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Karen's Book Reviews
Traditional Lit and Poetry
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September 27 - October 10, 2004

O'Connell George, Kristine. Toasting marshmallows. Clarion Books, New York. 2001. ISBN 061804597X.

"Toasting Marshmallows" is one one topic collection that explores camping in the woods. This anthology of free verse poetry will make the reader recall memories of childhood campouts. The author also uses some examples of concrete poetry, when writing about setting up the tent and about the moon shining at night. The poems in this collection proceed in sequence from setting up the tent to returning home. Trevelyn E. Jones of the School Library Journal writes, "all of the selections convey a child-focused sense of wonder as the campers explore the lakefront and surrounding terrain, enjoy the marvels of the natural world, relish meals round the campfire, and toast marshmallows ".

Kristine George O'Connell uses imagery to ehance the meaning of her poetry. For example, " velvet ears swivel. Slim spindled legs turn, a silent shiver fading into dusk" is used to describe the sighting of a doe. "Until a confetti of birds in the wet leaves danced another rain shower" describes what happens after rain.

The author also uses figurative language such as " the ceiling is sky blue, powdered with cloud" in the poem 'Abandoned Cabin' and "your one lone vowel drops like a stone in night's dark pond" to describe a hooting owl.

George O'Connell demonstrates imagination and voice - her poetry will stand the test of time. Jeff Zaleski of Publisher's Weekly writes, "George's poems are well crafted, varied and easily accessible".

Illustrations by Kate Kiesler enhance each poem. Created with acrylic paint, they are soft and detailed, showing the beauty of the wilderness. The illustrations portray a feeling of peacefulness.

Overall, this book is well organized and designed. Children will enjoy reading about a subject that many are familiar with.



Schertle, Alice. Advice for a frog. Willam and Morrow Company,Inc., New York. 1995. ISBN 0688134866.



"Advice for a Frog" is a one topic collection of fourteen animal poems. The poems are written in free verse, with a chosen few as concrete poetry. The author creates interest by writing some of the poems from the animal's point of view. For example, "A Traveler's Tale" follows the narration of a mouse and his journey to the New World on a Spanish ship. "Proboscis Monkey Ponders Man" - tells what a monkey is thinking about the strange human starring at him.



The author also provides excellent examples of imagery thrroughout the collection. In "Fruit Bats", they "flit among the swollen globes, lancing the tender skins and sucking sweet juices..." . In "Toucan" , their beaks are described as "those boat beaks, those blue and yellow banana bills, those pink and purple splatted spatulas".



Alice Schertle does a superior job conveying the meaning of each poem by using descriptive phrases and alliteration ("leather leaves" and "melon-bellied bunches"). Myra Cohn Livingston writes, "her perception of the human condition should be heard by all who value what originality of voice, fine use of metaphor, and superb craftmanship in poetry offer the young". This highly enjoyable anthology will encourage the reader to explore more literature by this author.



The text is well organized and designed, using both horizontal and vertical pages. This collection is geared more toward children in grades three and up.



The illustrations by Norman Green compliment each poem perfectly. They are very realistic and done in bright, vivid colors, capturing the reader's interest. Children will enjoying discovering more about each animal by studying the detailed paintings. The illustrations are large, and cover an entire two page spread for each work.



This book is highly recommended as a well written and beautifully illustrated example of free verse poetry for children. Lee Bennett Hopkins writes, " 'Advice for a Frog', with its multi-layered verse forms and lush paintings, is a not-to-be-missed volume".





Siebert, Diane. Motorcycle song. HarperCollins Publishers, New York. 2002. ISBN 0060287322.



Imagine zooming along the open highway, the wind in your hair, feeling the speed and exhiliration of a motorcyce journey. "Motorcycle Song", by Diane Siebert uses rhyming text and vividly colored illustrations follow the adventures of a "motorcycle guy" from the city, to the country, and back again. This single poem picture book is the fourth in a series on transportation written by the author. The author uses many examples of imagery to appeal to every reader: "wide roads, side roads, perfect-for-a-ride roads, rough roads, tough roads, just-can't-get-enough roads".



The text follows a rhythmical rhyming pattern that readers will find memorable. The descriptive text makes it easy to imagine traveling the open road, gaining new experiences and meeting new people. It discusses all areas of motorcycling riding from the feeling that is enjoyed by riders to the different types of people who use motorcycles for transportation. From preachers to teachers to uncles to aunts, people from many walks of life enjoy motorcycles. According to the Kirkus Reviews, "here she (Siebert) knows whereof she speaks because she rides a 750cc Honda Nighthawk herself".



The amazing watercolor illustrations by Leonard Jenkins are a wonderful asset to the poem. The illustrator uses vibrant colors to appeal to the reader. Trevelyn E. Jones of the School Library Journal writes, "readers will be drawn to Jenkins's detailed landscape backgrounds and creative use of superimposed road signs".



The book is large in size and laid out horizontally to convey length and feel of the different roads traveled by the "motorcycle guy". The typeface is set in large, black, bold print - making it easy for readers to follow.



This book would appeal to children ages 5-12. Both boys and girls would enjoy this poem about motorcycle transportation. A great book for a read aloud and a wonderful addition to any library collection!







Dotlich. Rebecca Kai. A family like yours. Boyds Mill Press, Inc., Honesdale, Pennsylvania. 2002. ISBN 1563979160.



"A Family Like Yours" written by Rebecca Kai Dotlitch and illustrated by Tammie Lyon is a delightful single poem picture book geared for younger children - primarily ages Pre-kindergarten through first grade. This simple, rhyming poem celebrates families in various settings - "there are families in cities, and families on shores". It explores the many forms and styles of families, reinforcing familiar experiences for younger children. The catchy rhythm of the text will hook listeners and have them clapping along. Mary Burkey, of "Library Talk" writes, "jolly and joyful, the rhyming text asks readers to compare their family to a variety of parent and child groupings". The text of the poem is very simple and easy for children to understand. It is not overloaded with complicated poetic elements.



The illustrations by Tammie Lyons are bright and colorful, appealing to young readers. The pictures show a mix of animal families and human families of different cultures. Children will enjoy seeing the different activities that families can do and relating the illustrations to their own life experiences. This book is a great springboard for younger children into studying about different families and traditions.



The layout of the book is large and with one of two lines of text per page, eaisly handled by younger readers. The illustrations are also large, covering most of the pages and making it a great book to use as a read-aloud. Children will be able to see the illustrations with little trouble. The typeface is set in 17 point, large enough for little readers to handle. The lines of text are set in random positions on the page, not just at the top or bottom, making the reader track visually.



Overall, this book would be a valuable asset to a children's library collection. Its universal theme and colorful illustrations, along with the repetition of the first and last lines of text and the catchy rhythm will appeal to young readers.































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