Tag Archives: poetry

GLOBAL BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

I am often asked about my favourite books of poetry. I love rhyming picture books. Sharing poetry aloud with young children is a powerful, important tool to help them develop their sense of language with repetition, rhyme and alliteration. But perhaps my favourite genre is free verse poetry: novels written in poetic format without using rhyme. Here are some of my all time favourites because of their use of language ánd because of their content.

Gifts

Gifts by Jo Ellen Bogart with plasticine art by Barbara Reid, is one of my very favourite picture books to share, especially at international schools. As grandma travels the world, she sends home gifts from different countries to her granddaughter. Beautiful poetic text celebrates special sights, sounds, foods and landmarks. Through the art, we see grandma growing older and when the granddaughter is an adult she, too, is traveling the world and sending home gifts to inspire the next generation.  ISBN 978-0-590-24935-5, Scholastic

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from a Medieval Village

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies, Voices From a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz won a Newbery Award. It’s an unusual book. Most of the voices in the book are written in beautiful, skilful rhyme. The book gives a plethora of information about the Middle Ages, including the Crusades, the life style, social standards, clothing, food, work and much more. But this book was also written to be performed as a stage play. Students can each ‘be’ a voice and share the history lessons they learned by performing this incredible play. Using this book will allow you to combine literacy with social studies, history, performing arts, and art to create backgrounds and costumes.  ISBN 978-0-7636-1578-9, Candlewick Press

Home of the Brave

Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate is the beautiful told story of Kek, who has never seen snow or America. But he arrives as a refugee from Africa and has to learn everything. The sparseness of free verse poetry lets this book use just the right words, giving the story amazing power. If you are talking about migration and refugees in class, be sure to include this title. ISBN 978-0-312-53563-6, Square Fish

Burying the Moon

Burying the Moon by Andrée Poulin, with gorgeous art by Sonali Zohra, is the touching tale of Latika in India. Having access to clean running water and a toilet is common for many but unfortunately not for all people. Latika is angry that her sister can no longer go to school because she turned twelve. She’s angry because her little cousin died from drinking dirty water, and she’s angry at the moon for exposing her when she has to deposit her waste in a field because there is no toilet building in her village. Latika overcomes her shyness to speak up after a kind engineer comes to her village. Through her courage the village will eventually build a toilet building. This simple but powerful free verse novel shed light on global issues and is an eye opener to living conditions in India. At the back of the book, websites are listed for organizations that help address the issues and to help kids take action. ISBN 978-1-77306-604-2, Groundwood Books

Pearl Verses the World

One of the most touching free verse books I know is Pearl Verses the World by Sally Murphy, with lovely illustrations by Heather Potter. Do poems have to rhyme to be poetry? Pearl’s teacher wants the class to write rhyming poetry. But Pearl does not have it in her. Her heart and mind are at home where her beloved grandmother is sick in bed and dying. Grandma always read her books and talked with her. Now, no one does. Pearl feels alone and refuses to write. This is a story about a child coping in the world, learning about sorrow and loss, about the importance of friendships and following your heart. A story that always brings tears to my eyes and that can serve as a powerful tool for kids in a similar situation. ISBN 978-1-921150-93-7, Walker Books

Margriet Ruurs writes books for children. Her favourite workshop at international schools is creating nonfiction poems with students. www.margrietruurs.com

Global Book reviews

Poetry is a universal language. These books, both new and old, invite readers to explore the world.

Gifts by Jo Ellen Bogart, illustrated by Barbara Reid, is one of my all-time favourite picture books. Whenever I visit international schools, I try to bring this book as a gift. The illustrations are fantastic, made of plasticine, and full of detail. The text is poetic with fun information about different countries and with a wonderful flow to read aloud. The story is about a young girl whose grandmother travels the world and sends home gifts: a baobab seed from Africa, the roar from the jungle king, and a secret wish of a flying fish from Hawaii. Throughout the images, the girl grows up. In the end she is the one traveling the world, inspired by her grandmother.  The book is also available in Spanish. ISBN 978-0-590-24935-5

Poem in My Pocket by Chris Tougas, illustrated by Josée Bisaillon is a clever rhyming picture book celebrating poetry. What if you keep poems in your pocket but your pocket has a hole? Words tumble and float everywhere, even the letters get all mixed up. But in the end a wonderful thing happens – you can grow a poet tree. Great to use with elementary students of all ages. ISBN 978-1-5253-0145-2

My own newest picture book is also in poetry format: Come, Read With Me is illustrated by Christine Wei. It is a poetic celebration of books and fairy tales. Two children follow the piped piper, meet whales and princesses and a puss in boots as they read books at bedtime. ISBN 978-1-4598178-76

Judi Moreillon’s book Read To Me as been out for many years but remains a wonderful book to share with both students and parents. It emphasizes the importance of reading aloud to children, of setting a reading example and sharing books, stories and songs in any language. I love sharing this poem with parents. It is also available in Spanish and in Vietnamese. ISBN 1-932065-49-0

