Newtons Book News

Childrens Book Reviews

April Brings Flowers and Poetry

This is the month to celebrate our beautiful language.  I’ve collected some outstanding books that showcase description with simplicity.  There is no better book to give as a gift to someone special than a book rich with alliterations, similes, rhyming, rhythm and more.  These are all picture books that can be enjoyed by all ages, except for “Yellow is My Color Star” and “Once Upon a Memory”.  Both of those books are geared for preschool age and younger.

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Hi, Koo! A Year of Seasons, by Jon J. Muth, is a perfect example of the traditional poetic form, Haiku. The five-seven-five syllable form for this specific style of poetry “is like an instant captured in words” as stated by Muth.  You may recognize the author/illustrator’s renowned panda, Koo, as he moves through the seasons with each page depicting the seasons with delectable words worth savoring as “violet petal /  caressing a cheek / butterfly kisses”.  The conveyance of watercolor splashes and slashes across each page as Koo finds two friends, after being alone in the fall, to take him through the rest of the seasons. Muth has once again mastered this exact poetic form.  And by illustrating adorably painted Koo and the contrasting colors of lights and darks, each poem heightens the language.  Check out the alphabetical path of words found throughout as the capitalized words follow this pattern in each haiku.

 

What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms & Blessings, by Joyce Sidman, and beautifully painted with mixed media on wood by Pamela Zagarenski, is rich with singular poems separated into four sections. The Chants & Charms are meant “to bolster courage and guard against evil”.  Spells and Invocations are to help “cause something to happen”.  Laments & Remembrance is helpful “to remember, regret, or grieve”. And the last section: Praise Songs & Blessings are “to celebrate, thank, or express love”. This smallish sized book is so perfect for many reasons – especially for someone who is having difficulty from losing a loved one or needing encouragement.  This would be a terrific book for graduation or to give to that special teacher.

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Please, Louise, by Toni and Slade Morrison, and beautifully painted with watercolor, gouache, pencil and crayon by Shadra Strickland, is a story rich in meaningful symbolism that is told in rhyme.  Lonely Louise heads outside her home in her yellow raincoat that seems to contrast the gloomy weather and her surroundings.  But words and nature encourage her as she walks. “The sky is gray now, but not for long /  After the rain, birds break into song.”  Her destination is the library where her world suddenly bursts into color and excitement by opening books.

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Playtime Rhymes (A Treasury for Families to Learn and Play Together), by Marc Brown, is the perfect book to enjoy with little ones.  The text is large, helping them follow along with the words, the poems are familiar, helping them memorize easier, and the brightly painted pictures cover one entire side of the open pages.  Some of these delightful poems include: “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”, “Do Your Ears Hang Low?” and “The Wheels on the Bus”.  This book would be a nice gift for new parents or families with very young children.

 

Yellow is My Color Star, by Judy Horacek, is a bright and sunny book rich in watercolor as a youngster explains how yellow, red, blue, green, pink, orange and purple make him feel.  The rhyming text is simple, yet fun, as each of the seven colors reflect a bounciness of happiness. “Which color do you love the most?”  Which color could you eat on toast?”  By the end of this delightful book, not only will you get to know these colors, you will most likely have a favorite color star as well.

 

Once Upon a Memory, by Nina Laden, and sketched by Renata Liwska and then colored in Photoshop, is a sweet rhyming celebration of remembering. “Does a feather remember it once was…a bird? Does a book remember it once was…a word?”  The young boy and the precious furry or feathery friends that surround him on every page seem rich in character and design.  The poetic cadence, though simple, is strong and elicits the importance of rhythm in rhyme.

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Poem Mobiles, Crazy Car Poems, by J. Patrick Lewis and Douglas Florian, and fantastically imagined with pencil and watercolor and then digitally colored by Jeremy Holmes, is not only ingenious in its entirety, but begs to be read out loud.  By doing so, the exclamations, descriptions, onomatopoeias and such will bang off your tongue like firecrackers.  And chances are, the listener will explode with laughter and enjoyment.  The clever Eel-Eric Car reads, “By day I curve around the pier, / at night I swerve . / Bring scuba gear!”.  This book is so outstanding on every level, both poems and pictures, I’m making an early prediction for a definite Caldecott award contender!

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