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Little Owl’s Day by Divya Srinivasan

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 32 pgs.
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Little Owl’s Day by Divya Srinivasan is a continuation of the previous owl story, only this time, he’s woken up during the day by a squirrel eating nuts.  The owl cannot get back to sleep, so he decides to explore the woods in the daytime.  While his mother tells him to go back to sleep, of course, he ignores her and head out on his own.  He soon finds in the day that things are very busy and very different than they are at night.

He mistakes butterflies for moths and he notices that the flowers are open, the opposite of how they are at night.  She liked the dragonflies, some of which flew backward, and she liked the turtle when he was sunbathing.  When he sees the bear is awake, they talk about how the bear is never able to show the owl a rainbow and the owl is never able to show the bear the moon.

Little Owl’s Day by Divya Srinivasan is a great sequel to the little owl, and it would be great to see him grow up in a bigger and bigger owl.  While there is little to no conflict in these books, they provide kids with a good sense of how the animal kingdom works during the day and at night.

Rating: Quatrain

About the Author:

Check out Divya Srinivasan‘s website.

Just Kids by Patti Smith (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 9 CDs
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Just Kids by Patti Smith, narrated by the author, embraces her naivete and anxiety about her artistic life, particularly her chaotic creative process and her relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.  As a struggling poet, she finds that she was ill-prepared for feeling true hunger or living on the streets, but through a series of kind acts from strangers and eventually friends, she finds her way.  Moving fluidly between photography, art, music, and poetry, Smith demonstrates what it means to be young and on a journey of self-discovery in the 1960s and 1970s.

This is a very honest memoir about life as an artist, and what it means to have a clear vision of what you want from an artistic life.  Mapplethorpe had a clear vision of what he wanted from his art and pursued it relentlessly and with all of his body, even though he also feared the judgment of others.  Smith, on the other hand, knew she wanted to be a poet, but was unable to see for some time that poetry is malleable and can evolve beyond what is expected.

Rather than assess her relationship with Mapplethorpe, Smith focuses on how their tumultuous relationship allowed them to grow as artists — their reciprocal relationship becomes the crux of what it means to be a muse and to have a muse.  Because Smith is a writer, her observational skills are keenly seen in her memoir.  An early pact that these artists make to one another about being the sober one when the other is not, helps to keep both artists on their ultimate creative paths, even if they diverge from one another.

Just Kids by Patti Smith is seductive.  Smith narrates it as she wrote it, with honesty and unconditional love.  While she makes no assessments about her experiences, readers will see how appreciative she is for her luck and her journey, a journey that is ripe with sadness and pain but also joy and happiness.  The life of an artist is difficult and chaotic, but no less fulfilling for those committed to it body and soul.

***The poems at the end are worth waiting for***

Rating: Cinquain

Photo: © Jesse Dittmar

About the Author:

Patti Smith is a writer, performer, and visual artist. She gained recognition in the 1970s for her revolutionary merging of poetry and rock. She has released twelve albums, including Horses, which has been hailed as one of the top one hundred albums of all time by Rolling Stone.

Please visit her Website.

 

Other Reviews:

Unleashing Mr. Darcy by Teri Wilson

Source: Public Library
Paperback, 368 pgs
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Unleashing Mr. Darcy by Teri Wilson takes Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice and creates a modern version that will have readers laughing and shaking their heads in frustration as Elizabeth Scott enters the prestigious world of dog shows, where Donovan Darcy reigns as judge.  Unlike the young ladies of the classic novel, women are able to carve their own futures and hold jobs; they no longer need to rely on finding a husband to be happy.  Elizabeth Scott, however, is even less interested in marriage given that her mother owns a bridal shop and insists on fixing her up with eligible men.  She’s made her way as a teacher at a private high school until one day a student in her class is suspended from the lacrosse team because of his failing mid-term grade.  While suspended from her job, she enters her new pup in a dog show where she meets the drop-dead gorgeous and brooding Donovan Darcy, as well as the Barrows, a couple from England that shows terriers.

