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Published: Saturday, 7/28/2007

Books of poetry will fascinate kids of all ages

This is one in a series of periodic reviews written by four area teachers of children s literature. Today s are by Barbara Britsch, a professor of language and literature at Lourdes College.

Poetry, both original and by classic poets, is this month s focus. These new books for all ages include a funny, engaging novel-in-verse for middle readers, a verse biography of Sylvia Plath, and a poetic look at a medieval town. Picture book collections round out the selections.

BEHIND THE MUSEUM DOOR: POEMS TO CELEBRATE THE WONDERS OF MUSEUMS. Selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins. Illustrated by Stacey Dressen-McQueen. Abrams. $16.95. Ages 7-12. This picture book does more than present objects in a museum, such as a suit of armor, a mummy, or paintings. It recreates the museum experience for younger visitors. Poems titled Museum Field Trip and Museum Farewell celebrate these wondrous spaces. Poems about an Indian girl s tiny moccasins, Clay, and Wheels stir imaginations about ancient objects. Child-friendly illustrations enhance a museum s many cultures.

ANIMAL POEMS. By Valerie Worth. Pictures by Steve Jenkins. Farrar Straus Giroux. $17. Ages 12-16. Steve Jenkins cut-paper collage illustrations strikingly enhance Valerie Worth s poetic snapshots of 23 animals, including the snail, elephant, mole, and camel, who can afford to be ugly/And ungainly, to stand/About munching and belching/Like smug old maids. The wasp is a sharp flake of/Night, let loose/in daylight. Gorilla is pictured as a mighty beast munching celery.

LANGSTON HUGHES. By Langston Hughes. Edited by Arnold Rampersand and David Roessel. Illustrated by Benny Andrews. Sterling Publishing Co., $14.95. Ages 9-12.

This combination of classic poems about the African-American experience and vibrant illustrations by an award-winning artist is a winner. Each poem, on one page with accompanying art, has a note about the poem s background. Hughes poem The Negro Speaks Of Rivers faces a full-page spread of a man wearing both tribal dress and overalls, and holding both a spear and a hoe. A fine tribute to a great American poet.

SUMMERHOUSE TIME. By Eileen Spinelli. Illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff. Knopf. $12.99. Ages 9-12.

August is the best time of the year for Sophie her large extended family gathers at the same pink beach cottage. Days are full of sun, sand, ice cream, writing to the New Boy she met at home, her cat Orange and her favorite cousin Colleen. Short, easy-to-read poems in open verse, much like dialogue, take us through the summer with Sophie s delights and a few puzzling events. An absolute treasure and perfect summer read.

GOOD MASTERS! SWEET LADIES! By Laura Amy Schultz. Illustrated by Robert Byrd. Candlewick Press. $19.99. Ages 12 and up.

The folk who people an imaginary medieval village in 1255 each have their voice in this collection of poems about their lives. We meet Edgar, the falconer s son; Lowdy, the varlet s child; Taggot, the blacksmith s daughter; Hugo, the lord s nephew, and more. A few inserted prose pages give historical background. It is all enhanced by charming illuminations. This was written as monologues to be performed. Teacher alert!

YOUR OWN, SYLVIA: A VERSE PORTRAIT OF SYLVIA PLATH. By Stephanie Hemphill. Knopf. $15.99. Ages 16 and up.

Sylvia Plath is remembered for a dark, passionate life and for poetry that opens the human heart. Poet Hemphill recounts that life in original poems that illuminate Plath s journey through the stages of childhood, young woman, wife, and young mother. Each poem is written as a letter from someone close to Sylvia or in the style of a Plath poem. Included are biographical footnotes in a non-intrusive style. An absorbing life story to savor.



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