I C H I A pickle barrel of poems

A pickle barrel of poems
Catherine Kurkjian
Nancy Livingston
Terrell A. Young
Ralph Fletcher
mmersing our students and ourselves in the “brine”
of poetry is easier and more fun than ever with all
the wonderful books and resources that are now
available. When we surround ourselves and our students with a wide range of poetry (some educators suggest a minimum of 100 poems per school year), not
only do our students understand the value we place on
this genre, but also they are provided with inspiration
for writing and are given a wide range of models for
doing so. In the information age, the Internet affords
endless opportunities for students to read poetry, learn
how to write it, and to publish their poetry for authentic
audiences (See Tables 1 and 2). In this issue, we present a pickle barrel of poetry with ideas and resources to
encourage the reading, writing, and appreciation of poetry. We are honored to have as a guest the prolific
writer and poet Ralph Fletcher. We hope you relish the
dill-icious poetry to come.
Ralph Fletcher’s Writing Matters: Writing a Poem
From the Inside (2002) provides a framework for
thinking about the reading and writing of poetry for
children and teachers alike. This informational text emphasizes why poetry matters as Fletcher shares poems
that powerfully express his life experiences as well as
those of children with whom he has worked. For example, Fletcher shares the following poem written by
a fourth grader from Alabama:
Parents together
They love each other
Then they split
Like the wrong ends of a magnet put together
© 2006 International Reading Association (pp. 598–608) doi:10.1598/RT.59.6.11
Or like a passenger fleeing from a
Sinking ship
Like a young bird leaving its nest
Like a picture ripped in half
Like a man leaving a woman for a better one
(p. 16)
In this text, Fletcher discusses the emotion, imagery, and music of poetry as “the three pillars of
poetry” (p. 10). Readers gain insight on writing
poetry through the eyes of poets Kristine
O’Connell George, Janet S. Wong, and J. Patrick
Lewis. In addition, readers are encouraged to think
more deeply about their own poetry to “make it
shine, sing and soar” (p. 11). Those who are still
hungry for tips for young writers can visit Ralph
Fletcher’s website at www.ralphfletcher.com/
Bread-and-butter (pickles) of
everyday life
We do not have to write about lofty topics for
our poems to be powerful. Instead, the bread-andbutter ideas from everyday life, and the things that
interest and concern us most, can be our inspiration. Ralph Fletcher’s A Writing Kind of Day:
Poems for Young Poets (2005), illustrated by April
Ward, chronicles a young writer as he records
things that are meaningful to his life in his writer’s
notebook. For example, in “Earth Head,” the shape
of the writer’s baby sister Julia’s head serves as the
focal point of the poem. Many of Fletcher’s poems
in this collection set the stage for or relate to ones
that come later. The more we read, the more we
get to know the young poet from his poems. We
learn a little about the poet’s grandmother in
“Memory Loss,” so when we come to “Grandma,”
we have background to bring to this poignant
poem. We can then revisit “Memory Loss” and understand and respond to it on another level.
Fletcher models how everyday life can be transformed and presented in a fresh new way as well
as the importance of using what we know about poetry to help us follow our own hearts.
Paul Janeczko and Chris Raschka’s A Poke in
the I (2001) was an extraordinary introduction to
concrete poetry. Their latest collaboration, A Kick
Cover illustration © 2005 by April Ward from A Writing
Kind of Day: Poems for Young Poets by Ralph Fletcher.
Used by permission of the publisher, Boyds Mills Press.
in the Head, introduces upper elementary readers
to 29 poetic forms. The various forms are introduced in layers through simple definitions,
Interactive poetry-writing sites
Grandpa Tucker’s Rhymes and Tales
Scholastic’s Dinosaur Write
Poetry Splatter
Poetry Express
In a Poetic State Webquest
PBS Kids Fern’s Poetry Club
Scholastic’s Poetry Writing With Karla Kuskin, Jack
Prelutsky, and Jan Marzollo
Children’s Books 599
Promoting a love of poetry in the classroom
(adapted from Hancock, 2004)
• Read aloud and savor poetry on a regular basis.
• Begin with poems kids enjoy and gradually bridge
those experiences to poems children would not
• Linger over the language of poetry to appreciate
word choice.
• Invite children to participate in poetry by joining in
on repeated phrases or responding to rhythm and
rhyme through movement.
• Read aloud a few poems from a collection or anthology, inviting children to venture through the rest of
the book on their own.
• Include lots of poetry in the classroom library to encourage wide reading of the genre.
• Encourage children to select favorite poems and
share orally during poetry breaks.
• Build a repertoire of poems so children can compare,
discuss, respond, relate, recall, and develop personal
tastes in poetry.
• Share poet studies to build familiarity with quality
writers in this genre.
