Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, March 31, 2014

Firefly July by Paul Janeczko

Firefly July: a year of very short poems
Selected by Paul Janeczko; Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Candlewick Press. 2014
ISBN: 9780763648428
All ages (Preschool up through high school)
I received a copy of this book from the publisher.

There are times when a book comes across my desk that is so perfect I am at a loss for the best words to describe it. From the design, selection of poems, to the illustrations done by the incredibly talented Maine artist Melissa SweetFirefly July: a year of very short poems, selected by anthologist Paul Janeczko is one of those books. It is the combination of poems and Sweet’s attention to the smallest detail as she interprets those poems, all just a few lines long, that makes this book so appealing.

Starting with spring, readers are taken though the four seasons. Sweet’s signature collage art captures the playfulness and essence of each poem. The pictures and text do play nicely together. It is possible to interpret the meaning of each poem by looking at the pictures. In April Halprin Wayland’s poem, Sandpipers, you can actually see the sandpipers hemming the ocean.
Sandpipers run with
their needle beaks digging—they’re
hemming the ocean.

Whoever was responsible for the design of this book had a keen eye for detail, for many of the poems are placed directly on the object they describe. For example, Screen Door by James Stevenson is placed on a screen door.

Contributors include Langston Hughes, Emily Dickinson, X.J. Kennedy, Richard Wright, Alice Shertle; 36 in all. The art even matches up across the gutters. The only minor flaw, and it does not detract from the book's overall quality, is with the double-page spread for Fall. It takes awhile to find the letters that spell F-A-L-L.

Firefly July can be used in a myriad of ways with students. Not only as an introduction to poetry, but when studying the night sky show the page with the poem by Charles Reznikoff. When sharing Kittens First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes, read, In the Alley by Alice Schertle. 
            In the alley, a
stray cat drinks the round white moon
from a rain puddle.

In closing, the final poem by Jim Harrison and Ted Kosser, shows a sleeping child wrapped in a quilt made of fabric that has snippets of illustrations from the book; a beautiful conclusion to a book that will be read again and again.

The End.

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