U1 Reading

Before You Read

Authors often use special techniques to express themselves in creative writing. These special techniques or a particular way of writing are called literary devicesSome people also call them literary elements. For this textbook, they will be called literary devices. A literary device is a way to use language to create a special effect in writing. These devices can give the reader a better idea of the author's meaning or emotion.

There are many literary devices. See the charts at the beginning of each unit or the literary device section in the back of the book for more information about each literary device. 





a comparison that uses "like" or "as"

The sun was as red as a tomato.

The backpack is like a giant rock weighing me down. 


a comparison that does not use "like" or "as"

The sun was a tomato.

The abandoned grand piano was a beached orca whale with bad dental hygiene. 


descriptive language that creates an image in the mind of the reader or listener

Where the Pelican Builds [Excerpt]

by Mary Hannay Foott

They had told us of pastures wide and green,

To be sought past the sunset’s glow;

 Of rifts in the ranges by opal lit;

 And gold ‘neath the river’s flow.

And thirst and hunger were banished words

When they spoke of that unknown West;

No drought they dreaded, no flood they feared,

Where the pelican builds her nest!


a word that represents the sound something makes

The Raven [excerpt]

by Edgar Allen Poe

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door,

Only this, and nothing more."


giving human characteristics to non-human things or animate characteristics to non-animate things; making a nonperson seem like a person

The Star [excerpt]

by Sara Teasdale

A white star born in the evening glow

Looked to the round green world below,

And saw a pool in a wooded place

That held like a jewel her mirrored face.

Exercise 1.1

Discuss these questions with your class.

  • Have you heard or read any of these literary devices in English before?
  • Are any of these devices used in your native language?

Cultural Context: 

Shel Silverstein is a famous poet who has written many books of poetry for children. His poems are notable for being funny and are about a variety of topics. 


The Dragon of Grindly Grun

By Shel Silverstein

I'm the Dragon of Grindly Grun,

I breathe fire as hot as the sun.

When a knight comes to fight

I just toast him on sight,

Like a hot crispy cinnamon bun.

When I see a fair damsel go by,

I just sigh a fiery sigh,

And she'd baked like a 'tater-

I think of her later

With a romantic tear in my eye.

I'm the Dragon of Grindly Grun,

But my lunches aren't very much fun,

For I like my damsels medium rare,

and they always come out well done.

a dragon statue breathing fire

Image: Сергей Христинич, 2021

After You Read

Exercise 1.2

Talk with a partner about the questions below. 

  1. How hot was the dragon's fire?
  2. What else is very hot that you could compare the fire to?
  3. What is the knight compared to?
  4. Why is the knight compared to this thing?
  5. What else could the knight be compared to?
  6. What is the damsel (princess) compared to?
  7. Why is she compared to this thing?
  8. What else could the princess be compared to?

Exercise 1.3

Retell the poem in your own words. What happened in this story?



By Silvia Plath

I'm a riddle in nine syllables,

An elephant, a ponderous house,

A melon strolling on two tendrils.

O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers!

This loaf's big with its yeasty rising.

Money's new-minted in this fat purse.

I'm a means, a stage, a cow in calf.

I've eaten a bag of green apples,

Boarded the train there's no getting off.

a pregnant woman standing in a field

Image: Jonathan Borba, 2019

After You Read

Exercise 1.4

Discuss these questions as a class. 

  • What is this poem about?
  • Why is the woman compared to "nine syllables"?
  • Why is the woman compared to an elephant, house, and melon?
  • Why is the woman compared to "cow in calf" and "an eaten bag of green apples"?
  • How is the emotion different between the first half of the poem and the second half?
  • What do you think the woman is feeling when she says she's "boarded the train there's no getting off"?



by Victor James Daley

We said farewell, my youth and I,

When all fair dreams were gone or going,

 And Love’s red lips were cold and dry.

When white blooms fell from tree-tops high,

Our Austral winter’s way of snowing,

We said farewell, my youth and I.

We did not sigh, what use to sigh

When Death passed as a mower mowing,

And Love’s red lips were cold and dry?

But hearing Life’s stream thunder by,

That sang of old through flowers flowing,

We said farewell, my youth and I.

There was no hope in the blue sky,

No music in the low winds blowing,

And Love’s red lips were cold and dry.

My hair is black as yet, then why

So sad! I know not, only knowing

We said farewell, my youth and I.

All are not buried when they die;

Dead souls there are through live eyes showing

When Love’s red lips are cold and dry.

So, seeing where the dead men lie,

Out of their hearts the grave-flowers growing,

We said farewell, my youth and I,

When Love’s red lips were cold and dry.

After You Read

Exercise 1.5

1. What images or pictures did this poem cause you to think of? 


2. What emotions did this poem invoke or cause?



The Old Pond

by Matsuo Basho

An old silent pond

A frog jumps into the pond--

Splash! Silence again.

After You Read

Exercise 1.6

Brainstorm quietly. Then, share your answers to the questions below with a partner. How do you say these sounds?

Example: The frog jumping in the pond makes a sound. The sound is said by people by saying "splash".

  • What sounds do you hear near a pond?
  • What sounds do you hear in a city?
  • What sounds do you hear in a classroom?



by Carl Sandburg

The fog comes

on little cat feet.

It sits looking

over the harbor and city

on silent haunches

and then moves on. 

After You Read

Exercise 1.7

Discuss the questions below with the class. 

  • What is this poem about?
  • What is the fog doing that is personification?
  • What emotion do you feel reading the poem?
  • What emotion do you think the fog felt in the poem?

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