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.

LS 5663.20 Review: How I Discovered Poetry by Marilyn Nelson

How I Discovered Poetry
by Marilyn Nelson

Nelson, Marilyn. How I Discovered Poetry. New York: Dial Books, 2014. Print.

Poetic Elements: One of the most interesting things about this book of poetry is that it did not follow many of the typical elements you would find in a poetry book. The book consists of fifty non-rhyming sonnets that are written about events that occurred in Nelson's life from the ages of four to fourteen. While the books are true stories of what occurred in her life, Nelson admits in the Author Note that she preferred to think of the girl in the poems as "speaker" instead of as herself, which seems to tell us even more about Nelson as a person and writer. The poems are short and mostly contained to one page, often to only one stanza as well. If it were not left aligned, it would simply read like a prose story being told, such as in a memoir. The imagery and figurative language does fall in line with that of poetic elements, though. 

Appeal: With this particular book, I believe that there are certain elements that will appeal to young adult readers, but there are also some elements that I believe might turn them away from reading the book. Overall, the character or speaker is very relateable. Students may not have been through the exact same experiences, but they may think of instances from their own past that is similar, especially since Nelson is describing her childhood and adolescent years. Civil rights is a topic that seems to draw interest of young readers as well, perhaps because they cannot quite believe that the world use to be this way, and they always seem to have many questions. The format of the book may turn some readers away, however. The stanzas are typically long and not spaced out.

Overall Quality: The overall quality of this book is quite well. Unlike poem picture books that tell one poem in a thirty-two page book, this book incorporates a complete story made of several different sonnets, and adds whimsical illustrations to add to the overall effect of the words. The story is very well written, and is by far the best part of the book. For readers who are not interested in poetry, this narrative will keep them engaged and interested in what happened next in Nelson's life, especially as the location changes throughout her childhood. As far as poetic elements, it does not offer what one might expect to see, and so poetic quality may be a little lacking.

The Poets: Marilyn Nelson is the singular poet of the book, and she does a wonderful job weaving her story into verse. Nelson seems to be someone who is a well known author, though not always for poetry. This was my first experience with her writing, however. Because the story is based on Nelson's childhood, she is able to tell the story incredibly well while also weaving in a wonderful amount of detail and imagery.

Layout: The layout of this book is quite different from other verse novels that I have read throughout this semester. First of all, the poems are written in one long stanza instead of being separated up into smaller ones. The pages contain one poem with some sort of small illustration that is relevant to the text on that page. Overall, the layout looks fairly similar to a prose novel opposed to verse.

Spotlight Poem: 

"How I Discovered Poetry"
(Clinton-Sherman AFB, Oklahoma, 1959)

It was like soul-kissing, the way the words
filled my mouth as Mrs. Purdy read from her desk.
All the other kids zoned an hour ahead to 3:15,
but Mrs. Purdy and I wandered lonely as clouds borne
by a breeze off Mount Parnassus. She must have seen
the darkest eyes in the room brim: The next day
she gave me a poem she'd chosen especially for me
to read to the all-except-for-me white class.
She smiled when she told me to read it, smiled harder,
said oh yes I could. She smiled harder and harder
until I stood and opened my mouth to banjo-playing
darkies, pickaninnies, disses and dats. When I finished,
my classmates stared at the floor. We walked silent
to the buses, awed by the power of words.

Lesson Idea: As this is the poem where the title is the main focus, it seems like a wonderful one to use with the class. We could read it as a class and then decide how this one poem might relate to the whole story, and why the poet chose this as the title of the whole book, where it may just be one part of her story. Students can also discuss characterization of our speaker based on her behavior, responses, and environment. 

Friday, March 3, 2017

LS 5663.20 Review: Loving vs Virginia by Patricia Hruby Powell

Loving vs Virginia
by Patricia Hruby Powell

Powell, Patricia Hruby. Loving vs. Virginia: A Documentary Novel of the Landmark Civil Rights Case. New York: Chronicle Books, 2017. Print. 

