Tag Archives: poetry

PPBF – Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me

Happy Book Birthday to today’s Perfect Picture Book! While all book birthdays are happy occasions, today’s book birthday is particularly special as we celebrate the pairing of an award-winning children’s author and poet hailing from the United States with a preeminent illustrator hailing from Iran. Thanks to the generosity of the publisher, Tiny Owl Publishing, I received an advance copy that I’ve read and reread, including to my own pup (he loved it, too!).

Thinker_9781910328330-768x1074Title: Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me

Written By: Eloise Greenfield

Illustrated By: Ehsan Abdollahi

Publisher/date: Tiny Owl Publishing/April 2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: dogs; poetry; communication; #WNDB

Opening:

Naming Me

They brought me from the neighbour’s house

and put me on the floor,

they talked about their love for me,

and I thought, “More! More! More!”

Brief Synopsis: A collection of discreet poems that tells the story of Thinker, a dog who writes and recites poetry, and Jace, a young poet, as the pair bond over poetry and ultimately enjoy a memorable Pets Day at school.

Links to Resources:

  • Can your pet talk? Explore the different ways animals communicate;
  • Enjoy more dog-themed poetry;
  • Follow Greenfield’s lead and write “a poem or two”;
  • Although I’ve never met a poetry-writing dog, some dogs enjoy being read to, including therapy dogs who visit libraries and encourage children to read aloud to them. Learn more about library dogs;
  • Make tissue-paper collages, similar to those created by Abdollahi.

Why I Like this Book:

Told in a series of 16 free verse and rhymed poems, primarily from the point of view of Thinker, Thinker explores what it means to be part of a family and be appreciated for one’s talents within that family, and how we can share our unique talents with the wider community, too.

Thinker is an engaging story with a kid-relatable problem: Jace doesn’t want his poetic dog to show off his unique skills in school because Jace doesn’t want other children to consider him weird. But being quiet is difficult for Thinker. He questions,

Who am I, if I’m
not myself?
Who am I?

Only by being himself and sharing the poetry in his heart is Thinker happy. Indeed, who are we, if we can’t be ourselves and express the joy and music in our hearts, in our own unique ways, too. Jace learns this important lesson. He also realizes that others admire Thinker’s poetry and that other pets have unique talents. But you’ll have to read Thinker to discover what those talents are.

14-1024x656

Ehsan Abdollahi from Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me

Thinker also celebrates communication: the cross-species communication of the two poetry-loving friends and the cross-cultural communication between the poet’s words and the illustrator’s images. United by a love of children’s literature, the renowned American poet Greenfield shares her lyrical words and the talented Iranian illustrator Abdollahi shares his colorful, handmade, hand-coloured collaged illustrations to create a wonderful reading experience that owes its beauty to the unique talents of its creators.  Thinker’s smaller, just-right-for-younger-hands size will appeal to kids. The retro feel of the illustrations is an additional plus, especially as Thinker features a family of color, living  an everyday life with a twist – a poetic dog in their home.

A Note about Craft:

Greenfield includes poems in Thinker that switch between the points of view of Thinker and Jace. In “Two Poets Talking”, Jace and Thinker even hold a conversation through their poetry.

Greenfield includes many free verse poems and also some that rhyme.  There’s a short Haiku and the 89-year young poet even ends Thinker with “Thinker’s Rap.” I hope when I reach Greenfield’s age, I’m still writing and embracing new forms of expression.

Greenfield is the author of 47 books for children, and has received many awards, including the 2018 Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement and the Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children from the National Council of Teachers of English. Read Greenfield’s essay  about how Thinker began. See also a 2007 interview by Don Tate in The Brown Bookshelf.

Eloise_collage-600x600

         Eloise Greenfield by Ehsan Abdollahi

Abdollahi is a noted Iranian illustrator, who illustrated, among other works, When I Coloured in the World (Ahmadreza Ahmadi, Tiny Owl Publishing, 2015) and A Bottle of Happiness (Pippa Goodheart, Tiny Owl Publishing, 2017). Read an interview with him here.

Thinker is not yet available in the US, but you can order it from the Book Depository, that ships for free worldwide.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – A Rainbow in My Pocket

Continuing the celebration of poetry for National Poetry Month, I’m so happy to feature a poetic picture book that was published April 2016 in English and that I received from the publisher when I visited London last month. Poem in Your Pocket Day is coming up on April 26th (as I was reminded when I visited the poets.org website and checked out their 30 ways to celebrate national poetry month). You’ll see below that the young girl in today’s Perfect Picture Book is set to celebrate – writing a poem each day to keep in her pocket.

