Youth Programs

Seeing Emily by Joyce Lee Wong (Mod. 5)


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Wong, Joyce Lee. Seeing Emily. Amulet Books: New York, 2005. ISBN 0810957574

Plot Summary:

This is a coming of age novel told in free verse about a girl named Emily Wu, the daughter of Chinese immigrants. She is torn between melding her American self and her Chinese heritage.

Critical Analysis:

This novel is very beautiful. It’s a classic coming of age tale about a young girl who desires following her own heart rather than the expectations placed on her by her parents. The writing is very beautiful. It flows very well and the writing is consistent throughout. Imagery is one of Wong’s strengths in this novel. She paints a very beautiful picture of the struggles facing first generations children. She pulls you into the mind of her main character, Emily, and you feel her desires and wants. This is a very beautiful novel that I highly recommend.

Example Poem: 

“At the moment
an image appeared
in my mind,
a bird
molting her feathers,
shaking off her winter garb
and exchanging it
for new plumage,
giddy and bright
as the stirrings
of spring.

A breeze
teases the air,
and the bird stretches her wings,
feeling the tantalizing lift of current
as she poises at the edge
of her nest.

Ready to dive into
the dazzling expanse
of air and light,
the bird envisions herself
soaring higher
and higher until
the very world seems to shrink
beneath the sweep
of her wings.”

This excerpt is found on page 49. I chose this example because it is a perfect representation of the writing in this book, the theme of this book, the tone of this book, and more importantly, the imagery of this book. In this example, you find all of these aspects. I especially like the meaning behind the image of the bird. In this image, you can see and feel Emily’s desperate desire to rid herself of the expectations placed on her by her family. This is a very compelling novel.

Poems to Learn By Heart by Caroline Kennedy (Mod 5)


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Kennedy, Caroline. Poems to Learn By Heart. Disney: New York, 2013. ISBN 9781423108054.

Plot Summary:

This is a diverse collection of poetry chosen that can speak to us all. They cover a range of human experience and imagination. They are every day occurrences and deep emotion. This book is divided into sections: poems about the self, poems about family, poems about friendship and love, poems about fairies, ogres, and witches, nonsensical poems, poems about school, poems about sports and games, poems about war, poems about nature, and extra credit. These sections all contain wonderfully written poems that will open your eyes to new things and deepen your appreciation for poetry.

Critical Analysis:

I don’t know that I could memorize any one of these poems. While they are wonderful, they are long. Very long. Okay, not all of them are long. And learning a poem by heart doesn’t necessarily mean memorize. Learning something by heart goes deeper than being able to spout it off. It means to analyze it. To understand its meaning. To know the poem and be able to apply it into your life. To learn by heart is to truly and deeply understand: an understanding that reaches your heart.

These are definitely poems to learn by heart. This mix of poetry is lasting and impressing. Each poem is different. They don’t all follow the same patterns, but they all leave you with an impression.

Example Poem: 

 Will There Really be a Morning by Emily Dickinson (Excerpt)

“Will there really be a “Morning”?
Is there such a thing as “Day”?
Could I see it from the mountains
If I were as tall as they?

Has it feet like Water lilies?
Has it feathers like a Bird?
Is it brought from famous countries
Of which I have never heard?”

I chose this poem because Dickinson is easily one of my most favorite poets. I’m so drawn to her tone and her wording. This poem is especially touching. When you’re told about something, and you don’t really believe it yourself, you question it. My favorite line is “Could I see it from the mountains/If I were as tall as they?” This line bring to question whether we, in our limited abilities and limited existence have the same opportunities for the future as those who are taller, more opportune. An optimist would reply yes. But I, like Dickinson, am left with no answer. This is also a wonderful example of rhyming poetry. In this poem, the second and fourth lines in each stanza rhyme (abxb rhyme scheme).

Ten Queens: Portraits of Women of Power by Milton Meltzer Biography Review


Meltzer, Milton. Ten Queens: Portraits of Women of Power. Dutton Children’s Books: New York, NY, 1998. ISBN 0525456430

Plot Summary: 

This book goes over some of the most influential and powerful women who have ever lived. From Esther, Queen of old, to Catherine the Great, this book goes over the accomplishments of these amazing women

Critical Analysis:

I really enjoyed this book. Having recently been told that women shouldn’t lead, reading this book was a reinforcement that yes, women can and should lead. These remarkable women changed the world around them through their courage, their strength and their will, and Meltzer describes it perfectly. Fast paced and easy to read, this book goes through the lives of ten of the most prominent and influential queens this world has seen. The thing I love the most about this book is that it goes over their lives, not just the period for which they ruled. You get  a lot of feedback and history to understand how these women came to power and why they were the way they were. This is very much a TBR for everyone.

