Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Great Frog Race

The Great Frog Race and Other Poems by Kristine O'Connell George and illustrated by Kate Kiesler is a wonderful story of poems from Kristine's childhood.  The book won the 1998 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, and for good reason. The poems draw a picture of a childhood spent outdoors discovering the beautiful surprises of nature. The author describes simple aspects of nature like "falling stars" and "weeping willows". She uses language that kids can relate to and grab ahold of. For example, in her poem "Garden Hose", she claims that the hose "dozes/ in the/ warm sun/ and wonders/ what to/ be when it/ grows up./ It imagines fat black/ irrigation pipe/ aqueducts,/ transcontinental/ pipelines". These personified ideas appeal to the viewpoint of a child, and leave the reader wanting more.

The Great Frog Race is an excellent choice for introducing poetry to a class. Some poems rhyme, some do not. Some poems are long, some are short. The poems exemplify how poems differ, but also are all very relatable making them accessible and welcoming to children. This book does not discuss many relationships between people, but rather relationships between children and the world around them. The illustrations bring the world to life, although my one criticism would be that all of the children in the illustrations are Caucasian. However, people are not shown in every illustration, so a teacher could be thoughtful in choosing which poems to read aloud to their class. The Great Frog Race clearly values the small moments in the world around us. It holds a positive outlook on discovering nature, and recognizing little details-- like getting lost on a "Sunday Drive with Mom", or watching a crow steal the ice cream cone someone dropped on a sidewalk.

I think children and adults can relate to and enjoy this book of poems due to its light-hearted nature and recognition of simple, everyday passing moments.
An example of a poem in The Great Frog Race, courtesy of  Kristine George's website

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