Saturday, January 29, 2011

School Poetry: Stampede! by Laura Purdie Salas

Bibliography –

Salas, Laura Purdie. 2009. Stampede!: Poems to Celebrate the Wild side of School. Ill. by Steven Salerno. New York: Clarion Books. ISBN – 9780618914883.

Critical Review –

In this eighteen poem collection, Salas explores the everyday experiences of school children. In each poem she takes an ordinary occurrence that a child might have during the course of a school day and turns it into a humorous animal tale in poetic form. Steven Salerno provides wonderful images that are bright, lively and reveal meaning to the poems. He created the illustrations by using brushes and gouache on arches 260 lb. hot press watercolor paper, and digital enhancements. His illustrations perfectly match the mood and message of each poem.

In this collection of poems, Salas artfully plays with language to create poems that are appealing and crafted with quality. While each poem has a unique cadence, the rhythm in each is created by rhymes, repetition, and frequently alliteration. The most enduring impact is the way Salas immediately evokes an emotion in the reader through her use of sensory imagery and figurative language. Salas successfully captures the universal feelings that everyone has had at school at one time or another. The moods of the poems strike a wide variety of emotions such as silly, humorous, embarrassing, exciting, scary, snooty, shy, frustrated, and uplifting. The poem below is from this collection.


The whisper
spreads like
fire or

"Someone has
a crush
on you!"

My cheeks burn
hot as a

I'm a blazing

In this poem, Salas precisely and concisely calls to mind what it feels like when what one thought was a secret crush becomes public knowledge at school. She uses rhyme and short lines to establish the beat. When the secret is revealed, the secret holder burns with embarrassment and wishes to fly away. Salas’s use of sensory imagery, simile, and metaphor “burn/hot” the feelings someone in this situation feels. Words like “fire”, “burn”, “hot”, “sun-sharp”, and “blazing” fuel the fire of embarrassment that anyone in this situation would feel. The metaphor of the secret holder being a bird who is flying away reveals how anyone in this place would want to get away as fast as possible. Likewise, Salerno’s illustrations are perfectly supporting this message. The secret holder is drawn in a position with his arms up and behind him looking very much like wings, and his nose is quite pointed like a bird’s beak. The reader cannot miss the intensity of the embarrassment of a moment like this. While this poem is just one example from the collection, all of them are equally satisfying to the reader. Whether or not the reader has experience this situation before, they are able to fully experience the moment.

Kid Connection –

As an introduction to the poem, discuss with the children times when they have experienced various emotions, such as excitement, happiness, sadness, fear, and embarrassment. Ask for student volunteers to share when they have experienced these emotions. Then, read the poem, and have them respond to it. This poem would make a great introduction to a lesson on similes and metaphors. Many of the other poems in this collection could also be used for teaching figurative language and sensory imagery.

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