National Geographic and J. Patrick Lewis work well together. In 2007 they released The Brother’s War: Civil War Voices in Verse. It was a solemn, evocative and gut churning collection that stays in my mind even today. But, could we expect less of the U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate? The answer, of course is no and to prove my point, NatGeo—as we hipsters refer to them—and Lewis have done it again.
The National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry is a treat. It’s more than a treat, it’s a triumph. The combination of stunning photos–as only Nat Geo can seems to be able to produce—and the writings of some of America’s best poets lights up the imagination and thrills the soul. It doesn’t hurt that a “parent /child” photo of a giraffes, one of my favorite animals, graces the cover. The book entices the reader with a subtitle that states, “200 poems with photographs that squeak, soar and ROAR!”
Mr. Lewis has chosen a wide variety authors who represent an even wider variety of styles—19th century, 20th century or 21st century; lighthearted, silly, or serious; rhyming verse, haiku or concrete poems. It’s all there, all carefully chosen by Mr. Lewis and all perfectly matched to the photography.
Don’t miss a chance to share these little gems with a favorite child or better yet, just curl up in a comfy spot and let yourself go wild among the animals.
Posted by: Eileen
This month, Kelly shares a new favorite: Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems by Kristine O’Connell George.
School. Just that very word makes some of us jump for joy while others shed a sad tear. Whether you are a student or teacher returning to the classroom or a parent or loved one secretly smiling as they pack their students off to school, this book promises smiles all around.
Almost Late to School offers humorous poems dealing with a variety of typical school day events such as the first day of school, science fair projects, oral reports, detention, friends and much more. There are 22 poems in all and each one is enhanced by cute and colorful illustrations.
This book is a winner for back-to-school reading. It’s enjoyable for all ages – even those of us who no longer have the joys and anxieties of a school day. I wholeheartedly give it an A+.
Posted by: Wendy
Mother Goose nursery rhymes are little treasures. Not only do they have rhyme and rhythm, which make them easy to remember and delight the ears of young children, but they are such interesting and innovative little stories – by turns comical, sweet, doleful (rain rain go away), and downright mysterious. They also hold much history in their words (click here to find out what pease porridge actually is). It is the juxtaposition of these traditional rhymes and Nina Crews’ photographs of contemporary children which makes The Neighborhood Mother Goose such a unique and delightful book.
Inspired by her vibrant and diverse neighborhood, Crews illustrates a selection of rhymes with photographic collages featuring children in a city setting (most of the photographs were taken in or around Park Slope in Brooklyn). These lively illustrations are both realistic and fantastical – photographic images are manipulated to bring the scenes to life, such as in the picture of a tiny Jack jumping over a candle-topped cupcake at a birthday party. Crews succeeds in capturing both the ordinary and fantastic in everyday life – which is what these nursery rhymes did so well to begin with.
The Neighborhood Mother Goose is highly recommended – a wonderful book for even the youngest children.
Posted by: Parry
It’s not often that the combination of picture book and haiku get “mashed-up.” Andrew Clements used a series of haikus to tell his story, Dogku but as endearing as the book is, those were more a series of poems fit to describe the dog and his family. In Won Ton, Wardlaw is able to tell the story using only haiku and it doesn’t seem stilted or strained—not that Clements’ did, it was wonderful, too.
There’s nothing revolutionary about the story. Won Ton, a cat, finds himself in an animal shelter, is finally adopted by a family, reluctantly settles in and becomes the “ruler of the roost.” Don’t get me wrong, he is a cat of great personality and definite opinions. He’s very “cat-like” and engaging.
It’s the haiku though, that makes the whole thing work. The short, precise form fits perfectly with the cat’s “thoughts” and actions. It will also appeal to those youngsters who need shorter but fulfilling texts. All in all, just like the boy in the book, you’ll be beguiled by Won Ton, a new friend you’ll want to visit over and over again.
Posted by: Eileen
Having always been a big fan of the silly and humorous poetry of Shel Silverstein, you can imagine my delight to discover a new book of 145 of his unpublished poems. Mr. Silverstein died in 1999 and I was certain that would end the publication of any more of his iconic white covered poetry books.
