More Poetry Love Plus Some Terrific Picture Books
It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a kidlit meme hosted by Jen and Kellee at Teach.Mentor.Texts. Come visit! And also visit Sheila at Book Journeys to find reviews of all kinds of books for adults and for children.
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It’s Poetry Month, and here at Teacher Dance on Mondays each week, I share the books I’ve read in the past week. This month, I’ll also share some poetry anthologies for children that I’ve loved, I’ve used, and some recently published ones you should add to your own collections.
"Poetry is beautiful shorthand." William Cole
Something new to hold onto:
Forest Has A Song - poems by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater, illustrated by Robbin Gourley
Amy started her blog, promising to write a poem each day for a year not long before I started mine. Her blog, The Poem Farm I found so inspiring, consistently offering original poems and lesson ideas for writing that I loved and could use in the classroom. I am so happy to write today about her first book, published March 25th, titled Forest Has A Song.
If you love the forest like I do, you will also love what Amy and Robbin have offered in this new book of poems. They have shown the real things, like in the poem Puff, telling about those earthy wonders that one finds in the damp and dark of the forest, emitting a little cloud of spores when squeezed. And the poem Squirrel, pleading for the whereabouts of its secret stash. Amy's poems take us from entering the forest in full flower with a kind invitation, "I'm here./Come visit./ Please?" through the autumn in poems like Maples In October, to winter celebrated in poems like Snowflake Voices. And then there are the magical forest voices which appear in an young owl's voice, First Flight; along with the beautiful Lady's Slipper, named in the poem as "Forest Cinderella." Robbin's illustrations take us further into the poems with her beautiful and sometimes whimsical illustrations. A young girl is "us", wandering through, seeing all the wonder of this forest, and keeping the theme of the invitation to visit, we can pretend we're there too!
I hope I've written enough of the beauty of Amy's poems to make you visit too. I told Amy I would post a picture of a place I know well in the Colorado forests because her book reminds me of that place, where I have visited and seen much of what Amy has written about in her book. I just haven't written the poems that go with it. Please visit Amy's book; you will love it!
I, Too, Am America – Langston Hughes, illustrations by Bryan Collier
This is a gorgeous book I was lucky to win a copy of. You may know the poem, but will not fully appreciate it until you see what Bryan Collier has done to illustrate the words. He has kept a thread of an American flag moving through the pages of the book, some more subtle than others, weaving the story of African Americans, including Pullman porters working on trains who couldn’t eat in the dining car themselves. The extra information at the back from Collier explains how he traces change, moving from one full-page spread to another of different challenges in Civil Rights history. “Tomorrow, I’ll be at the table when company comes!” the porter exclaims. It’s a terrific addition to poetry collections.
Small Beauties, The Journey of Darcy Heart O’Hara – Elvira Woodruff, illus. by Adam Rex
A class unit a few years ago was a study of immigration and I took my class to New York City to visit the places there that would give them direct insight into that experience, like the Tenement Museum and of course, Ellis Island. I wish I could have had this beautiful book at that time, to be an inspiration in our research. This is the story woven around a young Irish girl who saw her ‘small beauties’ in the everyday things like a round stone or part of a butterfly wing and castles in the clouds. It speaks of stories from her grandfather at the fire’s hearth, and the sadness of the potato famine, taking the small livelihood available and causing families to lose everything, forcing them to leave their beloved Ireland. The story is both sad and heartwarming, and the back matter given by the author is highly interesting. The illustrations are both full page and smaller additions to the story’s action in gorgeous acrylic.
A Splash of Red, The Life And Art of Horace Pippin – written by Jen Bryant, illus. byMelissa Sweet
I’ve never heard of Horace Pippin, but because of this story, I looked further to find he is a highly respected folk artist with his art placed in museums all over the country. The book relates his interesting life story whose parents, former slaves, were very poor, causing Pippin to quit school at age 14. He had little money for art materials, and won some supplies by entering a contest once. His love of art and persistence to capture scenes from his life helped keep him drawing and painting. This book tells the story, interspersing the words with Melissa Sweet’s beautiful painted and collaged illustrations. These two artists, Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet also collaborated on the Caldecott winner A River of Words. For this book, they traveled together to research and develop Pippin’s story into one that will be of interest to all ages.
The Heart and the Bottle – written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
This is a book about grief, and a little girl who was filled with wonder, yet had such loss that she stops her wondering and puts her heart in a bottle to protect it. With very few words and spare pictures, Oliver Jeffers tells this story and the path taken by the girl. I don’t want to give the ending away, but it’s a sweet story.
Myra at Gathering Books, has been sharing books that connect to their special oddballs and misfits theme. Recently, she reviewed two Shaun Tan books I was not familiar with. I was lucky to find them at the library.
The Lost Thing - written and illustrated by Shaun Tan
Shaun Tan’s stories and illustrations are amazing, every time, and this is another of those books that one can read and re-read, and still not see or understand all that is in the book. This particular story takes the reader on a journey of sympathy for the different, where a young boy finds a “thing”, wonders about it, and tries very hard to resolve the question of "where does “it” belong?". I imagine this book will start much conversation, and will continue to spark it with second reads. Like all Tan’s, it’s worth a good look.
The Red Tree - written and illustrated by Shaun Tan
I love Shaun Tan’s books, stories that fit nearly all ages of students, and can start so many conversations among students. The collages are filled with interesting objects, even inviting one to take out a magnifying glass to see the fine print included on many of the pages. This story tells of a young girl who is so sad, seeming to see the dark side of every part of her day, until she finds one thing that inspires. You need to read the story to see all the details of her journey, and it’s well worth it.
Mary Lee Hahn, at A Year of Reading, has been writing some gorgeous poetry this past week, using media from the Creative Commons site and teaching about proper attribution at the same time. It's been a week of beautiful words written by her and a few of her commenters, along with learning and inspiration. Please visit!
To the right are the writers for Irene Latham's progressive poem during the month at Live Your Poem. So far, counting today, eight poets have added their lines; it's a path that meanders, with surprises each day!
If you’d like to see more of the spectacular happenings occurring in April, check out Jama Rattigan’s blog, Jama’s Alphabet Soup. I think she’ll be adding to the list as she finds out more, so keep checking in.
And here are a few more wonderful poetry links at Tabatha Yeatts' blog, The Opposite of Indifference.
NEXT: I'm well into The False Prince, by Jennifer A. Nielsen ( so far, love it), and have several recent poetry books and other picture books to read, plus I'll finish Rules by Cynthia Lord with my book group. Happy Reading Everyone!