Review of Lion of the Sky: Haiku for All Seasons

Lion of the Sky: Haiku for All Seasons
by Laura Purdie Salas; illus. by Mercè López
Primary    Millbrook    32 pp.
4/19    978-1-5124-9809-7    $19.99
e-book ed.  978-1-5415-4383-6    $19.99

Salas presents a volume of “riddle-ku” poems, a form that is a cross between riddles, haiku, and “mask poems” (poems narrated by “something nonhuman”). The book is divided into four sections, by season, with each poem representing something traditionally associated with that season. Supporting illustrations help readers solve the puzzles: “I am a wind bird, / sky skipper, diamond dipper, / dancing on your string” is pictured by a child flying a kite. Salas’s innovative language steals the show. What is “firelight from the past” or “a yellow train / carrying thoughts from your brain / to the waiting page”? (Answers: stars and a pencil.) López’s acrylic and digital illustrations capture movement and texture through strong lines and seasonal hues. A tangle of lines denotes the sticks of a bird’s nest in spring, the determined flight of a mosquito toward its human target in summer, and the blades of an ice-skater in winter. Backgrounds are mostly pale and muted, in earthy-khaki tones, but they occasionally erupt in colorful explosions and even more exuberant lines, such as the eponymous “lion of the sky” (fireworks) or the “crispy crowd of loud crunch” (pile of fall leaves). Multiple readings are in order: the first few may revolve around riddle solving, while subsequent ones will allow readers to savor the imaginative language and illustrations.

From the March/April 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
Julie Hakim Azzam
Julie Hakim Azzam
Julie Hakim Azzam teaches in the English department at the University of Pittsburgh. While her academic specialization is on literature from Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, she has a passion for children’s literature and has been interviewing children’s authors for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for many years.

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