and writes these silly poems / with invisible ink.”
(Click to see entire spread)
I’m happy to be highlighting a wonderful poetry collection today, a picture book called A Little Bitty Man and Other Poems for the Very Young, published by Candlewick in August. This is poetry from Danish poet Halfdan Rasmussen, who was known during his career for his playful children’s verses, as well as his poetry for adults, often about social issues and human rights issues. Before his death in 2002, he granted Marilyn Nelson—poet, children’s book author, translator, and National Book Award finalist—permission to produce English versions of his works. Pamela Espeland joined Marilyn in translating this collection of verses for children, and illustrator Kevin Hawkes provides the altogether joyous and inviting pastel illustrations, rendered in acrylic and charcoal pencil.
Publishers Weekly calls this one “gently irreverent.” I love that. (Note the cloud poem below for a case-in-point.) They also describe this collection of Rasmussen’s poems as “quirky,” but thank goodness for that. Not only is it a short and sweet collection of thirteen verses, but each poem is also in and of itself brief, making this a perfect poetry read for those little snippets of time in classrooms and libraries.
The School Library Journal review also notes that Nelson and Espeland did “such an artful job that it is hard to believe the selections were not originally written in English. They sound very much like old English nursery rhymes, with almost flawless rhyme and meter.”
The book is also masterfully designed, giving plenty of room for the illustrations and text to breathe. Not rushed. Not cluttered. It’s simply a wonderful collection of very accessible poems for the wee ones, and it’d be a great addition to school and public libraries (and home libraries) where ever young children are involved.
Here are some more spreads. Enjoy.
(Click to enlarge)
(Click to enlarge)
A LITTLE BITTY MAN AND OTHER POEMS FOR THE VERY YOUNG. Text copyright © 2011 by Halfdan Rasmussen. Translations copyright © 2011 by Marilyn Nelson and Pamela Espeland. Illustrations copyright © 2011 by Kevin Hawkes. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.
Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you.
1) This week, an author/illustrator told me he loved the “sparky individuality” of 7-Imp, and I think that’s my favorite compliment ever. I hope that doesn’t sound, er, vain? I think “sparky individuality” is really a reflection anyway of the talent of the folks who come here to visit and share words and art. So, that’s why I liked it.
2) I just started Katherine Paterson’s and John Paterson’s The Flint Heart with my girls. (It’s Katherine’s and John’s re-working of Eden Philpotts’ 1910 fantasy — they have said they “freely abridged” it. Remember when illustrator John Rocco stopped by in May and shared some art from it?) And I love how De Quincey—in chapter four, when Charles first meets him—goes on and on about how the saddest subject in the world is the loss of “the music of English prose. The music of prose is a thing of the past…the great English writers…those who are immortal banners on the topmost turret and battlement of our glorious mother tongue!” My, it’s just a fun book to read aloud (thus far anyway — we just started).
The whole thing made me think of the words of my friend and former grad school prof, Jinx, who used to talk about language itself being one of the many reasons to read aloud (to all ages, even after kids learn to read). We tend to speak in abbreviated phrases, one-word responses, etc. But literary language in well-crafted books can bring us beautiful, lyrical sentences and short, economical sentences with impact, etc. Good writing, she would say, is so important to hear as well as to read. And so that’s been on my mind as I read to the girls.
3) Surely, this is going to get on your nerves, ’cause I’ve been running my mouth about her abundant talent a lot these days. I mean, even I’m getting on my own nerves (which happens a lot with me), but these are my kicks, and so I have to be honest, even if redundant, right? And this was a BIG KICK this week: This live Laura Marling concert from a synagogue in D.C. (she’s been playing in churches and synagogues and such on this tour), which NPR aired. I worked hard on Friday, and then when I was done, I treated myself to this. It truly was a gift to sit down and hear. When she opened with “Rambling Man,” I got chills. (“Let it always be known that I was who I am.”) Also, she chose to play “Alpha Shallows,” too, which also gives me goosebumps. That last lyric, “we are basic light”? YES.
I also love her “Experiments in Awkwardness”, which I read about this week. I mean, just kinda brilliant, really. I want to hear her sing in a tiny white room. Please?
5) Friday was Ada Lovelace Day. My youngest daughter was (sorta) named for her.
6) I love what author Cat Valente said about the enduring appeal of fairy tales in Friday’s interview:
They are our oldest stories, honed down through generations until they are laser-like tools for understanding human behavior, both terrible and wonderful. They are simple, but their images are primordial, essentially and utterly human. The same tales are repeated in different combinations and variations in every culture. They teach us how to survive, how to grow up, how to be honorable and how to behave when others do not treat us with honor. They are condensed gems of cultural knowledge. In a very real way, since we all grow up with them, they create our cultural psychology.
And now we recombine and retell them in order to make them reﬂect our own culture better — where women are not necessarily only rewards and princes are not automatically just. We engage with them and challenge them so that we can pass them on, shined up and new, but still incredibly old and powerful.
And I love the artwork of Ana Juan so much that I think we should take another moment to appreciate it. This is my favorite illustration of Ana’s from Cat’s book:
7) I received several very thoughtful gifts in the mail this week, including this from Cris, my friend and Italian blog partner-in-crime. She picked that up at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, and oh gracious, it’s fun to read. Also, author/illustrator Lita Judge sent me lovely, surprise things, including this hat that her mother knitted, which fits perfectly on Pumpkinfacehead, whose middle name is now Fluffernutter. (I know that “Pumpkinfacehead Fluffernutter” is a mouthful and there’s a WHOLE lot to be said for simplicity, but both names were inspired by books the girls and I have been reading.)
Speaking of both Cris and Ana Juan, check out this June post from Cris on two of Ana’s books, ’cause you can see lots of artwork in those videos.
What are YOUR kicks this week?