Thursday, January 25, 2007

Poetry Friday: Days to Celebrate

(FYI: while putting the cover picture in, I noticed this book is on sale at for $10.88)

Days to Celebrate edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins. Illustrated by Stephen Alcorn. Greenwillow, 2005 (0-06-0007656) $16.99

A curriculum in a book, this anthology brings together poems, facts and descriptions of notable accomplishments to make each day of the year one to celebrate. Divided by months, each section includes a calendar of notable events and birthdays (with an emphasis on poets) and an eclectic sampling of poems that relate in some way to that calendar: for June, for example, we have a poem by Gewndolyn Brooks (birth date June 7), a father's day poem by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, a poem by Christina Rossetti about the first day of Summer, a poem by John Anthony Ciardi (birth date June 24) and a poem by J. Patrick Lewis about the legendary female athlete "Babe" Zaharias (birth date June 26.)

As you can expect from a Hopkins anthology, every poem included is an individual pleasure to read, and the juxtaposition of fact and poem is sometimes inspired: dictionary compiler Noah Webster's birth date is lovingly honored with another poem by Dotlich, "Treasure Words,"

Words are magic--
quiet, loud.
Steady, strong,
slow, proud.
Whisper, shout--
let them--
hold words close,
toss afar,
see them sparkle--
each a star.
Thread words on
a silver chain.
let words touch you
warm as rain.
Written, read, said, heard--
delight in, sip on
treasure words.

Illustrations that use a folk-art style flatness and a pale, pastel palette of colors make this book slightly less inviting to look at than to read, though there are some intriguing personifications and visual metaphors: a plant grows rainbow-colored hearts; a boy fishes with a giant key while sitting on a bridge made of clasping hands; Harriet Tubman breaks chains binding her wrists as a train puffs out of a tunnel in her chest. (That one might possibly cross the line between "intriguing" and "creepy.") Overall, this is a valuable and highly readable collection, one whose potential for usefulness is matched by its potential for enjoyment. (7 & up)