Sunday, April 10, 2011


Poetry Tag continues with a book review of a new book of poetry connected to yesterday's book review.

Today’s tagline: Poems about animals of the air

Featured Book: Yolen, Jane. 2011. Birds of a Feather. Ill. by Jason Stemple. Boyds Mills Press.

FYI: I'm reviewing this one myself, since we did not obtain a copy in time to share it with my students.

It's another in the developing collection of photo-nature-poetry picture books that Yolen has created, particularly focusing on BIRDS:
  • Wild Wings: Poems for Young People (2002)
  • Fine Feathered Friends: Poems for Young People (2004)
  • An Egret’s Day (2010)
In her new anthology, she features 14 different birds including the eagle, chickadee, kingfisher, wood duck, great horned owl, tern, northern mockingbird, oystercatcher, eastern kingbird, hooded merganser, cedar waxwing, sandpiper, rufous-sided towhee, and marbled godwit-- what great names, right? These are almost as fun to say as dinosaur names! And Yolen's poems make good use of the sounds of the bird names, their unique attributes, and key vocabulary. In addition, she includes brief prose passages to accompany and parallel each poem. Plus, she includes several different poetic forms including haiku, free verse, rhyming quatrains, and even a question poem-- a nice variety to model poetry writing, too. Let's look at one poem and prose pair example:

Cedar Waxings Unmasked
by Jane Yolen

Who are these masked birds?
Not Robin Hoods,
for they live in
the open woods.
They only deal
in stolen goods
like berry futures,
cedar cones,
and sweet, sweet fruit
(but leave the stones).
Insects they catch
on the fly
when swarms of them
go buzzing by.
No need to worry,
moan, or fret.
Your valuables
they will

(p. 26)

And the accompanying prose passage:

Cedar waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum), with their rakish black masks, gather in large flocks to eat insects in the spring and berries and other fruit in the fall. They do not live in the deep woods, like Robin Hood but in the more open woodlands and nearby farms and orchards. (p. 27)

See how the two (poem and prose) work together? I like that!

And I must mention the photographs by Yolen's son, Jason Stemple, gorgeous in their close up capture of the birds in the wild (to scale in most instances, I'm guessing) and placed strategically against color blocks featuring the poem and prose paragraph. Well designed, accessible, and browse-worthy!

Sharing this book absolutely must include some birdwatching! Do a bit of group research about this worldwide hobby and about what kinds of birds might be present in your community at this time of year. Invite a "birder" to come talk to the kids. Learn a few bird calls, too!

Tomorrow’s tagline: Poems about gigantic animals

[You can still purchase your own copy of PoetryTagTime, an e-book with 30 poems, all connected, by 30 poets, all connected and downloadable right now at Amazon for your Kindle or Kindle app for your computer, iPad or phone. Just 99 cents. Don’t miss it.]

Image credit: BoydsMills Press;PoetryTagTime

Posting (not poem) by Sylvia M. Vardell and students © 2011. All rights reserved.

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