Written by Laura Salas
Illustrated by Steven Salerno
Stampede! is a collection of poems that tells about various experiences children have when attending elementary school—feeling lost at a new school, thinking about picture day, playing at recess, waiting for lunchtime, sharing time, counting on one’s fingers. Salas said she was inspired to write the poems after her younger daughter had two teeth pulled at the dentist’s office. She thought her daughter looked like a walrus—albeit a cute one—once her teeth were gone. Salas says she then began seeing kids with “fangs and fur instead of ponytails and soccer shirts.” And so she wrote these poems in which children take on attributes of animals: Children are like a “swarm” of bees on the playground before the school doors open, a child at a new school feels like a mouse finding its way through a maze, one child sees herself as an ugly caterpillar before picture day arrives, children walk down the hall likes “ducks in a row,” students thunder out of school like a stampede of elephants at the end of the day.
The book opens with Swarm. Here’s how the poem begins:
We crowd the empty schoolyard,
a flood of bumblebees.
We buzz and flitter-tumble,
trade gossip in the breeze.
You can read the rest of the poem here.
New Mouse comes next.
Go left, then right.
Wrong turns, dead ends.
Can’t find my class.
I’ve got no friends.
Each hallway is
a hallway clone.
Can’t find my way
A thousand halls,
a thousand ways,
I’m lost inside
this new-school maze.
And so it goes with the human “animals” in school and out on the playground: A boy messes around in the mud like a pig in Whole Hog; a child thinks his writing looks like chicken scratch in Printer Problems; a student tries to tuck his face into his sweater in hopes that the teacher won’t call on him in Turtleneck; a girl warns classmates to stay away when she’s feeling nasty and porcupine-y in Prickly.
The collection closes with the poem Stampede!—in which children storm out of the building when the school bell rings at the end of the day:
The last bell rings.
We spill outside,
like captives finally freed…
You can read the entire poem here.
Salerno’s bright, bold cartoon-like illustrations add just the right touches of humor to this light-hearted collection. Stampede! contains eighteen rhyming poems perfect for sharing with young children in the early elementary grades. It’s a good collection to include in a teacher’s classroom library.
NOTE: I’d like to thank Laura Salas for granting me permission to post the full text of her poem New Mouse in my review of her book.
More Poetry for School Days
- Countdown to Summer: A Poetry Book Review
- Poetry Friday: Going Back to School with Poetry
- More School Poems: Review of School Supplies
- Backpack: A Back to School Poem
I have two posts over at Political Verses this week—Political Pop Singers: Four Couplets and MARIA: A Song Parody about Maria Bartiromo.
At Blue Rose Girls, I have September 1, 1939—a poem W. H. Auden wrote after hearing about Germany’s invasion of Poland seventy years ago.
Kelly Herold has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Crossover this week.