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A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams

Last updated Friday, August 5, 2016

Author: Jen Bryant
Illustrator: Melissa Sweet
Date of Publication: 2008
ISBN: 0802853021
Grade Level: 3rd    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Aug. 2016

Synopsis: When he wrote poems, he felt as free as the Passaic River as it rushed to the falls. Willies notebooks filled up, one after another. Willies words gave him freedom and peace, but he also knew he needed to earn a living. So he went off to medical school and became a doctor -- one of the busiest men in town! Yet he never stopped writing poetry. In this picture book biography of William Carlos Williams, Jen Bryants engaging prose and Melissa Sweets stunning mixed-media illustrations celebrate the amazing man who found a way to earn a living and to honor his calling to be a poet.

Note to readers:
•  Read the Author's Note at the end of the book for more information on William Carlos Williams.
•  In addition to the words of the story, there are also some of Willie's poems written, and illustrated, on some of the book pages.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  What is poetry?
•  What poetry have you read before?
•  Have you written any poems?
•  Can song lyrics also be poems? How about stories?


•  Rhyme-one of two or more words or phrases that end in the same sounds
•  Imitate-to make or do something the same way as something else
•  Prescription-a medicine that a doctor tells someone to use
•  Torrent-a large amount of water that moves very quickly
•  Rhythms-a regular, repeated pattern of sounds or movements
•  Frustrated-very angry, discouraged, or upset because of being unable to do or complete something
•  Ingenuously-having or showing the innocence, trust, and honesty that young people often have
•  Instruments-a tool or device used for a particular purpose

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  What kinds of things do you like to do in your spare time?
•  Did all of Willie's poems rhyme?
•  Did Willie stop writing when he went to school or became a doctor?

Craft ideas:
•  Write a poem about one your favorite things or favorite things to do. Write the poem out on a layout of a river. Cut out a river from construction paper and glue to a piece of paper. Cut out a number of stones/rocks in different sizes, and colors, and write the words of the poem on them. Glue along the river cut out. See Pinterest for an example.
•  See examples on Pinterest:

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don't have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!