• Provide opportunities for choral reading of poetry
for individual, partner, book-buddy, small-group, or
whole-class performances.
• Avoid written response to poetry through personal
interpretation, literary analysis, or self-created poetry until children have developed a love for the
• Remember that giving students adult interpretations
of poetry denies them the opportunity to grow.
• Add the aesthetic dimension of poetry across the
• Build appreciation for languages and dialects of other cultures through multicultural poetry.
• Appreciate the universality of poetry to address
common objects, emotions, and themes through the
power of language.
Hancock, M.R. (2004). A celebration of literature and response: Children, books and teachers in K–8 classrooms. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Merrill
Prentice Hall.
appended notes, and visual clues, with one or two
sample poems that exemplify each blueprint.
Raschka’s quirky torn-paper-and-paint illustrations
are the perfect counterpoint to verses by classic and
contemporary poets—from William Shakespeare
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Vol. 59, No. 6
and William Blake to Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Joan
Bransfield Graham, and Alice Schertle.
In Boris (2005) Cynthia Rylant writes about
her relationship with her pet cat, Boris. Perhaps
only a lover of cats would fully understand Rylant’s
book of poetry, which was created for the purpose
of getting to know Boris and is full of Rylant’s conversations with him and with herself! From the
study of this big, gray feline, readers sense Rylant’s
concern over the cat’s welfare and safety—all in
free verse format and with almost “give-and-take
companionship,” as the book cover states. Older
readers will get caught up with the interactive nature
of these 19 poems and learn a lot about the awardwinning author as a lover of both cats and dogs.
Cat Poems (2005) by Dave Crawley pays tribute to finicky felines in 24 clever poems. Feline personalities are addressed in each poem from “Mind
Reader,” where “My cat can’t read, can’t read a
word. (To think he could would be absurd.) Yet
every time I read a book, he scrambles up to take a
look...” (p. 8), to “Finicky Felicia” who “will not
chase a mouse or a rat. She finds it absurd to go after a bird. Put food in a bowl, and that’s that!” (p. 9).
Tamara Petrosino’s watercolors illuminate the humor and amplify the cats’ mischievous ways. This
book is a delightful read for cat lovers of all ages!
Speak to Me (and I Will Listen Between the
Lines) by Karen English, with pictures by Amy
June Bates (2004), presents the voices of six thirdgrade students attending an inner-city school on
one particular Monday. If you listen between the
lines you learn about Malcom, Brianna, Lamont,
Tyrell, Neecy, and Rica as you read several of their
poems that are interspersed throughout the book.
Karen English, a Coretta Scott King Honor Book
award winner (for Francie; 2002, Farrar Straus
Giroux) is a second-grade teacher and clearly an
astute kid watcher. Her portrayal of each of the
characters rings true, as do their concerns. Bates’s
watercolor-and-ink illustrations show facial expressions and body language that bring the children
to life. This book clearly lends itself to character
analysis and can serve as a model for children to
write their own class book containing autobiographical poems about a day at school.
Like Speak to Me, Helen Frost’s Spinning
Through the Universe: A Novel in Poems From
Room 214 (2004) portrays a fifth-grade classroom
of 27 personalities—28 including their teacher,
March 2006
Ralph Fletcher
Once upon a time I signed a contract to write a book whose audience would be young readers. “How many words do you
want?” I asked my editor. “What vocabulary level do you think—” “Stop!” she shrieked. “If you think like that, in a formulaic
way, you’ll write a perfectly ordinary book. And you are not an ordinary writer!”
Ever since that time, I have tried to heed my editor’s warning. She’s right: Formulaic thinking usually leads to stilted writing.
But even so, I find that I do have a general approach to creating a collection of poetry. More than rigid rules, these are guiding
principles that subtly influence a book that gets published.
I begin by thinking expansively about my topic. While working on Moving Days (Boyds Mills Press, 2006), I began by making
a list of ideas thematically linked with moving. I jotted down everything I could think of, even ideas that seemed a bit silly: boxes, bubble wrap, extra trips to the dump, saying goodbye to a best friend, the moving van, and so on.
While creating a book, I shuttle back and forth between writing individual poems and working on the master list, which will
eventually become the table of contents. Certain ideas get crossed off—new ones get added. As I work I start looking for a natural design, or shape, for the book. Rather than imposing a structure, I try to see what the poems themselves suggest. When I
wrote I Am Wings: Poems About Love (Atheneum, 1994), I realized that the poems I had written fell into two categories—falling
into love and falling out of love. Falling In and Falling Out became the two sections of the book. In Moving Days, too, I noticed that
I had poems about moving away from your home and moving to a new one. This understanding helped me structure the book.
