Forest has a Song, by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater, illustrated by Robbin Gourley

Forest has a Song is a delight, a book of poetry that follows a child’s relationship with the nearby forest through a year, from winter around to winter again. The mood changes from poem to poem, as does the style. The watercolour illustrations depict sometimes only the girl and her dog exploring the woods, and sometimes her brother and parents as well. My favourites were “Song”, from which the title of the book is taken, “Farewell”, the final poem, and oddly, “Bone Pile”, in which she contemplates the last skeletal remains of some forest animal.

Literacy Tip: Reading poetry and nursery rhymes to babies is a fun and easy way to help babies learn the sounds and rhythms of language, even before they begin to use words themselves. There are many rhyming books that have simple, bouncing rhymes and bright pictures. Remember Dr. Seuss’s Hop on Pop or the Berenstains’ Inside, Outside, Upside Down? Traditional nursery rhymes are another source of poetry for young children. Sheree Fitch is known for her poetry for older kids, but she has also written books for babies, such as Kisses, Kisses, Baby-O. Ook’s favourite poetry to read to children, even babies, is by A.A. Milne. His two books of children’s poetry, When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six, are also available in one volume as The World of Christopher Robin. Even when children don’t know what the words mean, the sounds are beautiful, and as they grow older listening to the poetry, they begin to learn new words from the context.

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Tilt, by Ellen Hopkins

Guest Review by Kayla N.

Tilt is a poetic book by Ellen Hopkins. It is like poetry, but at a new level. The plot of this book is for three teenagers to somehow reconnect with their families and friends. They realize the values of a relationship, the hard way or easy way.

When Mikayla swears up and down that she is in love with some Dylan guy, reality soon kicks in when an unexpected surprise stirs the relationship.

Shane has just come out and is looking for new love. When he meets the man of his dreams, he soon discovers more in life, but with a fatal sickness in the family, how will Shane grip his sanity.

If you know what a normal, ordinary young girl is like, then you must have met someone like Harley. She is willing to exchange her personality with someone she completely isn’t in return. She’s willing to go high lengths to get what she wants.

Three stories combined in a story telling type of poetry. But what does it take to set things straight with their families? You will have to read the book to find out. And it can be checked out at the Dorchester Public Library.

Poetry for April

April is poetry month, so this month’s featured books are poetry. Two have a local connection.

The Essential Richard Outram is a selection of poems, some of which were published previously and some of which appear in print for the first time. Outram has been called “a poet’s poet”. The back cover describes his work as “by turns bawdy and decorous, sensual and ascetic”. The collection was edited by Amanda Jernigan, a scholar who lived for a time in Sackville.

Looking into Trees, by the late Douglas Lochhead, illustrated with black and white details from paintings by the Sackville poet’s brother Kenneth Lochhead, takes as its overarching theme memory without regret and joy in the present moment. Reflective, written in old age, the poems collected here still look out at life in a mood of celebration.

Voices in the Waterfall by Cree poet Beth Cuthand is, like Lochhead’s Looking into Trees, divided into four linked sections, each section loosely linked in theme or tone, providing structure to the greater whole.

This is only a selection of the poetry in the library. Over on the children’s side, we have poetry by A.A. Milne, Sheree Fitch, Shel Silverstein, and many more. Come explore!

Board Books!

Just what is a board book? Board books are books for babies and toddlers. Rather than being printed on paper, they’re manufactured of thick, glossy cardboard, so that tiny hands can’t tear the pages as they help you to read. The stories are usually short and appropriate for toddlers, with many pictures. Even if your baby isn’t ready for the story yet, sitting down every evening with a book is a great way to wind down before bedtime. Looking at the pictures and talking about them to your baby helps him or her to develop language and to begin a long, happy relationship with books. Even if all the “reading” involved is you saying, “Look, that’s a dog. Woof! Woof! And there’s a cat. What does a cat say? Mew!” the book is opening up a new world for Baby. Sometimes regular picture books are published in special board book editions, too. A few of Ook’s favourite board books in our library are George and the Dragon, by Chris Wormell, the story of a dragon, a kidnapped princess, and a mouse who just wants to borrow some sugar, Al Perkins’ bouncy rhyming book for babies Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb, and Rosemary Wells’ lovely Read to your Bunny, also written in verse. All of these are great stories to share with your pre-schooler, for both the words and the art.

A.A. Milne: The World of Christopher Robin

April is poetry month, and at the library, we’re making our poetry evening an annual event. This is a time for poetry lovers of all ages to come together and share their favourite poems. Ook will probably be having a representative read from one of his favourite poets, A. A. Milne.

Milne, of course, is the author of Winnie-the-Pooh. (Banish all thoughts of Disney from your minds and come to the library to sign out the REAL Pooh.) He also wrote two books of poetry for children, When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six. These have been published in one volume as The World of Christopher Robin, a companion to The World of Pooh, which contains both Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner.

Milne wrote to be read aloud to children, and you should do so. Don’t wait until they’re in school. Start with your wee ones. Even if the meaning of the words is lost on them, even if they’re not saying anything but, “Muhmuhmuhbah,” themselves yet, the rhythm of language and the patterns of the words are sinking deep into those tiny brains, preparing them for when they start to talk. Poetry is one of the most enjoyable ways I can think of to share time and language with your baby. Milne is a master. No missed rhythms or awkwardly-forced rhymes here to make your tongue stumble (except for comic effect).

These aren’t sleepy little lullabies either. Some capture beautifully a child’s perspective on the world. Some do so with affectionate irony. Some tell stories. All paint wonderful word-pictures in imaginations young and old, complemented by Ernest H. Shepard’s line drawings.

The library board has recently purchased a copy of The World of Christopher Robin. We don’t have it on our shelves yet, but it should be here (it is hoped) by our poetry evening. And if not, Ook will make sure someone brings a copy from home. The hard part will be deciding which poem to read.