WE CAME TO AMERICA
by Faith Ringgold
(Knopf BYR; $17.99, Ages 5-8)
“We came to America
Every color, race, and religion
From every country in the world.”
This lovely lyrical stanza from We Came to America invites children to participate in Ringgold’s inspirational poem while reminding them of the journeys made to this country by many different people. From the indigenous peoples already here to those who came bound in chains, from those who fled hardships elsewhere to those who came by choice, it is their stories and creativity which makes America great. As the poem unfolds, children come to realize the scope of this country’s diversity and how it contributes to our success as a country.
The acrylic illustrations have all the rich colors and naivety of folk art, a hallmark of Ringgold’s art. Her familiar style is put to good use here, vividly complementing the theme and helping to interpret the poem. She paints a rich diversity of faces against the backdrop of the red white and blue.
While there is little reference to such events as slavery and anti-immigrant violence, this book is a welcome addition and can used across the curriculum with a variety of age groups. Share it with lower elementary students who are working on a family origins unit for Social Studies. Or pair it up with other resources such as Shaun Tan’s The Arrival, Mary Hoffman’s The Color of Home and Anne Sibley O’Brien’s I’m New Here, to help students gain a deeper sense of the immigration experience and the importance of immigration to this country’s growth. Introduce it to older students as they debate contemporary immigration policies. Share it to help heal recent political divisiveness.
“In spite of where we came from
Or how or why we came,
We are ALL Americans, just the same.”
School library Journal Starred Review
2017 Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People
Papa Is A Poet: A Story About Robert Frost by Natalie S. Bober with illustrations by Rebecca Gibbon, Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, 2013.
Sometimes it’s easy for a child to describe the work that their parents do for a living: firefighter, mail carrier, farmer. What can you say to describe that work when your father is a poet? Through the eyes and words of young Lesley, this charming book tells young readers what life is like as the child of poet Robert Frost from 1905 to 1909.
The dramatic opening spread shows the tiny Frost family debarking from a looming ocean liner onto a barren New York City dock. The parents and four children are clutching old-fashioned trunks and carpet bags, ready to begin an adventurous new life on a farm in New Hampshire.
As the story unfolds, the family works, plays and learns together while Frost struggles to earn a living as a poultry farmer. He tends to farm chores at midnight so he can read and write “in the hush of a sleeping household.” During the day the family picnics, hunts for flowers, and watches sunsets. At night they share stories, read, and stargaze. Through all the activity, Frost is a loving husband and father, teaching his children to observe the world with care and write down their thoughts, dreams and impressions.
Interior art by Rebecca Gibbon from Papa Is a Poet: A Story About Robert Frost by Natalie S. Bober, Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, 2013.
A young reader need not be familiar with Frost’s work to appreciate his deep passion for poetry and words. Lovely excerpts from his poems are sprinkled carefully throughout, and twelve complete poems are contained in the back pages. The charming illustrations pace this book smoothly with warmth as well as detail, offering delightful glimpses into turn of the century life.
This book is a treasure to be savored slowly and repeatedly for all those who love the magic of beautiful words read aloud.
.- Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey
Where Obtained: I received a review copy from the publisher and received no other compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own. Disclosed in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
We could not let April end without reviewing this fantastic collection of poems. It’s entitled National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry: 200 Poems with Photographs that Squeak, Soar, and Roar! (kids.nationalgeographic.com, $24.95, ages 4-8) which is just how we like our animal poetry to be. Here’s the bonus – the book is edited by J. Patrick Lewis, the U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate.
For fellow Californians, included is an evocative Haiku inspired by Bali Sardines from L.A. local, Joan Bransfield Graham:
Dancing through the waves,
ballerinas of the blue —
the ocean their stage.
You’ll also find poems from UCLA graduate and award winning poet, Janet S. Wong; Pulitzer Prize winning former U.S. Poet Laureate, Kay Ryan; Betsy Franco; and Kenn Nesbitt to name a few. Seeking poems about hamsters and honey bees? You’ll find ’em! Want to read about Roosters and Raccoons? They’re there, too. Eager for elephants? Look no further.
