#1- Pieces: A Year in Poems & Quilts by Anna Grossnickle Hines
As the title suggests, this book moves through the different seasons of a year, represented clearly through the poems and pictures. The poems are written in different forms, often expressing or relating to what the poem is discussing. For example, a poem about leaves falling has the words drifting back and forth across the page, rather than in a straight line. The pictures are reproduced copies of original handmade quilts, which is so cool! In the back of the book, Hines describes the the story behind the quilts and a little bit about the process of quilting.
This book could be a fun way to introduce the seasons to a younger elementary school classroom. It would also, of course, be great to use for a poetry unit. As I mentioned earlier, several of the poems are structured in a way that is directly relating to the meaning. This book be could be used as an example to show students how the form of a poem can help express theme. I think the book could even be used in an art classroom – read it and then have students complete something similar. They do not have to quilt, but they could come up with different ways to visually represent the seasons and the changes that occur between each.
#2 – The Brother’s War: Civil War Voices in Verse by J. Patrick Lewis
Loved loved loved this book. It would be so great to use in a middle school history classroom. Each two-page spread of the book has a poem describing some aspect of the war and a picture that is actually a real photograph. Each photograph has a description and the name of who took it, if known. In addition, each page has about a paragraph giving more detailed historic information about whatever the poem was about. Most of the poems are about a specific event, battle, or person. However, the author takes these things and makes them more personal and emotional. Lewis recreates the voices of many different people who were involved in the war, and the poems help express what they may have been feeling or thinking.
A great activity to do along with reading this book would be to have the students write their own poems in the voice of someone who would have been there during that time. This will require them to research and discover in order to make their poem as accurate as possible. The teacher could even assign students to all write a poem about the same event, but from several different viewpoints. This would be such an interesting way to see different effects and perspectives of one moment in time.