Here's what I know. There is no such thing as perfect. Really. But this picture book by my friend Liz Garton Scanlon and Marla Frazee comes close. Liz...moreHere's what I know. There is no such thing as perfect. Really. But this picture book by my friend Liz Garton Scanlon and Marla Frazee comes close. Liz has written a marvelous poem, but one that's hard to picture. Marla has drawn a lovely narrative, but one that doesn't make complete sense on its own. Together, those slightly imperfect pieces make a perfect whole (or as nearly as is humanly possible to create).
As I said in my mention last week, All the World is a work of epic beauty inside a picture book package. I love this book for its size, its cover, its lime-green endpapers, its flap copy and author & illustrator info, its words and its pictures. I love it for its lyrical, song-like qualities, for its generosity of spirit, for being so simple and yet so terribly complex that a week later, I remain gobsmacked. I love it for its pictures that wind along the California coast, for its inclusiveness (mixed-race and same sex couples made me especially happy), for its ability to show that all the world is all of us.
I have heard this book described by others as an immediate classic and a book with Caldecott potential (boy do I agree - not that I have any influence over these things, but man!). Bloggers whom I know to be highly articulate were brought to their knees at the thought of talking about this book, because it is difficult to know how to do it justice. If you've experienced this book, I'm guessing that you know whereof I speak, and that you also want to do it justice (and quite possibly feel inadequate). This book is that good.
This is a book that sings to places in your soul and that manages to completely engage you whether you intended to be engaged by it or not. Perhaps you opened it to humor a friend or see what the fuss was about, but most likely by the you reached the end, you found tears in your eyes without having realized that you were becoming emotional. Most likely you realized midway through that Marla Frazee's illustrations were moving through a particular (imaginary, as it turns out) landscape, and you wanted to go back and look through it again to see how the "camera" flowed along. Most likely you felt changed, somehow - maybe in a quiet way, maybe in a profound way - like those of us who are middle-aged might have done for a brief moment when we first heard We Are the World or Do They Know It's Christmas?, or if we stood next to friends, neighbors and strangers holding hands for "Hands Across America", when something inside felt that upswell of realization of interconnectedness and good will - our own particular Ebenezer Scrooge moments, when the shackles and fetters drop off, if only for a moment, and we realize that life is good and we resolve to keep Christmas in our hearts every day. It is, in short, a revelation.
Go. Buy it. Whether you share it with the people in your life or hug it to your chest and remind yourself that there is good in the world and that we are all connected, this book will do you good.
The FedEx guy made my day this morning. He dropped off my contributor copies of the anthology Dare to Dream . . . Change the World, a project conceive...moreThe FedEx guy made my day this morning. He dropped off my contributor copies of the anthology Dare to Dream . . . Change the World, a project conceived and edited by Jill Corcoran, and illustrated by J. Beth Jepson. I am thrilled to be a part of this project, which features some of the very best children's poets writing today.
The book is swoonily gorgeous, y'all. For serious. Jill asked pairs of poets to submit poems about "people who invented something, stood for something, said something, who defied the naysayers and not only changed their own lives, but the lives of people all over the world." Each pair of poems includes one that is biographical and one that's inspirational, and each two-page pairing includes a short prose bio about the person or people discussed. Subjects include well-known historical figures such as Anne Frank and Jonas Salk as well as contemporary figures including Father Gregory Boyle, a priest who works with gang members in L.A., Ashley Bryan (beloved author/illustrator), Temple Grandin, and the three guys who invented/founded YouTube: Chad Hurley, Steve Chen & Jawed Karim. (I've put a full listing of subjects below, in a bid to be a full-service blogger.)
Those last three guys were the inspiration for the pair of poems written by Laura Purdie Salas and me. I wrote the biographical poem, "A Place to Share", about the creation of YouTube, and Laura wrote her inspirational one, "Just Like That", a terrific poem about a kid getting inspired by the videos he sees online.
The illustrations throughout the book are gorgeous. My very favorite spread is probably the one that goes along with the pair of poems about Ashley Bryan, a rather questionable-quality photo of which is above. In person, when you're looking at the BIG pages (40 of them total - measuring 9 x 12 each), the art is that much more impressive. And the poems are breathtaking. Here's the complete listing of who wrote what, and who the poems are about. (The first and last poems, by Jill Corcoran and Bruce Coville, bookend the collection and are about the importance of dreaming big and taking action.)
