Saturday, December 22, 2018

🎄Gift Suggestions: Poetry: A Picture Book Roundup

I love introducing my young readers to poetry. Kids are so open to the rhyme and rhythm of lyrical language, and they actually have some great ideas about what poetry says to them. Here are some of the poetry books that I have used this year. Don't you think a book of poems always makes a nice gift for readers of all ages? I know I do.
H is for Haiku: A Treasury of Haiku From A to Z
by Sydell Rosenberg, illustrated by Sawsan Chalabi
Penny Candy Books, 2018, 40 pages
Sydell Rosenberg was a master at writing haiku and her speciality was capturing "that fledging moment, when the wingstrokes become sure - when the bird has staying power in the air." In this book, you will find 26 haiku or senryu written before the author passed away in 1996, arranged alphabetically by first word. This is not an ABC book for toddlers, no indeed, it is a book for thoughtful students of life, observers who want to also hold on to that fledging moment. When I shared these poems with my young readers, some were just spot on for them: "Adventures over/The cat sits in the fur ring/of his tail and dreams" was a favorite from the start, as were many others. Some, like Z may feel a little dated: "Zum Zum restaurant/A French teacher grades papers/on her lunch break." Who remembers Zum Zum? I do, an old NYC German-style fast food restaurant. A simple explanation and we moved on. This book invites kids to read and consider these lovely poems over and over and they work especially well when teaching them about how they can find poetry simply by observing life's daily routines with different eyes. Chalabi's wonderfully diverse, whimsical illustrations extend the Rosenberg's words, increasing our enjoyment of the haiku. 

Jabberwalking written and illustrated by
Juan Felipe Herrera
Candlewick Press, 2018, 144 pages
This is the perfect book to follow Sydell Rosenberg's H is for Haiku, because what is jabberwalking other than writing, drawing, journaling and walking at the same time as you "burble" what you see around you: "Scribble what you see/Scribble what you hear/ Scribble out the electric Jabber worms crawling out of you head & eyes/Scribble what that dude skating is hollering/Scribble everything that goes on in the cafeteria/Scribble what all the teachers say in the halls... According to Herrera, if we follow this method, we can all be poets, even the least poetic among us. Inspired by Lewis Carroll's poem "Jabberwocky," Herrera includes some of the words that Carroll made up for his work, and gives them new meaning, for example, a burble = a poem. Herrera divides this book into 15 instructional chapters, the content of which zigs and zags over the pages, accompanied by his drawings, and though seeming to be as nonsensical as Carroll's poem at first, they actually provide the reader with inspiration and instruction. My Kiddo came home for the holidays before heading off the China again, and announced that she was now experimenting with writing poetry. So, I gave Jabberwalking to her to see what she thought about it. Well, long story short, she loved it and won't give it back, she says she has put on her "Jabber Booots" and plans to jabberwalk in China. Need I say more about this unique book? 

A First Book of the Sea by Nicola Davies,
illustrated by Emily Sutton
Candlewick Press, 2018, 104 pages
We are a sea loving family. We have spent our summers sitting at the shoreline, watching the ebb and flow of the waves, and hoping to catch sight of a pod of dolphins heading to or from their feeding grounds. Easy to see why this book has become an instant favorite in my family. Davies has divided it into four sections: Down by the Shore, Journeys, Under the Sea, and Wonders. In Down by the Shore, Davies explores everything from the seashore to the lighthouse to the harbor, celebrating everything we are familiar with, from the boardwalk, to the creatures that live along the shoreline, to pebbles and birds, including those sneaky gulls that will swoop in and steal the food right out of your hand. begins. From the shore, Davies looks at Journeys of men and sea creatures like whales and sea turtles. From Journeys, Davies dives Under the Sea for a look at deep-ocean creatures, a place that holds countless wonders just waiting to be explored and a place where readers will meet a giant squid, flashlight fish, angler fish, sharks, and otters, among others. But readers will also learn how man is destroying this underwater wonderland with his plastic and other throwaways. Lastly, Wonders looks at all the other magical things waiting for kids to find about sea life near and far. These include tide pools, flying fish, penguins, the albatross, a shoal of ten thousand fish moving in time with each other, and of course, the dolphins swimming by. And amazingly, all of this is done in verse, and with wonderful illustrations done appropriately enough in watercolors in a palette of yellows, blues and greens evocative of sand, surf and deep ocean. This is a book that will be visited again and again.

Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets by Kwame Alexander, 
Christ Colderley and Marjory Wentworth
illustrated by Ekua Holmes
Candlewick Press, 2017, 56 pages
I was introduced to poetry by my father at a young age and I've loved it ever since and this book has become a personal favorite mine. I have gone back to this book over and over, rereading the Preface (don't skip that!) and poems and thinking about them long after I have closed the book. For me, this is a tribute not only to some of my favorite poets and some I wasn't familiar with, but to poetry itself. As Alexander writes, "A poem is a small but powerful thing. It has the power to reach inside of you, to ignite something in you, and to change you in ways you never imagined." The 20 poems are divided into three sections. Part I: Got Style? pays tribute to poets who made their own rules about writing, including Nikki Giovanni, Langston Hughes  and even Robert Frost. Part II: In Your Shoes looks at how we sometimes incorporate feeling, themes, and ideas of poets we like into our own work. Walter Dean Myers (see "Walter, Age Ten" (pg 14)) loved basketball. Not surprisingly, Kwame Alexander wrote the tribute poem to him (and two books about basketball). Part III: Thank You is a poetic paean to the poems and poets whose work has impacted us in a deeply personal way, to those poets who speak to us directly, and who moved us profoundly enough to respond with our own words. Each poem feels deeply personal and so inspiring. And as if the words weren't incredible enough, Ekua Holmes' wonderfully bold collage illustrations are just breathtaking and speak to the specialness of each poem and poet. This is a book to share with older readers, with those already familiar with Alexander's verse novels, or make a bundle of Rebound, The Crossover, and Out of Wonder for a really special gift. Uh oh, Out of Wonder is going to China with the Kiddo, too.

I hope these are helpful gift suggestions, and my young readers and I wish you

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