The dedication is simply “For You.” The title comes from the second poem in the book which is about a boy who orders a hot dog with everything on it. Of course, his hot dog arrives ala Silverstein style and is slightly more than the boy bargained for. The first poem, Years From Now, touches my heart as Shel reassures the reader that “somewhere from some far off place I hear you laughing – and I smile.”
I would recommend this wonderful new poetry book to all readers. The poems and illustrations have the ability to spread simple joy to us all. Who could ask for more from a book?
Posted by: Wendy
I have always found the traditional Mother Goose ditties to be dated and old-fashioned. As cute as some of the rhymes might be, who knows what a peck of pickled peppers is? Who knows about maids a-courting or maids a-waiting? What are curds and whey? What are swine and farthings? Well, along has come a great new ‘recycled’ version of Mother Goose, filled with hilarious earth-friendly bits of rhyming wisdom.
Many of the same characters are present in this new book, like Jack Sprat, Little Jack Horner, Old Mother Hubbard, and even that precocious little girl who had that little curl right in the middle of her forehead. In this new version, the little curl was on top of her head and it glittered. When she was good, she recycled all she could, but when she was bad — she littered. Mary still has her little lamb, but since his fleece was sooty and black from the coal-fired plant, Mary and her lamb now work for cleaner air. Little Jack Horner is still in his corner, but he’s not eating, he’s replacing all the outmoded light bulbs. Old Mother Hubbard shops for tofu and organic treats for her poor dog and she shops with cloth shopping bags. The fun and beauty is that each of these ditties is set in lyrical, playful, whimsical, ecologically-friendly verse. What a hoot! Even the illustrations are terrific, composed from newspapers, ticket stubs, and other reused materials. This is a fun, silly way to groom young ones into thinking ‘green’ and to enjoy a hip new Mother Goose.
Posted by: Fran D.
I love October! The weather turns cold, the fall colors are in full swing and I get to recommend monster books all month long! Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich is one of my favorites. You can’t go wrong with short, illustrated poems with titles like: The Creature from the Black Lagoon Doesn’t Wait an Hour before Swimming, The Invisible Man Gets a Haircut, and Count Dracula Doesn’t Know He’s Been Walking Around All Night with Spinach in his Teeth.
The poems are well written, lyrical verses that put monsters made famous in various forms of popular culture into hilarious, everyday situations. Children and parents will find Adam Rex’s quirky sense of humor delightful and not too scary given the subject matter. The poetry varies in style depending on the subject, as do the amazing illustrations. Rex works in several different mediums for the illustrations in this book so that each poem is given unique illustrations to accompany it. Jekyll and Hyde appear in the style of an illustrated newspaper, a photo collage is used to interpret Godzilla and even a Richard Scarry-esque bunny makes an appearance as the Yeti. The variety in style and intricate, often humorous, detail of the art work is what will have readers reaching for this book for multiple readings.
If you are looking for an extra special way to enjoy Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich, check out the CD in a bag and enjoy listening to the narrator’s interpretations of each of the poems.
Posted by: Kelly
One of the main things that causes a poem to be great is if it is true. It doesn’t need to be epic, or shocking, or about global events, it just needs to be real.
Valerie Worth’s small poems are some of the truest, realest poems that there are. They may be “just” about a cow, or a carrot, or a porch, but they will astound you with their perfect simplicity.
Posted by: Sarah
This story involves a fierce hurricane at sea in the Caribbean in about 1509 when the Spanish were exploring and conquering the new world. A pirate ship goes down and the three survivors are a boy who had been taken captive and made to work on the ship, the pirate captain and his prisoner, the cruel governor of Venezuela who killed many natives and sold some into slavery. The boy called Quebrado by the pirate, finds a home with the Indians on the island where the hurricane has left him and warns them about the pirate and the governor. Quebrado also becomes a friend of a fisherman, Narido, and the girl he loves, Caucubu. Caucubu’s family want her to marry a powerful cacique but she and Narido have been close since they were both little and they want to marry.
The story is told in various voices and various viewpoints in free verse. It is a fast read and the language is very beautiful. The story weaves together the mystery and power of the Caribbean, history, and folklore. I recommend this to children who enjoy stories in verse and /or historical fiction. Recommended for grades 5-8.
Posted by: Fran