In these test-overburdened times, I know many teachers who feel they simply can’t manage the extra class minutes to read aloud or share good books, not to mention, poetry, with children. Of course, it makes NO SENSE. But, like it or not, school days are squeezed, as are budgets, and choices have to be made. Which new books to add to the classroom or school library?
This week’s BOOK ROOM selections are just the thing. Every teacher and librarian can find time for poems about books, seasons, the animal world, and the lovely nursery rhymes that, once upon a time, were part of most children’s before-kindergarten-entry repertoire.
Could anything be better than a book of poems about books? Poems such as “Wonder Through the Pages” by Karla Kuskin about how amazing it is to pick out and read the books we want to and can. Or, “What Was That?” by Rebecca Kai Dotlich about the wondering, inside-upside-down-all-over-magic of books. Or this month’s Author-In-Residence, Kristine O’Connell George‘s own “Don’t Need a Window Seat” about the thrill of riding home, bus wheels turning, “… starting Chapter One, hoping I won’t reach my stop/before this book is done.”
I’d be remiss, if I didn’t mention the amazing illustrations by Yayo. My favorite being, perhaps, the image of book-as-popsicle that accompanies Avis Harley‘s “This Book.”
Since I first began teaching many years ago, I’ve placed poems on the walls around my classroom. Posting seasonal poems means they’re always right there. It’s never, ever too hard to pull out a poem, on-the-spot, and begin to create a canon everyone has memorized.
Using this one book alone, any teacher would have a hard time settling on just four or five poems. Perhaps, “Budding Scholars” by April Halprin Wayland about flowers who’ve become students. Or “Winter Home” by Rebecca Kai Dotlich about barns and beds, rags, and shreds of cloth tucked into tiny mouskin spaces…
I’ve written about Joyce Sidman’s poetry in other posts (DARK EMPEROR & OTHER POEMS OF THE NIGHT, THIS IS JUST TO SAY: Poems of Apology) and while I absolutely can’t choose a favorite among her many books, RED SINGS… is certainly one poetry book my students and I have read many times this winter. Did you know that in winter, “pink blooms” and “prickles” or that, in winter, “blue breathes” and “green waits in the hearts of trees/feeling/the earth/turn”?
Poetry books about animals – especially, quirky, squirmy ones – are easy to slip into many areas of the curriculum. Even as small “bites” of poetry before recess or lunch. For example, “Nighthawk” – about a bird who swallows “three-thousand/resisting/fast-kicking/throat tickling/legs” or a vulure’s “feast before the worms” in “Waste Management.”
Kids love the “yuck” factor, and there’s certainly this and much more in this collection of poems from the animal world.
In addition to the simply incredible art – all hand-sewn, fabric relief collage needlework – what I love most about this collection is the fact that, besides the usual array of familiar nursery rhymes, such as “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and “Jack and Jill” there are others that don’t often find their way into nursery rhyme collections. Poems such as “One Misty Moisty Morning” or “To bed to bed, says Sleepyhead…” – poems I recall from my own childhood, many of which, children today know nothing.
A note at the beginning of the book explains that these poems are actually “senryu” – similar to Haiku in form and syllable count – yet with a focus on “the foibles of human nature – or in this case, cat nature.”
From “The Shelter,” where a wary cat peeks with wide eyes between the bars of his temporary home on to “The Choosing” and “The Car Ride,” cat and pet lovers of all kinds will empathize with the wary cat who Boy names Won Ton. A nice surprise greets readers at the end of the tale.