Concocting a poetry collection is akin to putting together the menu for a dinner party. You can’t limit your focus to the
chicken satay appetizer or the fresh dinner rolls. You have to make sure that each dish works harmoniously with the other
dishes and courses being served. With a poetry collection, I know each poem will “rub against” all the other poems. As I write
each poem I ask myself, will it fit in the collection? If I put it in this section, will it help that poem shine?
Throughout the process, I try to consider symmetry. I began one collection with a poem named “A Writing Kind of Day,” which
became the title of the book (Boyds Mills, 2004). It occurred to me that perhaps I could end the book with a poem titled “A
Writing Kind of Night.” This would bring the book around full circle and give the reader a sense of closure.
Of course, a clever design won’t matter a hoot if the individual poems themselves aren’t very good. In my collections, I try to
serve up two kinds of poems. I want to write a number of poems that have a playful quality: poems that are fueled by humor,
whimsy, surprise, strong rhythm, or some kind of wordplay. Typically, kids will identify a playful poem (for example, “Venus Fly
Trap Rap” in A Writing Kind Of Day) as a favorite. But I also consciously include poems that are a bit darker—more serious. In A
Writing Kind Of Day I wrote several poems in that vein, including “Memory Loss,” about a grandmother who keeps forgetting what
she’s trying to say. When a young reader closes my book, I want them to take ideas and images that will linger and gently haunt
them. I believe that it is these lasting impressions that will make a reader of any age return to the poetry pool to drink again
and again.
Poetry Stands
They wanted to level
our favorite forest.
Our class sent the mayor
a swarm of angry verse;
we pelted the newspaper
with a blizzard of verse.
At my cousin’s funeral
her family stood up
armed with nothing
but tears and poetry.
Poetry must wound
or heal those wounds.
When everyone else sits,
poetry stands.
(A Writing Kind of Day, p. 27)
Children’s Books 601
Cover illustration © 2004 by Amy June Bates from Speak to
Me (and I Will Listen Between the Lines) by Karen English.
Used by permission of the publisher, Farrar Straus Giroux.
Mrs. Williams—each with his or her own unique
flair. Through poems written from various perspectives the reader can see how the characters think
about themselves and one another. The poems are
often poignant, addressing difficult life challenges
that so many school-age children face: poverty, illness of a mother, physical abuse in the home, pressure to get grades at any cost. Helen Frost uses a
wide variety of poetic forms and rhyming schemes,
and in the last section of the book she refers back to
the poems and explains their poetic structures.
Gary Soto’s verse novel Worlds Apart:
Traveling With Fernie and Me (2005) details the
adventures of two friends who travel around the
world. Readers in grades 4 through 6 will find the
poems both accessible and humorous. Fernie and
his alter ego travel around the world, going from
kickboxing a kangaroo in Australia to craving
Mexican food in Taiwan or riding a runaway camel
in Egypt. The best friends were tattooed in the
Philippines: When they jumped into the waves,
“the tattoos, the stick-on kind, peeled off. They
swayed between waves and slowly descended un-
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Vol. 59, No. 6
der the water. Where, I like to think, one or two attached themselves to the fins of two bright but
goofy fish” (p. 10). Clarke’s sparse comical drawings are the ideal companions to Soto’s fresh voice.
Here in Harlem: Poems in Many Voices
(2005) by Walter Dean Myers is a collection of 54
poems, all in different voices. The collection celebrates the dreams and sorrows of a sampling of
Harlem’s residents. Myers tells stories of the people—the teachers, students, nurses, soldiers, undertakers, and preachers. Older students will relish
the language, cadence, and rhythm found in each
person’s story. “My heart must rise and go now/ for
now the choirs come/ And now the skies are parting
and now/ the guitars strum/ I take my stand in
Harlem, and sing of jubilee/ Here my fretful soul
flies wondrous free” (unpaged).
J. Patrick Lewis pays homage to the joys of
books, reading, and libraries in Please Bury Me
in the Library (2005). The title poem begins,
“Please bury me in the library/ in the clean, welllighted stacks/ of Novels, History, Poetry/ right
next to the Paperbacks” (p. 12). The mostly lighthearted poems represent a range of forms and
styles. Readers will delight in such poems as
“Summer Reading at the Beach,” where “Some lay
novels on their navels/ Some hold comics in their
fists,” (p. 24). Kyle Stone’s warm, funny acrylics
make this book the perfect treat for any bibliophile.
The late Lilian Moore possessed a unique ability to celebrate common everyday objects and
events from a child’s point of view. In Mural on
Second Avenue and Other City Poems (2005), she
helps children develop a sense of awe and wonder
from such familiar things as a blooming forsythia
bush, a bridge, the moon, or snow. In “Winter
Dark,” she explains,
Winter dark comes early
mixing afternoon
and night.
there’s a comma of a moon,
and each streetlight
along the
way puts its period
to end the day. (unpaged)
March 2006
The evocative and vibrant illustrations, by Roma
Karas, bring each poem to live in this loving tribute
to cities and the children inhabiting them.
