Week 9: Castles: Old Stone Poems

Book summary: Castles: Old Stone Poems takes us on a lyrical tour of (mostly European) castles. The poems capture a bit of the history of the castles, the places they are, and the people who lived in them. The illustrations are beautiful; the color and lighting are reminiscent of early Renaissance works.

My impressions: I am prone to enjoy everything castle oriented – moats and towers and princesses and knights and sword fighting, all right up my alley. So I love the paintings in this book, they’re really gorgeous. As for the poetry, I think it’s just fine. The poem for each castle does tend to have it’s own style and rhythm. However, I really worry it may be too erudite for it’s intended audience. Depending on their outside interest, older elementary students may not know very much about European history, or the folklore associated with certain places like Transylvania, or Viking legends. I think the goals are pretty lofty, but it takes a very special type of child to appreciate poetry, history, warfare, and art. But for the special children (I’m sure there are some out there) who do appreciate some of these aspects, this book could be an invaluable tool in getting them interested in poetry.

Citation: Lewis, J. P., and Dotlich, R. K. (2006). Castles: old stone poems. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong.

Professional review:

“Gr 4-6-History and legend blend in this collection. The mostly European-based selections focus on Bodiam Castle (England), the Tower of London, Edinburgh Castle (Scotland), Chambord (Erance), Bran Castle (Romania), etc., in addition to Himeji Castle (Japan), Catherine’s Palace (Russia), and Hearst Castle (U.S.). A section entitled “Medieval Minutes” follows the poems, providing additional facts (many of which are not about medieval times) and a time line for historical context. Burr’s oil paintings capture the grandeur, loneliness, and mood of each castle in evocative shades of light and dark. Yet while the subject matter and rich illustrations are ripe for kid appeal, the book’s lack of focus may ultimately lose its intended audience. Readers will undoubtedly wonder why the castles themselves are not pictured in a number of the poems. Likewise, the lofty, sometimes awkward verse and cryptic references to historieal events will leave most children confused. With adult support to tie together facts and poetic references, a small niche of castle fanatics may be willing to invest the time needed to uncover the juicy tales behind these poems…”

Maza, J. (October 2006). [Review of Castles: old stone poems]. School Library Journal52(10), 179.

Library uses: I could use this in April to promote Poetry Month to boys. Perhaps having more traditionally “male” interests, such as warfare, knights, dragons, and history, represented could get boys excited about poems. I also like the aspect of teaching kids about non-verbal poetry – that images and buildings can be poetic in their way.

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