Tag Archives: National Poetry Month

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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Poems to Learn By Heart Review

poems_to_learn_by_heartPoems to Learn by Heart selected by Caroline Kennedy, paintings by Jon J. Muth

Disney-Hyperion, 2013. 978-1423108054

Synopsis: Divided into sections about nature, sports, monsters and fairies, friendship and family, this book is full of surprises. These poems explore deep emotions, as well as ordinary experiences. They cover the range of human experience and imagination. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I heard Caroline Kennedy speak about this book at a library conference and I loved what she had to say about the importance of libraries and the power of literature and the written word.

Why I finished it: This is a wonderful and diverse collection that celebrates humanity’s power, potential, and triumphs. It shows us where we came from, where we are, and where we are going. There are a number of familiar classics included in this collection: “If-“, “Ballad of Birmingham”, “Manners”, “Sick”, “Casey at the Bat”, “Gettysburg Address”, and “Paul Revere’s Ride”. Included is also a poem written by the students of the DreamYard Prep Slam Team which asks the reader to listen to the voices in the poem and makes the reader stop to consider the potential of the teenage voices. In many ways, the voices in the poems are asking us to consider our own status, our own emotions, our own feelings about the world around us and how it affects us. They truly are poems that should be memorized and shared, but don’t take my word for it. Check out the book for yourself and see how it speaks to you.

Other related materials: A Family of Poems selected by Caroline Kennedy, paintings by Jon J. Muth; Forget-Me-Nots: Poems to Learn by Heart selected by Mary Ann Hoberman, illustrated by Michael Emberly; A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson, illustrated by Tasha Tudor; Favorite Poems Old and New: Selected for Boys and Girls selected by Helen Farris, illustrated by Leonard Weisgard; A Child’s Book of Poems illustrated by Gyo Fujikawa; Poems for Young People: Emily Dickinson edited by Frances Schoonmaker Bolin, illustrated by Chi Chung; Poetry for Young People: Walt Whitman edited by Jonathan Levin, illustrated by Jim Burke; Poetry for Young People: Robert Frost edited by Gary D. Schmidt, illustrated by Henri Sorensen; Poetry for Young People: Langston Hughes edited by David Roessel and Arnold Rampersand, illustrated by Benny Andrews; Poetry for Young People: William Shakespeare edited by David Scott Kastan and Marina Kastan, illustrated by Glenn Harrington; Poetry for Young People: Rudyard Kipling edited by Eileen Gilloly, illustrated by Jim Sharpe; Poetry for Young People: Robert Louis 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: Lewis Carroll edited by Edward Mendelson, illustrated by Eric Copeland

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Every Thing On It Review

every_thing_on_itEvery Thing On It by Shel Silverstein

HarperCollins, 2011. 978-0061998164

Synopsis: Have you ever read a book with everything on it? Well, here it is, an amazing collection of never-before-published poems and drawings from the creator of Where the Sidewalk Ends, A Light in the Attic, and Falling Up. You will say Hi-ho for the toilet troll, get tongue-tied with Stick-a-Tongue-Out-Sid, play a highly unusual horn, and experience the joys of growing down. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: Shel Silverstein’s books were pretty much a classroom staple when I was in elementary school and even though they’re aimed at children, I’ve never outgrown them.

Why I finished it: Silverstein has a wonderful gift for portraying a child-like wonder and silliness in his works that transcends the generations. He combines the literal with the absurd, the realistic with the fantastic, much the way we did when we were young. I don’t know of many other poets that would write about the marriage of an elephant and a pelican (nothing rhymes with either ‘elephant’ or ‘pelican’, you see) and make it just as logical as a hair dryer suddenly working in the opposite direction or holding toes instead of hands. Juvenile? Yes. Fun and witty? Definitely. While there may not be some sort of deeper meaning in his works, there is a message that tells the reader to always remember what it is like to be young, to remember what it is to be a child, to remember what we have had done for us and what we can do for others in return, to remember the power of friendship, of laughter, of a smile, and the notion that we are never too old to be young again.

Other related materials: Falling Up by Shel Silverstein; A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein; Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein; A Giraffe and a Half by Shel Silverstein; The Missing Piece by Shel Silverstein; The Missing Piece Meets the Big O by Shel Silverstein; The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein; Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back by Shel Silverstein; Runny Babbit: A Billy Sook by Shel Silverstein; My Dog Does My Homework! edited by Jon Scieszka; The 20th Century Children’s Poetry Treasury compiled by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Meilo So

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More Than Friends: Poems from Him and Her Review

more_than_friendsMore Than Friends: Poems from Him and Herby Sara Holbrook and Allan Wolf

Wordsong, 2008. 978-1590785874

Synopsis: From the first furtive looks across the classroom to the blossom of new romance and the final flameout, teenage love is loaded with awkwardness, uncertainty, dreams, conflict, and pure bliss. Poets Sara Holbrook and Allan Wolf combine their considerable talents to explore these feelings and struggles by creating the voices of a girl and boy in the throes of affection. As they experience the giddiness of love, the poems’ two characters also face obstacles (parents) and distractions (friends) while learning to respect each other’s interests and needs. Can this relationship survive? In sonnets, tankas, villanelles, and other poetic forms, Holbrook and Wolf examine the efforts of two teenagers who dare to be more than friends. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: The premise reminded me of Wendelin Van Draanen’s Flipped.

Why I finished it: Love is weird. And hard. And when you find that special person, it can be wonderful. We all experience feelings of love in our lives, but nothing so intense as teenage love. There’s just that level of intensity that I would argue that we lose a little bit of as we get older. These poems truly capture that intensity that comes with young love: the first flirtations, the stolen kisses, the fights, the make ups, the decision to just be friends, and everything else that comes with it. Holbrook and Wolf create voices that speak to the difficulties and the pleasures that come from the experience of a first love and how these experiences help us grow. I love that they utilize a number of different forms in this collection, which showcases their craft as poets and shows us about the versatility of poetry and the power of words. There is even a little cheat sheet in the back of the book that outlines the basic forms and their patterns, encouraging the reader to write their own villanelles, sonnets, terza rima, and free verse. It is touching, heartbreaking, and filled with truths about how we look at love and the transition from friends to more than friends.

Other related materials: I Feel a Little Jumpy Around You: A Book of Her Poems & His Poems Collected in Pairs selected by Naomi Shihab Nye and Paul B. Janeczko; Walking on the Boundaries of Change: Poems of Transition by Sara Holbrook; Swimming Upstream: Middle School Poems by Kristine O’Connell George, illustrated by Debbie Tilley; Time You Let Me In: 25 Poets under 25 selected by Naomi Shihab Nye; Dizzy in Your Eyes: Poems About Love by Pat Mora; A Maze Me: Poems for Girls by Naomi Shihab Nye, illustrations by Terre Maher; Paint Me Like I Am: Teen Poems from WritersCorps selected by Bill Aguado and Richard Newirth; Tell the World: Teen Poems from WritersCorps by WritersCorps; Poems from Homeroom: A Writer’s Place to Start by Kathi Applet

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