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Rhyme Schemer

Review

Rhyme Schemer

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about poetry, about what it is and what it isn’t and how we present poetry to children. This was in part prompted by my discussion of poetry with the pre-service elementary teachers in my children’s literature course and their reactions to and amazement at the types and topics of available poetry. They come to class thinking about poetry in a limited fashion and detesting it as a result, and hopefully leave with a new understanding of what poetry is and can be and a willingness to give it a try.
 
Both Kevin and Holt challenge the common notion that poems are a collection of rhyming lines and tackle ideas and topics that many readers may have never seen addressed in poetry.
 
I provide this caveat because K.A. Holt is someone who also has clearly thought a lot about poetry, about what it is and what it can be and how to present poetry to young readers. RHYME SCHEMER is a result of that thinking, as it presents poetry in a new light.
 
RHYME SCHEMER is a novel in verse told through a collection of poems by Kevin, the main character. Kevin’s poems start on the first day of seventh grade and immediately present Kevin as a character who is easy to dislike because he is a bully. On page two, he refers to himself as “King of the seventh grade” and he certainly sees himself as such --- he expects those around him to ask “how high” when he tells them to jump. But readers quickly realize that there are other sides to Kevin beyond being a bully. First of all, he likes to write poetry and he has stumbled upon a unique form of “found” poetry by connecting the words found on the page of a book. Of course this means tearing pages out of the book to create his poetry, but he isn’t too troubled by this. 
 
Second, readers get a peek at Kevin’s home life and soon realize that the bully at school is bullied at home by his older brothers and in many ways ignored by his busy parents. Holt does a nice job of not presenting these circumstances as an excuse for Kevin’s behavior, but rather as a possible explanation of his behavior. 
 
Finally, readers discover that, in many ways, Kevin was waiting for someone to pay attention to him. Thankfully, Kevin receives attention from the school librarian, Mrs. Little, who discovers Kevin’s skill in poetry and provides him with an outlet for sharing his gift.
 
While the story of RHYME SCHEMER is enjoyable, it is ultimately the format that makes it such an engaging book. The primarily free verse poems link seamlessly together to reveal Kevin’s thoughts and feelings and to tell his story. The free verse poems are punctuated by Kevin’s “found” poems and other artifacts in a style reminiscent of DIARY OF A WIMPY KID. Both Kevin and Holt challenge the common notion that poems are a collection of rhyming lines and tackle ideas and topics that many readers may have never seen addressed in poetry.
 
I believe that RHYME SCHEMER belongs alongside LOCOMOTION by Jacqueline Woodson and LOVE THAT DOG and HATE THAT CAT by Sharon Creech as novels in verse that appeal to readers of all ages and that challenge the notion of what poetry is and can be, and that can and do inspire readers to write their own poems.

Reviewed by Aimee Rogers on October 24, 2014

Rhyme Schemer
by K. A. Holt

  • Publication Date: October 6, 2015
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 184 pages
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books
  • ISBN-10: 1452145709
  • ISBN-13: 9781452145709