A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms Paperback – Mar 10 2009
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From School Library Journal
Grade 3-9–Following on the heels of their delightful introduction to concrete poetry, A Poke in the I (Candlewick, 2001), Janeczko and Raschka now join forces to explore poetic forms. An introduction presents an easy-to-swallow rationale for the many rules to follow, likening the restrictions to those found in sports: in both cases, rules challenge the players to excel in spite of limits. The repertoire then unfolds to showcase 29 forms, one to two poems per spread, building from a couplet, tercet, and quatrain to the less familiar and more complex persona poem, ballad, and pantoum. The selections are accessible without being simplistic; they span an emotional range from the tongue-in-cheek humor of J. Patrick Lewis's "Epitaph for Pinocchio" to Rebecca Kai Dotlich's moving "Whispers to the [Vietnam] Wall." Each page is a tour de force of design, the pace and placement of art and text perfectly synchronized. Raschka's characters and abstractions emerge from torn layers of fuzzy rice paper, intricately patterned Japanese designs, and solids, decorated and defined by quirky ink-and-watercolor lines. The expansive white background provides continuity and contrast to the colorful parade. The name of each form resides in the upper corner of the page, accompanied by a wry visual. A definition (in an unobtrusive smaller font) borders the bottom; more detail on each form is provided in endnotes. Readers will have the good fortune to experience poetry as art, game, joke, list, song, story, statement, question, memory. A primer like no other.–Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
*Starred Review* Gr. 4-6. The creators of A Poke in the I (2001) offer another winning, picture-book poetry collaboration. Here, each poem represents a different poetic form, from the familiar to the more obscure. The excellent selection easily mixes works by Shakespeare and William Blake with entries from contemporary poets for youth, including Janeczko. Once again, Raschka's high-spirited, spare torn-paper-and-paint collages ingeniously broaden the poems' wide-ranging emotional tones. A playful, animal-shaped quilt of patterned paper illustrates Ogden Nash's silly couplet "The Mule," while an elegant flurry of torn paper pieces makes a powerful accompaniment to Georgia Heard's heartbreaking poem, "The Paper Trail," about lives lost on 9/11. Clear, very brief explanations of poetic forms (in puzzlingly tiny print) accompany each entry; a fine introduction and appended notes offer further information, as do Raschka's whimsical visual clues, such as the rows of tulips representing the syllables in a haiku. Look elsewhere for lengthy explanations of meter and rhyme. This is the introduction that will ignite enthusiasm. The airy spaces between the words and images will invite readers to find their own responses to the poems and encourage their interest in the underlying rules, which, Janeczko says, "make poetry--like sports--more fun." Gillian Engberg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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The book contains twenty-nine different poetic forms. Everything from your basic haikus and limericks to triolets, aubades, and pantoums. There are blues poems and clerihews, and even the rare riddle poem or two. Janeczko has culled the most amusing and child-friendly versions of these forms possible, and it works. For example, take the villanelle. You might not think it lends itself naturally to a child's reading, but then you see how cleverly Joan Bransfield Graham has created, "Is There a Villain In Your Villanelle?". And into this lively jumble we throw Chris Raschka's brightly colored mixed-media extravaganza. The result is a high-energy introduction to poetry in all its wild and wooly forms. A lovely amalgamation to say the least.
None of this is to say that there wasn't an odd choice or two. For the "found poem", Janeczko reprints Georgia Heard's, "The Paper Trail". The poem is a beautiful list of different kinds of writing, and it soon becomes clear that these are the scraps of paper and floated to the ground when the Twin Towers fell on 9/11. No mention of 9/11 is ever made, but you'd have to be pretty dense not to get the St. Paul's Cathedral reference. Fans of that old Cat Stevens song, "Morning Has Broken", will see it listed under the "aubade" section. And I, for one, had no idea that poem/song was written originally by classic children's author Eleanor Farjeon. Go figure.
I'm not normally a Raschka fan, by the way. Something about his images, I find off-putting. But I did enjoy a lot of what the artist decided to do here. For the "senryu" poem, for example, he was able to construct a month old cheese sandwich using only paper fibers of various orange, yellow, green (bleck!), and cream-colored shades. And if you think he had an easy job of this book then YOU try making an illustration for Shakespeare's "Sonnet Number Twelve". Even worse, make a picture for a poem imitating "Sonnet Number Twelve". It's doubly hard. So a tip of the hat to Raschka's efforts.
Now people are going to wonder what ages to hand this book to. I say, all. Obviously some of the poems, like the sonnets, aren't going to charm very small ones. But kids who like silly limericks or tankas that begin with words like, "Fish guts" will find their favorites in this selection. As for older kids, this book is useful well into high school. At that point the students will start appreciating the difficulty behind some of the more elaborate poems. A lovely addition to every library and I dare say a necessary one. No poetry section is complete without this book.
I've asked myself why this wasn't an alternate text in English Lit 101. (Obviously because it wasn't published that long ago.) Janeczko introduces us to twenty-nine forms of poetry, and divulges that poets don't always follow the rules. There are some really tricky forms (see ROUNDEL p. 22 & DOUBLE DACTYL p.25). The latter has an outstanding example by John Hollander, especially appropriate in February, the month of Presidential obeisance. It reveals that our 23rd President, a Hoosier :~) "didn't do much"? This is a book of lots & lots of smiles that call for sharing. The wildly unrestrained, splashy colors combine with collage for illustrations that are great fun. Artist Chris Raschka also illuminated the 2006 Caldecott medal-winning book. (isbn:076809140)
As a writer of haiku & similar forms, Reviewer mcHAIKU found pages 14 - 18 of special interest. I never encountered haiku, senryu (which the author calls "HAIKU WITH AN ATTITUDE"), tanka or cinquain during my 'deprived' childhood but am happy now to make up for lost time.
"This Book delights me: / It is dandelions puffed, / laughter loudly shared . . ."
The material is intelligently organized - as you would expect in a book that celebrates structure. Janeczko begins with simple forms, such as the couplet, tercet (three rhyming lines), or quatrain (four lines generally following an abab or aabb rhyme scheme) and then introduces more complex forms that incorporate these basic elements. I featured "A Kick in the Head" as the June 2012 Book Pick on the Mums Write! website because it is a book that invites participation, and I cannot think of a better induction for budding poets than the "Kick in the Head" challenge of writing a poem a week, using each of Janeczko's forms.
"A Kick in the Head" is whimsically illustrated with Chris Raschka's bright multi-media spreads in pen, watercolour, and rice paper collage. Raschka's off-kilter, semi-abstract images have a playful, and even naive feel, but I suspect that the illustrator could not have achieved such a visually satisfying result without sharing Janeczkos' passion for the principles of form and structure.
My full review is available on the Mums Write! website of resources on writing for, about and with the children in our lives.
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