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Mora, Pat. 2010. Dizzy in Your Eyes: Poems About Love. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 9780375945656


After the school play, you hugged me
and part of me wanted to stay inside your hugs
the way I used to, resting all safe in the arms
that held me in the beginning, knew me
before I did.

I pulled away and ran to talk and laugh
with my friends. I watched you
watching me move away.
What would people say
if I stayed inside your arms, and
anyway, what if I got stuck
in the warmth and never left?

What is love? Pat Mora’s Dizzy in Your Eyes: Poems About Love attempts to answer that. This unique collection explores all kinds of love with all types of poetry. Love for our families, our pets, and eventually a first love are all revealed through Mora’s collection.

Critical Analysis
When Pat Mora’s editor suggested she try various poetic forms, the resulting piece is one that not only gives readers relatable poetry, but also teaches students how to write these various forms. Mora’s poems are strong examples of various poetic forms: Tercet, Blank Verse, Tanka, Letter poem, Pantoum, Sestina, Villanelle, Sonnet, Cinquain, Anaphora, Acrostic, Triolet, Blues, Couplet, Lyric, Ode, and Song. Not only does Mora include these types of poems, she offers explanations of each kind alongside her piece of poetry .
Dizzy in Your Eyes: Poems About Love would be serve as an excellent inspiration for a class anthology. English teachers could have students in their class sign up for various each poetic form, making sure each poem reflects the stated theme.


WHAT IS GOODBYE? Nikki Grimes Illustrations by Raul Colon


Grimes, Nikki. 2004. What is Goodbye? Ill. By Raul Colon. New York: Hyperion Books for Children, Inc. ISBN 0786807784
What is Goodbye? is a collection of poems that chronicles the first year of a family’s life after suffering a tremendous loss. Nikki Grimes’s poems are told through voices of two children after they have lost an older sibling. Readers are given an emotional, insightful look at the process of grieving, and what it means to come to acceptance.
Critical Analysis
In the beginning, the soft, somber feel of the poems in What is Goodbye? create a melancholy tone that eventually gives way of acceptance of a family’s new normal. From the initial news of the death of their older brother, Jaron, Jesse and Jerilyn’s poems mirror each other only in title. Each child’s perspective on coping with the family’s loss is touching and gives readers a humbling example of how different grief can look between family members. Even though the poems represent the thoughts and feelings of Jesse and Jerilyn, the grieving parents are equally represented. Grimes’s use of free verse poetry is simple, yet gripping and gives a way for readers to attach to the children. Although Raul Colon’s color illustrations are used sparingly, they are well placed and give strong visuals of the emotions portrayed in the poetry.
This collection of poetry has a theme with which many readers have a personal connection. Young and older readers alike are likely to look at grieving families differently and possibly consider how their interactions may impact those suffering a loss. Conversely, readers who have had a significant loss in their lives will empathize greatly with the characters, and are likely to find themselves emotionally connected to the collection.
Below is a poem that could be used as an example how one scenario is experienced so differently between two people. Students could be partnered up with a classmate, given a similar scenario, and asked to write poems that somewhat mirror themselves. The teacher could give the students a theme with which to work or use a situation from a class novel and have the students write poems that offer varying perspectives.

Night Noise – Jesse Night Noise – Jerilyn

Something’s keeping My teeth chatter
me from sleeping in the winter
I hear sniffles of dreams.
through the wall. I lie in a coffin,
Beyond the reach
“Daddy, is that of worry,
you?” I whisper, Jaron floating
hearing crying over me.
‘cross the hall. Something deep inside
Screams, “No!”
Further down and I wake to the sound
In bed I burrow, of my own fear.
pillow clamped Two years are all
over my ears. that separate Jaron and me.
Two years
I’ll go crazy and a coffin.
if I listen I can’t help thinking
to my daddy’s Death could happen
private tears. to me.
Growing up?
Growing old?
The way I figure, now
There’s no guarantee.

Grimes concludes readers’ journey with a poem for two voices. Through “Photograph – Poem for Two Voices,” Jesse and Jerilyn give a sweet illustration of being whole again and that completes the family’s journey to acceptance. This final poem would serve as an excellent mentor text for students to use when showing a journey completed by two characters from a classroom novel study. While there are other poems for two voices could be used as a mentor text, this particular piece shows the two characters coming full circle.
Photograph – Poem for Two Voices
Jesse Jerilyn
It’s time
It’s time
for a new photograph. for a new photograph.
Squeeze in close.
Say “cheese.”
Don’t laugh.
Hold that pose! Hold that pose!
Wait till you see it, Wait till you see it,
Mom and Dad,
Jesse and me,
a new kind of family. a new kind of family.
One piece
One piece
One piece missing, but
we’re whole again. we’re whole again.
Whole again.
Whole again!
Smile! Smile!

