When Shannon Bramer began work as a lunchroom supervisor in a kindergarten classroom in Toronto, her job unexpectedly flowered into sharing her passion for writing poetry “during the tiny window of time they had before going outside.”
She introduced children to the work of many writers, including Gwendolyn Brooks, Emily Dickinson, Frederico García Lorca, Dennis Lee, and Joy Harjo. And sometimes she read her own work to show that “a poet could be a mom….a kindergarten lunchroom supervisor who thinks the word crunchy is as powerful as the word broccoli is beautiful.”
She showed the children the wondrous nature of poetry, and filled their backpacks and heads with glorious words. She wrote each one of them a poem and turned it into a Valentine anthology that they then took home to read to their parents. Some of the poems in this book are taken from that anthology.
All of these poems are wonderful. For example:
The poem “I Love to Draw” begins:
A drawing is a poem
with a house in it
or a circle or a fox.
A drawing is a string
of letters I’m practicing…
The poem is much longer, but I’ll stop and show you Cindy Derby’s haunting illustration that’s paired with this poem. I could look at this page for hours. I’m tempted to hang this illustration on my wall so I can live with it forever by my writing desk, reminding me of the wonders and weirdness of childhood.
I recall Mac Barnett saying recently that picture books should give children strange and wondrous dreams. I’m thinking this book will do just that.
There’s the polka dot song, where the line “the sound of rain is polka dots” triggers ideas about other aspects of this world that resemble polka dots.
This gorgeous anthology contains poem after poem of surprising insights inspired by (and for) children.
With poems like “You Speak Violets,” “Three Hearts and No Bones at All,” and “I Don’t Need a Poem,” the author never talks down to kids or underestimates their ability to appreciate poetic ambiguity and strangeness paired with illustrations that are, themselves, poems. This book should be in every home and classroom, because you never know when you’re going to need a poem—like right now.
Happy Poetry Month!
Write a poem inspired by one of the illustrations in this book.
Think about ways you can turn what you’re eating for lunch into a poem, then write or arrange your food into a poem.
Paint a watercolor illustration inspired by your poem or one of the poems in the book.
Title: Climbing Shadows: Poems for Children
Author: Shannon Bramer
Illustrator: Cindy Derby
Publisher: Groundwood Books, House of Anansi Press, 2019
Themes: poetry, writing poetry, inspiration
Ages: K-5th grade
For more perfect picture book recommendations, please visit Susanna Hill’s website.