This is a 2006 honor book for the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award:
Nye, Naomi Shihab. 2005. A Maze Me: Poems for Girls. New York: Greenwillow.
Here is a Digital Trailer for A MAZE ME created by graduate student Xelena Gonzalez and available for viewing on YouTube here.
And here is a Readers' Guide created by graduate student Elizabeth Venturi.
Nye, Naomi Shihab. A Maze Me: Poems for Girls. New York: Greenwillow, 2005.
Recommended Age Level 13 and up
Summary of Book
A Maze Me: Poems for Girls is an amazing compilation of 72 poems about the twisting, changing paths of life. Noami Shihab Nye creates a snapshot of the act of growing up with each poem in the collection. Nye’s focus on the small memories of adolescence allows readers to focus on the little moments of life and growing up that will remain with them throughout their lives. The title of the book comes from a poem which is printed on the inside cover flap of the book. This poem, along with the introduction set the tone and frame of reference for the rest of the anthology. From the cover: “Life is a tangle of / twisting paths. / Some short. / Some long. / …Life is a maze. / You are a maze. / Amazed. / And amazing.” In the condensed introduction of the book Nye encourages girls to write three lines about their life every day. The compilation has the feel of an expansion to those three lines of daily life. The five sections of the book create the sense of aging within the writer as topics and focus shift to reflect new patterns of importance and thought. Nye’s soft encouragement and understanding about the confusion of growing up and changing and the scattered nature of thoughts and feelings permeates each poem and infuses subtle wisdom within the pages of the anthology and is especially evident in poems such as “Sifter” and “Messages from Everywhere”. From “Messages from Everywhere”: “Together we are looking up / into all we do not own / and we are listening.”
– Kirkus Reviews
“A wide age range will respond to these deeply felt poems about everyday experiences that encourage readers to lean eagerly into their lives and delight in their passages.”
“This thoughtful collection encourages readers to observe the world around them, look inward and savor their experiences, and appreciate the comfort and clarity that words provide. Covering many different subjects, the free-verse poems are playful yet perceptive and combine a childlike viewpoint with startling bits of wisdom.”
– School Library Journal
“This is a gift for readers of any age who will recognize the truth of Nye’s self-description: “My mind / is always / open. / I don’t think / there’s even / a door.”
– The Horn Book Magazine
• Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award – Honor Book 2006
• School Library Journal Best Book
• ALA Notable Children’s Book
Questions to Ask Before Reading
Encourage students to answer the following questions before reading selections from A Maze Me: Poems for Girls aloud:
1. Do you think in complete sentences and paragraphs? Or, are your thoughts in small snippets that can flow and move from one thought to another?
2. Is growing up exciting or scary or can it be both at the same time? Do you worry about growing up and changing?
3. Does everyone think the same way? Does everyone grow up at the same time?
4. Show students the cover of the book. Point out the use of “A Maze” instead of amaze. Is the difference important? What is a maze? What is amaze?
Suggestions for Reading Poems Aloud
1. Read the poem located inside the cover of the anthology to set the tone for the reading. Discuss the differences between “a maze” and “amaze”.
2. Have students draw a number from a hat or bowl. Have each student read aloud a poem from that page of the book.
3. “Baby-sitting Should Not Be Called” – Have students sit in a circle and pass the poem around with each reading a highlighted section. (Highlight sections prior to class by separating each section of poetry into thoughts). Have students discuss baby-sitting and other terms that are not what they sound like.
Follow Up Activities
Have students take Naomi Shihab Nye’s advice and keep a journal in which they write at least three lines every day. After one month have the students turn their journal entries into a poem to be shared with the class.
Students can publish their poetry free at http://teacher.scholastic.com/writewit/poetry/jack_form.asp.
Brainstorm elements of growing up. Divide students into groups to merge ideas into a free verse poem.
Use the poetry in conjunction with a lesson unit on adolescent emotional and physical changes. Teach students how to be emotionally healthy by introducing stress relieving activities as well as anger management techniques.
Have students illustrate their favorite poem using a variety of media. Students can create paintings, comic strips, collages, etc. that express the theme, emotion, or meaning of the poem. Hang the poetry art as a backdrop for a “poetry café”.
Create a “poetry café”. Reading poetry aloud helps to develop oral reading and communication skills. By creating a poetry café, students can present poetry readings before a group to further develop their public speaking skills. Invite family members, school staff, teachers, friends, and special guests to a night of poetry and refreshments.
Have students create a maze using poetry to provide navigation clues.
Naomi Shihab Nye is a Texas author as well as an author of Middle Eastern descent. Have students research Palestinian culture and geography. Compare and contrast life in Palestine with life in Texas. Are there any similarities?
This website features the author reading her poem “One Boy Told Me”.
This website features the author reading “Sometimes I Pretend” and accepting her Lee Bennett Hopkins Honor Book Award
Poets.org is a wonderful site to find information about many poets and their work. This link takes you directly to the biography of Naomi Shihab Nye.
George, Kirstine O’Connell. Swimming Upstream: Middle School Poems. New York: Clarion Books, 2002.
Nye, Naomi Shihab. 19 Varieties of Gazelle: poems of the Middle East. New York: Greenwillow, 2002.
Nye, Naomi Shihab, and Paul B. Janeczko. I Feel a Little Jumpy Around You A Book of Her Poems & His Poems Collected in Pairs. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996.
Sones, Sonya. What My Mother Doesn’t Know. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001.
Beck, Debra. My Feet Aren’t Ugly: A Girls Guide to Loving Herself From the Inside Out. New York: Beaufort Books, Incorporated, 2009.
Cisnero, Sandra. The House on Mango Street. New York: Doubleday, 1984.
Nye, Naomi Shihab. There is no Long Distance Now. New York: Harper Collins, 2011.