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Book Reviews of Literature for Children and Young Adults
Genre 3 Poetry
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A Jar of Tiny Stars
Insectlopedia
The New Kid on the Block
Where the Sidewalk Ends

Cullinan, Bernice E. Ed. A Jar of Tiny Stars: Poems by NCTE Award-Winning Poets.  Illustrations by Andi MacLeod. Portraits by Marc Nadel. Honesdale: Boyds Mills Press.  ISBN: 1563970872.

 

     Bernice Cullinan gathered together fifty-one selected poems from ten award-winning poets of the National Council of Teachers of English Award for Poetry for Children. This collection includes poems from David McCord, Aileen Fisher, Karla Kuskin, Myra Cohn Livingston, Eve Merriam, John Ciardi, Lilian Moore, Arnold Adoff, Valerie Worth, and Barbara Esbensen. At the end of the book are words written by each poet about each their work and a brief biography. There are few pen and ink drawings scattered throughout the book illustrating selected poems.

     Each section of the book is divided into a poet and his/her poetry. David McCords poetry is in the first section.  He said that he writes, "about things I did as a boy," about things that are fairly timeless as subjects. In this book the subjects include climbing trees, playing with a stick on a fence, a snowman, stars in a pail, and a book. He uses rhyme in all the poems and there is a timelessness to his poems that they appeal to children because they are about things children continue to do.

     Aileen Fisher mostly writes about things she likes. Her poems in this book are about puppies, cats, crickets, light, and rabbits.  These are also things that children like to read about. She uses a lot of rhyme in her poems.

     Karla Kuskin wants to emphasize in her poetry its "accessibility, the sound, rhythm, humor, the inherent simplicity." Her humor comes out in many of the poems in this book with the child who has fallen with his heavy winter clothing and cannot get up.

     Myra Cohn Livingston believes "the point of poetry is to feel, to bring our emotions and sensitivities into play."  "Arthur Thinks on Kennedy" is a poem that certainly succeeds. The words she uses helps the reader visualize that event.

     Eve Merriam says, "I'd like to stress more than anything else: the joy of the sounds of language." She shows this joy of sounds with her poetry about eating a poem and windshield wiper.

     John Ciardi believes poetry and learning are both fun. His poem about "Mummy Slept Late and Daddy Fixed Breakfast" makes reading poetry fun. It is very humorous.  Children will love the idea of screwing heads on tight.

     Lilian Moore says "poetry should be ready to explode with unpredictable effects" Poetry provides a different way to look at things; a firefly referred to as a star, literally losing your head, the sea claiming what belongs to him.

     Arnold Adoff says, "I want my poems to sing as well as to say." To make his poems sing he uses interesting words swirls, ripples, curls, and sprinkles in his triple poem called Flavors. These words create the imagery of ice cream.

     Valerie Worth believes "Poetry is simply a way of revealing and celebrating the essentially poetic nature of the world itself." This is evident in her poetry of things in the world environment.

     Barbara Esbensen thinks, "Poetry should knock your block off." Bats leave the gloomy pages of mystery books, crawls out of damp bindings, and glides into the night air."  She has fun with the words, bat, elephant, and snake.

     Children helped to choose this collection of poetry.  Kirkus Reviews says, "The selections are truly kid-pleasing: Children voted for their favorite five poems by each author in classrooms across the country, and the winners are included here, along with a page of biographical notes, quotations from the poets, and a useful bibliography." These are poems that are understandable, humorous, and sometimes stories which make them very appealing to children.

 

Florian, Douglas.  1998. Insectlopedia. San Diego: Harcourt Brace & Company.  ISBN: 0152013067.

 

     This one topic collection of poetry by Douglas Florian is about insects.  Each of the twenty-one poems is about a different insect.  On the opposite page of each poem is a painting of the insect by Douglas Florian. The whole collection is short but focused on everyday insects. With many of his poems he plays with words and makes up words like "fatterpillar and spiderobic."  Kirkus Review says of the poetry and illustrations, "Some of the entries rely on clever wordplay, while others are examples of concrete poetry; the text takes on the hump of the inchworm or the spiral movements of the whirligig beetle. The watercolor illustrations, abstract and stylized, achieve a comic effect by incorporating collage elements reminiscent of an entomolgist's field notes."

     The humor in these poems makes them appealing to children.  "The Daddy Longlegs" poem questions in a humorous way why the Daddy Longlegs have such long legs. "The Inchworm" is a concrete poem in the shape of an inchworm crawling along. It is funny to think of the inchworm saying that he "never picks up speeding tickets." Humor is again in "The Praying Mantis" who swallows his food "religiously" and the io moth who uses his disguise to ward off science teachers who may collect them. Another concrete poem in the shape of a circle, "The Whirligig Beetles" provide a humorous connection of windup toys and beetles.

    His poems have strong sound patterns and regular distinctive rhythm. School Library Journal says of Insectlopedia, "The words are arranged in pleasing patterns and the rhythms fit the characteristics of the subjects." "The Locusts" uses rhyming words like hocus, pocus, and focus. He uses rhyme in all of his poetry in this book. "The Dragonfly" uses rhyming words with rich imagery, demon of skies, enormous eyes, and I terrorize. "The Weevils" has words like evil, aggrieved, primeval, and medieval.

     Douglas Florian captures the essence of the insects with his word play and rhyme. In "The Ticks" he uses words like gigantic, romantic, artistic, majestic, magnetic, aesthetic, and parasitic.  Each these adjectives ending in tic. The "Walkingstick" is a short poem but captures with a few words what a walkingstick does.  Florian's painting of the walkingstick in different shades of brown has an arrow pointing to it to distinguish it from its surroundings. In "The Army Ants" the positioning of the words left and right gives the reader the illusion of the ants marching. "The Mayfly" tells of the shortness of their lives and is illustrated by the words hello hello and all too soon, goodbye goodbye.

