Here are free resources for sharing award winning poetry books with young people.

Here are free resources for sharing award winning poetry books with young people.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

2012 WINNER: Emma Dilemma

This is one of the 2012 winners of the Claudia Lewis Poetry Award:

Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems by Kristine O'Connell George (Clarion, 2011)

Here is a Digital Trailer for EMMA DILEMMA created by graduate student Gayla Mulligan.

Here is a Readers' Guide for EMMA DILEMMA created by graduate student Dana Cruz.

George, O’Connell, Kristine. 2011. Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems.  Ill. by Nancy Carpenter. New York: Clarion Books. ISBN 9780618428427

Recommended Age Levels 6-9 years old

Summary of Book

The bond of sisterhood between fourth grader Jessica and her three year old sister Emma are delightfully captured in Ms. George’s thirty-four free verse poems.   Told from the perspective of Jessica, the reader learns what it is like to be Emma’s big sister.   Emma is a boisterous, fun loving preschooler who looks up to her older sister.  She wants to tag along, have her sister’s approval, and be her big sister’s best friend.  Jessica is at times embarrassed, compassionate, playful, and annoyed at Emma’s antics.  Their father calls Emma, Emma Dilemma, and Jessica feels that this is true for her.  The poems weave together several days and incidences in Jessica and Emma’s lives.  Progressing from one day to the next the reader gets a true feeling of being part of the family.  Little showcases of sisterly love are displayed through handholding in the car and letting Emma sleep in her bed, to putting rocks in Jessica’s shoe and wanting to complete homework with Jessica.  The culminating event in the set of poems begins with Jessica and her friend, Sasha’s escape to the tree house in “Freedom”.

The reader can see and feel the excitement to be away from a younger sibling and to be with your best friend; reminiscent of almost anyone’s childhood.  The reader feels Jessica’s pain and sorrow when Emma falls while trying to get to her sister in the tree house.  The long wait for Emma’s return from the hospital conveys the true emotions that flow through families.  Emma is a dilemma, but a good one for her sister.  Through the course of the story, the reader learns that family ties are deeper than annoyances.  George’s specific and descriptive word choices in her poems of everyday events in Jessica and Emma’s lives are beautifully interpreted by Carpenter’s ink and digital illustrations.

Review Excerpts

"The vignettes form such a vivid portrait of Emma and Jessica that readers may feel as if they personally know them—and a tense turn of events will have readers holding their breath." Publisher’s Weekly, starred review
“The illustrations give us a glimpse into Jessica's conflicted emotions as she vacillates between affection and exasperation.” Children’s Literature
"A potent combination of accessibility and understanding, this will work well as a read alone or a read aloud, offering sympathy to those who are in the older-sib position and perspective to those who aren’t."  Bulletin, starred review
"Spring-colored line drawings in pen-and-ink and digital media are filled with engaging details, expressive characters, and lots of humor, and bring the family dynamics to life while the verses build to a climactic situation that brings these youngsters together in a touching way."  School Library Journal, starred review
"This touching portrayal captures well the many mutual acts of kindness and tolerance inherent in healthy sibling relation."  Kirkus Reviews
"The poems and art tell an absorbing story—complete with a few tense moments and a warm, believable conclusion—widening the audience and making this book more than just an opportunity for big sisters to nod their heads in total recognition."  The Horn Book
"Older siblings everywhere will recognize the big-sister’s view of family fury and fun."  Booklist, starred review

Awards/Honors Received
•    Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, 2012
•    Promising Poet Award
•    Claudia Lewis Poetry Award, 2012
•    SLJ Best Books of 2011, Nonfiction
•    Booklist Lasting Connections of 2012, Nonfiction
•    ALA Notable Children's Book, 2012
•    BCCB 2011 Blue Ribbon, Nonfiction
•    International Reading Association Teacher’s Choice, 2012

Questions to Ask Before Reading
Invite children to discuss the following questions prior to reading aloud Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems.
Before holding up the book ask the class:
•    By a show of hands ask the students the following questions.  How many of you have an older sibling?  How many of you have an older sister?  How many of you have an older brother?  How many of you are the oldest in your family?  The teacher can keep a tally on the board or chart paper and can use the data as a math connection later. 
•    Ask the students, “Do you and your younger or older brother or sister always get along?” 
•    “Can you give me some examples of what you and your younger or older sibling(s) do together?”   Allow the students’ time to share their responses.  Summarize the enjoyable and annoying traits that siblings have.
•    Tell the students the title of the book you will be reading today - Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems. Ask the students to predict what they think this story will be about based on the title and the illustration. 
•    Ask the students, “What does dilemma mean?”   For the younger students this can be a difficult word to define.  Use the illustration to help provide understanding of the word dilemma. 
•    The title has the word poems in it.  Ask the students, “What are some of the types of poetry you are familiar with?”

Suggestions for Reading Poems Aloud
•    “Dracula” poem- This poem lends itself well to choral reading.  Divide the class into two groups.  The teacher reads the first line “Emma leaps out at me.” Group 1 says, “Cape.” Group 2 says, “Fangs.” Group 1 says, “Fake blood.”  Group 2 reads “Scared you! Scared you!” and can point their fingers at the other group.  Group 1 reads “Did not! Did not!” Group 2 read “Did too!” Group 1 reads “Did not!” Teacher finishes with “I like to start my day with a scream.”  And all the kids scream.
•    “Below” poem- Read the poem through one time with the whole class. Then divide the class into two for a call and response.  Have each group come up with body movements or facial expressions to accompany their groups’ specific lines of poetry.  Stanzas 1, 3, and 5 for group 1.  Stanzas 2, 4, and 6 for group 2.  Stanza 7 will be both groups together.  The groups may choose to act out the stanza with a few students while the rest read the stanza in unison with gestures or facial expressions.
•    “Fun with Yarn” poem– Ask the students to close their eyes as you read this poem to them.  Ask the students to visualize what they think the words would look like in a picture/illustration.   Before showing the illustration to the students ask them to describe what they saw in their mind as you read. Compare and contrast their visions to the illustrator’s interpretation.

Follow Up Activities
Writing and Reading
•    Emma Dilemma gave us a look at Jessica’s life as a big sister.  Ask the students to choose two to four poems/events and re-write them from Emma’s point of view.  Students will add in illustrations for their new renditions of Emma Dilemma. Once completed there can be a share aloud for anyone who volunteers.
•    Ask the students to write a personal narrative about their family.  Tie this assignment back to the “Before Reading” question 2 and 3 (Do siblings always get along?) that the class brainstormed.  For students who are an only child ask them to use examples from interactions with cousins, with friends, or use an idea that a classmate shared.
•    Students can write their own free verse or rhyming poem about an event that took place in their family.  Ask the students to illustrate their poem and to give it a title.  Collect all the poems and create a class poetry book that can be shared aloud.
•    Students will write a story on the topic, “What does family mean to me?”
•    Review the definition of the word dilemma with the class.  Ask the students to brainstorm or web their ideas about a dilemma they have had to face in their lives.  Once the student has the dilemma he/she will creatively devise a way to introduce the dilemma and how he/she addressed the dilemma so that the class (if read aloud) or teacher understands.  Examples of ways students can creatively portray their dilemma: cartoon, blog, video, a play with people or puppets, through a song, a commercial, a collage, or a maze. 
•    “Yards of Yarn” – there is a reference to a spider in the poem.  Students can write their own spider poem.
•    “Family Tree” – Have the students write a poem about their family.  It can be humorous or serious take on the family; rhyming or not rhyming; haiku or cinquain.  Display the poems at Back to School Night.
•    Students will compare and contrast Emma Dilemma to one of Ms. George’s other poetry books.  The results can be reported through a T-Chart or using a free blog program like Blogspot or Prezi.
•    Students can read other poetry books about families and siblings and create a Venn diagram for the two selected books.
•    The poetic style of Ms. George can be compared to other children’s poets.  Students will select and read one book of poetry by Ms. George and another children’s poet. What are some of the similarities and differences in style and word choice?  Are the poems free verse or rhyming?  Do other children’s poets use illustrations with their poetry?   Groups of students will create a multimedia presentation to report their findings.

•    Using the poem “Fun with Yarn” as your starting point; ask the students how long is a yard?  Once you have the answer ask the students to calculate the “yards and yards of yarn.”  Review the calculations.  Using prediction skills ask the students how big they think a ball of yarn is?  Would it cover a bedroom like in the poem?  Ask the students to look at the classroom and then estimate how many yards it is.  Will the ball of yarn in your hand cover this classroom like Jessica’s room?  If they do not think so, how much of the classroom will be covered?  Have the students write down their predictions in their math journal and the teacher keeps a record under the document camera or on the white board.  Divide the class into groups and provide them with yard sticks and have them measure the perimeter of the room.  Have one group member record the measurements.  Re-group as a class and go over the measurements.  Together calculate the perimeter of the room.  (4 times the length).  Were the students’ measurements accurate? 
You can use measurement tutorials at:  AAA Math – square  easy calculations has an example

•    “Soccer Game” - Ask the students what shape is a soccer ball? (Sphere). What other things are sphere shaped?  Write the list on the board.  What are the black shapes on the soccer ball called? (Pentagons) How many sides are on the pentagon?  Can you think of other things that are pentagon shaped?  Look at the picture of Emma in the stands, how many items is Emma wearing?  Compare the number of items she is wearing to the number of items that Jess is wearing.  Who is wearing more and who is wearing less? What is the total number of items for each?

