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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A Poem in Your Pocket, written by Margaret McNamara and illustrated by G. Brian Karas. Schwartz & Wade Books, Random House. 2015. $19.99 ages 8 and up

"Elinor got to work.
All during March, she
studied poetry.
All during April, the
class caught up with
Elinor. They read poetry
books and learned poems
by heart and wrote poems
in their poetry journals.
Every day there was
something new to learn."

It's Poetry Month! I hope you find ways to celebrate the wonders of language by sharing as many books of poetry as you can. We are going to start today with the energetic and always eager teacher wanting to help his students learn new things ... Mr. Tiffin. This is the third book in a terrific series that considers learning in an interactive classroom (How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin, 2007 and The Apple Orchard Riddle, 2013). Mr. Tiffin has it going on ... he knows that children learn best by doing.

In celebration of Poetry Month, he has invited a poet to visit. The purpose of Emmy Crane's visit is to help the students to hone personal poems that they can then carry around in their pockets to share with others. Elinor is going to write six perfect poems, one for each of the pockets in her jeans. She knows she can do it. There is much to learn and they get busy quickly ... reading poetry, memorizing some favorites, writing in their poetry journals.

Mr. Tiffin teaches elements of poetry and affords them the opportunity to practice this new learning.

"Recess is an ice cream cone on a hot day," said Alex. "Even in April."
"Homework is a belt that's too tight," said Jake.
"Do you have a metaphor, Elinor? asked Mr. Tiffin.
"I'm coming up with something amazing," said Elinor. "I'm just not ready
to say anything."
"Elinor is a library," said Tara, "filled with silence."

They read and practice writing haiku, acrostic, concrete, funny poems; on outside walks, they use their 'poet's eyes' to find subjects for their writing. A surprise bag contains a secret for their writing on Friday. A poem about what's inside will help others guess what's there. Along the way, as they try their new skills, Elinor has difficulty. Her struggles continue over the weekend, despite her accumulated knowledge about poetry itself, to write the perfect poem. She has nothing in her pocket when she returns to school on Monday.

Will Emmy Crane be able to help?

G. Brian Karas uses acrylic and pencils to create the sensitive artwork that allows readers to see the joy in a learning classroom, and the despair Elinor feels when she faces writer's block due to her perfectionism. He varies design in the pages, using double page spreads and many spot pictures to give us a clear look at Mr. Tiffin's classroom  community.                                                                          

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