Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets by Kwame Alexander with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth, illustrated by Ekua Holmes (9780763680947, Amazon)
This book is an exploration of famous poets through poems in their honor. Each one captures a sense of that poet whether it is in format itself or subject matter or simply a frame of mind. Turning the pages, one encounters new poets but also old friends. It is with those poets that one knows well that the book truly shines, the homage is clear and the cleverness of the poetry is wonderful.
I read many shining reviews of this book and still was unprepared for how great it is. This is a book that should be part of poetry units in elementary school. It shows two sides of poetry, both paying respect to poets who have gone before but also creating in poetic form a real honor for their work. It’s smart, clever and so beautifully done. As I turned the pages to discover some of my favorite poets on the page, I found myself smiling with delight and amazement as that poet was revealed via poetry.
The illustrations by Holmes are also a way that the poets themselves are depicted on the page. They vary from a focus on a bowl of oatmeal for Billy Collins to zinging reds and oranges and yellows for Rumi to a natural focus for Mary Oliver and Neruda. The varied illustrations also imitate the focus on structure or free style that each poet uses; they are adept reflections of the poet and their poetry.
This book belongs in every elementary school collection and every public library. It is extraordinary. Appropriate for ages 7-12.
Reviewed from library copy.
On Duck Pond by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Bob Marstall (9781943645220, Amazon)
This is the second book in the children’s picture book series by the award-winning duo of Yolen and Marstall that is done in conjunction with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. A boy and his dog take a walk in a new setting. This time it is near a pond where everything is very quiet but soon the ducks arrive and break the silence with their splashing and quacking. The other creatures at the pond are startled and move away, including frogs, turtles, a heron and the tadpoles. Soon the pond goes back to being still and quiet and the other animals come out of hiding.
Yolen’s poetry is particularly effective. She pays such attention to small details not only in the animals as they react to the ducks but to the reflections in the water as they go from mirror-like to shattered to reflective once again. The water itself reacts similarly to the animals and the sounds, it’s a lovely connection that is clearly done and yet poetically presented allowing a sense of discovery for the reader.
Marstall’s illustrations are detailed and wonderfully natural. They embrace the greens of the surrounding land and also the colors of the animals themselves and the water. He uses plenty of detail on the animals themselves, showing them up close to the reader so that one can almost smell the pond water on the pages.
A grand look at a small pond and its vibrations throughout a boy’s day and life. Appropriate for ages 3-6.
Reviewed from library copy.