Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Disclosure: I was sent a copy of this book by the publisher in order to write up an honest review.  The views I share are mine and mine alone.

Poems to Learn by Heart

Publication Date: March 26, 2013
ISBN: 9781423108054

Price: $19.99
Suitable for All Ages

"Disney-Hyperion, an imprint of Disney Publishing Worldwide (DPW), releases today Poems to Learn by Heart by Caroline Kennedy, with paintings by Caldecott Honor-winning artist Jon J Muth, with a first printing of 250,000 copies. Poems to Learn by Heart is a companion to Kennedy's New York Times #1 best seller A Family of Poems. For this new collection, she has selected more than a hundred diverse poems that speak across the ages: to the young and young at heart, to readers new to poetry, and to devoted fans. Coinciding with the resurging interest in spoken word, open mics, poetry slams, and recitation contests across the country, Poems to Learn by Heart provides a trove of works to return to again and again.

In this rich anthology, Kennedy presents poems that she loved as a child, discovered more recently, or were shared with her by family and friends. Divided into ten sections focusing on subjects such as nature, sports, monsters and fairies, war and school, friendship and family, her choices reflect both classic poets and new voices, little-known gems and standards that still stir today's new readers, like the young students at DreamYard, a school and arts program she works with and admires. In a tribute to those young artists who have in turn inspired her, their poem "Voices Rising" is included in the section called "I'm Expecting You!" in a four-page spread.

"Poetry announces us," Caroline Kennedy writes in one of her chapter introductions. "It is the most personal and direct expression of who we are and how we are feeling. In a world where it sometimes seems that no one is listening, poetry can help us find our own voice and be heard. Growing up is hard, but poems can protect, guide, and connect us to others. If we learn them by heart, the emotion, the wisdom, and the power they contain can bring joy to our lives and sustain us through difficult times."
Kennedy's chapter introductions offer a rich mix of insight and wit. She shares memories of her own growing up, with smart observations about the poetry she's chosen and the history that infuses some of the pieces (including President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address). She weaves in stories on Seneca's technique for remembering his students' names, the lovely image of a memory-palace and where that idea came from, as well as reflections on how one poem addresses the elements of a meaningful life, and how another, when memorized, helped her son keep nature close at hand while confined to a classroom. In an intimate and conversational tone, Kennedy illuminates why poetry about elves and other magical creatures has much to teach us about imagining other worlds, and how nonsensical poems not only make us laugh but also take on more serious work of language and artistry. At the end she includes an extra-credit section of poems that, in their complexity and length, present the challenge of memorization seriously. 

In support of the release of Poems to Learn by Heart, Kennedy will embark on an eight-city U.S. tour with events at bookstores and libraries. She will also serve as the honorary chair of National Library Week, which takes place April 14–20, 2013. A Common Core teachers guide for Poems to Learn by Heart is available at Disney.com/PoemsbyHeart."


My Thoughts:

How good is your family at memorizing poems?  I fell in love with poetry thanks in part by my 4th grade teacher, Ms. Wold, as well as my mother, who continually shared their favorite poems with me.  I would oftentimes challenge myself to see if I could memorize each of the poems shared with me, as I would be called upon in class to stand up and recite them.  At first it was hard to do, but with little tricks and a lot of practice, I was finally able to memorize over 50 classic poems, which I can still recite to this day.  So, when I heard that Caroline Kennedy had recently released a follow up to her original children's poetry book, A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poetry for Children, entitled "Poems to Learn by Heart," I couldn't help but think back to my childhood and sitting at the dining room table as my Mom would help me study various poems.  I loved these times we spent together, as I heard wonderful stories of my Mother's childhood, including some of her favorite poems and books.  And, at bedtime when she would tuck me in, we would recite in unison the poem of the day that we had been studying.  I loved this unique and oh so personal connection we had.  It felt like we were reciting secret codes to one another, that were meant to show how we felt about one another -- as many of the poems were about family, love, and the bond between a mother and child.  As the years went on, and I continued through school, I found myself falling more in love with poetry, to the point that I minored in English in college.  Oh how I loved the poetry classes I took in college, as they dealt with many of the childhood poems I had studied and memorized as a child -- but, this time shedding more meaning about what they were about.

