Thursday, June 11, 2020

The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How-To Poems by Paul B. Janeczko

Genre: Children's Poetry Book
Source: Purchased

        Paul B. Janeczko has collected a group of poems that are cute and in some cases just fun. One of my favorite poems came near the end of the book. It is called How to Catch a Poem by Irene Latham. One of the biggest complaints I hear each year when I tell students we are going to write poetry is, "I don't know how to write a poem".  This year when I did my unit I asked students to sit outside or near a window and observe and make a list of things to write about. It was funny because when they submitted poems they often said it just came to them.  Irene's poem will definitely be read to them before we start the unit this next year.
        Another poem I enjoyed was one that taught me something. I can never remember which camel has one hump and which has two. J. Patrick Lewis took the guessing out by giving us a visual with just two letters. If you turn a D and a B on it's back you have the first letter and the number of humps for each type of camel a dromedary has one hump and a Bactrian has two.  I love it when visuals help me remember something.
        Finally, there were the poems that took me back to my childhood. I grew up in the country in Indiana. Playin' Jacks by Anna E. Jordan took me back to a time when my sisters and I  would sit on the kitchen floor playing jacks. The Swing by Robert Louis Stevenson reminded me of the swing my father put up for us attached to one of the largest branches. It brought back memories of trying to swing so high we could touch the leaves. How to Bird-Watch by Margarita Engle took me back to sitting or laying on a blanket in the yard watching the birds in the tree. I sit in my yard swing now and still do that. Irene Latham's How to Be a Tree in Winter was such a visual I could see the bare branches reaching for the sky. Ralph Fletcher wrote How to Make a Snow Angel. My sisters and I would wait each year for the snow to be deep enough to make snow angels. I remember doing this at school as well when we went outside for recess.  Helen Frost, who has been a favorite author of mine for several years wrote Best Friends which brought back memories of calling across the field to our cousins who lived down the road from us. I felt as if someone had followed me through my childhood and taken pictures of my life and written about them in this book.  
        I want to have my students sit with their eyes closed as I read these poems. I don't want them to analyze these poems because to me that ruins them. I want them to tell me what pictures popped into their head. Could they see themselves in any of them? So many teachers of middle and high school students find it strange that I will use picture books in my classroom. Why not? Simple books like this are both simple and complex at the same time. I am proud to put this book on my shelf this next year. I am proud to share these with my students. I hope you will pick up a copy and share it with your children or grandchildren and teach them how to enjoy poetry.

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