Friday, January 09, 2009

Poetry Friday: Come and Play

Come and Play edited by Ayana Lowe. Photographed by various. Bloomsbury, 2008 (978-1-59990-245-6) $16.95

As a reviewer, one of the things I think about as I evaluate a book is, who is this book for? In Come and Play, I see a rare book that could almost be answered "for everybody." Generally speaking, teachers will love it, parents will love it, librarians will love it... even kids will love it.

To make this book, schoolchildren were shown photographs of children from all over the world at play: tag, sledding, dancing, chess, just jumping. They then wrote poems about the photos, creating a truly integral mix of illustrations and words, each adding so much to the other. We get to see the thoughts of an eager French baby being held at the beach:

I want to kiss the water.
Let me go.

And a Moroccon girl leading a group of children on an obviously secret errand entices us:

They don't know we are here.
I like to play pranks.
I like to be very sly.
Follow me.

Occasionally the poems feel a little too much like mere narrative of the pictures--but then there might be a surprise twist or unexpected image, like in this poem about a little girl, seen from the back strutting down "Brixton Road:"

Outside, afterschoolish.
Or a list to go to the store?
She feels famous.

Of course, we think--that's exactly how she feels!

Here's another that takes description to a different level, of two children playing on rocks near a waterfall:

Two people.
Different places.
Rocks rough and smooth.
Water fast and slow.
One calm.
One excited.
Wait, I'm coming up!
Wait, I'm coming down!

The photos are wonderful, so intriguingly diverse in the children's faces and backgrounds and clothes, yet utterly familiar in their depictions of fun and joy. And the poems only make the photographs even better. The only complaint I have is that the individual authors aren't given credit with their poems, though some are pictured in an afterword and children, presumably the authors, have autographed the end papers. Also, the explanation given for how the poems came to be written is a little ambiguous; I was left uncertain that these specific pictures were actually the ones that inspired the poems. (Although they certainly do seem to be.)

If you're looking for a book about how different children live... or a book of poetry by children... or an exciting read-aloud... or just something really fun to read... well, come and play. * (5 & up)

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