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Dystopian Novels for Teens

by Miriam Downey 1. February 2014 09:35

 Most teens like dystopian novels but they don't know the term dystopian. Dystopia is just the opposite of Utopia. In utopian fiction, society is ideal, or the way the writer visualizes that society would be ideal. In dystopian fiction, things have gone very bad--there is at least one major reason why things aren't good. Most people would classify dystopian fiction as science fiction, but the fact that the culture is oppressive is what makes the difference. One writer suggests that a novel is dystopian when the government or the governing social institution is dysfunctional. Usually dystopian fiction is set in the "near" future.

Firction has always been full of dystopian literature, most likely beginning with Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift, written in the 1700s, which really was a combination of utopian and dystopian literature. The most current example of dystopian fiction is The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins. Most parents had to read 1984, Fahrenheit 451 or Animal Farm when they were in school, and these books remain the classic dystopian novels.

One children's book expert believes that teens are drawn to dystopian fiction because it's an exciting genre but also because the books are generally set in either chaotic or strictly controlled societies--which tends to mimic a teenager's life. The books also are hero or heroine journeys, much more like fairy tales than they are like science fiction. The teenaged hero/heroine will be tested and challenged. Often the adults are the oppressors and the children are the liberators. Easy to see why these books are loved by teens.

I have included in this rather short list the books that I can recommend to most young people. Let's begin with the classics, most of which are available online. Although there are some objections to the Hunger Games series, I did include it on the list.

Classic Dystopian Novels

Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift. Written in 1726, it has never been out of print. (grades 6-12)

Animal Farm by George Orwell. The farm animals stage an uprising and overcome an oppressive regime. (grades 6-12)

1984 by George Orwell. The "party" controls everything in Oceania, and everywhere Winston goes, he sees the face of the party. (grades 10-12)

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. 451 Fahrenheit, by the way, is the temperature that books burn and the government is out to burn all the books. (grades 9-12)

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson. This is a short story that may have been influential in the creation of the Hunger Games. (grades 10-12)

Lord of the Flies by William Golding. A group of boys are lost on an island and try to create a government. (grades 7-12)

Recent Dystopian Fiction

The Giver by Lois Lowry. The society depicted in this novel eliminates pain and problems by promoting "sameness." Winner of the Newbery Prize. (grades 6-8)

Uglies series by Scott Westerfield. When you are 16 in Uglytown, you turn pretty because of required surgery. (grades 7-9)

Feed by M. T. Anderson. Describes a world where everyone's mind is hardwired to resemble the Internet. (grades 7-12)

The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins. Three books about a dystopian society called Panem. There is some violence in the books, but they are remarkably well plotted. (grades 7-12)

Divergent series by Veronica Roth. Tris is born into a caste-based society where there is only one chance to move ahead. (grades 9-12)


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Blog | English

The First Thanksgiving in Picture Books

by Miriam Downey 9. November 2013 15:01



 Our family Thanksgiving has always included many people--some of whom are not family members. We have included friends of our children, college roommates, foreign students, as well as people from church and our community activities who have nowhere else to go. Our feeling has always been "the more the merrier," and I am sure many of you have similar holiday celebrations. Thanksgiving is all about family and tradition.

Besides family members, our Thanksgiving this year will include a young Egyptian couple and a few young students from Saudi Arabia that I tutor. How do I explain Thanksgiving to them? The holiday is so rich in American culture. It is the essence of what makes our country great. I will have to explain why we eat turkey, corn, and cranberry sauce. I will need to explain how the earliest settlers were made welcome by the Native Americans, and how the Native Americans taught the Pilgrims how to survive in this strange land. It is indeed a marvelous holiday, and it is unique to the United States.

Our guests this year will bring stuffed grape leaves, baklava, and a Saudi dish called Kebsa. We will enjoy these new tastes along with our mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie.

One of my favorite books for the holidays is Molly's Pilgrim by Barbara Cohen. It completely captures the essence of the holiday. I have included on this list of books a variety of stories for all ages that tell of the origins of the holiday. You will be able to find them at your library or bookstore. Some may be available for Kindle or Nook.

