Just in time for National Poetry Month, I have a fantastic new book by Julia Donaldson to share. The Highway Rat is the story of a dastardly character, a rat so mean and wicked that he steals the food of every creature he meets on the highway. Donaldson is the Children’s Laureate of the UK and she tells the story in rollicking rhyme that is inspired by the classic poem The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes .
The highway rat was a baddie.
The highway rat was a beast.
He took what he wanted and ate what he took.
His life was one long feast.
His teeth were sharp and yellow, his manners were rough and rude,
And the Highway Rat went riding-
Riding along the highway
and stealing the travelers’ food.
The illustrations by Axel Scheffler are bold and funny. You can’t help but be charmed by the wicked but debonair rat. Donaldson creates the perfect ending for her Highway Rat.(Parents of preschoolers don’t need to worry, his fate is much less bloody than the original.) He gets his come-uppance thanks to a clever Duck but still has a happy ending.
This is one we all enjoyed. Afterwards we looked up the original Noyes poem and read that too. (Some of you might recognize it as one of the poems Anne Shirley recites for “the real authoress”.)
Poetry Friday is hosted today by Read, Write, Howl.
I didn’t read a lot of poetry as a kid. Most of the poems I remember are either from A. A. Milne or from this 1961 classic by Mary O’Neill. Hailstones and Halibut Bones contains poems about all the colors of the rainbow. There is something vaguely psychedelic but in a comfortable way about the poems and the illustrations by John Wallner.
It’s a very accessible book for kids and a great one for poetry memorization.
John memorized about half of What is Black ? when he was in 1st grade and now he is working on all of What is Gray?. David is working on he first half of What is Orange? The first few lines are below.
What is Orange? by Mary O’Neill
Orange is a tiger lily,
A feather from a parrot,
The wildest color
You can name.
Poetry Friday is hosted this week at Teaching Authors.
The word “unique” probably gets used too much to describe new books. I think I’m safe though in calling this collection of poems by J. Patrick Lewis (the Children’s Poet Laureate) unique. Part poetry collection, part math puzzles and part tribute to 14 classic poets, Edgar Allan Poe’s Pie is truly one of a kind. It’s probably best for older kids as many of the math puzzles involve fractions and percents or other more advanced math concepts. It also may be best enjoyed if you first know at least some of the poems that these refer to. I like that Lewis includes short blurbs on each poet at the end. All in all it’s a fun book. I would definitely recommend it if you have a student who enjoys math and maybe isn’t so sure about poetry. Or a student who really likes poetry but needs a little something extra to spice up math.
Here’s an excerpt from the title poem “Edgar Allan Poe’s Apple Pie”:
Once upon a midnight rotten,
Cold, and rainy, I’d forgotten
All about the apple pie
Still cooling from the hour before.
Poetry Friday is hosted this week at Violet Nesdoly Poems.
If in all of forever,
I never endeavor
to fly, I won’t know if I can.
I won’t know if I can’t.
I won’t know
if or whether
a flight I
should I choose
to not ever give it a try.
I got If I Never Forever Endeavor out of the library for “N” week for Ruth school. (Nests. Also noodles and noses.) Holly Meade’s book poem perfectly captures the fear of a fledgling about to leave the nest for a first flight and provides a charming metaphor for anyone stepping out with trepidation to try something new. I could see this making a really nice alternative to the now overdone Oh The Places You’ll Go graduation gift.
Poetry Friday is hosted this week at Radio, Rhythm and Rhyme. Why not make it a resolution to have more poetry in your life in 2013? Consider stopping by and participating.
In honor of his recent birthday David is currently memorizing this classic poem by A. A. Milne:
When I was one,
I had just begun.
When I was two,
I was nearly new.
When I was three,
I was hardly me.
When I was four,
I was not much more.
When I was five,
I was just alive.
But now I am six,
I’m as clever as clever.
So I think I’ll be six
now for ever and ever.
John memorized the same poem in his first grade year and it’s one that has stuck with him. He is currently working on another A. A. Milne poem, At the Zoo. Which brings up the question of how do I choose poems for the boys to memorize?
