Growing the Kids

Sketch by Gillian Bradshaw-Smith for New York Theatre Ballet’s Alice in Wonderland Follies
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I Wonder

I wonder how it feels to leap into the sky like a raven.
I wonder how it feels to hover over the sea like a raven.
Yet I have this voice in my head saying
“There has to be a raven who wonders what it is like to be a man.”


Cunning clashing claws
Cute careful creatures
Criminal minds

[Jackson Pearlman, 8 years old, June 20, 2010]


I Wish

I wish I would become a witch and go to Hogwarts School,
and learn Transfiguration and even transfigure a ghoul.

I wish that I would become a dancer, one of the best ones by far,
be excellent at pirouettes and arabesques and even the barre.

I wish that I would become a mama and have one girl and boy,
the girl would be the younger one and play with lots of toys.

I wish that I would become an artist and illustrate lots of books,
and draw what I see in New York, even little reading nooks.


[Jennifer Levine, age 5 years, Jan. 2012]



I am always there
But no one can see me.

I meet everyone
But no one can meet me.

I am not known
But everyone speaks my name.

I am good for the world
But no one loves me.

I do no wrong
But people hate me.

I am harmless
But I am your greatest fear.

I am lonely
But no one understands me.

Ode to the Stars

Far away, in a distant time,
as the darkness of night falls,
a million, a billion, a trillion lights
turn on and glow with lovely radiance.

Like an infinite collection of Christmas lights,
they shine from the black ceiling,
lighting the night for anyone in need
of love, of hope, of company.

The ceiling of darkness and fear
is strung with glittering beads
of wonder, beauty, and calm.
Their presence brings heart to the universe.


Oh, you little businessmen dressed in your tuxedoes,
Living in the land of cold where there are no mosquitoes,

Why does no one answer you when you cry for help,
As your home is slowly sinking into underwater kelp?

Waddling around with such dignity and grace,
You would bring a smile to 'most anybody’s face.

Sliding on your bellies down the slippery slopes,
Do you feel the awful sadness of your home’s ebbing hopes?

Black and white, with orange beaks, standing on the ice,
Is there no one who’d help you and be so kind and nice?

Oh, you little businessmen dressed in your tuxedoes,
Swimming in the ocean – after that, who knows?

[Benjamin Levine, Death & Ode, at age 10, 2011;
Penguins, at age 11, Jan. 2012]


Invisible Evil

It’s cold as ice cubes
And stings like knives!
It’s pretty hard to stop
What’s invisible
To the naked eye.

Silent Wind

Shh – listen
Throughout the valley
Quiet as can be
The silent wind soothes me
As I breathe.

[Sadiul Akhanji, age 9, 2012]

How I Shake It Off
(a poem about bullying)

Salty tear tingles tongue with bitterness.
Radio blasts twists and turns of colorful music from living room.
Tear stops in mid motion, eyes grow wide.
Sparkling mischievous grin seems to spread over once dark and gloomy face.
Jump up from pink cushion chair.
Run, skip, leap, until reach carpet.
Jump up until burst through ceiling.
Feel crisp wind fly across face.
Eyes squeeze shut.
Tour jeté and leap, plié and jump, changement and echappé.
Repeat, do again, grin, smile, stretch, expand.
Blue sky wrapping me up in powerful imagination.
Leap from cloud to cloud, pillow to pillow, dart between wind tunnels, avoid dog and cat.
Chaînés turn through darkening sky, dive head first towards a city of lights, pas de chat
      from pyramid to pyramid, twirl on top of Western Wall, do third arabesque while
      bouncing down each level of Eiffel tower, pirouette around Big Ben, fly over Alhambra.
Leap from one side of the globe to the other, one arm of the couch to the next.
Polka down in a cheery rush, wave goodbye to the different countries.
Wave goodbye to my magical journey.
Gracefully summersault through still darkening sky, dart between rain drops
      and finally land on a waiting pool of intricately patterned carpet.
Open eyes, take deep breath.
Run, skip, leap, until land in my pink cushion chair.
Pick up book filled with colorful pictures, grab tissue from box by my side.
Dry eyes for last time.
No more worries from those mean bullies.
This time, I have definitely done a good job of shaking it off.

