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Children's and Young Adult Literature
Genre 3 - Poetry

Cullinan, Bernice E. Ed.  1996.  A JAR OF TINY STARS.  Ill. by Andi MacLeod.  Portraits by Marc Nadel.  Honesdale, Penn:  Boyds Mills Press, Inc.  ISBN:  1563970872.
     A JAR OF TINY STARS is a collection of poems written by ten NCTE award winning poets:  David McCord, Aileen Fisher, Karla Kuskin, Myra Cohn Livingston, Eve Merriam, John Ciardi, Lilian Moore, Arnold Adoff, Valeria Worth and Barbara Esbensen.  The Introduction of the book describes the process by which the poems were chosen.  Children all over the country read and listened to poems by each of the authors and then ranked their top five choices from each poet.  This was accomplished through the efforts of teachers and librarians throughout the United States.  After the poems, the book has a section devoted to information about the poets and includes a selected bibliography of the poets' work.  Each poet has a portrait and a personal quote before their selected poems.
     The poems in this collection cover a wide variety of styles and emotions.  The topics of the poems all appeal to children since they selected them and are about such subjects as animals, school, parents, home life, and nature.  "The selections are truly kid-pleasing: Children voted for their favorite five poems by each author in classrooms across the country, and the winners are included here, along with a page of biographical notes, quotations from the poets, and a useful bibliography."  (Kirkus Reviews, 15 December, 1995.)
     I found I enjoyed Karla Kuskin's poem, I Woke Up This Morning (p. 20-21.)  I believe I enjoyed this poem the most for the simple fact that I have experienced days like this, where it seems everything I have done turns out wrong, and you just wish you could go back to bed, or had just stayed in bed to begin with.  The text of the poem begins small in size and increases with each stanza.  The last line - "I'm Staying In Bed" is quite large in size to convey the emotion felt.
     The illustrations are simple black and white drawings that help to emphasize the humor and emotions expressed in the poems.  For example, the poem Elephant (p. 69) has the text of the poem set between the drawn legs of an elephant.  In the poem Bat (p. 68) the illustrator has drawn the bats to look as if they are emerging from a book to fly off into the distance.
     Children will enjoy this collection of poetry for many years.  The appeal of this collection is that they were chosen by other children and are about topics that children enjoy reading about and relate to.
Florian, Douglas.  1998.  INSECTLOPEDIA.  Orlando, Florida:  Harcourt, Inc.  ISBN:  0152013067.
     INSECTLOPEDIA is a collection of 21 poems about a variety of insects written and illustrated by Douglas Florian.  The book has a Table of Contents page which lists the titles of the poems included in the collection.  The book has a full page illustration for each poem that was done in bright watercolors on primed brown paper bags with collage.   Florian has added interesting details to the illustrations.  For example, the illustration for the poem Walking Stick has a red arrow to help the reader to find the location of the walking stick in the illustration.  The illustration for the poem The Black Widow Spider not only shows the spider in her web, but also a variety of tiny clothes hanging in her web to emphasize her point that she does not wear blue denim, as the last line of the poem states.
     The poems blend science facts with vivid imagery so the reader gets a real understanding of the insect world.  Florian also used wordplay and puns in his poems to add a sense of humor.  In addition, the poem The Inchworm has been written in the shape of an inchworm.  The poem The Whirligig Beetles has been written in the form of a circle to give the impression of the beetles in action.  "Some of the entries rely on clever wordplay, while others are examples of concrete poetry; the text takes on the hump of the inchworm or the spiral movements of the whirligig beetle."  (Kirkus Reviews, 1 February, 1998.)
     I found it interesting the Florian and Fleischman (JOYFUL NOISE: POEMS FOR TWO VOICES) both wrote poems about insects.  I personally think that younger children will prefer Florian's collection which is not written in a form for two voices, and Florian's full color illustrations will greatly appeal to children.  The illustrations enhance the humor, fun, and wordplay that Florian has used in his poetry.  My children enjoyed the illustration for the Monarch Butterfly which contains the image if the butterfly within the crown, like a hidden picture.   
     I found myself enjoying this collection of poems more than others I have read.  I found the puns and wordplay clever and the illustrations colorful and humorous.  I believe I enjoyed these poems simply because the subject matter is familiar to me and I can easily picture the image the poet has invoked with his poem.

