Lately I’ve been enjoying several books of poetry for young people that I bought at Springfield’s Friends of the Library book sale this spring. I can’t post anyone’s poems here without permission but I thought I’d tell you about a few of them and why I like them. I’m sure you can track them down if you wish.
I’ll start randomly with the book on top the stack, which is by Douglas Florian. I have others by Douglas but the one I purchased is called BOW WOW MEOW MEOW, published by Harcourt in 2003. In this collection we meet a number of dogs and cats painted and poetically described by Douglas with the wit and tongue in cheek word play for which he is so well known. I’m going to go with “The Whippet” because in a 4-line long ballad stanza told in couplets he manages to work in a pun and a wry ending that laments that although the whippet would make a wondrous pet, he hasn’t caught one yet.
Next is HEROES AND SHE-ROES by J. Patrick Lewis, published in 2005 by Dial. Pat is a former U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate and a prolific writer of poems on numerous themes. This book focuses on men and women selected for being “Amazing and Everyday Heroes.” Some of those included have recognizable names while others represent individuals in professions that make a positive difference in our lives. I like the poem about Helen Keller (“The Seeker”) but am going to go with “The Unknown Rebel.” Pat chose the narrative voice in three regular ballad stanzas to remind us of the courageous young man who, in 1989, walked into Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China and faced a tank that was grinding across the square in a demonstration of the government’s might. It was a bloody day. Hundreds died. The young man was pulled to safety and his fate is unknown. But his act, and Pat’s poem, remind us of our “defiance-to-the-bone” need to be free.
Room for one more in today’s post. I’ll take this up again tomorrow. Jane Yolen’s book, RING OF EARTH, was published by Harcourt in 1986 and consists of four long poems that describe the seasons from the perspective of the weasel, spring peeper, dragonfly, and goose. All are finely done but my personal favorite is “Autumn Song of the Goose.” Here Jane gives full flavor to the point, the majesty, and the dangers of the annual migratory flight. Her masterful use of language (“…dying land/where the headless stalks/of flowers bend”; “Along the road of air/where the strong winds blow”; “where the trees rise up like fists”) makes fascinating reading for readers of any age.
I don’t believe that Douglas Florian follows this blog but Pat Lewis and Jane Yolen do. If I received permission to post their poems, I’ll do it gladly but, if not, you shouldn’t have much trouble locating these books, and I promise you it will be worth the hunt.