Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems
selected by Paul B. Janeczko;
illus. by Melissa Sweet
Preschool, Primary Candlewick 48 pp.
3/14 978-0-7636-4842-8 $16.99
Very short people attracted by Sweet’s child-friendly illustrations (and by the large picture book format) are likely to linger to enjoy the thirty-six excellent poems (grouped by season) showcased on the book’s ample spreads, especially when shared with a discerning older reader. As brief as three lines or a dozen words, most of the verses are by familiar poets (Carl Sandburg, Langston Hughes, Ted Kooser), including those known for their children’s verse (Alice Schertle, Charlotte Zolotow). Many are simply apt descriptions (a sandpiper’s beak seems to be “hemming the ocean” — April Halprin Wayland) or contrasts (an island is “Wrinkled stone / like an elephant’s skin / on which young birches are treading” — Lillian Morrison). Occasionally, there are subtler suggestions of wry metaphor (Joyce Sidman’s “A Happy Meeting” of rain and dust: “Quick, noisy courtship, / then marriage: mud”) or deeper meaning. Sweet’s expansive mixed-media illustrations—loosely rendered, collage-like assemblages in seasonal palettes — are just detailed enough to clarify meaning without intruding on young imaginations. The names of the seasons appear only as integrated into the art, with “Fall” a particularly clever construction of disguised letters in a spread that’s only partly representational. A fine addition to the seasonal poetry shelf.