 For a completely different approach, we might also dig deeply into the years of this historic civil rights victory (1963-1964), with a cross-genre approach. All of these various works (in addition to Voices from the March) focus on this pivotal time.
Curtis, Christopher P. 1998. The Watsons Go to Birmingham 1963. Hudson, MA: Pathways Publishing.
Evans, Shane W. 2012. We March. New York City: Roaring Book Press.
Levinson, Cynthia. 2012. We've Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March. Atlanta, GA: Peachtree.
Rubin, Susan Goldman. 2014. Freedom Summer: The 1964 Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi. New York: Holiday House.
Wiles, Deborah. 2001. Freedom Summer. Ill. by Jerome Lagarrigue. New York City: Simon & Schuster.
Williams-Garcia, Rita. 2010. One Crazy Summer. New York City: HarperCollins.
Talk about what we glean from the language and art of a picture book, from the characters and story of a novel, from the facts and details in a work of nonfiction, and from the language and emotions of poetry, of course.
Related Websites And if you’re looking for additional online resources to help you study this period, this historic event, and social justice issues in our country, there are many helpful tools available. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/eyesontheprize/tguide/elem.html This PBS “Eyes on the Prize” site offers lesson plans with links to video and audio clips, primary sources and interactive sites.
Just for Fun In the poem, “Lessons” (p. 51) in Voices from the March: Washington, D.C., 1963, they wear rings that say “Let Freedom Ring.” Invite students to create their own rings that symbolize freedom to them using simple craft materials (like red, white, and blue construction paper or pipe cleaners).
Conclusion In Voices from the March, Lewis and Lyon offer several poems that look to the future (“The One and Only Malcolm X,” “August 28, 2013,” and “At Grandma Rascal’s Grave, January 19, 2015”). Challenge students to identify unresolved social justice issues that face us all now. How can we give those issues “voice” and make a difference for the future? Collaborate on a group poem that raises questions or paint a poem-picture of the future looking back to today and put that aside in a time capsule to revisit at a designated future date.
You'll also find more tips for teaching with this book in the Educator's Guide provided by Boyds Mills Press.
Image credits: ALA Book Links; Boyds Mills Press; VTNews.vt.edu; CivilRightsMuseum.org; library.howard.edu; GeorgeEllaLyon; JPatrickLewis;LeeBennettHopkins
It's time for another installment of my "Poet to Poet" series-- in which one poet interviews another poet about her/his new book. Today, Julie Larios (author of the marvelous Yellow Elephant and Imaginary Menagerie) asks Skila Brown three questions-- about her new book, Caminar, a novel in verse set in Guatemala, about her childhood memories, and about writing that inspires her.
JL: This question won't surprise you, Skila, because you know I struggle with it. You're drawn to both poetry and fiction, and your story Caminar (which is so well-written - and haunting)took the form of a verse novel. What do you think poetry can do to a reader, and what can fiction do, and what can the verse novel do that is distinct from either of these? SB: Fiction gets in your head. A good story feels real while you’re reading it. The people, the setting, the relationships—it can all suck you in, alter your mood, give you a new perspective, and build a bridge between you and somewhere you’ve never been. Not just a place, but also a kind of character you can suddenly empathize with. Fiction—good fiction—is difficult to read slowly. It’s like a delicious meal when you’re hungry, and you’re consciously trying to eat slower than you’d like.
Poetry, I think, feels like a beautiful mountain. You can enjoy it from so many different levels. But the more you climb, the more you work, the more you can see. It requires work on the reader’s part, work to shake off preconceptions, carefully consider new meanings and uses for words, and think about other possibilities. It’s often a jolt to your senses. It can be populated with images and descriptions that are real and vibrant and unique. It encourages lingering.
A verse novel can do both. It’s a versatile form that allows the reader to get sucked in to the story, rapidly turning the pages to find out what happens next. Or it provides the space and the weight for a pause, maybe an image or a metaphor that is so sharp the reader stays with that poem for a bit and savors it. Novels in verse allow the reader to choose how to digest the story, and, because of that, it can appeal to a wider audience.
JL: If given a wish now, as adults, we might wish for world peace or for our children to be healthy and happy - grand, important, sweeping wishes, full of fear and hope. But I'm interested in whether we can really capture what we were like as children. So I'd like you to do this: Close your eyes and pretend that it's your tenth birthday (plus or minus a year is fine) - you have a cake in front of you with candles on it, and if you blow those candles out with one breath, your wish will come true. Here comes a multi-part question: What do you wish for and why and how much do you want it and how much do you believe it will come true?
SB: So, Julie. I remember my tenth birthday very well. It happened to be the birthday in which I closed my eyes, made a wish, leaned over my cake to blow out my candles…and then promptly lit the edges of my hair on fire.
I smelled it before I felt it. In that tiny third of a second before the corner of my eyes filled with the flame and my ears filled with everyone shouting and telling me what to do, there was the smell. This terrible burning chemical odor that filled up my nostrils because I’d just spent hours the day before sitting in a chair, with little plastic curlers on my head, and enough chemicals to burn my eyes for a week. I’d gotten a perm.
I’d gotten a perm because I’d just moved into a new house and a new school and the kids in this school all did everything differently than the kids in the school I’d attended before. Suddenly the things about me that made third graders like me were the very things that made fourth graders hate me. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. And maybe I thought my curl-less hair was part of the problem.
I don’t remember what my specific wish was that day, that second before my hair caught on fire. I’m sure it wasn’t a sweeping wish, like “Let people like me.” Or “Let me make friends.” But I think it was a ten-year old’s version of that. “I wish I’d get a Walkman just like Jenny’s.” or “I wish I’d get picked first tomorrow at recess.” Or “I wish we’d never play dodge ball again because it’s humiliating the way everyone aims for me, always me, only me.”
However I might have vocalized the wish, whatever specific thing I might have fixated on, the root of it was really that I wished I fit in. I wished people liked me. I probably spent a decade of my life wishing that wish, in some form. And yes, it came true, over and over again. I think that wish, like a lot of sweeping big wishes, falls in and out of True over the course of a life. I’ve had lots of friends, lots of good circles of support, lots of people who have loved me and love me still. But there have been many times I’ve felt lonely and unseen and without a shoulder to lean on.
I think it’s a rare kid who doesn’t wish for this very thing at some point in her life. But the luckiest of us will outgrow it. And instead of wishing for “people to like me”, we’ll wish instead to find the village that is our own.
JL: Do you remember a book you read (as an adult or as a child) where you finished it and said, "That's what I'd like to do - I'd like to be able to write like that"? What book was it, and what made you feel that? (Give me details!)
SB: Oh, I love it when that happens. It happens to me a lot, actually. Jandy Nelson’s The Sky is Everywhere is the first book I remember reading, closing the book, and then immediately opening it back up to page one and starting again. The book made me ache. I remember thinking I wanted to write a story that makes people ache.
Libba Bray’s Beauty Queens gave me instant writer-envy. I’m a huge fan of satire. And I’m a very opinionated person when it comes to social, moral, and political issues. I hope to one day be able to tell a story that’s both entertaining but also squirm-inducing, just like that one.
David Levithan’s The Lover’s Dictionary is another book that made me green. I really love stories that are told in an unusual form. Many times I think unusual forms get in the way of the story, but sometimes they are the perfect complement. And the story is all the richer. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Thank you, Julie and Skila (pronounced Sky- luh) for sharing so personally and generously! Be sure to check out their sites and blogs at Julie Larios (A Drift Record) and Skila Brown(full of photos and quotes) and don't miss Caminar, a very compelling story of war and childhood, family and honor.
Meanwhile, head on over to Jone's place for more Poetry Friday fun. Check it out!
As we "crossover" from summer to back-to-school, I want to encourage you to put Crossover, a novel in verse by Kwame Alexanderon your must-share list for the new school year-- particularly if you work with kids in 4th - 8th grade. It's such a fresh story with twin 12 year old boy protagonists who love playing basketball and are growing up-- and maybe apart-- as they cope with middle school, girls, and the expectations of their parents. The poems are full of energy and propel the story forward energetically. But I especially loved the picture of family life that comes across as each boy is trying to carve out his own identity, their dad (a former pro basketball player himself) is a hilarious character with a big story arc of his own, and their mom is the school's vice principal-- more savvy than they give her credit for. The family dynamics are lively and authentic and the picture of life at school rings true too. I'm calling it part Love That Dog meets The Watsons Go to Birmingham meets Slam. <!--[if gte mso 9]>Normal0falsefalsefalseEN-USJAX-NONE<![endif]--> Here are just a few nuggets from the Readers' Guide I developed for the book and you'll find the whole guide here.
1. As students read or listen to this verse novel,encourage them to visualize each of the main characters and talk about what they look like and how they talk and act. Work together to draw character sketches or find magazine or web-based images that look like these characters:
Jordan (JB) Bell
Josh (“Filthy McNasty”) Bell
Dad: Chuck Bell (“Da Man”), a former professional basketball player
Mom: Dr. Crystal Stanley-Bell, the assistant principal at the boys’ school (Reggie Lewis Junior High)
Talk about how the twins are alike and how they are different. For example, Jordan (JB) and Josh (“Filthy McNasty”) are identical twins, but JB shaves his head bald and plays shooting guard and Josh has shoulder length dreadlocks (at first) and plays forward. It is usually Josh’s point of view we see as the story unfolds.
5. Several of the poems in this novel lend themselves to readers theater performance, so that students can get a sense of the characters’ voices. The following poems offer text in two parts: plain text and italicized text for two volunteers or two groups to read aloud in turn.
“The game is tied” p. 36
“Mom doesn’t like us eating out” pp. 41-42
“The inside of Mom and Dad’s bedroom closet” pp. 44-47
“Dad Takes Us to Krispy Kreme and Tells Us His Favorite Story (Again)” pp. 63-65
“Mom calls me into the kitchen” pp. 96-98
“Phone Conversation (I Sub for JB)” pp. 106-109
“Suspension” pp. 138-141
“I run into Dad’s room” pp. 165-167
“School’s Out” pp. 188-189
“Santa Claus Stops By” pp. 207-209
“Questions” pp. 210-211
7. The author also introduces crucial vocabulary terms through twelve key poemspresented at critical intervals throughout the book.
