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1. Poetry Friday with a review of Over the Hills and Far Away: A treasury of Nursery Rhymes

Like many children I got to experience nursery rhymes when I was little, often when I was sitting in someones lap. I was lucky because I was bilingual, and so I was given the gift of rhymes that were written in English and in French. In English many of the rhymes were from Mother Goose collections. The French books contained French nursery rhymes that many English speakers do not normally get to read. What I love about today's poetry book is that the editor has brought together nursery rhymes from all over the world. She thus allows us to experience rhymes that we have probably never heard before.

Over the Hills and Far Away: A Treasury of Nursery RhymesOver the Hills and Far Away: A treasury of Nursery Rhymes
Collected by Elizabeth Hammill
Illustrated by more than 70 celebrated artists
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 4 to 6
Candlewick Press, 2014, 978-0-7636-7729-9
Many people living in Britain or the United States have grown up with a copy of Mother Goose’s rhymes on their bookshelf. The interesting thing is that often the rhymes one finds in these two countries are different in some ways, and yet the feel of the rhymes is the same. When you then look in other countries where English is spoken, you find other versions of Mother Goose rhymes that have taken on the flavors of the cultures in those countries.
   In addition to these Mother Goose verses, there are nursery rhymes that are unique to the countries where they were written and that capture the essence of the history and traditions in those countries
   In this collection Elizabeth Hammill brings together Mother Goose rhymes from around the world and presents them alongside rhymes that are African, Asian, Caribbean, Native-American, and Hispanic to give readers a truly diverse and rich nursery rhyme experience.
   Throughout the book the poems are paired with artwork that was created by seventy-seven artists from the English-speaking world. Some of the artists have been working in their chosen field for a long time, while others are newcomers to the illustration stage. All of the artwork was donated to this book project by the artists to support Seven Stories, Britain’s National Centre for Children’s Books.
   Our nursery rhyme journey begins with a short Native American verse which is then followed by an African nursery rhyme that captures a mother’s love for her baby. There are other mothers, the mother in the poem says, who would “like to have you for her child,” but they cannot have the baby because the precious child is “mine.” Many of the poems that follow celebrate a mother’s love for her child or baby, while others are nonsense poems, counting poems, poems about animals, poems about places, and poems that tell a story.
   This is a wonderful book to share with children, but it is also the kind of book that offers adults the opportunity to explore the world of nursery rhymes both historically and geographically. Readers are able to see how different cultures use words to comfort, amuse, and delight their children.
  
  


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2. Poetry Friday with a review of Love that dog

When I first saw this book on a shelf in the library I thought it was going to be about a dog, which is a natural assumption to make I think. A dog does play a role in the narrative, but the story is really about a boy's relationship with (and discovery of) poetry. It is a fabulous book, a powerful book, a sometimes funny book, and I think readers of all ages will appreciate it.

Love That DogLove that Dog
Sharon Creech
Poetry
For ages 8 to 12
HarperCollins, 2001, 978-0060292874
Jack is in Miss Stretchberry’s class and he is not happy because she is expecting her students to write a poem. Everyone knows that girls write poems. It is a girly kind of thing to do. After claiming that his “Brain’s empty,” Jack finally condescends to write a poem about a blue car speeding down a road. He is rather put out when his teacher comments on how something is missing in his poem. If Robert Frost can leave his poems incomplete why can’t he?
   Miss Stretchberry then asks Jack to write a poem about a pet. Jack does not have a pet anymore and he does not want to write about the dog that he had. We can sense that doing so will be painful for Jack, and yet the boy does end up writing a description of how the yellow dog became a member of his family; how they got him from the animal shelter and saved him from being euthanized, which is what happens to the shelter dogs that are not adopted. Miss Stretchberry asks Jack if she can type up his poem about the yellow dog and share it with the class. He decides that she can if she wants to, though she cannot put her name on the piece.
   Next Miss Stretchberry introduces Jack and his classmates to concrete poems and these he likes a lot. In fact he even tries to create one called My Yellow Dog, and he arranges the words so that they look like a picture of dog on the page. Miss Stretchberry asks if she can type up his poem again and this time Jack is willing to let her put his name on it, which is a new development.
   Inspired by a poem that he loves that was written by Walter Dean Myers, Jack writes another poem about his dog Sky, and in it he captures the joy the dog brings into his life. It is a poem from the heart and Jack cannot help feeling pleased when his teacher shares it with the class again.
   When Miss Stretchberry suggests that Jack should write to Walter Dean Myers, Jack is appalled. Why would a famous writer like hearing from a kid? Surely he would prefer to hear from a teacher “who uses big words / and knows how / to spell / and / to type.” In the end Jack writes the letter, with many apologies to Walter Dean Myers for taking up his time. Jack even invites the writer to come to his school.
   As he waits to hear from Walter Dean Myers, Jack’s journey into the world of poetry progresses. He starts learning how to type and finally he writes (and then types up) a poem about what happened to Sky, though he is not sure about putting his name on it.
   This remarkable book takes us through a school year with a boy called Jack. As the months go by we see how this boy, who wants nothing to do with poetry at first, starts to appreciate the way words in poems can capture moments and feelings in a fresh and different way. Slowly, like a flower opening, he tries writing his own poems. By the time we leave Jack, with his memories of Sky, he is a very different child, and we, as witnesses to his journey of exploration, can celebrate the changes that have taken place in him. 

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3. Poetry Friday with a review of The death of the hat: A Brief history of poetry in 50 objects

One of the wonderful things about reading books that were written at different moments in time is they tend to reflect the culture and conventions of the era in which they were written. Stories and poems can give us a glimpse into the past and help us to get a picture of what life was like then.

In today's poetry title readers will find poems that were written long ago and not so long ago, and in each one the poet describes an object of some kind. Children and adults alike are going to enjoy exploring this book.

The Death of the Hat: A Brief History of Poetry in 50 ObjectsThe death of the hat: A Brief history of poetry in 50 objects
Selected by Paul B. Janeczko
Illustrated by Chris Raschka
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 8 to 12
Candlewick Press, 2015, 978-0-7636-6963-8
For almost as long as humans have been writing, humans have been creating poetry. Throughout history men and women all over the world have been using poetry as a means to tell a story, describe something, capture a moment in time, or expound on an idea or feeling that interests them. Like music, art, and prose writing, poetry has evolved over the ages and when we look at poems from different eras we can see the trends, conventions, and fashions that were popular at that time.
   In this very unique poetry collection Paul Janeczko explores how poets, over the ages, have described objects in their writings. The poems capture the flavor of the times in which they were written, thus making it possible for readers to get a sense of how styles and ways of expression changed over time.
   We begin in the early Middle Ages with a poem about a bookworm. The poem describes how a moth ate a word. The poet feels that it is curious that such an insect could “swallow the word of a man.” Like a “thief in the dark” it takes something profound and is not “A whit the wiser” afterwards.
   The Renaissance brings us the words of William Shakespeare and we are given a speech from Romeo and Juliet. The excerpt is Mercutio’s speech about Queen Mab, who is a tiny fairy. In a chariot made of an empty hazelnut she travels across the faces of men while they sleep. Shakespeare’s contemporary, Ben Jonson, offer us a poem about the sun, and we read about how the sun breaks free of the bonds of winter, melting the ice on streams, and encouraging trees to dress their nakedness with “crisped heads.”
   In the romantic period we find poems by Lord Byron, William Wordsworth, Lord Tennyson, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Here there are poems about the letter E, a mouse’s nest, an eagle, and snow-flakes.
   The Victorian era brings us poems by Edgar Allen Poe, Walt Whitman and Emily Dickenson, among others. We can see how these writings were influenced by the creations of earlier centuries and then we can see how the writers of the modern period (from 1900 to 1945) took a very different path. Poets tried new forms and experimented with words. This experimentation, and the innovative path that went with it, has continued to the present day.
   What is interesting about this book is that it can be enjoyed on many levels. Readers can simply enjoy the poems, dipping into the book at random, or they can explore the historical aspect of the collection.
   An introduction at the beginning of the book provides readers with further information about the time periods that are mentioned in the text.
  



