Poetry Friday: brown girl dreaming

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brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson.

In this deeply moving collection of autobiographical poems, Jacqueline Woodson reflects on her childhood as a Southern-born, New York-raised African American girl in 1960s and 1970s America.

While every passage is memorable and moving in its own way, as a librarian and educator, I found stevie and me particularly poignant.

stevie and me

Every Monday, my mother takes us

to the library around the corner. We are allowed

to take out seven books each. On those days,

no one complains

that all I want are picture book.

Those days, no one tells me to read faster

to read harder books

to read like Dell.

No one is there to say, Not that book,

when I stop in front of the small paperback

with a brown boy on the cover.

Stevie.

I read:

One day my momma told me,

“You know you’re gonna have

a little friend come stay with you.”

And I said, “Who is it?”

If someone had been fussing with me

to read like my sister, I might have missed

the picture book filled with brown people, more

brown people than I’d ever seen

in a book before.

The little boy’s name was Steven but

his mother kept calling him Stevie.

My name is Robert but my momma don’t

call me Robertie.

If someone had taken

that book out of my hand

said, You’re too old for this

maybe

I’d never have believed

that someone who looked like me

could be in the pages of the book

that someone who looked like me

had a story.

We need libraries. We need diverse books. We need to look beyond reading levels and lexiles and strive to connect young readers with books that speak to them, motivate them, and inspire them.

We need to do more, because our kids deserve nothing less.

Woodson, Jacqueline. Brown Girl Dreaming. New York: Nancy Paulsen Books, 2014. Print. Pages 227-228.

Poetry Friday: A Dark, Dark Cave

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A Dark, Dark Cave

An intrepid brother and sister duo explores a dark, dark cave filled with strange and wondrous sights and sounds in this beautifully poetic celebration of the power of a child’s imagination.

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Hoffman’s spare, rhyming text draws readers deeper and deeper into the story, using the repetitive phrase “a dark, dark cave” to encourage young readers to read along and participate.

The pale moon glows

as a cold wind blows

through a dark, dark cave.

Bats in flight

disappear from sight

in a dark, dark cave.

As the children progress through the cave, their surroundings seem to grow darker, and smaller, and spookier….until a surprise visit from dad reveals that the cave is actually constructed from chairs and blankets strewn around the living room, and has been brought to life through the imagination of our young explorers!

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This fun, creative story will hopefully inspire young readers to create their own magical worlds to explore together, and is a wonderful celebration of unplugged, independent, child-led play.

Poetry Friday: Bringing the Outside In

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We’re bringing the outside in, oh,

Bringing the outside in…

Anyone who has ever explored the great outdoors with an enthusiastic young child will immediately recognise the four adorable little adventurers in Mary McKenna Siddals’ beautiful ode to childhood, Bringing the Outside In.

Over the course of a year, four little children joyfully explore the natural world around them – jumping in muddle puddles, building sandcastles, splashing in the sea, leaping into piles of leaves, building snowmen and much more!

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And of course, as all children do, they bring the outside in!

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Oh how I love this book. I love the diverse group of happy children. I love Patrice Barton’s soft, joyous illustrations that capture little ones in all their wiggly, energetic, enthusiastic wonder. I love Siddals’ bouncy text that just begs to be read aloud. I love this celebration of the old-fashioned joys of an unplugged childhood spent outside in nature, exploring, learning, and growing by experiencing and getting messy! I love that these little children are shown working together to help clean up their messes, taking responsibility and modelling great life lessons for little readers.

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Bringing the Outside In is a beautiful celebrate of the seasons and a loving ode to childhood wonders that’s perfect for reading aloud with the little ones in your life. Lots of fun, and loads of love in this one. Definitely worth checking out.

Poetry Friday – I Got the Rhythm

As a children’s librarian, I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by poetry every day, even when it’s not labelled as such. Many of my favourite picture books are essentially illustrated poems, with their rhythmic, rhyming texts.

I Got the Rhythm is a fantastic read-aloud with its bouncing, rhythmic, rhyming text that’s sure to get readers of all ages tapping and bouncing to the beat of the city.

A young girl explores her urban neighbourhood and finds herself drawn into the rhythm of the world around her, celebrating and embracing the movement and sharing her beat with everyone around her.

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This book is absolutely made for reading aloud with a group, and it positively dares you not to join in on the fun, clapping, tapping and bopping to the rhythm. The young girl feels the beat in every part of her, seeing it with her eyes, hearing it with her ears, catching it with her hands and stomping it with her feet. She pops and locks, hips and hops, and lets the music move her whole body, and the simple, repetitive text invites audiences to join in on the fun and express themselves from their heads to their toes!

