Friday, April 6, 2007

POETRY FRIDAY: Here's a Little Poem

Collected by Jane Yolen and Andrew Fusek Peters
Illustrated by Polly Dunbar
Candlewick Press

Wowee! Wow! Wow! What a great anthology of children’s poetry! HERE’S A LITTLE POEM: A VERY FIRST BOOK OF POETRY is one terrific compilation of poems for very young children. It is one of the best comprehensive anthologies for little listeners that I have seen in quite some time. The book includes sixty poems grouped thematically in sections with the following headings: Me, Myself, and I; Who Lives in My House?; I Go Outside; and Time for Bed.

Quoting from the book: “HERE’S A LITTLE POEM gathers poems from various parts of the English-speaking world, including Great Britain, the Caribbean, Australia, and the U. S. Regional spellings and usage have been retained in order to preserve the integrity of the originals.” The works of many of America’s finest children’s poets can be found in the pages of this book: Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Aileen Fisher, Nikki Grimes, Mary Ann Hoberman, Langston Hughes, J. Patrick Lewis, Myra Cohn Livingston, David McCord, Eve Merriam, Lilian Moore, and Marilyn Singer. (The poets whose names are printed in bold text are all recipients of the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children.) In addition to these poets, you will find works by Margaret Mahy, Colin McNaughton, Grace Nichols, Dennis Lee, A. A. Milne, and Robert Louis Stevenson.

This book is outstanding in every way: The poems are excellent and will surely appeal to toddlers and preschoolers…and to their parents and teachers who will, undoubtedly, LOVE sharing the rhythmic, rhyming poems in this anthology. The book is big and square and the text is printed in large letters with plenty of space between the lines of the poems. The words stand out on the page--just the way they should in a book for very young children who may be able to learn some sight words as a parent or adult moves an index finger from left to right below the text while reading the poems aloud.

Polly Dunbar’s illustrations for this book are perfect…absolutely perfect! They’re winsome and whimsical and colorful--but not in a splashy or gaudy way. In fact, on some pages, Dunbar uses muted tones--as she does in her illustrations of a young child outgrowing his pajamas, of children playing dress up, of a cat licking the face of a sleeping child in bed, of a rubber-booted child holding an umbrella and skipping along in the rain. Because of the large pages and exceptional book design, the art never intrudes on the text--it just adds to the charm and gentle humor of the poems. I know the word I am going to use to describe this book is overused…but it fits this book to a “T”: It’s delightful! This book has it all: great poetry, great art, and great design.

Here are some excerpts from a few of the fine poems in this book:

From Rickety Train Ride by Tony Mitton

I’m taking the train to Ricketywick
Clickety clickety clack.
I’m sat on my seat
With a sandwich to eat
As I travel the trickety track.

From Bumble Bee by Margaret Wise Brown

Where are you taking
Your golden plunder
Humming along
Like baby thunder?
Over the clover
And over the hay
Then over the apple trees
Zoom away.

Bobbi Katz’s Cat Kisses, my daughter’s favorite poem when she was little, has a two-page spread all to itself. The poem begins:

Sandpaper kisses
On a cheek or a chin
That is the way
For a day to begin!

The book also contains John Mole’s A Musical Family, a poem that never fails to bring a smile to my face. The poem ends:

Dad can play the clarinet.
My sister plays the fiddle.
But I’m the one who hits the piano
Slap bang in the middle.

Manhattan Lullaby by Norma Farber
After a Bath by Aileen Fisher
Brother by Mary Ann Hoberman
Baby Fingers by Nikki Grimes
Bananas and Cream by David McCord
Halfway Down by A. A. Milne
so many other wonderful little verses that will sing to little children with their rhythm and rhyme.

The book opens with the poem A Circle of Sun by Rebecca Kai Dotlich and with a bright illustration of a child who thinks she’s “a piece of the sky” dancing inside a sun. It ends with an illustration of a mother bending over to kiss a child goodnight and these words from Leslea Newman’s As the Crow Flies:

As the rainbow arcs
As the sun burns
As the dog barks
As the earth turns

As the stars gleam
As the doves coo
As the child dreams
So I love you.

HERE'S A LITTLE POEM is one terrific anthology. Jane Yolen, Andrew Fusek Peters, and Polly Dunbar have given us a "a very first book of poetry" that is sure to become a favorite.


Anonymous said...

Elaine, this sounds like it would make a nice baby gift. Thanks!

Elaine Magliaro said...


HERE'S A LITTLE POEM is definitely a great baby gift. It is truly one of the best anthologies of poetry for very young children that I have ever read.

Vivian Mahoney said...

What a pretty book cover. Thanks for your recommendation. It sounds sweet.

Robin said...

This sounds like a wonderful gift for the Grandboy! Thanks!