Posts filed under ‘Poetry/Verse’

Udderly factual (or not) stories of Sandra Boynton’s Amazing Cows

Amazing Cows: A Book of Bovinely Inspired Misinformation by Sandra Boynton; published by Workman Publishing, New York; 2010.

The cover of Sandra Boynton’s Amazing Cows screams information in a, well, comic book sort of way.  Opening the cover reveals red end pages covered with Boynton’s distinctive illustrative style: lovable cross-eyed cows with AMAZING COWS! screaming above their heads.  All of that bovine bravado before getting past the title page!  And trust me, the book only gets better with every turn of the page.  Poetry, prose, jokes and limericks, even a “vintage” comic book excerpt fill this nonfiction*collection.  There are advertisements for music CDs (“It Had to Be Moo”) and a book dedicated to decorating with cows.

* This book is shelved in the nonfiction stacks only by virtue of the call number: It is shelved in the 818’s, where American literature is filed.

As the title proclaims, this book is appropriate for “all ages up to a hundred and moo” and that’s the truth.  I laughed so loud at the names of the cows alone that I had to explain to the person in the car next to me (I was in the school parking lot) what I was reading.  I can imagine reading parts of this book to children from kindergarten through at least fifth grade (hear that, school librarians looking for a read-aloud for older kids?!).  This would be a terrific book for families to read together.  Imagine the family programming possibilities in a public library!

However you decide to use it, I strongly recommend you find this book and share it with someone! 😆

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March 29, 2011 at 5:58 am Leave a comment

Get immersed in An Egret’s Day

An Egret’s Day, poems by Jane Yolen, photographs by Jason Stemple; published by Wordsong, an imprint of Boyds Mills Press, Honesdale, Pennsylvania; 2010.

I had to do a double-take when I read “photographs by” on the cover of this book.  The colors are so vibrant, so utterly perfect, I figured it was an illustration.  Oh but no, the book is filled, from cover to cover, with impeccable images of egrets.  My favorite is the close-up of the feathered wing.  So I did pick out this book based on the cover.  

As it was written by Jane Yolen, I had no doubt that I would be thoroughly taken by the words.  And I was.  How in the world does she do it?  Isn’t it enough to be able to write entertaining children’s books?  No, Ms. Yolen, as usual, goes above and beyond.  She is able to take facts, interesting though they may be, and weave them into entertaining yet informational poetry.  Just to make sure the information comes across, brief blurbs about the birds are added to each page.  And even they are written with poetic flair.  This book has sealed Jane Yolen as the “godmother of children’s literature” in my mind.  And I won’t forget she writes for young adults and adults as well.

Did I mention that author and photographer are mother and son?  Talent runs deep in this family!

This book was cataloged in the 811s (the poetry section for the Dewey-challenged).  But it could just as easily be shelved with the other books on birds somewhere in the 590s.  Teachers need to be aware of this book.  Pathfinders, displays, and word of mouth should be used to get this book into the hands of children.  I think it’d be a great cross-categorical tool during poetry month.

July 9, 2010 at 6:43 pm 1 comment

My Uncle Emily is dear

My Uncle Emily by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter; published by Philomel Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, New York; 2009.

Gib’s Uncle Emily gave him a bumble bee and a poem to take to school.  He was a little embarrassed to read the poem to his class–afraid the other children would make fun of his dear aunt.  She is unusual, Uncle Emily.  She always wears a white dress and rarely leaves the house.  But she dotes on her nephews and niece.  And she is a prolific poet.  Gib’s mother insists he take the poem to school because it is rare for a poem of Emily Dickinson’s to leave the house.  That much of the story is true.  The fight between Gib and a classmate may or may not have happened.  The exchanges between the aunt and nephew are conjecture, but based entirely on research about the poet and her relationship with her family (as Yolen explains at the end of the story).  Carpenter captures the period in her pen and ink illustrations, often giving a face to the text–such as when Gib is surrounded by his doting family, but he looks back (guilt painted across his face) at Uncle Emily’s feet on the stairs after she has challenged him to tell the rest of the story.  Her retreat leads us to believe she is disappointed in little Gib, and he is feeling the full brunt of her disappointment rather than relishing the compassion of his doting family.

I confess.  I have been an Emily Dickinson fan since high school, when I did a project about the reclusive poet (and even performed some of The Belle of Amherst, white dress included, as part of my presentation).  But Yolen’s tender depiction of the poet and her nephew paints a picture of a far different woman than I studied.  What a pleasure to learn that she was well-loved and engaged with her extended family.  And I find I have something in common with Miss Dickinson: I have a nephew that has called me “Uncle Nancy” for as long as he could talk.  I will remember the Belle as I tinker in my garden, shooing away bumble bees, and remembering my nephew’s endearing name for me.

This picture book should be included in reader’s advisories for anyone studying Emily Dickinson; it provides warm insight that is not often depicted.  It’s also a terrific example of Yolen’s immense gift for weaving wonderfully rhythmic stories in verse that carry the reader into another world.  Leave it to Jane Yolen to craft the perfect book about my favorite poet.