The colourful cast is diverse (not too sure about that clown though…*shudder*….), and the inner city environment will be at once to familiar to many young readers, who will appreciate its positive portrayal. I Got the Rhythm is brimming with joy, and encourages audiences to find and share the music of life, the everyday rhythms and beats that surround us and move us, but that we are sometimes too busy to notice and enjoy.

Highly, highly recommended – go on, get the beat!

Poetry Friday : Alligator Pie

 

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Alligator pie, alligator pie,
If I don’t get some I think I’m gonna die.
Give away the green grass, give away the sky,
But don’t give away my alligator pie.

Dennis Lee is one of Canada’s great gifts to the world. Don’t believe me? Just feast your eyes on this excerpt from Lee’s Wikipedia page:

Lee began writing for children as part of his goal of “Reclaiming language and liberating imagination;” he “tries to free Canadian children from a colonial mentality by creating poems rooted in the words and activities of their everyday lives, poems which encourage free imaginative play.”[1] His most famous work is the rhymed Alligator Pie (1974). He also wrote the lyrics to the theme song of the 1980s television show Fraggle Rock and, with Philip Balsam composing, many of the other songs for that show. Balsam and Lee also wrote the songs for the television special The Tale of the Bunny Picnic. Lee is co-writer of the story for the film Labyrinth.[2]

That’s right folks. Not only did Lee create some of the most beloved Canadian children’s poetry of all time, rooted in a desire to encourage “free imaginative play”, he also helped create both Fraggle Rock and Labrynth. The man is pretty much a genius.

In all seriousness, though, the children’s poem Alligator Pie is without a doubt one of the most famous and beloved poems the country has ever produced. It’s weird. It’s wacky. It really doesn’t make any sense. And yet I remembered each word from that first stanza, despite not having heard or really thought about the poem for years.

This is definitely a Canadian poem, though I suppose I could begrudgingly admit that some Americans might be moved by the reference to a hockey stick.

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Yes indeed – this child so loves alligator soup that they are willing to sacrifice their hockey stick for it. That is some powerful love right there, a love even stronger than that of hockey.

Alligator Pie beautifully sums up Lee’s passion for “creating poems rooted in the words and activities of their everyday lives, poems which encourage free imaginative play.” The words are silly, fun and imaginative. They reference objects that children would be familiar with, and which would have meaning to them – a hockey stick, a hoop, a furry hat (hello winter…) and a show – real objects that kids can see, touch, experience. Lee blends the madcap with the mundane, bringing a bit of nonsensical whimsy into our everyday lives.

This isn’t Poetry with a capital P in the classical, or as Lee might say colonial sense. It isn’t elitist, obscure, undecipherable or remote. This is fun, silly, lighthearted and yet very much real and rooted in every day experiences and realities. This is poetry that is meant to be enjoyed, shared, loved and remember. It’s poetry that makes poetry approachable, and demystifies the experience.

For all these reasons and so many more, Dennis Lee’s Alligator Pie is a Canadian poetry classic that transcends generations.

Join the Poetry Friday community to share your love of poetry!

Poetry Friday -September 9, 2016

 

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I’ve decided to join the supportive, poetry-loving Poetry Friday community and share some of my favourite children’s poets and poetry titles.

I’m kicking this series off with one of my all-time favourite books of poetry:

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Tyrannosaurus Was a Beast by Jack Prelutsky.

Now this, ladies and gentlemen, is how you do poetry. At least, that’s how a much younger, dinosaur-obsessed me felt when I discovered this classic collection of dinosaur-themed poetry.

That’s right.

Dinosaur-themed poetry.

In Tyrannosaurus Was a Beast, Jack Prelutsky celebrates the world of dinosaurs in all its toothy, scaly glory.

Tyrannosaurus was a beast,

that had no friends to say the least.

It ruled the ancient out of doors,

and slaughtered other dinosaurs.

Now THAT is a poem that kids can get behind!

Writing poems about dinosaurs might seem a bit odd, but what better way to get kids excited about poetry than to introduce them to poems on subjects they’re already passionate about? As a child I would’ve had no interest in poems about flowers or trees, and sweet little poems about sweet little children would’ve put me to sleep.

But poems about dinosaurs that slaughtered other dinosaurs? Holy cow, how exciting is that?!?

These poems aren’t just a great way to get kids excited about poetry – they’re also deceptively educational!

When it comes to poetry and kids, never be afraid to think outside the box, and try to let the children’s natural passions and interests be your guide.

Poems about dinosaurs. What will they think of next? Tune in next week to find out! 😉