Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Geography of Girlhood: a Novel by Kirsten Smith

The Geography of Girlhood: a Novel by Kirsten Smith, 2006, Little, Brown, and Company, New York.

Kirsten Smith has tapped into the subconscious of the American teenage girl with keen insight and perception. Written in free verse and using a combination of youthful vocabulary mixed with metaphors and feelings only a teenage girl could understand, The Geography of Girlhood leads us through Penny's last few days of junior high, her first boyfriend, her disastrous first kiss, entering high school, and the confusing allure of her sister's ex-boyfriend. Mix in a mother who is MIA and a father who marries a vegan marine biologist who counts the salmon, and you have all the ups and downs of a girl's life, while ringing with truisms such as the verse describing the new step brother who is
"...in desperate need of a dad
but one thing's for sure:
he's not getting mine."

Smith's style of free verse is easy to understand and is able to describe an amazing amount of emotions, allowing us into the mind of the protagonist which enables the reader to experience along with Penny whatever life happens to throw at her. Today's teens will find much with which to relate in this novel, letting them realize they are not as alone as they thought they were.

"My Cat" by Judith Viorst

Poetry Break for a poem 'that doesn't rhyme'.

"My Cat" by Judith Viorst from If I were in Charge of the World and Other Worries: Poems for Children and Their Parents, illustrated by Lynne Cherry, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, New York, 1981.

Intro: Display a stuffed animal cat and dog. Take a quick oral poll of students to see who owns what pet. Make a chart or Venn diagram to display by particular characteristics about each pet and their similarities.

Poem: My cat isn't stuck up,
Even though
He's the handsomest cat in
the world,
And smart,
And brave,
And climbs the highest trees.
My cat will sit on your lap and
let you pet him.
He won't mind.
He thinks human beings are
Almost as good
As he is.

Extension: Put students into small groups with an informational book about dogs or cats. Have each group find a fact of information in the book that wasn't covered in the earlier discussion to present to group at end of session.

Additional Extension for Older Students: If any students are cat owners, give them the opportunity to explain to group why cats might be 'stuck up' or might think "...human beings are almost as good as [they are]."

Poetry Friday Link

Another line to sharing poetry with children can be found at the poetry blog site hosted by Dr. Sylvia Vardell, Professor at Texas Woman's University, author of POETRY ALOUD HERE, and POETRY PEOPLE, and CHILDREN'S LITERATURE IN ACTION.



Nine Swallows: A Haiku by Jane Yolen

"Nine Swallows: A Haiku" by Jane Yolen from Count Me a Rhyme: Animal Poems by the Numbers with photographs by Jason Stemple, Wordsong, Honesdale, Pennsylvania, 2006.

Intro: Show a globe of the world and locate Japan. If able, show photos of old Japan showing rice paper houses, Japanese tea ceremony, and sample of writing. Discuss the culture of Japan and introduce the Haiku form of Japanese poetry.

Poem: Nine little swallows,
Like notes on a music staff,
Wait to sing their songs.

Extension: show students Haiku pattern of syllables 5-7-5. As a group, try to create another Haiku using another animal from the book Count Me A Rhyme: Animal Poems by the Numbers by Jane Yolen. Encourage students to write more Haiku and bring to library to display on special poetry bulletin board.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Poetry Book Review: Confetti: Poems for Children by Pat Mora

Confetti: Poems for Children by Pat Mora, illustrated by Enrique O. Sanchez, Lee and Law Books, Inc. New York, 1996.

Pat Mora has drawn upon her experiences of living in the Southwest to give us a delightful book of thirteen poems celebrating the beauty of the area and the Mexican/Spanish culture.
The poems are beautifully illustrated by Enrique O. Sanchez who uses the pastels of the desert and the brighter colors of the Spanish culture.
Interspersed throughout are Spanish words with a list of their English translations at the end of the collection.
All the poems reflect the Mexican-Spanish culture reinforcing the purpose of the book. The poems focus mainly on the happiness of childhood, from greeting the freshness of the new day at dawn in "Sun Song" to watching the wood carver awaken the "...animal asleep in a piece of wood..." in "Purple Snake" to the comfort of a grandmother's lap in "Abuelita's Lap".
Mrs. Mora's poems are written in a style that flows easily- sometimes using rhymes, sometimes using Spanish, but all enriching and appealing to children's imaginations.

I'd Like a Story by X.J. Kennedy

I'd Like a Story by X. J. Kennedy from Good Times, Good Books! selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Harvey Stevenson, Harper Collins Publishers, 1990.

Intro: use for an older class who is going to work on a research project using references found in a library, both print and electronic. Encourage students to discuss pros and cons of searching in books vs. search engines on the Web.

Read poem:

I'd like a story of
Ghosts on gusty nights,
Wild island ponies galloping
With manes that wave like kites,
A book that knows the lowdown
On what to feed giraffes,
A book of nutty nonsense
That's nothing much--just laughs--

A book to read to find out
How basketball stars shoot,
Why dinosaurs all died out,
What do computers compute,
Which sail a mizzen sail is,
Can Martians really be,
Who heavy a blue whale is,
Weighed side by side with me--

A book to curl in bed with,
To browse in by a brook--
I'd like any book!

