This is a 2000 honor book for the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award:
Wong, Janet. 1999. The Rainbow Hand: Poems about Mothers and Children. New York: Margaret McElderry.
Here is a Digital Trailer for THE RAINBOW HAND created by graduate student Leandrea Price.
Here is a Readers' Guide for THE RAINBOW HAND: POEMS ABOUT MOTHERS AND CHILDREN created by graduate student Casey Torisk.
Recommended Ages: 10 & up
Eighteen poems written from the perspective of both a child and a mother ABOUT mothers and their children are a true representation of motherhood versus childhood. “In Mother’s Shadow” and “Mother May I?” reveal the natural instinct of a mother to protect her child as she points out the poison oak and the snake, or stopping to rest when she realizes the child is tired, or becoming the enemy when she will not let her child explore the world by taking larger steps than the mother had planned.
The namesake poem, “The Rainbow Hand”, is also about a mother’s protection…this time from the elements…sun, rain, and lightning. The mother shields her child with her hand, cupped in such a way that it forms the shape of a rainbow. “Meat Loaf Again, Mother?” is a humorous depiction of what a child feels (and even a mother for that matter) when the same recipes float through the kitchen. “Don’t Be So Lazy!” is a true reminder of what adults thought of their own mother years ago, as this ten year old child does in this poem when the mother reminds her to clean her room. “The Gift of Breathing Slow” ends this fantastic journey of poetry as it is a gentle reminder of the preciousness involved in a mother holding her baby in such a nurturing way.
2. Review Excerpts/Awards
American Booksellers Association Pick of the Lists
Penn State University, Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award Honor 2000
School Library Journal – “Like the presence of a mother's hand, Wong's thoughtful and reflective volume is comforting and easily accessible. The poems are solid and steady reminders of the connections between mothers and children.”
Booklist – “All of [the poems] hold a kernel of truth that readers of all ages will recognize... Children from tots to teens, and beyond, will find their own tangled feelings here.”
3. Questions to Ask Before Reading
Invite students to discuss the following (in the order listed):
*Looking at the cover and partial title (The Rainbow Hand) of the book, have students predict what the poems will be about. What is a “rainbow hand”?
*After reading the title of the book (in its entirety…The Rainbow Hand: Poems About Mothers and Children) to the students, discuss the different responsibilities of a mother and a child. What is a mother responsible for? What is a child responsible for?
*(For older students) What emotions do you think you will feel when reading this book? It IS a book about mothers and children. Most people have fond memories and experiences with their mother, while others do not.
4. Suggestions for Reading Poems Aloud
*Have students form groups of no more than 3 students. Students will choose a poem to act out (using basic props for enhancement) and present to the class.
*”Meat Loaf Again, Mother?” – Divide the class into two groups (for example, boys/girls), and have them take turns reading the different foods. Boys might read “Meat Loaf” while the girls read the other foods listed (Oxtail, roast, etc.) All students join together in the last two lines.
*”The Gift of Breathing Slow” and “Hope” – Separate the class into boys and girls. The girls will need to “hide” (as if to be mysterious), as they will be the voice of the mother. For example, in “The Gift of Breathing Slow”, girls will audibly whisper “In. Out.”. The boys will read with a lower voice. At the end, when “the baby is her echo”, the girls will be heard breathing slowly. In “Hope”, the idea will be the same, but girls will audibly whisper “Give me this…”. Boys and girls will read the last five lines together, with appropriate pauses between the stanzas.
5. Follow Up Activities
* Technology – “Meat Loaf Again, Mother?”…Students and teacher will work together to collect favorite family recipes to take the place of the mundane ones that plague a mother’s kitchen. Once collected, students will use the computer to recreate the recipes for binding in a book to share with mothers.
*Writing – “The Onion” – Students will choose a vegetable or fruit to compare their own mother (or guardian) to. Students will write a poem that describes their mother (or guardian). This would make a great Mother’s Day gift.
*Science – Students will research rainbows…What is a rainbow? What makes a rainbow? Where is the sun when a rainbow occurs? What makes the colors of a rainbow? What is a rainbow’s distance? What season is one most likely to see a rainbow? What time of day will one most likely see a rainbow?
*Art – As the illustrator, Jennifer Hewitson, created the illustrations for the book (the way she sketched the people, the way she drew lines within her pictures), so will the students create a drawing of their mother (or guardian) using the same concept.
6. Related Websites/Blogs
*An interview with Janet Wong…
*Janet Wong’s Website…
*Jennifer Hewitson’s Portfolio…
*Blog containing Janet Wong information and poetry…
7. Related Books
*Other poetry written by Janet Wong:
• Wong, Janet S. 1994. Good Luck Gold and Other Poems. New York, NY: Margaret K. McElderry Books.
• Wong, Janet S. 1996. A Suitcase of Seaweed, and Other Poems. New York, NY: Margaret K. McElderry Books.
• Wong, Janet S. 1999. Behind the Wheel: Poems about Driving. New York, NY: Margaret K. McElderry Books.
• Wong, Janet S. 2000. Night Garden: Poems from the World of Dreams. Ill. by Julie Paschkis. New York, NY: Margaret K. McElderry Books.
• Wong, Janet S. 2003. Knock on Wood: Poems about Superstitions. Ill. by Julie Paschkis. New York, NY: Margaret K. McElderry Books.
• Wong, Janet S. 2003. Minn and Jake. Ill. by Genevieve Cote. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
• Wong, Janet S. 2007. Twist: Yoga Poems. Ill. by Julie Paschkis. New York, NY: Margaret K. McElderry Books.
• Wong, Janet S. 2008. Minn and Jake's Almost Terrible Summer. Ill. by Genevieve Cote. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
*Fiction books about mothers and children:
• Joosse, Barbara M. 1996. I Love You the Purplest. Ill. by Mary Whyte. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books.
• Joosse, Barbara M. 1991. Mama, Do You Love Me? Ill. by Barbara Lavallee. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books.
• Munsch, Robert. 1986. Love You Forever. Ill. by Sheila McGraw. Buffalo, NY: Firefly Books, Inc.
• Penn, Audrey. 2006. The Kissing Hand. Ill. by Ruth E. Harper and Nancy M. Leak. Terre Haute, IN: Tanglewood Press.
*Nonfiction books about mothers and children:
• Maze, Stephanie. 2001. Tender Moments in the Wild. Boston, MA: Cahners Business Information, Inc.
• Hickman, Pamela. 2003. Animals and Their Young: How Animals Produce and Care for Their Babies (Animal Behavior). Ill. by Pat Stephens. Tonawanda, NY: Kids Can Press.
• National Geographic Society. 1996. How Animals Care for Their Babies (Kids Want to Know). Des Moines, IA: National Geographic Children’s Books. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
• Kaner, Etta, and Pat Stephens. 2004. Animal groups: how animals live together. Toronto: Kid Can Press.
Fiction: Since The Wishing Bone has such beautiful illustrations, included titles with similar styles.
• Jewett, Sarah Orne, and Wendy Anderson Halperin. 1997. A white heron. Cambridge, Mass: Candlewick Press.
• Seymour, Tres, and Wendy Anderson Halperin. 1993. Hunting the white cow. New York: Orchard Books.
• Rawlings, Marjorie Kinnan, and N. C. Wyeth. 1985. The yearling. New York: Scribner.