•    “Emma’s Hand” - Ask the students “Are hands all the same size?” “Why is that?”  Go over how to read a ruler in inches and review height and length. Trace your hand onto a piece of paper.  With a partner measure each other’s traced hand with a ruler.  Write down the length and height in inches.  Discuss whose hand is larger and smaller.  How much larger and smaller are the hands?

•    Use “Late for School” and “Emma’s Birthday”- Calculate how many more years until Emma can attend school.  Calculate how much older Jess is than Emma.  Calculate how much younger Emma is than Jess. Further connection, will Jess and Emma ever attend the same school?  Use their ages to help you figure it out.

•    “Sharing” – Use a plastic pie or a circle cut out to teach the students about fractions.  Ask the students how would I cut this pie in half?  Demonstrate.  Now what if I want to cut it in half again? Demonstrate. Can we further divide the pie?  Is each part equal?  Now allow the students to use their knowledge of whole, half, and quarter with manipulatives. Divide the class into groups that will rotate through centers and practice the skills of fractions.  You can have groups with fraction bars, different shapes, and computer fraction programs. 
Below is a site that reinforces various math skills.  You can select the grade level and the skills you wish the child to work on.
Math Blaster Plus is also a good program to reinforce math skills.

•    “Cheating” – Bring in a deck of cards.  Ask the students how many cards are in a deck.  What are the numbers that you see on a deck of cards? Are there any other types of cards in the deck?  How many of each is in a deck? What are the shapes on the cards?  Divide the students into groups of 4 and give each a deck of cards.  Allow the students to play “Go Fish”.  Have the students predict how many cards each of them will have at the end of the game.  How many pairs and groups of four do you think you will have?  Once the game is complete have the students review and see if their predictions were right? Have the students calculate their total number of points?  Who has the most points and who has the fewest points?  What is the difference between the most, second most, third most, and fewest points?
Elementary Math Games: Fun, interactive math games -
Many free math games to work on a variety of skills.

•    “Field Trip” – Based on this poem Jess has $3 to spend at the museum.  Have the students do an economics unit and create their own business.  The students can earn money to spend at other peoples’ shops or to buy supplies to make items for their business by doing their classwork, homework, cooperating with others, etc.  The teacher will collect data for a week and then let each student know how much money they have earned toward the project.  Each student will need to use addition and subtraction skills when purchasing supplies or items from other businesses. 

•    “Telling Time” – Use this poem as an introduction to teaching the students how to read a clock.  Most students can read a digital clock but cannot read an analog clock.  Show the students 6:00 o’clock on each type of clock.  Show the students the five minute increments and quarter after, half past, and quarter till.  Students will practice telling time by rotating through stations.

•    “Collector” - Emma likes to collect rocks.  The teacher can do an introduction on rock collecting and how people have enjoyed learning about rocks.  The teacher can show an introductory video from BrainPop on “Types of Rocks.”  Discuss the three groups of rocks and let the student know that they will be researching more about the different types of rocks that exist. (Sedimentary, Metamorphic, and Igneous )What materials are rocks made out of? Where can you find your type of rock? Is there a life cycle for a rock? Student will be divided into research groups.  Students can use online and print reference materials to gather their information.  Students will report back their finding one of these ways: blog, labeled graphics, a brochure, or as a news report.
Resources: Interactive Rock Cycle website:
Ask GeoMan website:
NeoK-12 Type of Rocks website:
BrainPop Types of Rocks video: website:

•    “Yards of Yarn” – In the poem there is a reference to a spider.  For the insect unit the students can learn about the different types of spiders, what are the parts of a spider, where they are located, are they predators and who preys on them?  The teacher can use a virtual fieldtrip to a museum to learn about spiders and their habitats. Teachers can use a virtual image of a spider to label the anatomy of the spider.
Illinois State Museum website:
Australian Museum website:

•    “Family Tree” and “Oak” – Tree references are found in both of these poems. What trees are natural to your area? Are they deciduous or coniferous trees?  Define both terms.  How can you tell how old a tree is?  Discuss how the rings in the tree tell about its history and life.  You can tell the years that there were droughts based on the size of the rings.  If there is a tree stump in your school area, take a nature walk and show the students the rings.  If not, take a picture of the rings or use a picture found on the internet.  Calculate the age of the tree.  Ask the students how else we can calculate the life of something? Can you tell the age of someone by using your family tree?

Social Studies
•    “Freedom” – Connect the poem to your unit on the Civil War and Slavery.  Have a discussion about what freedom means to the students?  Have there been times in history when people have not been free?  Students can learn about slavery.  Students can write their own “Freedom Manifesto.” 

•    “Role Model” – What are the character traits that a good role model has?  Can you think of any positive role models today? There have been many role models in history.  Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Henry Ford to name a few that were men. But who are the historical role models for young girls?  Boys and girls will be able to find girls and women from the past who are good role models.   Have the students do a survey of 5 different role models listed on the National Women’s History Museum Website.  Chart why each of the 5 role models was important.  What characteristic did you connect most with out of the 5 role models you researched?
Use websites like: National Women’s History Museum, Young and Brave: Girls Changing History Website:

•    “Family Tree” – Have the student do a genealogy project.  Students will interview their family members about their history.  Where did their ancestors originate from? When did they arrive in the United States?  What were some of the jobs that your ancestors had? Did any of your ancestors take part in any major historical events (wars, civil rights movements, inventions, etc.)?  Draw out your family tree; try to include as many dates as you can.  Students can also use genealogy sites to assist them if they like.

•    “Justice” – Prior to reading the poem “Justice” ask the students to define the word.  Read the poem and discuss what justice means to Jess.  Ask the students if they sometimes feel the same way as Jess.  Ask the students if they think that throughout history people have felt that justice or injustice has existed?  You may need to explain injustice to them.  What are some historical events where there has been justice and what are some historical events where there has been injustice?  Examples: Justice – court systems or abolishing slavery.  Injustice-slavery and human rights issues.

The Arts

•    Based on the poem “Sharing” have the students cooperatively design a motivational poster for the school about the need to share.

•    Based on the poem “Emma’s Hand” have the students trace their hands onto white paper.  Using pens and pastel like Carpenter, the students will illustrate their hand with important pictures about their life.

•    Students can work in small groups to produce a Reader’s Theater.  Students will bring or make the props (scarf, hat, jewelry, shoes, etc.) needed for their version of Emma Dilemma.  Students can work with the music teacher to create a dance variation or find music that can accompany the performance.

•    Students can create a Digital Trailer for Emma Dilemma. After sketching out the Digital Trailer during art class, the students will create the Digital Trailer during computer class.  Student can utilize Web 2.0 tools like Animoto.

•    During computer class, the students can use Google Docs to create a poem with another student from another school in the district or elsewhere.  Student one will begin the poem with stanza one.  Student two will continue the poem with stanza two.  The teacher can determine how many stanzas the poem is to have or set a time limit for the project to be done.

•    The classroom teacher will divide up the students and give each pair a poem from Emma Dilemma.  During computer time, the pairs retype their Emma Dilemma poem onto a PowerPoint slide.  The pairs will add in graphics from a clip art program and any animation that will enhance their poem.  Using GarageBand the pairs will add in music to fit with the tone of their poem.  The second part of the project is to re-write their Emma Dilemma poem from the point of view of Emma. The pairs will repeat the steps from the first PowerPoint slide.  The teacher will combine all of the poems into a PowerPoint presentation that will be shown to the class.

Related Web Sites
Kristin George
You can visit Kristin George’s website to learn about her life and her poetry.  She also provides tips for teachers and students; as well as some of her favorite quotes.  Ms. George has also created her first digital trail for Emma Dilemma and you may find it on her website.

Nancy Carpenter
Learn more about Emma Dilemma’s illustrator Nancy Carpenter at the Houghton Mifflin website.

Family Echo
You can visit the free family tree maker website to start inputting your family data.  It is good starting point to organize your history.

Family Tree Chart: Google Search
This site has 22 pages of various family tree templates that you can print and begin recording your family history for posterity.
Genealogy Website
Here is just one of many free search engines for researching your family’s genealogy. Make sure that the free sites meet your needs.

