Friday, February 20, 2009

Major Poets and Awards: What I Love/Hate About Spring - A Poetry Break

These two poems are a must-read-together pair. Spring is the one season where everything begins to wake up and come to life again after a cold winter. Many great things come with spring; however, sometimes a great thing can also be a little problematic. Prepare for the poetry break with a collection of other poetry books that talks about the seasons, fun activities, and even the holidays that occur in the springtime. A fun example is Swing Around the Sun by Barbara Juster Esbensen. You can also write down your ideas of why you love or hate spring.

What I Love About Spring
By Douglas Florian

Trees are growing
Streams are flowing
Cool spring showers
Blooming flowers
Caterpillars creep
Peepers peep
Playing sports
Wearing shorts
April Fools’
Swimming pools
Going places
Relay races
Days are longer
Sun is stronger
Every morning songbirds sing–
I leave nearly everything!

What I Hate About Spring
By Douglas Florian

Insect swarms
Fixing screening
Pollen spores
Mud outdoors
Skinned knees
Hot and humid days in June–
I hate that spring goes by too soon.

Have the child share what they love and hate about Spring (or any season if you are sharing other poems as well). Why do they love or hate a particular thing about Spring? In addition, have them write down their love/hates in a list form (e.g. a list poem) or have them write a poem about the love/hates and have them illustrate.

These poems are from:

Florian, Douglas. 2006. Handsprings. NY: Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN: 9780060092801.

Major Poets and Awards: Love to Mama

Mora, Pat. 2001. Love to Mamá: A Tribute to Mothers. Illus. by Paula S. Barragán M. NY: Lee & Low Books Inc. ISBN: 1584300191.

Through a collection of selected poems moms and grandmas are loved and celebrated.

Written by Latino poets, which include Francisco X. Alarcón, Rigoberto González, Daniel A. Olivas, Mora has selected thirteen poems that pay tribute to the important ladies in the lives of children: moms and grandmas. The majority if the poems are free in verse; however, some do rhyme like Rigoberto González’s “Abuelita Wears a Dress.”

Written in the point of view of children all the poems focus on either a mom or grandma in various settings that range from outside of the school on the first day of class as in “I Helped My Mom Not to Be Late for Work” by Carmen D. Lucca to a traditional quinceañera to what it was like when a child’s two grandmas grew up in Cuba in Virgil Suárez’s “Las abuelitas.” The moods of the poems range from light humor as seen in “Abuelita Wears a Dress”:

Our jaws drop to our chest the evening
Abuelita steps out in a dress. Even the orange cat
glows it yellow eyes in surprise. Imagine that!
Abuelita waltzing out of the house in a shimmering

Gray gown. Abuelita only wears pants and jeans.
Because she works all day in the grape
fields we think she has no shape
outside a pair of old boots and green

flannel shirts.

to love like “Growing Up” by Liz Ann Báez Aguilar:

When I grow up,
I want to be a doctor.

M’ija, you will patched scraped knees
and wipe away children’s tears

But what if I become an architect?

M’ija you will build beautiful houses
where children will sing and play.

And Mami, what if I want to be like you someday?

M’ija, why do you want to be like me?

Oh Mami, because you care for people, our house is built on love,
you are wise, and your spicy stew tastes delicious.

The collection also includes poems of admiration like in Tony Medina’s “My Grandmother Had One Good Coat,” which tells of a story of how a child’s grandmother has a special black coat that she only wears to church or to the doctors and how the child saw a homeless woman without a coat and living underneath the bridge. When her grandma asks the child why her grandchild felt depressed she “went into her closet/and handed me her black dress coat/and said here put it in a shopping/bag you’ll find one in the broom closet/I don’t is that much anyway.”

Several of the poems also provide imagery and metaphor like in Mimi Chapra’s “Mi mamá cubana”:

When mi mamá cubana cooks arroz con pollo,
her smile is wider than a slice of watermelon.

Cutting green onions, the clucking tongue of mi mama goes clicktetty clack
Her silver bracelets slide up and down, jingling, jangling.

Closing my eyes I see palm trees swaying.
Seagulls circling. Haciendas, pink and green.

Still, sí sí, with eye open I taste salty, saffron Cuba.
Muchas gracias, mama cubana, for cooking up an island
in your tiny New York kitchen.