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4. Poetry Friday with a review of One the Wing

I live on a ten acre farm on a hillside, and we get lots of bird visitors. Owls live in one of our outbuildings, and swallows spend the summer in our barn. We have seen bald eagles sitting in our trees, and red-tailed hawks often swoop over the house calling out to each other. I cannot help being charmed by the birds that I see and so I really enjoyed today's poetry book, and I hope many of you will enjoy reading it too.

On the WingOn the wing
David Elliott
Illustrated by Becca Stadtlander
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Candlewick Press, 2014, 978-0-7636-5324-8
Animals have inspired musicians, artists, prose writers, and poets for centuries. T.S Elliot, who loved cats, was drawn to creating poems about felines. Others have captured the majesty of a tiger, the gravitas of elephants, and the watchful nature of rabbits. Birds, perhaps more than any other animal - other than cats and dogs - have attracted the attention of poets. Perhaps this is because birds are found everywhere, in all kinds of environments. They are also often beautiful and come in so many shapes, colors, and sizes.
   In this excellent poetry title we encounter a wonderful collection of birds from tiny gem like hummingbirds that  are “Always / in a / tizzy” going back and forth and zooming to and fro busily, to the giant Andean Condor that could, if we are not careful “disappear,” taking with it the memories of ancient times that we humans are losing.
   Some of the birds we meet on the pages will be familiar. We see them in parks, on windowsills, and in gardens. These include sparrows, blue jays, cardinals, crows, and owls. Others are like the exotic Caribbean Flamingo who’s bright pink plumage seems to set the sky “alight” when they take to the air.
   This would be a wonderful book to share with children who have an interest in birds. Throughout the book the combination of wonderful poems and lush paintings gives children a special bird-filled experience.


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5. Poetry Friday with a review of Everybody was a baby once

Anyone who has watched a young child listening to someone reading a nursery rhyme to them knows that young children have a natural appreciation for rhymes and verse. Their minds are open to the wonderful possibilities that are inherent in poetry. Today's poetry title was written especially for young children, and it offers them the gift of humor and wonderful language.

Everybody Was a Baby Once: and Other PoemsEverybody was a baby once and other poems
Allan Ahlberg
Illustrated by Bruce Ingman
Poetry Book
For ages 2 to 4
Candlewick Press, 2010, 978-0-7636-4682-0
Poetry can enrich the lives of readers of all ages, but all too often older children and adults are reluctant to explore the world of poetry because they think that poetry is not for them. Thankfully, young children are more open to receiving the gift of poetry. Indeed, they often embrace the world of poems and have a natural affinity for them.
   In this splendid book young children will encounter a collection of poems that will beautifully resonate with their interests, their sense of humor, and their love of stories. For example, in When I was a Little Childthey will ‘meet’ a child who tells them what life was like when he was young. When you are small the world you interact with is very different because of your size and because so much of what you see and experience is new and exciting. A bath is “like the sea” and a high chair is a “mighty tower.” Stairs seem to go to “mountaintops” and a father is “like a tree.”
   As they explore this book children will encounter some poems that provide them with information. They learn what to do if they meet a witch, and what monsters like to eat. For example at breakfast time monsters munch on “Tadpole toasties” and “Dreaded wheat,” and for dinner they have “moldy greens” and “Human beans.” Knowing such important facts about monsters is vital for one’s education after all.
   There are also story poems of all kinds that will surely amuse little children and their grownups. Who can resist a story about how snowmen used to be “In the good old days / When snow was snow,” and the one about a soccer match that took place between two teams of animals, with elephants on one side and insects on the other. One can only imagine how such a game would turn out.
   This is a wonderful book to share with young children. It not only introduces children to the magic of poetry, but it gives adults the opportunity to share some precious, bookish, time with the child or children in their lives. 

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6. Poetry Friday with a review of Falling Up

I usually offer up a preamble before I jump into my reviews, but today's poetry title needs no introduction because Shel Silverstein needs no introduction. What is special about this particular edition is that it contains twelve new poems!

Falling Up SpecialFalling Up
Shel Silverstein
Poetry
For ages 6 to 8
HarperCollins, 2015, 978-0-06-232133-6
Poets have been writing nonsense and funny poems for children for many years, and have given their readers amusing characters and wonderful stories in verse to read over and over. A.A. Milne, Edward Lear, and many others have delighted young readers with their comical writings, but it has to be said that one of the most famous and well-loved humorous poets is Shel Silverstein. He left behind him a wonderful collection of poems for young readers, poems that children and their grownups have been enjoying ever since they came out in print.
   On the pages of this book young readers will meet a colorful collection of characters who often have very bizarre adventures. For example, there is a little boy who, when he tripped over a shoelace, fell up instead of down. He floated up into the sky and the experience would surely have been amazing except for the fact that he got so dizzy and sick to his stomach that he “threw down.”
   Then there are poems that capture moments in a child’s life that are very familiar. In Diving Board we meet a boy who has made sure that the diving board is “nice and straight” and that is can “stand the weight.” He has verified that it “bounces right,” and that his toes “can get a grip.” The only thing left to do is to dive, but we cannot help thinking that perhaps that is the one thing he won’t do.
   Writer Waiting captures another familiar situation to perfection. A child sits in front of a computer, a wonderful device that can do so many things that a writer does not need a “writing tutor.” The computer can spell and punctuate, “edit and select,” “copy and correct.” The one thing that it cannot do is figure out what you should write about.
   The cartoon style illustrations that accompany the poems in this book often add a great deal to the writing, and in some cases they provide a visual punchline that readers will thoroughly enjoy.
   This wonderful special edition volume includes twelve poems that were not included in the original 1996 copy of this title. The author’s family very kindly agreed to share these poems and their accompanying drawings with readers, and what a gift they have given us.

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7. Poetry Friday with a review of What a day it was at school!

For many children a new school year has started and they are getting used to new schedules and teachers, and making new friends. When they get home many children chatter away busily, telling their grownups about the things that they did during the day.

In today's poetry picture book you will meet a little cat who has some wonderful school stories to share with his mother when he gets home.

