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Kim's Book Reviews
| Home | Picture Books | Traditional Literature | Poetry | Nonfiction | Historical Fiction | Fantasy & Young Adult Fiction | Author Study: Lois Ehlert

Bernice E. Cullinan, Editor


Cullinan, Bernice E. A JAR OF TINY STARS. Illustrated by Andi MacLeod. Honesdale, Pennsylvania:Wordsong Boyds Mills Press, Inc., 1996. ISBN 1563970872.


A collection of poems by ten winners of the National Council of Teachers of English Award for Poetry for Children. Poets included are David McCord, Aileen Fisher, Karla Kuskin, Myra Cohn Livingston, Eve Merriam, John Ciardi, Lillian Moore, Arnold Adoff, Valerie Worth, and Barbara Esbensen.


This anthology includes poems selected by children across the United States. These are their favorite  poems by the ten poets listed above. In an introduction to the volume, editor Bernice Cullinan says that the children "like poems they can understand: ones that make them laugh and ones that tell a story." (p.1) The poems included in this book are representative of this criteria. In addition, they are written in a voice that children identify with. One of my favorite poems included is "I Woke Up This Morning" by Karla Kuskin. Her use of rhythm and rhyme make this a great read aloud poem. The poem will appeal to most children because the subject matter has a universality that they can identify with. It is about a child who is frustrated because someone finds fault with everything she does. Most children have felt like this at one time or another. Kuskin has used a larger font size for each stanza of the poem to emphasize the growing frustration, which culminates in the child saying, "Well, I said/ That tomorrow/ At quarter past seven/ They can / Come in and get me./ I'm staying In Bed." (p. 21)  Another favorite of mine is Eve Merriam's "Skip Rope Rhyme For Our Time." The poem uses the rhythm common in all jump rope rhymes. Children will be drawn to it because of its familiarity. It is a humorous look at all the worthless mail in our mailboxes each day and ends with "My name is Dear Occupant/ and yours is the same." (p. 35) 


The book includes a table of contents, listing all the poems for easy reference. The poems are arranged by poet, and each segment begins with a beautiful pen and ink portrait and a quote from the poet. There are also brief biographical sketches on each poet and additional quotes at the end of the book, as well as a bibliography and index.


Andi MacLeod's lovely pen and ink illustrations compliment the verse. The humorous drawing of a dog and cat stuck in glue is perfect to accompany Karla Kuskins "Hughbert and the Glue" and  a pair of wrinkled elephant legs aptly frame the lines of Barbara Esbensen's "Elephant." This is a wonderful book of poetry to read aloud and to keep on the class library shelf for browsing by young readers.