    The format of this book is appealing with each poem and illustration on its own page and plenty of white space. The words are presented in fun ways that children will continue to enjoy over and over again.

 

Prelutsky, Jack. 1984. The New Kid on the Block. Illustrated by James Stevenson.  New York:  Scholastic.  ISBN: 0590408364.

 

     This collection contains one hundred six poems on a variety of subjects.  It has a title index as well as a first line index to help the reader locate poems. Simple black ink drawings by James Stevenson are on most pages. The poems may vary in length from four lines long to two pages.  There is a lot of white space on the pages inviting the reader with its simplicity. 

     The first poem in the book is the title poem, "The New Kid on the Block."  This is a very humorous poem about this bully who does all these mean things.  Readers visualize this big bully that is a boy.  The ending provides a surprise.  The readers visualization of the bully has to change to a girl. Children and adults love that surprise ending. Prelutsky uses a lot of rhyme and repetition in this poem.  Eleven out of sixteen lines use the same beginning. Most lines begin with the words, "That new kid."  He uses repetition again in "My Dog, He is an Ugly Dog."  Each time he describes a new thing about his dog about every fourth line, he repeats, My dog, he is . . .

     Prelutsky also uses alliteration in his poetry.  In "Zany Zapper Zockke," he uses words like, super space sardines and boldly beat them back. "Dauntless Dimble" is another poem where he uses alliteration mixed with rhyme.

    Several poems in this collection are about imaginary creatures. "The Flotz" is one of these poems.  A Flotz gobbles dots.  He likes any punctuations marks and eats them. "The Bloders Are Exploding" is another poem about a silly creature who eats dynamite. With this same theme about a silly creature eating things, "The Diatonic Dittymunch"  poem has a creature who eats music. "The Flimsy Fleek" poem has an imaginary creature and alliteration is used to describe him, such as mild and meek, limbs are lean and little, and bones are bent and brittle, and twist of tufted tail.

     In "Ma! Don't Throw That Shirt Out," Prelutsky uses imagery to show the reader what the favorite shirt looked and smelled like.  He describes the shirts as smelling peculiar. Children will relate to the humor but also will love the subject of a favorite piece of clothing. Another poem rich in imagery is "My Mother Says I'm Sickening."  He uses descriptive phrases such as, "juggle gobs of fat. melons ooze, slurp my bowl of stew," along with alliteration "catapult the carrots and punch the pumpkin pudding." In "When Tillie Ate the Chili" he uses such phrases as "erupted from her seat, mouth full of fire, gulped a quart of water, and ran totally amok".  He has an interesting way of saying things using words.

     This collection of poems on assorted subjects has humor and word play that children and adults find appealing. Even though these poems are twenty years old, they continue to delight children and adults and should for at least another twenty years.

 

Silverstein, Shel. 1974.  Where the Sidewalk Ends. New York:  HarperCollins Publishers.  ISBN:  0060256672.

 

     Where the Sidewalk Ends is a wonderful collection of wild and zany poems that children have loved since it was first published in 1974 and as new generations of children and adults discover them. 

     This collection has one hundred twenty-seven poems on a multitude of subjects in varying lengths. There are subjects from an invitation to come into the book to selling your young sister. Some poems may be two pages long while another poem may be only three sentences long. There is plenty of white space and simple black ink drawings by Silverstein scattered through out. The book contains an index to the titles of the poems.

     Shel Silverstein masterfully puts a humorous twist on many different things. "Ourchestra" is about playing different parts of your body to create music. "Loser" is based on the saying; you will lose your head if it isn't fastened on.  The person in this poem has lost his head and he cannot even look for it because his eyes are in it, he cannot call it because his mouth is in it, and cannot think because his brain is in it, then he sits on it. Another humorous poem is about watching too much television.  "Jimmy Jet and His TV Set" has a child who watched so much TV he turned into one so now his family watches him.

     "Smart" is one of my favorite poems.  I liked to read it to my students when we did the math unit on money.   It usually brought out some laughs.  In this poem a dad gives his son a one-dollar bill and because the son is so smart he trades it for two quarters because he knows his math, two is more than one.  He continues with this until he ends up with five pennies. The dad is left speechless.  It is great for talking about the value of a coin and not how many you have.  Silverstein uses rhyme and humor in this poem to talk about money..

     My oldest daughter loved "For Sale." She was ten when her younger sister was born and this was a poem with which she could relate.  In this poem an older sister is trying to sell her younger sister at an auction.  She says, "So who'll start the bidding? Do I hear a dollar? A nickel. A penny?" 

      A poem that all children must read is "Sick". In this poem Peggy Ann McKay claims she is sick and cannot go to school.  Peggy has too many ailments to be able to go to school that day.  Children will enjoy reading the list of silly ailments that rhyme and how she gets well quickly when she finds out it is Saturday.

     A simple poem, which is rich in the usage of onomatopoeia, is "The Fourth." It uses words like crash, bash, bang, zang, whoosh and baroom. Another simple poem uses a lot of repetition, "Lazy Jane." In the beginning of the poem lazy is repeated six times and near the end the word waits is repeated five times in a poem that is only twenty-eight words long.

     Silverstein effective use of rhyme and exaggeration, and words with rich imagery to create poetry that is timeless and enjoyed over and over again.

    

 

    

 

This site was created as a requirement for
LS 5603 Literature for Children and Young Adults
Texas Woman's University
Denton, TX
created by J. Ketola
June 25, 2004