March 21 – World Poetry Day


About the Holiday

Sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), World Poetry Day celebrates one of the world’s oldest and most treasured forms of linguistic expression. On this day we honor the poets who translate physical beauty into words, expose social injustice in heartrending verse, and make us laugh with quirky juxtapositions. To celebrate the holiday, attend a poetry reading, revisit poems from your favorite author or discover a new writer, or pen a poem yourself!

enormous SMALLNESS: A Story of E. E. Cummings

Written by Matthew Burgess | Illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo


Hello! Welcome to 4 Patchin Place, the home of poet E. E. Cummings! This is where he wrote his poetry on a clackety typewriter, stopping only for tea poured out by the love of his life, Marion Moorehouse. How did he become a poet? That is an interesting story! E. E. was born Edward Estlin Cummings on October 14, 1894 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His house was full of extended family, a handyman, a maid, and several pets. From an early age he loved to translate the things he saw into words. “His first poem flew out of his mouth when he was only three: “‘Oh, my little / birdie, Oh / with his little / toe, toe, toe!’”


Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, text copyright Matthew Burgess. Courtesy of Enchanted Lion Books

Estlin’s mother wrote down all the poems he told her and made a little book of them, titled “‘Estlin’s Original Poems.’” When he was six, he expressed his love of nature in a poem about trees, and when his mother asked him what else he saw, he “looked around as if his eyes were on tiptoes and when his heart jumped he said another poem: “‘On the chair is sitting / Daddy with his book. / Took it from the bookcase / Beaming in his look.’”


Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, text copyright Matthew Burgess. Courtesy of Enchanted Lion Books

As he grew, Estlin was fascinated by the animals he saw at the circus and in the zoo. He drew pictures of them and wrote about them, using the words he loved so well—and even making up his own words. Estlin had a zest for life and for making life fun for himself and his little sister. During the summers, the family traveled to Joy Farm in New Hampshire, where Estlin swam, milked the cow, rode a donkey, and wandered through the fields and forest. His father had built him a little log cabin in the woods, and in the afternoons Estlin went there to draw and write. At home he also had a special place all his own. In an enormous tree his father built a tree house, complete with stove to keep him warm on cold days.


Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, text copyright Matthew Burgess. Courtesy of

Estlin had support for his writing at school too. His favorite teacher encouraged him saying, “anything is possible, / as long as you are true to yourself / and never give up, even when the world / seems to say, stop!” From his Uncle George, Estlin received a guide to writing poems. Estlin followed the rules in the book, penning poems nearly every day. When Estlin was 17 he attended Harvard College and began publishing his poems in the school’s magazines. While at Harvard, Estlin realized he had to follow his heart to be happy. He wanted to be like the new artists who were shaping the world—people like Gertrude Stein, Paul Cezanne, and Igor Stravinsky, “artists who were,” he once said, “challenging the way we think and see.”


Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, text copyright Matthew Burgess. Courtesy of Enchanted Lion Books

After he graduated, Estlin returned home, but when he had saved enough money he moved to New York and fell in love with the city immediately. He and his friends took in everything new the city had to offer. Soon, however, the United States entered World War II. On April 17, 1917 Estlin volunteered to be an ambulance driver in France. Before he received his assignment, though, he had time to explore Paris. He was “bowled over by the museums, the ballet, and the colorful, crowded streets.” He enjoyed the city so much he returned often during his lifetime.

During the war, Estlin was mistaken for a spy and sent to prison for several months. After the war he wrote a book about his experiences titled The Enormous Room by E. E. Cummings. “The book was published and praised! Estlin was becoming E. E.!” A year later he published his first book of poetry—Tulips & Chimneys. In his poems he experimented with punctuation and using lower case letters instead of capitals.


Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, text copyright Matthew Burgess. Courtesy of

Through his fanciful typography, E. E. “wanted his reader’s eyes to be on tiptoes too, seeing and reading poetry (inaway) that was new.” But some people didn’t understand or like his poetry; it was too strange and too small, they said. But E. E. knew he had to stay true to himself. He believed that “his poems were new and true” and “were his way of saying YES” to everything he loved. As time went on more and more people began to “see the beauty of E. E.’s poetry, and he became one of the most beloved poets in America.”

