Friday, October 27, 2006



Written by George Shannon
Illustrated by Sam Williams
Published by Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins (2006)

This is one of the most delightful poetry collections written for very young children that I have read in some time. I would give BUSY IN THE GARDEN as a gift to parents of a newborn baby. And that’s saying something! The poems in this book are about sowing seeds, growing plants, picking berries, playing badminton, and other activities that take place in the green world of a garden or backyard. The winsome watercolor illustrations by Williams are a wonderful complement to Shannon’s lively, cheerful verse. Here, take a peek at these tempting little tidbits from this title (I love to alliterate):


Dig a little.
Dig a lot.
Dig a brand-new garden spot.

Plant a little.
Plant a lot.
Plant the seeds and bulbs you bought.


Plant a seed
and watch it grow.

You know that little ones at home or at school won’t be able to resist memorizing and chanting rhythmic, rhyming charmers with language like that. BUSY IN THE GARDEN would be a perfect book to use in a preschool or kindergarten classroom when children are learning about plants and watching the seeds they’ve sown sprout.

That’s the end
of this review.

See? The little verses from this book ARE infectious! And inspiring.

Especially for Halloween

Written by Lilian Moore
Illustrated by Howard Fine
Published by Henry Holt (2006)

I think that any time a book of poems written by Lilian Moore is published it's an occasion to celebrate. Moore, who passed away in 2004, is one of my favorite children’s poets. Just in time for Halloween 2006, Henry Holt has released BEWARE, TAKE CARE: FUN AND SPOOKY POEMS. Taken from two of her previous books, SPOOKY RHYMES AND RIDDLES and SEE MY LOVELY POISON IVY, the poems in this collection—most with a touch of humor—are sure to delight kids at this time of year. They’re all rhythmic and rhyming and tell tales of monsters, ghosts, dragons, and other things that go bump in kids’ brains. Howard Fine’s charcoal and gouache illustrations help lend just the right touch of “spookiness” to a book geared for younger children. One teeny tiny criticism: The book includes just fifteen poems. I’d like to read a lot more of Moore than that!

My Poetry Friday Wish
I wish some publisher would reissue Moore’s SEE MY LOVELY POISON IVY in its entirety. It’s the greatest little book of 35 poems with black and white illustrations by Diane Dawson. Published by Atheneum in 1975, this terrific collection of poems about witches, ghosts, skeletons, and monsters has stood the test of time. This is not a poetry book to be taken off the shelf just at Halloween time. My second graders LOVED the poetry in this book—and I LOVED to share it with them all through the school year! I was fortunate to find my copy of SEE MY LOVELY POISON IVY at a store that sells used books.

This ghastly gal
must bid adieu.

WAIT! WAIT! I lied. I'm not bidding adieu just yet.

I'd like to leave you with this collaborative class poem my second graders at the Bell School in Marblehead, Massachusetts, wrote in October 1997:

Things to Do If You Are A Witch

Wake up at midnight.

Fly around the moon
on your magic broom.

Zoom around a haunted house.

Swoop out of the dark sky
and scare children.

Have a huge purple wart
on the tip of your long, pointy nose
and skin as green as grass.

Wear a tall black hat
pointed as a thumbtack.

Make yucky snake skin potions
in your kettle.

Cast nasty spells on princes
and turn them into toads.

Eat vulture leg stew, bat wings,
and frog eyes for lunch.

Throw bat noses into the air
and catch them in your mouth.

Go to sleep in a graveyard
before the sun comes up.

Still here--not done yet! I just remembered I had another old moldering poem about a witch that's appropriate to post on the Friday before Halloween.

A Poem by Elaine Magliaro
(Written sometime during the Jurassic Period)

There was a witch who liked to race
Her supersonic broom through space.
At six o’clock last Friday night
She blasted off at speed of light.
She whizzed past Mercury and Mars…
Then headed off toward distant stars.
Across the galaxy she sped,
A black peaked helmet on her head.
An interstellar traveler, she
Explored the Milky Way with glee.
She chased swift comets here and there.
She watched bright supernovae flare.
She zipped through clouds of cosmic dust…
A witch bewitched by wanderlust.
There was a witch, I’m sad to say,
Flew near a big black hole one day.
It sucked her in just like a bean.
You won’t see HER on Halloween!

Anna Alter and I are heading up to New Hampshire later today. We'll be attending the Keene State College Children's Literature Festival on Saturday. This will be my first year serving as a member of the festival advisory board. One of the rewards of serving on the board is being invited to break bread and hobnob with the speakers. Here's the list of the talented festival speakers: Jean Craighead George, Paul O. Zelinsky, Kevin Hawkes, Tracey Campbell Pearson, and P. J. Lynch.

Dr. David White, the person who runs this wonderful--and affordable--festival, told each board member she/he could bring a guest to the dinner on Saturday and to the get-together later that evening. Anna is my guest. Actually, in my case, I had to promise to come with a guest/chaperone. Anna is demure and reserved. I thought she might be able to keep me in line--and tell me if I've got little bits of broccoli stuck between my teeth.

Don't forget the CUPCAKE CONTEST!

Go nominate your favorite children's poetry book of 2006 for a Cybil Award.


Nancy said...

Wonderful post - great poetry selections. Thanks!

Anna Alter said...

PS We promise to report back on all the fabulous speakers at the conference this weekend!!

And for my part Elaine, I promise to tell you if you have broccoli in your teeth, though I can't promise demure...

; )