VerseDay: Marion Dane Bauer Writes About Her Novel-in-Verse



Marion Dane Bauer, author of LITTLE DOG LOST, writes about her novel-in-verse at her blog. She talks about what makes it a verse novel. 

VerseDay Links



I’ve been behind at posting the VerseDay links, but there’s been a lot of great posts out there. Here’s the roundup:

VerseDay: Resources to Use with LOVE THAT DOG by Sharon Creech

love that dog


One of the highlights of my year is teaching LOVE THAT DOG by Sharon Creech. My students love reading this book and discovering that they can write poetry too. Over the years, I’ve collected some favorite books that I use while teaching LOVE THAT DOG. The resources are listed in the order that I use them–in the order that Jack learns about them. As the poems from the famous poets appear in the book, I dig out these resources to help students understand Robert Frost, William Blake, and others a bit better.

love that dog audio


Performed by Scott Wolf

HarperChildren’s Audio

This is one of the books I do totally as a read aloud, but every student has a copy. But I don’t read it aloud. I let Scott Wolf do the reading. I first had this audiobook on cassette tape, then graduated to CD. His performance is fabulous, and we can pause it and talk about various poems and flip to the back to look at the originals.


william carlos williams poetry for young people


WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS (Poetry for Young People series)

Edited by Christopher MacGowan

Illustrated by Robert Crocket

Scholastic, 2004

This “Poetry for Young People” series is one that I recommend, and can be found often during April (Poetry Month) in Scholastic Book Club flyers. Each book, about a different famous poet, comes with a brief biography about the poet, and each poem features commentary/explanations and illustrations. I use this to show students the illustration of “The Red Wheelbarrow.”

A River of Words


by Jen Bryant

Illsutrated by Melissa Sweet

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2008.

I mentioned this book last week in my picture books about poets post. This is a phenomenal introduction to William Carlos Williams. The  illustrations, done on the pages of old books, are filled with words and make every page interesting to study. His poems are woven in the illustrations and typed on the end papers. The back matter includes a timeline of Williams’ life, an author’s note, an illustrator’s note, and a list of resources for further reading. I love reading this with students after we’ve read some of Williams’ poems.

stopping by woods illus susan jeffers


by Robert Frost

Illustrated by Susan Jeffers

Scholastic, 1978

When I share “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening,” I always pull out this illustrated version. I got mine through Scholastic, but I’ve seen a hardcover version of this recently in Ollie’s. Most of the illustrations are black and white drawings. But Jeffers throws in a little color. It is stunning and really gave me a new appreciation of the poem, and it also brings the poem to life for young readers.

the dead poets


You want to make young kids love and laugh about William Blake? This CD is one that I found several years ago at a teachers’ conference. They sing poems by dead poets. The first one on the CD is a rendition of “The Tyger” by William Blake, which is one of the poems that Jack doesn’t understand in LOVE THAT DOG. It’s catchy and makes the kids dance to William Blake. What more could you want?

all the small poems and fourteen more


by Valerie Worth

Illustrated by Natalie Babbitt

FSG, 1994

This collection of small poems features all of the “small” poems mentioned by Jack in LOVE THAT DOG. Kids always beg me to read more of these small poems.

animal poems


by Valerie Worth

Illustrated by Steve Jenkins

Take some of Valerie Worth’s small poems, add Steve Jenkins amazing collages, and you get this beautiful collection in a picture book format. Even though Worth’s poems are extremely kid-friendly, this picture book makes them even more so.

poetry for young people robert frost

ROBERT FROST (Poetry for Young People Series)

Edited by Gary D. Schmidt

Illustrated by Henri Sorensen

Scholastic, 1994

This collection does not feature “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening,” but it does divide some of Frost’s poems up by season. It includes “The Pasture” which is mentioned by Jack in LOVE THAT DOG.

street music by adoff


by Arnold Adoff

Illustrated by Karen Barbour

HarperCollins, 1995

This fabulous collection of city poems is out of print, but you might be lucky enough to find it at your library or at a used bookstore. It includes the poem “Street Music,” which Jack refers to the in the book and fourteen other city poems. This is a great book to look at when showing kids different forms of poetry because these poems don’t look like other poems they’ve read in LOVE THAT DOG. Adoff plays with space throughout these poems. Barbour’s loose paintings with bright colors bring these busy city poems to life. If you can snag a copy of this book, do it.

brown angels by myers


by Walter Dean Myers

HarperCollins, 1993

The poem that inspired Jack’s “Love that Dog” poem is in this book. “Love That Boy” by Walter Dean Myers is in this book, in its entirety. Jack only writes one stanza, but Myers’ original poem has four. The poems in this collection are illustrated with actual photographs, both the author’s and borrowed from sources like the Library of Congress. The black and white photos are of African American children are absolutely beautiful.

