Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Oh, For The Joy Of It All

Imagine the ringing of that final bell on the last day of school.  Spilling out of classrooms, students and their teachers fill the halls.  Drivers in school buses and parents in pickups and SUVs load the laughing, shouting children into the waiting vehicles.  Soon, very soon, it will begin; the sheer joy of three whole months of freedom.

What does one do with so much glorious time? The children filling the pages of A Stick Is An
Excellent Thing:  Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play (Clarion Books) by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by LeUyen Pham, know exactly how to fill each and every minute of those days; doing it with gusto and grins.  Eighteen poems highlight all forms of play in the great outdoors.

Catch and fetch with a canine pal, quality versus quantity bubble blowing, jumping rope, viewing the world hanging from the monkey bars, splashing in the sprinkler, rolling down a hill or catching fireflies are written in rhythmic, rhyming odes; a music matching the magic of each activity.  Familiar games of monkey in the middle, hide and seek, statues, jacks and hopscotch recounted with relish remind readers of days gone by or of days to come.  Verses brimming with imagination, soup made with found items or the power of the perfect stick to be whatever you need it to be, lift readers into very special places.

In the hands of the masterful Singer these poems, words selected and arranged artfully, move; perfect play all day.  Delight spreads from page to page glowing and growing until it lights the night with stars.  Children living in the city, the country or somewhere in between will find something old or perhaps something new to do.

LeUyen Pham begins her visualization of this poetry collection with a full picture stretching across the back and front covers; a smiling group of diverse children perched on the branches of a tree each holding a stick.  On the endpapers we see a close-up of several leafy boughs from that tree.  Using pencil and ink, then coloring digitally, Pham's lively illustrations invite all children to participate in the fun found in each poem. 

A vivid spectrum of color fairly hums on the pages, all double page spreads.  Her varied choice of settings conveys a sense of community, a welcoming.  But most important is the happy energy, the gleeful motion, of all her children. 

Poet Marilyn Singer and illustrator LeUyen Pham have collaborated in A Stick Is An Excellent Thing to show readers the pure pleasure of enjoying the out-of-doors.   They have completely captured the essence of every activity.  I could read this book again and again.  I already have and I probably will.

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