Hi, poets and poetry lovers!
We have two big events coming up in the next few days. Tomorrow is Halloween. (Check out this Baltimore Sun article about how Halloween was celebrated during the 1918 flu pandemic.)
And, of course, Tuesday is Election Day. After the 2016 presidential election, I signed up for election judge training. It’s fascinating to see what goes on behind the scenes at a local polling place. Elections are a true community effort.
Since we’re electing our country’s new president this year, let’s get into some presidential reading for kids. I’ve got a historical fiction book series to recommend, and some poetry to pair it with.
Deborah Kalb is the author of an early middle grade series, THE PRESIDENT AND ME from Schiffer Kids. The first two book are George Washington and the Magic Hat (Deborah and I talked about this book in 2016) and John Adams and the Magic Bobblehead.
The third book in this time travel series is just out, Thomas Jefferson and the Return of the Magic Hat.
Here is the official book description:
After almost six months in Maryland, fifth-grader Oliver still misses his friends back in New Jersey. But things start to change one day, when his neighbor—and possible new friend—Sam lends Oliver a magic hat that takes him back to the 18th- and 19th-century world of Thomas Jefferson. Oliver and his sisters—Cassie, the nice one, and Ruby, the annoying one—end up learning more about Jefferson than they’d expected. And Oliver finds that his new neighborhood might not be so terrible after all. Thomas Jefferson and the Return of the Magic Hat is the third in The President and Me series that began with George Washington and the Magic Hat and John Adams and the Magic Bobblehead. This new adventure brings back previous characters Sam, Ava, J.P. (blink and you might miss them, though!), and of course the cantankerous talking hat itself.
And Deborah adds:
The books combine time travel, history, and present-day issues. In this new book, fifth grader Oliver, the new kid in town, borrows his friend Sam’s magic hat and goes back to the 18th and 19th centuries, where he encounters Thomas Jefferson at various points in his career, including writing the Declaration of Independence, fleeing from the British during the Revolutionary War, and serving as the country’s third president. Another main character is Madison Hemings, the son of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings. Alexander Hamilton also makes a cameo appearance, as do characters from the first two books in the series.
Deborah and I chatted about poems to pair with her books about a modern day kid who travels back in time and meets our country’s early leaders. Here are some of the things we came up with:
- Did you know Thomas Jefferson wrote poetry?
The Library of Congress has a Presidential Poetry series of posts on the LOC website. Here, you can read Jefferson’s poem “To Ellen” — and see a draft in our third president’s own handwriting.
- Kenn Nesbitt’s President’s Day Poems
It’s Election Day, not President’s Day, but poet Kenn Nesbitt has “Six Great Ideas” for writing your own poems about U.S. presidents.
- “The Renaissance Man”
The website ClassroomPoems.Com has a page dedicated to writing about Thomas Jefferson. It includes the poem “The Renaissance Man” by Denise Rodgers and Jefferson facts that kids can use to compose their own Jeffersonian verse.
The Renaissance Man
(A Thomas Jefferson Poem)
History and botany,
chemistry and politics,
the orators and law.
He read so much and often
that it almost was a flaw.
His interests were so wide and strong,
played violin three hours long
and still had time to pluck his garden weeds.
Collected some six thousand books,
would read them, and take second looks.
Thom Jefferson had many varied needs.
Read the rest of Denise Rodgers’ poem here.
- Marilyn Singer’s RUTHERFORD B, WHO WAS HE: Poems about Our Presidents.
The second poem in this funny, smart book is a debate between presidents 2 and 3, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, who went from friends to political enemies, back to friends across their lifetimes.
One last thing, everyone. Be sure to VOTE!
Appreciations for these helpful resources, dear Laura.
(The Ellen poem he wrote makes me wonder what Sally Hemings poem, about him,, would have been.)
That is a great questions, Jan. I took a quick look and found several poems in Sally Hemings’ voice, including this pair: https://theaccountmagazine.com/article/sebree-two-poems-17
Looking at Thomas Jefferson’s library (in the Library of Congress), you do get an idea of what a Renaissance man he was!
Magic hats sound like a lot of fun.
Thanks for being an election judge! xo
Hi, Tabatha. He was a talented, difficult person. I’m looking forward to reading Deborah Kalb’s take on this president.
That’s a fantastic exhibit. I wasn’t able to take the tour last time I was there. Can’t wait until it’s safe to go back.
Thanks for this bevy of wonderful resources. No, I didn’t realize Jefferson wrote poetry! How interesting to be an election judge. Thanks for doing that. 🙂
Hi, Jama. Thanks for reading. I was surprised too!
I enjoyed the article from the Sun & the 1918 Pandemic, fun to read about those piled in cars, & we’re still rallying today! I know he wasn’t perfect, but Jefferson certainly was a Renaissance Man. It makes me wonder how he had time to do all he did? Singer’s book is a new one for me, will certainly look for it. We had a number of ‘president books’ at the bookstore, some easy-reader DK books & one long & detailed one, but of course they are old & not about Obama or T. One silly thing. My older granddaughter can sing all the presidents, learned it in 3rd grade when they studied the election things going on in 2018. Thanks for the links, Laura!
I’m so glad you read it, Linda. I found that article fascinating. If you like Marilyn Singer’s book of president poems, she has a sequel about the first ladies! (I remember learning the president song in middle school, but we had far fewer names to memorize then.)
Wow, that pandemic article was so interesting!
I’m glad you read it! The Sun runs occasional articles about Baltimore history. I find them fascinating.
It’s not poetry, but I’ll add to your resource list Kate Messner’s fabulous picture book The Next President. It is full of hope.
I love that book, Mary Lee. Both the information and all that is communicated through the illustrations.
What a surprise! Thomas Jefferson wrote poetry and I never read about this before. Thanks for the power-packed post getting us ready for the presidential election.
It was a surprise to me too, Carol!