Birmingham, 1963 by Carole Boston Weatherford


Birmingham, 1963
by Carole Boston Weatherford

Weatherford, Carole Boston. 2007. Birmingham, 1963. Design by Helen Robinson. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong. ISBN 9781590784402


Birmingham, 1963 depicts the events in the days leading up to the church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, on September 15, 1963. Told through the voice of an anonymous 10 year-old, readers are taken back to the Civil Rights Movement. The poems reflect on the year that was 1963, and what it meant to a nine year-old as she looked forward to turning 10. Painfully, the narrator recounts that fateful day in September that coincided with her tenth birthday. From Civil Rights demonstrations to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Birmingham, 1963 creates personal connections to those who fought to bring about change.


Birmingham, 1963 is an emotional book containing free-verse poetry and images that have a strong impact. Weatherford creates a feeling of shattered innocence as the child recounts 1963 as the year she turned ten, and the fearful, turbulent times in which she lived. Weatherford adds “In Memoriam” pages for each of the four girls that died in the church on September 15, 1963. These pages create a sense of who these girls were, and not just names and pictures of we might remember from history.

The pictures and images used in Birmingham, 1963 take readers back in time and create a setting. With the feeling of an old scrapbook, these images and poems evoke a sense of life in the 60’s during this dramatic era.


“The quiet yet arresting book design will inspire readers. . . “ – Booklist

“Exquisitely understated design lends visual potency to a searing poetic evocation of the Birmingham church bombing of 1963.” – Kirkus

“A stunning free-verse poem relates the events leading up to September 15, 1963. . . . “ – Booklinks


Birmingham, 1963, would complement The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 beautifully. Reading this story after the chapter on the bombing at the church in the novel, would add depth to the novel study.

This poetry would add to the learning experience of students when discussing the Civil Rights Movement. Adding this book to the unit, would help to create a personal connection for students as they learn about the days and events of the movement.

Rochman, Hazel. “Birmingham, 1963.” Booklist 15 Sept. 2007: 64. Literature Resource Center. Web. 8 Oct. 2012.

Tillotson, Laura. “Birmingham, 1963.” Book Links 17.3 (2008): 21. Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts with Full Text. Web. 8 Oct. 2012.

“Weatherford, Carole Boston: BIRMINGHAM, 1963.” Kirkus Reviews 15 Aug. 2007. Literature Resource Center. Web. 8 Oct. 2012.


This is Just to Say

This Is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness
by Joyce Sidman, Illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski


Sidman, Joyce. 2007. This Is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness. Ill. by Pamela Zagarenski. NewYork: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 9870618616800


It’s not easy to apologize, but what if you had time to create the perfect apology? A classroom filled with remorse guides this fresh, clever collection of poetry. Not only does the reader get to read youthful, heartfelt confessions, but the reader is treated to poems written by the “recipient” of the apologies. The apologies and responses evoke a sense of youthfulness while capturing the shameless honesty of 11 year-old, while balancing the wit and grace possessed by many teachers like Mrs. Merz. This Is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness is filled with voice, and captures the energy of Mrs. Merz’s 6th grade class brilliantly.


The poems in This Is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness truly captures the spirit of the speaker(s) of each poem, so much that readers will almost feel as if they have spent the day with her class. Through the poems, readers can feel the troubles and woes that are often experienced by 6th graders. The use of responses adds to the feeling of resolution for each child and the situation in which they find themselves.

The simple illustrations that accompany the poem add to overall innocence portrayed by the speaker of the poems. By varying the use of different media, such as collage, and computer graphics, the simple illustrations capture innocence on the verge of adolescence. The clever use of pieces of notebook and graph paper for sketches add to the setting. The illustrations work to add character and emphasize the speakers’ voice of each poem.


2008 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award Honor Book

“Whimsical, wise, and all worth reading. . . . . “ – School Library Journal

“Each school library could benefit from adding this wonderful book of poems to its collection.” – School Library Media Connection


Grades 6-8:

This book would serve as an excellent use of poems as mentor texts. Pairing William Carlos Williams’ “This Is Just to Say” poem with Thomas’ poem would give students a good example of creating a poem of their own using the structure of the mentor poem.

