Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

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

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/poem_for_peter.html

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 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.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/book_of_hours.html

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 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.

What did you think of this book?

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

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/when_green_becomes_tomatoes.html

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

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/booked.html

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 How I Discovered Poetry, by Marilyn Nelson

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

how_i_discovered_poetry_largeHow I Discovered Poetry

by Marilyn Nelson
illustrated by Hadley Hooper

Dial Books, 2014. 103 pages.

How I Discovered Poetry is a series of fourteen poems Marilyn Nelson wrote about growing up black in the 1950s in a military family, her father one of the first Negro officers. She writes about moving around, making friends and saying good-by to them, leaving pets behind, and packing up possessions.

She touches on racism and Communism and feminism – but mostly she evokes childhood.

Here are two of my favorite poems. The first reminds me of games my friends and I played on the playground.

Moonlily

(Mather AFB, California, 1956)

When we play horses at recess, my name
is Moonlily and I’m a yearling mare.
We gallop circles around the playground,
whinnying, neighing, and shaking our manes.
We scrape the ground with scuffed saddle oxfords,
thunder around the little kids on swings
and seesaws, and around the boys’ ball games.
We’re sorrel, chestnut, buckskin, pinto, gray,
a herd in pastel dresses and white socks.
We’re self-named, untamed, untouched, unridden.
Our plains know no fences. We can smell spring.
The bell produces metamorphosis.
Still hot and flushed, we file back to our desks,
one bay in a room of palominos.

Then an early one that includes her first inspiration to be a poet some day:

Critic

(Kittery Point, Maine, 1959)

Daddy pulled a puppy from the pocket
of his flight jacket, and we imprinted
like a gosling to a goose. Speida’s my dog, though he’s impartially affectionate.
Either he likes poems, or he likes my voice:
I read aloud from the anthology
I found with Daddy’s other college books
and he sits, cocks his head, and wags his tail.
My teacher, Mrs. Gray, told me about
the famous poetess who lived near here.
She says I’ll be a famous poet, too.
Today I read Speida one of my poems.
His face got a look of so much disgust
I laughed and forgot we’re being transferred.

marilyn-nelson.com
penguin.com/teen

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/how_i_discovered_poetry.html

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.

Review of Haiti: My Country, Poems by Haitian Schoolchildren, illustrated by Rogé

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

haiti_largeHaiti

My Country

Poems by Haitian Schoolchildren
Illustrated by Rogé

Fifth House, Canada, 2014. 40 pages.

I meant to read this book quickly, but opening it up makes me pause. This book includes fifteen poems by schoolchildren, and one by their teacher. All the poems are about Haiti — and they celebrate its beauty.

Accompanying the poems are large portraits of the children themselves, looking back at the reader.

My favorite poem is by Judes-Raldes Raymond:

The pretty flowers of my country are to me
Like pink butterflies
That smile at the sun.
I especially like pink flowers! The pink ones!
The charming pink flowers in my garden
Of multicoloured flowers:
Yellow, green, pink, red.
They are all lovely
Attached to their roots.
The giant sun shines in the sky
To the delight of the red flowers
in my garden.

This is a joyful, colorful, and irrepressible picture of Haiti.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Chidlrens_Nonfiction/haiti.html

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.

Review of Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold, by Joyce Sidman & Rick Allen

Monday, January 5th, 2015

winter_bees_largeWinter Bees
& Other Poems of the Cold

by Joyce Sidman & Rick Allen

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston, 2014. 32 pages.
Starred Review
2014 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #3 Children’s Nonfiction

Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold is a magnificent collection of poetry, science, and art – all about creatures of winter.

The poems are lovely and evocative, the artwork is stunning, and the facts presented after each poem are surprising and interesting.

Usually, the poem gives the voice of the animal being featured, then a paragraph on the facing page gives more details. The creatures highlighted include tundra swans, garter snakes, moose, honeybees (in winter), beavers, wolves, ravens, voles, chickadees, snow fleas, and skunk cabbages.

As one example, here’s “Snake’s Lullaby,” featuring an illustration of a tangle of garter snakes, which we are told brumate together in a tangled mass underground.

Brother, sister, flick your tongue
and taste the flakes of autumn sun.

Use these last few hours of gold
to travel, travel toward the cold.

