Archive for 2011

Poetry Rocks! Contemporary American Poetry

Written by Sheila Griffin Llanas

Buy on Amazon

Poetry inspires dread in the most intrepid of students. If reading literature is seen as a slog through heavy tomes, then reading poetry is walking the path wearing leaden shoes. Enslow’s Poetry Rocks! series works to tame that fear with books that describe both poet and poetry in simple, easy-to-understand language.

What gives such value to the book (and the series) is the chapter organization. Each chapter begins with a short biographical sketch that helps to place the work in the context of the poet’s life and answer the question why: why did the poet choose those particular topics and themes. Even poets who were contemporaneous didn’t write about the same subjects. We see that it is the life experiences that dictate the choice of topics.

One representative poem is subject to a detailed analysis: summary and explication, poetic techniques and themes. Middle school and high school students will benefit immensely from this reading of the techniques of literary analysis in a non-threatening manner. Armed with that knowledge they can work their way to an understanding of the poem, rather than putting away the book, frustrated at their lack of understanding of writing that is different from the prose works they are used to.

Each poet’s style is given its own analysis, creating easy reading activities and discussion points. The reader can discuss how one poet’s style is similar to, and differs from, another’s.  A few more poems are included (the number varies from poet to poet) and the discussion paragraph points to further questions to be considered. The chapter ends with a listing of the poet’s major works and a final paragraph on related poets, which helps to understand the poet’s cultural milieu.

The eleven contemporary American poets included in the book are Theodore Roethke, Elizabeth Bishop, William Stafford, Robert Lowell, Gwendolyn Brooks, Richard Wilbur, Allen Ginsburg, W.S. Merwin, Sylvia Plath, Billy Collins and Louise Gluck.

Chapter notes, a glossary, further reading suggestions and links to poetry sites comprise the back matter. “A poem is not the end but the beginning of an excursion.” This book is a good start to an excursion into the world of poetry.

  • Poetry RocksTitle: Poetry Rocks! Contemporary American Poetry
  • Author: Sheila Griffin Llanas
  • Publisher: Enslow Publishers, Inc., 2011
  • Reviewer: Anjali Amit
  • Paperback:  160 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-59845-380-5
  • Genre: Nonfiction, Literature

Elizabeth I, the People’s Queen: Her Life and Times with 21 Activities

Written by Kerrie Logan Hollihan

Buy on Amazon

Half a millennium ago, Europe was in turmoil. The Reformation was underway and religion-based wars and conflicts were ongoing. Kings and Queens led their countries and determined the religion of their peoples. Non-conformists were often killed as traitors. Spain, the most powerful country at the time, was staunchly Catholic and determined to convert the rest of Europe. At the same time, the Renaissance was underway. Books and plays were being written. Shakespeare was becoming known in England and more people were learning to read and write. Women were considered second-class citizens without the same rights as men and often with different laws governing their behavior.

Into that political and social climate, Elizabeth I came into power, stepping into the vacancy left by the untimely death of her 16 year old half-brother. It was the monarch’s duty to protect her people, but England at that time was weak.  Without a trained army or navy, and with constant death threats and plots against her and her people, Elizabeth had to be constantly vigilant. Fortunately, she had been given the best education of the time. Educated alongside her younger half-brother she learned to think critically, reason and speak, and read and write in several languages. England was in her very capable hands and Elizabeth I ruled successfully for 45 years.

History lovers will find a thorough description of the life and times of Elizabeth I in this balanced look at one of England’s most famous royals.  Serious sixth grade and older history readers and report writers will find her strengths and weaknesses are described along with the events and characters that shaped her decisions and behaviors. The cast of characters is understandably long, but can be confusing when their names and titles are used interchangeably. Readers may want to keep a list of names to aid in comprehension. Visual learners will appreciate the plentiful sidebars, portraits and reprints of art depicting the time. Hands-on learners will find the 21 activities varied, mostly easy to do and well integrated into the text.

Although the author references her website several times for further information, the cited information wasn’t available at the time of this review. You can search for yourself here:  You will find plenty of other web links to explore at the end of the book.

  • Elizabeth ITitle: Elizabeth I – the People’s Queen: Her Life and Times with 21 Activities
  • Author: Kerrie Logan Hollihan
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press, 2011
  • Reviewer: Carol S. Surges
  • Paperback: 129 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-56976-349-0
  • Genre:  History, biography
  • Lexile Score: 870