Sometimes I pick a poem related to something else we are studying (John did part of a selection from Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! when we were studying medieval times in history). Sometimes it’s related to a holiday (Christmas Eve). Sometimes we pick a funny or easy poem after working on a more difficult poem (Snowball by Shel Silverstein after In the Bleak Midwinter). Sometimes I pick a poem based on a topic I know they like (birds or baseball or a favorite color). Sometimes I pick a poem from a particular poet I want us to study a little more. As John is getting older, I involve him a bit more in the picking.This last time I handed him the Forget Me Not book and our battered collection of all the poems of A. A. Milne and let him choose. He chose the poem about the zoo which somewhat surprised me but he’s having fun with it. From all that you should get that we don’t really have a system. I think like so much else in schooling and life, this is one of those things you just have to do rather than plan the perfect approach.
As for the process itself, typically I’ll either write the poem on a piece of posterboard and have the boys illustrate it or I’ll type it up for them to have as an easy reference. The first week we aim to read the poem about three times a day together out loud. Then after that we start working on remembering it, working line by line or dividing it into some kind of manageable sections. I’ll have them repeat the part they are working on once a day and each day we try and add a bit more. Then we work on being able to say it clearly and slowly and with expression. I don’t really worry about finishing a poem in a certain amount of time. Sometimes they surprise me and memorize a particular poem very quickly, sometimes we have a lot of other stuff going on and it takes awhile. I’d say on average we spend 5-10 minutes a day on this. It doesn’t take a lot of time.
For those who are are interested in more ideas of poems to try with their kids, this is the list of poems John has memorized.
“The Caterpillar” by Christina Rossetti
selection from “What is Black?” by Mary O’Neill
“We Thank Thee” by Ralph Waldo Emerson
“In the Bleak Mid-Winter” by Christiana Rossetti
“Snowball” by Shel Silverstein
“The Eagle” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
“The End” by A. A. Milne
“March” by Anonymous
“Daffodowndilly” by A. A. Milne
“Seaside” by Shirley Hughes
“The Months” by Sara Coleridge
“Squishy Touch” by Shel Silverstein
“Trees” by Joyce Kilmer
“Christmas Eve” by Christina Rossetti
selection from “Lowdy, the Varlet’s Child” by Laura Amy Schlitz
selection from “Horatius” by Thomas Babbington Macaulay
“All Things Bright and Beautiful” by Cecil Alexander
“Casey at the Bat” by Ernest Thayer
“Paul Revere’s Ride” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
“Christmas Everywhere” by Phillip Brooks
selection from “The Charge of the Light Brigade” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
“A Slash of Blue” by Emily Dickinson
Poetry Friday is hosted this week by Mainely Write.
I have made John memorize poetry since first grade and David has joined him this year as well. It’s not always his favorite activity but it is one from which I see a lot of benefit. Both boys seem to have a natural talent for memorization and find it fairly easy. However, I’ve seen John’s natural ability sharpened by challenging him to memorize more complex and longer poems. John is a bit shy and when we first started memorizing poems he would get very nervous about reciting the poem even for close family members. Now he looks forward to the recitation and often comes up with his own gestures and movements to interpret the poem. As a homeschooler there aren’t a lot of ways to push him out of his comfort zone a bit and get him used to speaking in front of people (something I also find very stressful but that I think is important to be able to do) so I appreciate that poetry recitation is one way to do just that.
Perhaps the most important reason in my mind is for the boys to have an internal voice that speaks poetry as well as prose. Will they remember every poem they memorize? Probably not. However, I hope they remember parts of poems. I hope snatches of phrases like “the crooked sea beneath him crawls” and “His mother only, in her maiden bliss, worshipped the beloved with a kiss” and “so much depends upon a red wheelbarrow” stick in their hearts and rattle around in their brains.
Figuring out how to find poems to memorize and how to go about the process can be a little overwhelming at first. Which is why I’m happy to recommend this new anthology of poems edited by Mary Ann Hoberman, former children’s poet laureate of the United States (and author of one of our favorite books ever). At the beginning and end she offers some brief thoughts on poetry memorization and some brief guidance on how to go about the process of memorizing. In between is a wide selection of poems of every type organized nicely into categories. There are poems ranging from a few lines to several pages in length. There are funny poems and sad poems and scary poems. Many great poets are represented including Emily Dickinson, Carl Sandburg, William Carlos Williams, Robert Frost and Hoberman herself. The illustrations by Michael Emberley provide a perfect accompaniment to the poems. My boys often picked a poem to read based on the picture and then found they really liked the poem itself.
