Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Poems From Homeroom: A writers place to start

Poems From Homeroom: A writers place to start

Kathi Appelt
For ages 13 to 18
Owlet Paperbacks, 2010   ISBN: 978-0805075960

Early humans spent most of their time doing what they could to survive. They had to find food, build shelter, and keep themselves and their young safe from predators. Then there came a time when existence was easier, and humans began to look for ways to express themselves. They told stories around the fires at night, made up songs, created beautiful paintings on cave walls, and eventually figured out how to write so that stories could be kept and treasured.

   Writing is a wonderful form of self-expression because it is so easy to do, and it comes in many forms. “One of the most flexible is poetry,” because you can write poems about anything at all. They don’t need to have a story or characters unless you want them to, and they can be in verse or not. Poems can be about mundane things, or they can explore big picture subjects. The sky is the limit.

   In this thoughtful book, Kathi Applet takes us into the lives of several teenagers through a series of poems, building their personalities using wonderful imagery and stories. We get to know Jimmy Haliburton, who has a real guitar at home, but who plays the air guitar at school. With this instrument he accompanies the morning announcements. Then he plays the blues, after which he moves on to be Jimi Hendrix. On this instrument of air he “can’t mess up or play out of key.”

   We meet a girl who has a dragon tattoo “Curled around her ankle / like a cat.” The tattoo somehow makes her more than just “plain ‘ol Patty Lopez.” It turns her into the “Dragon Girl of Dogwood High.” Then there is another girl who has a pick-up truck sized crush on her teacher. She is “smushed by love,” and loves the fact that he thinks that she asks intelligent questions. What should she ask next?
   In the second half of the book, the “study hall,” the author goes back and looks at the poems she wrote again. She talks about what inspired her to write them, and then offers her readers a collection of prompts that they can use as a jumping off place to write their own poems. For example, she tells us why she wrote the poem about the girl with the dragon tattoo. Then she presents readers with ideas and questions. She invites them to write about people who are somehow unique and different. She talks about people who are a part of a group, and those who hate being classified into a group. She asks readers to think about how clothing and other embellishments make people feel. The dragon tattoo makes Patty feel powerful. How would a black trenchcoat make a person feel? Finally she talks about people who have some distinguishing mark or characteristic forced on them. This is not something they chose. Rather, it is something that they would like to be rid of. She asks her readers to “Write about someone like that.”

   Finding a starting place is often so hard to do when you are beginning to explore the world of writing. In this excellent book Kathi Applet helps young people to explore the world of poetry in a way that makes sense to them. She gets into their world in poetry form, and then invites them to share their experiences through writing.