Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Shakespeare Bats Cleanup

Koertge, Ron. 2003. SHAKESPEARE BATS CLEANUP. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press. ISBN 0763621161 [Suggested Grade Levels 6 and up]


When fourteen-year-old Kevin Boland catches mononucleosis, he discovers that keeping a journal and experimenting with poetry not only helps fill the time, it also helps him deal with life, love, and loss.

Baseball is life for Kevin Boland, and mono has ended his game. Using a poetry collection he finds in his father’s study, Kevin begins experimenting with various forms of poetry out of sheer boredom. Though much of the verse novel is told in free verse, Koertge allows Kevin’s world to unfold through other forms such as sonnets, blank verse, and haiku. Overcoming loss is a key part of Kevin’s development, and it plays a crucial role. As he writes about his mother’s death, his relationship with his father, his love of the game, former girlfriends, friends and school, Koertge’s first person narration allows Kevin to become keenly aware of who he is. This funny and often poignant story allows Kevin to write from his heart; while some of the poems are polished, many reflect his struggle to learn to create poetry as a visceral experience. The collection of his poems not only tells a fine story but also offers an enjoyable journey for the reader. Initially, Kevin plans to end his poetry writing after his recovery but realizes he is hooked on this new way of expressing himself. While his return to baseball is slow, he soon realizes that this new relationship with poetry is one that will see him through whatever life throws his way. Eventually, he realizes that for him, poetry is "Almost as cool as baseball."

After reading SHAKESPEARE BATS CLEANUP, teens could use models from the novel to create various poems which share a significant event from their lives. After writing a number of poems, they could turn the collection into a verse novel of their own. As an extension activity, they could provide illustrations for their original work.

After reading the novel, teens could journal about a loss they have suffered. As a prewriting activity, they could discuss what losses Kevin suffers in the book (it would be important to point out other losses besides death). Using this as a springboard, they could then share their own experiences with loss and what they did to overcome it.

Other novels told in verse:
Grimes, Nikki. BRONX MASQUERADE. ISBN 0803725698
Koertge, Ron. THE BRIMSTONE JOURNALS. ISBN 0763613029
Sones, Sonya. WHAT MY MOTHER DOESN’T KNOW. ISBN 0689841140
Woodson, Jacqueline. LOCOMOTION. ISBN 0399231153

By Rose Brock

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