Review Excerpts: 

From Publishers Weekly:

“In an enticing mix of history and biography, Meltzer (American Revolutionaries) reveals many events and personal characteristics that contributed to 10 women rulers’ rise to power. Covering a 2000-year time span, the book’s subjects unfold chronologically and include well-known queens such as Cleopatra and Elizabeth I, as well as the lesser-known Boudicca (who led a revolt against the Romans circa A.D. 60) and Zenobia (who sought to establish her own united kingdom of the East in A.D. 269). Deftly placing each queen in historical context, Meltzer conveys the complexity of power and those who seek it. And, while maintaining a brisk pace, the text nevertheless raises political and ethical questions. “

From School Library Journal:

” Meltzer writes traditional political history. He has a storyteller’s flair and an eye for the small details and anecdotes that bring these queens to life. An added note explains the difficulties researchers face in sifting legend from fact and in weighing historical evidence. Colorful expressionistic paintings, boldly stroked onto unframed panels, enrich the pages. Decorative touches of flowers and jewels on the vibrant portraits celebrate the women’s wealth and femininity. While the sources of the quotations that are woven into the accounts are not identified, there is a bibliography of standard histories consulted. Maps and an index add to the usefulness of the book for reports, and the well-spaced lines of text make the pages inviting to read. This book will grace the history shelves and provide pleasure to its readers.”

From Kirkus Reviews:

“Meltzer (Weapons and Warfare, 1996, etc.) pulls together what is known and what might be inferred about ten women who held power and used it.”


Other books about powerful women:

The Life of Elizabeth I by Alison Weir ISBN 0345425502

Eleanor of Aquitaine by Alison Weir ISBN 0345434870

Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie ISBN 0679456724

Other books by Milton Meltzer:

Ten Kings: And the Worlds They Rule ISBN 0439312930

Underground Man ISBN 978-0152055240

There Comes a Time: The Struggle for Civil Rights ISBN 0375804145

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse (Mod. 4)

out of the dust


Hesse, Karen. Out of the Dust. Scholastic Press: New York, 1997. ISBN 0590360809

Plot Summary: 

Out of the Dust is about a fourteen year old girl named Billie Joe Kelby living through the Oklahoma dust bowl.

Critical Analysis: 

This was a fantastic book. I remember picking it up several times as a child, but never actually reading it. I wish I would have. I loved reading about what the dust bowl was like. Historical fiction is one of my favorites. Add in poetry, and I’m ecstatic! The story is told in free verse, as most prose poetry is. The imagery is excellent, such as, “Dust piles up like snow across the prairie.” There’s also a lot of good similes and metaphors such as  “it whirred like a thousand engines.” Fast pace and engaging, this book is a great one for anyone interested in historical fiction.

Example Poem: 

I’m awake now,
still shaking from my dream:

I was coming home
through a howling dust storm,
my lowered face was scrubbed raw by dirt and wind.
Grit scratched my eyes,
it crunched between my teeth.
Sand chafed inside my clothes,
against my skin.
Dust crept inside my ears, up my nose,
down my throat.
I shuddered, nasty with dust.”

This excerpt is found on page 63. I like this because it describes so vividly what it was like during the dust bowl.

They Called Themselves the K.K.K: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group by Susan Campbell Bartoletti Informative Book Review


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They Called Themselves the K.K.K: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group by Susan Campbell Bartoletti


Bartoletti, Susan Campbell. They Called Themselves the K.K.K: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group. Houghton Mifflin: New York, NY, 2010.

Plot Summary:

This book is about the formation of the Ku Klux Klan and how the secret group turned into an organization that ruined the lives of many and took root in America. It takes into account vivid accounts and background on how this group formed.

Critical Analysis:

Historically accurate, and completely heart breaking, this book goes into depth of the creation of the KKK. This book is incredibly detailed. It’s fast paced and just right for juvenile’s to read with clarity. The thing I love the most about this book is when Bartoletti shifts her focus to the victims of the klansmen. Hearing their accounts is incredibly powerful.

The writing was done really well. It didn’t read like a textbook or as nonfiction. It was enjoyable to read through and gave some really good perspective into a really dark period in America’s history.

Another powerful feature of this book is the Civil Rights timeline at the back of the book. It starts in 1863 with the Emancipation Proclamation and ends in 2008 with the election of Barack Obama as the first African American President! It sends the message that though we still have racial issues, we are progressing. And that, after all, is the entire point of the book.

Review Excerpts: 

From School Library Journal

“This richly documented, historically contextualized account traces the origin and evolution of the Ku Klux Klan from a small mischievous social club into a powerful, destructive organization. With compelling clarity, anecdotal detail, and insight, Bartoletti presents the complex era of Reconstruction, 1865-1877, that gave raise to the KKK.”

From Booklist

“Bartoletti follows multi-award-winning titles such as Hitler Youth (2005) with another standout contribution to youth history shelves. Here, she examines how the Ku Klux Klan formed and grew out of the ashes of the Civil War. Bartoletti, who taught eighth-graders for 18 years, writes in admirably clear, accessible language about one of the most complex periods in U.S. history, and she deftly places the powerfully unsettling events into cultural and political context without oversimplifying.”

From Kirkus Review

“Balancing the stories of the Klan and the former slaves’ determination to remake their lives, Bartoletti makes extensive use of congressional testimony, interviews, journals, diaries and slave narratives to allow the players to speak in their own voices as much as possible…An exemplar of history writing and a must for libraries and classrooms.”


