A blog for kids (and their parents) who love books, words, and dreaming big...
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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Some Uses for Poetry

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

Some Uses for Poetry

to paint without a palette
to dance without music
to speak without speaking

to feel the strangeness between hot and cold
to feel the likeness of hot and cold
to plunge into both at the same moment

~ Eve Merriam

For this last day of National Poetry Month, I wanted to share Merriam's poem about poetry with you.  I love the images in this!

Monday, April 29, 2013

A diamond...

Image courtesy of Clker.com

An excerpt:

     Yet it is important to remember that poetry, at its most basic, is a short, lyrical response to the world. It is emotion under extreme pressure or recollection in a small space. It is the coal of experience so compressed it becomes a diamond.

~ from Take Joy: A Book for Writers,
written by Jane Yolen

I really like Yolen's description of poetry in this excerpt. What diamonds have you read (or written!) lately?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

A wonderful game...

Image courtesy of Clker.com

"I always liked 
nonsense verse and story poems.  
I always liked bright wordplay 
and marvelous imagery. (…) 
Poetry was always
 a wonderful game, 
the magical juggling
 of rhythm and rhyme 
and sense and sound."

 ~ Michael Patrick Hearn,
 in The Place My Words are Looking For

I've always liked nonsense verse and wordplay, too.  I have great admiration for any poet who can play that wonderful game -- juggle rhythm, rhyme, sense, and sound perfectly -- and come up with a magical result.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

All the Way to Heart: Books of Poetry for Children

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

I think the following poem sums up the wish of poets everywhere in just six short lines:


For someone to read a poem
again, and again, and then,

having lifted it from page
to brain -- the easy part--

cradle it on the longer trek
from brain all the way to heart.

~ Linda Sue Park,
Tap Dancing on the Roof: Sijo (Poems)

Over the years, many poems have traveled that journey from the page to my brain and then to my heart.  My heart always has room to welcome a new poem, however!  Below are some of the books of poetry that I've enjoyed recently and wanted to share with you.

First, a book for young children:

Here's a Little Poem:
A Very First Book of Poetry,
collected by Jane Yolen and Andrew Fusek Peters
and illustrated by Polly Dunbar, 2007

This book was intended for the youngest of audiences, for parents or other adults to read aloud to toddlers and preschoolers.  However, I believe poetry lovers of all ages will love it.  Here I am, a middle-aged adult, and this was probably my favorite book in this entire post!

Filled with the work of fifty different poets -- including Aileen Fisher, Marilyn Singer, A. A. Milne, and Lee Bennett Hopkins -- this book is a treasury of familiar poems and ones I'd never read before.  Delightful illustrations by Dunbar complement each poem.  This book would make a great gift for little ones or for early education teachers.  (I might just have to buy one for me!)


The rest of these are geared more toward children in elementary school:

Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices,
written by Paul Fleischman
and illustrated by Eric Beddows, 1988

In this volume, Fleischman shares fourteen poems meant to be spoken aloud by two readers at once, like a musical duet. The book has an insect theme; poem titles include MayfliesThe Moth's Serenade, and Chrysalis Diary.  Each poem is illustrated in black and white by Beddows.


The Oxford Illustrated Book of
American Children's Poems,
edited by Donald Hall
with illustrations by many, 1999

This anthology contains over seventy poems from American poets including Emily Dickinson, Shel Silverstein, Janet S. Wong, and T. S. Eliot.  Many of the illustrations are "archival selections from rare and early editions and pictures from now defunct 19th- and early 20th-century children's magazines."


When the Moon is Full: A Lunar Year
written by Penny Pollock
and illustrated by Mary Azarian, 2001

This book holds twelve poems from Pollock, one for each month of the year.  Traditional Native American names for the moon are used as the poem titles.  For example, in the poem shown above, April is "The Frog Moon".  Pollock provides a short explanation for each name of the moon and also answers several questions about the moon in a separate section.  Beautiful woodcut illustrations from Azarian accompany every page.


More Spice Than Sugar:
Poems About Feisty Females,
compiled by Lillian Morrison
and illustrated by Ann Boyajian, 2001

Forty-five poems about "feisty" girls and women (rebels, pioneers, athletes, heroines) make up this collection.  Some of the poems are funny while others are thought-provoking. Various poets are featured, including X. J. Kennedy, Nikki Giovanni, and J. Patrick Lewis. Boyajian illustrates each poem with a black and white drawing.  A section of notes provides background information for the different poems.


