Saturday, April 30, 2016

Poetry Week by Week: Haiku challenge!

It is the final day of Poetry Month and the final challenge for Poetry Week by Week! I hope you have enjoyed following along as we celebrated poetry for the past month.

And now it is time for the haiku challenge!

It has been raining a lot around here. Hailing too. I love a good rainstorm, especially when it brings with it a decent amount of thunder and a little bit of pea sized hail. When I love something, I often want to write about it, so that explains the inspiration for the haiku I am sharing with you today.

Click clack tip tap ping!
On the windows, walls, and doors.
Hail says, "Let me in!"

I hope this exploration of poetry has inspired you in some way. National Poetry Month may be coming to a close, but poetry can be enjoyed any time by anyone!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Poetry Week by Week: Six Brilliant Haiku Books for Kids

I believe that haiku is a very accessible form of poetry for kids, both to read and to write. Haiku is short, and the "rules" are simple (and can be bent a little). In all the haiku books I've read in preparation for and during this Poetry Week by Week celebration, a few gems stand out. I hope you will take the time to read them and enjoy them as much as I did!

GUYKU: A Year of Haiku for Boys by Bob Racza, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

Don't be fooled. This book is not only for boys, but according to the author it was inspired by boys and the things they do. This book celebrates all the things that outdoor loving kiddos enjoy doing throughout the year. It is a delight to read!

I Haiku You by Betsy Snyder

This is a collection of haiku about love. Love between friends, for family, for pets, or things that people (especially kids) enjoy. Quite a charming little book!

DOGKU by Andrew Clements, illustrated by Tim Bowers

A picture book, told completely in haiku form, about a stray dog finding a home. Dogs and haiku--what a perfect combination!

If Not for the Cat by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Ted Rand

A gorgeous collection of haiku about various animals, from one of the most beloved children's poets. 

WON TON: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku and WON TON and CHOPSTICK: A Cat and Dog Tale Told in Haiku, by Lee Wardlaw, illustrated by Eugene Yelchin

If you've been following along, you will have seen my review of WON TON and CHOPSTICK that I posted yesterday. Both of these books are adorable, sweet stories about new pets and are told completely in haiku form. Don't miss them!

Do you have any favorite haiku books? I'd love to hear about them. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Poetry Week by Week: Haiku: Review of WON TON AND CHOPSTICK

Last year during National Poetry Month I reviewed the adorable book WON TON: A CAT TALE TOLD IN HAIKU by Lee Wardlaw. This year, I'm moving on to its companion, WON TON AND CHOPSTICK: A CAT AND DOG TALE TOLD IN HAIKU.

This book is as charming and adorable as the first one. Won Ton, now happily content in his home with his boy, finds his life disrupted when the family brings home a puppy! Told completely in a series of haiku verses, this story is clever and sweet and funny. Best of all, Won Ton's voice is every bit as catlike as it is in the original.

If you haven't read these books, you should. They are perfect for anyone who loves stories told in poetic forms, especially if they are fond of pets!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Poetry Week by Week: Guest Poet Kristy Dempsey

I am excited to have my friend and fellow picture book author Kristy Dempsey join us to celebrate haiku for the last week of Poetry Month (and the last week of my Poetry Week by Week Celebration and Challenge)! I am honored that she took a little time out of her busy life as a mom, wife, author and librarian to share a few haiku with us.

Welcome Kristy!

I tend to think of haiku as nature poems, and I also tend to have a sense of wonder and curiosity about nature, so I am always asking questions of nature as I observe. These poems definitely reflect that. Also, I like ending haiku with a question because I think it invites the reader to reflect.

Solitary guard
Single sentinel on watch
Will they ever hatch?

Twinkle, twinkle star
Behind the clouds, you’re out there
Make your wish for me?

An army of ants
marched past this rock, little one
Did you lose your way?

About the poet:

Kristy Dempsey grew up in South Carolina and now works as a teacher-librarian in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, a bustling city of 5 million people. She is the author of Me with You (Philomel), Mini Racer (Bloomsbury), Surfer Chick (Abrams) and A Dance Like Starlight (Philomel), a JLG selection, ALA Notable Book, Bank Street Best of 2015, CCBC 2015 Choice, and the winner of the 2015 Golden Kite Award for Picture Book Text. Four more picture books will publish in 2016, including Superhero Instruction Manual (Knopf, May 2016), a guidebook for the youngest aspiring heroes. 