Like Austen’s novel, Darcy is prideful and Lizzy is prejudiced, though given her treatment by her employer, readers will understand where her prejudice against the wealthy comes from.  Wilson’s modern Darcy and Lizzy are at odds for much of the novel, and while their miscommunications could be addressed more quickly, there would be far less enjoyable banter between the two.  Moreover, Darcy does focus a great deal on Lizzy’s appearance as a reason for his attraction, which can be disheartening for those who view Darcy as more attracted to Lizzy’s personality, intelligence, and loyalty to family and friends.  Given that this Darcy is known for his professionalism and restraint, it’s fascinating to see how Lizzy’s presence makes him lose control in a number of ways.

Wilson breaks open the fascinating world of dog shows, and its wonderful to see how the arena is governed and how rules are sometimes circumvented by participants.  One of the best scenes of the novel is when Darcy quotes from the breed standard in the ring, and Lizzy takes it the wrong way entirely.  Unleashing Mr. Darcy by Teri Wilson is a fun read and is much better than the Hallmark movie version (though Darcy in that film is very easy on the eyes).

About the Author:

Teri Wilson is a romance novelist for Harlequin Books and contributing writer at HelloGiggles.com. Her most recent book is ALASKAN SANCTUARY, set on a wolf habitat in Alaska. She’s also the author of UNLEASHING MR. DARCY, now a Hallmark Channel Original Movie premiering January 23, 2016. Teri loves books, travel, animals and dancing every day.  Visit her Website.

The Beautiful Possible by Amy Gottlieb

tlc tour hostSource: TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 336 pgs.
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The Beautiful Possible by Amy Gottlieb will immerse readers in the religious fervor of Judaism, which is both beautiful in its confinement and infuriating in its inability to be more flexible. Opening with Maya Kerem reminiscing about her parents, the novel seems as though it’s going to be a love story about her parents, but then, readers are introduced to German Jew Walter Westhaus, whose life is shattered one night by the Nazis in 1938.  The tragedy he experiences in his apartment pushes him into blind action, leaving his homeland to board a boat and travel not to Palestine as he and his fiance dreamed but to Bombay, as he follows a man with a brown felt hat.

“They are alone for four days and their recognizable lives become obliterated, irrelevant.  For both of them, this time is not joyful, but necessary.” (pg. 199 ARC)

Despite the complications and the religious context, the story of Walter is one that is familiar, a man who becomes lost in the face of trauma and who wanders to find meaning in what’s left of his life.  The man with the brown felt hat befriends him among the spices and dreams of a different life for Walter.  He begs Walter to come to America and become a scholar of religion and faith.  This is a friendship held at a distance, a connection that allows Walter to meet Sol Kerem and Rosalie Wachs, with whom he will be connected in the most beautiful and impossible ways — creating a deep love and braided life that is beneath the surface of all that they are.

The poetry of the Torah and the other texts examined in Rabbinical school by Walter and Sol mimic the beautiful relationship between Sol, Rosalie, and Walter, an impossible braid that cannot be broken because if it were, all strength would be lost.  While Gottlieb’s characters are each lost in their own way, when they come together, they find the strength and faith they need to keep going, even when they are miles and countries apart.  Like the intertwined relationships of the novel, Gottlieb weaves in religious texts and rituals in a way that is seamless and artistic, making beautiful the impossible.

“…the secret of these weeks will resound in my bones as private music that only I will be able to hear.” (g. 70 ARC)

The Beautiful Possible by Amy Gottlieb is a rapture where decisions are not analyzed but made, and where love is the driving force of faith.  Even in death, a story can live on, unraveling its intricate and closely held secrets for all to behold.  It’s a mystical take on the average lives we lead and how they compare to the dreams of something more that we harbor in locked places.

Rating: Cinquain

About the Author:

Amy Gottlieb’s fiction and poetry have been published in many literary journals and anthologies, and she is the recipient of fellowships from the Bronx Council on the Arts and the Drisha Institute for Jewish Education. She lives in New York City.

 

 

 

 

 

I’m calling this my A Fiction Book set during WWII.

