Saturday, February 26, 2011

Poetic Form: The Cuckoo's Haiku and other birding poems by Michael J. Rosen

Bibliography –

Rosen, Michael J. 2009. The Cuckoo’s haiku and other birding poems. Ill. by Stan Fellows. Somerville, Mass.: Candlewick Press. ISBN – 9780763630492.

Critical Review –

In this collection of haiku poems, Rosen along with his illustrator Fellows, create a wonderful auditory and visual experience for the reader. Using the theme of birds, Rosen divides the poems into sections by the season which one could expect to observe the particular bird, for example, spring would be a likely time to spot a Canadian Goose or a Northern Cardinal. Each bird is presented on a two page spread layout with the haiku on one page and vivid illustrations across both pages. The illustrations done in watercolors and pencil not only show what the bird looks like in life-like detail but also collages images relating to the bird’s natural environment and activities. Additionally in random and varying page locations, the bird’s name is written in elaborate script along with various brief yet interesting facts about the bird. After the poems is a note section which lists the birds in the order they appear in the collection with a picture and a paragraph detailing more information about that bird.

This beautiful collection is both visually and poetically amazing. Each haiku is a quick glimpse in an exact moment of the bird’s life. It is as if the reader can experience the moment the bird was spotted by Rosen, and he takes a haiku snapshot. While a table of contents would be helpful, the division of birds by season and the listing in order of appearance in the endnotes section does help the reader locate an exact bird. Rosen is faithful to the traditional haiku structure and expertly uses sensory images to create a realistic experience for the reader. Also, he uses simile, metaphor, personification, alliteration and onomatopoeia as staples to create his lasting impressions. The visually engaging illustrations and large font type for the poems are ideal for all ages; however, the script writing is inaccessible for younger children. Below is an example from the collection.

Northern Mockingbird

the one-man bird band:

diva, choir, and orchestra

unbroken record

Kid Connection

Although this poem collection could be used for a variety of age groups and instructional objectives, the above haiku would be an excellent choice for high school students to pair with the novel To Kill a Mockingbird. First, introduce the poem by discussing a famous quote from the book. The author Harper Lee writes, “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy…but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” Read the poem to the class. Next, ask for three student volunteers to read the poem one line each. This will help reinforce the reading skill of pausing at the end of a line of poetry. Repeat this style of line by line reading until every student who would like to participate has a chance to do so. A poem cannot be read too many times. Then, lead a discussion over how this haiku connects with the book quote, and how the mockingbird in the novel is used as a symbol for some of the characters. As a follow-up activity, have the students select a character from the novel that is a “mockingbird” and write a haiku for that character. If time and resources permit, have the students use a computer to create illustrations or draw their own illustrations for their haiku poems.

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