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Poems to Learn by Heart


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Caroline Kennedy is the editor of eight New York Times bestselling books on American history, politics, constitutional law and poetry, including She Walks in Beauty: A Woman's Journey Through Poems and A Family of Poems.Jon J Muth is the author and illustrator of numerous inspiring and award-winning books for children, including the Caldecott Honor Book Zen Shorts. He also collaborated with Caroline Kennedy on the New York Times best seller A Family of Poems, the companion to this book. Born in Ohio, he now lives with his family in New York State.


A gorgeous collection of poems selected with commitment to memory in mind. Though the author of a few best-sellers on such adult topics as politics and constitutional law, Kennedy continues to carve a name for herself as an anthologist. She teams up here again with Caldecott Honoree Jon J Muth (A Family of Poems, 2005) to present over 100 poems and accompanying illustrations aimed at introducing children to the pleasures of memorization. Unlike other contemporary anthologies with similar ambitions, whose forgettable contents seem picked out of a hat, Kennedy's selection radiates diversity with purpose. Grouped thematically on popular verse topics-the self, nature, war, family, friendship, etc.-each of the collection's works offers a distinctive place of attachment for readers. Light, early-20th-century pieces like A.A. Milne's "Disobedience" and Ogden Nash's "The Parent" ("Children aren't happy with nothing to ignore, / And that's what parents were created for") shine just as brightly as newer nonsensical gems, such as Jack Prelutsky's delectably gross "Herbert Glerbett" and Neal Levin's hilarious "Baby Ate a Microchip." Dark and contemplative subjects fare just as well in selections such as "When he was small, when he would fall," Vladimir Nabokov's powerful comparison of a childhood stumble to death in battle, and Wallace Stevens' "The Snow Man," as breathtaking in its portrait of winter as it is bleak in its meditation on nothingness. As if Kennedy's rich poetic finds weren't enough to hook adventurous youngsters, Muth's shadowy, evocative watercolors render submission inevitable. From the sonorant and strange to the profound and challenging, the poems and paintings collected here are sure to capture readers of any age. (Poetry. 3 & up) Kirkus"
Kennedy, who has edited several poetry books, waxes eloquently on the sturdy reasons for memorizing poetry: the empowerment and confidence it can bring. But she doesn't skimp on the sheer delight of the exercise itself. In this volume, Kennedy has collected more than 100 poems of all sizes for a wide-ranging audience, and she has divided them into chapters, which all begin with her own introductions. Included are poems about self, school, sports, games, and war, as well as nonsense poems. With thoughtfulness and occasional whimsy, Kennedy explains how and why particular poems were selected. And a fine collection it is-one that will grab the audience. Gertrude Stein tells children, "When I wish a dish / I wish a dish of ham." Henry Van Dyke asks them to consider the ramifications of time: "New days, / New ways / Pass by! / Love stays. " Many favorite established poets are here, but younger voices are represented, too. The breadth of the poetry is heightened by Muth's arresting watercolors, and with his pairings, he shows an acute sense of when the images should stay small and when they should blossom into full flower, such as the pink camellia that opens the chapter on nature. A wonderful resource to get kids reading, thinking, talking about, and yes, memorizing poetry. - Ilene Cooper Booklist"
Gr 5 Up Poetry is surely a many splendored thing in this richly conceived compendium of poets and ideas. Using the handsome format of A Family of Poems (Hyperion, 2005), Kennedy and Muth gather and depict a broader, more complex array of poems, inviting the enjoyment of varied readers and audiences. Kennedy's introductory comments on the value of memorizing poetry note the growing popularity of poetry recitation in festivals, slams, and other competitive events. A major emphasis throughout the book, in introductions to the topical sections and the wide-ranging choice of poems, is the deep pleasure poetry provides its readers, reciters, and writers. Some of the topics family, school, nonsense poems, fairies, and ogres suggest children as readers, and some poems are old childhood favorites. All of the sections have many sophisticated selections, however, and there's a section of war poems that includes Martin Niemoller's "First They Came for the Jews," along with much older pieces. Passages from The Metamorphoses and the Bible, along with "Baby Ate a Microchip" and "The Cremation of Sam McGee," are among the many choices made by Kennedy and her teenage partners from New York City schools. Muth's watercolor paintings stretch widely, too, in small sketches on white pages, broad comic scenes, and lovely views on softly washed backgrounds. The cover picture of two young children, one with fairy wings, facing a forest dotted with flashing bits of light, lends a rather false cue. Families and teachers will find enjoyable bits to share, and older children, teens, and adults will find much to savor in this fine tribute to the powers of poetry. Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston SLJ"
Kennedy and Muth return with a stellar second poetry compilation, following 2005's A Family of Poems. Meant to be memorized, the more than 100 poems are divided into nine thematic sections-family, friendships, war, and nature, among others-and come from such writers as Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes, Nikki Grimes, Linda Sue Park, and Gary Soto; biblical verses are included, and the Gettysburg Address appears in full. Muth's lush paintings demonstrate similar range: an abandoned red tricycle joins Ogden Nash's "The Parent" ("Children aren't happy with nothing to ignore, / And that's what parents were created for"), and he stretches his comedic muscles in sections devoted to fantastical creatures and nonsense poems. Once readers have memorized the poems, Kennedy writes, "they won't even need this book." True, but with such a rich diversity of verse and stunning artwork, that would be a shame. All ages. (Mar.) PW"
5Q3P With over a hundred poems included in its pages, Kennedy's Poems to Learn by Heart is a call to action to renew our love for poetry and its tradition in oral recitation. Brief introductions provide context for each thematic chapter and encourage readers to consider not only each poem's meaning, but also its connection to its neighbors. With selections that span everything from love and nature to family and identity, Kennedy encourages readers young and old to embrace the many rewards of poetry: finding a voice, discovering new viewpoints, and appreciating shared experiences. In her own words, "If we learn a poem by heart, it is ours forever-and better still, we can share it with others, yet not have to give it away." This anthology is outstanding, not only for its impressive selection, but also for its presentation. The mood and sentiment of each poem are rendered through beautiful watercolor illustrations by Muth, which heighten the pleasure of the collection. The poems, from some of our most beloved and well-known poets, range from funny and nonsensical to atmospheric and serious. Kennedy's passion is infectious, and she urges readers to see poetry not as stuffy literature but as something comforting, inspiring, and personal. The brief discussions included throughout the text give even the inexperienced poetry reader a foundation from which to start. No reader will ever outgrow these pages.-Courtney Huse Wika VOYA"

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