“cross-o-ver” p. 29
“ca-lam-i-ty” p. 38-39
“pa-tel-la ten-di-ni-tis” pp. 48-49
“pul-chri-tu-di-nous” p. 55
“hy-per-ten-sion” p. 76
“i-ron-ic” p. 104
“tip-ping point” pp. 118-119
“chur-lish” pp. 142-143
“pro-fuse-ly” p. 154
“es-tranged” p. 187
“my-o-car-di-al in-farc-tion” p. 201-202
“star-less” p. 229
Talk with students about how the poet uses the usual dictionary format in presenting the vocabulary term: the word is shown in syllables, with a pronunciation guide, the part of speech is indicated, and the poem provides a kind of definition along with examples of the meaning of the word (using the phrase “as in:”). Working together, look up some of these words in a dictionary (or online) and compare your findings with the vocabulary poem. Challenge students to write their own “vocabulary” poems for a new word they encounter in the book using Alexander’s “formula.”
Plus, the Readers Guide pinpoints:
poems in rap,
incorporates the power of nicknames,
connects with YouTube videos of sports and music figures in the book,
looks at the role of rules in the novel,
showcases various forms and types of poetry that are included,
One hundred years ago today, the first ship passed through the newly completed Panama Canal changing the route through the Americas forever. Although this was and is celebrated as a technological achievement, I wasn't aware of the cost in human lives and ecological impact till I read Margarita Engle's vivid and compelling novel in verse, Silver People. I was fortunate enough to read an early copy of the book and create an educator's guide for sharing the book with young readers. You can download the guide here. To whet your appetite, here are just a few components to explore.
To set the stage for reading this novel in verse, identify the time frame (1906-1914) for the story’s setting as well as the place and geographical location (Panama). Talk about what was going on in the world at this time (during Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency and prior to World War I) and locate Panama and the surrounding countries (particularly Cuba and Jamaica) on a map. Look for Bottle Alley, Lake Gatun, the Chagres River, the Gaillard Cut, and the island now known as Barro Colorado extensively studied by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Look for historical photos and documents that help provide a context for understanding the building of the Panama Canal. One resource is a jackdaw of facsimiles of primary source documents available at Jackdaw.com, specifically this collection: “Panama Canal: Building the 8th Wonder of the World.” This includes many maps, blueprints, ship’s dockets, personal letters and telegrams, ledgers, health records, period postcards, etc.
As students read or listen to this novel in verse, encourage them to visualize each of the main characters and talk about what they look like, what country they are from, what language they speak, how they feel about these events, and what dreams or goals they each have. Work together to draw character sketches or find magazine or web-based images for these characters.
Mateo, from Cuba (our protagonist and a canal laborer who aspires to be an artist)
Anita, from Panama (an orphan and herb girl, sweetheart of Mateo)
Henry,from Jamaica (digger, friend of Mateo)
*John Stevens (Chief Engineer) p. 43
Old Maria (surrogate mother to Anita) p. 83
*Theodore Roosevelt (U.S. President) p. 95
Augusto(New York scientist and artist originally from Puerto Rico) p. 115-117
*George W. Goethals (Chief Engineer) p. 149
*Jackson Smith (Manager) p. 151
*Gertrude Beeks (Welfare Department) p. 163
*Harry Franck (Census Enumerator) p. 213
(*These characters are actual historical figures.)
Students could also each choose a favorite character and read aloud the poems from her/his perspective readers theater style.
Animals of the Panama Jungle
Each of the following animals is featured with a poem from its perspective.Students can choose one of these to prepare for oral reading, researching (online) images and sound effects to accompany their reading. One helpful resource is Animals.NationalGeographic.com
It's time for another installment of my "Poet to Poet" series-- in which one poet interviews another poet about her/his new book. Today, Joyce Sidman asks Irene Latham three questions about her new book, Dear Wandering Wildebeest and Other Poems from the Water Hole.
Joyce Sidman is a Newbery honor author whose beautiful poetry often focuses on the natural world. Her ecological trilogy including Song of the Water Boatman, and Other Pond Poems,Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow, and Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night offers sensitive depictions of animal life in verse. The poems in This is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness have inspired children (and parents) to write their own apologies and Red Sings From Treetops; A Year in Colorsbrings the seasons to life through all the senses. Her latest book What the Heart Knows is an exquisite collection of laments, spells, chants, blessings, songs, and more. Here Joyce poses three questions for Irene Latham to consider with a particular focus on Irene's new book of poetry, Dear Wandering Wildebeest.
Joyce asks: The jacket copy for your wonderful new poetry book, Dear Wandering Wildebeest And Other Poems from the Water Hole mentions wildlife photographs from Kenya that inspired the book. Can you tell us more about the genesis of this project—what was it about this subject or these photographs that made you want to go forward? Irene responds: It wasn't just the photographs Greg du Toit captured – though they are amazing, and you can view them here – it was the story of how he struggled to capture the images. Because the lions were too shy to approach the water hole while du Toit was upright or even crouched on the shore, he made a daring move by submerging himself in the water hole. So, basically, he changed perspectives. And it worked! With only du Toit's head above the water, the lions came right to the water's edged and drank their fill, allowing him to get those amazing shots. And that's poetry. Changing perspectives is what poetry is all about. Looking at something differently. It filled me with a sense of freedom and kind of gave me permission to write about animals, even when the reigning wisdom about publishing poetry for kids in today's market is, no animals. Well, I love animals! And how amazing and unique is the African grassland ecosystem? The water hole gave me a focal point and a new perspective. Fortunately for me, my experience didn't result in three months in the hospital as it did for du Toit.
Joyce asks:In Wildebeest, you’ve used such a satisfying format: pairing poems with nonfiction notes. One of my favorite poems, “What Rhino Knows”, has an equally delightful and poetic nonfiction note. Can you talk a bit about the interplay between these two types of text and how you feel each contributes to the book as a whole?
Irene answers: This question makes me smile as you, Joyce, are the Queen of this format! And your collections are what made me fall in love with books that feature poetry and nonfiction notes. It's important to me to write a poem that's poetic, which means not throwing in every single thing I learn about the animal – only the facts and details that speak to me personally and lend themselves to poetic treatment using images and analogy and language. But that means leaving out a world of research! My hope is that the poems make a reader want to know more – and that's where the nonfiction note comes in. I tried to include information relevant to the poem as a way to expand the reader's experience and to instantly satisfy the reader's curiosity. The notes were actually the most frightening and difficult part of creating this collection – I'm so grateful to amazing editor Carol Hinz whose keen eye (and ear!) and expertise helped shape them.
Joyce says:I truly admire authors who can work in different genres. You are an adult poet, children’s poet, and middle grade novelist. Do these different kinds of writing come from different places in yourself?
Irene responds: Thank you! The joke around my house is that I've never met a genre I didn't like. It's kind of a hazard for a writing career – every book feels like starting over. But the world is so big and there's so much out there that interests me... and isn't the endless learning curve one of the most seductive and satisfying things about being a writer?
As to the whole where-it-comes-from part of the question, it's something I love to think about. It's one of life's mysteries, isn't it? For me, writing is spiritual practice, which is about one-ness with the world, and living in the now. I'm not really interested in separating out parts of myself in order to write. And I will admit to a preference for literature that is timeless and classic, with appeal to all ages. I join Lee Bennett Hopkins in championing this type of poetry.
One of the big aha moments for me on the journey to writing poetry for children was attending an SCBWI-sponsored poetry retreat with Rebecca Kai Dotlich (arranged by the amazing Robyn Hood Black) and discovering I don't have to be Shel Silverstein; I can write the way I write for adults – striving to create art and beauty-- except in a way that appeals to children. Sometimes I really struggle when editing my own work (and working with editors) to pull away from the wise, adult voice and to approach a subject with the more-innocent, world-as-wonder child's voice. I find that this is more a matter of choosing the right angle and analogy than worrying about elevated language. (You'll notice WILDEBEEST has lots of big words – and a glossary.) To what would the child-me compare the water hole? What moment in a lion's life is most interesting to the child-me? I still feel like a beginner, and I am so grateful for the warmth, grace, and enthusiasm of the Poetry Friday community. What wonderfully diverse and inspiring voices! I'm honored to be be a part of it.
Thanks so much, Joyce, for the thoughtful questions, and for being one of my poetic heroes. And Sylvia, your passion for poetry is changing the world! Thank you for including me on your blog. Happy day to both!
Sylvia says: THANK YOU BOTH for sharing your time and talents! And of course I'm proud as punch to feature poems by both Joyce and Irene in The Poetry Friday Anthology series that Janet (Wong) and I have compiled. :-)
Today is the perfect day to go public with our plans for our next installment in The Poetry Friday Anthology series! Drum roll…
The Poetry Friday Anthology for CELEBRATIONS!
We’ll be gathering poems related to more than 100 holidays (like Halloween and July 4th), occasions (like graduation and the first day of school), and odd and interesting events (like Left Handers Day or National Yo-Yo Day). Our audience will be young children and the librarians, teachers, and families who care for them. Once again, we’ll provide “Take 5” activities for every poem.
Plus, this time we’ll be experimenting with multiple formats, each containing separate poems that, together, will form the whole book:
*some poems in paperback
*some poems presented digitally
*some poems on Pocket Poems™ cards
Ready, set, write!
If you’re interested in contributing a poem, we’ll be sharing our guidelinesin September; you can email us after Sept. 1 at info@pomelobooks if you'd like to know more then.
Meanwhile, here’s just a sample of what we’re planning—a sample poem and Take 5!activities to accompany the poem. What’s the celebration? It’s National Dog Day! Coming up on August 26, we’ll be celebrating the 10thanniversary of this canine commemoration, first initiated in 2004 by the National Dog Day Foundation.