Poetic Elements: One of the great things about this book, is that though it is written in verse, it does not necessarily always feel like poetry. Because of this, this was my favorite book of the three throughout this module. One of the greatest poetic elements of this book was the fact that the story flowed so effortlessly, making it very easy on the reader to focus on the story instead of getting bogged down with syllable count or odd breaks in stanzas. There is still an abundance of figurative language throughout the text, a majority of which is metaphor, which does seem to be very common in verse novels. Another elements that is very apparent is that of emotional drive and imagery. The reader is immersed into Richard and Millie's story through the stanzas, and it makes it very easy for the reader to feel everything that they feel, from their love and joy, to the fear and heartache. 

Appeal: Overall, I do believe that this is a book that will appeal to young readers because it still has a lot of issues that they are dealing with today. Civil Rights are talked about in school, and it would be wonderful for students to have excerpts from this verse novel in order to better understand how things actually were at that point. Unfortunately, students would probably be able to relate some modern situations to things happening in the book as well. I believe that part of the title is an appeal as well, at least it was to me as a reader. I am not sure I had ever seen the term "documentary novel" and it has me intrigued right away. At the young adult age, students are just beginning to fall in love for the first tie as well, so they will be able to relate to those feelings and emotions shown throughout the poetry in the novel. 

Overall Quality: The overall quality of this book is incredibly well done. It is clear that Powell knows what she is talking about, giving the reader the instinct to trust what she is saying and simply sink into the story. It is very satisfying to get a large overview of the characters' lives, even before the time that they could together, and then throughout their time together as they deal with prejudice just from being together and creating a family. Not only does this book bring about a large amount of emotions, but it is also a wonderful learning experience for readers. There are so many things to learn from a story like this, and the verse format seems to make it run more smoothly. 

The Poets: Powell is the only poet of the book, though she is not alone in bringing this book to life. Shadra Strickland's illustrations really help to bring the story to life. Again, my students are much more willing to read a book of poetry if it is not just pages of text and nothing else, and this book gave them those things. Powell did a wonderful job giving a complete story throughout all verse, and keeping the reader engaged throughout the entirety. 

Layout: The layout of this book is wonderful in that it is not made up solely of the verse poetry. That is a large part of the novel, yes, but there is so much more than that. Powell has included the illustrations be Strickland, quotes by other well-known individuals, and photographs and court documents to accompany events as they occur in the story. There verse itself is made easy to read because the flow is steady, stanzas are a bit longer, and it seems to read more like prose with dialogue than like most other verse novels. I do believe this layout made it easier for myself as a reader, and that it would benefit younger readers as well. 

Spotlight Poem: 

“Then blinding light right in
my eyes.
I’m ready to scream
but Richard
spooned behind me
must have woke up
and pulled me tight
into his body--
which stops the scream.

Then a cruel voice
right over me says,
‘Who’s that woman
sleeping with?’
I can’t see who’s speaking
what with the light in my

He’s talking to Richard,
of course.
Richard says nothing--
not sure he’s
even truly awake.
He just pulls me
tighter still.

‘I’m his wife,’ I say.
It makes me feel brave.
I’m his wife.

Richard lifts onto
his elbow,
takes his arm away
from me
to shield
the light
from his eyes.

Richard points to the marriage certificate
framed on the wall
behind us.
Beam of light leaves our faces
to shine on the certificate--
so I can see it’s Sheriff Brooks
and two deputies--
but I already knew that.

‘Not here she ain’t,’
says the sheriff.
‘Come on, get dressed,
let’s go.

I scurry up the stairs,
pull on yesterday’s dress.
The whole house is awake--
Mama, Daddy, Otha, Lewis, Garnet--
no one says a word.
They don’t dare.

Mama watches me go off
with the white men.
Get in their car.

Go to jail.”