Before your coils grow stiff and dull,
your heartbeat slows to winter’s lull,

seek the sink of sheltered stones
that safely cradle sleeping bones.

Brother, sister, find the ways
back to the deep and tranquil bays,

and ‘round each other twist and fold
to weave a heavy cloak of cold.

This is a beautiful book which will draw the reader back again and again.

Do you have a child who likes facts about animals? This book is full of choice bits. You’ll learn about subnivean creatures. You’ll learn about springtails – tiny arthropods whose tails flip them up into the air. You’ll learn how honeybees keep the hive warm during the winter, and so many other interesting facts. And while your child is learning, the chances are good that they will be pulled into enjoyment of the accompanying poetry and artwork.

joycesidman.com
kenspeckleletterpress.com
hmhco.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/winter_bees.html

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.

Review of Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson

Monday, January 5th, 2015

brown_girl_dreaming_largeBrown Girl Dreaming

by Jacqueline Woodson

Nancy Paulsen Books (Penguin), 2014. 337 pages.
Starred Review
2014 National Book Award winner for Young People’s Literature
2014 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #2, Children’s Nonfiction
2014 Cybils Finalist, Poetry

Brown Girl Dreaming is a memoir in verse. It’s lovely, and I hope children will find it in the nonfiction shelves of our library.

Jacqueline Woodson writes evocatively of her childhood, in Ohio, then South Carolina, then New York City. She wanted to be a writer even when she was a child, and catches that dream. She writes about being a Jehovah’s Witness, and about her family, about her best friend (who is still her best friend), and about how South Carolina and New York City were so different from each other.

I like the way each poem tells about a particular incident, but taken together they give a picture of her life. They are also told in different styles, focusing on different things – family, places, growing, writing.

There’s a series of haiku sprinkled throughout, all titled “how to listen.” Here is “how to listen #9”:

Under the back porch
there’s an alone place I go
writing all I’ve heard.

I’ll include some poems I enjoyed.

a girl named jack

Good enough name for me, my father said
the day I was born.
Don’t see why
she can’t have it, too.

But the women said no.
My mother first.
Then each aunt, pulling my pink blanket back
patting the crop of thick curls
tugging at my new toes
touching my cheeks.

We won’t have a girl named Jack, my mother said.

And my father’s sisters whispered,
A boy named Jack was bad enough.
But only so my mother could hear.
Name a girl Jack, my father said,
and she can’t help but grow up strong.
Raise her right,
my father said,
and she’ll make that name her own.
Name a girl Jack
and people will look at her twice,
my father said.

For no good reason but to ask if her parents
were crazy,
my mother said.

And back and forth it went until I was Jackie
and my father left the hospital mad.

My mother said to my aunts,
Hand me that pen, wrote
Jacqueline where it asked for a name.
Jacqueline, just in case someone thought to drop the ie.

Jacqueline, just in case
I grew up and wanted something a little bit longer
and further away from
Jack.

Here’s a story about her sister:

the reader

When we can’t find my sister, we know
she is under the kitchen table, a book in her hand,
a glass of milk and a small bowl of peanuts beside her.

We know we can call Odella’s name out loud,
slap the table hard with our hands,
dance around it singing
“She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain”
so many times the song makes us sick
and the circling makes us dizzy
and still
my sister will do nothing more
than slowly turn the page.

Later, there’s more about her sister:

gifted

Everyone knows my sister
is brilliant. The letters come home folded neatly
inside official-looking envelopes that my sister proudly
hands over to my mother.
Odella has achieved
Odella has excelled at
Odella has been recommended to
Odella’s outstanding performance in

She is gifted
we are told.
And I imagine presents surrounding her.

I am not gifted. When I read, the words twist
twirl across the page.
When they settle, it is too late.
The class has already moved on.

I want to catch words one day. I want to hold them
then blow gently,
watch them float
right out of my hands.

This one’s a nice family poem:

harvest time

When Daddy’s garden is ready
it is filled with words that make me laugh when I say them –
pole beans and tomatoes, okra and corn
sweet peas
and sugar snaps,
lettuce
and squash.

Who could have imagined

so much color that the ground disappears
and we are left
walking through an autumn’s worth
of crazy words
that beneath the magic
of my grandmother’s hands

become

side dishes.