Extension: Use questions in poem to create a 'treasure hunt' from books and search engines on computers. Challenge students to find answers to questions in poem.

The Bully by Douglas Florian

"The Bully" by Douglas Florian from Bing Bang Boing, poems and drawings by Douglas Florian, Harcourt Brace and Company, San Diego, 1994.

Intro: Display the word "Rules". Ask students to discuss what the word means. Discuss why society, schools, and even families have rules. Discuss basic school and classroom rules.

Read the poem:
There's a bully in our class--
He pushed Polly in the grass.
He kicked Kevin in the shin
And poked Peter with a pin.
On the arm he pinched Louise.
How Lucille he loved to tease.
He stole all of Johnny's money
And thought tripping Todd was funny.
Poor Marie, he pulled her hair.
Harold's homework he did tear.
He gave Alistair a punch
And ate Marguerita's lunch.
Then one day he hit Clarisse--
May his poor soul rest in peace.

Extension: Together create a poster to display in school's classrooms with suggestions on what to do if you are bothered by a bully. Make several copies for students to decorate and display.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

TWU Poetry Class

The poetry breaks and reviews are being written for a Children's Poetry class offered at Texas Woman's University for the 2009 spring semester.

Poetry Book Review: Good Books, Good Times! anthology by Lee Bennett Hopkins

Good Books, Good Times! selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, pictures by Harvey Stevenson, from Harper Childrens, 1990.

Lee Bennett Hopkins has gathered a delightful collection of poems from various authors about books and reading. What I enjoyed the most was the message that reading is fun, that good books do offer good times, that books are relaxing and can encourage your imagination by allowing your mind to travel to worlds unknown, as in the poem "There is a Land" by Leland B. Jacobs.
Harvey Stevenson's pastel illustrations are refreshing and match each poem while showing a book being read in almost every scene, again reinforcing the collection's theme on reading books.
Good Books, Good Times! poems are all charming and fun to read with several poems being humorous and others a little more serious. Still, the overall emotion is one of enjoyment. The poems offered here would be both appropriate and useful for inviting discussion about books, favorite books, and genres.
The poets represented in the anthology are familiar names in the poetry world along with a few others less familiar: Arnold Lobel, Myra Cohn Livingston, Jack Prelutsky, and Prince Redcloud are some of the authors presented. Several of the poems in this collection may also be located in other publications which include children's and teacher magazines.
Good Times, Good Books! also includes an index of titles and authors and a list of acknowledgments displaying permission obtained from authors for use of the poems in this collection.
Good Times, Good Books! is a fun and fanciful gathering of poems about both books and reading, sure to encourage students to read more books and poetry.

Poetry Break: "Love Don't Mean" by Eloise Greenfield

"Love Don't Mean" by Eloise Greenfield from Honey, I Love and Other Poems by Eloise Greenfield, illustrations by Diane and Leo Dillon, from Harper Collins Publishers, NY, 1978.

Intro: Display a large, red heart with pictures on it from magazines that show society's view on love. Examples could be couples, wedding rings, families. Discuss with children how their families show love. Should people only talk about love at Valentine's Day? How else can a person show love without buying flowers, candy, or jewelry?

Read poem "Love Don't Mean" by Eloise Greenfield.

Love Don't Mean

Love don't mean all that kissing
Like on television
Love means Daddy
Saying keep your mama company
till I get back
And me doing it.

Discuss how the father and the child show love to the mother in this poem.

Extension: provide red and white construction paper and lace doilies for children to write a way to say what love means to them and display on wall or allow children to take home.

Poetry Break: "There is a Land" by Leland B. Jacobs

"There is a Land" by Leland B. Jacobs from Good Books, Good Times, an anthology of poems compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Harvey Stevenson, from Harper Collins Publishers, NY, 1990.

Intro: Create a poster for Fantasy books, indicating the location on the stacks with call numbers for popular titles. Pull several examples of titles such as The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baun, Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis and the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. Ask students if they can tell what elements makes a book a fantasy and list on chart paper.

Read the poem "There is a Land" by Leland B. Jacobs and ask students what parts of the poem demonstrate the fantasy elements they listed on the chart.
Discuss if any lines of the poem show up in the fantasy books on display.

There Is A Land
There is a land--
A marvelous land--
Where trolls and giants dwell;
Where witches
With their bitter brew
Can cast a magic spell;
Where mermaids sing,
Where carpets fly,
Where, in the midst of night,
Brownies dance
To cricket tunes;
And ghosts, all shivery white,
Prowl and moan.
There is a land
Of magic folks and deeds,
And anyone
Can visit there
Who reads and reads and reads.

Extension: Encourage children to find another fantasy book from the shelves that has an element in it that matches the poem. Some examples might be "...where carpets fly..." could be matched with a retelling of Aladdin and the Magic Lamp. ".....where trolls and giants dwell..." could be located in The Hobbitt by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Divide up the lines of the poem to allow students to illustrate the lines and post on a wall in sequence.