Kicking Off National Poetry Month
with Julie Larios and Julie Paschkis

h1 April 1st, 2008 by jules

No foolin’! It’s April 1st, and that means it’s National Poetry Month. This makes April one of the best months in the year, in my book, no matter what T.S. Eliot said. I’m here to celebrate today with the new picture book poetry anthology from Julie Larios and Julie Paschkis, Imaginary Menagerie: A Book of Curious Creatures, published by Harcourt this month.

Just check out this swirling, visual delight from Paschkis (used with permission), an illustration which comes straight from this title:

That’s part of “Mermaid,” one of Larios’ many poems celebrating a handful of creatures from a mythological world. You’ll meet a dragon, a centaur, the firebird, a sea serpent, a gargoyle, the naga of seven heads, and much more. Below is Paschkis’ depiction of a cockatrice, whom Larios describes as “a snake-tailed rooster . . . a rooster-headed snake,” who isn’t quite sure if he should crow or he should hiss:

This is one handsome book: On the one hand, you’ve got Paschkis’ radiant, intricately-patterned gouache folk art; on the other, you’ve got Larios’ spare, concise poems with rhythms and imagery which stir the imagination. Larios infuses the poems with a real sense of mystery and reverence, drawing in the reader with what Publishers Weekly called (in their review of the similarly-formatted Yellow Elephant: A Bright Bestiary, 2006) her “near rhymes.” The text and art complement one another quite well, Paschkis even creating vivid, appealing initial letters for each poem, located on the left of each spread with Paschkis’ illustration on the right.

Here’s the poem “Firebird” in its entirety (I don’t have that illustration for you, as I got illustrations from Paschkis herself, and the poem is reprinted here with permission from the publisher. I should have coordinated it so that you could see both image and text, but moving on!)

The book closes with brief information on each creature, its origin, its meaning, and the part of the world from which the creature originated (the firebird from Russian folklore; the phoenix first detailed in the Egyptian Book of the Dead; the naga water deities celebrated in Hindu and Buddhist cultures of Southeast Asia, India, and Malaysia; hobgoblins from folkore of the British Isles, etc.)

Paschkis brings all the creatures together on the end pages in a detailed spread laid out expertly on a rich rust-colored background. You know you’ve got an illustrator oozing with talent when you feel like you could sit and pore over the very end pages for hours.

We’ll close with the title page creature, and many thanks to Julie Paschkis for sharing these illustrations — as well as Harcourt for giving permission to post “Firebird” in its entirety. Happy National Poetry Month!

* * * * * * *

“Firebird” from IMAGINARY MENAGERIE, copyright © 2008 by Julie Larios, posted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Illustrations from IMAGINARY MENAGERIE by Julie Larios, illustrations copyright © 2008 by Julie Paschkis, posted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

17 comments to “Kicking Off National Poetry Month
with Julie Larios and Julie Paschkis”

  1. I don’t know from art, but every time I see it, that gouache thing makes me want to roll around in paint. Gorgeous — GORGEOUS. I don’t know how you haven’t bankrupted yourself buying children’s books, I really don’t. I’d have pages framed on the walls of my house.

    Hm. Suddenly struck by an idea…

  2. Spectacular.

    It occurs to me that this book was a risk. To render imaginary creatures in a way that makes them not ridiculous or pale in the light of reality is a hard thing. But these are truly imaginative, in every sense.

  3. Jules,

    This is a terrific post for the first day of National Poetry Month! I just love Julie Paschkis’s style of illustrating. She’s one of my favorite picture book artists. Her work for IMAGINARY MENAGERIE is gorgeous. I think I like Larios’s poems in this book even better than the ones she wrote for YELLOW ELEPHANT.

    Thanks for posting some of the beautiful illustrations from the book.

  4. What a lovely way to kick off Poetry Month! Poems and pictures, Yay!

  5. Thanks, everyone. Sara, right on.

    Art plus poetry – does it get any better?

    Look at this beautiful thing: I wanted to put it in today’s post, but it didn’t occur to me to ask Paschkis ’til it was way too late in the evening, and I’m not going to post images without permission. But there’s the link. Gorgeous, huh?

  6. On the publisher’s website, you can download a coloring page that matches the endpapers. (I linked to it when I reviewed the book a month or so ago.)

  7. Thanks, Kelly! I didn’t know that and just found it (here). WOOT — thanks for the heads-up. Can’t wait to print that for my girls.

    Here’s Kelly’s review, everyone. Since I’m terminally behind on blog-reading, I’m just now discovering it. What a great post it is, too, full of multi-title goodness.

  8. P.S. Scroll down at the aforementioned link, which Kelly pointed out to us, and you’ll see additional info — curriculum ideas from Larios even. Excellent. I just now caught that.

  9. Those illustrations are so lush and gorgeous, I just want to fall into them! WOW.

  10. Yay! And thanks for the reminder. Larios is totally fab, and we just gave one of the nephews Bright Bestiary over the weekend.

  11. Oh my soul! This is a gorgeous post. That art! Wowza.

  12. […] and striking folk art gouache paintings are a feast for the eyes. I thought TadMack put it well at a recent post about Imaginary Menagerie, which Paschkis illustrated, when she said that seeing such lush gouache paintings “makes me […]

  13. […] from Imaginary Menagerie: A Book of Curious Creatures,written by Julie Larios (Harcourt, April […]

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