Hark, the Water Calls

My family and I just returned from a week at the beach, and I’m ready to hear those waves again. Some sparkling books, though, offer that possibility — at a price far less than another week’s rent! If you’re headed to the sea, or just longing to, these books make for refreshing read-alouds.

Dip your fingers into Kate Coombs’s debut poetry book, Water Sings Blue: Ocean Poems. Lovely to look at and fun to hear, this collection of 26 brief poems displays a fine range of forms and word play that will appeal to a wide range of readers.

Consider, for instance, the opening poem, “Song of the Boat”:

“Push away from the stillness of the nut-brown land,
from the road that leads to the shore.

Push away from the town with its tight tree roots,
from its closed brown shutters and doors.

Push away—heave-ho—from the heavy brown pier,
from its pilings huddled and dull.

For the water sings blue and the sky does, too,
and the sea lets you fly like a gull.”

Don’t you love the rhythmic repetition of the phrase “push away”? And the clean contrast between the blue watery images and the “nut-brown land” and the “closed brown shutters” exudes an elegant simplicity. Then, too, the compactness of the poem lends itself well to both antsy seven year olds and their older siblings.

I can say that’s true for most of the poems here, from the lovely haiku “Jellyfish” to a poem written from the perspective of Frank Hermit, realtor of beachfront property. Water Sings Blue will appeal not only to wordsmiths but also to animal and nature lovers. And the gorgeous, azure-rippling paintings by Meilo So are enough to make you want to pack your watercolors and head to the shore to stir up your own imaginative creations.

One of my favorite summery poetry books for ages 10 and older is Ted Hughes’s The Mermaid’s Purse, especially the edition illustrated by Flora McDonnell. (While most of these poems are included in his wonderful Collected Poems for Children, the size and appearance of  the former is more child-friendly.)

A fun way to read some of these aloud is to omit the title and ask listeners if they can guess the subject of the poem. Here’s a stellar one:

“When my chandelier
Waltzes pulsing near
Let the swimmer fear.

Beached and bare
I’m less of a scare
But I don’t care.

Though I look like a slob
It’s a delicate job
Being just a blob.”

Did you guess “jellyfish”? Some poems won’t work quite as well for this kind of game, but all feature fresh, often startling images sure to stimulate minds.

Also see …

my prior post on Kate Coombs’s delightful retelling of the Grimm’s fairy tale “Hans My Hedgehog.”

And for ages 8 to 12, consider


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Small Poems That Soar | Books of Wonder and Wisdom
  2. Gently Mad
    Jun 20, 2012 @ 23:37:29

    These sound like great books. Children’s books are my favorite. Especially ones that are well illustrated. I need to review more children’s books.


    • Janice Floyd Durante
      Jun 22, 2012 @ 10:02:49

      Yes, Gently Mad, these are visually and verbally engaging. I can’t help but think if people really considered how much pleasure poetry can offer in such a compressed space and time, they would turn to it more often. Children have a natural affection for poetry, a taste that so often is neglected by adults, even educators.


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