Time to make your plans for April National Poetry Month. Have you ordered your copy of Kenn Nesbitt’s My Hippo Has the Hiccups and Other Poems I Totally Made Up? It’s being released in hardcover on April 1st by Sourcebooks with illustrations by Ethan Long. ISBN 978-1-4022-1809-5 $17.99
I strongly recommend My Hippo Has the Hiccups for every elementary classroom and library collection. Teachers who have borrowed this title from me state it reminds them most of Jack Prelutsky, or a combination of Shel Silverstein with Jeffrey Moss, but all agreed it was a substantial title for poetry collections. I think in part it’s the voice of poet Kenn Nesbitt who speaks in words and the cadences of our students. Kenn knows how to reach children with this rib-tickling verse. My Hippo Has the Hiccups will greatly appeal to early readers. This title includes an audio CD which is tremendously popular among the elementary crowd and kept our middle schoolers engaged through the end.
My 6th graders listened intently to the CD and looked through the book to offer their criticisms. I’m scanning all their notes into a pdf file to send Kenn Nesbitt for his response, but I wanted to include some of their personal notes (including positives and negatives). One of the students Madylin produced a poem in response and gave me permission to share:
Some of the poems I heard,
were actually pretty good.
I didn’t know what to expect,
but I liked as many as I could.
Some seemed more for 3rd grade and under,
but some of the other poems just made me wonder.
Why did someone write this poem?
What inspired them?
Did they like their own poem?
Or did they sign it with their initials,
like I would with them.
Whatever happened through their mind,
and made them want to write.
My favorite poem was called "Pet Shopping,"
and I loved the fact that the sound effects
were better than alright.
But all I have to say,
is that most of these poems were okay.
From another student: "All of the poems were great but there were three that I liked: Shelley Sellers, Poor Cinderella, and I Think My Dad’s Dracula. I loved "I Think My Dad’s Dracula" because it was really funny and I also really think my dad’s Dracula. Poor Cinderella is funny, too. It’s almost like the reverse of the Cinderella story."
Astasia liked the Cinderella poem, too, adding: "I really thought they were interesting but my favorite was Cinderella. Sometimes I feel that way and I can relate to her. I know she was mad because no fairy godmother came to the rescue. Her stepsister got married to the prince and she really wanted him, but had nothing to wear. Her mean stepmother didn’t let her do cool things like my mother. She felt a negative affect from her stepmother. She sat at home watching TV in her own miserable day."
The students disagreed about which ages would most appreciate each of the poems, but they discussed them in depth. Some argued that they were best for 3rd and 4th graders while some of the poems seemed to appeal most to K-1. Through reading their responses I gleaned that middle schoolers most appreciated the tongue twister of Shelley Sellers with the audio cd, and written poems "I Think My Dad Is Dracula", "I Went To The Barber", and "Alphabet Break" with it’s twisted ending. As graduates of the Chicka Chicka Boom Boom generation, they appreciated the Alphabet Break poem and giggled as much as first graders.
May I confess my favorite on the audio CD was Dexter McDwyer? It’s one of the shortest in the book but I love a man play-acting with an accent. Plus this tickled my fancy. Click here to listen to Dexter McDwyer on audiotape.
I’m Dexter McDwyer, an excellent liar.
I never say anything true.
Which means I’m implying I’m probably lying,
so I don’t believe me. Do you?
Many of the students pleaded for Kenn Nesbitt to write specifically for middle schoolers so they didn’t have to pick through some of the poems for K-5. As Rebekah wrote: Most of your poems were quite enjoyable. You should also write poems for older kids, too. Also the background sounds were cool and made the setting come to life.
In discussing the cd, one ELL student wrote: "My favorite poem was the tongue twister. it was really hard to understand. The man talked so fast, I couldn’t hear him. I also liked the one about the Dracula dad. That would be fun to see in a play. It would be better for little kids in elementary schools to act out this play. I think this poem was funny, too. The man made funny sounds, too, which made it better." Click here to listen to the tongue twister Shelley Sellers.
Sade wrote "I Cloned Myself" was my favorite poem. I liked it because it had a special vibe to it. Also it had music, and that made me wanna dance. Other poems without music are boring, and they don’t tell anything. All they do is rhyme and stuff. I think that this one is for any grade because it’s funny and kewl!!! I honestly could listen to it forever and ever."
Austin wrote: "My favorite one was "I played a Game." The person that was talking had good rhymes. Everything he said was rhyming and made much sense. For example he was rhyming about playing video games and board games. Also he made it sound like he was playing video games. Lastly, the sound effects were very cool."
These are poems that the students could relate to – see the responses to "Don’t Ever Bite Your Sister.":
- My favorite poem is Don’t Ever Bite Your Sister. I like this poem because it is similar to my brother and I. My brother and I fight like everyday and I always get him back 10 times worse. This poem is funny, and I thought of my brother when he said, "Don’t ever bite your sister."
- I liked "Don’t Ever Bite Your Sister" because I’m the oldest and sometimes I think about biting my sisters. It tells you not to do all sorts of things to your sister because you might get in trouble for it. When I heard it, it gave me an idea. Maybe I will put monkeys and stuff in her bed. Then it’s talking about putting stuff in her hair and a fake snake in her bed. When you think about putting something in your sister’s hair or something, listen to that."
Sixth graders like the macabre of the Barbershop poem. Click here to listen to I Went to the Barber.
- As Cameron states: I went to the Barber was the funniest. I think it would be from 4th grade and up. Because it had alot of cutting in it plus it was funny because if you want to talk about a bad hair day, well, just think if you were that man who got his nose, head, and ears cut off. But overall that poem was the best of all.
- Nygel adds: I liked I Went to the Barbershop. I like when he cut up all of his body parts. I hope I never go to a barber that bad. The one in the poem must have gotten fired. If I were the boss, I would never let him come back. I wouldn’t ever let him come back because we wouldn’t even have any customers. I would call the police.
Lamonte pleads for more poems like Dracula "I like this one because the author made it interesting by making the reader find out the small mystery. Now I think you should do poems like where the Readers have to find out the mystery." Click here to listen to I Think My Dad is Dracula.
I listened to the entire CD several times and was impressed with the narration – it was clear, unhurried, and easy to understand. The narrator definitely pitched his voice for the elementary crowd so I was pleased by the mixed response of my sixth graders. They listened objectively and were able to pick through each poem to identify their favorites. Their teacher Penny Combs did a fantastic job of discussing writer’s purpose and having each student consider who the best audience was for each poem.
These students had never been to the wildly popular (arguably most popular) poetry web site for children: www.poetry4kids.com (Don’t judge me too harshly – this is my first year with them.) Kenn Nesbitt is a tremendously popular poet and performer who visits more than 72 schools yearly. I hope you will rush to the website and immediately order this book. See the next post for a special reason why you should order soon.
Sourcebooks is a publishing company that has produced some surprising hits. Remember Hip Hop Speaks to Children, my favorite poetry book in 2008? I’m very happy to see how many awards Hip Hop Speaks has taken and note that it continues to circulate constantly from my collection. Rumor is Sourcebooks are bringing to the states a series of Horrid Henry that has been an international hit. Keep your eyes on this company as they bring titles to the U.S. that fill gaps in your collection, particularly for poetry, puns, and fairy tales.