Tag Archives: genre: poetry

House Arrest Review

house_arrestHouse Arrest by K.A. Holt

Chronicle Books, 2015. 978-1452134772

Synopsis: I didn’t mean to do it.

Okay, maybe I meant to do it, but I did it cause we needed the money for my brother.

Y’know, cause he has this trach in his neck to help him breathe. And the meds are expensive.

Mom thinks I don’t know about the money problems, but I do.

Since dad walked out…well, what would you have done? Don’t tell me you wouldn’t, cause I know you’d be lying.

I just wanted to help. I just wanted to help.

Why I picked it up: The premise of the story intrigued me and I like novels in verse.

Why I finished it: It’s somewhat appropriate that this novel was written in verse because it makes the reader and Timothy consider things about the world – most notably the hardships we all go through and the lengths to which we will go to help those who are closest to us. We ponder the kindness of strangers and the feelings of fear and uncertainty. We acknowledge the support of friends who will come to our aid when they see us struggling. Timothy may begin the story feeling like a screw-up, but we see him gradually transform in the year he is keeping a court-ordered journal. While the reader will note that he never really expresses a desire to repent for his crime, we do see him working toward finding solutions that will allow for him to keep his family together. His desire to redeem himself and the difficulties he has with staying out of trouble almost prove more than he can handle, an internal conflict that Timothy struggles with throughout most of the book. I also find that we ‘see’ a different side to the story when the author uses poetry instead of prose. Not only are we really getting inside Timothy’s head, we are given room to form our own opinions and interpretations about whether or not he will or has reformed. The reader can set their own scenes as they read each of the entries over the course of the 52 weeks chronicled in the novel. Holt also asks the reader to consider their own relationships with the people around us, to think about those things for which we will fight and which battles we will choose. It’s a powerful and poignant look at a boy who, although he could be considered a delinquent, is navigating life the only way he knows how.

Other related materials: Rhyme Schemer by K.A. Holt; Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko; Al Capone Shines My Shoes by Gennifer Choldenko; Al Capone Does My Homework by Gennifer Choldenko; Rules by Cynthia Lord; Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine; So B. It by Sarah Weeks; Knees: The Mixed-Up World of a boy with Dyslexia by Vanita Oelschlager, illustrated by Joe Rossi; The Crossover by Kwame Alexander; El Deafo by Cece Bell; Paperboy by Vince Vawter; Tangerine by Edward Bloor; Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen; Ghost of Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen


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That Day in September and other Rhymes for the Times Review

that_day_in_septemberThat Day in September and other Rhymes for the Times by Liz Lime

Words in the Works LLC, 2014. 978-0991036479

Synopsis: From the playful teasing of shoe fashionistas, to more somber and thought-provoking themes, the messages in the rhymes from this first-time author are cleverly written and craftily disguised in the age-old style and beat of the English classics. While the layered messages behind these simply written, but light-hearted rhymes, may not be immediately recognizable, the references made to the more serious societal concerns of our country are evident in the beautifully illustrated pages. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I was asked if I wanted to do a review as part of a blog tour and I jumped at the chance. I find that poetry transcends age.

Why I finished it: This is a short picture book that packs a rather surprising punch for the reader. On the surface, the book would appear juvenile, but the messages one can glean from Lime’s poetry are numerous. It takes jabs at the financial crisis, illegal immigration, and even foreign policy, the context of which might go over some readers heads. But I like to think that the reader is capable of doing their own research and forming their own opinions about current events here and around the world. The rhyme scheme and the structure are really quite clever, drawing from a number of classic poems or rhymes in terms of meter that, even if you don’t recognize them, can be appreciated. Each of the sixteen illustrators that contributed to this collection have done a fantastic job of creating simplistic images to accompany each of the surprisingly complex poems. The range of styles and artistic interpretations add additional meaning to Lime’s words, asking the reader to create a more realistic and perhaps contrary image to what is seen on the page. It makes the meaning of the poems more easily digestible to the reader and showcases a wide spectrum of talent that I hope to see in other works. It’s a thought-provoking little volume that can be enjoyed by all ages and used as a starting point for more serious conversations about what we do and what direction in which we are going.

