Friday, August 31, 2007

Review: Bronzeville Boys and Girls

by Gwendolyn Brooks, illustrated by Faith Ringgold. HarperCollins, 2007. Text copyright 1956, illustrations copyright 2007.

Gwendolyn Brooks wrote the poems in this collection in 1956, in celebration of the children living in the Bronzeville section of Chicago. Brooks is one of our nation's most celebrated poets. From the publisher's brief biographic sketch: "She was poet Laureate for the state of Illinois, a National Women's Hall of Fame inductee, and a recipient of a lifetime achievement award from the National Endowment for the Arts. She received fifty honorary degrees." This collection is a lovely gift to children and adults everywhere. It strikes me as a perfect way to start off the new school year with an eager class of bright eyed children excited about getting to know each other and their teacher. In this volume Faith Ringgold has contributed her vibrant, charming paintings. Her portraits of these children and their environment bring out the lively, memorable personalities.

Each poem joyfully, playfully or thoughtfully describes one particular child's view of the world. Some are silly, some are dreamy, and some others are poignant and sad. My favorite two have to do with growing up and the passage of time; two things that are on my mind at the start of a new school year. Leaving summer behind and facing the back-to-school week, this one really resonates:


What good is sun
If I can't run?

"You're eight, and ready
To be a lady."

That is what my Mama says.
She is right again, I guess.

But there! I saw a squirrel fly
Where it is secret, green, and high.

And there! Those ants are bustling drown,
And I require to chase them down!

What good is sun
If I can't run?

Here's another one that reminds me of schoolrooms and getting back on schedule:

Marie Lucille

That clock is ticking
Me away!
The me that only
Ate peanuts, jam and
Is gone already.
And this is
'Cause nothing's putting
Back, each day,
The me that clock is
Ticking away.

Poetry is a wonderful thing to play with in back-to-school activities. One could use these poems as writing prompts, encouraging the children to write about themselves or one particular activity, location or object that is meaningful to them this summer or fall. Post them on the bulletin board and encourage scribbled graffiti responses. Have the students copy them into notebooks and read them in chorus as a beginning reading activity. Find multiple ways to incorporate poetry into your day and spur your students on to discovery their own favorite poets and poems!

The Friday Poetry round up is at Literacy Teacher's Mentor Texts and More today. Go leave your links and browse all the other poetry posts.


Sara said...

Any poem that mentions licorice is good by me. :) But really, that last one is profound without being heavy or stuffy.

I like the idea of the graffiti responses, too.

jama said...

I like the Marie Lucille poem a lot. Kids often say profound things. Thanks for bringing this book to my attention :)!

Mary Lee said...

I'm making a trip to the bookstore today and this is on my list! I can't wait to see the new edition -- I LOVELOVELOVE Faith Ringgold's art! Thank you for the review!