Day: April 29, 2014

Review: Firefly July selected by Paul B. Janeczko

firefly july

Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems selected by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

There are just over thirty poems in this collection and as promised in the title, all of them are very short.  These short poems though each have power and perfection in just a few words, offering insight into the way that language can be edited and played with to make it speak much more than the few words on the page.  Readers will find poems that are well-known mixed with others that are delightful new surprises.  Through it all, there is a feeling of joy that comes from the page and from the words as well as a pleasure of traveling the seasons through poetry.

Thanks to the brevity of all of these poems, this is a very child-friendly book to introduce children to poetry.  Their condensed format also gives them a lot of power and bang per word, which makes them easy to discuss with children.  Readers will also want to try their hands at creating short poems and are sure to quickly realize that while they read easily, they are very difficult to create.  That makes this book all the more impressive with its high level of quality of poem and a perfect level of accessibility for youth.

Sweet’s illustrations frame the poems into one cohesive unit.  They celebrate the small things, like these poems and their themes, looking at leaves, butterflies, fog and lots of other bits of nature.  Her work is playful and yet not too light, bringing depth into each image.

A beautiful collection of short poems, this belongs in every library and would make a perfect way to start every day with a poem.  Appropriate for ages 4-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Goodnight Songs by Margaret Wise Brown

goodnight songs

Goodnight Songs by Margaret Wise Brown

A new collection of previously unpublished poems from the master Margaret Wise Brown are illustrated here by twelve different illustrators.  According to the introduction by Amy Gary, the editor of the Margaret Wise Brown Estate, these poems were part of a trunk of unpublished manuscripts that Margaret’s sister had in her barn.  They reflect the interest that Margaret developed towards the end of her life in creating music for children.  The book is accompanied by a music CD that brings the poems into song.  This book is just as enjoyable as a song book or a poetry book, make sure to try it out both ways!

Brown’s poems are simple and lovely.  Some of them read like nursery rhymes with plenty of repetition of phrase and style.  Others are a bit looser but still musical even as words.  She created small worlds in each song, offering lovely gems of moments in each one.  I have a handful of top favorites from the book:  “The Mouse’s Prayer” which is a beautiful wintry poem, “Wooden Town” that evokes a childhood joy of creating a little world of blocks, and “The Secret Song” which is a question and answer poem that is quiet and lonely.

The twelve illustrators make up some of the top illustrators in today’s picture books.  There is a great pleasure in turning the page and seeing an entirely different feel with the next poem.  Some are bright and sunny, others deep colored like the night, and still others filled with snow.  The styles reflect each of the illustrators and as a whole the book works extremely well, giving each poem a distinct note of its own on the page.

A top pick for children’s poetry, these songs are a dazzling collection from a very talented writer.  Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from library copy.