Book Reviews

A Fury of Motion: Poems for Boys
Charles Ghinga. Boyd Mills Press, 2003

(3rd – 8th grade)

In A Fury of Motion, Charles Ghigna speaks directly to both young and adolescent boys. The voices we hear in the 46 poems in this collection speak about sports and school, relationships, nature and the self. Some of the poems are short and funny, others introspective and evocative. All resonate with the genuine voice of a boy or young man coming into his own, rich with the imagery of the world around him and of his own inner life. These poems would likely appeal to many girls as well – either because of universal themes or as a glimpse of the world through male eyes.  Those searching for books relevant to boys will find many whose titles don't directly target boys.  Nonetheless, this book is an excellent addition choice. 

A Poke in the Eye: A Collection of Concrete Poems
Paul B. Janeczko, Ed. Candlewick Press, 2001

(pre K – 12th grade)
No matter how many volumes of poetry I bring into a classroom, A Poke in the Eye is always one of the first to be snapped up by students of any age. As acclaimed editor Paul Janeczko notes, “Concrete poems are different from regular poems; in fact, they’re a lot more playful…. The arrangement of letters or words on the page, the typefaces chosen, and the way the space is used, add meaning to the poem beyond that contained in the actual words.” The concrete poems in this volume are particularly witty and innovative. One of the things I love about this book is that it gets kids thinking about the way poetry looks on the page - something they aren’t used to thinking about when writing other genres such as short stories and essays. A Poke in the Eye will inspire students to write poetry, from the eager poet to the tentative writer alike. Chris Raschka’s magnificent illustrations add to the impact of these compelling and engaging poems.

The Place My Words Are Looking For: 
What Poets Say About and Through Their Work 
Paul B. Janeczko, Ed. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers 1990
(K – 9th grade)
“I write poetry for the same reason I read it," explains poet Bobbi Katz, “the sound of words, their taste on my tongue, is irresistible. Words are the apple pie in my pantry that draws me out of my warm bed and sends me shuffling down the dark cold hall in the middle of the night!” In The Place My Words Are Looking For, 39 poets share their poems as well as their thoughts about why and how the poet writes. Editor Paul Janeczko, a fine poet himself and the master of poetry anthologies for young people, has done a great job with this collection. I have successfully shared poems from this collection time and again with students from 2nd – 8th grade.

Salting the Ocean:
100 Poems by Young Poets 
Naomi Shihab Nye, Ed. Harper Collins Publishers, 2000
(K – 12th grade)
So much of the poetry we share with kids has been written by “professional poets” - or in any case, adults. Even if kids like these poems and feel inspired by them, they often feel intimidated and inadequate as they try to emulate them. With Salting the Ocean, we can say to kids, “here’s what people your age have written.” Not only will kids and teens be able to relate to the voice and subjects of the poems, they may well feel that they themselves can achieve such craftsmanship. That the poems in this collection don’t identify the ages or grade levels of the poets, does not for me detract from its value, though it does sometimes frustrate my students.  Shihab Nye notes in her  introduction that people sometimes ask her how to "use" poetry and she responds, "Read it! Share it with one another! …. We 'use poetry' to restore us to feeling, revitalize our own speech, awaken empathy." The 100 poems by 100 young poets in this excellent collection do just that.