Poetry Friday: A Day Full of Poetry


“The best-laid schemes o’ mice an ‘men
Gang aft agley”
~ Robert Burns ~

I started working on the poem I planned to share today on Monday. I drafted two versions and played with them both throughout the week. I recorded different lines on my phone on the way to work. But when I sat down last night, nothing worked. The poem just wouldn’t come together and it’s still a muddled mess.

My day was filled with poetry, though. I shared Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s poem, “Wonder,” with teachers at our Language Arts Committee meeting this morning:


Water the wonder
that lives in your brain.

Water your wonder
with questions like rain.

Read the rest of the poem, and more about Amy’s 2016 poetry project, here.

Then the principal and I read this Douglas Florian poem during morning announcements:

Find this poem and more poetry ideas in Penguin's Guide to Poetry in the Classroom here.
Find this poem and more poetry ideas in Penguin’s Guide to Poetry in the Classroom here.

I shared many poems with my students throughout the day, but didn’t have a minute to think about my own poem. By the time I left work, my prime writing hours were long gone. The weather was writing it’s own poem, though. Dark gray clouds piled up in the northwest, while the sky was still bright blue in to the south. Impatient rain drops were falling and the wind was picking up. It was a gorgeous sight that made me think of this Emily Dickinson poem:

“A Drop fell on the Apple Tree” (794)

A Drop fell on the Apple Tree –
Another – on the Roof –
A Half a Dozen kissed the Eaves –
And made the Gables laugh –

A few went out to help the Brook
That went to help the Sea –
Myself Conjectured were they Pearls –
What Necklaces could be –

The Dust replaced, in Hoisted Roads –
The Birds jocoser sung –
The Sunshine threw his Hat away –
The Bushes – spangles flung –

The Breezes brought dejected Lutes –
And bathed them in the Glee –
The Orient showed a single Flag,
And signed the fête away –

Emily Dickinson

Please be sure to visit Amy Ludwig VanDerwater at her lovely blog, The Poem Farm, for the Poetry Friday Roundup.



Poetry Friday: A Poem Full of Nothing


Each month, Michelle Heidenrich Barnes interviews a children’s poet and asks them to leave readers a poetry challenge. This month, Douglas Florian challenged readers “to write a poem about nothing.” 

When Michelle posted this challenge, I was just finishing physicist Lisa Randall‘s new book, Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs (Ecco/HarperCollins, 2015). Some of the science was over my head, but Randall’s theory, that the demise of dinosaurs was caused by “a comet that was dislodged from its orbit as the Solar System passed through a disk of dark matter,” is fascinating. To set the stage for the big event, Randall gives a brief history of the universe and the truly cosmic question of how, or if, our universe arose from nothing. Her statement that “A cause implies there must be something” was swirling in my head as I thought about and drafted this poem.

“Full of Nothing”

An empty pot is full of nothing
but space for chicken soup,
bubbling and warm.

An empty box is full of nothing
but the opportunity for a gift,
adored and cherished.

An empty page is full of nothing
but possibilities for your poem,
honest and true.

An empty hand is full of nothing
but room to hold yours,
calm and reassuring.

An empty heart is full of nothing
but potential for love,
a treasure beyond measure.

© Catherine Flynn, 2016

Please be sure to visit Tara Smith at A Teaching Life for the Poetry Friday Round Up.


Picture Book 10 for 10: Poetry Picture Books

pb 10 for 10 015

Children’s first reading experiences are usually through picture books, and for this reason, people have fond memories of them and are passionate about their favorites. Because of the role picture books play in introducing the magic of reading to children, they are worth celebrating. 

Picture Book 10 for 10 is the brainchild of Cathy Mere of Reflect & Refine: Building a Learning Community and Mandy Robeck of Enjoy and Embrace Learning. During this annual event, now in its sixth year, teachers, librarians, and book lovers create lists of 10 essential picture books. Cathy and Mandy collect and share these lists, and everyone is richer because of their efforts. Be sure to visit their blogs to see their lists, and check out dozens of Picture Book 10 for 10 lists here. Thank you, Cathy and Mandy, for organizing this celebration of picture book love. 

Many children are introduced to picture books through collections of nursery rhymes. The rhythm of poetry is soothing and the rhymes give kids the foundation they need to become independent readers. But most importantly, reading nursery rhymes and poetry to children is fun.

Creating this list was quite a challenge, as there are many, many beautiful poetry picture books available these days. For any one of the poets listed below, there are one or two or ten other books that are just as worthy of inclusion on this list.