9781910328125-768x767Title: A Rainbow in My Pocket

Written By: Ali Seidabadi

Illustrated By: Hoda Haddadi

Translated By: Azita Rassi

Publisher/date: Tiny Owl Publishing Ltd/ 2016 (first published in Persian, Ofogh Publications/2007)

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: poetry; #ReadYourWorld; curiosity

Opening:

If you can’t
Fit the Rainbow
In your pocket,
Instead
Make your dreams
So big
You can put
What you like
Inside them!

I’ll write
My dreams,
My wishes,
And my thoughts
On a small piece of paper
And put it in my pocket.
I feel the rainbow
Rising from my pocket.

Brief Synopsis: A young girl shares her observations, hopes, and dreams by writing a poem each day and storing the paper in her pocket.

Links to Resources:

  • Discover Iran, home of the author and illustrator;
  • Write about or draw a picture of something you like or wish to have or do;
  • Keep a journal to write down your thoughts each day;
  • View the book trailer here.

Why I Like this Book:

A Rainbow in My Pocket is a happy, hopeful collection of whimsical observations about the little things in life, questions about nature, and musings about more universal themes. The young, unnamed narrator records her of-the-moment thoughts each day and shares them as distinct free-verse poems with the reader. They range from the everyday experience of waiting for a favorite dress to be washed, dried and ready to wear, dreaming about a hat her mother hasn’t bought her yet, to wondering why ants “queue in such a neat line.” Similarly, she wonders why the sky is blue, as a bird “in a smoky city” answers, “why isn’t the sky blue?”

Like curious young children everywhere, the narrator’s mind flits between small, everyday observations to more thought-provoking ideas. I couldn’t help thinking of that phrase, “out of the mouths of babes” as I read,

I wish people
Would talk using only nice words –
Poetry,
Songs,
Not use harsh words
That prod
And poke you.

I think all of us share this wish, as we encourage our children to let their minds wander, to ponder and question both everyday happenings and big, universal ideas, and to hope for a future as magical as a rainbow following a rain shower.

Seidabadi’s short, lyrical verses are paired well with Haddadi’s colorfully dreamy, mixed- media collages. Haddadi leaves plenty of white space, too, to let readers’ minds wander and wonder.

2016_dg_a-rainbow-in-my-pocket

Interior spread from the text, as reproduced in Mirrors, Windows, Doors

A Note about Craft:

Seidabadi wrote A Rainbow in My Pocket from the first-person point of view. The narrator remains nameless, and even Haddadi’s evocative illustrations give no indication of her exact age or location. This combination, I believe, enables readers and listeners to share in the narrator’s thoughts, and, perhaps let their minds wander among ideas big and small. Likewise, there is no plot, per se. There is, however, movement among ideas, and between everyday questions & bigger picture dreams.

An End Note introduces the Iranian author and illustrator to Western readers.

See also an interview with Haddadi here, and view more illustrations on her Facebook page. In addition to other awards and recognition, Haddadi won the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award 2017 for best illustration of a picture book in the North American market for Drummer Girl, by Hiba Masood; illustrated by Hoda Hadadi (Daybreak Press, 2017).

Read an interview with Seidabadi here, a chat with him here, and visit his Facebook page.

Discover more books published by Tiny Owl Publishing Ltd, “an independent publishing company committed to producing beautiful, original books for children”, founded on the “belief that stories act as bridges – providing pathways to new experiences whilst connecting us to here and there”. They’ve published a number of books by Iranian authors and/or illustrators, including When I Coloured in the World, Alive Again,  A Bottle of Happinessand The Drum.

While not currently available in US book shops, A Rainbow in My Pocket is available through the Book Depository which ships for free to the US and around the world.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – The Drum

The moon and stars aligned last Saturday, and I was in London for the launch of today’s Perfect Picture Book. What fun to check out New Beacon Books, a north London bookstore that has specialized in African and Caribbean literature since 1966, and participate in the lively book launch, featuring dancing, stomping and clapping.

