LS 5663 Module 2-Douglas Florian

Florian, Douglas. Winter Eyes. Illustrated by Douglas Florian. New York: Greenwillow Books. 1999. ISBN 0688164587

Winter Eyes is a collection of winter themed poems written and illustrated by Douglas Florian.  These lighthearted and easy-to-read poems range from the fun of ice skating to the frustration that is cabin fever.  These poems would work well for a younger audience, just getting used to reading alone.  While there are a couple of possibly challenging words, mainly colors like cobalt or umber, there are plenty of pictures to help a reader along.

Florian doesn’t give one image of winter, but instead shows many sides to the season and lets the reader pick his favorite.  “Figure 8”, “Sled”, and “Two Snowflakes” also have the distinction of being poems that move on the page rather than having a standard form.  All of the poems have a rhyme scheme.  Usually the rhymes are in couplets, though some are in four line phrases.

One extremely entertaining thing to do with new poets, or anyone, would be to encourage them to read “What I Love About Winter” and “What I Hate About Winter,” then write their own version.  For example, I would put Christmas, Christmas carols, Christmas ornaments, and seeing my family under What I Love.  I would put the cold, sleet, snow, ice, and lack of sun under What I Hate.  I’m sure if I sat here long enough I could make a poem, but that is getting off track.

While I said it would be good for new readers, it would also be an easy read for people reluctant to read poetry.  Florian doesn’t ask the reader to dive deep or interpret, rather he invites the reader to have fun in the snow.  This simplicity may appeal far more than an “in-depth” poet where the reader feels like he is supposed to be looking for hidden meaning.

Spotlight Poem

Winter Night

No summer haze.

No autumn mist.

The winter air

Is clean and crisp.

And when the moon

And stars appear,

They somehow seem

To be more near.

Orion shines,

Big Dipper’s bright

Upon this wondrous

Winterous night.

This poem has the added bonus of lending itself to a science class.  Not only are haze and mist both weather related phenomena, but due to the mention of Orion and the Big Dipper, this poem could be used to start a discussion of the winter constellations.


Bulletin Blue Ribbon


Kirkus Review–“Winter-lovers and winter-haters alike will find poems that strike chords, in a collection that is perfect for reading alone by the fire, or as part of snug storytimes.”

Kirkus Review.  October 1, 1999.  Retrieved from


A Note and Apology

Lately I have been writing in Word and copying my work over.  I have discovered this causes my HTML coding to do crazy and wonky things.  Despite being on the Web Content team at work (Yes you may laugh at the irony), I have no idea why this is happening.  I will continue trying to catch these oddities, as well as figure out how to stop them.  I’m sorry if this has caused you to see any strangeness in my posts.



LS 5663 Module 2-NCTE Award Winning Poet

Grimes, Nikki. What is Goodbye? Illustrated by Raul Colon. New York: Hyperion Books for Children. 2004. ISBN 0786807784


The simplest way for me to describe What is Goodbye? is by saying it is a child’s In Memoriam.  It is a story told in pairs of poems, one written by a younger brother and one by an older sister, both with the same title, that deal with death, grief, and life.  It is written about children, and in a way children can understand. 

There are two distinct voices, the little brother Jesse uses rhyming poetry.  Jerilyn writes less lyric, but often deeper poetry.  Both speak of holding grief in and both speak of letting anger out, neither in particularly healthy ways initially. 

Despite the grim subject matter, the book is clearly aimed towards elementary and middle school aged children, similar to the ages of the still living brother and sister.  While reading it to a group does have the potential to backfire depending on the backgrounds of the children, it also allows them to work through the grief in the story together. 

The one poem that lends itself most towards reading aloud is the final poem in the book “Photograph-Poem for Two Voices.”  If the two parts are read separately, they are choppy and incomplete.  They have to be read together for the complete picture to be seen, and for the complete poem to be heard. 

Spotlight Poem

His Name-Jesse

Mommy won’t say Jaron’s name

so I write it everywhere,

on the walls, my book, his chair.

If I’m punished, I don’t care.

Let her take away my pens.

I’ll  write it on the air.

It would be an interesting exercise, especially with middle schoolers, to have them write or tell someone about something important, without ever using that word, or that person’s name.  It would put them in a mindset similar to Jesse’s when his mom won’t say his older brother’s name.


ALA Notable Book 2004

Parents’ Choice Silver Honor Award 2004


Kirkus Review—“The unimaginably painful situation of losing a sibling is the theme of this poetry collection, told in alternating viewpoints by a younger brother and sister in the year after their older brother’s sudden death from an unspecified cause.”

Kirkus Review. April 1, 2004.  Retrieved from

LS 5663 Module 2-Multicultural

Nye, Naomi Shihab. 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East. Greenwillow Books. 2002. ISBN 0060097663 

19 Varieties of Gazelle, as the title implies, is a collection of poems about the Middle East.  They carry repeating symbols and motifs of that region, crescent moons, figs, and olives to name a few, but more importantly they carry the people of that region. 

