Category: poetry

Wonderfall by Michael Hall


Wonderfall by Michael Hall (InfoSoup)

In a series of poems, this picture book celebrates the changing seasons through the experience of a tree. First in the greenness of summer, the acorns start to fall from the oak tree. The yellow school bus arrives and the tree’s leaves start to change. Harvest time arrives, parades march past, and Halloween comes.The leaves start to fall, Thanksgiving comes and children play in the piles of leaves. Wind arrives, taking most of the leaves off the tree and its time to rake. No leaves left, the tree stands bare until snow comes with the new winter season.

Hall celebrates the autumn season with this picture book that encompasses the very beginning signs of autumn all the way through to full winter. The focus on a single tree as the one experiencing the changes works well, particularly with the vivid changes that the tree goes through itself. It is also interesting to see trees as witnessing what humans do just as they watch the activities of the squirrels on the ground and in their branches. The book ends with information on animals seen in the book and how they prepare for winter.

The illustrations are signature Hall with bold shapes done in collage. The leaves are oversized and glorious, full of bold colors and the size of branches. They enliven the page no matter their color, making the winter pages when they are gone all the more cold and barren.

Simple and poetic, this is a great new pick for fall story times and units. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Greenwillow Books.

Guess Who, Haiku by Deanna Caswell

Guess Who Haiku by Deanna Caswell

Guess Who, Haiku by Deanna Caswell, illustrated by Bob Shea (InfoSoup)

Haiku poetry is turned into a guessing game in this delightful picture book. One animal after another is described in haiku format and then the reader is asked to guess what animal it is. The answer is revealed with a turn of the page. This simple idea is engaging for youngsters learning about poetry and also works as a more basic picture book for younger listeners. It is that ease of use that makes this book so engaging for various age levels.

Caswell’s haiku are exceptional in the way they offer clues that children can understand and yet conform to the strict haiku format rules. They also read as haiku and real poems, each one working as a stand-alone haiku as well as a clue in the game of the book. This takes real skill, particularly since it looks so very effortless on the page.

Shea’s illustrations are loud, dynamic and funny. From the almost round bumblebee and the grinning flower to the googly-eyed frog , they are simple and also capture the essence of the animal they are depicting. They are filled with energy and life, making the book all the more fun.

This is the ideal book to introduce children to haiku since it makes the experience completely engaging and game-like. Appropriate for ages 3-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Abrams.



Wet Cement by Bob Raczka

Wet Cement by Bob Raczka

Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems by Bob Raczka (InfoSoup)

This is a second book of playful and wonderful poems that follows Lemonade: And Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word. It offers poems that demonstrate over and over again the delight and fun of concrete poetry. Some poems twist and turn, others light up the sky, others read in a different and surprising order, almost forming a puzzle before the reader realizes how to read it. There are poems that zigzag, others that arc, and still others that hang from the top of the page. This is a radiant book of poetry should to create smiles.

Raczka makes concrete poetry look effortless in this book, yet his are so well done that you know they took serious craft to create. I particularly enjoyed the icicle poem, since I haven’t seen one like that. Even more importantly, the words themselves are masterfully done, each poem reading as a true poem and not losing its zing because of the limits of the form.

Brilliant and great fun, this book makes poetry approachable for young children. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brooks Press.

When Green Becomes Tomatoes by Julie Fogliano

When Green Becomes Tomatoes by Julie Fogliano

When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Julie Morstad (InfoSoup)

Move through the seasons in this book of superb poetry. Each season is captured in small moments. Spring is shown in a bird singing on a branch, a crocus in snow, gray skies, rain, and red rubber boots. It turns to summer with poems that show that transition. Summer then is swimming, grass, fireflies, tomatoes, stars, and blueberries. Fall glides in with promises of sweaters, leaves and pumpkins. A bare time leads to snow in winter, snuggling at the fireside, and again a bird on a branch singing in spring. Each poem here is a gem, a glimpse of a moment in a season that captures it so completely.

I know that there are so many books of seasonal poetry! Yet this is one that is worth buying and having and reading and handing to people. It is a book of poetry that is accessible and simple, yet one that speaks beyond what it is saying, just like blueberries are more than their color and the gray skies of spring speak beyond into pure emotion. It’s a book of poetry that invites you to see the world through Fogliano’s words and you realize you share that same world but could never have said it this way. Incredible.

