A novel in verse for younger readers, Gone Fishing by Tamera Will Wissinger and illustrated by Matthew Cordell, includes the ballad, cinquain, curse poem (gotta love that one) and triolet, among others. All poem types are explained in the end pages.
What stands out is the deceptively simple poetry that tells a full-fledged story about fishing with Dad when a little sister tags along. Quaint, this is, although I’m sure many people go fishing today. I get the sense this is more about the author going fishing when she was a girl than a child of today fishing, and that is just fine because it has sweet nostalgia and spot-on language.
It is Spring here in Michigan: the star magnolia is blooming, the lilacs are budding and my first tulips are opening up to the sun. That is why I’m featuring a book on sleep. Yes, sleep! With the daylight hours stretching into evening, it’s hard to get those little ones to bed. Never fear. Read them A Book of Sleep by Il Sung Na. The illustrations are exquisite. An owl wakes up as other animals sleep. When daylight comes, the owl…sleeps.
Simple and elegant, worthy of long contemplations, A Book of Sleep is timeless.
Hidden, a novel-in-verse by Helen Frost, has two perspectives and two time-frames. Wren and Darra meet at summer camp, but they’ve already had a life-changing interaction at age seven even thought they didn’t see each other face-to-face. Poignant poetry unravels the crime that intersected their lives.
Hidden explains more than just the title; there are hidden narrations within Darra’s poems (which the author explains how to decode in the end notes), Wren was hidden at age seven for self-preservation, both characters keep thoughts and fears hidden.
Helen Frost‘s Crossing Stones consists of poems from three perspectives, each a stepping stone through the lives of teens who live in Michigan in 1917, go to war, picket for women’s rights in Washington DC and take on adult-sized responsibilities. Family and friendship become essential for survival.
Each poem has a unique footprint–Emma’s and Ollie’s are cupped sonnets, and look rounded like smooth pebbles in a river. Muriel, the main character, speaks in poems that are jagged-edged and raw, bridging the novel’s characters and history with honesty.
Above all, this is a lovely story, the perfect historical fiction poetry novel for those that neither read historical fiction, nor poetry.
What happens when a puppy won’t bark? Bark, George by Jules Feiffer is a fun, unpredictable text for the young and nonconformist. Illustrations are cartoonish, hinting at comic undertones and hyperbole. Read it to the very young for laughter, and read with everyone else to talk about humour and how it works.
The Night I Followed the Dog is a fun and suspenseful read for anyone who wonders just what a dog’s life is all about–after we go to bed. Filled with dogs who turn anthropomorphic at night, Nina Laden‘s picture book shows what dogs would do in a dogs only nightclub.
There’s a bit of wordplay in the text, as well as fanciful typeface on a few words per page, such as “mean” with sharp teeth coming out of it.
At first I thought this was going to be just like A is for Salad, which I love. Z is for Moose, though, is its own story, and a funny one to boot. Not your typical ABC book, Moose has character development and reconciliation.
Without spoiling author Kelly Bingham‘s backstage drama for the alphabet show, I’ll just drop a few hints. Moose, like Limelight Larry, is a stage-hog, over-eager for his walk-on part to arrive. Zebra, the director, is trying to manage the crew and stars that jumble together in a cacophony of illustrative genius by Paul O. Zelinsky.
Z is for Moose is a brilliant book; read it for fun. Or use the comparison texts to meet those Language Arts goals.
When a father goes to Vietnam, the rest of the family has to keep living a life that seems so much the same and yet so different from what it used to be. Told in spare verse from the six-year-old daughter’s perspective, Maria Testa’s Almost Forever shows the worries and honest forgetfulness of a child who is waiting for her father to come home.
Although the narrator is young, older children will identify with the universal themes of family, forced separation and hope. Encourage students to use poetry to express themselves, or to search for a poem that resonates with them.
Jabberwocky: The Classic Poem from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-glass, And What Alice Found There, reimagined and illustrated by Christopher Myers, brings poetry and basketball together in a wildly colourful and beautiful book. Reading the poem is a delight for the ears, however, when Christopher Myers shows us a towering basketball-playing Jabberwocky who can palm the ball like it’s a golf ball, new meanings abound.
Oh, to have had this book when I was teaching my roomful of basket-ball obsessed sixth-graders! This book’s universal appeal to young and old alike will have you turning pages over and over.
Lest you think this book is all fun and games, read Myers’s note at the end, where he (jokingly) documents the pain-staking research into nonsense language and Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), where we learn the connections between the missionary origins of basketball and the Aztec language sounds in “Jabberwocky” that converge on the court.