Preschool-perfect nursery rhymes, a potpourri of new-reader-friendly seasonal verse, a presidential history lesson in rhyme, and a picture book biography about a famous poet — these new books offer unique avenues for celebrating National Poetry Month.
Editor and illustrator David McPhail’s My Mother Goose: A Collection of Favorite Rhymes is an affable collection of sixty-three nursery rhymes plus seven interspersed short sections of concepts (counting, “Getting Dressed,” “Action Words”). McPhail portrays a classic, though updated, Mother Goose world, populated with people (not all white) and anthropomorphized animals. Each spread is devoted to one or two mostly familiar poems, and the playful illustrations are afforded plenty of room to interpret the verses, giving the whole an uncluttered, approachable look. (Roaring Brook, 2–5 years)
Melissa Sweet’s child-friendly mixed-media illustrations — loosely rendered, collage-like assemblages in seasonal palettes — enhance the thirty-six excellent poems showcased in Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems. Selected by Paul B. Janeczko, the verses — some as brief as three lines or a dozen words — are largely by familiar poets (Carl Sandburg, Langston Hughes), including those known for their children’s verse (Alice Schertle, Charlotte Zolotow). (Candlewick, 4–7 years)
Natalie S. Bober draws on her own 1981 young adult biography A Restless Spirit for her new picture book Papa Is a Poet: A Story About Robert Frost, focused on the pivotal years (1900–12) when Frost lived in Derry, New Hampshire. Skillfully, Bober introduces Frost’s idiosyncrasies along with his gifts, and frequently incorporates lines from Frost’s poems. Rebecca Gibbon’s acrylic, pencil, and watercolor art quietly captures the era’s essence. Quotes from Frost on poetry and a dozen iconic poems inspired by those Derry years are included. (Ottaviano/Holt, 5–8 years)
For slightly older readers, Marilyn Singer’s Rutherford B., Who Was He?: Poems About Our Presidents offers thirty-nine poems for our forty-three presidents, touching on sophisticated subjects such as political ideology, foreign policy, and domestic programs. A quote from George Washington in a bold hand-lettered font opens the book, and with the poem positioned on the facing page, readers have space to contemplate its meaning. John Hendrix’s expansive, richly colored art captures each man’s likeness, and brief biographical notes give pertinent background information. (Disney-Hyperion, 6–10 years)
From the April 2014 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.