The winter doldrums have officially arrived in our house. This means two things: we’re reading a whole lot more by being snowed in so much, and, as a result, M’s book collection is starting to feel a little tired.
Luckily, M had an unused gift certificate for Better World Books (please check out this site if you haven’t already — my favorite place to buy used books!) from her birthday (thank you S+E) that we used to spice up our book collection. Having recently read a few of Jane Yolen’s books and quickly becoming a big fan of hers, I typed her name into the BWB search box and scanned the results.
What a gem I found! That the Houston Public Library had marked this book “DISCARD” and it ended up for sale at BWB is mindblowing to me, especially considering it is in pristine condition…but I suppose I am the one who benefits in the end!
First, obviously it’s a book of poetry, which seems to be hard to come by for the preschooler set.* This alone was a reason for me to take a gamble with ordering the book. Quite honestly, I am itching for the day when she is a little older and can start to appreciate Shel Silverstein like I did as a kid (my memories of hearing his poems read by the librarian in my elementary school library are still so vivid). Indeed, Silverstein is really one of the few poets I am somewhat familiar with other than Walt Whitman and Robert Frost, so I want to expand both M’s and my horizons on the poetry front. This is why Here’s a Little Poem is such a treat: it offers a wide selection of preschooler-age appropriate poems from Margaret Wise Brown to A.A. Milne to Robert Louis Stevenson to Langston Hughes and about 40 other authors/poets in between.
Second, the poems are broken down into four general sections in the book: Me, Myself and I, Who Lives in My House?, I Go Outside and Time for Bed. Depending on the time of day or the mood at hand, it’s easy to stick to just one section and read a series of poems on that topic. It’s also interesting to see the differences in style among poems of the same topic.
Third, the poems are all light-hearted, airy and sometimes funny, like “Brother”, by Mary Ann Hoberman, which is told from the perspective of an older sister who wants to “exchange” her little brother for another one. And even though a handful of poems are a tad more serious, they put a sweet spin on topics, just like J. Patrick Lewis does in “Sand House” when he pens about a child’s sand castle that has been washed away by the ocean: “But when the fingers/Of the sea/Reached up and waved to me,/It tumbled down/Like dominoes/And disappeared/Between my toes.” Even preschoolers can understand this kind of simple analogy, and it makes for a nice change of pace from the sometimes too literal stories that are written for kids this age.
Fourth, the use of alliteration, rhyming and silly words is refreshing in a way that sometimes story books just can’t be if they are trying to get a message or plot across in just a few short pages. And, in my humble opinion, this type of reading is also really fun for the little ones and their budding vocabularies. Take “Rickety Train Ride”, by Tony Mitton: with phrases like “trickety track” and “drippety drink”, it makes little and big faces smile when these words are said out loud. I imagine that this book would be a useful teaching tool in a preschool or Kindergarten class, not only for language development, but teaching things like family relationships, emotions, natural phenomena, etc.
Finally, let’s face it, a book of poetry would not work well for most kids (including M) unless there were some illustrations to support the sometimes abstract phrasing. Polly Dunbar does not disappoint with her drawings in this book. Whimsical, beautiful, sweet and colorful are just the first few words that come to mind. The image she drew for “Silverly”, by Dennis Lee loosely reminds me of a scene from Tim Burton’s “Nightmare Before Christmas”, while the picture she drew for “Sand House” mentioned above helps the young reader see an ocean wave “waving” with a humanlike hand made of water reaching out of the sea. She also does a wonderful job with facial expressions even though her sketches are generally quite simple.
Overall, this book is really worth checking out, even if it’s from your local library. Unless, of course, you live in Houston, in which case you will have to ask M whether you can take a peek.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars (be prepared, however, to read it from cover to cover because it’s hard for the little ones to understand why you’re only reading a few pages of “a whole book”)
* I also want to mention this equally great book, which was given to M by a friend: LMNOP and All the Letters A to Z, by Howard Schrager and Illustrated by Bruce Bischof. For those kids learning their letters and those already long familiar with the ABC’s alike, each page of this book is devoted to some serious alliteration for each featured letter of the alphabet. Some of the words are definitely not on the radars of some or even most 3 or 4 year olds, but that, I suppose, is the point of reading! Because these poems are inspired by the Waldorf philosophy, most poems in this book are also featured with beautiful artwork that is almost entirely nature-based, a huge plus in my book (no pun intended).
Copyright (c) 2011-2012 by Kristen M. Ploetz. All rights reserved.