Tag: poetry (page 1 of 3)

Words With Wings

Words With Wings is the story of Gabby, a girl who no longer seems to fit. She used to fit with her father, but after her parents’ divorce, he doesn’t live with her anymore. She used to fit with her best friend, but since the move, Gabby’s changed schools. Now she’s the new girl, the one often caught daydreaming in class.

Gabby and her father used to imagine all sorts of things together; her best friend understood Gabby. But her mom doesn’t quite: she worries about Gabby’s daydreaming and about how absent-minded Gabby has become. Nikki Grimes (At Jerusalem’s Gate) tells a beautiful story of a young girl whose imagination—once a source of play and delight—becomes a refuge from a world that seems all at once foreign and unpredictable. Told through a series of poems, Words With Wings moves in and out between Gabby’s day-to-day life and her daydreams, allowing us into her imagined worlds where anything is possible.

Words with Wings, by Nikki Grimes | Little Book, Big Story

Those around Gabby seem uncertain about whether her imagination is a gift or an obstacle to be overcome. Gabby wonders about that herself. But as a woman who was once a child like Gabby, and as a mother to children who are also an awful lot like Gabby, let me tell you: there is something beautiful about the way Grimes allows Gabby and her family to wrestle through that. She gives a name to something we don’t often know how to name, and a place for an ability people often consider frivolous. Grimes reminds us that poetry is a part of who we are.


Words With Wings
Nikki Grimes (2013)

Sing a Song of Seasons

Sometimes the way to a good book lies through a bad book—in this case, a picture book I chose for my daughter, beautifully illustrated and filled with poems that compared baby frogs to aborted childhood dreams and April showers to weeping.

Nope.

That was not the book we were looking for.

But I still wanted to give my daughter (new to reading and smitten with poetry) a beautifully illustrated book of nature poems. So I resumed the hunt and successfully brought down Sing a Song of Seasons.

Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year | Little Book, Big Story

There’s a poem for every day in the year in here, gathered from old favorite poets and new favorite poets, and charmingly illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon. These are the poems I thought I’d given my daughter with the first book: delightful, filled with wonder, in no way gloomy or bitter.

Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year | Little Book, Big Story

From Robert Frost to Walter de la Mare, from Christina Rosetti to John Foster, this is a collection that will grow with my daughter, one that will be a lifeline from adulthood back to the childlike joy of finding a bird’s nest or spotting the first daffodil or watching spiders spin. One of my favorite parts of the day is when she appears at my elbow with this giant book and asks brightly, “Mom, can we read our poem for today?”

Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year | Little Book, Big Story

Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each day of the Year
Fiona Waters; Frann Preston-Gannon (2018)

Michael Hague’s Family Easter Treasury

I made it my mission this year to find unusual Easter books, books that play variations of Easter’s main themes rather than hammer out the melody over and over. That is, I went looking for books that don’t recount the events of Holy Week in the usual way.

Michael Hague's Easter Treasury | Little Book, Big Story

We have a number of books that do that and I love them, but reading them repeatedly for the forty days of Lent can deaden the power and beauty of the resurrection story a bit by Easter, so this year, we tried something different: in Lent’s early weeks, we’ve been reading from books like At Jerusalem’s Gate and this one, Michael Hague’s Family Easter Treasury.  We’ve been savoring variations upon that main theme, whetting our appetite for the rich feast of books to come.

This book is similar in style to The Children’s Book of Virtues (also illustrated by Michael Hague). It contains accounts of the Easter story, but they’re tucked into a well-chosen collection of fairy tales, folk tales, poems, hymns and stories that all touch on Easter in some fashion. The stories we’ve read so far have been beautiful—”The Maid of Emmaeus,” especially, and “The Selfish Giant.” We’ve savored them slowly as a part of our homeschool mornings, and they’ve already become a valuable part of our Easter library.

Michael Hague's Easter Treasury | Little Book, Big Story

And Easter is coming! Soon we’ll pull out the old favorites and set this new favorite aside, but right now, this treasury is just right.


Easter Treasury
Michael Hague (1999)

At Jerusalem’s Gate

I finally figured out how to use our public library.

It’s been there for years—I frequented it myself as a child—and I have taken my daughters there semi-regularly since Lydia was a baby. But my approach to checking out books was haphazard at best: throw books that looked interesting in our book bag and sift through them when we got home. Return them a few months overdue, pay fines, and sheepishly avoid the library for a while. Every so often I would reserve a book, forget to pick it up, and sheepishly dodge the library again.

