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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.


About lisamscott1

I am a school librarian completing my studies at Texas Woman's University. The focus of this blog is poetry, which I love.

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