COMETS, STARS, THE MOON, AND MARS space peoms and paintings By Douglas Florian


Florian, Douglas. 2007. Comets, Stars, The Moon, and Mars. Orlando, FL: Harcourt, Inc. ISBN 9780152053727

Comets, Stars, The Moon, And Mars is a fun collection that takes readers on a journey to far-away places. Beginning with a poem titled, “skywatch” Florian explores the galaxy in a light-hearted way that’s guaranteed to help children have a better understanding of the universe and all that it implies. Complete with scientific facts, this high-interest, fun collection will keep readers coming back for more.

Critical Analysis
Many of the poems in this collection are short, rhythmic, and bouncy. These pithy poems create a unique, yet fun, learning opportunity for readers. Beginning with “skywatch” readers are able to explore our solar system one planet (and planetoid) at a time. Florian completes the collection with “A Galactic Glossary” that matches to each piece of poetry.
Florian’s use of gouache, collage, and rubber stamps on brown paper bags creates a whimsical feeling that connects perfectly with the poems. The cheerful illustrations are appealing to teachers and students alike. With a variety of bright hues used in the illustrations, each poem gives way to the next through Florian’s use of color.
This collection of poetry connects easily to elementary science curriculum standards. The poems make for a fun way to understand the order of the planets and the solar system. School-age children will find the poems fun, while learning facts about the solar system that are universal as seen in the poem titled, “the universe”.

the universe

The universe is every place,
Including all the e m p t y space.
It’s every star and galaxy,
All objects of astronomy,
Geography, zoology
(Each cat and dog and bumblebee),
All persons throughout history –
Including you,
Including me.

Florian takes readers on an out-of-this world journey through the solar system. He even includes our beloved, but demoted Pluto.

Pluto was a planet.
But now it doesn’t pass.
Pluto was a planet.
They say it’s lacking mass.
Pluto was a planet.
Pluto was admired.
Pluto was a planet.
Till one day it got fired.

AMAZING FACES By Lee Bennett Hopkins



Hopkins, Lee Bennett. 2010.  Amazing Faces.  Pic. By Chris Soentpiet. New York:  Lee & Low Books, Inc.  ISBN  9781600603341

Hopkins’ carefully selected poems tell a story about the beautiful faces that make America multicultural.  Each poem gives readers a snapshot of life for everyday people.  Whether it’s a joyful reunion, finding love at the diner, or the sadness that comes with feeling lonely, these poems offer everyone an opportunity to see them or someone they know or love on the pages of this collection.  With poems from well-known children’s poets such as Nikki Grimes, Jane Yolen, Pat Mora, and Janet Wong, this ensemble is sure to resonant with readers.  The artwork, by Chris Soentpiet, is equally captivating, and adds beautiful visuals to the feelings evoked by the poetry. 


The poetry brought forth on the pages of Amazing Faces is well-chosen and create a short, simple, message that while eliciting much emotion, creates a sense of brotherhood among all people.  Young readers will identify very closely with many of the topics in the poems.  From feeling alone at school to sitting and listening to a grandparent share stories, these poems give readers opportunities to find themselves lost in reverie about their own life experiences.  Several of the poems follow the A-B pattern, while others have rhythm that appeals to young readers.  For example, the bilingual poem “Me x 2” “Yo x 2” by Jane Medina

ME x 2

I read times two.

I write times two.

I think, I dream,

    I cry times two.


I laugh times two.

I’m right times two.

I sing, I ask,

    I try times two.


I do twice as much

    As most people do.

‘Cause most speak one,

   But I speak two!


Yo x 2


Leo por dos.

Escribo por dos.

Pienso y sueno

    Y lloro por dos.


Yo rio por dos.

Grito por dos.

Canto, pregunto,

    Intento por dos.


Hago mucho mas,

    Que hancen todos ellos,

Porque yo hablo dos:

    Lo doble que aquellos.

