The Classroom Bookshelf
Inside The Classroom Bookshelf


Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys
Written by Bob Raczka and Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
Published by Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 978-0-547-24003-9
Book Review:
“If this puddle could / talk, I think it would tell me / to splash my sister.” Following the traditional seasonal organization of collections of haiku, this picture book of twenty-four poems, aimed at a boy audience, leads the reader in a vigorous exploration of the wonders of nature. True to traditional form, these three line poems celebrate the fun to be had flying kites, climbing trees, toasting marshmallows, and placing pennies on railroad tracks, just to name a few of the activities featured. The high energy text is complemented by Reynold’s two color sketches depicting a multicultural cast of boy characters. Six poems are presented for each season of the year; the season is introduced in simple bold font across a double page spread. The book design is particularly engaging with modest trim size, thick glossy pages, and rich teal end papers. With appeal across the elementary grade and across genders (despite the title’s claim), this text highlights the accessibility of the poetic form of haiku.
Teaching Suggestions:
Grades K – 6:
  • Nature and Poetry Writing. Take your students outside to explore the environment around your school. Take along clipboards and writing and sketching materials so that students can record their sensory experiences in preparation for writing their own poetry. If possible, provide students with digital cameras to capture images from the exploration. Allow students time to draft, revise, and receive feedback on their poems. Publish the poems in a class book.
  • Genre Study: Gather a collection of texts featuring haiku (use the resources below as a starting point) and begin a genre study of this poetic form. First, read many examples, and ask students to record their observations. Once students have formed hypotheses regarding the characteristics of the form, you may want to provide some “official” definitions or descriptions drawn from the websites below or other sources. Continue to read examples, discussing variations that students observe. Invite students to compose their own haiku collections on topics of their own choosing.
  • Humorous Haiku. Using Jack Pretutsky’s advice (see link below) and Guyku as a mentor text, have your students focus on writing humorous haiku. In what ways is writing humorous haiku easier than traditional haiku? In what ways is it more difficult?
Grades 3-8
  • Haiga. Haiga is the traditional art form that combines haiku poems and paintings. Using Renee Owen’s experimental collage work in the December 2010 issue of Haigaonline (see link below), create a class slide show of collage-style haiga.
Critical Literacy:
Grades 3 -8:
  • Investigating Gender Preferences. This book was written and marketed to appeal to a young male audience. But would girls find it appealing as well? What assumptions do the authors and illustrators make about both boys and girls? Are there any “truths” to those claims, and if so, who says? How might any assumptions lead to stereotypes about boys and girls as readers, learners, and people? Begin a discussion with your class about these questions, and supplement it by reading several texts that explore these issues. Oliver Button is a Sissy, Ballerino Nate, and The Paper Bag Princess are good picture books to help even K-2 students think critically about gender issues. Invite your students to conduct an inquiry project to determine whether or not there are clear gender-related preferences for certain types of reading material. You may want to begin this inquiry by asking students to explore their own assumptions about what girls like to read and what boys like to read. Ask students to design a research tool (such as a survey) to gather information about what their schoolmates like to read. Invite them to extend the study by surveying their parents’ / grandparents’ / neighbors’ reading interests.
Further Explorations:
Web Links:
The Official Haiku for Guys Headquarters:
Bob Raczka’s Website:
James Patterson’s Boys’ Spotlight:

Poetry Foundation on Haiku:

Haiga Online:
Jack Prelutsky: How to Write a Funny Poem
Aronson, M. & Newquist, H.P.(2007). For boys only: The biggest, baddest book ever. New York: Feiwel & Friends.
  • A collection of fascinating and obscure information about a broad variety of topics appealing to a boy audience.
Bodden, V. (2010). Haiku. Mankato, MN: Creative Education.
  • An informational book presenting the history and characteristics of haiku.
Clements, A. (2007). Dogku. Ill. by T. Bowers. New York: Simon & Schuster.
  • The popular comic author presents a picture book featuring a series of haiku about a dog named Mooch.
Graves, D.H. (1996). Baseball, snakes and summer squash: Poems about growing up. New York: Wordsong / Boyds Mills Press.
  • A collection of poems that feature the everyday experiences and emotions of childhood.
Iggulden, C. & Iggulden, H. (2007). The dangerous book for boys. New York: Harper Collins.
  • A book of instructions for boys “eight to 80,” featuring essential skills for boys, such as how to fish and how to build a treehouse, as well as information on a variety of frequently asked questions.
Lewis, J.P. & Janeczko, P. (2008). Birds on a wire: A Renga ‘round town. Ill. by G. Lippincott. New York: Wordsong Press.
  • Renga is a Japanese poetic form that is a cousin to haiku, consisting of linked verses by multiple authors. The renga in this picture book celebrate life in a small town.
Lin, G. & R. McKnealy. (2006). Our seasons. Ill. by G. Lin. Cambridge, MA: Charlesbridge.
  • This informational text pairs haiku with questions and answers about the seasons.
Mannis, C.D. (2002) One leaf rides the wind: Counting in a Japanese garden. Ill. by S.K. Hartung. New York: Puffin Books.
  • In this counting book of haiku poems, a young girl explores a Japanese garden.
Mora, P. (2007). Yum! mmmm! que rico!: Americas’ sproutings Y. Ill. by R. Lopez. New York: Lee & Low.
  • A collection of haiku that feature the indigenous foods of the Americas.
Myers, T. (2000). Basho and the fox. Ill. by O.S. Han. New York: Marshall Cavendish.
Myers, T. (2004). Basho and the river stones. Ill. by O.S. Han. New York: Marshall Cavendish.
  • These two tales feature the seventeenth century Japanese poet Matsuo Basho (famous for his haiku compositions) and his reformation of a treacherous fox.
Osborne, M.P. (2007). Dragon of the red dawn. Ill. by S. Murdocca. New York: Random House.
  • In this title in the Magic Tree House series, Jack and Annie visit 1600’s Japan and meet the haiku poet Basho.
Prelutsky, J. (2004). If not for the cat. Ill. by T. Rand. New York: Greenwillow.
  • In first person haiku, seventeen animals describe themselves. Striking double-page close up images of the animal complement each poem.
Rosen, M. (2009). The cuckoo’s haiku and other birding poems. Ill. by S. Fellows. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.
  • Twenty North American birds are featured in this picture book haiku collection.
Yolen, J. (2003). Least things: Poems about small natures. Ill. by J. Stemple. New York: Wordsong / Boyds Mills Press.
  • Photographs are used to illustrate this collection of haiku about small creatures, including a spider, a hummingbird, and a crab.

Erika Thulin Dawes About Erika Thulin Dawes

Erika is a professor of language and literacy at Lesley University. A former classroom teacher, reading specialist, and literacy supervisor, she now teaches courses in children’s literature, early literacy, and literacy methods. Erika is the co-author of Learning to Write with Purpose, Teaching with Text Sets, and Teaching to Complexity.