Other Books of Poetry by Kristine O’Connell George
George, Kristine O’Connell.  One Mitten.  Ill. by Maggie Smith. ISBN 9780618117567
George, Kristine O’Connell. A Great Frog Race: And Other Poems.  Ill. by Kate Kiesler. ISBN 9780618604784
George, Kristine O’Connell.  Little Dog and Duncan.  Ill. by June Otani. ISBN 9780618117581
George, Kristine O’Connell.  Little Dog Poems.  Ill. by June Otani. ISBN 0395822661
George, Kristine O’Connell.  Old Elm Speaks: Tree Poems.  Ill. by Kate Kiesler. ISBN 9780618752423
George, Kristine O’Connell.  Toasting Marshmallows: Camping Poems.  Ill. by Kate Kiesler. ISBN 9780618045976
George, Kristine O’Connell.  Fold Me a Poem.  Ill. by Lauren Stringer. ISBN 9780152025014
George, Kristine O’Connell.  Hummingbird Nest: A Journal of Poems.  Ill. by Barry Moser. ISBN 9780152023256
George, Kristine O’Connell.  Book!  Ill. by Maggie Smith. ISBN 9780395982877
George, Kristine O’Connell. Up!  Ill. by Hireo Nakata. ISBN 0618064893
George, Kristine O’Connell.  Swimming Up Stream: Middle School Poems. Ill. by Debbie Tilley.  ISBN 9780618152506

Other Books Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter
O’Neill, Alexis.  Loud Emily.   Ill. by Nancy Carpenter. ISBN 9780689846694
Jacobs, Kate.  A Sister’s Wish.  Ill. by Nancy Carpenter. ISBN 9780786801381
Kroll, Virginia.  Can You Dance, Dalila?  Ill. by Nancy Carpenter. ISBN 9780689805516
Bowdish, Lynea.  Brooklyn, Bugsy, and Me.  Ill. by Nancy Carpenter. ISBN 9780374309930
Offill, Jenny.  11 Experiments That Failed.  Ill. by Nancy Carpenter. ISBN 9780375847622
Yolen, Jane.  My Uncle Emily.  Ill. by Nancy Carpenter. ISBN 9780399240058
Winters, Kay. Abe Lincoln: The Boy Who Loved Books.  Ill. by Nancy Carpenter. ISBN 9781416912682

Other Poetry Books about Families
Cooper, Melrose.  I Got a Family.  Ill. by Dale Gottlieb. ISBN 9780805055429
Greenfield, Eloise.  Brothers and Sisters: Family Poems. Ill. by Jan Spivey Gilchrist. ISBN 9780060562847
Hoberman, Mary Ann.  Fathers, Mothers, Sisters, Brothers: A Collection of Family Poems.  Ill. by Marylin Hafner.  ISBN 9780316362511
Hoberman, Mary Ann.  And to Think That We Thought We’d Never Be Friends. Ill. by Kevin Hawkes. ISBN 9780440417767
Katz, Bobbi.  Could We Be Friends?: Poems for Pals. Ill. by Joung Un Kim. ISBN 9781572552302
Rush, Elizabeth.  M Is for Myanmar.  Ill. by Khin Maung Myint. ISBN 9781934159286
Williams, Vera.  Amber Was Brave, Essie Was Smart: The Story of Amber and Essie told here in Poems and Pictures.  ISBN 0060294604

Fiction Children’s Literature about Sisters
Alcott, Louisa May.  Little Women: Or Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy.  ISBN 9781152391666
Boling, Katharine.  January 1905. ISBN 9780152051198
Curtis, Marci.  Big Sister, Little Sister.  ISBN 9780142300787
Harper, Jamie.  Me Too!  ISBN 9780316605526
Holeman, Linda.  Promise Song.  ISBN 9780887763878
Madden, Kerry.  Gentle’s Holler.   ISBN 9780142407516
McPhail, David.  Sisters.  ISBN 9780152046590
Pham, LeUyen.  Big Sister, Little Sister.   ISBN 9780786851829
Pfeffer, Susan Beth.  A Gift for Jo.   ISBN 9780385326681
Russell, Paula.  My Sister, Olive.   ISBN 9781921272882
Wilkes, Maria D.  On Top of Concord Hill.   ISBN 9780060270032
Zimmer, Tracie Vaughn.  Sketches from a Spy Tree.   ISBN 9780618234790

Nonfiction Children’s Literature about Sisters
Bailey, Debbie.  Sisters.   ISBN 9781550372755
Bailey, Diane.  Venus and Serena Williams: Tennis Champions.  ISBN 9781435835528
Kenyon, Karen Smith.  The Bronte Family: Passionate Literary Geniuses.  ISBN 9780822500711
Meyer, Donald. Editor.  Views from Our Shoes: Growing Up with a Brother or Sister with Special Needs.  ISBN 9780933149984

2012 WINNER: The Watch That Ends the Night

This is one of the 2012 winners of the Claudia Lewis Poetry Award:

The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic by Allan Wolf (Candlewick, 2011)

Here is a Digital Trailer for THE WATCH THAT ENDS THE NIGHT created by graduate student April Izard.

Here is a Readers' Guide for THE WATCH THAT ENDS THE NIGHT by graduate student Melissa Hassell. 

Wolf, Allan. 2011. The Watch that Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic. Candlewick Press. ISBN: 978-0763637033

Recommended ages 12 and up 

Summary of Book
The Titanic disaster has captured imaginations for decades. Flowing and lyrical poems shared in The Watch that Ends the Night gives readers a realistic view into what passengers on the ship saw, tasted, felt, and experienced on that fateful voyage. From third class to first class to crew members even to the rats, readers are able to read a collection of poems and peek into the Titanic. The poems allow readers to experience the disaster from many different points of view. Wolf gives the iceberg a voice, bringing to life an often mentioned, but rarely thought about piece of the tragedy. From the mighty and powerful to the foreign immigrants, each person on the ship had a different experience.

Review Excerpts
Booklist starred review; “A masterpiece.”

The Horn Book; “Wolf's novel in verse gives voice, through first-person accounts, to a cross section of passengers and crew on the Titanic: how they boarded, why they're there, and how they face the disaster. . . . The themes of natural disaster, technology, social class, survival, and death all play out here.”

Kirkus starred review; “…a lyrical, monumental work of fact and imagination that reads like an oral history revved up by the drama of the event.”

Publishers Weekly; “Wolf constructs a richly textured novel in verse that recreates the Titanic's ill-fated journey, predominantly through the voices of her passengers... Wolf's carefully crafted characters evolve as the voyage slides to its icy conclusion; readers may be surprised by the potency of the final impact.”

Awards/Honors Received
•    Junior Library Guild selection

•    A 2012 BEST FICTION FOR YOUNG ADULTS Nominee, American Library Association

•    2012 Claudia Lewis Poetry Award Winner

Questions to Ask Before Reading

Invite students to consider the following questions about the story:
•    Look at the cover of the book and think about the title The Watch that Ends the Night what can you as a reader infer from those elements?

•    What schema do you have for a story about the Titanic? (previously read books, movies, etc.)

•    Think about and discuss the emotions that children on the Titanic would feel before the journey begins…when the ship sets sail.

Suggestions for Reading Poems Aloud
•    p. 79; 109;155; 193; 228-229 divide the class into groups of 4, give them copies of the text,  have students choose parts and recreate the poems from “Frankie’s Gang.”

•    p. 268; 274; 335 “The Rat” Students should work together to create props and sound effects for the rat and then share their interpretation with the class.

•    p. 225 “The First and Third Class Promenade” divide the class into 2 groups and choral read the poem.

•    p. 186-188 have partners interpret and read the poem about dragons in the ocean.

Follow Up Activities
•    Students can create a poem for one of the characters in the story. This could be from the character’s point of view at any time during the voyage.

•    Have students create a travel brochure about the Titanic.

•    Tie the book to a discussion about icebergs- How they form? Where are icebergs mainly located? How do they move?

•    Create word problems using the statistics about the ship, passengers, and life boats at the end of the book.

Social Studies:
•    Locate on a map the route that the Titanic took. Students can label their own map and trace the route of the ship.

•    Create a timeline of events marking the important dates pertaining to the Titanic’s voyage.

•    Have students create dioramas or large murals of the Titanic. Each student could choose a different character from the story and create a diorama depicting their poem.

•    Have students use a poem from one character to create illustrations for the poem and then compile them to create a classroom or library book.

Suzuki Strings
•    If you have an orchestra or strings department on your campus (or know of a local orchestra) see if they can come and play the songs mentioned in the book. 

Related Web Sites/Blogs:
[This is the author’s website. On the news tab there is a book trailer created by Kristen Seholm.]
[ brings the story to audiences with 3 choices- “Birth of the Titanic” “The Disaster” and “After the Titanic.” This is an interactive website with photos, timelines and other information about the disaster.]
[This website is listed in Titanic: Voices from the Night as a resource for the author. Students can find information about passengers, crew, and survivors.]
[This teacher’s guide provides activities, photos, and lesson plans for the artifact exhibit that traveled the country several years ago.]

Building Titanic IPad App- created by the National Geographic Society download this app for videos, photos, and information from the disaster.

Related Books

Poetry books about sailing, the sea and the Titanic:

Shoulders, Debbie and Michael. 2001. T is for Titanic: A Titanic Alphabet. Ill. By Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen. Sleeping Bear Press: Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Sturges, Philemon. 2005. Down to the Sea in Ships. Ill By Giles LaRoche. G.P. Putnam’s: New York.

Nonfiction books about the Titanic:

Chrisp, Peter. 2011. Explore Titanic. Barron’s Educational Series: Hauppauge, New York.

