Last week I had some great poetry collections, and this week I have some great poetry picture books. If you have some favorites, share them in the comments.
If Not for the Cat
by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Ted Rand
The title begs to be finished, so here is the poem of the mouse:
"If not for the cat, And the scarcity of cheese, I could be content." Every time I reference this book, I have to double-check that the poet is indeed Prelutsky because it doesn't fit with the sillier style I've come to associate with him. But yes, it's him crafting these perfect poems about seventeen different animals. The poems are accessible for children, but take some thought too - along with offering some challenging, evocative words. The illustrations are beautiful, with a great use of detail and color to support the haiku. Purists will note that it isn't true haiku as they don't all feature the requisite seventeen syllables, but I don't feel the need to split hairs with someone who thinks to describe jellyfish movement as "gelatinously." Brilliant stuff, this.
Speak To Me (And I Will LIsten Between The Lines)
by Karen English, illustrated by Amy Bates
I loved this book when I first saw it a few years ago, and it sticks with me. I don’t know that I can verify that it captures the feel of an urban school - though it sure seems that way - but I do know that it really captures the feeling of third graders. Feeling pride in an eighth birthday. Worrying about losing a best friend to another girl in the class. Daydreaming. Saving a seat at lunch. Each poem is told from the point of the view of one of the kids in the class, most of whom are African-American. The illustrations capture the feel of the kids and the poems in every nuance of expression. A perfect classroom book, for sure, but also a wonderful book to share at home.
Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors
by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski
What can I say about this book but lovely, lovely, lovely, lovely and oh yes, lovely. And that’s from someone who doesn’t care much for poetry as a rule. After checking out a library copy based on the book’s Caldecott silver medal and Cybils win, I had to buy my own copy. (Which I did through the Cybils site, because every book that you buy there gives a little bit back to that award.) Taking us through all the seasons in colors, these short poems by Joyce Sidman pack a velvet-covered punch, while Pamela Zagarenski’s illustrations invite long-lingering looks and sighs. Truly, I want to live in the world that Zagarenski sees and sink into the descriptions of Sidman's words:
each note dropping
like a cherry
into my ear.
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