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Traditional Literature and Poetry

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Section 3: Traditional Literature (Folklore) and Poetry

When the Moon is High by Alice Schertle and Illustrated by Julia Noonan

 

Schertle, Alice. 2003. When the Moon is High. Illustrated by Julia Noonan. New York: Harper Collins. ISBN: 0-688-15144-2

 

When the Moon is High is a sweet lullaby poem about a father taking his baby on a midnight stroll and all of the nocturnal animals they see.  The rhythm of the poem is hypnotic and is sure to relax the most restless of children at bedtime.  This poem, coupled with the illustrations also provides a wonderful introduction to animals that are night dwellers. 

 

A prominent element in this poem is the use of assonance.  Each animal that is encountered is described using this form of rhyme.  Repetition of the title phrase is also used.  Almost every page is ended with the words, “when the moon is high”.  This provides a pattern for young children to follow as well as offers predictability which is appealing to the youngsters this poem targets.

 

The illustrations in this poetry picture book are a perfect complement to the text.  Maryann H. Owen of the Racine Public Library stated in her review for School Library Journal; “Various perspectives, changing from bird's-eye panoramas to close-up glimpses of the characters to a raccoon's ground-level view, create visually pleasing pages.”  Schertly and Noonan also provide children an opportunity to interact with the poem through the illustrations as well by “hiding” the animals in the picture on the page before they are “revealed”.

 

Another positive aspect of this poem is that it is the father that is taking this midnight stroll with the child.  It seems that most lullaby books tend to center around mothers and it is nice to have a book for fathers to read to their children as well.  While this poem could be read by either gender, it will attract men to want to participate more in the bedtime activities.

 

This poem is timeless, in that it does not allude to any specific or identifiable settings or timeframe other than it is in the country and at night.  In this respect, this book has the potential to become a classic that could be read and enjoyed for generations.  This poem is appealing to children because of its simplicity and rhythm.  It is most definitely not a poem about children, but a poem for children.

 

When the Moon is High, would be a wonderful addition to any library or personal collection that caters to the pre-school age or younger. 

 

 

 

Toasting Marshmallows: Camping Poems by Kristine O’Connell George and Illustrated by Kate Kiesler

 

George, Kristine O’Connell. 2001. Toasting Marshmallows: Camping Poems. Illustrated by Kate Kiesler. New York: Clarion Books. ISBN: 0-618-04597-X

 

 

Toasting Marshmallows is a one topic collection of poems that center on camping.  This delightful collection is sure to entertain outdoor enthusiasts and appeal to the nature lover in us all.  Kristine O’Connell George has created an amazingly versatile collection of poems that range from thoughtful and reflective to humorous.  She has employed almost every use of sound and rhyme as well as free verse and concrete poetry.

 

The imaginative poems draw the reader into the experience of camping.  Children who have been camping themselves will be able to relate to many of the poems while children who have not had this first hand experience will still be able to understand the poems because of the carefully chosen words used.  This sentiment is echoed in the review by the Horn Book Guide, it states; “Whether playful or profound, the exquisitely crafted poems reverberate with eloquent yet effortless language, while the radiant acrylic artwork hints at the awe-inspiring mysteries of nature.”

 

The illustrations, while generally reflective of the poem, really do not add much to the overall experience of this book.  The drawings seem stiff and do not always reflect accurately what the poem is expressing.  For instance in the title poem it says; “My brother grabs ‘em with grubby hands…” however the illustration shows perfectly clean hands holding his stick.  Perhaps the poems create such a vivid mental image that the illustrations have a hard time measuring up to the reader’s (and listener’s) imagination.

 

As a whole, this book has appeal for young people.  However, at times it does seem a touch nostalgic which is a red flag when discussing poetry for children.  Overall, the poems are authentic and full of rich language which outweighs any nostalgia that is present.  On the whole, I would recommend this collection of poems, especially when discussing nature or when looking for poems with appeal to both girls and boys with more depth than the silly poems that are generally preferred.

