Friday, March 14, 2008

Welcoming Spring...with Poetry

A lot of people searching for acrostic poems on the Internet have visited Wild Rose Reader. As the vernal equinox will soon be upon us, I thought I’d post two original spring acrostics from my unpublished collection of poems What’s in a Word?. I also have some recommendations for spring and seasonal themed poetry books and picture books in verse.

By Elaine Magliaro

Soft, scented breezes, kite-catching winds, the

Pitter patter of warm rain on the

Roof, daffodils and daisies and lilacs

In bloom, apple trees wearing snow-white crowns.

Now the sun lingers at the edge of day and

Green…lovely green…has come home to stay.

Written by Stephen Schnur
Illustrated by Leslie Evans
Clarion, 1999

Stephen Schnur has written a series of seasonal alphabet acrostic books. All four of the books were illustrated by Leslie Evans. Evans’ pictures for Spring, which were executed in hand-colored linoleum cut blocks, are bright, colorful, and complement the thematic spring poems. In fact, the acrostics and illustrations work together well to celebrate this season of renewal.

The book begins with a poem about April: After days of/Pouring/Rain, the last/Ice and snow finally/Leave the earth. The illustration that accompanies this poem shows a close-up of purple crocuses blossoming on a background of black earth and melting snow. The book ends with the poem Zenith, which tells of zucchinis and eggplants greening as summer finally arrives and the sun is high overhead.

Other words for which Schnur wrote poems for this ABC acrostic collection include buds, grass, hopscotch, kites, May, nest, outside, and seeds.

Here is an example of another of the book’s acrostics:

Nestled under the
Eaves, a
Song-filled ark of
Twigs and grass.

Classroom Connection: It might be fun to write some collaborative class acrostic poems about the sights, sounds, and signs of spring. First, start by eliciting responses from students a list of “spring” words the class could use for writing acrostics. Some examples: buds, blossom, robin, green, showers (rain), flowers, frogs/spring peepers.

NOTE: See my post A Poem a Day #11 for a step-by-step procedure for writing collaborative acrostics with your students/children. The post also includes a review of Silver Seeds, a fine book of acrostic poems, which was written by Paul Paolilli and Dan Brewer and illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher

Here’s another example of an acrostic I wrote for spring:

By Elaine Magliaro

Coming up, I’m coming up,

Reaching through the softening soil, poking my petals

Out of the earth,

Collecting sunlight in my purple cup.

Up, I’m coming up.

Spring is on the way!


Written & illustrated by Douglas Florian
Greenwillow, 2006

Handsprings is a great poetry book to have on “hand” in the classroom at this time of year. Florian’s poetry in this collection is typical of his work. The poems are bouncy, energetic, rhythmic, rhyming…and full of wordplay. The collection begins with a few poems about saying goodbye to winter and comparing the coldest season to spring. In Winter and Spring, Florian writes: Winter’s cold and dark and sneezy./Spring is cool and bright and breezy. The book abounds with list poems: Growing, Handsprings, Spring is When, What I Love about Spring, What I Hate about Spring, The March Wind, Spring, Ten Things to Do When It Rains, Spring-Cleaning, Spring Is, Spring Berries, Green Scene, May, Fresh Spring, and Nature Walk.

Here’s an excerpt from the list poem Handsprings:

Spring is great
For growing grass.
Spring has zing
And spring has sass.
Spring is super.
Spring is spry.
Spring is when
Things start to fly.

The list poems in Handsprings could serve as inspiration and fine examples for some collaborative class list poems about spring.

Written by Miriam Chaikin
Illustrated by Hiroe Nakata
Henry Holt, 2002

Don’t Step on the Sky would be a good collection of haiku poems to share with children at this time of year. Not all the poems speak specifically about spring—but there are poems about birds, plants growing, a rushing brook, and rain.

You can read a review of this book that I wrote for Blue Rose Girls in my post Poetry Friday: Happy Haiku to You.


Written by Jan Carr
Illustrated by Dorothy Donohue
Holiday House, 2001

Illustrated with colorful cut paper collages, Splish, Splash, Spring would be an excellent book to read aloud to children in preschool through kindergarten. In the book, Spring is sloppy/So raindroppy!, the sun plays hide-and-seek, baby robins cheep and beg for bugs, children dig up earthworms and slugs and fly kites, and boughs of trees are "bloomy" and "perfumy."

Each illustration is a framed two-page spread showing three children observing the signs of spring or cavorting outdoors. Like the children in the pictures, the author cavorts, too—she plays with words: Kites are loop-de-looping, baby robins are chit-chit-cheeping, Thunder threatens/Skip-skidoo!

Most of the two-page spreads include a four-line verse with a rhyme scheme of AABC. The final word of the last line rhymes with the last word of the verse on the following page.

Here’s an excerpt:

There’s a crocus!
Plucky petals
Brave the chill

Frilly, silly
Down the hill

Written by Phillis Gershator
Illustrated by Alison Jay
Barefoot Books, 2007

This is a book written in rhyming text about the sights and sounds of the four seasons.

Summer: insects singing, leaves rustling, children splashing in the water, relaxing in a hammock
Fall: acorns and squirrels, ripening pumpkins and apples, the crunch of leaves underfoot, honking geese
Winter: sparkling snow, boots crunching in snow, grown-ups shoveling snow, skaters spinning, skiers gliding
Spring: singing finches, flower bulbs sprouting, chicks hatching, frogs croaking, ducks quacking, rains pitter pattering

Gershator’s text is spare…leaving Allison Jay with an uncluttered canvas to interpret her words. And Alison Jay takes good advantage of this—her illustrations add depth and dimension to the text and evoke the natural essence of the seasons.