Another great element of the collection of poems is the use of the Spanish language. All of the poems use several Spanish words, along with “mama” and “abuelita,” that include words about food to games to parties, clothing, people and so much more. Unique from the others, Alarcón’s poem “My Grandma Is Like a Flowering Cactus” both has an English and Spanish version. To help the readers gain a better understanding of the words that are used, there is a glossary located in the back of the book that includes the word, pronunciation, and definition. The incorporation the Spanish language appeals to both English-speaking and Spanish-speaking readers because the words that are included are ones that are regularly scene many of the other bilingual books.

Barragán’s illustrations nicely compliment the poems. Presented in a two-page spread the poems are placed on a white section of the page and the illustrations fill the rest. The colorful and at times whimsical pictures of the moms, grandmas and children are stylized and are reminiscent of children paintings. Another wonderful element of the illustrations is the varying hair and skin colors of the people. Some moms, grandmas and children have lighter rather than darker skin. Some have brown hair while others have black hair. This goes to prove that not everyone is a like and don’t dress the same like in Christina Muñoz Mutchler’s poem “Mi abuela”: “Most grandmothers wear aprons/mi abuela like to wear her leather skirt.”

An introduction from Pat Mora to share why she decided to make this collection and how her mother, grandmother, and her aunt all played a pivotal part in raising her. Also, located in the back, there little biographies of all the contributing poets so that the readers and find further poetry books.

A perfect book to share around Mother’s Day or when a mom or a grandma’s birthday is coming, Mora’s collection is a must read.

*Ask the children what do they love about their mom and/or grandma and why.
*Have the students compose a little poem and illustrate about what makes their mom and/or grandma important to them.

Major Poets and Awards: -The Monster's Pet - A Poetry Break

*Lilian Moore is the 1985 Winner of the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children*


This is a great poem to share because it truly provides a chance for the children to use their imagination. Pair this with other poems and books about pets and/or the poem “Lost and Found” from the same book. This can be a great craft poem as well by preparing scraps of unique paper and other crafty materials.


The Monster’s Pet
By Lilian Moore

What kind of pet
Would a monster get
If a monster set
Is Mind on a pet?

Would it snuffle and wuffle
Or snackle and snore?
Would it slither and dither
Or rattle and roar?

Would it dribble and bribble
In manner horr-ible
Or squibble and squirem
Like a worm?

And every day
In pleasant weather,
Would they go out
For a walk together?

Have the children come up with their own monster pet. Let them describe what it would look like and what it would do. Have them create their own picture using markers and pasting different types of papers and other materials to illustrate what their monster pet is like

This poem is from:

Moore, Lilian. 2006. Beware, Take Care. Illus. by Howard Fine. NY: Henry Holt and Company, Inc. ISBN: 0805069178.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Introducing Poetry: Weekends - A Poetry Break

This poem is about being thankful for having weekends to do things other than school. Create a list of why you are thankful for the weekends, such what books you get to read or movies to watch. Also bring books, especially other poetry books, that have stories or poems that are about things that people can due on the weekend.


By Nikki Grimes

God invented weekends
and I’m thankful for that.
My weekends means less homework.
Get out the ball and bat!

Just think: fun is official
at least two days a week.
So skateboard or play video games.
Go swim or scale a peak.

I might go to a movie
or choose to sleep all day.
Whatever I decide to do,
there’s no work either way!

Weekends are worth having.
But I have one request:
Could You please lengthen them a bit?
I need six days of rest.

Invite the children to share why they are thankful for weekends. Also, ask what would they do if they if they had “six days of rest.” Another activity can be to have the children find a book or another poem about their favorite weekend activity or have then write their own poem about their favorite activity.

This poem is from:

Grimes, Nikki. 2006. Thanks A Million. Illus. by Gozbi A. Cabrera. NY: Greenwillow Books. p. 13. ISBN: 9780688172930.

Introducing Poetry: Behind the Museum Door

Hopkins, Lee Bennett. 2007. Behind the Museum Door: Poems to Celebrate the Wonders of Museums. Illus. by Stacey Dressen-McQueen. NY: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. ISBN: 9780810912045.

