When I was in school, we children spent a lot of time memorizing quotes, facts, figures, and rules. It was tedious, and to be honest most of the time we memorized things for tests and then promptly forgot them. The exception to this rule were the poems. Even now, many years later, I can still remember the Jabberwocky, the Walrus and the Carpenter, some of Robert Frost's poems, Ozymandias, and others. Learning these poems helped me understand them better, and it also showed me how beautiful and powerful language can be.
Today's poetry title contains a selection of poems that are perfect for learning by heart.
Selected by Mary Ann Hoberman
Illustrated by Michael Emberley
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 7 to 12
Little Brown, 2012, 978-0-316-12947-3
Some people are of the opinion that learning poems by heart is a tedious and dull thing to do. What is the point, they ask. Well, learning a poem by heart helps you to better understand why the poet fashioned the poem the way he or she did. One comes to appreciate how images and ideas are fashioned using words, and how certain sounds, rhythms and rhymes conjure up thoughts and feelings in us when we hear them.
For this book, Mary Ann Hoberman has selected poems that are suitable for beginner readers and for more advanced readers. Some are short, while others are longer. Some are goofy and funny, while others have a more serious tone. The one thing that all the poems have in common is that they are “memorable.” In other words the poems are both “easy to remember” and “worth remembering.”
The book opens with a word from Ann Hoberman and then she gives us a poem, telling us that we are about to go on “an adventure.” She tells us that we are going to “invite” the poems to live in a house in our heads that is called “Memory.” The beauty of using this house is that it gets bigger the more you use it, and the more you give it, “The more it will give.” Perhaps best of all, once the poems are in your memory house, they will be there “As long as you live.”
The poems that we first meet are very short. These special little gems will go into that memory house easily. They include verses by Emily Dickinson, Edward Lear, and Robert Lewis Stevenson. Then there are poems about people, people of all kinds. Robert Frost’s poem A time to Talk reminds us that one should always take time to have a “friendly visit” with a friend who is passing by. In his poem Love That Boy, Walter Dean Myers shows us how much a father loves his little son who walks “like his grandpa / grins like his uncle Ben.” The father in the poem knows in his heart that one day his son will be “a good man before he done.”
Next there is a section of poems featuring animals. How could there not be. Children and animals fit together as perfectly and peanut butter and jelly. There are poems about a cat, a rooster, a dog, a pig, a bat, and even a yak. Some are deliciously funny, while others have a more contemplative feel.
This animal-centric collection is followed by poems about “Delicious Dishes,” time, happiness, “Weather and Seasons,” sad feelings, “Strange and Mysterious” things, and “Poems from storybooks.” Finally, there are a few poems that are longer and more challenging to memorize. The author concludes by offering her readers some tips on how to learn poetry by heart.