[Lily Eugenia Rudd, age 10, 2014, PS 116 NYC and Ballet School NY]
Written for a Scholastic program on how to "shake it off" when people say mean things


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This first Purple Scooter Poetry contest for New York City kids (to age 13) was held in February and March 2012—as a contribution to National Poetry Month in April. The competition’s purpose was to encourage a love for reading, writing, and poetry. Of the 22 eligible entries, three were selected by a panel of judges as 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners, three were 1st, 2nd, and 3rd runners-up, and one was selected as the Editor’s Choice. The seven poets received cash awards ranging from $250 to $25. Their poems are printed below. (To read all 22 poems, see Big Apple Contest Winners, the blog posting of April 23, 2012 archived at


A Drop of Water
1st Place - Benjamin Levine, age 11, Ballet School NY

Down, down, down from the sky,
A drop of water begins its journey.
Onto the snowy white mountain tops,
Falling…falling from the clouds.

Down, down, down from the mountains,
A drop of water travels its journey.
From the velvet snow, melting to the streams,
Gushing, splashing, merrily playing.

Down, down, down through the streams,
A drop of water hurries its journey.
Dancing with bubbles, flying over rocks,
Rushing down hills and past treetops.

Down, down, down into the rivers,
A drop of water continues its journey.
Mixing with silt, sand and mud,
Slowly snaking along the ground.

Down, down, down into the ocean,
A drop of water rests from its journey.
Mixing with the briny waters,
Whispering with the waves.

Up, up, up into the sky,
A drop of water ends its journey.
Up into the clouds it goes,
Rising…rising from the sea.

A drop of water begins its journey.


Simple Perfection
2nd Place - Nancy Lu, age 13, Staten Island

The sun smiles
in the light blue sky.
The marsh plants stand tall
swaying peacefully in the breeze.
The butterflies—
yellow swallow tails and painted ladies—
dance among the purple flower,
floating lightly in mid-air.
A white throated sparrow sings,
a soprano melody repeated over and over.
And I, the amazed audience,
watch silently from far away,
not wanting to break the perfection.


Minor Incident
3rd Place - Joshua Moriarty, age 13,
Hunter College High School

Roads curve,
Lights flash,
Cars swerve,
Drivers crash.

Birds swoop,
Of the destruction
In the air.

Lives go on,
Children play,
And yet for some,
Life turns gray.

Lives are lost,
We must wake up,
And learn to care.



Revenge is a Flower that Blooms Red
1st Runner-Up - Anna Farber, age 12, Brooklyn

Around the bend waits
An innocent honey bee, collecting the nectar of
The flower that poisons
The flower that was planted with the seed of rage
“Nothing good could come of the red flowering revenge”
That’s what they all say
What we all should listen to
But revenge smells sweetest when planted hot
And that’s what we do
We plant, and unbeknownst to us
Our flower grows,
And we feed it
And when unfed, we must suffer
For revenge is a flower that blooms red,
One that grows wild and weed-like until it
Consumes us.


2nd Runner Up - Sadiul Akhanji, age 9, PS#134

Made of metal
Strong and bold
Can’t be beat
By something old
Sweeps the floor
Brushes your teeth
Works all day
And never sleeps
This is a robot
A dandy tool
You should get one
Don’t be a fool!


3rd Runner Up - Amy Lin, age 10, PS#134

Weeping sunflower
Yellow petals
Falling off one by one
Nothing left



Molly Pitcher
Editor’s Choice - Chloe Liu, age 9, Ballet School NY

Molly Pitcher,
One brave young girl,
Fired her cannon
To defeat the English.

Molly Pitcher,
One brave young girl,
Stood up to a boy
Who threatened to throw a rock at her
And kill her cow.
But she was brave
And stood up
For herself.

Molly Pitcher,
One brave young girl,
Made masks for men
Who were going to
Get rid of the tax collector.

Molly Pitcher,
One brave young girl,
Helped a friend
Get away from robbers.

Molly Pitcher,
One brave young girl,
Fired her cannon
To defeat the English.




Written in the Album of a Child

Small service is true service while it lasts;
Of friends, however humble, scorn not one;
The daisy, by the shadow that it casts,
Protects the lingering dew-drop from the sun.

[William Wordsworth]


Chicago Poet

I saluted a nobody.
I saw him in a looking-glass.
He smiled
so did I.
He crumpled the skin on his forehead,
so did I.
Everything I did he did.
I said "Hello, I know you."
And I was a liar to say so.

Ah, this looking-glass man!
Liar, fool, dreamer, play-actor,
Soldier, dusty drinker of dust-
Ah! he will go with me
Down the dark stairway
When nobody else is looking,
When everybody else is gone.
He locks his elbow in mine,
I lose all
but not him.

[Carl Sandburg]




The roofs are shining from the rain,
   The sparrows twitter as they fly,
And with a windy April grace
   The little clouds go by.
Yet the backyards are bare and brown
   With only one unchanging tree

I could not be so sure of Spring
   Save that it sings in me.

