Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Knock at a Star: A Child's Introduction to Poetry

Knock at a Star: A Child's Introduction to Poetry

X.J. Kennedy, Dorothy Kennedy
Illustrator:  Karen Lee Baker 
For ages 7 and up
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 1999   ISBN: 978-0316488006

Many people have created poetry anthologies for children, and such collections give children the opportunity to experience and explore a wide variety of poems. Readers can open such books on any page and start reading.

   This poetry collection is a little different in that the poems are categorized into chapters. The authors use poems to show readers what poems do, what is inside a poem, the special kinds of poems there are, and they wrap up by showing us how to write our own poems. Throughout the book readers will find notes that help them better understand the poems and the people who wrote them.

   The purpose of poems may seem obvious, but in fact poems, like stories, can serve a variety of purposes. They can make readers smile either because they describe something funny, or because the poet uses words in a funny way, or both of these things. In Spring is Sprung, a poet deliberately used words incorrectly to give us a poem that is short and amusing. Ogden Nash’s The Termite tells us a short tale about how a termite tasted wood “and found it good.” We learn that the termite’s fondness for wood explains why “Cousin May / Fell through the parlor floor today.”

   Telling stories using poetry is something many poets enjoy doing. These stories can be humorous or serious, and they help readers see that story poems can be just as colorful and exciting as stories that are told in prose.

   Some poets like to use their poems to convey a message to their readers, presenting an idea or point of view that matters to them. Then there are the poems that allow their writers to share their feelings with the reader. Often these poems are very powerful because they are personal and heart felt. In Janet S. Wong’s poem Losing Face we read about a guilt-ridden girl who won an art contest using a picture that she traced. She so much wants to tell everyone what she did, but she doesn’t “want to lose / Mother’s glowing / proud face.”

   People can often be confusing. We don’t understand why they say and do the things they do. Some poets use their writings to help us understand people and their ways. Through them we learn that people come in so many shapes, sizes, colors, and flavors. For example, in her poem My Mother we learn about a mother who is not “like / Some others.” Instead of being the kind of mother who bakes and cooks, this mother stays up late into the night “Reading poetry.”

   This is the kind of poetry collection that readers of all ages will enjoy exploring. Even adults who know a great deal about poetry will soon appreciate that this collection is truly a gift.