DWePGqhXkAAIwmU-1024x1005Title: The Drum

Written By: Ken Wilson-Max

Illustrated By: Catell Ronca

Publisher/date: Tiny Owl Publishing/2018

Suitable for Ages: 2-5

Themes/Topics: music; motion; diversity; poetry; self-expression

Opening:

This is the drum

This is the beat

Brief Synopsis: A diverse group of children enjoys moving to the beat of a drum.

Links to Resources:

  • Make a drum;
  • Listen to drum music;
  • Read about a young Cuban girl who wanted to play the drums in Margarita Engle’s Drum Dream Girl – music, especially the beat of drums, really is universal!

Why I Like this Book:

The drum takes center stage in the first in the Children Music Life series of picture books designed to get children moving and feeling the musical beat. With its diverse cast of characters, The Drum presents a lively celebration of how music unites peoples of different races, ethnicities, genders, ages and socioeconomic status.

I think children and adults will enjoy hearing, over and over again (as young children often ask for beloved books), Wilson-Max’s song-like text and following his prompts to move to the music. As I experienced at the book launch, even very young children were quick to repeat his poetic text, word for word, as they followed the prompts to clap hands, stomp feet, shake shoulders, and move their bodies. Best of all, it was clear that the message to “feel the drum in your heart” was heeded. I could easily envision kids, and maybe some adults, leaving the launch, or finishing a reading, and being inspired to beat on whatever drum-like surface they could find or make.

new-beacon-4-150x150

Wilson-Max at the book launch

Ronca’s bright illustrations that seem to jump off the pages are the perfect accompaniment to Wilson-Max’s staccato text. With minimal backgrounds and a mixture of clothing styles, including many fabrics that could be African or Caribbean inspired, the focus is on the smiling faces and moving bodies of the diverse participants. As Ronca stated in a recent interview, “I wanted the colours to communicate life and make the visuals as striking as possible.” I think you’ll agree that she succeeded.

12-1024x512

Scene from The Drum

The Drum is a great addition to home, classroom and nursery school bookshelves, especially for those desiring to build a diverse library or teach listening and basic musical skills.

A Note about Craft:

With its low word count (about 80 words total), Wilson-Max’s staccato, poetic text mimics the beats of a drum and encourages repetition. This suits the subject matter of The Drum well, I believe, and brought to mind Baptiste Paul’s poetic language in The Field that, to my mind, mimicked the back and forth action of a soccer match. In addition, Wilson-Max’s short, rhythmic language is perfect for younger listeners, like those in nursery schools or music appreciation classes. It’s clear that he tailored his words not just to the subject matter but also to the young ages of his target listeners.

Visit Wilson-Max’s about.me site to learn more about him. See more of Ronca’s artwork on her website.

Tiny Owl Publishing Ltd  is an independent publishing company in the UK “committed to producing beautiful, original books for children”, and founded on the “belief that stories act as bridges – providing pathways to new experiences whilst connecting us to here and there.”

While not currently available in US book shops, The Drum is available through the Book Depository, which ships for free to the US and around the world.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – Somos como las nubes, We Are Like the Clouds

While I often gravitate towards books about migration, I feel particularly drawn to the topic now, as I am in the process of a complicated, multi-phase move that has lasted almost two months – so far! And while I have not fled a violent or poverty-stricken situation, I, too, have hopes that this next, hopefully-forever home will be better. As I choose what to bring, and what to donate, I can’t help but wonder how those who truly flee must feel, as they leave behind everything, or close to everything, and take only what they can carry. To those brave souls, the subject of today’s Perfect Picture Book:

9781554988501_1024x1024Title: Somos como las nubes We Are Like the Clouds

Written By: Jorge Argueta

Pictures By: Alfonso Ruano

Translated By: Elisa Amado

Publisher/date: Groundwood Books (House of Anansi Press)/2016

Suitable for Ages: 7-12

Themes/Topics: migration; poetry; bilingual (Spanish/English)

Opening:

Somos como las nubes

Elefantes, caballos, vaca, cuches,/ flores,/ballenas,/ pericos.

Somos como las nubes.

We Are Like the Clouds

Elephants, horses, cows, pigs,/ flowers,/ whales,/ parakeets.

We are like the clouds.

Brief Synopsis:

In this poetry collection, Argueta explores the hopes and fears that cause young people to leave Central America, the perils of the journey, and the arrival to the United States.

Links to Resources:

  • Argueta compares the young migrants to many animals and aspects of nature. What are you like? Why do you think the young migrants are like clouds?
  • Write a poem describing how you felt when you left somewhere and/or arrived someplace else;
  • Learn about Central America;
  • Learn more about why children flee Central America in a report by Unicef USA.

