Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

Review of Animal Ark, photographs by Joel Santore, words by Kwame Alexander

Sunday, December 9th, 2018

Animal Ark

Celebrating our Wild World in Poetry and Pictures

photographs by Joel Sartore
words by Kwame Alexander
with Mary Rand Hess and Deanna Nikaido

National Geographic, 2017. 40 pages.
Starred Review

At the back of this book, the photographer tells us:

At its heart, the Photo Ark was born out of necessity.

I have been sent around the world by National Geographic magazine for more than 20 years to take photographs of people, places, and animals. There have been assignments to capture images of the fiercest predators, the shyest sea creatures, the most beautiful birds, and so many more. Several years ago, I started to see that people weren’t paying much attention to the fate of all the other species we share this planet with. Without action, and soon, I worried that many animals could go extinct.

The Photo Ark is my answer to this. By introducing the entire world to thousands of photographs of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and even insects, I hope we can get everyone following, liking, texting, tweeting, and even talking about this wondrous world of ours.

In the Photo Ark, every creature is equal. I use simple black and white backgrounds, which make all animals appear to be the same size, no matter how large or small they might be in the wild. Each photo also shows you the amazing detail of a creature’s scales, skin, or feathers; their eyes, antennae, or legs – each creature with its own kind of stunning beauty. A slippery minnow in the Photo Ark appears as big as a shark, and a tiny tiger beetle as impressive as a mighty tiger.

I want people around the world to look these animals in the eye, and then fall in love with creatures as dazzling as a pheasant or as odd as an octopus. And once we love something, won’t we do anything to save it?

The highlight of this book is Joel Sartore’s stunning photographs of 32 of these creatures. But they’ve been paired with Kwame Alexander’s poetry to make a powerful picture book and bring these animals to young readers. The poet chose haiku as the form to create a potent message and create instant connection with the reader.

I can’t emphasize enough how striking these images are against their black and white backgrounds. Of course, I got to hear Kwame Alexander perform some of these poems with the images flashed up on a screen. Unforgettable!

This is a book you need to experience for yourself.

KwameAlexander.com
nationalgeographic.com
ngchildrensbooks.org
nationalgeographic.org/projects/photo-ark/

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Source: This review is based on a book I received at an ALA conference and had signed by the author.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Are You an Echo? by Misuzu Kaneko

Wednesday, December 5th, 2018

Are You an Echo?

The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko

Poems by Misuzu Kaneko
Illustrated by Toshikado Hajiri
Narrative by David Jacobson
with translations and editorial contributions by Sally Ito and Michiko Tsuboi

Chin Music Press, Seattle, 2016. 64 pages.
Starred Review

As soon as you touch this book, you know it’s something special. You can feel the high-quality paper, which seems appropriate for a book of Japanese poems.

This is a book of poetry from Japan’s most-loved children’s poet, but it’s also a biography and the story of uncovering Misuzu’s story.

The book begins with Setsuo Yazaki, who read one of Misuzu’s poems and wanted to find out more about her. He was the one who uncovered her diaries and made public her life story, as well as many more unpublished poems. She is now widely read by children in Japan. Along with telling this story, on each spread one of her poems is given.

Then the book tells Misuzu’s life story, still accompanied by her poems. Her story is a tragic one. She was given “a disease that caused her great pain” by her “bad, unfaithful husband.” She was married for four years, but after she left, her husband was going to take their child away. The book lingers on her last night with her child, then tells us:

Misuzu wrote a letter that night asking her husband to give Fusae to her mother.
She was weak from the illness and determined not to let her husband take their child.
So she decided to end her life. She was only twenty-six years old.

On the opposite page, we’ve got Misuzu’s poem, “Cocoon and Grave” comparing a person to a silkworm. Like the silkworm becoming a butterfly, “the good person will grow wings, become an angel and fly away.”

The narrative part goes on to talk about how Misuzu’s poems were rediscovered after her death and went on to have special significance after the tsunami in 2011.

The book finishes with a collection of 15 more poems by Misuzu, with the original Japanese shown as well.

Despite Misuzu Kaneko’s tragic life story, this lovely book expresses hope, and shows the beauty of looking at the world with eyes of kindness and empathy.

How can you help but like someone with this philosophy?

TO LIKE IT ALL

I want to like everything –

onions, tomatoes, fish –
I want to like them all,

everything in the meals
my mother makes.

I want to like everyone –

doctors, crows –
all of them, too.

