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Celebrating April With More Poetry

By Karen Hildebrand
 | Apr 04, 2016

This year marks the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month, started in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets (AAP). Join this April’s celebration of National Poetry Month in your classrooms and take advantage of the many resources available through the AAP. Particularly special this year is the Dear Poet Project, which encourages students in grades 5–12 to write letters in response to poems written and read by award-winning poets. Videos of poets reading their work are available on the National Poetry Month website.

Ages 4–8

Fresh Delicious: Poems From the Farmers’ Market. Irene Latham. Ill. Mique Moriuchi. 2016. Wordsong/Highlights.

Fresh DeliciousPictures and words unite to create a savory image-filled book full of the vibrancy of a farmers’ market with luscious-looking foods. Brightly colored cut-paper collage illustrations feature a variety of animal customers enjoying the bounty of farm produce. The imagery of language is everywhere. In “Peach,” “When your / baby-fuzz / cheek / meets my nose, / the world /explodes / with sweetness,” Latham evokes several senses. In the poem “Purple Hull Peas,” she uses metaphors—“a canoe / that seats / eight or ten / green-cheeked / dark-eyed / passengers.” Most of the 21 poems are free verse. Even the back cover contains a poem. The last two pages contain recipes using produce from the farmers’ market for healthy snacks that a child and adult can make together. Great food fun paired with verses to think about.

Guess Who, Haiku. Deanna Caswell. Ill. Bob Shea. 2016. Abrams Appleseed.

What great fun to begin a look at the poetic form of haiku with riddles about animals. Each page offers a haiku followed by a question: “Can you guess who from this haiku?” For example, “flower visitors / busy buzzing in the field / black and yellow stripes. Can you guess who from this haiku?” On the following page the answer is given with both an illustration and oversized text, “A Bee!” Each haiku is accompanied by a visual clue. For example, for the second poem there is a pair of horseshoes at the bottom of the page, hinting that this haiku’s answer might be a horse. On the final page the author includes an explanation of this Japanese verse form with its specific requirements. Reading Guess Who, Haiku will be an opportunity for teachers to have students create their own haiku after modeling with this book.

Now You See Them, Now You Don’t: Poems About Creatures That Hide. David L. Harrison. Ill. Giles Laroche. 2016. Charlesbridge.

Now You See ThemDavid Harrison presents five groups of animals in the camouflage poems in this book of poetry about the natural world. The cut-paper illustrations are beautifully layered to create texture and the visual hide-and-seek of the animals lying beneath or on their protective colored environment. Fish and Sea Life, Reptiles and Amphibians, Mammals, Insects and Spiders, and Birds make up the five categories of camouflaged creatures, with 19 animals in all represented. A very intriguing double-page spread of a copperhead snake queries, “Find me / if you can / my sssskin / deceivessss / helpssss me / dissssappear.” Each poem includes a small fact as to why the animal is colored the way it is. Endnotes add further information on each of the animals and the concept of protective coloration.

When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons. Julie Fogliano. Ill. Julie Morstad. 2016. Neal Porter/Roaring Brook.

when Green Becomes TomatoesWritten in the style of a diary or journal starting with March 20, the vernal equinox, this collection of poems takes readers through the seasons in free verse. Julie Morstad’s gouache and pencil crayon illustrations accompany the poems, bringing a range of colors as the year progresses. The book starts and finishes with the same poem, “March 20” “From a snow-covered tree / one bird singing / each tweet poking / a tiny hole / through the edge of winter / and landing carefully / balancing gently / on the tip of spring.” Spring is welcomed on March 22 with “just like a tiny, blue hello / a crocus blooming /in the snow.” Children representing several races are pictured at the beach or picking berries or jumping into piles of leaves or watching snowflakes or making snow angels. The beautiful imagery created by Fogliano’s poetic words is entered into the journal to describe a child’s day through the seasons.

Ages 9–11

Bow-Tie Pasta: Acrostic Poems (Poetry Adventures). Brian P. Cleary. Ill. Andy Rowland. 2016. Millbrook/Lerner.