Hooray for Dogs!
by Janet Wong
who help us
when we’re lost
dogs we boss around
who don’t mind
dogs who sit and stay
and play fetch
with a ball
Pugs and poodles,
mutts and labs—
we love you,
drool and all!
SAMPLE Take 5! ACTIVITIES
1.Before reading this poem aloud, display some picture books about dogs or a stuffed animal dog as a backdrop or prop. Read the poem aloud slowly and pause briefly between each stanza.
2. Share the poem again and invite children to chime in on the word, “Hooray” with zest and enthusiasm while you read the rest of the poem aloud.
3. Talk about the story behind this celebration also known as International Dog Day and National Dog Appreciation Day and how dogs are helpers: working with police, assisting those with visual or other impairments, in drug detection, searching for lost people, and pulling victims from wreckage, for example. (FYI: NationalDogDay.com)
4. Pair this poem with this picture book:
When You Wander: A Search-and-Rescue Dog Storyby Margarita Engle and illustrated by Mary Morgan (Holt, 2013). Read the book aloud and talk about the recommended steps for what to do when lost.
5. Follow up by reading aloud more poems about dogs, such as selections from:
*Ashman, Linda. 2008. Stella, Unleashed. New York: Sterling.
*Florian, Douglas. 2003. Bow Wow Meow Meow. San Diego: Harcourt.
*Franco, Betsy. 2011. A Dazzling Display of Dogs. Berkeley, CA: Tricycle.
*Rosen, Michael J. 2011. The Hound Dog’s Haiku and Other Poems for Dog Lovers. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
*Singer, Marilyn, 2012. Every Day's a Dog's Day: A Year in Poems. New York: Dial.
And don’t forget to check out our previous installments (each featuring previously unpublished poems and related Take 5! activities for every poem):
Now let us know what you’re up to on this Poetry Friday in the COMMENTS section below. We’ll be rounding up throughout the day.
Here's what our Poetry Friday party-goers are up to this week: First up is Buffy Silverman who has posted an original poem that appears in this month's Ladybug Magazine. Congratulations, Buffy! Check it out here. Laura has a poem from J. Patrick Lewis and George Ella Lyons' forthcoming collection, VOICES FROM THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON over at TeachingAuthors. Linda is featuring a poem from INNER CHIMES over at WriteTime. Monica has reviewed a rhyming picture book, BY WATER'S EDGE by Kay Barone, here.
Irene is sharing some of wonderful Walter Dean Myers's poems here.
During my recent trip to Las Vegas for the American Library Association conference, I stopped by the ALA Bookstore to look for the latest installment of The Newbery & Caldecott Awards: A Guide to the Medal and Honor Books (2014 Edition) just published by ALA. Why?
Because I wrote the opening essay for this guide!
I was so honored to be invited to contribute that essay-- the only such piece in a book that focuses on thoroughly describing each of the award and honor books for these two prestigious awards. It's been 25 years since Paul Fleischman's book Joyful Noise won that Newbery award, so I focused on what has been happening in the publishing of poetry for children since then. Here are selected excerpts from that essay:
Painting the Poetry Landscape: Twenty-Five Years of Poetry for Young People
By Sylvia M. Vardell
It is hard to believe that 25 years have passed since Paul Fleischman’s book, Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices was published and then won the Newbery medal in 1989. Kirkus Reviews called it, “A splendid collection of poems in many moods…. (noting) Vivid language, strong images, and the masterful use of two voices in musical duet make this an excellent choice for reading aloud.” This gem of poems for choral reading went on to be included in School Library Journal’s list of “100 Best Books of the Century,” too.It seems like a good moment to pause and examine where poetry for young people has been in the intervening years.
The last 25 years have given us a whole new generation of poets writing for young people including Douglas Florian, Bobbi Katz, Joyce Sidman, J. Patrick Lewis, Kristine O’Connell George, Janet Wong, Pat Mora, David L. Harrison, Helen Frost, Nikki Grimes, Margarita Engle, Jen Bryant, Laura Purdie Salas, and many more who have emerged since the publication of Joyful Noise. We have seen the addition of new awards for poetry for children established by Lee Bennett Hopkins for poetry books in 1993 and for new poets in 1995, by Bank Street College (the Claudia Lewis Poetry Award in 1998), and by the Poetry Foundation (the Children’s Poet Laureate in 2006). The Association of Library Service to Children (ALSC) began featuring the annual Poetry Blast with poets reading from their works at the ALA annual conference in 2004 and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) initiated the annual “Poetry Notables for Children” list in 2006 The celebration of National Poetry Month (in April) has caught on in schools and libraries across the country since it was initiated in 1996. We have seen the rise of the novel in verse and the fall of the multi-poet anthology. Now poets have websites full of kid-friendly resources, many blogs and books showcase weekly “Poetry Friday” sharing, and the CYBILS award celebrates poetry (among other categories) selected by children’s literature-focused bloggers. Plus poetry for children now makes its appearance as downloadable audiofiles and as e-books and apps for cell phones and e-tablets.
But first, let’s examine our poetry past. (For a “Timeline of the History of Children’s Poetry” look for The Poetry Teacher’s Book of Lists.).... The works of these great names are still worth reading and sharing. In fact, these poets are new names for any child who has not yet encountered their poetry. In fact, poetry has a special advantage in achieving timelessness—consider “A Visit from St. Nicholas” also known as "The Night Before Christmas" first published anonymously in 1823 and generally attributed to Clement Clark Moore. It is widely considered the best-known American poem of all time. Poetry has “legs” and can often maintain its appeal across several generations. Let’s consider some of the major poetry milestones along the way over the last 25 years.
Humor found a home in the poetry of newcomer Douglas Florian with the publication of his first book of poems for children, Monster Motel in 1993. Like Karla Kuskin or Shel Silverstein, Florian created the illustrations that accompany his poems, via paintings and collages. Many excellent and popular Florian picture book poetry collections followed about animals and the natural world, as well as his longer collections of pun-filled humorous poetry, Bing Bang Boing (1994) and Laugheteria (1999), illustrated with pen and ink sketches.... Both poets excel in the use of puns and wordplay, like Jack Prelutsky and Shel Silverstein before them, and laid the groundwork for other humorous poets that followed later such as Adam Rex,Robert Weinstock, Jon Agee, Bob Raczca, Brod Bagert, Alan Katz, Susan Katz, Carol Diggory Shields, and Kalli Dakos.
Poets from many cultures
A new wave of poets from parallel cultures within the United States began writing and publishing poetry for young people in the 1990s. Although poetry by the likes of Langston Hughes, Nikki Giovanni, Gwendolyn Brooks, Lucille Clifton and others had been available to young readers for many years, this decade brought an emergence of a rainbow of names whose entire writing careers now focused on a young audience....
These beautiful and groundbreaking works heralded the arrival of many more distinctive poetic voices from the cultures in the U.S. and beyond including Charles R. Smith Jr., Carole Boston Weatherford, Hope Anita Smith, Joyce LeeWong, and Guadalupe Garcia McCall. Margarita Engle burst onto the scene only seven years ago and has already garnered multiple Pura Belpre recognitions and a Newbery honor distinction for her novel in verse, The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom.Her work is a unique amalgamation of spare and powerful free verse, unheralded historical subjects, vividly realized settings, and multiple points of view. She fuses history, poetry, and biography to tell authentic stories taken from Cuba’s rich past.
Novels in verse
The novel in verse form emerged as a very strong poetry trend with great appeal to young readers during the 1990s. Although it had been around for awhile (some say as far back as Homer’s Odyssey), one could argue that Karen Hesse’s Out of the Dust (1997) put the verse novel on the poetry map in a big way as it won the Newbery medal. At the time, Publishers’ Weekly called it a “novel, written in stanza form,” School Library Journal described it as “prose-poetry,” and Kirkus labeled it a “poem/novel” as Hesse paints a heart-breaking picture of life during the Dust Bowl years.... One might even argue that the 2013 Newbery winner, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, was a work of poetry. Either way, it’s a tender story beautifully rendered, spare and thoughtful, written by a gorilla of a writer. Other poets who have created novels in verse well suited to the tween audience include Jen Bryant, Andrea Cheng, Helen Frost, Nikki Grimes, Eileen Spinelli, Robert Paul Weston, and Tracie Vaughn Zimmer. The best verse novels are built on poems that are often lovely stand-alone works of art. A narrative unfolds poem by poem, frequently with multiple points of view and in colloquial language. This format is wooing many middle grade children both to poetry and to reading in general—a promising trend.
During this first decade of the 2000s, Joyce Sidman entered the poetry scene garnering many awards for her work culminating in a Newbery honor for the third in her eco-poetry trilogy, Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night(2010), which followed Song of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems (2005) and Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow (2006). Booklist reviewer Hazel Rochman noted that Sidman “combines lyrical poetry and compelling art with science concepts” and Margaret Bush (School Library Journal) observed that Sidman’s work “invites lingering enjoyment for nature and poetry fans.” Joyce Sidman is also the most recent recipient of the NCTE Excellence in Poetry Award for her entire body of work.
Most of the major awards that recognize poetry for young people were also established within the last 25 years. One exception: The National Council of Teachers of English Award for Excellence in Poetry was first founded in 1977 and presented to 17 poets thus far, many of whom are profiled at NoWaterRiver.com. Next, an award for an emerging poet, the Lee Bennett Hopkins/International Reading Association Promising Poet Award was established in 1995 and recipients have included Deborah Chandra, Kristine O’Connell George, Craig Crist-Evans, Lindsay Lee Johnson, Joyce Lee Wong, Gregory Neri, and Guadalupe Garcia McCall.
In addition, a single book of poetry is recognized by three separate awards: the Lee Bennett Hopkins/Pennsylvania State University Award established in 1993, the Bank Street College of Education/Claudia Lewis Award established in 1998, and The Lion and the Unicorn Award for Excellence in North American Poetry established in 2005, each with a slightly different focus.
