Thursday, April 15, 2010

Perfect Poetry (FAMILY magazine reviews)

The month of April often produces a shower of poetry to refresh the winter darkness, bringing a breezy lightheartedness to sweep away the cold doldrums. Hunt up a favorite collection to tickle your memory and add a new title to savor from the list below. 

Waiting Out the Storm
by JoAnn Early Macken, 
illustrated by Susan Gaber. 
Candlewick Press, $15.99, Ages 3-7

In a lovely blend of single and double page illustrations, artist Gaber has seamlessly drawn the lyrical text through the paintings. Macken’s lilting language invokes the mysterious nature of the world in a conversation between mother and daughter, as a spring storm approaches.
“Mama? Yes, buttercup? What’s that I hear? It’s only the wind in the treetops my dear.” Although the fluid rhythm and rhyme of the story introduce a common situation, the child voices uneasiness with stormy elements, as Gaber’s bright and dark acrylic colors amplify vigorous word images through wind, thunder, lightening and into rain. Yet, the comfort of resonant sounds and spirited word choices combine with vivid images, to present a reassuring sense of safety as a contrast to the storm’s energy.
Turtles and ducks, chipmunks and chickadees, and even a bunny toy serve to emphasize the varied experiences of a storm. The words and their melody of sound accent today’s “wet, windy weather,” and the counterpoint comforts of “snuggling together,” with the promise of tomorrow’s sunshine and play in the pond. With its nimble language and deft artwork, this skillfully crafted story is a gem to share.

by Douglas Florian. 
Simon & Schuster, $16.99, Ages 6-12

Artist and poet Florian clearly is in love with both trees and language as this striking book demonstrates. Known for Insectlopedia and Mammalabilia, among many of his books of poems accompanied by imaginative illustrations, Florian’s lifelong fascination with trees is revealed in this newest addition to his successful children’s publications.
Showcasing his singular poetic style with its mix of rhythm, rhyme and wordplay, Florian introduces readers to thirteen trees from around the world, interspersed with poems about roots, rings, leaves, bark, and seeds. Beginning the book is a seed poem in the shape of a figure eight, the symbol for eternity. Later, another poem – this time in the round -- displays both the nature and shape of tree rings.
Designed to be read, and held vertically, the oversized book allows for a visual representation of the trees’ height and breadth in its double page spreads.
Florian’s decision to use watercolors, colored pencils, rubber stamps, oil pastels and collage on primed paper bags expresses his commitment to recycling, conserving and preserving trees and other aspects of the earth’s resources. In an intriguing synthesis of elemental and multifaceted forms, Florian has succeeded in fashioning poetry to merge with his earth-friendly artwork.
Concluding with a “Glossatree,” which also includes brief information about each tree, a bibliography, and an author’s note, this unique and timely book is an inventive collection of poetry to examine and enjoy.

Mirror, Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse 
by Marilyn Singer
illustrated by Josée Masse
Dutton, $16.99, Ages 7-11

In a fascinating blend of poetry and familiar fairy tales, award-winning author Singer has constructed a new genre of poem, reverso, that reads the same backward and forward. “When you read a reverso down, it is one poem,” she explains. “When you read it up,” with the only changes being for punctuation, capitalization, and line breaks, it’s a very different poem.
Choosing to represent two perspectives from each of a dozen different but well-known fairytales, Singer romps with language, poetry, and storytelling to craft this clever and magical selection of short, reversible puzzles. In the Hood begins its wordplay with Little Red speaking, while the facing poem features Wolf’s voice. Playing on the mirror image of Snow White with her stepmother, this animated collection -- which includes the Ugly Duckling, Jack and the Beanstalk, Hansel and Gretel, Rumplestiltskin, and Rapunzel -- tempts readers to travel new territory by spinning new versions from common and recognizable tales into unconventional retellings.

Name That Dog! Puppy Poems from A to Z 
by Peggy Archer
illustrated by Stephanie Buscema
Dial, $16.99, Ages 3-5

Here’s a perfect opportunity to meet dogs of all shapes, sizes, types and personalities in an amusing assortment of poems reminiscent of T. S. Eliot’s Old ‘Possums Book of Practical Cats. Often brief like “Snickers” (My dog’s a creamy caramel/With chocolate ears and whiskers./She’s just a little nutty, too./That’s why I call her Snickers.), this delightful alphabetical treasure trove of dog poetry includes a Boston Terrier named Bandit, Daisy the Dalmatian, a Cocker Spaniel called Elvis, a Dachshund who answers, of course, to Frank, even a Poodle identified as Noodles, and a Chihuahua who’s unexpected label, Valentine, contributes a bright accent to a humorous arrangement of charming canines, in bright, colorful illustrations by cartoonist Buscema, to accompany New York Times best selling author Archer’s bouncy rhymes.
New puppy in the house? Looking for a name? Get inspired by this cheery collection.


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