Category: poetry

Review: Flutter & Hum by Julie Paschkis

Flutter and Hum by Julie Paschkis

Flutter & Hum: Animal Poems by Julie Paschkis (InfoSoup)

In short poems in both Spanish and English, animals are explored in the way that they move and live in their habitats. The book begins with a slithering snake poem that hisses on the page. Other poems include black crows hopping and cawing, the slow movement of a black cow in a golden field, fleeting glimpses of a deer, and the shine of an owl at night. Still other poems focus on domestic pets like dogs and cats who fill the page with their personalities captured in verse on the page.

I was surprised to read in the Author’s Note at the end of the book that Paschkis is not a native Spanish speaker nor a poet. It was Spanish that allowed her to find her poetic voice, which is just as special as her art. She effectively uses her verse in both languages to convey the essence of the animal, celebrating what makes them unique. The poems are stand alone and strong, easily adapted to the classroom for specific units and subjects.

As always, Paschkis’ illustrations are gorgeous. They have a folkart flair about them and have words in both Spanish and English woven into them that let the words become part of the art in a very concrete way. It also gives these bilingual poems a new way to convey the dance of the two languages next to one another.

A dazzling collection of poems, it is welcome both for its bilingual elements and the alluring combination of words and art. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Henry Holt and Co.

Review: Swan by Laurel Snyder

Swan by Laurel Snyder

Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Julie Morstad

This is a poetic and radiant look at the life of Anna Pavlova, prima ballerina. It begins with her childhood where she grew up poor, the daughter of a laundress in Russia. Then her mother takes her to the ballet one night and Anna’s life is transformed by a desire to dance. She auditioned twice for the Imperial Ballet School, turned down the first time because she was too young. At age 10, she was admitted and studied dance. Her body was considered all wrong for ballet, since she was so thin and not athletically built. She became the most famous ballerina of all time, helped by her tireless work to bring dance and music to those who had never experienced it. The book goes all the way through to her death, where she still longed to perform and dance until the very end.

Snyder’s poetry is just as delicate and strong as Pavlova herself. Through the words you can feel the tremble of desire, the longing for a different life and then the drive to learn and perform. As Pavlova’s story continues, Snyder captures the way that she created a home for herself when Russia changed and the importance of her performing around the world. Her performance as the swan is particularly beautifully captured in words, allowing her grace and particular style to be understood by young readers.

Morstad’s illustrations help with this as well. They highlight her beauty and grace, allow her to shine on the page and dance across it. Her pale beauty and black hair captivate on the page. Other pages show how hard she worked both in learning to dance and then again in a repeating format how hard she worked as a prima ballerina as well.

Beautifully written and illustrated, this picture book in poetry offers a glimpse at the wonder that was Anna Pavlova. Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.

Review: Enchanted Air by Margarita Engle

Enchanted Air by Margarita Engle

Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings by Margarita Engle (InfoSoup)

Released August 4, 2015.

In this verse memoir, Engle tells the story of her childhood during the Cold War. With half of her family coming from Cuba and a grandmother who still lived there, Engle had a strong connection to Cuba. It was there that as a child she found herself, connected to the island culture and lifestyle, ran wild in nature, and discovered a quieter life. It contrasted with her life in Los Angeles, filled with bustle and crowded with people. Through both of these distinct worlds, she has a constant, her love of books and words. As the Bay of Pigs escalates, Engle fears for her island family and has to deal with the increased hatred of Cuba and Cubans in America. Cut off from family with the Cuban embargo, Engle can do little to help and again turns to her words to express herself.

Engle is one of the best verse novelists working today. While all of her previous books are splendid, this one is personal in a new way, one that offers up her heart. She shows her love of Cuba so vividly and so profoundly that her connection there runs through the entire novel. At the same time, she also shares the loneliness of a girl who likes books and words and who struggles to make friends at times. Add to that the political turmoil that has continued for decades and you have a book that could have been a tragedy but instead rises beyond that and straight into hope.

As always, Engle’s verse is exceptional. She captures emotions with a clarity in her verse that makes it immensely compelling to read. There are poems that show a pig being slaughtered on the farm in Cuba that makes it sound both brutal and delicious, the perfect mix of tempting and revolting. There are poems that capture the night sounds of Cuba and the longing for a horse of her own. They show the beauty of milking cows, the strength of a hard-working hand, the joy of connecting with a horse as you ride it. It all melts together into a picture of Cuba that is both personal and universal.

