Subscribe to The Horn Book

A Kick in the Head

A Kick in the HeadThis is one of those books for kids that tends to be an eye-opener for most adults, too. Who knew there were this many poetry forms out there?!

Notice how the book could be enjoyed by just reading the poems. OR, if you want to learn more, you can see what the form is and use Chris Raschka’s symbols to help you remember. And if you want even more, read the super-small print at the bottom of the page.

I encourage all of you to read Janescko’s excellent introduction, too. He’s a teacher himself and he really knows how to explain poetry in ways that everyone can understand. Why all the rules? Well, would a basketball game be any fun to watch if there were no rules? Same with poetry. But he’s also good on why it’s okay to break the rules sometimes.

Most of all, I implore you not to try to read this book fast or all at once. If you were sharing this with children, you certainly wouldn’t. If you have to read it under time pressure, then try to imagine it being read with children just a little bit at a time.

Lolly Robinson About Lolly Robinson

Lolly Robinson is the creative director for The Horn Book, Inc. She has degrees in studio art and children's literature and teaches children's literature at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education. She has served on the Caldecott and Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committees and blogs for Calling Caldecott and Lolly's Classroom on this site.



  1. It is a marvelous book. I’ve shared it with both students (older) & with teachers who need some guidance. Glad you’re sharing about it so it can be known by some new people.

  2. Kim Fernandes says:

    Wow. I remember struggling my way through trying to remember the different kinds of poetry in high school, and wondering whether there was anyone who’d actually managed to understand the various types and make them presentable in a really fun way. So glad to have been able to read this six years later and see how this book is both appealing and challenging not only for children but also adults. I definitely couldn’t get through most of this book in one sitting, and had to force myself to slow down, read bits and pieces, and come back and read some more. I think this would work well with children of all ages, and really liked the explanations of different types at the back.

  3. Jennifer Stacy says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. First, I found that the art worked very well for its purpose. In terms of writing, I enjoyed that I could just read the poems, read about the style, or both. The characters by poem type were a fun way to illustrate the meaning of the poems. I also like that some of the poems were about their style.

    I was actually so moved by Georgia Heard’s “The Paper Trail,” that I did some extra research. I found it to be very powerful and moving and I wondered how it could be a discussion piece with a child. I would love to understand more about Janeczko’s selection process. I also wish I had learned about poetry with a book like this. I think this approach creates an opportunity for everyone to find something he or she can like or appreciate about poetry.

  4. Nancy Fan says:

    Having done my group project on poetry, I was very drawn to this book and found it to be an excellent resource. The diversity of poetic forms is great! How else would a child be exposed to an aubade or a villanelle? I found the descriptions at the bottom of each poem describing the form to be quite helpful for guided studying of poetry. The art style of Chris Raschka is delightfully playful and colorful, and the generous white margins facilitate focus on the lovely poems themselves. I can see the book used in the classroom as the central tool in teaching a unit of poetry, a work revisited for many readings and used as a springboard for students’ explorations of poetry on their own.

  5. Xinyi Qi says:

    A fascinating book! When I was reading the first paragraph of the introduction, I thought this book serves as an illustrated version of poetry writing/appreciating textbook since the author is citing that “poetry without rules would be like a tennis match without a net.” Yet what is presented in the whole book is breaking the existing rules of poetry composing, which makes A Kick in the Head a unique children’s poetry book/anthology with a spirit of rebellion, echoing the book’s title. However, when readers dive deeper into this book and take the time to read the notes on every page, especially the final notes on poetry forms as suggested by the author, the book is actually not about breaking the rules, but rather is a really novel material to teach children the knowledge about poetry with all of its careful selection of different types of good poems and its beautifully illustrated pages. It would be much more effective than a boring textbook in terms of teaching kids about poems, wouldn’t it?

  6. Sarah Cooper says:

    This is such a fantastic resource for teachers and students. I loved Janescko’s explanation of why rules matter, and how poetry can be a game or challenge that anyone can try. Raschka’s art is lively and would provide another dynamic way for students to examine the poems by looking for the hidden symbols in the art. Since it incorporates so many different kinds of poetry, it would be interesting to see how individual students who are interested in poetry would use this as a springboard for their own writing, to experiment with poetic forms beyond the usual ones taught in schools.

  7. Stacy Tell says:

    Echoing many of the other sentiments, I felt this book to be an informative delight for teachers who feel a little hesitant with respect to where to start off in their poetry units and need some sort of reference tool. The illustrations and engaging, and the poems are structured just enough to provide a model while also stepping away when appropriate. It seems natural to read maybe a couple at a time in order to gain a real sense of the style that Janeczko was trying to create. I too wonder where his selection choices stemmed from, and appreciate the variety of light hearted versus dramatic poems that were presented. After reading this week’s article on “Purposeful Poetry,” I kept thinking back and asking myself, “Well, does this book count if we need poems about teaching poetry?” With this text, I think not. Because poetry will always have a purpose to it, and while Janecko hopes to inform us on the rules of poetic forms, he still hopes for his readers to take the time to just listen to what the poets have to say. The art and the purpose combine perfectly within this book!

Comment Policy:
  1. Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  2. Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  3. Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through (though some comments with links to multiple URLs are held for spam-check moderation by the system). If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

We accept clean XHTML in comments, but don't overdo it and please limit the number of links submitted in your comment. For more info, see the full Terms of Use.

Speak Your Mind