What a day it was at school!
What a Day It Was at School!Jack Prelutsky
Illustrated by Doug Cushman
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
HarperCollins, 2009, 978-0060823375
The school day is over and the little cat heads home. When he gets there, he and his mother sit at the table and the little cat has some milk and cookies. As he sips and snacks, the little cat tells his mother about his day, the details of which are all noted down in his journal. Now the journal is full of stories and commentaries that we get to read.
   In the first one we get to hear about how put upon the young cat feels because his “backpack weighs a thousand pounds.” Sometimes it is so heavy that he tips backwards and has to stop and rest by leaning against a wall. No matter how much he pleads, his teacher refuses to let him “lighten” his load.
   In another entry we hear about how the cat and his friends had a loud and rambunctious time making music together. They shook maracas, beat drums, tooted on kazoos, and played every noisy percussive instrument that they could get their paws on. They had a wonderful time, and to them the sounds they made were “so sweet.”
   The cat also tells us about a field trip that he went on the day before. This year the field trip was “really special” because they visited a factory “To watch candy being made / And saw a million lollipops / On colorful parade.” They saw so many fabulous things, and got lots of samples to try. One can only imagine what the experience was like for their teacher and for the people who worked at the factory.
  During library time the little cat read a book about knights. Having a powerful imagination he began to imagine that he was the one who was a “knight / On a powerful steed.” He would be the kind of fellow who would “conquer a dragon” and “vanquish a troll.”
   Children are going to thoroughly enjoy this collection of poems. Each poem is accompanied by amusing illustrations, and together they capture moments in a little cat’s school day, some of which are everyday sort of events, and some of which are deliciously outrageous.


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8. Poetry Friday with a review of Somewhere Among

Many adults and children in the Unites States can remember where they were on September 11, 2001, when terrorists attacked targets in the United States using commercial airplanes. What we sometimes don't realize is that the ripple effects of the tragedy spread far from our shores to people all over the world, many of whom were profoundly effected by what happened.

Today's title is a novel in blank verse that takes us to Japan where a young girl, a half Japanese and half American girl, is facing a lot of personal problems of her own in the months leading up to the September 11th attacks. The appalling events of that day add to what is already a painful situation, and we see, through her eyes, how violence damages people's ability to hope, and takes away their ability to feel safe.

Somewhere AmongSomewhere Among
Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu
Poetry
For ages 12 and up
Simon and Schuster, 2016, 978-1-4814-3786-8
Ema lives “between two worlds.” Her father is Japanese and her mother is American, and sometimes being “half this / half that” is not easy to manage.  Though her mixed heritage makes her life interesting at times, the fact that she is different also means that at times she feels “alone / on an island / surrounded by multitudes / of people.”
   Every August Ema and her mother go to California for a month to spend time with Ema’s maternal grandparents. This year is going to be different. Ema’s mother is pregnant and it has been a very hard pregnancy with scares and all-day-long morning sickness. Her mother has lost babies in the past and so this time they are going to be very careful, which means that the family is going to go and stay with Ema’s paternal grandparents, Obaachan and Jiichan, until the baby is born. Thanks to these new arrangements Ema will miss six months of fifth grade in her school, she and her Papa will not be having a vacation by the sea, and she and her Mom will not being to California.
   Ema and her parents travel to western Tokyo to Obaachan’s house, and it isn’t long before Obaachan stars fussing, criticizing, and complaining. She likes everything to be just so and she has very strong opinions about how things should be done. Often she does not understand that Ema’s mother, being an American, does things differently. For example, Mom does not like to use bath water that other people have used, and she prefers western cakes to Japanese desserts. The differences between the two women creates tension and this tension only becomes worse when Ema’s father goes back to the city. Commuting to and from his parent’s home simply isn’t going to work and so Ema and her mother are going to have cope being in Obaachan’s world as best they can. Ema often wishes that she and her mom could be back at home, even though home is only a small one-room apartment. At least the TV is not on all day long, and at least there they don’t have to deal with Obaachan and her persnickety, old-fashioned ways.
   The summer is hot and hard on everyone but when school starts things get even harder for Ema. There is a boy at school, Masa, who goes out of his way to make Ema miserable. He hits her, steals the NASA space pen that Grandpa Bob gave her, trips her, and is generally disagreeable as much as possible. Ema is not sure how she is going to cope with this and then something happens that makes everyone forget about the little things. Terrorists attack the Twin Towers in New York City and in two other places. Mom is distraught, Ema is upset, and everyone is in shock over what has happened. Ema, Papa and the grandparents all worry that the anxiety and distress that Ema’s mother is experiencing will hurt the baby. How can all the hurt, both in their home, and in the wider world, not affect them? Ema wants to protect her mother but it would seem that there are some things that she cannot prevent. Sometimes Ema wishes she could escape the world and go out into space where she won’t have to “see or hear or feel / any more sadness.”  

   This remarkable book takes us into the life of a Japanese child whose world is in a state of flux. The things that make her feel safe and secure are taken away from her and then, just to add to her distress, the attacks on 9/11 take place. Written in blank verse, this extraordinary narrative is touching and often painful, but ultimately Ema comes to learn something very valuable that she is able to pass on to the grownups in her life.  Anyone who has had their life disrupted by change and loss will appreciate what Ema goes through.

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9. Poetry Friday with a review of Beastly Verses

Animal characters play important roles in many children's books, allowing authors to connect with their young readers on many levels. Children begin with Babar the elephant in picture books and work their way up to to the gripping animal-rich adventures in the Redwall novels. Poets also love to write about animals, and in today's poetry title animals of all kinds can be found on the pages to offer children a wonderful poetry-filled book experience.

Beastly VerseBeastly Verse
Poems selected and illustrated by Joohee Yoon
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Enchanted Lion, 2015, 978-1-59270-166-7
Children love poems about animals, especially ones that are about creatures that a big and scary. Over the years poets have chosen to write poems about animals of all kinds, including those that we love to be afraid of. In this collection Joohee Yoon has brought together some of these poems and paired them with her colorful print illustrations.
  We begin with Lewis Carroll’s poem about the “little crocodile” who seems to grin so “cheerfully” and who “neatly spreads his claws.” So friendly does the crocodile seem that it is as if he is welcoming fish to swim into his “gently smiling jaws.”
   Another creature with claws and teeth is a tiger and William Blake’s famous poem about a tiger perfectly captures the awe that the poet feels for the animal that has fire in its eyes. He wonders what “immortal hand” created the tiger’s “fearful symmetry.”
   The mood is lightened in the poem that follows, where we meet a happy hyena. This animal can play the concertina and is very particular about his appearance. A master of sartorial elegance, the hyena even has a flower stuck into his lapel.
   A few pages later we encounter someone who is trying to tell us about an elephant who “tried to use the telephone.” It turns out that a trunk is not the best of appendages to use when one is trying to make a telephone call. It also turns out that the narrator of this poem cannot help getting his or her words frightfully, and hilariously, mixed up.
   For children who fancy having an unusual animal for a pet there is the poem The Yak. In it we hear about how a yak is a perfect pet for young people. After all it “will carry and fetch, you can ride on its back, / Or lead it about with a string.” The Tartars who live in Tibet have been keeping yaks as nursery pets for centuries, so if they can do it why can’t you?
   Animal loving children are sure to love this clever collection of poems. On the pages they will find verses that are often humorous, that offer up wonderful descriptions, and that sometimes give readers cause to pause.


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10. Poetry Friday with a review of Rufus and Friends School Days

Over the years I have encountered several poetry collections where poets have take other people's writings and have changed them in little ways to make them accessible for young readers. Often the changes add touches of humor to the poems. In today's poetry title, Iza Trapani does this to great effect, taking young readers into the school life of a little dog character.