E. E. Cummings lived and worked at 4 Patchin Place for almost 40 years, but in his mind he would often return to his childhood home. He “could still see himself as a boy gazing out at the sunset”—a memory that he put into words: who are you,little i / (five or six years old) / peering from some high / window;at the gold / of November sunset / (and feeling:that if day has to become night / this is a beautiful way)”


Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, text copyright Matthew Burgess. Courtesy of

Simply put, Matthew Burgess’s enormous SMALLNESS: A Story of E. E. Cummings is a biography that will make you smile. Upbeat and full of the wonder and whimsy that influenced Estlin Cummings’ prodigious talent, the story encourages readers to always follow their heart. Burgess’s easy-going, conversational style invites kids along on the journey of Cumming’s life, stopping off at points that resonate with kids—early imaginary play, school, family vacations, home life, college, travel, and ultimate success. Seeing the support Cummings received throughout his life will inspire young readers just starting out on their own roads of discovery.

Kris Di Giacomo’s enchanting illustrations will immediately capture the imagination of readers. The playful quality of Cummings’ personality and poems is mirrored in each spread as a variety of children’s drawings and typography are sprinkled throughout. As six-year-old Estlin composes poems for his mother, he stands on tiptoe in his nightshirt surrounded by toys; he experiences life from rooftop and treetop and gazes into the night from his tree house; New York lights up with fireworks and the lights of Broadway; and his poems spring from the pages in their own inimitable way.

For children interested in writing, biographies, history, the arts, and the life of the imagination, enormous SMALLNESS: A Story of E. E. Cummings is a perfect choice for their home bookshelves.

A chronology of E. E. Cummings’ life, five poems, and an Author’s Note follow the text.

Ages 4 – 9

Enchanted Lion Publishing, 2015 | ISBN 978-1592701711

To learn more about Matthew Burgess, his books, and his poetry, visit his website!

View a gallery of illustration by Kris Di Giacomo on her website!

World Poetry Day Activity




Grow a Poem


A poem often grows in your imagination like a beautiful plant—starting from the seed of an idea, breaking through your consciousness, and growing and blooming into full form. With this craft you can create a unique poem that is also an art piece!


  • Printable Leaves Template
  • Printable Flower Template
  • Wooden dowel, 36-inch-long, ½-inch diameter, available in craft or hardware stores
  • Green ribbon, 48 inches long
  • Green craft paint
  • Green paper for printing leaves (white paper if children would like to color the leaves)
  • Colored paper for printing flowers (white paper if children would like to color the flowers)
  • Flower pot or box
  • Oasis, clay, or dirt
  • Hole punch
  • Glue
  • Markers or pens for writing words
  • Crayons or colored pencils if children are to color leaves and flowers


  1. Paint the dowel green, let dry
  2. Print the leaves and flower templates
  3. Cut out the leaves and flowers
  4. Punch a hole in the bottom of the leaves or flowers
  5. Write words, phrases, or full sentences of your poem on the leaf and flower templates
  6. String the leaves and flowers onto the green ribbon (if you want the poem to read from top to bottom string the words onto the ribbon in order from first to last)
  7. Attach the ribbon to the bottom of the pole with glue or tape
  8. Wrap the ribbon around the pole, leaving spaces between the ribbon
  9. Move the leaves and flowers so they stick out from the pole or look the way you want them to.
  10. Put oasis or clay in the flower pot or box
  11. Stick your poem pole in the pot
  12. Display your poem!

Picture Book Review

March 21 – World Poetry Day

Nasty Bugs by Lee Bennett Hopkins and Will Terry Picture Book Review

About the Holiday

World Poetry Day, an initiative of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, recognizes the important role poetry plays in people’s lives across the world and over time. The day promotes small publishers of poetry as well as oral poetry traditions and works to strengthen the connection between poetry and other forms of expression. Another objective is to “support linguistic diversity thorough poetic expression and to offer endangered languages the opportunity to be heard within their communities.”

Celebrations on this day include poetry readings, school lessons focused on poetry and poets, poetry writing sessions, and poetry readings by professional and amateur poets in schools and other venues.

