THIS IS JUST TO SAY by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski


The author’s imagined classroom of students and their teacher wrote this collection of poems. William Carlos Williams’ poem “this is just to say” inspired the collection, and many of the earlier poems follow his pattern. Later poems evolve into more complicated apology and response poems. Although the collection begins lightheartedly, the poems quickly become more serious, dealing with issues like the death of a pet, parental abandonment, and a range of childhood insecurities.


Most of the poems are written in free verse. Some of them are also blank verse poems, pantoums, and haikus. The variety fits the premise, which is that the book is a compilation of an entire classroom’s poetry. The many voices also allow for a range of stories to be told within the book, and the audience becomes acquainted with many characters, albeit briefly.

Most of the poems to be easily understand and appreciated by young audiences. Some of the more complex ones would make a good starting point for discussion with older students. It’s a difficult book to place within collection that is divided by age.

The collection is successful at demonstrating the power of apology and forgiveness. The setup of the book, a series of poems imagined by children in a class, was awkward at first. However, it was surprisingly easy to keep track of the characters, despite a lack of visual clues.

The illustrations are appropriately child-like, colorful, and varied, representing some concrete parts of the poems, some abstract. The fonts vary, too, throughout the book, which helps each poem seem as though it comes from a different voice.


The text reveals a “slight uneven quality,” but the book as a whole “is far more captivating than expected; the illustrations have a “collage-like look” which “captures the child-like quality in sprightly compositions, but the conceit that these are the artwork of one of the students doesn’t quite ring true” (Kirkus 2007).


Claudia Lewis Poetry Award

Cybils Poetry Award

Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award Honor Book

School Library Journal Best Book of the Year

Related Book

FORGIVE ME, I MEANT TO DO IT by Gail Carson Levine


Joyce Sidman’s website links to a Reader’s Guide and Play Adaptation:


Joyce Sidman. n.d.

Kirkus. 2007.

Sidman, Joyce. 2007. THIS IS JUST TO SAY: POEMS OF APOLOGY AND FORGIVENESS. Ill. by Pamela Zagarenski. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co. ISBN 9780618616800


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