Rufus and Friends: School DaysRufus and Friends: School Days
Iza Trapani
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Charlesbridge, 2010, 978-1-58089-249-0
It is a rainy day, Rufus is off to school, and he “can’t wait,” because “My teacher and my friends are great.” As he hops on the school bus he invites us to join him. When they arrive at school the little dog children march into the building and head to their classrooms, though Rufus has to pause for a moment “to suck his thumb.”
   Once Rufus and his friends are in their classroom they begin their day. They have a “busy day” ahead full of writing, reading, drawing, and will learn “some things worth knowing.”
   Presiding over the classroom is a “neat little clock” which “points to the time / With its two little hands.” The clock always has a clean face and those hands are always ready “To do what is right.” One can hope that the children in the class will have similarly clean faces and ready hands, but sometimes things do not go “as we planned” and the students, despite all their good intentions, end up with paint and glue in unexpected places.
   After several hours of laboring away, the children have lunch, which is most unappetizing, and then they go outside to play. The children jump rope, throw a ball around, or play on the swings and slide, but Joan, who loves “books a lot” finds a spot under a tree to read a book. With a book in hand Joan never feels alone.
   In Mrs. Alegro’s music class the children have a grand time playing musical instruments of all kinds. Tom-Tom is a wonderful flute player and he tootles away to the delight of his classmates. Later, in the library, the children are not as well behaved as they should be. They talk, wriggle, and giggle. They are rambunctious and the librarian is not at all happy.
   In this splendid poetry picture book Iza Trapani presents children with some traditional poems which she has “extended” in creative ways. Taking us through the school day, she gives us familiar poems such as One, Two, Buckle My Shoe, and songs such as The Ants go Marching. There are also poems that children may not be familiar with, but which offer readers wonderful opportunities to enjoy the written and spoken word.

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11. Poetry Friday with a review of Applesauce Weather

Every September I look forward to fall. I am eager for cooler days, rain (after weeks and weeks of dry weather), and the treats that the fall season brings. Apples, pears and pumpkins start to appear in the farmer's market, and I start thinking about making apple and pumpkin breads and coffee cakes. It is a time of change and new beginnings for me.

Today's poetry title tells the story of a young girl whose uncle has suffered a great loss, and who comes to visit her and her family as the apples are starting to fall from the tree in their yard. For him this is a time for reflection, and though he does not know it at first, it is also a time for new bittersweet beginnings.

Applesauce WeatherApplesauce weather
Helen Frost
Illustrated by Amy June Bates
Poetry
For ages 8 to 10
Candlewick Press, 2016, 978-0-7636-7576-9
Faith has been waiting for this day, the day when the first apple falls from the apple tree that Aunt Lucy planted all those years ago. Over the years Uncle Arthur and Aunt Lucy would always arrive at Faith’s house on this day. Somehow they always knew when the first apple fell. Then Aunt Lucy died and Faith’s parents and brother believe that maybe Uncle Arthur will not come this year. Little Faith does not lose hope though. She waits for Uncle Arthur.
   At his home Uncle Arthur thinks about his beloved Lucy and remembers how his wife always knew when the first apple had fallen, when it was time to gather with the family to pick apples and make applesauce. He does not know if he can bear to go without her, or if the family is even expecting him.
   Faith’s big brother Peter thinks Faith is being silly. She should give up waiting and accept that Uncle Arthur is not coming. Then, to everyone’s surprise, Faith’s faith in Uncle Arthur is rewarded, and in the evening of that day the old man arrives.
   Every year Faith asks Uncle Arthur what happened to his missing finger - he only has four and half fingers on his right hand – and every year he tells her another story (a tall story) of what happened to his finger. This year he seems reluctant to tell the stories so beloved by everyone in the family. This year he is quieter. He is wrapped up in the memories of the times he shared with the girl and woman who became his wife. He remembers how he and Lucy, who were neighbors, became friends, and how their friendship grew into love when they were teenagers. He looks at the house where she used to live and remembers how he used to wait at night to see a light blinking in her window, which was her message telling him that she loved him.
   Faith seems to know that Uncle Arthur is feeling lost and so she holds his hand, the one missing half a finger, and she says nothing. Faith wonders if her uncle has no more stories to tell but she does not ask. Instead, she walks down the road with him every day and she tells him that Peter is sweet on the girl who is living in the house that Lucy lived in all those years ago. Once again a boy in her house, Uncle Arthur’s old house, is falling for a girl who lives in the house a few doors down. Uncle Arthur smiles and he starts to tell them a story, a true story about how he got a knife when he was Peter’s age and how he used the knife to carve his initials, and Lucy’s, into the bark of the apple tree. The initials are still there.
   The apples start ripening “faster / than we can pick them” and Faith and Peter go to the tree to collect as many as they can. Uncle Arthur then indicates, in his own way, that a story is in the offing and so Faith sits with him on the bench under the tree and asks the question that they have all been afraid to ask: “what happened to your finger?”
   This wonderful story is told from the points of view of Faith, Peter, and Uncle Arthur. We also hear from Aunt Lucy, who gives us a wonderful picture of what her life with Uncle Arthur had been like. The narrative is presented in the form of rhyming and blank verse poems, and we are taken on a journey that spans decades, and also on a journey that encompasses a few autumn days when the apples are ripening. We see, through the words of Faith, Peter and Uncle Arthur, how healing after a loss can begin and how there is much joy to be found in stories. Sometimes these stories help us to connect with the people who are no longer with this, making it possible for us to stay linked to them.

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12. Poetry Friday with a review of Animal School: What Class are You?

I have been reviewing books since the early 2000's and over the years I have noticed changes taking place in the children's book world. These changes include the rise of ebooks, the growth of the graphic novel world, and the advancement of what I call nonfiction poetry. These days poets are using their writings to both entertain and educate their readers, teaching them about history, science, geography and other subjects through their poems.

Today's poetry book is just such a nonfiction poetry title. It helps young readers to get to know the animal family that we humans belong to.

Animal School: What Class Are You?Animal School: What Class are You?
Michelle Lord
Illustrated by Michael Garland
Nonfiction Poetry Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Holiday House, 2014, 978-0-8234-3045-1
We humans belong to a group of animals called vertebrates. All the animals in this group have spines, and they are divided up into what are called “classes.” The classes that belong in the vertebrates group are mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and birds. Some fly and some swim, some have fur, while others have skin, scales, or feathers. The number of vertebrate species that live on earth is enormous, and they are very diverse, but they are all nevertheless connected because they have a string of bones running down their back.
   In this splendid poetry picture book, the author uses poems to introduce us to the classes of animals that belong to the vertebrate family. She begins with the reptiles, telling us what makes reptiles special. We learn, for example, that turtles rely on the sun to warm them up, and when they need to “chill out” they find some cool mud to dig into. Reptiles are interesting because they can either lay eggs or give birth to live young. Many reptiles, like cobras, leave their babies to fend for themselves, but some adopt a different strategy. Alligator mothers are very protective of their young, and when their babies are very small the large and fearsome looking mamas carry them around in their mouths.
   We next move on to fish. These animals are able to get oxygen from the water that they swim in. They have smooth skin that is sometimes “cloaked / in flaky scales,” and are cold-blooded animals, like reptiles.
   The next class the author explores in the one we humans belong to; the mammals. Unlike reptiles, fish, and amphibians, mammals are warm-blooded and they always give birth to live young. Most of them get about on legs and they have “stick-out ears,” which none of the other vertebrates have.
   The author then goes on to tell us about birds, creatures with “hollow bones” and “Feathers that take them / through the sky.” Amphibians follow. Though these animals come in many shapes and sizes, they are have to be born in water, and most need to be in or around water their entire lives.
   This book helps children to better understand the family of animals that they belong to. They will see how the animals in the classes are different and yet also the same, and how they have adapted to occupy the niches that they live in. On the pages readers will see pictures of tadpoles and frogs, a rabbit, a sea horse, an iguana, a congregation of alligators and more. They will see the marvelous variety that can be found in our invertebrate family.

