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.