Once again, we join the meme hosted by Jen and Kellee from Teach Mentor Texts (and brainchild of Sheila at BookJourney). Our participation in this meme is actually inspired by our blogger-friends Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life who have introduced us to great titles through their weekly Monday posts.
Quirky Poetry Anthologies
I have only just recently discovered Paul Janeczko’s genius when I borrowed two of his poetry anthologies from our libraries. My ten year old daughter and I had so much fun reading these two lovely picture books as illustrated by the inventive and exceedingly-talented Chris Raschka – how can you possibly go wrong with such a collaboration?
This is a book that all English teachers must have. If you teach poetry, and you have not read this, you are missing out on a great deal, I promise you. While I have a deep abiding passion for poetry and I do write a few of my own when inspiration strikes – my poems are unwieldy, unschooled, and largely unstructured. It follows a free-verse, stream-of-consciousness format that borders on confessional verses written in cryptic codes, invented phrases, and random, disconnected musings. Now this book has made me realize that I should start being more disciplined in my writing – I must distill and polish those lines until they gleam in its muscled poetic form.
As Janeczko noted in his introduction when he quoted from Robert Frost: “poetry without rules would be like a tennis match without a net.” I admit I still have my own misgivings about strict rhyming schemes, counting accented syllables, or stringently-formed six-line stanzas – but this book has made the poetic rules so.much.fun and accessible! It has inspired me to come up with my own acrostic, villanelle and the very challenging pantoum. It slaps your emotions silly, shaping them into something sensible while retaining its wild nature – it’s playing with words but with rules in the game. I could also spend a whole day just looking at Chris Raschka’s amazing collages that make the poetry collection come alive. My favorite illustration from the whole book is this one:
This has made me sigh in its .. absolute perfection.
Now this anthology begs to be read aloud to your own children or to your students. There are poems for one, two and three voices – take your pick. My ten year old daughter and I filled our house with ‘joyful noise’ as we read the poems aloud – they dance, leap, and swirl off the page – alongside Raschka’s whimsical, colorful, and incredibly-original artwork. I especially loved the tongue twisters that Janeczko selected – particularly the classic Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll as it reminded me of vorpal blades, the frumious Bandersnatch, and the Tumtum tree. The wordplay borders on wordsmithing really, as young readers get introduced to the classics with so much delight and joy.
The range of selected poems also include William Shakespeare’s Macbeth as it is a poem for three voices…
… and Edward Lear’s The Owl and the Pussycat.
When my daughter and I read this beautiful love story by Lear, she immediately remarked: “but cats eat birds!” Then I told her that it’s the beauty of the poem, how different creatures find love despite differences. And she exclaimed “Oh, something like The West Side Story when the girl and the boy found each other.” Star-crossed lovers indeed and love’s triumph against all odds.
These two poetry books are definite must-reads for all teachers, librarians, poetry lovers, budding writers and artists. Ingenious, playful, and spirited – the amazing collaboration of Janeczko and Rashcka has breathed new life and amazing energy to poetic forms, structured lines, and tongue-twisting quatrains.
This novel-in-verse, while based on historical accounts and information, is a fictionalized retelling of the narratives of survivors, displaced townsfolks, SS soldiers from the Terezin Ghetto. The characters are mostly composites based from the author’s thorough and comprehensive research of this concentration camp in Prague. Nonfiction Monday is being hosted this week by Jean Little Library.
I have read quite a lot of novels with the Holocaust as its theme – yet this one seems ghost-like as reflected in Janeczko’s uncanny ability to give life to multiple haunting voices in their varying shades of realities and experiences. I read this book in two hours before I went to bed, and it has lit flickers of hope and sputtering bursts of radiance amidst the acrid blackness of hatred that burns. More than anything, I felt moved by the will of the spirit to find sense and meaning to unimaginable horrors and harrowing conditions. Each poem is a complete story unto itself with pain, hope, anguish interlaced with music, art, poetry – and dance. As noted by Janeczko in his Afterword:
What set Terezin apart from Nazi death camps was the nature of many of its inmates. Terezin became “home” for many of the Jewish intellectual and artists of Prague. As a result, it became a prison in which the arts were tolerated, then encouraged as a Nazi propaganda tool. Classical music and opera performances were commonplace, despite the horrors and cruelty of captivity. – p. 91
Teachers would also be happy to take note of all the supplementary sources, websites, and links that can be found at the end of the book. This would also be a good companion material to lengthier narratives such as The Diary of Anne Frank or The Book Thief.
A Drop of Fantasy
This tome of a book is what is keeping me awake most nights! My husband and I have just finished watching the HBO TV Series Game of Thrones (both Seasons 1 and 2), and we are hooked. Since I could not wait for Season 3, I thought that I might as well start on the books (I have all five in the series). I already finished the first book and halfway through the second.
These books are my post-dental-surgery-therapy during the entire week that I was on medical leave. And Haagen-Dasz ice cream of course. George R. R. Martin is just what I need to transport me every night into an ethereal universe with fire-breathing dragons, whitewalkers, valiant heroes, and crystalline writing that is just so exquisite, I just have to read the lines aloud. I don’t know why I have kept myself away from this book for so long. Wish me luck in finishing it – and the rest of the books in the series before year ends).
How about you, dear friends, what have you been reading this week?
A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms selected by Paul B. Janeczko and Illustrated by Chris Raschka. Candlewick Press, Cambridge Massachusetts, 2005. Book borrowed from the public library. Book photos were taken by me.
2006 winner of the Claudia Lewis Poetry Award. AWB Reading Challenge Update: 72 (35)
PictureBook Challenge Update: 77 of 120
A Foot in the Mouth: Poems to Speak, Sing, and Shout selected by Paul B. Janeczko and illustrated by Chris Raschka. Candlewick Press, 2009. Book borrowed from the public library. Book photos were taken by me.
PictureBook Challenge Update: 78 of 120
Requiem: Poems of the Terezin Ghetto by Paul B. Janeczko. Candlewick Press, 2011. Book borrowed from the public library. Book photos were taken by me.
Winner of 2011 Cybils Award for Poetry, Notable Book for a Global Society by the Children’s Literature & Reading Special Interest Group of the International Reading Association. Notable Books for Teens, 2012 by the Association of Jewish Libraries.
AWB Reading Challenge Update: 73 (35)
Novels in Verse Reading Challenge Update: 7 of 10
A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin. Harper Voyager, 2011. First published by Voyager in Great Britain in 1996. Bought my own copy of the book.
Locus Award – Best Novel (Fantasy) (Won) – (1997), World Fantasy Award – Best Novel (Nominated) – (1997), Hugo Award – Best Novella for Blood of the Dragon (Won) – (1997), Nebula Award – Best Novel (Nominated) – (1997), Ignotus Award – Best Novel (Foreign) (Won) – (2003)
AWB Reading Challenge Update: 74 (35)