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The Playroom

 
 Welcome to the Playroom. Here we will be discussing a variety of poets and how poetry enriches the lives of people and brings out the inner child in all of us. We will also be sharing some of our favourite authors old and new.
 
Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky first appeared in Through the Looking Glass (1872), his sequel to Alice and Wonderland.  These days, children don’t associate the term “Jabberwocky” with the long-dead literary genius.  Their only reference point is America’s Best Dance Crew winners, the “JabbaWockeez”. Some might view Carroll’s poem as irrelevant to our lives today, but I beg to differ, especially if you’re reading Stephane Jorisch’s illustrated version.   Before I continue, I feel I must present the original poem:      

JABBERWOCKY

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;

All mimsy were the borogoves,

And the mome raths outgrabe.

 

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!

The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!

Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun

The frumious Bandersnatch!”

 

He took his vorpal sword in hand:

Long time the manxome foe he sought—

So rested he by the Tumtum tree,

And stood awhile in thought.

 

And as in uffish thought he stood,

The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,

Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,

And burbled as it came!

 

One, two! One, two! and through and through

The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!

He left it dead, and with its head

He went galumphing back.

 

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?

Come to my arms, my beamish boy!

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”

He chortled in his joy.

 

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;

All mimsy were the borogoves,

And the mome raths outgrabe

The poem is known for its nonsensical word choice.  At first glance, readers may throw their hands up in exasperation.  “T’was brillig, and the slithy…what?” and “Did gyre and gimble in the where?”  After spending more time with the poem, and even reciting the lines aloud, the standard plot development and proper sentence structure make it possible for the reader to glean meaning from this epic tale of a boy slaying a ferocious beast.  Readers will have no problem envisioning the terrifying Jabberwocky as Carroll’s words paint a vivid picture of the antagonist as the drama unfolds.

Stephane Jorisch’s illustrated version of Carroll’s classic poem, the first in a series of graphic poetry books, brings the 1872 poem into the 21st Century by incorporating contemporary issues and themes.  For example, the boy’s father is a neglected war veteran, the general population is under surveillance by Big Brother and the female character appears to conform to rigid gender stereotypes.

Another theme Jorisch develops throughout the text is media’s role in creating an atmosphere of perpetual fear in society.  Sound familiar?  Jorisch takes this notion to the next level with his final illustration, which happens to be the only illustration not accompanied by text.  In the image, boys appear to be toying with the slain Jabberwocky, which is nowhere near as fearsome as we have been led to believe, which raises the following question:  Maybe we have nothing to fear but fear itself?    

  
Hey World, Here I am by Jean Little

Jean Little is a Canadian author, who was born with scars on her corneas, which cause her to have limited sight.  She has written many children’s books, which often focus on characters with physical disabilities and the trials and tribulations they go through in their daily lives.

Hey World, Here I am by Jean Little is different from many of her novels.. It is a poetry book written from the perspective of one of Jean Little’s character’s Kate Bloomfield. At the beginning Jean Little introduces you to Kate. 

“I first met Kate Bloomfield when she walked into a book I was writing.  The book was later published by Harper and Row under the title Look Through my Window.  It is about a girl named Emily Blair, and when Kate arrived the evening before school began and stood in the shadows of Emily’s lawn, I thought she was just another minor character.  I also imagined that I had created her and would remain in control of her.  I had a lot to learn.”

I remember reading this book of poems as a young girl and really enjoying them.  I read them over and over again because I could relate to Kate and how she thought. 

Cartwheels

I can’t turn cartwheels.  I’ve tried and tried.

I can start.  I can get about halfway…

Then I buckle over somehow and collapse sideways.

I told Mother. “Practice, she advised.

I said I had.  It didn’t work.  I just plain couldn’t do them.

“Well you can write poems”, she said,

“And you’re good at Math…”

She went on and on and it was all very nice.

I appreciated it.