Museums and the treasures they house are celebrated through a collection of poems.

In this fun collection, Lee Bennett Hopkins have selected fourteen poems written by poets of well-known fame like Jane Yolen, J. Patrick Lewis, and Kristine O’Connell George and other talented poets like Maria Fleming and Heidi Bee Roemer that brings the awe and wonder of museums and their artifacts to young readers. The majority of the poems are written in a rhyme like “O Trilobite” by Alice Schertle while some are free verse or abstract like Heidi Bee Roemer’s poem “Stirring Art” that describes a Calder mobile:

suspended in

A breath of air
lifeless form–


All of the poems are written in the viewpoint of children and their personal thoughts about the artifacts that they are viewing. Many express the wonderings and imagination of the children that are humorous as seen in the poem “To the Skeleton of a Dinosaur in the Museum”: “Hey there, Brontosaurus!/…/How were the good old days?/…/did you shake the earth like thunder/With your roars and groans?/I wonder….Say it’s hard/To have a conversation/With your bones.”

Other poems also share the child’s creative and even dramatic imagination of thinking of what the young girl who use to where the moccasins behind the glass case did while wearing those shoes and who now tiptoes “across the cold tile–open–/the glass display case–reclaim/her shoes.” and describing the great wooly mammoth is now “a ghost that haunts museum halls,/Ice Age icon, here enshrined,/once frozen in earth,/now frozen in time.”

Throughout the book, the poems have wonderful imagery that captures the essence of the artifact. This is especially seen in Beverly McLoughland’s “Suit of Armor”:

In its human shape
Of molded steel,
It looks as though
There’s someone real

Inside. You know:
“Hello in there,”
And hear a dull
Echo of air

As though a voice
Were drifting through
The lonely centuries
To you.

And in “Tales in Taspestry” by Sandra Gilbert Brüg, which also uses wonderful words to describe the art:

Tales of chivalry, cruelty, battles, bloodshed,
victory–heroes, heroines, kings
their fearsome deeds depicted
in exquisite woven scenes

Whose fingers held the bobbins?
Whose hands these fibers wed?
Or was it spiders, traced designs this fine
with silk and golden thread.

Sumptuous panels, huge…immense,
costly made for grand display;
centuries old–yet bold enough
to capture hearts today

Gaze long and deep at tapestries;
intensely human folk you’ll see
and by their kinship you can touch
the stream of all humanity.

Away Away–I bid you go
to feast upon the lasting glow
of fascinating tales that show
other lives in other time–

inside museum doors.

To compliment the poems Dressen-McQueen’s colorful illustrations fill the double-page spreads per poem in colorful folk art depicting the museum artifacts and art. The illustrations enhance the poems and provide images in how the artifacts and art depict moments in history as well as imaginations of their admirers. There is also attention to the multicultural details of the children that are seen throughout the book. They vary in all ethnicities, skin tones, hairstyles, and clothing, which expresses that everyone loves going to the museums.

Perfect to share before going on a museum field trip, on art or history lesson, or simply for pure enjoyment, Behind the Museum Door is a perfect addition to any library.

*Read more poetry books about art and museums like Mrs. Brown on Exhibit and Other Museum Poems by Susan Katz and Illus. by R.W. Alley.
*Ask the students what was their favorite artifact or artwork that they saw when visiting a museum and why.

Introducing Poetry: Being Lost - A Poetry Break

This poem is about spending the nice day inside, in one favorite reading place, to read a book. Bring a photograph or a draw a picture of where you read at home to share with the children.


Being Lost
By Karla Kuskin

Being lost
Is the perfect way
To pass the time
On a sky blue day

When it’s warm
And the open window
Uncurtains a call
Spiraling up the stairway
Hovering in the hall.
No one comes then
When they call me.
I am not there
Where they look.
I linger alone
In a place of my own
In a book.

Invite the children to draw a picture and/or describe where they like to read their books instead of doing other activities. Also, for a craft activity have the children use scrap fabrics to make their own reading mats or reading pillows for school or for home.

This poem is from:

Hopkins, Lee Bennett. 1990. Good Books, Good Times!. Illus. by Harvey Stevenson. NY: HarperCollins. p. 4-5. ISBN: 9780064462228.