Tag Archives: Poetry Friday

Tour America: A Journey Through Poems and Art by Diane Siebert

I’ve been on a history and geography kick this National Poetry Month.  So far I’ve shared a poetry book about presidents and a poetry atlas of the United States.   Today’s pick just might be me favorite yet.  It’s actually one we’ve read before, and I thought I might’ve blogged about it before.  It turns out that I didn’t, so today’s the day.  :-)  Diane Siebert‘s author’s note at the beginning of Tour America explains that she and her husband set out on a summer tour of America that ended up lasting ten years, and these poems grew out of that experience.  The topics of the poems are iconic American sites–the Golden Grate Bridge, the Washington Monument, Niagara Falls, Las Vegas, and so on.  The poems take various forms.  Some are short and some are long.  What they all have in common, though, is that each one paints a picture of something distinctively American.  Each two-page spread features a unique piece of artwork by Stephen T. Johnson, a poem, a little inset map of both the U.S. and the state in which the featured locale exists, and a rectangle of information about the place.  My personal favorite poem is the first one in the book, entitled “American Towns.”  In it, Siebert highlights some of the many interestingly named towns in America:

On open plains, in deserts dry,

Near ocean shores, on mountains high,

Beside the lakes and perched on hills

Are ‘burgs and ‘dales and ‘vales and ‘villes–

The towns across the USA

Whose names are fun to see and say:


Cocoan, Toast, Teaticket, Tea;

Justice, Hope, Equality.


And so it goes for forty-four more lines.  I love reading this one aloud.

If you have older children who appreciate and enjoy American history and geography–just Americana, really, this book is for you.  Highly Recommended.  (Chronicle Books, 2011)

1-IMG_3173-001Every Friday this month I’ve shared a poetry book we’ve enjoyed during our poetry tea times.  I’m linking this post up to Poetry Friday at The Opposite of Indifference.

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Little Poems for Tiny Ears by Lin Oliver

Little Poems for Tiny Ears by Lin Oliver is a new poetry book for the youngest listeners.  This is a collection of twenty-three poems on various baby-approved topics like body parts, noises, first words, playing peekaboo, taking a bath, etc.  Lin Oliver’s verse is mostly simple and sing-song, which is ideal for the target audience.   Some of the poems would make good ones to memorize and recite as mom or dad do that particular thing with baby–there’s one about being buckled into a carseat, for example, that would make a fun action rhyme.  It ends like this:

Buckle, click, I’m safely in–

Haul out, folks, let’s take a spin.

Cute, huh?

Tomie dePaola’s illustrations are easily-recognizable (dare I say iconic?).  This little book would make an excellent baby shower or birthday gift.  My only criticism of it is that, given the target audience, it would hold up much better as a board book.   This one’s lots of fun.  (Penguin, 2014)


I’m sharing a poetry book every Friday this month in honor of National Poetry Month.  I’m also linking this post up at Poetry Friday, hosted this week at Life on the Deckle Edge.

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My America: A Poetry Atlas of the United States

Last week I featured a poetry book that spotlights all of the American presidents, and this week I’m sharing another substantial poetry book.  My America:  A Poetry Atlas of the United States is compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrated by Stephen Alcorn.  The book is divided into eight sections based on the regions of the U.S.: Northeast States, the Capital, Southeast States, Great Lakes States, Plains States, Mountain States, Southwest States, and Pacific Coast States.   Each section opens with a map and table of facts about each state in the region.  This is followed by six to eight poems for each region (excepting the one poem for D.C. in the Capital section).  Many of the poets whose works appear in this volume are unknown to me, but a few are readily recognizable:  Nikki Giovanni, Langston Hughes, Carl Sandburg, and our old friend, Anonymous.  :-)  Lee Bennett Hopkins (who even has an award named after him) has a couple of poems in here, as do a couple of older children’s poets I recognize.

