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Kick Off National Poetry Month with A Foot in the Mouth

From Candlewick Press, A Foot in the Mouth, have Editor Paul B. Janeczko and Illustrator Chris Raschka teamed up again to create another playfully brilliant book of poetry for children (a-hem – including us really tall children!). The other two equally as fun and engaging books in this series include A Poke in the I, a collection of concrete poems, and A Kick in the Head, which focuses on poetic forms. This final addition, however, is a selection of “Poems to Speak, Sing, and Shout” and is more like the Wii of poetry (only much more affordable, and less likely to go out of use in two years).

Janeczko’s introduction encourages readers to play with the sound of poetry by reading aloud: “Poetry is sound…To hear the sound of a poem, really hear it, you need to read it out loud. Or have someone read it to you.” Janeczko also encourages memorization for the joy of recitation. And of course, getting others to join in is something the book begs for. Raschka’s artistry livens every page and helps to further create a playful environment for the poems and readers.

The contents are divided into categories of interest and performance, such as Poems for One Voice, Tongue Twisters, Poems for Two Voices, List Poems, Poems for Three Voices, Short Stuff, Bilingual Poems, Rhymed Poems, Limericks, and Poems for a Group.

The collection encompasses a broad variety and diversity of works, which is refreshing to see in a collection for young people. A couple of my favorites include “Speak Up” by Janet S. Wong (pictured), in which one speaker confronts the other about not being able to speak the language of her cultural heritage (Korean). The poem ends in the reality that both speakers are American born, and thus provides children a means of confronting such stereotypes. “The Loch Ness Monter’s Song” by Edwin Morgan is just plain silly fun, and yet one of the most challenging poems in the book, beginning: “Sssnnnwhuffffll? / Hnwhuffl hhnnwfl hnfl hfl?” I’m still working on it.

Other authors include: Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, Charles R. Smith Jr., George Ella Lyon, Irene McCleod, Lewis Carroll, Charles Follen Adams, Bobbi Katz, David McCord, April Halprin Wayland and Bruce Balan, Patricia Hubbell, Douglas Florian, A.A. Milne, Beverly McLoughland, Georgia Heard, J. Patrick Lewis, William Shakespeare, Edward Lear, Arnold Spilka, Max Fatchen, Sandra Cisneros, Eugenio Ablerto Cano Correa, Allan Wolf, Avis Harley, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Walt Whitman, and a few traditional and anonymous selections.

Considering the NCTE’s continued lament regarding our culture’s demise of poetry reading, this kind of collection can’t help but influence the next generation not to give up on it entirely. Heck, it could it be helpful to share this book with some adults!

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