There are three cute Thanksgiving books available online on We Give Books. You will find them on the front page of the website.

 Stories about the First Thanksgiving 

!621: A New Look at Thanksgiving by Catherine O'Neill Grace and Margaret M. Bruchac. Photographs by Cotton Coulson and Sisse Brimberg (Grades 3–5 )
In October of 2000, Plimoth Plantation cooperated with the Wampanoag community to stage an historically accurate reenactment of the 1621 harvest celebration. 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving exposes the myth that this event was the "first Thanksgiving" and is the basis for the Thanksgiving holiday that is celebrated today. This exciting book describes the actual events that took place during the three days that the Wampanoag people and the colonists came together.

The First Thanksgiving by Linda Hayward (Grades PreK–1)
Give young readers the familiar story behind our tradition of Thanksgiving Day, detailed in this easy-to-read history storybook. The Pilgrims' journey, the trials they endure while at sea, and all of their amazing adventures are conveyed with vibrant illustrations and simple words for utmost comprehension.

Pilgrim's First Thanksgiving by Ann McGovern (Grades PreK–1)
Full-color illustrations bring to life this historically accurate account of how the children of Plymouth Colony helped contribute to the first Thanksgiving celebration.

Squanto's Journey by Joseph Bruchac (Grades K–3)
Travel back to 1620 as an English ship called the Mayflower lands on the shores inhabited by the Pokanoket people. As Squanto welcomes the newcomers and teaches them how to survive in the rugged land they called Plymouth, young readers are treated to a story ending with the two peoples feasting together in the spirit of peace and brotherhood.

If You Were at the First Thanksgiving by Anne Kamma (Grades 1-4)
Told from a child's perspective and illustrated in full color, this book brings the first Thanksgiving to life. Details about daily life put young readers into the middle of the action.

If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620 by Ann McGovern (Grades 1–4)
Answer children's questions about the Pilgrims with an enlightening Thanksgiving story. With the beautiful illustrations, young readers can imagine being right on the ship, waiting to arrive in a new land. As part of the If You series, this book helps bring history to life and nurture imagination.

The Journal of Jasper Jonathan Pierce: A Pilgrim Boy, 1620  by Ann Rinaldi (Grades 4–8)
By promising seven years of labor to a fellow traveler, Jasper earns passage aboard the Mayflower and closes the door on his troubled past. His account of the arduous ocean crossing and first year in the New World shows young readers his physical and spiritual growth as he learns the strengths and weaknesses in himself, his Puritan people, and his Native American neighbors.

Other Thanksgiving Holiday Stories

Clifford's Thanksgiving Visit  by Norman Bridwell (Grades PreK–2)
What child wouldn't like to have a pet as special as Clifford the Big Red Dog? In this adventure, Clifford experiences an unusual Thanksgiving journey, ending with an appreciation of overcoming difficulties, celebrating tradition, and spending time with family.

Gracias, el Pavo de Thanksgiving  by Joy Crowley (Grades PreK–2)
In this warm holiday story, a young Puerto Rican boy saves the life of his pet turkey with help from his close-knit New York City family and neighborhood. Beginning Spanish vocabulary is woven into the text, giving young readers a unique Thanksgiving story experience.

Molly's Pilgrim  by Barbara Cohen (Grades K–3)
Molly nears her first Thanksgiving in America and her classmates giggle at her Yiddish accent and make fun of her unfamiliar ways. Now her mother embarrasses her with a doll that looks more Russian than Pilgrim. Will Molly discover something to be thankful for?



Blog | English

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

by Miriam Downey 25. July 2013 07:02

I read an article in the Wall Street Journal today about baseball games between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. The game last Sunday took 4 hours and 46 minutes. This caused me to ponder about the kind of people who could sit at a baseball game for 4 hours and 46 minutes. Lots of people, apparently. The article also noted that it takes 3 hours and 15 minutes to drive from Fenway Park in Boston to Yankee Stadium in New York--an hour longer to play a game than to drive to the game!