There are many wonderful things that could be pointed out with this specific poem, but I think that it would be a great poem to use as a text to practice inferencing before students actually read more of the text or research the case and story. They would have to infer who is at their house at the middle of the night, why they are asking those questions, and the overall situation. Then we could continue reading so they can understand what is actually happening, and determine if their inferencing was correct. 

LS 5663.20 Review: Crank by Ellen Hopkins

by Ellen Hopkins

Hopkins, Ellen. Crank. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2004. Print. 

Poetic Elements: The wonderful thing about a book of verse such as this is the extent in which the poetic elements can change, even when it is still covering the same story. The sound an rhythm of the story can change greatly from page to page based on the format of the poem and what Hopkins is trying to accomplish with that specific part of the novel.The one thing that Hopkins seems to really focus on throughout the entire novel is sensory language and emotional impact. Throughout the entirety of the novel, it is possible to imagine and see the story play out in the reader's head because of how detailed Hopkins was in her writing. As for emotions, it is a roller coaster as we deal with Kristina, who also happens to be Bree in certain parts of the book.

Appeal: This book will appeal to students, but it seems to be in a different way than a lot of other verse novels will accomplish. Of course, there is the possibility that readers will be able to relate to things that the protagonist is dealing with throughout the story. The story line and events are intense, but it is not unlikely that others her age know about these topics. For those who may not be able to relate, it could appeal to readers in a different way. As humans, we often find interest in reading about these types of topics; for instance, in this particular novel the character becomes very invested in crystal meth, or "crank." Even for readers who have not experienced this, and do not plan to, we tend to like to read about such things. 

Overall Quality: The overall quality of this book is quite good. Hopkins has quite a bit of experience writing novels in verse, and certainly has a great number of the available to readers, almost all of them about difficult topics like the one covered in this novel. Not only does this story lend itself to be an emotional experience for readers, but it also gives the opportunity for growth and education. Perhaps the reader can relate, and they see things in themselves that they need to work on or change by reading Kristina's story. Perhaps it is a cautionary tale for those who may be tempted to go down a similar road. No matter the situation, it will certainly have an effect on readers. 

The Poets: As stated, Ellen Hopkins is known for her ability to write books in verse. She is the lone poet of this book, and she does a wonderful job making it seem like multiple poets could have pieced the pages together due to the differing formats and layouts of the included poems. Hopkins has an abundance of verse novels published, leaving other books available for readers to pick up if they want to read something similar. 

Layout: For me as a reader, one of the most intriguing things about this novel is the layout or format in which it follows. By this, I mean that it does not seem to follow any sort of format at all. Each time the page is turned, the reader does not know what might greet the. There are several pages where the poems are formatted in a very simple manner. Stanzas with straight lines and very little rhyme. On other pages the layout is unlike anything I have seen, with words aligned in all directions and the text making interesting shapes across the page. If the story was not enough, these interesting formats keep the story moving as well. 

Spotlight Poem: 

   I went to my dad's in June, met Adam
        the very first day. It took some time
          to pry him from his girlfriend's grasp.
             But within two weeks, he introduced
               me to the monster. One time was all
                  it took to want more. It's a roller-
                    coaster ride. Catch the downhill
                       thrill, you want to ride again,
                         enough to endure the long,
                           hard climb back up again.
                           In days, I was hooked on
                         Adam, tobacco, and meth,
                       in no particular order. But
                     all summer vacations must
                    end. I had to come how to
                    Reno. And all my new bad
                   habits came with me. It was
                  a hella speed bump, oh yeah.
                 Until I hurt for it, I believed
                 I could leave the crystal behind.
                 But the crash-and-burn was more
                 than I could take. When the jet landed,
                  I was still buzzed from a good-bye binge.

Of course, this is one poem from the text (among many others) that you would want to make sure was appropriate for the age of children working with. The book is not at all appropriate for the students I teach, so I just chose a poem I thought would be interesting to use. There is an extended metaphor, and I would be interested to see if students can not only identify it, but explain why it is there. After that, they should be able to determine why the poem is formatted the way that it is. They should be able to discover it moves with the character, based on her feelings and actions.Then, I would have them write a poem in which they change the format based on what they write about. 