Give this to children who loved Brown Girl Dreaming for another verse memoir that is sure to inspire young readers to see the world in a more diverse and brilliant way. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers and Edelweiss.

Review: Changes by Charlotte Zolotow

Changes by Charlotte Zolotow

Changes: A Child’s First Poetry Collection by Charlotte Zolotow, illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke (InfoSoup)

Celebrate the changing of the seasons with this collection of poetry from master children’s poet, Charlotte Zolotow. The 28 poems move from the joy of the change from one season to the next and then start with a focus on spring. The poems speak of the joy of spring breezes, snow melting, rainfall, violets, and green grass. Summer poems shine with sun, seaside sand, lights at night, and the buzz of insects. Autumn comes next with the joy of fallen leaves, classrooms, firelight, and Halloween. The book finishes with winter and its snow and ice that dazzle in their own way.

The poems here create a whole, a deep look not only at the seasons but also in the power of connecting with nature throughout the year. Zolotow’s mastery shows in each one, her ability to look closely at a small thing, find the immense beauty in it, speak to that and then create a universal experience in words on the page. Everyone will respond to these poems, as they capture those moments in time where we can all connect with nature and with one another.

The illustrations frame each poem, and capture the natural hues of each season. Spring is filled with the brightness of the flowers and grass. Summer is yellow and bright with the sun. Autumn turns golden and orange while winter is blues and whites. There are just enough details to invite readers into the poems and allow the words to really be the focus of the book.

A gorgeous addition to children’s poetry collections, this is one to get into teacher’s hands so they can start using it immediately. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Over the Hills and Far Away by Elizabeth Hammill

Over the Hills and Far Away by Elizabeth Hammill

Over the Hills and Far Away: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes by Elizabeth Hammill and various illustrators (InfoSoup)

Nursery rhyme treasuries have to be something special to gain attention and this one certainly is. In this treasury, nursery rhymes from around the world nestle together into one full and playful view of the world and children. There are rhymes from England and the United States, and then there are wonderful additions from Africa, China, South America, France and other areas. Adding to the variety are the illustrations from some of the greatest children’s book illustrators working today, including popular favorites like Lucy Cousins, Shirley Hughes, Jon Klassen, Jerry Pinkney and Shaun Tan.

Opening this book invites the youngest readers into a journey of the imagination and the joy of rhymes from around the world. Anchored by familiar favorites for western readers, the book branches merrily out into less familiar rhymes. Rhymes carefully chosen to become new favorites and ones that reflect the places and regions they come from clearly.

The illustrations are gorgeous and varied. It makes each turn of the page thrilling and filled with wonder. Each one is unique and marvelous, a great example of that master illustrator’s work.

Add this nursery rhyme treasury to your library collection to add an important amount of diversity to your shelves. Appropriate for ages 1-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

Woodson Named Young People’s Poet Laureate

Giving Voice

GalleyCat has the news that Jacqueline Woodson has been named the new Young People’s Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation. She began her two-year tenure at the beginning of June.

The Poetry Foundation has a great interview with Woodson that focuses on poetry and Woodson’s work. And of course Woodson answers in poetic fashion:

I would love for everyone to listen to the poetry inside of them. I would love for everyone to believe that they have a poem to write, say, sing, rap, dance—and then execute that poem. I’m thinking about collaborations across race and class and gender. I’m thinking about old poets and young poets sharing stages. I’m thinking about young poets getting published and about young people discussing Ferguson and Guantanamo Bay and high-stakes testing and helicopter parenting and housing and health care—my lists go on and on—through poetry. I’m thinking about giving voices to and back to young silenced people.

2015 CLPE Poetry Award Shortlist

The shortlist for the 2015 CLiPPA has been announced. The UK award is given by the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education. It is the only book award that celebrates poetry for children specifically. The award winner will be announced in July. Here is the shortlist:

Picture CET cover

Blue Balloons and Rabbit Ears by Hilda Offen

Give the Ball to the Poet: A New Anthology of Caribbean Poetry edited by Georgie Horrell, Aisha Spencer and Morag Styles

DownloadedFile My Life as a Goldfish Werewolf Club Rules

Let in the Stars edited by Mandy Coe

My Life as a Goldfish and Other Poems by Rachel Rooney, illustrated by Ellie Jenkins

Werewolf Club Rules by Joseph Coelho