Why I Like this Book:

Somos como las nubes We Are Like the Clouds is a beautiful collection of poems that explore the feelings of the children who undertake the arduous journey from Central America to the United States, often on their own. In an Author’s Note, Argueta explains that he “wrote these poems based on my experiences of working with these young people in El Salvador as well as in the United States.” It’s clear that Argueta “gets it”. His images and analogies transport the readers, so that they, too, feel as if they’ve undertaken the odyssey that thousands of young migrants have undertaken to flee poverty and violence in search of a better life.

This is a wonderful collection to share in families and classrooms. As an added bonus, the Spanish and English texts face each other, rendering them useful in language classes, too. And while the poems can be read separately, they hang together to capture the experiences of those contemplating the journey, those left behind, the journey itself, and the life for those who make it to the US.

Ruano’s paintings range from realistic renderings of the migrants’ experiences to surrealistic, dream-like images. Many are full- or double-page spreads, drawing readers into the realities of the migrants’ lives.

A Note about Craft:

How does one capture the experiences of child migrants, often traveling alone, fleeing the threat of violence and gangs and/or extreme poverty? These are such difficult topics for adults to comprehend. How can a writer make these experiences accessible to children without causing nightmares or overwhelming fear? One way is to soften the blow via poetry, to utilize lyrical language and analogize to the natural world. By doing so, I think Argueta helps children, and adults, empathize with the young migrants in a way a straight telling of the journey perhaps would not.

Not surprisingly, Somos como las nubes We Are Like the Clouds is published by an independent, Canadian children’s publisher, Groundwood Books. On their website, they state, “we are not afraid of books that are difficult or potentially controversial; and we are particularly committed to publishing books for and about children whose experiences of the world are under-represented elsewhere.” In addition to many other “difficult-topic” books, they published Migrant and Two White Rabbits – both about different aspects of the migrant experience.

9780888999757_p0_v1_s118x1849781554987412_p0_v1_s192x300

 

 

 

 

 

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – Miguel’s Brave Knight: Young Cervantes and His Dream of Don Quixote

My pick for today is not the tale of a refugee nor does it cast a spotlight on a place experiencing conflict. It does, however, shed light on the Spanish-language author equivalent to Shakespeare, and offer hope and insights to those experiencing personal and/or societal conflict or pain.  I hope you agree that it’s a Perfect Picture Book:

MiguelsBraveKnight_mainTitle: Miguel’s Brave Knight: Young Cervantes and His Dream of Don Quixote

Poems Written By: Margarita Engle

Illustrated By: Raúl Colón

Publisher/date: Peachtree Publishers/October 2017

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes/Topics: imagination; poetry; historical fiction; hope; resilience

Opening:

Happiness

When I close my eyes,

I ride up high

on a horse the color of moonrise!

But then I open my eyes,

and all I see is Papá, selling

the last of the horses from his stable—

Brief Synopsis: Through free-verse poetry, the life and dreams of young Miguel Cervantes are explored, offering a clue into what inspired the writing of Don Quixote, the first modern novel.

Links to Resources:

  • Check out the Teacher’s Guide, including a Vocabulary Puzzle Game, Windmill drawing activity, and poetry prompt;
  • An Author’s Note, Illustrator’s Note, Historical Note, Biographical Note, and “Don Quixote, a Cultural Icon” provide context;
  • Create your own windmill;
  • Young Cervantes was a dreamer. What do you imagine when you dream? Who are you and what do you do? Write a poem setting out these ideas (“When I dream…,” or “Sometimes I imagine…”, or, the prompt suggested in the Teacher’s Guide, “In my daydreams, I…”).

Why I Like this Book:

Miguel’s Brave Knight is a beautiful book – both the free verse poems exploring young Cervantes’ fears and dreams and the gorgeous water-colored pen and ink illustrations that accompany the text. While many children may not know firsthand the story of Don Quixote, I think they will be keen to learn more about this seminal book after reading Miguel’s Brave Knight.