Nasty Bugs

Poems Selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins | Illustrated by Will Terry


Who in the world can resist bugs? They’re in every country, every city, every town, even every house! And they have so much going for them—lots of legs, pincher mouths, transparent wings, amazing survival skills, and so much general creepy-crawliness! Bugs may be a little (or a lot) icky, but you can’t deny that they’re fascinating.

Nasty Bugs brings together 16 poets to turn the traits of all kinds of insects, from stink bugs to chiggers to water bugs and more, into creative odes that tickle the funny bone as well as teach. Readers learn from Cynthia S. Cotton’s “Stink Bug” that “Some spread their wings in flight, / Some look scary, / some taste bad, / some use camouflage / to blend in just right.”

Rebecca Kai Dotlich exposes the boll weevil: “I am an evil weevil, / a cotton-craving beetle / whose reputation’s rotton / ‘cause I gobble crops of cotton, / yes I do.” And the Colorado Potato Beetle? Among other quirks, X. J. Kennedy reveals its name is a bit of a misnomer: “His other name’s Potato Bug. / This munching desperado / infests our gardens coast to coast. / Not just in Colorado.”

April Halprin Wayland gives voice to the fire ants’ tribal cry “All for one and one for all!” as they jump into action when “Flood waters rise! / Quick, form a ball—/ our larvae, pupae, eggs, and Mother Queen inside! / We roll this writhing globe, / take turns on top / so all breathe air, so all survive.”

“Spoiled Rotton” by J. Patrick Lewis may make grammarians squirm with this pointed description: “I’m a comma / in a drama / of disgusting devastation.” while readers will be itchin’ to know more in Rebecca Andrew Loescher’s “Ode to Chigger” with lines such as “You hatch with six small legs for running, / then grow two more—for leaps most stunning,” Poems about flies (Ann Whitford Paul), wasps (Michele Krueger), fleas (Marilyn Singer), lice (Amy Ludwig VanDerwater), ticks (Kami Kinard), termites (Alice Schertle), cockroaches (Fran Haraway), and bedbugs (Kristine O’Connell George) also contribute to the buzzzzz of this anthology.

But if bugs, well…bug you, you may find these lines in Lee Bennett Hopkins’ “Ode to a Dead Mosquito” most satisfying: “You of little brain / didn’t you know / I felt your sting / the instant you / began to drain? / So— / I whacked you. / SMACK! / You dropped.”

Will Terry lends his distinctive talent to making this book as colorful, bold, and eye-popping as nature itself. Each insect, depicted in its favorite milieu, nearly flies, creeps, or chomps it’s way off the page. Brilliant greens, reds, yellow, oranges, and blues give life to these most prolific pests, and their prominent features – whether pinchers, stingers, gnawing mandibles, or even stinky odor – are inspiringly drawn.

More facts about each bug are given in the back of the book, and are a must read. Whether insects make you squirm with discomfort or squeal with delight, Nasty Bugs is fun.

Ages 5 – 9

Paperback: Puffin, Penguin Group, 2016 | ISBN 978-0147519146

Hardcover: Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin Group, 2012 | ISBN 978-0803737167

World Poetry Day Activity

CPB - Nasty Bugs magnet II (2)

Rockin’ Bug Magnet or Paperweight


On World Poetry Day it’s fun to write a poem of your own. Whether your creation is long or short, you can proudly display it using one of these Rockin’ Bug Magnets.


Rocks, small and flat work best for magnets. Larger rocks are great for paperweights. You can find rocks in your yard, at the beach or park, or buy them from craft stores or nurseries.

  • Paint in your favorite colors
  • Paint brush
  • Small to medium round magnets, available at craft and hardware stores
  • Googly eyes
  • Strong glue

CPB - Nasty Bugs magnet (2)


  1. Wash rocks and let them dry
  2. Create your own creepy, crawly bug on the front of the rock
  3. Paint your bug
  4. Let the paint dry
  5. If you want to give your insect buggy eyes, glue googly eyes to the rock.
  6. Glue a magnet to the back of the rock
  7. Hang it on the refrigerator or any metal surface


If you love books, you must have caught the reading bug! Check out another great book and craft on March 2—Read Across America Day and make an “I’ve Got the Reading Bug” Bookplate for your favorite books!

CPB - Reading Bug Book Plate (2)