Little Owl’s Night by Divya Srinivasan

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 32 pgs.
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Little Owl’s Night by Divya Srinivasan is an adorably illustrated book about the forest at night and all of the animals in it.  As many kids are scared of the dark, this book could be a great teaching tool about what animals are active at night.  Little owl is awake and he goes exploring and saying hello to his fellow night animals.  From bunnies to foxes and hedgehogs, Owl is friendly to everyone as he soars above them.

My daughter liked this book because he followed the animals to find out what they were doing, like the possums.  She didn’t like the skunk much, but we did count the fireflies around the turtle and other animals.  Her favorite pages are where the bunny is sleeping to hide from the fox, and she loved the bats.

Little Owl’s Night by Divya Srinivasan is vibrant and dark at the same time, the darker backgrounds make the animals come alive.  Owl is very friendly, even to animals we consider predators.

Rating: Quatrain

About the Author:

Check out Divya Srinivasan‘s website.

Those Girls by Chevy Stevens (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 10 CDs
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Those Girls by Chevy Stevens, narrated by Jorjeana Marie, Emily Woo Zeller, and Nicol Zanzarella, is a dark novel of abuse and its consequences.  The Campbell sisters — Jess, Courtney, and Dani — have lived a downtrodden life in Western Canada, and they try to stay out of the way of their abusive father.  Forced to flee, these teenage girls find a lot more than a life on the run, and the experience they have in small town changes their lives forever.  Stevens has created story that seems sensational and the events a bit convenient, but at its heart there is a strong bond between the sisters that is integral to the story.

There are a lot of frustrating moments in this book, with the girls doing things the reader knows are a bad idea.  Readers will want to slap them silly.  Graphic violence against women can be found in these pages, and a lot of it is tough to take.  Much of the story is told from the point of view of the youngest sister, Jess, who like a true innocent and naive girl, follows her older sisters blindly at times.  She is naive until the worst happens to her, and she has to think like her older sisters to help break them free.  Once free, these girls begin their lives under new names, and readers will think that their story of survival is over … but it isn’t.  Fast-forward 18 years, and the story continues with Skylar, the daughter of one of the girls.

There is a lot of detail in these girls’ movements, particularly as they are going through the abandoned buildings and other locations.  In many ways, the pace of the thriller is bogged down by a lot of these details.  It feels as though the tension is being dragged out on purpose, particularly in the latter half of the novel when Skylar is telling the story.  The older girls are clearly still dealing with PTSD from the trauma, but they also are incredibly naive.  Some of the plot twists are predictable, and the things that the attackers continue to get away with is a little too convenient.

Those Girls by Chevy Stevens, narrated by Jorjeana Marie, Emily Woo Zeller, and Nicol Zanzarella, is a tough read for the graphic violence and the stupidity of the characters, particularly Skylar given what she knows happened to her mother.  This is a little too predictable and sensationalized, but the relationship between the sisters is strong and will hold readers’ interest.  It’s just too bad that Dani’s voice is not heard until the final chapters.

Rating: Couplet

About the Author:

Chevy Stevens grew up on a ranch on Vancouver Island and still calls the island home. For most of her adult life she worked in sales, first as a rep for a giftware company and then as a Realtor. At open houses, waiting between potential buyers, she spent hours scaring herself with thoughts of horrible things that could happen to her. Her most terrifying scenario, which began with being abducted, was the inspiration for STILL MISSING. After six months Chevy sold her house and left real estate so she could finish the book.

Chevy enjoys writing thrillers that allow her to blend her interest in family dynamics with her love of the west coast lifestyle. When she’s not working on her next book, she’s camping and canoeing with her husband and daughter in the local mountains.

Other Reviews:

River House by Sally Keith

Source: Milkweed Editions
Paperback, 96 pgs.
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River House: Poems by Sally Keith is a collection where absence becomes palpable, and it is clear that this is a very personal collection as the narrator’s focal point is the loss of a mother.  Keith lost her mother and this collection will speak to those who are dealing with the depths of grief, or in fact, not dealing with it well.  Grief is one of the most devastating emotions, and it can take months and years to deal with, particularly if the loss is one so central to one’s identity and world.  The river house is a place the family vacationed with their mother, and it’s a place that even being shared with others would not have the same meaning because it was a place filled with the mother who is no longer living.

