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A JAR OF TINY STARS
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AUTHOR STUDY -- Beverly Cleary
AUTHOR STUDY -- Beverly Cleary Bibliography
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AMBER WAS BRAVE, ESSIE WAS SMART
A JAR OF TINY STARS
IT'S RAINING PIGS AND NOODLES
INSECTLOPEDIA
AND THE GREEN GRASS GREW ALL AROUND
BUBBA THE COWBOY PRINCE : A Fractured Texas Tale
SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK
SQUIDS WILL BE SQUIDS
HOW MANY KISSES DO YOU WANT TONIGHT?
MY FRIEND RABBIT
A CALDECOTT CELEBRATION
JUMANJI

The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) recognizes outstanding children’s poets by bestowing its Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. This award, established in 1977, was given annually until 1982, and is now awarded every three years. In 1996, Bernice E. Cullinan compiled a collection of poems of its first ten recipients. She called this book A JAR OF TINY STARS. The poems were selected by 3,500 children as their favorites. The poets are: Arnold Adoff, John Ciardi, Barbara Esbensen, Aileen Fisher, Karla Kuskin, Myra Cohn Livingston, David McCord, Eve Merriam, Lilian Moore, and Valerie Worth.

 

The authors and their poems are featured chronologically according to the year in which they won the award. Each author’s section begins with a beautiful watercolor wash portrait done by Marc Nadel. The facing page includes a quote from that author regarding their insights on poetry. This is followed by five poems beautifully and simply illustrated with pen and ink drawings by Andi MacLeod. There is lots of white space which, with the clean lines of the illustrations, gives a crisp impression. The emphasis is certainly on the poets and their poetry. The last section of the book is entitled “About the Poets,” and includes another, longer quote from the author as well as a few paragraphs called “You May want to Know.” This includes interesting personal information about the poet as well as biographical data.

 

In case the five poems in the body of this book leave the reader unsatisfied, the Bibliography includes a list of some of the works done by the poets and would be very helpful in searching for further reading. The index includes authors, titles of the poems, and the first lines of the poems.

 

In her introduction, Cullinan says that “. . . children like poems they can understand: ones that make them laugh and ones that tell a story.” This is evident in this collection. As a whole, these poems are vivid in their imagery and have a direct style of language; little is left to personal interpretation. Most of these poems rhyme and have a strong sense of rhythm. The joy that children find in living is apparent, which makes these poems timeless in their appeal.

 

Children and adults alike can share in the feelings you get when a puppy is around. Aileen Fisher’s poem, “My Puppy” is strong, simple, and rhythmic. “I have a playful prankish pup: / When I stoop down he prances up / And snuffs my neck and slicks my ear /   As if I’d been away a year: /  I say, “Be good, you prankish pup.” / But he just smiles and eats me up!” All five of Fisher’s poems represented here represent something dear to childhood: a puppy, a cat, a cricket, a bunny, and simply being outside.

 

The poetry of Lilian Moore has slightly more subtle nuances. Her rhyme isn’t as apparent; the rhythm isn’t as bold. But the messages are still very vivid. With Moore’s poetry, the unusual line breaks add to the beauty. “If You Catch a Firefly” is a good example. The words rhyme, but the format adds to the balance. It could have been simply two couplets that rhyme. However, her formatting emphasizes the stars and their brightness:

                        If you catch a firefly

                                    and keep it in a jar

                        You may find that

                                    you have lost

                        A tiny star.

 

                        If you let it go then,

                                    back into the night,

                        You may see it

                                    once again

                        Star bright.

 

Valerie Worth’s poems are filled with descriptions of everyday items. Her descriptions include personification which will give the reader a new perspective. For example, “The lawnmower / grinds its teeth / over the grass, / Spitting out a thick / Green spray;” and the safety pin “. . . looks / At the sharp / Point with a / Surprised eye.”

 

A JAR OF TINY STARS is a delightful book which will enhance the library of any lover of children’s literature.

 

Cullinan, Bernice E., editor. 1996. A JAR OF TINY STARS: POEMS BY NCTE AWARD-WINNING POETS/CHILDREN SELECT THEIR FAVORITE POEMS. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills Press, Inc. ISBN: 1563970872.

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