A dill-ightful curriculum
Readers will find enjoyment and learn lots
about bees in April Pulley Sayre’s The Bumblebee
Queen (2005). This poem narrates the life and
work of the queen bee as she builds her colony
from birth to the time when she becomes old and
relinquishes the role to one of her daughters.
Patricia J. Wynne’s illustrations beautifully depict
the verses and include text boxes of information
that are contained within the flight pattern of a bee.
The content of this book supports a science curriculum. Other works of nonfiction by April Pulley
Sayre are available at www.aprilsayre.com.
A great way to pique interest in and learn about
the world can be found in Douglas Florian’s humorous poetry in Zoo’s Who (2005). As the book
cover suggests, “this creeping, leaping, sweeping
collection of zoological delights will have animal
enthusiasts everywhere rattling their cages for
more.” A master at concrete poetry, Florian has
done it again. Even early readers will enjoy and
learn from Florian’s humorous poems, such as “The
Ladybugs,” where in addition to a recitation of spot
permutations, we learn that “Some are ladies, Some
are men!” (p. 18). Readers of all ages will have fun
reading about “regal eagles” and other animals, as
well as be intrigued with the wonderfully creative illustrations which extend the wordplay.
Riddles are often irresistible to children. In If
Not for the Cat (2004), Jack Prelutsky presents 17
animal riddles in haiku. Students will delight in
solving the riddles as their teachers read them
aloud without sharing the titles or the illustrations.
For instance, students will encounter such riddles
as “Boneless, translucent,/ We undulate, undulate,/
Gelatinously” (p. 11) along with Ted Rand’s glorious brushed-ink-and-watercolor illustrations.
Teachers will find this book an exemplar for introducing students to haiku or for teaching them to
make inferences.
A de-light-ful combination of poetry and pictures related to the solar system is presented in Night
Wonders by Jane Ann Peddicord (2005), with photographs from various sources. The poetic verses ac-
companying these stunning images and supporting
factual information about our universe invite the
reader to see the sky “in a different light.” For example, who could resist wanting to know more
about space when reading “Beside a dark and quiet
sea beneath a starlit canopy, I shone my light upon
a star, and wondered, What is out that far?” (p. 2).
Long Night Moon (2004) by Cynthia Rylant
and illustrated by Mark Siegel is a collection of
meditative poems written for each full moon as they
appear through the seasons for each month of the
year. Honoring the Native American tradition of
naming each full moon, each illustrated poem conveys a mood and feeling that captures the nuances
of seasonal change. Nocturnal scenes include the
perspective of a mother and infant child as they take
in and are at times a part of the moonlit landscape.
Each full moon is illustrated on a double-page
spread and appears during the first of the year on the
left page and travels through time across to the right
page in December. Poems and illustrations together provide readers with a profound experience inspiring the appreciation of the beauty of nature.
Through spectacular, full-color photographs
and verse, J. Patrick Lewis celebrates some of the
world’s greatest monuments in Monumental Verses
(2005). Clever word choice provides insight to the
grandeur of each colossal creation. In “Mount
Rushmore” we learn that Norman Anderson
“earned $1.25 an hour, more than mines were paying at the time. Describing his presidential task
[his] dynamite words were worthy of a bonus: I put
the curl in Lincoln’s beard, the part in Teddy’s hair,
and the twinkle in Washington’s eye” (p. 27). Other
works included are the Great Wall of China, Arc
de Triomphe, Palace of Versailles, Golden Gate
Bridge, Statue of Liberty, and Machu Picchu.
Kristine O’Connell George, recipient of the
2005 Lee Bennett Hopkins Award for Outstanding
Poet, and illustrator Lauren Stringer bring us an
interesting combination of the art of language and
the art of origami in Fold Me a Poem (2005). And
what fun for the reader to not only hear the eloquence of the poetry but also to enhance the experience by forming the geometric figures. Such
activity is encouraged with the poem “Possibly,”
which reads: “Forty bright sheets of colored paper,
a world of animals. Who will be next?” (p. 11). As
the illustrator notes, there is a list of books with
detailed instructions on how to do origami. This
Children’s Books 603
of sea serpents including sightings in Gloucester
at The Museum of Unnatural History website at
Poet J. Patrick Lewis and illustrator Jim Cooke
combine their talents to create 21 entertaining,
thought-provoking portraits of people who have
made the world a better place through their acts of
service and bravery. In Heroes and She-Roes:
Poems of Amazing and Everyday Heroes (2005),
children can encounter well-known champions for
good such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., César
Chávez, Helen Keller, Rosa Parks, and Gandhi.