Of course, Americans love baseball. True fans will tell you that the game has nothing to do with the action and everything to do with the mind games that are part of the sport's intrigue. I was very interested in the movie "Moneyball" starring Brad Pitt, that detailed the strategy of a baseball team manager to create a winning team. That movie was based on a book by Michael Lewis called Moneyball:The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. My teenage grandson who is fascinated by sports statistics really enjoyed both the book and the movie.

There are many biographies of baseball heroes--many more than I can put in this short blog posting. Pick a baseball here and there's a biography about him. I can also recommend novels by Matt Christopher, Duane Decker, and John Tunis for kids who just can't read enough sports books. Another fun series is the Southside Sluggers Baseball Mysteries by Daniel Greenberg.

Here are some other baseball books that are well worth reading. All of them can be found at your local library or bookstore.

Biographies of Baseball Greats

Lou Gehrig: The Luckiest Man by David A. Adler (grades k-3). The moving story of a baseball hero who died too young.

My Greatest Day in Baseball by Eliot Cohen (grades 4-8). Short biographies of 38 of the greatest baseball players.

Teammates by Peter Golenbock (grades k-6). When Branch Rickey recruited Jackie Robinson to play baseball.

When Willard Met Babe Ruth by Donald Hall (easy reader). In 1917, Willard met Babe Ruth and sparked the interest of three generations of his family.


The Longest Home Run by Roch Carrier (easy reader). A girl hits the longest home run ever. Very fun book.

Casey at the Bat: A Ballad of the Republic Sung in the Year 1888 (K-6) A Caldecott award winner illustrated by Christopher Bing makes the old poem new again.

Heart of a Champion and Painting the Black by Carl Deuker (grades 9-12). Coming of age novels with baseball as the theme.

Grandmas at Bat by Emily McCully (grades k-3). Grandmas are the coaches of the kids' baseball team.

Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki (grades k-6). Children in a Japanese internment camp during World War II create baseball teams to pass the time.

MadCat by Kathy Mackel (grades 9-12). A novel about high school softball.

In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Bette Bao Lord (grades 4-6). A delightful story about a Chinese immigrant girl who becomes fascinated with Jackie Robinson and baseball.

Heat by Mike Lupica (grades 4-6). Michael dreams of being a professional baseball player.

Shoeless Joe by W. P. Kinsella (grades 9-12). The classic baseball story that became the movie "Field of Dreams."


An Inside Look at Spring Training by Joan Anderson (grades 4-6). A photo essay about spring training through the eyes of a batboy.

The Super Book of Baseball by Ron Berler (grades 4-6). Everything you wanted to know about baseball.

Careers in Baseball by Howard Blumenthal (grades 9-12). What are the options for people who might want a career in baseball?

The All American Girls Professional Baseball  League by Margot Galt (grades 4-6). For twelve years there was a professional women's baseball league. The movie "A League of Their Own" came from that era.

Latinos in Beisbol by James Cockcroft (grades 9-12). Discusses the history of Latinos in American baseball.

Baseball in the Barrios by Henry Horenstein (grades k-3). How baseball is played in Venezuela.



Blog | English | Libraries, Library Books

Some Traditional Holiday Books

by Miriam Downey 4. December 2012 18:07


Every family has holiday traditions that they cherish and become so important that children feel that the holidays aren't complete until the traditional activity happens. When I was a little girl, my grandfather would read the story The Other Wiseman by Henry Van Dyke on Christmas Eve. My grandpa was a preacher, and sometimes he would also read the story at church on Three Kings Sunday, the Sunday after Christmas. Other families I know read the story of the birth of Jesus from the Bible on Christmas Eve. Other families read Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Some families sing around the piano, or bake special cookies, or watch a favorite holiday movie together.