LS 5663.20 Review: Death Coming Up the Hill by Chris Crowe

Death Coming Up the Hill
by Chris Crowe

Crowe, Chris. Death Coming Up the Hill. New York: HMH Books for Young Readers, 2014. Print.

Poetic Elements: Of all of the poetic elements throughout this specific novel, one of the greatest is the emotional impact. It is a roller coaster of emotions as the read goes through the life of the protagonist, Ashe. Occasionally their are glimpses of extreme happiness for Ashe, but other times there is an abundance of sadness and disappointment. Not only is a war going on in Vietnam, but there is a war going on in his own home; between his mother and father that are two very different people. They stay together for their mutual love of their son, but it does not make an easy environment to live in. Another element that is abundant in the verse novel is imagery and figurative language. There is a fair amount of metaphor, often extended, and brings the story to life as we learn the news about the war alongside Ashe. 

Appeal: The overall appeal of this novel is an interesting mix of elements for readers, especially young readers. On one side of the spectrum, there are many students who will be able to relate to Ashe and his family situation. He is trying to survive high school, think about his possible future choices, and deal with parents who cannot stand each other at home. A lot of students can relate to these things, and it will bring them comfort seeing a protagonist who may be facing similar issues. On the other side of the spectrum, the students can learn a great deal about history through this verse novel. They were not alive through the Vietnam war, and so they do not know what that period of time in America was like. They were not alive through all of the death and upset, and so this book gives the a real insight into how an individual their age would react during a similar situation. Therefore, this novel gives students something they can relate to, while also giving them the ability to learn more about history. 

Overall Quality: The overall quality of this novel was quite good. As someone who does not typically enjoy poetry myself, I was quite involved in the reading of this novel. While I had trouble with the format because it is so different than what I am used to, I was able to continue reading through the book because I was invested in the characters and the story, and I needed to know what was going to happen next. Overall, the format does seem to add to the story, though it does seem as if this could be a typical fiction novel as well, written in prose, which might draw the attention of more young adults. For the most part, there is also a wide range of emotions covered throughout the novel, having a steady balance of light-hearted and deep. 

The Poets: Chris Crowe is the singular poet of this book, and the whole text is written by him alone. It is clear that he has done a great deal of research and has an abundance of information and knowledge of the time period that he chose to cover in his book. Not only is Ashe discovering what is happening during the war, the reader is able to learn this information as well, making Crowe a fabulous poet. 

Layout: The layout of this book is what really makes it stand apart from other novels written in verse. The whole novel is written in haiku style verse, focusing on the amount of syllables to make up the three lines per stanza. After reading through some information over Crowe, it seems that he wrote as many syllables as the number of American soldiers killed in the Vietnam war. Very impressive for Crowe to embed this information so fluidly into his piece. Personally, this style was not my favorite as the stanzas and lines were much choppier than I typically prefer, but I do think that many readers will enjoy this format.

Spotlight Poem: 

"How does a guy deal
with being torn between two
people he loves? I

knew I was lucky
that I hadn't had to choose
between Mom and Dad.

They're opposites thrown
together because of me,
and they had managed

to keep a shaky
truce for so many years. But
it was difficult.

My dad was a flag-
waving hawk who thought it was
every red-blooded

man's duty to spill
that blood when America
called on him for it.

Mom's an anti-war
dove who gave me a 'Hell no,
I won't go!' tee shirt

for Christmas and she'd
convinced dad and me that I
had to enroll at

ASU as soon
as I finished high school. 'The
student deferment

will keep you out of
the draft,' she said, 'and unless
we're really stupid,

this war will be done
by the time you graduate.'
Dad didn't mind the

deferment. 'You can
join the ROTC and
graduate as an

officer,' he said.
'The Army needs smart leaders
who can help put an

end to the spread of
Communism over in
Vietnam. But when

I thought about the
four hundred seventy-one
guys who died last week,

I knew I'd go to
college to avoid the war,
not prepare for it.

