A Stick Is an Excellent Thing: Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2018-10-17 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 6 user ratings

" I enjoyed the illustrations in this book quite a bit. All of these poems are about outdoor games...some of which I've played and some I haven't. I appreciate that there is an emphasis on using imagination...such as in "A Stick is an Excellent Thing" where the stick is used as a scepter for a king, a magic wand, to draw with and to strum a fence. Also, with it being summertime....this may give my children/other children some ideas of what to do outside during the summer. " said.

"I read this poetry anthology as a memoir, filled with joyful poems about activities mostly outdoors that don’t often happen anymore, like playing jacks or hopscotch, at least not in my recent experience. I wish kids did play outside as much as the poems and illustrations show. Yet, there are joyful games that I hope some kids are playing, like double-dutch/jump rope, monkey in the middle/a basketball game, and playing hide-n-seek. The drawings are joyful depictions of each activity, placing the games in the neighborhoods as background. A favorite is about swinging, showing choices of “on your belly? On your seat?/Do you ask for a push?/Do you use your own feet?” And the book ends with a sweet poem about stargazing at day’s end. It would be great to read this aloud, and let the students write about a memory and draw a picture of that same memory. " said.

"The illustrator of A Stick Is an Excellent Thing, LeUyen Pham, also illustrated Desmond Tutu's excellent picture book God's Dream. She's a rock star! In the end, it was the illustrations I enjoyed most about this book. Sigourney's favorite illustration? A close-up of a girl hanging upside-down on the jungle gym. Her head's drawn right-side up with the rest of the world upside-down, a semi-point-of-view shot of the world from her perspective. The drawing of kids on a swing set ran a close second.

The text consists of poems about outside play. The games include things like barrel rolling down a hill, statues, hop scotch, monkey in the middle, and double dutch - all games Sigourney thus far has spent little to no time playing. A Stick Is an Excellent Thing would be fun to check out with children old enough to learn to play these games after reading about them.
" said.

"I loved reading this story and have already put this on my list of books to order with my school librarian. As a preschool teacher, I always look for new types of texts and with poetry being a harder type of book sometimes to find with this age, I was very happy to find this throughout the websites provided. I love the idea that this poetry book celebrates the traditions of play outside. I think this is something that is so important for our children to be exposed to, especially when they live in a generation and world full of technology. This is also a great summer read because many of the poems are games and such that can be played outside when it is nice and warm out. The illustrations within this book are also enjoyable for the students to view and visually understand the games like hopscotch or hide and seek. Such a great read. I would recommend this story for elementary aged students from pre-k-5th grade.

" said.

"Marilyn Singer, a renowned poet, offers 18 poems involving outdoor play with games like double-dutch, hop-scotch, monkey in the middle, and swinging on the swings. What I loved was how this is not a collection of poems that excludes the urban landscape with its expanse of pavement, sidewalks, stoops, and diverse population. The poems vary, and some were more difficult for me to read aloud than others (more to do w/ my pronunciation, no doubt). My favorite poem was “Upside Down” and the book closes rather sweetly with “Stargazing.”

The images echo the energy in the poems; there is always movement. The skin tones are warm and the clothes vibrant against the colorful backdrops which project the idea of landscape onto the children themselves. They are where the action, the creativity, the relationships take place. They are unleashed upon the out-of-doors, walking on edges (in “Edges”) and running and chasing and crashing (in “Really Fast”). There is something classic in the images, old Golden Books come to mind. I’m not sure how intentional this is, but it is brings a certain nostalgia for old school outdoor play and the carefree summers running about the neighborhood (or ‘hood in “Hopscotch”) with your friends. But as the reviewer for School Library Journal points out, LeUyen Pham gives the book a modern seasoning to its nostalgia eliminating the all-white cast and putting girls on skateboards and placing jump-ropes in boys’ hands. Although, no one seems interested in demystifying the hopscotch fascination with girls.

image: [stick rumpus]

I noticed the lack of scrapes or band-aids, and Library School Journal questions the cleanliness and glow of the imagery in the illustrations and poetry. Monkey in the Middle can be fair, and splashing in the gutters isn’t a health hazard. The spirit of it is good though, and will no doubt be avoided by helicopter parents. I am hoping that librarians are putting this one on the end-caps and at eye-level, maybe above a nice pile of sticks.

[includes link to School Library Journal review]

L (omphaloskepsis)
" said.

"A Stick Is an Excellent Thing: Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play

The variety of poems that embody the same theme – ‘celebrating outdoor play’ - make outdoor play, e.g. hopscotch, more appealing to children from a young age. This could partake in combating the growing number of children who prefer staying indoors to interact or play using technology.

The fact that the book focuses on integrating poetry with play makes it all the more stimulating for children, especially in KS1 and lower KS2. I think these are the types of poems that children are likely to share with their friends in the school playground. But I also think it will go beyond that as it could strongly influence children to enthusiastically share some of these poems to other children that they might befriend, e.g., in their local park.

A range of poems in this book admiringly elicits the imagination of children and can bring about ideas for role play. For example, in the poem ‘A Stick is an Excellent Thing’, ’it describes that after finding a perfect stick ‘it’s a scepter for a king’ or a ‘magic wand’. Poems such as can be great examples to use when introducing children to the concept of metaphors. The poem ‘Edges’ that is based on the enjoyment of playing in the street uses the metaphor – ‘I am dancing in the air’; a fantastic way to portray the pleasure of outdoor play.

I commend Singer for also promoting awareness, respect and the exploration of nature as well as informing the readers. For example, the poem ‘Fireflies’ describes the excitement of catching these creatures at night in a glass jar where you can watch them ‘flash and glow’ because they can make light. Eventually, after a minute or two ‘...toodle-oo! It’s time to let them go.’

This book contains fantastic illustrations of children in high spirits with vibrant colours and lovely backgrounds that all create an attractive and alluring atmosphere of the world of outdoor play.

Singer uses a variety of poetry forms including couplets, quatrains and catalogs. A catalog poem is composed of a list or itemisation of things or events of a topic. ‘Really Fast!’ is a catalog poem where it’s composed of six lines each containing two words; the first three lines are:

Skateboard races,
pigeon chases,
running bases.

Catalog poems are simple fun ways to get children to start writing poetry, regardless of their poetic experience. They have little restrictions so you can base it on any topic for which you have feelings. It is a great enjoyable task for children, especially in KS1.
" said.

" I had such high hopes for this book. Sadly I found the illustrations okay and the poems weren’t the best for reading aloud to teach children the flow of language. " said.

"2015 NCTE award-winning author and poet Marilyn Singer uses poetry to engage children in the many wonderful ways to play outside.

Coupled with detailed, playful illustrations by LeUyen Pham, this poetry picture book inspires children to see fun and excitement in the world around them. In a time when digital toys and games often occupy children's attention, a book emphasizing the importance and possibility of imaginative play seems important and relevant.

Each poem describes a different type of outside play, from rolling down grassy hills to making creations of of mud and leaves. The poems follow a variety of formats which would make this book a great option to share with students when studying poetry!
" said.

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