Hopkinson, Deborah. 2012. Titanic: Voices from the Disaster. Scholastic Press: New York.

Osborne, Mary Pope. 2002.  Magic Tree House Fact Tracker #7: Titanic A Nonfiction Companion to Magic Tree House: Tonight on the Titanic. Ill. By Sal Murdocca. Random House Books for Young Readers: New York.

Stewart, Melissa. 2012. National Geographic Readers: Titanic. National Geographic Children’s Books: Washington D.C.

Fiction books about the Titanic:
Osborne, Mary Pope. 1999. Magic Tree House: Tonight on the Titanic. Ill. By Sal Murdocca. Random House Books for Young Readers: New York.

White, Ella Emerson. 2010. Dear America: Voyage on the Titanic. Scholastic Press: New York.

2011 WINNER: Guyku

This is the 2011 winner of the Claudia Lewis Poetry Award:

Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys by Bob Raczka (Houghton Mifflin, 2010)

Here is a Digital Trailer for GUYKU created by graduate student Samantha Fleming.

Here is a Readers' Guide for GUYKU created by graduate student Monica Cammack.

Raczka, Bob. 2010. Guyku:  A Year of Haiku for Boys. Ill. by Peter H. Reynolds. Boston:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 9780547240039

Recommended Age Levels 5-8

Summary of Book
Boys love nature and being outdoors during all seasons. Bob Raczka’s book Guyku goes through the seasons as boys enjoy exploring the world around them. Each season has six haikus that celebrate the simple joys that boys experience outside, enjoying nature. Peter H. Reynolds’ illustrations complement the haiku poems. The illustrations are separated into color schemes based on the seasons. Spring starts off in green tones and it leads into summer, which has yellow tones. The illustrations are simple but also expressive. Boys as well as girls will find a lot they have in common with Guyku.

Review Excerpts / Awards
2011 Claudia Lewis Poetry Award
2011 Notable Children’s Books

In 24 poems, characterized by an economy of language, nature serves imagination. Boys pound cattails, fish with hotdogs, and bury a brother in leaves. Dapples of watercolor highlight the minimal ink line drawings to announce the shifts in seasons and in nature's playthings—whether snowflakes, grasshoppers, rocks, seeds, or even icicle swords.
    -Journal of Children’s Literature

These accessible poems will appeal to anyone who wants to celebrate moments of mischief, fun, wonder, and delight inspired by nature's ever-game playmates: snow, leaves, stars, and puddles. Poems for each season are coupled with Reynolds's charmingly warm and loose pen-and-ink cartoons, accented with a touch of color, that bring the boys and their compatriots (or dry nemeses) to life. Together with the art, the haiku irresistibly capture moments of a boy's experience in nature
-Natural History Magazine

Illustrator Reynolds depicts the glee and energy of the boy characters as well as natural elements, such as a puddle with a reflection, in just a few deft lines. The pages are clean white, the book's shape is small and square, and each poem is handwritten, accompanied by a delicate and funny two-color illustration. Raczka and Reynolds are a winning team, and the results will start many boy (and girl) readers thinking about turning their own experience into a seventeen-syllable poem.
    -Horn Book Magazine

This wonderful collection will resonate with all children as they recognize their earnest and sometimes misdirected antics in each poem. The pen, ink, and watercolor illustrations mirror the simplicity of each entry and capture the expressions of the boys and their adventures honestly. This is haiku at its most fun. All libraries should grab it for their collections.
    -School Library Journal

Questions to Ask Before Reading
*Show students the front cover and ask them, “What do you think the book Guyku will be about? Why do you think the book is called Guyku?

*What do you see the boy doing on the front cover?  Why doesn’t he just let go of the kite?

*What fun activities do you enjoy playing outside?

*What is your favorite season? What do you like to do during that season?

Suggestions for Reading Poems Aloud
*Form students into groups of three. Have each student read a line aloud to the class.
*Choose students to read a haiku poem aloud and lead class to clap the syllables in the poem.
*Have students slowly read a haiku poem twice to the class. Students will determine what in nature the poem is discussing.

Follow Up Activities
•    The boys in the book Guyku love nature and exploring. Take students outside with their science journals while they explore nature. Have them observe either an object or animal. Then have the students draw their observations in their science journals and include a written description of the object. Invite students to create their own haiku based on their object.

•    Bugs are also a favorite fascination for boys. Just like the boy who held the grasshopper found that bugs can be ticklish when you hold them. The teacher can do a bug observation with the students. The teacher can order ladybugs. The ladybugs can be kept in a mesh ladybug home. The students can learn and observe ladybug behaviors and characteristics for a few days. When it is time to release the ladybugs, the teacher will give each student a ladybug to release back out into nature. Students will be delighted to feel how ladybug feet tickle as they walk all over the students’ hands. The teacher can invite students to recite the poem about the boy who held onto the grasshopper but let it go because it tickled.

•    Children are intrigued by the stars. The boy in the poem was “connecting the dots” with them. The school can invite parents to a “Reading Under the Stars” night. Parents and children can bring their warm blankets. Teachers can be set up at different areas and read to groups of students about the stars and planets. Teachers can ask students questions like, “Do you ever look at the sky and play Connect the Dot? Do you count the stars? What do you think about when you look at the stars?” The haiku poem from the book would be a good introduction before the book is read. Also, if the local college has an astronomy department, the school can invite them to speak to the students at an assembly. They can come to “Reading Under the Stars” and provide a large telescope.

•    Puddles are irresistible to children. The boy in the haiku poem thought the puddle might be telling him to splash his unsuspecting sister. Have students write about whom would they want to splash and why. The class can put their stories into a class book and title it Puddles. For example, “I would splash my little brother. He is always annoying me.”

•    Kites are very fun to fly especially on a windy day. The boy in the poem had to hold tight to his kite on very windy day. Have students create their own haiku about their experiences with a kite or favorite activity on a windy day (Example:  blow bubbles).

•    We were all once children. Have students do a generational interview with a grandparent or a person from an older generation. Students can discover what games they played and what life was like for them. Students can write a generational story and share it with the class.

•    Boys love to fly kites. They especially love to build things. The class can work together to design and build a kite using plastic bag, trash bag or newspaper.

•    Boys are intrigued by animal tracks. The boys in the poem pretended they were deer and followed the deer tracks, pretending they made them. Students can make their own tracks. The teacher can get a long butcher paper. She can paint students’ feet and have them walk the butcher paper to create tracks.

•    Children are fascinated with nature. The teacher can give students magazines and have them find and cut out things from nature and paste it on paper to create a collage.

Related Websites

Bob Raczka’s Website

Peter H. Reynolds’ Website

The Official Haiku for Guys Headquarters

Guyku Website

Children’s Haiku Garden

Two Dragonflies—Haiku and Music for Children

Haiku- over 10,000 literary links, poetry pages and resources for writers

Related Books

Haiku Books for Children

Clements, Andrew. 2007. Dogku. Ill. by Tim Bowers. New York:  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Mannis, Celeste Davidson. One Leaf Rides the Wind:  Counting in a Japanese Garden. Ill. by Susan Kathleen Hartung. New York:  Viking.

Prelutsky, Jack. 2004. If Not for the Cat. Ill. by Ted Rand. New York:  Greenwillow Books.

Rosen, Michael J. 2011. The Hound Dog’s Haiku:  and Other Poems for Dog Lovers. Ill. by Mary Azarian. Somerville, Massachusetts:  Candlewick Press.

Books About Exploring Nature

Branley, Franklyn. 1997. Down Comes the Rain. Ill. by James Graham Hale. New York:  HarperCollins Publishers.

Cole, Joanna. 1998. The Magic School Bus Inside a Beehive. Ill. by Bruce Degan. New York:  Scholastic, Inc.

Selsam, Millicent. 1998. Big Tracks, Little Tracks:  Following Animal Prints. Ill. by Marlene Hill Donnelly. New York:  HarperCollins Publishers.

Yolen, Jane. 2000. Color Me a Rhyme:  Nature Poems for Young People. Ill. by Jason Stemple. Honesdale, Pennsylvania:  Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press.

Books About Seasons

Gibbons, Gail. 1996. The Reasons for the Seasons. Ill. by Gail Gibbons. New York:  Holiday House, Inc.

Rockwell, Anne F. Four Seasons Make a Year. Ill. by Megan Halsey. New York:  Walker & Co.

Rosenstiehl, Agnes. 2007. Silly Lilly and the Four Seasons. Ill. by Agnes Rosenstiehl. New York:  Toon Books.

Zolotow, Charlotte. 2002. Seasons:  A Book of Poems. Ill. by Erik Blegvad. New York:  HarperCollins Publishers.

2010 WINNER: Red Sings From Treetops

This is the 2010 winner of the Claudia Lewis Poetry Award:

Red Sings From Treetops: A Year in Colors by Joyce Sidman (Houghton Mifflin, 2009)

Here is a Readers' Guide created by Lucy Barrow.

Bibliographic Information:
Sidman, J. (2009). Red Sings from Treetops; a year in colors. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Books.