Melissa Sweet is one of my favourite illustrators. William Carlos Williams became a Pulitzer Prize winning poet by following his heart into nature and by writing even during his medical studies and work as a doctor. A River of Words is his beautifully told biography by Jen Bryant, illustrated in gorgeous collage by Melissa Sweet. A book that shows  young readers to listen to their heart and focus on what is important to them. ISBN 978-0-8028-5302-8

Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate is a brilliant free-verse novel. A gentle, spellbinding story of Kek and his mother who came to the USA from Africa. Struggling with winter, housing and no extended family or friends, Kek learns to make a new life for himself in a new country. An eye-opening tale of what it is like to be a refugee. Great as a classroom read-a-loud. ISBN 978-0-312-53563-6

Margriet Ruurs’s current writing project is a blog that combines a love of travel with a love of books: www.globetrottingbooklovers.comhttp://globetrottingbooklovers.com

Global Book Reviews

Using Poetry in the Classroom

What thousands of teachers have been trying for many years, was recently accomplished by one young poet: Amanda Gorman reawakened the world to the power of poetry. 

Teaching reading, writing and use of poetry in the classroom can be a powerful tool to help students of all ages realize their own voice, their own stories. It seems almost an oxymoron to find poetry on the NFL website, but this is the text to Amanda Gorman’s poem recited at the Super Bowl: https://www.si.com/nfl/2021/02/07/amanda-gorman-super-bowl-lv-poem-video

You can read the text of the inaugural poem, The Hill We Climb, here:  https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/20/politics/amanda-gorman-inaugural-poem-transcript/index.html. Using this text, you can invite students to describe their own, personal hill. 

Canadian poet Shane Koyczan also has incredibly powerful texts. You can find some of his poems here: https://www.shanekoyczan.com. My favourite is ‘My Voice’. These are all to use with older highschool students but listen to the texts first to use your own judgement on suitability for your classroom. You can use these poets to demonstrate how they bring their own experiences to their writing, then invite students to try the same by looking at their own lives. Does their poetry rhyme? Free verse is a great way to write poetry that does not use rhyme but focus on the words themselves, using rhythm and sometimes alliteration.

Kindergarten poetry can be as simple as enjoying the rhythm of words with books like Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr and John Archambault. ISBN 0-590-43889-1 Your students can chant, dance, shout out loud and clap to this book.

A lovely new board book to share with the youngest children is My Heart Beats by Rina Singh, ISBN 978-145-98256-80. This read aloud text uses rhymth and words in my languages to describe a beating heart. A good Valentine read for preschool and early childhood ed classes.

Great in a global classroom is We All Went On Safari, A Counting Journey through Tanzania by Laurie Krebs and Julia Cairns. ISBN 1-84148-119-X You can read, chant out loud, even dance to this book. And then invite students to come up with their own sights in their own neighborhood of things to spot and count. This book includes numbers in Swahili. You can add numbers in any language that your students might speak.

Edward The Emu by Sheena Knowles is one of my all-time favourite examples of telling a rhyming story. Fun to read with all ages and again to use it as a springboard for your own classroom writing about favourite animals. ISBN 978-0-06-443499-7

Crossing over from primary to intermediate students, use wonderful poetry books by Jack Prelutsky such as A Pizza The Size of the Sun, or It’s Raining Pigs and Noodles, Something Big Has Been Here and of course There’s No Place Like School, Classroom Poems. One of my favourite Dr. Seuss’ books was finished, after his death, by Jack Prelutsky: Hooray for Diffendoofer Day, a hilarious poem about a principal who is worried about the students passing their test. As he worries, the school librarian tells the students:

“We’ve taught you that the earth is round,

That red and white make pink,

And something else that matters more,

We’ve taught you how to think.”

Here is a band new boardbook: The Sun Is A Shine by Leslie A. Davidson. ISBN 978-145982-6267. This rhyming story shows natural elements around the world, seasons, animals, diversity. It also includes the words for ‘thank you’ in Ojibwe, French, Arabic and many other languages.

For teaching the writing poetry, here are some of my favourite titles:

Fly With Poetry and Leap Into Poetry by Avis Harley, ISBN 1-56397-798-2. Both of these books use incredible techniques that show the joy of playing with language.

I Did It Because…, How A Poem Happens by Loris Lesynski. ISBN 978-1-55451-017-7

Pass The Poetry Please by Lee Bennett Hopkins ISBN 0-06446199-8

Poems Please! Sharing Poetry With Children by David Booth and Bill Moose, ISBN 0-921217-22-6

And finally, my own book entitled The Power of Poems, The Joy of Teaching Poetry, ISBN 978-1-934338-89-6, Maupin House

Have fun using poetry to reinforce the joy of playing with language.

Margriet Ruurs is a Canadian author who conducts live and ZOOM author visits to schools around the world.