Friday, December 21, 2007

Poetry Friday: Winter Poems

Winter Solstic tomorrow, so time for my perennial favorite. Its in-print status is pretty iffy, but it's not hard to find used.

Winter Poems selected by Barbara Rogasky. Illustrated by Trina Schar Hyman. Scholastic, 1994 (0-590-42872-1) $15.95

Winter has become so much a time of holidays that its character as a season is rather neglected. This exquisite anthology of poems deliberately excludes any mention of holidays to concentrate on what winter feels like: when "winter dark comes early mixing afternoon and night," when "the wind howls, hisses, and but stops to howl more loud," when there is "no cloud above, no earth below—a universe of sky and snow!" Even the less traditional pleasures of the West Coast winter are here: "This rain is slow, without thunder or hurry: There is plenty of time—there will be months of rain."

Almost free from doggerel, and from the moth-eaten air so many anthologies for children have (from using the same poems all the other anthologies have already used), Winter Poems is a fresh and exciting collection, filled with evocativeimagery and diverse, stirring voices. Hyman's beautifully colored paintings match the poems in evocative power, somehow both crisp and soft. The always difficult design question of how to link poems and illustration is approached here in an unusual and very striking way: each poem and accompanying illustration is "framed" by a background picture of a country landscape—always the same place, yet changing with each open page to show the progression of winter, from that first "something" in the air that tells the wild geese to fly, to the "whiff on the wind" that is the first cry of spring. (A more subtle continuity is explained in Rogasky's introduction: the places and people that reappear throughout the illustrations are Hyman's own home and family—including Rogasky herself, starring as "greasy Joan.") A simply beautiful book for homes or classrooms. * (6 & up/8 & up)

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