Especially in a post 9/11 world, it is easy for teens, and adults, to picture the Middle East as a turbulent place of deserts and blood.  For some, this may be intentional, but for many it is likely fear and the news talking.  Nye speaks as an American with ties to that region.  She repeatedly points out that she went to school in an air-conditioned classroom, she doesn’t know how to carry the water jug on her head, she doesn’t understand why a fig tree is so important to her father, all things that point to her American upbringing.  However, she reminds the reader that she has family there.  She speaks of weddings and almond sellers. 

Many of the poems have images that someone who knew nothing of the Middle East would find strange.  The concept of the olive plate, the Via Dolorosa, even the repeated crescent moon are likely not images that a native American immediately brings to mind when they think of the current Middle East.

This collection of poems is not gender specific, and would work well if paired with a world history or world geography class.  That being said, I would not recommend it for elementary aged children.  Not because it deals with death or war, young children should know about those too, but because they are poems for a mature reader.  The reader should not have to struggle with the English words while trying to understand a different culture.

Spotlight Poem


A man letters the sign for his grocery

in Arabic and English.

Paint dries more quickly in English

The thick swoops and curls of Arabic letters

stay moist and glistening

till tomorrow when the children

show up jingling their dimes.

They have learned the currency of the New World,

carrying wishes for gum and candies

shaped like fish.

They float through the streets,

diving deep to the bottom,

nosing rich layers of crusted shell.

One of these children will tell a story

that keeps her people alive.

We don’t know yet which one she is.

Girl in the red sweater dangling a book bag,

sister with eyes pinned to the barrel

 of pumpkin seeds.

They are lettering the sidewalk with their steps.

They are separate and together and a little bit late.

Carrying a creased note, “Don’t forget.”

Who wrote it? They’ve already forgotten.

A purple fish sticks to the back of the throat.

Their long laughs are boats they will ride and ride,

making the shadows that cross each other’s smiles.

I think this poem speaks of the poet, the girl who tells a story to keep her people alive.  However, the words also bring Scheherazade to mind, or they could simply be talking about the kind of girl who asks for stories from the members of the community who immigrated in the first place.  There is no wrong answer.

It would be interesting to encourage students to ask their families, or look up online, where their families are from, or where the original founders of the town traced their heritage.  Was the town founded by those who considered themselves American, or Texan, or perhaps Hispanic or Irish?  These kinds of questions could actually get the whole community involved.


National Book Award Finalist

ALA Best Book for Young Adults


Kirkus Starred Review—“  Poem after poem will elicit a gasp of surprise, a nod of the head, a pause to reflect. There are no false steps here—only a feeling of sensory overload and a need to take a deep breath and reread or to find someone to share the intensely felt emotion that springs from the lines.”

Kirkus Reviews. April 15, 2002.  Retrieved from

LS 5663 Module 1

School Poems

Prelutsky, Jack, comp. There’s No Place Like School. Illustrated by Jane Manning. Greenwillow Books. 2010. ISBN 9780060823399

There’s No Place Like School is a collection of poems selected by Jack Prelutsky.  Most of the poems have a recognizable rhyme scheme, but perhaps more importantly for new readers of poetry; these poems all have definitive rhythms.  Some use a repeating phrase, in “Countdown to Recess” Kalli Dakos makes the last line of the first five stanzas the countdown.  Others, like Kenn Nesbitt’s “The Drinking Fountain,” use a familiar sing-song rhythm.

Jane Manning’s watercolor illustrations bring the pages to light.  They are bright and vibrant.  There is no real negative space in the art because the large blank walls, or swaths of sky, are where the poems are located. 

This book would likely work well for first, second, or third-graders.  First-graders would appreciate the pictures and the subject, but probably wouldn’t have the vocabulary to read it to themselves.  That being said, reading one poem from There’s No Place Like School a day would be a great way to start the school year.  Second and third-graders could write their own poems about school.

Spotlight Poem

“Far Away” by Carol Diggory Shields

Someone shouts in Annie’s ear.

But what they’re saying, she can’t hear.

Buzzers buzz and school bells ring.

Annie doesn’t hear a thing.

Friends can jostle, tug, and pinch.

Annie doesn’t move an inch.

“Oooo, here comes a big black bug!”

Annie does not even shrug.

“Fire!” “Earthquake!” “Runaway bus!”

She remains oblivious

Until, at last, with a faraway look,

Annie smiles and shuts her book.

This poem while focused on one aspect of one person, makes the reader, not only understand the class Annie is in, but Annie herself.  The reader doesn’t know what kind of book she is reading.  That doesn’t matter.  Getting lost in a book is one thing that defines Annie.  Several of the poems in this book focus on a single student and what defines them. 

