Saturday, April 18, 2009

Falling Down the Pages

I love Georgia Heard -- I love her writing and I love her thinking. Her book, The Revision Toolbox, is what I consider a must-have for teaching writing workshop. A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to watch her work with kids and then, the next day, listen to her speak to adults -- she is incredibly smart.

So, at a recent conference, when a friend pointed out a book Georgia Heard had recently edited, it immediately made my "must buy" pile. Falling Down the Pages: A Book of List Poems catches the eye at first glance. It is 10 1/4 inches by 5 1/4 inches, and the spine is on the short side. What you don't expect is that the spine is really the top of the book, so that the poems Georgia Heard has collected from various poets literally do "fall down the pages" -- 20 1/2 inches worth of pages, to be exact. There are a few exceptions, but the longer look is very effective.

This is a book intended for children to read. Even the introduction is addressed to them. Heard talks about how we all make lists, but can lists actually be poems? She introduces them to the idea that the poets in this book "meticulously craft their words to create list poems." At the end of the introduction, she invites the reader to jot down everyday things that they notice and try to make a list poem of their own.

She also explains the layout of the book -- it is roughly centered around the school year, from the beginning of the year to the end. Not all the poems are school-related, but they all center around typical occurrences that happen throughout the school year in the lives of children.

As the reader begins to read the poems, the layout of the page will draw them in. It will take a page or two for them to realize there are no pictures in this book. That's right -- no pictures. It is an amazing credit to the poets who contributed to this book that the layout of each poem is where the eye is drawn. The words just flow, and I was fascinated by each page.

Georgia Heard has collected writing in this book from some very talented poets -- Eileen Spinelli, Avis Harley, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Jane Yolen, Terry Webb Harshman, Marilyn Singer, Allan Wolf, Kristine O'Connell George, Elaine Magliaro, herself, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Naomi Shihab Nye, Heidi Roemer, Kathi Appelt, J. Patrick Lewis, Bobbi Katz, Patricia Hubbell, Valiska Gregory, David Harrison, Sara Holbrook, Heidi Stemple, Lara Anderson, and Liz Rosenberg.

I knew many of the names, but some were new to me, and I will seek out more of their work. I think the same might hold true for children. In my classroom, we spend a lot of time using author's names. I can see that this book might be a platform for me to start to introduce poet's names as well. In our Poetry Friday celebrations, they are often drawn to the poem and don't pay as much attention to the poet who wrote the poem. I will start working on this next week -- I think it would be powerful to have poet mentors.

The list poem is a poetry format that children will be able to understand. I can see this book being a great mentor text for those children who are working on their own poetry in our writing workshop, and might want to try their hand at a list poem.

I'd like to finish by sharing one of the poems. Even though I didn't write it (the very talented Jane Yolen did), I am dedicating it to a certain student in my class who reads this blog regularly and is trying very, very hard to keep the insides of her desk in control this trimester ( you know who you are!!):

"In My Desk (by Jane Yolen)

They've canceled recess,
time to play.
Instead it's
Though all I've got
is junk
in there.
So let them clean it -
I don't care.

Inside they'll find
the insides of a broken clock,"

The poem goes on for a while longer and ends with:

"It's not just
that's old and stale.
I'll do that
cleaning out,
you see
each piece of junk's
my history."

Kudos to Jane Yolen for understanding the minds of those kids with the messy desks!

And kudos to Georgia Heard for compiling and editing such a wonderful book of poetry! Another must have this Poetry Month (and all year long!!) -- Falling Down the Pages.


  1. This sounds great! I may have to persuade you to let me borrow it. Now I am just trying to figure out the messy desk identity... :-)

  2. Karen,

    I'm so glad you liked FALLING DOWN THE PAGE. I was so excited when Georgia Heard informed me that she had selected one of my poems for inclusion in this wonderful anthology.

    I was an elementary school teacher for more than thirty years. My students wrote lots of poetry in my classroom.

    I recently wrote up a blog post about "Things to do" list poems for my blog Wild Rose Reader. It includes poems written by some of my former second grade students.

    You may also want to read another recent post I wrote about mask poems. It includes book recommendations, students' poems, and a few of my original mask poems. I loved writing mask poems with children!

    Happy National Poetry Month!

  3. This one has been on my to buy list since I saw it last month. I loved that it didn't fit into the "normal" size and look of a picture (or poetry) book!!!

    I'll have to add to my next book order for sure!!