Bow-Tie PastaStarting with a description to let young readers know what an acrostic poem is, Brian Cleary gives an example that includes a cartoon-like illustration of himself with an acrostic that takes the form of a bio-poem: “Bow-tie wearer. / Really likes baseball. / Insanely happy. / Always going places. / Never eats centipedes.” Cleary goes on to offer over 20 acrostic poems on topics such as Halloween, Piano, Rainy Day, Purple, Teachers, Pirates, Piranha, Lacrosse, Library, and Snack Time.

When the Sun Shines on Antarctica: And Other Poems About the Frozen Continent. Irene Latham. Ill. Anna Wadham. 2016. Millbrook/Lerner.

When the Sun Shines on AntarticaThe artistic team who brought readers Dear Wandering Wildebeest: And Other Poems From the Water Hole (2014) now takes them to the frozen continent of Antarctica, where the sun shines for six months during the Antarctic summer. Combining science and poetry, 15 poems and informative sidebars make up this chilly book about the frozen continent. All kinds of life exist in Antarctica, especially as the sun radiates to bring new life in the summer. Several species of penguins are described and poetically distinguished from other species. The more aggressive and rather scary bull elephant seals and leopard seals are presented in predatory scenarios. Even an insect, the midge, can exist in this frozen climate in the hair grass sprouting amid the rocks. The lesser known brinicle, a brine icicle that grows underwater, is described and the dangers it presents are explained. A glossary and suggestions for further reading are included for those interested in learning more about Antarctica. 

Ages 12–14

A Girl Called Vincent: The Life of Poet Edna St. Vincent Millay. Krystyna Poray Goddu. 2016. Chicago Review.

A Girl Called VincentGoddu brings to readers the remarkable life of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892–1950). This biography begins with Edna’s living in Maine with her single mother and two younger sisters. Their mother moved the girls from town to town and was often gone and left Edna in charge. Her childhood is represented by an unsupervised freedom that shaped her style of living thereafter. As a youngster, she started calling herself Vincent, named after the St. Vincent Hospital in Manhattan where her uncle had recently received treatment that saved his life. Her poetry writing had begun and she entered several writing contests, which led to the opportunity to attend Vassar and started her professional road to writing. She was also an ardent feminist in response to the many issues surrounding women in this era. Moving to Greenwich Village in New York City, Vincent continued a lifestyle full of people and the arts and theater and writing. Included in the book are some of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poems, photos, a timeline, letters and diary entries, source notes, and a bibliography.

Night Guard: Poems for Children. Synne Lea. Ill.  Stian Hole. 2016. Eerdmans.

Night GuardThis collection of poems, imported from Norway, is about introspection. The illustrations have a surreal quality, presenting images that haunt and are to be pondered. The poems are revealed through the voices of members of a family, particularly a young child who faces fears both of the known and the unknown. He needs a friend. His supportive family shares their fears and thoughts. They reach out to understand each other and the world around them. The reflective voices of family members in the poems call for something in the abstract—a call to end the loneliness of the young boy and help him find ways to move beyond his isolation and discover joy in the world around him.

Ages 15+

Ask Me How I Got Here. Christine Heppermann. 2016. Greenwillow/HarperCollins.
Ask me How I Got HereAddie Solokowski is a star cross-country runner in her sophomore year at the all-girl Immaculate Heart Academy. Heppermann’s (Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty (2014)) free verse poetry reveal that Addie’s track career and love life are what constitute her life until she discovers she is pregnant. Addie decides to have an abortion, and her parents and boyfriend support the decision. The story unfolds over months as Addie struggles emotionally with her decision and her right to the choice she made. The poetry includes many references to religion during the weeks and months as Addie works through her decision. What used to be important to Addie seems to be changing and a surprising new relationship with a former Immaculate Heart student places her on a new path in her young life.

Karen Hildebrand is a retired school librarian active in ILA and NCTE. She is part of the Teacher Fellowship program at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., serves as the Education Curriculum Chair of the Delaware County Historical Society in Ohio, and recently served on the Notable Trade Books in the Social Studies committee. She currently serves as the chair of the NCTE Award for Excellence in Children’s Poetry.

These reviews are submitted by members of the International Literacy Association's Children's Literature and Reading Special Interest Group (CL/R SIG) and are published weekly on Literacy Daily.

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