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13. Poetry Friday with a review of Make Magic! Do Good!

Writing, both prose and poetry, comes in so many forms. Sometimes we read stories or poems that entertain us, or we choose tales that allow us to escape into another world for a while. At other times we want to engage with a piece of writing in a book that encourages us to think and consider. Today's poetry title is just such a book. Each poem offers up an idea that explores a powerful concept, and that inspires us to think about important and meaningful life messages.

Make Magic! Do Good!Make Magic! Do Good!
Dallas Clayton
Poetry Picture Book
For ages
Candlewick Press, 2012, 978-0-7636-5746-8
Writers create their stories and poems for a number of reasons. For some they have a narrative in their head that they just have to get down on paper. Others see or experience something that they feel the need to describe. Sometimes writers create because they want to make their readers laugh or because they want to teach them about something. Then there are the writers who want to convey a message that they feel their readers need to hear.
   This poetry book fits into the latter category. Dallas Clayton is a person who understands that we all need, at times, to be gently reminded of the things that really matter. For example, did you ever realize that it takes the same amount of effort to think about good things as it does to think about things that are bad? Which means that it takes the same amount of energy to make people sad or to make them happy. So do you want to be the kind of person who covers the walls of a building with angry thoughts about “who’s to blame,” or do you want to create and give away pictures that will make people happy instead.
   In her poem Try! the author exhorts us to do all kinds of things like “ride in a helicopter,” “tame a whale,” or “race / up to outer space.” It is possible that we might fail in our attempts, but we should try anyway.
   In another poem, one called Real Live Dragon, a narrator tells us about how he or she once found a dragon. The problem is that there are many people out there who just do not appreciate dragons. They want to lock them up, and problems arise when people get jealous and argue over who found the dragon first. The narrator realizes that the only way to keep the dragon would be to keep it hidden, and it does not make sense to do this. After all, what is the point of having something as ‘cool’ as a dragon if “there’s no one else / there to share it?”
   This carefully created poetry collection offers readers a great deal to think about. Sometimes a poem needs to be read a few times to capture the full meaning therein, but as the words sink in and thoughts coalesce, readers will come to appreciate what the author is saying, and her words will stick with them as they go about their day.
 
 


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14. Poetry Friday with a review of Presidential Misadventures:Poems That Poke Fun at the Man in Charge

After months of media coverage and a great deal of discord, the lead up to Election Day is finally almost over. The end is almost in sight. I thought that I would offer my readers a little light relief on this poetry Friday. Today's poetry book looks at the lives of all the men who have been the president of the United States, from George Washington to Barack Obama.Using short and always amusing poems, the author makes fun of the Commanders in Chief in a creative way that readers of all ages will appreciate.

Presidential Misadventures: Poems That Poke Fun at the Man in ChargePresidential Misadventures: Poems that make fun of the man in charge
Bob Raczka
Illustrated by Dan E. Burr
Poetry
For ages 8 to 12
Roaring Brook Press, 2015, 978-1-59643-980-1
In 1890 a bored school boy called Edmund Clerihew Bentley was in science class listening to his teacher talk about Sir Humphry Davy, who was a famous English scientist. While the teacher talked, Edmund wrote a four lined poem about Sir Humphry, one that made fun of him. The form that Edmund used ended up becoming popular and today these poems that poke fun at famous people are known as clerihew poems.
   The rules for writing such poems are simple. They have to be four lines long and the first two lines have to rhyme, as do the last two lines. The first line should contain the name of the person who is being made fun of, and the meter in the poem should be irregular.
   Delighting in this poetry form Bob Raczka decided to write a whole book of clerihew poems which feature the presidents of the United States. Many of the poems that appear in this collection contain true facts about the presidents who have served the American people over the centuries. For example, the poem about William H. Taft tells us that the president, because of his rather large size, got stuck in the tub. This, is fact, really did happen. Similarly Richard Nixon did indeed tell “a lie he couldn’t fix,” and Ronald Reagan did have a fondness for jelly-beans.
   The author gives us poems for every single president, from George Washington to Barak Obama, and in each one clever touches of humor and word use offer future potential clerihew poets much to think about.

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15. Poetry Friday with a review of Runny Babbit

I don't know about you, but I definitely have days when I am not in the mood for reading something deep and meaningful. My brain is tired and too full of 'stuff', and I just need to relax and enjoy a book. This is true of all kinds of books, including poetry. Some days I am happy to delve into the words written by Maya Angelou or Emily Dickinson, but on others I need something lighter, and today's poetry book fits this bill perfectly. The poems in the book are deliciously amusing and Shel Silverstein's clever way of writing makes it unique and great fun to read.

Runny Babbit: A Billy SookRunny Babbit: A Billy Sook
Shel Silverstein
Poetry
For ages 7 to 9
HarperCollins, 2015, 978-0060256531
Down in the green woods, for some reason that no one can really explain, the animals “do things and they say things / In a different way.” The animals choose to invert the letters in certain words when they speak, and so “purple hat” becomes “hurple pat.” Similarly, instead of saying read a book they say “bead a rook.” To understand it you just have to remember to switch a letter here and there. At first, it can be a little difficult to get the hang of it, but in time one gets used to it, and translation becomes automatic.
   In this book Shel Silverstin takes us into the green woods and introduces us to some of the animals there. The poet brings their stories to life and, wanting to be true to the ways of his subjects, uses their singular way of speaking in his writing.
   One of the families who lives in the green woods is Bunny’s family. He has “A sother and two bristers, / A dummy and a mad.” Bunny’s mamma feeds her family “marrot cilk” and “parrot cie,” and they are very happy living in their “cozy hunny butch.”
   Bunny, like any other child, has all sorts of adventures. For example, one day he “mets guddy” and is then washed and hung out to dry, just as if he were a piece of clothing. Not surprisingly, Joe Turtle is rather surprised to see his friend hanging from a washing line by his ears, and he asks Bunny what he is doing. Bunny, not being one to let the opportunity for a little pun to pass him by, says that he is “just rangin’ hound.”
   We go one to read about how Bunny cuts his own hair, how he takes up knitting, and what happens when he jumps over a “jandlestick.” We hear about what happens when Bunny decides to pretend to be a cowboy, and what he gets up to when he visits Mount Rushmore.
   In all there are forty-one poems in this book featuring Bunny and his friends, and children are going to laugh out loud as they try to figure out the green wood way of speaking. It should be noted that this way of speaking often leads to readers saying rather amusing things without even meaning to.