I still can’t do cartwheels.

 
and to thinkAnd to Think That We Thought That We’d Never Be Friends
And to Think That We Thought That We’d Never Be Friends, written by Mary Ann Hoberman is a heart warming tale, which begins with an ever so familiar quarrel between siblings that is quickly resolved. Days later a new family of musicians move in next door and their love of musical instruments is not welcomed by everyone around them. When the annoyed neighbours go over to confront the new neighbours, their angry tune quickly changes and the story then illustrates how music helps to unite these families together. The families then start a parade of dancing and singing to celebrate their friendship. Along the way, people and animals from all across the world join the parade, avoiding all obstacles in the way (i.e. oceans), to help celebrate diversity. The message being conveyed is that coming together and acceptance is a better alternative to fighting. This optimistic tale illustrates how great the world would be if we were all accepting of one another’s differences. Hoberman admits that she was greatly influenced and inspired by the work of Dr. Seuss’s And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street which is quiet evident in her quirky and creative rhyming scheme. Along the story’s journey, many stanzas end in the words “It’s funny how quickly and argument ends….and to think that we thought that we’d never be friends”. The repetitive nature and rhyming scheme make this book a great read aloud, allowing the audience to be involved in the telling of the story. The illustrator of this book, Kevin Hawkes, provides playful and colourful illustrations that are sure to capture any audience’s attention, both young and old. This is one of those picture books that I can’t live without and treasure dearly. I look forward to using it every year when talking about diversity or the topic of peace. It’s a way of giving people a glimpse into what the world could be like if we would come together and unite as one. 
 

kids pickKids Pick the Funniest Poems

 
I can remember as a child in grade school I was assigned to write a limerick for homework.  I had no idea how to write a poem so I asked my brother for help.  He is very creative and even then, he had a talent for making words and lyrics come to life and make me laugh.  I can still remember the poem he made up.  At the time I thought it was a brilliant poem. It was so funny and clever.   I had heard poems before, but had never really been interested in them.  My brother eventually was published in a school based anthology for young Canadian writers in a book called Thoughts As Time Passes.  I was so impressed that I read the book cover to cover devouring all the poems.   I loved that book because it was written by children…for children and dealt with the issues that I deemed important at the time.  
  
  
 
 
 
Dr. Seuss and more…
When I was a young child, it was about this time of year that I started writing my Christmas wish list.  The list included Barbie dolls, Easy-Bake ovens and rock polishing machines, just to name a few.  All of the items that I wished for and received are long gone, but there is one gift that my aunt gave me that I still enjoy today.  It’s a large hardcover book titled, If I Ran the Circus, and it begins like this:
  
If I ran the Zoo“In all the whole town, the most wonderful spot
Is behind Sneelock’s Store in the big vacant lot.
It’s just the right spot for my wonderful plans,”
Said young Morris McGurk, “…if I clean up the cans.”
“Now a fellow like me,” said young Morris McGurk,
Could get rid of this junk with a half hour’s work.
I could yank up those weeds. And chop down the dead tree.
And haul off those old cars. There are just two or three.
And then the whole place would be ready, you see…”

Reading this story by Dr. Seuss  is like eating warm, chewy chocolate chip cookies with a cold glass of milk – it makes me want more.   When my son, Ryan, was a toddler, I introduced him to the imaginative writing of Dr. Seuss.  Some of the books that I read aloud to him included  Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb;  Oh, the Places You’ll Go, dr seuss abcDr. Seuss’s A B C (the interactive version on CD).  The A,B,C book has an astonishing amount of amusing alliterations, such as;

“BIG M
little m
Many mumbling mice
are making
midnight music
in the moonlight…
mighty nice”

One day when Ryan was about six years old, I was trying to convince him to use a napkin to cover his shirt while he was eating a plate full of spaghetti.  My conversation with him inspired me to create this poem:

Long ago, lived a man named Mr. Confetti
who was eating a plate full of tasty spaghetti.
The sauce was flavoured with basil and oregano
and made with a huge red, juicy tomato.
  
