Tag Archives: poetry

First Poetry Tea of the Year

Since we took our break in September, we have only just started school and are finding our way into the groove.  It turned out that BalletBoy had forgotten a frightening amount of math, which reminded me why we often don’t take that full month of break all at once.  Still, a week later, he seems to have relearned most of it, so no harm no foul.

I’m pleased to say we’re back with Brave Writer style poetry teas.  In the spirit of fall, the first one featured pumpkin chocolate chip scones.  I wasn’t that impressed with the recipe, but the kids gobbled them up, though I think that may be more about the fact that a pile of pumpkin, sugar and butter topped with a bit of chocolate is a no brainer for kids to like.  In the spirit of continued summer weather, we also had lemonade.


We had two new collections from the library that I really liked at this poetry tea, both of them edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins.  He has been by far my favorite children’s poet discovery since we started poetry teas.  I especially like his selections for children’s collections, but we loved his poetry in City I Love, which amidst all the children’s nature poems felt like a great find for us city folk.  For this poetry tea, we enjoyed his selected Carl Sandburg book, Rainbows are Made, and a collection of poems about inventions called Incredible Inventions.  In the past, we’ve really liked My America, Wonderful Words, Behind the Museum Door, and Oh No! Where Are My Pants?  At this point, I think I’d trust any collection he created as just right for poetry teas reading.

 Review of the Day: City I Love by Lee Bennett HopkinsRainbows Are Made: Poems by Carl SandburgIncredible InventionsMy America: A Poetry Atlas of the United StatesBehind the Museum Door: Poems to Celebrate the Wonders of MuseumsWonderful Words: Poems About Reading, Writing, Speaking and ListeningOh, No! Where Are My Pants? and Other Disasters: Poemss stuck Review of The Presidents Stuck in the Bathtub: Poems about the Presidents

The Husband joined us as well and, political junkie he is, was drawn to The President’s Stuck in the Bathtub by Susan Katz, a collection of poems about the presidents.  It ended up being the only thing he read from.  He was clearly delighted by the silliness of it.


Sometimes I do feel frustrated that we rarely get to poems with a deeper meaning or classic poems and poets.  However, seeing the kids really enjoy and look forward to poetry and think poetry is a good thing is a goal in and of itself.  Baked goods certainly don’t hurt and nor does letting everyone practice their reading aloud skills.  And occasionally I get a good one in.  I read “Arithmetic” by Carl Sandburg and I think they related to it, especially BalletBoy to the line about when you get it wrong, you have to start all over again.

“Arithmetic” by Carl Sandburg

Arithmetic is where numbers fly like pigeons in and out of your head.

Arithmetic tells you how many you lose or win if you know how many you had before you lost or won.

Arithmetic is seven eleven all good children go to heaven – or five six bundle of sticks.

Arithmetic is numbers you squeeze from your head to your hand to your pencil to your paper till you get the answer.

Arithmetic is where the answer is right and everything is nice and you can look out of the window and see the blue sky — or the answer is wrong and you have to start all over and try again and see how it comes out this time.

If you take a number and double it and double it again and then double it a few more times, the number gets bigger and bigger and goes higher and higher and only arithmetic can tell you what the number is when you decide to quit doubling.

Arithmetic is where you have to multiply — and you carry the multiplication table in your head and hope you won’t lose it.

If you have two animal crackers, one good and one bad, and you eat one and a striped zebra with streaks all over him eats the other, how many animal crackers will you have if somebody offers you five six seven and you say No no no and you say Nay nay nay and you say Nix nix nix?

If you ask your mother for one fried egg for breakfast and she gives you two fried eggs and you eat both of them, who is better in arithmetic, you or your mother? 