  


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16. Poetry Friday with a review of Poetry for Young People: Langston Hughes

I am sorry to say that I was in my thirties before I encountered the poetry of Langston Hughes. For some reason my education in a school on the island of Cyprus did not include studying his powerful words. Still, better late than never as they say. I have had, and will continue to have, a wonderful time getting to know Langston Hughes' writings, and I am delighted to be able to bring you this splendid book on this poetry Friday.

Poetry for Young People: Langston HughesPoetry for Young People: Langston Hughes
Edited by David Roessel and Arnold Rampersad
Illustrated by Benny Andrews
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 9 and up
Sterling, 2013, 978-1454903284
When Langston Hughes started writing poetry, he chose to do so using a voice that used “the speech of ordinary Americans,” and he “sought his material in the world around him.” The people and places that he wrote about were familiar to him on a personal level. He also chose to allow his own concerns and beliefs to filter into his writing. For example, he wrote about “the dignity and beauty of African American identity” because he felt that his people, and all people, needed to see and recognize this beauty. In addition, he used his poems to address the social injustices that he saw around him, the injustices that African Americans had lived with for so long.
   In this wonderful collection of poems ,the editors offer young readers some of Langston Hughes’ wonderful poems. Some of them, like the poem called Aunt Sue’s Stories were inspired by Hughes’ own life experiences. When he was a child Hughes was raised in large part by his grandmother. She would place her little grandson on her lap and tell him stories that were rooted in real life, narratives that spoke about “people who wanted to make the Negroes free.” Aunt Sue’s Stories is an homage to that grandmother and her tales, and we hear about how Aunt Sue would sit on the front porch and tell the “brown-faced child” on her lap about black slaves and their lives. The child knew that the stories he was hearing were “real stories,” that “Aunt Sue never got her stories / Out of any book at all.”
   In My People, Hughes explores the beauty that is found in African Americans. To him “the faces of my people” are as beautiful as the night, and their eyes are as beautiful as the stars. Just like the sun, “the souls of my people are beautiful.” Such words were particularly powerful when they were shared with a world that could not, did not, or would not see the beauty found in African American people.
   Langston Hughes sought to combine poetry and the blues in his writing, and several of his ‘musical’ poems appear in this book. In both The Weary Blues and Homesick Blues there is a rhythm that suggests the sway and lilt of a musical style that he most identified with. In other poems formats used in the blues can be found.
   This is a wonderful collection of poems for readers who are familiar with Langston Hughes’ writings, and for those who are coming to them with fresh eyes. Each poem is accompanied by an editorial note, which provides the reader with further information about the poem and about what inspired Hughes to write that poem. Notes are also offered beneath some of the poems that further clarify words and phrases that were used.
  



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17. Poetry Friday with a review of Nibble Nibble

I really enjoy reading and reviewing poetry collections that focus on one subject or theme. Today's poetry title offers readers five poems that feature rabbits. Each of the poems conveys a different mood and sentiment to the reader. The book is wonderfully illustrated throughout by Wendell Minor, a skilled illustrator whose love of nature comes through in his artwork.

Nibble NibbleNibble Nibble
Margaret Wise Brown
Wendell Minor
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 4 to 6
HarperCollins, 2007, 978-0060592080
In 1959 five poems written by Margaret Wise Brown where published and shared with the world.
In this wonderful poetry picture book those five poems are paired with Wendell Minor’s beautiful art. Wendell’s deep and abiding love of nature comes through in the illustrations, and children will almost be able to hear the soft hopping sound of bunny feet and the hum of a summer evening as they turn the pages.
   The poems capture moments in the lives of some rabbits. In two we see the ways in which they move about their world. Another is a kind of song, complete with repetitive, lilting sound words, about the love that one person feels for another. There is also a poem that takes us through the year from April until September, capturing the essence of those warm weather months when young bunnies and robins leaves their nests, when fireflies float above the grass, and when caterpillars, “creep / Out of summer / And into sleep.”
   The collection wraps us with a poem called Cadence, which describes a music that the poet has heard “In the cadence of the word / Not spoken yet / And not yet heard.” This poem is a beautiful conclusion to a poetry journey that children will want to revisit again and again.

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18. Poetry Friday with a review of E. E. Cummings: A Poet's Life

All too often, when we read a story or a piece of poetry, we have no idea who the author is or what kind of life he or she lived or is living. I chose to review today's poetry book because it gives readers some poems to read, of course, but it also gives readers a picture of what the poet who wrote those poems was like. I found that this format helped me appreciate the poems all the more.

E. E. Cummings: A Poet's LifeE. E. Cummings: A Poet's Life
Catherine Reef
Nonfiction
For ages 12 and up
Clarion Books, 2006, 978-0618568499
Many of us imagine that poets are gentle souls who are quiet, bookish people living safe and secluded lives. Edward Estlin Cummings was not such a person at all . It is true that he began to write poetry from a very early age, and he did read a great deal, but he also believed that it was essential for a person to experience life to the fullest. He therefore traveled a great deal, he was a red-cross driver during World War I, and he insisted that he should do his duty when he was called up to be a soldier during that same war, even though he was a pacifist. Summings also left the comfort of his home in New England to live in Greenwich Village in New York City, where he could share in the lives of fellow writers, painters, poets, and thinkers. He did not want a life of safety and sameness. He wanted to feel and discover, he wanted to stretch himself.
   And this is just what he did. He also stretched the boundaries of poetry in ways that no one had seen before. Estlin changed all the rules, removing punctuation, capitalizations, the form of the words on the page, and so much more. He challenged his readers to look at the words in a whole new way and he made them think about his ideas. Some people loved what he created. Others could not stand his radically different concepts. Why, they asked, did he make his words slide across the page in that messy way? Why did he use the lower case i all the time? Estlin had his reasons, and he was part of a movement that was challenging people to look at poetry, writing, and art in a new way.
   This wonderfully written title gives readers a thorough and often startling picture of the life of E.E. Cummings, and it also give readers a picture of an era; of a time of great change when people of all kinds were looking for new ways to express themselves. The author makes great use of Cummings' poems to demonstrate what he trying to do with his writing, and thus she gives her readers a taste of the poet's work at different points in his life.
   Well written, and very carefully researched, this book is an excellent example of how a biography for older children should be crafted and presented.

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19. Poetry Friday with a review of Amber was Brave, Essie was Smart

When I was a child I lived in a country that was being torn apart by a civil war. Often my parents were busy trying to work, trying to find supplies, trying to figure out what to do next, and I had to spend a lot of time alone. I think those times would have been easier to bear if there had been another child around to share my fears with.

In today's poetry title we see how two sisters lean on each other during hard times. They squabble of course, but mostly they help and support one another. Together they are better able to face an uncertain future and loneliness.