Now as you may know,
from eating spaghetti,
the sauce tends to splatter a lot,
so when Mr. Confetti had finished his meal,
his white shirt was now full of red dots. 
 
Once home, he washed the garment in bubbles,
he scrubbed ’til his hands were like prunes,
but alas, his work did little good for his shirt,
that was stained and mostly in ruins.
 
Well, Mr. Confetti threw his hands in the air.
OH! how could spaghetti cause him despair?
“This won’t happen again,” he said to himself.
“I am a tailor of many long years!”
With scissors, he cut his shirt into shapes.
Can you guess what he did with those shears?
 
He fashioned serviettes- each one ten inches square.
He proudly displayed them and remarked at his flair.
Then he soaked them in a dye of a vibrant hue green,
hung them to dry, and pressed each one with steam.
 
From that day onward, when he ate some spaghetti.
a napkin covered the shirt worn by Mr. Confetti.
He was truly quite pleased by his resourceful nature.
This tailor, recycler, and savvy inventor!
 
something bigI write poetry about as often as I clean my oven – once every few years when something inspires me, but I definitely have a weakness for poetry that rhymes, especially if it’s a bit zany, like the poems written by Jack Prelutsky.  Like a Jack-in-the-box, Mr. Prelutsky has a knack for delighting and surprising his readers.  Here’s a little taste from his book of poetry, Something Big Has Been Here:
 
“The turkey shot out of the oven and rocketed into the air,
it knocked every plate off the table and partly demolished a chair.
It richocheted into a corner and burst with a deafening boom,
then splattered all over the kitchen, completely obscuring the room.
It stuck to the walls and the windows, it totally coated the floor,
there was turkey attached to the ceiling, where there’d never been turkey before.
It blanketed every appliance, it smeared every saucer and bowl,
there wasn’t a way I could stop it, that turkey was out of control.
I scraped and I scrubbed with displeasure, and thought with chagrin as I mopped,
that I’d never again stuff a turkey with popcorn that hadn’t been popped.”

Last year I had the good fortune of teaching a group of nineteen grade five students -fifteen of whom were boys.  On one particular day, I asked pairs of students to browse through an assortment of poetry books and to choose a poem to read aloud to the class.   Two boys chose The Turkey Shot Out of the Oven, but as they read the poem to the class they were doubled over with laughter, and they could barely spit out the words.   On that day, the classroom was full of energy and laughter, thanks to Mr. Prelutsky’s poetic imagination.

THE LORAX
 
The Lorax by Dr. Suess is a children’s book that was first published in 1971. This story continues to inspire years later.  I was first introduced to this story in my first year of teaching and I have been reading it with my students ever since. Having taught many elementary grade levels I have been able to read, enjoy and share it with various grade levels ranging from Grade Primary through to Grade Six. I truly believe it could easily be read and enjoyed in Secondary and Adult educational settings as well. Dr. Suess’ original creatures and witty and whimsical phrasing paired with the colourful and creative images, will delight and mesmerize both children and adults alike. This story, as with many written by Dr. Suess, plays with colourful images, words and rhymes. It is both a delightful and dreary tale. In this story Dr. Suess touches on many concerning issues that still ring true today, including: clear cutting, pollution, greed and total disregard for the environment. It seems he was very aware of the ecological and environmental crisis years ago which in fact are the same ones that are still of grave concern today. The Lorax sends a powerful message to all who choose to listen. 

The story begins with a young boy who arrives to a desolate land and immediately encounters a street entitled “The Street of the Lifted Lorax”.  The death and bareness of the land is clear to the reader from the very beginning. Through the words of the Once-ler the boy learns the causes for the current state of the land. Throughout the story the boy listens to the words of the Once-ler, who we never get to see (other than his arms). 

The Oncer-ler begins his remorseful tale by speaking of a time when,           

“…the grass was still green and the pond was still wet and the clouds were still clean, and the song of the Swomee-Swans rang out in space…one morning , I came to this glorious place. And I first saw the tress! The Truffula Trees! The bright-colored tufts of the Truffula Trees! Mile after mile in the fresh morning breeze.”  