From 5.

That spring I was in France my mother spent alone
At the house on the river caring for her father who was dying.

At high tide the road in is swallowed, making the house an island.
Hard to describe, but the walls are thin, it isn’t easy getting through storms.

Grief is indeed a storm, with waves of anguish and loss hitting a person at varying intervals, leaving them awash in a sea that is unpredictable and hard to navigate, keeping one’s head up. Within the grief, the narrator is attending workshops and going through the day-to-day of a life without her mother. In “6.,” the poem speaks of life as a journey of “being in another,” and the narrator speaks to Inma about loss, and Inma’s response is that “life is not sad,” leaving the narrator to “feel the effort in her turning.” That effort is twofold, the effort of providing advice Inma knows not to be entirely true and the effort of hiding the grief that can still overwhelm her, even long after the loss has occurred.

Keith’s poems have a powerful quiet, a storm that lies beneath the surface, much like the storm many of us can sense beneath a person’s facade at funerals and wakes — like there is one word that could trigger the worst of it to burst forth in an uncontrollable torrent. In “17.,” the narrator views a collage sent from Inma, pondering how different it is to look at the storm of images, a near disarray made beautiful with life. In many ways, it is the nearest imitation of life that there can be, unlike a single photo or poem that depicts a paused moment of motion.

From 31.

“Between the way things used to be and the way
they were now was a void that couldn’t be crossed.”

River House: Poems by Sally Keith pays homage to the past and recognizes that life continues on past the traumatic moments of our lives. It doesn’t mean that those lives did not matter, it just means that how they mattered is not as visually present as it used to be.

Rating: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Sally Keith is the author of two previous collections of poetry: Design, winner of the 2000 Colorado Prize for Poetry, and Dwelling Song, winner of the University of Georgia’s Contemporary Poetry Series competition. Her poems have appeared in Colorado Review, A Public Space, Gulf Coast, New England Review, and elsewhere. Keith teaches at George Mason University and lives in Washington, DC.

 

 

Octopus Alone by Divya Srinivasan

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 40 pgs.
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Octopus Alone by Divya Srinivasan is a cute story about an octopus who lives in a cave alone.  Sea horses are curious about her, but she likes her solitary life and changes color to escape.  Using camouflage, she is able to see life as it is in the coral reef while she’s hidden from scrutiny.  She’s a shy octopus, but she’s fascinated by the activities of her neighbors.  The octopus, however, also appreciates her privacy.

This underwater world is colorful, but it’s also busy. She wants something a little less busy and finds herself a new home beyond the reef.  When a whale appears and breaches in song, she’s fascinated and remembers the antics of the sea horses as they danced in the reef.  She finds that she misses her old life and her old home.  She’s come to appreciate all that she had, even if there were times when she wanted to be alone.

Octopus Alone by Divya Srinivasan is an engaging story for young readers, teaching them that it is okay to want to be alone sometimes.  It also teaches them about different sea creatures and how to appreciate what they have before it is gone.

Rating: Quatrain

About the Author:

Check out Divya Srinivasan‘s website.

M Train by Patti Smith (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 6 CDs
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M Train by Patti Smith, narrated by the author, is a poetic and meandering memoir that illustrates how the writing life can not only be rich with inspiration but also frustratingly slow and difficult.  Smith spends much of her time drinking black coffee in different cafes, and as she interacts with those she meets and in her projects, she is still holding on to the pain of loss, as her husband passed away too young.  While the loss of her husband is there with her as she rides the subway (there is an M train in New York City that travels between Queens and Manhattan), travels to Tangiers and other foreign locations, it does not take center stage.

Memories drag her daily ruminations into different directions, and these memories are all that are left of those she loves and who have inspired her as a woman, an artist, a poet, and as a person.  She is obsessed with crime dramas and coffee, and her writing is on napkins, in blank pages of books she’s reading (for the upteenth time), and on scraps and in notebooks.

You can see some elements of the memoir online.

