Poetry Friday: Two Sides to Every Story

h1 March 4th, 2010 by jules

Two things on this Poetry Friday:

First, you know those picture books that try entirely too hard to be clever concept books, as in the concept is uncomfortably forced? Well, it’s Opposite Day (in more ways than one): Here’s one concept book, a collection of poems, that really works. Below is the smart poem that goes with the spread you see above. It comes from Marilyn Singer’s newest collection of poetry, Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse, illustrated by Josée Masse, and released this week by Dutton Juvenile:

“We read most poems down a page,” writes Singer in the book’s note on the poetry. “But what if we read them up? That’s the question I asked myself when I created the reverso. When you read a reverso down, it is one poem. When you read it up, with changes allowed only in punctuation and capitalization it is a different poem…” Singer uses her reverso technique to tell both sides of each tale, Publishers Weekly calling the concept a smart one and praising Masse’s fun-with-symmetry, as you can see in these featured spreads.

Having chosen fairy tales as her theme for this collection of poetry, Singer brings us the double life of Cinderella; the tale of Sleeping Beauty, as told through the sleeping princess’ point-of-view and the prince’s — both a bit jaded; the story of Goldilocks and the three bears, as if headlines in the news; and much more. “It is a form that is both challenging and fun — rather like creating and solving a puzzle,” she tells child readers, challenging them to create their own reversible poetry. I love this. It makes me want to be an elementary language arts teacher RIGHT NOW. What fun with words, and what fun with puzzling out the two sides of one tale…

Masse’s work is new to me. (I think, though I can’t fully translate this bio, that she’s also a book designer in Montreal.) “The vibrant artwork is painterly yet unfussy and offers hints to the characters who are narrating the poems,” writes School Library Journal. That review calls the book “a marvel to read,” and I have to add that the illustrations are a marvel to take in, too. Captivating.

And my second note on this Poetry Friday? I pretty much have to mention it, given how these two mirror books have fallen into my lap in one week: In May, a book that the ultra-talented Suzy Lee (who you may remember visited me in 2008) created in 2003 (I believe) will be published here in the States by Seven Footer Press. It’s called Mirror, and it is beautiful and sad and funny and stunning in that Suzy-Lee way. I’m hoping to secure some illustrations from it to show you, but I had to mention it today, what with this mirror theme. (Also: I got a copy of it just today, and the world stopped spinning while I read it, another reason I have to yawp about it now.) This wordless wonder, all about a young girl playing with her mirror image, also demonstrates the Best Use Ever of the Space Eaten Up by the Necessary Binding of a Book and also More Brilliant Use of Symmetry in Illustrations. More on this later. God, I love Suzy Lee.

Here is her slide show about the book from her site.

Tomorrow’s Poetry Friday round-up (yup, I’m posting a bit early) is over at TheTeachingBooks.net blog. Enjoy.

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MIRROR MIRROR by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Josée Masse © 2010. Used with permission of Dutton Children’s Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group.

24 comments to “Poetry Friday: Two Sides to Every Story”

  1. Hi Jules!
    Wow so cute the poetry book!!!! I loooooved it!
    As regards Mirror you are right it was published in december 2003, by an Italian publisher Edizioni Corraini (http://www.corraini.com/) they have amazing books, if you don’t know them just take a look at their website, they are incredible (they also have all the Bruno Munari books).
    Another little note I hope you’ll enjoy: last tuesday I met Roberto Innocenti, he is the sweetest and nicest man, he spoke of a new book and had a TV interview here in my town. I bet I told you before that we have a wonderful children’s lit. festival called Festival Minimondi: illustrators and authors coming from all over the world to meet kids, and grown up kids like me, and Innocenti was one of the guests!!! Well, if you ever plan a trip to Italy you should come for the festival, even if it’s winter! 🙂

  2. This is an extremely cool book. The skill involved in writing poetry that works both forward and backward is incredible. Great comment about wanting to be a Language Arts teacher – there are a lot of classroom connections with Mirror, Mirror. Thanks for highlighting it!

  3. Reverso! Cool form. Reminds me of that viral video containing an essay written by a young woman. I forgot the title but you probably know the one I mean.

  4. Jules,

    I picked up a copy of MIRROR MIRROR last week. It’s such a clever book of poems. I love the illustrations too. I’m sure it will be one of the best poetry books of 2010.

  5. How exciting that you got these both the same week!!

    I am becoming a huge fan of wordless picture books. I don’t know why – there’s just this sense of wonder in the idea that a book can have no words in it… and yet say so much. And mirror-play is so very Kid (I just deleted the phrase “you know?” Thought you should know. ;)). That’s neat.

  6. Oh my GOODNESS! Marilyn Singer=Genius.
    Flat out.

  7. What a great word-muscle-flexing exercise this reverso thing would be…! I don’t know if I have the nerve to actually try it, mind you, but I’m feeling positively isometric just imagining the effort. 🙂

    (Oh, also: this was the perfect title for this post!)

  8. jules, your books today pique my interest entirely! as a young teacher in the 60’s we played with mirror cards: using objects and cards with pictures, we angled the mirrors to see what we could see! I love that the concept via Marilyn Singer (so brilliant) has morphed into words for the young: backwards and forwards, like wowowowow! Thank you for your work!

  9. and now, that I’ve seen the powerpoint slide show of suzy lee, I’m running to get the books and three or four mirrors to play with!

  10. WoW! I can’t wait to get my hands on Singer’s book!!!

  11. That Hood poem is amazingly clever. Even knowing I was going to be reading it in reverse didn’t spoil the second read of it.

    I adore the Suzy Lee book from the cover alone, but I’m sure you will make me adore it even MORE after you post about it.

  12. Thanks so much for sharing these titles. I will definitely look them up.


  13. Very clever poetry (+ illustrations to match). The writing is inspiring, hip and fun. Thanks for sharing this.

  14. Marilyn told me about her new form, challenged me to write one. I worked and worked at it. . .and failed miserably.

    I am in awe.

    And in love with this book. It should win prizes.


  15. Since you’re a poetry lover, I’d like to invite you and your readers to join in on my poetry survey. I am looking for a list of your 10 favorite classic poems. Read more about it here.

  16. […] reviewed by 7 Imp. Share and […]

  17. Missed this review in the first instance, but I bought myself the book last week after being blown away by it at the store. Reviewed it tonight and linked to your review. It is SO great (review and book alike)!

  18. […] enjoyed the illustrations. They’re bright, colorful, and engaging. (You can see examples of the art here. You can also read “In The Hood” […]

  19. […] enjoyed the illustrations. They’re bright, colorful, and engaging. (You can see examples of the art here. You can also read “In The Hood” […]

  20. […] Other Blog Reviews: […]

  21. […] Ditto. Grrr. Such a great book. Not eligible. My post on it is here. […]

  22. […] . . in which she discusses her creative inspirations, her upcoming companion piece to Mirror Mirror, and her latest picture book, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger. Here are some spreads below, and you […]

  23. […] http://blaine.org/sevenimpossiblethings/?p=1899 […]

  24. […] changes only in punctuation and capitalization to create a poem with a new meaning. Read this fine interview at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast & see examples. (Bonus: another mirror book is […]

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