Words with Wings:
A Treasury of African-American Poetry and Art,
selected by Belinda Rochelle
with artwork by many, 2001

This powerful anthology pairs twenty poems with twenty works of art, all created by acclaimed African-Americans. Poets include Alice Walker, Langston Hughes, and Maya Angelou; some of the artists featured are Horace Pippin, William H. Johnson, and Elizabeth Catlett.


Big, Bad and a Little Bit Scary:
Poems That Bite Back,
illustrated by Wade Zahares, 2001

Celebrating the "villains" of the animal kingdom, this book contains fifteen works written by various poets.  Selections include Alligator by Maxine W. Kumin, The Panther by Ogden Nash, and Octopus by Valerie Worth.  Zahares's bold artwork complements each poem.


I Invited a Dragon to Dinner
and Other Poems to Make You Laugh Out Loud,
illustrated by Chris L. Demarest, 2002

This collection is made up of twenty-nine silly poems from many poets, including Dave Crawley, B. H. Fields, Andrea Perry, and Penny Trzynka.  Demarest comically illustrates each poem with a cartoon-like picture.


Pocket Poems
selected by Bobbi Katz
and illustrated by Marylin Hafner, 2004

With colorful illustrations by Hafner and short "pocket-sized poems" from assorted poets including Eve Merriam, Karla Kuskin, Carl Sandburg, and Bobbi Katz herself, this is a fun anthology for younger readers. 


Tap Dancing on the Roof: Sigo (Poems)
written by Linda Sue Park 
and illustrated by Istvan Banyai, 2007

A big fan of Park's middle grade novels, I was eager to check out her poetry.  I was not disappointed!  Park begins her book with an explanation of sijo, a Korean verse form with a fixed number of stressed syllables and a humorous or ironic twist at the end.  She then shares dozens of her poems, written about everyday life but sure to bring a smile to the reader's face.  Banyai enhances the poetry with amusing, playful illustrations.  This book was another of my favorites in this post.


Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature's Survivors,
written by Joyce Sidman
and illustrated by Beckie Prange, 2010

I'll admit, I grabbed this book off of the library shelf because of its title, "ubiquitous" being a favorite word of mine.  (See this previous post I wrote about the word.)  Then I flipped through the pages and knew I wanted to bring it home, for myself and my 8th grader, Nick.

In this book, Sidman shares fourteen poems (in various forms -- concrete poems, rhyming couplets, and a diamante, among others) about successful species on our planet while Prange provides vibrant illustrations of each.  Poem titles include The Mollusk That Made You, Grass, and Tail Tale. Accompanying each poem is a paragraph of interesting information about the poem's subject.  I had a feeling that Nick would like the nonfiction aspect of the book, as well as the nature poetry.  I was right!


Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night,
written by Joyce Sidman
and illustrated by Rick Allen, 2010

Right after finding Ubiquitous at the library, I spotted Dark Emperor.  I had seen the book recommended on another blog, and had read (and enjoyed) the poem it's named after.  I put it in my stack to check out, and didn't realize until I got home that both of the books were written by the same poet.  (The two volumes sitting next to each other on the shelf should've been my first clue.)

In this book, Sidman offers a dozen poems about the night and the creatures that inhabit it.  Poems include Welcome to the Night, I Am a Baby Porcupette, and Cricket Speaks.  As in her other book, Sidman provides compelling facts about these nocturnal creatures alongside every poem.  Each page also features a lovely, detailed print by Allen.


Have you been reading poems for National Poetry Month? I'd love to hear about your favorite poems, poets, and/or books of poetry....

Friday, April 26, 2013

Keep a Poem in Your Pocket

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

Keep a Poem in Your Pocket

Keep a poem in your pocket
and a picture in your head
and you'll never feel lonely
at night when you're in bed.

The little poem will sing to you
the little picture bring to you
a dozen dreams to dance to you
at night when you're in bed.

Keep a picture in your pocket
and a poem in your head
and you'll never feel lonely
at night when you're in bed.

~ Beatrice Schenk de Regniers

What poem(s) do you have in your pocket?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Spotting poems...

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

"Poems are everywhere.  
The poet's job is to 'spot them'. 
To see them for what they are.  
The poet watches for poetic moments 
like a bee seeks out a bloom.  
In fact, the bee and the poet
 have a lot in common.  
The bee seeks out a bloom 
and transforms it into honey; 
the poet seeks out a moment 
and transforms it into a poem." 

~ Allan Wolf

I really like this quote.  Poems surround us every day; we just have to seek them out.  Try looking for poems in the world around you today!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


April is National Poetry Month.  Earlier this year, I had all sorts of plans for celebrating poetry this month but then my life became way too busy with Les Miz, and my plans never materialized.  However, there are still seven days of National Poetry Month left... and I still want to celebrate.  That brings me to our word of the week:

In music, a nonet [noh-net] is "a group of nine performers or instruments".  In poetry, a nonet is a poem with nine lines.  The first line contains nine syllables, the second line contains eight syllables, and so on until there is only one syllable in the ninth line.  It does not matter how many words are in each line, only the number of syllables.  Nonets can be written about any subject, and they do not need to rhyme -- although they can.