More Poetry Books for Tea Time

We have been very irregular with poetry teas, but they are still happening here, at least every couple of weeks.  One of the nice things about them is that the kids are often the impetus behind them.  They pick out many of the library books we use.  They often urge me that it’s time for another one.  And at our most recent poetry tea, Mushroom made the cookies and BalletBoy set the table.

poetry tea

Of course, we keep returning to the poetry books I’ve mentioned previously here and here.  But we also discover new ones like the ones I’m listing below.

The Monsterologist Spot the Plot: A Riddle Book of Book Riddles

The Monsterologist by Bobbi Katz
This may be a case where the design, by Adam McCauley, surpasses the poetry.  However, the poems are fun for kids and the design is really stunning.  Each poem is about a different monster, from the Loch Ness Monster to the mysterious one that eats your socks in the washer.

Spot the Plot by J. Patrick Lewis
This cute group of riddle poems about classic children’s books was so fun to read that we read them all at the first poetry tea where we had them.  There’s something so perfect about riddle poems that get kids to really listen up.

Poetry by Heart edited by Liz Attenborough
This was one of the best collected books of classic poetry for kids that I’ve seen.  I loved that it ranged from classics to fun, silly poems.  The intention behind it is also excellent as it’s one that is meant to be a base for memorization.  It’s out of print, but you may know there’s a new memorization collection that just came out from Caroline Kennedy.  I haven’t seen that one yet though!

Casey at the Bat by William Thayer
I picked this one out for the start of baseball season (Go Nats!).  There are so many versions, but I chose the old-fashioned illustration style of Christopher Bing’s version, which is filled with newspaper clips and allusions to nineteenth century baseball.

Come to the Great World edited by Wendy Cooling
This collection was another gem.  The poems are from all over the world and chosen to appeal to children as well as to highlight themes of play and peace.  I usually swap out all the library poetry books every time, but I held on to this one through three poetry teas.

Come to the Great World: Poems from Around the Globe

More Poetry Tea Books and some Apple Cake

I got lovely suggestions last time I posted about our poetry tea books and have taken more books out so I’m doing another post of them.  In case you’re curious, here’s the first post of books we were using and here’s the first pictures of one of our first poetry teas, where we almost always drink lemonade, by the way.

The Barefoot Book of Poetry
What a great collection!  A couple of people suggested it to me and I’m very glad I found it at the library.  It may be the one we actually buy.  The poems are all serious, classic poems carefully chosen for kids and with lovely art to go with them.  The book just feels lush and fun.

The Bill Martin Jr. Big Book of Poetry
We kept resisting this collection and I’m not even sure why anymore.  It is a little young looking, but it has a nice mix of “adult” and “kid” poetry and nice illustrations by a variety of famous illustrators.

Soup for Breakfast by Calef Brown
Calef Brown’s illustrations are goofy and detailed and his poetry plays with silly words and amusing rhymes in a way that will appeal to kids to like Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky, but is definitely its own thing.  We also really enjoyed his Halloween and mythology volumes of poetry.

Beauty of the Beast: Poems from the Animal Kingdom
What a lovely collection this is!  We took it out from the library, but I might have to buy it.  The Meilo So illustrations are lovely and the poems range from amusing to serious in all different styles.  This is just the sort of collection I love because we all enjoy reading from it.  Animals are also obviously a good subject for kids and poetry.

Poetry for Young People: Emily Dickinson
We’ve had a few of these volumes out from the library now and I really like them.  The children are less enthused, but I’m hoping we’ll find more and I’ll keep at them.  Each one has some commentary about the poems, which we don’t need at this stage, as well as a small selection of poems by famous poets chosen for younger readers with illustrations.

Mirror Mirror by Marilyn Singer
These are all reverso poems (the poem is read forwards and backwards) about fairy tales, with bright, appealing illustrations.  It was a big picture book hit a few years ago and I had not looked at it since then, but was happy to rediscover it for poetry teas.  The kids were fascinated by the reverso forms.

City I Love by Lee Bennet Hopkins
Forget nature poems!  Sometimes it’s just nice to let my city kids appreciate the idea of urban.  I love the way this book celebrates a variety of cities in a variety of ways.

