Tuesday, November 20, 2007

review: Thanksgiving Poems

Thanksgiving Poems selected by Myra Cohn Livingston. Illustrated by Stephen Gammell. Holiday House, 1985 (0-8234-0570-2)

This title is out of print, which doesn't surprise me too much, because the illustrations have not worn well. But there are such wonderful poems here, many of which were commissioned especially for this book, that it's worth it to search out a copy.

Thanksgiving Poems covers many aspects of Thanksgiving, excluding historical/political controversy. There are harvest poems from an Osage and a Navajo Indian, a selection from the Bible ("Make a Joyful Noise Onto the Lord") and comic poems about overeating from poets like X. J. Kennedy and Jane Yolen. I was most captivated by the poems that concentrate on joy and gratitude, such as the lyrical wordplay of the poem "Giving Thanks Giving Thanks" by Eve Merriam; this is the second paragraph:

giving thanks giving thanks
for cows and cowslips
eggs and eggplants
stars and starlings
dogs and dogwood

And I was blown away by the simple beauty and sincerity of a poem of thanksgiving by Emanuel di Pasquale, which begins:

I pull a baby crab
off a seaweed-rich rock
and let it run on my hands,
and I see God. I see God
in millions of lights
dancing in the sea and air.

It's a shame that the illustrations, largely black & white drawings with splotches of muted, unattractive colors, have lost so much freshness, seeming tired and dated. I would so love to see this otherwise superb collection reillustrated; even a fresh printing might revitalize it. (4 & up)

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