In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Poetry 3

Dear Annie,

Excellent Mother Goose entry. It’s funny, I never warmed to the Rosemary Wells Mother Goose illustrations – they felt too cute. I may have been reacting more to the covers than the individual illustrations.

So much to say about poetry. Today I want to look at just two, for kids who are already reading. I’d call these both second grade and up (and up and up).

First, there’s Shel Silverstein. It was only when I became a parent that I discovered Silverstein wasn’t just a cartoonist for very adult magazines. The kids’ poetry book that took hold in our house is
Falling Up
, but his other two big collections, Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic are very much along the same lines. Short poems, some of which are tied to drawings which add crucial information. Very funny, many of them sort of smart-ass, in a ten year-old kind of way, and often with a punch line.

The ham’s on your pillow,
The egg’s in your sheet,
The bran muffin’s rollin’
Down under your feet,
There’s milk in the mattress,
And juice on the spread –
Well, you said that you wanted
Your breakfast in bed.


That story is creepy,
It’s waily, it’s weepy,
It’s screechy and screamy
Right up to the end.
It’s spooky, it’s crawly,
It’s grizzly, it’s gory,
It’s the awfulest story
(Please tell it again).

An old friend gave Lizzie Falling Up when she was six. We may have read it a bit out loud, but Lizzie wasn’t quite ready for it, and it went on the shelf. Then, when she was in third grade, she started getting up in the morning and reading a poem or two before starting the day. An entertaining easy bite of words, with a sense of humor that really tickles that age. I found Falling Up on her bookshelf today with seven yellowing pieces of newsprint marking favorite poems. The date on one was her fifth grade year.

And then there’s my absolute favorite book of poems for children:
Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices
, by Paul Fleischman. Fleischman is a wonderful writer, always experimenting with form and audience. He won a Newbery for this one. They’re all poems about bugs, and the thing that makes them amazing is that they’re written to be read aloud by two people, sometimes alternating, sometimes together. When I show this book to customers, I often get them to read a few lines out loud with me – it’s the only way you can tell how special they are.

Both my girls each memorized a poem from this book with a friend – I think they were both in third grade at the time. Here’s the start of "Honeybees," which Mona and her friend Margot could recite. There are two columns, one for each voice. Lines next to each other are read together:
Being a bee                                  Being a bee
                                                     is a joy.
is a pain.
                                                     I’m a queen
I’m a worker.
I’ll gladly explain.                        I’ll gladly explain.
                                                     Upon rising, I’m fed
                                                     by my royal attendants,
I’m up at dawn, guarding
the hive’s narrow entrance
                                                     I’m bathed
then I take out
the hive’s morning trash
                                                     then I’m groomed.
then I put in an hour
making wax,
without two minutes’ time
to sit still and relax.      . . .

The whole poem is in a pdf here.
But as I said, it’s really best to hear the poems out loud. I found a number of youtube videos of high school kids and even grownups reading from Joyful Noise. But my prize goes to these guys, reading "Water Striders":



1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the video--I love how the boys alternate between sing-song together and personable voices separately!