Be sure to check out Kristy's website and blog, and follow her on twitter @kristydempsey. And be sure to check out her picture books too!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Poetry Week by Week: Haiku

It is the last week of Poetry Week by Week, and we are celebrating haiku! Haiku is a traditional form a Japanese poetry that is written in three lines, with those lines being 5, 7, and 5 syllables. According to, haiku are often about nature and focus on a brief moment in time.

Some poets are comfortable with breaking the syllable rule when writing haiku, but I find the restriction a fun sort of challenge. Here is a haiku I wrote several years ago, in which I followed all the "rules."

colorful leaves drift
streaming bits of confetti
fall's celebration

Do you enjoy reading or writing haiku? Are you a traditionalist or a rule breaker?

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Poetry Week by Week: Free Verse Challenge!

April is flying by. Here we are at the end of the third week of Poetry Week by Week. And that means it is challenge time! Today's poem was inspired by the Mines of Moria scene in Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. I wrote it (and revised it a bit) while watching the movie Friday night. Whether you've seen the movie or not, I hope this poem leaves an impression. 

The Mine

for miles
in deepest
paths under the mountain

a mine
a city carved into stone

its darkest corners
with dwarves at work
or feasting
or drinking,
malt beer dribbling down beards

until the mine
a death trap,
swarming with the foulest beasts

unstoppable in their numbers
unyielding in their attack
the last dwarf
scribbled a record
with his last

© Rebecca J. Gomez

If you are inspired to try this challenge with me, feel free to share or link to your poem in the comments. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Poetry Week by Week: Guest Poet Ellie Terry

Today's guest poet has been a guest on my blog before. Ellie Terry is a talented poet and author who shared with us last year a little helpful advice about writing in rhyme. Since then, Ellie has sold her very first book, a middle grade verse novel titled FORGET ME NOT, which will hit the shelves in March 2017. That's less than a year from now. Not sooo long to wait, right?

Ellie has decided to share a deleted poem from one of the drafts of FORGET ME NOT.


Throughout the next three days,
I manage to be


to Beatriz.


when she snores all night.


when she accidentally 
drops my toothbrush in the toilet.


when Reno takes us bowling
and she cheats.


that's me.

© Ellie Terry

I love this poem because, even though it's unclear who the narrator is, or who Beatriz is, or what the relationship between the two is, it IS clear that the narrator is unhappy about her current situation. She comes across as a little sassy, don't you think? 

Thank you for sharing this poem with us, Ellie!

About Ellie:

Ellie Terry writes heartfelt contemporary fiction for middle-grade readers, and funny poetry for all ages. Her middle-grade debut, FORGET ME NOT, a free verse novel about a girl with Tourette syndrome, will be published Spring 2017 by Feiwel & Friends, an imprint of Macmillan. She lives in southern Utah with her husband, three kids, two zebra finches, and a Russian desert tortoise.

Follow Ellie on Twitter: @ellieterrybooks
Add FORGET ME NOT on Goodreads 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Poetry Week by Week: Review of RHYME SCHEMER by K.A. Holt

Poetry Week by Week would not be complete without at least one review of a verse novel. I've read a few new ones recently, and my favorite is RHYME SCHEMER by K.A. Holt.

I discovered RHYME SCHEMER by accident. I was browsing the "new books" shelf in the children's area of my local library when this bright yellow cover caught my eye. When I saw the title, I immediately snatched it up, thinking with a title like that this must be a verse novel (I am always up for a verse novel read). I was right!

RHYME SCHEMER is the story of a bully. The kind of kid who will trip you in the hallway and just generally act like a real jerk. He's even mean through poems that he posts secretly throughout the school! Eventually, though, he is the one being bullied.

This book is everything I love about verse novels. The poems draw you in and make you feel for the main character, Kevin, even though at first he is someone you would love to despise (I mean, who likes a bully, right?). I love the way the author uses poetry not just to tell this character's story, but as an influence in his life. You witness his transformation as a person and as a poet, which the following excerpt illustrates perfectly:

By the way,
this isn't even poetry.
It's just thoughts
on paper
rapid fire
with not as many words
as usual thoughts
and none of those dumb
likes or as-es
or talking about trees
that old ladies like.
These are real thoughts
like a TV scroll
with a flow that's like a stream
that just flies out of my brain
like barf
but less gross.
Most of the time.

