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Poems to Learn by Heart Hardcover – March 26, 2013

4.5 out of 5 stars 171 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 5 Up-Poetry is surely a many splendored thing in this richly conceived compendium of poets and ideas. Using the handsome format of A Family of Poems (Hyperion, 2005), Kennedy and Muth gather and depict a broader, more complex array of poems, inviting the enjoyment of varied readers and audiences. Kennedy's introductory comments on the value of memorizing poetry note the growing popularity of poetry recitation in festivals, slams, and other competitive events. A major emphasis throughout the book, in introductions to the topical sections and the wide-ranging choice of poems, is the deep pleasure poetry provides its readers, reciters, and writers. Some of the topics-family, school, nonsense poems, fairies, and ogres-suggest children as readers, and some poems are old childhood favorites. All of the sections have many sophisticated selections, however, and there's a section of war poems that includes Martin Niemoller's "First They Came for the Jews," along with much older pieces. Passages from The Metamorphoses and the Bible, along with "Baby Ate a Microchip" and "The Cremation of Sam McGee," are among the many choices made by Kennedy and her teenage partners from New York City schools. Muth's watercolor paintings stretch widely, too, in small sketches on white pages, broad comic scenes, and lovely views on softly washed backgrounds. The cover picture of two young children, one with fairy wings, facing a forest dotted with flashing bits of light, lends a rather false cue. Families and teachers will find enjoyable bits to share, and older children, teens, and adults will find much to savor in this fine tribute to the powers of poetry.-Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Bostonα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Kennedy, who has edited several poetry books, waxes eloquently on the sturdy reasons for memorizing poetry: the empowerment and confidence it can bring. But she doesn’t skimp on the sheer delight of the exercise itself. In this volume, Kennedy has collected more than 100 poems of all sizes for a wide-ranging audience, and she has divided them into chapters, which all begin with her own introductions. Included are poems about self, school, sports, games, and war, as well as nonsense poems. With thoughtfulness and occasional whimsy, Kennedy explains how and why particular poems were selected. And a fine collection it is—one that will grab the audience. Gertrude Stein tells children, “When I wish a dish / I wish a dish of ham.” Henry Van Dyke asks them to consider the ramifications of time: “New days, / New ways / Pass by! / Love stays. ” Many favorite established poets are here, but younger voices are represented, too. The breadth of the poetry is heightened by Muth’s arresting watercolors, and with his pairings, he shows an acute sense of when the images should stay small and when they should blossom into full flower, such as the pink camellia that opens the chapter on nature. A wonderful resource to get kids reading, thinking, talking about, and yes, memorizing poetry. --Ilene Cooper
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 1 - 11 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool and up
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Disney-Hyperion; First Edition edition (March 26, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1423108051
  • ISBN-13: 978-1423108054
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 0.8 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (171 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #21,598 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I can't claim to be a connoisseur of poetry, but even I, philistine that I am, find something special when someone recites a poem out loud at an apt moment. It's as though time stops. It would be great to have a treasure of poems memorized for such occasions, or failing that at least exposing my children to them so they might develop such appreciation.

This collection plants such seeds. Caroline Kennedy (yes, that Caroline Kennedy) has thoughtfully chosen more than 100 poems to inspire, celebrate, and appreciate. There is a range of topics covers, from powerful emotions to "ordinary" moments. Beautifully illustrated, this is a book to dip into again and again.
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Format: Hardcover
Most American schools stopped teaching poetry decades ago and don't spend enough time with English literature either. Our world is immensely poorer because of it. This work is a treasure in our chaotic, fractured, noisy world, so overburdened with iPhones and electronics, all screaming for our attention.

There's something here for all ages. And some little poems, only a few lines long, will be fun to recite from memory at the dinner table or in line in a store. The only change I would make is to add more poems of melancholy that examine pain and loss.

I hope parents will SLOW down, sit by their children's beds, and read aloud all of these poems together. Twenty some years ago, when my son was in the second grade, he was in love with Kipling's "The Jungle Book." When talent day rolled around, he memorized and couldn't wait to recite his favorite passage. And so he did. And though he grew up to far greater accomplishments throughout the years, I look back with pride at that small red-headed boy on that immense stage.. brave and fierce... reciting those two wordy pages from Kipling... and I glow with happiness. It's noteworthy that today he can barely remember it at all... but what he DOES remember are the happy times of reading poetry and prose... together and out loud... and how it left him with a profound love of language.

The author did the work of selection for us already in the admirable little volume. One just has to savor the words and embrace the slow, rich pleasure of simple poetry. Perhaps you will even gift your children with a longer attention span, but if not, you will give them priceless, living memories that will linger forever. This is a book you will want to keep and pass on to the next generation.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Caroline Kennedy works with disadvantaged children in NYC helping them open up to poetry, write it, love it. This is but yet another one of her carefully chosen compilations of poems, this time -- those to learn by heart. The water-color illustrations are beautiful and works of poetry themselves. Her target audience is the entire family, and Poems to Learn By Heart is yet another one of Kennedy's books to become a family favorite of ours!
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Format: Hardcover
This is a most excellent selection of poems. Just when you think you fount the best the next one is even better. Before you start you will have some favorites and by the end some new favorites. Of course if you are in a hurry there is an index in the back; however I like to stumble upon them.

This is a great survey of different writers so you can get a feel of what you want to read next. It even included the Shakespeare Crispin speech.

What I found fun is remembering the different movies and books that contain the poems in passing. I had been watching "The Nine Tailors" and never realized what they were referring to when they talked about "Young Lochinvar" until I read this book. I am sure you will also have revelations.

Do not over look the paintings by Jon J Muth; as they add to the experience. I was also surprised that this is a Disney publication.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book is wonderful - filled with old and new poems and plenty of memories to read alone or with a small someone curled up beside you. The illustrations by Jon Muth are absolutely fantastic - I'm so happy to have both in my home.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you are interested in getting into poetry, but don't know where to start I would highly recommend this book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I really wish I had read the negative reviews for this book before purchasing it.

If you're searching for a book to share with preschool or early elementary-aged children, read on. If not, this review is probably not for you.

As a parent of 3 children under the age of 7, I was so excited to share this book with my little ones. Based on the title and the front cover, the age range listed as "1-11" years, and the "Disney-Hyperion" publisher, I mistakenly assumed this book would be suitable for young children. It most definitely isn't.

I was expecting lighthearted, beautiful poems that people would naturally WANT to learn by heart - uplifting poems that people enjoy reciting and listening to - but I was terribly disappointed. Here are some of the titles:

O dear! How disgusting is life!
The Cremation of Sam McGee
Bad Morning
Ballad of Birmingham (On the bombing of a church in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963)
Evil
A Poison Tree

There's also an entire section devoted to poems about war, which includes a poem that says, "After the battle, flat and still upon a hillside now he lies..."
or "What's That?" - about a horrible monster leaning over the child's bed.

Finally, there's the one that made me close the book in disgust: from "Voices Rising":

"My voice rises for the girls trapped in four walls with men who think they're sexy"
AND "Little girls, my voice rises over your screams of broken innocence."

What the heck??? I understand the need for powerful poetry that deals with dark emotions, or social and political issues. I am not opposed to it, at all.
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