Category Archives: poetry

Marvelous New Picture Books: Under the Freedom Tree!


Under the Freedom Tree

By: Susan VanHecke Illustrated by: London Ladd


Through free verse poetry and bold illustrations, Susan VanHecke and London Ladd work together to share the story of the end of slavery. Beginning in 1861, Frank, James, and Shepard embark on their journey to escape slavery. The men end up in Slabtown, settling with other escaped slaves. There they worked to better their lives and teach their children to read. In 1863, under the freedom tree, they learn the news of the Emancipation Proclamation and that all slaves are freed!


This book has an unusual writing style in that it is written in free verse poetry. The rhythm of the poetry allows for a nice ability to be read aloud. Poetry can be tricky in books as aspects of the story could be left out for sake of keeping rhythm, but this book does a nice job of carrying on the plot and giving detailed information.

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The illustrations are appear like paintings; in places you can see the texture of the canvas show through the designs. The coloring of the illustrations match the plot, like when they are escaping through the night, the scenes are dark, and when they are working very hard, the scenes are red, dirty with soil and bricks. The African Americans are depicted correctly for the time and in a positive way, but the faces could have more detail to really make them lifelike.

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Overall, this picture book uses poetry and striking illustrations to depict the Civil War and many African Americans’ escape from slavery. This would be a good book for a teacher’s unit on the end of slavery for older elementary grades. Poetry can be complex, so it would best be read to the older elementary grades so they can appreciate it. It could even be used in a poetry unit to show that all poetry does not have to rhyme. The descriptive vocabulary would be good for teaching tier 2 vocabulary, such as “glinting” and “weary” to help students broaden their vocabulary and better understand the book. We enjoyed reading this book and would definitely recommend it for teachers to have as part of their classroom libraries!


-Holly Reichert and Lauren Patrowsky


Dancing with the Indians by Angela Shelf Medearis, Illustrated by Samuel Byrd


Dancing with the Indians tells the story of an African-American family who travels to join the narrator’s grandfather living with the Seminole Indians.

There they take part in the Rainbow Dance and listen to the songs of ancient battles.

Shimmering satin ribbons

float from head to toe,

shining human rainbows

in the firelight’s glow


Soon the Rainbow Dance

comes to a colorful end.

Clapping and whistles are heard

by women, children, men.


The family joins in the Indian Stomp Dance until the break of day. They dance in the early morning sun until it is time to go…


Our dance is over  now,

but only for the night.

Papa says we’re coming back

to dance by the firelight.



This book has beautiful illustrations and draws the reader in with bright colors that display the action and fervor of the dance wonderfully. A great book for introducing Native American culture and is inspired by the author’s own history! It is superbly illustrated and the rhythm of the words mimics the storyline excellently. Don’t miss a chance to experience the Rainbow Dance for yourself!


Happy Reading!!



Sing to the Sun is a collection of poems celebrating and depicting different aspects of African American culture.  The topics cover everything from music to nature, African heritage, family, play, and other aspects of everyday life.  The poems “Granny” and “The Black Birds’ Party” are written in the classic African call and response style, making it a fabulous read-aloud.  The poems are all very joyful and vibrant, in keeping with the title of the collection.  Kids of all ages should enjoy and be able to relate to these poems.

The illustrations are done in a brightly colored, African-inspired style, and there is at least one illustration for every poem.  Just like the poems, Bryan’s contrast of vivid warm and cool colors is sure to put a smile on your face.


Because of the numerous references to family and African heritage, this book could be a good tool in a social studies class for young children.  It could be used to tie parts of our everyday lives to the lives of ancestors who came long, long before us.  The tradition of call and response is just one example.  This connection could also be made with songs children are used to singing, games they play, hairstyles they are used to seeing, and art they enjoy.

This book would also work just fine as a simple soul-lifter on a dreary Monday morning.  Whatever your purpose in reading them, I hope you enjoy these poems.

“Sing to the Sun

It will listen

And warm your words

Your joy will rise

Like the sun

And glow

Within you”

-Sing to the Sun, Sing to the Sun by Ashley Bryan

Post by Hallie

Sing to the Sun, Poems and Pictures by Ashley Bryan

If I Never Forever Endeavor


If I Never Forever Endeavor is a fabulous poetry book written by Holly Meade. 

It tells the story of a little bird who is scared to try out his new wings. With a little encouragement and some practice, he learns to fly and experiences life!


If in all of forever

I never endeavor

to fly, I won’t know if I can.

If I did endeavor, and found my wings clever,

I could see the world!

My nest is so nice

the nicest of nests.

Who needs to fly- ever?

I think I’ll forget

all about this “endeavor.”


I won’t know how it feels to

scallop the air

with a dip

and a glide.


This book has beautiful, patterned illustrations. The poems on each page can be read and interpreted separately or the book can be read as one whole story. It is an inspiring picture book and would be great for children of all ages!

Friends of a feather,

I say, endeavor and


Happy Reading!