Poetry-lover Charles E. Moore presents this “Poetry Course” to middle schoolers, providing an overview of selected poets and their writings. Brief biographies of authors and their poems (everything from Wordsworth’s “Sonnet: The World Is Too Much With Us” to Dr. Seuss’ “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”) expose young readers to a variety of poetic styles.
The author’s snappy, sometimes graphic language (“All those Lords and Ladies, living their ordered lives…suddenly found their heads dropping into a basket beneath the blade of Madame La Guillutine”) will immediately command the attention of sixth graders, who typically love references to “gory humor.” The book’s formatting—biography of the poet on the left page, sample of his/her poetry on the right—works well, and handwritten notes in the margins explain old-world terminology, nudging students, in a loose way, toward written responses.
The text, however, is written with fragments and run-on sentences, imitating spoken language. Unfortunately, it does not transfer clearly into the written word. Incorrect grammar and punctuation are jarring, and biographies often begin abruptly, assuming readers have knowledge of previous events or titles. Pictures, too small to be seen clearly, hold obscure relevance to the poems. Crude humor is sprinkled throughout, as well as brief nuances of more adult themes (“His great work…is mostly better saved for when you are over eighteen”). Surprisingly, the book lacks instruction on poetic meter and format.
Written in an easy conversational tone, Listen, My Children includes selected questions but no formal assignments, reviews, or evaluations. A time line and more room to answer questions would help discussion, and the educational and humorous glossary begs to be included in the text, perhaps as sidebars.
Overall, the author’s love for poetry shines through and would be communicated more effectively with further polishing of the text.
Also available as an ebook.