Likewise, they can learn about lesser known people
whose heroic actions have blessed the lives of
many people, “...the valiant and the brave./ Those
simple people known by/ Two simple words: They
gave” (unpaged). This memorable collection invites readers to consider how one person’s actions
can make a difference for many.
Cover illustration © 2005 by Bagram Ibatoulline from The
Serpent Came to Gloucester by M.T. Anderson. Used by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press.
book can connect nicely to a social studies unit or
an art curriculum. Visit this poet’s online teachers’
guide for this book at www.kristinegeorge.com/
The Serpent Came to Gloucester (2005) by
M.T. Anderson and illustrated by Bagram
Ibatoulline is a narrative poem based on reported
sightings of a sea serpent off the coast of
Gloucester, Massachusetts, in 1817. The story is
told from the point of view of a now-very-old man,
who relates, to his dismay, how the people in this
New England fishing village set out to destroy the
sea creature. This salty seafaring tale is told in a
rhyming scheme consisting of two four-lined stanzas (quatrains, in abab and cded scheme) followed
by a two-line repeating-pattern refrain. The rhythm
of the language, with its nautical vocabulary, serves
to hypnotize, especially if read aloud. There is a
compelling ambience of mystery in the telling of
this yarn that is enhanced by Ibatoulline’s paintings
of Gloucester set alongside the vastness of the sea.
Children can learn more about reported sightings
The Reading Teacher
Vol. 59, No. 6
Relish these beautiful thoughts!
Two lovely books, unique in their own right
but on the same wavelength, are When You Were
Born (2004) by Diana Hutts Aston and illustrated by E.B. Lewis and Because of You (2005) by
B.G. Hennessy and illustrated by Hiroe Nakata.
Each book affirms the gift of life in its individual
way. When You Were Born is written from the
point of view of a mother talking to her child.
Starting with the line “When you were born” on
each page, mother explains how various loved
ones celebrated this child’s life. E.B. Lewis’s astounding paintings, created with watercolor and
marker bordered in gold, convey the awe and tenderness for the newborn child by each of the loved
ones. On the book jacket, Lewis indicates that he
pays homage to Giotto, Redon, Chagall, and
Matisse in this book. From gold-star studded endpaper to endpaper, this book is a powerful work of
art in its own right.
Have you ever considered whether the world
is a better place because of you? In Because of You,
we learn how each person can make a difference
in the world. Opening with the statement “Each
time a child is born the world changes,” the poem
relates how precious each one of us is and how
kindness connects us to others. The sweet, childlike
illustrations and the repetition of the phrase
March 2006
“because of you” effectively affirm the importance
of each and every one of us and how we all can
make the world a better place.
Kate Banks’s And If the Moon Could Talk
(2005), with artwork by Georg Hallensleben, has
been reissued recently by Sunburst Paperbacks.
This memorable bedtime story portrays the outside
world of nighttime within the secure and cozy
haven of home. As the little girl engages in the
nighttime ritual of getting ready for sleep, the illustrations switch from the warmth of reds and
yellows of the inner world of her room to the outside world of starry and moonlit landscapes in
shades of blues and greens. The illustrations add
a few surprises that extend the theme of inner and
outer worlds. For example, when Papa reads the
little girl a story they view an illustration of a
sandy desert with camels. Later we see a version
of this image again when the outside world is depicted. The text reads,
Cover illustration © 2004 by E.B. Lewis from When You
Were Born by Diana Hutts Aston. Used by permission of the
publisher, Candlewick Press.
And if the moon could talk,
it would tell of sand blowing across the desert
and nomads crouching by the dune. (unpaged)
Still later we see an alternate version of this scene
illustrated as the little girl hovers between sleep and
wakefulness. The poetic verses with the repeating
refrain “And if the moon could talk” create visual
images that bring a sense of gentle peace and connection to our parallel inner and outer worlds. The
evocative visual and word images make this picture
book one to be revisited night after night.
“If you wish to see the sea, Build a sturdy boat
like me/ That’s light and strong. Then come along”
(from the book jacket) is an invitation to celebrate
the wonder and beauty of floating vessels in Down
to the Sea in Ships (2005). Philemon Sturges’s poems pay tribute to the wonders of watercraft from
canoes to cruise ships and from schooners to tugboats. Giles Laroche matches each poem with a
stunning illustration that is a combination of drawing, painting, and cut paper. In tandem, the verses
and illustrations conjure a breathtaking journey and
evocative sense of place. “Beneath Mount Rainier’s
towering peak/ Ferries ply as sailors seek/ To share
the patch of sunny sky they found/ On Puget
Sound” (p. 24).