And perhaps my favorite is about Jacqueline deciding she’s going to be a writer:

when i tell my family

When I tell my family
I want to be a writer, they smile and say,
We see you in the backyard with your writing.
They say,
We hear you making up all those stories.
And,
We used to write poems.
And,
It’s a good hobby, we see how quiet it keeps you.
They say,
But maybe you should be a teacher,
a lawyer,
do hair . . .

I’ll think about it, I say.

And maybe all of us know

this is just another one of my
stories.

The whole book gives a flavor of love and family and a girl listening to the world around her. Indeed, it’s the story of a brown girl dreaming.

jacquelinewoodson.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/brown_girl_dreaming.html

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.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Review of Firefly July, selected by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Monday, July 21st, 2014

firefly_july_largeFirefly July

A Year of Very Short Poems

selected by Paul B. Janeczko
illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Candlewick Press, 2014. 48 pages.
Starred Review

I’m not proud to say it, but a poetry book has to be something special to wow me. Firefly July is stunning.

The poems chosen have one thing in common: They are all short. They are also fit nicely into the context of a specific season.

A few are well-known, and I’d heard of them in my childhood, such as “The Red Wheelbarrow,” by William Carlos Williams, and “Fog,” by Carl Sandburg. Several more were by poets I’d heard of, such as Emily Dickinson and Langston Hughes. But the majority were entirely new to me. Those, too, were short and sweet and lovely.

Of course, the fact that all the poems are short makes this perfect for young kids looking for their first poem to memorize.

But the stunning part of the book is the way the bright pictures work with the poetry. I love the water lily on the page with this poem:

Water Lily

My petals enfold stamens of gold.
I float, serene, while down below

these roots of mine are deeply stuck
in the coolest most delicious muck.

–Ralph Fletcher

Melissa Sweet’s artwork is hard to describe. There are collage elements and bright colors and unsophisticated line drawings and friendly faces. They work beautifully with the poems in this collection.

candlewick.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/firefly_july.html

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.

Review of Singing School, by Robert Pinsky

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

singing_school_largeSinging School

Learning to Write (and Read) Poetry by Studying with the Masters

by Robert Pinsky

W. W. Norton & Company, New York, 2013. 221 pages.

Singing School is a collection of great poetry. Along with the poetry, analysis is given as to why the poems work. The reader’s attention is drawn to effective techniques, sonorous sounds, and apt images. And challenges are given. For example, with Jonathan Swift’s, “A Description of the Morning,” we have the caption, “Try your own, contemporary version of this, in your own world, keeping it fresh yet recognizable – good luck.”

Robert Pinsky explains the motivation for this book in his Preface:

That the poem by Milton (1608-1674) had gotten under the skin of Ginsberg (1926-1997) exemplifies the ideas that govern this book: examples precede analysis; young poets can learn a lot from old poetry. Models provide inspiration, which is different from imitation. The visual artist looks at the world, but also at art. Similarly, the musician listens, the cook eats, the athlete watches great athletes, the filmmaker watches great movies, in order to gain mastery from examples….

If you want to learn singing, you must study – not just peruse or experience or dabble in or enjoy or take a course in, but study –monumental examples of magnificent singing: study not just a pretty good poem in a recent magazine, or something that seems cool or seems to be in fashion, or that you have been taught in school, but examples that you feel are magnificent. “Magni-ficent”: the Latin roots of the word mean “making great.”…

The four section headings and their order, though not exhaustive, do represent essentials. “Freedom” is where the artist begins: there are no rules, and the principles and habits are up to you. Having confronted and embraced freedom, the poet engages in the particular work of “Listening”: sentences have melodic patterns of pitch, as well as cadences, and great work can help you hear them. So too can the speech you hear every day. The third section uses the word “Form” in a sense related to form in dance or sports – the effective shapes and arrangements of energy – rather than particular “forms” and their required patterns. Finally, “Dreaming Things Up” affirms that many essential and thrilling elements of poetry have to do with what cannot be explained: something new, waking life transformed.

I confess that I didn’t read this book to learn to write poetry. I read this book, a couple pages a day, in order to enjoy some great poems. Having aspects of their greatness pointed out to me made the experience that much better.

favoritepoem.org
wwnorton.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/singing_school.html

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.