Concrete Poetry

I realize I didn’t include the concrete poetry books I use with “My Yellow Dog,” Jack’s concrete poem. I have a whole collection of concrete poetry books that I use. It would be worth it to me to do a whole post on just those books.

Readers’ Theater

Check out this Readers’ Theater Version of LOVE THAT DOG featuring Walter Dean Myers, Sharon Creech, Avi, and Sarah Weeks. It’s always my culminating activity. Just like Jack, my students are amazed that these authors are REAL people.


What have I missed? Do you have favorites that I didn’t list? I want to know what other resources you use when teaching LOVE THAT DOG! Tell me in the comments!

VerseDay: Picture Books About Poets



Picture Books About Poets

I love making poets accessible to young people. No single book does that better than Sharon Creech‘s LOVE THAT DOG. However, there are poems by famous poets that I love to use as mentor texts for my students. I love learning about the poets behind the poems, so today I’m going to highlight a few of my favorite picture books about poets. Some of them are straight biography, others are illustrated biographies, and still others worth mentioning are historical fiction based on famous poets.


Picture Book Biographies


Cool Melons


Story and Haiku Translations by Matthew Gollub

Illustrations by Kazuko G. Stone

Lee & Low, 1998

Issa is one of the classic haiku poets, but even though he wrote beautiful haiku, he didn’t not have an easy life. His life was one fraught with sorrow, and at times, one that discouraged his writing. This is the story of his life interwoven with his haiku. The illustrations combine the haiku in the original Japanese with a painting depicting the image in the haiku. The back matter includes information about writing haiku and stories behind some of the original haiku. Students studying haiku will find this book full of examples of haiku and also the inspiring life of a poet. For more haiku books, see this annotated haiku list. For a lesson plan on teaching haiku, see this haiku mentor text lesson plan. 



by Laban Carrick Hill

illustrated by Bryan Collier

Little, Brown, 2010

I wasn’t sure if I should include this in poet biographies because this book doesn’t focus on Dave as a poet. The text focuses on his life as a potter. It isn’t until we get to the back matter that we get a glimpse of the poetry that Dave sometimes wrote on his pottery. But I wanted to put this in because it is a unique story, and the story of a slave writing poetry on pots is a part of history that needs to be told. The text itself is a poem, full of exquisite language. I admired the writing of this book so much that I want to use it as a mentor text with my students. The illustrations by Bryan Collier won a Caldecott Honor. This short glimpse into Dave’s life as a potter also gives us a sense of the importance of words. Highly recommended whether or not you are studying famous poets. This book deserves to be read.

Pablo Neruda



by Monica Brown

Illustrated by Julie Paschkis

Henry Holt, 2011

I first discovered Pablo Neruda through his poems ODES TO COMMON THINGS and I fell in love his poems about, well, common things. This picture book biography is very short, poetic, and is accompanied by beautiful illustrations that make words swirl around the page. Between the poetic words and the poetic illustrations, the reader will feel like they’ve basked in poetry. In very few words, Brown gives history of Neruda, which was actually not his given name. She also talks about his activism and the types of poems he wrote. An author’s note is included along with more resources about Neruda. Young children would enjoy this book, but also older students who study Neruda will find this book to be a poetic introduction to the poet’s life.

A River of Words

A RIVER OF WORDS: The Story of William Carlos Williams 

by Jen Bryant

Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2008

I use this book when I teach LOVE THAT DOG because William Carlos Williams is one of the featured poets. This biography starts with Willie’s childhood love of nature all the way through his adulthood when he was a doctor scribbling poems on prescription pads. This is a phenomenal introduction to William Carlos Williams. The  illustrations, done on the pages of old books, are filled with words and make every page interesting to study. His poems are woven in the illustrations and typed on the end papers. The back matter includes a timeline of Williams’ life, an author’s note, an illustrator’s note, and a list of resources for further reading. This is a must-have book for teachers who teach LOVE THAT DOG and anyone else who is interested in sharing William Carlos Williams with their students.