Other related materials: Read Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young selected by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Marc Brown; A Children’s Treasury of Nursery Rhymes with illustrations by Linda Bleck; Classic Poems for Children edited by Nicola Baxter; A Child’s Anthology of Poetry edited by Elizabeth Hague Sword and Victoria Flournoy McCarthy, illustrated by Tom Pohrt; A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson, illustrated by Gyo Fujikawa; Poems to Learn by Heart selected by Caroline Kennedy, illustrations by Jon J. Muth; Where the Sidewalk Ends: Poems and Drawings by Shel Silverstein; A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein; The 20th Century Children’s Poetry Treasury selected by Jack Prelutsky, illustrations by Meilo So; The Oxford Illustrated Book of American Children’s Poems edited by Donald Hall


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An Eyeball in My Garden Review

eyeballAn Eyeball in My Garden and Other Spine-Tingling Poems selected and edited by Jennifer Cole Judd and Laura Wynkopp, illustrations by Joahn Olander

Two Lions, 2010. 978-0761456551

Synopsis: Reader beware! Open at your own risk! This collection of poems is hoping to scare. From mummies to spiders to vampires to ghouls, these poems are sure to give goose bumps from forehead to ankle!

Why I picked it up: The title and the art reminded me a lot of The Nightmare Before Christmas, and while I am not a huge fan of things that go bump in the night, I can appreciate a good scary story/poem/film.

Why I finished it: I don’t know about everyone else, but I don’t see very many collections of poems that deal with Halloween, but this collection is very well written. These poems are just the right amount of creepy to make you nervous about all the little ghosties and ghoulies that haunt our nightmares and hide under our beds. They’re also a little bit whimsical, since horror draws on what it is we fear the most. There’s also some classic creatures like werewolves, witches, Frankenstein’s monster, and Dracula. Olander’s illustrations give the poems an extra edge to them, bringing to life a ghost train, a ghost fish, a kid zombie, and a haunted house. The drawings are in black and white, but I feel like this is part of their charm and what makes them fit so well with this book. I think what I liked most about it was that it was fun without being too over the top on the fear factor. It’s a refreshing look at the things that make us sure to turn on the lights when we enter a room and make sure that we don’t run toward the noise coming from the top of the stairs.

Other related materials: Poetry for Young People: Edgar Allan Poe edited by Brod Bagert, illustrated by Carolynn Cobleigh, Literally Disturbed: Tales to Keep You Up at Night by Ben H. Winters, illustrated by Adam E. Watkins; A Field Guide to Aliens: Intergalactic Worrywarts, Bubblonauts, Silver-Slurpers, and Other Extraterrestria writtend and illustrated by Joahn Olander; A Field Guide to Monsters: Goggly-Eyed Wart Floppers, Shadows-Casters, Toe-Eaters, and Other Creatures written and illustrated by Joahn Olander; Night Garden: Poems from the World of Dreams by Janet S. Wong, illustrated by Julie Paschkis; The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, illustrations by Dave McKean; Short & Shivery: Thirty Chilling Tales by Robert D. San Souci, illustrated by Katherine Coville; A Terrifying Taste of Short & Shivery by Robert D. San Souci, illustrated by Katherine Coville; More Short and Shivery: Thirty Terrifying Tales by Robert D. San Souci, illustrated by Katherine Coville; Even More Short and Shivery: Thirty Chilling Tales by Robert D. San Souci, illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers; Ask the Bones: Scary Stories from Around the World retold by Arielle North Olson and Howard Schwartz, illustrated by David Linn

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Step Lightly: Poems for the Journey Review

step_lightlyStep Lightly: Poems for the Journey compiled by Nancy Willard

Harcourt Brace, 1998. 978-0152020521

Synopsis: In this collection of poems, Nancy Willard presents to the reader a series of favorite poems from everything from newspapers to magazines to other books of poetry designed to show and share the love for and the power of rhythm and language.

Why I picked it up: I like traveling and I love a good book to read for the plane or the bus or however I’m getting from here to there.

Why I finished it: Though the poems in the book for the large part stand alone in and of themselves, together they take the readers through the journey of a day and a life. While it’s not the kind of book that will take the reader all day to get through, it shares with the reader a snapshot of different places, different people, and the different stages and directions life can take. Willard writes in the introduction that all of the poets in this book, both known and relatively unknown, are making light of it all – it all being this life we are living and sharing with the people closest to us. Poetry and poems carry different meanings for each person that reads it, and while I hope that everyone can find their own meaning in these works, this is what I have taken away from this book: it is inspiring and lovely. Its writers take the reader into their laps and into their rooms and in a few well chosen words tell the reader a story that will teach us lessons that we cannot take away from reading a work of prose. So many of these poems struck a chord with me, and I will collect them together with others I have saved over the years as a record of my own journey. And I encourage whoever reads this to save and be able to share their own favorites, whether they be poems, books, movies, whatever speaks to or inspires them.

