I’m in Houston now for the annual Texas Library Association conference—always one of the professional highlights of the year. And for the fifth consecutive year, I am pleased to be hosting the TLA Poetry Round Up, a concert of children’s poets—inspired by the ALSC Poetry Blast held at the ALA convention every summer. My session is this Thursday (April 2) and one of the poet panelists is… drum roll… Georgia Heard. So, I’ll kick off National Poetry Month with a short review of her new book, Falling Down the Page; A Book of List Poems.
This fun collection includes 32 selections of list poems in multiple variations of the list form by the likes of Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Avis Harley, Bobbi Katz, Kathi Appelt, David Harrison, Allan Wolf, Marilyn Singer, and many more. The unique “skinny” size of the book (about 4’ x 12’) has the poems “falling” longways and sideways and spread across the page in all kinds of ways—which kids will love.
Inspired by Walt Whitman’s famous list poem, “Song of Myself,” Heard’s collection mirrors the school year and the school day with poems of moments that will resonate with young readers and listeners. Plus, the poetry really lends itself to engaging activities of all kinds. Here are just a few ideas.
*Collecting: “Lost and Found” and “Show and Tell Rocks” are perfect poems to pair with displays of objects itemized in the poem or to use as a springboard for discussing collecting as a hobby and what kinds of collections the kids enjoy.
*Pantomiming: “Helping Hands” and “Things to Do Today” offer clear and explicit motions and actions for children to pantomime while the poems are read aloud. Kids familiar with ASL (American Sign Language) may want to demonstrate signing the poems.
*Chanting: “Why Poetry” and “Book Time” are extremely rhythmic and lend themselves to chanting or shouting (if you can take the kids outdoors!).
*Group reading: “What is Earth” can be read in a call-and-response fashion by two groups and “Chorus of Four Frogs” can be read by four voices.
*Art: “Clay Play” and “Spinners” are highly visual poems that reference clay and circles, two things kids enjoy playing with.
Of course kids will want to try creating their own list poems and there are so many wonderful and varied examples here that young writers are sure to find helpful and inspiring. Here’s just a taste— a poem “recipe” written by Georgia Heard herself:
Recipe for Writing An Autumn Poem
by Georgia Heard
One teaspoon wild geese.
One tablespoon red kite.
One cup wind song.
One pint trembling leaves.
One quart darkening sky.
One gallon north wind.
Heard, Georgia. 2009. Falling Down the Page; A Book of List Poems. New York: Roaring Brook, p. 24.