We have had so many quiet benefits from doing poetry teas regularly.  The table gets cleared off properly.  The Husband joins us for school and food.  I get to hear the kids, especially Mushroom, read aloud and see how they’re reading is going more.

Most importantly, I am forced to bake at least once a week, usually with the kids.  As we picked about forty pounds of apples (yes, that’s right, forty), I’m on my third apple cake, though this week’s was the first one for poetry tea time.  Recipe?  Here you go.

1 1/2 c. sugar
6 oz cream cheese
1 stick of butter
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
1 1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3-4 apples, peeled and chopped
1/4 c. sugar combined with 2 tsp. cinnamon

* Preheat the oven to 350.  Grease or spray a round bundt style springform pan.  This cake is so moist that you need the kind that comes apart.

* Cream the sugar, cream cheese, butter and vanilla together.

* Add the eggs.

* Add the flour, powder and salt.

* In a separate bowl, coat the chopped apples with about half of the cinnamon sugar mix then add it to the batter.

* Pour the batter into the pan.  Sprinkle the remainder of the cinnamon sugar mix on top.

* Bake for about one hour.

Poetry Books for Tea Time

Since we’ve been doing poetry teas…  or poetry lemonades…  Bravewriter style, we’ve had a lot more poetry books out from the library than ever before.  I thought I’d share the ones that have resonated.  Anything we get has to be accessible because the kids pick up the poetry books and just read whatever.  It has to be something they can read aloud with confidence.

  Sad Underwear and Other Complications: More Poems fo Children an... Cover Art Nonsense Poems (Dover Children's Thrift Classics) (Paperback) ~ ... Cover Art

Obviously, they tend toward the funny poems, but that’s fine as sometimes funny poems are good too.  Some of the funny books we’ve enjoyed best have been Shel Silverstein’s A Light in the Attic, Where the Sidewalk Ends, Falling Up, and the book of his work that was published posthumously last year, Every Thing on It.  Jack Prelutsky’s big compendiums New Kid on the Block and A Pizza the Size of the Sun have also been mainstays.  Finally, if you don’t know Judith Viorst’s poetry, then you absolutely should.  We’ve had Sad Underwear and Other Complications as well as If I Were in Charge of the World and Other Worries out from the library repeatedly.  Finally, we have some Edward Lear, which has made nice story poems, though so far only the adults have braved reading them.  I think the children are intimidated by the length, but they’ve enjoyed listening.


For more serious fare, The Dream Keeper and Other Poems by Langston Hughes worked well.  The poems are short but good for ruminating and appreciating language.  Paul Fleischman’s Joyful Noise, which won a Newbery Award many years ago, is another that’s good.  The poems are meant to be read by two people, which makes them great for a poetry social.  Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses seems to be an inevitable poetry book in a household.  Finally, we had a lovely old copy of a book called Hist Wist by e.e. cummings that includes several of his poems chosen for children.  It’s apparently very out of print, but it’s a nice one.  I’d like to find more books like this of poems of individual great adult poets chosen for children.


Finally, the collections are important.  We have some little kid ones that the kids keep rereading, which is cute.  Also, I have some from my childhood.  And we keep taking some out of the library, like Sing a Song of Popcorn  and The Random House Book of Poetry for Children, which are both fine.  I haven’t found one we just adore quite yet though.

If you’re also doing poetry teas, what books do you have strewn on your table?

Poetry Lemonade Social

One of the Bravewriter practices, one that people who don’t even use Bravewriter do, is the Poetry Tea Times.  Once a week, you pull out books of poetry, take out the good china, put out a treat to eat, and read poetry while sipping your tea.  A bunch of blogs I love have done a post like this in the last couple of months and I thought I’d post one of ours.