July 6, 2010 at 8:29 pm Leave a comment

Leave Your Sleep proves that poetry rocks (and pops, and lullabies, and folks around the world…)

Leave Your Sleep by Natalie Merchant; audio CD published by Nonesuch; 2010.

Inspiration comes when it is least expected; perhaps that is why some folks keep a pad of paper and a pencil on nightstands.  In the case of Natalie Merchant’s latest musical endeavor, inspiration came from within books.  Poetry books.  Poets from anonymous to Ogden Nash; Robert Louis Stevenson to Jack Prelutsky and e.e. cummings; Merchant heard melodies while reading poetry.  The result is a hypnotic, family-friendly 2-disc set, Leave Your Sleep. Please don’t let the name fool you: this is not a compilation of lullabies and nursery rhymes.  Yes, there are plenty of those bedtime-friendly songs to add to a naptime mix, but there are treats for all occasions.  There are songs to appeal to all members of the family and their unique musical tastes: reggae, rock, pop, and folk songs flavored by the whole world.  Some tunes that stand out for the early elementary school set include “The Sleepy Giant” (Charles E. Carryl), “Bleezer’s Ice Cream” (Jack Prelutsky), and “Topsy Turvey World” (William Brighty Rands) which is currently playing on NPR while I write this.

Each song enchants, as Merchant’s genius perfectly matches poem to musical genre.  The tone of the poem is expressed in the music and is also paired with its intended audience.  Somber, brooding Russian folk music sets us in the old world where “The Dancing Bear” runs away with me.  A fiddler accompanies Merchant’s vocals in the folk song version of “Calico Pie.”  Reggae riffs carry us through a “Topsy Turvey World.”  Lullabies and dance tunes grab the hands of the poets and the audience and lead us on an adventure.

As a librarian, I was taken with the packaging.  The CDs and liner notes are combined in a book of its own.  The cover shows the spines of the many poetry sources used.  Inside, the end pages hold the two discs and the body of the book contains the poems/lyrics and biographies of the poets.  Best of all, Merchant describes why she selected the poems and her connections to the poets themselves.  Photos help us put faces with the sources of her inspiration.  The “liner notes” themselves are a literary work worthy of a read, whether or not you listen to the music (which I highly recommend you do as well!).  Merchant’s website includes a link to Leave Your Sleep with links to read, watch, and listen.  All of the poems are included, as well as videos of the production process and audio clips of every song.  You can explore that here: http://www.nataliemerchant.com/p/leave-your-sleep.

Teachers should be using this to introduce poetry to even the youngest students.  Older students can study the original poetry before listening to the music.  Perhaps they can discuss whether or not they agree with the musical style used for each poem.  At the very least, this CD has to be used during National Poetry Month and included on a pathfinder about poetry resources.  What a fascinating way to encourage interest in some of the older poets and their body of work.  And I think we all needed the reminder that lyrics are simply poems set to music after all.

July 6, 2010 at 3:25 pm Leave a comment

This Land Is My Land…this book is your book…

This Land Is Your Land words and music by Woody Guthrie, illustrated by Kathy Jakobsen; published by Little Brown, Boston; 1998.

Jakobsen’s paintings highlight the mental images depicted by the lyrics of Woody Guthrie’s classic anthem.  Each page is brought to life in folk art images that mesh seamlessly with Guthrie’s folk song lyrics.   I loved that Pete Seeger wrote a tribute; the musical notation with all the lyrics are featured; and a photo-biography is included.

I’d definitely use this in a patriotic display or as a read-aloud/ sing-along with patriotic activities.  Perhaps I’d assemble Independence Day themed boxes for families to check out for summer reading together or to take on vacation (I’d include a CD of folk songs that includes this song).


January 7, 2010 at 5:19 pm

Poems for a journey

Come with Me: Poems for a Journey by Naomi Shihab Nye, illustrated by Dan Yaccarino; published by Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins; Hong Kong; 2000.

The relief collages attracted me to this book and they provide a remarkable subtext to the poetry.  Including a crazy quilt pattern on the end pages let us know that there will be cohesion to the mixture of poetry inside.  Each poem addresses a different aspect of journeying; the text and images meld magically to tell the story of each poem uniquely–sometimes as concrete poems, sometimes with text color matching the focus of the image.

I’d put this book in a box with a vacation theme.  It would also be a good tool for collaboration between the language arts and art teachers.

January 7, 2010 at 5:13 pm

Poetry can be contagious

Chicken Socks and other contagious poems by Brod Bagert, illustrated by Tim Ellis; published by Wordsong, an imprint of Boyds Mills Press; Honesdale, PA; 1993.

Watercolor and colored pencil illustrations provide children something fun to look at while listening to the poems in this book.  They are lovely additions to the pages, but only occassionally add a dimension to the poetry: like the chickens looking at the girl with chicken socks; the calendar pages that highlight the daily misdeeds in “Next Week’s Angel;” and the clothes pinned nose in “Barnyard.”

I’d use this in a display during April (National Poetry Month) or in a box of resources for children that are sick at home.

January 7, 2010 at 5:07 pm

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