 

 

Heartland by Diane Siebert and Illustrated by Wendell Minor

 

Siebert, Diane. 1989. Heartland. Illustrated by Wendell Minor. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell. ISBN: 0-690-04732-0

 

Heartland is a single poem picture book that is beautifully descriptive of the American Midwest.  The landscape, seasons, people and weather is all described in this superb poem.  Diane Siebert and Wendell Minor have created a beautiful tribute to the people and the land of the “Heartland” which is sure to be enjoyed by all ages.

 

This poem is rich in rhyme and descriptive language that it transports the reader and listener into this amazing section of America.  The carefully chosen words create such a vivid picture that even the smells of the Hartland are experienced vicariously through listening.

 

This poem is told in the voice of the land itself, which provides an interesting perspective for children.  Reverent in nature, Hartland is appealing on several levels.  This book could be paired with discussions of nature, sociology, weather, patriotism and geography to name a few.  The opportunities to share this book with children in an educational setting are limitless. 

 

Although this book has the potential to be a wonderful tool for educators it also offers immense aesthetic value as well.  The gentle rhyme is soothing and peaceful, which is reminiscent of the land it describes.  The illustrations are captivating as well.  The paintings created for this book by Wendell Minor capture beautifully what the text describe, and are nearly photographic in quality and realism.  These pictures do not overpower the poem nor does the poem outshine the illustrations, they are a perfect complement to each other.    

 

Hartland celebrates the people and places of the Great Plains in such a way that it borders on sentimentality in both the text and illustrations.  However, the beauty and rhythm of the poem and the quality of the artwork push aside any concerns of authenticity.  The harsher realities of life in the American Midwest are touched on briefly as described in the review from Publishers Weekly, [Hartland] “…embraces the harshness and wrinkles as well as the beauty of the land--a place where, as readers are reminded, "Nature reigns."

 

Overall, I would recommend this book for all ages.  It is an optimistic and perhaps rose colored look at the Great Plains region but is nonetheless satisfying poetry.  It is a sure winner to try to wean children off of the more “fluffy” poems that are so popular.  

 

 

Lemonade Sun: And Other Summer Poems by Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist

 

Dotlich, Rebecca Kai. 1998. Lemonade Sun: And Other Summer Poems. Illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist. Pennsylvania: Wordsong Boyds Mills Press, Inc. ISBN: 1-56397-660-9

 

Lemonade Sun is a collection of poems about summer and summertime things.  Its cheerful verses are sure to inspire children to experience the joy of summer through simple reading or listening.  Rebecca Kai Dotlich utilizes various poetry techniques throughout this book and it is done seemingly effortlessly.

 

One thing that is done exceptionally well in this collection is the creation of sound and even taste through her choice of words.  For example, in the poem “Lemonade” readers (and listeners) can almost physically taste the sweet liquid as she describes it:

            “We pour

            its liquid sweetness

            from a tall glass pitcher,

            splashing

            sunshine

            on frosty squares

            of ice,

            lemon light

            and slightly tart,

            we gulp its gold—

            licking our lips

            with summer.”

 

Many of these poems have elements of rhyme but others are written in free verse.  Kai Dotlich is able to alternate these two styles very effectively.  The variety of style is good because it is not so predictable which will help keeping children from “tuning out”.

 

The illustrations in Lemonade Sun are a wonderful complement to the poems they depict.  The impressionistic paintings of Jan Spivey Gilchrist capture the wonder and overall feeling of summer.  The pictures in no way overshadow the poems but provide beautiful accompaniment to the text.  The illustrations also promote diversity and depict a very diverse group of children enjoying the wonders of summer together.  GraceAnne A. DeCandido agrees in her review of this book for Booklist when she says; “The racially diverse cast of children who inhabit these sidewalks and meadows have individual charm; some, such as the titian-haired moppet who peers from behind a sunflower, could be portraits.”

 

Overall, I would recommend this book for children ages 4-8; however, it may be a tough sell for some.  It would probably be best received right before summer break.  Otherwise, the lack of humor and so much figurative language may be a bit much for the tastes of children.