Friday, April 14, 2017

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. 

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