Sidman, Joyce. 2007. This is Just to Say. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN: 9780618616800.
This collection of poems features the authentic writing of students. The book opens with poems of apology and ends with poems of forgiveness. The topics range from the silly (a game of kickball) to heartbreaking (Jewel’s poem to her father who walked out on the family). The range captures the interest of intermediate aged kids, who still love to be carefree and silly but are also dealing with serious topics like death and crushes.
The book is unique because each writer’s voice is unique. Some are long and flowery while others are succinct and to the point. The variety pulls the reader into the different emotions. The pictures are just as quirky as the poems and the kids who wrote them. There isn’t a note from the illustrator, but it would be interesting to know if the kids who wrote the poem had any say in the picture for their poem.
It’s hard to pick a poem that should be shared with a class because I think the book as a whole is so important. It demonstrates that kids CAN write poetry. The custodian, the school secretary, students’ parents, and even students’ siblings contribute to the book. Poetry is for everyone, and this book is a visual motivation for reluctant poetry writers. I will share two of my favorites that I think embody the idea of the book’s title: apology and forgiveness.
“How Slow-Hand Lizard Died”
I stole him.
Took him home in my pocket.
Felt the pulse beating
in his soft green neck.
Had no place good to put him.
He got cold, I think.
Watched his life wink out,
his bright eye turn to mud.
Brought him back,
stiff as an old glove.
Hid him in the bottom of the cage.
Left the money on Mrs. Merz’s desk.
(Stole that, too).
Won’t touch the new lizard.
Don’t’ like to touch
The response: “Ode to Slow-Hand”
The way his heart beat in his throat
The way his toes whispered on our hands
His skin: rough green cloth
The color of new leaves
His belly: soft as an old balloon
His tongue: lightning’s flicker
The sad way he left us
The sad way you feel
We forgive you
By Mrs. Merz’s class
The pairing of the poems gives a class a tool for discussion. The poems go together, but the tone and the flow are different. Each set of poems is a wonderful tool for teaching style and for drawing out a writer’s voice.