I learned again how important those traditions are to children a couple of years ago. Our large family had decided that instead of exchanging gifts, we would have a scavenger hunt at the local dollar stores and buy supplies for an area homeless mission. After the scavenger hunt, each person made a Cornish pasty for supper, an upper Midwest delicacy. I was helping my 8-year-old granddaughter make her pasty when she looked up at me with shining eyes, and said: "Oh, Grandma! Let's do this every year." And a new tradition was born.

I have included in this book list, classic books that are available online for your holiday reading pleasure. Some of these books may become holiday traditions for you. All of these links worked as I was writing this article. I assume that they will work for you as well. Remember that the only books that are available free online are books whose copyrights have expired.


Picture Books

The 12 Days of Christmas by Rachel Isadora. The classic song with a witty twist.

No Room in the Inn by Jean Malone. The story of the first Christmas. Easy Reader.

Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement Moore. The classic poem.

Llama Llama Holiday Drama by Anna Dewdney.  Llama Llama doesn't like waiting for Christmas.

A Christmas Journey by Hans Wilhelm. Two little mice witness the birth of Christ.

Chapter Books

Christ Legends by Selma Lagerlof. Stories of Jesus from many cultures.

The Bird's Christmas Carol by Kate Douglas Wiggin. A Victorian family Christmas story.

This way to Christmas by Ruth Sawyer. Separated from his family, a little boy discovers a way to celebrate Christmas.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. The beloved story about the Christmas spirit.

Christmas in Legend and Story by Elva S. Smith. A collection of traditional Christmas stories.

The Other Wise Man by Henry Van Dyke. A Christmas legend.

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Just in Time for Halloween!

by Miriam Downey 31. October 2012 17:38


Last week I spent a few days visiting a friend in Tarrytown, New York, a beautiful little town on the Hudson River. Tarrytown is neighbor to another beautiful little town, Sleepy Hollow. Between the two towns, they have a monopoly on festivities connected with Halloween and the Legend of Sleepy Hollow  by Washington Irving, their most famous resident.

Washingon Irving lived from 1783 to 1859 on a beautiful farm in the Sleepy Hollow area. His home, Sunnyside, is open to the public. He was America's first best-selling author and is known for his short stories, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle.

While in Tarrytown, I went to the Old Dutch Church one dark October evening to hear a storyteller retell The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. The church had an old reed organ and was lit by candlelight. The organ played eerie music as the story teller set the mood by telling some of the legends that had formed the basis for the story of Ichabod Crane and the headless horseman, and then he brilliantly told The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. It was an incredible experience.

It made me think about the classic American short stories that are appropriate for dark October nights when people are inclined to think about scary things. These stories, appropriate for high school students, form the basis of much of American literature, and luckily for us, most all of them are available to download or read on the Internet.

So, for our scary approval, here is a list of classic American scary stories. Just a reminder: these are appropriate for teenagers.


The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

The Tell Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe. (Actually all of his stories are scary.)

The Ghost Story by Mark Twain

For added enjoyment, here are a few British scary stories.

The Bottle Imp by Robert Lewis Stevenson

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

The Door in the Wall by H.G. Wells

Have a great scary time!

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Hard Copy Picture Books or Digital E-Books? That Is the Question.

by Miriam Downey 27. September 2012 07:58

The library of FWU is a repository of classic books that can be found online or in e-book format. Many children's picture books, however, are not available online either free or for purchase. As a librarian and a grandmother, I highly recommend that picture books be read to and with your children in hard copy format rather than as an e-book.

First, on an e-book, only one page can be shown at a time. In many picture books, the pictures are spread across both pages. Some of the context will be missing if the child can't see both pages, and in picture books, much of the context comes from the pictures. Then, there is the issue of how to hold the device so that both parent and child can see the entire page. I would also argue that it might be harder to cuddle together with a device rather than a hard-copy book.

My feeling is that sitting on the couch reading a book is one of the most comforting and enlightening things a parent can do with a child. My daughter is currently reading A Child's Garden of Verse by Robert Lewis Stevenson to her toddler daughter every evening before bed. The interesting thing to me is that there are no pictures--it is a very old edition of the book. But every evening as they sit in the rocking chair before bed, Adela is lulled by the words, the rhyme, and the cadence of the words in the poetry.


