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.
“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. http://ezproxy.twu.edu:4529/index.php/jbookdetail/jqbookdetail?page=1&pos=3&isbn=9780060823399
Kirkus Reviews. June 2010. Vol.78, No. 11. Accessed via CLCD. http://ezproxy.twu.edu:4529/index.php/jbookdetail/jqbookdetail?page=1&pos=3&isbn=9780060823399
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.
“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
And nonsense and knowledge
came tumbling out,
the wisdom of wizards,
the songs of the ages,
all wonders of wandering
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.
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.
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
And is it really not surprising that our
Spirits are all rising and drawing us
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. http://ezproxy.twu.edu:4529/index.php/jbookdetail/jqbookdetail?page=1&pos=1&isbn=9780823415458