In 2006, the Poetry Foundation established the Children’s Poet Laureate to raise awareness of the fact that children have a natural receptivity to poetry and are its most appreciative audience, especially when poems are written specifically for them. Recipients thus far are Jack Prelutsky, 2006; Mary Ann Hoberman, 2008; J. Patrick Lewis, 2011 and Kenn Nesbitt, 2013.
Conclusion In just 25 years, the field of poetry for children has been transformed by new voices, new styles, and new formats. But those established names haven’t stopped creating either....Lee Bennett Hopkins, 2009 NCTE Poetry Award winner, continues to produce award-winning works of poetry such as his own City I Love (2009), as well as nearly 40 anthologies in the last 20 years, including Days to Celebrate: A Full Year of Poetry, People, Holidays, History, Fascinating Facts, and More(2005) and Sharing the Seasons (2010). He is even in the Guinness Book of World Records for creating the most children’s poetry anthologies ever!
Poetry as a form of literature has particular crossover appeal with poems easily readable for the young child, but still meaningful to us as we grow older. Poems like “The Night Before Christmas,” “Jabberwocky,” and “Dreams,” for example, speak to both children and teens and to all of us throughout our lives. Many of the first books published for children in English were works of poetry includingJohn Newbery’s collection of English rhymes, Mother Goose's Melody, or, Sonnets for the Cradle (circa 1765). And various Mother Goose collections have received Caldecott distinctions multiple times. In contemporary children’s book publishing, three of Shel Silverstein’s poetry collections are among the top 100 bestselling children’s book of all time: Where the Sidewalk Ends, A Light in the Attic, and Falling Up. Clearly, poetry has an important place in the world of literature for young people.
It’s exciting to see the genre of poetry grow and expand in all these different directions, exploring possibilities of poetic form, hybrids with other genres, and a creative use of design, visuals, and media. The key is in keeping our poetry collections varied, current, and in use. As Wilson and Kutiper reported (1994, 278), “one elementary school library media specialist noted an increase in poetry circulation after sharing a single poem with students each week as they entered the library.” With well-stocked shelves brimming with the poetry gems of the last 25 years and a bit of poetry promotion (in April and beyond), young people will find something to enjoy and cherish for a lifetime.
The bibliography for this essay includes 85 books of poetry for young people!
I'm so glad I got this opportunity to showcase the power of poetry for young readers and I hope they'll keep poetry on the radar the next time committees make decisions about Newbery and Caldecott awards!
Don't forget to visit Tabatha's place at The Opposite of Indifferencefor the rest of this week's Poetry Friday posts! And please come back here next week when Janet Wong and I will be hosting the Poetry Friday gathering. We have a big announcement to make!
As you've probably heard, the great Walter Dean Myers passed away recently and his impressive and significant body of work has been recognized far and wide-- as it should be. His mastery of every genre was amazing and I would like to take a moment to highlight his POETRY for young people, in particular. I was fortunate enough to feature him in my "Poetry Round Up" at the annual conference of the Texas Library Association in 2005. Hearing a poet read his/her own work aloud is the ultimate treat and Walter's reading was such a perfect example. His deep, resonant voice sticks with you. Perhaps because of his own struggle with spoken speech, his pacing in his poetry is so thoughtful and meaningful. Just look at these many, wonderful examples.
POETRY + PHOTOGRAPHY Although much of Walter's work is poetic and rhythmic, I believe his poetry first emerged in Brown Angels which paired his words with his collection of antique photographs of children. More followed with Glorious Angels and Angel to Angel, a beautiful trilogy.
Then, Here in Harlem built on this photo-poem format to create a multi-voice poetry collection-- perfect for YA. (Do NOT miss the audiobook adaptation of this book, but more on that later!)
Then came the stunning picture poetry books that showcase Walter's poetry alongside the powerful art created by his son, Christopher Myers, especially Harlem, Jazz, and We Are America.
POETRY BY WALTER DEAN MYERS
Myers, Walter Dean. 1993. Brown Angels: An Album of Pictures and Verse. New York: HarperCollins.
Myers, Walter Dean. 1995. Glorious Angels: A Celebration of Children. New York: HarperCollins.
Here in Harlem
Myers, Walter Dean. 1997. Harlem: A Poem. New York: Scholastic.
Myers, Walter Dean. 1998. Angel to Angel. New York: HarperCollins.
Myers, Walter Dean. 2003. Blues Journey. New York: Holiday House.
Myers, Walter Dean. 2004. Here in Harlem: Poems in Many Voices. New York: Holiday House.
Myers, Walter Dean. 2006. Jazz. Ill. by Christopher Myers. New York: Holiday House.
Myers, Walter Dean. 2009. Amiri and Odette: A Love Story. Ill. by Javaka Steptoe. New York: Scholastic.
We Are America
Myers, Walter Dean. 2009. Looking Like Me. Ill. by Chrisopher Myers. New York: Egmont.
Myers, Walter Dean. 2011. We are America: A Tribute from the Heart. Ill. by Christopher Myers. New York: HarperCollins.
I think a fitting tribute to the wonderful Walter Dean Myers can be found in his own work. Here's "Good-bye to Old Bob Johnson" from Jazz, based on the traditional New Orleans funeral parade. Find the Odyssey winning audiobook adaptation of this book and listen to this heartbreakingly beautiful version of this poem, complete with musical soundtrack. RIP, Walter Dean Myers. Thank you for sharing your gifts with us.
from Jazz by Walter Dean Myers
For more poetry moments this Poetry Friday, head over to Linda's place at WriteTime.
Celebrating the 4th of July evokes thoughts of summer vacation, family time, fireflies and fireworks, etc. Here is a sampling of poetry books on these topics and more (taken from my book, The Poetry Teacher's Book of Lists).
Poetry Books for the Fourth of July
Ada, Alma Flor. 1997. Gathering the Sun. New York: Lothrop, Lee, & Shepard.
Alarcón, Francisco X. 1998. From the Bellybutton of the Moon and Other Summer Poems/Del Ombligo de la Luna y Otros Poemas de Verano. San Francisco: Children’s Book Press.
Appelt, Kathi. 2004. My Father’s Summers: A Daughter’s Memoirs. New York: Henry Holt.
Argueta, Jorge. 2012. Guacamole; Un poema para cocinar/ A Cooking Poem. Ill. by Margarita Sada. Toronto: Groundwood.
Bates, Katharine Lee. 2003. America the Beautiful. Ill. by Wendell Minor. New York: Putnam.
Borden, Louise. 2002. America Is—New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books.
Bryan, Ashley. 1992. Sing to the Sun. New York: HarperCollins.
The next Poetry Blast will be held at the annual conference of the American Library Association in Las Vegas on Sunday, June 29 (3:00-4:30pm) in the PopTop Stage of the Convention Center. It's a fantastic event hosted by Barbara Genco and Marilyn Singer and I have never missed it-- until now. :-( Unfortunately/fortunately, I have a conflict this year (and am receiving an award at the same time), so I won't be able to report on it as I usually do. But I thought I might post a little plug here anyway featuring the names and works of the poets who will be presenting there. Poets: Joan Bransfield Graham Nikki Grimes Kenn Nesbitt Kari Anne Holt Marilyn Nelson Emily Jiang Jacqueline Woodson Alan Katz Margarita Engle Marilyn Singer Selected books by the 2014 Poetry Blast poets As I pulled together a list of poetry books by these ten poets, it totaled nearly 100 books! So, this list is just a partial listing of their works. 1.Alexander, Elizabeth and Nelson, Marilyn. 2007. Miss Crandall’s School for Young Ladies and Little Misses of Color. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong. 2.Engle, Margaret. 2006. The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano. New York: Holt. 3.Engle, Margarita. 2008. The Surrender Tree. New York: Holt. 4.Engle, Margarita. 2009. Tropical Secrets: Holocaust Refugees in Cuba. New York: Holt. 5.Engle, Margarita. 2010. The Firefly Letters; A Suffragette's Journey to Cuba. New York: Henry Holt. 6.Engle, Margarita. 2011. Hurricane Dancers; The First Caribbean Pirate Shipwreck. New York: Henry Holt. 7.Engle, Margarita. 2012. The Wild Book. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
8.Engle, Margarita. 2014. Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
10.Graham, Joan B. 2014. The Poem That Will Not End: Fun With Poetic Forms and Voices. Two Lions.
11.Graham, Joan Bransfield. 1994. Splish Splash. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 12.Graham, Joan Bransfield. 1999. Flicker Flash. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 13.Grimes, Nikki. 2000. Shoe Magic. New York: Orchard. 14.Grimes, Nikki. 2000. Stepping out with Grandma Mac. New York: Simon & Schuster. 15.Grimes, Nikki. 2001. A Pocketful of Poems. New York: Clarion. 16.Grimes, Nikki. 2002. Bronx Masquerade. New York: Dial. 17.Grimes, Nikki. 2002. Danitra Brown Leaves Town. New York: HarperCollins. 18.Grimes, Nikki. 2004. What is Goodbye? New York: Jump at the Sun/Hyperion. 19.Grimes, Nikki. 2005. Danitra Brown, Class Clown. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard. 20.Grimes, Nikki. 2005. Dark Sons. New York: Hyperion. 21.Grimes, Nikki. 2006. Thanks a Million. New York: Amistad. 22.Grimes, Nikki. 2007. When Gorilla Goes Walking. New York: Orchard. 23.Grimes, Nikki. 2011. Planet Middle School. New York: Bloomsbury.
24.Grimes, Nikki. 2014. Poems in the Attic. New York: Lee & Low.
25.Holt, K. A. 2014. Rhyme Schemer. San Francisco: Chronicle.
26.Jiang, Emily. 2014. Summoning the Phoenix: Poems and Prose About Chinese Musical Instruments. Ill. by April Chu. New York: Shen's Books/Lee & Low.
