Review of Hi, Koo!

muth hi koo Review of Hi, Koo!Hi, Koo!:
A Year of Seasons

by Jon J Muth; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary    Scholastic    32 pp.
3/14    978-0-545-16668-3    $17.99

Twenty-six haiku are presented by young panda Koo, whom fans of Muth’s Zen Ties will recognize as the haiku-spouting nephew of Stillwater, the Zen Buddhist panda from Zen Shorts and Zen Ghosts. Here, Koo is on his own, eventually joined by two human children who appear on his doorstep to play. The story told through the haiku follows the cycle of the seasons, from fall (“Autumn, / are you dreaming / of new clothes?”) to winter (“snowfall / Gathers my footprints / I do a powdery stomp”) to spring (“New leaves / new grass new sky / spring!”) to summer (“Tiny lights / garden full of blinking stars / fireflies”). Muth’s watercolors are as clear and translucent as the child-friendly, easily understood haiku, the gentle mood of his paintings perfectly matching the tranquil emotion of the poems. In an author’s note at the front Muth explains his choice to forego the traditional five-seven-five syllable pattern and states that “a haiku embodies a moment of emotion that reminds us that our own human nature is not separate from all of nature.” Each haiku contains just one capital letter, in order from A to Z; although the randomly capitalized words can look awkward, young readers may enjoy tracking the “alphabetical path” through the book.

From the July/August 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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About Jennifer M. Brabander

Jennifer M. Brabander is senior editor of The Horn Book Magazine.

Comments

  1. Jan Myhre says:

    This book is a sight for sore eyes. As a poet, I truly appreciate anything that encourages the young to read, recite and even write poetry. Haiku is an excellent place to start.

  2. I agree with Jan that the book is a sight for sore eyes, and I agree that children need poetry. However, as a teacher and librarian, I’ve found that haiku is not the easiest starting place. When children hear a haiku, they often say, “Huh?” because the poems are so short and they don’t always see the point. I try to tell them that a haiku is supposed to wake them up a little, to make a little empty space inside their minds, and that helps a little, but I’ve found that the poems that are easiest for children to appreciate tend to be narrative and strongly rhythmic.

    Also, about five-sevne-five–I understand that this is a rhythm that is very natural in Japanese speech, but normal English speaking rhythms are closer to–you guessed it–iambic pentameter. For this reason, I recommend Harold Stewart’s A CHIME OF WIND BELLS and A NET OF FIREFLIES. And kudos to Muth for jettisoning five-seven-five–I think counting syllables so often obscures what a haiku really IS.

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