This is a 2010 honor book for the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award:
Franco, Betsy. 2009. A Curious Collection of Cats. San Francisco: Tricycle Press.
Here is a Digital Trailer for A CURIOUS COLLECTION OF CATS created by graduate student Jessica A. Alvis.
Here is a Readers' Guide for A CURIOUS COLLECTION OF CATS created by graduate student Shelly Paschal.
Recommended age levels 7-12
1. Summary of book
These thirty-four concrete poems about cats are written in forms that include haiku, limerick, and free verse with colorful, whimsical illustrations that introduce the reader to the thirty-four cats and their adventures. Children will have fun following the lines and figuring out the direction of the verses. For example, “Tabitha’s Tail” is written in the shape of the cat’s tail and the same for the poem titled “Rascal’s Tongue”.
2. Review excerpts/awards
*Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award
*Booklist review: “Cat lovers will recognize the standoffs with arching backs, the cozy touch of the “purrfect” scarf on their shoulders, and the tech-savvy cat that walks across the keyboard to add her own note to an e-mail to a friend.”
*Amazon review: “This is a delightful journey into the world of finicky feline friends with clever illustrations and smart poetry.”
3. Questions to ask before reading
Invite the children to discuss the following:
“As we look at the cover and the title, what do you think will be the theme of this book?” This will start the discussion about cats; stories will soon follow about student’s own pets. These discussions will spark the students’ curiosity to read about the cats as you take a “book walk” before reading.
“What are “concrete” poems?” Look at how the poems are written and guide the students to the meaning of concrete poems.
“As we read about some of the adventures of these cats, what connections can you make about your pets? Will these poems remind you of your cat’s antics that you would like to share at the end of class today? Teaching students to make personal connections in their reading will help foster the comprehension skills that good readers do.
4. Suggestions for reading poems aloud
“A Tomcat’s Yard Is His Kingdom” - invite 2 students to read this poem. Timing is important; students will be more successful if they have heard this read once before and to let them read it independently before performing it for the class.
“Lenny vs. Patch” - invite 4 students to read this poem. Same instructions apply as the first poem mentioned.
Voice 1- Fighting Felines
Voice 2- Screeches Howls
Voice 3- Pouncing, Biting
Voice 4- High-Pitched Yowls
Voice 1- Clawing Kicking
Voice 2- Scuffling Pair
Voice 3- Black fur,
Voice 4- White fur
ALL Voices- EVERYWHERE!
Adult Read Aloud- The majority of the poems would be best for an adult read aloud. These poems should be read slowly, but expressively. Readers should pause only where there is punctuation. Using an ELMO or projector is best because the students need to see the illustrations and word art, so they will understand the concept of concrete poems. By understanding the way the poems are constructed, the students will have more enjoyment as they read this book independently.
5. Follow up activities
In the poem “SYMMETRICATS”, this is a wonderful example of symmetry, not only is the poem symmetrical inventive, but the illustration is also symmetrical. Give each child a cat shape and ask them to put whatever colors of paint they want in any design on one side of the cat. They will then fold the cat in half and gently rub the paper. When they open it up again, the same pattern will be on both sides of the cat. Explain that this is an example of symmetry. Display “Our Symmetricats” in the classroom or library.
Look at objects that have symmetry such as leaves, shells, and butterfly wings. Ask the children to think of other subjects in the library and nature that have symmetry, and see what they know. Then invite them to bring the examples to class for show and tell.
• Language Arts: Descriptive Adjectives
Throughout this book, Betsy Franco’s use of description helps the reader visualize the antics of the fabulous feline. Take basic and sometimes over used adjectives, for example words like pretty, bad, mad, or happy. Use the thesaurus to find better choices. Then go to http://www.wordle.net and create a word cloud to display around the classroom. These examples will be helpful to use throughout the year to “spice” up writing.
6. Related web sites/blogs
*Betsy Franco’s web site
*Word art and poetry web sites
This web site will create word clouds with any text that is provided. A fun innovative way to build a love for words which is the first step of poetry writing.
[Look here for fun poems to share that will lighten any mood in school.]
This is an interactive web site to assist students through the writing process. The poetry section is extremely helpful.
*Interactive web sites that teach symmetry. These help bridge literature with other curriculum and goes hand in hand with the poem titled “SYMMETRICATS.'
This web site would be used as a follow up science activity.
7. Related Books
*Follow up book that the focus is on dogs:
Franco, Betsy. 2011. A Dazzling Display of Dogs. Ill. by Michael Wertz. Berkeley, CA: Tricycle Press.
*Concrete poem books:
Sidman, Joyce. 2006. Meow Ruff. Ill. by Michelle Berg. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Janeczko, Paul, and Christopher Raschka. 2001. A Poke in the I: A Collection of Concrete Poems. Selected by Paul B. Janeczko. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press.
*Poem books to read with other voices:
Franco, Betsy. 2009. Messing Around on the Monkey Bars and Other School Poems for Two Voices. Ill. by Jessie Hartland. Somerville, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press.
Fleischman, Paul. 2000. Big Talk: Poems for Four Voices. Ill. by Beppe Giacobbe. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press.
* Students will enjoy these challenging poems that are read in two ways: up and down. They are reverse images of themselves and work equally well in both directions.
Singer, Marilyn. 2010. Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse. Ill. by Josée Masse. New York, N.Y.: Dutton Children's Books.