Three likes just then.
Oh man.
Maybe this is poetry.
But cooler than regular poetry.


© K. A. Holt

In some ways, this books reminds me of LOVE THAT DOG by Sharon Creech because of the way Jack and Kevin each have their own journey of discovery and growth through poetry. 

RHYME SCHEMER is a fantastic middle grade read. I think it will appeal especially to boys who, in my experience, have been more reluctant to read books in this style. Pick this book up at the library, or purchase a copy for your home or classroom shelves. You won't be sorry!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Poetry Week by Week: Free Verse: Guest poet Samantha Gomez

Poetry Week by Week continues with a guest post by my other daughter, Samantha (my daughter Julia was a guest during week one). Samantha loves to express herself through poetry, and she's quite good at it. Sometimes I think that's funny because she got started at this poetry thing rather reluctantly. I've no doubt she'll go far if she keeps it up!

And now, here is Samantha!

A couple Fridays ago, my university’s jazz choir and I had the privilege of seeing the Real Group, a world-renowned (semi-Swedish) vocal jazz group, live in concert. It was truly one of the most awe-inspiring musical experiences of my life.

The piece that struck me most was their modern rendition of a Latvian folk song. They sang the tune in its original language, but one didn’t have to be fluent in Latvian for the performance to be incredibly impactful. 

Afterward I wrote the following poem in an attempt to capture my impression of the piece’s story.

Dziesma (song)

The pale morning stirs sleepily
under a swath of iridescent clouds,
grass still clinging
to pre-dawn memory.
The sun filters through
a crack
in the sky’s tree-crowned mould,
while below,
a man releases his one, spirited horse
to let it run
free, unspoiled,
among the wildflowers,
to see its coat catch distant light
like the unencumbered sea.

On the hilltop,
against the sky,
mist, hanging low,
betrays vision, muffles untamed hoofbeats—
but the man knows his spirited horse,
who returns home
at the sound of its master’s lonely voice.

About the poet: 

Samantha Gomez is an almost-sophomore in college. Her ideal life would be to nerd out about things she loves and get paid for it, so she decided to pursue that dream and become a teacher of history. She hails from somewhere in the picturesque Midwest and answers to the following titles: Mezzo-Soprano, Teller of Tales, Shield-Maiden of Rohan, and Mantis.

If you would like to read more of Samantha's poetry and other ramblings, visit her blog

Monday, April 18, 2016

Poetry Week by Week: Free Verse Poetry

Week three of Poetry Week by Week is here! This week we are celebrating free verse poetry.

Free verse is unlike other forms of poetry in that it is free of restrictions. The dictionary on my computer defines free verse as "poetry that does not rhyme or have a regular meter." Those who aren't as familiar with poetry may mistake free verse for prose with line breaks. They see that it does not rhyme, that it does not have any form or structure, and they scoff. But that is a mistake!

I think of free verse poetry as ultra concentrated. Every word is intentional. Every line break is there for a purpose. Every use (or omission) of punctuation is by design. In free verse poetry, how the poem is written is as important as the words.

Free verse poetry has a purpose beyond telling a story or sharing an experience. It is meant to pack a punch, to hit you in the gut, tug at your heart, or water your eyes. It is meant to move you. The best of free verse poems reel you in and make you feel like you're right there in the words.

A skilled author can do this with prose, but it takes a special type of gift to accomplish this with a poem. This is why I hesitated to share one of my own free verse poems with you today. I wondered if I had any that are good enough. And then I thought of a poem I wrote at a difficult time in my life--a poem that, at the time I wrote it, I thought I would never share with anyone. word for 2016 is open, and though that doesn't mean I have to share everything, it does mean that I shouldn't be afraid to show a little brokenness now and then. After all, to me, poetry is a gift from God that has always helped me get through hard times. It's one of the tools he uses to piece me back together again. And doesn't that make it worth sharing?

So, here you go.


