Friday, November 6, 2009


Poetry by Ntozake Shange
Paintings by Kadir Nelson

For POETRY FRIDAY today, I'm not sharing just a poem. Instead, I'm sharing a biography in a poem. Actually a civil rights biography in a poem. Today I'm sharing Ntozake Shange's beautiful poetry picture book, CORETTA SCOTT. Shange has taken just a few events from Coretta Scott's life, and shaped them into a beautiful poem. Listen to this page, when Coretta and her younger siblings are walking to school…

white school bus
left a
funnel of dust
on their faces

songs and birds of all colors
and rich soil
where slaves sought freedom
steadied them
in the face of danger
The illustrations in this book are by Kadir Nelson (WE ARE THE SHIP, HENRY'S FREEDOM BOX, HE'S GOT THE WHOLE WORLD IN HIS HANDS) who is most definitely one of my all-time favorites. The illustrations in CORETTA SCOTT are his usual- rich details, vivid colors, so real the people almost seem to jump off the page.

If I was doing a unit on biography, or teaching students about Coretta Scott King, I would probably read a more traditional biography first (there is actually a brief biography in the back of this book), then share Shange's poem. Prior to reading CORETTA SCOTT, I'd ask kids to list important events from her life, then to listen for these as I read. The book is short, so I could read it two or three times to let kids soak in the beautiful language. If kids were writing biography, I might ask them to choose a few important events from the person's life, then write a poem, using CORETTA as a mentor text.

This is definitely a book to add to your poetry and/or biography collection…

1 comment:

Mary Lee said...


And important.