Sunday, January 2, 2011

Guyku: a Year of Haiku for Boys by Bob Raczka

One form of poetry all children learn at school is haiku. In fact, my children studied haiku several different years, and by the second or third, they were pretty tired of it. They would just roll their eyes, and then start spouting spontaneous horrible haiku at the dinner table. (I am thinking mostly of Benjamin, who often spouts poetry spontaneously). So why am I highlighting a haiku book on my top 5? Well, like all forms of poetry, there is good haiku and bad haiku, and this is actually pretty good haiku. What makes it fun is that with his haiku Raczka shines a flashlight, so to speak, on wonderful experiences of growing up a boy. He talks about all the simple pleasures boys (and girls) do when they have all the time in the world and live in a world that is safe and inviting. The poems are arranged by seasons. In "spring"he talks about catching a grasshopper, riding a bike and flying a kite. He talks about climbing trees in summer, playing in leaves in fall, throwing snow balls, and hiding under a snow laden pine tree in winter. I remember doing all that kind of stuff when I was a child and I hope children still go outside and enjoy nature that way. The book is illustrated with very simple cartoon drawings colored in with understated pastels. The text is printed in a large, child friendly font. I think the idea there was to focus attention on the words, not just on the illustrations. For adults, the book is nostalgic, and for children, I hope it will give them some ideas of what to do beside playing computer games.

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