I feel like I could drown any moment

like that solid life-line that I hold in my grip could
become jelly
and squish through my fingers

and my arms
so used to clinging to that rope
won't know what to do

and I'll flail
and gasp
and choke
and slip beneath the surface of the deep

and when that happens,
then what?

will I become calm
like Sam Gamgee in the movie
and let myself sink
deeper and deeper
wondering if a hand will reach down
to rescue me?

will I suddenly remember
my instruction
and use my arms and legs
to pull
and kick my way
to the air?

will I breathe

or will I drown?

© Rebecca J. Gomez

I'd love to hear your thoughts on how poetry has helped or influenced you in some way. Do you write or read free verse poetry? Do you have any favorite free verse poems or poets?

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Poetry Week by Week: Animal Rhyme Challenge!

It's the end of week two of Poetry Week by Week. Saturday is nearly over. It turned out to be a very busy Saturday in which I barely had time to scribble a poem down as I cooked dinner. But there is nothing like a looming deadline and a piece of scrap paper to give me a little creative boost. So, it may be late, but I made it!

Photo credit: Flickpicpete (Thanks for 2 million+ views)
via / CC BY-ND
I've had foxes on my brain recently, possibly because the villain in the soon-to-be released HENSEL AND GRETEL: NINJA CHICKS is a fox. Maybe it's because my daughter wrote about a fox for her concrete poem. In any case, I like foxes. They are fascinating creatures that rarely allow themselves to be seen, at least around here. I've seen one in nature twice. Once I caught a glimpse of a little red face peering out from tall grasses near a state park. Another time I saw one darting across an open field at the edge of a subdivision. I drive past that open field a lot, and am always on the lookout for that flash of red fur! But no fox has shown its face in that area since. So I'll just have to imagine it instead. Which is what I did with the animal rhyme challenge today!

Here is my poem, which may turn out to be just the beginning of a longer poem. We'll see.

Red Fox

Red fox
sly and slick.
A zip, a dash, a blur.

I barely catch,
as you dart past,
a glimpse of russet fur.

© Rebecca J. Gomez

What about you? Would you like to join me in this challenge and write a little animal rhyme of your own? If you are inspired, share your poem or link to it in the comments.

Happy rhyming!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Poetry Week by Week: Some Favorite Animal Rhymes

The Poetry Week by Week celebration continues with more animal rhyme fun! As I mentioned before, I love rhyming poems about animals because they can be anything from nonsensical silliness about make-believe creatures to rhythmic instruction about the natural world. Today I thought I would share a poem from each extreme!

This first poem is from a book by Jack Prelutsky called THE SWAMPS OF SLEETHE (rhymes with breathe): POEMS FROM BEYOND THE SOLAR SYSTEM. It is a collection of spooky-ish poems about dangerous otherworldly places you probably would not ever want to visit!

Jack Prelutsky has a gift for the silly and the delightfully creepy. If you haven't read THE SWAMPS OF SLEETHE, you should look for it. You won't be disappointed!

The Bugs of Gub

The bugs of Gub, no two alike,
Are all designed to swiftly strike.
They'll swarm upon your tender skin,
And gnaw your nose, and chip your chin.

They're merciless, relentless things,
With dreadful venom in their stings.
They'll land on you with jaws agape,
And soon you'll find there's no escape.

The bugs of Gub will bite and chew
Until there's nothing left of you,
Not even the remotest trace
on Gub, your final resting place.

Like I said, delightfully creepy. Right?

The second poem I would like to share with you is from the book WINTER BEES & OTHER POEMS OF THE COLD by Joyce Sidman. This book is full of gorgeous poems about nature in winter, and equally gorgeous illustrations by Rick Allen. Along with each poem is a short paragraph about the poem's animal subject.

I chose Big Brown Moose to share with you because of its language and rhythm. It has a stompy-trompy feel about it that really feels moose-ish.

Big Brown Moose

I'm a big brown moose,
I'm a rascally moose,
I'm a moose with a tough, shaggy hide;
and I kick and I prance
in a long-legged dance
with my moose-mama close by my side.

I shrug off the cold
and I sneeze at the wind
and I swivel my ears in the snow;
and I tramp and I tromp
over forest and swamp,
'cause there's nowhere a moose cannot go.

Read the rest of the poem here.

Both of these poems (actually, both of these books!) inspire me to write some critter poems of my own. How about you?