Students could also write responses to a poem of their choice.

This collection highlights various types of poems, and would be a great teaching tool to show examples of each type of poem.

This collection of poetry would serve as an excellent choice for reader’s theater, possibly in connection with a school’s drama department or club.

“Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award.” The Horn Book Magazine May-June 2008: 364. Literature Resource Center. Web. 10 Oct. 2012.

Nightingale, Susie. “This Is Just To Say: Poems Of Apology And Forgiveness.” Library Media Connection 26.3 (2007): 88-89. Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts with Full Text. Web. 10 Oct. 2012.

“This Is Just To Say: Poems Of Apology And Forgiveness.” School Library Journal 53.(2007): 57. Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts with Full Text. Web. 10 Oct. 2012.

A KICK IN THE HEAD AN EVERYDAY GUIDE TO POETIC FORMS Selected by Paul B. Janeczko Illustrated by Chris Raschka


Janeczko, Paul B. 2005. A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms. Ills. by Chris Raschka. Cambridge, Mass: Candlewick Press. ISBn: 0763606626.

Plot Summary

Paul Janeczko has compiled 29 different styles of poetry for the pages of A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms. With poems from well-known poets like Ogden Nash, Gary Soto, J. Patrick Lewis, sprinkled in with originals by Paul Janeczko, this collection makes a valuable resource when teaching poetry. This collection serves to guide young poets with a fun myriad of possibilities for writing poetry.

Critical Analysis

The poetry on the pages of A Kick in the Head serves unique exemplification of each type of poetry included in the collection. Janeczko has assembled a very thorough collection including unique structures like: Tercet, Clerihew, Double Dactyl, Triolet, Villanell, and Aubade. The poetry is challenging, yet fun, and can be inspiring to readers to try some unique types of poetry themselves. By giving readers a brief description of how the piece of poetry is written, readers might feel challenged to take the risk in creating a piece on their own.

The illustrations complement the poetry well and further create the kitschy feel of the collection. Chris Raschka’s illustrations in watercolor, ink, and torn paper are bright, but don’t dominate the poetry, they further enhance the mean of the poems. This is seen in a couplet called “The Mule” by Ogden Nash.

In the world of mules
There are no rules.
By Ogden Nash


Perhaps my favorite pages of this collection are 18 and 19. With a cinquain and a clerihew that pay a quirky homage to Poe, these two pages play off of each other quite nicely.


Oh, cat
are you grinninng
curled in the window seat
as sun warms you this December
By Paul B. Janeczko


Edgar Allan Poe
Was passionately fond of roe.
He always liked to chew some
When writing anything gruesome.
By E.C. Bentley


While the pages of the poetry include a brief note about the type of poetry on the page, Janeczko includes a detailed glossary providing further information about the examples of poetry contained in the collection.


This collection would be a key addition to any English teacher’s professional library. It would serve as a valuable addition to any classroom focusing on poetry.

English teachers could use this collection for mentor texts with their students.
Cross-curricular connections could be made. For example, the “List Poem” on page 51 gives students a vivid example of the daily life of a slug. Teachers could use this as a way for students to show their understanding of various concepts.

MIRROR MIRROR by Marily Singer Illustrated by Josee Masse

mirror mirror

Singer, Marilyn. 2010. Mirror, Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse. Ills. by Josee Masse. New York: Dutton’s Children’s Books. ISBN: 9780525479017.

Plot Summary

“We read most poems down a page. But what if we read them up?” In Mirror, Mirror, Marilyn Singer does just that. This collection of poetry gives a new spin on beloved fairy tales. Each poem offers opposing viewpoints cleverly through the use of the very same words, only the words are placed in the opposite order. Through cleverly written poems, Singer is able to tell the complete story behind each fairy tale highlighted in the poem.

