Want help selecting and sharing the best books of poetry for young people?

Want help selecting and sharing the best books of poetry for young people? Here are guides and trailers for the LBH award books.

Friday, April 29, 2011

2008 Honor Book: THIS IS JUST TO SAY

This is a 2008 honor book for the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award:

Sidman, Joyce. 2007. This is Just to Say; Poems of Apology and Forgiveness. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Here is a link to a Digital Trailer for THIS IS JUST TO SAY created by graduate student Gay Bumpas.


Here is a link to a Digital Trailer for THIS IS JUST TO SAY created by graduate student Adam Powell (with disappearing donut footage!).

Here is a Readers' Guide for THIS IS JUST TO SAY; POEMS OF APOLOGY AND FORGIVENESS created by graduate student Denice Wansley.

Recommended age levels 9-12

1. Summary of book

Joyce Sidman’s This Is Just to Say is a collection of poems written from the point of views of Mrs. Merz’s sixth grade class. They are asked to write apologies in whatever style of poetry they like and even get the people to which they are apologizing to write back. It turns out so well that the students decide to compile their works into a book with illustrations done by one particularly artistic classmate.

2. Review excerpts/awards

*Claudia Lewis Poetry Award
*Cybils Poetry Award
*Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award Honor Book
*IRA Teacher's Choice Book
*Texas Bluebonnet Award Nomination
*North Carolina Junior Book Nomination
*New York Public Library's "100 Titles for Reading and Sharing"
*School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
*Book Links Lasting Connection Book

*School Library Journal; “Sidman's ear is keen, capturing many voices. Her skill as a poet accessible to young people is unmatched.”

*Publisher’s Weekly; “"This often humorous and touching anthology . . . successfully navigate[s] the complicated terrain for those who seek forgiveness."

3. Questions to ask before reading

Invite the children to discuss the following:

*When should you apologize for something? See if the children know how to tell the difference between a mild joke and something that could hurt someone’s feelings.

* Have you ever written a poem? If so, did they find it easy or difficult? Did they enjoy it. If they haven’t, would they like to?

* Would you like to write a collection of poetry? See if the class would be interested in doing something like the class in the book, not necessarily for publication, but as a fun class project whose finished product can be bound and passed out to the children.

4. Suggestions for reading poems aloud

*“Dodge Ball Crazy”-- invite one child to read aloud one line at a time one after the other.

*“Dodge Ball Kings”—this poem was written specifically for two voices. Choose two volunteers to read aloud in the back and forth style of the poem. 

*”Not Really”—choose five children to read the stanzas individually while the rest of the class chimes in with “but not really”

5. Follow up activities (writing, art, science, etc.)

*Poem writing

This book is all about apologies whether they be sincere or not. Have the children write a poem of apology for something they’ve done in the styles used in This Is Just to Say. 


After writing their poems of apology, have the children draw something they feels represents the poem best. It doesn’t have to be literal, but if they are stumped on what to draw, suggest they focus on something they mention in the poem.


Create a class book. Have the children vote on who should do what: they should choose a theme, decide who will type it up, who will illustrate it (if any), and how it will be organized.

6. Related web sites/blogs

*Joyce Sidman’s web site

[Look here for a readers guide that she has created as well as listen to her read some of her poems.]

*Kids’ poetry web site


[This kid-friendly poetry website not only offers poems to read, but also houses lessons on how to write poetry and ideas on how to act out poems.]

*Potato Hill Poetry


[This website is full of ideas on how to promote and celebrate reading poetry as well as on how to spread the love of poetry to children.]

7. Related books (poetry, nonfiction, fiction)

*More books to enjoy by this author:

Sidman, Joyce. 2005. Song of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems. Ill. by Beckie Prange. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0618135472

Sidman, Joyce. 2006. Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow. Ill. by Beth Krommes. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 061856313X
Sidman, Joyce. 2009. Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors. Ill. by Pamela Zagarenski. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0547014945

Sidman, Joyce. 2010. Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night. Ill. by Rick Allen. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0547152280

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