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. 

LS 5663.20 Review: Poems to Learn by Heart by Caroline Kennedy

Poems to Learn by Heart
by Caroline Kennedy
Paintings by Jon J. Muth

Kennedy, Caroline. Poems to Learn by Heart. New York: Disney Hyperion Books, 2013. Print. 

Poetic Elements: As this book is a poetry anthology, the poetic elements can vary quite a bit between the poems throughout the book. Some of the poems have clear rhyme scheme, which makes them easier to read compared to some of the others included. There is a lot of figurative language and imagery throughout the book, which is nice to see even with so many varying poets represented. Punctuation is another element that varies a great deal throughout the book, which can be very interesting for the reader. Some poets seem to follow the ideal rules of punctuation throughout their poem, while others have very little punctuation, sometimes simply a period at the end. While some elements are more sporadic than others, it is clear that the book offers many poetic elements to its readers.

Appeal: While this specific anthology has fairly good reviews online, I do believe that there are certain aspects that will appeal to young readers, while there are factors that may not as well. The illustrations throughout the book is one of the greatest appeals the anthology offers to readers. The watercolor illustrations are beautifully done, and help to match the tone of each of the poems incredibly well. If nothing else, the illustrations cause the reader to continue flipping the pages to see what colors await them. Some of the poems are difficult, though. Some of them are by very famous poets, and are from quite some time ago. Because of this, the language and wording may cause some issues for students. Some of the poems are also quite long, which could be very intimidating for young readers.

Overall Quality: The quality of the book is quite good. It is clear that Kennedy put a lot of thought and effort into this anthology. This was not her first collection, and after some criticism of her first anthology, it looks as if Kennedy took some of her readers' advice and improved upon her poem selection for this book. That does mean that some poets are included that may not have been otherwise, and some of these are the poems that I do not believe will necessarily interest young readers. The book is well put together, and the flow is quite nice. Overall, it is a good reader for those who already enjoy poetry, but I am not sure a hesitant poetry reader would choose this off of the shelves.

The Poets: One of the great things about this anthology is the variation between poets included. Some of them are from a very long time ago, while others are much more recent. Some are very well known, while others I had not heard of before reading their poem in this book. This allows students to see a mix of different poets and their style, which can be very beneficial. Some of the better known poets include Langston Hughes, William Shakespeare, Robert Frost, and Lewis Carroll. Lesser known poets include Jeff Moss, Countee Cullen, and Linda Sue Park. One of the poets I was most excited to see featured was Gary Soto. I teach several of his short stories to my middle school students every year, and they just adore his stories and style.

Layout: The layout of this book is also very intriguing. Kennedy has separated the poems into different sections based on the topic, which is great for students who are interested in certain topics, and perhaps not in others. Kennedy also provides an introduction to the book as a whole, as well as each of the different sections. It is intriguing to see her views and why she included each topic. The poems vary in length, but each page is set up similar to one another. One of the best additions to the book is the First Line Index. If a student knows how a poem begins, they can search for it this way, which is not something seen often in poetry books.

Spotlight Poem: 

Janet S. Wong

I pledge acceptance 
of the views,
so different, 
that make us America

To listen, to look, 
to think, and to learn

One people 
sharing the Earth
for liberty
and justice 
for all. 

It is wonderful that this poem is a play on the Pledge of Allegiance, which is something that our students repeat everyday in school. As this book is meant to be poetry that students can learn and remember, it would be interesting for students to memorize this different views of a familiar pledge. Students could discuss the differences, and what the poet means by them. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

LS 5663.20 Review: The Tree That Time Built by Ann Hoberman & Linda Winston

The Tree That Time Built: A Celebration of Nature, Science, and Imagination
by Ann Hoberman & Linda Winston 

Hoberman, Ann & Winston, Linda. The Tree that Time Built: A Celebration of Nature, Science, and Imagination. New York: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2009. Print. 

Poetic Elements: The wonderful thing about this book is that it is a poetry anthology and offers different things for readers who enjoy different kinds of poetry and poetic elements. Some of the poems are longer and full stories, while others are shorter and focus more on the rhyme scheme and figurative language. Sensory details and other poetic elements really vary between the different poems and pages, so it is difficult to say that only certain elements are included. Some poets clearly focused on the voice and emotion of their poems, while others wanted to focus on making them fun and enjoyable. It is interesting seeing this variety in the book.

Appeal: The topics found within this book will most likely interest students to at least pick up the book and give it a try. Science is a popular subject with young adults, and this book is full of poems that discuss different science and nature elements from stars to tunnels. This book will appeal to young readers because most of the poems are short and easy to digest. Longer poems still only extend across two adjacent pages, so it is not overwhelming when one picks up the book and looks through it. Some of the poems are more emotional, but most are fun and require students to use their imagination and understand personification.