Like the dilapidated bungalow she buys on Rockaway beach just before Superstorm Sandy, Smith endures the everyday erosion of life, the waves that threaten to break us and smash us into pieces.  The only testament to our strength is to continue onward and to move forward through our lives chasing our passions and enjoying every moment we are graced with.  Her empty house on Rockaway is where her memories rattle around, emerging only when necessary, allowing her to look back on how much her life has evolved and how much she wants to hold onto as much of it as she can.

The self-narrated M Train by Patti Smith is numbing in the amount of loss in one person’s life, but her life is not that different from that of others who struggle against the tidal wave of loss.  Memory can help us hold onto those we love, but even those are eroded by time.  Many of us have a hard time moving on, and in her memoir, she explores this in depth.

Rating: Quatrain

Photo: © Jesse Dittmar

About the Author:

Patti Smith is a writer, performer, and visual artist. She gained recognition in the 1970s for her revolutionary merging of poetry and rock. She has released twelve albums, including Horses, which has been hailed as one of the top one hundred albums of all time by Rolling Stone.

Please visit her Website.

 

 

Buddha in a Birdcage and Other Poems by Betty Oliver

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 64 pgs.
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Buddha in a Birdcage and Other Poems by Betty Oliver is a collection of poems and photos of her mixed media art, which was published posthumously by the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts where she once taught.  The executor of her estate Billy Bernstein indicated that she performed her poems, sometimes “fighting her way out of a giant paper bag.”  In the Foreword, Stuart Kestenbaum says, “Reading these poems you may not be able to see Betty fighting her way out to begin to speak, but you will feel the power — and the need to speak — that she brought to this work.” (pg. 1) In many cases, this is true. You can imagine her up on a stage struggling through a paper bag, trying to get those words out. Some of these poems have lines that repeat, and it is almost like there is so much passion behind them that the voice of the poem stutters.

Untitled (pg. 11)

The bear’s purple gutted chest
gave off steam suggesting life
he looked stunned not dead
the men still high from his blood
pranced and preened by the pick up truck
I went closer to look
the heat from his cooling heart
met my gaze.

Her artwork often involves the use of paper in unusual ways, and like her art, these poems are unusual. Her verse is at times playful, but also stern in its criticism of how the world operates or is expected to operate. She’s interested in providing readers with a new perspective on the ordinary, and she holds nature as sacred and tangible. Living on a dairy farm, she had a very close knowledge of milking cows, and what jobs men were expected to do every day. In “Fenceposts,” she talks about how men use posthole diggers and women do not, and how in her family, she has held onto her father’s posthole digger as her mother held onto her father’s twenty-two pistol.

From her time on a dairy farm to her moments in New York City, Oliver’s poems are moments in time that recall things from her past and remind her about the ephemeral nature life, especially when she falls ill. Buddha in a Birdcage and Other Poems by Betty Oliver offers readers just a little of Oliver’s work, and what’s here can seem unfinished at times, but overall, her work is about our moments in time and the thought we do or don’t give them as we live them.

Rating: Tercet

About the Poet:

Betty was truly a multi-media artist. Her visual art was focused on sculpture incorporating paper, paper pulp, and found objects. Though born, raised and perhaps haunted by her childhood in Eastern Virginia, she eventually elected to make New York her home, establishing a home and studio in upper Manhattan and channeling the vibrant texture and rhythms of the city and her neighborhood into her life and work. In a sense, the city became her pallet. She incorporated all manner of discarded and found objects into her art. Old phone books, calendars, Chinatown boxes, newspapers and jigsaw puzzles all were processed into her creative output of sculpture, paintings and photos.

Around 1990 she began to write and perform poetry, and created a powerful body of written work. As a poet, Betty was an engaging and compelling performer, often beginning readings by fighting her way out of a giant paper bag. As in her visual work, her writing echoes the many voices of her experience. A scream from the sidewalk on 110th Street, an impassioned plea to a lover, a strident declaration from the pulpit all resonate with truth, soul, and authenticity.

