A few weeks ago, my family visited New York and took a trip out to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. It is such an awe inspiring place and I wanted my girls to understand the importance of the immigrant in American society. I’m not sure exactly when they really start getting in to the meat of American history in school, but there is such value in going to places and seeing it yourself and, of course, reading about history in wonderful books.
April is also National Poetry Month. While we don’t read a ton of poetry, there are some amazing books and one of the books below focuses on the history of Emma Lazarus’ famous poem that helped pay for the pedestal of Lady Liberty.
My older daughter is heading to London this summer with her grandfather. Just in time, Usborne books published the really fun book Kitty Kat, Kitty Kat, Where Have you Been – London.
As you may recall, the original poem is quite simple and goes like this:
Pussy cat, pussy cat, where have you been?
I’ve been to London to look at the Queen.
Pussy cat, pussy cat, what did you there?
I frightened a little mouse under her chair.
This wonderful picture book pays homage to the original English rhyme, first published in 1805, as a way to tour some of the bigger sites of London.
In this story, written by Russell Punter and illustrated by Dan Taylor, an owl asks a returning Kitty Kat where he had been. Of course Kitty tells the owl that he had been to London to visit the Queen. When pressed further to say what he saw, Kitty Kat encourages the owl to listen to his story. He then recounts many of the really cool things that he was able to do on his trip to London.
From going on a boat under London Bridge, seeing the Crown Jewels, hopping on a double decker bus, going to Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey, and Buckingham Palace, Kitty Kat takes a full tour of London. Many of the locations are described within the original rhyme sequence.
The inside front and back covers have a truly basic map of the region and items that young Kitty Kat sees and even though Kitty wasn’t able to actually see the Queen, he still had a marvelous time in London.
Books about travel destinations typically engage children through bright and vivid illustrations and this book is no different. The pictures are whimsical yet realistic. A child can get a good sense of what the Tower of London was like and how amazing it is to actually get to see the Crown Jewels. For a child who hasn’t yet been to a location, seeing what another child might have gone to see can help get them excited, especially if there are fun details like how a whisper is heard throughout the dome of Saint Paul’s Cathedral. A place like London has a huge amount of history for kids to be excited by, and this book does a great job for the 4-8 set.
There is also a version that whisks Kitty Kat off on an exciting tour of Paris. Young readers can join him as he cruises down the Seine, climbs the Eiffel Tower, and discovers famous paintings in the Lourve Museum. I don’t have a copy of that yet, but I will 🙂
Recently my 3rd grade daughter had a quick unit on poetry. I was thrilled that they were teaching this as it is such an important style of writing. The more comfortable you can get kids with poetry at an early age, the better, in my opinion.
So when we found the book Echo & Echo, by Marilyn Singers, which not only was written in verse, but about Greek Mythology, I grabbed it up! My 3rd grader loved it as well. Kids and adults will find this book captivating.
Echo & Echo is a book of reverso poems where the poem is written twice – read top to bottom and then bottom to top. The fabulous thing about having them written this way is that it manages to highlight the fact that reading the poem differently also manages to tell the story from someone else’s perspective, which can be exactly opposite to the story most of us know. We have enjoyed studying perspective lately as well, since it is good to realize that things change depending on who tells you the story and that there are many sides to every tale.
Since many of these myths might be unknown to young readers, and not fully remembered by many adults, each poem has a brief explanation of the myth at the bottom of the page. Each poem is also accompanied by gorgeous illustrations by Josée Masse. (If you enjoy these, Marilyn Singer has 2 earlier books of reverso poems that deal with fairy tales)
Speaking of poetry, we found a wonderful book that combines poetry with a love of books and libraries. In Jumping off Library Shelves, Lee Bennett Hopkins put together a marvelous collection of books praising the library.
These poems are aimed at the young poet and they read remarkably well. In terms of poetry, it is nice that not all of them rhyme as it helps children understand that rhyming is not a requirement. The poems explore subjects from taking refuge in the library, the power of a library card, the brilliance of a librarian, and the power of a storyteller. There is even a poem with the modern twist of utilizing computers in the library and being an “Internet Explorer.”
In addition to the wonderful poems, Jane Manning has done a marvelous job with illustrations, and whoever did the actual layout of the pages did a nice job of making the lines of text feel like they have movement and shape. As a lover of all things library, I highly recommend this title.