Two concrete poetry books

Sometimes it is much easier to be on the listening end than the reading end (especially if you can't read much yet). The dear boys (6 and 3) listened with rapt attention to the two books of poetry I read them last night, oohing and awing and laughing and pointing out details. My eyes got crosseder and crosseder as I tried to translate the shape-making words into coherency. The two books were

Sidman, Joyce. Meow Ruff: A Story in Concrete Poetry. Illustrated by Michelle Berg. Houghton Mifflin, 2006


J. Patrick Lewis Doodle Dandies: Poems That Take Shape.Illustrated by Lisa Desimini. Simon & Schuster 1998

Both books are concrete poetry--words were used to make the shapes of the things being written about -- in Meow Ruff, for instance, clouds are white puffy word clumps (changing to gray), in Doodle Dandies, a lady walking her dachshund is holding a dachshund shaped word cluster on a leash. The kids eat this up, but it sure is hard on the reader, especially when the words are really close together...Meow Ruff especially took great concentration, so this is a bad bad book for the dim lighting and tired eyes of bedtime unless you have it memorized.

Of the two, I much preferred Meow Ruff, which tells the story of a kitten and dog who meet outside one day. They are enemies at first, but become friends when rain forces them to share the shelter of a picnic table. I like books with a coherent narrative and character development, which this book delivers as much as a picture book in snippets of unrhyming, descriptive verse can. The pictures are charming too. The words were fun to speak out loud -- the paved road, for instance, is "tramped on not lawn much trod bubble gum crack-filled Anthill hard flat welcome mat brick thick oil slick blown sand not land" (total aside--my older boy picked up at school that Queen song that goes "We will we will rock you... " and has been singing it incessantly which effected my reading of this. Sigh). In short, there were many engaging details in both picture and text, and the boys wanted to hear it over again immediately.

They didn't. We turned next to Doodle Dandies. This one was a tad disappointing. The only theme of the verses was that they made shapes (but not all of them were really good independent shapes--sometimes the words were stuck on top of existing pictures). It was somewhat disjointing to bounce from tigers and butterflies to baseballs and synchronized swimmers (although so few children's poems feature synchronized swimmers that perhaps some extra points are warranted). The good poem pictures were diverting (I liked the giraffe with legs made of "s t i l t s", but several left me cold. The illustrations are somewhat scattered as well, with realistic pictures of the natural world next to cartoonish images.

Not a patch on Douglas Florian, I say.

For more Joyce Sidman books of poetry, check out this post at Blue Rose Girls from last November with part 2 here. This was my first book of hers, the only one our library has, but this will change; even after going graphic book shop the Friends have some money left. (The booksales are worth it, I mutter to myself).

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing about these two books. That dim lighting kills for reading, doesn't it.


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