Florian, Douglas. Poem Runs: Baseball Poems and Paintings. New York: Houghton Mifflin-Harcourt Children’s Books, 2012. ISBN 9780547688381
This collection of fifteen poems by Douglas Florian takes the reader through the positions on a baseball team and some of the events surrounding a baseball game and the team’s season. Each poem focuses on a different position or event such as “Warmup”, “Our Slugger”, and “The Season is Over”.
These fifteen poems by Florian come together to make a highly enjoyable, easily shared book of baseball poetry. Florian employs several types of poetry form in this book, but they all feature a catchy beat with lines and verses arranged in accordance with those beats. The rhythm of each poem fits its words and meaning well. For example, the poem “Warm Up” which talks about getting ready to play, features a light and springy rhythm: “Bend to the left/Bend to the right/S t r e t c h out those muscles/Too tense and too tight.”
Each poem in this book features clever rhymes in one way or another. Some of the poems contain sets of rhyming couplets (“Our Slugger”- Our slugger is strong/our slugger is mean/with arms very long/and eyesight quite keen) and some poems have each line rhyming, while adding in some alliteration for good measure (“A Baseball”- Stitch it/Pitch it/Drive it/Ditch it/Pound it/Ground it). Florian’s rhymes have a wonderful flow to them and lend themselves readily to being read or chanted aloud by students. Florian’s grasp of literary devices shines in these poems, especially in his example of assonance (“Shortstop” – He spears each/Hard-to-reach ground ball./He dives for line drives./Leaps for flies.). The onomatopeias sprinkled throughout the book such as “snatch”, “zing”, “bash”, “smash” and “spears” enhance the action in the poems.
Florian has chosen words and phrases such as “plummets” and “I’ve done the deed/My feet are fleet” for his poems that may not routinely be used to describe baseball positions and plays. These choices help to make his book unique and interesting. He also compares some of the positions to animals through the crafty use of similes, helping readers to create vivid mental images. For example, from “Third Baseman”, “A leopard, I leap on line drives,/Catch fly balls like a bird.”
With each new poem, the reader can feel and see the excitement, determination, and resilience of the players. When the umpire laments the fact that he is “not too well-loved”, the reader feels sad for him. The illustrations, which are rendered in gouache watercolors, oil pastels, colored pencils, and pine tar on primed paper bags, add another layer to the already vivid pictures Florian paints with his words. The over-exaggerated movements, stretches, and body parts of the baseball players help to convey the enormity of their physical feats on the field. In the illustration for the poem about the baseball itself, the laces of the ball have come undone and curl into the words from the poem that describe what has been done to the baseball (“crash”, “bash”, etc.). This illustration really personifies the actions in the poem.
This book of baseball poems is intended for 1st through 4th grade students and is well-suited for that age range. It is not too cluttered, with one poem per two page spread, with the exception of two small poems on the first two page spread.
Poem Runs is a fun, light-hearted poetry book that children in the younger grades will enjoy regardless of whether they are baseball fans. The illustrations, poem forms, and use of literary devices combine to offer a good example of children’s topical poetry.
“Upbeat poems that exude a bravado and competitive spirit that’s perfect for the subject matter…this one’s a blast…Florian exaggerates the players’ physicality, as they bend, leap, and swing, their limbs stretching across the spreads.”–Publishers Weekly, starred review, February 2012
“The poems are printed, one to a spread, in legible white font against dark backgrounds. Some of them have creative typesetting, and the titles are set in a variety of hues…A great choice for sandlot players who just want to have fun.”–School Library Journal, March 2012
“An enjoyable collection of verse aimed at children who play the game…Colorful and expressive, the pictures use exaggeration effectively for poems.”–Booklist, May 2012
Read other poetry books by Douglas Florian
- Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars: Space Poems and Paintings ISBN 9780152053727
- Dinothesaurus: Prehistoric Poems and Paintings ISBN 9781416979784
- UnBEElievables: Honeybee Poems and Paintings ISBN 9781442426528
- Poetrees ISBN 9781416986720
Read baseball poetry by another author:
- Lineup for Yesterday by Ogden Nash, Ill. by C.F. Payne ISBN 9781568462127
Create baseball magnetic poetry with students. (Kit available from amazon.com for $10.27)
- activity could be done as a class
- activity could be done in small groups
Share a non-poetry book about baseball with students:
- Randy Riley’s Really Big Hit by Chris Van Dusen ISBN 9780763649463
Have students volunteer to pick a favorite poem from the book and read it aloud.
Have students break into partners, pick a favorite poem, and read aloud to his/her partner.
(Image from Amazon.com, accessed February 18, 2015. Cover art by Douglas Florian.)