Everything and everyone in the world
God has made.

www.chinmusicpress.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Tony, by Ed Galing, illustrated by Erin E. Stead

Saturday, November 17th, 2018

Tony

by Ed Galing
illustrated by Erin E. Stead

A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, 2017. 32 pages.
Starred Review

I’m biased in favor of this book. At the 2017 ALA Midwinter Meeting in Atlanta, I heard Erin Stead talk about how they found the manuscript and I saw some images from the art.

Erin and her husband first saw the text as a poem in a newspaper put out by homeless folks. When they tried to find the author, they learned he had just died in his 90s. Their publisher worked hard to get permissions, and the result is this beautiful and quiet picture book.

I certainly would not have seen this poem as a potential picture book text. But seeing it in that form, I have to acknowledge that these words are the perfect vehicle for Erin’s art.

The story (almost the incident) is of a cart horse named Tony who pulled a milk truck. Early in the morning, Tony and his driver would bring milk, butter, and eggs to the author’s house. He was awake, even though it was 3 a.m., and would greet Tony.

The driver told the author that Tony always looked for him. And here are the words for the last five spreads of the book:

wouldn’t miss Tony for the world,
I would reply
sturdily,
giving Tony another pat,

he is such a wonderful
horse, and so handsome.

I am sure he heard
that, Tom would
smile widely,
as he got back into
the truck

and as they pulled away

I knew that Tony
did a little dance.

See how simple? But oh, the beautiful art! The simple curve of one of Tony’s legs, showing the little dance.

The color is a simple green background, with radiant highlights of yellow for the rising sun or light coming out of a building.

And Tony – well, I fully believe that he is such a wonderful horse.

This isn’t a snappy or silly story. This isn’t a fable or a myth. It’s more of a vignette, but a slice of life that reveals love and friendship.

It’s the sort of book that compels an appreciative pause when you’re done.

This is another one where my descriptions don’t do the artwork justice. Check it out yourself!

www.mackids.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The Further Adventures of the Owl and the Pussy-cat, by Julia Donaldson

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018

The Further Adventures of the Owl and the Pussy-cat

by Julia Donaldson
illustrated by Charlotte Voake

Candlewick Press, 2017. First published in the United Kingdom in 2013. 32 pages.
Starred Review

I’m a little perplexed how much I like this book. I don’t really consider myself a fan of The Owl and the Pussycat. And yet, just opening this book got the original poem singing in my brain.

And this one does the same thing – It sings inside your head. The story may be a little more slender. Rather than getting married, the owl and the pussycat are looking for their lost ring. But hey, it’s all nonsense. And it does end happily.

Juliet Donaldson works in some other Edward Lear characters, like the Pobble Who Has No Toes.

The story is not weighty at all – but it sings, with the very same lilt as The Owl and the Pussycat. I find I simply must read this book to a group of children – expect to hear it soon at a Storytime in Old Town Square.

And if you have a child who will listen to nonsense, try this out! The lilt of the language is a delight!

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Out of Wonder, by Kwame Alexander

Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

Out of Wonder

Poems Celebrating Poets

by Kwame Alexander
with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth
illustrated by Ekua Holmes

Candlewick Press, 2017. 50 pages.
Starred Review
2018 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award

Here’s a beautiful large-format book of poems celebrating poets. Kwame Alexander and his two co-authors have written poems in three sections. Poems in the first section match the favored style of the celebrated poet. Poems in the second section incorporate the feelings and themes of the celebrated poet’s work. And poems in the third section respond to the celebrated poet with thanks.

It’s all done with large, lovely paintings accompanying the poems, in a book in large format. To hold this book and leaf through it gives you a feeling of grandeur, nicely setting off the importance of these poets.

Kwame Alexander puts it well in the introduction:

A poem is a small but powerful thing. It has the power to reach inside of you, to ignite something in you, and to change you in ways you never imagined. There is a feeling of connection and communion – with the author and the subject – when we read a poem that articulates our deepest feelings. That connection can be a vehicle on the road to creativity and imagination. Poems can inspire us – in our classrooms and in our homes – to write our own journeys, to find our own stories….

Allow me to introduce you to twenty of my favorite poets. Poets who have inspired me and my co-authors with their words and their lives. They can do the same for you. Some of the poets we celebrate in this book lived centuries ago and wrote in languages other than English, while others still walk the streets of San Antonio and New York City today. Chris Colderley, Marjory Wentworth, and I had two requirements for the poets we would celebrate in Out of Wonder: first, they had to be interesting people, and second, we had to be passionately in love with their poetry. Mission accomplished!

I believe that by reading other poets we can discover our own wonder. For me, poems have always been muses. The poems in this book pay tribute to the poets being celebrated by adopting their style, extending their ideas, and offering gratitude to their wisdom and inspiration.

