Posts Tagged ‘children’s poetry’
My last offering for poetry month is this new gem created by two favorites of mine, poet Julie Fogliano and artist Julie Morstad.
When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons
published in 2016; a Neal Porter Book from Roaring Brook Press
Grouped by season, Julia Fogliano’s poems are colorful fragments of observation, almost exclusively about the outdoor world inhabited by children. Joyous, free, simple play in meadows and on beaches, alone or with friends. That makes this collection a prime Orange Marmalade choice !
There are poems about daffodils “shivering and huddled close” in the chill of early spring…
…about the lovely coolness of a swim on “a day that drips hot and thick like honey.”
…about snowstorms and carving jack-o-lanterns and starlight and beach picnics.
In other words, poems about familiar places and events graced by the unique perspective of a poet. All of them are titled by just a date making it especially nice to dip into over the course of a year, or to spot the poem closest to your birthday.
One of the things I like about Fogliano’s poetry, seen in this volume as well as in two other books I’ve reviewed — And Then It’s Spring and If You Want to See a Whale — is the almost ephemeral quality to her words; so light, they’re like a snowflake on your tongue.
For example, the poem “february 15” reads except for a squirrel/quick quick/and then gone/all is still/in the woods/in the winter.
I feel myself hush when I read them, on the alert to glimpse the shimmer of idea in her spare words. Of course, many children’s poems are silly and rhythmic and boisterous, and I love those, too. But there is a lusciousness to these quieter pieces. We all know today’s children are in great need of quietness, space, and a pace for thoughtful wondering. These poems accommodate that.
No one could better illustrate these, I think, than Julie Morstad, whose work I adore. Every page is squoze full of her signature charm. I do love that on many of these pages, she draws a child alone.
Lying in a flowery patch, face towards the sky, one little girl examines a flowerhead, her basket of berries and a book by her side. Lost in lovely thought. One child atop a summer hill. One curled up by the fire on a winter night. Can we be brave enough to let our children play by themselves this way? Morstad’s vision of aloneness is a content, creative, enriching solitude. It makes me glad.
I will say that the majority of Morstad’s figures are little girls. Thus, I think there is more of a girl-feel to the book on the whole.
It is an imaginative beauty, for ages 4 and up.
It’s Earth Day tomorrow, and Poetry Month all April long, so this slim volume of poems by Wendell Berry, one of our most eloquent spokesmen for the respectful care of the Earth, seemed like the perfect collection to share with you today.
Terrapin And Other Poems, by Wendell Berry, illustrated by Tom Pohrt
published in 2014 by Counterpoint Press
As my blog title indicates, these poems are not only for children. In fact, I have no idea that Berry intended them for children per se. According to the book jacket, it was artist Tom Pohrt who set about collecting pieces by Berry that he deemed especially accessible to children and creating initial sketches to accompany them. In time, he and Berry collaborated in order to deepen Pohrt’s knowledge of the flora and fauna for his watercolor illustrations.
All that to say — this is a volume for all ages. The briefest poems in the book are only a couple of lines long, while others extend quite beyond that. Some of these gems will spark an interest in even very young children — a reflection on a rabbit caught in the rain; a musing about the first person ever to whistle.
The poem which gives its name to the collection, The Terrapin, is a delightful piece for children with its commentary on a fellow who is always at home and who “pokes along” with “no map and no suitcase” because he can never really get lost! No matter where he wanders, he is “always home.”
Other pieces incorporate expressions and crafting that obviously require more heft than a 2-year-old can muster. Some will be best appreciated by middle-graders and older, making it a nice volume to grow into.
Berry’s habits of observing and keenly appreciating the natural world mark these poems. They are written by one who listens intently and snuffs in the odor of forests and feels the companionship of unelectrified, velvet nights. There’s a down-to-earth sense about them, a muck-on-the-boots, frost-nipped-face feel, rather than anything artificially romantic.
