Quote of the Month

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

Friday, March 27, 2015

...But The Kitchen Sink

In five days a month long celebration held every April since 1996 begins.  It's a tribute to the power of words, worked in every imaginable form, evoking a plethora of emotion from readers, speakers and listeners.  It's heart with a focus on the art of linking letters.  It's National Poetry Month.

All around the world authors of verse (and illustrators too) will find their work in the spotlight.  On March 17, 2015 a new title by author and illustrator, Calef Brown, was released.  Hypnotize a Tiger:  Poems about just about Everything (Christy Ottaviano Books, an imprint of Henry Holt And Company) will have you toe tapping, giggling and grinning and reading aloud, even if there is no crowd but only your patient pooch pal.  Chapter headings, The Critterverse, My Peeps, The Insect Section, Poems Of A Particular Vehicular Nature, Schoolishness, Facts Poetic, Word Crashes, Good (And No So Good) Eats and Miscellaneous Silliness, containing poems numbering eight-four offer something for everyone.

A picky-eater parrot, a puppy with a yearning for your earnings and a bear with a knack for photographing panoramic views start the initial section in this collection.  We meet frogs that are pigeons and pigeons that are frogs, tadpoles, beavers, ox and geese.  A rooster with a desire to revise his morning edition rendition leads us to personalities with peculiarities.

A wide-eyed couch potato, a gentleman with a larger-than-life arm, a super hero caught in a dream and ladies wearing notable headgear are a few new friends.  Pupae with panache, fortunate ants, wayward bees and a termite with taste hang, crawl, buzz and crunch through the next passage.  People traveling by cycle, board, UFO or truck will have you wishing them all good luck.

Without a doubt you can identify with hallways leading nowhere and everywhere, foolhardy boys and their principals, cafeteria cuisine and gym teachers who've stepped out of nightmares.  An explanation for the exhaustion of a snow day experience will have you nodding in agreement.  It's a school day jubilee.

Oddities abound in these infractions of information.  Did you know thistle growers get assistance from whistle blowers?  Did you know dinosaurs dined on delicacies cooked over volcanoes?  I'm fairly certain mushers are going to want to know their dogs secretly access the Internet.

A passel of portmanteaus invite us to participate as we pause before venturing into the realm of meals and menus.  Catsup making cats, a berry eater who will not utter the word berry and a karate chopping biscotti chief offer up mindless merriment.  How can we resist the final pages of glee when we get to see the title appear in a poem titled Who?

As sweet as honey, as smooth as silk and as sure as stars will shine somewhere tonight, the words written by Calef Brown weave a poetic magic casting a spell over readers.  Timely topics chosen with care reflect typical and extraordinary people, places, creatures and things.  These poems make the absurd appear normal as the rhythms and rhymes beat within our collective minds.  Along the lower section of most pages, Brown adds asides like small variations on a common theme.   Here is a sample poem from the Good (and not so good) Eats section.

Bubble Crumbs
When a soap bubble
goes POP,
the tiny bits that drop
are known as bubble crumbs.
The trouble comes
when they land in a coffee cup
or end up on a piece of cantaloupe.
Do you detect
a hint of soap
in chicken soup
or pickled plums?
The likely culprit
(you guessed it)
is bubble crumbs.

Underneath we read...

This mulligatawny stew
has a subtle whiff of shampoo.

Like the cheerfulness of a sunny day, the golden yellow, sky blue, rich brown, white and gray hues appearing on the dust jacket exude welcoming warmth.  Your curiosity will be peaked as you look at the unique characters, flying saucer and strange dragonfly.  Notable author endorsements are framed on the back.  You are ready to read before the first page is turned.  On the blue, textured cloth book case the tiger is embossed in the lower right-hand corner.  Throughout the remainder of this title the images are rendered in white, blue and black.

Whimsical borders and two uneven fine lines frame the poems.  Each section is given two pages with the title, a poetic introduction and a character is showcased as one of the elements.  Along the bottom of the subsequent pages other stories in pictures and words are being told in blue line work, enhancing the wacky world Brown has created.

Each page turn offers us a new reason to slow down, taking time to look at all the details.  Humor and playfulness are in abundance.  How often do you see a bee hive growing from a man's chin, a skyscraper soaring into space, a bull chasing students around a gym, or a dog wearing Roman garb?

One of my many favorite illustrations is of a glasses-wearing rooster dressed in plaid pants and a jacket perched on a fence.  He happens to be realizing his dream of playing calypso drums as the sun rises over a pastoral scene.

Hypnotize a Tiger:  Poems about just about Everything written and illustrated by Calef Brown is a handful of happiness.  Read them silently or read them aloud.  Share them repeatedly with everyone you know.  This is poetry at its finest and funniest.

To explore more about Calef Brown and his work please visit his website by following the link embedded in his name.  At the publisher's website you can view eight interior images.  Calef Brown was interviewed at Illustration Friday in 2012 and at author and blogger, Julie Danielson's Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast in 2009.  Calef Brown and his books are featured at the special Reading Rockets, Launching young readers! website.

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