Quote of the Month

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

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Shhhh...It's Their Turn Now

Among all the books published in a given year, some books stand out in their particular area.  They become one of those volumes which should be on every book lover's shelf.  Now, on the last day of National Poetry Month 2013 and on the second day of Screen-Free Week 2013, is the perfect time to highlight a title not previously given focus on this blog.

This title is one of the 2011 Nerdies Book Award winners in the poetry category.  It won the 2012 Cybils Award for Poetry.  Written by Laura Purdie Salas with illustrations by Josee Bisaillon, BookSpeak! Poems About Books (Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October 2011) is a jaunty journey into the realm of What If.

Calling All Readers
I'll tell you a story.
I'll spin you a rhyme.
I'll spill some ideas---
and we'll travel through time. ...

The introductory stanza from the first poem is a call to the heart of all of us; we crave stories.  It goes on to tell us to leave our television sets and computers, taking time to make friends with a book.

Within the covers of this book twenty-one poems allow volumes to have their say.  Not only do the books themselves speak, but the parts of books want to be given equal time too.  Readers are asked to think about books in ways they may not have considered previously.

Can flocks of blackbirds be words of a story?  If a book is not read, what happens to the words inside the covers?  Do characters feel as if they are imprisoned?

There are books holding secrets; a person's life page by page.  There are well-loved books and perfect books never held by sticky fingers.  There are books not yet written which we deeply desire; a sequel can not come fast enough.

The times late at night when you want to finish a book, fighting sleep but loose the battle are pretty tough on the book whose pages become your pillow.  It's understood but nevertheless stated, books abhor...water.  Readers realize books enjoy vacations just as much as the people themselves (maybe even more).

We get the inside scoop, the absolute truth, from the index.  We are told exactly what to do with a dish that is not a dish.  And we discover the real definition of The End.

 Laura Purdie Salas answers questions readers didn't know they had in a clever, conversational tone of voice.  Different poetic styles, rhyming, free verse and acrostic, create a flow that's fun to follow, moving easily from page to page.  Salas knows which words are right, the exact amount of lines necessary, and where breaks should be placed to send an invitation to the reader, encouraging participation in her lighthearted look at the world of books.  One of my favorite poems is The Middle's Lament: A Poem for Three Voices.  The conversation between The Middle, The Beginning and The End is funny with a capital F.

Readers know with a first look at the jacket and cover of this title, they're in for a rare visual adventure.  Rendered using mixed media, Josee Bisaillon's illustrations are fanciful and fascinating.  On the title page an organ grinder's monkey is riding a tricycle pulling a wagon loaded with books, the side featuring the publisher information.  Above in the trail of a bee's flight the author's and illustrator's names wave across the page.  Dedications are signs pulled through the air by planes.

With a color palette as varied as the poems themselves, patterns and textures, objects, animals (real or imagined) and people doing amazing things, readers find themselves in the completely unique world wrought by the capable hands of Bisaillon.  Inkblots become blackbirds, a book unlocked by a special key, opens, casting a light filled with brilliant butterflies, and rain falls on an umbrella with flowers growing on top.  What we can only dream, she places on the pages for all to see.

Whether read silently or better still, aloud, BookSpeak: Poems About Books written by Laura Purdie Salas with illustrations by Josee Bisaillon, will leave readers marveling and thinking about the endless possibilities found and because of books.  By following the link embedded in Josee Bisaillon's name to her website, you can see more illustrations from this title.  At Laura Purdie Salas' website (linked to her name) she has a reading guide, activity sheets and several videos of her reading poems from this book.

I think it would be great fun to read Lights Out At The Bookstore, the third to the last poem in the book, either before or after this video, a favorite of mine.


  1. Thanks so much for your lovely post about BookSpeak--and for sharing that amazing bookstore video!

  2. You're very welcome, Laura. Thank you for BookSpeak!