Critical Analysis

Singer’s ability to create a poem that is able to show varying perspectives using the exact words of the first speaker is clever and creates an interesting challenge. Not only does this collection show how placement and punctuation play a part in changing meaning and tone, it illustrates how word choice and succinctly impact the meaning of a poem.
Josee Masse’s illustrations complement the poetry brilliantly. Each illustration is a mirror effect that illustrates two poems. The illustrations work with the poetry for a complete story. The colors are bright and shows contrast within the picture to show the opposing sides told in the reverso. Two great examples are “Longing for Beauty” and “The Doubtful Duckling”.

Longing for Beauty
A beast
can love
A moist muzzle
can welcome
a rose.
A hairy ear
can prize
a nightingale, singing.
Beneath fur,
A soft heart

a soft heart.
beneath fur.
A nightingale singing,
can prize
a hairy ear.
A rose
can welcome
a moist muzzle.
can love
a Beast.


The Doubtful Duckling
I’ll turn into a swan.
No way
I’ll stay
and ugly duckling,
stubby and gray.
Plain to see –
look at me.
A beauty I’ll be.

A beauty I’ll be?
Look at me –
plain to see,
stubby and gray.
An ugly duckling
I’ll stay.
No way
I’ll turn into a swan

The doubtful duckling


This collection would be a fun way to challenge students to write a reverse poem about any topic of the students’ choosing.

Teachers could use this collection to show another way of telling popular fairy tales.

This collection would also serve as an excellent example of how punctuation affects how words are read and expressed.



Volavkova, Hana, ed. . . . I never saw another butterfly. . . Children’s Drawings and Poems from Terezin Concentration Camp 1942-1944. Comp. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Expanded 2nd ed. 1958. New York: Schocken Books, 1993. Print.

Plot Summary

. . . I never saw another butterfly. . . is a moving collection of drawings and poetry from children held at the Terezin Concentration Camp/ghetto. With assistance from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Hana Volavkova brings together a stirring account that children of Terezin faced during their time there. Some of the children survived, many did not. This special collection gives these victims a chance to be known as the children they were, instead of the number and fatality many eventually became.

Critical Analysis

The pages of . . . I never saw another butterfly. . . contain an emotional experience for readers. First-hand accounts from children of the Holocaust solidify the dark days these children endured. The poetry is haunting, solemn, and at times a bit hopeful. This collection serves as a portable museum as readers are able to further their understanding of atrocity that was the Holocaust. As the last page of the book states, “ A total of around 15,000 children under the age of 15 passed through Terezin. Of these, around 100 came back.”
Included is a particularly emotional account of each child who completed a piece of poetry or drawing contained in the detailed catalogs. It is here where readers discover the fate of each child mentioned in the book. Also included is a Foreword, Epilogue, Afterword, and Chronology of events , each of these gives further information on the Holocaust and Terezin’s place in history.

At Terezin

When a new child comes
Everything seems strange to him.
What, on the ground I have to lie?
Eat black potatoes? No! Not I!
I’ve got to stay? It’s dirty here!
The floor — why, look, it’s dirt, I fear!
And I’m supposed to sleep on it?
I’ll get all dirty!

Here the sound of shouting, cries,
An oh, so many flies.
Everyone knows flies carry disease.
Oooh, something bit me! Wasn’t that a bedbug?
Here in Terezin, life is hell
And when I’ll go home again, I can’t yet tell.
L 410, 1943


SEEDS, BEES, BUTTERFLIES, AND MORE! POEMS FOR TWO VOICES Poems by Carole Gerber Illustrated by Eugene Yelchin

Seeds Bees Butterflies
Gerber, Carole. 2013. Seeds, Bees, Butterflies, and More! Poems For Two Voices. Ills. by EugeneYelchin. New York: Henry Holt and Co. ISBN: 9780805092110.


Gerber’s collection of poetry in Seeds, Bees, Butterflies, and More! Poems For Two Voices is as bright and airy as a Spring day. With a total of 18 pieces of poetry to be shared in two voices, readers will be delighted to learn about how plants and insects need each other just as one reader needs the voice of the other.

Critical Analysis

Seeds, Bees, Butterflies, and More! Poems for Two Voices incorporates science and performance poetry. The poetry is bouncy, and almost seems to buzzzzzzz! From poppies and pansies to bumble bees and honey bees, the poetry brings a new spin to the process of pollination, metamorphosis, and how insects and plants rely on each other to sustain the species. Gerber’s use of performance poetry lends itself quite well to teaching students about the interdependence of plant life and other species, as the two readers are converse with each other through the poem. This is especially evidenced in the poem “Bedmates”.


