Publishing: Scholastic Press, New York, 1997
Awards: 1998 Caldecott Honor
Description: Walter Dean Myers writes about Harlem-the sights and sounds, the people in it, and most importantly, what it represents. Christopher Myers illustrates in evocative collages with rich texture and color.
Programming: Good for Black History Month in February. Langston Huges, Countee Cullen and James Baldwin are referenced, so students might explore each of those men and their works for further understanding and compare and contrast their styles and messages. They might need help putting some of Myers’ metaphorical message in context, but a good question would be, “Why does he make references to traveling and what does he mean at the end when he says, ‘A journey on the A train that started on the banks of the Niger and has not ended’ ?”
Publishing: Beach Lane Books, New York, 2009
Awards: Caldecott Honor
Description: Simple, choppy yet beautiful text accompanied by illustrations that switch between individuals and far-off perspectives that showcase large scenes. A series of small words and then “All the world’s…” For example: “Hive, bee, wings, hum/ Husk, cob, corn, yum!/Tomato blossom, fruit so red/ All the world’s a garden bed.” The last two sets focus on bringing people together: “All the world is everything/Everything is you and me,” and “Hope and peace and love and trust/All the world is all of us.”
Programming: Of course this would be wonderful for a poetry unit, but the last two sets of lines could be used for a lesson about diversity or about conservation: taking care of the “world” as in the people in it or the planet itself. Older students might be able to write their own short poems using the format.
Publishing: Holiday House, New York, 1999 (originally 1965 for the text)
Description: Updike has written a poem for each month. Each poem has short lines and is accompanied by a full-page illustration and also a long, thin panel next to the text. The two work together to capture the feelings, weather, holidays and other important events in that month. Hyman’s illustration style transfers well to the subject, with very rich, detailed pictures.
Programming: Would be good for a preschool or kindergarten class learning the months of the year, good for students learning poetry, or good in December to reflect on the passing year and look forward to the next. Students might write a poem about their favorite month, or make a bar graph of everyone’s favorite month or the month when everyone’s birthdays fall.
Publishing: Orchard Books, New York, 1996
Awards: Caldecott Honor
Description: This is a lovely poem/lullaby of a mother trying to quiet all of the animals around that might disturb her sleeping baby. After she has quieted the whole place, she falls asleep, but the baby is awake. The rhythm and repetition is very pleasing and the illustrations are bright and varied due to collage techniques.
Programming: I would have children share lullabies they have heard, or maybe learn some from other cultures. They could compare and contrast each of the ones discussed.
Publishing: Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 2009.
Description: A series of poems about the colors in relation to each season. They flow so well that the book almost reads as a narrative. Sidman perfectly captures the essence and feeling of the seasons.
Programming: If I were teaching English as a second language (or had this book in Spanish), I might cut up colored slips of paper and have students hold up the correct color each time it is mentioned in the book. This would also work well with small children in their native language. Older students might write their own poems about their favorite season and the color they think best describes it.
Publishing: Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 2007.
Description: This is a collection of poems written by Mrs. Merz’s sixth grade class. The first half is a set of apology poems inspired by William Carlos Williams’ poem This is Just to Say. The second half is a set of responses written by the person to whom the first half are apologizing. The illustrations also involve student art.
Programming: Students will love that all of the poems are written by peers their own age. Every kid has something they can apologize for, so I would have students write their own apology poems.
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Publishing: Greenwillow, New York, 1982.
Description: A set of silly poems with even sillier drawings. Kids will laugh, but Prelutsky’s command of language will be fun for parents to enjoy as well if they choose to read it out loud.
Programming: This is a great book to show that poetry can be fun, and not boring. Students might learn rhyme scheme from some of the shorter, more straight-forward poems. Other poems might require some discussion, such as the one about the frog and the toad, that might lead into other subjects, such as biology. (What is the difference between a frog and a toad? etc). Because of the range of subjects covered in the poems, the possibilities might be only limited by imagination.