Welcome to Poetropia, an arena for discussion about children's poetry, specially designed for my graduate Special Topics (LS 5903 Section 22) at Texas Woman's University. Please feel free to visit as often as you like and to give me your reactions to my reactions of the poems and poetry collections I'll share here throughout the Spring 2007 semester. Thank you for your visit. You can leave the door ajar for the next visitor as you leave. Happy reading!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Poetry Break One: About A Book...

Poetry Break One: About a Book

Lewis, J. Patrick. (1999). “Read… Think… Dream.” In The Bookworm’s Feast: A Potluck of Poems. New York: Dial. ISBN 0803716931.

Lewis’ The Bookworm’s Feast is a “menu” of sorts of poetry, arranged from “Appetizers,” “Sherbets,” “Entrées,” “Sumptuous Side Dishes,” and “Delectable Desserts” (among which is the poem I selected). The pages of the poetry book are imaginatively decorated with simply-drawn, colored and shaded line drawings that humorously but not patronizingly illustrate the themes of each poem (staying true, of course, to the overall theme of the bookworms who populate the pages of nearly every poem). The illustration accompanying my chosen poem is that of open books serving as ships on a foamy and tempestuous sea, their pages openly fanned. The ships’ sails are actually wind-blown pages with writing on them. Each book/ship is navigated by a little bookworm.

Reviews of The Bookworm’s Feast (per Amazon.com):
School Library Journal: There are selections for fans of wordplay, of limerick form, and of valentinelike verse, each accompanied by O'Brien's exuberant pen-and-watercolor drawings. Although all of the offerings may not receive five-star ratings, Lewis's poetic buffet is well worth sampling. Bon appetit!

Publishers Weekly: With an irreverence suggestive of Ogden Nash and the silliness of Jack Prelutsky, Lewis and O'Brien whip up a whimsical confection of poems and drawings in a format just as enjoyable as the poems themselves…. As if this linguistically piquant dinner were not enough, O'Brien's (The Reptile Ball) illustrations are simply delicious. Clever and funny, his exuberantly cross-hatched pen and watercolor drawings provide humor on every page. Don't forget to sample the cheerful Hippopotamole making "mountains out of molehills," or the postcard frog snagging a stamp with his tongue. A five-star feast.

And Now…

Read… Think… Dream

Book me a passage
to history
Back to some once-
Sail me into a
tall told tale,
Read me a river-
boat rhyme.

Ride me the waves
of a story,
Settle me down
by a brook,
Dream me a land
only dreamed of,
Book me a voyage
by book.

This poem is perfect for introducing children to the joy of poetry. The words themselves and (the way they are joined together) are sophisticated enough to be challenging, but they are also accessible enough to be understood. The content parallels the language in that it is both concrete (we can read about adventurous voyages by land and sea) and abstract (reading itself is a journey of the mind). The rhythm is sing-song, making the poem almost a chant when read aloud, reinforcing the message of forward motion through cadence, with short, almost staccato stanzas and the ABCB rhyme scheme adds to the illusion of movement and musicality. There are several instances of alliteration—a favorite to the ears of children because of their love of repetition. For example: “tall told tale,” “read me a river-boat rhyme,” and “by a brook.” Also, the repetition of imperative commands such as “book me,” “sail me,” “read me,” “settle me,” and “dream me” are almost an alliteration of their own and underline the rocking movement of a ship on a wavy sea.

This poem moves me personally because I am—and have been since childhood—a traveler. I come from a family of migrant workers, so we were always moving—never really living anywhere for longer than three weeks at a time—but we never went to the places to which I always dreamt of going. This poem calls up the images and memories of my childhood. I went to the places of my dreams through the pages of any book I could get my hands on. I think that children of many different ages, cultures, socioeconomic situations and educations could identify with this poem in its description of the experience of being swept away and moved by a book.

A discussion of this poem might start with a group conversation about dreaming and traveling to far off places. The poem then could be read and the children could talk about how the words made them feel and relate their own experiences with books.

The illustrations could be used to help younger children. Some children might say, “Reading is easy. I like it,” in which case the discussion leader might paraphrase and say, “That’s right. For some people, reading is like sailing on a breezy sea in the sunshine.” Still others might say, “I don’t like books. They’re hard,” in which case the discussion leader could paraphrase saying, “Not every voyage is a smooth one, right? Look at those waves on the page—some might see those as adventurous, like on a roller coaster, but to someone else, those waves might be scary and make you feel sea sick.”

Older children might want to discuss how the rhythm made them feel like the books were rocking on a tossing sea or show how other linguistic elements echo the content of the poem.

Poem reviewed by Joelie Key-Tissot January 24, 2007.


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