Enchanted by the beauty of the Truffula Tree tufts, the Once-ler greedily chops one down to create the very first “Thneed”. With the “Thneed” being an immediate success, mass production begins. Factories are built and the land is quickly invaded. Throughout the story the Lorax tries to speak for the trees and tries to protect all of the creatures that inhabit them from the greedy Once-ler, but it is no use. Here is just one example of the numerous pleads from the Lorax to the Once-ler:

thelorax“’I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues. And I am asking you, sir, at the top of my lungs’- he was very upset as he shouted and puffed- ‘What’s the THING you’ve made out of my Truffula tuft? (…)Sir! You are crazy with greed. There is no one on earth who would buy that fool Thneed!’”  

Well he is wrong and the Once-ler is able to very quickly create a very successful business. Just as quick as the business is built the trees disappear. Throughout the story due to varying circumstances the creatures are force to leave the desolate and now scorched land. 

“They loved living here. But I can’t let them stay. They’ll have to find food. And I hope that they may. Good luck boys,” he cried. And he sent them away.”

Throughout the story the Lorax warns the Once-ler repeatedly of the dangers of his actions but his greed gets the best of him. Toward the end of the story the Lorax himself must leave, leaving only a small pile of rocks engraved “UNLESS”. Over the years the Once-ler tries to figure out the meaning of the word “unless” and when the boy arrives it seems the Once-ler has become clear.

“Now that you’re here, the word of the Lorax is perfectly clear. UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

The Once-ler then tosses the boy the last Truffula seed and says:

“You’re in charge of the last of the Truffula Seed. And Truffula Tress are what everyone needs. Plant a new Truffula. Treat it with care. Give it clean water. And feed it fresh air. Grow a forest. Protect it from axes that hack. Then the Lorax and all of his friends may come back”

I believe this story sends very simple but clear and powerful messages about our current environmental situation, greed, empowerment and the world in which we are living. Children become enthralled with this story and seem to clearly understand the messages. They become motivated and enthusiastic about their ability and obligation to be more aware and responsible. It is a MUST read and share!!!!

 Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein is a book of poetry that invites readers to dream and to imagine the impossible.  where the sidewalk endsThe first poem in the book called ‘Invitation’, invites readers to come and explore his poetry if you are a dreamer.
Invitation
If you are a dreamer, come in,
If you are dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hoper-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer…
If you are a pretender, come in and sit by the fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in!

All of Shel Sliverstein’s poems in this book encourage the reader to explore the unknown and enable the reader’s imagination to run wild.  One of my favourites is ‘Ickle Me, Pickle Me Tickle Me Too’.  It is about three individuals Ickle, Pickle and Tickle who go for a ride in a flying shoe.  Ickle is the captain, Pickle was the crew and Tickle served coffee and mulligan stew.  They fly over the sun and beyond, but never return to the home they knew.  It leaves readers with not knowing what ever happened to Ickle, Pickle and Tickle.  However, it allows you to imagine the adventures that they may have had in their flying shoe and perhaps experience what it might be like to fly in a shoe.  It is a poem that is very catchy and I have often heard my own students reciting it very quietly to themselves after I have read it aloud to them. 

Shel Silverstein can also take fear about a certain situation and add a humorous tone to help defeat or help conquer that fear.  ‘The Crocodile’s Toothache’ is an example of this.  The crocodile has a toothache and goes to the dentist.  The dentist starts his work, by pulling out the crocodile’s teeth one by one until he finds the right one.  The crocodile does not like this and asks the dentist to stop, but he will not listen.  Suddenly the crocodile has had enough and he snaps his jaw shut eating the dentist.  I sure some readers of this poem would like to have had that opportunity at one point or another, when visiting the dentist. 

These poems and many more in the book Where the Sidewalk Ends allows readers young and old to experience the world of imagination and gives life to things that might be impossible. 

