Category: poetry

Seeing into Tomorrow by Richard Wright

Seeing into Tomorrow by Richard Wright

Seeing into Tomorrow by Richard Wright, illustrated by Nina Crews (9781512498622)

Nina Crews has selected some of Richard Wright’s haiku about his childhood and created an inviting picture book out of them. The haiku focus on the seasons, the outdoors and universal childhood experiences. There are winding dirt roads, yellow kites, blue skies, rainy days, trees and insects. Each haiku is a small window into simple childhood joys and moments that are more meaningful than one might think. They invite us all to slow down, dream a bit and enjoy the nature around us.

Crews adds modern zing to these poems with her photography. Using a series of photographs that fit together into a whole, they are layered and fascinating. African-American children are forefront in the images that then branch and reach across the page, paving the pages with hope and wonder.

A dynamic look at one of the top African-American poets of the 21st century, this book of poetry is a celebration. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Edelweiss and Millbrook Press.

2 New Books to Love

I Am Loved by Nikki Giovanni

I Am Loved by Nikki Giovanni, illustrated by Ashley Bryan (9781534404922)

This collection of poetry by Giovanni shows the many ways that love shines in our lives. Selected by Ashley Bryan, the poems move from family love to love between friends to more playful poems about dancing or cats. The poems form a cohesive collection, just long enough to work well for young children and not too much to overwhelm. The illustrations by Bryan glow almost like lit stained glass windows with their rich colors and segmented pieces. The entire book has a warmth to it that embraces and enchants. Appropriate for ages 6-9. (Reviewed from copy provided by Atheneum Books for Young Readers.)

Love by Matt de la Pena

Love by Matt de la Pena, illustrated by Loren Long (9781524740917)

A marvelous pairing of the skill of an author with an illustrator working in a new medium, this picture book is all about love as the title states. De la Pena speaks about love in a way that shows how it surrounds us each and every day, in music on the radio, train whistles, the color of the sky. Small moments are captured in his poem, celebrating the little things that make life beautiful and the people who make them special. Long then takes those words and brings them fully alive with his illustrations done with monotype printmaking. The colors and figures are amazing and still it is the play of light in each image that draws the eye making these illustrations exceptional. Readers are guaranteed to fall for Love. Appropriate for ages 3-6. (Reviewed from ARC provided by Penguin Young Readers Group.)

Can I Touch Your Hair? by Irene Latham and Charles Waters

Can I Touch Your Hair by Irene Latham and Charles Waters

Can I Touch Your Hair?: Poems of Race, Mistakes and Friendship by Irene Latham and Charles Waters, illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko (9781512404425)

This book of poetry for children is written by two authors, Irene Latham who is white and Charles Waters who is African-American. The two create a fictional setting where they attended school with one another and were assigned to be partners in a poetry-writing assignment. The poems here explore hair, families, church, shoes, and hobbies but most of all they explore race in America. Told in alternating voices, the poems show  each of the authors as children and are based on real childhood experiences.

In this book, there is a feeling of safety to explore difficult subjects that the poetry itself creates. The characters are not perfect, sometimes saying the wrong thing or reacting the wrong way. Their trust in one another builds and readers can see that through their growing friendship they are learning to reach out to other children who are different from themselves too. The writing in each voice is exceptional, the two authors are clearly different but also work together to create a unified whole for readers to enjoy.

The illustrations by Alko and Qualls are wonderful, offering just the right details to support each of the poems and reflecting the emotional quality in the poem they accompany. Done in acrylic paint, colored pencil and collage, the illustrations are rich and organic, filled with dancing words and swirls.

A book that invites conversation, this one belongs in every library. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Netgalley and Carolrhoda Books.

I’m Just No Good at Rhyming by Chris Harris

I'm Just No Good at Rhyming by Chris Harris

I’m Just No Good at Rhyming: And Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups by Chris Harris, illustrated by Lane Smith (9780316266574)

We need more silliness in our lives and this book provides it. Page after page is worthy of giggles and guffaws. Share it out loud and it comes alive, turning small moments in classrooms and families into a shared frolic of fun. This is Harris’ first collection of poems and each one is a delight. He mixes outright funny with tenderness, elevating this collection into something very special.

