Lines that Lift Late Summer Blues

Illustrator Julie Paschkis (Through Georgia’s Eyes, 2006, etc.) taps her characteristic vibrant folk-art motifs to enlarge the space for joyous wordplay in her sprightly new bilingual poetry collection Flutter & Hum/Aleteo y Zumbido: Poemas de Animales.
Flutter and Hum by Julie Paschkis
Paschkis’s collection of 12 brief poems, complemented with vivid double-spread illustrations rendered in gouache, glimmers with surprising suppleness. In “Snake,” or “La Serpiente,” the 11-line poem secretes numerous “s” sounds, and her grassy images of twisting tendrils slip in words such as swerve, subtle, shy, and swallow. On the opposing facing page, she highlights such alliterative Spanish words as sombra (shadow), sabia (he/she knows), sorpresa (surprise) and solo. As most of these do not appear in either the English or Spanish poem, they act as extended riffs on the child-pleasing poetry.

For her playful poem “Turtle/La Tortuga” Paschkis focuses on the shell as a secret vault of enchantment: “The turtle hides/in her shell./But maybe there is space,/a place/for hidden treasure.” Embedded in the hard shell are drawings of gems, locks, and keys, while copious pointy teeth embellish the shell’s border. On the English half of the two-page illustration, the shell reveals such words as glow, inside, glisten, while the right-hand side gives us the Spanish gema (gem), adentro (inside), and lustra (he/she polishes). Unhurried, curious readers will relish the correlation between the Spanish words and various related English words.

In her author’s note, Paschkis reveals the singular inspiration of her poetry. While illustrating Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People, a picture-book biography written by Monica Brown (2011), she fell in love with Spanish and immersed herself in the Chilean poet’s work. That led her to create her own poems, first in Spanish and then in English. Some poems, she noted, “are not translated word-for-word; instead I used the phrase that worked best in each language to convey the same meaning.”
This energetic interplay of art and poetry lends itself to multiple creative uses—choral reading, acting, musical adaptations—as well as leisurely literary romps and reveries.

Reprinted with permission from the New York Journal of Books.

Also see …

Poem-Mobiles Crazy Car Poems by J. Patrick Lewis and Douglas FlorianPug and Other Animal Poems by Valerie WorthStardines Swim High Across the Sky and Other Poems by Jack Prelutsky


Pulling Poems from a Dappled World

“Glory be to God for dappled things!” wrote Gerard Manley Hopkins in his squirming-with-life poem “Pied Beauty.” What finer season than spring to share fresh poems with children?

Raczka, Bob. Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys. illus. by Peter H. Reynolds. Houghton Mifflin, 2010. This might just turn out to be one of children’s (not just boys’) all-time favorite collections of haiku. The engaging images and hearty humor shine: “I watch the worms squirm/and decide to bait my hook/with hot dog instead.” Another kid-pleaser: “If this puddle could/talk, I think it would tell me/to splash my sister.”

Alarcon, Francisco X. Laughing Tomatoes and Other Spring Poems/ Jitomates Risuenos: Y Otros Poemas de Primavera (The Magical Cycle of the Seasons Series). Children’s Book Press, 1997. A fun, bilingual collection by a renowned Mexican-American poet. The 18 poems include “Words are Birds” and others teeming with nature and joy.

Giovanni, Nikki. The Sun Is So Quiet: Poems. Illus. by Ashley Bryan. Holt, 1996. Collection of poems by acclaimed poet celebrates the seasons, nature, and an array of childhood experiences.

Hopkins, Lee Bennett, editor. Opening Days. Harcourt, 1996. Nineteen poems by various poets such as Jane Yolen and Walt Whitman have fun with sports, including baseball, skiing, karate, and tennis.

Hopkins, Lee Bennett, ed. Sharing the Seasons: A Book of Poems. illus. by David Diaz. McElderry, 2010. Superb collection of poems spanning the seasons. Includes such poets as Carl Sandburg, Marilyn Singer, and Karla Kuskin.

Noda, Takayo. Dear World. Puffin, 2005. Bright and beautifully illustrated collection of brief poems celebrating the natural world.

Ruddell, Deborah. Today at the Bluebird Cafe: A Branchful of Birds. illus. by JToday at the Bluebird Cafe by Deborah Ruddelloan Rankin. McElderry, 2007. Ruddell’s poems of cardinals, a woodpecker, and others are whimsical and lively. Her humor reigns in such poems as “There’s a Robin in the Bathroom”: “He uses my toothbrush/to scour his wings./He sloshes and splashes/on all of our things.” Rankin’s bright, lively illustrations add to the fun. Also see Ruddell’s A Whiff of Pine, a Hint of Skunk.

Educated by Kindness

McCully, Emily Arnold.
Wonder Horse: The True Story of the World’s Smartest Horse. Holt, 2010.

A horse is a horse, but sometimes it takes a special person to recognize its real worth. Bill “Doc” Key was born a slave, but became a veterinarian and a successful entrepreneur in post-Civil War Tennessee. Doc decided to see how much he could teach Jim, his seemingly bright little foal. With kindness and patience, he taught the horse to count, to distinguish colors and letters of the alphabet, and to add and subtract.

Doc took his prodigy on the road, and for a while, the two met with applause and amazement at fairs, theaters, and arenas. Then a newspaper reporter asked, “How could a little old black man with no education teach a dumb animal to do those things?” Doc didn’t give up, though; he invited some professors at Harvard to examine Jim Key to determine if the horse was, in fact, educated. After they confirmed  it, the newspapers set the record straight: “JIM KEY EDUCATED BY KINDNESS.”

McCully, whose sprightly watercolors add charm to this fact-based story, continues to live up to the high standard she has set in her career of writing and illustrating beloved picture books. Those yearning for more details on this amazing man and his horse can find them in the author’s note and bibliography.

Recommended Read-alouds That Call for Kindness to Animals
Note: Please leave a comment with your favorites!

Elliot, David. In the Wild. Illus. by Holly Meade. Candlewick, 2010. Fresh language and stunning woodblock and watercolor illustrations distinguish this engaging collection of poems about wild animals, ranging from the lion to the polar bear.

Saint Francis and the Wolf make a plan for peace

Image via Wikipedia

Kimmel, Eric. Brother Wolf Sister Sparrow: Stories About Saints and Animals. Holiday House, 2003. See the masterfully retold Italian legend “St. Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio,” in which St. Francis approaches a wolf that’s been terrorizing the town.

Levitin, Sonia. All the Cats in the World. Harcourt, 1984. Powerful story of friendship and kindness. No one can care for all the cats in the world, but everyone can perform acts of kindness, as an elderly woman shows a lonely, bitter old lighthouse keeper.

Meddaugh, Susan. Martha Walks the Dog. Houghton, 1998. Clever Martha uses praise to tame a hostile dog.

Pericoli, Matteo. The True Story of Stellina. Knopf, 2006.   Pericoli and his wife, Holly, rescued and raised a finch, Stellina, that had fallen from her nest onto a busy street in New York City. They nurtured the bird in their Manhattan apartment, where she leaned to eat, fly, and sing.

Spencer, Ann. And Round Me Rings: Bell Tales and Folklore. Tundra, 2003. See “Bell of Justice Rings,” a retelling of an Italian folktale, in which a horse calls attention to its mistreatment.

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