Of course, my girls immediately looked up Alabama to see if our state is represented by a poem, and indeed it is:  “Alabama Earth (At Booker Washington’s Grave)” by Langston Hughes.   The fact that we actually visited Booker T. Washington’s gravesite and home a few years ago made this poem doubly meaningful to us.   The final lines of this poem are particularly compelling:

While over Alabama earth

These words are gently spoken:

Serve–and hate will die unborn.

Love–and chains are broken.

My personal favorite is from the Northeast section of the anthology, a poem entitled “Frost’s Farm Road” by James Hayford.   Robert Frost is my favorite poet, so I naturally love that this poem is so reminiscent of Frost’s style, from its beginning–

I pocketed a pebble

From Frost’s farm road at Ripton,

to its end–

In that high circle of his

In or just under the Great World.

Happy sigh.  

Stephen Alcorn’s illustrations are painted using casein on paper with no “preliminary pencil sketches” so as to “surrender to the magic of each poem,” with each illustration “reworked” over time to the lovely, textured illustration reproduced in the book.

This is an altogether lovely book, one that invites slow, thoughtful reading.  It, too, would make a great accompaniment to a history or geography study.  Highly Recommended.  (Simon & Schuster, 2000)


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I’m blogging about poetry every Friday this month, and I’m linking this post up to Poetry Friday, hosted this week by Today’s Little Ditty.

Rutherford B., Who Was He? by Marilyn Singer

I’ve wanted to review Rutherford B., Who Was He?:  Poems About Our Presidents for a long time.   I requested my library buy it way back when I first heard of it last summer, and I even tried to nominate it for a Cybils.  (It was published after the cutoff date, so I will be nominating it this fall!)  Nana bought the girls a copy at her school’s bookfair, and they’ve read it over and over again.  They’ve shared poems from it at poetry tea time, but this is really the first time I’ve had the opportunity to sit down and really look at it myself.

Well!  What a treasure this book is!  Singer begins with a little introductory poem that includes this verse:

Who were these men?

Not just names in a book:

the ones who stood firm or preferred compromise,

the ones of great stature (though not always size),

the ones we’ve forgotten, the ones we still prize.

What follows are thirty-some-odd poems in which every president is represented–every single one, from Washington:

He agreed to father a newborn nation–

and never took a real vacation.

to Polk:

A powerful president with lots of gall.

Made four promises, kept them all.

to Obama:

One thing is certain,

on one thing we agree–

as our first black president,

he indeed made history.

and everyone in between.  Some of the presidents are lumped in together, into one poem, especially when they’re closely related to each other.  (For example, Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, and James Buchanan all share one poem which is about all of their various approaches to the coming dissolution of the Union.)  A few of the poems are standouts in terms of form.  For example, Richard Nixon’s poem is a reverso (see an example of one here on Singer’s website).  Singer’s poetry, coupled with John Hendrix’s illustrations and typography (check it out here), really make this a must-read book.  (I’ve mentioned before how much I love John Hendrix’s work. )  Hendrix incorporates quotes from the presidents with his own brand of humorous illustrations which are caricature-like and support and enhance the message of the poem.  Back matter includes a paragraph per president that sheds a little more light on his time in office and provides context for the poems.  Get this book if you just like poetry or if you want to give your American history studies a bit of oomph.  Highly Recommended.  (Disney Hyperion, 2013)


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I’m blogging about poetry every Friday this month, and I’m linking this post up to Poetry Friday, hosted this week by The Poem Farm.

Poetry Tea Time resources


Poetry Tea Time has been a part of our weekly routine for a while now, and it’s something we all look forward to with eager anticipation.  I was inspired by Julie Bogart’s Bravewriter blog posts to start doing this, and every “good” Fun Friday includes Poetry Tea Time.   Most days I do manage to bake something–often lately it has been boxed brownies or muffins–and yes, at least one or two of us actually drinks tea.  What I love about it is there’s really no agenda, other than to slow down, eat a snack, drink something, and read some poetry.  I don’t have a preconceived idea about which poems we’ll read (though sometimes I do pick something out in advance, like A.A. Milne poems on the anniversary of his death or a snow poem when our Friday art activity was painting snowmen).  I don’t have an eye toward a certain educational objective.  We just enjoy the poetry and the snack.

