Friday, May 5, 2017

LS 5663.20 Review: Animal Ark by Kwame Alexander

Animal Ark: Celebrating Our Wild World in Poetry and Pictures
by Kwame Alexander
Photographs by Joel Sartore

Alexander, Kwame. Animal Ark: Celebrating Our Wild World in Poetry and Pictures. New York: National Geographic Society, 2017. Print. 

Poetic Elements: When it comes to this specific book, the poetic elements are a bit lacking, mostly because the book focuses much more on the illustrations than on the poetry itself. When I first picked up this book as my selected poetry book for the module, I was excited about it. I am a fan of animals myself, and so I thought that the poems would be cute and about animals that I adore. The poems are written in haiku, which is fun and interesting because it is not something that you see very often. There is a little bit of rhyme, and the spacing and format of the poems can be very interesting as they move across the pages and photographs. Despite these things, the poetic elements were still a bit lacking in this book.

Appeal: Overall, this is not a book that I would typically pick up. As a middle school teacher, I usually stick to middle grade and young adult texts. Still, the title and cover were the first things I noticed, and I knew then that I did want to pick it up and give it a try. I believe that says a lot about its appeal upon a first view. Children and people of all ages will probably enjoy this book if they enjoy animals, though. While the amount of words in the poems are a bit lacking, the photographs will certainly appeal to readers as they are photographs like those that would typically be seen in National Geographic. Some students may be pleased that they are still getting poetry, but the text is limited in length and easy to understand.

Overall Quality: The quality of this book is quite good based on what it is supposed to be; a book full of beautiful photographs of animals that are endangered or struggling, and a few short haikus to go along with them. The illustrations really steal the show, though, so if someone is reading in hopes of getting wonderful poetry, they may not be satisfied with what this book has to offer for them. For a reader that wants a fun, quick read with beautiful photographs, they will be quite pleased with this book. They also get information about these struggling animals, which I found interesting as I made my way through the book.

The Poets: While I am not someone that reads a lot of poetry, at least when I am selecting books on my own, I certainly know who Kwame Alexander is. This is the second of his books that I have read this semester, and I reviewed one in an earlier module that I was quite pleased with, as far as poetry books go for me. He is a wonderful, well-known poet, and for that reason alone I believe that many people will pick up this book as well.

Layout: The layout of this book is typical for most picture books. There is a set number of pages that are filled with photographs and the brief poems, most of them occurring together on the same page. There is also a lot of extra information added onto the book. There is an introduction, as well as occasionally information about the animals featured in the photographs. The pictures are beautiful, and the way that the text forms around them is engaging and interesting as well.

Spotlight Poem: 

look into those eyes 
                       full of secret
     places to HIDE



Like most of the poems in this book, there is not much to work with. Overall, formatting seems like it would be the best thing to cover with the poems in this book. Students could view and analyze the poetry, focusing on the formatting and spacing, and then determine why the poet chose to write the words in these ways. 

LS 5663.20 Review: Falling Hard by Betsy Franco

Falling Hard: 100 Love Poems by Teenagers
Edited by Betsy Franco

Franco, Betsy. Falling Hard: 100 Love Poems by Teenagers. New York: Candlewick Press, 2010. Print.

Poetic Elements: This is another book where the poetic elements vary quite a bit depending on the page and specific poem. The interesting thing about this book is that the poets are all such very different people. The ages are varying in the teen years, and they are written by teens from every walk of life. Still, some of them are obvious much stronger in their writing of poetry than others. Some can add the elements and the emotion to their words, while others are still trying to tell their story through more emotion and imagery, and less like a report about what happened. There are some poems that rely on figurative language, line breaks, and interesting spacing. For the most part, they follow the typical stanza format, have punctuation only at the end of sentences, and do not rhyme very much. It is important to remember that these poems are by teens and not professional poets, so reading as critically as usual will not be as important here.

Appeal: One of the greatest appeals of this book is the fact that it is written by teenagers and not a professional writer that publishes books all of the time; sometimes being older and trying to remember how it was in their teen years so that they are relate able. Students should be able to relate to some of these individuals because they are actual teens, and they are talking about love and heartbreak in a way that will feel real because it is. It may even encourage students to write their own poems when they see that others have done so, and have been published. Another appeal is the language of most of the poems. There is not as much imagery as most poetry books typically have, so young readers will not have to spend a lot of time deciphering what the poet means. Instead, the stories are pretty clearly stated and understandable, making it a faster read.

