This blog is a continuation of a class assignment for the TWU course 5603, Literature for Children and Young Adults. Subsequent entries are for TWU course 5653, Multicultural Literature for Children and Young Adults. The new entries are for TWU course 5663, Poetry for Children and Young Adults.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Poetry 5663 Skywriting: Poems to Fly

Poems to Fly
By J. Patrick Lewis
Illustrated by Laszlo Kubinyi

cover image retrieved 2/17/13

Lewis, J. Patrick. Skywriting: Poems to Fly. Mankato, Minn: Creative Editions, 2010.

Critical Analysis
It’s a bird… it’s a plane… it’s a magical book of poetry about flight! Skywriting: Poems to Fly captures the wanderlust spirit of aviation exploration through the years in descriptive poems that bring each experience to life. Arranged chronologically, and cataloged in a table of contents at the beginning of the volume, traipsing through the pages of this book gives the reader a glimpse into the whimsical side of flight throughout history. All the original work of prolific poet J. Patrick Lewis, these poems are appealing on numerous levels. Lewis knows how to grab his reader’s attention with interesting topics, a quirky sense of humor, and an abundance of carefully chosen words to construct poetry that engulfs the reader in the experience. Stunning illustrations by Laszlo Kubinyi appear on the full page opposite each poem, or on a two-page spread, with the poem superimposed. Words and images combine to stimulate the imagination and sensory experience for the reader. Font type for poem titles has been selected to intermix with the particular time or location of the flight event.

These poems beg to be read aloud, to heighten the experience of the reading by hearing the rhythm and rhyme blend seamlessly. Word selection suits these poems to older elementary and above. Consider the dynamic vocabulary and cadence in this excerpt from “Montgolfier Brother’s Hot Air Balloon”:
We might have gone much farther,
We flew superhumanly
Till our smart little cart started falling apart,
Sagging diagonally.

Poems vary one from another in organization and length, but all achieve a sense of wonder, celebrating our brave forefathers who were captivated by the notion of flying higher, longer, farther, more quickly, even so far as into space (Space Shuttle Columbia.) Endnotes furnish additional information about each vessel of flight. This collection of poetry is a splendid melding of sensory imagery, vocabulary development, history of flight, and visual appeal. It would be an excellent addition to an upper elementary or above library or classroom.

Book Reviews
Hazel Rochman (Booklist, Nov. 15, 2010 (Vol. 107, No. 6))
In this picture-book anthology of 13 poems, Lewis celebrates the dramatic adventure of flight, from the ancient Greek myth of Icarus to the Wright brothers’ story to the blast-offs of contemporary rockets, and Kubinyi’s full-page, beautifully detailed illustrations extend the exciting technology. Although an accompanying time line isn’t focused entirely on air travel, it does give some context to the facts embedded in the verse lines.

Kirkus (Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2010 (Vol. 78, No. 17))
Thirteen buoyant poems highlight famous and infamous attempts to fly, starting with Icarus's misguided efforts to rise "on wings of wax" in 800 BC and ending in 2002 with that "behemoth of adventure" and "front-row ticket to celestial theater in the round," Space Shuttle Columbia. A lively, lyrical introduction to some of aviation's more memorable milestones.

Poetry Break!
Spotlight Poem
Bell Rocket Belt
1961, US

                                           I’m rising
                                           Right here in the middle of sky!

                                           I throttle
                                           The bottle
                                           Of my rocket model-
                                           Bazzooom! I’m a highflying guy

                                           To ceiling-
                                           And no sinking feeling.
                                           A human can zoom up so fast

                                           By rocket-
                                           The shock at
                                           What’s in my back pocket-
                                           A turbojet engine’s a blast!