Stop eating my compost!
It’s my autumn snack.

It’s my winter blanket, and I want it back!

Your bloom time is over. You look nearly dead.

I’ll be back next summer – get out of my bed!

I’ll have to come first to plow up the ground.
without my help, Flower, you’d not be around.

Okay! You can stay, Worm.
But where will you go
when wintertime comes and it starts to snow?

I’ll rest, just as you do. I’ll tunnel down dep,
curl up near your roots, and have a long sleep.

In the meantime, dear Worm, I’ll kindly feed you.
More compost?

Thanks, Flower. Don’t mind if I do!


Each poem serves as a mini-lesson. In “Now We’re Sleepy” and “New Baby” readers learn about the life cycle of a butterfly.

Now We’re Sleepy

I am drowsy.
I am sleepy.
Both of us have had our fill
Of crawling, creeping, eating.

It’s time now to be still.
I’m curling up beneath a leaf.
I’m snuggling down to nap.
No more crunching.
No more chewing.

No more drinking milkweed sap.
Hey! Are you asleep yet?
No, I’m in a sack! What’s this?
It’s what our skin turned into.
It’s called a chrysalis.
I feel cozy in this thing.
Mine’s exactly the right size.
Good night. Sweet dreams.
Sleep tight now.

Soon, we’ll be butterflies!

now we're sleeping

New Baby

That’s an odd-looking leaf
Hanging from that old tree.

What could that strange thing possibly be?

It’s wiggling. Waggling.
Looks ready to burst.

Let’s hunker down low.
Prepare for the worst!

See! Something popped out.

I’m shaking with dread.
I hope we’ll be safe in this flower bed.

Look now! It’s gorgeous.
Eek! It’s flapping nearby!

It’s coming to visit.

Hello, Butterfly!

new baby

Eugene Yelchin’s vibrant illustrations using graphite and gouache on watercolor paper create the feeling of traipsing through the garden. The bright colors contrast and complement the poetry beautifully. Yelchin alternates the colors used in the two voices in the title of the poems, further highlighting the interdependence between the two voices.

Science teachers could use this to teach pollination and metamorphosis.

Students could be given a pairing and asked to research their interdependence and then create a poem in two voices. Pair with Joyful Noise by Paul Fleischman to model poetry written in two voices.

This collection would make an excellent choice to use with students who are reluctant to read poetry out loud or share with the class.

This collection would also serve as an excellent readers’ theater. What fun students would have pretending to be bees or ladybugs!

BUTTERFLY EYES AND OTHER SECRETS OF THE MEADOW written by Joyce Sidman, Illustrated by Beth Krommes

Butterfly Eyes

Sidman, Joyce. 2006. Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow. Ills. By Beth Krommes. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co. ISBN 061856313X


Poetry interwoven with informational pieces in Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow, create a whimsical collection that is sure to engage readers. Each poem gives snippets of information and poses a question as to the identity of the topic of the poem. As readers turn the page, they are treated to a vignette that details the specifics of how the two creatures are related to each other. The artwork beautifully illustrates what the poems teach. Together Sidman and Krommes have crafted a beautiful collection that is both educational and captivating.

Critical Analysis

Sidman’s Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow gives readers from a variety of backgrounds the opportunity test their knowledge about fairly average critters. Through the poetry and artwork on the pages, the animals and other living matter come to life in a way readers might not have considered before. The poetry breathes new life into the subjects of pollination, germination, food chain, and complete metamorphosis. Sidman’s setting of a meadow from sunrise to sunset is a clever way to incorporate science. The poetry is rhythmic and varied. Free-verse, shape, and poetry in the format of a letter (with the identity of the critter concealed as part of the riddle/answer scheme) are all incorporated in this collection. This variety of poetry, riddles, and vignettes combined with the artwork give readers a deeper insight to the meadow and the life that abounds there.