 
BLUE HAT, GREEN HAT, RED HAT, “OOPS”.

For some, poetry is a form of literature that allows us to escape to another world where there are no limits or boundaries.  Just like two people can look at a piece of art and see completely different images, so can two people read a poem and find intertwined amongst the words, completely different meanings.  There are poems I have read multiple times where I have been unable to conjure any meaning or accompanying feeling beyond confusion.  The idea for some to compose a poem is often a daunting task.

I like to say my daughter’s favourite poets are Sandra Boynton and Dr. Suess.  Her almost 2-year-old mind is unable to read on her own, but already she has come to love and recognize the whimsical and rhythmic verses in her prized little board books.  I take great joy in seeing her sit quietly in her big, comfy chair, carefully turning the pages, one book at a time. 

At bedtime, either my husband or I let her choose the three books we will read to her in the rocking chair.  Inevitably, she always makes her choice with a resounding, “Yup!”, as we hold up a variety of books.  I’ve often wondered what it is that guides her choices.  Does she choose a book because it’s familiar, or does she simply enjoy the pictures?  Sandra Boynton’s books are rhythmic and repetitive, often teaching a variety of concepts such as colour, size, and opposites. snuggleSnuggle Puppy: a little love song has become a favourite that I actually sing instead of read.  The fact that it’s written in the form of a poem has helped me in this endeavour.  This book, along with blue hatBlue Hat, Green Hat, I like to think of as the first books my daughter has been able to help me read.  She’s heard them so many times, I’ll pause at the end of a line, and she’ll fill in the missing words… blue hat, green hat, red hat, “OOPS!” or, Fuzzy little snuggle puppy, I love “Shoe!” (You-shoe… she’s trying.)
As for Dr. Suess, she’s started asking forWocket There’s a Wocket in my Pocketby name….”Pocket, mommy, Pocket!!”  Her favourite page reads…”Like the Tellar and the Nellar and the Gellar and the Dellar and the Bellar and the Wellar and the Zellar in the Cellar”.  She laughs every time.  I wonder if it’s because of the enthusiasm with which the nonsensical words are read aloud.
Young children are sometimes unable to differentiate the real from unreal in books.  Poetry allows their imagination to run wild, yet at some point in their schooling, they are asked to begin composing poetry.  I remember a grade-six assignment, where I was asked to create a booklet filled with a required number of poems of different forms.  For so long, poetry was synonymous with magical, rhyming phrases.  How was I now going to create free-verse, shape, or Haiku poems?
 
Love That Dog, by Sharon Creech
Love that dogLove That Dog, by Sharon Creech, is a book that shares the hardships one goes through in their struggle to write poetry.  It is written in the form of a diary/notebook by Jack, a boy who initially believes the common misconception that only girls write poetry.  He is being asked of his teacher to write poetry, and very matter-of-factly, Jack expresses his thoughts and feelings about this task.  As I followed Jack on his journey through Miss Stretchberry’s class, I found myself identifying with many of his initial frustrations, one in particular… “I guess you can put it on the board if you want to but don’t put my name on it in case other people think it’s not a poem.” (p.17)   I was more self-conscious about sharing a personal poem than a fictional story or piece of artwork.  By taking risks, experimenting, and making connections with himself and to the real world, Jack comes to realize he is somewhat of a poet after all.  Children would easily identify with Jack on his journey.  Creech’s decision to write the story in the form of a journal allows the reader to piggyback on the character’s journey unannounced.
Children’s poetry has that magical ability to allow us to make sense of and accept the nonsensical.  Through imagery, emotion, and music, poems can ignite a two-year-olds’ growing imagination.  They can also reignite the imagination of her parents, something that may have buried itself or stopped evolving along the way.  
  
