Grow: A Novel in Verse
The events are told from twelve year old Kate's point of view, but Berneetha's determination to turn a vacant city lot into a community garden drives the plot.
One spring morning, Berneetha arrives at Kate’s house “looking like the Fourth of July” with her blue bandana, red hair, and white T-shirt. She is a big woman with a big dream.
Everyone thinks Berneetha is just a crazy lady with a purple house and thirteen cats. Even Kate isn’t convinced the garden is a good idea, but she loves Berneetha and agrees to help. Then Harlan, “a Gangsta wannabe” decides to join them. Each day, people pass by and watch as two misfit kids and an eccentric middle-aged lady work together to grow something beautiful. As the garden grows, so does Kate.
“I read that weeds
can be anything,
even beautiful flowers,
or beans growing in cornfields.
A weed is anything growing
where you don’t want it to grow.”
I enjoyed reading this quiet little book. The plot is predictable, but the lively characterization, poetic language, strong voice, and emotional twists make it a worthy read.
This would be an excellent book for teaching students to write a character sketch.
Although Berneetha is the most developed character, Kate and Harlan are dynamic characters students can relate to.
GROW by Juanita Havill is a quick read that I recommend for upper elementary students through adult.
Pizza, Pigs, and Poetry
As a writing teacher, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard my students say,” I don’t know what to write about.” Thanks to Jack Prelutsky’s new book, Pizza, Pigs, and Poetry, I have an answer.
If you haven’t read this book, you’re really missing out. Jack takes readers inside his head and shows how he uses ordinary, everyday experiences to create his poems. I loved reading his personal narratives about: his mother’s awful singing, the day he tacked his father’s underwear to the wall, finding a rat under his table at a restaurant, and many other hilarious experiences he has used to spark poems.
Another feature I like in the book, is that Jack explains how he often writes about the same topics (pigs, pizza, etc.) again and again. Many young writers feel that once they’ve written about a topic, they’re finished with it. Jack shows kids that many poems (or stories) can be written about the same topic.
Like Jack’s poetry, this book is light and fun. I plan to use it in my classroom to help kids discover that they really do have lots of good ideas waiting to be written.