If ever there was a book that wholly lived up to the promise of its title, Bookjoy, Wordjoy by Pat Mora and Raul Colón (Lee and Low, 2018) is certainly it.
Every bit of this ebullient fourteen poem collection is pure, unabashed, glorious, spirit-lifting joy. Celebrating the rewards and pleasures of reading and sharing good books, as well as exercising one’s creative muscle to write original poems, it’s the perfect way to get kids excited about the wonder, beauty, and infinite possibilities of words.
Bookworms, word collectors, library lovers, literacy advocates, and budding poets will find much to love in Mora’s lyrical, open-hearted poems and Colón’s stunning, beautifully rendered illustrations. This is the third collaboration by this esteemed, multi-award winning Latinx team (Tomás and the Library Lady, Doña Flor: A Tall Tale About a Giant Woman with a Great Big Heart), and they’re in perfect sync here.
I confess Mora had me with her opening poem — a simple declaration of how vital and nourishing books can be:
BOOKS AND ME
books and me,
like toast and jelly
o queso y tortillas.
Like flowers and bees,
birds and trees,
books and me.
Writing mostly in free verse with generous use of plucky diction, alliteration, onomatopoeia, and lively rhythms, she makes us want to visit the library (“a treasure house that’s free,” where once we open “the magic door,” we are free to “explore galore”); and revel in the cross fertilization of art forms like painting, singing, dancing, writing (“I create a great green parrot and me/singing and sashaying down a yellow street”).
In “Who’s Inside?” Mora challenges readers to look within for writing inspiration, to invoke their spirit animals:
Are you a lumbering bear inside, un oso,
shoving your big ole paw
into a honey hive and licking that gold
sweetness with your thick tongue?
. . .
With your magic wand, draw
your inside self, write
your inside poem, the song
of a bear, a cheetah, an eagle, a giraffe;
Mora also emphasizes that each of us possesses a unique vision. In “Writing Secrets” she encourages drawing on everyday specifics (“pictures you carry inside,” “your hobbies and pets,” “a splash in a pool”); engaging in full out creative wordplay by doodling, daydreaming, and imagining; and above all, remembering that “Writers begin again and again.”
I love how she seamlessly incorporates Spanish words and phrases in several poems, and the sheer musicality of her verses. Two poems in particular will get pulses racing and toes tapping: “Jazzy Duet/Dueto de jazz“ invites us to play with sounds, improvise, and “Slide into a river of music,” with English and Spanish phrases playing off each other in catchy, melodious riffs:
with tree’s leafy rhyme,
con la frondosa rima del árbol,
with cricket’s castanet clicks,
con las castañuelas del grillo,
with coyote’s moon croon,
con la copla lunar del coyote.
I know what you’re thinking: you love “cricket’s castanet clicks” and “coyote’s moon croon,” right? And who doesn’t appreciate learning some Spanish via context? Win-win.
The other toe tapper is “¡Bravo! Hip-hop Book Day!” I’ll let you discover that one for yourself (read, rap, roar!). Suffice to say, it begs performance.
A word about Colón’s gorgeous art, which was inspired by Mexican muralists (particularly Rufino Tamayo). He captured the energy and heartbeat of each poem using a palette of dreamy blues and rich, warm earth tones. The illustrations were created with layers of blended colored pencil over watercolor on textured paper, enhanced with his signature etchings applied with a “scratcher.”
Some of his multiethnic figures levitate with happiness — free-floating, long limbed enthusiasts wholly enamored of the written word, the creative process, and the liberating feeling of exploring new worlds via books. Besides adding texture and definition, his etchings convey movement and fluidity, inviting us to enter each scene to experience the joy.
And need I mention how I swooned over his hand drawn letters? They appear in three illustrations (yes, I craved more) — like a gift within a gift. 🙂
In a word, artjoy.
Today I’m happy to share three additional poems in their entirety. Cool words! Tea and cookies! Fishing for sparkling stars! What’s not to love? 🙂
All day, I collect words,
words that move, like wiggle,
glowing words, candle,
drifting words, butterfly,
singing words, ding-dong.
I collect words that make me smile, like tiny,
that fill my mouth, bubble and bumblebee,
that float along, river,
that have a brown scent, cinnamon,
that sweetly stretch, car-a-mel.
I collect short, hard words, like brick,
soft words, lullaby,
cozy words, snug,
funny words, rambunctious,
scary words, sssssssssssssnake,
jumpy words, hic-cup,
big words, onomatopoeia — oink, oink.
I whisper, say, shout,
write, and sing my words.
What words will you collect today?
Cita and I like cookies,
Cita and I like tea.
Cito and I like whistling,
and inventing chocolate recipes.
The three of us like spying
a bunny under a pine tree.
The three of us like lizards
and yellow columbine.
I like to read us stories.
I sit in the middle of us three,
but best of all, best of all, best of all,
I like Cita and Cito to hug me!
We are the hugging three.
BOOKJOY AROUND THE WORLD
We can read, you and I
see letters become words
and words become books
we hold in our hands.
We hear whispers
and roaring rivers in the pages,
happy tunes to the moon.
We enter spooky gray castles,
and in our hands, flowering trees climb
to the clouds. Bold girls fly;
boys fish for sparkling stars.
You and I read, round and round,
bookjoy around the world.
Enjoy this video of Pat reading “Collecting Words.”
written by Pat Mora
illustrated by Raul Colón
published by Lee and Low Books, August 2018
Poetry Picture Book for ages 6-9, 32 pp.
Cool Themes: Childhood Experiences and Memories, Cultural Diversity, Diversity, Education, Imagination, Multiethnic interest, Poetry
*Starred Review” from Booklist
♥️ Read this interview with both Pat and Raul at Lee and Low’s blog, The Open Book.
SPECIAL BOOK GIVEAWAY
We are happy to offer a brand new copy of Bookjoy, Wordjoy for one lucky Alphabet Soup reader. For a chance to win, simply leave a comment at this post mentioning five of your favorite words, no later than midnight (EST), Wednesday, October 3, 2018. You may also enter by sending an email with “BOOKJOY” in the subject line to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com. Giveaway open to U.S. residents only, please. Good luck!
The lovely and talented Jone MacCulloch is hosting the Roundup at DeoWriter. Waltz on over to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being shared in the blogosphere this week. Happy Weekend!
* Interior spreads posted by permission of the publisher, text copyright © 2018 Pat Mora, illustrations © 2018 Raul Colón, published by Lee and Low Books. All rights reserved.
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Copyright © 2018 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.