Recommended Age Levels:
Grades 1-4; Ages 6 - 9

Summary of Book:
This collection of poems cleverly describes each season through the use of color. The seasons have each color dancing, dripping, wafting, and pouring pictures into our imaginations. Each season uses all of the colors to set the scenery of weather, animals, and plants.

Review Excerpts:
**Horn Book (starred review)
"A poet known for multilayered explorations of nature rejoices here in the way colors, and how we perceive them, change with the seasons . . .[with] the playfulness of the text and its sense of awe, mystery, and beauty."

**New York Times
"Joyce Sidman’s language is vivid and deft . . . [it] draws mystery and magic around the most familiar scenes."

**Kirkus (starred review)
"Fresh descriptions and inventive artistry are a charming inspiration to notice colors and correlate emotions."

**Bulletin (starred review)
"Talented poet Sidman fluidly moves from image to image, wittily personifying colors . . . the book has a freshness and visual impact all its own, and it will inspire a rainbow of uses."

**Booklist (starred review)
"Succeeding seasons offer . . . opportunities for the colors to spread their particular magic . . . . And as the title implies, the colors that surprise on every page do sing."

Honors/Awards Received:
2010 Caldecott Honor Award
Claudia Lewis Poetry Award
Minnesota Book Award
Cybils Poetry Award
Horn Book Fanfare
Bulletin Blue Ribbon
Booklist Editor's Choice
CCBC Choices 2010
New York Public Library's "100 Titles for Reading and Sharing"
ABC "Indie" Best Book
Junior Library Guild Selection

Questions to ask before reading:
1.) When you look at the cover of the book, who or what do you think “red” is? What does it mean “a year in color”?
2.) What colors would you use to describe your home? What colors would you use to describe this classroom?
3.) How would you describe the season that we are in right now? How does it compare to other parts of the country?

Suggestions for reading poems aloud:
1.) Have the students wearing the colors in the book read the specific parts that relate to the color they are wearing.
2.) Have the students dress up for the four seasons and a read a poem from that part of the book.
3.) As the teacher reads the poems out loud to the students, have the students figure out what each color word is referring to.

Follow-up Activities:
1.) Science – Take the class on a nature walk around the school. Have the students write a poem about the objects and colors seen on the nature walk.
2.) Art – Have the students paint the each side of a wooden cube a different color. Then have the students write a poem for each side of the cube using that particular color.
3.) English – Have each student write their own poem about their favorite season with an illustration to go with it. Make a poetry book of the poems from the whole class, make a copy for each student, the principal, and the librarian to put on display.

Related Web Sites/Blogs:
1.) This is a website/blog that mainly recommends children’s books. It’s written by a current teacher:
2.) This is an in depth activity guide for this book:
3.) Joyce Sidman’s Website:
4.) This website is a blog written by one of the judges on the Cybilis 2009 Poetry Panel that selected this book as the category winner:

Related Books (other poetry, related fiction, related nonfiction):
1. Brunhoff, L. D. (1984). Babar's Book of Colors. Random House Books for Young Readers. (Fiction)
2. Derolf, S. (1997). The Crayon Box that Talked. Random HouseBooks for Yuong Reader. (Poetry)
3. Jenkins, S. (2012). Living Color. Sandpiper. (Nonfiction)
4. Schnur, S. (1999). Spring: An Alphabet Acrostic. Clarion Books. (Poetry)

2009 WINNER: The Surrender Tree

This is the 2009 winner of the Claudia Lewis Poetry Award:

The Surrender Tree by Margarita Engle (Henry Holt, 2008)

Here is a Readers' Guide created by Alyson Lozada.

Engle, Margarita. (2008). The Surrender Tree. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company. ISBN:085086749

Recommended Age Levels:
Grades 7-12, Ages 12+

The Surrender Tree takes place in Cuba during the times of several different wars. The reader will follow the main characters of Rosa, José, Lieutenant Death and Silvia through the Ten Years' War, the Little War, and the War of Independence. Rosa, a nurse and healer of anyone who is in need, and her husband José and hunted by slavehunters. The novel in verse follows Rosa from childhood to adulthood (1850-1899).

The poems are told from different perspectives of those involved, bringing many different viewpoints to the reader. This novel in verse tells the private, hidden details of those involved in the wars of Cuba during the 1800's. Engle recounts the stories of her own family members, the only fictional characters in the book being Silvia and an ox-car driver. The Surrender Tree includes historical information including a timeline of events in Cuba and discussion from the author.

Awards Won:
2009 Newbery Honor Book
2009 Pura Belpré Medal
2009 Claudia Lewis Award
Américas Award
Jane Addams Award
Lee Bennett Hopkins Honor
ALA Best Books for Young Adults
Junior Library Guild Selection
ALA Notable Book
Kansas State Reading Circle
NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Book
Amelia Bloomer Book
Booklist Editor's Choice
Michigan Great Lakes Great Books Award Master List

Review Excerpts:
“Hauntingly beautiful, revealing pieces of Cuba's troubled past through the poetry of hidden moments.” - School Library Journal

“Young readers will come away inspired by these portraits of courageous ordinary people” - Kirkus Reviews

“Engle writes her new book in clear, short lines of stirring free verse. Caught by the compelling narrative voices, many readers will want to find out more.”
- Booklist

Pre-Reading Questions and Discussion Topics:
What do you know about Cuba?
As you engage the students to discuss their prior knowledge about Cuba, make a list on your whiteboard/paper/etc. for all the students to see. Students can reference this brainstorming list later.

What ideas come to mind when you think about war? Do you know anything specific about the wars during the 1800's in Cuba?
Facilitate an environment where students can talk about their feelings related to war. Use to make a Wordle using the words and ideas that students have about war. Put the image up on your screen or print for students to access as they read The Surrender Tree. It is important for students to have some prior knowledge about the wars in Cuba before reading The Surrender Tree. Take time to talk about the different wars in Cuba and the freedoms they were fighting for. Repeat this activity after reading and compare the words used to describe war. Are they the same words? What has changed?

How do you feel about poetry? Has anyone ever read novel in verse?
Discuss the students' thoughts on poetry and discuss both positive and negative preconceived notions about poetry with the class. Make sure to highlight the fact that poetry does not have to rhyme and can be about any topic the writer wants. Tell the students before/during/after reading The Surrender Tree they may want to write a response in their journals in poetry form. Discuss novel in verse with students. Ask them if they feel that a novel in verse can be read as a whole only or can be read in parts.

Read page 81 (José) aloud to the class.
Facilitate a discussion about military forces from the viewpoints of those running and hiding AND those in the military themselves. Ask the students to keep in mind these viewpoints and ideas as they read The Surrender Tree.

Suggestions for Reading Poems Aloud:
**Have the students form groups to read aloud or read aloud to the class. Perform a “reader's theater” using the characters and their corresponding poems.**

Selected Poems from Part I: The Names of the Flowers
Page 16 “Rosa”
Page 21 “Lieutenant Death”

Selected Poems from Part II: The Ten Years' War
Page 29 “Rosa”

Page 58 “Rosa"
A man is carried into the hospital, wounded --
he fell from a tree.

I know his face, and I can tell that he
recognizes me,
We were children, we were enemies …
Now he is my patient,
but why should I cure him,
wasting precious medicines
on a spy who must have been sent
to kill me?

Each choice leads to another.
I am a nurse.
I must heal the wounded.
How well the Lion knows me! Didn't he say
That curing the enemies
is not my own skill, but a mercy from God?

Each choice leads to another
I am a nurse.
I must heal.”

Page 45
We have seventeen patients
in our thatched hut
hidden by forest
and protected by guards,
dogs, traps, and tales of ghosts.

Seventeen feverish, bleeding, burning,
broken men, with bayonet wounds,
and women in childbirth,
and newborn babies …

seventeen helpless people,
all depending on us,
seventeen lives, blessings, burdens.

How can we heal them?
We are so weary!
Who will heal us?”

Selected Poems from Part III: The Little War
Page 71 "Rosa"
Page 75
Page 76 “Lieutenant Death” “Rosa”

Selected Poems from Part IV: The War of Independence
Page 83-84 “Captain-General Valeriano Weyler y Nicolau, Marquis of Tenerife, Empire of Spain”
Page 86-87 "Silvia"
Page 95 "Rosa"
Page 113 "Rosa"

Selected Poems from Part V: The Surrender Tree
Page 145 "Rosa"
Page 154 "Jose"
Page 155 "Rosa"
Page 158 "Silvia"

Follow-Up Activities:
Art Connection: Illustrate one of the following poems using your medium of choice. Make sure to include any emotion and/or thoughts that this poem brings you. Choose poems from pages 32, 57, 106 or 117. Invite the students to discuss illustrating other options as they see fit.

Science Connection: Read the poem on page 156 aloud to students. Read The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry aloud. Ask students to list some of the features of the physical environment of Cuba, the physical environment of rainforests, and how the sturdy tree is a symbol in both texts. Create a chart as a class to talk about the similarities and differences.