Overall Quality: How one feels about the overall quality of this book will ultimately depend on the type of texts they enjoy reading. Some will really enjoy the fact that the poems are written by teenagers, especially young readers who will be able to understand and relate the stories they share. I did not fully appreciate this, as I did not find much depth in most of the poems, and I felt that a lot of the poems lacked much emotion and impact. I do not like being so critical of these particular poems, though, as I am thrilled that students are writing poetry and allowing it to be published. Overall, this is a book that most young people will enjoy picking up off of the shelves when looking for poetry, and I think that they will find the beauty and enjoyment in the texts.

The Poets: Again, one of the most interesting parts of this book is the fact that it is not written by a professional poet, or a group of such poets. These are teenagers that are of varying ages and that come from many different walks of life. The synopsis does a great job of detailing some of the different scenarios and situations these teenagers are involved with and live through, and in many cases you can see these things play out in the poems that they write.

Layout: The layout of this poem is similar to most books of poetry that are written that do not include any illustrations. The cover is vibrant and appealing, and the tattoo-like drawing will certainly draw the attention of young adults. The synopsis on the book jacket is well written and intriguing. When students open the book they will find a large Table of Contents, listing all of the included poems, as well as an introduction to the book. There are no illustrations in the book, so each poem follows one another. Some of the poems have titles on the page, some only have titles on the Table of Contents, and each contains the poets name and age after the text.

Spotlight Poem: 

The Perfect Guy

He gives me flowers,
Rings and notes,
Jewelry, makeup,
Other things.

I return the favors;
Anything for him.
I smile with joy--
No girl could ever be so lucky--

Until reality slaps me in the face.
It's fun to pretend, 
But I must remember:
It's for her, not me.

(Valerie Garcia, age 16)

These poems are great to use because students should be able to relate and better understand them as they do not have as much imagery and figurative language included. In this particular poem, the tone and mood change from the beginning to the end, so it would be a wonderful time to review these concepts and allow students to identify the tone and mood in each stanza, where the shift occurs, and why the writer included it. 

LS 5663.20 Review: Requiem by Paul Janeczko

Requiem: Poems of the Terezin Ghetto
by Paul Janeczko

Janeczko, Paul. Requiem: Poems of the Terezin Ghetto. New York: Candlewick Press, 2011. Print.

Poetic Elements: This book is a bit different than others of its kind. While all of the poems are written by the same person, in this case Paul Janeczko, they are each in the voice of a different character, which seems to add a lot of dimension to the overall story. The poetic elements vary depending on the specific poem. There are some pages where the elements are lacking, and one of the only ways one would know it was a poem was to see the format as it is written in stanza(s). On the other hand, there are pages that are chalk full of different elements from rhyme, line spacing, addition punctuation, and figurative language. It seems good to have a mix of the two as this way it does not seem to take away from the overall story, which should be the main focus in a book over such topics.

Appeal: The overall appeal of this book will depend a lot on each individual reader. As someone who enjoys reading books set in the time of World War II and is always curious to learn more about things that occurred in that point, I was drawn to this book as I looked through the list. Those that are not a fan of this time period or event, or that do not like raw, emotional texts may not be as inclined to pick up this book of poems after reading through the synopsis. The synopsis is well written, though, and the description of the importance of art and music could draw in more readers. The simple black-and-white illustrations are a great addition that may draw in readers who enjoy illustrations mixed in with their poetry.

Overall Quality: As far as quality goes, this book is fairly well done. There are some things that could be improved, but others may feel much differently about the book. That seems to be the thing about poetry, everyone views them differently. On the one hand, I enjoy how each poem is in the voice and tone of a different individual. It gives a large picture of what is going on in the Terezin Ghetto, looking at both Jewish citizens and Nazis standing guard there. On the other hand, this constant switching of characters makes it more difficult to sympathize and get to know any specific characters. While we may not be able to relate to the awful situation involved, there may be a quality of a certain character that we could understand, but we do not get enough of any one character to develop these feelings.

The Poets: Paul Janeczko is the sole poet of this book, and it does seem pretty obvious that this is the case. While the book is made up of many different voices, the writing style stays pretty consistent throughout the entirety of the novel. Janeczko seems to be pretty familiar and popular in the poetry realm, and I had even heard his name before this module, which says something as I am not up-to-date on my poets. From glancing at other books by him, it seems like his writing style remains consistent through the different stories.

