Hello, Small Sparrow
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Title: Hello, Small Sparrow
Publisher Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Company New York, New York, 1974
Author: Hannah Lyons Johnson (author), Tony Chen (illustrations)
Genre: Poetry/Haiku
Summary This book is a short collection of haiku poetry suitable for 2-4th grade students. Haiku is one of the most important forms of traditional Japanese poetry. Haiku encourages both the young and old writer to extract often subtle meanings from ordinary events and to "paint" scenes using as few "brush strokes" as possible. Today, haiku is a 17-syllable verse form consisting of three metrical units of 5, 7, and 5 syllables.
Each Haiku poem in the book has an accompanying color or black and white illustration that can help a young reader construct meaning from the text. The book's haiku poems are written from a "young child's point of view". They portray everyday scenes and as is typical of haiku poems, reflect some aspect of the changing seasons and nature whether it's the wind, rain, snow, the sky, a sparrow, bees, an owl, etc. Grade B+.
Use in the classroom In my opinion haiku is a marvelous form of poetry to introduce to writers of all ages. This book provides an excellent vehicle for introducing haiku to young readers and can lay the initial foundation for a series of lesson plans that culminate in the student's writing their own haiku. For younger students this might involve writing successively more "structured" types of short sensory description that ultimately lead to composing Haiku that conforms to the 5/7/5 syllable convention, yet is deeply personal. The structure elements of haiku are relatively simple and can be readily grasped by young and old alike.
For example, I might conduct a pre-writing that encourages students to use all their senses to describe in only a few sentences their impressions of some scene in nature. I might "set the scene" with examples of short descriptions, music, pictures, paintings, etc. I might connect it with a seasonal event such as a first snow, a heavy rainstorm, a hot summer's day or a spring morning. I might then read to them this book, discuss what they liked or disliked about the poems and then ask them to re-write their initial sensory/descriptive sentences in a more concise "haiku-like form". After sharing and revision, I might then draw the classes' attention to the forward in "Hello, Small Sparrow", that introduces the metrical pattern of Haiku poems. Again, I might ask them to rewrite or come up with new poems using haiku's metrical structure. Finally I would go over with the class more detailed aspects of the genre, highlighting the following:
(1) There is NO consensus in other than Japanese on how to write Haiku-poems. (2) Haiku-poems can describe almost anything. Some of the most "thrilling" Haiku-poems describe daily situations in a way that gives the reader a brand new experience of a well-known situation.(3) The technique of cutting.

(4) The use of seasonal themes.

 

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