Social Studies Connection: Compassion and tolerance are two traits that students need to understand and possess. Use the poems on pages 128, 141 and 147 to discuss tolerance and compassion. Use the poems on pages 74 and 101 to talk about gender stereotypes and how to avoid them.

Poet Study: After reading The Surrender Tree, study the poems of José Martí, a Cuban National Hero. The Surrender Tree mentions the writings of José Martí and his contributions to the War on pages 79, 112, 115 and 136.

History Connection: Study the history of Cuba after reading The Surrender Tree.From the physical landscape to the political turmoil throughout the years, The Surrender Tree opens up many connections. This versed novel is also a good starting point to study the culture of Cuba in the 1800s.

Foreign Language Connection: Read The Surrender Tree in English and in Spanish with students that speak Spanish or are studying Spanish. Use the book to learn new vocabulary and study Spanish literature, specifically poetry. Discuss with students if the meaning changes at all between the two translations.

Related Websites:
-Margarita Engle's Website:
-Information about Cuba and History:
-Information about the Ten Years' War, the Little War, and the War of Independence:
-Video of Versos Sencillos read:

Related Books:
-Versos Sencillos by José Martí
-War and Genocide in Cuba, 1895-1898 by John Lawrence Tone
-Biography of a Runaway Slave by Miguel Barnet & Esteban Montejo, translated by Nick Hill
-The Voice of the Turtle: An Anthology of Cuban Literature edited by Peter Bush (modern Cuban fiction)
-Poetry works by Nicolás Guillén, the “National Poet of Cuba”

2008 WINNER: Here’s a Little Poem

This is the 2008 winner of the Claudia Lewis Poetry Award:

Here’s a Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry compiled by Jane Yolen and Andrew Fusek Peters (Candlewick, 2007)

Here's a Digital Trailer for Here's a Little Poem created by graduate student Julie Owens.

Here is a mini Readers' Guide for Here's a Little Poem created by graduate student Kristin Shieldknight. Click on this Glogster link.

2006 WINNER: A Kick In The Head

This is the 2006 winner of the Claudia Lewis Poetry Award:

A Kick In The Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms compiled by Paul B. Janeczko (Candlewick, 2005)

Here is a Digital Trailer for A KICK IN THE HEAD created by graduate student Karen Storrie.

Here is a Readers' Guide for A KICK IN THE HEAD created by graduate student Kendra Hensley.

Janeczko, Paul B. 2005.  A Kick in the Head:  An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms.  Ill. by Chris Raschka.  Cambridge, MA:  Candlewick Press.  ISBN:  9780763606626

Recommended age level 8 and up

A Kick in the Head is second in a trilogy of poetry books from Paul Janeczko.  In this beautifully illustrated guidebook, he teaches about poetic forms from a bevy of poems he has compiled.  Twenty-nine poetic forms including couplets, haikus, limericks, acrostics and clerihew fill these colorful pages.  What’s a clerihew you ask?  Clerihews and many other types of poems are described in this poetry guide that presents poems from many different poets including Shakespeare.    Definitions run along the bottom of the page and explain the rules of each form of poem.  Chris Raschka, the illustrator, employs mixed-media in the form of watercolors, ink and torn rice paper to make the fun collages that appear on each page.  He places a clever design on the top corner of each page to give the readers a clue to understanding the different types of poems.  

Review excerpts/awards
•    “This smart new collection, assembled by the creators of A Poke in the I, beautifully introduces the rules of poetry on a variety of literary playing fields.” – The Horn Book (starred review)
•    “A beautiful, beautifully clear celebration of the discipline of poetry – and the possibilities offered by that discipline – this offering will find use both in the hands of eager poets and on the reference shelf.” – Kirkus Reviews  (starred review)
•    “Readers will have the good fortune to experience poetry as art, game, joke, list, song, story, statement, question, memory.  A primer like no other.” – School Library Journal  (starred review)
•    “This is the introduction that will ignite enthusiasm.” – Booklist (starred review)
•    Claudia Lewis Award for Poetry Winner 2006
•    Lupine Award Winner 2005 Picture Book
•    Parent's Choice Award Gold 2005 Picture Books

Questions to ask before reading
To assess background knowledge, ask the following questions:
1.    What is an acrostic poem?
2.    What is a pattern?
3.    How are some ways we can name a pattern? (e.g.abab, abba, etc)
4.    What is a concrete poem?
5.    What are some forms a concrete poem might take?

Suggestions for reading poems aloud

•    “Slug File” by Avis Harley (a list poem): The teacher will first read the poem modeling correct pronunciation and inflection then he/she will read each phrase and the students will read the responding phrase chorally (For ex.  teacher says:  “Home Address:”, students say:  “Shady Lawn”).
•    “Morning has broken” by Eleanor Farjeon (an aubade):  Play the accompanying music from Cat Steven’s album and have the students sing along.
•    “Is There a Villain in Your Villanelle?” by Joan Bransfield Graham (a villanelle):  Divide the class into 6 groups.  Each group will read a 3 line stanza.  Then the whole group will read the last verse of the last stanza (e.g. “Read on, my dear, for only time will tell.”)

Follow up activities
•    Math:  Students can look at different poems and try to identify the patterns in them.  For example, a quatrain usually has an abab or an aabb pattern.
•    Writing Poetry:  Paul Janeczko explains many different types of poetic forms.  Have the students try their hand at writing couplets.  Here is a web site to get them started:
•    Science:  Students can write a haiku about something in nature that they are studying.
•    Art:  Students can make collages, from torn up construction paper, to illustrate their favorite poems.

Related web sites/blogs
•    Paul B. Janeczko
[Find out more about the poet/ teacher/writer in the Q&A section here.]

•    Choral reading web site
[Look here to get ideas on how to implement choral reading in the classroom.]

•    Giggle Poetry web site
[This is a fun poetry web site.  Learn how to write haikus, clerihews and limericks.]

•    Kid’s poetry
[Look here to find even more examples of how to write different types of poetry.]

Related books
*Paul B. Janeczko’s trilogy on concrete poems, poetic forms and poems to speak:
Janeczko, Paul. 2001.   A Poke in the Eye:  A Collection of Concrete Poems   Ill. by Chris Raschke. Cambridge, MA:  Candlewick Press.
Janeczko, Paul. 2005.  A Kick in the Head:  An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms.  Ill. by Chris Raschke, Cambridge, MA:  Candlewick Press.
Janeczko, Paul. 2009.  A Foot in the Mouth: Poems to Speak, Sing and Shout.  Ill. by Chris Raschke, Somerville, MA:  Candlewick Press.

*Other related poetry books:
Grandits, John. 2007.  Blue Lipstick:  Concrete Poems.  New York, NY:  Houghton Mifflin Company.
Prelutsky, Jack. 2008.  Pizza, Pigs and Poetry:  How to Write a Poem.  Greenwillow Books.
Fleischman, Paul. 1988. Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices.  Ill. by Eric Beddows.  Harper Trophy.

*Nonfiction books on patterns:
Harris, Trudy. 2000. Pattern Fish.  Ill. by Green, Anne Canevari.  Minneapolis, MN:  Millbrook Press, Inc.
Sidman, Joyce. 2011.  Swirl by Swirl:  Spirals in Nature.  Ill. by Beth Krommes.  New York, NY:  Houghton Mifflin.

Paul B. Janeczko is a writer, a poet and an educator.  He was born in Passaic, New  Jersey.  Growing up he said he wasn’t much of a reader until he got into the Hardy Boys series.  He said, “Frank and Joe set me straight about the joys of reading.”  Mr. Janeczko travels the country heading writer’s workshops and visiting schools.

[Paul B. Janeczko. Retrieved July 8, 2012 from]

2005 WINNER: Here in Harlem

This is the 2005 winner of the Claudia Lewis Poetry Award:

Here in Harlem: Poems in Many Voices by Walter Dean Myers (Holiday House, 2004)

Here is a Digital Trailer for Here in Harlem created by graduate student Nikitra Hamilton. Click here to view. 

Here is a Readers' Guide for Here in Harlem created by graduate student Lauren Smith. 

Dean Myers, Walter. 2004. Here in Harlem: Poems in Many Voices. New York: Holiday House. ISBN 978-0-8234-2212-8 (paperback)

Recommended Age 13 and up or Grades 7-12

Summary of Book
In this beautifully written book of fifty-four poems, Walter Dean Myers manages to cover a variety of voices from Harlem that he grew up with beginning in the 1940s. Managing to show readers multiple aspects of life in Harlem, Myers helps his audience see that life is life, whether it be beautiful or difficult. The poems are written in “first person” point of view from actual people that the poet encountered while living in this part of New York. People are identified by their names, ages, and occupations. Myers collects their voices through verse, leaving the reader to interpret many of the phrases within the poignant poetry. The book covers testimonies from the twelve-year-old student to the mailman to the retired old man who has watched life pass him by. Beginning and ending with Clara Brown’s testimonies in Parts I-IV, the author captures every profession and a multitude of ages. In between these testimonies are everyday life stories of triumphs and disappointments, and Myers also covers simple encounters the people of Harlem experience that change them for better or for worse. The index at the back of “Some People, Places and Terms,” will help readers become familiar with the unfamiliar regarding the Harlem culture. This stunning book of verse will be an excellent addition to the secondary classroom and library classroom and creates an excellent opportunity for collaborating across the curricula.