Books about the KKK:

An Unspeakable Crime: The Prosecution and Persecution of Leo Frank by Elaine Marie Alphin ISBN 9781467749343

Us and Them: A History of Intolerance in America by Jim Carnes ISBN 0195131258

Freedom Summer Murders by Don Mitchell ISBN  0545477255

Books by Susan Campbell Bartoletti:

Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler’s Shadow ISBN 0439353793

The Boy Who Dared ISBN 9780439680134

Growing Up in Coal Country ISBN 0395979145

The Bookworm’s Feast A Potluck of Poems by J. Patrick Lewis Poetry Book Review


The Bookworm’s Feast  A Potluck of Poems by J. Patrick Lewis – Google Images


Lewis, J. Patrick. The Bookworm’s Feast A Potluck of Poems. Dial Books for Young Readers: New York, NY, 1999. ISBN 0803716923

Plot Summary: 

A book of poems focused on animals and food.

Critical Analysis:

This was also a hit or miss for me. Looking at the book purely as a child, I’m sure I’d find all the poems quite amusing. However, he lacked in this one. Please Bury Me in the Library was a great collection. This was quite the let down after having read the previous book. I do appreciate how many different types of rhyme and poem types he uses. I think it helps children learn the difference between forms of poetry, say the difference between a slant rhyme and a straight rhyme. The set up of the book was adorable. It is formatted like a restaurant menu. The children will really enjoy this book and there are a few little funnies for the adults as well.

Review Excerpts:

From Publishers Weekly

“With an irreverence suggestive of Ogden Nash and the silliness of Jack Prelutsky, Lewis and O’Brien whip up a whimsical confection of poems and drawings in a format just as enjoyable as the poems themselves.”

From School Library Journal 

“A smorgasbord of poetic forms and moods. Arranged in sections like a formal menu (“Appetizers” to “Desserts”), the book contains poems for nearly any taste. There are selections for fans of wordplay, of limerick form, and of valentinelike verse, each accompanied by O’Brien’s exuberant pen-and-watercolor drawings.”

From Kirkus Review

“Lewis has created an almanac of words at play, using tongue-twisters, puns, alliteration, and many forms and fancies of rhyme scheme in an unabashed celebration of language.”


Other Poetry Books for Kids:

Loving Through Heartsongs by Mattie Stepanek ISBN 0786869461

A Light in the Attic by Shel Silvlerstein ISBN 0061905852

Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman ASIN B003ZX7V3S

Other books by J. Patrick Lewis:

Please Bury Me in the Library ISBN 0152163875

Everything is a Poem: The Best of J. Patrick Lewis by J. Patrick Lewis ISBN 1568462409

Last Laughs: Animal Epitaphs by J. Patrick Lewis ISBN 1580892604


The Llama Who Had No Pajama by Mary Ann Hoberman Poetry Book Review


The Llama Who Had No Pajama by Mary Ann Hoberman – Google Images


Homberman, Mary Ann. The Llama Who Had No Pajama. Browndeer Press: Orlando, FL, 1998. ISBN 0152001115

Plot Summary: 

An anthology of 100 poems written my Mary Ann Hoberman. This is a collection for children. These are poems that children will really relate to and enjoy reading or listening to.

Critical Analysis:

This book was a hit or miss for me. I thoroughly enjoyed some poems, while others fell flat for me. Some held a flow and cadence that spoke to me, others felt like they were trying way too hard. She makes good use of literary devices, such as the alliteration in the snail poem. Clever and imaginative, these poems are sure to delight children.

Review Excerpts: 

From School Library Journal

” The selections are mostly humorous, sometimes contemplative, and deal with animals, family, play, and plain silliness. Hoberman’s rhythms are lively and agile, and her imagination and sense of humor are still in tune with young readers. Fraser’s simple but detailed gouache and watercolor illustrations exhibit the same qualities. The layout is masterfully varied and never overwhelms the poems”.

From Publishers Weekly

“This inventively illustrated collection brims with enough wordplay and silliness to please a room full of young wordsmiths.”

From Booklist

“Poems drawn from Hoberman’s previous works…are packaged to delight a new generation of youngsters. Children may be reminded of A.A. Milne’s poetry…but Hoberman’s poetry goes deeper, offering children a new way to look at things.”

Gold Award Winner – 1998 National Parenting Publications Awards (NAPPA)

Best Books of the Year- Child Magazine


Other Poetry Books:

Jazz by Walter Dean Meyers ISBN0823421732

Good Books, Good Times! by Lee Bennett Hopkins ISBN 0064462226

Journey Through Heartsongs by Mattie J.T. Stepanek ISBN 0786869429

Other books by Mary Hoberman:

You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You ISBN 0316013161

A House is a House for Me ISBN 0142407739

The Seven Silly Eaters ISBN 0152024409

Enrichment Activity:

Discuss the difference between rhyme and free verse. Have the children tell you which is their favorite.

Teach the children about found poetry. Have them go outside and write a poem based on what they find.