Last week, I asked "Why would so much depend upon a red wheelbarrow?" and this week, I found a boy-protagonist echoing me.
"What do you mean --
Why does so much depend
a blue car?
You didn't say before
that I had to tell why.
The wheelbarrow guy
didn't tell why."
Meet Jack, who tells his story through free-spirited verses he writes (reluctantly at first) based on the classics his teacher, Miss Stretchberry, shares in class. Like me, Jack doesn't 'get' poetry at first but gradually learns to enjoy the pictures formed in his head.
What kind of protagonist is Jack?
He doesn't mince his words about how he thinks boys don't write poetry, and about the line spacing his teacher ought to use.
He is often unsure of himself and asks to remain anonymous whenever Miss Stretchberry requests to post his writings on the class board.
He is a little sad though he doesn't tell us that, or why. Readers would find out, of course, towards the end. Still, he never betrays a sliver of self-pity.
This is a great story to be shared in class, for children reading poetry and for those who love dogs. Yeah, Jack's good ol' yellow dog.
Jack is very fortunate to have a caring and encouraging teacher like Miss Stretchberry, who bakes delicious brownies for the class. (What luck!) Have you ever had such a Miss Stretchberry in your school-life?
I know not everyone enjoys novels written in verse. I'm a huge fan and have come across several outstanding middle-grade stories written in this fashion, with down-to-earth and honest narrative voices, quietly bright tones, and refreshing line-break choices. Perhaps it has to do with my difficulty in reading long prose when I was 9-12. This sort of writing would have helped me tremendously back then, so I'm glad it is now an option for young readers.
Love That Dog is followed by Hate That Cat. If you've enjoyed Jack in this one, remember to pick up the latter, too.
"When I was younger
it was plain to me
I must make something of myself."
~ William Carlos Williams
Reasons I went in search of this picture book:
A River of Words ...
takes us through William Carlos Williams's childhood, leading to how he became a doctor and a poet. Willie would go for walks to explore and observe. He would listen to the water "slipping and sliding over the smooth rocks" by the river and fall asleep along to its music.
So Much Depends Upon A Red Wheelbarrow ...
I didn't get it in the past. Why would so much depend upon a red wheelbarrow? Or the white chickens? Why would anyone write a poem about stealing plums from the fridge?
Imagine my relief when I discover that poetry often isn't about imagining another world; it is about observing your world and writing it down as honestly as you can. If a stanza morphs into a metaphor, whoo-hoo! For the rest, just let the words flow into a river and allow the waters to touch your mind as pictures and sounds.
That was what Willie did. He wrote about fire engines, the moon in the treetops, children, and squabbling sparrows. He watched, he listened then he wrote it all down.
"I must make something of myself."
All day, Willie delivered babies, healed hurts and took care of the sick. When night arrived, he climbed to his attic, sat at his desk, read the notes on things he'd heard, seen or done, and wrote.
I think Willie made many things of himself, one of which was to influence us to make something of ourselves. I am now a little farther on my way because of this gorgeous book.
White, papery moths flitting on top of green rain-treetops. Invisible birds trilling, chirping, whistling. Wherever you are now, what do you see? What do you hear?
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Hey, I'm Claudine. Welcome!
Want to know what children's stories can inspire & lead to?
by Kate Hanney
Really enjoyed the honest voice of this narrator ~ a teenager let down by his mother and the foster care system, and almost-picked up through his involvement with a gang.