Sunday, April 29, 2007

Sing a Song of Popcorn: Every Child's Book of Poems

De Regniers, B., Moore, E., White, M., & Carr, J. (compliers) (1988). Sing a Song of Popcorn. Scholastic.

This collection of 128 poems is compiled with a wide array of variety and draws from some of the most well-known poetry authors and children’s book illustrators, and brings together old classics and newer fare within one cover. The treasury is divided into eight themed collections, and each one of the eight sections is illustrated by one famous Caldecott picture book illustrator for all of the differently authored poems within that subgenre section (except one section is illustrated by a married couple together, who also have won a Caldecott for their collaborative work). The eight different sections are entitled:
-Fun With Rhymes
-Mostly Weather
-Spooky Poems
-Story Poems
-Mostly Animals
-Mostly People
-Mostly Nonsense
-Seeing, Feeling, Thinking
-In a Few Words

I selected excerpts from a few selected poems in which I liked the language and how it was played with and what the words provoked me to think about.

From: April Rain Song – Langston Hughes
“Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops.”

Even though water is colorless, you do see the raindrops, and describing “clear” as a color of them, especially when they are in movement, is hard. Silvery, almost the image of liquid mercury, crosses my mind.

From: Snowflakes – David McCord
“Joints, points, and crosses. What could make
Such lacework with no crack or break?
IN billion billions, no mistake?”

With the appreciation of snowflakes from childhood, as well as from the picture book Snowflake Bentley By: Jacqueline Briggs Martin, I have awe and appreciation of these intricate gifts from nature’s sky in the bleak and grayness of winter. Snowflakes in all of their detail are indeed amazing!

From: The Steam Shovel – Rowena Bennett
“He crouches low
On his tractor paws
And scoops the dirt up
With his jaws;
Then swings his long
Stiff neck around
And spits it out
Upon the ground…”

I love similes and metaphors, and the metaphoric comparison of a steam shovel to the jaws of a prehistoric dinosaur, giving it animalistic qualities, illustrates the might and strength of the teeth of the shovel of this machinery.

From: Lengths of Time – Phyllis McGinley
“Time is particular
And hardly exact.
Though minutes are minutes,
You’ll find for a fact
(As the older you get
And the bigger you grow)
That time can
Or plod, plod, slow.

Another thing I like to see and do with language is to have opportunities to enjoy or write with language in unconventional ways. Here, to illustrate the way time does indeed sometimes crawl and sometimes flies, the author crams “hurrylikethis” to exemplify the speed and bumbling together of events within a day or event where its hard to slow down and comprehend events (and here, words) properly (the first thing it makes me think of is an average school day – they ALWAYS fly for me! I always have so much I HAVE to do, and then there’s also so much I WANT to do with my students!) In contrast, the “plod, plod, slow” actually seems to drag out of my mouth with the sounds of “plod,” like a dull thud falling in the day.

From: Tree House – Shel Silverstein
“A tree house, a free house,
A secret you and me house,
A high up in the leafy branches
Cozy as can be house.”

What child doesn’t love the idea of a secret place to play, daydream, and escape away from the real world (think: Bridge to Terebithia!) Children need a place that’s safe to explore their imagination and outside environment, and even kids need a break from adults. I didn’t have a tree house growing up, but I did have a great playhouse my father built me, with electricity, an old house window in the front, an old crank window in the back from a camper shell (perfect for our “drive through” and secret spy notes to be slipped through!) and a special small sized doorknob. My two best friends and I adored it, especially on a winter or rainy day!

From: Arithmetic – Carl Sandburg
“Arithmetic is where numbers fly
Like pigeons in and out of your head.”
As a person who is seeking a graduate degree in reading, language, and literacy, I apparently have a passion for language (and in my case, a large slant toward the language part of my brain, and less towards mathematical thinking.) I chuckled to myself when I read these opening lines, because I don’t know how many times I felt that’s just what numbers were doing in my math classes in high school!

From: How to Tell the Top of a Hill – John Ciardi
“The top of a hill
Is not until
The bottom is below.
And you have to stop
When you reach the top
For there’s no more UP to go.”

Another thing I like to see in poetry is when something is explained in a creative, matter of fact way. You can’t really argue with it, and the unconventional explanation sticks with you.

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