Other related materials: A Visit to William Blake’s Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers by Nancy Willard, illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen; Poetry for Young People: William Blake edited by John Maynard, illustrated by Alessandra Cimatoribus; Poetry for Young People: William Shakespeare edited by David Scott Kastan and Maria Kastan, illustrated by Glenn Harrington; Poetry for Young People: Robert Browning edited by Eileen Gillooly, illustrated by Joel Spector; Poetry for Young People: Robert Frost edited by Gary D. Schmidt, illustrated by Henri Sorensen; Poetry for Young People: Emily Dickinson edited by Frances Schoonmaker Bolin, illustrated by Chi Chung; Poetry for Young People: Robert Loius Stevenson edited by Frances Schoonmaker, illustrated by Lucy Corvino; Poetry for Young People: William Butler Yeats edited by Jonathan Allison, illustrated by Glenn Harrington; Poetry for Young People: William Carlos William edited by Christopher MacGowan, illustrated by Robert Crockett; Poetry for Young People: American Poetry edited by John Hollander, illustrated by Sally Wern Comport; Poetry for Young People: African American Poetry edited by Arnold Rampersand and Marcellus Blount, illustrated by Karen Barbour

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Poems from Homeroom Review

poems from homeroomPoems from Homeroom: A Writer’s Place to Start by Kathi Appelt

Henry Holt & Co., 2002. 978-0805069785

Synopsis: Experienced poet and teacher Kathi Appelt has written a wonderful collection of poems for young adult readers, accompanied by fascinating accounts of how and why the poems came to be, along with writing exercises to inspire readers to create their own poetry. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I like the idea of being able to read the work of an author and then getting the story behind their work.

Why I finished it: This book has a little bit of everything. The poems convey the feelings and struggles of teens and young adults that are discovering themselves and the burden of responsibility that comes with growing up. Appelt’s commentary tells the story of how the poems were born and the longing portrayed by the poem’s narrators along with some exercises that will help get the creative juices flowing in young and aspiring poets. She recognizes that poetry has the power to speak to a writer and that there will be lots of bad poems on the way to writing good ones. She conveys just how powerful the right word can be and how we can say something with a poem that demonstrates who the author is and who they hope to become. It’s a wonderful resource for those of us who are looking to hone our writing craft.

Other related materials: Just People & Paper/Pen/Poem: A Young Writer’s Way to Begin by Kathi Applet, photographs by Kenneth Applet; Getting the Knack: 20 Poetry Writing Exercises by Alfred Corn; Where I’m From: Where Poems Come From by George Ella Lyon; Writing Toward Home: Tales and Lessons to Find Your Way by Georgia Heard; Paint Me Like I Am: Teen Poems from WritersCorps selected by Bill Aguado and Richard Newirth; Teen Ink: Written in the Dirt: A Collection of Short Stories, Poetry, Art, and Photography edited by Stephanie H. Meyer and John Meyer; Poetry Speaks to Who I Am: Poems of Discovery, Inspiration, Independence, and Everything Else… edited by Elise Paschen and Dominique Raccah; Things I Have to Tell You: Poems and Writing by Teenage Girls edited by Betsy Franco, photographs by Nina Nickles; You Hear Me?: Poems and Writing by Teenage Boys edited by Betsy Franco, photography by Nina Nickles


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Forget-Me-Nots: Poems to Learn by Heart Review

forgetmenotpoemstolearnbyheartForget-Me-Nots: Poems to Learn by Heart selected by Mary Ann Hoberman, illustrated by Michael Emberely

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2012. 978-0316129473

Synopsis: From the creators of the bestselling You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You series comes this new collection of poems especially suitable for learning by heart and saying aloud. With personal introductions by former Children’s Poet Laureate Mary Ann Hoberman — as well as her own time-tested tips and tools for memorization and recitation — and vivid illustrations by Michael Emberley featuring his trademark wit and lively characters, Forget-Me-Nots includes more than 120 works from both classic and contemporary poets, from childhood favorites to lesser-known treasures. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: Mary Ann Hoberman is a former Children’s Poet Laureate and she has such a well-received body of work that I felt obliged to check it out.

