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Book Reviews - Genre 3

Florian, Douglas. 1998. INSECTLOPEDIA. Hong Kong: South China Printing Co., Ltd. ISBN: 0152013067

INSECTLOPEDIA is a fun lighthearted book of poems describing the different types of insects, from THE CATERPILLAR to THE MAYFLY. The author uses a variety of poetic forms to put together his selections of poems. Douglas Florian does a great job of illustrating his pictures to compliment the words. The titles of each poem are set in a type style of Mason Alternate. It is interesting how the poet put different elements into the pictures. There are several letters and words drawn or typed into the illustration. The watercolors used are a range of pastels to deep rich colors to reflect words within the poems. Some of the pictures look as if maybe they were sponged in or stenciled, for instance the weevils in THE WEEVILS poem appear to be stenciled onto the page.

The poems in this book have different styles. Douglas Florian uses concrete forms, that are printed in the shape of the subject and limericks are also used. The inchworm is in the shape of a hill and the words in THE WHIRLIGIG BEETLES are in a circle shape. The element of poetry used is RHYTHM.

This book can be used for different objectives. It could be used to teach an art lesson or a science lesson. These poems can be used in unison and read out loud to make poetry fun and enjoyable for all students

Hesse, Karen. 1997. OUT OF THE DUST. New York: Scholastic Inc. ISBN: 0590360809

OUT OF THE DUST is a verse novel. It is a series of poems that tell the story of the life of a fifteen-year-old girl named Billie Jo. It is set in Oklahoma and talks about the hardships of living on Billie Jo's wheat farm and the hard times that her family goes through during the time of the depression.

It is a very easy book to read. There are different poems all put into one book each of them telling a chapter in Billie Jo's life. Although the poems are like chapters, each tells a part of the story, but when they are all put together, they tell this wonderfully sad story of a young girl having to live with the death of her mother and younger brother. She wants to give up just like her father has but discovers that the farm is her home and she must stay there to keep her father company. When the book starts, it begins with Billie Jo being born, then she experiences the death of her mother and then blames her dad for her mother's death, then she stops talking to her father and winds up running away to leave the depressing place she calls home.

There is nothing surviving on the farm, neither the crops nor her relationship with her father and her depression of the loss of her mother doesn't help. When she tries to leave out of the dust to start a new life, she meets a man that left his family because there was no work or crops to farm. She then realizes that although she and her father do not talk, at least he never left her. She returns home and they learn to talk to each other again. Although it is heart wrenching when the mother and baby die, there is hope for a happy ending when the father meets Louise and she becomes a substitute as a mother for Billie Jo. With the help of Louise, she and her father start living and enjoying life once again. One knows she has finally over come the loss of her mother and her hands when she begins to play the piano again.

Karen Hesse creates imagery through her words and one can picture the redheaded, freckle-faced, narrow hipped girl and the dust covering everything in the house and the taste of grit on her teeth. The free verse poem mostly definitely has voice when one is moved to cry upon hearing of the mother's death. This book follows the criteria of free verse because it is mostly unrhymed and lacks a consistent rhythm.

Cullinan, Bernice E. ed. 1996. A JAR OF TINY STARS III. MacLeod, Andi and Nadel, Marc. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong Boyds Mills Press, Inc. ISBN: 1563970872

A JAR OF TINY STARS is a collection of NCTE award-winning poets. The poems used in the book were selected by what children deemed to be their favorites.

The ten NCTE Award-winning poets included in this anthology are Arnold Adoff, John Ciardi, Barbara Esbensen, Aileen Fisher, Karla Kuskin, Myra Cohn Livingston, David McCord, Eve Merriam, Lilian Moore and Valerie Worth. Each author has five poems presented that are among the favorites of children.

The life-like portraits of the poets help put a face to the wonderful works of poets. It gives one a sense of who they are. Marc Nadel's portraits add a personal touch to help one get to know the poets. Andi MacLeod's art illustrations help to enhance the joys of poetry. The picture on the cover supports the fun filled poems being released and how new light is shed every time one reads a poem over and over again.

The best part of this collection is the section about the authors. One hears from the poets themselves about what they like about poetry or how they think when they are composing a poem. Arnold Adoff says that when he writes poetry he wants to do more than just present facts and feelings. He says, "I want my poems to sing as well as to say."

A JAR OF TINY STARS encompasses a range of different forms of poetry. John Ciardi's SUMMER SONG shows us an example of lyric poetry and Eve Merriam's poetry is written in a style that can be used as two voices and in unison. The majority of these poems are written in limericks and lyric poems. Limericks and lyric are popular because this is what is more familiar to children because of the rhyming scheme and verse pattern. This could explain the popularity of poems chosen for this anthology.

Prelutsky, Jack. 2004. IF NOT FOR THE CAT. Rand, Ted. China: Greenwillow Books. ISBN: 0060596775

IF NOT FOR THE CAT is a picture book made up of seventeen haiku poems by Jack Prelutsky and illustrated by Ted Rand. Ted Rand helps us think about seventeen favorite animals in a different way. Although children require experience and maturity to understand haiku, Jack and Ted do an excellent job at making this book enjoyable.

Ted Rand uses a mix of sumi brush drawings in India ink, traditional watercolors, chalk, spatter and printmaking techniques. The paper used was rag stock watercolor and rice paper. The colors are so vibrant and colorful that they tell a story all on their own. The text text type used was 32-point OPTIElizabeth.

This book follows all of the characteristics of haiku poetry. Each poem is made up of 17 syllables. The first line consists of five syllables, the second line has seven syllables and the third line has five syllables and in this books case, the nature expressed is about animals.

Even though this type of poetry may seem short and simple, it is very complex and abstract. Of course it would take an experienced poet like Jack Prelutsky to make haiku work. It was not until 2004 that he developed such a work of art.

The poems in this book are hard for an inexperienced poet like myself but three of my favorites where:

If not for the cat,
And the scarcity of cheese,
I could be content.

Safe inside my pouch
Sleeps the future of my kind-
Delicate and frail.

Wingless we went in,
But we emerged as fliers-
And oh, such colors!

The first poem shoes the cat sitting outside of the mouse's hole and one can feel the mouse's pain of wanting to leave to get the cheese but unable to because of fear of being eaten. I guess I could relate to the kangaroo poem because I too am a new mother. One can see the love between the baby and the mother and the innocence of the baby kangaroo. The illustrations for the third poem are just beautiful. One can just picture the metamorphism of the butterfly in just three lines of text.

This poetry book is different than other books written by Jack Prelutsky. It is a great book to use with experienced poetry writers and can be incorporated as a science lesson.

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