Mar 8, 2010

Poetry Book Reviews

Poetry Picture Book
Florian, Douglas. 2007. Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars. Harcourt. ISBN 0152053727

Take a ride into space with planets, paintings, and poems.

Critical Analysis:
What can you make with rubber stamps, brown paper bags, paint, and clever rhymes? A poem picture book of course! Outer space isn’t a dark and cold place according to Florian’s illustrations and whimsical rhymes. Each poem is double-paged and filled with bold, vibrant colors. Also, pictures are enhanced with well placed die-cuts that give a sneak peek into the next poem. Small details such as, names of the planetary moons may go unnoticed to a child, but the adult reader will appreciate the detail. Challenging words are few, and Florian is kind enough to add a simple explanation in parentheses - zoology (each cat and dog and bumblebee). Florian’s poem about the “firing” of Pluto as a planet is especially humorous. It is a simple, understandable explanation for a young reader. A Galactic Glossary of space terms is also provided for a quick reference. Comets is visually interesting and will hold the attention of any reader, regardless of age.

Kirkus Reviews: Best Children's Books, 2007
South Carolina Picture Book Award Nominee, 2008-2009
A Horn Book Fanfare Best Book, 2007

“The poet-painter’s latest book brings warm wit to the outermost reaches of cold, dark space. . . . Florian’s illustrations depict the marvels of space with luminous texture and detail.” The New York Times Book Review

In both language and artwork, Florian strikes the perfect balance between grandeur and whimsy.” School Library Journal, 2007

Fisher, Aileen Lucia, Thompson, Karman. 2003. Sing of the Earth and Sky: Poems about Our Planet and the Wonders Beyond. Boyds Mills Press. ISBN 1563978024

Livingston, Myra Cohn. 1998. Space Songs. Holiday House. ISBN 0823410293

Plan a trip to a local planetarium.

Poetry Collection
Wong, Janet S. 1999. Behind the Wheel: Driving Poems. Margaret K. McElderry. ISBN 0689825315

A collection of poems about the troubles and thrills of driving.

Critical Analysis:
Whether it’s the anxiety of taking the driving test for the first time or the frustration of seeing a young child out of a car seat, Wong’s 36 poems about driving are reminders of the joys and sorrows of life behind the wheel. In free verse form, this compilation (at times) serves as a metaphor for life, “My parents are like seatbelts/ They’re always around me….they’re like airbags/in your face.” While most of the poems are light and care-free, a few take on a more serious tone. For instance, the poem OK about a drunk driver, and Grandmother’s Car about a boy having to escort his grandmother on the bus every day. While I appreciate the sensitive tone of Grandmother’s Car, the poem OK seems too heavy and a bit out of place. I suddenly felt like I was to learn a universal life lesson, and no other poem in the collection brought the same feeling. Overall, a good addition to a middle school or high school collection.

American Booksellers Association Pick of the Lists
Booklist Star
ALA/YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant YA Readers

Wong's brief, clear lines will be accessible even to the most reluctant poetry readers, and readers of all ages will be moved by the intersection of poignancy and humor as she describes the thrilling freedom of the car and an emerging adult's awareness that, although she's traveled, her road still leads to home. Booklist, 1999.

By turns cautionary and carefree, biting and affectionate, Behind the Wheel imagines an exciting driving life. After reading this slim volume, teens will not look at driving or poetry in the same way again. VOYA, 1999.

Write from the perspective of a car or other mode of transportation.

Smith, Timothy C. 2006. Crashproof Your Kids: Make Your Teen a Safer, Smarter Driver. Fireside. ISBN 0743277112.

Strauss, Jennifer. 1981. Winter Driving: Poems. Sisters. ISBN 0908207328

Poem in Verse:
Frost, Helen. 2008. Diamond Willow. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 0374317763

Young Diamond Willow is a lonely teenager in rural Alaska. After convincing her parents that she is able to mush for hours on her own, she travels to her grandparent’s house for the weekend. On her return trip, she is sledding too fast to notice fallen branches along a twisted path. Her father’s prized lead dog, Roxy, is badly injured. What will be the fate of Roxy? Will Diamond’s father ever forgive her?

Critical Analysis:
After Roxy, her father’s prized lead dog, is injured in a sledding accident at the hand of Diamond Willow, tensions mount at home. The bond between Roxy and Diamond grow strong after learning that her father wants to put Roxy down. Without permission, Diamond and her only friend Kaylie decide to save Roxy and take her to Diamond’s grandparent’s house to live. During their trip they hit a bad snow storm and the dogs take the girls down the wrong trail. While lost, Diamond’s ancestors (in the form of a fox, hen, dog, and mouse) guide her through a cold night in the wilderness. When safely home, Diamond learns that she had a twin sister who died days after being born. The relationship between Diamond and Roxy is no ordinary pet/owner relationship. They have a bond that goes back to before either one of them was born. Frost presents this novel in verse form from the perspective of Diamond and a few of her distant relatives. Diamond’s dialogue is presented in the shape of a diamond, and the ancestors are in a more traditional paragraph form. Embedded in the story are words in bold that form an additional phrase. These phrases emphasize thoughts and feelings of Diamond. They are often feelings that Diamond isn’t aware of. Diamond Willow would be a great companion to a family history lesson at any age. The family relationships in this book are positive, supportive, and provide an opportunity to dialogue about family traditions in a child’s household. There is a lot happening on each page (hidden messages and different shaped paragraphs), but everything fits easily together. I don’t think it would be as good of a story without these elements. The story takes shape very quickly, and readers will have a hard time putting the book down - unless they are retrieving a tissue.

Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, 2009
Lion and the Unicorn Award for Excellence in North American Poetry Honor Book
An Indie Next Kids' List Great Read
Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year
CCBC Choice (Univ. of WI)
Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award
Capitol Choices Noteworthy Titles for Children and Teens
North Carolina Children's Book Award Master List
Texas Lone Star Reading List
Vermont Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award Master List

This complex and elegant novel will resonate with readers who savor powerful drama and multifaceted characters. School Library Journal, 2008.

Give this to fans of dog stories and to readers who liked Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet. Booklist, 2008.

This delightful novel is a must-read. VOYA, 2008

If your family ancestors could come back and help you, what shape would they take? An animal? Something else?

Conner, Leslie. 2008. Waiting For Normal. Katherine Tegen Books. ISBN 0060890886