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.
SONG OF BRAVERY
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.