Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Not Cataloged as Poetry, but Poetry Just the Same

In rounding up my poetry reading for the year I cannot overlook the titles that won't be found on the poetry shelves, but ooze with it anyway. Here are a few titles you won't want to miss.

Bella & Bean, written by Rebecca Kai Dotlich and illustrated by Aileen Leijten - What could be better than a story of two friends, one of whom happens to write poetry? The story of Bella and Bean is littered with poems and words that inspire poetry. And the text itself? Positively glowing. Here's a snippet. "Bella stretched out on the blanket, and one by one, read her poems to Bean under the starry sky./Besides river and moon and daisy, Bean heard words like bonnet and bush and breeze./"Your poems make me melt," said Bean./"Don't you dare," said Bella." (You can read more about this book at The Reading Zone.)

My Uncle Emily, written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Nancy Carpenter - This is a heartwarming, imaginative tale based on real events in the lives of Gib Dickinson and his famous aunt, Emily Dickinson (who called herself Uncle Emily). The story unfolds with Uncle Emily giving her nephew a dead bee and a poem with instructions to take them to his teacher. (True story.) Here's an excerpt.
    I did not want to take the poem to school,
    fearing the boys would not understand it,
    fearing that they might laugh at it.
    Not laugh in a good way,
    as Uncle Emily and I do,
    but in a nasty way.
When one of Gib's classmates calls his Uncle Emily a name, Gib punches him in the nose. A fight, dunce caps, thank you notes, a partial explanation, and a full confession (inspired by the poem Tell all the Truth) ensue. The pen and ink illustrations add to the atmosphere set by the free verse form of the story. One can't help but notice how much this gem-of-a-book feels like Dickinson. (You can read more about this book at Kids Lit.)

Me With You, written by Kristy Dempsey and illustrated by Christopher Denise - This is a charming book in verse that celebrates individuality and being yourself around the people you love. It begins, "We're a pair beyond compare/A rare and special two/In all the ways that I am me/And you're completely you." The last stanza brings the ideas full circle and will put a bit of a lump in your throat. Check out the book trailer below. (You can read more about this book at On My Bookshelf.)

All the World, written by Liz Garton Scanlon and illustrated by Marla Frazee - This one is a lovely little gift wrapped up in 200 words (in rhyming couplets) and gorgeous, detailed illustrations created in a palette and style reminiscent of Virginia Lee Burton. The oversized pages provide the perfect canvas to tell a quiet but moving story. It begins, "Rock, stone, pebble, sand/Body, shoulder, arm, hand/A moat to dig, a shell to keep/All the world is wide and deep." This one will make you sigh and immediately flip to the beginning to read again, and again, and again. (You can read more about this book at Jama Rattigan's Alphabet Soup.)
What poetic picture books have you read this year? Please share, as I'd love to know what you've been reading.


  1. Tricia -- thank you for the tip of the hat! I am touched and honored...

    And I forgot that I've been meaning to read Uncle Emily so thanks for the reminder...

  2. I, too, have been meaning to read My Uncle Emily. The others are all lovely books!

    I was at a bookstore last week reading some pbs, and I noticed that several of the pbs I pulled off the shelf were gorgeous, lyrical...and seemed to have a lot more adult appeal than kid appeal. And an adult could probably read them to a child and the child would love it.

    But for some of them, they certainly don't seem like books a kid would gravitate toward. Blueberry Girl by Neil Gaiman is one title I remember thinking about that. More of a new baby gift for the mother, I think.

    I think there are a growing number of books like that the last few years, books by big-name/bestselling authors. Beautiful books, but books that I don't think would sell by a new author, perhaps.

    Hmm...I don't really have a point here, just rambling observations:>)

  3. Laura -- Kelly Fineman has the story behind Blueberry Girl for you... and it definately verifies the mother-centeredness -- though most babies and kids are pretty mother-centric so I think it can work for everyone in that way...

  4. I just read My Uncle Emily yesterday for the first time and I loved it! It did have a very Dickinsonian feel. Read it once, sighed, and immediately read it again. And WILL read it many more times. It's a keeper.

  5. And, of course, thanks for your comments on ME WITH YOU. I'm so pleased to see you say it "celebrates individuality". Not everyone gets that. :)