A #PoemPair for Poetry Friday

Ten Beautiful Things
by Molly Beth Griffin
illustrated by Maribel Lechuga
Charlesbridge, 2020
review copy via the public library

Lily doesn’t want to live in Iowa with her grandmother, but as they drive, they play a game where they try to find ten beautiful things, which brings them home. I love that this book doesn’t explain why Lily needs to live with her grandmother, and it doesn’t even get them inside the front door at the end, so we don’t know for sure what her new life will be like in Iowa. This is very much a book about focusing on the present, and mindfully finding beauty around us, in spite of what might be going on inside us.

This book with its list of ten beautiful things seemed to want a list poem as its pair. An excellent mentor text for list poems is, of course, FALLING DOWN THE PAGE: A BOOK OF LIST POEMS, ed. Georgia Heard. This poem was inspired by our recent drive from OH to CO and back.

Things To Do If You Are A Road Trip

Perch hawks on fence posts.
Pinwheel the wind farms.
Create curiosity with road cuts.
When a trailer tire ahead shreds
     let all who follow dodge the pieces.
Conveniently space rest stops and gas stations.
And as for destinations,
     if they do not include the open arms of family or friends,
     make every traveler feel welcome.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2021

It’s important to remember that the privilege of a road trip has not been/is not now equally accessible. After spending some time enjoying this book, make sure to explore the history of The Green Book, or The Negro Motorist Green Book. This guide was published (starting in 1936) during the Jim Crow era until just after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (in 1967) to give African American travelers a list of safe places to get gas or service, eat a meal, or spend a night. Jim Crow was a system of open and often legal discrimination against African Americans, who were frequently refused by white-owned businesses the selling, servicing, or repairing of their cars (often bought to eliminate the segregation experienced on public transportation). African American travelers were denied food or accommodation, and their safety was at risk in “sundown towns” where there was a possibility of physical violence. The Green Book gave Black travelers the same kind of safe path through the United States (and later abroad) that earlier publications provided for Jewish travelers.

Christie has this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup at Wondering and Wandering, along with a FANTASTIC crowd-sourced “Poetry Is” poem (facepalm…I forgot to submit a line).

20 thoughts on “A #PoemPair for Poetry Friday”

  1. I love this geologically multilayered post! A new book to contemplate, an interesting combination of poetry forms (travelogue, things to do list: “let all who follow dodge the pieces”), the most fantastic geology lesson, AND a serious history lesson to go along with the privilege of road tripping in the safety of wealth and whiteness. I can recommend the movie GREEN BOOK, and do you know about this book? https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8525961-ruth-and-the-green-book I haven’t read it but it came to mind. Thanks, Mary Lee!


    1. RUTH AND THE GREEN BOOK is a perfect addition, and although I haven’t seen the 2018 movie, I ran across it doing some fact checks. It’s now on my To-Be-Watched list!

      And as for the tires, it happened to us TWICE on the trip!! YIKES!


      1. Thanks for this link, Jone. Great reminder that we need to be critical consumers of ALL media!


  2. What a great post! This is the second or third mention I’ve seen of “Ten Beautiful Things” recently and your post just nudged me to request it from my library. Your poem is a perfect accompaniment and I love the link you included. Fascinating! Finally, I really appreciate your acknowledgement that travel isn’t as accessible to everyone and your details about The Green Book. What a rich selection you’ve offered here today! (PS We noticed and dodged sooooo many blown-out tires on our trip from Maine to Ohio, but were lucky enough not to be present at the moment of bursting/shredding. Yikes!)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dear Mary Lee, I just wanted to send a smile back your way to say hi. I also loved 10 Beautiful Things. Considering purchasing it for my high school library.

    Your poem made me smile, and I love the website you linked to. Hope you are well.

    Mary Ann

    On Fri, Aug 13, 2021 at 4:29 AM A(nother) Year of Reading wrote:

    > maryleehahn posted: ” Ten Beautiful Things by Molly Beth > Griffinillustrated by Maribel LechugaCharlesbridge, 2020review copy via the > public library FIRST THE PICTURE BOOK Lily doesn’t want to live in Iowa > with her grandmother, but as they drive, they play a game whe” >

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have and love Ten Beautiful Things, Mary Lee. The grand girls & I have had lots of fun with it telling each other what we think are our own “beautiful things”. I love your pairing that shows the road trip, the hawks on fence posts brings me to Missouri, too. I haven’t been across E. Colorado or Kansas in a long time, but you took me to those memories. I know about the Green Book, a gift given to those who needed it. Last, yes, great to mention Georgia’s book, a wonderful mentor for everyone.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Like Heidi, I appreciate all the layers of this post, from a beautiful picture book to a wonderful mentor poem (with a link to great geographical information) and then The Green Book. I’d love to have my students play with hyperlinks in their poems.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love everything about this post, Mary Lee! Ten Beautiful Things is an inspiring book and I’m looking forward to sharing it with students. As for creating a list poem–brilliant! I always notice hawks on road trips, too, so they would be at the top of my list poem. The Kansas geology site was fascinating! I wonder if other states have similar sites. Thank you for the reminder that road trips couldn’t–still can’t–be taken for granted by everyone in this country. The work continues…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Mary Lee, I like everything about this post, starting with your poem! I hope our library has Ten Beautiful Things; it sounds like a good one for “my” second graders. (I don’t yet know if I’ll see them in person or on Zoom this fall, but it’s all good! Last year was all virtual, and we still got along splendidly.)


  8. Mary Lee, I finally am here and loving the stop as you took me on a road trip. Thanks for the great poem pairing and information about The Greem Book. Did you watch “Lovecraft County”, the HBO mini-series about the 1950s? There is a historical reference to the green book and racism at that time.


  9. Wonderful travels over here this week, Mary Lee – thanks so much. (I’m a little late to the take-off.) I have a copy of ‘Ruth and the Green Book’- bittersweet now with the recent loss of Floyd Cooper. I was lucky to meet him at a Highlights workshop. ‘Ten Beautiful Things’ sounds glorious, and I’m drooling over the gorgeous cover. Might feel a purchase coming on…
    Happy journeys this week!


  10. Mary Lee, thank you for this. It is very powerful where you took this road trip theme and taught us about The Green Book history. Your poem is fun to imagine the road trip itself passing time. Such an interesting concept. The Kansas geology site was beautiful and informative too. So many lovely things all tied up together to make a great post. I’m so glad I came back to finish reading the Poetry Friday posts this week.


  11. Thanks for these book recommendations. As a list-maker, and a poet, I love a list poem :-).

    This is an important reminder that so much of what some of us experience without a second thought, we can do so because of our privilege. Thank you.


  12. This poem is the hug of those family members. I can feel it. And, wow to roadcuts! I have driven through many…didn’t know the name.


  13. This looks like a beautiful book–I will have to add it to my TBR. And your poem is wonderful. Roadcuts (I didn’t know that’s what they were called) are one of my favorite parts about long road trips. When we lived in Utah, we would sometimes drive through one that had a very pronounced coal seam.


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