With this spotlight poem, it would make sense to focus on the format and layout of a haiku poem, and why Crowe might format the poems in this way. They could count the number of syllables, and make sure that it is actually consistent through the poem, since this is something that students often struggle with. There are also a couple of examples of figurative language that I would have students identify and explain what they mean, and perhaps have students create an illustration of these metaphors. 

Friday, February 17, 2017

LS 5663.20 Review: Another Jar of Tiny Stars by Cullinan & Wooten

Another Jar of Tiny Stars
Edited by Bernice E. Cullinan & Deborah Wooten

Cullinan, Bernice E. & Wooten, Deborah. Another Jar of Tiny Stars. Pennsylvania: Boyds Mills Press, 2009. Print.

Poetic Elements: The poetic elements vary a great deal within this text as there are many different poets that contribute to the final product. It is clear that their styles are different. David McCord, for instance, obviously puts a lot of time and effort into making sure that he has a solid rhyme scheme in his poetry, even if it might cause them to not always make sense. Aileen Fisher writes a lot of her poetry in the same format, having separate stanzas that are aligned to the left and have few variations in line length. It is these things that make each poem and poet interesting, and something that will keep the reader intrigued as they continue to read through the text.

Appeal: It seems likely that this text will appeal to young adults as the poems are selected by other children. Children often do well when they can connect and relate to other people their own age, and it seems likely that this will happen as they read through the poems. They will know that other children selected those poems for them to read, and there is something empowering about that mindset as you read through the text. Many of the poems are very light-hearted and entertaining, several of them being quite amusing as well. This is the kind of text students will pick up when they want a fun read, and not necessarily when they are looking for something that will bring out an abundance of emotions.

Overall Quality: Overall quality is something that was difficult to determine as I was reading through the book. Some of the poems were wonderfully done and entertaining, while others caused me to pass through them without giving them much thought. A lot of this seemed to do with the topics of the poems and the writing style, as those things can be so different when it comes to poetry. It does seem likely that students will be able to find something that they enjoy throughout the book, even if they decide that they do not like one or more of the poets. None of the writing is bad, and all of the poems are certainly cute, which makes sense as they were selected by children. Overall, the book is very well put-together and adequate for young readers.

The Poets: One of the most interesting things about this book is the fact that the poems are selected by children, for children. There are a total of fifteen poets featured in the book, and they are all known to write poetry for children and young adults. More than that, these poems are specific ones that children have already read and enjoyed, and they believe that other children will enjoy them as well. The list of poets vary from those that are very well known, like Nikki Grimes, to ones that I have certainly not heard of, such as X.J. Kennedy. Featuring different poets can be beneficial as it allows students to see different styles and topics, giving them the opportunity to determine what kind of poetry they prefer and may read in the future.

Layout: The organization of this book is good, especially for young adults who are beginning to learn about using text features to get the most out of a text. The book begins with a table of contents that includes the poets, their specific poems, and the page numbers on which they can be found. For each poet's section or chapter, there is an introductory page with a picture of the author and a quote, giving readers the ability to get a little more insight into the poet's views and attitudes. Each poet has their own chapter that holds their selected poems. Each page is labeled with the poem title as well as the poet's name so that it is easy for the reader to know who the poet is if they are simply flipping through pages and not reading in order. The layout of the actual poems varies from poet to poet and page to page. Some have two columns in order to fit the poem on one page, and there are a few pages that hold more than one poem.

Spotlight Poem: 

"Out in the Dark and Daylight" - Aileen Fisher

Out in the dark and daylight,
under a cloud or tree,

Out in the park and play light,
out where the wind blows free,

Out in the March and May light
with shadows and stars to see,

Out in the dark and daylight . . .
that's where I like to be. 