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Poetry Week by Week: Animal Rhymes: Review of SLICKETY QUICK

SLICKETY QUICK: POEMS ABOUT SHARKS by Skila Brown is fun collection of poems about sharks large and small, slow and quick! Some of these sharks I've never heard of before (cookie-cutter shark?). The poems are as varied as the sharks; the author does a good job of matching the poem to the nature of the shark it's describing.

The illustrations are eye-catching. The colors remind me of my frequent visits to the aquarium at my local zoo. This is a great book for any fan of sharks or poetry!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Poetry Week by Week: Animal Rhymes: Guest poet Laura Sassi

Poetry Week by Week continues today with a guest post by children's book author and poet Laura Sassi. This past December I won a copy of Laura Sassi's adorable rhyming picture book, GOODNIGHT, MANGER, which promptly earned a spot on my list of favorite Christmas books. If you haven't read it, you should. And you don't have to wait for Christmas!

Today I am very excited to welcome Laura to the blog to share one of her very own animal rhymes.

Thank you for joining in on the fun, Laura!

Spelling Bee
by Laura Sassi

I wish I had a spelling bee
That spelled words in my ear
Like “marzipan”  and “marvelous”
And  “cocoa” and "adhere”.

I’d train my bee to buzz me when
I needed silent e’s.
He’d help me sound out syllables
And add apostrophes.

I’d never get an answer wrong
On any spelling quiz.
I’d never have to look up words.
I’d be a spelling whiz!

And once I trained my spelling bee
I see no reason why
To help with math, I might not train
A calculator fly!

“The Spelling Bee” copyright © Laura Sassi. First published in Boys’ Quest  Apr/May2012, Vol. 17 Issue 6.

The inspiration behind the poem: 

Our school’s annual spelling bee got me wondering -what if there actually was a bee that could spell? Creativity took over and several hours later out popped my poem, “The Spelling Bee.” After multiple revisions, critiques, and my mandatory “let it sit for a couple of weeks” rule, I was ready to submit it. The children’s magazine, BOYS’ QUEST, accepted it and it appeared in their April/May 2102 issue of Boys’ Quest.

Thanks, Becky, for letting me share this poem and the inspiration behind it.

About Laura:

Laura Sassi, author of GOODNIGHT, ARK (Zonderkidz, 2014) and GOODNIGHT, MANGER (Zonderkidz, 2015), has a passion for telling humorous stories. Most, but not all, of her picture books-in-progress are told in rhyme. Either way, she finds writing poems to be fun way to hone her wordplay skills. Laura writes daily from her century-old home in New Jersey where she lives with her husband, two children, and a black Cockapoo named Sophie.  In addition to her picture books, which are available wherever books are sold, you can find her poems and stories in numerous children’s publications including SpiderHighlights for Children and Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse Jr.  You can connect with Laura on Facebook, Twitter, or by visiting her blog.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Poetry Week by Week: Animal Rhymes

In week one of Poetry Week by Week, I celebrated concrete (shape) poems by sharing some favorites, inviting a guest poet, and challenging myself (and my readers) to try writing a concrete poem or two.

And now, week two of my Poetry Week by Week celebration and challenge is here! The next week will be spent celebrating animal rhymes in their many forms.

You may be wondering what's so special about animal rhymes that I should dedicate an entire week to them on my blog. After all, animal rhyme isn't a poetic form, like haiku or limerick. There's no special technique or unique format used in writing an animal rhyme. Animal rhymes can be anything!

What I love about rhyming critter poems is that they can be anything from a rollicking nonsense rhyme to a lyrical, rhythmic poem that celebrates the natural world. Rhyme is the perfect delivery system for sharing interesting information about fascinating creatures because it encourages listeners to perk up and pay attention!

As a poet, nature has been one of my biggest inspirations. And so, to start off this week of celebrating animal rhymes, here is a poem I wrote about a hummingbird:


Darting left, zipping right,
tiny bird in rapid flight.

Flitting here, fluttering there,
almost lighter than the air.

Humming buzz, whirring zoom,
sipping nectar from a bloom.

Tiny bird in rapid flight,
darting left, zipping right.

© Rebecca J. Gomez

Photo credit: Bill Gracey via / CC BY-NC-ND

I hope you will join me throughout the week as I celebrate animal rhymes. Don't miss tomorrow, when author Laura Sassi will be stopping by to share an animal rhyme with us!

