by Ellen Leventhal
Did you know that May is Older Americans Month as well as National Bike Month? And is anyone else looking forward to July as much as I am? July is National Ice Cream Month, and as a proud Texan, I am planning a trip to the Little Creamery in Brenham. For those who don’t know, Blue Bell Ice Cream is made in Brenham, TX, and each taste really is a bit of heaven.
But there is something else I love even more than Blue Bell Mint Chocolate Chip (well, as much as Blue Bell Mint Chocolate Chip), and that’s poetry. April is National Poetry Month, and already I miss it. Every day last month, I opened my email and read a poem a day from WITS Houston (www.witshouston.org). These poems, written by kids in the Houston area, are downright inspiring. Often they were the only thing of worth in an inbox exploding with minutia. After reading the kids’ poetry, I’d sometimes sit down and write something of my own. See? Inspiring! Unfortunately, often my poem wasn’t as good as theirs, and then I’d want to eat that pint of Blue Bell! But I digress. Aside from reading poetry, I love writing poetry with kids. Who wouldn’t love something that allows her students to express themselves after months of learning to bubble in circles? Poetry allows kids to figuratively color outside the lines. What freedom!
Of course, there are all types of poetry. Currently, I am hooked on rhyming picture books. I know, I know! Not everyone thinks of this as poetry, but if poetry gives wings to language allowing words to fly, and if poetry ignites emotions and gives a melody to what was once discord, then some of these books definitely qualify. I admit; some of the rhyming picture books I’ve read are terrible. But there are some that are absolutely beautiful. And they are fun! Lyrical, rhythmic, and fun.
This past April I took the RhyPiBoMo (Rhyming Picture Book Month) challenge and wrote a rhyming picture book. Think it’s easy? Think again. I always tell my students that writing rhyme is, in my opinion, very difficult. Well, that is if it is GOOD rhyme. Thanks to Angie Karcher (http://angiekarcher.wordpress.com), I have learned to work with things such as dactyl, anapest, enjambment, meter, foot, iamb, and rhyme all while trying to write a well- constructed story with strong characters, a believable problem, and a satisfying resolution. Not easy! I spent April writing and revising, and I will spend May and June revising some more.
Yes, it’s really hard. Really, really hard. But oh what fun! Think about it. Rhyming picture books have become part of our lives. Buying fish the other day, I heard a little boy begin to count the fish in the display. He said, “One fish,” and before he could go on, his dad said, “Two fish, red fish, blue fish.” The two of them just giggled.
One of my many favorite rhyming picture books is Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees. The story is beautiful with a wonderful message, and the writing is rhythmic and lyrical. Think back to your childhood. What were some of your favorite rhyming picture books? I have many, but it’s getting late, and I need to go to sleep. “Goodnight Moon……Goodnight stars, and goodnight air, and goodnight noises everywhere.” Sigh….that’s poetry to my ears.