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


This is a 2003 honor book for the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award:

Wayland, April Halprin. 2002. Girl Coming in for a Landing: A Novel in Poems. New York: Knopf.

Here is a Digital Trailer for GIRL COMING IN FOR A LANDING created by graduate student Trish Goins and available on YouTube here.

Here is a Readers' Guide for GIRL COMING IN FOR A LANDING created by graduate student Bobbie R. Johnson.

Suggested Age Group - Ages 11-15

1. Summary

This novel in verse is comprised of an insightful collection of poems written in the first person. The protagonist, a young teen, relates her experiences throughout a school year. Her poetry reflects her feelings about her parents, her sister, her Great-Aunt Ida, her first kiss, her first love, and her teachers. She describes her pride at having her poetry published, as well as her despair when arguing with a friend.

2. Awards/Review Excerpts

Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, 2003 (Honor Book)
Myra Cohn Livingston Award for Poetry, 2003 (Winner)
Middle and Junior High School Library Catalog, Ninth Edition, 2005 (H. W. Wilson)
Middle and Junior High School Library Catalog, Supplement to the Eighth Edition, 2003 (H. W. Wilson)
Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, 2003 (American Library Association – YALSA)

Kirkus Reviews: This utterly fresh and winning collection of verse is in the voice of an unnamed teenager, whom readers will come to know really well through her introspective and spot-on observations.

KLIATT Review: A teenage girl tells about the events of a school year, through autumn, winter, and spring, in over 100 pithy, heartfelt poems.

VOYA Review: This novel provides a soft, intimate glimpse into the life of a young teen girl through poetic vignettes that are subtle stories depicting events in her life that require courage, expose longing, explore friendship and conflict, and cause pain.

3. Questions to ask before reading the book:

Discuss the following with young adults:

*Does all poetry have to rhyme? What makes a poem a poem?
*What were some of the emotions you felt your first day of middle school?
*What are some of the important events or situations that occur to a typical 6th grader during a year? Do all important events happen at school, or do some happen outside of school? What kinds of emotions does the typical 6th grader feel when experiencing these events?
*Why do poems make you experience emotions as you read them? There are no right or wrong answers to this question. Simply have students discuss what it is about poetry that they enjoy and that makes them connect to the author and/or protagonist.

4. Suggestions for reading poems aloud

Have a boy and a girl read the poem “First Date” out loud. They should alternate reading lines. Have the class discuss the meaning of the poem. Are both people talking about the same thing?

Have a student read “Helicopter Thought” out loud, and with the help of another student, enact it. The student reading the poem can very slowly climb a ladder, while another student remains on the ground. As the reader slowly rises, the student on the floor can begin to crouch down. After the poem has been read, the class can discuss the poem’s meaning. What is the meaning of the last line, “God bless my Helicopter Thought?”

Have two students volunteer for a reading. One student will read “My Version of William Shakespeare’s ‘Sonnet Number Twelve’” while the other student reads the real “William Shakespeare’s ‘Sonnet Number Twelve’” found at the end of the book. The students should alternate. A line from Wayland’s version should be read and then the corresponding line of Shakespeare’s poem should be read. Students should alternate lines until the poems have been completely read. A discussion can ensue to compare and contrast the two poems: their construction, rhyme, pace, meaning, etc.

A great beginning of year activity for 7th or 8th graders would be to have one student read “Back to School: Last Year” immediately followed by another student reading “Back to School: This Year.” Have the class discuss the differences in the way they feel as returning middle school students to the way they felt the first day of 6th grade.

5. Follow up activities


There are several themes throughout the book: first love, family relationships, and friendships. Pick one theme and attempt to write a poem about your experience with it. The poem doesn’t have to rhyme or follow any special rules. Simply attempt to put your thoughts and feelings onto paper in a concise way.

Has anyone ever inspired you? Write about that person and how he/she influenced you in verse or prose.


Much of the artwork in Girl Coming in for a Landing is in the form of collages. Create a collage that represents something meaningful to you. Write a short paragraph or two that can be placed beneath the collage that describes the items in your collage and what they represent to you.


The book’s protagonist does a lot of her writing at night. Try this yourself. Keep a journal about your activities and feelings for a week. You do not need to share this with anyone else if you don’t wish to. You may discover that you enjoy journaling.

When you wake from a dream, jot down what it was about before you forget it. You may find your dreams are more interesting than you think!


The poem entitled “Mr. C Explains the Double Helix” is written in the shape of a double helix. What is a double helix? Put together a PowerPoint presentation of at least 5 slides that address what a double helix is, what it does, and why it is important to human life.

6. Related web sites/blogs

Visit the author’s website at http://www.aprilwayland.com. Among other things, this site offers information about the author and her books, as well as advice about writing and submitting manuscripts.

Cyberteens, at http://www.cyberteens.com/, is a website in which teens can share their creative sides via art or writing, find links to information of interest, play games, and connect with one another.

Students and teachers alike can find resources for young adult poetry at http://www.pongoteenwriting.org/home.html. Of particular interest are the Writing Activities that help young adults begin to write poetry, even if they “have never written before.”

Author Sonya Sones provides a list of great young adult books, along with a list of several novels in verse at http://www.sonyasones.com/greatbooks.htm.

Another list of novels in verse for children and young adults can be found at http://www.connectedyouth.org/books/index.cfm?booklist=verse. This list, from the Austin Public Library, is part of the Connected Youth program from the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation.

In the book’s “After Words,” the author relates how she wishes someone had helped her find resources to get her works published. On her website, she mentions Harold D. Underdown’s website at http://www.underdown.org/. The site contains a vast amount of information about children’s book publishing. It would be a helpful resource for young adults, or anyone for that matter, who is interested in finding out more information about this topic.

7. Related books

Sones, Sonya. 2001. What My Mother Doesn’t Know. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
This novel in verse relates the story of another teenager’s experiences and feelings when confronted with many of the same topics addressed in Girl Coming in for a Landing.

Kearney, Meg. 2005. The Secret of Me. New York: Persea Books.
This novel in verse, told in the first person, relates the story of a teenage girl’s experiences and her desire to find out more about her adoption.

Wayland, April Halprin. 2009. New Year at the Pier: A Rosh Hashanah Story. Ill. by St├ęphane Jorisch. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers.
This book by the same author relates a family’s celebration of the Jewish holiday.

Adoff, Arnold. 1997. Love Letters. Ill. by Lisa Desimini. New York: Blue Sky Press.
This collection includes poems about the different kinds of love a person can feel
for others.

George, Kristine O’Connell. 2002. Swimming Upstream: Middle School Poems. Ill. by Debbie Tilley. New York: Clarion Books.
These poems describe a girl’s experiences as she begins middle school.

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