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A few poetry picture books

Feathers: Poems About Birds by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Lisa McCue

A collection of 27 short, playful poems about 27 different birds, from common ones such as the pigeon, robin or roadrunner to more exotic ones such as the secretary bird, Egyptian plover, and blue-footed booby. Each poem is accompanied by a lovely painting of the bird, many times in action. A two-page table of facts is included at the back of the book to provide further education about each of the birds.

The poems are whimsical and fun. Most address specific behaviors of the birds, not simply their appearance. The book could easily be included in teaching children about birds, and would also make a lovely gift for adult bird-watchers.

A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms selected by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Chris Raschka

This book provides information on 29 different poetic forms, from simple forms like a rhymed couplet or haiku to complex forms such as a sonnet or villanelle. Included in the book are 35 poems used to illustrate the forms. As you can readily tell by comparing the numbers, some poetic forms were illustrated with more than one poem.

I've raved about this book before, and I'll do it again now: it provides inspiration to writers who want to give poetry a try, and clearly sets out the rules for writing in specific forms. The use of a specific form can be a helpful thing when one tries to write poetry, and when one is learning to read and appreciate it as well. This one would be an excellent addition to every school library and to many school classrooms as well.

Plum by Tony Mitton, illustrated by Mary Grand Pré

Plum is a rich, luscious book of poems by British author Tony Mitton. It's a collection of 20 poems, which is not constrained by any single theme. Some of the poems, such as "Mrs. Bhattacharya's Chapati Zap Machine" and "Elegant Elephant Delicatessan", are quite long story poems spread over a number of pages with many illustrations. Others, like "Shore Music" or "Freak Cat-Flea" are short.

This is one of my very favorite poetry picture books ever. The poems are varied, rich, and complex, but readily grasped by children. Mitton uses a variety of poetic forms and vivid imagery to convey his ideas, whether the whimsical single-sentence poem "Flightpath", the sly temptation of "The Snake and the Apple," or the brooding hidden menace of "Green Man Lane." The wonderful illustrations by Mary Grand Pré, known widely for her cover art and illustrations in the United States' editions of the Harry Potter series, make this book a feast for the eyes.

If you're interested in writing poetry, you might like this interview with Tony Mitton:

A Humble Life: Plain Poems by Linda Oatman High, illustrated by Bill Farnsworth

Seventeen poems move through a year in the life of the Plain folk of Lancaster County Pennsylvania. The poems depict nature and farm life as experienced by the Mennonite and Amish people who make up the "Pennyslvania Dutch." The grace and simplicity of these poems perfectly suits the subject matter and the lives of the people who are the inspiration for these poems.

I like all four of these books. But if I had to buy just one, it would be Plum, even though I find A Kick in the Head to be nearly indispensable to me as a writer.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 4th, 2005 07:46 pm (UTC)
I asked for A Kick in the Head for my birthday. I didn't get it, but I got a great Barnes and Noble gift certificate so I can buy it for myself!

I'll have to check out the other books when I'm at the book store too. Thanks for the reviews and recommendations! :0)
Nov. 6th, 2005 08:17 pm (UTC)
That first sentence was funny, whether you meant it that way or not. I hope you get a copy of the book -- it's an excellent resource.
Nov. 6th, 2005 09:39 pm (UTC)
Ha!!!! I didn't mean it that way - thanks for pointing it out Kelly :0)

Maybe I do need a kick in the head to get my NaNo novel done though!
Nov. 6th, 2005 11:48 pm (UTC)
Wow-Thanks for sharing this! :-)
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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