Learning Extensions
·      Introducing the poem: Ask students (upper elementary – high school) if they have ever wanted to fly- not in a plane or helicopter- but fly on their own. How would that be accomplished? Share answers, encourage imaginative responses. Lead the conversation to the conclusion that imagining and dreaming are often the first steps in inventing and discovery.
·      Display the book Skywriting: Poems to Fly for students. Give a brief summary, explaining the concept and organization. Display the poem “Bell Rocket Belt” via document camera, so students can see the illustration and follow along as the teacher reads the poem.
·      After sharing the poem, ask students what appeals to them in the poem and illustration. Encourage students to recite specific lines or stanzas that capture their attention or imagination.
·      Read the poem chorally, emphasizing the rhythm and onomatopoeia.
·      Extension: allow students to compose a poem of their own about individual flight. Students can work with a partner for writing and/or illustrating. Urge students to include onomatopoeia and action verbs to give life to the poem. Share with the class, as students are willing.

Other Books by J. Patrick Lewis
J. Patrick Lewis’ website:

World Rat Day: Poems About Real Holidays You've Never Heard Of. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press. 2013
Face Bug. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press. 2013
When Thunder Comes: Poems for Civil Rights Leaders. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books. 2012
If You Were a Chocolate Mustache: Poems. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press. 2012
The National Geographic Book of Animal Poems. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic. 2012
Last Laughs: Animal Epitaphs. (With Jane Yolen.) Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge. 2012
Take Two! A Celebration of Twins. (With Jane Yolen.) Cambridge, MA.: Candlewick. 2012
Edgar Allan Poe's Pie: Math Puzzler in Classic Poems. New York, NY: Harcourt. 2012
What's Looking at You, Kid? Chelsea, MI: Sleeping Bear Press. 2012
Self-Portrait with Seven Fingers: A Life of Marc Chagall in Verse. (With Jane Yolen.) Mankato, MN: Creative Editions. 2011
And the Soldiers Sang. Mankato MN: Creative Editions. 2011
Tugg & Teeny (book #3). Chelsea, MI: Sleeping Bear Press. 2011
Tugg & Teeny (book #2). Chelsea, MI: Sleeping Bear Press. 2011
Tugg & Teeny (book #1). Chelsea, MI: Sleeping Bear Press. 2011
Gulls Hold Up the Sky. LaJolla, CA: Laughing Fire Press (adult poems). 2010
Kindergarten Cat. New York, NY: Schwartz & Wade/Random House. 2010
The Fantastic 5&10 Cent Store. New York, NY: Schwartz & Wade/Random House. 2010
Skywriting: Poems in Flight. Mankato, MN: Creative Editions. 2010
First Dog's White House Christmas. Chelsea, MI: Sleeping Bear Press. 2010
The House. Mankato, MN: Creative Editions. 2009
Spot the Plot! A Riddle Book of Book Riddles. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. 2009
First Dog. (With Beth Zappitello), Chelsea, MI: Sleeping Bear Press. 2009
Countdown to Summer: A Poem for Every Day of the School Year. New York: Little, Brown. 2009
The Underwear Salesman; and Other Odd-Job Verses. New York: Simon & Schuster. 2009
Birds on a Wire: A Renga 'Round the Town. (With Paul B. Janeczko), Boyds Mills Press/Wordsong. 2008
The World's Greatest: Poems. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books. 2008
The Brothers' War: Civil War Voices in Verse. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic. 2007
Tulip at the Bat. Boston: Little, Brown. 2007
Big Is Big and Little Little: A Book of Contrasts. New York: Holiday House. 2007