There are so many wonderful things to focus on with this poem, especially when it comes to the seventh grade poetry TEKS (which I teach), that I would probably choose to use this poem as a weekly warm-up activity and focus on a different skill each day. It would be easy to discuss figurative language with alliteration and oxymorons, repetition is certainly there and students could discuss why the poet would do this, and then they could also focus attention on the rhyme scheme and how it affects the way it is read.

LS 5663.20 Review: Poem Depot - Aisles of Smiles by Douglas Florian

Poem Depot: Aisles of Smiles
by Douglas Florian

Florian, Douglas. Poem Depot: Aisles of Smiles. New York: Penguin Group, 2014. Print.

Poetic Elements: While there are several poetic elements throughout this book, I am not sure of how successful I believe them to be. As someone who is not normally a fan of poetry and often struggles with it, this is the exact kind of poetry book that I struggle with. There is no story that follows throughout the book. Instead, it is just page after page of assorted poems. They are fun and interesting, sure, but I am not sure that I actually get anything from them. When I read, I enjoy getting a message or learning something new, and I did not feel like that after reading through this book. Instead, it reminded me of why I had no favorite poets when I was a child.

Overall, there is a great deal of rhyme throughout the book, and it does change often due to the page and poem that is being written. No two poems in the book are exactly alike, which is pretty incredible when you realize how many poems are included, and that they are all written by the same poet about different topics. That takes a lot of talent, and I can certainly respect and appreciate that. While there was a bit of figurative language throughout the pages, I did feel that an emotional impact was mostly missing. I could not tell that these poems were written for any purpose other than to entertain, and perhaps make the reader laugh. Of course, there is nothing wrong with this purpose when it comes to children's poetry, it is just not what I personally enjoy reading at this point in my life.

Appeal: Overall, I do believe that this book contains the kind of poetry that will interest and engage young readers. The poems are short, and they are often about topics that they can relate to or make connections about, which is great for young readers as they are beginning to read and understand poetry and it's elements. The fact that there is so much rhyme and structure will also appeal to young readers as they can more easily read the text. They can focus more on what is being said, and less on how it is written or expressed. While the poems may not pull at the reader's emotions, it will certainly cause the reader to use and expand their imagination, which is incredibly important as well.

Overall Quality: Again, I am not sure I am the best person to discuss the overall quality of this particular book because it is not the type of poetry that really interests me. However, even though I do not like this book, I can certainly appreciate the writing and structure, and how young adults will really enjoy the text. The poems are all quite good, and discuss different topics that are relevant to children. The ones that rhyme do so well, and the ones that do not are still just as entertaining to read. Overall, the poems to complete the purpose of the text, which is to entertain the reader.

The Poets: Douglas Florian is the poet and illustrator for this entire book, which I do think is very impressive. I cannot imagine thinking of so many different topics to include in a book, and then successfully writing a poem about all of those topics; poems that make sense on top of that! Florian does a wonderful job of doing this, though. It would be quite easy to believe that multiple poets wrote these poems because some of them are so different, and that does seem to be a positive quality for a poet to achieve. For the most part, I do not believe that these poems pull on too many emotions, though maybe it will be different for younger readers, or those who feel more connected to the book than I did.

Layout: The layout of this book is one of the most exciting things about it, in my opinion. I was excited to open the book and see a wide variety of illustrations to go along with the poems. While I may not have been the biggest fan of the poems, I did appreciate how each had its own black-and-white illustration that better helped me imagine what was being talked about in the text. The book includes a table of contents, were the books is divided into "aisles" which follows along with the title of the text, making it a cute addition. It seems like a positive to have shorter poems, and often more than one to a page as I do believe this size will make it less intimidating for students to pick up the book and attempt to move through it, especially once they realize there are illustrations, and how quickly the poetry reads.

Spotlight Poem: 


I want more jokes.
I want more fun.
I want more candy
By the ton.
I want more laughs.
I want more smiles.
I want more cookies,
Piles and piles.
I want more games.
I want more friends.
I want my more
To never end.

