Leafing through Colorful Poems

Leave it to poets to show us the seasons in new hues. Joyce Sidman’s pleasing Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors  reveals fresh perspectives on the year’s changing colors. Of autumn, she writes: “Brown gleams in my hand: a tiny round house, dolloped with roof”; in the accompanying illustration, the reader sees a woman holding an acorn. It’s no wonder this beautiful collection won the 2010 Caldecott Honor award.  Purple smells of “old leaves, crushed berries, squishy plums with worms in them.” And there’s Halloween orange next to the black “resting in dark branches.”

Some colors dip in and out of seasons, with varying effects. Red, for instance, first appears as a small bird in the spring. The book closes in winter with this image: “Red hops from the treetops, fluffs its feathers against the cold. Cheer, Cheer, Cheer, it begins to sing: and each note drops like a cherry into my ear.”

What a perfect resource for teaching the power of metaphorical language and of words that appeal to the senses. Art and science teachers can reap ideas for projects here, too. Children ages 8 to 10 will enjoy this, as well as Sidman’s other fine collections, including Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night.

For light fall fare, pick up Douglas Florian’s Autumnblings: Poems & Paintings. Florian’s quirky little poems, enlivened by his humorous paintings, aim to please a broad range of readers. Florian revels in word play and in creative arrangements of words, such as the downward slope of the words “falls” and “tumbled” in the title poem. When we reach the curled-up bear atop the poem “Hi-Bear-Nation,” Florian asks, “Do brown bears slum-bear when it’s fall?” And in “A Falling Out,” we follow the swirling words and images of maple seeds descending like “fallicopters to the ground.”

The woodpecker and the beaver, the badger and the woodchuck, the toad and the coyote all show up for this spunky, sometimes skunky, romp through the seasons in A Whiff of Pine, a Hint of Skunk: A Forest of Poems. Deborah Ruddell employs clever images, sly humor, skillful rhyme, and a multitude of poetic forms in her energetic expose of woodland creatures.

Of the wide range of perspectives Ruddell selects, one of the most appealing appears in “A Wild Turkey Comments on His Portrait.” Many of us recall tracing the fingers of one hand and then drawing a turkey, right? Have you ever thought about how a turkey would feel about that project? Ruddell has: “I find it most insulting/ that you traced around your hand/ and colored all my feathers/ either plain old brown or tan.”

This collection is bound to get those “mature” seven and eight-year-olds cackling. What are you waiting for? Follow this poet into the woods for fresh scents, furry sights, and the sound of … laughter.

More seasonal poetry:


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