Fill Your Pockets with Poems

by Dianne White on April 10, 2011

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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.

I AM THE BOOK poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Yayo

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.”

And, of course, there are poems about poems, such as Lee Bennett Hopkins’ “Poetry Time” (“Unlock a minute/for/poetry time.”) and Jane Yolen‘s “A Poem Is.”

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.”

SHARING THE SEASONS: A Book of Poems, selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by David Diaz.

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…

RED SINGS FROM THE TREETOPS by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski

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”?

What’s for Dinner?: Quirky, Squirmy Poems from the Animal World by Katherine B. Hauth, illustrated by David Clark.

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.

POCKETFUL OF POSIES: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes by Salley Mavor

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.

WON TON: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku by Lee Wardlaw, illustrated by Eugene Yelchin

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.

Lee Wardlaw April 11, 2011 at 5:45 am

Me-wow! Thanks for including my book Won Ton. I’m honored to share space with such
excellent books/poets. A teacher’s guide for Won Ton is available at my website: =^..^=

Dianne April 12, 2011 at 9:14 pm

Thanks for stopping by ReaderKidZ, Lee, and for sharing the link to Won Ton’s teacher’s guide!

Cheryl Hardy Phillips April 14, 2011 at 11:59 am

Thanks for introducing me to I Am the Book by Lee Bennett Hopkins. An entire book of poems about books – what could be better! I’ve already ordered it from an Indie bookstore of course…..

Lee Bennett Hopkins February 23, 2012 at 11:36 am

Dear Diane: Just a note to THANK YOU for reviewing my books of poetry.
I, too, am so happy that Lee’s WON TON received my Award this year.
Happy Poetry-ing to YOU.

Dianne February 23, 2012 at 5:16 pm

Thanks, Lee! Your collections and poems are favorites of mine and my students! Thanks for bringing poetry into all of our lives. 🙂

Lee Wardlaw February 18, 2015 at 11:20 pm

Dianne, just wanted you to know that WON TON has a companion! WON TON AND CHOPSTICK – A CAT AND DOG TALE TOLD IN HAIKU will be released March 17th, 2015. In this story, Won Ton’s purrfect life with Boy is changed forever when the family adopts a (gasp!) dog. I hope you’ll take a peek. (BTW, bought you book and I love it!) Best fishes! Lee

Dianne White February 19, 2015 at 7:55 pm

Thank you, Lee! I look forward to reading Won Ton and Chopstick!

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