Reviews for Sharing the Seasons : A Book of Poems

Booklist Reviews 2010 March #1
*Starred Review* There are plenty of children's poetry collections that celebrate the seasons; John Updike's A Child's Calendar (1965) is just one classic example. What makes this one special is the beautiful combination of accessible verse and Diaz's radiant artwork. The 48 poems, 12 for each season, include familiar contributions from Carl Sandburg and Karla Kuskin as well as specially commissioned works by well-known contemporary poets for children, including Marilyn Singer, J. Patrick Lewis, and Rebecca Kai Dotlich. Many of the entries personify nature, as in April Halprin Wayland's whimsical selection that imagines spring flowers showing up for a first day of class: "Let's go around the room. / Call out your colors." Others focus on human activities throughout the year and the small, sensory moments that make each season special, from the smell of cold spring air to the cozy crackle of a December fire. In his signature combination of stylized figures and vibrant patterns, Diaz's remarkable, glowing scenes add depth and meaning to each poem without overwhelming the words. In an image accompanying the anonymous poem "August Heat," for example, a man rendered in a blurred, fiery silhouette appears to almost melt into the atmosphere. Well suited for use across the curriculum, this handsome title will remind a wide audience of each season's wonders. Copyright 2010 Booklist Reviews.

BookPage Reviews 2010 April
Mirror, mirror, on the wall: poetry books for one and all

Clever and delightful—those are the best words to describe Mirror Mirror, a new collection by noted poet Marilyn Singer. In her latest book, Singer has created her own new form of poetry, which she calls a “reverso,” a poem that reads the same backward and forward. “When you read a reverso down, it is one poem,” Singer explains. “When you read it up, with changes allowed only in punctuation, capitalization, and line breaks, it is a different poem.” She focuses on fairy tales, such as “In the Hood,” which first gives Little Red Riding Hood’s perspective, and then, when read the other way, tells the wolf’s side of the story. “Cinderella’s Double Life” tells her tale before and after the ball, while “Mirror Mirror” is a poem by both Snow White and her Wicked Stepmother.

Josée Masse’s accompanying art continues the double view in striking fashion, by dividing each scene in two. Older preschoolers will enjoy these poems, as well as elementary students, who are likely to want to write their own reversos.

For the fun of it

The theme of different points of view continues in Our Farm: By the Animals of Farm Sanctuary. Maya Gottfried wrote these poems in the voices of various animals, such as “It’s Good to Be a Kid,” by baby goats Ari and Alicia. These are humorous, short poems—good for preschoolers and young elementary students. The farm animals from the sanctuary in Watkins Glen, New York, come to life with the soft, up-close artwork of artist Robert Rahway Zakanitch. His pleasing style brings to mind the artwork of children’s illustrator Jane Dyer.

Allan Ahlberg and his late wife Janet are beloved for their Jolly Postman series, and Allan has a new title that will be immediately captivating to young poetry readers: Everybody Was a Baby Once. The humorous artwork of Bruce Ingman seals the deal, making this a book that will make children laugh out loud. Ingman’s art is simple, yet funny and full of action and expression. The poems include such hilarious selections as “Dirty Bill” (“I’m Dirty Bill from Vinegar Hill, / Never had a bath and never will”). These short verses are full of old-fashioned fun and reflect the British heritage of their author, but children from around the world will enjoy poems like “Soccer Sonnet,” which includes the line “Little Jack Horner / Scored straight from a corner.”

The fun continues in Name That Dog! Puppy Poems from A to Z. Peggy Archer has named each poem after a dog, such as a long-haired cocker spaniel named “Elvis,” who “wiggles and jiggles and dances around. He swings to the music with a rock ’n’ roll sound.” You’ll also meet “Houdini,” a mini-pinscher who escapes from his collars; “Melody,” a basset hound who sings; and a giant Saint Bernard named “Rex” (first initial: T). Stephanie Buscema’s artwork aptly defines the shining personality of each puppy. Buscema has worked for Marvel Comics, DC Comics and Disney, and her background is reflected in her lively, colorful illustrations, which are vibrant and sure to draw children in. Name That Dog! is a crowd-pleasing canine chorus.