Overall Quality: The quality of this book is quite good, especially when it comes to anthologies. I do prefer to read these types of anthologies when I want to read poetry for enjoyment, and this book certainly met that need for me. The poems do not always work together very well when it comes to topic or style, but that does make it interesting for the reader. They are not sure what they might read next, so they continue to flip through the pages.

The Poets: This anthology includes an abundance of poets, some that are very well known, while others I had not heard of before (of course, they may be very well know as well, I have made it clear that I am not very knowledgeable about poetry). Each poet has their own clear style that they bring to the book, making each page different than the last.

Layout: The layout of the book varies a lot as well as it is an anthology. While all of the poems work together well enough and the illustrations pull it all together cohesively, things are still very different. Some poems are short and compact like the spotlight poem, while others spread across two pages, have several stanzas, and are surrounded by relevant illustrations. The poems vary in length and format, some being spaced out to add to the text within.

Spotlight Poem: 

by Langston Hughes

Oh, fields of wonder
Out of which
Stars are born,
And moon and sun
And me as well,
Like stroke
Of lightning
In the night
Some mark
To make
Some word
To tell.

Lesson Idea: The format of this poem is one of the most interesting things about it. It is short and easy to understand, so it allows students to focus on the length of the lines, capitalization at the beginning of each line, and limited punctuation. Students can determine why Hughes would write the poem this way, and then try to replicate the format with their own poem.

LS 5663.20 Review: Wicked Girls by Stephanie Hemphill

Wicked Girls: A Novel of the Salem Witch Trials
by Stephanie Hemphill

Hemphill, Stephanie. Wicked Girls: A Novel of the Salem Witch Trials. New York: Balzer & Bray, 2010. Print.

Poetic Elements: When I think of novels in verse, this is the ideal format that I intend to see when I open the cover. Page after page of poems separated into several stanzas, figurative language, imagery, and no illustrations. The format of the novel is something that stands out as a poetic element as it contains stanzas of various sizes. Some are short and to the point, while others are longer and more detailed. In addition, there is quite a bit of dialogue throughout the poem as well, which adds to the characters and plot. This book is very plot and story driven, focusing more on these things rather than figurative language and symbolism. Hemphill still does a wonderful job of painting the events vividly for the reader.

Appeal: Despite the events taken place a very long time ago, I do believe that this is a book that will appeal to young readers, whether or not they are interested in verse novels or the Salem Witch Trials. The characters are a group of girls between the ages of eight and eighteen, and they could certainly be seen as their version of "Mean Girls." The characters that you love to hate, and young adults seem to enjoy these characters as well. While the text can seem intimidating, it reads quickly and is interesting. Another appealing element is that the poems alternate between the voices and point of views of all of the different girls, and their stories all intertwine together to form the intriguing events. Even more appealing is the fact that the book is based off true events, though the majority has been fictionalized because no one quite knows why the girls did what they did.

Overall Quality: The overall quality of the book is quite good. While I do wish that the poems were spread out a bit more, and that some illustrations were added, the story is an interesting one. The fact that it is based on true events make it even more interesting to readers. Hemphill does a wonderful job of creating her own views of the girls and making it believable. The details and imagery are wonderful, and certainly keep the reader flipping through the pages, even if they may not have been interested in the Salem Witch Trials beforehand.

The Poets: Stephanie Hemphill is another poet and writer that I knew very little about being reading this book, but it is clear that she has rave reviews. It is also clear that she did her research when it came to writing this novel. She is not afraid to admit that her research came up with a lot of dead ends, so she had to fictionalize a lot of the story. Despite this, the story is incredibly believable for the time, making the read that much more enjoyable.

Layout: The layout of this book is its most disappointing element, in my own opinion. Based on the topic and story, something much more interesting could have been done in terms of format. A lot of text has to fit into the book, and it is already lengthy, I understand. I do believe that more readers would choose to pick up the book if it did not seem like it was just text and illustrations were added. This could have added to the story, perhaps adding some historical photographs.

Spotlight Poem: 

January 1692

Silent, not even the twitter
of insects. The wind stills
against a distant sky of clouds.
The cold is gray and fierce,
bitter as a widow at the grave.
The trees' bare bony fingers
point crookedly
toward Heaven or Hell
or worse than that, toward nowhere.

Winter days
wear long as the ocean shore,
governed by a god
harsher than windstorm hail
and more punishing than the waves
that break ships in two.

There are rules to follow here,
one righteous path
thrashed down through the woods.

Lesson Idea: This would be a wonderful poem to use when reviewing figurative language. The best way to teach figurative language is to allow students to find these things in a poem and then determine why the poet would include them. Students could highlight examples within the poem and then determine why Hemphill included them and what they add to the story and poem.
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