Wordsworth the Poet

Wordsworth writes poetry — about rainbows made of butterflies and castles in the clouds. But all the other mice in the Hawaiian rain forest make fun of Wordsworth and his "silly" poems, until the day the sun disappears, and the sky rumbles, and the rain begins to fall and fall. That's when Wordsworth takes pen in hand and shows the others how poetry can save the day. In this delightful children's story by poet and educator Frances H. Kakugawa, young readers learn the value of self-expression through poetry.

The 32-page book is an ideal tool for home or classroom use, making readers comfortable with poetry and encouraging them to try writing their own. Wordsworth the Poet provides a memorable introduction to the power of poetry for children of all ages. Wordsworth was the recipient of the 2004 Hawaii Publisher's Book Award for Excellence in Children's Books.

Hardcover; 32 pp. Author: Frances H. Kakugawa; illustrated by Scott Goto.

Frances and Wordsworth tell the true story

There was this writer and, well, there was this mouse, you see...

"How did you write these stories?"
"Why did you name him Wordsworth?"
These are two most asked questions by readers. Wordsworth the Poet has a long history:

Frances: In the 70's, the Hawaii Culture and the Arts held a contest for children's stories with a Hawaiian setting. I lifted some poems from my previously published four books of poetry, added a few new poems and wrote a story around them. My story won second prize and the mayor sent me a $100 check. I attended a reception to be recognized. "Not a good enough story," I said, and filed the story away.

A year later, a local publisher planned to publish Wordsworth and had designated a known artist to do the illustrations. The publisher and I sat down at a restaurant to discuss the book. I was feeling such exhilaration. I had four books of poetry with my name on each but this would be my first children's book. At the luncheon, the publisher called the waitress, "Hey you, come here!" His disrespect and rudeness toward the waitress were discomforting. "The only difference between that waitress and me are our jobs," I thought. "Do I want such a man to publish Wordsworth?" The next day I took my story back and filed it away once again.

About 30 years later, George Engebretson of Watermark Publishing and I sat down to discuss my manuscript, Teacher, You Look Like a Horse. I sneakily took Wordsworth out and read it to him. The rest is history. George was everything the first publisher was not and Wordsworth said, "At last."

Wordsworth: Actually I didn't say "At last." I said, "What?" You see, those poems she mentioned above? She got them from these little pieces of paper I had left in the trash can. Yes, I wrote those poems. I still wonder what she did with that $100 check.

About Scott Goto, who illustrated me—guess who spent hours holding his hand telling him, "Go easy with that brush, you're making me too fat." Just thought I'd tell the story closer to the truth. I mean, I was there from beginning to end.

Why did you name the mouse Wordsworth?

Frances: Wordsworth was initially named Iole. Iole means Rat in Hawaiian. George, the publisher and I changed his name to make him pronunciation and culture friendly outside of Hawaii. We decided to name him after a poet or some known work of literature. George even considered Hamlet the Pig. I took Wordsworth to a Kindergarten teacher and asked, "Can your five year olds say Wordsworth the Poet?" She said, "Of course," and Wordsworth was born. Emily was initially named Lehua, a flower from the Ohi'a tree in Hawaii. Have you guessed how all the other characters were named?

Wordsworth: I get mouse chills thinking I could have become a rat or a pig. Our world can stand only one Templeton and one Charlotte. So, thank you George, for your idea of renaming me but couldn't you have named me George or something more common because I'm not a fancy mouse, just a regular sort of mouse. I know, I know, Frances thinks she's un-common, to put it politely. She won't let me write in Pidgin. Eh, I bet I can do some good stuff using da-kine and all dat stuff. Wat you tink, George? By the way, people still call me Wadsworth by mistake. I'll bet you're always called George. One good thing about Frances' last name: she's always called Cattlegawa or Kukugawa. I get a kick when that happens.

Frances: Wordsworth and I will answer any questions you send us. Right, Wordsworth? Wordsworth? Where are you? I hope you're writing about how to write a poem so I can post it here. No Pidgin!
Click on Wordsworth's name to send him an e-mail!: Wordsworth

About Wordsworth Dances The Waltz

Frances: Scott Goto did an excellent job illustrating Wordsworth the Poet. I visualized a few scenes coming out of his brushes and worked part of the story around them. During a book signing, I saw Scott sketch Wordsworth in a Karate gi so at that moment,I knew Karate would appear in my next story. The Rubberband Game came from friend Red Slider who once described what he saw in his backyard."I'm going to use that sunset scene someday," was my instant response. You can say I'm constantly on the prowl, looking for ideas.

I knew what the theme was going to be: change and dementia. I also wanted to use two real life experiences: being invited to a Grandparents' Day by a student and a memory of my mother dancing at PTA meetings. Scott was unable to do the book so another talented artist, Melissa DeSica, illustrated this book.

Wordsworth: About Melissa, guess who held her hand because she was so excited. "Melissa", I kept telling her, "change my Aloha shirt already. People will think I have only one shirt." Besides, when am I going to lose some weight after Karate classes and all that dancing and running all around with my friends?" I must say, I had fun with all those poems and games I played with my friends.I'm glad Frances listened to the readers who asked, "What happened to the mouse with the crinkly whiskers from the first book?" He became Eliot, one of my friends.

About Wordsworth! Stop The Bulldozers!

Frances: I was at a lumberyard one day when I visualized Wordsworth and his friends running through the stacks of lumber and the theme of my story Wordsworth! Stop the Bulldozers was born. Many of the scenes were seen in my head as illustrations first, later the words came. My favorite scene remains Wordsworth standing in front of the bulldozer to save his favorite tree.

I also wanted to introduce new forms of poetry so I replaced Emily with another character who wrote tanka poems.

Wordsworth: Frances makes it sound so good but I really wanted to write some poems in Pidgin because that's how I grew up, speaking Pidgin, but Frances kept saying, "No Pidgin, use those two special forms of poetry."Eh? How many mo' book she like I write? Eh, wen she gon get off my back about dis pigeon stuff?

I don't mind writing but as you know, but my favorite place was destroyed by bulldozers. Maybe you can help me find a new place for my solitude. Oh, oh, she's telling me to write . I gotta go. She like I write some mo' poems now. Help, readers, I stay one prisona in dis good English place.

Help Wordsworth Plant A Tree!

Grow your own tree with a Wordsworth Tree In a Box Kit!
Instead of buying a potted young tree to plant, start from a seed! These fun kits from the Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative include three milo seeds (a type of tree in the hibiscus family, similar to hau, that came to Hawaii with the Polynesian settlers), a peat soil pod and instructions.
Set contains a copy of Wordsworth! Stop the Bulldozer! and a Tree In A Box kit. (Not available in stores.)