Thursday, October 20, 2011

Monumental Verses

Monumental Verses
By: J. Patrick Lewis

A Reader’s Guide
by Lucy Barrow

Lewis, J. Patrick. 2005. Monumental Versus. Washington D.C.: National Geographic. ISBN: 0-7922-7135-1

Recommended Age Levels: 8-12; Grades 5-7

Summary of Book:  This collection of poems surrounds the theme of monuments from around the world. There are a total of thirteen poems. All are spread out among a two page spread with the gorgeous and well-known photography of the National Geographic. The poems follow several different forms, such as an acrostic, a shape poem, and free verse, and rhyming. Following the Epilogue, thumbnail pictures from the book are displayed with additional information about each site.

Review Excerpts:
“This wonderful interdisciplinary selection pairs poetry of varying forms with the artistry of well-known architectural marvels throughout the world. The 13 monuments include Stonehenge, the Great Pyramid of Cheops, the Statue of Liberty, and the Great Wall of China. Lewis has attempted to match the appropriate poetic form to each structure. He uses blank verse, rhyming couplets, acrostic, shaped or concrete poetry, and others. His verses celebrate the beauty of each monument or the incredible skill and artistry that developed it. Many of the photos are dramatic and taken at unusual angles such as the one of the Golden Gate Bridge.” -Renee Steinberg, formerly at Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ    - From School Library Journal

“After an introductory poem ("A bow to all who hoist the spirit high / And carve imagination into stone . . . ") Lewis offers 14 poems celebrating monumental structures. From the remnants of civilizations at Stonehenge, Easter Island, and Machu Picchu to the more modern achievements of the Taj Mahal, the Eiffel Tower, and the Statue of Liberty, the subjects are varied and the accompanying photos are striking. Lewis chooses something worth saying about each subject and says it with style. His poem on the color of the Golden Gate Bridge is particularly fine. The verse forms differ from concrete and acrostic forms to more traditional rhymed stanzas. Richly colored, the photographs are notable for their clarity, lighting, and dramatic compositions.” Carolyn Phelan   - From Booklist

“National Geographic went out on a limb a bit with this concept, but overall it works. The idea is to introduce the reader to the monuments of the world (Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty, etc.) through poems. The author, J. Patrick Lewis, certainly knows what he's doing, having written many other books for young readers. And he certainly knows his material: The poems are filled with historical details.
Overall, the concept works. It is certainly a fascinating idea—presenting historical information in the form of poetry rather than prose (even if some of the poems are blank verse). To add to the fun, some of the poems are spaced on the page to match the accompany photograph. For instance, the poem describing the Great Wall of China zig-zags back and forth, paralleling the path of the Wall.
Each poem is worth reading at least twice, to appreciate not only the meter and word choices but also the historical value contained therein. (And just in case, the author has included even more historical details after the Epilogue.)
In all, this different take on presenting familiar information succeeds and is worth a look or two or three.”    - From

Honors/Awards Received: N/A

Questions to ask before reading:
1. Ask the students if anyone has traveled outside of you city or state before. If so, where, when, what did they do, what did they see? Ask if any of the students have been to the cities or countries mentioned in the book.
2. Before mentioning the title or showing the cover, ask the students what they think a monument is. See if they can list some and ask if they have seen any of the monuments list in the book.
3. What makes something or someone worthy of becoming a monument? Can anyone think of anything that should become one? Are there any monuments that were recently made to cover something in history? See if the students can come up with the WWII Memorial, MLK Memorial, and the 9/11 Memorial.

Suggestions for reading poems aloud:
1. To read the poem for Mount Rushmore: Dress up as one of the presidents featured in the monument.
2. Have one of the boys in the class hold an American flag as he reads the poem about the Empire State Building.
3. Have the entire class stand in a circle as the teacher or someone in the class reads the poem about Stonehenge.

Follow up activities:
1.   Social Studies:
a.    Have the students work in teams to make a PowerPoint project researching the different monuments in the book. The students can then do another set of projects from a list of monuments that were not mentioned in the book. These PowerPoint presentations can be put together on a class blog or wiki that other teachers and their parents can have access to.
b.    Write a research paper about one the monuments from the book and have documentation of the entire research process. Have lessons with the librarian on research skills and how to document and cite resources.
2.   Art:
a.    Make a painting, collage, or replica of one of the monuments mentioned in the book.
3.   English/Language Arts:
a.    Write a poem or a story about one of the other monuments the students mentioned before reading the book.
b.   Write a letter to the President or Congress about why and how en event or someone should be made into a monument. The letter must have at least three valid points. Maybe the class can choose one and send several letters from the class. Maybe see if the students can make a campaign to other classes and grade level to write letters as well.

Related Web Sites/Blogs:
1. – This is the author’s website. It contains information about the author, how to schedule a visit with him, comments by teachers & students, a list of books, riddles, and links that he recommends.
2. - This is the publisher’s site for kids. It contains games, videos, photos, and other categories that students can explore. It also has a user friendly search box for students and adults alike can use to search for information about the monuments in the book.
3. - This site is the student site for the Smithsonian Museum, which could be considered a modern day monument, but is not included in the book. It is an easy to use site for students to use to look up information about the monuments in the book.  
Related Books (other poetry, related fiction, related nonfiction.):
1.   Kidd, Ronald; The Kennedy Center. Ill. By: Ard Hoyt. 2010. Chasing George Washington. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 978-1-4169-4858-2.
a.    This is a fiction book that can relate to the poem about Mount Rushmore.
2.   Malaspina, Ann. Ill. By: Colin Bootman. 2010. Finding Lincoln. Albert Whitman & Company. ISBN: 978-0-8075-2435-0.
a.    This is a fiction book that can relate to the poem about Mount Rushmore.
3.   Platt, Richard. Ill. By: Manuela Cappon. 2009. Through Time: Beijing. Kingfisher. ISBN: 978-0-7534-6175-4
a.    This is a nonfiction book that can be related to the poem about the Great Wall of China.
4.   National Geographic Kids Almanac 2010. 2010. National Geographic Children’s Books. ISBN: 978-1-4263-0502-3
a.    This is a nonfiction book that can be related to all of the poems in the book.

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