Monday, January 16, 2012


On Saturday we had our Family Literacy Symposium at the library where I work. Each year the Children's Department Staff do a "60 books in 60 minutes" kind of presentation where we highlight our favorite books from our section from the previous year. I order the 800's in my library (and the 600's, but someone else did all the nonfiction) and here are my favorite picks from last year.

Lemonade and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word by Bob Raczka
Sometimes we think about poetry as an old and venerated form of literature, but there are creative souls out there who are still thinking of new things to do with words. In this book, Raczka takes a single word, and uses the letters from the word to form other words. Then he uses those words to create a free verse poem. In the book, the typesetting is very clever. The poem is presented twice, once vertically with the letters dripping or tumbling below the original word to show how the new words were arranged, and again in normal horizontal form, so it is easier to read. Some of the resulting poems aren't so great, but some are not bad, "Halloween/ all alone/ an owl/a howl/ oh no".

A Dazzling Display of Dogs: Concrete Poems by Betsy Franco
In this book, the text of the poems is fully incorporated into the illustrations. It is hard to explain without actually seeing the illustrations. For example, for the poem, Baloo Got Out, the dog gets out of the gate and eats a bunch of stuff he was not supposed to. The list of things he ate appears in the dog's belly, on illustrations of each item. The illustrations are busy, bright and fun. The thing that impressed me the most, however, is almost all the poems rhyme and scan. Usually concrete poetry is free verse. I guess poets think it was hard enough to make the poem have visual impact, that they aren't going to worry about rhyming too. But Franco, and the illustrator, Michael Wertz pull off both.

Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems by Kristine O/Connell George
This one doesn't have any clever gimmicks. It is just a collection of sweet poems about a little sister. The poems explore the full range of emotions one might feel about a younger sibling, from affection to embarrassment to jealousy. The poems are honest, but never bitter and often tender. Nancy Carpenter's illustrations are also sweet, and match the tone of the peoms

Spot the Plot: A Riddle Book of Book Riddles by J. Patrick Lewis
I included this one just because it is fun. This is a collection of poem riddles about classic children's literature. You read the poem and try to guess the book it refers to. The answers are in the back of the book but most people will be able to answer without consulting the back. Lynn Munsinger's illustrations add more clues. This book shows how a few of the best children's books really have touched all of our lives.

The other one I highlighted was Book Speak: Poems about Books by Laura Purdie Salas, but that is one I reviewed for SLJ, so I won't include a review here. You can google my name and the title and find the review I wrote for SLJ.

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