Book Review- This Is Just To Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness by Joyce Sidman
Sidman, Joyce.2007. This Is Just To Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness. Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin and Company. ISBN 0618616802
B. Plot Summary
Mrs. Merz, a 6th grade teacher, asks her class to write poems of apology to someone they have wronged. The students write about love, dodge ball accidents, spelling bees, pets, and more. They decide to put their poems together in a book. And, to their surprise, the students get the people to whom they apologized to write back!
Some poets are truly sorry, and some are not, “I’m sorry your locker mirror disappeared/ and mysteriously ended up in my desk/ (But not really)”. Either way, the book reveals the various connections and relationships the poets share.
C. Critical Analysis
In Sidman’s anthology of apologetic poems, the reader is introduced to various ways to say “I’m sorry”. Sidman uses haiku, pantoums, snippets, and rhymes to show a 6th grader’s version of apology. The emotional range is this book is very deep. In one poem titled “Dodge Ball Crazy,” the humor is vivid and apparent, “Sorry, Reubs, for belting you/ as hard as I could in dodge ball/ I’d like to say I wouldn’t/ do it again but I’d be lying”. In other poems, like “Next Time,” sadness and heartache are shown through the words, “Please, please come back./ Don’t leave me spinning alone,/ like a slow, sad tornado./ I’m sorry Daddy./ Next time I’ll be/ perfect.” The poems are accompanied by collage drawings and paintings with a variety of background and media present- dictionary entries, notebook paper, and school supplies. Sidman has a gift of capturing the characters’ voices and portraying them in her poems.
D. Review Excerpts
· Texas Bluebonnet Award Nominee 2008
· Starred review in School Library Journal, “Sidman’s ear is keen. Capturing many voices.”
E. Connections and Classroom Activities
· After reading this with students, the students can create their own apology poems for someone they have wronged.
· This Is Just To Say could also be used to teach the various forms of poetry.
· Also, on teaching character traits, you could lead the students on an investigation to find the different traits that each character portrays.