A snake swells with the body of a mouse. Trees are planted in the hopes they “may live when I/ no longer rise in the mornings/ to be pleased by the green of them/ shining…” A calf is birthed, and a squirrel met whose ragged tail testifies to a time when “he should have hurried more than he did.” Glimpses and gazings at the real, natural world.
We have Tom Pohrt to thank for this collection, and what is more, for his elegant, captivating watercolor paintings that fill each page with such grace and beauty. It is a felicitous partnership.
Everything about this book works together to slow us down and draw our minds and aesthetic tastebuds to the detail and expanse, stillness and music, temporal and eternal, ever on display in Nature.
Last week I featured those amazingly-original Reverso Poems.
This week’s poet, Bob Raczka, is also an Olympic-level word-gymnast. His format: concrete poems. Raczka has published other volumes of these ingenuous pieces. This is his most recent:
Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems, created by Bob Raczka
published in 2016 by Roaring Brook Press
A concrete poem is one where, rather than just standing in straight lines down the page, the words themselves are twisted and spiraled and bent into shapes and patterns which augment the meaning of the text.
Think of it as a marching band in a half-time performance, with the players (the words) parading around the pages into clever formations that echo the lyrics. Something like that anyway.
A few images will do a much better job of conveying the genius behind these creations:
Do you see the airplane shape on the left, shooshing off? Underneath, forming the shape of a shallow, Kitty Hawk dune, words rise and fall describing the Wright brothers’ first flight.
And here’s another delight:
The cleverness just puts a smile on my face.
Raczka’s poems in this volume cover everything from icicles to xylophones, fireflies to pop flies. They will tickle the fancy and imagination of elementary school children and up. I found them irresistible! Give them a try, and then search for past volumes of his playful work.
April is National Poetry Month and this year I’m posting one book of marvelous poems each week.
Except today, I have two. Two companion volumes of a very tricksy, utterly-delightful form of poetry called Reverso Poems, created by the word-magician, Marilyn Singer.
Follow Follow: A Book of Reverso Poems, was published in 2013.
Echo Echo: Reverso Poems about Greek Myths, was published in 2016
Both are gorgeously illustrated by Josée Masse and published by Dial Books for Young Readers.
So, what’s a reverso poem, you ask?
It’s a poem that conveys one meaning if you read the lines top to bottom, and a twist on that meaning when you read from bottom to top.
I am telling you, the patience required to invent just one of these pairs has got to be staggering.
Singer is, astonishingly, the inventor of this format. Her first volume of reversos, Mirror Mirror, I reviewed here. Her second volume, Follow Follow, likewise takes as its theme fairy tale characters. I will give you one example, so you can be as bewitched by this sleight of hand, word-spinning as I am:
Behold his glorious majesty:
Who dares say he drained the treasury
This emperor has
sublime taste in finery!
Only a fool could fail to see.
Now, with just some punctuation changes, we read the lines in a reversed order:
Only a fool could fail to see.
Sublime taste in finery?
This emperor has —
Who dares say he drained the treasury?
Behold his glorious majesty!
Isn’t that amazing?!?!
Grab hold of all three volumes if you can, and enjoy the remarkable cleverness in pages and pages of these pairs, all illustrated in vibrant color and clever compositions by Masse. Singer’s third volume, Echo Echo, covers myths from Pandora to King Midas. Medusa and her snaky locks are here. Theseus and the Minotaur. I can’t think of a more engaging way to accompany an introduction to Greek Mythology.
Each of the poems in Echo Echo includes a tiny synopsis of its original myth so you can understand the poem’s references if you’re unfamiliar with the story. Short summaries of the tales referenced in Follow Follow are located at the end of the book.
Go ahead and dive into all three volumes, accessible to such a wide age-range. Young elementary children will enjoy them for sure, but readers in their teens and adults will also find them exceedingly clever and may be inspired to give their own set of reversos a try.
