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Local stacks feature books for National Poetry Month

Posted: Friday, April 25, 2008

Don't let the month of April pass without bringing home one of the many tiny, sensory worlds bound between the covers of a poetry collection. In celebration of National Poetry Month, this week's column will highlight some new and innovative poetry books for children. If April doesn't come often enough for you, look for poetry reviews at the Juneau Book Blog, http://juneaubookblog.wordpress.com/category/poetry/ and find out how you can contribute your own review of the next great poetry collection you read.

"Bugs: Poems About Creeping Things," by David L. Harrison and illustrated by Rob Shepperson

This playful tribute is the perfect poetry companion for those of us more likely to liberate than eliminate a spider found in the house. From the opening poem, "Bugs," a tribute to bugs that move under the welcome mat for, "If bugs can't read/ explain that ... bugs who read/ are welcome guests," to a flea who swallows a cow, a horse (a huge one of course), and a half a giraffe. Simple yet striking black and white illustrations and the occasional poem for two voices, a duet for a dog and a Spanish flea and a duet for victim and bedbug, will entertain readers of all ages. From no-see-ums and bedbugs, bookworms and dumb beetles (yes, dumb), these poems are sure to make you squirm and scratch and yes, probably laugh.

"Today and Today," haiku by Issa, pictures by G. Brian Karas

Karas' colorful, mixed media (paint, pencil and rice paper) pictures of cherry blossoms, children flying kites and a father with his sons watching dew dance by dawn's light, visually capture the simple natural beauty which 18th century Japanese poet, Kobatashi Issa sought in his haiku. Organized by season, the poems and pictures follow a family through the course of a year of great change. Beginning and ending with Spring, the poems selected here illustrate the circle of life, new life emerging from death. Issa saw the world from a microscopic perspective, measuring time and the arrival of seasons by the cicada's song and the chrysanthemums' bloom, autumn moons and field wren tracks in Winter's first snow. You too will be soothed by the calming song of Issa's haiku, so gentle, like falling cherry blossoms or snow flakes caught on the wind, refusing to fall.

"Tap Dancing on the Roof: Sijo" poems by Linda Sue Park, pictures by Istuvan Banyai

Sijo is a traditional Korean poetry from employing a syllabic structure. Translated to English, a Sijo typically has three lines of 14-16 syllables each, though due to long line length translators often break the three lines into six shorter lines. In addition to the syllabic structure, Sijo also conforms to a contextual format in which the 1st line introduces a topic, the second furthers the topic and the 3rd line contains a humorous twist or pun. This visually oriented collection takes its title from the poem, "Long Division" in which Park and illustrator, Banyai work together to describe the structure of a long division problem, "This number gets a wall and a ceiling. Nice and comfy in there." Capturing observations from a young person's perspective, from teeth brushing drudgery and bathing woes, to the exploration of abstract concepts like ocean emotions and sesquipedalian, Tap Dancing on the Roof will provide an inspirational jolt.

"Here's a Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry," edited by Jane Yolen and Andrew Fusek Peters, illustrated by Polly Dunbar

This is a vibrant mix of 60 poems, old and new, as selected by Caldecott winner Jane Yolen, and poet/anthologist Fusek Peters. Here's a Little Poem is full of bold color, playful verse and quirky turns certain to have children laughing with delight and groaning with disgust. From John Cunliffe's ant-tribute to soggy greens and Rosemary Wells' well-intended birthday cake of mud, the poems in this volume have been selected because of their ability to capture the essence of childhood in all its birthday parties, no-no's, rain puddles and ice cream cone glory. The twelve lullabies concluding the collection will bring fresh lyrics to the nightly routine of sending the little ones off to dreamland. Perennial children's favorites like A.A. Milne (Winnie the Pooh), Jack Prelutsky (Nightmares: Poems to Trouble your Sleep) and Nikki Grimes (Is it far to Zanzabar? poems about Tanzania) provide familiar footing amidst an all-star cast of emerging voices in poetry for children. Make this collection someone special in your life's first book of poetry!

"Animal Poems," by Valerie Worth, pictures by Steve Jenkins

Crisp, colorful, cut-paper pictures and playfully arranged text make this collection a treat for the eyes and read aloud, the ears as well. Worth's verse gives voice to the fierceness in a bear's staring eye, the point to the porcupine's musing from within "the thicket / of it's own / thorns ... " and helps us to understand just why the groundhog creeps back to bed in the face of the weak winter sun. With 23 poems, some uniquely told from the animals' perspective, Animal Poems is a veritable zoo to be explored.

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