Bringing the Arts Alive

I think science is fascinating, but, to be honest, my heart is in the arts.  I live for poetry and music, and perhaps some of your students feel the same.  Or maybe they will after immersing themselves in these beautiful picture book biographies.


Poets have a particular way of seeing the world.  Two recent picture books stood out to me in the way they captured  this unique view.  Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People is a celebration of words.  English and Spanish words fill the illustrations to create a dynamic scene that gives a strong sense of the way Neruda saw the world.   This is a beautiful tribute to this amazing poet that will be appreciated by poetry lovers of all ages.

Liberty’s Voice: The  Story of Emma Lazarus tells of poet Emma Lazarus’ journey from privileged girl to accomplished poet to passionate humanitarian.  Emma’s creative spirit is made visual in the illustrations by a colorful swirl. She used her poetic talent to bring attention to the plight of the poor immigrants in New York City, and her words became the voice of the Statue of Liberty in 1903.

Music is more than just background noise.  In Roots and Blues: A Celebration, Arnold Adoff shows how music was a means of survival through slavery.  The book begins with a powerful look at slavery in a poem called “Chained” accompanied by a striking illustration of slaves in chains.  It follows as the music is passed down through generations, played in back rooms of clubs, and eventually celebrated as an art all its own.

Similarly, Stephen Alcorn’s picture book biography, Odetta: The Queen of Folk, brings folk music alive through the large, colorful illustrations and poetic text.  We see the young singer find her voice and watch her find a place in the civil rights movement.  She united people of all races with her music and became an inspiration to many.  Use this book to talk about the power of music to inspire or to the ways that the Jim Crow laws affected people.

Any of these books would be at home in a social studies classroom to talk about the role that the arts has played in history.


Liberty’s Voice: The Story of Emma Lazarus by Erica Silverman. 2011.

Odetta: The Queen of Folk by Stephen Alcorn. 2010.

Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People by Monica Brown. 2011.

Roots and Blues: A Celebration by Arnold Adoff. 2011.

Blogger:  Mindy R