Pablo Neruda


Written and illustrated by Deborah Kogan Ray

Frances Foster Books, 2006

I debated about including this in the longer illustrated books section, but decided to keep it here in the picture book category. It is a traditional length page-wise, even though the text is lengthy. One of the things I truly love about this book is that Ray uses Neruda’s own language–his descriptions and poetry–and weaves them seamlessly into the story that she tells about his life. The final effect is a beautiful story, even though his life was isolated. Neruda was secluded, misunderstood, and shy. It took a mentor, Gabriela Mistral, to encourage him and give him confidence in his work. The illustrations create the setting of his childhood, Chile, and make it seem mystical and a perfect one to inspire such a poet. The back matter  includes an author’s note, more biographical information, and a timeline. While this book would not be as accessible to the young elementary students because of it’s length, upper elementary and middle school students would appreciate the story of this young poet.

Longer Illustrated Biographies

The books mentioned above are truly picture book biographies, meant to be read and shared in a shorter amount of time. The next ones I will mention don’t fit in the picture book category, even though they look like them. They are much longer texts but very much worth reading.

a voice of her own phillis wheatley



by Kathryn Lasky

illustrated by Paul Lee

Candlewick Press, 2003

This book looks like a picture book and has illustrations much like a picture book, but the text is lengthy and separated into sections or short chapters. It begins with her voyage from Africa and being sold in Boston as a slave. Lasky tells her story with such beautiful sensory language. Because Phillis could write, she was different than an ordinary slave and not really accepted in the slave or white communities. However, her poetry still amazed and was published. I highly recommend this book for teachers to read this inspirational story to their students.

William Shakespeare and the Glob



Written and illustrated by Aliki

HarperCollins, 1999

Broken into acts and scenes, like one of Shakespeare’s plays, Aliki details Shakespeare’s life from childhood to the opening of the Globe playhouse. Aliki’s illustrations break up the text and really show what the setting, the homes, and even the people looked like during Shakespeare’s time. She even includes maps and diagrams. This really makes the late 1500s-early 1600s accessible to young people who might not have any background for that time period. While the focus is more on the Globe playhouse, this part of the poet’s life is important and interesting and gives younger students (and probably some older students) the opportunity to get into Shakespeare’s world.

Historical Fiction

As I began taking books about poets off of my shelf, I realized they didn’t really fit into neat categories. The ones I detail below aren’t true biographies. They have a bit of a unique twist to them, mostly historical fiction. But they are still worth mentioning when highlighting picture books about poets.




by Michael Bedard

Pictures by Barbara Cooney

Delacorte Press, 1992

Emily Dickinson wrote a poem about the “angels” that lived next door. Bedard’s book is an imagined encounter with a young girl and Emily Dickinson. Bedard does highlight facts from Emily Dickinson’s life. It includes an afterword explaining some of the facts behind the story, and it also includes the poem that inspired the little girl’s point of view.

emily dickinson



Story and pictures by Jeanette Winter

Frances Foster Books, 2002

This tiny book is like a gift book. The short beginning is told from Emily Dickinson’s sister’s point of view after Emily’s death. She reflects on what others thought about her sister and then her discovery of hundreds of poems. The rest of the book contains poems of Dickinson’s illustrated by Winter. There is a short author’s note at the back. This would be a good introduction to Emily’s poems for young people or even as a gift book for an adult who loves Dickinson’s poetry.

grass sandals


by Dawnine Spivak

Illustrated by Demi

This is another celebration of a historic haiku master’s life. Much of Basho’s travels through Japan are highlighted. What makes this historical fiction, in my mind, is that Basho’s thoughts and dialogue is written in this book. I suspect they are imagined thoughts and dialogue, though this wasn’t made clear in the author’s note. Additionally, the author did note that some of the travels were combined for this book, so it is not an accurate biographical retelling. However, it does give the reader a sense of his travels and the things he saw and wrote about. The essence of the book is that he noticed the small, everyday happenings and wrote haiku about them. Basho’s haiku are interspersed on the pages. The illustrations are done in ink with Oriental brushes and it looks like they are on mulberry paper. If  you want to introduce another historic haiku poet to students, this is another excellent text to explore.

Love to Langston



by Tony Medina

Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

Lee & Low, 2002

This tribute to Langston Hughes is told in poems. Medina brings the live of Langston Hughes to the reader through poetry imagined through the voice of Hughes. While not straight biography, students will enjoy the accessibility to Hughes’ life that Medina’s poetry brings. The poems themselves are full of amazing word choice, historical context, and emotions that ground us to Hughes. The back of the book gives historical context to each poem. This would be a great mentor text to help students create a poem from the viewpoint of a famous person. The acrylic paintings by Christie also enhance the emotions of his life.