27.Katz, Alan. 2001. Take Me Out of the Bathtub and Other Silly Dilly Songs. New York: McElderry. 28.Katz, Alan. 2008. Oops. New York: McElderry. 29.Katz, Alan. 2008. Smelly Locker; Silly Dilly School Songs. New York: Simon & Schuster. 30.Katz, Alan. 2011. Mosquitoes Are Ruining My Summer! And Other Silly Dilly Camp Songs. New York: McElderry. 31.Katz, Alan. 2011. Poems I Wrote When No One Was Looking. Ill. by Ed Koren. New York: Simon & Schuster. 32.Nelson, Marilyn. 2001. Carver: A Life in Poems. Asheville, NC: Front Street. 33.Nelson, Marilyn. 2004. Fortune's Bones: The Manumission Requiem. Asheville, NC: Front Street. 34.Nelson, Marilyn. 2005. A Wreath for Emmett Till. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 35.Nelson, Marilyn. 2008. The Freedom Business. Asheville, NC: Front Street. 36.Nelson, Marilyn. 2009. Sweethearts of Rhythm; The Story of the Greatest All-Girl Swing Band in the World. Ill. by Jerry Pinkney. NY: Dial.
37.Nelson, Marilyn. 2014. How I Discovered Poetry. Ill. by Hadley Hooper. New York: Dial.
38.Nesbitt, Kenn. 2004. When the Teacher Isn't Looking. Minnetonka, MN: Meadowbrook Press. 39.Nesbitt, Kenn. 2007. Revenge of the Lunch Ladies. Minnetonka, MN: Meadowbrook Press. 40.Nesbitt, Kenn. 2009. My Hippo Has the Hiccups with CD: And Other Poems I Totally Made Up. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks. 41.Nesbitt, Kenn. 2010. The Tighty Whitey Spider: And More Wacky Animal Poems I Totally Made Up. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks. 42.Singer, Marilyn, 2012. Every Day's a Dog's Day: A Year in Poems. New York: Dial. 43.Singer, Marilyn. 2001. Monster Museum. New York: Hyperion. 44.Singer, Marilyn. 2002. Footprints on the Roof: Poems about the Earth. New York: Knopf. 45.Singer, Marilyn. 2003. Fireflies at Midnight. New York: Atheneum. 46.Singer, Marilyn. 2003. How to Cross a Pond: Poems about Water. New York: Knopf. 47.Singer, Marilyn. 2004. Creature Carnival. New York: Hyperion. 48.Singer, Marilyn. 2005. Central Heating: Poems about Fire and Warmth. New York: Knopf. 49.Singer, Marilyn. 2005. Monday on the Mississippi. New York: Henry Holt. 50.Singer, Marilyn. 2008. First Food Fight This Fall. New York: Sterling. 51.Singer, Marilyn. 2010. Mirror, Mirror. New York: Dutton. 52.Singer, Marilyn. 2011. A Full Moon is Rising. Lee & Low. 53.Singer, Marilyn. 2011. A Stick Is an Excellent Thing. Ill. by LeUyen Pham. New York: Clarion. 54.Singer, Marilyn. 2011. Twosomes: Love Poems from the Animal Kingdom. New York: Knopf. 55.Singer, Marilyn. 2012. A Strange Place to Call Home: The World’s Most Dangerous Habitats and the Animals That Call Them Home. San Francisco: Chronicle. 56.Singer, Marilyn. 2012. The Boy Who Cried Alien. Ill. by Brian Biggs. New York: Hyperion. 57.Singer, Marilyn. 2012. The Superheroes Employment Agency. Ill. by Noah Z. Jones. New York: Clarion. 58.Singer, Marilyn. 2013. Follow, Follow. New York: Dial. 59.Woodson, Jacqueline. 2003. Locomotion. New York: Putnam. 60. Woodson, Jacqueline. 2014. Brown Girl Dreaming. New York: Penguin. Now let's join the group celebrating Poetry Friday over at Buffy's Blog!Add a Comment
Tomorrow, Saturday, June 21, is officially the first day of summer! Here's a poem to celebrate from The Poetry Friday Anthology. Family Vacation by Allan Wolf
I started packing Monday when I gathered up my shirts. My sister packed away a blouse, a hairbrush, and three skirts.
Daddy packed his razor and his woolen dress-up slacks. Mother packed her flowered dress and a box of crunchy snacks. We gathered up a couple lamps and a box of dictionaries, we even took Sir William and Bernice, our pet canaries,
the sofa and the kitchen sink, my old, stuffed Teddy Bear, the television, bicycles, Great Grandma’s rocking chair!
By Friday we had taken all the things we had to take. We even took some things we really needed by mistake.
We’re ready for vacation now, with all the stuff we’re towing. The only problem is that we’ve forgotten where we’re going!
(Here are the activities in The Poetry Friday Anthology that accompany this poem.)
1. As a poetry prop for sharing this poem, have a suitcase or backpack handy while you read the poem aloud. 2. Share the poem again and invite students to chime in on the last two lines of the poem (The only problem is that we’ve / forgotten where we’re going!). Read the rest of the poem aloud, starting slowly, accelerating speed as you go, and then pausing before the final stanza.
The Texas Edition
3. For discussion: What is the one item you feel like you can’t leave behind when packing for a trip?
4. Poets give their poems shape in many ways. Here the poem is made up of four-line stanzas, or quatrains.Talk with students about each stanza and what it adds to the poem. What details tell you the poem is humorous? 5. Match this poem with the acrostic poem “Family Vacation” by Kathi Appelt (4th Grade, Week 35, page 221), the packing poem “By the Sea” by Lesléa Newman (1st Grade, Week 35, page 101), or selections from Vacation: We’re Going to the Ocean! by David L. Harrison.
Now head on over to Check it Out where Jone is hosting our Poetry Friday gathering!
Kuskin, Karla. 2003. Moon, Have You Met My Mother? The Collected Poems of Karla Kuskin. New York: HarperCollins.
Lawson, JonArno. The Man in the Moon-Fixer’s Mask. Toronto: Pedlar Press, 2004.
Livingston, Myra Cohn. 1998. Space Songs. New York: Holiday House.
Ryder, Joanne. 2002. Mouse Tail Moon. Ill. by Maggie Kneen. New York: Henry Holt.
Salas, Laura Purdie. 2008. And Then There Were Eight: Poems About Space. Minneapolis, MN: Capstone.
Sidman, Joyce. 2010. Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night. Ill. by Rick Allen. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Singer, Marilyn. 2011. A Full Moon is Rising. Lee & Low.
Sklansky, Amy E. 2012. Out of This World: Poems and Facts About Space. Ill. by Stacey Schuett. New York: Knopf.
Wallace, Nancy Elizabeth. Ed. 2003. The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars: Poems. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Willard, Nancy. 2001. The Moon & Riddles Diner and the Sunnyside Cafe. San Diego: Harcourt.
Wood, Nancy. 1995. Dancing Moons. New York: Doubleday.
Yolen, Jane and Peters, Andrew Fusek. Comp. 2010. Switching on the Moon; A Very First Book of Bedtime Poems. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick.
Yolen, Jane. 1993. What Rhymes with Moon? New York: Philomel.
Zemach, Margot. 2001. Some from the Moon, Some from the Sun: Poems and Songs for Everyone. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
And I can't resist the opportunity to connect with a poem from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science. Here's a moon poem from the 4th grade section, along with the "Take 5" mini lesson for sharing this poem with kids.
Queen of Night
By Terry Webb Harshman
I am the moon, Queen of Night,
riddle wrapped in borrowed light,
a silver spool where dreams unwind,
ancient orb as old as time.
I masquerade; I wax and wane . . .
forever changing yet the same;
I stir the tides with unseen hands;
they ebb and flow from sea to sand.
Father Sun may keep the day;
I ride along the Milky Way . . .
holding court with owls and bats,
moles and voles and backstreet cats.
Within my tent the weary rest;
puppies doze and sparrows nest.
Children dream beneath my light . . .
I am the moon, Queen of Night.
1. Before sharing this poem, alert students to listen for particular “moon vocabulary.” Then read the poem aloud and make a list of all the moon-specific language they can identify (e.g., night, light, ancient, orb, wax, wane, tides, ebb, flow, Milky Way).
2. Read the poem aloud again, and invite students to chime in on the first and last lines of the poem (I am the moon, Queen of Night), echoing the title of the poem).
3. Connect this poem with a nonfiction book about the moon to compare the factual information you can glean from each source. One example is The Moon by Seymour Simon.
4. Use this poem to talk about what we know about the moon, beginning with attributes of the moon and then considering tides, seasons, and the observable appearance of the moon over time during its phases. Consult the NASA website at SolarSystem.NASA.gov/planets/profile.cfm?Object=Moon.
5. Follow up with another poem about the moon, “I Like that Night Follows Day” by April Halprin Wayland (1st Grade, Week 24, page 92), and selections from A Full Moon Is Rising by Marilyn Singer and Dark Emperor by Joyce Sidman.
Happy Poetry Friday! Join the crew over at Catherine's place here.
As everyone knows by now, Maya Angelou passed away this week. Her words, her work, her presence, and her life have been honored in many ways in many places-- such a beautiful legacy. I just wanted to take a moment to highlight her work for children.
Maya Angelou published several works for young readers, including a series of small picture books in the"Maya's World" series: Izak of Lapland, Renee Marie of France, Angelina of Italy, and Mikale of Hawaii.She authored two narrative picture books accompanied by the illustrations or photographs of Margaret Courtney-Clarke:
Angelou, Maya. 2003 (reprint). My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken, and Me. Ill. by Margaret Courtney-Clarke. New York: Crown.
Angelou, May. 1996. Kofi and His Magic. Photographs byMargaret Courtney-Clarke. New York: Knopf.
Her poem read at the 2005 White House tree-lighting ceremony was turned into a lovely picture book (with accompanying CD featuring Angelou reading the poem aloud) was published in 2008:
Angelou, Maya. 2008. Amazing Peace; A Christmas Poem. New York: Schwartz & Wade.
Sterling Publishing reissued a collection of her poetry with introductions and annotations by Edwin Wilson just last year:
Wilson, Edwin G (Introductions/annotations). 2013 (reprint). Poetry for Young People: Maya Angelou. Ill. by Jerome Lagarrigue. New York: Sterling.
