It’s back to the reverso for Marilyn Singer, the creator of a surprising poetic form that employs lines that can be read forward and backward. Follow Follow, her playful sequel to Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse (2011), stands alone but continues to employ Singer’s original technique, which offers the writer fresh opportunities to explore fairy tales from varying angles and to shine a light on some of the darker implications of the old tales.
The fourteen pairs of poems explore mostly well-known fairy tales and fables, with many pleasing and thought-provoking results. If you’ve ever read Hans Christian Andersen’s “Little Mermaid, ” you have most likely been troubled by the protagonist’s tragic sacrifice for the sake of a man. In Singer’s poem “The Little Mermaid’s Choice,” the opening lines echo the traditional plot: “For love, / give up your voice. / Don’t / think twice.” Yet, when those same words are reversed, behold the sage warning: “Think twice! / Don’t / give up your voice / for love.”
A more lighthearted pair of poems appear beneath the title “Panache.” Puss in Boots, with his savoir faire, gets to strut in his red boots and cape, all the while transforming the youngest son of a miller into a grand marquis. The quick-witted rascal asserts, “I am/ self-possessed and so well-dressed–/ a cat/ who dares to believe!”
And don’t miss “No Bigger Than Your Thumb,” Singer’s poems based on Andersen’s “Thumbelina.” While the first poem has the miniature female describing her “lofty and daring” aspirations of “… laughing in the sunlight,” the second one presents the opposite preference for the mole, who would “never be at ease/sleeping under the ever-changing sky,/ dancing among the flowers,/ laughing in the sunlight./ I can imagine a wonderful future,/ constant and safe,/ not lofty and daring.”
Illuminating each pair of poems is the bright, sprightly artwork of Josée Masse, who also illustrated Mirror Mirror. The full-page reproductions of her dramatic acrylic paintings add a magical touch to this refreshing collection of witty and wise poetry.
Enhancing the usefulness of Follow Follow is the author’s afterward, where she explains the form of the reverso and provides a brief summary of each fairy tale from which the poems derive. Educators will find this book a lively, enlightening source for a unit on poetry, perspective, or even on punctuation. Recommended for ages 8 and older.