Poetry Speaks to Children by Elise Paschen

Summary: Grade 3-8–A fine, basic collection. Approximately half of the 97 selections are read or performed on the accompanying CD. The book provides a mix of adult writers (Rita Dove, Seamus Heaney, and Billy Collins, among others) and those whose work is specifically for children, such as X. J. Kennedy and Mary Ann Hoberman. Topics include childhood, animals, nonsense poems, and humor. The three illustrators have captured the different tones of the selections, from a comic portrait of the Jabberwock slayer wearing a colander and wielding a plunger and the wailing children in William Stafford's First Grade, to the moving paintings of a girl with flowers echoing the natural images of James Berry's Okay, Brown Girl, Okay. The CD gives children the opportunity to hear several of the poets, such as Robert Frost reading Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening and Langston Hughes reading The Negro Speaks of Rivers. They hear a variety of accents and dialects–an Irish lilt, New England inflections, or James Berry's lilting Jamaican-British voice. Readers of Roald Dahl's books will enjoy hearing him read The Dentist and the Crocodile, and fans of The Lord of the Rings books and movies will appreciate hearing Tolkien read Frodo's Song in Bree. Joy Harjo frames her Eagle Poem with a haunting vocalization that echoes its serious tone.–Barbara Chatton, College of Education, University of Wyoming, Laramie
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Classroom Implications: This diverse and appealing collection of poems for children includes poets contemporary (Nikki Giovanni, Billy Collins) and, thanks to archival recordings, not so contemporary (Robert Frost, J.R.R. Tolkien) reading their own work. There are also performances of well-known poems such as "Jabberwocky" and "Casey at the Bat." Some tracks feature the welcome bonus of the poet talking briefly about the background or genesis of a poem. The narrated poems are often unidentified and unattributed, and there are no page-turn signals, so listeners must follow along carefully with the book to keep track of poems and authors. Older children will certainly have a deeper understanding of the poems, but the illustrated picture-book format and lively soundtrack are sure to help hook even the youngest listeners on poetry at an early age. J.M.D. © AudioFile 2006, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine


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