Amber was Brave, Essie was SmartAmber was Brave, Essie was Smart
Vera B. Williams
Poetry
For ages 8 to 10
HarperCollins, 2004, 978-0060294601
Amber and Essie are sisters, and though they have their differences they are very close. Their mother works long hours, and so they only really spend time with her on Sundays, which is her full day off each week. On the other days, after school, they go to a neighbor’s house for two days and a cousin’s house for two days. On Saturdays they are mostly take care of each other, which they are pretty good at doing.
   Some time ago Amber and Essie’s father was arrested for forging a check and now he is in prison. Times have been hard ever since. Sometimes the phone bill doesn’t get paid, and often there really isn’t a lot to eat in the apartment. The girls do the best they can, taking refuge in their bed when it is cold or when they are sad, curled up against each other so that they are like a “Best sandwich” with Wilson their teddy bear between them.
   Using a series of poems, Vera B. Williams take us into the lives of two little girls. We see the good times and the painful ones, and it isn’t long before we start hoping that Amber, who isn’t afraid of the rat that lives behind the wall, and Essie, who can cook toasted cheese sandwiches, will get the happiness and security that they deserve. This special book serves as a powerful celebration of siblinghood.

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20. Poetry Friday with a review of Butterfly Eyes and other secrets of the meadow

Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow
Nature is full of beauty. It is also full of fascinating stories that describe the ways in which plants and animals have adapted over time to perfectly fit into their environment. These stories have always captivated me, which is why I was drawn to today's poetry title. In this book readers will find poems and real-life stories about the plants and animals that make their homes in meadows.

Butterfly Eyes and other secrets of the meadow
Joyce Sidman
Illustrated by Beth Krommes
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 7 to 12
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006, 978-0618-56313-5
The first touches of dawn’s light touches the plants and the trees in the meadow. In this time of “almost-light,” something lies on leaves, grass blades, spider webs, and on the wings of insects. When the sun’s warmth touches these things, the drops start to disappear. What are these “jewels of the dawn?”
  At this same time of day a creature waits to be warmed by the sun, for only with that warmth can it start to move, to “flex” and loosen, and to prepare for that first leap of the day. What is this creature?
   When they read the text that follows these two poems, readers soon find out that the “jewels of the dawn” are drops of dew, and the creature who so needs the warmth of the sun is a grasshopper. We learn what dew is, and why the grasshopper is sluggish until it is warmed up. 
   In the next poem we encounter some small sleeping creatures that are furry and that have long ears. As they sleep they have their “Paws folded close beneath whisker and chin.” Not far away is another creature that is already up and about. He trots through the meadow, on a mission. What are these animals?
   On the next page we learn that the mysterious “He” we met a moment ago is a fox, and the sleeping bundles of fur are baby rabbits that are safe from foxes and other predators in their nest of grasses and fur. 
   In this wonderful poetry picture book the poet offers readers two poems in which she describes something, and then she poses the question “What am I?” or some version of that question. She then answers the questions on the next spread, and thus we learn about all kinds of wonderful things that can be found in a meadow in summer. Among other things, we learn that spittlebugs create nests of spit that look like little patches of foamy bubbles, and that monarch butterflies are immune to the toxins in milkweed plants. In fact, their caterpillars are even able to safely eat the leaves. 
   Some of the poems in this beautifully illustrated collection rhyme and some do not. There are concrete poems and poems that seem to hop and skip back and forth across the page. In fact the poems come in so many wonderful forms that readers never know what is going to come next. 
   This rich and powerful gathering of poems and prose will give readers a sense of the wonder that the author clearly feels for nature. 

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21. Poetry Friday with a review of Early Moon

When I was growing up, not many writers were creating poetry for young readers. We are very lucky that there are so many marvelous poets today who are busy scribbling away so that our children have many volumes of poetry to choose from when them go to a library or a bookshop. I love seeing the new books appear on the shelves, but every so often I like to turn back the clock and go back to collections of poems that were written long ago. Today's poetry book is just such a title.

Early MoonEarly Moon
Carl Sandburg
Illustrated by James Daugherty
Poetry
For ages 11 and up
Mariner Books, 1978, 978-0156273268
Over the centuries, many people have tried to explain what poetry is, and more often than not they end up posing new questions instead of answering the original one. Carl Sandburg, who was a marvelous poet, felt that “If poems could be explained, then poets would have to leave out roses, sunsets, faces from their poems,” which would be a terrible shame. These things and many others “have mystery, significance, and a heavy or light beauty, an appeal, a lesson and a symbolism that stays with us long as we live.” Perhaps it is better that poetry cannot be explained. Perhaps we should just enjoy it and leave it at that.
   The poems in this collection will certainly give the reader joy. They are divided into categories, which are: Pictures of today, Children, Wind and Sea, Portraits, Birds and Bugs, Night, and End Thoughts.
   On these pages we will meet a worker who “painted on the roof of a skyscraper,” and for him the people below “were the same as bugs.” We meet Dan, an Irish setter puppy who finds a sheltered corner where there is “all / sun and no wind.” Here Dan lies “dozing in a half sleep.” We hear about the people “who go forth before daylight,” the policeman, the teamster, and the milkman, who work while others are still asleep in their beds.
   Then there are the poems that capture special moments in time, each of which is significant in a unique way. In the poem Soup the narrator tells us about how he saw a man who was eating soup. The man was famous and was mentioned in the papers that day. Thousands of people talked about him, but to the narrator he was just a man “Putting soup in his mouth with a spoon.” In Splinter we capture that moment when “The voice of the last cricket” is heard when the first frost touches the land. The insect’s song is like a goodbye, a “splinter of singing” in the cold air.
   This is a wonderful collection that will appeal to both children and adults. There is something here for everyone. On the pages readers will find little touches of childhood, descriptions, stories, odes to things lost, and so much more.

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22. Poetry Friday with a review of The people of the town: Nursery-Rhyme Friends for You and Me

One of the things that makes nursery rhymes so appealing are the colorful characters that feature in them. Often the characters do wonderfully strange and amusing things that make us laugh when the rhymes are read to us. In today's poetry title we encounter some of the most charming characters that live in the world of nursery rhymes.

The People of the Town: Nursery-Rhyme Friends for You and MeThe people of the town: Nursery-Rhyme Friends for You and Me
Selected and illustrated by Alan Marks
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 4 to 6
Charlesbridge, 2016, 978-1-58089-726-6
Nursery rhymes are packed with colorful characters; men, women, and children who do all kinds of things that delight us and often make us laugh. In this marvelous collection, Alan Marks pairs his wonderful artwork with some carefully selected nursery rhymes so that we can get to know a few of these nursery rhyme individuals. Some of them will be familiar to us, but some will be newcomers whom we have never even heard of.
   Our visit with the people living in the nursery rhyme town begins with Gregory Griggs. This fellow has a staggering twenty-seven wigs, and he wears them to impress the people in his town. The problem is that he has no idea which of his wigs he likes best.
   Then there is Mary whose pet lamb follows her to school one day. This is, of course, against the rules and so the teacher makes the lamb leave. The lamb, being a determined little creature, stays nearby and waits for its little mistress to appear. The children cannot understand why the lamb loves Mary so much, so the teacher explains that it is because “Mary loves the lamb, you know.”
  As the pages turn we encounter the grand old Duke of York who marched his men up and then down the hill. There is Dr. Foster who stepped into a puddle “Right up to his middle,” and Little Bop Peep who lost her sheep. There are little stories that make us laugh, and some that are delightfully peculiar. There are descriptions of things that people do, and finally there are rhymes that sooth and make us want to fall asleep.