Review Excerpts
“The rich and exciting text will give readers a flavor of the multiplicity of times and peoples of Harlem.”
    -School Library Journal (starred review)

“One of Myers’ best – and that’s saying a lot. Sure to be a classic.”
    -Kirkus Review (starred review)

“While there are occasional references to historical events or people, this collection can be enjoyed without knowing them. The rich and exciting text will give readers a flavor of the multiplicity of times and peoples of Harlem, and the more than 50 voices will stay with them, resurfacing as their understanding of the context develops.”
    -Reed Business Information

Awards/Honors Received
* ALA Best Book for Young Adults
* ALA Notable Children’s Book
* Capitol Choices, the de Grummond Medal
* the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award
* CCBC Choices
* Best of the Books for Great Kids
* IRA Notable Book for a Global Society
* the Claudia Lewis Award (Bank Street College)

Pre-Reading Questions
Prior to reading Here in Harlem: Poems in Many Voices, invite students to discuss and answer the following questions and points:

* What do you know about Harlem? What are some common stereotypes about Harlem or the people of Harlem?

*  Looking at the cover of the book, Here in Harlem, what do you notice? In what decade do you think the image on the cover could have been taken? Why might that be significant to the content of the book?

* Do you know of any famous African Americans during the 1940s to the 1960s? What do you know about them?

* What do you know of the Harlem Renaissance and its effect on the people of Harlem the surrounding areas?

* What do you know about The Great Depression and the effects on people in America?

* This poetry book covers perspectives of many different ages living in Harlem during the 1940s to about the 1960s. How do you think the experiences of a person your age versus an adult will differ?

*It would be beneficial for teachers to have students complete some of the following activities in groups prior to reading in order to help them on the above questions:

* K-W-L-Q charts
* A gallery walk of images from Harlem during the 1940s-1960s, the images in Myers’ book, and/or The Great Depression
* A gallery walk of unfamiliar terms in the book such as
* A philosophical chair or Socratic seminar could take place discussing some of the topics above.

Suggestions for Reading Poems Aloud
* Have one student read, “Mali Evans, 12, Student” aloud and then another one read “Did Taylor, 14, Student” or another student poem (Pages 38, 54, 55).  Then, discuss life from a young person’s perspective in Harlem. Compare those feeling of students now to students then. Discuss Myers’ placement of words on particular lines and what those placements could mean in regards to the tone of the poem.

* Read all of Clara Barton’s testimonies, I-IV, in one class period. Discuss her difficulties and life. Discuss what is going on in Harlem during each one of her testimonies and how Harlem changes over the course of her testimonies.

* Poem in two voices strategy could be used for Ann Carter, 32 and Benjamin Bailey, 38 “Switchboard Operator/Building Maintenance” on Page 57. Have everyone in the class listen, and then afterwards invite them to partner up and write a poem about life in two voices.

* “Helen Sweetland, 27, Party Girl” – Have students read in pairs, one reading the refrain and the other reading Helen’s thoughts, acting the poetry out with motions and expression.

* Solos could be performed by students with the knack for reading aloud. Have a student read, “Macon R. Allen, Deacon” as a solo, and the rest of the class can act like the church congregation, creating responses to the “deacon’s” lines and invitations. Discuss how poetry is more than just rhyming.

* “Richmond Leake, 53, Newsstand Dealer” or “Betty Pointing, 64, Clerk” could be read in slam poetry form.

Follow-Up Activities
Writing and English
* Analyze poems using the TPCAST or SOAPSTTONE methods or any other poetic analysis device.

* Choose a few poems for students or let them choose their own and write responses to the people of Harlem in poetry form.

* Some poems are written in free verse; others are written in rhyming formats, such as ABAB and so forth. It may be important, especially for higher-level readers, to discuss why the poet decided on one form over the other on particular poems throughout the book.

* This book lends itself for a discussion on punctuation, as the author uses it in some places in the poems and then leaves it out in other places. Syntactical imitation would be a great activity to include while studying this piece of literature.

* Conduct a lesson on creating voice in writing.

* Write a Here in __________ book of poetry about your school or town. Have students write a poem from their perspective, stating their age and occupation or role (could be student, sister, brother, boyfriend, grocery store cashier, class clown, etc.).

* Statistics – Teachers could use this book as way to initiate research on the percentages of the racial make-up of Harlem then versus the make-up of now. Students could also look at the statistics of the economic make-up of then versus now.

Social Studies
* Economics – Research what Harlem was like in from the 1940s-1960s. Focus on first account stories.

* Philosophical chair or Socratic seminar over all of Clara Brown’s testimonies, discussing the economic changing times in Harlem.

* Students can research African Americans in World War II or during The Great Depression and its effect on this race of people.

The Arts
* Choir – Some of the poems could be sung to older tunes from the era that Walter Dean Myer’s incorporated into the book.

* Students could research musicians that Myers mentioned in the book plus more from this time period in Harlem

* Art - Draw, paint, etc. portraits of the faces of Myer’s Harlem.

Related Websites
Walter Dean Myers’ website:

School Library Journal:

Reading Rocket’s video interview with Myers:

Information on the Harlem Renaissance:

Information regarding the famous people of the Harlem Renaissance, as well as other traditions of this culture; includes resources for both students and teachers:

Audio gallery of Harlem Renaissance music:

Harlem health statistics:

Teacher’s Guide and Further Analysis of Here in Harlem:

More Information About Slam Poetry:

Related Books
Fiction about Harlem or African American Culture for Older Readers

Coleman, Evelyn. 2000. The Mystery of the Dark Tower. American Girl. ISBN 9781584850847

Grimes, Nikki. 2000. Jazmine’s Notebook. Puffin. ISBN 9780141307021 (Coretta Scott King Award winner)

Lipsyte, Robert. The Contender. 1987. Harper Teen. ISBN 9780064470391

Lee, Harper. 1960. To Kill a Mockingbird. Harper. ISBN 978-0061743528

Myers, Walter Dean. 2007. 145th Street: Short Stories. Delacorte Books for Young Readers. ISBN 9780385321372

Myers, Walter Dean. 1992. The Mouse Rap. Harper Collins. ISBN 9780064403566

Rosa, Guy. 2001. Bird at My Window. Coffee House Press. ISBN 9781566891110 (*for high school/mature readers)

Weik, Mary Hays. 1993. The Jazz Man. Aladdin. ISBN 9780689717673 (Newberry Award winner)

Wright, Richard T. 1995. Rite of Passage. Harper Teen. ISBN 9780064471114

Non-Fiction Related to Harlem and African American Culture for Older Readers

Hardy, Stephen. 2000. Extraordinary People of the Harlem Renaissance. Children’s Press. ISBN 9780516212012

Howes, Kelly King. 2000. Harlem Renaissance. UXL. ISBN 9780787648367

Millionaire, Tony and Marc H. Miller. 2001. Harlem Renaissance: Map Poster Guide. Ephemera Press. ISBN 9780970412911

Myers, Walter Dean. 1999. One More River to Cross: An African American Photograph Album. Sandpaper. 9780152020217

Poetry Related to Harlem and African American Culture for Older Readers

Angelou, Maya. 1994. The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou. Random House. ISBN 9780679428954

Arnold, Adoff. 1997. I am the Darker Brother: An Anthology of Modern Poems by African Americans. Ill. Benny Andrews. Simon Pulse. ISBN 978068908692

Giovanni, Nikki. 1996. Shimmy Shimmy Shimmy Like My Sister Kate: Looking at the Harlem Renaissance Through Poems. Henry Holt and Co. ISBN 9780805034943

Jacob, Iris Ed. 2002. My Sisters’ Voices: Teenage Girls of Color Speak Out. Holt Paperbacks. ISBN 9780805068214

Myers, Walter Dean. 1996. Brown Angels: An Album of Pictures and Verse. Harper Collins. ISBN 9780064434553

Myers, Walter Dean. 1997. Harlem. Ill. Christopher Myers. Scholastic Trade. ISBN 9780590543408

Other Helpful Print Sources:

(A book that fits into all three categories; includes excerpts from non-fiction, fiction, and poetry pieces):
Banks, William H. 2005. Beloved Harlem: A Literary Tribute to Black America’s Most Famous Neighborhood, From Classics to The Contemporary. Broadway. ISBN 9780767914789

(An anthology to be used by both teachers and older students):
McKay, Nellie Y. and Henry Louis Gates. 2003. The Norton Anthology of African American Literature. WW. Norton & Company. ISBN 9780393977783

(A book about performing African American poetry; more for teacher’s use):
Brown, Patricia Fahamisha. 1999. Performing the Word: African American Poetry as Vernacular Culture. Rutgers University Press. ISBN 9780813526324

About the Author
“I think my life is special. In a way it seems odd that I spend all of my time doing only what I love, which is writing or thinking about writing. If everyone had, at least for part of their lives, the opportunity to live the way I do, I think the world would be a better place.” – Walter Dean Myers

Walter Dean Myers was born in 1937 in Martinsburg, West Virginia.  Walter was born Walter Milton Myers but was given away to a man named Herbert Dean to be raised in Harlem. He dropped out of Harlem and joined the army at 17 years old. When an English teacher in high school recognized his writing talent and also knew he was going to drop out, she encouraged him to never stop writing. He did not stop and went on to become an award winning author of poetry, novels, plays, and music. He has received multiple awards including two Newbery Honors, five Coretta Scott King Awards, and the first Michael L. Printz Award. His son Chris has grown up to collaborate with his father on some works through his illustrative work.

