Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible VerseMIRROR, MIRROR:  A BOOK OF REVERSIBLE VERSE by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Josée Masse (Dutton, 2010)

It may be such
a fairy-tale secret,
this much I know:
The road leads
you need to go.


You need to go
the road leads---
I know
this much.
A fairy tale secret?
It may be such.

Nursery Tales Around the WorldAccording to our inventive author, a reverso is a poem that can be read from top to bottom or bottom to top, the only changes allowed in punctuation and capitalization.  They can be about any topic, but here, they shift the point of view backwards and forwards in familiar fairy tales:  Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Goldilocks, Rapunzel, the Ugly Duckling, Snow White, Jack and the Beanstalk, Beauty and the Beast and more get the up-and-down treatment to good effect.   Folksy paintings with clear brushstrokes that seem done against enchanted wood are very reminiscent of the style of Stefano Vitale, and cleverly take on the half-and-half theme, with one side of the painting telling part of the story, and the other, representing the other side.  In many ways, this book is perfect, and a definite must-have for elementary classrooms across grade levels (and a nice end-of-year teacher gift, too); fresh, inventive and provocative, besides allowing us to look at familiar plots with the upside-down reflection of a moon on the lake or a cloud in a puddle, who could read these poems and not want to try their own hand?  This book is bound to turn the world of children's poetry on its head!  One more to get you in the mood, from the story of...well, can you guess?:

Do you know my name?
Think of straw turned to gold.
In this story
I am
but not
I am
by greed,
a girl,
my foolish self.


My foolish self---
a girl
by greed betrayed.
I am liked,
but not
I am
in this story.
Think of straw turned to gold.
Do you know my name?

(7 and up)  And if new poetry formats float your boat, make sure you check out the quite fabulous "spine poems" at 100 Scope Notes, in which books are piled up to create verse!  So many great new ideas all around us!

Also of interest:
One good book of verse deserves another!

Spot the Plot: A Riddle Book of Book RiddlesSPOT THE PLOT:  A RIDDLE BOOK OF BOOK RIDDLES by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger (Chronicle, 2009)  What could make a  poem even more delightful?  How about turning it into a guessing game that features our favorites from the shelves of children's lit?  Emergent booklovers will fare very well when it comes to the detective work:

A magical telling,
a pig for the selling,
a spider is spelling
out words that amaze.

Do you know this spider,
this spiderweb writer?
The pig will delight her
the rest of her days. 

Guess who!  Follow the nicely metered clues to see if you can recognize friends from Ferdinand, Madeline, Click Clack Moo and the whole baker's dozen of literary children's book favorites past and present.  Teachers and librarians, take special note: what a great read-aloud for the end of the year (how about dividing the class into teams and giving bookworms a chance to show their stuff?) or a marvelous anticipatory set for summer reading adventures. (6 and up)

Everybody Was a Baby Once: and Other Poems
EVERYBODY WAS A BABY ONCE AND OTHER POEMS by Allan Ahlberg, illustrated by Bruce Ingman (Candlewick, 2010) Some say the price of a cookbook is worth it if you find a recipe that you can use for the rest of your life.  I think, likewise,  the price of a poetry book is worth it if you can find a poem that you can love for the rest of your life.  For me, that poem in this collection is  "The Good Old Dolls:" "We are the old dolls/ Losing our hair / Hats and dresses / The worse for wear. / We are the old dolls / Noses worn / By little girls' kisses/  before you were born. / We are the old dolls / We sit or flop /  In the Old Dolls' Home / Or the second-hand shop. / We are the old dolls / Fingers broken/ Old food still in our mouths / Last words spoken..."  Admittedly, this collection by one of the authors of the great JOLLY POSTMAN can be a little old-fashioned at times, a la Robert Louis Stevenson's A CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES ("When I was just a little child / The world seemed wide to me / My Mom was like a featherbed / My bath was like the sea...") which certainly has its charm, while the style of other poems make me feel certain I had already read them in a collection of Shel Silverstein ("I'm Dirty Bill from Vinegar Hill, / Never had a bath and never will") and other times felt heavily the presence of the ghost of the great David McCord ("Down the wing, down the wing / Down the wing, with a ping... / Pong ball.  And that's all.")  Derivative?  Uneven?  Maybe, but more likely:  enthusiastic.  The reason I must still recommend it is because it ultimately feels like a jubilant homage to many successful poetic styles, and this is still a very charismatic collection, with wildly loose, appealing, and downright darling sketch illustrations and enough gems ("If You Meet a Witch," "Summer Snowmen") that each young reader and each old teacher will find a new favorite, whatever style they like best.  (6 and up)

More poetry fun here!

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1 comment:

Unknown said...

I enjoyed reading your comments about "Mirror Mirror." I shared this book with one of my library classes last month, and it was a hit! They really liked how the poem changed meaning when read backwards. Next school year, I hope expand on the book and have students write their own reverse poems.

I also liked Spot the Plot...I got this book near the end of the year, and didn't get the chance to share it as much as I would have liked, but it will be shared next year. I'm thinking I'll read as many of the books the poems are about, then share the book at the end of the year to see how well students remember the original stories.


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