Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Poetry Book Review: "Social Studies Poetry"


Volavková, Hana. 1993. I never saw another butterfly: children's drawings and poems from Terezín Concentration Camp, 1942-1944. New York: Schocken Books. ISBN#: 0805241159.


This poetry book examines the horrific past of the concentration camp of Terezin from 1942 - 1944. I Never Saw Another Butterfly is a true work of art because it preserves the history of children with the concentration camp with poetry and drawings.

Many of the poems are about the hopes and fears of the children there. They wonder when they will get to return to their homes. The pictures show the past as they remember it, as well as, what they see happening at the camps. Their poetry examines the deaths that they witness and the abuse upon them. I Never Saw Another Butterfly is an award winning book that many will be influenced by.

This social studies poetry book is a great historical tool to teach children about the past, in a perspective that they can understand. Before the poetry begins there is a brief historical sections describing the conditions of the children within the book. This poetry book is not suitable for all ages of children. I would only introduce this book to young adults.

Many of the poems are anonymous because the children never signed their names. The poetry in this book is of high quality, not for literary reasons, but for the experience of these children. There is a raw emotion that is apparent in the pictures and words.

Poem: "I Am a Jew" by Franta Bass

I am a Jew and will be a Jew forever.
Even if I should die from hunger,
never will I submit.
I will always fight for my people,
on my honor.
I will never be ashamed of them,
I give my word.

I am proud of my people,
how dignified they are.
Even though I am suppressed,
I will always come back to life.

Introducing the Poem:

This poem promotes so many topics with social studies and poetry. It shows history, experience, power through words, life lessons, culture, and poetic imagery.

I would introduce this poem with a pairing of books. In high school, most students read Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. I would pair this poem before assigning the book reading. Another great book about this occurrence is Night by Elie Weasel. (This was assigned in my high school class.) I would assigned one of these great works and talk about the book as the students are progressing.

After the books are finished I would reintroduce the poem "I Am a Jew" to the class and open it up for discussion. Finally, I would read more examples from I Never Saw Another Butterfly to show the students more personal examples from this horrible historical occurrence.

By giving first hand examples from critically acclaimed works, nobel prize winning works, and young adult poetry, these young adults will have a great understanding to these historical times.

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