Tag Archives: Poetry Friday

In the Sea by David Elliott

I picked up In the Sea by David Elliott at the library on a whim, and because the preschool class at our homeschool co-op had recently had an opportunity to get up-close-and-personal with a turtle, I took it to read to them.  What I failed to do is pre-read it before I took it, so I was more surprised than they were when it turned out to be a book of short and lovely poems!  (Here’s one of the many disappointing truths about me:  I’m not nearly as organized as people think I am.  I do a lot of things “by the seat of my pants,” and I pre-read almost nothing.  I realize this breaks a cardinal rule of reading aloud, but it’s the truth of my life.  Things usually work out okay anyway. ;-) )  Well, if I had to go all unprepared, I couldn’t have picked a lovelier book to do it with!  Elliott’s poems are short and very thoughtful, and while most of them probably did go over the preschoolers’ heads, isn’t that true about poetry for all of us, at least some of the time?  Since I can’t share a poem in its entirety, I will share a few of my favorite metaphors and images from In the Sea:

  • “The Sea Turtle”:  “Rare instrument of nature,/ fair compass in a carapace.”
  • “The Starfish”:  “the starfish shines/ in a sky of sand.”
  • “The Dolphin”:  “He’s the jester/ of the briny deep,/ an acrobat with fins.”

Holly Meade‘s woodblock prints which accompany these poems are gorgeous.  Woodblock printing is one of my favorite mediums, and this is a perfect pairing.  If you’re looking for a fun and beautiful book of short poems to share with poetry lovers, or even if you have some poetry skeptics to win over, this book would make a perfect pick.  (Candlewick, 2012)

This week’s Poetry Friday roundup is at Tapestry of Words.

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Dear Wandering Wildebeest by Irene Latham

Irene Latham is an Alabama author who does our state proud.  (I was so tickled to get to meet her a few summers ago!)  She wrote a terrific middle grade historical fiction novel, Leaving Gee’s Bend, as well as another work of middle grade fiction, Don’t Feed the Boy, which is on one of my many TBR shelves.  Her newest juvenile offering is a collection of poetry entitled Dear Wandering Wildebeest:  And Other Poems from the Water Hole.  I shared most of these poems with my children, ages ten, eight, and four (plus a tag-along seventeen month old) for last week’s poetry tea time, and each one that I shared was met with enjoyment.  I think animal poems are the perfect “hook” for most children–they’re accessible, and even when the animal is unfamiliar, there’s usually a natural interest there to draw the child in.  Dear Wandering Wildebeest is a collection of fifteen poems, each one about some inhabitant of the African grasslands.  Included are the titular wildebeest, the meerkat, the oxpecker, the dung beetle, the nightjar, and the lone representative of Kingdom Plantae, the wild bush willow tree, among others.  One thing I like about the poems in this volume is that they’re varied in terms of form:  there’s a triptych, a few with concrete/shape elements, and one written in the form of an advertisement.  My favorite is “Impala Explosion.”  Written in rhyming couplets with each line consisting of two tersely descriptive words, this poem really captures the hair trigger response of the impala to any threat of danger.  It ends like this:

long leaps

athletic feats


flawless flight

dancer’s delight.

Included with each poem is a very informative paragraph about the poem’s topic.  (We learned that impalas can leap as high as eight feet into the air and horizontally as far as nine feet!)  The book also includes a short glossary and a short bibliography.  Anna Wadham‘s illustrations are muted (like one might expect in the grasslands) and kid-friendly.  (Check out some from this book here.)  It’s not often that any of my libraries buys new poetry books (unless I request them! ;-) ), so I was very pleased to pick this one up prior to my Armchair Cybils book-requesting spree.  I nominated it for the Cybils, and I definitely think it’s a noteworthy title.  Highly Recommended.  (Millbrook Press, 2014)

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Tomie’s Little Book of Poems


I snapped a few “Caught Reading” pictures of Benny last night and decided I’d share the little gem of a book he was looking at for today’s Poetry Friday offering.  That’s sort of backwards to how it all came about, though, really:   I took this little book, which I guess we’ve had since Lulu was a baby, to the YMCA on Wednesday afternoon as one of only a few options to keep Benny and maybe even the DLM happy for the hour we’re there.   While I had the DLM in my lap reading to him for a few minutes, I came across a wonderful poem by Marci Ridlon in this little anthology.  The poem is entitled “Open Hydrant,” and while it’s not exactly the right season to appreciate the poem, summer hangs on through September in Alabama with enough hot and humid tenacity for the music of this poem to make me long for a run through the hydrant myself.  Here’s a snippet from the beginning:

Water rushes up

and gushes,

cooling summer’s sizzle.