I love Alison Jay’s picture book art. Her method of using a crackling varnish over alkyd oil paint gives her illustrations a look of old-world art. Listen, Listen is absolutely gorgeous! Jay’s illustrations are painted in the shape of rectangles, circles, semi-circles, ovals, and rectangles overlaid on a white background—and some are painted directly on a plain white background. Gershator’s rhyming text curves around most of the illustrations—unifying the words and art.

Gershator’s book about the four seasons begins with summer. She keeps a special focus on the sounds of the seasons throughout the book.

Listen, listen…what’s that sound? Insects singing all around!
Chirp, chirp, churr, churr, buzz, buzz, whirr, whirr.

In the two-page spread that accompanies these lines, we see all kinds of bugs—grasshoppers, ladybugs, ants, dragonflies, bees, and butterflies—resting on blades of grass or flying through the air. In the following illustrations for summer, fall, and winter, we see: insects flying out of an illustration onto the white page as summer leaves and autumn arrives; a squirrel carrying a basket of acorns; people picking apples and harvesting pumpkins; geese flying overhead as autumn winds whip colored leaves across the page; a starlit winter night; people sledding and skiing down a snow-covered hill; two cats warming themselves by a fireplace; birds singing to a smiling sun as spring arrives; sprouting flowers shouting; chicks hatching; frogs croaking in a pond while rabbits munch a snack; spring showers dimpling a pond as animals race for cover.

Here’s an excerpt from the section on spring:

Frogs croak, ducklings quack. Munch, munch, rabbits snack.
Rains fall, pitter, patter. Sparrows gather, chitter, chatter.
Listen, listen…spring is gone. Another season has begun.

Gershator brings us back full circle and to summer once again, reinforcing for young children the cycle of the seasons. At the end of the book there are four pages—one for each season—in which things emblematic of a particular season are listed—things for children to look for in the illustrations.

Here are some of the plants, animals, and other things listed for spring:

a bluebell
a daffodil
a duckling
a rabbit
a rainbow

NOTE: You can view four of the book’s interior illustrations here—as well as art from some of Alison Jay’s other books here.


Check my post Poetry Friday: Spring Is for more poetry book recommendations and poetry-writing suggestions.

At Blue Rose Girls, I have a poem by Lisel Mueller entitled “When I Am Asked” in which she explains how she came to write poetry.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is at Jama Rattigan’s Alphabet Soup.


jama said...

Fabulous post, Elaine. LOVE your acrostics: "apple trees wearing snow white crowns . . ." Great book recs as well. Thanks!

laurasalas said...

Lovely poems, Elaine. I was going to comment on the exact same line that Jama did! I also love, in the other poem, Collecting sunlight in my purple cup.

I'm not as wild about the SPRING: AN ALPHABET ACROSTIC book. I last read it a couple of years ago, but it wasn't to my taste, I guess. Though I absolutely love acrostics! They're one of my all-time favorite forms.

Thanks for the great post! I need to get Handsprings. Haven't read that since it first came out.

Elaine Magliaro said...

Thanks, Jama. I had noticed that lots of visitors came to my blog looking for spring poetry--so I thought I should write up a post about it.


I'm usually not a big fan of acrostics. Too often there's little poetry in them--just a list of words. While I can't say "Spring: An Alphabet Acrostic" is an outstanding book of poetry, there are certain poems I really like in it. I also think all of Schnur's acrostic ABC books provide kids with better examples than I have found in most other writing resources.

The best book of acrostics I have read is "Silver Seeds." Have you seen that collection?

Andromeda Jazmon said...

Nice round up of spring books. I want that tree house on the cover of the Schnur book. :)

tanita✿davis said...

I really am loving living where there are snowdrops for the first time in my life -- they're popping out of lawns everywhere here in Scotland. Otherwise no cessation of winter; I'll believe Spring when I see it...!

Cheryl said...

I love those poems. Acrostics don't always work for me, but many of these images are just beautiful. I especially love it when they incorporate many senses. thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Elaine, Honestly, I'm almost scared to come over here because I KNOW you're gonna make me buy books. Do the booksellers have you on retainer???

Elaine Magliaro said...


I would have loved to have a treehouse when I was young!


I love living in New England. I enjoy having four seasons. My favorite is autumn.


Thanks for commenting. I worked hard to write acrostics that sounded like poetry rather than just a list of words.


I own--and still buy--lots of children's books. I review and write about books I have in my own library collection. I enjoy writing about the children's books that I like.

Mary Lee said...

Elaine, I agree with you about acrostics often being just a list of words. I use SPRING: AN ALPHABET ACROSTIC as a model for my students to get them to write an acrostic that *says* something!

When you mentioned your Poem A Day project, you got me thinking about how I might do that with my class in April. Not each person write a poem a day, but if all 20 of us worked together, we might be able to come up with a poem a day. That would be great for my school website -- give the parents a reason to visit often and see what my writers are up to!

Elaine Magliaro said...

Mary Lee,

I think writing a class poem a day in April sounds like an outstanding idea. It would be great to have you post them on your blog! I bet writing the collaborative poems would inspire some kids to attempt writing poems on their own time.

Charlotte said...

I like your crocus poem very much!

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