Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Poem as BIG as New York City: Little kids write about the big apple (ages 6 - 12)

As Walter Dean Myers writes in his introduction to this wonderful picture book, writing poetry can help you see the world through fresh eyes. Young poets notice small details, listen to the world around them more intently and let their imaginations soar. Written by children across New York City, A Poem as BIG as New York City is a collaborative book in the truest sense of the word. The voices within it shine through to make a symphony of their words, images and details.

I'm especially happy to share this book today as I'm here in New York City gathering together with book loving friends at the 6th annual Kidlitosphere Conference - a wonderful event for children's book bloggers. I'm looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones!
A Poem as BIG as New York City:
Little kids write about the big apple
edited by Teachers & Writers Collaborative
illustrated by Masha D'yans
foreward by Walter Dean Myers
NY: Universe / Rizzoli, 2012
ages 6 - 12
available on Amazon
Throughout 2008 and 2009, artists and teachers working with the Teachers Writers Collaborative led poetry workshops encouraging school children to capture a sense of the life in New York City, to notice the details, sounds and images around them. Their poems were collected and edited into a single poem.

I was truly amazed by this book. You can hear the multitude of individual voices coming together as one. As teaching artist Melanie Maria Goodreaux writes in her introduction, "one child's line from Brooklyn now rhymes with another's from the Bronx. The child from Queens creates the poetic beat that bounces off the rhythm of children in Staten Island and Manhattan."

The children describe their city in both poetic and truly child-centered terms. Their poem is "bigger than the millions of cheese slices of New Yourk City pizzas / going into hot, 500 degree ovens." The sounds fill the poem, resonating with readers. "The subway sounds / like a stampede of rhinos / and elephants underground." And the children's humor shines through as well:
"Hey, Statute of Liberty,
was it just me
or was it you on the A train
as big as a tree?
Now I can see
your tablet is really a MetroCard!"

The poem truly does become a character of its own through Masha D'yans playful illustrations. Above, can you see the poem peeking out from behind the Statue of Liberty or riding through the sky on a seagull's wings? D'yans uses a soft palette to emphasize the children's visions. This is not a harsh New York, but one full of sound and energy and children's voices. Throughout, the artwork complements the images of the poetry, adding humor and color without ever dominating the children's poetry.

I cannot wait to share this with teachers at my school in Berkeley, California. The poem is both inspiring and accessible, calling for children to think about the place they call home. I can just see a class working together to create a collaborative poem describing the Bay Area. I think students everywhere will be moved by the creativity of these children.

To learn more about this, head over to the Teachers and Writers Collaborative website, where they share more poems, lesson plans and events celebrating this book.

Also see the review by Jeff at NC Teacher Stuff. It's fascinating - Jeff's tagged this as to use with young students in kindergarten through 2nd grade, while I can see using it with 3rd and 4th graders. It just points to the wide appeal.

Do you love sharing poetry with kids? Head over to Paper Tigers for more Poetry Friday posts.

All images shared above are copyright ©Masha D'yans, 2012 shared with permission by the publisher. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Universe Publishing, an imprint of Rizolli International Publications. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books


  1. This looks like a great book! I especially love that pair of poem/illustration for Lady Liberty. Something about her really grabs kids. I LOVE that.

  2. This sounds glorious - such a fantastic project and the children who took part must be so proud to see their work presented in such a beautiful book. I love the illustrations you've highlighted here.

  3. Marjorie and Andromeda - thanks so much for stopping by! It was a fantastic project! So glad I could share it.