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.

Friday, February 3, 2017

LS 5663.20 Review: The Brimstone Journals by Ron Koertoge

 The Brimstone Journals
by Ron Koertoge

Koertoge, Ron. The Brimstone Journals. Massachusetts: Candlewick Press, 2004. Print.

Poetic Elements: Overall, the meaning of this book is an important one. There is an overwhelming amount of violence in and surrounding schools in our current day and age, and there are certain things that our students are exposed to, whether we like it or not. Unfortunately, I do believe that a teacher or librarian would have to be very careful about who they share these poems with, unless they plan to do a lot of editing or omitting. Personally, I could not share the majority of these poems with my students, and I would not want to. While a lot of it might be reality for some people, we must be careful of the texts that we use, especially with middle school students.

Overall, there are not a lot of poetic devices throughout the majority of the book. While there is the occasional figurative language, there is very little rhyme to be found, which does make it a bit more difficult to get into, especially for someone who struggles with finding enjoyment in poetry to begin with. I think that adding a bit more rhyme would have made the book flow a bit better, especially when the reader already has to differentiate between fifteen different characters and their voices. It is a lot to think about when poetry can already be a difficult genre.

Appeal: I do believe that this book will appeal to certain individuals, but it will most likely be individuals in their late teens, as I would be concerned with students at an earlier age reading some of the included information. Despite that, it does talk about topics that students become interested in, especially as they get older and realize everyone else is interested. There is also a sense of relate ability to most of the characters. They represent a wide spectrum of the students that one would see in their own school, certainly on the outside, so it is likely that students will find someone they relate to. It also gives them the opportunity to see that people are more than what they appear on the outside, just as they are. I do believe this could be eye-opening to some students, and may cause them to hold off judgement on people they know at their own school.

Overall Quality: Overall, I would say that this book is average, though certainly my least favorite of the three books I read and reviewed this module. When reading the textbooks and lectures, it was clear that students prefer light-hearted and humorous poems, and this book has the exact opposite. I do fear what that could do for students, as there were many poems that left me feeling down. In one sense, it was great that it could cause that emotion, but it was also not what I want when reading a book in verse. Some emotion is great, but I do not want to be that down.

Overall, I do think that the number of voices throughout the book was a bit excessive as well. I found it difficult to keep up with all of the different characters, their story lines, and their voices. It was a lot to keep up with for someone who already struggles with poetry. Ultimately, it was good that the voices were so different, and I loved the handwritten names to show a bit more personality. However, some of the characters were frustrating, and sometimes almost impossible, to decipher and understand which left me feeling frustrated on more than one occasion. I cannot imagine what this might cause for students.

The Poets: Koertoge is the only poet in this book, so in that sense it is very impressive that he is able to create a variety of voices throughout that makes it mostly believable that we are reading the journals of high school students. Of course, I do believe that there are many occasions when the writings do not seem like something someone that age would actually write, but for the most part, it is relate able. This is a collection of poems altogether that tell a story, as opposed to being an anthology with separate poets. It tells a full story in verse, but I do think that Koertoge struggles a bit to keep a good flow through the poetry in the book.

Layout: The layout is fairly similar throughout most of the book. One of the things that does vary is the length of the poems. Some of them are a full page in length, and then there will be others that only have one or two lines. I do think that this does help the story move along, but at some points the very brief poems seem pointless and do not necessarily add to the story of that character. I was disappointed that the format of all of the poems are mostly the same. There is not a lot of variation in the format or spacing of the words or poems, and instead it looks like something that would be typed in a word document. I do believe it would add some interest if the poems had looked more handwritten, and that the writing matched the character's name.

Spotlight Poem: 


When I told Damon I was home
but didn't feel like picking up,
he just freaked.

Yelled about how it made him
look when all the other guys knew
where their girlfriends were.

This is a poem that I would use as a warm up for my students as it is short and something they should be able to easily comprehend on their own. I would have it posted on the document camera when they came into class, and in their journal they would answer a question about who the narrator is. What can we assume about he?

For a follow-up activity, I would have students look at other poems from the character of Kelli and discuss what other things we can learn about her from the things she says in her poems. They could even complete a characterization activity where they would have to do a fair amount of inferencing about the character as they only get brief glimpses of her through her writing.

LS 5663.20 Review: America at War Edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins

America at War
by Lee Bennett Hopkins

Hopkins, Lee Bennett. America at War. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2008. Print.

