The Palm of my Heart

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Title: The Palm of my Heart Author: African American Children Edited by:  Davida Adedjouma Illustrator: Gregory Christie Publisher: New York; Lee and Low Books Inc.

Genre: Poetry Level: Beginner Number of pages: 29 Pub. Date: 1996

Summary:

This is a collection of poems written by African American children about their race. Each poem talks about why the child is proud to be black. Each student is proud of their culture and brings that to life with this poetry.

Critique:

The book uses bold words within the poem to bring the important part of the book out. These poems all start with the word black and go on to tell the students own story. This makes all of the poems seem like they belong together in one big book about the wonders of being black.

Response:

These poems would be a wonderful piece of literature to really empower young black students. The stories told in this book help to get across a point that differences should be embraced and black skin is beautiful. Also the fact that these poems are written by children helps the works be more relatable to students. I’m not surprised this book won a Coretta Scott King Award.

Assignments:

After: Students will write a poem about their race.

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Waiting to Waltz: A Childhood

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Title: Waiting to Waltz: A Childhood Author: Cynthia Rylant Illustrator: Stephen Gammell Publisher: New York; Bradbury Press

Genre:  Poetry Level: Upper Number of pages: 47 Pub. Date: 1984

Summary:

This collection of poetry tells the story of a young girl growing up. The young girl’s story is set in a town called Beaver. Her story starts in elementary school and ends in high school. The poems cover many topics including living in a single parent home, death, religion, friendship, and romance.

Critique:

These poems use less rhythm and rhyme and rely instead on the imagery the poems create. This poetry is high quality and is very emotional. Unlike beginner poetry that may rely more on goof rhymes to teach children, this poetry is from the heart and tells the author’s story.

Response:

This collection of poems reminds me of my favorite poem by Margret Atwood called This is a Photograph of Me. Atwood’s poem like this collection tells a story. That is why I like it so much. Similarly, I enjoyed this collection of poems because they tell the reader a story.

It was taken some time ago
At first it seems to be
a smeared
print: blurred lines and grey flecks
blended with the paper;

then, as you scan
it, you can see something in the left-hand corner
a thing that is like a branch: part of a tree
(balsam or spruce) emerging
and, to the right, halfway up
what ought to be a gentle
slope, a small frame house.

In the background there is a lake,
and beyond that, some low hills.

(The photograph was taken
the day after I drowned.

I am in the lake, in the center
of the picture, just under the surface.

It is difficult to say where
precisely, or to say
how large or how small I am:
the effect of water
on light is a distortion.

but if you look long enough
eventually
you will see me.)

Margaret Atwood

Assignments:

Before: Students will talk about what they already know about poetry and what they expect when they read a poem.

After: Students will talk about how these poems differ from what they had previously read.

It’s Raining Pigs and Noodles

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Title: It’s Raining Pigs and Noodles Author: Jack Prelutsky Illustrator: James Stevenson Publisher: New York; Scholastic Inc.

Genre:  Poetry Level: Primary Number of pages: 159 Pub. Date: 2000

Summary:

This is a collection of silly poems by Jack Prelutsky. The poems tell silly stories and are joke about everything. These do very little other than just make the reader laugh.

Critique:

Jack Prelutsky uses just about every poetic element he can for these poems. In some of his poems, he uses shaping and spacing to make the words swirl around the page or make a picture. In some of his poems he uses rhyme to make the poem sing songy. In some of his poems Prelutsky uses rhythm to keep the poems going. Finally in some of the poems imagery and literary devices work to let the reader picture what he is talking about in his/her head.

Response:

My favorite poem is found on page 101 and is called ZIGZAG. I enjoyed how the words go from forward to backward at angles making it look like the words are zigzaging across the page. This poem created a challenge for me since half the words are backwards. While I enjoyed it, I could see it being to challenging for young readers that this book is written for.

Assignments:

After: Students will write their own humorous poems.

At Break of Day

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Title: At Break of Day Author: Nikki Grimes Illustrator: Paul Morin
Publisher:  Grand Rapids; Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

Genre: Poetry Level: Intermediate Number of pages: 29 Pub. Date:  1999

Summary:

This is the telling of the biblical creation of Earth. Each poem tells of one of the things that God and/or his son did to create the earth. Some of the poems cover an entire day and cover part of a day.

Critique:

The imagery and figurative language in this poem allows the reader to imagine what it looked like for God and his son to create the Earth. It becomes very vivid for the reader when they close their eyes to imagine it. Furthermore, the separation of this poem into stanzas helps the reader break where necessary. I think this poem is at an intermediate level because even though it is a picture book it is in-depth uses more complex elements of poetry and covers a more intense topic than other poems.

Response:

Even though these poems would not be allowed in a public school, I think that they were quite wonderful and could be used in a Sunday school classroom or put in the class for students to read if they chose to. Being Christian I thought the way Grimes went about telling this story was interesting because she included God’s son in it as well.

Assignments:

During: Students could compare these poems to the actual bible and find similarities and differences. This would be best as a Sunday school activity.

My Man Blue

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Title: My Man Blue Author: Nikki Grimes Illustrator: Jerome Lagarrigue 
Publisher:  New York; Dial Books for Young Readers

Genre: Poetry Level: Beginner Number of pages: 29 Pub. Date: 1999

Summary:

This collection of poems tells the story of a young boy and his mom’s friend Blue. At first the boy is suspicious of Blue and isn’t sure what to make of him. Through out the poems, the boy grows to respect Blue and hopes to become like him someday.

Critique:

This book has a nice rhythm to all of the poems. They all have an even beat that usually ends in the last to lines of the poems. Some of these poems also rhyme but it is not obvious in all of them. I think the most obvious thing about these poems is the imagery. They tell a story that is easy for the reader to imagine. Also the pictures help to bring these poems alive.

Response:

These poems, more than anything else I have read, would be useful for a student. It talks about the young boy meeting the mother’s new friend and bonding with him. Also it talks about role models in life.  Finally, the book is multicultural showing a young black boy who lives in a lower income family with a single mother. This book broaches a lot of topics.

Assignments:

During: Students will clap along with the poem to find the rhythm in the poem.

Is it Far to Zanzibar? Poems about Tanzania

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Title: Is It Far To Zanzibar? Poems About Tanzania Author: Nikki Grimes Illustrator: Betsy Lewin
Publisher: New York; Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books

Genre: Poetry Level: Intermediate Number of pages: 26 Pub. Date: 2000

Summary:

This is a collection of Poems about the culture, food, and geography of Tanzania. The poems help the reader to better understand the life of the Tanzanians, but are also comedic. The book also uses Swahili in the poems to help teach some of the words that would be used in Tanzania.

Critique:

This book of poems displays two main elements of poetry, Rhythm and Rhyme. Almost all of these poems have at least one of these elements and in many of them they work together. The rhyme helps to keep the rhythm of the poem going.  These elements are used effectively throughout the book. An original view of the Tanzanian culture is shown in these poems. Furthermore, they can be used to learn and have fun at the same time.

Response:

I enjoyed this collection of poetry. I particularly liked how in many of the poems Grimes incorporated the use of Swahili into many of the poems. When she did this many times you could read the next phrase and the English would be incorporated. If not there is a dictionary in the back to look the words up. My favorite poem in this book is “I safari”. It incorporates both rhyme and rhythm and talks all about traveling. It also incorporates quite a lot of Swahili while keeping the rhyme up which I think is impressive.

Assignments:

Before: This book would be a good closer for a lesson of Tanzania. Or it would be a good book to use when talking about the different African countries and their different cultures.