I remember when I would return home on weekends to do laundry and visit with family, that I would share poems I was studying with Mom.  Even though she didn't remember all the verses, she was still able to chime in from time to time on some of the classic children's poems we used to love reciting together.  When I became a Mom back in 2010, I made a promise to myself that I would do my best to instill a love of reading, and hopefully poetry with my children, by reading to them every day, and letting them pick out and explore different books, in hopes to spark their imagination.  I am excited to see both my daughters enjoying having me read to them.  And, each night before they go to bed, I usually recite a few of my favorite poems to them, before we sing their favorite bedtime songs.  Just the other day, Savannah began reciting the last line of "I'd Like to be a Fairy Child" by Robert Graves, which is included in this new release.  I guess after hearing me recite this poem night after night, she is beginning to remember the words. :-) 

Thanks to the folks at Disney Publishing, I was sent a copy of this new release to share with my girls (and enjoy myself).  The first day I received it in the mail, I stayed up late to read it cover to cover.  I found myself reminiscing about my childhood and some of my favorite poems that filled the pages of this book, as well as falling in love with others I found myself reading for the first time.  When i wasn't studying the words of the poems, I was admiring the beautiful illustrations done by Jon J. Muth, which really add to poems and make the come alive.  Since reading cover to cover, I have gone back and marked a few poems I want to try and memorize and share with the girls.  My mind is not as sharp as it was as a youth --- maybe because of the lack of sleep.  But, I know that if I put my mind to it, I will be able to memorize these poems, just like I had as a child.

And, down the road when my daughters get a little older, this is one book I plan on sharing with them, as they learn to read.  Maybe it will spark a fire in them for a love of poetry, as I experienced as child with my mother and 4th grade teacher?  Either way, this is a wonderful book to give as a gift to both parents and children, and would even make for a great baby shower gift.  I plan to surprise my Mother with a copy for Mother's Day, making sure to flag the poems we used to enjoy reciting together. :-) Even if you don't want to learn to memorize poems, this is a wonderful collection of classic poems worth sharing with your family.


About the Author:
Caroline Kennedy is an attorney and the author/editor of ten New York Times best-selling books on constitutional law, American history, politics, and poetry. She is President of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and Chair of the Senior Advisory Committee of the Institute of Politics at Harvard University. A graduate of Harvard and Columbia Law School, she also serves on the board of directors of New Visions for Public Schools and is Honorary Chair of the American Ballet Theater. From 2002–2011, she was Vice Chair of the Fund for Public Schools, which has raised over $300 million to support public school reform and engaged a record number of New Yorkers to volunteer in New York City schools.

About the Illustrator:

Jon J Muth is the author and illustrator of numerous inspiring and award-winning books for children, including the Caldecott Honor Book Zen Shorts. He also collaborated with Caroline Kennedy on the New York Times best seller A Family of Poems, the companion to Poems to Learn by Heart. Born in Ohio, he now lives with his family in New York State.

About Disney Publishing Worldwide
Disney Publishing Worldwide (DPW) is the world's largest publisher of children's books and magazines with over 700 million products sold each year. DPW consists of an extensive worldwide licensing structure as well as vertically integrated publishing imprints, including Disney Book Group in the U.S., Disney Libri in Italy, and Disney Libros in Spain. DPW publishes a range of children's magazines globally, as well as Disney kids magazines in the U.S. Disney English is DPW's English language learning business, which includes Disney English learning centers in China and a worldwide retail-licensing program. DPW's digital products include bestselling eBook titles as well as original apps. Headquartered in Glendale, California, DPW publishes books, magazines, and digital products in 85 countries in 75 languages. For more information visit

Disclosure: I was sent a copy of this book by the publisher in order to write up an honest review.  The views I share are mine and mine alone.

1 comment :

  1. wow what a beautiful book i am gonna have to go to the library and get this one to read thanks for sharing...amy tolley