This poem is replete with alliteration and one can positively hear the water spraying from the hydrant while reading it.  Lovely and oh, so cool!  I determined on Wednesday that this will be my first poem to share for this Friday’s poetry tea time.

DSC_0029This little board book anthology is (obviously) just right for little hands, and the poems have lots of kid-appeal.  The poetry of Robert Louis Stevenson, Dorothy Aldis, Aileen Fisher, Judith Viorst, Nikki Giovanni, and others all make appearances in this little volume.  I’ve yet to meet a little kid who doesn’t appreciate Tomie DePaola’s illustrations, and the short poems plus the pictures make the ideal combination for a first poetry book.  Highly Recommended.  (Penguin, 2004)


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“A Psalm of Life” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Poetry Friday ButtonFor our first six weeks school term (or more), we are memorizing “A Psalm of Life” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  So far as I know, his works have passed into the public domain, so I’ll share it here in its entirety:

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real!    Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,–act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;–

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

I have fond memories of learning about Longfellow as a high school junior.  He was the subject of my first literary research paper.  I recognize the fact that his poetry has really fallen out of fashion these days, but I still like it a lot.  My girls and I were practicing it in the van the other day on the way to Bible study.  This week we’re supposed to know down through the fifth stanza:

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

What a wonderful four lines!  Of course, our recitation necessitated a discussion of the word bivouac, one of the few words I specifically remember learning the meaning of at some point during my education.  This, then, made me think of the Apostle Paul’s enduring words from 2 Corinthians 5:1:

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.

This passage of scripture has doubly special meaning for me because it is the passage a beloved pastor used at my papaw’s funeral.  Sharing it with my girls–the literary connection between bivouac and tent–and then the connection to the previous stanza–this encapsulates one of the things I love about homeschooling.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

I also love that Louise pointed out, after considering stanzas four and five together, that Randy Melendy from our current bedtime read-aloud, Then There Were Five, has a particular affinity for funeral marches.

How sweet it is when it all comes together.




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Tour America: A Journey Through Poems and Art by Diane Siebert

I’ve been on a history and geography kick this National Poetry Month.  So far I’ve shared a poetry book about presidents and a poetry atlas of the United States.   Today’s pick just might be me favorite yet.  It’s actually one we’ve read before, and I thought I might’ve blogged about it before.  It turns out that I didn’t, so today’s the day.  :-)  Diane Siebert‘s author’s note at the beginning of Tour America explains that she and her husband set out on a summer tour of America that ended up lasting ten years, and these poems grew out of that experience.  The topics of the poems are iconic American sites–the Golden Grate Bridge, the Washington Monument, Niagara Falls, Las Vegas, and so on.  The poems take various forms.  Some are short and some are long.  What they all have in common, though, is that each one paints a picture of something distinctively American.  Each two-page spread features a unique piece of artwork by Stephen T. Johnson, a poem, a little inset map of both the U.S. and the state in which the featured locale exists, and a rectangle of information about the place.  My personal favorite poem is the first one in the book, entitled “American Towns.”  In it, Siebert highlights some of the many interestingly named towns in America:

On open plains, in deserts dry,

Near ocean shores, on mountains high,

Beside the lakes and perched on hills

Are ‘burgs and ‘dales and ‘vales and ‘villes–

The towns across the USA

Whose names are fun to see and say:


Cocoan, Toast, Teaticket, Tea;

Justice, Hope, Equality.


And so it goes for forty-four more lines.  I love reading this one aloud.

If you have older children who appreciate and enjoy American history and geography–just Americana, really, this book is for you.  Highly Recommended.  (Chronicle Books, 2011)

1-IMG_3173-001Every Friday this month I’ve shared a poetry book we’ve enjoyed during our poetry tea times.  I’m linking this post up to Poetry Friday at The Opposite of Indifference.

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