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

Calling Caldecott co-author Julie Hakim Azzam is the assistant director of the MFA program in the School of Art at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She holds a PhD in literary and cultrual studies, with a specialization in comparative contemporary postcolonial literature from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and Southeast Asia. Her most recent work focuses on children's literature, stories about immigrants and refugees, and youth coping with disability.

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