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. 
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