"It is this language of values which I hope to bring to my books. . . . I want to bring values to those who have not been valued, and I want to etch those values in terms of the ideal. Young people need ideals which identify them, and their lives, as central . . . guideposts which tell them what they can be, should be, and indeed are." – Walter Dean Myers

[All images and text are property of and HERE IN HARLEM: POEMS IN MANY VOICES by Walter Dean Myers. 2004. Published by Holiday House, New York.  All rights reserved.]

2004 WINNER: The Way a Door Closes

This is the 2004 winner of the Claudia Lewis Poetry Award:

The Way a Door Closes by Hope Anita Smith (Henry Holt, 2003)

Here is a Readers' Guide created by Heather Noe.

Smith, Hope Anita. The Way A Door Closes. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2003. ISBN-10:0-8050-6477-X; ISBN-13: 978-0805064773

Target Readers:
According to the School Library Journal, this book is recommended for grades 4-8.

The Way A Door Closes by Hope Anita Smith consists of a series of poems about a family’s struggle told through the eyes of the oldest son, C.J. At the beginning, the reader is taught about the roles of the various family members, as well as how the family operates as a whole. A special emphasis is placed on the role of the father, yet the reason for this is not understood until later. Towards the book’s middle, hard times fall on the family when the father loses his job. His character changes from being a strong leader, to someone who shows weakness and tears. This change is something that causes a difficult adjustment for C.J. and his siblings. C.J. talks about how he can recognize certain things about a person based on how they close a door. When his father exits one day, C.J. understands that its implications are indicative of his abandonment of the family.

With the father gone, everyone is faced with challenges and sorrow both at home and in the community. In different ways, the family members take over certain responsibilities to make up for the missing father, yet the absence has cast a dark shadow over all. Fortunately, the father returns at the end, and the manner in which he closes the door tells C.J. that he is back to stay.

Review Excerpts:
“In carefully chosen, straightforward language, Smith conveys the boy’s roller-coaster emotions with pinpoint accuracy. The results are poems that are heartbreaking, angry, and tender.” –School Library Journal

“Readers will be deeply moved by the portrait of a rooted, extended family that makes it through hard times.” –Booklist

“Evan’s illustrations are characteristically powerful, the naturalistic renderings carrying great emotion.” –Kirkus Review

Awards & Recognitions Received:
The Way A Door Closes has received the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award, the NCTE Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts, the Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year, the Bank Street Claudia Lewis Award, Books for the Teen Age, New York Public Library, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award Honor Book, and the Judy Lopez Memorial Award for Children’s Literature from the Women’s National Book Association.

Questions Before Reading:
The following are possible discussion questions to ask before reading this book:
1) What does the title, The Way A Door Closes, make you think of? How does it make you feel?
2) What tone is set by the cover’s illustrations, and how does the book’s title also contribute to this tone?
3) Imagine you have a friend who is really sad about something that is going on at home. How can you be a good friend to that person, and what would you tell them?

Suggested Poems to Read Aloud:
The Whole World in His Hands- Have the children read the poem in groups of four and rotate reading seven lines each. Once finished, the students should discuss how the manner in which each family member sits depicts their personality. This group discussion can lead to a class discussion or larger group discussion of the different characters’ roles in the family as implied by the poem and illustration.

The Way A Door Closes- Six volunteers will be needed. One child will read the poem aloud, while the other five act out each character that is mentioned going through the door (grandma, mama, the sister, C.J. and the brother, and the father). After each person goes through in the manner described by the poem, the instructor (teacher or librarian) should lead a group discussion on what we think each character is feeling based on how he or she passed through the door. An emphasis should be placed on the differences between characters, and what they must be feeling.

Astronomy 101- Before reading, the teacher should do a mini demonstration to teach blue moons. After this, class should be divided into groups of three and rotate reading every eight lines. Once the students have finished reading, they should discuss in groups what they think has occurred in this poem, and why they think “blue moon” analogy is used. This discussion can turn into a large group discussion

Follow-up Activities:
Poetry Writing- Children (or students) can be instructed to create their own mini-book that tells a story through poems. It can be about something true and personal to them, or something that is made up. It is important that the students divide the plot of their story into individual poems, complete with titles. To make this activity more fun, it could be turned into a contest with multiple awards to be won. Sample recognitions include: best individual poem, most unusual story, best artistic accompaniment, best use of poems to tell a story, etc.

Art- Children, after finishing their poem books (above), can create art that accompanies each poem. The art should have meaning. For example, if the poem is depicting a character or feeling, the corresponding art should communicate the character’s personality or what that feeling is like. Students should use The Whole World in His Hands from The Way A Door Closes as an example, because the writing and art in this particular poem work together successfully to emphasize each character’s role in the family. This application can be used as part of the contest (mentioned above), as well.

Science- The last poem in the book, Astronomy 101, uses the analogy “once in a blue moon” to explain the unexpected return of C.J.’s dad. The students can take this poem and apply it in a mini science research investigation. The students, using the library’s reference section as their resource, will research blue moons, and determine the meaning of the expression “once in a blue moon”. After the research investigation sheet is completed (handout from librarian), then the group will work together to create a bulletin board explaining the expression. Each student will receive a blue moon (light blue cut-out), and will write three things on it: what a blue moon is, what the expression “once in a blue moon” means to them, and a real-life example in which the expression can be used.

Related Websites & Blogs:
The Miss Rumphius Effect- This site provides information on Hope Anita Smith and her works

Macmillan: Hope Anita Smith- This site also provides information on the the author and her works.

Coping With The Loss of A Parent (Divorce, Death, Abandonment)- This site provides information about people who are going through situations like C.J.’s in The Way A Door Closes. It explains what people in that situation might be feeling, and teaches readers what signs are indicators.

The Friendship Blog- This site provides a blog for people to discuss situations in which people might be in great need of a friend. It also talks about how to help other people (or yourself) cope with certain familial situations, just as C.J. has to cope with his family’s abandonment in The Way A Door Closes.

Related Books (Poetry, Nonfiction, Fiction):
Keeping the Night Watch- This is Smith’s sequel to The Way A Door Closes. It is written in the same poetic style, and uses the same characters and plot references.
Smith, Hope Anita. Keeping the Night Watch. New York: Henry and Company, 2008.

Amber Was Brave, Essie Was Smart- This book is similar to The Way A Door Closes in that it tells a story of coping with family hardships through a series of related poems.
Williams, Vera B. Amber Was Brave, Essie Was Smart. New York: Greenwillow Books, 2001.

The Skin I’m In- This story, much like The Way A Door Closes, deals with accepting things in your life that are personally uncontrollable. It is told through eyes of a child that is going through these issues, just as the reader looks through C.J.’s eyes in The Way A Door Closes. Additionally, the target reader age level is the same.
Flake, Sharon. The Skin I’m In. New York: Hyperion Books for Children, 1998.

One Crazy Summer- Having a parent leave is something that can cause great confusion for young children. The protagonists (3 sisters) face this issue in One Crazy Summer, just as C.J. and his siblings do in The Way A Door Closes. Though it is not poetry, the target reader age level is the same.
Williams-Garcia, Rita. One Crazy Summer. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2010.

The Moon Book- This book is one targeted for elementary readers (grades 1-4) that uses very basic verbiage to explain the phases and different occurrences of the moon. Considering the scientific application (mentioned above) regarding the scientific analogy of Smith’s last poem, this book could be a good source for children looking for information about blue moons.
Gibbons, Gail. The Moon Book. New York: Holiday House Publishers, 1998.

The Myth of the Broken Home- This book is one that deals with the central conflict of The Way A Door Closes. Despite its applicable content, this book would be better used by the teacher or librarian teaching the material or reading the book to children. This book discusses real-life cases like the one that C.J. faces in Smith’s book, and teaches how to handle those feelings and emotions. By having this as a resource, the librarian or teacher will be better able to handle the sensitivity of the subject matter when using Smith’s poetry book with the children.
Gabrielle, April. The Myth of the Broken Home. Chula Vista: Put it on Paper Publishing, 2010.

Additional Sources:
Amazon. “The Way A Door Closes”. Accessed March 19, 2012.

Amazon. “The Way A Door Closes”. Accessed March 20, 2012.

CCBC. “The Way A Door Closes”. Accessed March 19, 2012.

Macmillan. “The Way A Door Closes”. Accessed March 20, 2012.