With this particular poem, I believe it would be beneficial to discuss the overall format and the rhyme scheme, especially as an introductory lesson into poetry. Rhyme scheme can be difficult for students to learn and determine, and this poem would be a great example to do together. After determining the rhyme scheme, I would have students write their own poem based on this scheme, allowing them to choose things they want "more" of.

LS 5663.20 Review: Dizzy In Your Eyes by Pat Mora

Dizzy In Your Eyes: Poems About Love
by Pat Mora 

Mora, Pat. Dizzy In Your Eyes: Poems About Love. New York: Alfred A. Knopf for Young Readers, 2010. Print. 

Poetic Elements: This book is full of love, which might be a bit of a concern for certain young adults, especially if they feel like they have yet to be in love (of course, as someone that teaches middle school students, most of them believe to be in love!). The wonderful thing about this book of poetry is that it discusses many different kinds of love. It details the first love, when there is butterflies and nervousness. It deals with the love surrounding family, and difficult situations like divorce and loss. Even if students have not been in an actual relationship, there will be a scenario in which they are able to understand and relate to, which makes the book that much more powerful.

There is a fair amount of poetic elements that all come together to make this book even more enjoyable for the reader. Even as someone that does not typically enjoy poetry, I could appreciate the rhythm, figurative language, and imagery of the poems. The rhyme scheme shifted often throughout the pages, keeping the interest of the reader as the book continued. The imagery also helps add to the emotion the reader experiences as they are reading; this goes from nostalgic, to happy, to sad based on the specific reader and their past experiences.

Appeal: This book is a very suitable one for the middle school level, especially for students that are interested in poetry, or students that want to build this interest. The poems cover topics that most young adults can relate to, and even if they have not experienced those things themselves, they have seen them through movies or television shows. They have some sort of background knowledge to base their understanding on. Though the situations are familiar, many of them are written in a way that will expand the insight and views of the readers. They may even see a different side of a situation. Overall, the book also focused on qualities of Hispanic culture, which would be especially appealing to the students at my middle school.

Overall Quality: The overall quality of the poems in the book is pretty steady, but there is a lot more emotion and rhyme included in certain poems than in others. Some of the shorter poems are almost disappointing compared to others throughout the text, but it does seem beneficial to have the different pacing to push the story and book forward. The mix of topics and sensory detail adds a lot of texture to the story as well. While some poems are light and happy, others are darker and filled with sadness. It certainly sends the reader on an emotional roller coaster.

The Poets: This book consists of roughly fifty poems all written by Mora. They follow the story of a character as she goes through first love and loss, and everything in between. Having the same poet throughout the entirety of the novel adds a sense of comprehensiveness that I appreciate, especially when the emotions turn a bit more deep and dark.

Layout: In terms of layout, this book does have a lot to offer the reader. First of all, there is a table of contents at the beginning of the novel, which is beneficial, especially if the reader wants to focus on a specific poem within the book. The poems also vary in length, giving a good variation throughout the story. Another addition that is very helpful is how Mora has defined the different kinds of poetry throughout the book to give the reader more understanding of the form while reading the emotion. The only thing that I do not like about the layout is that the poems are separated by a page, even if they extend passed the space on a single page. Instead of being side-by-side, the page is designed, and you must turn the page to see the rest of the poem. As a reader, I found this to be a bit distracting as I continued through the poems.

Spotlight Poem: 

"Mirrors" by Pat Mora

Grandma makes me mad.
               "You're beautiful. Tan linda,"
when I'm studying my face,
boring as old bread,
my wide waist,
              "Tan linda,"
my hard-to-hide hips,
my too-flat chest,
my eyes that won't open wide
and round like my sister's,
that hypnotize guys.
              "Tan linda."

What does grandma see?

When teaching this poem, one of the main things I would focus on is the figurative language. This is something that we have discussed at length in my middle school reading class, and my students still struggle with it. I would have them read through the poem and circle the things they believe are figurative language. Once they have found the examples, they will determine what kind of figurative language is being used. Finally, they will determine WHY the poet decided to use this figurative language, and how it adds to the tone of the poem.
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