Visiting Langston


by Willie Perdomo

Illustrated by Bryan Collier

Henry Holt, 2002

I’ve always been in awe of Bryan Collier’s illustrations, and this book is no exception. His watercolor and collage techniques manage to set the scene for the time of Langston Hughes in a way that makes it feel real and tangible. The text is one poem told from the viewpoint of a little girl whose Daddy is a friend of Langston Hughes. It’s told through her viewpoint as she sees Langston and anticipates seeing him, like she does often. While this is not a biography, we do get a glimpse into Hughes’ life through details the little girl shares and we get more of a glimpse into his world through Collier’s illustrations. This would be a great companion book to LOVE TO LANGSTON and I often use them together when I teach text-to-text connections.

What Have I Missed?

I’m always on the lookout for good picture books about poets. So, what have I missed. What are your favorites? I want to find more!

VerseDay: Interview with Sharon Creech



This week’s VerseDay post is at Booksylvania, hosted by 9 year old Lucy. She is interviewing one of my favorite authors, Sharon Creech. Check out this great interview!

VerseDay: Verse Novels



Today, Marion Dane Bauer writes about why an author would write a novel in verse instead of in prose and writes specifically about why she chose to write LITTLE DOG LOST in verse.



And I’m a bit late with this, but Holly Thompson shared last week where she got her inspiration from her new novel in verseTHE LANGUAGE INSIDE.

HollyThompson TheLanguageInside book cover

Our VerseDay organizer, Gabrielle Prendergast, has a book coming out in the fall called AUDACIOUS. She revealed her cover last week.


VerseDay: Novel in Verse Reviews



Today’s VerseDay post is at One a Day YA and will feature book reviews of middle grade and YA novels in verse.


VerseDay: Poetry Month Post #4

poetry mentor textsPoetry Book of the Week


by Lynne Dorfman and Rose Cappelli

Stenhouse, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-57110-949-1

POETRY MENTOR TEXTS was written for teachers who want to use mentor texts in teaching students how to write poetry. Each chapter walks teachers through specific types of poetry. List poems, acrostic poems, persona poems, and poetry for two voices are studied in depth using mentor poems, sample student writing, and lessons to incorporate into the classroom. Poems by Avis Harley, Ralph Fletcher, J. Patrick Lewis, Kristine O’Connell George, Douglas Florian, Joyce Sidman and many other famous children’s poets have featured poems in this text. If you are looking for ways to utilize poetry as a mentor text, then this book is a great resource.

I also recommend Dorfman and Cappelli’s other mentor text books MENTOR TEXTS and NONFICTION MENTOR TEXTS, also published by Stenhouse.

Previous Poetry Month Posts on Poetry Mentor Texts:

Grumbles from the Forest

Forest Has a Song

One Big Rain


Today’s post for VerseDay is over at Clear Eyes, Full Shelves. It’s Novel in Verse Week and today’s post is a roundup of recommendations for the “Verse Averse.”

VerseDay: Poetry Month Post #3



Poetry Book of the Week

one big rain


Compiled by Rita Gray, illustrated by Ryan O’Rourke

Charlesbridge, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-57091-716-5

Do you ever think about rain in various seasons? This poetry collection captures rain in each season. Featuring poets new and classic (Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg), these poems are a delight to read aloud. There is translated haiku for each season as well, so if you wanted include it in your haiku collection, it would be a great addition.

Mentor Text Ideas

Want to use ONE BIG RAIN as a mentor text for writing? Here are a few suggestions for lessons:

* Poetic forms

* Word Choice

* Vivid Verbs

* Sensory Words

* Imagery

Previous Poetry Month Book Selections Include:




VerseDay Featured Post

Tamera Will Wissinger is posting at Versenovels today. Her new novel in verse, GONE FISHING, is one I’m currently using as a mentor text in my own classroom. Stay tuned as I will be featuring that mentor text lesson plan here on April 26 for Novel in Verse Week.

VerseDay: Poetry Month Post #2



Poetry Book of the Week

Forest Has a Song



by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater, illustrated by Robbin Gourley

Clarion, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-618-84349-7

Capturing the stillness, the noisiness, the pure magic of the forest is hard to do. It’s hard to put into words. But Amy Ludwig Vanderwater does it well. This collection of poems weaves in and around the forest delighting us with the small and the significant events, creatures, and flora of the forest. Vanderwater also captures the seasons in the forest. FOREST HAS A SONG will dip you into the forest and enchant you with its song.

Mentor Text Ideas

Want to use FOREST HAS A SONG as a mentor text for writing? Here are a few suggestions for lessons:

* Word Choice

* Sensory Words

* Alliteration

Last week’s poetry book of the week featured GRUMBLES FROM THE FOREST. 

VerseDay Featured Post

Stephanie Parent is talking about historical verse novels at her blog today.