LS 5663 Poetic Form

Janeczko, Paul B. comp. A Kick in the Head. 2005. Illustrated by Chris Raschka. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press. ISBN 0763606626

A Kick in the Head is a bright, straightforward, and crafty guide to poetic forms.  First of all, the forms it covers run the gambit from standard forms, like the couplet and sonnet, to poems most casual readers may not even be aware of, such as the clerihew and tanka.  Not only does each type, which usually is on a single page with the occasional two page spread, have its own illustrations and definitions, but each form also has a little image in the top corner by what the form is.  In the introduction Janeczko explains that these little symbols are actually clues to the rules of the forms themselves.

Raschka’s artwork is quirky.  Some of the pages are wonderfully intricate, even for an adult reader, while others have the blocky color and texture that would appeal more to younger readers.  Most of the human figures seem more like caricatures than actual people who the reader is expected to relate with.

A Kick in the Head is the kind of book that can span years of learning about poetry.  For very young children, the bright pictures are entertaining, but as a book for independent study, I wouldn’t suggest it.  The actual explanation on each page is in a very small font, and some of the forms (especially the villanelle and the pantoum) state the fact that they are confusing or difficult.  That being said, it can provide a foundation for the most popular forms as well as inviting an older reader (if they can get past the illustrations) to explore the more complex forms.

Spotlight Poem


William the Conqueror

Ousted King Harold in

Ten Sixty-Six,

Sacked Anglo-Saxons and,


Cut off their heads and dis-

Played them on sticks.

This double dactyl is the perfect example of using poetry for more than just English class.  (In fact both double dactyls in the book are historical in nature.) Perhaps the most fun way for students to approach the double dactyl from the historical side is to allow each child (likely this would work best with pre-teens and teens) to pick their favorite historical figure (without worrying about repeating since each poem is a single sentence).  It would also be fun to do double dactyls for Olympic athletes.


Claudia Lewis Award, 2006

Lupine Award, 2005


Booklist—“ Clear, very brief explanations of poetic forms (in puzzlingly tiny print) accompany each entry; a fine introduction and appended notes offer further information, as do Raschka’s whimsical visual clues, such as the rows of tulips representing the syllables in a haiku. Look elsewhere for lengthy explanations of meter and rhyme.”

Engberg, Gillian. Booklist. March 2005. Vol. 101, No. 14. Retrieved from CLCD at

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s