Thursday, April 27, 2017


I have mentioned many times at Wild Rose Reader that I love writing mask poems! I enjoy taking on the "personality" of an animal...or plant...or inanimate object and expressing my thoughts in a "voice" other than my own.

The riddle rhyme is a type of mask poem in which the writer provides clues to the reader about who/what is speaking in the poem. I used to read riddle rhymes aloud to my students. They had fun trying to guess/deduce who was talking in the poems.
Last year, I began working on a collection of riddle rhymes--but never wrote more than a half dozen rhymes. Here is one of the riddle rhymes that I finished:

I’m a sucker for crumbs that fall on the floor.
I gobble them up and go looking for more—
Dead house flies and dog hair and sand from shore.
Your dust and your dirt are foods I adore!
I’m a ravenous, cavernous, hungry machine—
I’m a great greedy beast who keeps your house clean.


Unfortunately, the books of riddle rhymes that I used in my classroom are now out of print: Myra Cohn Livingston's My Head Is Red and Other Riddle Rhymes and J. Patrick Lewis's Riddle-Icious and Riddle-Lightful.  Fortunately, there are mask poems that can serve as examples of riddle rhymes. Some good ones can be found in Paul Janeczko's book Dirty Laundry Pile: Poems in Different Voices (HarperCollins, 2001.)
You have to remember not to tell children the titles of the poems before reading the rhymes to them.
Here are excerpts from a few of my favorites:
by Tony Johnston

I am the trusted consort
of floors, accomplice
of water and swash,
confidant of corners
where skulks shifty, fugitive

by Patricia Hubbell

I munch. I crunch.
I zoom. I roar.

I clatter-clack
Across the floor.

I swallow twigs.
I slurp dead bugs.

I suck cat hair
From the rugs...

by Douglas Florian

Big as a street--
with fins not feet--
I'm full of blubber,
with skin like rubber.

You can also find some fine mask poems that could be read as riddle rhymes in Douglas Florian's book Insectlopedia:
·         The Dragonfly
·         The Inchworm
·         The Praying Mantis
·         The Black Widow Spider

Writing Workshop for Kids
Chappaqua Library, Chappaqua, New York
Saturday, May 6th at 2:00 pm

I'll be at the Chappaqua Library in Chappaqua, New York, on Saturday, May 6th. I will be leading a writing workshop for children in Grades 1-3. I'll be talking about "things to do" and mask poems. Cati Chien, the illustrator of THINGS TO DO, will join me for a Q & A session and a book signing following the workshop, which begins at 2:00 pm.
JoAnn has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Teachings Authors.


Jane @ Raincity Librarian said...

These riddle poems are so much fun, and I know children just adore them - they love the thrill of deciphering the riddles and piecing together the clues! :)

Linda B said...

Laura Purdie Salas wrote some riddle poems a year or so ago, too, Elaine. I love "I’m a sucker for crumbs that fall on the floor." At first I thought it was going to be a dog, but the rest took me another way. These are all lots of fun, and not easy to write!

Kay said...

These are such fun poems. Even though they don't rhyme, I did similar lessons owith my students using some metaphor poems such as Valerie Worth's "Dandelion." I loved seeing the students light up once they figured it out!

Molly Hogan said...

These poems are such fun. Thanks for sharing an enticing assortment, including your own!

Brenda Harsham said...

Those are fun poems. I've written a few, too, but too few for a collection. Have a great time at your workshop/signing.

Catherine said...

I've always loved your mask poems, Elaine. We just shared a few of them with fourth graders, and they had a great time with them. Dirty Laundry Pile and Insectlopedia are also two of my favorites. Thanks for sharing!

Charles Waters said...

Love your mask poems and continued success on the book!