Why I finished it: This anthology is full of poetry that ranges from short rhymes to longer ballads and everything in between. It’s filled with original works, works that are found in multiple other collections, and works that are found in some favorite children’s books. My favorites were the poems about food and the poems about the weather. Emberley’s illustrations are whimsical and child-like, capturing the magic that poems perform for the reader. The art is bright, colorful, and lively, adding another level of interpretation to the poetry that it accompanies. The book encourages a love of poetry and a love of learning poetry, much in the same way that Caroline Kennedy’s collection Poems to Learn by Heart shows the reader the power of words. So memorize a poem that speaks to you, learn how it flows, study its structure, and make it a part of yourself that you can save and share.

Other related materials: Whisper and Shout: Poems to Memorize selected by Patrice Vecchione; Poems to Learn by Heart selected by Caroline Kennedy, paintings by Jon J. Muth; A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poetry for Children selected by Caroline Kennedy, paintings by Jon J. Muth; The Llama Who Had No Pajama: 100 Favorite Poems by Mary Ann Hoberman, illustrated by Betty Fraser; BookSpeak!: Poems About Books by Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Josee Bisallion; All The Small Poems and Fourteen More by Valerie Worth, illustrated by Natalie Babbitt; A Stick is an Excellent Thing: Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by LeUyen Pham; Poetry for Young People: Robert Frost selected by Gary D. Schmidt, illustrated by Henri Sorensen; Poetry for Young People: Carl Sandburg edited by Frances Schoonmaker Bolin, illustrated by Steven Arcella; Poetry for Young People: Walt Whitman edited by Jonathan Levin, illustrated by Jim Burke; Old Elm Speaks: Tree Poems by Kristine O’Connell George, illustrated by Kate Kiesler; Be Glad Your Nose Is On Your Face and Other Poems: Some of the Best of Jack Prelutsky by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Brandon Dorman

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River of Words: Young Poets and Artists on the Nature of Things Review

river_of_wordsRiver of Words: Young Poets and Artists on the Nature of Things edited by Pamela Michael

Milkweed Editions, 2008. 978-1571316851

Synopsis: The California-based River of Words (ROW) has gained fame as an important nonprofit that trains teachers, park naturalists, grassroots groups, and others to incorporate observation-based nature exploration and the arts into young people’s lives. One of the group’s most important annual projects is to take the youth pulse from the United States and 22 other countries, by asking for writing on water and nature. This anthology collects the best of that writing, with accompanying artwork. Divided into nine geographical areas (California, Pacific Northwest, Inland West, Midwest, Southwest, Northwest, Mid Atlantic, South, and International), the book presents writers from ages six to 18. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: The anthology reminded me of the literary anthologies that my college would put out every year and I love celebrating the work of young writers.

Why I finished it: This collection is an amazing showcase of the potential of young writers and artists. The selected works describe life in many different corners of the United States and the rest of the world and the true beauty that comes from nature, should we be still long enough to appreciate it. Poetry is so rich and so deep because the poet is describing for the reader a scene or a moment in time with only a few choice words, and these collected poems are no different. Some are sparse and minimalist in their descriptions, others are crafted with a deeper meaning embedded between stanzas. And the topics are just as diverse as the forms. True, they all deal with nature in some way, shape or form, but it is how the poet or artist sees nature that creates a whole new way of looking at creeks and streams, skipping rocks and fishing, taking a dip or dipping in clothing to wash. The images created by the poems are just as powerful as the pictures that were selected to become part of the collection: There are simple crayon and colored pencil drawings as well as more complicated chalk, watercolor, and folk art. What spoke to me the most about this collection is that it was produced by aspiring poets and artists, who were given the chance to contribute to something much bigger than themselves and invite the reader to explore the nature around them where they live. For more information, check out the website here.

Other related materials: River of Words: Images and Poetry in Praise of Water edited by Pamela Michael; Salting the Ocean: 100 Poems by Young Poets selected by Naomi Shihab Nye, illustrated by Ashley Bryan; The Tree is Older Than You Are: A Bilingual Gathering of Poems & Stories from Mexico with Paintings by Mexican Artists selected by Naomi Shihab Nye; This Same Sky: A Collection of Poems from Around the World edited by Naomi Shihab Nye; Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Eric Beddows; I am Phoenix: Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Ken Nutt; Big Talk: Poems for Four Voices by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Beppe Giacoppe; Pumpkin Butterfly: Poems from the Other Side of Nature by Heidi Mordhorst, illustrated by Jenny Reynish

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