Digging deep

Don’t be fooled by the cover of Can You Dig It?. With its big purple dinosaur, this volume looks like it might be yet another dinosaur book. Rest assured that it is not. Robert Weinstock has done a brilliant job of both writing and illustrating this clever book of verse. His wordsmithing is extraordinarily fun, with lines like these:

My great aunt was LuAnn Abrue,

The pal-e-on-tol-o-gist who,

Was famed for finding fossil poo,

Like giant T.rex number two.

With these poems about dinosaurs, archaeologists, Neanderthals and more, kids will be smiling, but adults may chuckle even more. Weinstock’s cartoon-style illustrations are eye-catchingly fun.

Over the years I’ve seen many poetry books by Douglas Florian, and I always find his gift of language and sense of nature to be particularly sensitive. That’s certainly the case with Poetrees, which is filled with odes to trees. Students will enjoy and learn from Florian’s short poems about trees like banyans, sequoias, Japanese cedars and dragon trees. There’s a glossary in the back, explaining, for instance, that monkey trees are originally from South America, and how they got their name. Florian’s evocative illustrations are made with gouache, colored pencils, watercolors, rubber stamps, oil pastels and collage on primed paper bags. This paper bag background gives the illustrations a unique textured look and added depth.

Nature’s wonders

Lee Bennett Hopkins has been creating anthologies of poetry for years, and I particularly like his latest collaboration with Caldecott Award-winning illustrator David Diaz, Sharing the Seasons: A Book of Poems. Diaz’s bold, bright colors and stylized, luminescent mixed media illustrations give this anthology a contemporary, edgy feel.

The poems are arranged by season, with an opening quote introducing each section, such as Longfellow’s “Spring in all the world! /And all things are made new!” Poets include Carl Sandburg, Marilyn Singer, Rebecca Kai Dotlich and more. The poetry is easily accessible, but not always predictable, such as Beverly McLoughland’s fun “Don’t You Dare,” which begins:

Stop! cried Robin,

Don’t you dare begin it!

Another tweety rhyme

With a redbreast in it!

One of my very favorites of this season’s poetry books is the beautifully illustrated and organized Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature’s Survivors. It’s a unique book that includes poetry, biology and ecology lessons, along with spectacular artwork. Author Joyce Sidman notes that 99 percent of all species that have ever existed are now extinct, and in this book she pays tribute to a variety of species that continue to thrive, such as bacteria, mollusks, lichen, sharks, beetles, ants, diatoms and humans. Each spread contains a short but comprehensive biological discussion of the species, a gorgeous illustration and a poetic tribute.

Sidman’s poems are fun and innovative. For instance, the text of the shark poem is laid out in the shape of a shark. Some are traditional, while “Tail Tale” is a free verse monologue humorously told by a squirrel. Becky Prange’s illustrations are arresting, informative and gorgeously filled with color. The book’s end­papers are a timeline showing when various forms of life appeared on Earth. Ubiquitous is a brilliant book that mixes art, poetry and science in imaginative ways, and is an excellent choice for home, schools and libraries.

A colossal poem

Emma’s Poem: The Voice of the Statue of Liberty is not a book of poetry; instead, it’s a picture book about one of the most famous poems in America. Writer Linda Glaser has created a lovely biography of Emma Lazarus, who in 1883 wrote a poem called “The New Colossus” that is engraved on a plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty. Her poem has become immortal, as though the Statue of Liberty itself were speaking, saying: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Glaser’s text is interesting and informative, making history come alive in storybook fashion. Claire A. Nivola’s watercolor and gouache illustrations are rich in color and historical detail, propelling the story forward while showing the lifestyles of the day.

Lazarus was born in 1849 to a wealthy Jewish family in New York City. This book explains how she began helping immigrants at Ward’s Island in New York Harbor, and how she began writing about immigrants for newspapers and in poems. Lazarus wrote “The New Colossus” when she was 34 years old. She died four years later of Hodgkin’s Disease, before the Statue of Liberty was erected—although she wrote her poem to help raise money for its pedestal. Emma’s Poem is a superb book for elementary-age children interested in our nation’s history and values.