Alligator PieMemories of Dennis Lee’s Alligator Pie (1974)
 
What is it about Dennis Lee’s Alligator Pie (1974) that’s enabled me to recite the zany poems word for word well over thirty years later? I would say it’s a combination of factors, some related to the book itself and others having more to do with the context of my childhood encounters with Lee’s poems.There wasn’t a lot of peace and quiet in my house growing up.  My older sister, Scary Kerry, was quite the bully; my twin sister, Stephanie, and I spent our days trying to avoid her wrath, from mustard in the ears to the “spit game”. At night, my sisters and I piled onto my mom’s gigantic captain’s bed, kicking and pinching –fighting for our share of the quilt. The animosity dissolved as soon as we heard the sound of my mother’s footsteps on the stairs. 

She was the local Brown-Owl, so knew a thing or two about reading aloud.  Her rendition of Lee’s whimsical poems was like a magic potion that lulled us into a peaceful trance. Lee’s imagery shot out of her mouth, speeding up and slowing down, leaving us hanging on every emotion-filled word. Her silly and enthusiastic delivery of Lee’s repetition, rhythm and rhyme, made for an irresistible night cap.  

Another feature of Lee’s anthology that gripped me was the subject matter.  What child wouldn’t be tantalized by the weirdness of alligator pie, mysterious ookpiks, grundiboos, potamuses and crankabeasts, not to mention psychapoos?  I loved that the lines in his poems were for pure fun and entertainment.  There didn’t seem to be a moral or hidden agenda in anything Lee wrote.  Mumbo Jumbo, Bump on Your Thumb, Windshield Wipers are just a few of the titles in this anthology that show the randomness of this collection of poems.

One last aspect of Alligator Pie that is etched into my brain is Frank Newfeld’s creepy and slightly grotesque illustrations.  They may not be as rich in color or as detailed as some of today’s children’s literature, but they are just as memorable. In Kamloops, a poem about the narrator traveling across the country and eating the reader, one body part at a time, features a book shelf containing a knee, a bowl of “toesters”, a clothesline of thumbs and a head upside down in a salad bowl.  How gross…and yet strangely irresistible! 

Give it a shot.  Read the following excerpt from one of my favorites, On Tuesdays I Polish My Uncle:

 …we had ants in our pants, dirt in our shirt, glue in our shoe , beans in our jeans, a bee on our knee, beer in our ear and a bear in our hair, a stinger in our finger, a stain in our brain, and our belly-buttons shone in the dark.

What fun! For me, reading these lines aloud brings me right back to the captain’s bed.  

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17 comments

  1. Love That Dog is a charming little novel/poem/journal that quickly draws you in. Most readers, no matter their age, will identify with the hesitant narrator who begrudgingly comes to admit that he likes and can even write poetry himself over the course of the school year. At times self-deprecating and funny, the unseemingly lighthearted story has a poignancy to it that most readers will also indentify with. Great book.


  2. Where the Sidewalk Ends is a modern classic, for sure. I have a box set trilogy of Silverstein’s including ‘A Light in the Attic’ and ‘Falling Up’, both of which have abundant lyrical and sensory images as well as irony and satire. The simple black illustrations alone are so whimsical and zany you can’t help but turn the page. Some favourites are:
    “Somebody Has To” where
    “Somebody has to go polish the stars,
    They’re looking a little bit dull.”
    And the poignant “Never” in which Sheldon writes,
    “Sometimes I get so depressed
    ‘Bout what I haven’t done.”
    Two other favourites are “Hitting” where the author writes,
    “Use a log to hit a hog.
    Use a twig to hit a pig…
    And use a feather when you hit me.”
    He even celebrates sign language in “Deaf Donald” where his illustrations depict sign language.


  3. Love That Dog by Sharon Creech is an amazing idea for a book. When I first read it I thought, why didn’t I think of this? It is such a simple yet powerful way to represent a students’s reflections on a genre that many children and adults often find challenging to enjoy and write. Jack finds his ‘voice’ as a poet through his honest feelings about having to write poetry. This is an important book for teachers to see how we can awaken the writer in our students, even the skepics.