Recent research would back up my feelings about picture book reading. "Print books are preferred over e-books by parents as well as children when they read together, according to a new study from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop that found that 89.9% of iPad owners read 'mostly print books and some e-books' with their children, 7.5% read both formats equally with their children, and 2.7% read 'mostly or exclusively' e-books." These statistics appeared in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal. More significantly, fewer than 10% of children liked to read e-books better. E-books may be valuable when a child wants to hear or read a story and a parent is not available to share the time with the child--like when a child is in the car or a parent is cooking supper. The study suggested that e-books may serve best as supplements to a child's literary development.

I would be remiss as a librarian if I did not suggest that your local library may be the best source of picture books for your child. At the library, your children can choose whatever books they want to support whatever interest they are currently exploring. The library will have books for the whole family, and probably nothing encourages reading for a child more than seeing a parent reading.

Some of the best picture book authors have not allowed their books to be remade in e-book format. Although Green Eggs and Ham, the classic children's book by Dr. Seuss is available on compact disk, it has not been released as an e-book, and neither have Where the Wild Things Are or Polar Express. These books have to be read in hard copy, and you certainly wouldn't want your child to miss those classics.

Reading together is one of life's great pleasures and encourages lifelong literary skills. Read a picture book with your child today!

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Blog | English

A Summer Full of Imagination

by Miriam Downey 5. July 2012 10:56

When my son was about 12, he told me one "boring" summer afternoon that he wanted to make an "imagination cake." I told him that he could experiment in the kitchen as long as he cleaned up after himself. Of course, the product that came out of the oven didn't look anything like a cake because he had used some of his favorites like peanut butter and catsup but had used no flour or eggs or leavening agent. After I explained to him about how a cake had to have all the previously mentioned things, he and I baked a real cake together. It was a good experience for us both; he got to use his imagination, and I got to teach a cooking skill.

Summer is a great time for children's imaginations to run wild. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal (May 23, 2012) discusses this very topic. Tinkerers Unite! How Parents Enable Kids' Creativity talks about how having time to "mess around" may be an extremely valuable experience for children by allowing them time for unstructured, hands-on creativity. The family in the story kept a box of junk that the children could use to make whatever they wanted.

The article suggests that even though Legos and other toys that can be purchased can encourage a lot of hands-on play, some of the best play comes when the play equipment has to be scavenged and repurposed. The article suggested that telling a child that you won't purchase some big single-purpose item may encourage a creative solution to the problem. Following the article, readers expressed opinions on the article. One anonymous reader said: "As a society, we've transformed childhood from a time of exploration and imagination into a time of consumerism and staring. It's critical that we parents limit screen time and require our young people to come up with their own activities, ideas and plans, if we are to support a future society in which people know how to fix, build, and create."

The problem with massive amounts of creative play is massive amounts of chaos in the house and yard that has to be cleaned up. I can offer no solution for that, but I can offer some books that will help guide your child's creative efforts. The following lists of books are about sewing, cooking, building, technology, putting on shows, etc. Most will be available at your public library. Any one of these books can inspire a summer's worth of tinkering.

I must say in closing that the same son who experimented with cake baking and other messy, messy endeavors as a child is now a toy designer and inventor. Some of his creations may be in your playroom or your game closet. It is satisfying as a mother to know that all the chaos and cleanup amounted to something!

The Way Things Work or The New Way Things Work by David McCaulay. These classic books are a tinkerer's guide to creation. Everything you would ever want to know about how things work.

The Way Science Works by DK Publishing. All the secrets of science.

Gizmos and Gadgets: Creating Science Contraptions that Work and Knowing Why by Jull Frankel Hauser. Perfect for making major messes!

Kids and Inventing! A Handbook for Young Inventors by Susan Casey. Easy-to-follow instructions for turning ideas into realities.

New Junior Cookbook by Better Homes and Gardens. This cookbook is appropriate for even the youngest cooks, and the recipes are appealing to older children as well. There are lots of cookbooks for children available. Your own favorites may be a child's best source of recipes, however.