Illustrations are provided by the incredible Lane Smith, offering jumping frogs, frowning crustaceans, still rocks, and much more. The illustrations serve to enhance the poetry, never taking front stage, but instead being stunning scenery.

Give this one to fans of Shel Silverstein, it is sure to impress and entertain. Appropriate for ages 5-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

Forest World by Margarita Engle

Forest World by Margarita Engle

Forest World by Margarita Engle (9781481490573, Amazon)

Released August 29, 2017.

Edver isn’t pleased to be headed to Cuba to meet his father for the first time since he was a baby. Now that the laws have changed, families can once again be reunited with people who escaped to the United States from Cuba. Edver has to leave behind the Internet and his favorite video game and cope with power outages and a lack of transportation and other technology. When he gets to Cuba, Edver discovers that he has an older sister that he’d never known about. Luza had stayed with her father in Cuba, wondering why her mother left her behind. Both of their parents work to protect endangered species. Their father protects one special forest in Cuba while their mother travels the world to find newly rediscovered species. As Luza and Edver start to become siblings, they find that a poacher has come to Cuba, drawn by an email they sent to try to get their mother to come. Now it is up to them to protect the forest they both love.

Engle is a master of the verse novel, writing of difficult subjects and using the poetic format to dig deeper than prose would allow. She tells the story in alternating poems in the voices of Edver and Luza as they discover the poverty of Cuba, the wealth of America, and the fact that there are different types of wealth in life like parental attention, grandparents and a sense of home.

Engle explores the world of Lazarus animals and protecting endangered species in this novel. The subject works in a lovely parallel to Cuban Americans being reunited with their families. There is a sense of delicacy and care, a feeling of finding the right habitat suddenly, and a sense of exploration and discovery heightened with surprises.

Another adept verse novel from a true master, this is a book that explores home, habitat and family. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from ARC received from Atheneum.

A New School Year by Sally Derby

A New School Year by Sally Derby

A New School Year: Poem Stories in Six Voices by Sally Derby, illustrated by Mika Song (9781580897303, Amazon)

Six children, ranging in age from kindergarten through fifth grade, tell the stories of their first day of school. Each of them begins with the night before where readers will see that even children who are older worry about school and who their teacher will be. Arriving at school is busy and quick, though some have time to say hello to old teachers or to be the first to arrive and meet the class pet. They meet new teachers, say hello to old friends and make new ones too. Finally, they all head home to tell their families about their day, even if some aren’t home right away.

Derby writes in poems that wonderfully universal to the school experience. She moves this from being about starting kindergarten or starting a new school to a wider subject of returning to school and the fact that everyone feels similarly. Still, in making this a universal story, Derby makes sure to also speak to children of different backgrounds and races, children with different sizes of families and latchkey children.

Song’s illustrations highlight the individual children, moving with them through the day, each both a part of the overall school but also entirely themselves as well. The illustrations are simple and will work well shared with a class.

A great book to start the new school year with poetry. Appropriate for ages 5-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

Life by Cynthia Rylant

Life by Cynthia Rylant

Life by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Brendan Wenzel (9781481451628, Amazon)

Celebrate life with this picture book. Told in simple poetry, the book starts by looking at how small life is when it begins. It shows how life grows into large animals like elephants. How animals love their habitats, from sand to snow. Life always has wilderness-like moments in it but those times can be journeyed through and a fresh start can be found. There are animals to love and protect. Humans can turn to the wild to find their own path and their own place to see each morning begin and everything around them growing.

Rylant has written an expansive poem that embraces life big and small. She moves with assurance from the tiny start of life through to speaking about all of nature and then to nature’s importance to all of us as human beings. It is that look at wilderness and the wild that makes this book so much more than a poem on nature. It becomes a poem on us. There is a light touch to these deep subjects, allowing readers to think about the subject and wonder.

Wenzel’s illustrations add to that wonder that readers will find in this picture book. From elephants walking in sun and moon to whales lifting to the light. There is a sense of grace and expansiveness in the illustrations, demanding that readers enter the wilderness for themselves.

Beautiful and wild, this picture book invites readers to look deeply into themselves. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Beach Lane Books.