Posted in Caldecott Books, fiction, non-fiction, picture books, poetry, tagged bears, book reviews, children's literature, children's poetry, diverse children's books, kid's lit, outdoor play, poetry, recreation, roald dahl, seasons on January 4, 2016| 2 Comments »
I remember that as a child, each New Year’s Day felt immensely consequential. With one flip of the page, an entire calendar, a year stuffed with life, was over; past instead of present. A weirdly sacred finality accompanied the rite of taking it down from the nail on my bedroom wall and chinging it into the garbage can. Voop. Gone. And a tingly new year lay ahead, shadowy with mystery, stretching out long and somehow both empty and full at the same time.
January in northern Minnesota was always, predictably, frozen. A time to head to the ragged, outdoor rink night after night for frosty-breathed ice-skating. We knew we were in for months more of winter before the briefest of springs, a short summer, one glorious blast of fall, and then… winter again. You had better love winter to live in the North!
Every season has its loveliness. As we begin 2016, here are six books that call our attention to the beauty of the seasons:
A Bear’s Year, by Kathy Duval, illustrated by Gerry Turley
published in 2015 by Schwartz & Wade Books
A bulky, frowsy, Mama Bear and her two snuggly cubs mosey and grow through the year in this fetching book.
Brief, poetic text guides us from their quiet den under northern lights, out into spring carousing, summer feasting, autumn sheltering, before tucking them back into a cozy den in a snowy, sleepy world.
Gerry Turley’s wonderful illustrations capture the galumptious bears and the glories of their rambling wilderness — frosty nights, spring glades graced by elegant paper birches, bushes spangled with persimmon berries, mountainsides garbed in glowing russets and golds. Really gorgeous work here, in bold, up-close views that plant us right in their midst.
A fabulous treat to share with children 18-months and up.
A Child’s Calendar, poems by John Updike, illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman
poems first published in 1965; published with new illustrations in 1999 by Holiday House
John Updike was a Pulitzer-prize winning, every-award-winning, American novelist who also wrote this joyful volume of children’s poetry in 1965.
His twelve, brief poems explore the gem-like qualities of each month, both in the natural world and in the children’s world of activities. So, in January, The days are short/the sun a spark/hung thin between/the dark and dark. Fat snowy footprints/track the floor/and parkas pile up/near the door. Nature and recreation, side by side.
One of the lovely elements of these poems, then, is the children’s interaction with the outdoor world, the active, playful, creative, pastimes which occupy them throughout the year. Idyllic and refreshingly naive.
They were originally illustrated by Nancy Ekholm Burkert, then republished 30 years later with a tiny bit of editing by Updike, this time illustrated by the masterful Trina Schart Hyman. She won a Caldecott Honor for her work.
It’s gorgeous, as all of her work is, and what I find especially appealing is that she incorporated a multiracial cast in a book set firmly in small town/rural New England. Far too often African American children in picture books are limited to urban scenes, yet here we have a beautiful mish-mash of folks sledding, gardening, tumbling in deep drifts of Maple leaves, and wading through reedy ponds.
It’s a timeless collection for children ages 2 and up.
Antler, Bear, Canoe: A Northwoods Alphabet Year, written and illustrated by Betsy Bowen
published in 1991 by Houghton Mifflin
Betsy Bowen is a Minnesota artist, an exceptional woodblock printmaker from wayyyy up north in the tiny, picturesque, Lake Superior town of Grand Marais.
You’ll fall in love with her artwork in this alphabet book which walks us through the seasons in the north woods.
Dominated by her bold, striking woodcuts, the pages move from winter, to spring, summer, fall, and close in the frozen depths of winter again. Fitting, for a home town perched at such a northerly latitude.
Whether it’s D is for Dogsledding, K is for Kayak, or S is for Saw, Bowen adds just a few lines, chatting about how this is part of her experience living in this place. In September, “we cut firewood to keep us warm all winter. When we stop our chain saw to add gas and oil, we can hear our neighbor’s saw way off through the woods.”