Sewing School: 21 Sewing Projects Kids Will Love by Amie Plumley and Andria Lisle. These projects look really cute and fun. They also use material scraps, which makes for fun for most children.

Theatre for Young Audiences: 20 Great Plays for Children by Coleman A. Jennings. Some original plays and some adaptations that children can act out and plan the production of.

On Stage: Theatre Games and Activities for Kids by Lisa Barry-Winters. More fun in putting on a show.

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English | Learning

Going on a road trip? Listen to a book.

by Miriam Downey 11. June 2012 11:38

When my daughter was in middle school, we frequently drove from Michigan to New York and Minnesota to visit relatives. Both were very long trips for me as the driver and her as the rider. I remembered that my mother had read to us in the car when we were young, so I went to the library and got audio books for us to listen to in the car. It turned out to be a wonderful experience for us both; I tried to pick books that we both would like to hear. My fondest memory is when we listened to To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. It turned out to be transformative for both of us.

If there are several children in your family, you will need to be cognizant of the differences in the ages as you are choosing your audio books. Remember that children can listen to books geared to an older age level than they can read. You will find that even the driver tunes into the book. I have always gotten a kick out of my husband and the books we listen to in the car. He says that he doesn't like fiction, but he is always the first to turn on the player when we get into the car.

Here are my best suggestions for books for road trips. All of these books are available at my local library. Check with your library website or just go and browse their audio book shelves.

The best part of listening to a book in the car is that the hours just fly by!

These books are appropriate for almost all families.

The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Most of the books in the series run about 6 hours on CD. The book for the youngest children is The Little House in the Big Woods. Please be warned that Pa speaks despairingly of Native Americans in some of the books but not in The Little House in the Big Woods. Probably will need some explaining about how pioneers felt about Native Americans.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. 4 1/2 hours. An adventure novel and modern fairy tale. It is fun with lots of puns and jokes about the meanings of English language idioms.

Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe. 2 hours. Talk about silly! A vegetarian vampire bunny. Other books by the Howes that are also available on audio book include Howliday Inn and The Celery Stalks at Midnight. Everyone will be in stitches.

Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater.  2 hours. Mr. Popper is a house painter who is given two penguins who begin a small flock. The curiosity of the penguins and Mr. Popper's goodwill is memorable.

Redwall by Brian Jacques. 10 hours. Several books in the series. The story of a brave mouse who founds an abbey deep in the woods and fighs evil. Great stories.

Travels with Charlie by John Steinbeck.  8 hours. Travel with the famous American author John Steinbeck as he travels around the United States with his dog, Charlie.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  12 hours. The classic story about Scout, a girl of the South and her lawyer father, a kind man who tries to live a just life. Scout is one of the most appealing children in American literature.

Happy Travels!

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Wild Things: A Tribute to Maurice Sendak

by Miriam Downey 11. May 2012 08:46

I started writing a blog posting about adventure books, but it will have to be postponed because I want to pay tribute to my all-time favorite children's book, Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak.

Maurice Sendak died on May 8 at age 83. His influence on children's literature is immeasurable, primarily because of his groundbreaking picture book, Where the Wild Things Are. I don't believe it would be an overstatement to say that Where the Wild Things Are may be the most influential picture book of the 20th century. So influential, I might add, that I have a grandson named Max after the hero of the book.

Max is a naughty boy, gets mad at his mother, and is sent to bed without any supper. And like the hero of Greek mythology he sets sail:

       "Through night and day

         and in and out of weeks

         and almost over a year

         to where the wild things are."

My favorite line in the book is "Let the wild rumpus start." I think of that line every time all my grandchildren arrive at the house and every time we have a party. My other favorite line comes at the beginning of the book when Max begins his mischief, and his mother reprimands him. He gets so mad he tells his mother, "I'll eat you up!" which is the reason he is sent to his room.

