Friday, January 24, 2020

ncte poetry notables part 2

Welcome to a warming couple of reviews of poetry collections for the youngest readers, both selected by the NCTE Award for Excellence in Children's Poetry Committee! The whole process of reading through the submissions was a treasure hunt, so I'll start with...

FINDING TREASURE: A Collection of Collections
by Michelle Schaub
illustrated by Carmen Saldana
(Charlesbridge, 2019)

Best for readers K-3, this collection of 18 poems tells the story of one main character, a girl whose teacher has asked the class to share something they collect. But what is her passion?  In her exploration of the collections of her family and friends--everything from buttons to baseball cards, from coins to clocks--our narrator considers what she might love enough to collect, curate and share...and in the final poem she decides:
"My medley isn't common,
nor is it very strange.
It isn't something that you count,
sort, or rearrange."
It's POETRY!  Whether her collection is the very poems in this book, written in her own voice, or a collection of favorite poems from outside this book, is unclear and probably doesn't matter.  Throughout, Schaub's language is effortlessly readable in a variety of free verse and rhyme-and-meter poems. She successfully portrays both the collectors' devotions and the delights of their chosen objects, including SMILES.  There are plenty of these in Saldana's detailed cartoon illustrations, and plenty for readers.

I'M THE BIG ONE NOW: Poems about Growing Up
by Marilyn Singer
illustrated by Jana Christy
(WordSong 2019)

Another collection that hits a sweet spot for ages 4-8, Singer's poems are filled with her characteristic wordplay and celebrate the common but exciting developmental accomplishments of young children.  With titles like "First Good Snap, First Good Whistle" and "Big-Kid Teeth," this book has a poem for all the ordinary leaps that are common to all kids; there are also poems about growing into more specific experiences, like "My Own Seat on the Plane" and "Cannonball."

Yesterday I stood and stared
              at the blue bottom
              of this big pool.
Yesterday, and the day before,
              and the day before that.

But today,
Like a coconut, I drop
             with a smashing splash,
touch my toes to that blue bottom,
             and, in a flash, up I pop. 

The essential business of learning to ride a bike comes in three installments, "Trying to Ride" Parts 1, 2 and 3, likewise highlighting the way that we all learn things bit by bit over time, and effort is usually involved.

Beyond these strengths, this collection is also notable for its variety of companion poems, such as the quiet "In the Theatre" and the noisy "At the Ballpark," its poems for two voices, for its lengthier poems and its brief, triumphant final word on the back cover:

Tying My Shoes

Guess what, you toes!
I have learned to make bows!

Now that I have done my due diligence as Poetry Committee Member, these books go to PreK with me TODAY so I can do due diligence as a Poetry Teacher!  Meanwhile you can go to Kat Apel's blog for the second Australian-hosted Poetry Friday roundup of the month--which is just as well because there continues to be good and bad news from that beleaguered continent.

Stay tuned for four more reviews of NCTE Poetry Notables in the next few weeks!


  1. I love Michelle's Collections/'Finding Treasure" & Singer's book is new to me, Heidi. It seems to cover so much that will please the young ones. Thanks, will find it!

  2. First thing - a question! What is a 'snap'? For an ordinary leap, I am puzzled to think what it could be! I adore those bows. Both these books sound like collections to collect! (And I do also love your comment that we learn things bit by bit over time, and effort is usually involved. What a clever way to show that.)

    1. Kat! I guess you say that kids learn to "click" their fingers, but we say "snap your fingers," so it's first finger-snap and first whistle--which I am watching a few of my 5-year-olds conquering right now!

    2. Oh! I'm so glad I asked. :) I was thinking maybe a burpee or starjump or something! But now that you mention it, Laura had kids giving snaps instead of claps, during our poetry workshop! (And yes, clicks here.🙃)

  3. I like how you penned your reviews, Heidi, to keep interest front and center. My granddaughter and I do love Michelle's book and I am sure she would enjoy Marilyn's. Thanks for sharing "I'm the Big One Now."

  4. Oh, my book pile is already teetering it's so tall. But, I cannot resist adding these beauties. Thanks, Heidi!

  5. You do write compelling reviews, Heidi! Both collections look wonderful to me. While the target reading audience might be younger, I bet these would be great mentor texts for all ages of poets! Thanks for the sneak peeks. Oh, and I love that final short and sweet "Tying My Shoes." Brilliant!

  6. I've had Finding Treasure on my shelf from the library, but hadn't made time to read it. It's delightful and such a fun look into many kinds of treasures. Requesting the other title now. I've been busy celebrating successful potty training with almost three year old grandson!

  7. Lucky you for getting to read all these fabulous poems and lucky us for your sharing! And lucky students who also get to share them. Thank you!

  8. Thanks again for featuring FINDING TREASURE in this post, Heidi!

  9. Thanks for sharing both of these books Heidi, and especially "I'm the Big One Now," as I hadn't seen it up close yet! I look forward to more reviews coming…

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Thanks for joining in the wild rumpus!