Monday, April 18, 2011

Poetry by Kids: Salting the Ocean by Naomi Shahib Nye

Bibliography –

Nye, Naomi Shahib. 2000. Salting the Ocean: 100 Poems by Young Poets. Ill. by Ashley Bryan. New York: Greenwillow Books, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN – 9780688161934.

Critical Review –

Nye assembles a 100 poem collection written by school age children in first through twelfth grade. The poems were created by students that she worked with in a program called “writer-in-schools” which was originally sponsored by the Texas Commission on the Arts but later expanded to include the states of Maine, Wyoming, and Oregon. Besides the poems, the book has many features that make it a handy reference for the teacher or librarian who uses poetry with children. The table of contents lists the introduction, the four sections of poems, an afterword, acknowledgments, suggestions for further reading, and an index to the poems as well as an index to the poets. The dual index assists in finding poems or poets easily.

The introduction has three parts: an explanation of how she began collecting the poems, a “note to teachers, librarians, parents, and other friends who may pick up this book”, and a thank you note to the poets. The note to teachers and others section can be summed up by the following quote, “There may be nothing more ‘basic’ in education than gaining a sense of one’s own voice” (p. xii). In contrast, the poems are arranged in four sections starting with a quote and a subtitle that reveals a thematic connection between the poems in that section. Also, she identifies how many poems are in each section. For example, section three has the quote, “My Grandma Squashes Roaches with Her Hand” and a subtitle of “twenty-three poems about Anybody’s Family.” The organization and extra reference material in this anthology create a valuable poetry resource.

The poems and illustrations are also valuable as a poetry resource for anyone working with children. The illustrations are beautifully done in tempera paints. Eleven bold illustrations are included, and if this collection has one negative it is that it could benefit from more illustrations. The poems show great diversity in style and voice. They range from prose written with line breaks to very unique forms such as the poem, “How to Grow Up,” (p. 8) which is a how to written in list form with very interesting line breaks. Similarly, the poems vary in length from two lines to an excerpt that is two pages. The best part of this collection is the information in the colored boxes interspersed within the index. In these boxes, Nye shares experiences she had with the children who wrote the poems. These glimpses of her experiences are sometimes funny and other times heartwarming, but in either case, they are helpful tidbits for the librarian or teacher who wants to use poetry with children. Below is a poem from this anthology to use with children.

By Rene Salazar

Listen to the teacher
when she's not talking.
Listen to the radio
when it's not on.
Listen to the river
when it's not flowing.
Listen to yourself
when you're not listening.

Kid Connection –

Before reading the above poem, ask the children to name some poets. Next ask them what they think makes a poem good enough to be printed in a book. Then, read the poem. Wait for a few moments and then allow the children to discuss their impressions of the poem. Next, have two student volunteers read the poem again by one person reading the “Listen” lines and the other student reading the “when” lines. Once again have the students discuss the poem and see if their impressions have changed. Continue the discussion by having them express why or why not this poem should be in a published anthology of poems. Finally, share with them that this poem was written by a student like them and invite them to write a poem mimicking the structure.

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