Eavesdropping on Markus Zusak and Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Santa Fe Indian School Poets

Poetry Friday the 13th: Superstitious Poems

C_0689855125 For today's Poetry Friday entry, I'd like to tell you about a book that Junior and I are enjoying: Janet S. Wong's Knock on Wood: Poems About Superstitions. I have soft spot for books, like this one, that start up a conversation between the people reading it. That's my hope for all children's books, really.

Junior's age, 8, is a fine one for talking about superstitions; he's heard of a few that Wong addresses in the seventeen short poems. With a whiff of mystery and magic, the subjects include four-leaf clovers, horseshoes, broken mirrors, and ladders. Because he didn't know about all of them, Junior was eager to read the glossary where the poet gives a little background on each superstition. For instance, in reference to black cats, Wong notes that they were "revered in ancient Egypt, but feared in medieval Europe." Since we're feline aficionados, we decided we'd rather be like the ancient Egyptians. The poem "Cat" begins "Look out for her, the black cat./Walk backward/when she crosses your path/if you fear the magic she brings/as she travels through your time." Julie Paschkis's typically lush and beautiful illustrations accompany the poems, and provide additional things to discuss.

Many thanks to Wild Rose Reader's Elaine, who gave away Knock on Wood in a blog contest a while back.

You'll find links to more poetry talk in the kidlitosphere at the blog called a wrung sponge. See "Thank Goodness It's (Poetry Friday)," an article at the Poetry Foundation which explains the whole endeavor.


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That black cat poem and the back story reminds me of Lloyd Alexander's book TIME CAT, about a boy and his cat who travel together to different times in history when cats were variously feared and revered. Do you know it? You and Junior might like it, seeing as you're cat people.

We ARE cat people! I haven't read Time Cat, Mary Lee. Thanks for the suggestion!


I'm so glad that you and Junior are enjoying KNOCK ON WOOD. I wish you could have come up to hear Janet Wong speak at our council dinner in May. She did a great presentation!

I realized on Friday, when we saw something on a PBS kid's show about Friday the 13th, that I've never discussed these superstitions with my little guys. I think they have been too young but the 5-going-on-6-year-old might be ready for it now. I don't think much about most of them so it doesn't interest me but I suppose any kid would be intrigued. We have a black cat, actually. I should look for this book for our collection. Thanks!

Elaine, yes, the book have proven to be a big conversation starter. Lots of fun. And again, thank you!

Cloudscome, I bet your boys would find it interesting to look at, too. And what might be over their heads now won't be in the near future!

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