Friday, September 4, 2009

Poetry, Story Collections

Poetry, Novel in Verse
Grow: A Novel in Verse by Juanita Havill, illustrated by Stanislawa Kodman

Bibliographic Information:
Havill, J. (2008). Grow: A novel in verse. Atlanta, GA: Peachtree.

An eccentric woman befriends a couple misfit kids who help create a garden in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota. The garden helps bring together the community, but is threatened when the owner dies and his son wants to sell the plot to build a parking garage.

Lead Comments:
The format of the book, verse, makes for easy reading that seems to flow so easily. A quick read, but one that covers many topics familiar with young readers such as weight issues, fitting in, abusive parents, neglect, first love, and acceptance. The characters are easy to relate to and I found myself falling in love with the different and sometimes strange Berneetha. The community comes together to do more than create a beautiful garden, they become friends.

VOYA: (Excerpt)
Twelve-year-old Kate Sibley tells her what-I-did-last-summer story in a series of charming poems that capture the spirit of Berneetha, a larger-than-life adult friend and laid-off special education teacher, who decides to plant a community garden on a vacant urban lot. Kate learns a lot about social action, friendship, self-acceptance, and tolerance, ... Berneetha uses their garden to grow neighborhood unity, cooperation, and kindness among people of various ages, mental abilities, professions, economic means, and attitudes. Reviewer: Lucy Schall April 2008 (Vol. 31, No. 1). (Retrieved December 5, 2009, from
Kirkus Reviews: (Excerpt)
With school out and time on her hands, Berneetha, a generous and colorful special-needs educator whose job was just cut, decides to take an unused plot of land and turn it into a community garden. Her enormous and enormously inviting spirit draws people together, including narrator Kate, a 12-year-old who appears to enjoy chocolate cake more than her mother likes, and Harlan, a stray-cat kind of boy. Kodman's pencil illustrations add touches of whimsy and charm to the story, and designate it a work for a young audience. (Retrieved December 5, 2009, from

Teacher Tools & Library Leads:
Books in verse seem to resemble free writing where the writer doesn't always need to worry about punctuation and capitalization. Read a few of the "chapters", some that contain good feelings and some that contain sadder feelings, then have the students write freely for 5 minutes about a sad day/event/feeling and for 5 minutes about a happier experience. If they feel comfortable, have a few share their writing. Later the students can modify and edit their writings to create a more formal poem or short story.

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