Thursday, October 20, 2011

Good Mornin', Ms. America: The USA in Verse

Good Mornin’, Ms. America: The USA in Verse
By: J. Patrick Lewis
Illustrated by: Mark Clapsadle
Readers Guide
By Kim Mitchell-Moffett

Lewis, J. Patrick. 2005. Good Mornin’, Ms. America: The USA in Verse. School Specialty Publishing.
ISBN: 9780769631707

Recommended for Ages 9-12

Summary of Book:
This book is 32 pages of fun poetry written in the styles of Haiku and rhyming verses that capture the various personalities of our great country.  These collections of poetry poke fun at American culture while celebrating our various differences. The humorous illustrations by Mark Clapsadle capture the imagination of all readers who journey through the states.

Review Excerpts/Awards:
From School Library Journal
Grade 2-4–This collection of poems and riddles in various forms, including rhyming quatrains and haiku, offers playful but sometimes confusing trivia about U.S. geography and everyday Americana. For example, Did You Know? states that More than any other U.S. state, Michigan has registered bowlers. To spare. or Postcard from the San Diego Zoo: Look up Wow! in the dictionary./This is what you'll find:/the hippopotamus in front/and my behind behind! The unclear, often obscure references make this a disappointing effort from a popular and prolific poet. Cluttered pages with overly cute and amateurish cartoons further detract from the book's appeal.–Sally R. Dow, Ossining Public Library, NY 
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Carol Ann Lloyd-Stanger (Children's Literature)
Award-winning poet J. Patrick Lewis introduces children to a variety of poetic forms in this collection of whimsical poems celebrating a variety of states, cities, and communities across the country. There are references to history, such as Neil and Buzz taking a trip to the moon. Many poems encourage interaction, with missing letters to fill in and puzzles to solve. The colorful illustrations have a cartoonish quality that will appeal to readers. The collection is random and wandering, giving the impression of a long walk across the country. Young readers will find humor in the word play, funny descriptions, and engaging illustrations of such images as a mid-western farm, two mice piloting a mail plane flying over the country, children jumping rope in Cincinnati, cowboy country, and a special postcard from the San Diego zoo. Pleasurable for adults to read and children to hear. 2006, School Specialty Publishing, $15.95. Ages 4 to 8.

Ann Bryan Nelson (Library Media Connection, February 2007)
Colorful depictions of cities, states, and monuments fill pages about the United States, creating a clever collection of anagrams and word puzzles in verse. From the Statue of Liberty to Buzz and Neil in "America on the Moon," the vastness of the United States is covered with both whimsical and bold illustrations well suited to the variety of topics and ages interested in learning more about a "Midwestern Farm;" the Appalachian Trail; Edgar Springs, Missouri, center of the U.S. population; and media hero Punxsutawney Phil. End pages with travel stickers for most of the states and suitcases complete a travel theme. "Cowboy Country" in reds and burnt oranges cleverly portrays a hungry fellow in a 10-gallon hat with wagon wheel, bedroll, cacti, and a steaming cup of coffee enjoying a hotdog roast as the sun sinks in the West. There's even a guessing game with each state's initials. Recommended. 2007, Gingham Dog Press (School Specialty Children's Publishing), 32pp., $15.95 hc. Ages 5 to 11.

Questions to ask before reading:
Invite your students to discuss the following:
“How many states do you know?” Write down the states they name on the board or have a blank USA map and fill in the blanks as a class.
“Name something “special” you know about a state.” Their state nicknames, state bird, flag, etc.
“What state would you like to learn about and why?”

Suggestions for Reading Poems Aloud:
Invite three groups of four children to read the poems dedicated to six of the southern states, one group at a time, acting out the words as if in a reader’s theater.
Have a copy of the poem for California on the overhead and invite the students to read the poem along with you, pointing out the rhythm of the haiku poetry.
Read aloud a poem to your students, being sure not to mention the name of the state, and have the students try to guess which state you’re reading about.

Follow-up Activities:
Social Studies
Assign a poem to a group of three or four and have them read the poem, right down the interesting facts said about the state, and then research further on those facts and add to them. They can also research whether the information stated in the poem is true or false. When done, have the groups present their findings to the class.
Place one of the poems on the overhead for the students to see, read the poem aloud, and then have the students write down what came to mind immediately following your reading. Now have then discuss with a partner and after a few minutes, have a class discussion of their responses.
Have each student pick their favorite state, no duplications, and have them re-make the state flag, and one other representation of their choice, along with a brief explanation of the meaning of the flag and the item of choice.  Their projects will be displayed around the room or in the hallway.

Related websites: (look here for J. Patrick Lewis personal info and book listings) (look here to find various activities for kids and poetry) (look here to find ideas on teaching poetry)

Related books:
Hopkins, L. Bennett. 2000. My America: A Poetry Atlas of the United States.  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
Saunders, Susan. 2003. Smart about the 50 States (Smart about History). Grossett & Dunlap.
Hopkins, L. Bennett. 1994. Hand in Hand: An American History through Poetry. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

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