[Sara Teasdale]



One’s Self I Sing

ONE’S-SELF I sing—a simple, separate Person;
Yet utter the word Democratic, the word En-masse.

Of Physiology from top to toe I sing;
Not physiognomy alone, nor brain alone, is worthy for the muse—
I say the Form complete is worthier far;
The Female equally with the male I sing.

Of Life immense in passion, pulse, and power,
Cheerful—for freest action form’d, under the laws divine,
The Modern Man I sing.

[Walt Whitman, from Leaves of Grass ]



I'm Nobody

I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there's a pair of us
don't tell!
They'd banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

[Emily Dickinson]



Look, Edwin! Do you see that boy

Look, Edwin! Do you see that boy
Talking to the other boy?
No, over there by those two men—
Wait, don't look now—now look again.
No, not the one in navy-blue;
That's the one he's talking to.
Sure you see him? Stripèd pants?
Well, he was born in Paris, France.

[Edna St. Vincent Millay]



Clown in the Moon

My tears are like the quiet drift
Of petals from some magic rose;
And all my grief flows from the rift
Of unremembered skies and snows.

I think, that if I touched the earth,
It would crumble;
It is so sad and beautiful,
So tremulously like a dream.

[Dylan Thomas]




Some people talk and talk
and never say a thing.
Some people look at you
and birds begin to sing.

Some people laugh and laugh
and yet you want to cry.
Some people touch your hand
and music fills the sky.

[Charlotte Zolotow]



O Nothing

O, I’m a negative number,
   I’m un and non and no;
My score to date is minus,
   My social rating’s O.

I’m unloved and unloving,
   Unknowing and unknown;
While others sweetly blossom,
   My bloom remains unblown.

Not only that, but I’m a non-
   Descript nonentity--
“Really quite beside the point,”
   I’ve heard it said of me.

I’m largely nonexistent,
   A real no-dentity,
But still, I think of me, ergo
   I certainly must be.

[Genevieve Wood, from On the Crest of a Wave]



This Man Talked About You

I met a man that said he knew
Why the sky is green, why trees are blue,
Why kittens caw, and why crows mew,
And why the very best one is YOU.

—But kittens don’t caw! Crows don’t mew!
The sky is not green. Trees are not blue!

—Yes, I told him that. And he said he knew.
But still, I think, it is just as true
As what he told me about you!

[John Ciardi, from I Met A Man]



We Meet Again

With half a laugh of hearty zest,
I strip me of my coat and vest.

Then heeding not the frigid air,
I fling away my underwear.

So, having nothing else to doff,
I rip my epidermis off.

More secrets to acquaint you with,
I pare my bones to strips of pith.

And when the exposé is done,
I hang a cobweb skeleton.

While there you sit, aloof, remote,
And will not shed your overcoat.

[Joseph Siebel, in “The English Journal,” Vol. 25, No. 7, Sept. 1936]



I Love the Look of Words

Popcorn leaps, popping from the floor
of a hot black skillet
and into my mouth.
Black words leap,
snapping from the white
page. Rushing into my eyes. Sliding
into my brain which gobbles them
the way my tongue and teeth
chomp the buttered popcorn.

When I have stopped reading,
ideas from the words stay stuck
in my mind, like the sweet
smell of butter perfuming my
fingers long after the popcorn
is finished.

I love the book and the look of words
the weight of ideas that popped into my mind
I love the tracks
of new thinking in my mind.

[Maya Angelou]






A word is dead
When it is said,
Some say.
I say it just
Begins to live
That day.

[Emily Dickinson]


You Are Old, Father William

You are old, father William," the young man said,
"And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head

Do you think, at your age, it is right?"

"In my youth," father William replied to his son,
"I feared it would injure the brain;
But now that I'm perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again."

"You are old," said the youth, "as I mentioned before,
And have grown most uncommonly fat;
Yet you turned a back-somersault in at the door

Pray, what is the reason of that?"

"In my youth," said the sage, as he shook his grey locks,
"I kept all my limbs very supple
By the use of this ointment
one shilling the box
Allow me to sell you a couple."

"You are old," said the youth, "and your jaws are too weak
For anything tougher than suet;
Yet you finished the goose, with the bones and the beak

Pray, how did you manage to do it?"

"In my youth," said his father, "I took to the law,
And argued each case with my wife;
And the muscular strength, which it gave to my jaw,
Has lasted the rest of my life."

"You are old," said the youth; "one would hardly suppose
That your eye was as steady as ever;
Yet you balanced an eel on the end of your nose

What made you so awfully clever?"

"I have answered three questions, and that is enough,"
Said his father; "don't give yourself airs!
Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?
Be off, or I'll kick you down stairs!"

[Lewis Carroll]





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