Thursday, April 23, 2009

Responding to Poetry: That Sweet Diamond

Janeczko, Paul B. 1998. That Sweet Diamond: Baseball Poems. Illus. by Carole Katchen. NY: Antheneum Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 9780689807350.


The sights, sounds, taste, emotions and the fun of the baseball are celebrated in this great collection of poems.

In Janeczko’s collection of original poems the game of baseball, the life of the stadium, and the fans and players captures the essence of America’s favorite pastime. Capturing all areas of a baseball game, the poems are organized where the readers to be immersed in the sights, smells and sounds of “Before the Game”:

Boys, wearing caps of faraway teams,
Laugh, shove

Peanut shells crunch

Cheese oozes
over nachos

thick as the perfume
of popcorn and
boiled hot dogs
fills the air

As ticket takers call,
This way
This way to the game

The fans in the stands are also described. In poem “Section 7, Row 1, Seat 3” there is an old woman who was born when Yankee Stadium opened and other special connections with baseball who comes to games and says that “’Leaving before the last out/she says, resting her chin on her/ebony cane,/‘is like/before your time.’” There are also the group of nuns in the stands who “all but two fell/victim to The Wave” and who’s

in their team
paid off
in the ninth
when the catcher with a saintly
sent a pitch
to the gravel parking lot
behind the fence,
close enough to heaven
to win the game.

Other poems from the stands range from the “Things to do during a rain delay” that is written from the point of view of a young fan who builds castles with used paper cups and holding the umbrella in the right spot that the rain drops on the neck of the man sitting in front of you to the vendors who sell peanuts, sodas in waxy cups, and ice cream.

Among the poems about the fans and the happenings within the stadium, there are vignette-like poems about the players and officials like the poem “Catcher sings the blues” describes the catcher’s blues of achy knees, fingers, and crouching low. This poem has repeated couplets in each of the four stanzas that is great for children to repeat or even sing as a way to participate in reading the poem. Finally, the sport itself is highlighted when poems about specific plays in the game that ranges from a foul ball, a double play, and a play at home plate and also a poem about the secret signs that the players use to communicate and the nicknames that the players have.

The majority of the poems are written in free verse while others, such as the poem “A curse upon the Pitcher” is written in rhyme to create a specific rhythm and feel of the magic spell being cast:

Peanut shells, pigeon feather,
Dance a jig in stormy weather.
Ice cream stick, bubble gum,
Hurler, may you lose your hum.

The poems are given a two-page spread. One page is for the poem that is surrounded by a page border and the other for Katchen’s illustrations. The illustrations are loosely drawn with colored chalk crayons show the poems subjects in an artistic way that beautifully matches and never distracts from the poetry. Reader will in enjoy looking at accompanying artwork and study their soft details as much as reading the poems.

With the combination of great original poems and the accompany illustrations That Sweet Diamond: Baseball Poems is a great collection of poems that can be shared at the beginning of the baseball season and all summer long.

*For more poems about baseball read and share books like At the Crack of the Bat by Lillian Morrison and Diamond Life: Baseball Sights, Sounds, and Swings by Charles R. Smith Jr.
*Invite the children to share their baseball experience and what they like about the sport.
*Have the children write their own poems about baseball.

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