Before Max, most picture book children were well-behaved little things, and picture books told stories with morals, and nothing bad ever happened. Where the Wild Things Are tells the story of the interior life of an angry little boy and how he deals with that anger. I believe that is why children identify so strongly with Max. He can get really angry, but he finds ways in his imagination to deal with that anger. Kids get the moral of that story ... we can learn to deal with anger in an interior way and return to the real world calmed and reflective. Where the Wild Things Are opened a floodgate of picture books which dealt with children's anger and all the other things that children face--death, fear of abandonment or not fitting in, as well as all the other childhood experiences, including the rich imaginary experiences so similar to Max's.

I watched my year-old granddaughter get really mad at dinner a couple of nights ago. Her father pulled her out of the high chair and carried her into the living room to cool off. Her fit subsided, and she returned to finish her dinner ... "and it was still warm."

I can't say that I recommend all of Maurice Sendak's books. I do like Chicken Soup with Rice, The Nutshell Library, and In the Night Kitchen, although I do have to mention that the little boy is naked in In the Night Kitchen. Maurice Sendak also illustrated many books by other authors including, Little Bear by Minarik and A Hole is to Dig by Kraus.

The New York Times quotes a letter that Maurice Sendak received from an 8-year-old: "Dear Mr. Sendak, How much does it cost to get to where the wild things are? If it is not expensive, my sister and I would like to spend the summer there."

In honor of Maurice Sendak, why don't you pull out your copy of Where the Wild Things Are or borrow one from the library? Have your children read it, and then write a story or essay about anger, or imagination, or "wild things" or whatever comes into their heads. It would be a fitting tribute to a great children's author and a great American book.

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Beyond Mother Goose: Poetry to Please Your Student

by Miriam Downey 29. February 2012 10:37

 I had an interesting experience the other day. My infant granddaughter was sitting on my lap, and I felt compelled to recite the Mother Goose poem:

Little Robin Redbreast

Sat upon a pole

Wibble Wobble went his tail

And plopped into a hole!


Reciting this poem came automatically to me. She loved being plopped into the hole as I opened my legs to let her drop down. Her laugh told me that I needed to do it again. Following that, I told her:

 Jack and Jill went up the hill

To fetch a pail of water.

Jack fell down and broke his crown

And Jill came tumbling after.

These are the rhymes of my childhood and of my children's childhood. Whatever our cultural background, there are certain poems, rhymes, and songs that remain with us forever. I call them "forever poems." I know them instinctively. You probably know some of those poems or songs as well.

A professor of children's literature notes, "Children have a natural affinity for poetry, which is exhibited before they enter school by their love for nursery rhymes, jingles, and childhood songs."

Poetry is a part of the Language Arts curriculum for every grade at Free World U. And in every year of the curriculum, several different types of poetry are taught.

Narrative poems tell stories.

Lyric Poems are like songs.

Limericks are humorous poems that end with a joke.

Haiku is a very specialized poem with 17 syllables.

Concrete Poems are physically shaped like the subject of the poem.

Free Verse is usually un-rhymed and lacks a consistent rhythm.

The professor continues: "A poetry collection should include poems that meet the needs of children who are in the process of developing an appreciation of poetry. This means building a collection filled with a variety of poems to match differing tastes and levels of sophistication."

There are rich resources to supplement the FWU curriculum available through the FWU library. Most of the poems and poets taught in the curriculum have been around for awhile, so their poetry is available in the public domain and can be found online.

Below you will find a listing of the books of poetry currently available through the FWU library. I have connected the title to the link, so you can easily access them. I have also listed them by grade levels.

Happy reading!

Grades K-2

A Apple Pie     A Child's Garden of Verse     Hey Diddle Diddle    Johnny Crow's Garden

Mother Goose     The House that Jack Built

Grades 3-6

I See the Rhythm   Now We Are Six  Golden Treasury of Songs and Poetry  Poems Every Child Should Know

Where the Sidewalk Ends

Grades 7-12

American Poetry    Poems by Emily Dickinson     Poems Published in 1829 

Selections from Wordsworth and Tennyson  The Works of Edgar Allen Poe




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