Children's Literature

Instructor: Chi-Fen Emily Chen, Ph.D. 陳其芬

Department of English, National Kaohsiung First University of Science and Technology, Taiwan


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Poetry for Children

 Please read Chapter 8 and Chapter 6: Mother Goose Books from Russell, D. L. (2009). Literature for children: a short introduction.

Types of Poetry

Part A.  Narrative Poetry

  • Narrative poems tell stories in verse. A number of them are very old and were originally intended to be recited to audiences, such as Homer's "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey".

  • For children, perhaps the most accessible narrative poems are ballads. Traditionally, a ballad contains four lines, each with eight syllables and with the second and fourth lines rhyming.

  • Not all ballads follow this scheme, but all include a setting, character, and events with a climax. The stories are often tragic and plaintive.

Examples:  "The Broken-legg'd Man" by John Mackey Shaw,

                    "The Ballad of a Bachelor" by Ellis Parker Butler

Part B.   Lyric poetry

  • Lyric poetry typically describes the poet's innermost feelings or candid observations and evokes a musical quality in its sounds and rhythms.

  • Lyric poems exhibit an endless variety of forms. Below are some popular lyric forms.

  1. Haiku: a lyric, unrhymed poem of Japanese origin with seventeen syllables divided into three lines.  It is usually on the subject of nature and humans' relationship to nature. Successful haiku uses metaphor to give us a fresh and imaginative look at something we may view as quite ordinary.

The moon is a week old -

A dandelion to blow

Scattering star seed.        (Ruby Lytle)

  1. Cinquain: a five-line stanza apparently of medieval origin, often with two, four, six, eight, and two syllables respectively in the five lines.

Listen...

With faint dry sound,

Like steps of passing ghosts,

The leaves, frost-crisp'd, break from the trees

And fall.                              (Adelaide Crapsey's "November Night")

  1. Sonnet: a very old form of poetry, having gained prominence during the Renaissance, but not found much in poetry for children. It contains fourteen lines, each line with five iambic feet (or ten syllables).

Example: "The Children of the Night " by Edwin Arlington Robinson

  1. Limerick: a five-line humorous poem, the first, second, and fifth lines rhyming and the third and fourth lines rhyming. It is one of the most popular poetic forms among children, The fun of the limerick lies in its rollicking rhythm and its broad humor.

Imagine a skunk who proposes,
To his true love, surrounded by roses.
It may turn out just fine,
When she falls for his line,
But I wonder if flowers have noses?  
          (Sarah Fanny)

  1. Free Verse: adhering to no predetermined rules, but usually with its own intricate patterns of rhyme and rhythm. It requires the same thoughtful choice of words and rhythmical patterns as the more rigid stanza forms.

Example: "My Shadow" from Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses

                 "Homework! Oh, Homework!" by Jack Prelutsky

                

  1. Concrete Poetry: The words of a poem are arranged to form a pictorial representation of the poem's subject.

Example: "Easter Wings " by George Herbert (1633), designed to suggest angel wings.
"
The Mouse's Tale" by Lewis Carroll (1865), from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

          Online examples of concrete poetry.

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