Children, Literacy, Poetry, Weekend Write-Off, Writing

Sky Magic

I grew up with many students who hated poetry.  Talented students.  Intelligent students.  Students who could write well themselves.  But understand what a poem was really saying?  And enjoy the process?  No way.

And then I became a teacher.  I worked with many teachers who avoided poetry, either because they had experiences similar to my former fellow students or because they figured their students would react in much the same way.

Somewhere between the playful lyricism of picture books and class study of extended texts, readers lose the magic of words, metaphor, and imagery, which is a missed opportunity for all.  Poetry uses words in beautiful and economical ways, providing teachable moments for literary terms and succinct expression.

That’s why when I find a children’s anthology of poetry, I am more than happy to check it out.  The latest one I’ve discovered is Sky Magic, a compilation by Lee Bennett Hopkins.  His volume, My America: A Poetry Atlas of the United States, with lovely illustrations by Stephen Alcorn, once part of my classroom library, is now part of the special collection I plan to share with my own children.  So I was eager to check out this other volume, illustrated by Mariusz Stawarski.

Every poem in Sky Magic evokes the dreamy nature of stargazing and sunny mornings.  Every one is accessible, even those written by ‘adult’ authors.  An excerpt from Tennessee Williams’ The Rose Tattoo mixes well with a poem by children’s author and poet Rebecca Kai Dotlich (whose poems in There’s No Place Like School, compiled by Jack Prelutsky, I love).  All are accessible because they use sparse language to tell stories.  All good poetry does so, through phrases and symbols, examples and metaphors.  And there is no child – young or old – who cannot appreciate a story.  Poetry anthologies made specifically for children have the added bonus of illustrations to add yet another dimension to the story.  Stawarski’s paintings are so evocative of dreamy days and nights, they bring figurative language to literal life.

Share a book such as Sky Magic with the young readers in your life – or the poetry phobes – and usher in the dawn of a new era: another form of storytelling and verbal vision accessible to all.


In the language of stars
lie stories of old
brilliant legends
told; retold.

Spelling out sagas,
spilling out light,
a mythical manuscript
filling the night.
– Avis Harley


4 thoughts on “Sky Magic

  1. Sid Dunnebacke says:

    I was a student who could NOT get on board the poetry train. No appreciation. Sadly, that lasted for decades, until my intellect and emotions collided when I fell in love. Suddenly I had inspiration to not only enjoy reading it, but writing it as well. Not too late!


    • Jennifer Butler Basile says:

      ‘Intellect and emotion collided when I fell in love’ – Love it! What a wonderfully poetic way to describe it! Glad you found the outlet to appreciate and experience it. It’s never too late!


  2. Your writing is great. And yeah, man, kids, often kids that are good writers, don’t always appreciate poetry. You’ve to grow to love poetry, I reckon. Learn to love the stories it portrays. It can’t be forced. (Or maybe it can… I’m just one opinion. Whada I know?)

    Also, was wondering if you’d like to write a post for (I saw you commented on one of the posts… and, well, you write good – well, even – and you know Mrs Depression. If you’d wanna, be in touch. All my deats are linked to that gravatar thingy.)


    • Jennifer Butler Basile says:

      Hey Rob,
      That sounds great. That whole darned family of Depression (Mr. Mrs. and their innumerable offspring) need to be called out!


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