And of course her poems appear in many anthologies for young people, such as
Rochelle, Belinda. Ed. 2001. Words with Wings: A Treasury of African-American Poetry and Art. New York: HarperCollins.
Giovanni, Nikki. Coll. 2008. Hip Hop Speaks to Children. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks.
and many more.
But I think my favorite of her works for children is her book, Life Doesn't Frighten Me illustrated by the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.
(Angelou, Maya. 1993. Life Doesn’t Frighten Me. Ill. by Jean-Michel Basquiat. New York: Steward, Tabori, & Chang.)
It's deceptively simple and direct and recognizes children's fears while empowering them to face them and embrace their own power and identity.
Thank you, Maya Angelou, for sharing your gifts with us-- young and old.
Recently I collaborated with friend, colleague and fellow blogger, Tricia Stohr-Hunt (of The Miss Rumphius Effect) on an article for ALA's Book Links magazine. We paired up to connect "Nonfiction Monday" and "Poetry Friday" to look at how we can link nonfiction and poetry to provide two perspectives on the same topic. There wasn't room for all our work in the April issue, so here is an extra bonus-- five more combinations of nonfiction and poetry books that treat the same topic, but in distinctly different ways, along with learning activities for classroom use on each topic. Enjoy!
Nonfiction Monday meets Poetry Friday
By Sylvia Vardell and Patricia Stohr-Hunt
In the world of blogging about children’s literature (via Kidlitosphere.org and elsewhere), two major trends have emerged in the last decade: Nonfiction Monday and Poetry Friday. In each case, interested bloggers focus on one genre weekly in their posts and one of them volunteers to “round up” all the posts with links to each posting. Recently, Nonfiction Monday founder Anastasia Suen launched a group blog for corralling posts. Kelly Herold (of Big A, Little A) established the Poetry Friday tradition in 2006 and now Mary Lee Hahn at A Year of Reading manages the list of upcoming hosts.
In each case, bloggers celebrate nonfiction and/or poetry by writing about nonfiction books and sharing them with children (on Monday) or sharing original poems, poetry book reviews and poetry news (on Friday). Many include book covers that are also shared on Pinterest. This provides an opportunity for readers to keep up with the latest in these two distinctive genres and learn about ways to connect with children’s lives and capitalize on teachable moments. Yes, of course we can share nonfiction and poetry on other days of the week too— but this is one way to make reading, responding to, and sharing of these genres intentional and not incidental. It can also be a model for classroom instruction, showcasing the latest nonfiction title in a Monday booktalk or incorporating poetry reading every Friday.
Now let’s consider taking it one step further, linking these two genres together in creative ways. Pairing nonfiction and poetry may seem to be an unlikely partnership at first, but these two different genres can complement one another by showing children how writers approach the same topic in very different and distinctive ways. In addition, children will see that they can learn a lot of information from both a poem and a work of nonfiction. With the growing emphasis on comparing texts in the Common Core State Standards, linking these two genres offers a unique approach. You could begin by sharing the suggested nonfiction title and related activity on Monday and conclude with the suggested poetry title and activity on Friday, bookending your week with two genres linked by topic in connected, engaging ways. Here are a dozen pairs of related nonfiction and poetry books to get you started.
1a. Nonfiction Monday
Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle. By Claire A. Nivola. Illus. by author. 2012. 32p. Farrar/Frances Foster, $17.99 (9780374380687). Gr. K-3.
This picture book biography of Sylvia Earle introduces readers to Earle's early life, her passion for the ocean, and her work in ocean exploration and advocacy. Nivola’s illustrations and text showcase Earle’s life work as well as the wonders of the ocean ecosystem.
In the Classroom: On one double-page spread in the book (pp.12-13), Nivola highlights in text and illustration all the ways that Earle pushed the boundaries of ocean exploration, always trying to dive deeper. Ask students to think about something they have an interest in and want to investigate more deeply. Have them draw a series of pictures like those created by Nivola that show what their pursuit of this interest might look like. Invite them to write short captions for each one.
1b. Poetry Friday
Dare to Dream… Change the World. Edited by Jill Corcoran. 2012. San Diego, CA: Kane Miller.
In this collection of biographical and inspirational poetry by thirty different poets, each pair of poems is inspired by someone whose actions made a difference, not only in their own lives, but also in the lives of people all over the world. Subjects form a culturally diverse mix ranging from Jonas Salk to Steven Spielberg, from Christa McAuliffe to Michelle Kwan, with brief descriptions of their lives included.
In the Classroom: Share a few of the poems about inspirational people as another example of how information can be presented. Read aloud “My Polio Shot” by Janet Wong and “Jonas Salk Poem” by Elaine Magliaro while displaying the text of each poem. As students explore topics of special interest, drawing pictures, and writing captions to accompany those images, challenge them to turn their captions into free verse poems like those in Dare to Dream.
RESEARCH AND DISCOVERY
2a. Nonfiction Monday
Barnum’s Bones: How Barnum Brown Discovered the Most Famous Dinosaur in the World. By Tracey Fern. Illus. by Boris Kulikov. 2112. 40p. Farrar/Margaret Ferguson, $17.99 (9780374305161). Gr. 1-4.
This picture book biography of Barnum Brown introduces readers to Brown, a young boy with a love for fossils who grew up to make extraordinary finds, including the first documented T. Rex skeleton, as a paleontologist for the American Museum of Natural History.
In the Classroom: The American Museum of Natural History maintains archival copies of field notebooks from paleontological expeditions. What do you think Brown’s notebook might have look like? Visit the site (research.amnh.org/paleontology/notebooks/index.html) and take a look at some of Brown’s notebook entries. Field notebooks today look very different. Have students create their own field notebooks where they record observations, produce drawings/illustrations, determine relatedness among species (classification), and develop questions about the plants and animals they find in studying the schoolyard.
2b. Poetry Friday
The Robin Makes a Laughing Sound. By Sallie Wolf. 2010. Charlesbridge.
Wolf has been a bird-watcher and journal keeper since childhood and this book reflects her careful observations, notes, sketches, paintings, and poems about her neighborhood birds, particularly robins.
In the Classroom: Share a different kind of notebook, the chronological poems, notes, and paintings through the seasons that Wolf presents as she observes the robins and other birds in her area. Read aloud a few poems from the beginning, middle, and end of the book. Talk about how notebooks can form the basis of research, nonfiction writing, fiction writing or poetry writing. Select one entry from their student-created notebooks and write a collaborative poem together gleaned from those words.
3a. Nonfiction Monday
Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade. By Melissa Sweet. Illus. by author. 2011. 40p. Houghton, $16.99 (9780547199450). Gr. K-2.
This picture book biography of Tony Sarg introduces readers to the man who created floats and costumes for the first Macy’s day parade in 1924, and four years later developed the balloons that would fly over the parade.
In the Classroom: The final endpapers of the book provide a copy of a1933 newspaper advertising the parade and Sarg’s balloons. Using pictures of recent parade balloons, ask students to write their own headline for the parade and describe the balloons using descriptive and/or figurative language.
3b. Poetry Friday
The World’s Greatest: Poems. By J. Patrick Lewis. Illus. by Keith Graves. 2008. San Francisco: Chronicle.
Lewis showcases the weird and wonderful in two dozen poems about unusual record setters like the most cobras kissed, the biggest pumpkin, and the tallest scarecrow.
In the Classroom: Read aloud a sampling of poems such as “The Tallest Roller Coaster” and talk about how people can pursue all kinds of records and dreams, much like Tony Sarg’s work with puppets and parade balloons. Inflate a balloon and encourage students to write a dream or goal they have on a strip of paper and attach these to the balloon’s “tail” with string or yarn.
DRAWING AND WRITING
4a. Nonfiction Monday
Can We Save the Tiger? By. Martin Jenkins. Illus. by Vicky White. 2011. 56p. Candlewick, $16.99 (9780763649098). Gr. 3-6.
Why are animals endangered or extinct? Through oil-and-pencil illustrations and highly informative text, readers learn about 28 different animals and how humans have adversely affected the environment and these species.
In the Classroom: Vicky White earned a degree in natural history illustration and has traveled the world to draw and paint animals in the wild. This means her illustrations are more likely to be scientifically accurate. Select an illustration from the book and generate a list of details. What can you learn from the illustrations that is not expressly mentioned in the text?
4b. Poetry Friday
The Arrow Finds its Mark: A Book of Found Poems. Edited by Georgia Heard. Illus. by Antoine Guilloppe. 2012. New York: Macmillan.
This collection highlights the form of “found” poetry—in which poets take existing words, phrases, and sentences from one source and then refashion them as poems. Heard includes 40 different found poems by a variety of contemporary poets based on all kinds or sources from book spines to menus to dictionaries to calendars.
In the Classroom: Share a sampling of “found” poems based on newspaper articles and calendar text such as “Breaking, From Norway” by Naomi Shihab Nye, “Artist’s Advice” by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, and “Song of the Earth” by Joyce Sidman. Talk about how each poet selected, arranged, and rearranged the words from one source to create something new—a found poem. Challenge students to work with a partner, choosing one of the 28 animals presented by Jenkins, and then rewrite a paragraph or page of text about their chosen animal as a “found” poem.
FOOD AND EATING
5a. Nonfiction Monday
Eat Like a Bear. By April Pulley Sayre. Illus. and by Steve Jenkins. 2013. 32p. Holt, $16.99 (9780805090390). Gr. PreK-3.
This lyrical text follows a bear upon waking in April and eating through to fall such things as horsetails, dandelions, ants, trout, squirrel, moths, huckleberries and more. Full from months of eating, bear finally settles down to hibernate.
In the Classroom: Sayre’s text is filled with synonyms for the action of finding and eating food. Reread the text and compile a list of these words with students. Discuss the differences among words like gnaw, tear, chomp, etc. Generate a list of the foods the bear ate and write some synonyms to further describe how she might do it.