Layout: The layout of the book seems similar to most prose novels that one would read. It contains a lovely cover picture with a synopsis on the inside jacket flap in order to draw in readers. It contains a Table of Contents that could very easily be chapters instead of titles, as in this case. From that point forward, there are not very many intriguing things about the layout. The poems follow one after another throughout the text, occasionally broken up by a black-and-white drawing to illustrate things being written about at that point. The layout is clean, but not necessarily eye-catching.

Spotlight Poem: 

Margit Zadok/13597

Papa didn't move.
He stood in the street
still as a lamppost
eyes locked on the nightmare
that had been his shop.
Windows smashed,
scattered glass winking in the sun,
the bottom half of his sign
Rosenberg's Fine Linens of Prague
blackened, burned. 
Delicate handkerchiefs 
now fallen white leaves.
Papa bowed his head
in prayer
or in despair--
I couldn't tell.
A white linen tablecloth 
edged with pink roses--
Mama's favorite pattern--
flowed like a bride's train
from sidewalk to curb to gutter.
Papa stared at black boot marks
crossing it like sins.
A man and a woman walked from the shop
arms filled with linens. 
"You!" Papa shouted. 
"You cannot steal from me!"
The woman looked away.
The man smiled at Papa's rage.
"Know your place, Jew," the man snarled. 
"Know your place."
As they walked off,
a napkin dropped from the woman's arms
falling to the ground
as noiselessly as snow. 

This poem is the first one in the book, and I think that it is a strong one. This book overall would be great to use during a Holocaust unit for young adults, but this poem alone could stand to give a view of how things were at this particular time in history. There is a large amount of figurative language and imagery provided in this poem, so I would have my students read with those things in mind. They would then identify and illustrate these examples, before explaining what they mean and why the author would include them.

Friday, April 14, 2017

LS 5663.20 Review: Seeing Emily by Joyce Lee Wong

Seeing Emily
by Joyce Lee Wong

Wong, Joyce Lee. Seeing Emily. New York: Amulet Books, 2005. Print. 

Poetic Elements: This book is quite a bit different from the other two that I read and reviewed this module as it is a book in verse instead of being an anthology or collection of poems put together. As this is a book in verse, with a complete story, I feel as if the poetic elements are a little more limited than they are within an anthology when the poems are of different styles. This book does not offer very much rhyme, though the verse format allows the story to still read quickly. Despite not having much rhyme or differentiation in the stanzas and format, there is an abundance of figurative language and imagery throughout the book. Wong is very descriptive in her writing, which makes the verse format even more enjoyable.

Appeal: As far as appeal goes, I do believe it might be more unlikely for students to pull this book off of the shelf if they are choosing between different poetry books. Despite that, it would be a wonderful choice if students are looking for a book in verse. The cover could make a huge difference as well. The cover above is very appealing, but it is not the cover that the middle school I work at has in their library. Instead, the one I read is not quite as eye-catching, which could cause problems. Again, the amount of text and lack of spacing could be intimidating for students, which may not appeal to young or struggling readers as well.

Overall Quality: Overall, the story in this verse novel is wonderful. It is easy to relate to the character, and allows students to read a diverse story that they might not see in other available books. The story is well written, and the style is quite good. While the layout is not the most appealing, I do believe that the story will make up for this lack of spacing and differentiation of format throughout the novel.

The Poets: As this is a novel written in verse, Wong is the only poet of this book as she tells the complete narrative. While I have not read anything by Wong previously, just looking her up on Goodreads shows that she is not new to the poetry world, and that she has other interesting titles. I love that Wong brings her personal insight into her story, making it a diverse story that students will be able to relate to. It is wonderful to read stories from diverse authors and poets.

Layout: After reading this book after my other two choices this module, I was a bit disappointed by the format of this books. I do realize that it is a different type of poetry book; this one is specifically a story written in verse. Still, the fact that the stanzas all run together and have very little space throughout the book makes it a bit intimidating, and I fear it would be even more so for struggling readers. The "Chapter" headings do not stand out very well, either, making it a bit confusing as you are just flipping through the book. There is very little variation throughout the book, and no illustrations, which is a bit disappointing.