Today I thought I’d share some of the poetry anthologies we’ve enjoyed lately.  I really like having a few kid-friendly anthologies on hand because by their very nature, anthologies expose us to more poets and poems than we’d experience otherwise.  I’ve shared before about a couple of anthologies for the youngest listeners, and both of these still get pulled out on occasion, too.

Forget-Me-Nots:  Poems to Learn by Heart is a collection selected by Mary Ann Hoberman  and illustrated by Michael Emberley.  Hoberman was the U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate from 2008-2011.   She is the author of such quintessential children’s
picture books as The Seven Silly Eaters and the well-known You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You series.  Here at the House of Hope, we’re also fans of her book of family poems entitled Fathers, Mothers, Sisters, Brothers.

As is indicated by the subtitle, Forget-Me-Nots is a book of “memorable” poems, chosen because they are both “easy to remember” and “worth remembering.”  The whole premise of the book, then, is one of encouragement in the art of poetry memorization.  Divided into eleven sections, Forget-Me-Nots includes poems that are very short and easy to memorize, like Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Rain” and an Edward Lear limerick.  (These short poems comprise the first section.)  It also includes poems that are longer and more challenging, like Lear’s “The Jumblies” and the last poem in the book, Hoberman’s own “The Llama Who Had No Pajamas.”  In between are sad poems, animal poems, food poems, poems about time and happiness, and even poems taken from storybooks.  I like it because it mixes the poems up–for example, a poem by Robert Frost is included in the “Sad and Sorrowful” section, as is a poem by John Keats and a poem by Elizabeth Coatsworth.  Shakespeare is found beside Russell Hoban in the “Strange and Mysterious” section.  I know this makes the more “serious” poets and poems more accessible when children encounter them in their own books first–I remember that from my own childhood and education.  The backmatter of this book includes a short section of suggestions for poetry memorization and an index of first lines.  Emberley’s illustrations are humorous and expressive.  This is a Highly Recommended Poetry Tea Time resource.  (Little, Brown and Co., 2012)

Caroline Kennedy’s Poems to Learn by Heart is another staple of our Poetry Tea Times of late.  Like Forget-Me-Nots, this is a collection of poems chosen by Kennedy and a select few students from a small school in New York City called Dream Yard Prep because they deem them worthy of remembering.  Kennedy says this in the introduction:  “I hope that other young writers will use this book as a starting point for their own memory-palaces of poems–and once they learn them by heart, they won’t even need this book.”

Poems to Learn by Heart is divided into ten themed sections.  These sections include poems about self, poems about family, poems about friendship and love, nonsensical poems, sports poems, and war poems.  There are fewer recognizably children’s poets in this volume; instead, Shakespeare rubs elbows with Langston Hughes and Gertrude Stein, though there are a few by such bright light children’s poets as Mary Ann Hoberman, Shel Silverstein, and Jack Prelutsky.  The very last section of the book includes an excerpt from the prologue to The Canterbury Tales and Kubla Khan, among others.  John J. Muth’s illustrations are mostly serious, with a dreamy, ethereal quality about them.  This anthology is perfect for the mid-to-upper elementary crowd.  It places some fairly heady poems in a thematic setting that makes them accessible even for younger students.  Poems to Learn by Heart was shortlisted for a 2013 Cybils Award, and I give it a Highly Recommended.  (Disney,  2013)

I’m linking up this week with Poetry Friday, which is hosted this week at No Water River.

For a list of all my poetry links at Hope Is the Word, click here.

Do you have a favorite poetry anthology?  Please, do share!