Never a “dill” moment: Music,
rhythm, and rhyme
Starting with a single image of a brightly colored mother fish spanning both the front and back
of the book, Hooray for Fish by Lucy Cousins
(2005) sends your imagination for a splash into the
deep blue sea. There, we meet up with fish of many
persuasions, including “eye fish, shy fish, fly fish
and sky fish” (unpaged). This book supports and invites participation with its rhyming text and illustrations that beg the reader to count and name the
fantastic aquatic creatures encountered. Reminiscent
of Dr. Seuss’s (1960, Random House) One Fish, Two
Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, both books together
would provide a compelling inspiration for artwork
and writing.
Happy Bees! (2005) by Arthur Yorinks and illustrated by Carey Armstrong-Ellis is a book full of
lyrical poems and songs about endearing bees.
How could we not love them? Or for that matter,
how could we not love this book swarming with
rhyming words describing these lovable insects?
Happy bees
Children’s Books 605
Cover illustration © 2005 by the author from Hooray for
Fish by Lucy Cousins. Used by permission of the publisher,
Candlewick Press.
love ‘em
days without care
with nothing to wear
what a life!
These happy bees (unpaged)
This book is accompanied by a compact disc of
songs that extol the virtues, as well as the trials and
tribulations, of bees. Songs such as “Bumblebee
Blues” and “Bees in Love” provide the inspiration
and vocabulary to compose your own tribute to bees.
Tanka Tanka Skunk! by Steve Webb (2004)
is a book with musical rhythm and beat that takes
on a life of its own. Join in the refrain:
Skunk! (unpaged)
The Reading Teacher
Vol. 59, No. 6
Surely the reader will accompany Tanka Tanka and
Skunk as they beat their drums to the names of the
many animals they encounter. This is a book that
invites interaction and begs to be read aloud over
and over and faster and faster!
If readers are not too tired out by exploits in
Tanka Tanka Skunk! they can join in the drumming
and dancing in Drumheller Dinosaur Dance
(2004) by Robert Heidbreder and illustrated by Bill
Slavin and Esperança Melo. The dance begins when
the moon rises in Drumheller (Alberta, Canada) and
dinosaurs’ bones arise, assemble, and gather their
drums, tambourines, and castanets for a dinosaur
party held for the children who hear them. “They
tango, fandango and break-dance with ease. They
whirl on their tails and twirl on their knees.
But when the morning comes they return their tired
bones to the earth as the children wake up from their
dreams. Children can find out more about the Valley
of the Dinosaurs at www.dinosaurvalley.com.
Three new books that innovate familiar songs
and encourage play with language are Ten in the
Den (based on “Ten in a Bed”) by John Butler
(2005), The Wheels on the Race Car (based on
“The Wheels on the Bus”) by Alexander Zane with
illustrations by James Warhola (2005), and Jane
Cabrera’s version of If You’re Happy and You
Know It! (2005).
In Ten in the Den, readers meet 10 cuddly animal friends, beginning with teddy bear, each of
whom take their turn rolling over and falling out
of the den with their own noisy sound. For example, Beaver fell out with a slippy, slidey, bump! and
raccoon fell out with a swirly, whirly, bump! The illustrations and format of the book make it reader
friendly and appealing for young children.
Children will rev up their engines in The
Wheels on the Race Car as various cartoon-like animals race to the refrain of “all around the track.” In
this innovation, the gas in the car goes “GLUGGLUG-GLUG,” the engine in the race car goes
“VROOM VROOM VROOM,” and the checkered
flag goes “SWISH, SWISH, SWISH” (all unpaged). Humorous illustrations, such as a hippopotamus sporting racing goggles and a bulldog
slobbering on his windshield, add to the fun.
In Cabrera’s version of If You’re Happy and
You Know It!, the animal characters each show
March 2006
their high spiritedness in their own special way.
Children will join in when the elephant stamps his
feet or when momma hippopotamus and her baby
go kiss-kiss. The colorful illustrations on doublepage spreads are sure to bring a smile.
Children will enjoy trying their hand at writing
humorous poems after reading God Made the
Skunk and Other Animal Poems (Lewis, 2005), a
collection that takes a wild and crazy look at how the
animals were created. “God put wings/ On electric
plugs—/ There in a twinkling./ Lightning Bugs!”
(unpaged) and “God made rivers/ And swimming
holes/ To keep fish out/ Of goldfish bowls” (unpaged) are two examples that exemplify the pattern
used throughout this droll book. The comical illustrations harmonize with the zany verses.
