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Children's Book Reviews

Seeing Sides With Poetry

Seeing Sides With Poetry

Kate Marley

Like aspen leaves that 
flutter in the barest breeze
showing first one color
then another - back and forth
changing…like trout,
flashing like a meteor
through a stream's interior.
So words can be -
different while the same.


Mouse Mess by Linnea Riley. c 1997, Blue Sky Press. At night, a rambunctious and capricious mouse capers all over someone's kitchen, tempted by one goodie after another. Cheerful couplets and colorful cut paper illustrations by the author will delight young readers up till the last page.

A Small Child's Book of Cozy Poems illustrated by Cyndy Szekeres. c 1999, Scholastic. Filled with lots of short poems about everyday things by an assortment of writers, and illustrated with plenty of adorable mice, bunnies and other cuddly animals, this adorable red book will be a hit with toddlers who like rhythm & rhyme, short and sweet.

Counting on the Woods by George Ella Lyon. c 1998, DK Publishing. This is a poem is an unabashed tribute to the beauty of the Appalachians. Obviously, it can also be used as a counting book; superb photographs by Ann W. Olson tie it all together into one beautiful whole.

The Baby Dances by Kathy Henderson. c 1999, Candlewick Press. Important stages of a baby's first year are lovingly chronicled in rhythmic verse and with glowing illustrations by Tony Kerins. Sleeping, rolling over, and the beginnings of independence are just a few of the tender milestones captured by this beautiful book that is perfect for lap babies.


The Tale I Told Sasha by Nancy Willard. c 1999, Little, Brown. Although technically a picture book, the dreamy, highly imaginative quality of both words and illustrations is probably more suited for eight or nine year olds on up. A child's yellow ball is the catalyst for an exploratory quest through what appears to be just a normal house. Exquisite drawings by David Christiana are a wonderful compliment to Willard's lyrical fantasies.

This Big Sky by Pat Mora. c 1998, Scholastic. The breadth and grandeur of the American southwest was the inspiration for this group of poems. Horned toads, snakes, wolves, thunderstorms and more are offered up with impressive collage artwork by Steve Jenkins for a rich sampling of this region.

Poems for Children Nowhere Near Old Enough to Vote by Carl Sandburg. c 1999, Knopf. Only rediscovered among the poet's papers after many years, this collection about everyday things such as chairs and noses have been coupled with whimsical illustrations by Istvan Banyai. It's a great way to show children how poetry can be about the most mundane things and still give it all a really different point of view.

Wish You Were Here (and I wasn't) by Colin McNaughton. c 1999, Candlewick Press. Anyone who loves funny poems will enjoy this collection of 'poems and pictures for glove trotters' as promised by the subtitle. Summer vacations, car rides, strange lands and even stranger people…it's all here, with silly, giggly details and equally whimsical illustrations by the author.

Wild Country : Outdoor Poems for Young People by David Harrison. c 1999, Boyds Mills Press. This quiet but impressive collection of outdoor poems for young people set in free verse celebrates the beauty, mystery and power of nature. Whether he is watching something such as a toad or wolf, or becoming part of the storm or mountain, the author displays such a love and empathy for the natural world that can't help but pull readers in with him.


Relatively Speaking: Poems about Family by Ralph Fletcher. c 1999, Orchard Books. Told from point of view of the youngest boy, this charming collection of poems about a close-knit family takes readers through a year or so of family experiences. A reunion, a brush with death, teasing by his older sibling, as well as a brand new addition to the immediate family are all recounted in spare but descriptive free verse. Black and white drawings are by Walter Lyon Krudop.

How to Write Poetry by Paul B. Janeczko. c 1999, Scholastic. Very informal, but very informative, this is a great little book for anyone, but particularly kids, who want to explore ways to better their poetry. Examples, exercises, and encouragement from all sorts of poets (not just the author) will make this a very useful book for aspiring young poets.

Big Talk by Paul Fleischman. c 2000, Candlewick Press. These poems for four voices make quite a sweep, ranging from the joys of quiet living, to the intricacies of seventh grade goings-on, and then to a ghostly appreciation of food. Kids will have fun making it all come out the way it's supposed to, as well as the reading out loud - which too many people forget is one of the prime joys of poetry, hearing the words proudly spoken. Colorful illustrations are by Beppe Giacobbe.

Quiet Storm: Voices of Young Black Poets selected by Lydia Omolola Okutoro. c 1999, Hyperion. A contributor as well as editor, Okutoro was born in Nigeria and raised in the US; she lives now in Baltimore. She's divided this collection into themed groups, such as home, family, beauty and so forth, headed each with a selection from a famous poet, and then filled the rest with poems from young people. They range from Ohio to Haiti, Panama to Uganda, DC to California, Alabama to Somalia - a powerful collection that looks unflinchingly at many aspects and variations of black culture. Hopefully this book will find a wider audience; it certainly deserves to.

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