A good activity would first be to have the kids to write a poem about one thing that defines them.  Then, if they are comfortable, have them read it to someone else.  I would have fun and get another librarian to participate as well.


Booklist—“The energetic, fruit-juice-hued watercolor scenes hum with cheerful energy and subversive humor and, like the poems, capture the chaotic intensity and fun of a typical school day.”

Kirkus Reviews—“Other topics run the gamut from test anxiety to gross lunch food to recess to the challenge of cursive writing. Manning’s spiky, slyly subversive watercolors give this collection a welcome edge, for, despite the overall solid quality of the selections, this is hardly a new concept…”

Engberg, Gillian. Booklist. August 2010. Vol. 106, No. 22. Accessed via CLCD.

Kirkus Reviews. June 2010. Vol.78, No. 11. Accessed via CLCD.



Lee Bennett Hopkins

Hopkins, Lee Bennett, comp. I Am the Book. Illustrated by Yayo. Dongguan City, China: Holiday House, Inc. 2011. ISBN 9780823421190

I Am the Book is a collection of poems gathered by Lee Bennett Hopkins about reading and poetry (and reading poetry).  While not all of the poems rhyme, all of them are true to their topic.  In one sense, the poems are ageless.  They aren’t necessarily aimed towards children as much as they are aimed to remind the reader what is fun, or addictive, about reading.  That being said, children who already love reading will likely find more in common with the views of the poems that a child who doesn’t like to read.

Yayo’s illustrations are interesting.  On most pages, the images are those from the poem.  One page shows a boy literally diving into a book, another shows a book as a pillow with the bedspread filled with the characters in the speaker’s mind.  It is a very distinct art style, that does have the potential to be off putting, especially at first glance.  I will admit, on my first read through, I didn’t like the illustrations.  They were too bright and busy.  I felt like they took away from the poems.

Hopkins includes a small biography for each poet in the book.  This is a great tool if a child liked a specific poem and wants to read more about (and by) that author. 

With this book, it would open discussion with kids about their views on reading.  Do they love it?  Could they care less?  Do they want to be playing sports or video games instead?  All of the points of view can be used as a starting point for a poem similar to the ones in the book praising and sharing the authors’ excitement about reading.

Spotlight Poem

“Wonder Through the Pages” by Karla Kuskin

So I picked out a book

on my own

from the shelf

and I started to read

on my own

to myself.

And nonsense and knowledge

came tumbling out,

whispering mysteries,

history’s shout,

the wisdom of wizards,

the songs of the ages,

all wonders of wandering

wonderful pages.


Best Children’s Books of the Year, 2012 Bank Street College of Education


Kutztown University Book Review—“To everyone who has ever lost an afternoon to a book, or found magic in a line of poetry, this collection is for you. Each poem selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins celebrates the joy and wonders of words and reading…This book is perfect for sharing with readers and writers of all ages.”

Gibson, Stephanie. Kutztown University Book Review. Fall 2011. Accessed via CLCD.

African American Poetry

Myers, Walter Dean. Jazz. Illustrated by Christopher Myers. New York: Holiday House Inc. 2006.

ISBN 9780823415458

Jazz is a single poet (Walter Dean Myers), single topic collection of poems. That being said, it seems more geared towards educating the reader about jazz than worrying about traditional rhyme and rhythm.  There is a basic introduction to jazz, a glossary of jazz words, and a timeline of major events in jazz.

The rhythm in Jazz is the same syncopated, unstressed-stressed rhythm that characterizes jazz music.  This is emphasized by the fact the every poem has some words that are stressed by being in a different font and color. The downside to this?  The chosen stressed font is hard to read.

Christopher Myers does a wonderful job with his illustrations.  He uses both bright bold colors, and the dark rich hues that mirror the use of notes and instruments in the music.

While music crosses ages, this book seems to be aiming for the older elementary school child.  None of the poems are overly difficult, especially once you figure out the syncopated or walking jazz beat.  It might help a reader or listener understand better if jazz music was available to be checked out along with the book.

Spotlight Poem

“Three Voices”


Thum, thum, thum, and


I feel the ocean rhythm


Thum, thum, thum, and


I feel the midnight passion



Sweet and gentle, so surprising

Music fills us, hear it rising

Like a charming angel choir

Reaching, preaching souls on fire


What can I add with my horn?

Is it a new sound born because we are


Or is it just a melody that’s leading me

To where I want to be and loosed from

My tether?

And is it really not surprising that our

Spirits are all rising and drawing us

Even higher

Three souls on fire



Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, 2007 Winner United States

Coretta Scott King Book Award, 2007 Honor Book Illustrator United States

Cybil Award, 2006 Finalist Poetry United States


Kirkus—“This offering stands as a welcome addition to the literature of jazz: In a genre all too often done poorly for children, it stands out as one of the few excellent treatments.”

Kirkus Reviews. September 2006. Vol. 74, No. 17. Accessed via CLCD.