"Dare to Dream" by Jill Corcoran "The Child" by J. Patrick Lewis and "The Archaeologist's Dilemma" by Alice Schertle (Sylvia Mendez) "Nicholas Cobb" by David L. Harrison and "Under the Bridge" by Jane Yolen (Nicholas Cobb) "G-Dog" by Joan Bransfield Graham and "By Some Stroke of Heaven" by Ellen Hopkins (Father Gregory Boyle) "This Moment" by Georgia Heard and "Faith of a Mustard Seed" by Hope Anita Smith (Anne Frank) "Jonas Salk Poem" by Elaine Magliaro and "My Polio Shot" by Janet S. Wong (Jonas Salk) "Jean-Michel Basquiat's boyhood song" by Curtis L. Crisler and "word from the wise" by Denise Lewis Patrick (Jean-Michel Basquiat) "Gold" by Joyce Lee Wong and "The Other Truth" by Jacqui Robbins (Michelle Kwan) "The Greater Sum of Parts" by Julia Durango and "Grace" by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer (Ashley Bryan) "Temple Grandin" by Lisa Wheeler and "Cussing at Cows" by Hope Vestergaard (Temple Grandin) "Martha Graham Charts A Path" by Carol M. Tanzman and "Dance" by Stephanie Hemphill (Martha Graham) "Painter" by Lee Bennett Hopkins and "Cloudscape" by Rebecca Kai Dotlich (Georgia O'Keeffe) "Journal of 73 Seconds" by Joyce Sidman and "And Then There's Air" by Marilyn Singer (Christa McAuliffe) "Alien" by Rose Horowitz and "Projecting Greatness" by Alan Katz (Steven Spielberg) "Just Like That" by Laura Purdie Salas and "A Place to Share" by Kelly Ramsdell Fineman (Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim) "Ripples" by Bruce Coville
At present, the book is available exclusively through www.usbornebooksandmore.com, but it is expected to have a general release in coming seasons. It will not, however, be available at Amazon, because Kane Miller and Usborne have decided on principle not to sell through them. (B&N has it available for pre-order, and seems to think it will be available on September 1st of this year.)
I am of the opinion that Roots and Blues: A Celebration by Arnold Adoff, with paintings by R. Gregory Christie, quite possibly deserves to win all the...moreI am of the opinion that Roots and Blues: A Celebration by Arnold Adoff, with paintings by R. Gregory Christie, quite possibly deserves to win all the things. There. I said it. I'll be looking for this book on shortlists and award lists, and so should you be. Better still, look for this book.
Adoff's poetic style is somewhat idiosyncratic, relying on something he calls "shaped speech", which involves rather unusual text placement in many instances. Words that are meant to be read with more emphasis or duration are quite literally stretched out on the page. Gaps indicate a pause, sometimes replacing commas, sometimes dictating how you might emphasize the word before the gap in reading the poem aloud. As Adoff said in the past:
"It doesn't matter if my work has upper or lower case, or capitalization, or punctuation, or not. The structure is the shape. It's shaped form poetry. When I have done my job right, the shape and structure can imply the subject. Sometimes it can give the feel of a first baseman or a catcher or some of the other subjects. If I have done my work right, the block of type and the double stanza breaks and the space between the words are like invisible rubber bands that hold the poem together and pull your eye along."
You can read a bit more about Adoff and his approach to poetry in this NCTE profile piece.
Roots and Blues traces the history of blues music, beginning with African songs, traveling on slave ships and through plantations and chain gangs and sharecroppers. Spirituals and lullabyes and church music and jazz. The book meanders chronologically, wandering the paths in the South that the music wound through, through fields and houses and the Mississippi River and more. Most of the poems have titles; many of those titles are complete sentences, or the start of the poem that follows. Sometimes reading just the titles in sequence tells a story (as in the poems on pages 16-18, entitled "The Giant Ice Mountains Slide South" "Down In the Delta As Sure as River Rises" "Engineers of Memory Kept Plans During Generations.") Interspersed are a bunch of poems written all in italics, each one labelled "Listen"; those poems describe the sounds of the place and time Adoff has been (or is now) talking about. There are a lot of "Listen" entries interspersed, and they make complete sense in context, even though I fear I'm not doing them justice here.
Some of the poems are breathtaking, heartbreaking things. Find the rest of my review, with examples, here. The formatting is too hard to reproduce here on Goodreads. Alas.(less)
Lovely poem paired with beautiful illustrations, appropriate for parents of young children, but equally wonderful as a gift to daughters of all ages....moreLovely poem paired with beautiful illustrations, appropriate for parents of young children, but equally wonderful as a gift to daughters of all ages. I highly recommend finding the online book trailer, in which Neil Gaiman reads the poem whilst animated bits from the book stream by. It's, well, lovely.(less)
I have been remiss in not reviewing this lovely picture book. Kristy Dempsey, who is a LiveJournal friend of mine, first wrote this poem for her husba...moreI have been remiss in not reviewing this lovely picture book. Kristy Dempsey, who is a LiveJournal friend of mine, first wrote this poem for her husband; now, it is a beautiful picture book featuring a little girl and her grandfather. As you may have guessed from the cover art, the people aren't people, they're bears.
