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Childrens Book Reviews

April is Poetry Month

APRIL IS POETRY MONTH

What a wonderful time of the year to explore and enjoy the beauty of the earth by celebrating with the beauty of words. The following books are all picture books and are perfect for all ages.

Earth Verse: Haiku from the Ground Up, by Sally M. Walker, and richly illustrated with colored pencils by William Grill, crafts elegant poems that inform us of surfaces below and above the earth. There is a spectacular image of an erupting volcano exploding with white hot lava and completely filling the open page with bright color. One side of the open book reads “hotheaded mountain / loses its cool, / spews ash cloud – / igneous tantrum.” Be sure to check out the back pages that have information about subjects of earth that each of the haiku touches on.

This & That, by Mem Fox, and delightfully illustrated by Judy Horacek, is a wonderful combination of a rhyming story with pictures. The author is renowned for writing simple stories for new readers helping them remember the sequencing storylines and building their vocabulary. This book conveys a similar pattern. Two mice are on an adventure where they find themselves in many precarious situations. Each situation, along with the cute little mice, will surely have this book reread many, many times.

Breathe and Be: A Book of Mindfulness Poems, by Kate Coombs, and beautifully painted by Anna Emilia Laitinen, combines serene nature with composed and calming poems. Each open page reveals a double-paged illustration with a poem nestled amongst foliage, fish or fluttering birds and children. “My feet touch earth. My hands touch tall grasses. My face touches the sky. I run through the morn. I am alive in the world!” What better place to settle young hearts and souls than out in God’s glorious earth!

Song of the Wild: A First Book of Animals, by Nicola Davies, and vividly painted in mixed-media by renowned Peter Horacek, is an overly-large book that reveals double-page subjects with glorious color filling the complete scene. Each animal has a lyrical and sometimes even humorous poem that describes its attributes. The whale shark’s poem reads: “Like a piece of fallen starry sky, the spotted whale shark cruises by, swimming the secret depths alone. As soon as it appears, it’s gone.” The illustrations of the shark fills both pages with an ocean of blue hues surrounding it. Some of the animals include a flamingo, beaver, camel, Komodo dragon and sea horse.

A Greyhound, A Groundhog, by Emily Jenkins, and perfectly capturing the expressions of both animals with watercolor and pencil by Chris Appelhans, is masterful as it showcases limited text and simple pictures. Author and artist render few words and pictures into a gradual climax of action. It begins with a muted, pale palette of a grayish greyhound and a brownish groundhog. Each seem to be waking up and stretching so the text is straight and sparse. However, once they meet, movement in both animals and words begins to curve as they abound over their roundness and friendship. The grass becomes more active as well and butterflies fill the double-page pictures. This book is remarkable and demonstrates a genius with the use of these two unique subjects!

The Pelican Chorus and other Nonsense, by Edward Lear, and beautifully painted with watercolor by Fred Marcellino, is a seriously silly book that children will adore. There are three stories which are “The New Vestments”, The Owl and the Pussycat”, and “The Pelican Chorus”. The poems beg to be read out loud and the illustrations go right along with each story. In fact, the pictures help the humor tremendously! This book should be on every family bookshelf!

Warbler Wave, by April Pulley Sayre, with Jeff Sayre, captures the essence of tiny warblers as they migrate back to the United States and Canada for spring. This book magnificently demonstrates these birds in brilliant photography. Each page is enlarged as you observe them in flight, on a branch or even eating. The poetic free verse simply describes their activities on each page. These birds are a wondrous mystery of how their tiny bodies make it back each and every spring. There is much more to learn found in the back of the book.

Bumpety, Dunkety, Thumpety-Thump!, by K. L. Going, and illustrated with full-page color by Simone Shin, is a captivating rhyming adventure as two youngsters explore the growing backyard vegetation and come upon berries that are “plumety-plump”. Throughout this textured book of muted colors, the two children happily pull their wagon as it goes “Bumpety, dunkety, thumpety-thump” and pick berries as they go into the pail with a “plunked you-plunk”. This onomatopoetic pattern of rhyming is great fun that begs to be read out loud and will be desired to be read again and again!

I Am Loved: A Poetry Collection, by Nikki Giovanni, and with illustrations rendered uninhabitable in tempera and watercolor by Ashley Bryan, celebrates in a rhythmic pentameter the importance of You! This gloriously colorful book conveys the importance of being who you are and feeling the love of being loved. There is a surprise poem at the end that is titled “I am a Mirror” along with an actual mirror. Children can look into the mirror and know that they are special.

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