[review] Are You an Echo?: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko by David Jacobson, Sally Ito, Michiko Tsuboi, and Toshikado Hajiri

Though every elementary school student in Japan is familiar with Misuzu Kaneko’s poetry, relatively few in the English-speaking world are familiar with her work.

Marked by a refreshing ingenuousness, curiosity, and extraordinary empathy for the world around her, Misuzu’s poems resonate with people of all ages, demonstrating that quiet, gentle words have their own special power.

DEWDROP

Let’s not tell anyone.

In the corner of the garden this morning,
a flower shed a tear.

If word of this spreads
to the ears of the bee,

it’ll feel it’s done wrong
and go back to return the nectar.

Thanks to this breathtakingly beautiful picture book, a new audience of North American children can now read a selection of Misuzu’s poetry in English, learn about her short tragic life and the fascinating backstory of how her work was lost for half a century before being rediscovered in 1982.

 In Are You an Echo?: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko (Chin Music Press, 2016), author David Jacobson frames the story of Misuzu’s life with an account of how young student poet Setsuo Yazaki read one of her poems and was so impressed by it that he spent the next 16 years searching for more.

art copyright 2016 Toshikado Hajiri

BIG CATCH

At sunrise, glorious sunrise
it’s a big catch!
A big catch of sardines!

On the beach, it’s like a festival
but in the sea, they will hold funerals
for the tens of thousands dead.

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[book review] No Fair! No Fair! And Other Jolly Poems of Childhood by Calvin Trillin and Roz Chast

Do you have a bossy older sibling? Wish you could eat ice cream for breakfast instead of oatmeal? Why ride the bus to school when a helicopter would be so much better?

Ah yes, life’s little injustices! If you can’t change them, may as well laugh about them.

In No Fair! No Fair! And Other Jolly Poems of Childhood (Orchard Books, 2016), eminent New Yorker contributors Calvin Trillin and Roz Chast serve up big helpings of funny with their poems and pictures about various and sundry everyday things that can drive kids nuts. No matter our age, we’ve all been there. Ever have a wardrobe crisis in the morning?

GETTING DRESSED

Oh, this is such a silly rule —
That people must wear pants to school.
A better rule, a wise man said,
is wear your underpants instead.

This little morning complaint is just the beginning. There are complaints about school and for the evening, too. As the title states, no fair! no fair!

Many of the 23 rib-ticklers in this collection were inspired by real-life experiences from Trillin’s children, grandchildren, and his own childhood. Young readers will giggle in recognition at the ploys used to convince one’s parents to get a pet, the earnest desire to send back a new baby brother, and horror of all horrors — sitting next to a scoocher sister who won’t stay on her side of the backseat. Grrrrrr.

She’s over the line,
she’s over the line.
She occupies space
That’s rightfully mine.

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[review, recipe, giveaway!] Miss Muffet, or What Came After by Marilyn Singer and David Litchfield

 

Little Miss Muffet
Sat on a tuffet,
Eating her curds and whey;
Along came a spider,
Who sat down beside her,
And frightened Miss Muffet away.

 

Well, no. Not exactly.

There’s more to this story than meets the eye.

Curtain Up!

*

🎻ACT ONE, or The Real Story 🎻

It seems nursery rhymers of yore mistook our dear Miss Muffet for a dainty scaredy-cat milquetoast without really considering:

  1. her true potential
  2. some spiders are undeniably cool
  3. the inherent power of cottage cheese.

Now, thanks to Marilyn Singer and David Litchfield, Miss Patience Muffet finally gets her props in a hilarious new picture book, Miss Muffet, or What Came After (Clarion, 2016), proving, once and for all, that where there’s a will there’s a whey.🙂

Told in sprightly verse as a rousing musical theatre production, the book features a fetching cast that includes an off-stage narrator, a chorus of three (gardener + 2 maids), Webster the spider, and nursery characters Little Bo-Peep and Old King Cole, among others. These clever players had me from their opening lines.

Narrator:

Her given name was Patience.
Her schoolmates called her Pat.
In the garden on a stool
is where one day she sat.
What do we know about her?
Just this much, if you please:
She didn’t care for spiders,
but she did love cottage cheese.

Chorus:

Cottage cheese, cottage cheese,
she eats it every day.
Cottage, cottage, cottage cheese,
she calls it curds and whey.

In December or in June,
in a bowl, with a spoon.
Cottage cheese, cottage cheese.
Very tasty (slightly pasty),
or so we’ve heard her say!

We soon learn that much to her parents’ dismay (her mother yearns for a perfect little miss and her father wishes she’d share his passion for bugs), Pat has a mind of her own.

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[book review + giveaway] Somos como las nubes/We Are Like the Clouds by Jorge Argueta and Alfonso Ruano

“Like the clouds, like dreams, our children come and go. Nothing and no one can stop them.” ~ Jorge Argueta

Immigration is certainly one of the most contentious issues and complex humanitarian challenges facing our country today.

When you hear the word “immigrant,” what kind of mental image pops into your head? Do you picture a destitute Syrian refugee, an adult male attempting to smuggle drugs across the border, or maybe a stereotypical Spanish speaking person in a service-oriented job?

Often when I drive to the library I see a group of young Hispanic males waiting by the side of the road hoping to be picked up for a day’s labor paid for in cash. I wonder about where they came from, how they’re coping, whether their families are intact.

Though I often hear a lot about “undocumented immigrants,” the plight of “unaccompanied immigrant children” wasn’t something I seriously considered until I read Jorge Argueta’s new bilingual poetry book, Somos como las nubes/We Are Like the Clouds (Groundwood Books, 2016).

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3 poems from Judith Viorst’s What Are You Glad About? What Are You Mad About?

I’ll always remember the day I found Judith Viorst’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day in the public library.

“Read me,” demanded a well worn copy left behind on one of the round wooden tables in the children’s room. I picked it up, read it all the way through, then sat down in a tiny chair to read it again.

I became a Viorst fan that day as I eagerly made my way through the other Alexander books. I found myself coveting train pajamas and contemplating a move to Australia. Totally nailing the child voice, Viorst (who made me very glad I didn’t have gum stuck in my hair) had a way of telling it true and assuaging frustration and calamity with just the right dose of humor. Months later, when the family across the street lost their cat, I gave them a copy of The Tenth Good Thing About Barney. Judith to the rescue again.

Her latest poetry collection, What Are You Glad About? What Are You Mad About? (Atheneum, 2016) is subtitled, “Poems for When a Person Needs a Poem.” Feeling a little lonely in your own skin? Or silly enough to eat a lamp for lunch? Maybe you’re fiercely jealous of too sweet, too kind, nauseatingly polite Anna May — why not bite or bop her?🙂 What do you do when your best friend doesn’t want to be your best friend any more, or your mom is just too bossy, or your head is spinning from all those reading and writing rules?

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