Enjoy the poems. We hope to use them as stepping-stones to wonder, leading you to write, to read the works of the poets celebrated in this book, to seek out more about their lives and their work, or to simply read and explore more poetry. At the very least, maybe you can memorize one or two.

We wonder how you will wonder.

This is one of those books where you need to see for yourself how striking it is. Check it out!

candlewick.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of One Last Word, by Nikki Grimes

Monday, January 15th, 2018

One Last Word

Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance

by Nikki Grimes

Bloomsbury, 2017. 120 pages.

This book is a tribute to poets of the Harlem Renaissance, and contains fourteen poems by poets from that time. The poems are illustrated with artwork by Cozbi A. Cabrera, R. Gregory Christie, Pat Cummings, Jan Spivey Gilchrist, Ebony Glenn, Nikki Grimes, E. B. Lewis, Frank Morrison, Christopher Myers, Brian Pinkney, Sean Qualls, James Ransome, Javaka Steptoe, Shadra Strickland, and Elizabeth Zunon.

But the heart of the book is the Golden Shovel poems Nikki Grimes has written in tribute to the Harlem Renaissance poets.

The idea of a Golden Shovel poem is to take a short poem in its entirety, or a line from that poem (called a striking line), and create a new poem, using the words from the original…. Then you would write a new poem, each line ending in one of these words.

Nikki Grimes does this with the poems she’s selected and included. She either uses one line or the entire poem, and uses those words as the ending of the lines of her own poem.

For example, the first poem selected is “Storm Ending,” by Jean Toomer, and the first line of the poem is “Thunder blossoms gorgeously above our heads,” and that first line is printed in bold. Then Nikki Grimes wrote a poem, “Truth” that uses these six words as the last word in each of the six lines.

It’s a lovely way of paying tribute to the original work. This book would be good simply as an anthology. But with Nikki Grimes’ poems playing off the original poems, and the work of this distinguished collection of artists, this book is something much more.

nikkigrimes.com
bloomsbury.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of A Poem for Peter, by Andrea Davis Pinkney, pictures by Lou Fancher & Steve Johnson

Saturday, January 14th, 2017

A Poem for Peter

The Story of EZRA JACK KEATS and the Creation of THE SNOWY DAY

by Andrea Davis Pinkney

pictures by Lou Fancher & Steve Johnson

Viking, 2016. 52 pages.
Starred Review
2016 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #3 Children’s Nonfiction

This is a picture book biography — in poetry form. And the narrative poem is written addressing Peter, the hero of the classic picture book The Snowy Day.

We’ve got all the details of Ezra Jack Keats’ life. His parents were immigrants from Poland, and he grew up in Brooklyn, knowing about poverty and discrimination. Even as a child, he wanted to be an artist, and his father found ways to get him paints. There are a couple of special pages when he discovered the Brooklyn Public Library.

It tells about the art scholarship he won and had to give up when his father died of a heart attack, then about his struggles finding work during the Depression — eventually getting to work as an artist with the Works Progress Administration. Then he served in World War II, but after the war had to change his name from Jacob Ezra Katz to sound less Jewish in order to get work.

When Ezra started writing and illustrating picture books, he’d noticed there weren’t many picture book scenes like those in his Brooklyn neighborhood, nor many children who looked like his neighbors.

I especially like the pages when Peter is created and the book is born.

Peter, child,
you brought your stick.
Yes, you did.
Smack-smacked at a tree.
Some say you were whacking
at ice-packed intolerance,
shaking it loose from narrow-
minded branches.

When prejudice fell,
you rolled it, packed it,
put its snowball in your pocket
of possibility,
where it melted away.

Peter and Ezra,
you made a great team.
Together you brought a snowstorm
of dreams.
A blizzard of imagination.
Flurries of fun!

And soon readers called for
more of where are you?
And between you two,
the one-of-a-kind snowflakes
kept falling.
Onto sweet pages
of brown-sugar good.

More neighborhood friends.
More books with kids who
answered where are you?
with here we are!

The art is lovely as well, with many images of Peter straight out of Ezra Jack Keats’ work and lovely snowflake pictures, as well as a variety of images illustrating Ezra’s life.

penguin.com/YoungReaders

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Rilke’s Book of Hours, by Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

Thursday, October 27th, 2016

book_of_hours_largeRilke’s Book of Hours

Love Poems to God

by Rainer Maria Rilke

translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy
with a new Introduction by the translators

Riverhead Books (Penguin), 2005. 257 pages.
Starred Review

Although this book was published in 2005, our library recently purchased new copies of it, so I saw it on the Wowbrary list and checked it out. I liked it so much, I purchased my own copy and slowly went through it at the rate of a poem per day.