Jane Medina

This poem is a beautiful example of the experience that many English Language Learners live each day in the United States. Our district has an AP Spanish for Native Speakers class, and I think this poem would make an excellent introduction at the beginning of the year.   Through this poem, I could introduce the students to all the ways the library could be of use to them throughout the school year highlighting various collections in the library that would be helpful to them.

Finally, Hopkins concludes with a poem by Langston Hughes that sums up the collection beautifully.

My People

The night is beautiful,

So are the faces of my people.


The stars are beautiful,

So are the eyes of my people.


Beautiful, also, is the sun.

Beautiful, also, are the souls of my people.

Langston Hughes

Hopkins could not have chosen a better poem than “My People” to sum up this collection.  The use of this poem creates a sense of unity between all people.  Chris Soentpiet’s portrait includes various “characters” from previous poems to further give personification to Hughes’ poem.  Together with the artwork (for this poem and others), the poem concludes the collection in a thoughtful, purposeful way. 





Adedjouma, Davida. 1996.  The Palm of My Heart:  Poetry by African American Children.  Ill. By Gregory Christie. New York:  Lee & Low Books, Inc.  ISBN  1880000415


The Palm of My Heart:  Poetry by African American Children is a collection of poetry written by children who participated in Writing Between the Lines workshops.   This compilation of poetry gives authentic voices of what it is to be Black.  With a picture book feel, poems are enhanced with colorful, strong, and simple artwork in acrylic and colored pencils that work alongside the poetry to give a stunning visual account of Black culture in America.


Brought together through a series of workshops called Writing Between the Lines, this anthology gives readers a glimpse of how African American children view themselves within the social label of “Black”. 

To give a sense of strength and boldness, Adedjouma uses the word “Black” in a large, bolded font that stands out on almost every page of the book.   The children’s thoughts and feelings about this social label are evident in their seemingly simple, yet complex poetry.

This anthology would be an excellent teaching tool, when working with students on writing free poetry or developing voice in their writing.  As the words are spoken, you can feel the empowerment that the children must have experienced while writing these poems.   This is evident in the words of Andreya Renee Allen:
Black is beautiful

Black is me

Black is the color

          can’t you see


blue is nice,

And orange is neat

But they can’t compete


Black is beautiful

Black is me

Tall, dark, and wonderful


Andreya Renee Allen

After reading several pieces of poetry from this collection, students could be invited to create poems that explore a piece of their identity in free verse form.  This collection would serve as an excellent example of creating a class anthology of poetry.   Finally, included is an end page that gives more information about the poets.  When they were born, what their hobbies are, and what they hope to be when they grow up are all captured in short vignettes.




Dakos, Kalli. 1996.  The Goof Who Invented Homework and Other School Poems.  Ill. By Denise Brunkus. New York:  Dial Books for Young Readers.  ISBN  083719280


The Goof Who Invented Homework and Other School Poems by Kalli Dakos is a fun collection that could feasibly stay on the teacher’s desk the entire school year, as he or she could refer to it all year.  Opening with a lament by school supplies personified in the beginning pages and closing with a poem from a teacher who is retiring, this collection mirrors the happenings that take place on any given campus in any given school year.   The simple black and white illustrations for each poem add character, without dominating the text on each page. 

What better way to build camaraderie between teachers and students than to make fun of the very thing with which they have a love/hate relationship:  school!  Through Kalli Dakos’s poetry, students and teachers alike can take a break from the day to day trappings of life at school and laugh (and, sometimes cry) a little.  There are few page breaks, and a new poem begins shortly after the previous ends.  Denise Brunkus’s illustrations are fairly basic and give readers a simple symbol with which to associate the poem.

Dakos does a great job identifying the anxieties that come with testing.  Several poems could be used prior to testing time that could give students an opportunity to find some humor in the testing situation while having the opportunity to express themselves by modeling poetry.  The next two poems could be used as a stress reducing exercise while encouraging kids to write about their feelings about testing.

A Few Words From Your Test

What am I?

A razor-sharp hatchet.

Ready to chop

Off your head

With one blow,

And serve it

On a silver platter

To your teacher

. . . . and your parents.


Teachers could also use the poem, “Lucky” as a mentor text for students to model.  Students could write a poem of appreciation to a teacher, parent, or someone special. 


Out of all the galaxies

In the universe,

I live in

the Milky Way.


Out of all the planets

In our solar system,

I live on

Planet Earth.


Out of all the teachers

In the world,

I have

Ms. Hogan

Lucky. . .

Just lucky.