Thursday, September 12, 2013

It's Poetic: All Aboard!


Back when I was a teacher, one of my favorite reading units to teach was poetry.  I usually taught it in the spring, when the kids started to become restless because it comes in bite-sized pieces, allows for lots of moving around (theatrical readings, anyone?), and there was something to suit every taste.  Plus, in my own reading for pleasure, I really appreciate writers who, weather or not they are actual poets, have a poetic sensibility about them.  I think it is what separates the great writers from the merely good ones.  Even as a blogger, I am inspired by other bloggers who write with a poetic tone of voice.  To hear what I am talking about, just read any post by Lisa Jo Baker.

To begin the unit, I would always start by focusing on poetic devices.  This was an easy way to dip a toe into the land of poetry.  (Plus, terms like metaphor and simile always show up on standardized tests, so may as well make sure the kids know them.)  We would talk about a particular device, practice it, and read poems that included examples.  For metaphor, I liked to used Langston Hughes' Mother to Son.  Personification?  Perhaps The Railway Train by Emily Dickinson, or Two Sunflowers by William Blake.

I was always tripped up, however, when trying to find an example to use in demonstrating repetition.  So much so that I considered just scrapping it as part of the unit.  If only I had found All Aboard! by Mary Lyn Ray while I was teaching, it would have fit perfectly.


Though not specifically billed as a poem, this book is clearly poetic.  It tells the story of a young girl's train trip to visit her parents, accompanied by her stuffed bunny, Mr. Barnes.   As the book begins, the girl boards the train and it leaves the station, picking up speed:

Long train, silver train.  Long train, silver train.

Long train.  Long train.  Silver train.  Silver train.
Train, train, train, train.

Whooo whoooooo.

I was in awe, when reading this aloud, at how the author had managed to so perfectly capture the sound of a train speeding up using just three different words.  Poetic repetition indeed.

The cut paper illustrations  by Amiko Hirao pair perfectly with the text, creating a sensory experience that, if your child is anything like mine, will requested again and again.  And if you are anything like me in your love of language, you won't mind a bit.

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