Poetry Tea Time has been a part of our weekly routine for a while now, and it’s something we all look forward to with eager anticipation. I was inspired by Julie Bogart’s Bravewriter blog posts to start doing this, and every “good” Fun Friday includes Poetry Tea Time. Most days I do manage to bake something–often lately it has been boxed brownies or muffins–and yes, at least one or two of us actually drinks tea. What I love about it is there’s really no agenda, other than to slow down, eat a snack, drink something, and read some poetry. I don’t have a preconceived idea about which poems we’ll read (though sometimes I do pick something out in advance, like A.A. Milne poems on the anniversary of his death or a snow poem when our Friday art activity was painting snowmen). I don’t have an eye toward a certain educational objective. We just enjoy the poetry and the snack.
Today I thought I’d share some of the poetry anthologies we’ve enjoyed lately. I really like having a few kid-friendly anthologies on hand because by their very nature, anthologies expose us to more poets and poems than we’d experience otherwise. I’ve shared before about a couple of anthologies for the youngest listeners, and both of these still get pulled out on occasion, too.
Forget-Me-Nots: Poems to Learn by Heart is a collection selected by Mary Ann Hoberman and illustrated by Michael Emberley. Hoberman was the U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate from 2008-2011. She is the author of such quintessential children’s
picture books as The Seven Silly Eaters and the well-known You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You series. Here at the House of Hope, we’re also fans of her book of family poems entitled Fathers, Mothers, Sisters, Brothers.
As is indicated by the subtitle, Forget-Me-Nots is a book of “memorable” poems, chosen because they are both “easy to remember” and “worth remembering.” The whole premise of the book, then, is one of encouragement in the art of poetry memorization. Divided into eleven sections, Forget-Me-Nots includes poems that are very short and easy to memorize, like Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Rain” and an Edward Lear limerick. (These short poems comprise the first section.) It also includes poems that are longer and more challenging, like Lear’s “The Jumblies” and the last poem in the book, Hoberman’s own “The Llama Who Had No Pajamas.” In between are sad poems, animal poems, food poems, poems about time and happiness, and even poems taken from storybooks. I like it because it mixes the poems up–for example, a poem by Robert Frost is included in the “Sad and Sorrowful” section, as is a poem by John Keats and a poem by Elizabeth Coatsworth. Shakespeare is found beside Russell Hoban in the “Strange and Mysterious” section. I know this makes the more “serious” poets and poems more accessible when children encounter them in their own books first–I remember that from my own childhood and education. The backmatter of this book includes a short section of suggestions for poetry memorization and an index of first lines. Emberley’s illustrations are humorous and expressive. This is a Highly Recommended Poetry Tea Time resource. (Little, Brown and Co., 2012)
Caroline Kennedy’s Poems to Learn by Heart is another staple of our Poetry Tea Times of late. Like Forget-Me-Nots, this is a collection of poems chosen by Kennedy and a select few students from a small school in New York City called Dream Yard Prep because they deem them worthy of remembering. Kennedy says this in the introduction: “I hope that other young writers will use this book as a starting point for their own memory-palaces of poems–and once they learn them by heart, they won’t even need this book.”
Poems to Learn by Heart is divided into ten themed sections. These sections include poems about self, poems about family, poems about friendship and love, nonsensical poems, sports poems, and war poems. There are fewer recognizably children’s poets in this volume; instead, Shakespeare rubs elbows with Langston Hughes and Gertrude Stein, though there are a few by such bright light children’s poets as Mary Ann Hoberman, Shel Silverstein, and Jack Prelutsky. The very last section of the book includes an excerpt from the prologue to The Canterbury Tales and Kubla Khan, among others. John J. Muth’s illustrations are mostly serious, with a dreamy, ethereal quality about them. This anthology is perfect for the mid-to-upper elementary crowd. It places some fairly heady poems in a thematic setting that makes them accessible even for younger students. Poems to Learn by Heart was shortlisted for a 2013 Cybils Award, and I give it a Highly Recommended. (Disney, 2013)
I’m linking up this week with Poetry Friday, which is hosted this week at No Water River.
For a list of all my poetry links at Hope Is the Word, click here.
Do you have a favorite poetry anthology? Please, do share!