Friday, June 8, 2007

POETRY FRIDAY: Summersaults and Lemonade Sun

School will soon be out. The summer solstice is just around the corner. Hotter days will arrive along with the sounds of children playing outdoors on weekday mornings. I can still remember vividly many of the sights and sounds and smells and tastes and activities of summer from my childhood:

Watching fireworks exploding into color in the night sky and hearing their loud crackles and booms on the Fourth of July

Eating slices of succulent watermelon, juice dribbling down my chin, and spitting out the slick black seeds onto the sidewalk

Listening to the sound of cicadas in the heat of a summer day and the song of crickets at night

Slurping up raspberry lime rickeys and chocolate ice cream sodas

Running through the sprinkler, my bare feet squishing through wet grass

Picking feather-topped carrots, glossy-skinned peppers, scallions, and ripe tomatoes from my grandparents’ garden

The smell of hamburgers and hot dogs being cooked on an outdoor grill

The banging of my kitchen screen door as I ran outside to play

The tart, refreshing taste of my mother’s homemade lemonade

Feeling the cool wet sand beneath my feet at the seashore

Playing hide-and-go-seek with my cousins and friends on a balmy summer evening

With these images in mind, I thought this would be a good time to write poems about summer. Wouldn’t this also be the perfect time for children to write summertime poems? I think it would be a wonderful and enjoyable final writing exercise for the school year.

Well, here are two fine collections of poems to get kids thinking “poetically” about the warmest season of the year.

Written & illustrated by Douglas Florian
Greenwillow/HarperCollins, 2002

Most kids love the poetry of Douglas Florian. I know my students did! SUMMERSAULTS contains twenty-eight lighthearted verses about such topics as fireflies, dandelions, swinging on a swing, bees, jumping rope, grazing cows, and baseball. The poems are rhythmic and rhyming and lots of fun to read aloud.

SUMMERSAULTS includes several excellent examples of list poems: What I Love about Summer, What I Hate about Summer, Greenager, Some Summers, No Fly Zone, Names of Clouds, Lost and Found, The Sea, and Dog Day. These poems could be used to inspire your students to write their own list poems about the different sights, sounds, smells, tastes, weather, and activities of summer. A teacher could brainstorm with her kids about all the things that come to mind when they think of summertime and school vacation. The teacher could write her kids’ contributions down on chart paper, guide the class in writing a class list poem about summer, and then ask them to write their own individual poems.

Here are excerpts from some of Douglas Florian’s list poems in SUMMERSAULTS.

From What I Love about Summer

Morning glories
Campfire stories
Picking cherries
And blueberries…

Skipping stones
Ice cream cones
Double plays
And barefoot days.

From What I Hate about Summer

Skinned knees
Ninety degrees…

Humid nights
Mosquito bites
Clothes that stick—
I hate that summer goes too quick.

From Lost and Found

Along the shore
I found six shells:
Two gray,
One white,
Three caramel…

Five feathers from
A seabird’s wings.
I wonder: Who
Has lost these things?

As a teacher, I believed it was always best to read the poetry of more than one poet to my students before asking them to write their own poems on a particular topic. Another collection of poems that would be great to share with kids prior to having them write their own summer poems is Rebecca Kai Dotlich’s LEMONADE SUN.

Written by Rebecca Kai Dotlich
Illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist
Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press, 1998

Dotlich’s writing style is different from that of Florian’s. While most of her poems celebrating summer are rhythmic and rhyming, they contain more imagery and figurative language. Let me provide you with some examples from her poems. She refers to jacks as tin bouquets/small bundles of piggyback stars. In Sunflowers, she compares the flowers to Golden guards/saluting/sky/garden kings/with chocolate eyes. In Dragonfly, she calls the insect a sky-ballerina/this glimmering jewel…with wings that you/could whisper through. In Backyard Bubbles, one of the loveliest poems in the collection, she compares a bubble to One fragile globe/of soapy skin/a glimmering/of breath within/a perfect pearl. Later in the poem she writes about another bubble that dances on a summer sigh/shimmering with shades of sky.

Dotlich includes other poems about lemonade, a lemonade stand, bumblebees, playing marbles, dandelions, pinwheels, jumping rope, going barefoot, jellyfish, a firefly, and fireworks. The poetry in this book definitely takes me back to the summer days of my childhood

Here are two poems from LEMONADE SUN


Popsicle stains.
Fudgesicle fun.
Strawberry sizzle—
Lemonade sun.

I will leave you with Dotlich’s poem SUMMER GREETINGS.

Today’s the day
that summer comes.
Good-bye to cold;
hello to sun!
Hello to rose
and vines of green,
to lettuce leaves—
oh, hello beans!
Today’s the day
for climbing trees,
for jumping rope
and skinning knees,
for swinging high
and skipping fast,
and reading
at last.

May we all have fun reading outside in summer!

Note: I would like to thank Rebecca Kai Dotlich for giving me permission to print the full text of two of her poems in my Poetry Friday post.


Anonymous said...

Wonderful poems, filled with the promise of summer and the magic of childhood!

Elaine Magliaro said...


Yes, the promise of summer meant that I could look forward to days of freedom to play and explore and spend lots of time with two of my first cousins at the home of my maternal grandparents.