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Disclaimer: Both of these books are written by people whom I consider friends. This does not mean that I'm not being honest in my reviews, but I figure I owe it to you to disclose that I have a personal relationship with the authors, both of whom were kind enough to ask their publishers to send me a copy of their books. So, I have.

For the lower elementary set

STAMPEDE! Poems to Celebrate the Wild Side of School by my friend Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Steven Salerno. Laura used terms related to the animal kingdom in creating her collection of poems, and Steven Salerno took her quite literally in creating the illustrations, which show the children as animal-hybrids throughout the book.

Laura's work is clever, creative and playful. It includes poems about groups of children (e.g., "Swarm", which likens the buzz of conversation to a swarm of bees or "Stampede", which compares the thundering of kids heading for the exit at day's end to a herd of elephants) as well as poems about individuals - usually in uncomfortable situations that most kids can relate to. Here's the second poem in the book, "New Mouse":

New Mouse
by Laura Purdie Salas

Go left, then right,
Wrong turns, dead ends,
Can't find my class,
I've got no friends.

Each hallway is
a hallway clone.
Can't find my way
around alone.

A thousand halls,
a thousand ways,
I'm lost inside
this new-school maze.

The poems are set up in a way that essentially moves through the school day - gym class, lunch, recess, references to various classes and situations (such as picture day and rumored crushes). A fun collection of poems about school. Recommended for the elementary school crowd: K-3 per the publisher, but I'm pretty sure kids in upper elementary school would still like this book!

Laura set up a website for the book, which will give you the opportunity to read two more of Laura's poems (the first and last ones in the book). It will also let you see some of Steven Salerno's artwork.

For the upper elementary and middle school set

Countdown to Summer: A Poem for Every Day of the School Year by my friend J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Ethan Long. This book does for the older elementary and middle school age group what Billy Collins's Poetry 180 does for teens: it provides you with 180 poems, one for each day of school. But unlike Collins's book (and the related website from the Library of Congress, both of which are anthologies consisting of poems by a number of poets, all the poems are by a single author.

Pat's book starts with poem #180 and counts its way down to #1. Not all of the poems are funny, although many of them are. Not all of them are about school, although some of them are. Librarians will probably like #175: "Reading Harry Potter Under the Sheets", but they are guaranteed to love #173: "Book Etiquette", which gives directions on how to treat a book properly. But my favorite book-related poem is probably #28: "Ars Libri"

Ars Libri: after Archibald MacLeish
by J. Patrick Lewis

A book should be spirited and odd
As a divining rod,

As the wonder of a child,

Open to the sky and the slanting rain
As an attic's shattered windowpane.

A book should measure its success
By a censor's distress.

* *

A book should be ten candle-watts
Of afterthoughts,

Brilliant as a marbled vein in a quarry
Of story,

Bold enough to leave behind
Unpeace of mind.

A book should be a welcome late-night guest
After a day-long standardized test.

* *

A book should be the map, flashlight, and skeleton key
To literacy.

For all imaginations out of whack or work,
The CEO and the filing clerk,

For kids
Who yearn to see but hesitate to dream--

A book should both be
And seem.

The collection includes lovely poems about Eid ul-Fitr, Thanksgiving, Kwanzaa, Chanukah, Martin Luther King Day and more, riddles here and there, poems guaranteed to make you chuckle and the occasional political poem.

(Don't believe me? I direct you to #143, "Proposed Amendment to the Constitution":

The President and Vice-President
of the United States shall be required
to take the Fourth Grade Standardized
Achievement Test so that
No President or Vice-President
shall be left behind.

To which I say, "Preach it, Pat!"

Truly, it's not all highbrow. Take #149: "A Lasting Impression"

I scratched your initials
on the seat of my chair --
now you're stuck
on my underwear!

So, even though summer is not yet over here in New Jersey (my kids don't go back to school until September 8th), I am recommending that you get your hands on Countdown to Summer, and that you check out "the Wild Side of School" with Stampede.

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( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 31st, 2009 07:48 pm (UTC)
You know, my friend, Kelly...
she is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain.
Sep. 1st, 2009 01:55 am (UTC)
Re: You know, my friend, Kelly...
I love my shiny icon, Slatts.
Sep. 1st, 2009 04:11 am (UTC)
I love my shiny icon, Slatts.
Thanks, Kelly. It's so fitting. You're such book-people.
Aug. 31st, 2009 08:44 pm (UTC)
I absolutely LOVE "Ars Libri." I wonder if he would mind if I quote it during my 5-minute terrified mumble speech next week to a bunch of booksellers?

Aug. 31st, 2009 09:02 pm (UTC)
Pat gave you permission in the comment below. :)
Aug. 31st, 2009 10:15 pm (UTC)
Yay! Thank you, Kelly, for posting the poem, and thank YOU, Pat, for allowing me to quote it.

Aug. 31st, 2009 08:57 pm (UTC)
Merci, Kelly! Have you ever considered being a publicist?
My publisher thanks you, but not as much as I do.
And to you L.K., by all means, and bon chance with your speech.
Sep. 1st, 2009 01:55 am (UTC)
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 31st, 2009 11:54 pm (UTC)
Pat is a master of conciseness.
Sep. 1st, 2009 01:54 am (UTC)
I love that Archibald MacLeish. Really want to read Stampede, too!
Sep. 1st, 2009 01:56 am (UTC)
Sep. 1st, 2009 12:32 pm (UTC)
Stampede at Amazon discount
Just ordered Stampede from Amazon at a ridiculous 58% off cover price.
Sep. 1st, 2009 01:23 pm (UTC)
Re: Stampede at Amazon discount
That IS a ridiculous amount off cover price.
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 3rd, 2009 01:08 pm (UTC)
I was mildly appalled to hear that such a deep discount was available - at some point, it has to be so low that no profit at all is being made by the publisher, and that sort of discount sounds like that kind of price point to me. I understand why people like discounts, too, but yeah . . . ugh.
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )

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