We don’t have any fancy tea china and we don’t like tea that much, but we do like pink lemonade and have wine glasses, which are automatically fancy if you’re seven years old.  I made homemade cookies and cut up fruit.  It felt like a very summery poetry time.

This happened to be last week and we were all grieving for Maurice Sendak.  Among other things like some ee cummings and plenty of Shel Silverstein, I think the entire Nutshell Library was deemed poetry and read aloud.  I have been getting the kids to pick out a single book of poetry at the library.  Mushroom read several from the book he chose, Monumental Verses, which featured different types of poems about famous world monuments.

The kids have both been begging to do this more often.  Not just for the cookies either, as they can’t stop asking to read just one more poem.

Poetry Month

Our co-op has been doing a unit on poetry this go around and we all agree it’s been a fantastic topic.  The kids are all young, so they can’t compose sonnets quite yet, but they have written haiku, diamantes and acrostics.  Plus, I’ve heard a lot of couplets out of them.  When it was my turn to teach this topic, we had a “Poet’s Toolbox” filled with blocks that showed all the various “tools” poet’s use like rhymes, alliteration, meter, and so forth.  Plus paper, pencils and erasers.  And because they’re a group of Avatar-lovers, we watched the scene where Sokka has the haiku battle.

We went outside to write nature poetry at the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens last week.  It was a glorious spring day (finally!) and four kids I had in my car on the way home composed orally poem after poem with great excitement.  I had forgotten how much joy children get from poetry.  I still enjoy poems, but I am remembering that sort of passion that I felt about hearing, reading, memorizing and writing poems as a child.  I think it must be something about being so new to language in general that you still see such magic in it.

Below is BalletBoy’s acrostic poem about something he saw at the aquatic gardens.  I just love it.

Go flying
On the breeze
Off the ground
Sing in the sky
Eating grass

(I corrected his spelling and capitalization there for you.)

Poetry Friday: Memories of Memorization

Though a number of my favorite homeschool or book blogs, such as Here in the Bonny Glen, and Through the Wardrobe,  do a Poetry Friday, I’m not really a participant.  However, science is on hiatus this week due to our prolonged flu (to return next week!) and with our production of The Tempest fast approaching I’m filled with memories about childhood drama, which for me is tied all up with poetry memorization as I often performed poetry in my youth to show off my acting skills.  So I present to you one of my most celebrated childhood performances, the poem “My Sister Betty” by Gareth Owen, with which I won great acclaim for doing a dramatic solo enactment in second grade at the school talent show.

My sister Betty said,
‘I’m going to be a famous actress,’
Last year she was going to be a missionary.
‘Famous actresses always look unhappy but beautiful,’
She said, pulling her mouth sideways
And making her eyes turn upwards
So they were mostly white.
‘Do I look unhappy but beautiful?’
‘I want to go to bed and read,’ I said.
‘Famous actresses suffer and have hysterics,’ she said.
‘I’ve been practising my hysterics.’
She began going very red and screaming
So that it hurt my ears.
She hit herself on the head with her fists
And rolled off my bed onto the lino.
I stood by the wardrobe where it was safer.
She got up saying, ‘Thank you, thank you,’
And bowed to the four corners of my bedroom.
‘Would you like an encore of hysterics?’ she said,
‘No,’ I said from inside the wardrobe.
There was fluff all over her vest.
‘If you don’t clap enthusiastically,’ she said,
‘I’ll put your light out when you’re reading.’
While I clapped a bit
She bowed and shouted, ‘More, more!’
Auntie Gladys shouted upstairs,
‘Go to bed and stop teasing Betty.’
‘The best thing about being a famous actress,’ Betty said,
‘Is that you get to die a lot.’
She fell to the floor with a crash
And lay there for an hour and a half
With her eyes staring at the ceiling.
She only went away when I said,
‘You really look like a famous actress
Who’s unhappy but beautiful.’

When I got into bed and started reading,
She came and switched off my light.
It’s not much fun
Having a famous actress for a sister.