Shanna Gonzalez's Reviews > A Child's Calendar

A Child's Calendar by John Updike
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's review
Oct 15, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: children-04-08
Read in October, 2010

This collection of modern-day poems convey the experiences of one year, with one poem for each month. Written skillfully in a gentle rhyming rhythm, and full of tactile, aesthetic details that will resonate with children, this is a fine way to observe the turning of the calendar's pages. Some children have difficulty with the compressed meaning of well-written poetry, but Trina Schart Hyman's award-winning artwork helps supply visual interest while interpreting the poetry so that younger listeners can understand the sense of each poem. Her pictures feature a secure, loving interracial family in scenes which are richly beautiful, yet candid enough to be approachable.

Some parents will wish to be alerted that the month for October features a traditional trick-or-treating scene, with children dressed as monsters and witches, and cheerful jack-o-lanterns lighting a wooden front porch. On the December page, some parents will be disappointed that the holiday scene features a small Santa Claus but no creche, and the "miracle" the shepherds and kings await is explained to be "another year" rather than the Christ child. Similarly, July's Independence Day celebration contains no historical background: the fireworks and parade "makes us think/ of hot dogs, fries,/ and Coke to drink." One might expect that such significant celebrations would evoke more serious reflections, but the focus is on concrete details of each experience, leaving interpretation to others.

The book is not transcendent in its mood, but it is especially good at capturing the details of life on earth. It's best suited for an elementary audience.
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