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Poetry Week by Week: Concrete Poem Challenge!

It is the end of week one, and that means it's CHALLENGE TIME! As promised, I have worked throughout the week to write a few new concrete poems of my own. I ended up with two finished poems and one very rough work-in-progress. The poem I have decided to share here is Hot Air Balloon.

Hot air balloons are a common sight from my back deck. We often spot them on clear, warmish days near the northern horizon, drifting steadily nearer above the rooftops. A few days ago I saw the first balloon of the season, and that is what inspired this concrete poem.

This poem was fun to write and format. The formatting of a poem like this can easily be done in a word processing program, but I took it a step further and made a fun background for it using Picmonkey. What do you think?

Did you participate in this week's concrete poetry challenge? I'd love to see any poems you came up with. Share them (or link to them) in the comments! If you didn't write your own, feel free to link to a favorite or two. 

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Poetry Week by Week: A "Foxy" Concrete Poem

Concrete Poetry Week continues with a guest post by my daughter, Julia Gomez. When I told her that I needed (well...wanted) a guest poet to share a concrete poem on my blog for this week, she enthusiastically volunteered for the challenge. She didn't have a concrete poem on hand to share, so she wrote one especially for this event! I had no idea what she would write, but I was not surprised at all when she revealed this little Fox. Well, done, Julia. I could not be more delighted in your little poem.

Isn't it darling? If this doesn't inspire you to try your own concrete poem, I'm not sure what will!

If you would like to share this poem, please link to this page rather than saving the image. Please do not print this poem without permission from the author. You can contact her through her blog

About the poet:

Julia is a college student majoring in disorganization and procrastination. While singing is her primary occupation, Julia also likes to write poetry for trees and other things that don’t understand English. She currently resides beneath an endless blue sky, beside a very fine patch of green grass.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Poetry Week by Week: Concrete Poems: Review of WET CEMENT

WET CEMENT: A MIX OF CONCRETE POEMS is a recently released book of poems by Bob Raczka. In the introduction to this book, Raczka describes poems as "word paintings. A poet uses words like colors to paint pictures inside your head." Of course, in a concrete poem, the idea of a word painting is a bit more literal; the words are arranged in such a way as to take on the shape of the poem's subject. Raczka takes it further and makes a picture with the title of each poem too!

I love this book. The poems are short and simple, yet worded and arranged so perfectly that you can't help but read them over again and gaze in appreciation at the images cleverly created on the page.

My favorite in this collection is Firefly, which is arranged in white letters on a black page. I can't show it here, so you will just have to get your hands on the book to see for yourself how wonderful it is. You can see an example of one of the other poems, Hopscotch, here.

If you are looking for a good poetry book to share with your students or children this Poetry Month, I highly recommend WET CEMENT!

Monday, April 04, 2016

Poetry Week by Week: Some Favorite Concrete Poems

When a poet can write a poem that is as fun to look at as it is to read, it doubles the fun of reading poetry! And when the poem is like Jack Prelutsky's I Am Winding Through a Maze, forcing you to turn and flip the book around as you read, it's even more of a hoot!

I couldn't find the poem anywhere online so that I could share it with you in its entirety, so I took a picture of its spread in my copy of the book IT'S RAINING PIGS AND NOODLES.

There are a few other concrete poems in this book that are lots of fun too. Actually, the whole book is just plain fun. So go check it out if you haven't before!

Another of my favorite concrete poems is a little gem that I found in a book I got for my children years and years ago, THE HUTCHINSON TREASURY OF CHILDREN'S POETRY. The poem is Do Not Disturb the Dinosaur by Gina Douthwaite, and the words of the poem form the outline of a dinosaur. You might be interested in her book PICTURE A POEM, which is full of poems that form pictures! Unfortunately, it's not available at my local library, so I might just have to order it.

I found the book TECHNICALLY, IT'S NOT MY FAULT, by John Grandits, at the library recently. It is full of a few rather oddball concrete poems written from the perspective of an 11-year-old boy. My favorite is the one titled What are You Thinking About, Robert? in which the boy's thoughts are swirling about randomly outside his brain. To read a couple of the poems from it, look inside this book on Amazon.