5b. Poetry Friday
What’s for Dinner? Quirky, Squirmy Poems from the Animal World. By Katherine Hauth. 2011. Watertown: MA: Charlesbridge.
More than two dozen different animals are described in poems focusing on what they eat, from the snake-eating hawk to the polar bear’s diet of seals, birds, and plants. Interesting endnotes for each animal complement the poems.
In the Classroom: Read aloud the poem, “Eating Words” and talk about the labels used to categorize animals and what they eat: insectivores, carnivores, herbivores, and omnivores. Make a simple chart with four columns, one for each of these. Place the bear in the proper category and share additional poems (and endnotes), categorizing each animal by what it eats.
Sylvia M. Vardell is a professor of children’s and young adult literature at Texas Woman’s University and the author of this Poetry for Children blog.
Patricia M. Stohr-Hunt is chair of the education department at the University
One more science + poetry connection-- I'll be presenting at the upcoming conference of the International Reading Association in New Orleans on Mother's Day (May 11 at 11am). I have a fantastic panel of speakers and we're excited to talk about The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science and the cross-curricular potential of poetry of all kinds. Here's the lowdown.
How is a Poet Like a Scientist? Maximizing Teachable Moments in Both Reading and Science
Linking reading and science offers opportunities to develop both comprehension skill and content knowledge and poetry is the perfect vehicle for capitalizing on those teachable moments of overlap and connection. Poetry provides cognitive transfer from concept to concept, deepens comprehension by providing vivid imagery and sensory language, and offers an emotional and experiential connection. In this session, participants will engage with poets themselves in poetry exploration activities that are skill-based, cross-curricular, sometimes bilingual, and developmentally appropriate demonstrating how reading intersects with the new Next Generation Science Standards in grades K-5.
Our Fabulous Presenters:
1. Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
2. Shirley Duke
3. Eric Ode
4. Vida Zuljevic
5. Janet Wong
6. Yours truly (Sylvia Vardell)
1. Participants will be familiarized with the Next Generation Science Standards and how they intersect with developing reading in grades K-5.
2. Participants will be introduced to selected poets, poems, poetry books, and standards-based teaching strategies as well as relevant resources for integrating poetry into science instruction.
3. Participants will engage with poets themselves in examples of poetry exploration activities that are poem-specific, skill-based, cross-curricular, bilingual, and developmentally appropriate for each grade level (K-5), capitalizing on teachable moments for infusing literacy in science instruction and vice versa.
Support for the multifaceted nature of sharing poetry is found in several reading theories and educational paradigms including Dowhower (1987), Rosenblatt (1978), Samuels (1979), and Schreiber (1980). More recently, Wilfong (2008) indicated that repeated reading of poetry improves fluency and attitudes toward reading. Through repeated immersion in poems, students increase sight word vocabulary and the ability to decode words quickly and accurately. In addition, the exposure to poetry allows students to use appropriate sentence phrasing, read punctuation markers, and read with greater ease. This fluent reading enables students to spend less time on decoding and have greater comprehension of the text (Pikulsi & Chard, 2005). According to Barbara Chatton (2010), poetry can also serve to integrate subject areas like science and reading by offering multiple opportunities for extending instruction.
• Poetry can provide cognitive transfer from concept to concept.
• Poetry deepens comprehension by providing another example of a concept.
• Poetry provides more personal connections.
The more connections we can provide between what children are learning in various areas of study, the deeper their learning will be. If poetry can be that vehicle for connecting books, skills, concepts, and information across the curriculum, we owe it to children to infuse poetry wherever we can.
As Timothy V. Rasinski reminds us, despite the wonderful potential of poetry to explore language, it is one of the most often neglected components of the reading and language arts curriculum. Turning poetry into a shared experience can give poetry its rightful place in the reading-language arts curriculum providing practice for oral language development as well as a bridge to understanding content. Poetry often involves a high level of abstraction in language and ideas, and requires specific critical thinking skills and deeper comprehension. Infusing poetry across the curriculum can serve to jump-start or introduce a topic, present examples of terminology or concepts, provide closure that is concept-rich, or extend a topic further. Plus, there are many thematic poetry collections devoted to science-related subjects, such as animals, weather, seasons, space, dinosaurs, and geography, to name a few. Sharing science poetry titles in combination with a nonfiction work on the same topic, can model for students how information is presented in both prose or poetry. We can encourage children to think like a poet AND a scientist in carefully observing the world around them using all their senses, maintaining an avid curiosity about how things work, and gathering “big words” and key vocabulary in their reading and their writing.
Methods of Presenting
After laying the groundwork for the new Next Generation Science Standards, participants will hear from the poets themselves, as well as engage in poetry sharing that provide exposure to contemporary poems for children while integrating current principles of reading instruction, literacy building, cross-curricular connections, and science curriculum standards. This participatory session will incorporate print and digital media (including e-books) as well as audience engagement in strategies as they are demonstrated. Audience members will receive comprehensive bibliographies of books and recommended strategies. Presentation: Sunday, May 11 11:00am - 1:00pm There will be snacks, giveaways and door prize books! Come join us if you're attending the conference!
I submitted a proposal to the upcoming STEM conference which will be held in New Orleans immediately following the International Reading Association conference. This is officially called the STEM Forum & Expo is sponsored by NSTA (National Science Teachers Association), so I knew it was a longshot-- since I am not a "science" person. But we're so excited about the connections between science and poetry (thus, The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science), that we thought we'd give it a try. Well, we never heard from NSTA, so I figured it was not accepted. Oh well. But I thought I'd attend the conference anyway, since I'll already be in New Orleans (and I love that city). So I was browsing the conference schedule and as I scrolled through it, I saw MY NAME and my presentation listed! WHAT? We WERE accepted?! So, after a bit of scrambling Janet (Wong) and I were on board! In 30+ years of submitting proposals and planning presentations, that's a FIRST for me. But I'm still thrilled to get on the SCIENCE docket with our POETRY proposal!
So, if you're going to the STEM Forum & Expo in New Orleans in mid-May, come to our session! Here's the lowdown:
How is a Poet Like a Scientist? A + STEM Connects Literacy and Science
Linking poetry and science offers opportunities to develop both literacy and content knowledge with an interdisciplinary approach that integrates both NGSS and CCSS skills.
Linking poetry and science offers opportunities to develop both literacy and science content knowledge with an interdisciplinary approach that integrates both NGSS and CCSS skills. Poetry provides cognitive transfer from concept to concept, deepens comprehension by providing vivid imagery and sensory language, and offers an emotional and experiential connection. In this session, participants will engage in poetry exploration activities that are standards-based, cross-curricular, and developmentally appropriate demonstrating how the Common Core State Standards intersect with the Next Generation Science Standards in grades K-5.
Poetry’s brevity, conceptual focus, and rich vocabulary make it a natural teaching tool for connecting with science, particularly in celebrating National Poetry Month each April. Infusing poetry into the science curriculum can serve to jump-start or introduce a topic, present examples of terminology or concepts, provide closure that is concept-rich, or extend a science topic further. As we consider the STEM components, we can build comprehension and engagement by incorporating the art (A) of poetry throughout the curriculum, right alongside science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. We can explore how poetry might work alongside other texts and experiences to help students understand our "technology-rich and scientifically complex world” so critical in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
Tuesday, May 15
Convention Center Room 220
We'll have books to give away, free stuff, and snacks! Come one, come all!
The 2014 ALSC National Institute is scheduled for September 18 - 20, 2014 in Oakland, California and I'll be making the trek there to present with a fantastic panel of poets. Our focus? Science and poetry, of course! Here's the lowdown:
The Science of Poetry and the Poetry of Science: Helping Children Make Connections
This session will present poetry that incorporates science content plus practical strategies for implementation. Poetry offers the special language, imagery, and conciseness that introduces or reinforces important science concepts and terminology. We can encourage children to think like a poet and a scientist in carefully observing the world around them using all their senses, maintaining an avid curiosity about how things work, and gathering “big words” and key vocabulary in their reading and their writing. We'll be presenting TWICE:
Thursday, Sept. 18 at 10:45-11:45am
Saturday, Sept. 20 at 9:15-10:15am
We'll be talking about a variety of science-themed poetry books and instructional strategies and will provide a poetry bibliography and plenty of freebies! Mark your calendar and plan to attend.
I am excited to feature another installment in my ongoing Poet to Poet series.I'm trying to connect two poets, one interviewing the other about her/his new book. Our latest pairing features Laura Purdie Salas, author of Stampede, BookSpeak!, and her latest, Water Can Be, who interviewed NCTE Poetry Award winner, Nikki Grimeswho has a new book out this Fall, Poems in the Attic. Once again, I challenged them to pitch and respond to three questions-- enjoy!
Laura Purdie Salas interviews Nikki Grimes
Laura asks:You create and reveal such intimate, realistic characters in your poetry collections and novels in verse. How do you decide which moments in a character's life to write poems about?
Nikki responds: Story. It's all about story. Whatever understanding of the character is needed to move the story forward, support it, or ground it drives my choices. A poem might be needed to create back-story, or to explain the emotional state of the character, or to establish the story arc. Whatever the case, it is always Story that drives my choices.
Laura asks: I know you have a new book coming out: Poems in the Attic. Would you be willing to briefly walk us through the stages it went through, from inspiration to finished manuscript? I'd love to know what your main goal was in each step along the way.
Nikki responds: I'd been thinking about how large a population of young people we now have among us who have parents serving in the military. Their experience, and the emotional needs that go along with it, are so specific. I think I'm especially sensitive to the difficulties of constantly being moved around, as a child, because I was, myself, though for very different reasons. I wondered if I might be able to suggest, through story, a positive way in which military brats might cope with this constant upheaval. I wondered if, for instance, a child were to catalog his or her experiences, through journaling or writing poetry, if that might be a powerful tool for their survival—because the soldiers aren't the only ones who need to survive. The wives and children do, too.
