Writer Teaches Children To Find Heartbeat Of Poem

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There is not much that could possibly be nice about an alligator in a child's bedroom at night.

Yet anyone hearing the delighted squeals of laughter from 5- through 7-year-old children at Julia Randall Elementary School's Young Author Day Assembly might know there was a silly poem involved.

"The alligator's tongue is pink as a ham," said David Greenberg, author of the poem.

When Greenberg finished reciting his poem about alligators lurking under the bed at night, he asked the students what else they thought an alligator's tongue could be like.

"A strawberry surfboard," "a fat licorice" and "a pink slug" were some of the creative answers.

"You are doing something important with poetry; you are painting pictures with words," Greenberg said.

He launched into another poem tapping his hand against his thigh to the beat of the rhyme. "Stick a slug with superglue, stick it on your sister's shoe," he said enunciating each alliterated syllable.

All the children raised their hands when he asked, "Who here has a heartbeat."

"Well, the beat of a poem is the heartbeat of a poem," Greenberg said.

In addition to keeping the children in titters of laughter with his funny poems on etiquette, bugs and teachers with bird's nests in their hair, Greenberg also helped the students understand the need to keep trying.

When he was 25 years old he wrote a poem about snakes and sent it to 112 book publishers.

By age 26 he had 111 rejection slips.

At age 27, one publisher said "yes." It took another year before the book was published.

"Do you give books to children?" one little boy asked.

"No," he said. "I sell them because this is my job and how I make money to pay for the things my family needs."

"How many more can you write?" a little girl asked.

Greenberg hopes for a lot.

His next book is a dictionary for dogs, so they will know when a human said, "Sit," it really means, "go and chew up all the shoes."

After that, Greenberg plans a dictionary for children, inspired by his own son who interprets, "Clean up to your room," to mean, "Watch cartoons."

The author left the children with this admonition:

"I want you to read poetry, I want you to write poetry and if you can't write it, I want you to make it up out loud because poetry is great."

Young Authors Winners

Kindergarten:

"My First Camping Trip" by Mauro Morales

Illustration: "My Adventures at Sea" by Simon Whitehead

First Grade:

"The Mermaid That Had a Problem" by Giavanna Abbaddessa

Illustration: "I Love Horse" by Andrea Fierros

Second Grade:

"Alligator's Life" by Matthew Myer

Illustration: "The Animal's Friends" by Karli Smith and "The Village of Fairies" by Jordan Thornton

Third Grade:

"Turbo Turtle" by Kara VanZile

Illustration: "The Traveling Pets" by Taylor Vaughn

Fourth Grade:

"The Amazing Adventures of Copper" by Cori Barrnett

Illustration: "Alexandra and the Blue Fairy" by Zoe Wright

Fifth Grade:

"A Life Saver" by Brooke Dimbat

Illustration: "The Ghost Village of Spooky Island" by Jessica White

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