Sweet and spicy piccalilli:
Traditional, global, old, and new
Anonymous old favorites such as “Star Light,
Star Bright,” traditional favorites such as “Hush Little
Baby,” and poems from much-loved poets such as
Lee Bennett Hopkins and Eve Merriam are included
in Drift Upon a Dream: Poems for Sleepy Babies
(2004), collected by John Foster and illustrated by
Melanie Williamson. Young children will especially
find these lyrical poems comforting to fall asleep by.
In Sing a Song of Sixpence: A Pocketful of
Nursery Rhymes and Tales collected and illustrated by Jane Chapman (2004), you will find familiar
nursery rhymes such as “Pat-A-Cake,” “Hickory
Dickory Dock,” and of course “Sing a Song of
Sixpence,” along with classic fairy tales such as
“The Three Little Pigs” and “The Little Red Hen.”
The simple format with contextual illustrations
serves as an appropriate entrée into playful language and stories handed down by word of mouth.
Kevin Crossley-Holland’s (2004) collection in
Once Upon a Poem: Favorite Poems That Tell
Stories is an anthology of 15 illustrated classic and
favorite narrative poems such as “The Jabberwocky,”
“Paul Revere’s Ride,” “The Cremation of Sam
McGee,” and “A Visit From St. Nicholas.” Each
poem in the collection is championed by a contemporary writer such as J.K. Rowling, Sharon Creech,
Avi, and other well-loved authors. Roald Dahl’s narrative poem “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” is featured in this collection. In Dahl’s version, Goldilocks
is vilified as “That nosey thieving little louse/ Comes
sneaking in your empty house” (p. 88). Ultimately
Dahl builds a cogent case against the golden intruder that “would easily get her ten years in the clink”
(p. 91). Eoin Colfer (Artemis Fowl series) takes
Dahl’s side in his introduction of this poem and
claims that justice has been finally served. The
About the Writers section at the end of the anthology tells about all of the authors who contributed,
and the About the Artists page honors the varied illustrators of this inviting collection. The text includes an accompanying compact disc in which
Kevin Crossley-Holland dramatizes selected works
from the book.
Listen to the voices of poets from around the
world in Come to the Great World: Poems From
Around the Globe selected by Wendy Cooling and
illustrated by Sheila Moxley (2004). This global collection of poetry captures the spirit and concerns
from a variety of cultures and places. Cuban Nicolàs
Guillén’s “Can You?” highlights the beauty of the
wind and sky as something that cannot be bought.
In “The People in Poverty,” Nicaraguan poet Gloria
Guevara writes of children searching through a
dump among the flies for the things they need. And
in “The Pines,” New Zealand poet Margaret Mahy
tells of how in 10 minutes a tree can be felled that
took 70 years to grow. Some poems are celebratory
such as the Inuit chant “There is Joy” and Opal
Palmer Adisa’s “Fruits” that speaks to the flavors of
Jamaica. Still others have universal appeal to children around the globe and include jump-rope songs,
poems about swinging on swings, and the perils and
pleasures of having one’s hair combed.
Artist Ashley Bryan and poet James Berry team
up in A Nest Full of Stars (2004). Berry explains that
this work stems from his experience growing up in
Jamaica and his desire to celebrate and draw on his
Caribbean language and culture. Sections include
“Everyday Feelings,” “Together,” “A Particular Time
at Our House,” “From My Sister’s Notebook,”
“Echoes of a Caribbean School Playground,” and
“Mysteries.” While all of the poems carry the musical
cadences of Caribbean Creole speech, this is especially evident in the poems within the section
“Echoes of a Caribbean School Playground.” Bryan’s
black-and-white woodcut-style illustrations punctuate sections of the book, depict scenes from selected
poems, and add cultural information that effectively
create a context for the collection.
Children’s Books 607
Anderson, M.T. (2005). The serpent came to Gloucester. Ill.
B. Ibatoulline. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick. ISBN
Aston, D.H. (2004). When you were born. Ill. E.B. Lewis.
Cambridge, MA: Candlewick. ISBN 0763614386.
Banks, K. (2005). And if the moon could talk. Ill. G.
Hallensleben. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux. ISBN
Berry, J. (2004). Nest full of stars. Ill. A. Bryan. New York:
HarperCollins. ISBN 0060527471.
Butler, J. (2005). Ten in the den. Atlanta, GA: Peachtree
Publishers. ISBN 1561453447.
Cabrera, J. (2005). If you’re happy and you know it! New
York: Holiday House. ISBN 0823418812.
Chapman, J. (2004). Sing a song of sixpence: A pocketful
of nursery rhymes and tales. Cambridge, MA:
Candlewick. ISBN 0763625450.
Cooling, W. (2004). Come to the great world: Poems from
around the globe. Ill. S. Moxley. New York: Holiday House.
ISBN 0823418227.
Cousins, L. (2005). Hooray for fish. Cambridge, MA:
Candlewick. ISBN 0763627410.
