7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #240: Featuring Kevin Hawkes

h1 October 9th, 2011 by jules

“The strange old owl awakens / in the middle of the night, / looks up at the moon / that’s already out of sight, / polishes his glasses, / gives the cat a wink, /
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.

“You can pat / my dog for a dime / and my horse / for an egg and a half. / You can pat / my favorite aunt / if you give me / your granddad’s moustache. / You can pat my goldfish’s hair / for an apple / that’s polished just right. / But if you want / to pat my lion, / just promise / you’ll pat it real light!”
(Click to enlarge)

“Little Cloud went for a walk / above the highest steeple, / cast a shadow on a wall, / looked down at the people. / Looked into a little lake, / saw its own reflection, / saw a duck that swam around / in every which direction. / Couldn’t hold it anymore, / didn’t have a potty. / Let it drip down on the road, / knew that it was naughty. / Ran home with the wind again, / past mountaintops with snow on, / Got a scolding from its mom / and put some drier clothes on.”
(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.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

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.

Picture credit: http://music.kngine.com/artist.ashx?id=AA:5842803) 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?

4) You really must go see this sketch from illustrator Amy June Bates. It makes me laugh.

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?

14 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #240: Featuring Kevin Hawkes”

  1. I should read that cloud poem to my student, she just wrote a shape poem about rain clouds!

    Jules, “sparky individuality” is an understatement. :o) I first read that as “sparkly individuality,” which fits too!

    Also, Sixty Impossible Things Before Lunch sounds so perfect for you!

    Best Kick This Past Week:

    One of my classes (adult learners of English as a foreign language) gave awards to their different teachers and I got the Glamorous Award. The students said I was the most fashionable teacher, had charisma, and that they praised and envied me. Um, WOW.

    * twirls *

  2. Tarie! SO PERFECT. You just made me laugh with your twirl. Twirl away, lady. Charisma is only just ONE of your many, many great qualities.

  3. Hi, Kevin! The cover of the book reminds me of the race in The NeverEnding Story. 🙂 Also, the owl is lovely. Bonus points for making him left-handed (er…left-winged!)

    Jules: In the words of Jason Robert Brown: Don’t you think that’s pretty music? / This song sure makes you smile.
    Also, I wondered where A got her name!
    Thank you for sharing Ana Juan’s work! That would be me, yes, right before I found the key and unlocked the dragon. (He’s a good dragon, you see, wrongly restrained in my story…instead of what this illustration is probably showing, which is a girl having just restrained a naughty dragon, right?)
    Big hugs to the family, including fuzzy-wuzzy Pumpkinfacehead Fluffernutter.

    Rock on, Tarie!

    My kicks from the past week:

    1) Mental preparation
    2) Contagious laughter
    3) Holidays
    4) Auditions
    5) Friday
    6) Saturday
    7) Today
    The last three kicks are bruising my heart. (The bruises on my legs are real.) It’s the closing weekend of the play. Here’s what it’s like on stage as this character, as sung by Matt Nathanson:

    Watch the flames
    Slow and strange
    Lick the walls
    And fill my eyes
    I heard your voice
    Through the noise
    But I was cold
    And it was warm inside

    Listen to Kept by Matt Nathanson

    I have to go get ready now for what’s going to be a memorable day. Have a great Sunday, everyone.

  4. I too, love your “sparky individuality.” And your 7 Kicks!
    Hmmm, I shall have to begin keeping track of my own kicks. What a great practice.

    One that I can definitely remember: the movie, “Miss Potter.” I can’t believe I didn’t know more about her before this, but she has now become one of my literary (s)heroes. By being true to her own vision, drawing, and telling her own stories, she created a life for herself on her own terms, in a time when it was unheard of for a woman to do so. One big kick for the week. 🙂

  5. LOOOOVE that little hat for Pumpkinfacehead!!!!! Her italian twin is jealous now! 🙂

  6. Opening 7-Imp webpage this morning, I was actually startled by that big golden owl eye staring back at me. Ha! While Little Willow notices the left wing, I notice the right foot, er, claw with talons grasping so tenaciously to his writing desk.

    How interesting that Rasmussen’s poems translate so charmingly from Danish to English (though I’m sure the Ms.es Nelson & Espeland lent their language talents to make that happen.) Thanks for sharing art and words.

    jules – kick #2. Ooo I love your De Quincey quote; indeed a sad subject and hoorah for those taking up the banner. Reading aloud to children or adults is just the bestest thing
    (my hubby reads aloud to me when I battle insomnia.)

    “Experiments in Awkwardness” sounds unflinching.

    Your elongating kitty name will soon circumnavigate your children’s world! We once had a cat named “Abelardo Ricardo Gallardo” – and kept adding other rhyming names (Eduardo, etc.) over the years. It became a family feat–like the suitcase-memory game–to be able to recall his whole, very, very, very long moniker. I suspect kitty Pumpkinface Fluffermutter’s name might offer the same challenge…

    Tarie – I read it as “sparkly” too! How sweet your students enjoy their lessons AND your personal style and charisma.