Immerse yourself in the beauty of the northwoods and in the vigorous, outdoor activities loved by folks who live there. I hope you’re inspired by the sense of community she relates as well as the close-to-nature life she describes. Ages 3 and up.
Snowy, Flowy, Blowy: A Twelve Months Rhyme, written and illustrated by Nancy Tafuri
published in 1999 by Scholastic Press
Nancy Tafuri is a genius at books for the very young; this one is perfect for the youngest of bookworms.
Each month gets just one word. That’s it. Based on an old poem by Gregory Gander, a poet who lived from 1745-1815, the rhyme progresses in 3-word triplets: Snowy, Flowy, Blowy. Showery, Flowery, Bowery.
Double-spreads on big pages bloom with glorious, wall-to-wall illustration. Tafuri’s clear, bold art grabs our attention and rivets it to her simplified, endearing forms. Every month we spy children playing out of doors, and also meet beautiful birds and other wildlife and plant life.
There’s also a little black dog to spot in every scene. It’s got a sweet, old-fashioned feel, for kids ages 1-3.
Elisa Kleven’s color-spattered, jubilant scenes carry us through a cozy, happy year, this time beginning with Autumn and closing out with Summer. So, if you’re tired of beginning with January and wintertime, here’s a nice change of pace.
The months spin by to the tune of a skippety, frolicsome, boundlessly-happy, rhyming text. Again, I love that Kleven features children of diverse races, indoors and out, urban and rural, engaged in a marvelous, kaleidoscope of creative activities — baseball and beachcombing, popcorn parties and pumpkin patches, singing and swinging. There is so much to look at on every page.
I just dare you to read this and feel grumpy. It’s a splendid choice for ages 2 and up.
And finally, this lovely journal/memoir written by Roald Dahl during the last year of his life and published posthumously more than 20 years ago.
It’s a conversational meandering through the months. I felt myself to be sitting, relaxed, in Dahl’s home, Gypsy House, nestled in the Chiltern Hills between London and Oxford, hearing about the countryside he loved over a cup of tea. He is pointing out many English birds, telling me their names — willow warblers and chiffchaffs and hedge sparrows — and describing their small habits including all the nastiness of the cuckoo, a bird Dahl loves to hate. The trees and hedges, too, are not simply a mass of green but a beloved collection of individuals: hawthorns with blossoms like snow, guelder-roses with their scarlet berries, and horse-chestnut trees whose conkers were just the thing for epic contests among Dahl and his schoolfellows.
So, there’s an outpouring of nature lore here, expressed with palpable fondness, clearly the result of many, many hours quietly observing and relishing the open spaces around him. Dahl is no lover of the city.
Mixed in with these almanac-type comments are rabbit trails of remembrances of various escapades from his youth. Hair-raising adventures collecting birds’ eggs, annual Easter vacations, an illicit motorbike stashed away and ridden in gleeful disguise during his last school term, and a humorous story of a booby trap he built with his Meccano set at around age nine. Bit of A Child’s Christmas in Wales feel.
Dahl does not hold to a sentimental view of life. At times he sounds just a titch like your grandfather who walked seven miles to school in the snow barefoot…but we’ll grant him that. For what a life he led, and what a world he saw, and how he upends our pretentions with his wild storytelling.
This book is clearly aimed, by Dahl, at young readers, maybe ages 12 and up. I don’t know how many kids out there are interested in memoir per se. For those willing to give it a try, and for adults, this is a quiet gem. Quentin Blake’s loose, tender watercolors are the perfect, final collaboration between two giants of children’s lit.
Posted in non-fiction, picture books, poetry, tagged a a milne, Beatrix Potter, bilingual books, book reviews, children's literature, children's poetry, disabilities, endangered wildlife, geography, Ghana, illustration, inuksuk, Inuktitut language, maps, multicultural books, nonfiction, picture books, poetry, the arctic, the elephant man, The United States, wildlife, winnie-the-pooh on November 16, 2015| 4 Comments »