Crawley, D. (2005). Cat poems. Ill. T. Petrosino. Honesdale,
PA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press. ISBN 1590782879.
Crossley-Holland, K. (Ed.). (2004). Once upon a poem:
Favorite poems that tell stories. Ill. P. Bailey, S. Bailey, C.
Lawson, & C. McEwan. New York: Chicken House. ISBN
English, K. (2004). Speak to me (and I will listen between the
lines). Ill. A.J. Bates. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux.
ISBN 0374371563.
Fletcher, R. (2005). A writing kind of day: Poems for young
poets. Ill. A. Ward. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills Press.
ISBN 1590783530.
Fletcher, R. (2002). Poetry matters: Writing a poem from
the inside out. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN
Florian, D. (2005). Zoo’s who. San Diego, CA: Harcourt
Children’s Books. ISBN 0152046399.
Foster, J. (2004). Drift upon a dream: Poems for sleepy babies. Ill. M. Williamson. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge
Publishing. ISBN 1570915784.
Frost, H. (2004). Spinning through the universe: A novel in
poems from Room 214. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux.
ISBN 0374371598.
George, K.O. (2005). Fold me a poem. Ill. L. Stringer. San
Diego, CA: Harcourt Children’s Books. ISBN 0152025014.
Heidbreder, R., & Slavin, B. (2004). Drumheller dinosaur
dance. Ill. B. Slavin & E. Melo. Toronto, ON: Kids Can
Press. ISBN 1553373936.
Hennessy, B.G. (2005). Because of you. Ill. H. Nakata.
Cambridge, MA: Candlewick. ISBN 0763619264.
Janeczko, P.B. (2001). A poke in the I: A collection of concrete poems. Ill. C. Raschka. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick.
ISBN 0763606618.
The Reading Teacher
Vol. 59, No. 6
Janeczko, P.B. (2005). A kick in the head: An everyday
guide to poetic forms. Ill. C. Raschka. Cambridge, MA:
Candlewick. ISBN 0763606626.
Lewis, J.P. (2005). God made the skunk and other animal
poems. Ill. J. King. Cupertino, CA: Doggerel Daze. ISBN
Lewis, J.P. (2005). Heroes and she-roes: Poems of amazing and everyday heroes. Ill. J. Cooke. New York: Dial.
ISBN 0803729251.
Lewis, J.P. (2005). Monumental verses. Washington, DC:
National Geographic Society. ISBN 0792271351.
Lewis, J.P. (2005). Please bury me in the library. Ill. K.M.
Stone. San Diego, CA: Harcourt. ISBN 0152163875.
Moore, L. (2005). Mural on Second Avenue and other city
poems. Ill. R. Karas. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick. ISBN
Myers, W.D. (2005). Here in Harlem: Poems in many voices.
New York: Holiday House. ISBN 0823418537.
Peddicord, J.A. (2005). Night wonders. Watertown, MA:
Charlesbridge. ISBN 1570918775.
Prelutksy, J. (2004). If not for the cat. Ill. T. Rand. New York:
Greenwillow. ISBN 0060596775.
Rylant, C. (2005). Boris. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Children’s
Books. ISBN 015205412X.
Rylant, C. (2004). Long night moon. Ill. M. Siegel. New York:
Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0689854269.
Sayre, A.P. (2005). The bumblebee queen. Ill. P.J. Wynne.
Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge. ISBN 1570913625.
Soto, G. (2005). Worlds apart: Traveling with Fernie and me.
Ill. G. Clarke. New York: Putnam. ISBN 039924218X.
Sturges, P. (2005). Down to the sea in ships. Ill. G. Laroche.
New York: Putnam. ISBN 0399234640.
Webb, S. (2004). Tanka Tanka Skunk! New York: Orchard.
ISBN 0439578442.
Yorinks, A. (2005). Happy bees! Ill. C. Armstrong-Ellis. New
York: Harry N. Abrams. ISBN 081095866X.
Zane, A. (2005). The wheels on the race car. Ill. J. Warhola.
New York: Orchard. ISBN 0439590809.
Terrell Young teaches at Washington State
University, Richland, USA.
The department editors, Nancy Livingston and Catherine
Kurkjian, welcome reader comments and suggestions on this
department. Children’s Books presents reviews, recommended
uses, and curriculum connections on trade books for children.
Materials reviewed in Children’s Books are in no way advocated or endorsed by The Reading Teacher or the International
Reading Association. Opinions expressed are those of the department editors or reviewers. Books should be sent to
Catherine Kurkjian, Central Connecticut State University,
Reading and Language Arts, New Britain, CT 06050, USA,
and Nancy Livingston, MacKay Building, Brigham Young
University, Provo, UT 84602-6245, USA.
March 2006