Poetic Elements: If a student or reader is interested in a "light" read when it comes to poetry, this might not be the book choice for them. While it is not necessarily the most intense poetry one will ever read, it does have a chance of upsetting young readers who may not deal well with these topics. For those that can handle it, it is a beautifully done text dedicated to the many wars that America and Americans have fought throughout the years. The book is divided into eight different sections, each focusing on a different period of time, from past to present. One of the best things that occurs in this book is that the past is often connected to the future. The styles of the poems vary a great deal, which does add an interest to the text as well.

There is certainly an emotional impact when it comes to reading through this book of poems. War is not an easy topic, and the poems do make this apparent. Put together with the images included, and it can be a very strong message to readers. As for figurative language and rhyme, it varies a great deal between the different poems and poets. It is clear that they all have their own style, but they do seem to flow together well through the entirety of the book. As for imagery, it is apparent throughout the majority of the book. The illustrations certainly help with this aspect.

Appeal: I do not believe that all of the poems have a form that are naturally interesting to students and young readers. Some of the poems are long in length, taking up most of the page, and just turning to them could be a bit intimidating to a reader who may not be strong with poetry. This is a feeling that I had more than once through my process of reading the book. I do think that the subject matter is something that may not appeal to all young adults a well. It might be a bit difficult for students to relate or make connections to all of the poems, as they were not alive through the wars, and are not always interested and invested in history. Still, some children will connect to it quite well.

This is a book or poetry that will most definitely enrich and extend a student''s knowledge, however. While they learn about these wars in school, these poems seem to touch on a side of the topic that they do not always see in school. In class, it is the dates and facts, which can get mundane to students, these poems over an emotional insight that changes up the way they view and hear the information.

Overall Quality: Overall, the poems are fairly consistent in quality. Of course, when you have a mixture of poetry from many different poets, it is understandable that the reader will not love all of the poems throughout the entire book. While I enjoyed most of the book, there were a few poems that were written in a style or way that I did not enjoy, and they are not ones that I would consider using in my own classroom. It does not mean the poems are bad, they are just not my style.

There is a wide mix of poets throughout the book as well. Some of them have been writing poetry for quite some time, while others are much more new. At least, I had not heard much of them, and they do not seem to have many poems out there, from basic searches done in interest. It is always exciting to see poets and writers that you are unaware of because then you can seek out other works by them. This opens great opportunities for students to find more texts that they will enjoy if they like a specific author's style or voice.

The Poets: As stated earlier, the poets vary a great deal in their style and experience. As someone who is not a large fan of poetry myself, I was not necessarily sure which poets had been around for a long time, and which ones might be newer into the industry. Still, there were some names that stood out to me. This book is also an anthology, meaning it is a collection of poems over similar topics; in this case, eight different wars from the American Revolution to the War in Iraq. As for poets that are well known, Joan Bransfield Graham and Sir Walter Scott were two names that stood out to me, and to a couple of other reading teachers when I asked them which poets stood out to them or sounded familiar. Of course, there were ones I had never heard of, and also ones that were written under "anonymous."

Layout: This book is set up very well as it has a table of contents and an index that helps the reader easily find a poem within the eight different subheadings. Each heading is listed on the contents, and then all included poems are also listed. The arrangement of the book looks very well put together. It looks professional and important, which I think is very important for poetry that discusses a topic that can be very difficult and emotional. Again, the poems vary a lot in their layouts and styles, but I do feel they flow together well. When there is a longer poem included, there is a shorter one on the following page so that it is less intimidating.

The illustrations within the book are also incredible. The artist did a wonderful job of creating illustrations that go along well with the point and emotion of the poem it accompanies. Some of the illustrations are a bit tough to look at, and might prove difficult for younger readers. However, they are all patriotic and beautifully drawn, which adds to the appeal of the book as a whole.

Spotlight Poem: 

"Vocabulary Lesson" by Ann Wagner

We don't have wars.
We have
    preemptive strikes
We don't have soldiers.
We have
    peace keepers
We don't have mistakes in combat.
We have
    friendly fire
    flawed intelligence
And we don't have death.
We have
    loss of life
    collateral damage
What we do have is
    careful vocabulary.

To introduce this poem, I think it would be important to preface what the topic is about, and use it at a time that is relevant in the classroom. There is a point of year where we read text about September 11th, and this could be a good time to incorporate this poem. It is not one that I would use for a warm-up on an unrelated day. I would read it with my students, in hopes that they would better understand the purpose of the text.