In addition, by juxtaposing young Miguel’s family circumstances with his dreams and writing, I think Engle’s poems will speak to children who themselves are experiencing family or societal hardships firsthand. In “Hunger,” Engle writes, They even took our beds and plates./ Where will we sleep?/ How will we eat? Reading these words, I can’t help but picture children living in impoverished households with one or more caregiver incarcerated, those whose parents face deportation, and refugees. Thankfully, Engle also posits in “Comfort,” the spark of a story…/A tale about a brave knight/ who will ride out on/ a strong horse/ and right/ all the wrongs/ of this confusing/ world.

A Note about Craft:

Engle, the Young People’s Poet Laureate, wrote Miguel’s Brave Knight as a series of free verse poems, told from a first-person Point of View. I think this works well for a fictionalized biography (fiction, because Engle shares Cervantes’ thoughts and feelings), especially of an author.

In an Author’s Note, Engle shares that she visited the windmills of Spain as a teen with her family, grew up surrounded by the images of Don Quixote, and “wrote Miguel’s Brave Knight to show how the power of imagination can be a great source of comfort and hope in times of struggle and suffering.” What draws you to write or illustrate a story and what further themes can you pull from that story?

In Reading Picture Books with Children (Charlesbridge, 2015), Megan Dowd Lambert champions the whole book approach, and counsels that everything about a picture book can help tell the story. In Miguel’s Brave Knight, the endpapers are particularly relevant, and readers are treated to an imaginative surprise when they peek under the jacket cover.

Learn more about Margarita Engle and Raúl Colón. See my reviews of Engle’s All the Way to Havana and Bravo!: Poems about Amazing Hispanics.

97816277964229780805098761_p0_v4_s118x184

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – Alive Again

 

Yesterday was National Poetry Day in the UK. What better time to celebrate a picture book by a noted Iranian poet and picture book author that was published in the UK!

cover-alive-again-294x300Title: Alive Again

Written By: Ahmadreza Ahmadi

Illustrated By: Nahid Kazemi

Publisher/date: Tiny Owl Publishing, Ltd/2105 (first published in Persian, Salis Publisher, Tehran, Iran/2013)

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: loss, regeneration, poetry, WNDB, ReadYourWorld, Iran

Opening:

Last night the wind blew the blossom from the trees.

“When blossom goes, does the word ‘blossom’ die?” asked a boy.

“Can there ever be blossom again?”

Brief Synopsis: (from the publisher’s website)

When the blossom disappears, a little boy wonders, will it ever return? And when the rains stop, have they gone forever? This is a story about understanding the world and learning to trust. How do we find that grain of hope that good things might return?

Links to Resources:

  • Discover more about Iran, where the author and illustrator live.
  • Make a list of things, like flowers or migrating animals, that seem to disappear and then reappear.
  • Draw a tree in summer and winter. What’s the same? What’s different?
  • Kazemi uses fabric swatches to make collage illustrations. Try making a bug from photographs in food magazines.

Why I Like this Book:

Alive Again is a deceptively simple book that poses the question of what happens to things when they disappear or cease to happen. Are they gone forever? And if they’re gone, do we still need their names? For instance, if no one travels, do we need the word “journey”? Will that word cease to exist?

Alive Again is a wonderful book to share with children in the “why”, “what if”, questioning phase. I think it’s also a great introduction to discussing seasons or other cyclical events, and, perhaps most importantly, it’s a sympathetic introduction to concepts of loss and holding on to what or who we love.

Kazemi’s collaged artwork pares well with the sparse text. I especially loved the blossoms that reminded me of winged insects or birds and made me wonder about the connections among the plant and animal inhabitants of the natural world.

11698637_865324406854261_7817611382904294293_n-e1447672008740

Illustration from Alive Again, reprinted from Tiny Owl’s website

A Note about Craft:

With his thought-provoking, sparse text, Ahmadi causes the reader to wonder not only about the things that disappear, like the blossom, but also about the boy and his father, the only characters in the story. In an afterward, the publisher reminds us that “it is exactly those gaps in the narrative that leave room for the child’s imagination to fill out the story”. How do we as authors and/or illustrators leave room for children’s imaginations?

Find out more about Ahmadreza Ahmadi here , one of Iran’s “greatest and most famous contemporary poets” and see my review of his book When I Coloured in the World here.9781910328071-150x150

Discover more books published by Tiny Owl Publishing Ltd, “an independent publishing company committed to producing beautiful, original books for children”, founded on the “belief that stories act as bridges – providing pathways to new experiences whilst connecting us to here and there” and publishing a number of books by Iranian authors and illustrators.

