This Is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness

Overview

When Mrs. Merz asks her sixth grade class to write poems of apology, they end up liking their poems so much that they decide to put them into a book. Not only that, but they get the people to whom they apologized to write poems back. This poetry collection covers an array of highly relatable topics, from first love, absent parents, and sibling spats to missing hamsters, stolen doughnuts, and dodgeball. A great way to jump-start poetry lessons. Collage illustrations add a touch of ...

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Overview

When Mrs. Merz asks her sixth grade class to write poems of apology, they end up liking their poems so much that they decide to put them into a book. Not only that, but they get the people to whom they apologized to write poems back. This poetry collection covers an array of highly relatable topics, from first love, absent parents, and sibling spats to missing hamsters, stolen doughnuts, and dodgeball. A great way to jump-start poetry lessons. Collage illustrations add a touch of whimsy.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

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.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Children's Literature - Danielle Williams
Inspired by the poem "This is Just to Say" by William Carlos Williams, a teacher assigns her students the task of writing poems of apology for actions they have taken and encourages recipients of the poems to write poems of response. Written by a fictional sixth grade class, each poem manages to convey an intense emotion, whether the joy of being the "dodge ball kings" or sadness at not meeting a parent's expectation. The poems of forgiveness are equally evocative and answer each apology poem in turn. While it is disappointing to realize that the authors of the poems are fictional, each poem still feels as if it were written by a child, expressing dismay at hurting a teacher's feelings or admiration to an older sibling who seems so much cooler than the author. The illustrations are reminiscent of drawings and doodles of children and manage to suggest that children had a direct hand in writing and illustrating the poems in the book.
School Library Journal

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

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
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)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780544105072
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 2/25/2014
  • Pages: 48
  • Sales rank: 319,418
  • Product dimensions: 7.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Joyce Sidman lives in Wayzata, Minnesota. www.joycesidman.com

Caldecott Honor Medalist Pamela Zagarenski is a brilliant painter of many worlds. As well as illustrating picture books, she creates sculptures and large paintings, which can be viewed at an art gallery in Mystic, Connecticut. She divides her time between Stonington, Connecticut, and her house on Prince Edward Island.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 19, 2010

    Poetry with a twist

    This book was an unexpected delight. The story is a collection of poems. The opening explains that a teacher has asked each student to write a poem as a way of apologizing to someone. The poems range from the humorous to the touching. The apologies are followed by the responses which are also poems. They model a variety of poem styles from haiku to free form. This is a great book for introducing students to a wide variety of poetry forms in a unique way. This book is also a great way to approach character building--treating others with respect and seeing situations from different points of view.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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