While the book is entitled Me With You, much of the poem is a celebration of the way the people – er, bears – interact with one another. It begins this way:
We're a pair beyond compare, a rare and special two, in all the ways that I am me and you're completely you.
But most of the rest of the poem is in an "I'm me when I do this, while you do that" format. It's kind of a celebration of how sometimes a good relationship enhances the good points about the individuals involved. Perhaps my favorite is:
I'm me on an adventure, digging treasure from the sand, and when the path is rocky, you are there to hold my hand.
The poem is written in rhyme in a form known as a fourteeners (rhymed couplets in which each line has fourteen syllables – usually 7 iambic feet, with the odd exception here and there of a line with only 13 syllables because it began with a single accented syllable in lieu of an iambic foot), which gives it a lovely, rolling feel. Because fourteeners tend to lend themselves to long lines, they are often (as here) split into two lines, alternating four and three iambic feet (8 and 6 syllables each).
Countdown to Summer: A Poem for Every Day of the School Year by my friend J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Ethan Long. This book does for the older e...moreCountdown to Summer: A Poem for Every Day of the School Year by my friend J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Ethan Long. This book does for the older elementary and middle school age group what Billy Collins's Poetry 180 does for teens: it provides you with 180 poems, one for each day of school. But unlike Collins's book (and the related website from the Library of Congress, both of which are anthologies consisting of poems by a number of poets, all the poems are by a single author.
Pat's book starts with poem #180 and counts its way down to #1. Not all of the poems are funny, although many of them are. Not all of them are about school, although some of them are. Librarians will probably like #175: "Reading Harry Potter Under the Sheets", but they are guaranteed to love #173: "Book Etiquette", which gives directions on how to treat a book properly. But my favorite book-related poem is probably #28: "Ars Libri"
Ars Libri: after Archibald MacLeish by J. Patrick Lewis
A book should be spirited and odd As a divining rod,
Wild As the wonder of a child,
Open to the sky and the slanting rain As an attic's shattered windowpane.
A book should measure its success By a censor's distress.
A book should be ten candle-watts Of afterthoughts,
Brilliant as a marbled vein in a quarry Of story,
Bold enough to leave behind Unpeace of mind.
A book should be a welcome late-night guest After a day-long standardized test.
A book should be the map, flashlight, and skeleton key To literacy.
For all imaginations out of whack or work, The CEO and the filing clerk,
For kids Who yearn to see but hesitate to dream--
A book should both be And seem.
The collection includes lovely poems about Eid ul-Fitr, Thanksgiving, Kwanzaa, Chanukah, Martin Luther King Day and more, riddles here and there, poems guaranteed to make you chuckle and the occasional political poem.
(Don't believe me? I direct you to #143, "Proposed Amendment to the Constitution":
The President and Vice-President of the United States shall be required to take the Fourth Grade Standardized Achievement Test so that No President or Vice-President shall be left behind.
To which I say, "Preach it, Pat!"
Truly, it's not all highbrow. Take #149: "A Lasting Impression"
I scratched your initials on the seat of my chair -- now you're stuck on my underwear!
If you've seen A Prairie Home Companion on PBS, or the movie of the same name starring Mer...moreThis post was originally posted by me over at Guys Lit Wire.
If you've seen A Prairie Home Companion on PBS, or the movie of the same name starring Meryl Streep, or if you listen to National Public Radio (NPR) either voluntarily or because your folks have it on in the car, you might have some idea who Garrison Keillor is. If you're a writer or a fan of reading, you might be interested in his daily broadcast/online column The Writer's Almanac, in which Keillor shares a poem a day (pretty much always by someone else), and information on writers or poets who were born, died, or otherwise did something of particular note on this particular day in history. He's also compiled a couple of poetry anthologies, (i.e., Good Poems and Good Poems for Hard Times), containing the work of a lot of poets, living and dead. But I digress.
Today's post, you see, is about a small pink book of poems entitled 77 Love Sonnets, now available in local bookstores (and online) pretty much everywhere. And these poems - all of them sonnets of one kind or another - are actually written by Keillor. I think that Keillor's note, found on the back of the slim volume, explains the contents well, and succinctly:
When I was 16, Helen Fleischman assigned me to memorize Shakespeare's Sonnet No. 29, 'When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes, I all alone beweep my outcast state' for English class, and fifty years later, that poem is still in my head. Algebra got washed away, and geometry and most of biology, but those lines about the redemptive power of love in the face of shame are still here behind my eyeballs, more permanent than my own teeth. The sonnet is a durable good. These 77 of mine include sonnets of praise, some erotic, some lamentations, some street sonnets and a 12-sonnet cycle of months. If anything here offends, I beg your pardon. I come in peace, I depart in gratitude.