1.  Bookspeak: Poems about Books, by Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Josée Bisaillon (Clarion Books, 2011)


What could be better than a collection of poems celebrating books? Laura Purdie Salas gives voice to all parts of books, including the cover, index, and the end. You can watch the trailer for Bookspeak, listen to Laura read two poems, and read the teacher’s guide here.

2. Red Sings From the Treetops: A Year in Colors by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2009)


Joyce Sidman is one of my favorite poets, and I love Pamela Zagarenski’s whimsical style, so this book was a shoe-in for this list. I have written about it before here.

3. Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems, selected by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Melissa Sweet (Candlewick Press, 2014)


This award-winning anthology, illustrated with whimsical perfection by Melissa Sweet, includes poems celebrating each season and is not to be missed.  Julie Roach, writing in School Library Journal described Sweet’s illustrations this way: “Colors and shapes with willowy details expertly blur or bring bits of the images into focus to create a magical sense of place, time, and beauty.”

4. A World of Wonders: Geographic Travels in Verse and Rhyme, by J. Patrick Lewis, pictures by Alison Jay (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2002)


Lewis brings his signature blend of humor and interesting facts to the world of geography in this collection. Allison Jay’s muted colors and craquelure,“a cracking or network of fine cracks in the paint, enamel, or varnish of a painting,” illustrations evoke maps from the age of exploration.

5.  Forest Has a Song, by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, illustrated by Robbin Gourley (Clarion Books, 2013)


Amy Ludwig VanDerwater turns her keen poet’s eye to the forest landscape throughout the year. Gourley’s delicate watercolors are the perfect complement to VanDerwater’s evocative poems.

6. On the Wing: Bird Poems and Paintings by Douglas Florian (Harcourt, 1996)


Douglas Florian’s sophisticated humor and word play make his poetry perfect choices for any elementary classroom. Find out more about Florian and his other poetry collections here.

7. What’s for Dinner? Quirky, Squirmy Poems from the Animal World, by Katherine B. Hauth, illustrated by David Clark (Charlesbridge, 2011)


This NSTA/CBC Outstanding Science Trade Book is chock-full of hilarious poems about the very serious subject of how animals capture their prey. Hauth includes factual information about each animal, as well as a list of suggested reading. David Clark’s cartoon-like illustrations add to the humor.

8.  Bug Off! Creepy, Crawly Poems, by Jane Yolen, photographs by Jason Stemple (WordSong, 2012)


Jane Yolen is one of my favorite authors of all time. In fact, my 2013 Picture Book 10 for 10 post was devoted to her work. Yolen has published many volumes of poetry, but her collaborations with her photographer son, Jason Stemple, are my favorites. Stemple’s photographs are full of incredible details, and Yolen’s poetry captures the “beauty and mystery” of “these tiny living beings.” (From Yolen’s author’s note.)

9.  Turtle in July, by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney (Macmillan, 1989)


Marilyn Singer is the 2015 winner of the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children and has long been one of my favorite poets. You can read a previous post about Marilyn’s poetry here. This collection, filled with Jerry Pinkney’s stunning illustrations, is a must-have for any elementary classroom.

10. Creatures of the Earth, Sea, and Sky, by Georgia Heard, drawings by Jennifer Owings Dewey (WordSong, 1992)


 Georgia Heard has written that “poets find poems in hundreds of different places” (Awakening the Heart: Exploring Poetry in Elementary and Middle School, Heinemann: 1999), and in this wonderful collection, which has long been a staple in my classroom, she has found poems throughout the animal kingdom. Dewey’s detailed, realistic drawings add to the beauty of this book.

My previous Picture Book 10 for 10 lists:

2014: Friendship Favorites
2013: Jane Yolen Picture Books
2012: Wordless Picture Books

Slice 22 of 31: Douglas Florian for Poetry Friday


Much of the northeast is still gripped by frigid temperatures and snow is still on the ground. Today is my son’s birthday, and I always use this day as a benchmark for hearing the peepers. I really can’t remember a year we haven’t heard them by now. This year, not a peep.

So today seems like a good day to share a poem from Douglas Florian’s Handsprings (Greenwillow, 2006), an exuberant celebration of the season.



Spring is great

For growing grass.

Spring has zing

And spring has sass.

Spring is super.

Spring is spry.

Spring is when

Things start to fly.

Spring is great

For many reasons.

Spring does handsprings

Round the Seasons.

Thank you to Greg Pincus for hosting Poetry Friday today. Don’t miss the fun at GottaBook. As always, thanks to Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers for hosting this Slice of Life Challenge!