Friday, March 27, 2009

Poetry Across The Curriculum: Kate Shelley - A Poetry Break

This biographical poem tells the story of a young girl’s bravery to go out in a storm to save the men from a train crash during the late 19th century. Perfect for social studies lessons, pair this poem with picture books like Kate Shelley: Bound for Legend written by Robert D. San Souci and illus. by Max Ginsburg and Kate Shelley and the Midnight Express written by Margaret K. Wetterer and illus. by Karen Ritz.


Kate Shelley
By Ann Whitford Paul

Lightning ripped apart the sky. Thunder pounded loud,
hammering relentlessly. Rain pelted from the clouds.
Kate Shelley trembled – mother, too – at the raging storm.
They moved in closer to their hearth,
Dry and safe and warm.
Then on the tracks nearby their home,
Men rode a service rain to check the rails
for damage caused by so much pouring rain.
Kate heard its bell toll once, twice, and then a roar of sound,
as if the thunder rumbled in the belly of the ground.
Kate heard its bell toll once, twice, and then a roar of sound,
Kate grabbed her lantern.
Mother begged her, “Stay!” but Kate dashed out.
The bridge was smashed! The train had crashed!
Two men clung desperately to trees.
Kate started into town for help.
The path was overgrown – she tripped and tumbled down.
Kate stood again and ran
until she reached Des Moines’ wide river.
The water lapped the railroad bridge.
Her lantern’s small flame quivered. Then it died!
Kate strained to see the ties place far apart,
stooped down to her knees, and groped on through the dark.
Jabbed by splinters, ripped by nails,
she crawled along the planks – across a span, five hundred feet.
At least she reached the bank.
Cold and wet seeped to her bones,
yet still she ran – raced fast! – to town.
The people there were horrified.
They grasped and hurried with her to the train.
Though nearly drained of hope,
the men were pulled to safety with a long and looping rope.
Kate Shelley didn’t wait for thanks,
But trudge on through the storm,
back to Mother, back to home,
dry and safe and warm

Invite the children to share what they would have done if they saw that the bridge was out and the trained had crashed. After sharing the poem and other picture books, ask the children to compare the different versions of Kate Shelley’s story. Which one did they like best? Also continue the sharing of stories of heroic people in history, including girls found in All by Herself by Ann Whitford Paul.

This poem is from:

Paul, Ann Whitford. 1999. All by Herself: 14 Girls Who Made A Difference. Illus. by Michael Steirnagle. NY: Harcourt, Inc. ISBN: 0152014772.

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