A standout is This Is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness. Poet Joyce Sidman has invented an imaginary class of sixth-graders who write "sorry poems" as part of a poetry unit. The famous poem that inspired this project is "This Is Just to Say," in which William Carlos Williams apologizes to his wife for eating the plums she left in the refrigerator. ("Forgive me / they were delicious / so sweet / and so cold.")
The concept for Sidman's book is original and entertaining, using a fictional classroom to bring a group of poems and their elementary school authors to life. There are verses about dodge ball mishaps, stolen doughnuts, a fashion faux pas, broken windows, crushes and spelling bees. There is humor, sadness and drama as people respond to each poem. Lively mixed-media illustrations by Pamela Zagarenski add to the fun. This is a fabulous book to show students the many forms that poetry can take and to inspire them to write their own "sorry" poems. Copyright 2007 BookPage Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2007 Fall
This book is a collection of "sorry poems" and responses, ostensibly (but not always believably) written, illustrated, and collected by a sixth-grade class. Though the poems are not as varied in tone or style as could be desired, they provide intimate, often touching glimpses of relationships by which real classes might be inspired. Copyright 2007 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2007 March #2
Providing a surprisingly effective story arc, this series of poems was inspired by William Carlos Williams's famous poem of the same title regarding a theft of plums. Anthony, one of the students in Mrs. Merz's class, becomes the editor because it was his idea to make the poems into a book and to include any responses they get to their apologies. There's a range of topics and ability in the poems, from the "Roses are red / Violets are blue / I'm still really / pissed off at you" in the response section to the difficult form of a pantoum in "Spelling Bomb." A collage-like look to the illustrations captures the child-like quality in sprightly compositions, but the conceit that these are the artwork of one of the students doesn't quite ring true. At one point, Anthony claims to have edited for language, but other poems have some words that are realistically uncensored. Despite a slight uneven quality or perhaps because of it, the whole is far more captivating than expected. Packed with the intensity of everyday pain and sorrow, kids and adults exchange the words that convey grief, delight, love and acceptance of themselves and others. (Poetry. 8-12) Copyright Kirkus 2007 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.
Library Media Connection - November/December 2007
Every school should purchase a copy of this book of poetic apologies and responses. The title poem by William Carlos Williams sets the tone. Sidman sought help in writing a poem to her mother from a group of fourth graders in one of her writing workshops, which became the impetus for this book. Zagarenski uses typical schoolchildren materials as a background for her colorful, whimsical drawings that brighten the pages of this book. She captures the essence of childhood on each page. The poems reflect different stages of resolution; some apologies are sincere, others not. Some of the responses are more forgiving than others. Some of the poems are humorous, some sad, and some of the responses are unexpected. The poems that touched my heart the most were "It Was Quiet" by Tenzin, who described the death of her beloved dog Einstein, and "Next Time," Jewel's poem to her dad who had abandoned her several times. Lessons about accepting responsibility, seeking forgiveness, and righting wrongs are all part of the fabric of this book. Each school library could benefit from adding this wonderful book of poems to its collection. Recommended. Susie Nightingale, Library Media Specialist, Santa Fe Trail Junior High School, Olathe, Kansas © 2007 Linworth Publishing, Inc.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2007 March #1
Sidman (Song of the Waterboatman and Other Pond Poems ) explains, via an introduction from one of the book's sixth-grade characters, that the poems contained in this often humorous and touching anthology were inspired by the title poem of apology, which was penned by William Carlos Williams. The student in Mrs. Merz's class who introduces the book explains that some of the students received answers to their "sorry" poems. One pair of poems shares a spread and addresses a dodge ball exchange ("Sorry/ Reubs,/ for belting you/ as hard/ as I could/ in dodge ball/ I'd like/ to say/ I wouldn't/ do it again/ but I'd/ be lying"). But for most entries, unfortunately, in order to read the call-and-response in succession, readers must awkwardly flip from the first half of the book ("Apologies") to the second ("Responses"). Yet the poems successfully navigate the complicated terrain for those who seek forgiveness. In one especially moving poem, "The Black Spot," Alyssa tells her sister Carrie that the black spot of lead on Carrie's arm makes manifest the "nugget of darkness" within Alyssa that propelled her to injure her sibling (Carrie's response conveys her enduring anger at Alyssa). Zagarenski's (Mites to Mastodons ) inventive mixed-media illustrations brim with items found in a classroom: a dictionary entry on "apology," for instance, becomes part of a student's clothing, and white hole reinforcements resemble a character's stolen doughnuts. But the book's odd organization seems a missed opportunity to tie the well-wrought, corresponding poems together and reinforce the complex relationships between the characters. Ages 9-12. (Apr.)[Page 61]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Gr 4-7 -Mrs. Merz assigns her sixth-grade students to write poems of apology, and what emerges is a surprising array of emotions, poetic forms, and subjects from dead pets and biting hamsters to angry siblings and betrayal of trust. The children decide to create their own book of these poems, complete with an introduction and occasional notes by editor Anthony K. Fast-talking Thomas writes a humorous poem patterned after William Carlos Williams's "This Is Just to Say," apologizing to Mrs. Garcia in the office, for stealing the jelly donuts in the teachers' lounge: "Forgive me/they were delicious/so sweet/and so gloppy." Mrs. Garcia's response poem says, "Of course I forgive you./But I still have to call your mother." A more serious concern emerges in "Next Time," written by Jewel: "Please, please come back./Don't leave me spinning alone,/like a slow, sad tornado./I'm sorry, Daddy./Next time I'll be/perfect." In the response poem, Jewel describes her father's wrenching reply telling her that, "None of the stupid things/I have ever done/are even close to being your fault." Sidman's ear is keen, capturing many voices. Her skill as a poet accessible to young people is unmatched. Zagarenski's delicately outlined collage drawings and paintings are created on mixed backgrounds-notebook paper, paper bags, newspaper, graph paper, school supplies. This is an important book both for its creativity and for its wisdom.-Lee Bock, Glenbrook Elementary School, Pulaski, WI[Page 162]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.