Thursday, February 13, 2020

i heart poetry: ncte notables part 4

Yes, it is Valentine's Day--possibly my favorite holiday--and therefore I will not disappoint by plunging into my last reviews of NCTE 2020 Poetry Notables without any hint at hearts.
Here is the song I wrote in 2001 for a class of 4-year-olds, slightly creased and glue-bedecked from all our monster-building activities.  I'm having a bit of trouble remembering the tune, though!

Now that you are well and truly monstered by love, here are the reviews. What riches!

James E. Ransome
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2019

Our national history of the enslavement of Africans and their American-born descendants is difficult to place in context for young children. In The Bell Rang, James Ransome brilliantly builds his narrative of plantation life on a familiar days-of-the-week pattern. This gives readers 4-11 something on which to hang a shocking understanding: the humanity of ordinary family life in deep conflict with the inhumanity of slavery.

Each morning the overseer’s bell rings and a young girl and her big brother Ben go about their routine, until one day,

I wake to the sound
of Mama and Daddy
searching, looking.
No sun in the sky. 
Mama crying. 
No Ben.
Daddy crying. 
Ben ran.

Spare, repetitive language and richly detailed paintings are painfully educational; older readers will be able to interpret this narrative for themselves while primary aged children will need--and be enabled--to talk and talk about it.

David Elliot
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2019

A tour de force of poetic craft, this reconstruction of the extraordinary life of an ordinary French peasant girl offers challenge and surprise on every page. Elliot weaves witness testimony from Joan’s trials with the distinctive voices of herself, the saints who guided her outrageously courageous actions, and the objects that play roles in her story--a needle, a dress, a road, a sword, the very fire upon which she was burned. Each poem has its form: metered verse set in concrete shapes that work against their formal regularity, just as Joan strained against all expectations of her gender and era.

please forgive this unprofessional photo of an extremely professional poem

Elliot skillfully mingles the facts of Joan’s mission to save France with the superstitious flavor of pre-Enlightenment religious belief that permitted a teenaged girl to lead an army in God’s name. Her charismatic leadership coincides fascinatingly with the current phenomenon of Greta Thunberg’s, and while only the most mature 11-13-year-olds will find this book accessible, they will be richly rewarded for their efforts.

Our Poetry Friday hostess-with-the-mostest is Linda at TeacherDance. March on over and take the Love Monsters with you!


  1. Wow, I had heard of VOICES: THE FINAL HOURS OF JOAN OF ARC but I didn't realize it was poetry in different forms. That Needle poem really makes me want to read the book. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I imagine those 'love monsters' trotting around to your tune, Heidi. That's teacher love! I loved The Bell Rang, a poignant story we all should realize happened among all the others. And, still need to read Elliot's Voices. I love his writing so know it will be good. Thanks, and Happy Valentine's Day!

  3. Many things to think about here... I especially loved the monster lips wanting to kiss you. Reminds me of a student who wanted to marry me... he was a bit of a monster. Thanks for all your reviews here... happy day!

  4. Hey, Love Monster -- hope your Valentine's Day is extra fabulous! Haven't read The Bell Rang, but adored Voices -- "tour de force" describes it well. Brilliant book.

  5. Love the monster song - I will have to try and figure out how to sing it with my 2 1/2 year old grand children. Both of these books looks amazing.

  6. Thank you for the book recommendations! Adding them both to my ever-growing list. I love the monster song--the monster-building activities must have been a blast!

  7. Happy Love Monster Day!

    David Elliott is flat-out amazing. I need to re-read VOICES.

  8. Love your Love Monsters, and I love the reviews you've shared. I have so many books on my TBR list. Thanks, Heidi!

  9. Wow! These all sound amazing! And your Love Monsters are the best. :-)

  10. Joan was my favorite novel in verse 2019 book
    Was disappointed it didn't make the CYBILs finalists. A tour de force.

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Thanks for joining in the wild rumpus!