Old Book for New Year: Discover Poetry

poetryTo ring in the new year I wanted to celebrate an older book with even older content: “A Poem for Every Day! An Anthology of 180 Poems…” By Susan Moger. There are many similar types of books, but this particular one is for kids in grades 3-5, so it’s perfect for me, a self-proclaimed poetry simpleton. I know, it’s a sad and embarrassing confession for a writer. But there you have it, raw honesty to encourage you to pick up poetry at any age.

Actually, I found this book years ago at a fair, hoping to explore it with my own kids (and the fact that this old lady gets to learn right alongside them, even better!) The book was meant for teachers; but as a parent, “teacher” is simply another hat we wear, so don’t be intimidated by the author’s guide for the intended audience. Rather, be empowered by it.

Last April during National Poetry Month, my boys and I opened this book to enjoy a new burst of words each day. It was not easy — maybe because I chose the time right after school to have “more school.” (Well, it seemed like a good hour at the time.)

“If at first you don’t succeed…” just stop. Take a break. Then try again and again. So for round 2, we will attempt impassioned poetry readings at bedtime. The constant procrastination attempts before sleep should work well for this. And doing a poem a day or every other day will take us well into April, as we join countrymen in celebrating crafty phrases.

As for the book itself, I like how it is divided: poems for patriots; poems about the living world; haiku; poems about people, places and things; poems about poetry and words; poems of beauty and magic; poems for fun. It’s organized so you can skip around, depending how you feel. Some are quite popular, like  “Casey at the Bat” and “The Star-Spangled Banner,” while others are more obscure, at least to me. But all are a form of expression that can sometimes say profound things in simple ways. It’s a gift to behold.

So in this season, enjoy some good poetry, at any level, from any anthology. And hopefully, maybe quite by surprise, your kids (and you) will discover the magical and transforming power of words — before our eyes retire for the night, surrendering ourselves to rest  and allowing these lovely words to slip into our dreams.

Publisher: Scholastic 2006

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Picture Book Review: Ferdinand is Still Fiercely Good

Some spoilers ahead.

One of my top 10 favorite picture books of all time is celebrating its 75th birthday! The Story of Ferdinand was written by Munro Leaf, beautifully and comically illustrated by Robert Lawson.

There is something endearing and timeless about this well-told story with a universally common theme. I know this, not because it was first published in 1936 and is still a best-seller, beloved by countless generations, but because kids (and adults) don’t tire of it. I know I want to read it over and again; and when I haven’t read it in a while, I itch for it and have to get my Ferdinand fix.

So if you happen to be one of a handful of people who have yet to read this delightful tale, here is the lowdown… Ferdinand is a bull who is different from his peers. The repeating phrase, “But not Ferdinand,” shows just how unique he is: he doesn’t run, jump or butt heads like all the others. He is wired differently, to enjoy other things. So when an untimely sting causes Ferdinand to act atypically, he is tagged as “Ferdinand the Fierce.” He is carried off to the bull fights, feared by all the bull fighters. But Ferdinand stays happily true to who he is. Others become frustrated in their desire for a good fight… but not Ferdinand.

And if you know this story and haven’t read it in a while, perhaps it’s time to pick it up again, share it with your kids, whether they’re 18 months or 18-years-old. See new ways to apply age-old truths. Find in Ferdinand: the environmentalist, nature-lover, peacemaker, a reflective soul, a big scary guy with a kind heart, one who appreciates the simple things in life, and an individual, secure in who he is. (And when you find more, please share.)

If nothing else, pick up the book at your local library to simply enjoy a good old-fashion story.

Happy reading to you! And happy birthday to my old friend, Ferdinand!

Later publications by Scholastic