Tag Archives: James Whitcomb Riley

Our Poetry Collection

We do a lot of poetry reading and reciting in our homeschool.  Never underestimate the power of a poem!  Its utility spans grammar, phonics, vocabulary, art, and imagination.  Memorize the poem to stretch the neuronal pathways of the frontal lobe and provide beautiful phrases to bring to mind in life’s times of beauty, pain, love, or sadness.  Copy the poem and find long E phonics patterns.  Discuss the usage of commas, colons, and hyphens.  Find exceptional vocabulary used in context.  Illustrate the poem.  Just enjoy the poem’s words flowing around the recesses of you mind.

I have purchased some poetry collections, and I want to give a brief review of them in case others are interested in acquiring poetry material for their homes and children.

wpid-IMAG1519-1.jpgThe Barefoot Book of Classic Poems compiled and illustrated by Jackie Morris is a favorite in our collection.  The poetry selections contains all the classics you remember enjoying, from Shakespeare to Hughes, and the watercolors evoke as much emotion as the poem on the page.  Just leave this book around on the living room footstool, and it is sure to draw some human spirit into its bursting pages.  About 75 poems in all with accompanying illustrations for each and every poem, some magical and some natural, honest depictions.  This book is worth buying to keep in your library.  The poems are diverse, and they are NOT all geared for children, thus the attraction of the book for me.  It is not a book that will be outgrown.  My children and I will always be able to come back to it to find something to mull on.  See on Amazon.

wpid-IMAG0563-1.jpgWhere the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein delights my children and I to no end.  His simple drawings paired with his poems are genius and never fail to bring a smile, except on the serious ones, which may bring a sad little smirk.  Really, his work is amazing.  No childhood is complete without hearing Shel Silverstein read aloud.  We also have A light in the Attic, but we like Where the Sidewalk Ends best.  See on Amazon.

The Best of James Whitcomb Riley: Riley, an Indiana poet, helps me share my Hoosier roots with my children. wpid-IMAG1517-1.jpg If you have any farming heritage or rural, small-town background, you’ll enjoy his poems.  He uses native dialect which sounds like our Uncle Ron, and he uses strong rural imagery which takes us to visit Papa Bear’s farm.  Riley’s poems depict common people and themes, often rural based, which tug at your heart.  “Little Orphant Annie”, “Granny” and “When the Frost is on the Punkin.”  Riley’s poems touch a string.  A simple string.  He reaches back into childhood and pulls the happy memories (of swings, stories, and watermelon) and the bittersweet memories (growing up, dying, and changing).  I would not part with my Riley collection.  His words bring smiles and tears to my eyes, and I hope my children come to love his works as I do.  A must-read to get you started on Riley is “The Bear Story.”  These are real poems, for real life, spoken on a real level.  See on Amazon.  The Amazon link is in paperback, but I much prefer the hard cover.

wpid-IMAG1520-1.jpgPoetry Speaks to Children, edited by Elise Paschen and illustrated by Judy Love, Wendy Rasmussen, Paula Zinngrabe Wendland is a pearl because it provides a CD with poems read by the poet!  The poems chosen are comprehensible to children as young as, maybe, three years old, and the illustrations are simple and straightforward, appealing also to the younger crowd.    However, there are many cultural selections and many poems of various length and depth to be enjoyed by all ages, and the fact that you can actually hear the author’s own reading of the poem makes this book and CD appeal to all ages.  The CD has some background noise on older readings and some of the readers’ voices aren’t clear, but hearing the writer’s own vocal interpretation is stirring.  There are 95 poems, and 51 of them are read.  The book is not physically beautiful, but here is the perfect example of, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

wpid-IMAG0564.jpgWhisper and Shout:  Poems to Memorize (edited by Patrice Vecchione) is a book I’d probably borrow from the library to peruse, make copies of the poems we want to memorize, and to find poets I and the kids liked.  I don’t feel this one adds much to my collection above.  There are very few pictures to draw in unsuspecting children.  Just plain black and white.  The poems are to be for memorization, but many of them are poems without rhyme scheme.  For beginners, lack of a rhyme scheme makes memorization much more challenging.  I do like that the back pages provide a paragraph or two about each authors and a couple of their works.  And the works themselves are adequate.  See on Amazon.