While not currently available in US book shops, Alive Again is available through the Book Depository which ships for free to the US.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – Martí’s Song for Freedom/Martí y sus versos por la libertad

I had the pleasure this past March of visiting Cuba, the setting of much of today’s perfect picture book. To prepare for that journey, I read several of the Young People’s Poet Laureate Margarita Engle’s historical novels in verse about that lovely island. It was through Margarita’s work that I first learned about José Martí. I also had the pleasure of meeting both today’s debut author, Emma Otheguy, and her agent, Adriana Domíngez, at the recent New Jersey SCBWI conference and seeing a copy of the book there. To say that I’ve been eagerly awaiting its release is an understatement! Without further ado:

9780892393756_p0_v1_s192x300Title: Martí’s Song for Freedom/Martí y sus versos por la libertad

Written By: Emma Otheguy

Illustrated By: Beatriz Vidal

Text Translated By: Adriana Domínguez

Publisher/date: Children’s Book Press, an imprint of Lee & Low Books Inc/July 2017

Suitable for Ages: 7-12

Themes/Topics: Cuba, biography, poetry, freedom, nature, social justice, bilingual book, #WNDB, #OwnVoices, #debutPB

Opening: 

When José was a young boy,

his father took him to the countryside,

where he listened to the crickets chirp

and the roosters crow.

José bowed to the palmas reales,

the grand royal palms that shaded the path

where he rode his horse.

He chased the river

as it swelled with the rains

and rushed on to the saltwater sea.

José fell in love with his home island, Cuba.

Brief Synopsis: José Martí, a 19th century Cuban poet, writer and political activist, loved nature and fought for the abolishment of slavery and freedom from Spanish rule during his lifetime in Cuba and New York City.

Links to Resources:

  • Discover Cuba, the country of Martí’s birth and death;
  • Martí traveled to the Catskill Mountain region of New York State. Find out more about this forested, natural area near New York City.
  • Take a walk in the woods and write about what you experience and feel.
  • What issue are you passionate or upset about? Think about some ways you could help solve the issue or encourage others to help you bring about change.
  • Write a poem in the style of Martí’s Versos sencillos, his most-famous poem, using Lee & Low’s Activity Guide.
  • An Afterword, Author’s Note, further Excerpts from the Versos sencillos, and a Selected Bibliography accompany the text.

Why I Like this Book:

Debut picture book author Emma Otheguy has written an enlightening biography of a Spanish-language poet that showcases the power of words to bring about positive social change. I especially appreciate that Otheguy highlights Martí’s learning process, how he saw, and abhorred, the treatment of slaves during his Cuban childhood, and how he then went on to fight the Spanish colonial rule that supported slavery.

I also loved learning how the emancipation of slaves during the American Civil War helped shape young Martí’s beliefs and how experiences he had in New York influenced his later writing. I believe that learning from others’ experiences is an important lesson for children, whether it’s learning how to solve an individual problem or how to solve one that affects an entire country or people. That Martí found inspiration in the American fight for emancipation and solace in a natural setting so far from his country of birth are, to me, reasons why cultural interactions are important and why a country that prides itself on its democratic traditions should continue to be welcoming to those who travel here.

While I regrettably am not bilingual, I appreciate that Otheguy has made Martí’s words accessible to those who otherwise couldn’t read them, that Domínguez has translated the English text into Martí’s native tongue, and that Lee & Low has combined the texts in one picture book. To do so, the editors present the lyrical text in verse side by side on the left-side page, with the folk-art illustrations appearing as full-page spreads on the right side. I think this works well for this biography, as the illustrations appear as historic paintings, like one would find in a museum. Two small illustrations, often snippets of nature, appear on each page with text as well, and help carry through the theme of nature as freedom.

spread_3

From Lee & Low’s website

A Note about Craft:

Otheguy writes lyrical free verse text and verses from Martí’s Versos sencillos appear as separate text following her words. By doing so, she has allowed Martí to tell parts of his story in his own words. Otheguy also shows the reader in the first lines what was important to Martí, nature, equality and the freedom exemplified by the swaying of the palms, and carries these themes through the book.

Martí’s Song for Freedom received starred reviews from Booklist, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal. It is a Junior Library Guild Selection.

Visit Emma Otheguy’s website here.

View more of Betriz Vidal’s work here.

Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list provides reviews of picture books by topic. While Susanna is taking a break for the summer, you can still check out the other great picture books featured there!