Beth Krommes’ illustrations on scratchboard are a contrast to the lively poetry on the pages this collection. The colors are somewhat muted, yet provide a striking contrast. The details Krommes’ artwork incorporates balances the poetry well. Just as one reads the line, “What is it?” or “Who am I?” they are treated to a small clue in the artwork. A small slither of a snake’s tail or the breast and talons of a hawk treat readers to a glimpse about which the poem was written. This is evident in “An Apology to My Prey”.

An Apology to My Prey

I am deeply sorry for my huge orbs
of eyes, keen and hooded,
that pierce your lush
tapestry of meadow.

And my wins: I regret their slotted tips
that allow such explosive thrust;
their span that gathers wind
effortlessly, and of course their
deadly, folding dive.

Let me offer an apology, too,
for my talons, impossibly long
and curved, sliding so easily
through fur and feathers,
seeking, as they do,
that final grip.

And last, of course, the beak.
It does tend to glitter, I know –
a merciless hook,
a golden sickle poised over
your soft, helpless heart.

I’m sorry. For you, that is.
All this works out quite well
For me.

What am I?


Curriculum Connections

Science teachers could use this collection to show connections between plants and animals. Also, this would be a strong selection when promoting taking care of the environment.

Students could be arranged in pairs and given a match. Each would write a poem as a riddle and create the informational vignette for the whole class. The class could then create an anthology of their work.

English teachers could use this to teach reading strategies such as using inference skills.

BUTTON UP! By Alice Schertle Pictures by Petra Mathers

Button Up Picture

Schertle, Alice. 2009. Button Up! Ill. By Petra Mathers. New York: Harcourt Children’s Books. ISBN: 9780152050504.

Plot Summary

Alice Schertle’s Button Up! is a sweet collection of poems that highlight the triumphs and tribulations of one of our basic needs: our clothes! From shoelaces to jammies to a puffy blue jacket, all these items come together to tell how they see the world. Children of all ages will find something about which to chuckle when reading these “wrinkled” rhymes.

Critical Analysis

Through Button Up! children are able to see themselves mirrored through the animals on the pages. With young mice, rabbits, pigs, alligators, and bears as the wearers of each item, young children will find a connection to the poetry. Most of the bouncy, rhythmic poems follow the A-B-C-B format, which create a light-hearted feeling while reading these poems out loud and captures the attention of young children quite well.

Petra Mathers’ watercolor illustrations on cold-press paper are whimsical and create a nursery rhyme feel. Suited to young children, the characters’ sweet, gentle expressions add to the nursery rhyme feel and further construct personification of the clothing item. This is evidenced in the illustration that accompanies “Tanya’s Old T-Shirt”. While the poem exudes personification through word choice, the illustration further personifies the t-shirt.

Tanya’s Old T-Shirt

I live in a bucket shoved under a stair.
They call me a dust rag!
I don’t think it’s fair.

I’m still the same size as when I was new.
I didn’t shrink—
it was Tanya who GREW.

She started out small and we fit to a T.
Now she’s big as a sofa!
She’s tall as a tree!
She’s out of control, and they’re dusting with me!

You’ll never, not ever
Hear anyone say,
“She’s gotten too big, she’s just in the way,
let’s dust the piano with Tanya today.”

button up t-shirt


English teachers could use this collection to show examples of figurative language such as simile, personification, and onomatopoeia.
Teachers could use these as inspiration for students to bring an item from home and create a poem using the types of figurative language in the book, primarily personification.
Teachers of young children could have the students bring a favorite item of clothing about which to write a poem.

IN THE SWIM By Douglas Florian

in the swim

Florian, Douglas. 1997. In the Swim. Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace & Co. ISBN: 0152013075

In the Swim is a fun collection of poetry that captures the “personalities” of 21 different water creatures. From the salt water fish to fresh water fish, Florian’s illustrations and poetry creates a vivid illustration of each critter and what makes them unique. Young readers will enjoy reading these short, snappy poems out loud, all the while learning science
standards pertaining to water animals.

Critical Analysis
This collection is comprised of 21 poems that can enrich science units about animals that live in the water. Filled with humor, the poetry on the pages are simple, but rich in facts about each creature. The corresponding illustration gives readers fun visual with which to associate the poem, thus the water animal. This is illustrated best in the poem “The Skates”.

