April is Poetry Month and this review celebrates one of my favorite types of books that all ages can enjoy! The placement and conjuncture of each and every word on the page adjudicates the pure joy of language. The books listed below showcase some of the best and newest books proclaiming that poetry is alive and well in this most beautiful world. I am dedicating this month to the simple, yet all encompassing, poem.
Forest Has a Song, by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater, and beautifully painted with watercolor by Robbin Gourley, emulates the seasons as they burst forth in their natural habitat. Each poem surrounds images that translate to forests natives. Beginning with early spring, poetry navigates the reader/observer through summer, fall and ending with winter. “April Waking” begins, “Ferny frondy fiddleheads / unfurl curls from dirty beds. / Stretching stems they sweetly sing / greenest greetings sent to Spring.” Some poems are longer and some are shorter. “Spider” is the shortest, but begs to be unfurled out loud: “A never-tangling dangling spinner / knitting angles, trapping dinner.” This book is a masterpiece of conveying nature in a natural way that praises God’s beautiful earth!
Dirt on my Shirt, by Jeff Foxworthy, and comically painted by Steve Bjorkman, has over 30 poems that kids can relate with and all are enjoyable to read out loud. Some of the poems are funny and all are fun. Here’s a poem kids and parents will relate to: “Are We There Yet? The Jenkins went out for a ride / ‘How much longer?’ the children cried / ‘A while! their dad said with regret / ‘We haven’t left the driveway yet!” What this poetry book does is help children of all ages enjoy poems. Most are short and easy to remember. In fact, that’s another great element for poetry: helping strengthen one’s memory! Here’s another enjoyable poem entitled “Snakes Alive!” – “I looked out the window and saw a snake / crawling around in the yard / My dad tried to find it, but it got away / I don’t think he looked very hard”.
Stardines Swim High Across the Sky and Other poems, by Jack Prelutsky, and ingeniously illustrated with 3-dimensional collages, dioramas and shadow boxes by Carin Berber, encompasses 16 amazingly unique poems on display in word and picture! The title poem ingratiates the sky with “STARDINES swim high across the sky, / And righty shine as they glide by. / In giant schools, their brilliant lights / illuminate the darkest nights. When other creatures are in bed, / STARDINES still twinkle overhead. / In silence, these nocturnal fish / Are set to grant the slightest wish.” The illustrations of each stardine are made with what could be broom-ends with tails seemingly shifting in the nautical sky. Between Prelutsky and Berber, by book’s end, you’re sure there are some unusual animals recently discovered and with hopefully more to come.
I like Old Clothes, by Mary Ann Hoberman, and painted with mixed media by Patrice Barton, was actually written back in 1976 but is now updated with new pictures by Barton. I love picture books that rhyme because they make reading-out-loud delectably delightful. A child loves to wear “old clothes, / Hand-me-down clothes, / Worn outgrown clothes, / Not-my-own clothes.” The expressions on this youngster, along with the frolicking rhymes, will bring smiles miles long!
Follow Follow: a Book of Reverso Poems, by Marilyn Singer, and painted with the brightest Liquitex Acrylic paint by Josee Masse, displays poems from two different points of view on familiar childhood stories. But, Ms. Singer took this newly made-up poetry form that she invented a step further. You can also read each poem placed on the page from the bottom up and find a different point-of-view than reading it top to bottom. This truly makes reading poetry great fun as you read downwards then upwards to discover what is being said! The messages become imbedded inwards, downwards, then finally upwards! There’s the tale about the rabbit and the hare titled “Ready, Steady, Go!” But beware. The underlying message in this old storied story will have you up on your feet ready to go yourself! The two mirrored poems, titled “Your Wish is My Command”, about the genie in the bottle, will practically jump out of the bottle when you reverse the poems and discover something altogether different than imagined! It is books like this one that teaches how wondrous and inventive our language truly is!