Prelutsky, Jack.  1990.  SOMETHING BIG HAS BEEN HERE.  Ill. by James Stevenson.  New York:  Greenwillow Books.  ISBN:  0965909816.
     SOMETHING BIG HAS BEEN HERE is a collection of poems by Jack Prelutsky and illustrated by James Stevenson.  This collection of humorous poems covers topics of interest to children such as animals, school, parents, and other events or happenings that children can find humor in and enjoy.  The poems in this collection are not arranged in any particular order and the first poem in the book is also the title of the book.
     The use of humor in all the poems will appeal universally to children of all ages and to adults who still have their inner child.  Often, the poems will have a slight twist at the end that is not what the reader was expecting.  "Prelutsky adopts a child's perspective to a remarkable degree--technically through his frequent use of the first person, but more fundamentally through his unerring sense of kids' concerns and their humor."  (Booklist, 1 September, 1990.)  The poems are still as fresh today as they were first published and should appeal to children of all ages for several years to come.  Even though the poems are short in length, they are very vivid and descriptive.  Prelutsky makes it easy for the reader to picture the image for themselves.  The poems are accompanied by black and white illustrations drawn by James Stevenson to bring out the humor in the poems. 
     One of the poems I enjoyed and thought children would easily respond to is entitled I SHOULD HAVE STAYED IN BED TODAY (p. 28-29). 
          "I should have stayed in bed today,
           in bed's where I belong,
           as soon as I got up today,
           things started going wrong,
           I got a splinter in my foot,
           my puppy made me fall,
           I squirted toothpaste in my ear,
           I crashed into the wall.
           I knocked my homework off the desk,
           it landed on my toes,
           I spilled a glass of chocolate milk,
           it's soaking through my clothes,
           I accidentally bit my tongue,
           that really made me moan,
           and it was far from funny
           when I banged my funny bone.
           I scraped my knees, I bumped my nose,
           I sat upon a pin,
           I leapt up with alacrity,
           and sharply barked my shin,
           I stuck a finger in my eye,
           the pain is quite severe,
           I'd better get right back to bed
           and stay there for a year.
Current and past students can easily picture these events and can probably think of a similar experience when we wished we could just go back to bed.
     This collection of poems is one that will to both younger and older students as well as to those who enjoy humorous poetry.  Some of the poems are silly and are pure fun to read, others have something unexpected at the end to make you stop and think or wonder.
Fleischman, Paul.  1988.  JOYFUL NOISE:  POEMS FOR TWO VOICES.  Ill. by Eric Beddows.  New York:  Harper & Row, Publishers.  ISBN:  0060218525.
     JOYFUL NOISE is a collection of fourteen poems about a variety of insects, all written by Paul Fleischman.  This collection of poems won the Newbery award in 1989.  These poems are all intended to be read aloud by two readers at once so the result meshes as a musical duet.  Fleischman has included this information in a "Note" at the beginning of the book just after the Contents page.
     Fleischman's poems are different from other poetry I've been exposed to, as these are meant for two people to read together.  These could also be adapted for choral readings by small groups as well.  The poems are written in two columns to make it convenient for each reader to speak their "lines."  A few of the poems were written with the insects speaking, presenting their point of view.  Fleischman does an excellent job using imagery and description so the reader can imagine what it feels like to be an insect.  Fleischman has made the world of insects come alive for the reader.  The reader can feel an appreciation for the beauty of an insect's life.
     Fleischman has written the poems so that the sounds the insects make come alive, thus the title, JOYFUL NOISE.  He makes the reader hear the drone of a honeybee, chirp of a cricket, and the raucous noise of the cicada as well as describing the single day life of a mayfly.  He includes poems about water striders, lightning bugs, book lice and moths too.  "He has combined the elements of sound and meaning to create clear, lively images of a variety of insects. Elements of repetition, onomatopoeia, and alliteration are effectively used to create a character for each of these creatures, with fireflies ``Flickering, flitting, flashing'' and mayflies ``lying, dying,'' which make these poems a joy for reading aloud."  (School Library Journal, 1 February, 1988.)  Of all the poetry my students read during their unit on poetry, these were the poems they enjoyed the most and had some of the most fun performing.  They stated that the poems made more of an impact being read aloud and they said the sound provided when reading aloud added greatly to their understanding of the poems.
     The soft pencil illustrations by Eric Beddows are a rich compliment to Fleischman's poetry.  The pencil drawings are quite detailed and reflect a love of nature.  There is at least one illustration for each poem and the poem about whirligig beetles has them drawn all around the poem.  The queen honeybee is drawn reclining on a fainting couch to add a touch of humor.
     Fleischman has written a unique collection of poetry to celebrate the lives of insects.  The poems, when read aloud, create their own rhythm that must be heard to appreciate fully.  Children will be drawn into the world of insects and will appreciate the detailed artwork of the illustrator.

Poetry is experience distilled.

This site was created as an assignment for a Texas Woman's University course.  The course is a graduate level course in Library Science.

Last updated 01/15/2006