The Skates

The skinny skates are flat as plates.
They feed on small invertebrates
They find upon the ocean floor
Then skate along to find some more.


Florian also gives character to his poetry through the placement of the text. In “The Sawfish” the zig zag placement of the text creates movement.



Florian’s use of watercolor on rough French watercolor paper is appropriate considering the topic: animals that live in water. Some paintings are simple with muted colors while others are more vivid with sharp contrasting colors. In addition to his poetry, the illustrations further personify the animals they portray. These come together beautifully as the poem “The Starfish”:


The Starfish

Although it seems
That I’m all arms,
Some other organs
Give me charm.
I have a mouth
With which to feed.
A tiny stomach
Is all I need.
And though it’s true
I have no brain,
I’m still a star –
I can’t complain.

Curriculum Connections
This anthology of poetry is a must have for science teachers who teach an oceans unit or animals that live in water. Including this collection in a research unit about these animals would be extremely helpful and give context, along with visuals, to what the students are learning.

English teachers might want to consider using this collection when teaching about figurative language and how it enhances writing. Students are able to see real examples of personification and using similes and metaphors.

FRIDA: ¡VIVA LA VIDA! LONG LIVE LIFE! By Carmen T. Bernier – Grand


Bernier-Grand, Carmen T. 2007. Frida: ¡Viva la vida! Long Live Life!. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish Co. ISBN: 9780761453369

Carmen Bernier-Grand’s poetry paired with Frida Kahlo’s paintings creates a biography unlike any other. Beginning with Kahlo’s birth and ending with her death, Bernier-Grand gives insight into the life of Frida Kahlo. Each poem is inspired by a painting and gives intimate detail of Kahlo’s tumultuous life. The chronology of the poetry and placement of the paintings create a well-rounded story that serves as tribute to Kahlo’s life.

Critical Analysis
Readers, both young and old, will find Frida: ¡Viva la vida! intriguing and engaging. This collection creates a compelling biography that artistically tells Kahlo’s story. Through poetry paired with Kahlo’s artwork, Kahlo’s life story is told in a way that seems fitting with respect to her and her place in art history. Bernier-Grand gives Kahlo a voice through the poems; almost as if Kahlo is speaking directly to readers through the poems and her art. Readers are given insight to the pain Kahlo endured in a terrible bus accident that is seen in the poem “Life Begins Tomorrow”.

Life Begins Tomorrow

Enclosed in a cast,
It hurts a lot to laugh with carcajadas.
Spinal column broken in two places,
Pelvis in three,
Ribs in two,
Right leg in seven,
Left elbow dislocated,
Deep abdominal wounds.
But I laugh with carcajadas,
For Death didn’t take me.
“I’m still alive,” I tell mi jefe.
“And besides, I have something to live for,
That something is painting.”

Bernier-Grand’s poetry echoes the sentiments portrayed in Kahlo’s art. While much of Kahlo’s art focuses on the traumatic events that shaped her life, there is also a sense of empowerment. Paired with the painting The Little Deer (1946), “Wounded Deer” leaves readers with hope despite much suffereing.

Wounded Deer

My barren landscapes show my barren self.
I have lost three children.

Four arrows in my heart
to remind Diego how his shots have made me bleed.

Shooting pains in my hip,
Shooting pains in my foot,
Shooting pains in my spine.

I am not sick.
I am broken.
But I am happy to be alive.

wounded deer

To complete the biography, Bernier-Grand includes quotes from Kahlo’s diary, a glossary (for terms in Spanish), a chronology, detailed notes, and sources for further reading. These additions, round out the biography and add further depth to Kahlo’s story.

Curriculum Connections
English and art teachers could work together to use this collection to have students create a self-portrait and then create a poem to explain a turning point in their lives.

Pair with other biographical poems such as:

My Name Is Gabito/Mi Llamo Gabito: The Life of Gabriel Garcia Marquez/La Vida De Gabriel Garcia Marquez by Monica Brown
The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano by Margarita Engle