Welcome to Poetropia, an arena for discussion about children's poetry, specially designed for my graduate Special Topics (LS 5903 Section 22) at Texas Woman's University. Please feel free to visit as often as you like and to give me your reactions to my reactions of the poems and poetry collections I'll share here throughout the Spring 2007 semester. Thank you for your visit. You can leave the door ajar for the next visitor as you leave. Happy reading!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Poetry Break Four: Spring

Poetry Break Four: Spring

Ebensen, Barbara Juster. Illus. by Cheng-Khee Chee, Janice Lee Porter, Mary GrandPré and Stephen Gammel. (2003). “Umbrellas.” In Swing Around the Sun. Minneapolis: Lerner Publishing Group. ISBN 0876141432.

Swing Around the Sun is a book of poems about the four seasons, each season with its own unique perspective, artist and look. The first chapter is on spring and is illustrated by Cheng-Khee Chee. The spring poems are on topics ranging from the sea, to the month of March; from the return of the birds who flew south for the winter to the robin, one of the first birds of spring. But the most poignant poem for me is called Umbrellas


Umbrellas bloom
Along our street
Like flowers on a stem.
And almost everyone
I meet
Is holding one of them.

Under my umbrella-top,
Splashing through the town,
I wonder why the tulips
Hold umbrellas

First of all, this simple poem uses a predictable rhyme scheme and the lyrical qualities of the words themselves add a singsong nuance to the poem. Also, even though the meter is definitely regular—its rhythmic cadence adding to the song-like feel of the poem—the lines are not organized accordingly, forcing the reader to peruse the poem aloud to understand the cleverness of its arrangement.

Mechanics aside, it is the metaphor in this poem that really strikes at my heart's chords. In the beginning, the analogy of umbrellas as flowers seems figurative in how they “bloom.” But in the end, it is easy to see the brilliance of the thought of tulips being upside-down umbrellas—and it adds depth to the poem: why do humans shield themselves from something the flowers see as so life-giving and important? It’s ingeniously simple yet incredibly complex and it’s just the kind of question a child might ask—the same sort of parallel a child might innocently, naively and oh so poetically draw.

The illustrations which accompany the spring section of Swing Around the Sun are not really my kind of art. The blurry watercolors are a bit too flue for my colorphile eyes to really appreciate; however, the somber hues and hazy quality do add to the feel of a rainy—and somewhat over-overcast—season.

Reviews of Swing Around the Sun (per Amazon.com):

School Library Journal: Kindergarten-Grade 4-A well-loved collection of seasonal poems, first published in 1965, is revived for a new generation, creating a rich, vibrant reading and viewing experience….The illustrations transcend the standard pastel springs and whitewashed winters….An exceptional marriage of poetry and art that will encourage children to write and illustrate their own seasonal poems, this book has broad appeal and instructional potential across the calendar and curriculum. A must-have for any library.

Booklist: …Each set of illustrations creates a distinct mood as defined by the season and the artist's style. The large pictures interpret the verse with varying degrees of exactness and finesse, but their overall quality and impact are very strong. The rhymed poems are as accessible and appealing as ever

As I mentioned earlier, I believe that most of the poems in Swing Around the Sun—but especially "Umbrellas"—are excellent poems for young children to discover themes. While some children may see spring to be a rainy, droopy, boring season, other children may see it as a time of green and new beginnings; and still others may see it as a combination of both—that the rain only brings out the contrasts in the bountiful palette of spring’s colors.

These poems would be a great introduction into such a discussion—how many people see things differently. Perhaps to some child, summer means lazy days full of swimming and ice cream while others see it as sweaty hard work harvesting summer crops, and still others may see it as that exciting time when they get to go visit a distant relative in a foreign country. Who knows? The children could be encouraged to list what the seasons mean to them and to write similar poems based on those themes.


Post a Comment

<< Home