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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Guyku, written by Bob Raczka and illustrated by Peter H Reynolds. Houghton, Thomas Allen. $18.99 ages 3 and up

"Icicles dangle,
begging to be broken off
for a short sword fight.

If this puddle could
talk, I think it would tell me
to splash my sister.

From underneath the
leaf pile, my invisible
brother is giggling."

I love poetry...all forms. I share it whenever I get the chance to do so. My own experience as a student did not encourage this came from the children in my classrooms at Green Acres! I made a promise when we started each year that I would share a picture book, a chapter from a novel and some poetry EVERY DAY. Once that promise was made, I was on a clear path to find poetry that would speak to them and hopefully encourage them to try their hand. Of course, I started with nursery rhymes and songs, but we did move on to Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutsky, Dennis Lee and other poets of the time. Today, thirty years later, we are blessed to have more amazing poets sharing their work with us...and so many more of them, it seems. Now, I work in classrooms using poetry to encourage kids to try their hand at writing. In order for this to happen, they have to believe that they CAN do it!

So, I look for books of poetry that will help them realize that it is worth a try. Teachers often suggest haiku as a form that will get their students writing, and I have mostly discouraged them. Haiku, in its traditional form, has structures that are very difficult for young writers. Here is a wikiHow definition:

"A haiku is a non-rhymed verse genre. In Japanese, haiku has five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, and five again in the last line (they count sounds, not strictly syllables, however, and also write in a single vertical line, but we use three horizontal lines in English). In Japanese, the word "haiku" means "playful verse." More important than form is that a haiku contain a "kigo" (season word) and employ the equivalent to a "kireji" (cutting word), which means that the poem should present two juxtaposed parts in three lines. In addition, haiku should use objective sensory images, and avoid subjective commentary. You also must use imagery to write the Haiku, in order for the reader to visualize what you are writing."

Now, there's a task that seems insurmountable!

Today we have talented poets taking the idea of haiku and making it accessible for a new generation of readers and writers. As evidenced in the three seasonal haiku at the outset, Bob Raczka proves to his readers that poetry is great fun, and 'do'able!

He takes a few subjects....boys and nature and the seasons and off he goes! Beginning with spring and kites, he sets a tone for great enjoyment on every page. Think of all the things that young men might try their hands at and they are likely to be included in these descriptive and delightful poems. Bob explains where his ideas came from:

"Once I had the kite poem, I started mining my memory for moments to write about. As a boy, I always loved catching grasshoppers, skipping stones, raking leaves into piles, and throwing snowballs at trees. So I turned those memories into haiku. I realized that, unlike traditional haiku, which are more contemplative, mine were more active."

And he also gives writers some timely and useful advice:

"I rewrote most of them quite a few times, until they sounded just right. I also read lots of other haiku, to get a feel for what a good haiku should sound like. And of course, my editor helped me weed out the ones that didn’t quite measure up, and encouraged me to make some of them better." There is writing process in action!

Peter Reynolds adds his special touch to the tone of the book, no doubt using some of his own memories to create the expressive, often amusing watercolor images that accompany each poem. Outside, moving and always considering the next action is the order of the day. His boys are contemplative, determined, full of wonder and discovery and on the move!

If you are interested in great writing, poetry, boys and imaginative incentive, get this book!

And be sure to check out the

One more thing! Bob's already working on a book for be called GALKU or HERKU. What do you think? Get on the website and make your voice heard.

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