  4. MY DOG ATE MY HOMEWORK by Bruce Lansky is a ‘must have’ for every classroom library. It is filled with delightful, whimsical poems related to school and childhood. Every year, without fail, it becomes a favorite among my students. I can’t count the times a student has approached me with a poem they simply HAVE to share with me. Written in easy language and rhythm, it can be enjoyed by strong and struggling alike. Personal favorites of mine include “How to Delay your Bedtime” and “The Teacher Show”.


  5. Love the quote from Jean Little, “when Kate arrived the evening before school began and stood in the shadows of Emily’s lawn, I thought she was just another minor character. I also imagined that I had created her and would remain in control of her. I had a lot to learn.”

    Find it interesting how often this happens with many writers. But what is really interesting is that once one gets the right character it becomes a game of follow the leader, with the character being the leader not the author. I wonder where else this happens, that a small insignificant particle of an idea is a catalyst to a larger one? A good reason to keep our eyes peeled for seemingly insignificant particles in our lives.

    Going to read both of those book by Jean Little, I am intrigued and they just may be one of my “particles.”


  6. Another book that I recently came across made me think again of Sharon Creech’s ‘Love That Dog’ poem-novel. The book is Jacqueline Woodson’s ‘Locomotion’, about an 11 year old African American boy who, like the male character in Creech’s story, finds that he can express his frustrations at the world through writing class at school with the help of his teacher, Ms. Marcus. Lonnie has to overcome a devastating life blow, the result of a home fire, and navigate the world of foster homes. A very poignant read that would be very effective in the classroom for reluctant poetry writers. Thanks.


  7. The Playroom holds some fond memories for me. I read and bought every Dr. Suess book I could get my hands on to read to my first born. I even enrolled her in the Dr. Suess books-by-mail club. Today, twenty-two years later, the surviving books are some of the best used most loved books on my grade five bookshelf. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein is another one of my classroom favorites. I like to read Invitation to inspire my students to read and write poetry, then place it in a special spot in our class library. Dennis Lee’s Alligator Pie was performed by Young Neptune Theatre actors. They brought the book to life for all students and adults, grade primary to five. We were engaged and laughing like crazy with the words of Dennis Lee. It is now a more popular read from our classroom library.


  8. “Alligator Pie, Alligator Pie
    If I don’t get some
    I think I’m gonna die!”…
    I loved reading through the Playroom. It almost feels as if I could have written it all myself! So many references to many of my favourite poetry and authors.

    Since before his birth I have been sharing my love of Dr Suess with my 20 month old son. It began with “Oh Baby, the Places You’ll Go! -a book to be read in utero” and already many of the Suess stories mentioned above are bedtime favourites chosen over and over!

    Another fantastic book by Dr. Suess with some powerful messages that deserves a mention on this page is “Yertle the Turtle and other stories”. This is a book that I have used in the classroom a number of times to strike up discussion about different issues with a variety of age levels. A must have for any classroom library!


  9. The ‘playroom’ has brought back so many memories of when my children were young. I bought every Dr.Suess book that I could find. We read them over and over again. Dr. Suess books never grow old they are just loved more and more. After my daughter was finished with them we moved them from her book shelf to my sons book shelf. All of the Dr. Suess books are still on my son’s book shelf in his room. They never get read anymore but it is just comforting to see them sitting there on the shelf.
    I also loved to share Sandra Boynten books with my children. My sons favourite was Blue Hat Green Hat. We read it so many times that we would take turns reading the words. I had to stop my typing and go up stairs to find our copy. Blue Hat Green Hat is sitting on the top shelf in his closet. When I took it off the shelf to have a familiar read the corners are all chewed up. I don’t know why I continue to save this chewed up book, I guess it brings back the wonderful memories that were created around a story that was shared. That’s what books do they help us create and share memories. It was a very loved book. It is amazing to see how much love is shared when a book is read. This is one of my favourite rooms in the house.