Anyone who has seen my Sonderling Sunday posts know that I love the German language and I love looking at the ways the German and English languages try to express the same thoughts. So this book, with the original German text on one side and the English translation on the other, is perfect for me.

This is poetry, so you’re not going to find a literal translation. I think I liked it better for that. Again, how best to express an idea, in this case a poetic idea, in each language?

I’d read a poem each day. First I’d read it in German and try to get the idea. Then I’d read it line by line with the translation and find out where I’d gone wrong.

The poetry is beautiful in both languages. Don’t let the subtitle throw you. Rilke has some nontraditional thoughts about God. But they do get you thinking and meditating about some deep thoughts.

This is the 100th Anniversary Edition, and there’s a reason these poems have lasted so long.

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Source: This review is based on my own copy, purchased via Amazon.com.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of When Green Becomes Tomatoes, by Julie Fogliano and Julie Morstad

Monday, October 17th, 2016

when_green_becomes_tomatoes_largeWhen Green Becomes Tomatoes

Poems for All Seasons

by Julie Fogliano
pictures by Julie Morstad

A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, New York, 2016. 56 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s a lovely book that goes through the seasons with poetry. Each poem’s title is a calendar date. The book begins and ends with March 20 as the seasons go around.

The poems have nice variety. Some rhyme and some don’t. The styles and thoughts cover many different moods. The wonderful pictures make a lovely accompaniment. This is a meditative book and will help you notice the moments.

A few examples:

march 22

just like a tiny, blue hello
a crocus blooming
in the snow

march 26

shivering and huddled close
the forever rushing daffodils
wished they had waited

may 10

lilac sniffing
is what to do
with a nose
when it is may
and there are lilacs
to be sniffed

june 15

you can taste the sunshine
and the buzzing
and the breeze
while eating berries off the bush
on berry hands
and berry knees

Okay, I should stop with Spring! These are only some of the shortest poems, and the book does go through all the seasons. (The “When Green Becomes Tomatoes” poem falls on July 10.)

I will copy out one more, which I just love:

January 5

i would not mind, at all
to fall
if i could fall
like snowflakes
(more drift and swirl
than tumble thump
more gentle float
than ouch and bump)
the most perfect way of all
to fall
is to fall
and fall
like snowflakes

These are lovely. I like the simple child-voice, but with beauty that adults can appreciate.

mackids.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Booked, by Kwame Alexander

Wednesday, July 27th, 2016

booked_largeBooked

by Kwame Alexander

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston, 2016. 314 pages.
Starred Review

A sports novel in verse is pretty much the last sort of book I’d pick up on my own. But this one is nominated for Capitol Choices, and I did love Newbery-winning The Crossover, so I picked up this book last night and ended up reading it in one sitting. I’d forgotten just how good Kwame Alexander’s poetry is.

The story revolves around Nick Hall, a kid who loves soccer. His Dad is a professor of linguistics and he requires Nick to read from his dictionary called Weird and Wonderful Words. Nick hates this task – but his writing – the poems in this book – is peppered with weird and wonderful words, defined in the footnotes. The words include things like limerence, sweven, cachinnate, and logorrhea.

Nick’s got some conflict going on. His best friend’s on an opposing soccer team. There’s a girl he likes. Issues with teachers. He wants to compete in the Dallas Cup, but first his parents, then his own health gets in the way. But the big overarching problem is conflict between his parents.

The story is good, and compelling (I didn’t, after all, put it down until I’d finished.), but what makes the book truly wonderful is Kwame Alexander’s poetry.

He varies the formats so beautifully. There are poems that rhyme. There are acrostic poems. There are poems in two voices. There are long poems and short poems. There are poems made by blacking out all but a few words on the pages of a book. There are poems in two voices to show conversations.

Here’s a short one:

Problemo
The girls
let down
their ponytails,
high-five
their coach,
then walk over
to shake
our sweaty palms
after beating us
five to three.

Here’s another:

Thought

It does not take
a math genius
to understand that
when you subtract
a mother
from the equation
what remains
is negative.

One of my favorites rhymes, but gives away what happens, so I won’t include that one.

And I must confess – all the white space of a verse novel did make it easier to keep going until I finished. I’m sure it will act on kids the same way, too. A verse novel and a sports novel is a great combination. It’s also a novel about words and about issues important to eighth-graders. A win all around.

hmhco.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?