Another fun one by the same author is BLUE LIPSTICK: CONCRETE POEMS, written from the perspective of a 15-year-old girl (the aforementioned 11-year-old boy's sister).

Be sure to come back on Wednesday for my review of WET CEMENT: A MIX OF CONCRETE POEMS by John Raczka.

Do you have any favorite concrete poems? I'd love to hear about them!

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Poetry Week by Week: Concrete poems

Welcome to day 1 of week 1 of the Poetry Week by Week celebration and challenge! We are kicking off this event by celebrating concrete poems.

Concrete poems are poems in which the words are arranged in such a way as to create an image on the page. In essence, the poem takes on the shape of its subject. It is its own illustration.

These kinds of poems are as fun to look at as they are to read. And they are fun to write too! Here is one that I wrote several years ago that was published in an issue of Fun for Kidz magazine.

I haven't written a concrete poem in a long time, so it will be fun to experiment with this form of poetry this week. I hope you will be experimenting too!

Check back throughout the week for more examples of great concrete poems, a book review, and a guest poet. And especially don't forget to come back Saturday to share your own poem (or simply see how I've done with the challenge).

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Six Reasons Your Kids Should be Reading Poetry

It's no secret that kids benefit from reading, and being read to, early and often. It helps them learn empathy, develop language skills, and become better learners. But when poetry is a part of their regular reading routine, the benefits can be multiplied.

The first and most obvious reason that kids should read poetry is because of the rhyme factor. Kids who are familiar with rhymes at an early age tend to be better readers. They become better spellers, learn to distinguish sounds, and develop auditory learning skills. Also, rhymes are fun and can help nurture a child's desire to read, aid in memorization skills, and develop new vocabulary.

But not all poems rhyme, and even if they did, there are other reasons for poetry to be a part of every kid's regular reading routine. Such as:

  • Poems are often short, and short often means accessible, which is key for reluctant readers. You could text your teenage son a short poem and he will be almost guaranteed to read it. 
  • Poetry is full of figurative language, which forces the reader to use his or her imagination and understand on a deeper level what the writer is trying to say.
  • A poem doesn't always have a clear meaning. Reading poetry and analyzing it for meaning helps to develop critical thinking skills.
  • Poetry helps develop vocabulary by introducing the reader to new words and phrases.
  • A well-written poem invites the reader to participate in an emotion or experience--it makes the reader feel something. This can help develop empathy and give kids (and adults) an insight into other people's emotions and experiences.
  • Poetry encourages creativity. It is often a child's first introduction into the world of art, and may inspire them to explore other areas of creative expression. 
Is poetry a part of your family's reading routine? Why not check out a few poetry books from the library this month and share them with your kids? Here are a few of my family's favorites:

WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS by Shell Silverstein
SPINSTER GOOSE by Lisa Wheeler

And especially for the older readers:

PICNIC, LIGHTNING by Billy Collins

Friday, April 01, 2016

Why Picture Book Authors Should Read (and write) Poetry

If Dead Poets Society taught us anything, it's that poetry is for everyone, and it isn't always easy to define, even for "experts." Poetry often ignores the rules of grammar and punctuation, casting them aside like useless burdens. Poetry can be as short as three lines or as long as a novel. It can have a strict structure and form, or it can be wild and free. But one thing poetry is NOT is excess.

To me, a good poem gets right to the heart of its subject, using the least, but strongest, language to say what it wants to say. As Robert Frost once said, "A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness. It finds the thought and the thought finds the words."

What does this mean for the picture book author?

A picture book, like a poem, must be free of excess. In reading poetry--and writing poetry, if only for practice--a picture book author will learn what it means to be concise, to get rid of every little bit that isn't vital to the story she is trying to tell. 

It doesn't matter if she doesn't consider herself a poet. It doesn't matter if she writes in paragraph form, following every grammar rule ever established, any thoughts of "poetic license" absent from her mind. The poet and the picture book author share at least one common goal: to say what they want to say without unnecessary fluff getting in their way. 

Are you a picture book author struggling with excess in your manuscripts? What better time than National Poetry Month to begin reading and writing more poetry? You might be surprised at what you learn!

Come back tomorrow for my thoughts on why children should read poetry. And don't forget! On April 3, the Poetry Week by Week challenge begins. I hope to see you there!