Spotlight Poem: 


It was after eight thirty
and the restaurant was still half full.
Mama refilled a family's water glasses
while I cleared dirty dishes from another table, 
stacking them in a deep plastic bin. 
I looked over toward the corner booth
and saw the dark-haired boy
pull a few bills from his wallet
and place them on the table.
As he and the girl stood up to leave, 
he gave her a smile. He placed
his hand on her shoulder, 
walking slightly behind her
as they headed for the door. 

The bells atop the door clanged
when the boy held it open,
and the girl glanced up, startled.
She made a face,
laughing at herself,
then looked up and smiled
at the dark-haired boy.
With one hand still on the door,
he moved his other hand
down to her back,
pulled her slightly closer
and leaned down
to give her
as kiss.

A plate slipped
from my fingers,
clattering loudly against
the other dishes in the bin.
Startled, I looked up
to see Mama's expression of surprise.
I straightened the plate
then said, "It didn't break."
Mama studied me for a moment
without speaking.
She looked as if she had more to say,
but she only said,
"Be more careful next time."

This would be a wonderful poem to use when students are writing about their own experiences as it is something that is incredibly relate able for students who are in their teenage years. They could note the tone and emotions used throughout the poem, and then mimic those things in their own poem or writing. 

LS 5663.20 Review: What the Heart Knows by Joyce Sidman

What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms, & Blessings
by Joyce Sidman
Illustrations by Pamela Zagarenski

Sidman, Joyce. What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms, & Blessings. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2013. Print. 

Poetic Elements: Poetic elements are shared consistently throughout this book, and it was very exciting to read through each poem and see what it was going to offer; whether it was going to be like the previous, or a style all of its own. It was often the latter, each having its own distinct style. Rhyme is something that was fairly consistent throughout the book, and I did appreciate this. Poetry books seem to read faster when they rhyme, and it does seem easier for young or struggling readers. Figurative language is also something that is spread throughout the book often. There is an abundance of similar, metaphor, and personification, but there is also some onomatopoeia sprinkled around if the reader is looking for it. Many poems are also very distinct in their format and stanza length. Some are very short, one extended sentence, while others fill nearly a whole page. This variation adds to the overall quality of the book.

Appeal: One of the best things about this book is its whimsical nature, especially when it comes to the illustrations. They are a bit abstract with bright colors, and while the pictures may not necessarily go along with the text of the poems, they do draw the eye and encourage the reader to continue turning the page. The fact that some of these poems are meant to be chanted or read in choral reading style, seems like it would draw appeal to the book as well. Several of the poems are very short, which will appeal to young readers who may feel intimidated by poetry, especially when it comes to a complete book of poetry. The format and spacing of stanzas adds another level of interest to the pages as well.

Overall Quality: The overall quality of this book is quite good. While this is a collection of poems, it is not necessarily an anthology, since all of the poems are written by Sidman. All of the poems are well written, though some are more appealing and interesting than others as you continue throughout the book. The only disappointing thing is that some of the poems in each section do not seem to go together incredibly well, while takes away from the overall effect of the book. Still, the poems are well written, and Sidman has a style that keeps readers intrigued as they flip through the pages.

The Poets: Joyce Sidman is the sole poet of this book, and from my research, she has several other poetry books published. In fact, this is not the only book that she had collaborated with Zagarenski on. This is the first book that I have read by Sidman, but she has wonderful reviews online. I look forward to reading more of her work in the future as well as I really did enjoy her style of poetry throughout this book.

Layout: The layout of this book is great because Sidman provides information for the readers alongside all of the poems. She has separated the book into sections based on topic and the strategy that could be used to read those provided poems. Sidman provides definitions and introductions, which can be very valuable to readers. Each set of pages includes only one poem as well as a full page illustration to accompany it. This makes the book less intimidating for younger or struggling readers.

Spotlight Poem: 


This one's not a sure thing.
I'm not bound to win.
I don't think I'll ace it this time.
I won't break a leg,
make my own luck,
or reach the stars.

The sun is not shining on me today.
The force is not strong.
Before the day is out,
I'll taste the grit of dust.

Maybe I didn't do all I could.
Or maybe I did
but there were others who did more.
Maybe I'll never know.

But here I go--
bones clicking quietly together,
blood flowing dutifully
from heart to hands and back again--
here I go, stepping out
through the door
of my own shadow:
into the glare of the arena
to face the lions.

This poem was chosen because I really liked the title and the overall tone and feeling of the poem, something I believe that my students could relate to. There is a large amount of imagery and detail in the poem, and this is something that students could annotate and determine the purpose of. 
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