  10. Alligator Pie is a delightful book of humorous poetry that my primary class can’t get enough of. We were extremely fortunate to have this book come to life as it was performed at our school by a young group from Neptune Theatre. A real treat for all children from grades primary to five!
    We can’t forget the legendary books of Dr.Seuss enjoyed by those of all ages. I especially enjoy reading these to my primary class. A real delight for the students. Full of interesting words, quirky humor, and some great life lessons. These books are also great for learning about rhyming words and word families.
    Shel Silverstein’s “Where the Sidewalk Ends,” is a favorite of mine. I like the fact that he has a unique style that yes, allows our imagination to fly. Some of his work is a bit out of the ordinary for example Double Tail Dog or The Planet of Mars. He is a master of creativity and I can’t decide on one personal favorite as there are so many impressive poems to choose from.


  11. I recently came across a copy of “How Full is Your Bucket? For Kids” by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer. I think this is a “must read”! It is a wonderful book about a boy who wakes up with a bucket over his head one morning. His day starts out with an almost empty bucket as rotten things keep happening, but by the end of the day he has learned how to keep his bucket full and how to fill up other peoples’ buckets along the way.

    It is well crafted writing that shows, not tells, children the importance of being good to other people. I read this book to my friend’s six year old son and he loved it! He couldn’t take his eyes of the illustrations kept looking at the book, long after we were done reading.

    Also, the authors previously wrote “How Full is Your Bucket” which was an adult version of this story, communicating the same basic message


  12. Sheree Fitch is listed on “The Atlantic Den” page of this site, but has a place here with the poets too. ‘Mable Murple’ is my family favourite Fitch. It is full of surprising, funny imagery and Mable herself is a rich multi-dimensional character. The cadence — thoughtfully crafted foot and meter and ‘abcb’ rhyme scheme — lends itself well to memorization and prediction. I love the ending too, where Fitch generously invites you to imagine more colour-obsessed character. Sydney Smith’s illustration is endearing, modern and clever. It has an urban Nova Scotia vibe, which is rare because many local books for children have a rural or historical setting.


  13. I noticed in the blog some really interesting books that I have visited in some way on my journey. Dr Seuss has always been popular and I enjoyed reading it to my kids when they were young. The poetry “Where the Sidewalk Ends” is popular in many classrooms. This year I have really been impressed by the writings of Sheree Fitch. I had always heard of her but her reading of ‘”Sleeping Dragon all Around” was very impressive and


    • I would love to have her speak sometime to my students. I am also reading The Gravesavers which is unique and a book I am really enjoying.


  14. A great website with some very useful information and links, I especially like the ‘Atlantic’ room, I’ll be sure to get some of those books to bring back to Iceland and share the East coast culture there.


  15. Sandra Boynton’s poetry, from “Blue Hat, Green Hat,” to “Barnyard Dance,” is simplistic yet powerful. Her rhymes and onomatopoeia are music to a little one’s ears. Some toddlers learn their first words through literature, and Boynton’s poetry gives an outlet for expression and repetition. My favorite Boynton board book, “Moo, Baa, La La La!” combines familiar animal sounds with silliness. Boynton’s illustrations use simple lines and color to help developing eyes. I would suggest having a full library of Boynton poetry in an early reading bookshelf!

    As always, Shel Silverstein’s imagination takes readers from the jungle to the pancakes on a kitchen table. I grew up on all of his books, ad could probably recite a few of his poems! Children identify with his humor and verse, and can even learn a few moral lessons from Silverstein. Silverstein’s work is an excellent avenue to introduce elementary-age students to poetry. Students may be encouraged to imitate his playful, sing-song style, or creative illustrations. Silverstein shows that poems can be short or epic, but entirely approachable.


  16. I talked about my love of Dr. Seuss during our class this semester. I think they deal with a lot of issues in a fun way in books like Horton Hears a Who, The Grinch who Stole Christmas, and The Lorax. Issues which on the surface play out as fun stories but also serve as talking points on the importance of listening, the meaning of Christmas and family, and the issue surrounding pollution and harming our environment. I am glad that these were included as I think they are still relevant and important to read to our children going forward.



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