Alice Cary writes from her home in Groton, Massachusetts.

Copyright 2010 BookPage Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2010 Fall
This jubilant compilation celebrates the seasons with classic and contemporary verse. Brief quotes (e.g., Longfellow's "Spring in the world! / And all things are made new!") herald each new section, setting the tone for the poems that follow. Hues are vivid and varied, and the bold, lively spreads feature glowing figures in Diaz's signature silhouette style. Ind. Copyright 2010 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2010 January #2
Cheery, upbeat and accessible--and lovely to boot. Veteran poet and anthologist Hopkins makes good choices among contemporary poets young readers might recognize--Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Marilyn Singer, April Halprin Wayland, to name a few--and a few older names, such as Carl Sandburg and William Shakespeare. The brief (none longer than two pages and some only a few lines) poems are grouped by season, and each gets a page of Diaz's astonishing illustrations. They pulse with color, leaping off the page. His signature use of pattern echoes Mexican pottery or silhouette, always in mouthwatering incandescent colors that shade into one another. "Winter tames man, woman and beast" says Shakespeare; Anonymous writes of finding a shady spot in "August Heat": "And sit-- / And sit-- / And sit-- / And sit!" Prince Redcloud makes a shaped autumn poem called "After," and Elizabeth Upton, in "Summer Sun," speaks in the sun's voice: "I linger in the evening / so they can / skip, hop, race / play ball / eat Popsicles…" Good all year round. (Poetry. 7-12) Copyright Kirkus 2010 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Media Connection Reviews 2010 March/April
The art in this collection shimmers and dazzles. The bright and colorful artwork and graphic design explores the style of stenciling. Airbrushed colors blend together to give a multi-layered effect. The winter scenes dramatically portray the coldness of that season using gradations of cold blue. A fall spread glows with red-orange brilliance. Muted pastel colors fill the spring pages. The author includes some of his own poems along with those from other contemporary poets such as Karla Kuskin. Quotations such as Henry James's somewhat poetic "Summer afternoon-summer afternoon-the two most beautiful words in the English language" appear throughout the book. The author and illustrator offer a book that is truly for all seasons. Recommended. Daniel R. Beach, Teaching Librarian, Concord Elementary School, Anderson, South Carolina ¬ 2010 Linworth Publishing, Inc.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2010 February #2

This dynamic collection features 48 poems--12 for each of the seasons--mingling previously published poems by Carl Sandburg, Karla Kuskin, and others, with new works by several poets, including Hopkins. The diverse, accessible selections create a mosaic that stirs the senses. Diaz's ethereal silhouettes of animals and people, which resemble layered, cut-paper shadows, are ornately inlaid with nature motifs. Neon hues of spring and summer give way to autumnal colors, then to a softened winter palette, with selections like "Season," by Lillian M. Fisher: "First snow/ falling./ Wild geese/ calling./ Fields are/ bare./ Winter/ whispers/ everywhere." Ages 8-up. (Mar.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2010 June

Gr 3-6--Hopkins presents 48 poems, 12 for each season. Some are by well-known writers like Lillian M. Fisher, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, and Joseph Bruchac (with several by Hopkins himself) while others are by less-familiar poets. Most are about changes in weather and landscape, outdoor play, and holidays. For example, Fran Haraway's "The Fourth of July Parade" brings forth images of "Spangled gowns,/Friendly clowns,/Smiling folks,/Papered spokes,/Marching feet,/Endless heat." Some of the more playful verses will lend themselves well to creative writing activities. For instance, April Halprin Wayland's "Budding Scholars" begins, "Welcome, Flowers./Write your name on a name tag./Find a seat./Raise your leaf if you've taken a class here before." Diaz's mixed-media illustrations are distinctive and highly stylized, with effective use of rhythm, pattern, and beautiful glowing colors. They are aesthetically lovely but are a bit lacking in child appeal. Overall, as in most anthologies, the quality of the writing varies a bit, but many of the poems are well written and enjoyable.--Lauralyn Persson, Wilmette Public Library, IL

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