Morstad’s illustrations are exactly what these poems needed. Her art is simple and yet incredibly beautiful. The colors have real depth to them, the grass is rich in green and yellows, the tomatoes plump with red juiciness, and the water invites readers to dive in too. The children on the pages are diverse in a way that is effortless and inclusive.

One of the best books of poetry I have read in a long time, this one is a seasonal treat too good to miss. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.


Echo Echo by Marilyn Singer

Echo Echo by Marilyn Singer

Echo Echo by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Josée Masse  (InfoSoup)

Singer returns with another collection of her amazing reverso poems this time focusing on Greek mythology. The format which has poems which read one way read forward and another way read in reverse, looks at myths from two divergent points of view. This is particularly effective with Greek myths because they so often have two points of view embedded in them. The poems focus on myths such as Pandora’s box, King Midas, Medusa, Icarus and Narcissus. Though brief, these poems capture the essence of each myth, exposing their complexity in a few choice words and phrases.

Singer has done it again. Her amazing reverso poems must be read with care by young readers who have to pay close attention to punctuation to see the difference in meanings between the two poems. The poems are dazzling as they lay open the themes of each myth, the drama being played out in the story and the differing points of view of the main characters. This is one intelligent display of word play that is incredibly difficult to even imagine doing.

Masse’s illustrations each play upon the theme of different sides or points of view. With visual lines down the middle, the two sides both work together as a whole and show the differences between the two poems. The illustrations echo the poems closely, offering a visual feast in addition to the richness of the words.

Another winner for Singer and her reverso poetry, classrooms teaching mythology will love to have this book on hand for accessible and bite-sized looks at many myths. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books.

Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford

Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford

Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (InfoSoup)

A lovely mix of poetry and nonfiction, this picture book takes a serious look at slavery and the unique situation in New Orleans. In New Orleans, Congo Square was the one place where slaves were allowed to congregate once a week on Sundays. The book counts down to Sunday, each day filled with brutal work and the harrowing harshness of slavery. As Sunday approaches, one can feel spirits looking forward to it. When it finally arrived, slaves and free blacks congregated together, able to celebrate the songs and society of the African homes they were stolen from.

This book is carefully framed and placed in history with a combination of a foreward by historian Freddi Williams Evans and an Author’s Note placed at the end of the book. In both places, Congo Square is explained in detail. The real magic though happens with Weatherford’s poetry. It has a rhythm to it, a structure that is almost musical. The text is deceptively simple as it speaks to the depth of human heart even in the face of slavery and the importance of having a place to congregate like Congo Square.

Christie’s illustrations are incredible. They evoke primitive art with the lengthened and stylized people done in deep black. The pages are filled with bright colors that may seem merry, but then they are filled with slaves doing hard work. They also have twisted black trees in the outside scenes, the tortured branches speaking to witnessed horrors.

An important nonfiction picture book that has poetry that sings in mourning about slavery but also sings of the beauty of the strength of the human spirit too. Appropriate for ages 7-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Little Bee Books.

Review: One Today by Richard Blanco

One Today by Richard Blanco

One Today by Richard Blanco, illustrated by Dav Pilkey (InfoSoup)

This picture book version of the inaugural poem for President Obama’s second term is a beautiful example of how poetry can reach young and old alike. Blanco’s poem stretches across the country, speaking to the diversity of our country, the universal things that bind us together, and the aspirations that we all hold dear. Faith, earth, sky, moon and more form a foundation for us all to relate to. This poem uses imagery that children will understand but also makes it bigger and larger and asks readers to see our country as a whole. Beautiful.

Blanco’s language is simple. He writes of “pencil-yellow school buses” and “the day’s gorgeous din of honking cabs.” He ties our every day experiences to larger efforts, to living with a dream, hearing symphonies in the city sounds, giving thanks, feeling praise. Just like with all the best poetry, it begins simple and then reaches up and beyond to the vision that inspires.

Pilkey’s illustrations are lush and lovely. Filled with deep colors, they show diverse people walking the same city streets, feeling the same things, worshiping in their own ways, and being one united country despite our differences. Each page has a young girl and boy witnessing together, seeing how united we can be if we try.

A poem that calls us to be better than we are now by being united and seeing the small things in life that are meaningful to us all. Appropriate for ages 8-11.

Reviewed from library copy.