Betty was a very effective and sought after teacher and led many classes and workshops primarily at Penland School of Craft in the mountains of North Carolina, and Haystack Mountain School of Craft on the Maine coast. The book will be marketed by these schools and any profits will be given to the scholarship funds of these two schools.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bone Map by Sara Eliza Johnson

Source: Milkweed Editions
Paperback, 96 pgs.
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Bone Map by Sara Eliza Johnson, 2013 Winner of National Poetry Series, is visceral and raw, filled with a great deal of tactile and violent imagery as well as traumatic moments that meld into regenerative water-based forces.  These poems reflect the most basic human needs for shelter, nourishment, and survival, and in these dark images, Johnson reveals a stunning beauty in that underbelly, which many often ignore or avoid.

The collection opens with “Fable,” allowing Johnson to establish the readers expectations that her verse will not be straightforward, but subtle and more instinctual.  “In the forest, the owl releases a boneless cry,” the narrator begins, hearing “your bones/singing into mine.”  A father is observed with his son in the square of a city before a war begins, and he is blissfully unaware of “what his hands will be made to do/to other men.”  However, the boy is the final comment from the narrator, a symbol of innocence and hope that can change the future.

The collection’s title demonstrates how detailed the poems will be, creating a bone map (a visual representation of an excavation site) to understand what has come before.  Like in “Deer Rub” when “the rain scratches at the deer’s coat//as if trying to get inside,” Johnson’s lines bore into the reader’s mind to create vivid and unsettling images.  Readers are forced to watch, to wash “their antlers of blood,” forcing themselves to recognize their transformation into a less “innocent” man or woman and accept those base natures that have children carrying knives.  More than once, Johnson calls the readers attention to a foreignness entering something untouched, like the “tender-rooted flowers/inside the belly of the horse” in “As the Sickle Moon Guts a Cloud.”

In the darkness and uncertainty of the forest, Johnson reveals the devastation of man, but also the unmovable force of nature to encroach where it isn’t wanted.  Bone Map by Sara Eliza Johnson, 2013 Winner of National Poetry Series, is a journey that readers will want to repeat to fully perceive all of Johnson’s subtleties.

Rating: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Sara Eliza Johnson‘s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Boston Review, Ninth Letter, New England Review, Best New Poets 2009, Crab Orchard Review, Pleiades, Meridian, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in poetry, a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, a Winter Fellowship from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, a work-study scholarship to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and an Academy of American Poets Prize from the University of Utah, where she is PhD student in the Literature & Creative Writing program. Her first book, Bone Map (Milkweed Editions, 2014), was selected for the 2013 National Poetry Series.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 48 pgs
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Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds, is a book I picked up to read with my daughter because I love finding new poetry books to read with her.  I want her to at least appreciate poetry, even if she doesn’t love it as much as I do later on in life.  Although this says its a year of haiku for boys, I think even girls can appreciate these short poems and the seasons they represent.  My daughter participates in some of the same activities as boys, such as flying kites and bike riding, and I’m sure when she grows older, she’ll be climbing trees and taking other adventures.

The illustrations are great, very simply drawn and colored, reflecting the poems themselves in their obvious and fun witticisms.  In one of the first haikus, a young boy is flying a kite, but he’s engaged in a game of tug-of-war, and he’s not winning.  I bet you can guess who is.  These poems speak to the imagination of children, like boys making their bikes sound like motorcycles by putting baseball cards and other objects in their wheels.  These boys are imaginative and curious, and they take on anything that comes their way.  It’s hard to imagine them ever being bored.

The wind and I play
tug-of-war with my new kite.
The wind is winning.

Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds, is a wonderful collection of poems for boys and girls.  Not only are the poems short enough for younger kids to pay attention to them, but they are about subjects that they are familiar with and probably already engage in regularly.

Rating: Cinquain

About the Author:

Bob Raczka loved to draw, especially dinosaurs, cars and airplanes, as a boy. He spent a lot of time making paper airplanes and model rockets. He studied art in college, which came in quite handy while writing a series of art appreciation books, Bob Raczka’s Art Adventures. He also studied advertising, a creative field in which he worked in for more than 25 years. Bob also discovered how much he loved poetry and began writing his own. His message for today’s kids is to make stuff!”