Michelangelo’s World. Mankato, MN: Creative Editions. 2007
Poems for Teaching in the Content Areas: Math, Science, History and Geography." New York: Scholastic Teaching Resources. 2007
Under the Kissletoe. Honesdale, PA: Boyd Mills Press/Wordsong. 2007
Once Upon a Tomb: Gravely Humorous Verses. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick. 2006
Blackbeard the Pirate King. Washington, DC: National Geographic. 2006
Black Cat Bone: A Live of Blues Legend Robert Johnson in Verse. Mankato, MN: Creative Editions. 2006
Good Mornin', Ms. America: The U.S.A. in Verse. School Specialty Publishing. 2006
Castles: Old Stone Poems. (With Rebecca Kai Dotlich), Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills Press/Wordsong. 2006
Wing Nuts: Screwy Haiku. (With Paul B. Janeczko), Boston: Little, Brown. 2006
Vherses: A Celebration of Outstanding Women. Mankato, MN: Creative Editions. 2005
Monumental Verses. Washington, DC: National Geographic. 2005
God Made the Skunk; and Other Animal Poems. Cupertino, CA: Doggerel Daze. 2005
Heroes and She-roes: Poems of Amazing and Everyday Heroes. New York: Dial. 2005
Scien-trickery: Riddles in Science. Orlando: Silver Whistle/Harcourt. 2004
Please Bury Me in the Library. New York: Harcourt. 2004
The Stolen Smile. Mankato, MN: Creative Editions. 2004
The Snowflake Sisters. New York: Atheneum. 2003
Galileo's Universe. Mankato, MN: Creative Editions. 2003
Swan Songs: Poems of Extinction. Mankato, MN: Creative Editions. 2003
Arithme-tickle: An Even Number of Odd Riddle-Rhymes. New York: Harcourt. 2002
A World of Wonders: Geographic Travels in Verse and Rhyme. New York: Dial. 2002
The Last Resort. Mankato, MN: Creative Editions. 2002
Earth and Me, Our Family Tree. Nevada City, CA: Dawn Publications. 2002
Good Mousekeeping; and Other Animal Home Poems. New York: Atheneum. 2001
A Burst of Firsts: Doers, Shakers, and Record Breakers. New York: Dial. 2001
The Shoe Tree of Chagrin. Mankato, MN: Creative Editions. 2001
Earth and You, a Closer View: Nature's Features. Nevada City, CA: Dawn Publications. 2001
Earth and Us, Continuous: Nature's Past and Future. Nevada City, CA: Dawn Publications. 2001
Isabella Abnormella and the Very, Very Finicky Queen of Trouble. New York: DK Publishing. 2000
Freedom like Sunlight: Praisesongs for Black Americans. Mankato, MN: Creative Editions. 2000
At the Wish of the Fish: An Adaptation of a Russian Folktale,. New York: Atheneum. 1999
The Bookworm's Feast: A Potluck of Poems. New York: Dial. 1999
The Night of the Goat Children. New York: Dial. 1999
Riddle-lightful. New York: Knopf. 1999
The House of Boo. New York: Atheneum. 1998
Doodle Dandies: Poems That Take Shape. New York: Atheneum. 1998
BoshBlobberBosh: Runcible Poems for Edward Lear. New York: Harcourt. 1998
The La-Di-Da Hare. New York: Dial. 1997
Long Was the Winter Road They Traveled: A Tale of the Nativity. New York: Dial. 1997
The Little Buggers: Insect and Spider Poems. New York: Dial. 1997
Riddle-icious. New York: Knopf. 1996
The Boat of Many Rooms. New York: Atheneum. 1996
Ridicholas Nicholas. New York: Dial. 1995
Black Swan/White Crow. New York: Atheneum. 1995
The Frog Princess: A Russian Folktale. New York: Dial. 1994
July Is a Mad Mosquito. New York: Atheneum. 1994
The Christmas of the Reddle Moon. New York: Dial. 1994
The Fat-Cats at Sea. New York: Knopf. 1994
One Dog Day. New York: Atheneum. 1993
The Moonbow of Mr. B. Bones. New York: Knopf. 1992
Two-legged, Four-legged, No-legged Rhymes. New York: Knopf. 1991
Earth Verses and Water Rhymes. New York: Atheneum. 1991
A Hippopotamusn't; and Other Animal Verses. New York: Dial. 1990
The Tsar and the Amazing Cow. New York: Dial. 1988

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