This is the 2004 winner of the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award:
Mitchell, Stephen. 2003. The Wishing Bone and Other Poems. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick.
Here is a Digital Trailer for THE WISHING BONE AND OTHER POEMS created by graduate student Deborah K. Hyman.
Here is a Readers' Guide for THE WISHING BONE AND OTHER POEMS created by graduate student Kristin Seholm.
Recommended age level 8-12
1. Summary of book
A collection of whimsical tales, The Wishing Bone turns the ordinary into fantasy. While the poems do not have a distinctive flow, the book contains “Questions” and most importantly, “The Answer.” It may even give insight on “When I Grow Up.” You possibly will learn that “The Wishing Bone” may be better wished away and that “The Trial” can be won simply with food. You could be mystified by “The White Rhinoceros” or go on an adventure searching for “The Last of the Purple Tigers.” Will you find them? I don’t know, but in the meantime be entertained with the “Perpetual Number Song” while strolling the park with “The Sun and I.” Regardless of where your path may lead, make sure you bring The Wishing Bone and Other Poems with you.
2. Reviews / Awards
Children’s Literature: “With all kinds of silly characters and charming illustrations, this poetry collection is simply a gem. Although it contains only nine poems, this delightful book covers a variety of imaginative topics including a wonderful wishing bone, a zany court trial with two animated lawyers, a quick visit with a white rhinoceros, and a boy's search for answers inside the whiffle bog… Young readers will definitely enjoy the playful nature of Mitchell's poems, as well as Pohrt's whimsical ink and watercolor illustrations. Reminiscent of both Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky, this collection of poems not only invites readers to dream and imagine, but it also creates plenty of laughs.”
The Horn Book: "This wonderfully alive and inventive collection of nine poems is a visual and verbal tour de force. Together poet and artist convey life's mysteries. "
Kirkus Reviews: “Mitchell's rhymes roll easily off the tongue, and as in the title poem, in which a weary wisher ultimately wishes away a magic bone's ability to grant them, there's a pervasive philosophical cast that will give thoughtful readers something to chew on. A handsomely packaged, nicely diverse gathering of words and art.”
School Library Journal: “From speculations on the wisdom that one might acquire on growing up and growing old to addressing the ultimate folly of having all one's wishes come true, these selections are thoughtful and far-reaching. The language is rich with alliteration, rhyme, similes, and descriptive imagery.”
• New England Book Show Winner
• 2004 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award
• A Bank Street College Best Children's Book of the Year
3. Questions to ask before reading the book
Encourage students discuss topics such as:
• What do you think the Wishing Bone is and what does it do?
• If you had a wishing bone, what would you wish for? What do you think is wished for in this book?
• Looking at the cover, what do you think the book is about? What is taking place in the cover scene? Would you have tea with a white rhinoceros?
4. Suggestions for reading poems aloud
• Breaking the class into nine groups (one for each poem), each group will read their section to the class.
• “The Trial” – have the class or group of students act out the poem. Integrate art by creating backdrops and/or props. This activity would also develop group skills.
• “Perpetual Number Song” – Divide students in groups of 10 and assign each member a numbered stanza to recite. Have each group perform the poem to their classmates.
5. Follow up activities
• “Questions” – After reading the poem aloud and discussing the concept of rhyming patterns, have groups write their own questions poem using the same rhyming scheme as the original. For more practice, change the rhyming scheme.
• “The Last of the Purple Tigers” – A social studies activity incorporating both art and writing, have the students create a travel guide or journal about the places, people, and animals the adventurers encounter on their journey. In addition to journal entries, illustrations should be added, drawn in the same medium as the art in the book or personal variations.
• “The Sun and I” – A perfect poem to accompany a science activity. Incorporating seasons and movement of the Earth, track the sun across the sky. Here is a picture of the sun tracked over a six-month period. For this activity, the students could draw the suns position at different times of the day.
6. Related websites/blogs
• Open Wide, Look Inside: A blog hosted by the University of Richmond (Virginia) about teaching elementary math, science and socials studies, with heavy emphasis on the integration of children’s literature across the curriculum. (Look at right side-bar for a variety of topics including poetry)
• Pennsylvania Center for the Book: Steven Mitchell reading “The Trial” in honor of winning the 2004 Lee Bennett Hopkins Award. (Great introduction to reading poems aloud)
• World Wildlife Fund: Introduces students to several of the species discussed in The Wishing Bone. They can research their habitats, daily activities, etc.
7. Related books
Poetry: Mitchell has been compared to several of the authors included in the titles below.
• Heinemann Library (Firm). 2000. Wishes, wings, and other things: Poems for anytime. Chicago, Ill: Heinemann Library.
• Prelutsky, Jack, and Carin Berger. 2006. Behold the bold umbrellaphant and other poems. New York: Greenwillow Books.
• Silverstein, Shel. 1974. Where the sidewalk ends: the poems & drawings of Shel Silverstein. New York: Harper and Row.
Nonfiction: Titles about the variety of animals, many of which are featured in the book.
• Jenkins, Steve. 2007. Living color. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
• Jenkins, Steve, and Robin Page. 2003. What do you do with a tail like this?