A sonnet is a particular form of poem. It consists of 14 lines. There are two exceedingly traditional forms - the Shakespearean sonnet and the Italianate or Petrarchan sonnet (which allows a bit more latitude in rhyme scheme). Both of those forms traditionally use something called iambic pentameter (ten syllables per line, organized into 5 iambic "feet" - taDUM taDUM taDUM taDUM taDUM). Over time, however, increasing flexibility in rhyme schemes and meters crept in. That said, most sonnets continue to consist of 14 lines, some sort of rhyme scheme (even if slant rhyme or near rhyme is used), and the presence of something called a volta or "turn", usually found somewhere around the ninth line of a sonnet, but sometimes not appearing until the final two lines.
Here is an example of one of Keillor's less erotic poems about a couple in love:
A Couple on the Street by Garrison Keillor
Apparently they are a scandalous pair, Strolling the main drag, not quite hand in hand, The tall young woman and the dazed old man. And old ladies turn like wounded birds and stare And shake their great red wattles and curse And young women smirk at this ludicrous romance-- But see how tenderly his eyes seek hers And their elbows brush-- and, defiant, they hold hands And dare to gaze at each other. She is avid To be loved and love leaps up from them As music sprang from Mozart, and they can have it All, Don Giovanni and the Requiem. "Fools!" the ladies cry. "It should not and cannot be!" And they are right. But O the sweetness and the courtesy.
This particular poem uses slant rhyme, and follows this rhyme scheme: ABBACDCDEFEFGG.
Here, from page 65 of the volume, is a Shakespearean sonnet (ABABCDCDEFEFGG)entitled "The Anger of Women":
The anger of women pervades the rooms Like a cold snap, and you wait for the thaw To open the window and air out the anger fumes, And then a right hook KA-POW to the jaw! And she says three jagged things about you And then it's over. She bursts into tears, The storm spent, the sky turns sky-blue. But a man's heart can hurt for many years. I have found the anger of women unbearable. And when my goddesses have cursed the day They met me and said those terrible Things, I folded my tent and stole away. I yielded to their righteous dominion And went off in search of another opinion.
There are sonnets that are sexy and sonnets that are funny; sonnets that are a bit dour and some that are divine. The book is, above all, proof of the flexibility and continued vitality of the sonnet. And even though it's pink, and even though it's by some guy who your parents or grandparents like from the land of Public Broadcasting, this is one book that's worth a look. Take a look at the poem entitled "Obama", perhaps. Or at the series of twelve poems, each named after a different month of the year. Or, well, look at "Room 704" if you don't believe me:
The tennis players volley on the bright green court. Slipping and sliding to and fro while up above Them, spread naked on a bed in room 704, A young woman sings the aria of burning love-- Her lover's head between her legs, her feet on his back, And she is singing for pleasure, while outside The streets are cleaned, construction is on track, The buses come on time and people board and ride And she lies, eyes closed, hands holding his, and moans As he addresses her with all deliberate passion. And the clerks sort the mail into the correct zones And all the ATM machines have sufficient cash in. Good sir, don't stop. We each must do our duty. Some drive the bus and others drive the beauty.
I reviewed it at my blog and really enjoyed it. Long review short? This book is the complete package - engaging poems, terrific art, and superior book...moreI reviewed it at my blog and really enjoyed it. Long review short? This book is the complete package - engaging poems, terrific art, and superior book design. Bravo, all 'round!(less)
Clever, creative, funny and fresh as a new-laid egg, this book of chicken-related poems entertains from start to finish, accompanied by excellent, ado...moreClever, creative, funny and fresh as a new-laid egg, this book of chicken-related poems entertains from start to finish, accompanied by excellent, adorable illustrations worth clucking about.(less)
I've long loved this poem, which was the first thing I copied into my commonplace book when I started it earlier this year. Having a copy of it with i...moreI've long loved this poem, which was the first thing I copied into my commonplace book when I started it earlier this year. Having a copy of it with illustrations by Charles Vess makes this Gaiman book that much more interesting. As with Blueberry Girl, Vess has done a wonderful job turning a poem into a picture book that is completely understandable - and gorgeous. Love that when the proxy who is following the "instructions" looks down the well, the "other world" looks very much like an actual city, and not so much like the fairy tale world in which the book proper is set.
Another favorite bit within the book, which is somewhat less on the surface in the picture book edition because of the way the text is split across pages, is the part that reads so much like advice to authors when the poem is read on its own. It begins with the reminder that diamonds and roses are not any less of a curse than toads and frogs, and continues with "Remember your name./ Do not lost hope--what you seek will be found./ . . . Trust dreams./Trust your heart, and trust your story." *swoon*
In fact, I'm off to read it again before bed. One can never read this poem too often.(less)