    LW – Loved your eloquent end-of-run blues.
    Stephanie — Hello. I must watch “Miss Potter” again.

    My own kicks this week:
    1. A quieter house.

    2. A full moon shining bright on rained-clean leaves (even though its glow obscured any view of the Draconid shower.)

    3. critique meet w/sushi, laughs and two friends’ book launches.

    4. Computer/print driver glitch that I fixed all by myself. (!)

    5. Listening to the amazing Steve Jobs lecturing from beyond; his Stanford speech on NPR was inspiring.

    Have an excellent week everyone.

  7. What a gorgeously imperious owl. He’s a bit intimidating. Love the lion, and the poem You Can Pat My Pet. Sometimes that’s how I feel when people want to pet Miss Ingrid, who thinks she is several sizes smaller than she really is.

    Jules – The Flint Heart looks, and sounds like a great read. Adding it to my list today. And kitty Punpkinhead Fluffernutter is adorable!

    Tarie – Congrats on the praise and award from your students! I know have an image of you as Twirling Tarie! Spakling all the way, of course.

    LW – Have a great closing!

    Stephanie – hi there! Haven’t seen Miss Potter, but now I will.

    Hi Christiana – pics of Pumpkinhead’s italian cousin, please?

    Denise -a full moon, sushi and a quieter house sounds like a lovely week. And hooray for fixing the glitch by yourself!

    My kicks this week:

    1) Saying, “I’m going Home,” and having the words fill me up with warmth and happiness.
    2) Settling in to my new home with the pup and kitty – they are both liking it very much.
    3) Friends dropping by this weekend – both announced and unannounced – with housewarming gifts. Love.
    4) Putting the bookshelves in the livingroom in order Friday night. Definite feeling of accomplishment.
    5) Catching up with a friend late yesterday afternoon by walking on NE Alberta and having happy hour snacks at a Peruvian restaurant. Ceviche – yum!
    6) Hanging out in the back yard with Ingrid and picking up all the apples and pears for composting.
    7) A lazy Sunday morning with coffee and snoring, peaceful animals.

    Have a warm and happy week everyone!

  8. Having the Rasmussen book in English is a tremendous gift for children’s poetry. Thanks for sharing, Jules!

    Everything is a kick this week, so I’ll leave you with a poem, in a Welsh verse form called a rhupunt:

    Jurassic Fish
    By Steven Withrow

    My deepest wish:
    To catch a fish
    That dwarfs a whale.

    To hook and reel
    By look and feel
    A monster’s tail.

    But I’m too late
    To cast my bait
    For bones so strong

    And razor sharp.
    I’ve only carp
    To string along.

    I’d settle for
    A man o’ war
    Or basking shark

    If one will break
    For pity’s sake
    From fathoms dark.

    ©2011 Steven Withrow, all rights reserved

  9. […] of our esteemed advisors, Julie Danielson, has a blog post today at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast that features A Little Bitty Man and Other Poems for the Very Youngby poet Halfdan Rasmussen. […]

  10. Little Willow, it’s the Honorable Wyvern A-Through-L, and no, she didn’t restrain him. She comes upon him that way, as the law makes it so that he cannot fly. (“Aeronautic locomotion is permitted only by means of Leopard or licensed Ragwort Stalk.”)

    Ada’s name is sorta from Ada Lovelace — in that it was that in my husband’s mind, but in my mind, it came from having read the novel Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier. I didn’t think Ada was the best character, by any means; I just fell in love with the name. (And I *did* LOVE the novel.)

    So sorry it’s closing weekend. Hugs. I know that particular sadness, I do. … Thanks for the music. I’m listening now.

    Hi, Stephanie B. And thanks!

    Cris, I’m with Rachel and wanna see a pic of Pumpkinfacehead’s Italian twin.

    Denise, Abelardo Ricardo Gallardo is a great cat name, and yes, the 7-year-old, in particular, has been giving it a new endearing name every time she opens her mouth. … Thanks for that link to Jobs’ speech. I shall explore. … Has your son already left for Nicaragua? (I assume so, due to kick #1.) Safe travels to him.

    Rachel, lazy Sunday mornings are the best. So glad you’re enjoying your new home. Wish we could all visit with housewarming gifts for you. Yes, I just invited myself over.

    Steven, oooooh. I like that one. Thanks!

  11. Jules – you and yours are welcome in my home anytime! There’s a pot of Portland Stumptown Hair Bender with your name on it in my kitchen.


  12. Hubba whoa, that sounds good!

  13. Hi Rachel and Jules, fair enough, you’ll have soon a pic of her… 🙂

  14. Rachel, as requested, here is Cris’s cat when she was three months old:

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