As I dug into Joyce Sidman’s work this past year (in my ever-so-obsessive-love-of-her-work way), I was surprised and delighted to find that she too had written a book of poems based on William Carlos Williams poem “This is Just to Say.” And yet, her book is a completely different beast from the one I talked about last year.
If you will remember, I am a huge fan of Gail Carson Levine’s “Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It: False Apology Poems” (illustrated by Matthew Cordell nonetheless). I talked about this book last year on my blog (as it’s a favorite book the students choose to have me read out of every day in class–we read a poem a day in school in the month of April too). But the difference between these two books is HUGE. While Levine’s book is a humorous book that will have you in a bought of giggles, Sidman’s book takes a different approach.
First, Sidman chose a fictional group of sixth graders to write apology poems to someone they really wanted to apologize to, for something they felt they did was wrong (or maybe they really didn’t seek forgiveness). Then she chose to have the addressees write a response poem (or someone who was available as some of the original correspondents might not have wanted or been able to respond). It has funny moments, to be sure, but the stronger message of forgiveness is what rings through in this collection. Sidman also plays with different forms of poetry (pantoums, haiku, etc.).
This is definitely not a collection of poems for young children (as the sixth graders touch on subjects that would certainly matter to older children like crushes, death of a beloved pet, etc.). I once again found myself in tears during the second half of this book (I swear I’m not an overly emotional person!). The forgiveness of the recipients of the first letters is genuinely profound. And there are some letters, I wish some of my poor students would receive from their parents (there’s one that hints at a parent’s suicidal thoughts prior to receiving the poem/letter from their child).
Perhaps one of the more touching set of letters is one a student writes to the teacher, apologizing for making fun of a dress she was wearing (even though it ends on a note that says green really isn’t her color anyway, he/she prefers the teacher in her new blue dress that makes her look thinner). This is the teacher’s response, to which I could empathize (and I was glad to see that the teacher was included in the collection too, not just fictional students):