Friday, April 27, 2012

Poetic children's books

For National Poetry Month, Mikko and I have been enjoying some poetically inspired picture books. So many children's books are poems, but these have been especially lyrical, and the beautiful illustrations help the poetry along. Reading aloud books like these helps me remember that poetry was created to be spoken.

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Splash, Joshua, Splash!

Splash Joshua SplashWritten by Malachy Doyle; Illustrated by Ken Wilson Max

Lovely, lilting story of a water-loving little boy on a day spent with Granny, culminating in a thrilling trip to the local pool's water slide. The language begs to be read aloud — nearly sung.

"More!" says Joshua, whooping and yelling,
"More!" says Joshua.
"More, more!"

So up they climb,
and down
they sail, and
they crash
into the water.

Up they climb,
and down they sail,
they crash,
again and again.

After the slide adventures, the text quiets down by describing the cozy, dozy bus ride back home. Bonus points for showing a grandmother caregiver (and an active one at that), a farmer's market, multiethnic pool-goers, and public transportation. I really like this one.

The Sound of Day, The Sound of Night

The Sound of Day, The Sound of NightWritten by Mary O'Neill; Illustrated by Cynthia Jabar

Divided into two sections, these dual poems follow day and night sounds (appropriately enough). I loved that the daytime poetry was more singsongy and bright, and the nighttime poetry sounded muted, with quiet touches of hesitation from the lulls in the meter.

Twitter of birds,
Squealing of brakes,
Beating the frosting
For devil's food cakes.

In the day, two children get ready and go off to school, coming home to celebrate the arrival of a new baby sibling. Night then follows those early lullaby newborn moments, enhanced by a first snowdrift outside. The text without the pictures might make you think of more literal interpretations of the words, but the charming illustrations bring you into this particular family's story.

Tiptoe footsteps,
Car on road,
The tiny hopscotch
Of a toad.

And steadily
Upon his beat
A watchman's solid-sounding

With the watchman in question being the father checking on his children. I will point out that the baby is fed from a bottle by the dad before being placed into a bassinet, and there's an implication that the wee one was hospital-born, but none of that seemed distracting to me or to Mikko. There's an obvious love the older siblings share for the new arrival, which is very sweet, and I admired seeing the dad in the book so involved in the housekeeping and childcare.

A Second Is A Hiccup

A Second Is A HiccupWritten by Hazel Hutchins; Illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton

I've mentioned this one recently, but it fits so well with the poetry theme. This is a children's book to explain time. It starts with the analogy that a second lasts as long as a hiccup, and it goes from there, in lyrical verse, from minutes to hours to days, all the way up through years turning.

How long is a minute?

Sixty seconds to a minute,
Sixty hiccups, sixty hops.

Or if you sing just one small song
Chorus, verses, not too long

That's just enough to fill
A minute.

I love the creative and poetic metaphors describing time in concrete terms, the language (particularly at the end) makes me a little teary-eyed, and the gentle watercolors are a light and lovely match.

Jazz Baby

Written by Lisa Wheeler; Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

I've mentioned this one before, too, though it was when Mikko was an adorable two-year-old. Here's my take on the book from back in the day:

It's one of those rhythmic, toe-tapping reads that makes you happy to have a toddler to read to, like Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb, which I mentioned before, and Bear Snores On. The wordplay and meter arc and flow through a jazz improvisation as the baby sways and bebops with glee, before settling down to sleep, deep, deep, deep...oh, yeah.

This book cracks Mikko up in two unexpected ways: First, one of the early phrases is "Grandpa toot-toots," meaning on a trumpet, but my son has a wicked sense of toilet humor. (Hmm, wonder where he got that from... The thing is, you're allowed to be juvenile when you actually are one.) Secondly, each section ends with the baby shouting "Go, man, go," and Mikko literally screeches out "Goooooo" and employs his sign language for the word, learned from Baby Signing Time because I didn't have the foresight to realize it would be such a beloved sign. (It's pointing both index fingers in the direction you're go, go, going.)

Jazz Baby makes me happy as a parent, too, because it demonstrates a Continuum-happy lifestyle where the baby is surrounded by nurturing family members, neighbors, and friends of all ages and both genders. There is no disrespect for baby here, or for any age. Everyone's musical contributions are valid, and I think — and maybe I'm reading too much into this, but I'll go with it — that that shows that every person is validated and honored as well.

And, hey, as I mentioned, it's stinkin' fun to read!

As an example, here's a video of me reading a portion to him back then (jammy-clad; I have no shame):

Go, man, go!

Poetry of a Hobo MamaA reminder that I'm giving away SEVEN copies of my parenting poetry book, Poetry of a Hobo Mama.

Please read the lovely reviews from the talented bloggers, enter the giveaway, and enjoy the parenting-inspired poetry!

This giveaway ends Monday, April 30, and is open worldwide.

What are your favorite poetic children's books?


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