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This is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness [Hardcover]

Joyce Sidman , Pamela Zagarenski

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Book Description

April 9 2007
When Mrs. Merz asks her sixth grade class to write poems of apology, they end up liking their poems so much that they decide to put them together into a book. Not only that, but they get the people to whom they apologized to write poems back.

In haiku, pantoums, two-part poems, snippets, and rhymes, Mrs. Merz’s class writes of crushes, overbearing parents, loving and losing pets, and more. Some poets are deeply sorry; some not at all. Some are forgiven; some are not. In each pair of poems a relationship, a connection, is revealed.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 48 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (April 9 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618616802
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618616800
  • Product Dimensions: 24.1 x 19.8 x 1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 363 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #213,416 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Sidman (Song of the Waterboatman and Other Pond Poems) explains, via an introduction from one of the book's sixth-grade characters, that the poems contained in this often humorous and touching anthology were inspired by the title poem of apology, which was penned by William Carlos Williams. The student in Mrs. Merz's class who introduces the book explains that some of the students received answers to their "sorry" poems. One pair of poems shares a spread and addresses a dodge ball exchange ("Sorry/ Reubs,/ for belting you/ as hard/ as I could/ in dodge ball/ I'd like/ to say/ I wouldn't/ do it again/ but I'd/ be lying"). But for most entries, unfortunately, in order to read the call-and-response in succession, readers must awkwardly flip from the first half of the book ("Apologies") to the second ("Responses"). Yet the poems successfully navigate the complicated terrain for those who seek forgiveness. In one especially moving poem, "The Black Spot," Alyssa tells her sister Carrie that the black spot of lead on Carrie's arm makes manifest the "nugget of darkness" within Alyssa that propelled her to injure her sibling (Carrie's response conveys her enduring anger at Alyssa). Zagarenski's (Mites to Mastodons) inventive mixed-media illustrations brim with items found in a classroom: a dictionary entry on "apology," for instance, becomes part of a student's clothing, and white hole reinforcements resemble a character's stolen doughnuts. But the book's odd organization seems a missed opportunity to tie the well-wrought, corresponding poems together and reinforce the complex relationships between the characters. Ages 9-12. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 4-7-Mrs. Merz assigns her sixth-grade students to write poems of apology, and what emerges is a surprising array of emotions, poetic forms, and subjects from dead pets and biting hamsters to angry siblings and betrayal of trust. The children decide to create their own book of these poems, complete with an introduction and occasional notes by editor Anthony K. Fast-talking Thomas writes a humorous poem patterned after William Carlos Williams's This Is Just to Say, apologizing to Mrs. Garcia in the office, for stealing the jelly donuts in the teachers' lounge: Forgive me/they were delicious/so sweet/and so gloppy. Mrs. Garcia's response poem says, Of course I forgive you./But I still have to call your mother. A more serious concern emerges in Next Time, written by Jewel: Please, please come back./Don't leave me spinning alone,/like a slow, sad tornado./I'm sorry, Daddy./Next time I'll be/perfect. In the response poem, Jewel describes her father's wrenching reply telling her that, None of the stupid things/I have ever done/are even close to being your fault. Sidman's ear is keen, capturing many voices. Her skill as a poet accessible to young people is unmatched. Zagarenski's delicately outlined collage drawings and paintings are created on mixed backgrounds–notebook paper, paper bags, newspaper, graph paper, school supplies. This is an important book both for its creativity and for its wisdom.–Lee Bock, Glenbrook Elementary School, Pulaski, WI
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  15 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Explores topic poignantly and humorously May 11 2010
By BBB - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I'm the parent of a third grader who has begun to seek out poetry to read on her own. She loves this book, which we've read together. She knows about the two naughty words singled out by other reviewers here, and she knows I don't approve of them being used in polite society. I pointed out that the use of the naughty words gives a glimpse of the intensity of the writer's feelings, and that the words are not used as vulgar punctuation or to shock the recipient of the poem. We finished that social lesson and were able to really enjoy the poignancy and humor in the poems. To my knowledge, my third grader has not been using vulgar words since reading this book.

I recommend this book for upper elementary grades and older lovers of poetry. I also recommend Sidman's book "Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors."
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun and Funny March 23 2008
By K. Fournier - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
After reading this book, it is no surprise that it was chosen as a Texas Bluebonnet Award recipient. Have you ever read that apologetic poem by William Carlos Williams called "This is Just to Say?" If not, let me paste it for you here:

"I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold."

Beautiful, no? Well, a school class, after studying this poem, decided to write their own versions, apologizing to someone and righting a wrong. Well, to their surprise, they got replies! Well-crafted, hilarious, beautiful replies! This poems and their replies are endearingly witty. Two examples- in one, a boy apologizes to the school secretary for sneaking a doughnut, and the secretary replies that his charm is endless, but she still has to call his parents. In another, a girl apologizes for hurting her little sister, and the sister replies, "Roses are red/ violets are blue/ I am still/ pissed off at you." A great read, and I would imagine a fun way to get kids interested in poetry.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful example that poetry is for everyone! April 7 2011
By Laura A. Jackson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This collection of poems features the authentic writing of students. The book opens with poems of apology and ends with poems of forgiveness. The topics range from the silly (a game of kickball) to heartbreaking (Jewel's poem to her father who walked out on the family). The range captures the interest of intermediate aged kids, who still love to be carefree and silly but are also dealing with serious topics like death and crushes.
The book is unique because each writer's voice is unique. Some are long and flowery while others are succinct and to the point. The variety pulls the reader into the different emotions. The pictures are just as quirky as the poems and the kids who wrote them. There isn't a note from the illustrator, but it would be interesting to know if the kids who wrote the poem had any say in the picture for their poem.
It's hard to pick a poem that should be shared with a class because I think the book as a whole is so important. It demonstrates that kids CAN write poetry. The custodian, the school secretary, students' parents, and even students' siblings contribute to the book. Poetry is for everyone, and this book is a visual motivation for reluctant poetry writers. I will share two of my favorites that I think embody the idea of the book's title: apology and forgiveness.
"How Slow-Hand Lizard Died"
I stole him.
Took him home in my pocket.
Felt the pulse beating
in his soft green neck.
Had no place good to put him.
A shoebox.
He got cold, I think.
Watched his life wink out,
his bright eye turn to mud.
Brought him back,
stiff as an old glove.
Hid him in the bottom of the cage.
Left the money on Mrs. Merz's desk.
(Stole that, too).
Won't touch the new lizard.
Don't' like to touch
money
either.
By Anonymous

The response: "Ode to Slow-Hand"
The way his heart beat in his throat
The way his toes whispered on our hands
Los perdonamos
His skin: rough green cloth
The color of new leaves
Los perdonamos
His belly: soft as an old balloon
His tongue: lightning's flicker
Los perdonamos
The sad way he left us
The sad way you feel
Los perdonamos
We forgive you
By Mrs. Merz's class

The pairing of the poems gives a class a tool for discussion. The poems go together, but the tone and the flow are different. Each set of poems is a wonderful tool for teaching style and for drawing out a writer's voice.

I reviewed this book for my poetry class at Texas Woman's University. [...]
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Apologies and forgiveness Sept. 3 2007
By Nunzio - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is such a delightful book to be enjoyed just as much by adults as children. And, perhaps if we were all inspired to write apologies, the world would be a happier place.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars this is just to say Dec 21 2011
By Margaret Dietz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I used this book for church and it was a big hit. The children as well and the adults loved the book. I will use it again.

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