I have many friends who were military brats, and I'd heard some of their stories about growing up, and so I began asking them to share more of those stories with me. I conducted interviews with several of them, both in person, and via email. I also reached out to the military brat community on Facebook, and elicited a couple of stories from people, there, as well. Once I had maybe 20-30 such stories, I began to structure the larger story my poems, based on their stories, would fit into.
Since I was drawing from stories that stretched back, in some cases, 20 years ago, I had the idea to use a multi-generational approach to my story, itself. And so, imagined a little girl visiting her grandmother, and discovering in her grandmother's attic, a cache of poems written by her mother when her mom was a little girl. I wanted to incorporate the voices of both mother and child, and so I set up paired poems, one by the girl, written in free verse, that would introduce the poems written by her mother, which would be in the form of tanka poetry. It is a story-within-a-story, an approach I especially like, probably because I find it challenging. I'm always up for a good challenge!
Laura asks:On a technical level, line breaks really interest me, and teachers ask a lot of questions about them. I'd love to hear your take on this. How do you decide where to break lines? Is it based on meaning, where you want the reader to pause (if you even do want the reader to pause), how it looks on the page, or something different? Could you share a poem and explain why you chose to break the lines where you did?
Nikki responds: My choice in line breaks is always about meaning, and pauses. I want the reader to pause where I, as the poet, paused. How it looks on the page is secondary, although it becomes important if I have two lines that rhyme, and I want the rhymes to fall at the end of each line. Then, I will break the lines accordingly. Otherwise, I might choose to keep the rhyming word as an internal rhyme, and wait on the line-break.
In "Wishful Thinking" from Words With Wings, a four-line poem, I chose the first line-break to create a pause:
"I've figured it out:"
By breaking here, I cause the reader to stop and ask, "Figured what out?" Of course, I will answer that question in the next few lines.
The second line-break creates a pause, and sets up a rhyming scheme, while the third line-break creates contrast between mom and dad:
Mom wants me to be
less like Dad,
more like she.
>>> Look for Nikki’s lovely Words With Wings published by Boyds Mills Press and available now.
Thank you, Laura and Nikki, for sharing so generously!
It's time again to pause and celebrate women-- particularly the contributions of mothers-- on Mother's Day (on Sunday in the U.S.). When I lived in Zimbabwe many moons ago, they had a saying, "Educate a woman and you educate a nation." I always loved that and the power it suggests girls and women have in promoting a love of learning. This year, I'll be away on Mother's Day, talking about poetry (and science) at the IRA convention on Sunday (a fun way to celebrate, IMO!). But if you're looking for poetry about moms, here's a bib from my Poetry Teacher's Book of Lists. Read, write, or share a poem with a woman you admire this weekend!
I also highly recommend a new novel in verse out this year, Caminar, by new poet Skila Brown. It's set in Guatemala in 1981 when conflicts between Communist soldiers and guerilla fighters were at a crossroads.
The love of a mother for her son is a beautiful thread throughout this powerful story of war, courage, and survival.
What better tribute for a mother, aunt or grandmother than a well-chosen poem? Poets have given us words with which to honor the women in our lives with the following selected books for young readers.
Atkins, Jeannine. 2010. Borrowed Names; Poems About Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C. J. Walker, Marie Curie, and Their Daughters. Henry Holt.
Castillo, Ana. 2000. My Daughter, My Son, the Eagle, the Dove: An Aztec Chant. New York: Dutton.
Clinton, Catherine. Ed. 2003. A Poem of Her Own; Voices of American Women Yesterday and Today. New York: Abrams.
Coyne, Rachel. 1998. Daughter Have I Told You? New York: Henry Holt.
Dotlich, Rebecca Kai. 2004. Mama Loves. New York: HarperCollins.
Fletcher, Ralph. 1999. Relatively Speaking: Poems about Family. New York: Orchard.
Grimes, Nikki. 1999. Hopscotch Love: A Family Treasury of Love Poems. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard.
Grimes, Nikki. 2000. Stepping out with Grandma Mac. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Hoberman, Mary Ann. 1993. Fathers, Mothers, Sisters, Brothers: A Collection of Family Poems. New York: Puffin Books.
Hoberman, Mary Ann. 2009. All Kinds of Families. New York: Little, Brown.
Hopkins, Lee Bennett. Ed. 2005. Days to Celebrate: A Full Year of Poetry, People, Holidays, History, Fascinating Facts, and More. New York: Greenwillow.
Hopkins, Lee Bennett. 1995. Been to Yesterdays: Poems of a Life. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills.
Hollyer, Belinda. 2003. Ed. The Kingfisher Book of Family Poems. New York: Kingfisher.
Lewis, J. Patrick. 2005. Vherses: A Celebration of Outstanding Women. Mankato, MN: Creative Editions.
Livingston, Myra Cohn. Ed. 1988. Poems for Mothers. New York: Holiday House.
McCall, Guadalupe Garcia. 2011. Under the Mesquite. New York: Lee & Low.
Micklos, John Jr. 2001. Mommy Poems. Honesdale, PA : Wordsong/Boyds Mills.
Mora, Pat. 1994. The Desert is My Mother/El Desierto es Mi Madre. Houston, TX: Pinata Books.
Mora, Pat. 2001. Ed. Love to Mamá: a Tribute to Mothers. New York: Lee & Low Books.
Myers, Walter Dean. 1998. Angel to Angel: a Mother’s Gift of Love. New York: HarperCollins.
Nye, Naomi Shihab. Ed. 1992. This Same Sky: A Collection of Poems from Around the World. New York: Four Winds Press.
Rosenberg, Liz. 2001. Ed. Roots & Flowers: Poets and Poems on Family. New York: Henry Holt.
Smith, Hope Anita. 2009. Mother; Poems. New York: Henry Holt.
Strickland, Dorothy S. and Michael R. Strickland. Ed. 1994. Families: Poems Celebrating the African-American Experience. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills.
Thomas, Joyce Carol. 2001. A Mother’s Love: Poems for us to Share. New York: Joanna Cotler.
Walker, Rob D. 2009. Mama Says: A Book of Love For Mothers and Sons. Ill. by Leo and Diane Dillon. New York: Scholastic.
Wong. Janet S. 1999. The Rainbow Hand: Poems about Mothers and Children. New York: McElderry.
Yolen, Jane and Heidi E.Y. Stemple. 2001. Dear Mother, Dear Daughter: Poems for Young People.Honesdale, PA: Wordsong/Boyds.
Now head on over Jama's place (Jama's Alphabet Soup) for the Poetry Friday celebration. And if you're in New Orleans, come to our poetry session on Sunday (Mother's Day) at 11 in the Convention Center room 274!
We recently presented at the annual conference of the International Reading Association in New Orleans. Our topic was "How is a Poet Like a Scientist? Maximizing Teachable Moments in Both Reading and Science." We had a fantastic panel of presenters including: Shirley Duke (Author, Peachtree Publishers)
Eric Ode (Author,Kane Miller Publishing)
Amy Ludwig VanDerwater (Author, Clarion Books)
Vida Zuljevic (Library Media Specialist, Pasco WA)
Each person brought a slightly different perspective-- in reading poetry aloud, in sharing poetry with young people, and in making connections between poetry and science. Here are just a few fun clips to give you a taste.
Janet addresses the important topic of diversity in poetry:
Amy reads one of her poems aloud ("Meter Stick") from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science.
I introduced poet Eric Ode (pronounced O-dee) by reading one of his poems aloud ("Science Fair Project" from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science).
Then Eric invited the audience to join in on his poem, "Science Fair Day" (from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science).
Vida (bringing the educator perspective) shared the poem, "Questions that Matter" by Heidi Bee Roemer (from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science) along with how one second grade teacher approached the poem with her students.
Bonus: Poet Sara Holbrook was in our audience and was willing to jump up and share her poem, "Friction" (also from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science).
Isn't it marvelous to see how poets explore science topics?
Wouldn't it inject fun in a science lesson to start with a poem?
Can you imagine kids' responses to these engaging poems?
Get your copy of The Poetry Friday Anthology for Sciencehere.
A big THANK YOU to audience member and poet Laura Purdie Salas for making these mini-movies with my handy dandy Flipcam! And thank you to our wonderful panelists and to the enthusiastic audience that joined us-- and on Mother's Day!
Selected Bibliography of Books by Presenters
Calkins, Lucy; Parsons, Stephanie and VanDerwater, Amy Ludwig. 2013. Poetry: Big Thoughts in Small Packages. Heinemann.
Duke, Shirley Smith and Ostrom, Bob. 2014. Step-By-Step Experiments with Plants. The Child’s World.
Duke, Shirley Smith and Ostrom, Bob. 2014. Step-By-Step Experiments with the Water Cycle. The Child’s World.
Duke, Shirley Smith. 2006. No Bows. Ill. By Jenny Mattheson. Peachtree.
Duke, Shirley Smith. 2013. Science lab: Gases (Explorer Library: Language Arts Explorer). Cherry Lake Publishing.
Ode, Eric. 2007. Tall Tales of the Wild West (And a Few Short Ones). Meadowbrook Press.
Ode, Eric. 2012. Dan, the Taxi Man. Ill. Kent Culotta. Kane Miller Books.
Ode, Eric. 2012. When You're a Pirate Dog and Other Pirate Poems. Ill. by Jim Harris. Pelican Publishing.
Ode, Eric. 2013. Sea Star Wishes: Poems from the Coast. Ill. by Erik Brooks. Sasquatch Books.
Ode, Eric. 2013. The Boy and the Dragon. Ill by Jim Harris. Pelican Publishing.
Suen, Anastasia and Duke, Shirley Smith. 2013. Teaching STEM and Common Core with Mentor Texts: Collaborative Lesson Plans, K-5. Libraries Unlimited.
VanDerwater, Amy Ludwig. 2013. Forest Has a Song. Clarion.
Zuljevic, Vida. 2005. Using Puppets with English Learners to Develop Language. In Supporting the Literacy Development of English Learners: Increasing Success in All Classrooms edited by Terrell Young and Nancy Hadaway. International Reading Association.