When it comes to a follow-up activity, I believe I would focus on the connotation of certain words, and how this can impact the tone and mood of the poem as a whole. We would create a chart, and fill it with words from the poem that are positive and ones that are negative, and then determine the importance of having these different kinds of words. Students can then write their own poem trying to include words that have both positive and negative connotation.


LS 5663.20 Review: The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

The Crossover
by Kwame Alexander

Alexander, Kwame. The Crossover. New York: Hmh Books for Young Readers, 2014. Print.

Poetic Elements: The meaning of this book can carry so much for students, especially those in middle and high school, the relative age of Josh Bell, the protagonist in the book. Josh is a basketball star, as is his twin brother, Jordan. Their father was an Olympian in basketball as well, so it definitely runs in the family. The book is so much more than a "sports book." In fact, I don't really enjoy sports (definitely not basketball), and I still found this book excellent and inspiring. It is about basketball, but it's also about family and relationships, making decisions and dealing with consequences, and growing up. It is something our students can relate to.

This book is also interesting because the format of the poems differ chapter by chapter. Some of them have interesting format and spacing, some of them have rhyme, and some of them focus much more on telling a story than worrying about the poetic devices. This makes the book more interesting and keeps the reader moving quickly through the story. The poems that rhyme are fun to read, and the emotion behind the story-like poems is amazing. The language also offers a great deal of imagery for the reader, making it easy to picture Josh and the situations that he is conquering.

Appeal: This book certainly appeals to young adults, especially kids that are in the preteen to teen ages, where they will more easily relate to the circumstances that the protagonist are dealing with. Because of the sometimes strange and interesting formatting and spacing, and the different font types and sizes, the story will certainly appeal to a younger audience. It will keep them interested to move forward and see what the next poem may look like. It is also helpful that the story includes many situations that they will recognize and connect to. The boys will be thrilled to have the imagery and details of the sport, while the relationships and conflicts will appeal to all readers.

While the poem offers a lot of information that students will understand and relate to, I do believe that the book will also push them out of their comfort zone. For those unfamiliar with basketball, some of the terminology used might be new to them. Some of the terms I was unaware of myself, so I either did research or asked my father about the details and what the certain moves or terms actually mean. Even for those invested in the sport, there are terms and vocabulary that will push our students, and that is always of immense benefit.

Overall Quality: The overall quality of the book is very good, and I believe even readers who are not fans of poetry will agree. The quality of the poems carries throughout the whole book, even as the formatting changes. The poems do seem to reinforce the purpose of the book. When the elements are lighthearted, the poems are formatted in a more interesting way; there is spacing and different word positioning. When the subject is more serious or important, the text is more in line with prose.

The Poets: This book is one with a single poet, in which much of the poetry is similar to one another, and it tells a complete story. It is apparent that the poems are by the same writer, even if they occasionally look a bit different from the others. I would not say that the poet is exactly notable, but I do believe that many people would be invested and interested in this book, and any other that he would write if the quality was the same.

Layout: As for the layout of the book, I believe it is one of the most interesting qualities of the book. It is not just another book of verse. Despite not having pictures, there is interest. The first poem you open to is formatted in an interesting manner, and keeps things interesting right from the very beginning. What is even more intriguing is the way that the poems shift back and forth between a standard format, and one that is abstract. The book does not include a table of contents or index; however, there are title pages before separate sections of the book, dividing it into different parts. There are also no pictures or illustrations in the book, but it does not take away from the impact of the story.

Spotlight Poem: 


At the top of the key, I'm
                  MOVING & GROOVING,
POPping and ROCKING --
Why you BUMPING?
                  Why you LOCKING?
Man, take this THUMPING.
Be careful though,
'cause now I'm CRUNKing
and my dipping will leave you
              G   on the floor, while I
to the finish with a fierce finger roll . . .
Straight in the hole:

I do not think that I would do much introduction to this poem. Instead, I believe that I would read it to my students without any information, and then ask how they feel about it and what they notice. In my classroom, we use a strategy called WWAM to annotate poetry:

W-What is it about?
W-What's weird about it?
A-Author's Tone/Attitude

This would mean students would be completing the second W, in which they determine what is strange or weird about the poem. They would most likely point out the spacing and way the text looks. They would discuss the different texts and how it is all mixed in together.

For a follow-up activity, I would have students circle all of these things (like the alliteration of finish with a fierce finger) and determine why the author would include these things in the poem. They would then work on their own personal poem, using some of these same formats and changes.

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