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Katie Manuel | 21 comments Dogku by Andrew Clements

I was immediately drawn to this book not only because Haiku is usually a favorite form of poetry for my students during our poetry unit, but also because Andrew Clements is a well-known author with students in my grade/school. Dogku is a picture book that tells a story, but each page contains just one Haiku that helps tell the story of a stray dog hoping to find a home. It is told through his perspective, which can lead to an interesting discussion about writing within a specific point of view. I love the fact that much of the action happens when the dog is home alone, because I think many students wonder what goes through their pets' minds and what they do all day. The book is beautifully illustrated by Tim Bowers, and the colorful drawings really capture the emotions of the characters.

I think this book could be used from kindergarten through high school, although it is geared towards the younger grades. I will be using it to introduce Haiku as a form of writing, noting that Haikus can be used to tell a story as well as to write about nature, which is usually it's main purpose. I could also use the book as a mini-lesson during writers workshop if students are needing to learn to delete some words in their own writing to make their stories so powerful. Writing Haikus really makes you think about word choice.


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Katie Manuel | 21 comments All the Broken Pieces by Ann E. Burg

All the Broken Pieces by Ann E. Burg

I chose to read this poetry book because it was recommended to me by about five of my students at the end of last year. It is both historical fiction and poetry. It is a current nominee for the Rebecca Caudill Award.

The story takes place during the Vietnam War and is told from the perspective of Matt, a young Vietnamese boy who was removed from his home/family in Vietnam and adopted by a very loving family in the United States. He is torn between two different worlds, with love for both families. He is also haunted with guilt about a terrible secret that is revealed at the end of the book - a very traumatizing experience during the War. (I won't ruin it for you - this is a must read!) Matt's love of baseball seems to carry him through some of his troubling memories, but it also brings some drama into his life as he faces teammates who are prejudiced against him because they blame him for the loss of their own family members in the War.

While the structure of this text makes it seem like a book that would be appropriate for younger or struggling readers, there is a lot of deep meaning within the author's free verse, so I feel it is important that students have some guidance while reading this book unless they are strong readers in junior high or above. I've had several students read it this year, but the beginning can be quite confusing as Matt refers to two different mothers and brothers. I had to reread the first section to make sure I understood who he was talking about before I could help my students make sense of it. I'm planning to use this book as a read aloud later this year when we begin studying the major events of the decades in the 1900s. I love that it shows a Vietnamese child's point of view of the Vietnam war, as well as American veterans' points of view. I think it will help students gain a much clearer picture of that time period.


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