Thursday, September 4, 2008

Sneak Preview of Book Club

This is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness
by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski

I'm leading the DC Kidlit Book Club discussion this month, and our selection is the Cybils award winning title This is Just to Say. (I was on the Poetry judging panel.) You can participate virtually in the comments anytime, or if you live near DC, we'd love to have you join us this Sunday. Email Susan at wizardwireless [at] gmail [dot] com for more information.

Sneak preview of our discussion questions:

1) How did you read this book? I was surprised when my husband read it in a completely different way than I did, but I think that's one of the charms of this title---that it can be read/used in multiple ways.

2) The original "This is Just to Say" by William Carlos Williams is NOT a contrite poem. Did this book make you think about the nature of apology itself, and how hard it is to do, and how it isn't always met with acceptance? How does adding the forgiveness element expand the book's theme? Did this book make you reflect upon current or past stories of forgiveness or apology in your own life?

3) How do Zagarenski's illustrations add to the feel of the book? Did you think the use of text within the illustrations was an effective technique? How did individual illustrations pair with individual poems to bring new insight into each fictional poet's apology or offer of forgiveness?

4) Did you begin reading and then flip to the front to see who really wrote the book? How hard is it to pull off authentic sixth-grade poetic voices? Do you think Sidman succeeded?

5) Not all the poems in the book are free verse, as the original poem obviously is. Does the addition of form poetry strengthen the book?

6) What did you think of the multi-cultural elements of the book? Were they successful?

7) Did reading this book make you want to try your own "This is Just to Say" poem?

UPDATE: Elaine Magliaro, poetry queen and blogger at Wild Rose Reader, has just posted a wonderful resource list for us, including links to her interview with Joyce, and to Joyce Sidman's own Readers' Guide. Thank you so much, Elaine!


  1. One of the downsides to being married to a golf pro is that I have few weekend days where I am free to take off. I keep hoping to get to a Sunday meeting, but I'd have to bring William with me.

    I just loved this book, and yes, it did inspire me to write a few poems of apology.

    Have fun on Sunday. I'll be thinking of you!

  2. How cool -- I love the cover of this one, and I think your questions are great. Really -- it's not a contrite poem at all -- This Is Just To Say is more of a tease, maybe an explanation, but there's a subtle "nah-nah" tone to the final lines.

    I shall add this to the towering, teetering TBR pile...

  3. Tricia, you know William is welcome. He's a devoted reader, isn't he?

    Tadmack, I thought you had read it. I LOVE the art. It's whimsical and profound all at once.


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