Forget Me Nots: Poems to Learn by Heart has been nominated for a Cybil in the poetry category. Tomorrow I’ll share some of the poems we have memorized and a little bit more about how the boys work on learning their poems by heart.
Stop by Read Aloud Thursday at Hope is the Word for more great books to read with your kids.
We continue our study of William Carlos Williams. This biography of him by Jen Bryant was a 2009 Caldecott Honor Book. Bryant manages to tell his story in a way that is interesting and accessible and at the same time somehow echoes the beauty of his poetry.
On his prescription pads, he scribbled a few lines
whenever and wherever he could.
In those precious times,
the rhythm of the river he has rested beside
as a child seemed to guide him. Like the water
that sometimes ran slow, smooth and steady,
and other times came rushing in a hurried flood,
Willie’s lines flowed across the page.
The text is accompanied by visually stunning mixed-media collage illustrations by Melissa Sweet. Sweet is fast becoming one of my favorite illustrators (Balloons Over Broadway, The Boy Who Drew Birds, Jane Yolen’s Baby Bear books). The end of this book includes a note where she talks about the process of making these illustrations. She ended up using old book endpapers as the foundation for her collages. The illustrations often have Williams’ poetry woven into the collage which is a visual representation of the idea of a river of words flowing through Williams’ life.
Melissa Sweet’s website: Homeschoolers take note, there are several activity pages/study guides to go along with some of her books.
A William Carlos Williams tribute by Roger Ebert. Contains a dazzling array of visual responses to his famous poem The Red Wheelbarrow, including many YouTube videos.
The poem In a Motel Parking Lot, Thinking of Dr. Williams by Wendell Berry and finally, a link to a book about Williams by Berry.
Poetry Friday is hosted this week at The Opposite of Indifference.
This year to celebrate National Poetry Month, I decided to try two things. One was to try and start each school day with a poem. The other was to concentrate on one poet. In a completely random and non-systematic way I chose William Carlos Williams to concentrate on, for no other reason than that I like him. Which is as good a reason as any to share poetry with your kids, I suppose. We’ve enjoyed reading through some of the poems in the above anthology together. A few times I had the boys close their eyes and try to really picture what Williams is describing. Many of his poems paint a very vivid word picture and it was easy for the boys to appreciate his poetry that way.
This Is Just to Say
I have eaten
that were in
you were probably
they were delicious
and so cold
We also read Williams’ famous apology poem. I have always loved this poem. My reading of it is that it’s a heartfelt but somewhat conflicted apology as Williams asks his wife for forgiveness while realizing that part of him is not regretful. I think of it as a condensed story of marriage. We hurt each other in small daily ways, ask for forgiveness and realize our own shortcomings. I imagine his wife reading his apology, knowing her husband will likely eat the plums next time too, but loving him all the same.
Gail Carson Levine has a different take on Williams’ famous poem. A deliciously wicked take. In this new book, she offers her own variations of false apologies. Some are about everyday situations, many are from the perspective of various well-known fairytale characters. One of my favorites:
This is Just to Say
You may be jumping around
in this book
spent ten years
I put the curse of the mummy
who reads out of order
The twisted poems are accompanied by equally twisted illustrations by Matthew Cordell. I have to admit I found this book really hilarious. I imagine it will appeal to a very specific sense of humor. My kids found it mildly amusing. I found it much funnier which may say more about my sense of humor than anything.
Poetry Friday is hosted this week at Random Noodling.
In my mind, math and poetry go together like oil and water. They just don’t mix. Betsy Franco proves me wrong here, with a delightful collection of “math poems”. These poems are mostly visual so a bit hard to share here.
Here’s a sampling to give you an idea.
farmland – harvest = earth’s naptime
sneeze x 3 = winter sniffles
tadpole = 2/3 frog
We had fun reading this book. I liked that it expanded our concept of what poetry is. I liked that some of the poems are very visual and include graphs. I liked that a lot of the poems made us all think a little bit. As we read it after dinner one night there was a lot of “Oh! I get it!” And I also liked that it was a book enjoyed by everyone in the family from the two year old on up.
My review of another Betsy Franco math book.
Betsy Franco’s website (where I learned that she has three sons, one of whom is the actor James Franco)
Some lesson plans using the concepts in this book.
Poetry Friday is hosted this week at Booktalking.