This treasury is really not just for 4-8 year-olds because the photographs are simply spectacular and ideally suited for each poem. I’m certain that even teens and adults will find themselves amazed at the variety of details, colors and moods conveyed in all 186 pages. Of course all the great poets are here to enjoy, and easy to find with the Poet Index: from Aiken to Sandburg, Frost to Madox Roberts, and Rosetti to Whitman. The helpful Subject Index, Title Index and First Line Index make this book indispensable for students. There’s also a super spread devoted to writing poems and another for resources, but the poems themselves are what we’re here for. Broken down into manageable sections, this collection divides the poems into an intro called Welcome to the World. This is followed by other sections called The Big Ones, The Little Ones, The Winged Ones, The Water Ones, The Strange Ones, The Noisy Ones, and a Final Thought in closing.
I have nothing but praise for this marvelous book that is not only an homage to the animal kingdom and its beauty but to every word used to describe it.
-Reviewed by Ronna Mandel
World Rat Day: Poems about Real Holidays You’ve Never Heard Of written by J. Patrick Lewis and illustrated by Anna Raff, (Candlewick Press; $15.99; ages 4 and up) is reviewed by Rita Zobayan.
Any concept that poetry is high culture and addresses only the topics of love and death flies out the window with World Rat Day: Poems about Real Holidays You’ve Never Heard Of. Featuring over 20 poems celebrating holidays as unusual as Happy Mew Year for Cats Day (January 2), Bat Appreciation Day (mark your calendars for April 17!) or International Cephalopod Awareness Day (October 8), this compilation is silly fun wrapped in verse.
If you’re in the mood to appreciate dragons—and let’s be honest, who isn’t?!—then don’t wait until January 16 to do so. Read along as we get an inside look at dragon dining etiquette with “Eight Table Manners for Dragons.”
At every meal, bow your head, fold your wings, and say, ‘Graze.’/Wait till someone screams, ‘Let’s heat!’/Don’t talk with people in your mouth./Never blow on your soup. That only makes it hotter./Don’t smoke./Never remove a hare from your food./Play with your food, but don’t let it run around screaming./Chew your food. Once.
Each poem has accompanying illustrations that portray the whimsy of the verses. The characters’ expressions are hilarious and the ink wash style presents the scenes perfectly. World Rat Day: Poems about Real Holidays You’ve Never Heard Of is a great way to start a youngster’s introduction into the world of poetry.
We Go Together!: A Curious Selection of Affectionate Verse by Calef Brown (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $9.99; ages 6 and up) is reviewed today by word lover Rita Zobayan.
Calef Brown mixes pithy diction with fantastical imagery in We Go Together!: A Curious Selection of Affectionate Verse. This 18 poem collection celebrates the quirks and intimacies of friendship, whether it is between boys, girls, animals, or even aliens! Fun words—scallywags, mirth makers, chorkle, concoct—are sprinkled throughout, making each poem a new adventure in language. Some poems use simple rhyme schemes that are easy for young readers to follow and read aloud.
Throughout the poems there is a kindness and hopefulness for the type of friendships we want for our children. “Because of You” captures the sentiment precisely:
I was once/a half-emptyer./Now I’m a half-fuller./Because of you—the together-puller./So if I should smile/and say something sunny,/don’t look at me funny/or act surprised./Because of you,/I’m optimized.
Simple and sweet. The sweetness of the poems is matched by the artistry of the illustrations. In Calef’s world, green aliens take tea, a dog in a hat rings doorbells, a kiwi floats high above the cityscape, and panda faces appear in the rain. Slightly odd and intriguing, the illustrations will draw in the reader and bring the words to life.
Perfect as a gift for a good friend, We Go Together!: A Curious Selection of Affectionate Verse is a pint-sized package (the books measures just about 6” on each side) that packs a lot of love.