Apr 1, 2017

Picture Book Perspectives on Poetry Classics

Screen shot of some of the series covers from www.sterlingpublishing.com
A remarkable series was developed by Sterling Publishing in the 1990's: POETRY FOR YOUNG PEOPLE. Soon after, Scholastic Books began offering a paperback edition of each title, and they've continued to sell well ever since. 
The concept is brilliant: 
Each picture book title features works by a well-known, well-respected poet.
Each title has its own editor and illustrator. 
Each opens with a few pages of solid text, offering a brief biographical and historical reflection on that poet. Those pages are followed by richly illustrated double page spreads that enhance the featured poems. The editors present a few lines of background about each poem, followed by specific/challenging vocabulary words, noted and simply defined below the body of the poem.

Each makes the poet featured an accessible, empathetic writer whose work is suddenly relevant and engaging. 

A few of the more recent releases have focused on themes with anthologies from various poets: THE SEASONS, ANIMAL POEMS.

I urge everyone, but especially educators for any age, to explore and use these books. Poetry, with it's very low word count, shares powerful ideas. It requires the deepest and most intense cooperation from readers, along with an emotional investment. 

That need not be a solemn experience, nor a struggle. I've never yet met a reader who could encounter a Jack Prelutsky or Shel Silverstein poem without becoming an immediate fan. That "humor hook" is only one of the many emotional lures that are provided to readers in the pages of this collection. The illustration elaborations suggest those emotions and provide clues for interpretation when reading aloud, singly or in choral groups. 

My previous post on the importance of nursery rhymes was much longer than my typical posts. I'll compensate by keeping this one short. That allows more time for you to get your hands on these books. While you're at it, you might want to stop by The Poetry Foundation's  audio link, POETRY OFF THE SHELF, at which you can select from podcasts about a wide range of poets, many of which work well with the individual titles in this series. Their brief broadcasts provide simple background about the poet(s) during their own lives, and also suggest links and relevance of the poem's sentiments to our current lives.

Stay tuned for a Throw-Back-Thursday post about some of my classic favorites.

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Picture books are as versatile and diverse as the readers who enjoy them. Join me to explore the wacky, wonderful, challenging and changing world of picture books.