At Jerusalem's Gate, by Nikki Grimes | Little Book, Big Story

Something changed a few months ago, though, when I sat down to the online catalog and reserved every book I had ever bookmarked on Instagram. Every few days after that, I got an email announcing that some new book was in, waiting for me. These were the best books, the ones usually not on the shelves because their hold lists were so long they just moved from drop-box to hold shelf to somebody’s home and so on.

We found The Princess in Black this way. We discovered Mustache Baby. We checked out every available John Hendrix book this way (sorry, Whatcom County John Hendrix fans! We’ll bring them back soon, I promise).  We learned that our library cards max out at seventy-five books, and that our county actually has a pretty respectable Easter selection.

At Jerusalem's Gate, by Nikki Grimes | Little Book, Big Story

You already know how to use your library, I’m sure. I am extremely late to this particular party. But I love this party: we go to the library weekly now, collect our box full of books and go home happy, not having entered the children’s department once. In this baby-and-toddler season of life, that’s a welcome development.

But about those Easter books.

At Jerusalem’s Gate was one of my favorite library finds this Lent, a title I remember from long ago on Aslan’s Library. In a genre where every other book seems to be titled either The Easter Story or What is Easter?, Nikki Grimes gives us something unexpected: a collection of poems that branches off from the familiar story of Easter.

At Jerusalem's Gate, by Nikki Grimes | Little Book, Big Story

Grimes walks the line between Scripture and speculation gracefully: each poem explores some aspect of the story that has caught her attention—the meaning of Judas’ name, the story of Pilate’s wife, Mary’s response to the Crucifixion—while making it clear in each poem’s introduction that these are the author’s thoughts, not canon. She invites the reader into her own musings and expands the world around the well-trod path of the Gospel accounts, reminding us that actual people lived the events of Holy Week—people who wept and wondered and lived the story’s beginning, middle and end.

This book is, obviously, available at our local library, but we loved it so much that I purchased our own copy (sadly, Jerusalem’s Gate is out of print, but you can sometimes find affordable copies on Amazon). It has been a beautiful part of our family’s reading for Lent, and it’s one I’ll look forward to reviving every spring.

At Jerusalem's Gate, by Nikki Grimes | Little Book, Big Story

Footnote

If you aren’t entirely smitten with this book yet, I highly recommend reading Sarah’s review on Aslan’s Library. It’s beautiful and gives a detailed look at some of the poems. You know what? You should read that review anyway, even if you’ve already put the book on hold at your library.


At Jerusalem’s Gate: Poems for Easter
Nikki Grimes; David Frampton (2005)

Psalm 23

Of all the psalms, this one feels most familiar. This is the one I recite to myself when I can’t fall asleep, the one I’ve taught my daughters to recite to themselves when they can’t fall asleep, the one whose images are comforting in an unfluffy way: David talks about The Valley of Death, after all, so this psalm is assurance for very real suffering.

There are a number of good picture book versions of this psalm out there, but none that have made it onto this blog yet. I don’t know exactly why that is, but until now, I returned every one to the library without feeling the need to review it. Barry Moser’s version is different.

Psalm 23, by Barry Moser | Little Book, Big Story

By following a shepherd boy through his day’s work, Moser takes a fairly standard approach to illustrating this psalm, but instead of featuring a Sunday-school David in short bathrobe and sandals, Moser models his shepherd on a young Caribbean boy. Moser’s shepherd wears modern day clothes, squints into the sun, and tends his sheep gently as the text of the psalm follows him from scene to scene.

The Lord is my shepherd
I shall not want.

Putting these familiar words into a fresh setting made me listen closely as I read them to my daughters. It reminded me that the Lord is my shepherd, yes, but he is also their Shepherd. And your Shepherd. And the shepherd of the shepherds tending flocks near the equator. His gentle hand guides and comforts me in trial, but his reach extends even to islands in the Pacific, where the trees are laden not with prickly evergreen boughs but with slender palm leaves. His reach extends further even than that.

Psalm 23, by Barry Moser | Little Book, Big Story

The comfort of Psalm 23 runs deeper, then, when I realize that, though the flock of sheep he tends is vast, our Shepherd cares for us all. He knows not only my name, but yours too, and that of the boy Moser modeled his shepherd on.

That is, I think, why Moser’s Psalm 23 connected with me more deeply than any of the other versions I’ve read. His illustrations are light-filled and beautiful, and they present Psalm 23 as a psalm for all of us, no matter where we live or what we look like. He illuminates the goodness of our Shepherd through the picture of one faithful young boy.

Psalm 23, by Barry Moser | Little Book, Big Story

Psalm 23
Barry Moser (2008)