scrounge: /skrounj/ informal verb: to actively seek [books] from any available source
I'm so glad I grew up watching Mister Rogers' Neighborhood on TV. I have good memories of the characters and the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, especially the Bubble Land and Josephine the Short-Necked Giraffe operas. But the show wouldn't have been the same without Fred Rogers himself, something I was reminded of again while watching the excellent documentary Won't You Be My Neighbor?.
So I was glad to have a chance to read A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: The Poetry of Mister Rogers. There were a few poems in this collection that I remembered as songs from the TV show, enough to sing them instead of read ("You've Got to Do It"), but I'm sure there are others that I simply don't remember the tune for, so most of these poems were new to me. Many of them are affirmations of the dignity, curiosity, and value of all human beings, especially children, as well as the things that make each of us unique. They also manage to use words and ideas that are on the level of young children without sounding babyish or pandering.
In spite of the general attitude of positivity, Mister Rogers was also not afraid to explore fears and anxieties that children might have, most notably "Sometimes I Wonder if I'm a Mistake." The ability to validate negative feelings sets this apart from a lot of sappy, feel-good songs and poetry written for children.
(Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy.)
Scrounged From: NetGalley
Author: Fred Rogers
Content Advisory: None
I can't say that "lively" would be my first choice for "best words to describe rocks," but I also wouldn't have considered the pyramids of Giza in the same thought as comets either, yet both are neatly contained within this succinct exploration of rocks.
I really love this series. A Rock Is Lively takes us on a journey to discover and ponder the scope of rocks, from sandy beaches to asteroids. Like A Seed Is Sleepy (see my review here), the variety here is impressive and awe-inspiring, without being overwhelming. The illustrations are gorgeous, capturing the colors and sparkles of gems as well as the numerous earth tones of more "ordinary" rocks.
We learn about the rock cycle, what rocks are made of, where we can find rocks, and some of the things rocks are used for -- from tools for animals and people, to use as art and weapons throughout history. Phrases like "A rock is inventive..." are the only places I'd consider that this diverges a bit from strict nonfiction, but that's forgiveable because the poetic descriptions add a lot to this book and make it a bit more "lively" than your average geology book. I really love that this series makes topics like this interesting and accessible to small children, but also teaches us older people a thing or two, even if it's just to say "Wow!"
Scrounged From: A Christmas present
Author: Dianna Hutts Aston
Illustrator: Sylvia Long
Content Advisory: None
Winter Bees is a wonderful picture book of Joyce Sidman's poetry, especially fitting for those who live in a cold climate like we do. Have you ever wondered where bees go in the winter? Or voles, or beavers? This book contains a double-page spread on each featured piece of nature (mostly animals), containing a poem and then a few paragraphs of information about how the animal gets through winter, which helps to fill out the information in the poem.
The poetry here is lovely, and full of clever descriptive phrases. Most poems are of moderate length, managing to communicate a clear picture of winter survival without becoming repetitive or overly wordy.
Bees are "an ancient tribe, a hardy scrum... Together, we boil, we teem, we hum."
Snoflakes are "a lattice of stars spinning silently..."
A raven is a "Squawker, Croaker, Alarm-on-the-wind."
The poem about beavers is written as a pantoum, a poetry form that I don't remember encountering before, featuring some neat repetition of lines.
The illustrations here are amazing -- colorful, full of texture and life. I especially love how a long picture of a branch is drawn as moving from autumn to winter at the beginning of the book, and then again at the end it is shown morphing from winter into spring.
Scrounged From: Our local library
Author: Joyce Sidman
Illustrator: Rick Allen
Content Advisory: None
Prehistoric Actual Size is a really neat book that highlights several extinct species from long ago, including some dinosaurs, but also other kinds of animals such as a giant millipede, a terrifying-looking horned rodent, and a "terror bird," among others. Since dinosaurs tend to get most of the attention in the prehistoric world, it's nice to see a variety of creatures here.
The illustrations show each creature as their actual size, as the title indicates, which is easy for some, but for others means only small parts of them actually fit in the book, such as teeth or a claw. It's a fairly large-sized book, but it also includes a fold-out page to give a bit more room to a few creatures.
Scrounged From: A used book sale
Author/Illustrator: Steve Jenkins
Content Advisory: None
When I was approaching adulthood, there were times when I really didn't care that much for poetry. I felt like I didn't "get" many adult poems, and didn't really seek out reading them. I developed more appreciation for poetry in college, but this volume of poetry has helped remind me that I also appreciated poetry at a younger age.
Sing a Song of Popcorn was published when I was a toddler, and is a collection of poetry for children in which each section is illustrated by a different illustrator, including such well-known names as Arnold Lobel, Maurice Sendak, and Marc Simont. Each section includes a different topic of poetry, such as weather, animals, people, story poems, and more. As a child, I think the "Mostly Nonsense" section was my favorite, as it featured favorites such as "Eletelephony" by Laura E. Richards (I grew up a few miles from the elementary school named after her) and some limericks. I like how the different illustrators all have their own distinctive style.
Other authors include: A. A. Milne, Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert Frost (I originally memorized "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" from this book), Ogden Nash, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and many more.
I've been glad to see my kids enjoying this book and picking out poems for me to read to them. Like me at the time, they are more drawn to the silly ones and not as much to some of the more abstract ones at the end (the "Seeing, Feeling, Thinking" section) -- but I enjoy those more now, so I think there's something here for everyone.
Scrounged From: A family gift as a child, and in a box of used books from my sister-in-law as an adult
Content Advisory: There is a section of "spooky" poems, some of which involve witches and ghosts, and the poem "Isabel" involves the protagonist cutting a giant's head off.