I had never written a nonet before yesterday and decided to try my hand at one.  Here's what I came up with, writing about my experiences on Monday:

Earth Day Cake

Spring-time sunshine, cerulean sky:
birds sing, butterflies waltz, and tall
trees reach for the clouds.  Below,
periwinkles bloom.  But
eight shy, silent deer
who look my way –
the icing
on the

~ Janelle H.

It was challenging, but I had a lot of fun writing it.  I encourage you to try creating one yourself, in honor of National Poetry Month.  If you do write one, please consider sharing it -- I'd love to see it! :)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Sharing Mother Earth...

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

An excerpt:

Fin, fur, and feather and the human race
Must share Mother Earth as she spins through space.
"Share!" says my grandpa. "Please share this place!
And we'll care for Mother Earth as she spins through space."

~ from Earthsong
(and the song "Over in the Endangered Meadow"),
written by Sally Rogers

I know that, officially, Earth Day was yesterday -- but as my son Nick always says, "Every day is Earth Day!" :) We like to think of ways we can share and care for our planet, and then put those thoughts into actions.  We spent a couple of hours yesterday picking up trash at a local forest preserve.  What can we do for the earth today?

Monday, April 22, 2013

I Meant To Do My Work Today

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

I Meant To Do My Work Today

I meant to do my work today,
But a brown bird sang in the apple tree,
And a butterfly flitted across the field,
And all the leaves were calling me.
And the wind went sighing over the land,
Tossing the grasses to and fro,
And a rainbow held out its shining hand--
So what could I do but laugh and go?

~ Richard Le Gallienne

This poem speaks to me -- every line makes me smile and nod my head.  How often have I been distracted by nature? Too many times to count.  It's hard to focus on work when the earth is putting on a show.  Wishing you all a very happy Earth Day! :)

Living "Les Miz"

Ultimately, I'm going to blame it on a book.  This book, in fact:

Les Miserables
written by Victor Hugo, 1862

This French historical novel -- considered "one of the greatest novels of the nineteenth century" -- follows the lives of several different characters between the years of 1815 and 1832, particularly the life of ex-convict, Jean Valjean.  Major themes of the novel include justice, grace, and love.

I started reading this book when I was in college, but I'm pretty sure I never finished it.  I'm planning to give it another try, though.  My 17-year-old daughter recently read it from beginning to end, and absolutely loved it!  (She had read -- and enjoyed -- a highly abridged version of the book for a class in middle school.  My parents gave her the copy shown above this past Christmas, which is also abridged, but much less so, and she liked this version even more.)

In 1985,  Claude-Michel Schonberg, Alain Boublil, and Jean-Marc Natel turned the story of Les Miserables into a musical, known affectionately as Les Mis or Les Miz.  Just a few years later,  I attended the Broadway production of Les Miz as part of a theater package for college students.  I immediately fell in love with it.  I bought the soundtrack to the musical and listened to it ALL the time.  (I'm sure if you asked my housemates from that time, they would concur.)

Earlier this month, students at my daughter's high school performed seven shows of Les Miz.  They were amazing.  I'm not saying that just because my daughter played five different characters in it:
Emmalie as a constable, April 2013

Emm as a female Montparnasse, April 2013
She also played a factory worker,
a townsperson,and a serving girl.

or because my seven-year-old played a street urchin in it:
Ben, April 2013

or even because I helped paint 90% of the set.  The cast and crew were all SO talented and they worked SO hard to create a show that audience members will never forget.  Amazing, I tell you.

You may be wondering why I'm mentioning all this on a blog about children's books.  Well, it has to do with the lapse between this post and my last, over a month and a half ago. (And also the smaller gap before that, which lasted for two weeks.)  Ever since the auditions in November -- and especially for the last two months -- our family has been living and breathing Les Miz, from morning till night. Between set builds and rehearsals (and school, work, and daily life), we've had NO free time.  Blame it on the book. ;)

For me, no free time meant not having any time to read (gasp!) or write, among other things.  At first, I thought surely I would at least be able to keep up with this blog.  I was wrong.  I've really missed it, though, and I'm glad to be back.  I'm still getting back into the swing of things now that Les Miz is all over, but I'm hoping that I'll be able to find the time to make (mostly) daily posts once again.  And I'm hoping that my readers will return to join me on this blog journey....