   

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23. Poetry Friday with a review of G is for Gold Medal: An Olympics Alphabet

 G is for Gold Medal: An Olympics Alphabet
The opening ceremony for the 2016 Olympic Games takes place today in Rio, and so I thought it would be fitting to bring you a book that celebrates the games. In this title, nonfiction, poetry, and artwork are combined to show readers why the Olympic Games came into being and what it is like to participate in them.

G is for Gold Medal: An Olympics Alphabet
Brad Herzog
Illustrated by Doug Bowles
Nonfiction and Poetry Picture Book
For ages 6 to 11
Sleeping Bear Press, 2011, 978-1585364626
Long ago in ancient Greece, wars between the city-states were a common occurrence. The only time peace could be guaranteed was every four years, when the citizens of the city-states would lay down their arms for a month and come together to compete as athletes. The games were hosted in the town of Olympia, and the men who won the races and other events were given an olive wreath to wear.
   The modern Olympic Games came into being because Baron Pierre de Coubertin felt that the “a modern version of the Olympic Games would foster peace between nations.” Because of his efforts, there has been a summer Olympic Games every four years since 1896 except in 1916, 1940, and 1944, which were, ironically, all years when the world was being torn apart by war.
   In this fascinating fact-packed alphabet book, Brag Herzog tells us about the Olympic Games from A to Z. Beginning with Ancient Greece on the A page, he goes on to tells us about Baron Pierre de Coubertin on the B page. On the “C is for all the countries page,” we learn that in 2008 two hundred countries sent athletes to the Summer Olympics. Next is D for decathlete. On this page, we learn that for two days decathletes who up to the daunting task compete in ten events. These events include shot put, long jump, high jump, and running.
   For each of the topics explored in this book, the author gives us a poem that introduces the subject. He supplements this with a more in-depth section of text. Young children will enjoy the hearing the poems and looking at the art, while older readers will be interested in reading the longer text sections. This format makes this book suitable for readers of all ages, from age 6 and up.
   This is one of the titles in a series of alphabet books published by Sleeping Bear Press.

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24. Poetry Friday with a review of Garvey's Choice

I used to consider the idea of a novel written in verse rather intimidating. How could such a thing work? Wouldn't it be hard to read? Then, some years ago I read a wonderful mid-grade novel in verse and I became a staunch fan of this storytelling form. In fact, much gleeful rubbing of hands takes place when a new novel in verse arrives at my house.

Today's poetry title is a novel in verse that moved me so much that I felt compelled to read it twice in one day. There is so much to be found in the words, and so much to consider as one comes to understand what Garvey's life has been like.

Garvey's ChoiceGarvey’s Choice
Nikki Grimes
Poetry
For ages 9 and up
Boyds Mills Press, 2016, 978-1-62979-740-3
One of Garvey’s favorite things in life is books, in particular ones that are full of science fiction stories that transport him to distant galaxies. Unfortunately, Garvey’s dad does not appreciate Garvey’s love of books. In fact he is scornful of his son’s interest in books and constantly comments that Garvey should play sports, and that he should roughhouse the way he did with his dad. Being active in this way is the “normal” thing for a boy to do. He constantly tries to turn Garvey into “someone I’m not.”
   Garvey’s father’s disdain and lack of understanding makes Garvey seek refuge in food and sweet drinks, and so he has gained weight. His father’s words cut into Harvey, and were it not for his mother, his big sister, and his best friend, Jo, Garvey would be completely alone.
   Garvey’s already difficult life gets a lot worse when he goes back to school in the fall. He is teased and bullied about his size and he takes refuge in hummed songs so that he can drown out the cutting words of his persecutors. For Garvey, his own music, or the music he hears around him, soothes and makes his inner pain less acute.
   One day Garvey asks his father about his grandfather and learns that his grandfather was a strong silent type too. It is no surprise then that Garvey’s father is not exactly chatty. He also learns that his father and grandfather connected by talking about football, and Garvey realizes that maybe this is why his father so much wants Garvey to be interested in football too.
   One day at school Jo encourages Garvey to join the chorus club. Garvey goes around humming all the time anyway so why not. In Jo’s opinion Garvey’s voice is “choice,” and he should “let others hear it.” Garvey is afraid to try chorus for a while, but finally he gets up the courage to go to a club meeting. Afraid to the bone he still manages to show the people in the club what he can do and he is accepted promptly. Suddenly Garvey’s life opens up and there is joy in it. The singing is wonderful, and he even makes a new friend, a boy called Manny who, like Garvey, has a father who disapproves of him.
   Though Garvey’s new hobby makes him happy, he refuses to tell his parents about it. What if his father disapproves? Surely it is safer not to give his father more ammunition to use against him.
   Written using a series of tankas, a Japanese poetry form, this incredible novel in verse takes us into the life of a unhappy boy who, as we ‘watch,’ finds a new interest that has a profound effect on his life. Nikki Grimes captures to perfection the way in which music can transform a person, and how it can open doors that have always been firmly closed before.
   At the back of the book the author tells us a little about tankas and how they are written.

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25. Poetry Friday with a review of What’s for dinner: Quirky, Squirmy Poems from the Animal World

For most of us humans, the process of getting our food is relatively simple. We go to a shop or a market and buy what we need. For animals, this process is more complicated. Food has to look for , which can take hours or days. If the animal eats meat, a prey animal needs to be caught and killed.

In this poetry title children will find unique poems that explore what animals eat. The sometimes 'ick' worthy poems combine humor and facts to give children an entertaining and educational experience.

What's for Dinner?: Quirky, Squirmy Poems from the Animal World What’s for dinner:Quirky, Squirmy Poems from the Animal World
Katherine B. Hauth
Illustrated by David Clark
Poetry
For ages 6 to 8
Charlesbridge, 2011, 978-1-57091-472-0
Animals spend a lot of their time looking for food. After all, if they don’t forage or hunt for their meals they will “croak,” and therefore “finding food / is no joke.” Some of the things animals eat might not seem at all palatable to us, but to them they are vital, and no doubt delicious as well.
   In this book young readers will see how animals of different species are connected through their need to eat. One of things that we humans forget sometimes is that all animals are part of a food chain. Perhaps we forget because we are at the top of our chain most of the time. In the poem Food Chain, we see how a butterfly gets eaten by a lizard, which gets eaten by a garter snake, which then gets eaten by a roadrunner. Every animal has a place in a chain, and every food item that they eat has its place as well.
   We may think that animals that eat dead things are disgusting, but in fact their dining choices serve a very useful purpose for the rest of us. The vulture for example, who is “No dainty vegetarian,” loves carrion, and this is a good thing too because if they didn’t disease-ridden dead bodies would be lying all over the place.
   Nighthawks and little brown bats both love to eat insects, and they have different strategies to catch their preferred dinners. Both animals hunt at night or in the early evening and they catch their meals on the wing, swooping, and in the case of the bat scooping, the insects out of the air.
   Some animals have come up with quite complicated strategies to get their food. When it is hungry the wood turtle goes around “Stompin’ its feet / and slammin’ its shell.” All the commotion causes worms to “pop up / to see who’s jamming,’” which is when the turtle eats the worms.
   Children who have a fondness for things that some would consider unsavory are going to love this book. The interesting thing is that a great deal of information is wrapped up in these poems. For readers who would like to know more about the animals mentioned in the book, the author provides notes at the back of the book that are packed with more facts. 

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