Poetry Friday — Robin Cruise & Margaret Chodos-Irvine:
Poetry for the ears and eyes

h1 May 4th, 2007 by jules

{Note: Today’s Poetry Friday round-up is being handled here by the honorable Ms. Herold at Big A, little a} . . .

Don’t you just love illustrator Margaret Chodos-Irvine? I do. She just gets better and better with each book, too.

Her newest illustrated title, Only You, just came out (April ’07; Harcourt Children’s Books; my source: library copy), and it’s my Poetry Friday entry for today, because it’s a lyrical, rhymed picture book text about parental love, written by Robin Cruise (who also authored last year’s Little Mamá Forgets, reviewed here by Yours Truly). As Booklist put it so well, “There’s no shortage of lyrical books that recount the way parents feel about their children. This one has the advantage of illustrations by Chodos-Irvine.”

As for the rhyming text, it’s lilting and comforting, as an effective bed-time story should be (it doesn’t set out to be a bed-timer, but the book shows all the ways a parent and child show love for one another, thus making it a great, soothing, quiet way to end a child’s day). This could also be one of those bestsellers that gets passed around from parent to new parent, what with the very subject’s built-in sentimentality. The text is loving and rich with imagery (with verses about the glow of the sky at dawn, the sound of a baby’s wake-up cry, the soft feel of a baby’s skin, shimmering sunlight on twilight walks, the sound of a child’s voice, the night spilling blue across the sky, and more). The School Library Journal review states, “the words may end up memorized and recited aloud to soothe a cranky child.” I can see that happening. They’re lovely, savory rhymes — taking us through an entire day — about the joys, big and little, of having a child.

I’ve said it before here at 7-Imp, and I’ll say it again (verbatim, at that): Chodos-Irvine uses a variety of printmaking techniques that gives her illustrations an almost texturized, detailed look — and her illustrations are always warm and cheerful without being maudlin. She creates such interesting shapes — there’s much to take in and see with all of her books. And there’s a briskness, an energy, and a clarity to her work that never fails to please. And, with this new title, she’s done it again, that energy that flows from her giving this tender, affectionate book an extra kick or two — but never too much. She never overshadows Cruise’s silvery, sweet-sounding rhymes. Another nice touch? She creates a multicultural cast of characters, parents and children from all walks of life enjoying one another.

Chodos-Irvine’s illustrations always appear deceptively simple to me — large, simple shapes, yet you know there’s so much work behind it. Booklist writes, “{a}t times, the pictures are rendered in pure, saturated colors; at other times, the design work takes center stage — a soft snowflake design on pajamas or delicate tracings on leaves or bushes.” And, as Publishers Weekly wrote (sorry, but I love reading reviews, not to mention that these people are expressing why this book works about twenty skerjillion times more effectively than I can), “{t}he artist is at her most impressive when working in extreme close-up, capturing the unalloyed affection and physical intimacy that defines the first years of the parent-child relationship: the way a boy wraps his whole body around his father’s head during an autumn piggyback ride, the utter bliss shared in a morning tickle of baby’s knees, toes and feet.”

That’s its own form of poetry, no? A visual poetry, a poetry of design. So, here’s to Cruise’s text, poetry for your very youngest, and here’s to Chodos-Irvine’s sure, strong lines; bright, confident hues; and her superb sense for composition — poetry for the eyes, indeed.

One comment to “Poetry Friday — Robin Cruise & Margaret Chodos-Irvine:
Poetry for the ears and eyes”

  1. i can just see this book being sold with a remake single of The Platters “Only You.” beddy-bye book and song to boot!
    p.s. jules, i could not ask for a better welcome, thanks!

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