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Review of Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems

janeczko_firefly july2star2 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.

From the March/April 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Joanna Rudge Long About Joanna Rudge Long

Joanna Rudge Long is former editor of Kirkus Reviews and a frequent lecturer on children’s books.



  1. Yes, my own copy arrived at my doorstep last week and I must say I am mighty pleased. In addition to this excellent review, we had glowing praise a few weeks back from Elizabeth Bird at SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL who suggests (rightly, methinks) that this latest Melissa Sweet masterpiece is in the running for a Caldecott. The collage work here is exceptional, and as always Sweet’s extraordinary color balance and use of red is a feast for the eyes. And not at all to slight Janeczko’s spirited seasonal verse, which, combined with Sweet’s sublimity makes for an essential acquisition.

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