Monday, April 09, 2007

Here's a Little Poem -- a National Poetry Month book review

I promised you more information on my recent purchases, and so here's a review for one of them -- a Very Big Book called Here's A Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry, collected by Jane Yolen and Andrew Fusek Peters, illustrated by Polly Dunbar.

If you have a toddler or preschooler who needs a poetry book, this is the one to buy. It is a beautiful book in all the right ways, and it's perfect for adults to share with kids. And yes, it will require adult assistance -- the front cover is 10-1/2" wide and nearly 12" tall, making it over 20" wide when open. And it weighs over two pounds, since it easily maxed out my little postal scale. As it's from Candlewick, it has the look and feel of a Quality Book. And with the excellent editors who compiled the collection, it contains poems of excellent quality.

It includes yesterday's blog selection, "April Rain Song" by Langston Hughes, and it has selections from other famous poets like Jane Yolen (natch), Marily Singer, A.A. Milne, Nikki Grimes, Tony Mitton, Myra Cohn Livingston and more, plus poems from sone folks I hadn't heard of before. There's a short note near the front matter that reads as follows:

"Here's A Little Poem gathers poems from various parts of the English-speaking world, including Great Britain, the Caribbean, Australia, and the U.S. Regional spellins and usage have been retained in order to preserve the integrity of the originals." This means, for example, that some poems say "Mum" instead of "Mom," as in "Mum Is Having a Baby" by Colin McNaughton:

Mum is having a baby!
I'm shocked! I'm all at sea!
What's she want another one for:

The book is organized into four titled sections:
Me, Myself and I
Who Lives in My House?
I Go Outside
Time for Bed

The first section includes poems about the nature of being a young child. The first poem in the book is on the title page for the section, and is called "Here's a Little Foot" by Wendy Cope. The first section also includes these poems:

See how cute the illustrations are? But my favorite poem in the first section of the book has to be Rosemary Wells's "Your Birthday Cake", which begins "Your birthday cake is made of mud/Because I cannot cook."

From the second section of the book, my favorite poem is called "Grandpa" by Berlie Doherty:

Grandpa's hands are as rough as
Garden sacks
And as warm as pockets.
His skin is crushed paper round
His eyes
Wrapping up their secrets.

Isn't that just a beautiful set of images?

The third section of the book, I Go Outside, features poems about the weather as well as poems about things to see and do out of doors. It opens with Paul Janeczko's poem "August Ice Cream Cone", the title of which is two full words longer than the text of the actual poem: "Lick/Quick." It's in this section that you'll find "April Rain Song", along with other poems about rain and wind and mud and berries and the beach. My favorite in this section is probably Jane Yolen's "Recipe for Green", about gardening, although it's a close call-- I also love "Beach Time" by Marilyn Singer. How could you not love Singer's poem, which begins:

We're driving to the beach now,
The air's potato chips --
so salty on my fingers,
so salty on my lips.

"Beach Time" is followed by "Sand House" by J. Patrick Lewis, a most excellent poem about building a sand castle, written in rhyme, but with startlingly fresh images, such as "But when the fingers/Of the sea/Reached up and waved/A wave to me". Happy sigh.

The final section of the book is, naturally, Time for Bed. Because for the toddler set, bedtime is a huge event. It opens with a lovely poem by one of the editors, Andrew Fusek Peters, called "Tide and Seek". My particular favorites in this section are "Silverly" by Dennis Lee, "Mrs. Moon by Roger McGough, with its image of an old lady with "silvery needles/Knitting the night," and the very funny "Grandma's Lullaby" by Charlotte Pomerantz, full of babytalk and silly words. My favorite stanza:

Issum, wissum,
Popsy wopsy,
Tootsie wootsie
Snuggle pup

And now,
for Grandma's
sake, hush up!

1 comment:

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

I appreciate how appealing you've made National Poetry Month with these blog entries. As an English Lit. major, I've read a lot of poetry, but it was often tempting to let the eyes glaze over when there was a surfeit of poems to read. This practice was especially true for me when reading zines.

Anyway, thank you. I'm going to take a look at some of the books you recommended.