Friday, December 14, 2007

Poetry for Christmas

Written by Aileen Fisher
Illustrated by Sarah Fox-Davies
Henry Holt, 2007

If you are looking for a collection of Christmas poems for young children, you’d be hard-pressed to find a book better than Aileen Fisher’s Do Rabbits Have Christmas?. Fisher (1906-2002) was the second children’s poet to be honored with the prestigious NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. Most of Fisher’s poetry focuses on the natural world and on common childhood experiences. Her rhythmic, rhyming poetry is often written from a childlike perspective; her meter near flawless.

The poetry included in Do Rabbits Have Christmas? was selected from Fisher’s earlier works that were originally published from 1946-1991. The book’s fifteen poems take readers from late fall to early winter and the Christmas holiday. The young girl pictured in many of the illustrations appears to be the person “telling” the poems.

Fall Wind, the book’s first poem, is about a wild wind that has trees swishing, dipping, swaying, tossing, and falling leaves racing away. It’s a wind that brings news that winter’s on its way.

From Fall Wind

Everything is on the run—
willows swishing in the sun,
branches full of dip and sway,
falling leaves that race away…

all the sky is full of song:
“Winter’s coming. Won’t be long.”

Animals—rabbits, mice, chickadees, and a pet cat—factor in many of the poems. Snow Stitches is about a plucky little mouse “whose footprints show/like stitches in the new white snow.” In My Christmas Tree, a child decorates a “spruce/in the cold white wood” with a star of gold and suet balls for little chickadees. In Christmas in the Country, the girl talks to wild animals.

Christmas in the Country

Run, little wild ones,
over the snow,
peek through the trees
where yourselves won’t show,
look at the lights
on our Christmas tree,
brighter than any
stars you’ll see!

The illustration that accompanies this poem shows a family of rabbits outside a house trimmed with icicles. The rabbits, looking at the Christmas tree in a window, stand in the warm glow of light that shines out through the window.

The poems in this book may be for very young children…yet many are rich with imagery and figurative language. In Sparkly Snow, Fisher compares snowflakes to diamonds strewn on the ground by a reckless millionaire. In Frosty Window, window panes grow forests with “tall white ferns/and trees, and rivers/with twists and turns.” In the child’s imagination, the window has become a wintry wonderland “with flowers of ice” and she wishes she could “walk in a place that nice.”

In the poem December, the little girl tells of the things she likes about the last month of the year.

From December

I like days
with a snow-white collar,
and nights when the moon
is a silver dollar,
and hills are filled
with eiderdown stuffing
and your breath makes smoke
like an engine puffing .

The little girl, wondering in one poem if rabbits also have Christmas, imagines that the animals can celebrate under little spruces “where snow has made pompoms/with silvery handles/and frost has made tinsel/and icicle candles.”

There’s a delightful poem entitled Before Christmas in which the little girl tells of all the things she and her family do before the big holiday: sing, write cards, shop for and make presents, wrap gifts, frost cookies, buy and decorate a tree…"but most of all/we wait…and wait." The poem captures the anticipation a young child feels while eagerly awaiting Christmas.

Sarah Fox-Davies doesn’t break new ground with her artwork for this book. Fox-Davies, known for her wildlife illustrations, uses a palette of soft colors that do not overwhelm the text. The illustrations complement Fisher’s poems with more traditional looking art that hearkens back to an earlier time—a time when Fisher wrote many of the poems included in this book. Fox-Davies’ rabbits and mice and chickadees are both charming and realistic. Do Rabbits Have Christmas? would make a fine holiday gift for a young child or a family with young children.

I can attest to the child-appeal of Fisher’s poetry. I used to share many of the poems in this book with my students when I was an elementary school teacher.

Click here to learn more about Aileen Fisher.

Tricia has the Poetry Friday Roundup at The Miss Rumphius Effect.


jama said...

Thanks for the review, Elaine. This looks like a wonderful book. Love the "December" poem excerpt.

Becky said...

My kids took one look at the book cover and begged me to find it at the library. As in immediately!

(Thankfully it's at a bunch of libraries in our system -- a much better showing than some of the Cybils books I've had to track down.)

If I don't get another chance, and I know I've been scarce this year, Merry Christmas, Elaine, and all best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year!

Susan T. said...

What a sweet title. I'm going to find this one, Elaine. Thank you.

Susan T.
Chicken Spaghetti

Elaine Magliaro said...

Jama and Susan,

Thanks for commenting. I'm a fan of Fisher's poetry for children. It's so good to have a new book of her poems in print.


Happy holidays to you and your family, too! We just had a big storm here yesterday--and meteorologists are predicting a Nor'easter for tomorrow. I know our winter weather doesn't compare to yours!

I hope you and your children like Fisher's book.

Sara said...

"I like days
with a snow-white collar,
and nights when the moon
is a silver dollar..."

Oh, that's lovely. Almost makes me wish for snow. Except I prefer to be able to dip in and out of snowy weather at my own choosing, like a book!

Term Papers said...

Term papers

What a sweet title poetry. I'm going to share this one, Elaine.I'm a fan of Fisher's poetry for children. i just want to say, Oh, that's lovely. Thanks for commenting.

Wish You a Very Happy Mary Christmas.

Term papers

annewalker said...

"Run, little wild ones,
over the snow,
peek through the trees
where yourselves won’t show,
look at the lights
on our Christmas tree,
brighter than any
stars you’ll see!"

Thanks for the great review. I really enjoy reading short Christmas poems and it's really nice to read new ones. Thanks for sharing ideas.

Happy holidays!