In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A gorgeous treasury of poems

Dear Aunt Debbie,

We are well-fed, well-loved, and well-gifted here in the midwest.  Not so bad to be here while a blizzard rages back home, too.

Christmas brought us some excellent books.  I took the opportunity to buy Eleanor several library favorites: In Our Mothers' House and The Keeping Quilt; Tell Me a Mitzi and Tell Me A Trudy; and Flotsam.  On your recommendation, I also tracked down a copy of Young Guinevere, which is an immediate hit with Eleanor.  I love the depiction of Guinevere in the crazy enchanted forest near her father's castle fighting and then teaming up with a wolf who turns out to be a shape-shifting child, and then doing battle with a giant beast with the head of a serpent, the body of a leopard, and the tail of a lion.  Quite unlike other Arthurian legends I've seen.  Eleanor is, of course, impressed by Guinevere's long auburn hair and silk dresses.  I was nice to talk to Lizzie on Christmas day and hear that those were major details she retained as well....

As for me, I'm two-thirds of the way through The Knife of Never Letting Go, and devouring it in great gulps.  What a book!

One of the surprise gifts of the season came for Eleanor from a family friend.  The Barefoot Book of Classic Poems is a gorgeous anthology of poetry, beautifully chosen and illustrated by Jackie Morris (do you know her?  I'd never heard of her, and now I want to find out more).  It is a rich and varied collection, combining poets and poems you might expect in a children's collection (A.A. Milne, Ogden Nash, Lewis Carroll, Robert Louis Stevenson) and poets who come as a surprise in this setting (Marianne Moore, William Carlos Williams, Sylvia Plath, Rainer Maria Rilke).  The book is organized roughly by the idea of a journey from birth to death, with childhood, nature, animals, love, and war along the way.  Each poem is sumptuously illustrated with landscapes and figures.  Morris's choices are excellent, as is her ordering.  The poems talk to each other: Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "How Do I Love Thee?" faces Shakespeare's "Sonnet 18" ("Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?"), as lovers clasp hands across the page break.  She's a gifted editor, and artist.  I want to read a poem every night, and give this book to all kinds of people now.  How often do you get to watch your father-in-law read your almost-4-year old "Jabberwocky" on one night and "The Tyger" on the next?

Love, Annie


  1. So glad that you like the Classic Poems book. I am working on nursery rhymes now and love their anarchic madness.

  2. I just put Classic Poems on my amazon wish list. Unfortunately, it's not available at the NYPL. :-(

  3. @ Jackie: We look forward to the nursery rhymes -- thank you for your comment! You do such beautiful work.