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